Monday, December 31, 2012

"Happy New Year" from Super Metroids, Level 4, Land of Norfaire, Planet Zebes

December 31, 2012:  New Year's Eve Stop-Action Ice Art

The thing about our Family Holiday that struck me deeply this Christmas season – the thing many families were equally touched and awed by – was the epidemic of killer icicles that broke out Friday through New Year’s Eve.

Rogue, mutant icicles were apparently super-sized by temperature-fluctuations so vast, one minute our roofline burst forth with waterfalls and song, and the next, arctic gusts transformed them into stop-action ice art.

(These arctic gusts were similar to those Kurt Russell spat into in his arctic movie, The Thing, where airborne spittle got so brittle, it shattered in loud shards upon impact with tundra.)

By yesterday morning, every overhang on our house was adorned with morphing, stop-action ice spikes in various stages of birth and death.  It was like living inside The Science Channel.  Or the movie Inception, down in a Limbo Layer where twenty-four hours pass as slowly as one thousand years.

We were so busy from 10 PM on December 27th until roughly 59 hours later, working a variety of moments that morphed from protracted warmth to frozen stop-action, it was stunning to ride the layers back up to real-time last evening when I came face-to-spike with a Death-cicle at midnight.

It was dizzying. Although, it was difficult to discern from whence my vertigo derived, after a day of a different stop-action, caused by the car we were stunt-driving through Boston in.  (I think in a “cloverleaf” pattern.) 

The TomTom GPS we borrowed instructed us to “Turn around … as SOON … as possible.  Turn around … as SOON … as possible . . .” until all five of us were vomiting and my son proposed to his girlfriend so we could stop and visit wedding-reception venues that did not spin on their own.

Five of us ventured into the city.  Only three would return. (Our two missing passengers kept the TomTom with them to ensure their return to Canada.  Or Guam.  We'll see.)

So there the remaining three of us were at midnight last night, so bereft of a TomTom, we had no idea how to get from the parked car to our front door without guidance.  We clung to each other, disoriented from lack of direction, lurching like a six-legged epileptic ant, clawing at the door-handle with our thirty grappling-fingers.

“Finally,” I sighed through clenched teeth, arms wrapped around decorative woodwork surrounding a load-bearing column. "We're safe."  Which is when a killer icicle I’d not previously appreciated for its beauty or lethality snapped off the entry's overhang and slid neatly down my back.

What this season lacked in temporal-accuracy, it made up for in icicle carnage.  

The icicle I eventually retrieved from the base of my spine -- trapped by new Christmas leggings -- was the kind that only houses on Neptune can grow: Sabertooth Dagger Prong Dart-Shards From Space.

Today they are affixed like jaws of death to every possible form of egress, making entry and exit to our home impossible without chainmail and a Spartan Helmet.

This morning I learned that these sentry’d stalactites are identical to those encountered by Samus Aran in Super Metroids, Level Four, Land of Norfaire, Planet Zebes. 

You remember the story. 

Samus had just made her way to the research facility, only to find the building in ruins and the Metroid Larva nowhere to be found, when out of darkness came a group of Zebesian Space Pirates and their leader Ridley with Metroid Larva in tow, who – upon this chance encounter with Samus –fled swiftly to the rebuilt planet Zebes where Samus followed, resolving to finish them off and save the hatchling.

Our icicles were of the same treacherous strain Samus could only defeat with a Grappling Spazer, two Morphing Balls and Brinstar Spore Spawn.

Plus they far transcended the official icicle definition rendered by the World Home-Book of Cold.  Icicle: frozen ex-water drippage that transforms barren architectural awnings into delicate crystalline fringe.” --  See Doily, Vol. 6; Pg. 32

This hardly depicts the weaponry severing scalps outside my slider.

My 22 year old just snapped one off an awning outside her bedroom window.

She used a pulley system and a lasso.

She is now outside transporting it via snowshoes and electric toboggan to bury it in snow to keep it cold for tonight’s Anime New Year’s Eve Costume Party.

It is seven feet long and was snapped off midway between its dagger-tip and awning attachment-point.  Even at this halfway mark, its severed trunk measures two feet in diameter.  More than a half dozen little neighbor boys are asking her now if they can come over later to base-jump it.

She is explaining to them how she needs to keep it intact, so she can whomp it through gin-entranced guests this evening announcing, “Behold, I am Samus Aran. I bring you Isis, chopped by hatchet for our Brinstar Spawn-tinis.  All Hail Isis.”

