Bloggin’ and Boggin’, It’s Cranberry Time!

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As a kid in Iowa, New England might as well have been a different country. My school wasn’t down with geography but as I’ve learned, that’s a trait shared by many land-locked education systems. (I think it’s jealousy.) Everything I knew about New England could be boiled down to four things:

  1. Pilgrims landed there.
  2. Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party happened there.
  3. Everyone hated their football team.
  4. Cranberries came from there.

The latter was something I knew because even as a kid I loved cranberries. My mouth watered when Mom opened the can and jiggled out the gel every Thanksgiving. (Shut up, that was classy in the 70s!) When most of the family turned up their noses, I scarfed down the extra tart cranberry relish made by Grandma Pete every Christmas. And thanks to an unsubstantiated claim by a small-town doctor regarding my mild kidney issue, my mother poured bottles of cranberry juice down my gullet for the first ten years of life to my joy.

As a kid, I’d seen photos in magazines of people standing in the water, scooping up cranberries and found it fascinating. My dad and uncle harvested corn and soybeans every fall with huge combines, filling truck after truck but that wasn’t fascinating. It was boring old farming. Maybe if the corn was the perfect shade of red and Dad scooped the corn out of a pool my interest would’ve been piqued but otherwise – meh.

When my husband The Turk told me our new home in Massachusetts was in cranberry country, I was pretty psyched. I wasn’t sure what cranberry country would look like but I was ready for the adventure. As I’ve discussed earlier (here it is in case you missed it) the downside of cranberry country is the plethora of snakes (The little bastards love the bogs but sometimes take a wrong turn to my front steps.) and the sand – sand that is enough to drive a mother crazy. Otherwise cranberry country is beautiful, consisting of lots of low-lying bogs filled with little bushes about 8 inches high everywhere you turn.

From the moment we landed in cranberry country this summer, I’ve waited for harvest season. I wanted to see if the images on TV and in those magazines were legit and more importantly, I wanted to see cranberries harvested for real. I asked everyone I met if they knew a cranberry farmer but came up empty. I considered putting out a call on the local Facebook page but that seemed a bit psycho and as we’re new in this little town, I’m trying to keep my crazy on the down low.

September came and went and I didn’t see a single bog harvest. The bogs were turning that beautiful shade of red but not a single one was flooded and filled with people in waders. Every errand I’d run would turn into a bog-stalking mission and every trip came up empty, until yesterday.

I’d just dropped Number 1 Son off at school following a doctor’s appointment and was cruising home when I spied it, a flooded bog! I slowed just in time to see the tell-tale floating crimson circle. PAYDIRT! I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by even if it was on a major thoroughfare. I whipped a quick U-ie and headed back with the lone intention of snapping a few photos. My scientific nerdom has long filled me with fascination about these berries and this coupled with my dangerous level of curiosity led to what happened next.

I couldn’t get a good photo and besides, was a photo really enough? I saw an open driveway and skidded in. I tried to look sane but when the woman standing there shoved her small son protectively behind her I realized I’d failed. The day-long drizzle had my hair frizzing like a cartoon crazy and thanks to the damp cold, I had on so many layers my ensemble was only missing a shopping cart.

From the men knee deep in water to the woman loading the truck, their expressions were universal – What the hell is this nut job doing and is she packin’ heat? Immediately I tried to prove my harmlessness.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve never seen a cranberry harvest before. We just moved from Indiana.” (I think I was better before I offered up the Indiana reference but I kept going.) “Can I just take some photos to show my kids?” When you throw in a reference to motherhood you’re always legit.

The farmers were more than amenable to my request causing me to think back to my own dad and what he might have done if some crazy New Englander stopped off in his cornfield and asked to take photos because she’d never seen corn harvested before. I knew what Dad would’ve done and that’s what led me to my next action – “So, how does this whole thing work?”

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Public interest is something that a farmer cannot resist. Farming is a thankless job so even if some lunatic woman shows interest, a good farmer will take the PR opportunity. He and his partner (a bad-ass female in chest-high waders) explained the entire process.

They use a machine to knock the berries off the bush to the ground.

-They then flood the blog with knee-deep water and the berries float on top for harvest.

-Berries are corralled with a black rubber barrier about 6” wide and dragged to shore.

-A huge pump pulls the berries out and dumps them into a truck.

-The truck takes the berries to the Ocean Spray plant on the other side of town and then returns over and over until the bog is empty.

It’s not all that different than harvesting corn but when you add the colors and the whole flooding process and even the word “bog” it just seems cooler. As the farmers in the bog pointed out, you don’t realize how cool it is until some crazy woman recently relocated from Indiana whips her car off the road to take photos and ask a gazillion questions.

I told them about growing up on a corn farm and we soon found that though the crops and processes are vastly different, the rest is basically the same right down to the cranberry farmer’s wife and young son bringing him lunch like my mom and we kids once did.

The Turk didn’t share my excitement, nor did my boys but that’s ok. If my dad were still alive he would’ve loved it and that was enough. My nerd bucket is filled and the farmers even told me Ocean Spray was hiring this week if I was interested in getting in on the packaging end of things. I’m giving it some thought. I do look fabulous in a hairnet.

So this Thanksgiving buy an extra bag or a couple more cans of cranberry goodness. I gotta keep my new found people in business. We have to support our farmers be they in a field or a bog because without farmers we’re all screwed.

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More Drama Than You Can Shake A Snake At

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Batman and Robin. Starsky and Hutch. Cagney and Lacey. While the Turk and I are more Bert and Ernie than the afore mentioned crime fighting duos, when it comes down to it, our partnership puts them all to shame. After dipping our toes into the speed and fury of the Boston housing market on our first relocation visit, we determined our best choice was  to send in a lone Turk to make a stealth buy. Many wives would fear this but Bert and I have rolled this way before.

The housing market was a see-it-buy-it situation, no time for thinking. The Turk, being a former military commando, (I found it hilarious at first too but it’s true.) was ideal for the job. He was going to fly out and buy us a house in Massachusetts while I simultaneously sold ours in Indiana. Impossible? Perhaps, but three days later, he gallantly returned having slapped a sold sign on a new home in Massachusetts while I did the same on our old one. We bought and sold on the same day, in two different states- step aside dynamic duos.

According to Zillow.com, the new house looked good but it was hard to figure out it’s geography. The Turk’s explanation didn’t help much. “It has very long driveway. There are trees. You see water from deck. You will like.”

My first glimpse was at closing. He was right. There were trees. There was a driveway that will likely leave us housebound for the entirety of snow season but in the off-season it provides nice cardio getting the mail. The water view is actually a cranberry bog, one of hundreds in our new hometown.

For a girl born in the middle of Iowa cornfields, the thought of living in cranberry country was both exotic and exciting. What could be more New England than sitting in an Adirondack chair, looking through the fall foliage at a flooded bog mid-harvest? Far more majestic than a dusty cornfield with a massive combine roaring through.

Unfortunately, that charm soon faded when we learned that with bogs come frogs – which is cool – but with frogs come snakes – which is not cool. At all.

Our first snake showed up hours after we closed on the home. Walking out the front door, Nugget’s Batman hi-top clad foot was about to land on the front step when I spied a   slimy bastard right in his path. With one swift mom-grab I swept Nugget to safety.

“What is dis? The Turk exclaimed as he ran into us. “What are you doing?” He hadn’t yet spied the enemy.

Having spent the past couple years teaching science, a career with a high ratio of snake views, I calmly pointed out the creepy son of a bitch swirling around the front step.

“God!!!!!!! What the hell??!!?!???!” He screamed before running inside and slamming the door. It took a few minutes before he remembered his sons and I were still in snake territory and needed the door opened for sanctuary.

The Turk’s squeal sent the  snake in search of refuge under the deck allowing us to make a break for it.

“God! I not know there are snakes here. I wouldn’t buy this house if I know there are snakes.”

“That’s a bit dramatic dear.” I countered. I was obnoxiously stoic until the anaconda attacks began to come daily. Even a science teacher desensitized to the horror, can’t take that crap.

The pinnacle was the snake that fought back. The boys and I had arrived home from yet another day at the beach, (After the past years of exile in land-locked Indiana there can never be too much time spent frolicking in the lapping waves.) and Number 1 nearly stepped on the hostile reptile sunning himself on the step.

“Mom! We got another!” He screamed.

Experienced snake shoo-ers by now,  we began screaming and clapping which usually causes the perpetrator to slither away in terror. Not this one though. He just rolled his lid-less eyes and was like, “Whatevs woman.” We took it up a notch by throwing pebbles in his general area. Again, nothing. Finally I decided I was going in for the kill with a rock to the head. Unfortunately I’m not athletically skilled so I missed and that’s when the evil serpent decided to fight back. The previously innocuous anaconda reared up like he was some kind of king cobra and jabbed at both Number 1 and I. Nugget, who is terrified of snakes, was half a mile down the driveway screaming in terror.

“We’ve got a psycho one here Mom.” Number 1 noted. “I can handle this.” Number 1 (who thankfully is more athletic than his mother) drew back with a rock and was about to launch when the snake bid a hasty retreat. Standing guard like a short Rambo, rock still in hand, he screamed at Nugget and I, “Go! Go! Go!” While waving us towards the door. Number 1 backed through the door last, muttering, “Game on sucker.”

Once inside, a battle plan was made. I could no longer allow my family to be tormented by the constant fear that a reptilian tyrant was hiding in every nook of our homestead. I considered negotiations with the snake people. Maybe start with threats of sanctions to get them to agree to peace talks. But before I could send off my first declaration, a glance out the window revealed my nemesis had returned and was preparing to slither up the door itself. The damn snake was holding us hostage!