Speaking of entranced, those little boys look positively enchanted out there now.   



It looks like Abby is dragging out plastic mailing-wrap from the Christmas trash.

Oh, will you look at that?

 She is rolling the boys in bubble wrap.  They look like blistered dwarves. 

Hang on.

[ABBY! Stop that. You’re Samus Aran, not Snow White And The Seven Burn Victims.]

Wait.  I get it.  She is dressing them up like Metroid Larva so they can transport Isis to the party, much in the way that Cleopatra was transported by Egyptian Elves.

[SLAVES, Mom, not Elves.]

I am not liking the way these icicles are shaping our New Year’s Eve. Excuse me while I venture out with protective fruit cake over my head to round up a girl posse and their Totally-Hair Barbies so we can Blow Dry this town’s awnings back to safety. 

Actually, if we dress up the blow dryers like little Grappling Spazers and Morphing Balls, I bet we can turn Abby’s Metroid Larva against her and make them our elven minions.

[Let that be a lesson to you, Samus Aran.  ZZZZAP!!   KerPLOW!!  ZOINK!  HAZZZAAAH!---]  

 -- ring --    

"Hello? We were just talking about you.  Did you guys make it back to Canada even close to on time AND on the right continent hey?  Mmm hmm.  I see, well great.  Happy New Year's Eve back and we'll talk on the New Year tomorrow!"

They made it back to Canada early due to the metric time up there. (Also because the TomTom was confiscated at Customs.)  And since ice does not stick to Toronto, they have no killer icicles up there, so I have to hurry up and post this, along with a photograph, so my family in Canada can know what's going on.

Happy New Year to All, and don't forget to take your morphing balls and blow your awnings for safety.  

Love, Carolyn   

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Banned from Field Trips for Life

During my seven-month tenure substitute-teaching at a public middle school (which followed three years at a behavioral site where I avoided restraining post-adjudicated youth by running from the building, screaming) I enjoyed my first Union-Oriented Field Trip to Boston’s New England Aquarium.

This event was responsible for my eventual exit from the world of unionized public schools.

It was also responsible for such a severe and traumatizing paranoia about field trips that one of my ‘Professional Goals’ in a charter school performance-review was to “contribute more regularly to off-site learning.

Not a goal I fashioned for myself, I assure you.

It was May of 2004 and, while I had been on Field Trips before, it was usually as a Mommy Chaperone.

Occasionally, when I was acquiring either an under or over grad degree, I was called upon by Blackstone Valley School Districts to substitute for a teacher-chaperone when one called in sick.  (You’d be surprised how regularly this happened. Or maybe not, read on.)

Being a field trip substitute-teacher is more nerve-wracking than you’d think.  But once you realize no one expects you to know or do anything, you pretty much buddy up with an adult-guardian, get free admission to wherever you’re tripping, and shop in the Gift Store with discount tickets before re-boarding the bus.

One year, I taught music at a local elementary school from September to June for grades 1-5. In that entire school-year, the only field trip I chaperoned was the summer-school kind when I got to teach a week of remedial math using 3-D geometric foam, and on that Wednesday, we went to some waterslides for Sun and Wetness Day.

None of these experiences prepared me for the trip to Boston’s New England Aquarium, despite the aqueous theme at the waterslides.

A 25-year old trip coordinator named “Mr. X” had volunteered to organize this trip. A now three-year member of this school system, he was eligible for union-based compensation for Trip Coordinating, about which he was excited.

Until he found no one helped him organize.

Early-Out Retiring Teachers vowed never to involve themselves in any field trip again. Motto: He Can Figure It Out Like We Did  Motto II: Let Him Earn The Stipend

One Early-Outter had a sub for the May field trip, due to purposefully scheduling elective surgery that day.   Motto:  I’m Not Ruining My First Summer Vacation as a Retiree

In fact, long-term subs filled the school that year, of which I was one, hired for teachers whose retirements began mid September, late January, the middle of February vacation, and in my case, on December 8th. MTA Motto:  Retire Teachers Efficiently:  Let’s Use Their Birth Dates

FIELD TRIP LOG:  Star Date, May, 2004

7:30 AM:  A veteran of this system enters my social studies classroom.

 "Mrs. Given. Do you still have the list I gave you? Of the names of the students in your group and the parent chaperones you'll have in your class who will help oversee your homeroom students, plus students from other homerooms?"

"Wait.  What students from other homerooms?  Who are THEY?”

“I see you haven’t read the list.  The homerooms are split up. Social issues… it’s for safety.”