Realizing this was a life and death situation I made immediate contact with the Turk, safely tucked away in his downtown office. In case things went south, I needed him to understand what had gone down. It was important he know the full story when the media arrived.

I texted: Snake holding us hostage -Help us – Send pizza.

To which he responded: *thumbs up*

The boys and I were on our own here.

Full disclosure, my first thought was “We have to burn this mother down. I don’t care if we just took out a new mortgage. No sane adjustor would call ‘insurance fraud’ on a house infested with snakes.” But instead I turned to Google.

As is so often the case, the great and wise Google held the answer- Snake-B-Gone. (I also had the choices of Shoo Snake, Snake-Away and Snake-Out, all real products!) Though it sounds like a product the Coyote purchased from the ACME company in the classic cartoon, it was legit. A few clicks later we located the goods in a hardware store two towns over and the boys and I were off.

As instructed on the container, I sprinkled liberally over the infested area. The powdery substance had a delicious cinnamon smell, causing Nugget to remark, “Dis smells like Chrissmas.” I had doubts about the power of any deterrent that smelled like a beloved holiday, but I hoped for the best. Just to be safe, I trashed talked while I sprinkled.

“Can you smell that slimy bastards? That’s the smell of your demise. It’s over. You are done.” Number 1 tried to point out snakes don’t have ears but I retorted that Nugget only has 1 and it doesn’t prevent him from knowing when he’s in big trouble.

It’s been 3 weeks and we’ve had only 1 new sighting, which was quickly met with more Snake-B-Gone and heightened trash talk. Personally, I think the trash talk has more power than the chemical but what evs. I do fear the coming fall. Rumor has it that the snake intensity picks up when they flood the blogs for harvest so if you never hear from me again, know I’m likely being held hostage by a nest of hostile snakes seeking retribution.

If that happens, send Snake-be-Gone!

 

Hold On, I’ll Grab My Metal Bra.

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For the past few weeks my life has been nothing but anxiety, packing tape and exhaustion. Now that we’ve officially started the epic journey of relocating our family (and cat) from Indiana to Boston, I’ve spent every second I am not working or attending to the task of keeping my offspring alive, packing or painting or pitching or bitching and often it’s all of the above simultaneously. It sucks. Moving sucks. Selling a house sucks. Buying a house sucks. It all just sucks. What sucks more is that by no choice of their own, this has become my kids’ life too.

“Mom, where is my Eagles jersey?”

Sorry buddy, I packed it.

“Mom, where is my blue Nerf gun?”

Sorry buddy, I packed it.

“Hey Mom, I can only find one pair of underwear.”

Oops, perhaps I packed too much.

Due to our familial crap show of late, I owed my dudes a little fun while Baba was out in Boston house hunting. When my dear friend (who I’m about to abandon amid the Hoosiers) suggested we take our male-spawns to Vikingfest, how could I say no?

Full disclosure, I don’t know a lot about vikings. I know they’re scruffy and untamed. (Much like my children.) I know they are surly and hostile. (Again, much like my children.) I know they are all named Thor and usually wear horns on their heads and pigtails. I know they ride boats and like to carve broads with big hooters on the fronts  of said boats and I know that their female counterparts wear metal bras. (I learned that from Elmer Fudd so it’s legit.) But the ad for Vikingfest promised ax throwing, jousting and traditional food and unless it’s a cannibal convention, I’m always in with the phrase “traditional food.” We were in.

After driving past the venue twice, we finally arrived to a giant field with a huge fire burning in the center which I hoped was for viking burials or at least a good virgin sacrifice. (Spoiler alert, we caught neither but we were there during daylight hours so I hold out hope.)  Aside from the fire, the entrance was a bit underwhelming but we were all game for an adventure so we pressed on with hopeful souls.

As we made our way to the “Wolf Petting” (Spoiler alert – it might have been a husky.) we met our first vikings. She wore a metal bra (SeeElmer Fudd IS historically accurate.) and was wrapped in a skimpy but seemingly vikingesque ensemble. Her male counterpart wore horns on his head and was dripping in faux furs. That couple was all I needed and I was 100% in on the adventure. If grown-ass adults are willing to don full costumes on a chilly Sunday morning and commit to this adventure I was down enough to pretend that a husky was a wolf too.

We soon learned that first couple were just an introduction. Down a winding path through the woods, we found a viking village fully stocked with grown-ass adult cosplayers who were so into their roles, they refused to admit their real names were not Asgaut and Esbjorn. I get it. It’s hard to be a pillaging bad-ass named Larry. But that was real commitment.

These modern-day vikings committed to their roles so hard that most had even camped there over the weekend under nothing more than traditional lean tos. I respect commitment but it was 30 degrees that night and there was was a Holiday Inn just down the road – vikings are not a sensible people.