“But I don’t know any of them…how can that be safe???   I won’t--”

“Just read your list of names.”

She leaves.
This completes my instructions for our trip.
7:55 AM, twenty minutes before boarding buses, another teacher comes in to say, "Clear out your green recycling bin, pick two homeroom students to carry it your bus.  Number THREE. Their lunches will go in the bins."

“But not in that order, right? Because of the kids I don’t know that are in a different homeroom? And the four other groups some of MY kids are splitting into??”

She stares. 

She leaves.
8:05 AM: A different teacher comes in. "Did you know you have to have your homeroom bring the recycle bin to your bus?  Number 3?"

"I do. I pick two students to do this."

"Put your name and ‘Bus 3’ on the bin."

"But do we put the lunches into it before... or after we get on the bus? Because of kids I watch that aren’t in my homeroom. And vice versa with my students."

-- pause —

"I don't know."
8:10 AM: A Lunch Crisis Team is assembled. Consensus:  kids carry lunches to their assigned BUS, then put their lunches into that empty BIN.
I make this announcement to kids and two chaperones. Everyone nods. We start to line up.
8:15 AM: A fourth teacher comes to my homeroom. "What are you doing? You need to have your homeroom put their lunches inside your recycle bin now."

"No, no. They’re splitting off into five busses, so they put their lunches in bins on the bus they ride.”

“No, that’s wrong.  Just have them fill the bins now. We’re running late.”

She was gone.

I instruct everyone to put their lunches into the bin – which a parent chaperone is smearing with Purell.

They place their lunches into the bin.

One student says, "I want to put my name on mine."


-- silence –

Due to the Lunch-Labeling Effort, we go outside to board our buses late. We are greeted by horrified stares from Protocol-Followers.

My two designated lunch carriers -- struggling with 23 lunches constructed with Cro Magnon Cheese -- are stopped by a Helpful Teacher alerting them that they are "Getting on the WRONG BUS. YOU TWO STUDENTS ARE WITH ME.  ON BUS NUMBER TWO!"

I intervene, "They will get ON BUS NUMBER TWO after they carry the LUNCHES to my bus: NUMBER THREE, and THANK YOU."

8:26 AM: We are all on the bus. I am uneasy that our bus (#3) is filled with students I do not know. 

But I am distracted by a more troubling thought.

"Um, how will we get lunches to all the right kids?" I ask two Helpful Inclusion Aides.

They respond by looking at each other, rolling their eyes and staring out the window.

A few of the students they are accompanying begin playing with cell phones they’re not allowed at school and wave hats out windows they’re not supposed to wear.  Or wave. They throw chewed gum at each other. This occupies us all until the Mass Turnpike Pile-Up.

8:41 AM: I find this a good time to bring up lunches.

 "I'm concerned we have lunches for owners who are spread out over five busses. And where are the lunches for kids on OUR bus???"

Inclusion Teacher 1:  "I’m not in charge of lunches." 
So I pondered, “Perhaps we should keep the bins with us when we arrive."

Inclusion Teacher 2: “We’ll have to check on that."

"How do we do that?"

Inclusion Teacher 1: (sigh) "When we get to the Aquarium, we'll ask Field Trip Coordinator, Mr. X."

"I see."

Traffic abates -- we move at 65 MPH. Gum-wads fly on. I am gum-angry, so shout, "Miranda! I SAW you throw the chewed gum wad on the bus floor. TAKE this napkin and PICK IT UP," to which an Inclusion Enabler responds, "Mrs. Given, I just SAW Miranda spit her gum out the window... it wasn't her."

9:20 AM: We get to the Aquarium where AquaStaff boards the bus to deliver the Litany of Rules: 


I grab her. "Is there a place we can put our lunches?" 

"Yes, most schools store student lunches under the tent we have out back.  You'll find it after your group gets off the bus and goes forward about 20 yards."

"Okay!!  The first four students to the front... please grab the lunches. We're bringing them to a tent up ahead."

I am stopped by an Inclusion Confounder. "WAIT! Hold up on that, guys."  Whispering: "Carolyn, I told you we have to find OUT what we do with the lunches."

She leaves. Comes back in three minutes.  She has no idea.

The group has waited on her Lunch Edict.

 9:28 AM: Aquarium Staff is mad for the delay and informs me to “Deal with your lunch issue AFTER the kids get off. The bus has to move to make room for more schools coming in.”

"But the bus will LEAVE with the lun--"

"PLEASE move your group along!"