During the hands-on-fashion segment of the experience, one could slip on a nice chainmail top and a festive steele helmut while accessorizing with a throwing axe. Fearing the enticing combination of chainmail and cleavage, I determined my rocking such an ensemble might be too much for the nerd population so I left the fashion segment to Number 1 Son. As a viking supposedly named Asguat but likely named Steve, slipped the chainmail over my son, I waited for his Turkish conqueror genetics to take over. I expected him to embrace his proven link to Genghis Khan. (Fo reals – I heard it on NPR, 98% of all males of Turkish and Arab descent share DNA with Genghis Khan which so explains Nugget.) I hoped for a battle roar and an arm raised in victory. Instead I got, “Ow. Mom, this is heavy. I don’t want to wear it.”  So much for genetics.

Overall I’m pretty nerdy by nature. I’ve got a solid knowledge of all things Star Wars and if an episode of classic Star Trek is on, I’m there. Oh, and don’t expect to see me do anything but bask in the glory of the Christmas Doctor Who marathon. My nerd hand is definitely strong, but I’ve never cosplayed. I mean not since I rocked my Wonder Woman Underooos back in ‘82. I was a professional costume designer for years back in  Philly but it never once crossed my mind to get into this whole world of make believe. However, I’m ridiculously fascinated by the concept of cosplay. What makes these people go all in and what keeps me from joining in the nerddom?

The more weekend warriors we encountered, the more my fascinated grew. Walking around in pelts and a metal bra all day before bedding down on some pine needles and wolf-hides for the night in the middle of suburbia doesn’t call to me. At all. But these people were game-on all weekend long and that’s when I got it.

Vikingfest, just like all the other events that draw cosplayers like moths to flames, are escapes. That chubby dude in the fur tunic sucking on the giant turkey leg is likely an I.T. guy. The only war he wages all week is against people using PASSWORD as their company password. But for one weekend in some unnamed park in the middle of nowhere, he can pretend to be a total badass named Tahvo. Let’s let him have that with respect because tomorrow Tahvo will be the guy saving those files you thought you’d saved while staring over his glasses and scoffing at your stupidity.

If anybody could use an escape from reality right now it’s a full-time working mom at the end of the school year, selling her house while simultaneously buying another 1000 miles away, packing up an entire family (and cat) to move across the country the day school ends. So pass me a metal bra and pour me a drink Tahvo, Brunhilda might be joining you soon!

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Please, Let Me Teach You…

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“Girl, you have orchestrated some serious BS in all the years I’ve known you but this just might be your best work yet. Don’t they know you’re just makin’ this crap up as you go?” My dearest friend, as southern women do, has an amazing ability to make what might seem like an insult sound like a compliment (Bless her heart.) Since she’s been my cohort for the past 100 years and has used her Mississippi charm to get our asses out of numerous jams, I knew she meant it with only the highest regard. “Do ya’ll think they’d let me fly in and be a fly on the wall?  I might need to see this in person.”

The Thelma to my Lousie was accurate. I’ve long been a master of BS, a skill I credit to my genetic linage of cattle traders. However, every good BS artist eventually hits something she cannot talk her way out of and I worried I was about to hit mine. I’d spent a couple weeks preparing for one of my biggest acts of BS to date and if I fell on my face it would totally be worthy of pointed laughter and mocking in a thick southern drawl. After all, I’d done the same to her on too many occasions. That’s true friendship.

So what was this situation I’d gotten myself into? Money laundering? Organ trafficking? Mercenary work on a remote island nation? Nah. Far bigger. Dear readers, I had agreed to present at the Hoosier of Association of Science Teachers convention. I was slated to teach science teachers how to teach science better. Mercenary work looked more enjoyable.

If you’re a regular reader of this fine work of literary genius, you might have read an earlier blog  in which I explained how I started as an art teacher and ended up as a science teacher. (Here it is if you’re dying to know more.) In terms of my career path the phrase, “What a long strange trip it’s been” has never been more accurate. That being said, of all the subjects I’ve taught, science, wins as favorite. But in the back of my mind, I’m always weary that someone will figure out I’m BSing my way through it.

Last year, it was suggested I attend the same gathering of science teaching professionals. Since I already have an unreasonable fear of Hoosiers (Why are they all so tall?) and at that point was suffering from an even more intense case of Imposter Syndrome, I was  hesitant. Would the Hoosier teachers demand credentials upon entry then admonish me upon learning I wasn’t one of them? I mean I didn’t go to IU or Purdue, I wasn’t a Hoosier and I didn’t even have a degree in science. I was ripe for victimization. But because I knew, if I was to remain in the science field, I’d need to stop fearing Hoosier hostility so I reluctantly agreed.