An Inclusion Teacher releases the death grip I and four students have on the lunch bins.  The lunches go on two seats.  She pushes me and kids out the door.

9:30 AM: The bus drives off with lunches.
We take up our places in The Aquarium Ashtray and Refuse Receptacle-Lined Waiting Area where all of the other groups are wielding green recycle bins with lunches.

This is where I hear a teacher yelling at a Bus THREE student I’d never met, "What do you MEAN you didn't bring your lunches!!!? Your bus is GONE! You have the lunches for students from FOUR OTHER GROUPS."

I grab the Bad-Decision-Making Inclusion Person. "Whaddup with the lunches?"

She sighs. "I GUESS they'll eat em on the bus ride home."


Due to the fact that Aquarium Staff reserved IMAX seats for only 180 out of 198 kids – (plus 12 parent chaperones never calculated), Union-Compensated Trip Coordinator Mr. X was stressed from dealing with 30 angry folks who didn't view the IMAX movie and his arm was tired from passing out Lunch Vouchers compliments of the Aquarium for effing up the reservation numbers, but which came in handy for those whose lunches were on Bus Number Three.

Meanwhile, as a trained English teacher subbing for History, I used mathematics to determine a Very Bad Sum.

After building a Venn Diagram out of stones from the Lunch Tent Play Pit, I discover a set of folks who did not view the movie, another set whose lunch was on Bus Number Three, and only five intersecting students inside the central elliptical orb.

These represented those who both did not see the IMAX movie AND were on Bus 3.  Their lunches were comp’d by Reservation Glitch Food Vouchers.

This yielded a total of 18 Lunch-Less students.

I excitedly raced to our Intrepid Trip Coordinator Mr. X to show him my gravel. In a tired voice, he declares, “The rest of them will have to eat their lunches on the bus."

I was so tired of hearing this.

Me: "But Mr. X.  Lunches on Bus Three are for five different groups. Spread out among five buses.  For ‘safety.’”

Coordinator X:  “Fuck.”

Me:  “Hang on, I circled all of MY kids and chaperones on my Master Itinerary List, so we can track em down and have chaperones retrieve any available lunches for their kids. Pass em out."

“Sure whatever—” … he ambles off into a tree.

This is when we discover Four Bins With Un-Labeled Lunches.

I begin helpfully holding up unlabeled lunches and having kids claim them.

Inclusionists begin helpfully tackling my Holding UP Arm whispering, “You do NOT wanna do this.”

Which is when the bus drivers appeared in their buses.  Sweating.  Pointing at their wristwatches.

“Pass em out ON the bus!!”

Bins are pulled from various teacher-hands and brought to Buses w/corresponding Bin Numbers. Students and chaperones and teachers get on buses.
BUS #3:  Reunited With Our Lunch Bin

Kids refuse to eat a lunch they did not bring. Some weep that their lunch is being consumed “by a stranger.”

 I look at the hungry faces and make this announcement: "For those who GOT no lunch, who would like a LUNCHABLE???"

ALL hands go up.  I rephrase: "Raise your hands if you had NO LUNCH."

Inclusionists roll their eyes.

Eleven hands go up.

I prepare to deliver lunches to them -- but I am stopped by another Inclusion Arm.

They sigh. They text message to each other.

One whips lunches out of my hand, then passes them Bucket Brigade Style to the other aide who personally delivers them to children they know had no lunch.

I sit back down, chew gum, adjust my new Sperm Whale Beer-Can-Holding Hat With Adjustable Mouth Straw, and make prank phone calls with my cell phone.

When I get home, I get on the internet to look for a new job. I send my resume via email to alternative education sites throughout the state, plus some in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Got an interview two years later in Marlborough.

The rest is history. 

(Oh, if anyone recalls me twitching whenever the prospect of organizing a field trip came up – OR the times I ‘called in sick’ and had substitutes for field trip days, I hope you can, in hindsight, forgive me.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mrs. Given Gets A 'SNOW DAY' For Christmas!!!

Oh it’s going to be a holly jolly Christmas this year!  FINALLY, Christmas is getting a Snow Day.

 I don’t mean the morning flurries that optimistic meteorologists are predicting for tomorrow.   (Don’t bother charging your digital camera for the White Panorama: the weather-people just want attention. )

No, this ‘snow day’ means that our Christmas is ‘delayed.’  By two days.  Woo HOO!

I am SOOO behind on cooking, shopping, wrapping.  Don’t even have the tree up. 