The sensible shoes and lack of discernable fashion within the overall crowd did not make it easy for me to blend in. I’m no trend-setter but I looked like Naomi Campbell’s short sister milling around a convention center full of science teachers. I watched enough Cagney and Lacey to know that if one wants to make it out alive, it’s best to keep her head down and blend. So I stuck to the back row in most sessions and left the questions to the legitimate scientists. I made it out unscathed, save for the one AP Chemistry session that left me staring at the presenter while a droplet of shame-drool tumbled down my chin. (I barely passed chemistry in 1988. In 30 years my comprehension has remained constant.)

Having gone in undercover last year I noticed something – the type of science these people were teacher was bore-ass. Perhaps in the eyes of the presenters arguing biological classification and exploring chemical equations on a whiteboard was a gas, but to we lesser-nerds, their methods weren’t grabbing anybody, especially not kids. And for kids like those in my classes who don’t always learn in the old schools ways, they were shut out completely. When the call for submissions came out last November searching for presenters for the 2018 conference, this Norma Rae couldn’t resist. I determined it was up to me to lead the charge for all of those not born with a scientific mind. In my clouded mind (perhaps due to age, perhaps due to a misspent youth) I rationalized that who could better teach science teachers how to teach science than an art teacher-turned-theater teacher-turned-writing teacher-turned-ESL teacher-turned-science teacher…right? The connection is obvi.

I dashed off a stunning proposal full of big, nerdy words and educational catch phrases. While my proposal was solid, I secretly hoped they would sense my illegitimacy and squash my dream before I had the opportunity to humiliate myself in front of a group of Hoosiers who might assault me using pocket protectors like ninja stars. However, the league of science teachers on the selection committee did not have a fine nose for BS because not only was I selected, I was also given an ideal time slot. I was screwed.

In the weeks leading up to my presentation I changed direction at least 50 times. While I am highly skilled at the art of BS, my medium is usually rooted in full confidence or complete ignorance. In this case, I had neither. I knew too much to feign ignorance and too little to be confident. Though I’ve taught for over 15 years, I’ve been teaching science less than 2 years so I had a solid fear of a legit science teacher shiving me with a broken test tube for lecturing them on something I knew little about.

Hours before my presentation with my epic doom looming on the horizon, I sat through a series of painfully boring presentations including one which caused me to consider gnawing off my own foot to escape. The presentation should’ve been cool. It promised to teach us how to use sci-fi movies to teach science. It sounded amazing and my initial excitement was shared with the 65 other people in the room. But by the end only two of us remained and we only stayed because we were blocked in by a projector cart. Upon browsing the presenter’s credentials, I learned he is a professor of science methods – this crap show was led by the dude who teaches science teachers how to teach science. It was like the Bat-symbol glared upon the wall calling me. I’m coming Commissioner Gordon and I’m bringin’ my BS to save the day!

A few hours later, I wowed my own packed house with my crazy playdough cell models, digestive tracts made out of gummy worms and pantyhose, and dramatic tales of droplets named Phil cruising through the water cycle. Best of all, no one gnawed off their own foot to leave early. (No one even left early! ) I even had some groupies at the end and none of them tried to shiv me with a test tube. All in all, the master of BS reined supreme and I further proved to my darling friend that I still got it.

 

Mastication is a Dangerous Word

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The longer one spends in middle school, the more one’s maturity is arrested. This phenomenon is referred to as “going native.” Going native is the idea that after prolonged exposure to their charges, an adult, namely a teacher, unintentionally falls to the same developmental plane as his or her pupils. I’ve been in middle school for over 15 years, not counting my time on the inside back in the ‘80s. There’s not a lot of hope left for my maturity. I certainly love a good fart joke, but lately I’m having a harder then usual time holding on to the minimal maturity gap I hold over my middle schoolers. I’m on the verge of going full-on native and it all started with mastication.

Last year when I was determining the subject areas necessary for middle school scientific brilliance, I decided that a peek into human anatomy was essential and as they say, it’s easiest to “go with what you know.” Since I’ve been digesting and pooping all my life, and have a strange obsession with both due to a bad gut, I am a master of the poop tract. (Don’t worry, I did have to good sense to list it as “Digestive System” on my formal documents as calling it the Poop Tract might be frowned upon by the higher ups.) I figured it would be a slam-dunk unit that would require little research / relearning on my end.

I needed a unit I had full comfort in this year because last January I spent every damn night re-learning physics so I could break it down and teach it to middle schoolers the next day. (Full disclosure, I didn’t really get physics the first time through back in the 90s so trying to teach it nearly killed me.) I was not going to fall victim to the same fate again.

Given my WebMD research on the esophagus, gall bladder, gut micro-biome, intestinal absorption, and because I love a good highball, the liver, our study of the poop tract was going to be an easily digested piece of cake. I planned labs and projects from analyzing enzymes in saliva to building 3-D digestive systems. This was going to be epic.

Then we actually began.

It was the moment I uttered the word mastication to a group of 8th graders that it hit me. I tried to keep my adult-cool and not don the same shade of red as those seated at the lab tables before, me but I could feel it rising. I couldn’t suppress the giggles. I was going native.

After altering my delivery from mastication to “chewing really hard” for the next class, I thought I might be in the clear. I hadn’t even considered that eventually we’d hit the anus. As a woman who cannot speak the name of the 7th planet from the sun without uncontrolled giggling, (Uranus…hehehehehehehe. If you missed my struggle with this last year, go have a look here.) this did not look promising. I’ve been in middle school all these years for a reason.

I made the executive decision to spend a portion of our first class on an anal extravaganza. I gave each class of middle schoolers free rein to gawfaw wildly at my every mention of the word anus to get it out of their system (and mine.) Was this my best teaching moment? Perhaps not, but it get the job done and there has been ample anus discussion in the past weeks with the only giggles being the ones I suppress.

Honestly, what human with any sense of humor would not chuckle when an excited 10 year-old responses to the question, “What is the job of the anus?” with an exuberant, “Well Mrs. O, that is where the magic happens.”

What could elicit such a response? See, in that guy’s class, we magically made poop. We tore up bagels, mixed them with ginger ale (aka stomach acid) and shoved our concoction through a variety of contraptions including a pair of pantyhose that served as intestines. We hit the highpoint as the glob that began as bagels came out the bottom of the pantyhose as a perfectly formed, rather realistic turd. The crowd went wild and a high-pitched “POOP!!!!!!” punctuated the hallway. Magic indeed my friend.

If making poop were not exciting enough, I’ve also filled the minds of my cherubs with fun facts like: the average human farts 14-21 times daily (more if you eat Taco Bell) and the loudest fart ever recorded clocked in at 194 decibles for 1/3 of a second which is louder than a cannon blast. (FYI, the perpetrator suffers back pain from that honker to this day. No mention of Taco Bell consumption prior, but I’m guessing yes.)

As we’ve moved into building models of the digestive track I’ve gotten to say things like, “That purple anus is too big.” And “Your rectum is on the floor, don’t forget to attach it. Or my favorite, “Don’t forget to paint your anus.” 

Fortunately, we’re about to move out of this unit because my heart can no longer handle the stifled laughter that occurs with walking the line of going native. A few more days of this and I’m going to blow. Next week we move on to nutrients. Its time to say goodbye to the anus but I’m sure it won’t be gone forever. After all, that is where the magic happens.

Mama Don’t Need No Tribe

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Everyone has those words or phrases that rub them wrong way like the ever-despised word “moist.” Personally, that one isn’t a trigger for me because when someone says “moist” my mind automatically follows that with “cake.”

It’s not gross words that rile me up, but more phrases that might be found in a middle management training manual, like “team building.” Or, “I just want to circle back to that.” Unless we’re out riding our bikes to the Dairy Queen in 6th grade or rounding up our wagon train to conquer the Wild West, I see no need for you to “circle back,” just call me.

But the phrase that has really been eating at me lately is “my tribe.” As an incredibly politically incorrect human, it’s probably shocking to most that I might be a little uncomfortable with that term. I’m especially uncomfortable when “my tribe” is used by a bunch of white chicks in reference to likeminded friends when they’re out grabbing pumpkin spice lattes. Even we offensive broads have limits.

This whole tribe thing has been stuck in my brain lately though and I’ve been giving it way more thought than necessary. It started last week when I was having a difficult time with Nugget which resulted in a true special needs mom meltdown. That’s when it was suggested that the answer to my problems was that I needed to find “my tribe.”

At the risk of sounding like an 80’s Rob Lowe character, I’ve always been a loner. People are fine and all, and I do have a pocket of friends I consider to be sisters and gay brothers, plus a huge web of people beyond that, but I’m an arms-length kind of gal. I don’t do tribal friendship. (Perhaps because I don’t do pumpkin spice lattes?) However, in my pocket of sisters and gay brothers and even in my web beyond, I don’t have any close special needs parent connections so my journey with Nugget has been a lonely road.

When you have a kid that carries a genetic label few have ever heard of and even fewer can spell (Branchio-oto-renal syndrome doesn’t usually pop up in spell check), and has a whole host of diagnoses that follow him around, it’s easy to feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway with no one to share your woes but Wilson the washed ashore volleyball. (Full Disclosure: sometimes when the Turk and I do talk about Nugget’s issues, the big English words throw him off and he basically turns into Wilson too. I love him but I know his limits.) But a tribe? I don’t know about that kind of hippie madness.

Last year Nugget finally started to catch up developmentally. About mid December, that dude started busting through every limitation that had been weighing him down. He gained years in months and it was exactly what my mom heart needed to believe things were finally going in the right direction.

And then this year he got stuck in a mudbog. Since school started this year Nugget has stagnated. No growth. No change. When I persist, “Let’s work on letters.” I’m met with, “Nope. Can’t do dat.”

If I try, “Let’s write together.”

I get, “No. I can’t.”

It’s killing my old teacher heart.