Because, as an early Christmas gift, our three sons gave us a reprieve by spending Christmas Day AND the day after with their fiancées and families -- in entirely different zip codes, one in Sunny Canadia!

I hate to sound all Pollyanna, making lemons out of lemonade, because deep down I’m a shameless opportunist.  But I could not be happier. 

An extra two days means I can BLOG Christmas Eve morning, which, as you can see I am doing right now in my Ralphie Christmas Boxers and black wife beater.

I even took time today to read and respond to a newsy email from a friend who – get this – is also not with her kiddos on Actual Christmas Day, so she invited us to her place for tomorrow, late morning!

I, for one, have nothing to do right now, so let me share my e-response with you:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
“Dearest R,

“I am DELIGHTED you took yourself, solo, to see the film, Lincoln! Sounds like an historical epic! What a coincidence, because I almost did this on the same afternoon!  I left the house at 2, hit the dump, then the liquor store for a bottle of SUPER On-Sale white-cake vodka for Abby (nothing says 'I love you' at Christmas like half-off her favorite flavor), then OFF to the mall.

“It was 7:50 when I loaded the last Christmas bundle into the Blazer.  I was seeing double by then, so I drove straight home. Next time you wanna go to a movie alone, call me. We’ll do it together.

 “Another coincidence, when you mentioned your son’s college applications, I remembered I just blogged about it.  You and your son can review it here:

“We’ll try and swing by tomorrow, late morning. But I have to tell you:  I spent some of my ‘NEW free time’ today laying out unwrapped gifts for everyone, to discover -- before we unwrap them this year – which child I forgot to shop for.

“It was stunning. Might have to pop out later today.

“Meanwhile, last night was so relaxing.  Jonathan, Abby and I were reveling in the cooking I wasn’t doing 48 hours before the holiday. Abby – ever thoughtful – piggy-backed on the revelry by ordering pizza for dinner, then suggested we not trim the tree.

  “’Won’t it be fun,” she posited, “’to lounge in the living 
   room tonight slurping pizza and watching movies, knowing  
   we’re trimming the tree CHRISTMAS MORNING? We can do
   it to Christmas Carols!’”

“We danced in the kitchen at the prospect of this new tradition.  I just hope the kids continue to not come on Christmas Day.

“Another Christmas miracle a la Abby took place. For the FIRST time ever (light a candle in the window, sing the Gloria Patria) she wants to make Christmas cookies with me.  And I quote:  ‘You know the ones you buy in a tube?’

  "’Of course I do.  I just blogged about it in EAT IT RAW 

   "’Mama, stop self-promoting.’


   "’I believe your FAVE Christmas cookie, Mommy, is sugar-
   cookie raw dough, right? You said it reminds you of white
   cake with white frosting that you like so much.’

   "’No, honey, that’s YOU. It's why you like cake-flavored

   "’I hate that shit.  It’s YOU that like it and where was I?  
   You keep interrupting. Oh, so we can get out a cookbook
   and figure out how to make raw tube dough, from

   "’Cookbooks, yes yes, we have some.  I even blogged about  
   them at   

   "’STOP THAT.’

   "’Honey, my point is that cookbooks make me nervous.’

   "’Well, I can go to Dave's Liquor Store now and get you
   some white-cake vodka. I think it’s on sale! We'll sip on
   it Christmas morning, with some take-out breakfast.’

   "’Forget Dave’s. I might be able to rustle up a bottle  

   "’YES, Mother, I KNOWWW … you blogg'd about holiday  
   binge-drinking at     

   "’You memorized the link!  --sniff--   ...thank you,   

   "’Anyway, we'll sip our cocktails, have some breakfast, and  
   make sugar cookies together!  Do you know where the
   rolling pin and cookie cutters are?’

   "’Abigail Lindley-Geneva!  How do you even know about -  

   “’The streets, Ma. I'm 22.’

       I felt dizzy. 

    "’I hope you 'take precautions.'

    "’Your kitchen-fires have taught me much, Mama, my flat- 
    mates and I use pot holders.’

“So as you can see, my dearest friend, while we may very WELL be able to swing by your lovely place before 2:30, we might also be dousing flames and electrocuting ourselves with Christmas lights dangling in tree-stand water.

“Our schedule is like the Lottery.  Except I hope we win. Against all odds, we hope to see you tomorrow!  HO HO HO!  XOXO, Carolyn”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Before I go off to start a new Christmas List (I know now which kid I forgot), I wish you all a joyous holiday. And thank GAWD no one is coming til the 27th.  Everything’s on mega-sale the 26th.