In addition to his genetic anomalies, Nugget also drew the long straw on a healthy dose of stubborn Turk genes too. Many a teacher and medical professional have said, “Wow, he really only does what he wants to do.”

To which I can only respond, “It seems you’ve not met his father.” But recently those Turk genes are about to do me in and have me worried of they are a sign of more than just obstinace.

The driving force behind my recent meltdown, the one that spurred the whole tribe thing, has been Nugget’s hatred of everything resulting in hissy fits that would make Naomi Campbell proud. There are tears, flailing, occasional profanity and relentless arguing and that’s just on Nugget’s side. I’m about a step from postal.

Simply put, Nugget doesn’t want to do anything.

Go to school – hissy fit.

Go to anything for his brother– hissy fit.

Grandma shows up – hissy fit.

Grandma leaves – hissy fit.

And the list goes on and on. After one particularly rough day when the hissy fit was so bad at school he had to go home, I immediately spiraled into a pit of mom guilt so deep even mid-day, high-dollar chocolate couldn’t bring me out.

It’s been a rough year with a new and highly incompetent teacher (It’s not brain surgery girl, it’s special ed preschool.) and I’m beginning to think special ed is holding him back. I spiraled from, maybe we should pull him from that school, to maybe if I weren’t so busy taking care of other people’s kids all day mine wouldn’t be in this mess.

I talked it out at work, (A major advantage to dealing with special ed school issues for you own kid is working in a special ed school) until I finally relented and called Wilson – I mean, the Turk. I’m not sure why I was moved to call him but I assumed that women with tribes do that kind of thing.

“I don’t know, I just think maybe if I weren’t working all the time I could get Nugget going again and put an end to this crap.” I whimpered on the verge of tears.

“No.” The Turk replied.

“What?”

“Honey, calm down. He is asshole. Even if you home all the time, he still be asshole.”

“Are you joking?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell with that accent.

“No. Don’t you remember Number 1 at this age? He was asshole too. He is not asshole now so they get over it. You don’t need to quit.”

The Turk was right. There was never a time when I understood more fully why animals eat their young than when our oldest was four. He was indeed a raging asshole but fortunately, he grew out of it.

“When I kid, I hate school too. My father get so mad because I never learn letters or write. I not do it because I thought it was stupid. Maybe he’s the same. Relax. We get him there.”

And with that, my meltdown ended. I didn’t need some ridiculous tribe; I only needed Wilson to finally talk back to me on my desert island.

Unfortunately, we are only 3.5 months into this grand age of 4 and with some wine and more high-dollar midday chocolate, I might make it through. Better than that though, I realized a gal doesn’t need a tribe as long as she has a straight shooting Turk.

 

Arrrrrrgggg, Fall Break, How Dare Ye!

Blackbeard

I’m having a difficult relationship with fall break this year. I’m torn and I think it might be best if fall break and I see other people.

Don’t get me wrong, like any human who spends their days in the trenches, dodging free-range sneezes and sauntering through unexpected fart bombs having chosen the title of Teacher, I love me some fall break. After two hard months of school, (2 months immersed in middle school hormones mind you) Mama needed a break. I mean, how long can one discuss worm poop and owl regurgitation before needing a breather? But somehow, this year fall break wasn’t what I needed.

It wasn’t like I was expecting an actual “break,” bingeing on Netflix and merlot while thumbing through People. No, that’s the stuff dreams are made of. For teacher-moms, a school break is never really a break. You just go from working two full-time jobs to working one (though not packing lunches and living via Crockpot for a few days is AH-MAZING!). Instead, I was ready for a break filled with outdoor entertainment with two tiny Turks, later bedtimes and a break from our insane schedule. What I wasn’t expecting was for fall break to show me how much I miss out on by working all the time.

Missing my babies didn’t hit at first, likely because the Turk and I made the error of taking a family get-away at the start of break. We were just going on an overnighter but as history has shown us, that never goes well.

This trip, like many through our history, went downhill from the onset.

“Why there are no signs for Cincinnati? We are driving for two hour, we should be there now.” The Turk muttered while making another obscene gesture at another passing truck.

Because I’m now well-versed in life with the Turk, I pulled up the directions on my phone to assess the situation. “You took 70. You were supposed to take 74.”

“What?” He wailed. “No. Your phone has problem. It is always wrong.”

Again, because I’ve lived this life for a looooong time, I pulled it up on his phone as proof.

“Oh.” He whispered. “They must have put wrong sign up back there.”

“I’m sure they did honey. I’m sure they did.”

Thus began an hour long journey through winding rural Indiana roads by two people terrified of Indiana (If you didn’t read my last post, click here. It explains everything.) with a ¼ tank of (PS- Rural Indiana, if you could replace just one or two of those churches with a gas station, that would be fantastic. Thanks.) and two carsick, starving children. By the time we reached civilization on the Ohio border, Number 1 was hangry, Nugget was nearly catatonic and I was surlier than normal. When the Turk proclaimed, “I think we just keep going to zoo. I am not so hungry.” after having stuffed his face with a family-sized bag of peanut M&M’s, I began to vividly imagine his death and wondered if the Twinkie Defense would hold up.

However, I didn’t get a chance to plot his demise because my darling offspring beat me to it. From the backseat came an uncharacteristically loud, “No Baba! Not this time. We are going to eat and we are going to eat now or you will regret it!” from Number 1. Never doubt the power of a hangry 9 year-old.

That incident was followed by stomping through a crowded zoo in unseasonable heat, a Nugget meltdown because a bird looked at him, a hostile tirade from the Turk because the gorilla exhibit was under construction (One word man, Harambe. The construction was justified.) and a skeezy hotel in which the elevator got stuck and the air conditioner fell off the wall. While it may seem dramatic, that’s pretty much how all of our family overnights pan out so it was no big thing and we made it out alive.

The boys and I spent the next chunk of break planning out Halloween costumes. Having a mom who used to be a professional costume designer, my boys think big when it comes to costumes. The day one of my children asks for a store-bought costume I may weep (in a sadness/relief combo).

Nugget had an exact image in his head but getting a four year-old with a speech impediment to explain that image can be challenging.

“Mom, I need a hooker for Hawoween.”

“Hubba whaaaaaa?”

“I hooker. I need one.”

I’ve never been one of those parents skilled in the art of keeping inappropriate topics away from little ears, but I’m also pretty sure a discussion of hookers never came up in our house. So hope was strong we were just having a miscommunication.

“You need a what?”

After a few charades it became clear what he really needed was a pirate’s hook for his hand. Because as he explained, “I can’t be a piwate wifout a hooker.”

And that was it. I was done. Sometimes it takes your 4 year-old asking for a hooker and your 9 year-old threatening harm to his father to show you how fast they’re growing up and to send a mom into a meltdown.

Our fall has been hectic with pee wee football (PS- We won the league championship though I may not be allowed to attend another championship game due to some language choices made in the heat of the moment.) a million other commitments and a raging battle with Nugget’s special ed class as I struggle to find out why he’s in a developmental standstill. I run out the door at 7:00 and rush back at 4:30. By the time we tackle daily tasks we’re lucky to have a couple hours together before bed. I miss my boys and spending a few full days with them always shows me how much.

So fall break, even though I longed for you, you suck. While I needed a few days without getting up at the butt-crack of dawn, I didn’t need the reminder that our life is like a raging river and I’m bobbing along like a flailing carp. If fall break left me in this state, all I can say is Christmas break- have mercy on me.

“I Ain’t From ‘Round These Parts.”

gun-totin-hoosier

I have a confession. I’m scared of Indiana. We’ve lived here for close to 5 years now and the only times we leave the Indianapolis-metro area and trek into the great unknown parts of the state are when enroute to somewhere safe, like Chicago or Philadelphia.

I’ve met a few people from the unknown parts and they are wonderful people but I am sure they are an anomaly – those who made it out alive.

My fear isn’t a simple unease. No. It’s a full-on, scardey cat, wussy-wuss, don’t make me go there, terror. In my mind, everything outside of the metro-Indianapolis area is filled with 7 feet-tall, (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Hoosiers as a people are HUGE.) camo clad Hoosiers toting multiple automatic weapons, ready to take out a city slicker with no explanation. I’m certain that if I stopped at a rural farmstand because I wanted to make zoodles for dinner and accidently dropped the word “zoodle” a hostile Hoosier will gun me down with the zucchini still in my hand.

Is it crazy and irrational? Of course it is! But you cannot expect rational thought to suddenly step in and take over my life when it’s never been invited to visit before. And the news is no help. Every night the local news is filled with stories of rural Hoosiers perpetrating crimes so bizarre that they often make the national news. Trust me readers, crazy-ass stuff happens in rural Indiana.

Many people in my life, especially native Hoosiers, find it hilarious that a woman who spent a chunk of her life in a major Turkish city (and let’s be honest, Turkey has never been known as a utopia of safety) can be fearful of the backwoods of a Great Plains state. But the fear is real I tell you.

Over the summer I registered for a workshop to fulfill professional development credits for work. Immediately after hitting “send” I saw the error in my plan. The workshop was in rural Indiana, a little too close to Kentucky. (Don’t judge, everybody is scared of Kentucky.) As the date approached I thought about ways to get out of it- faking a lung transplant. Claiming I was urgently needed in Turkey for family business. Blaming a hostile 4 year-old for losing my registration. I’ve got a good stock of viable excuses.

The workshop was to qualify me as a testing leader for Hoosier Stream Watch, an organization that relies on citizen science to monitor and report on the health of waterways statewide. (Yes, even in the Deliverance Zone.) It’s an amazing organization and I wanted to be involved, if I could find a way to get over my fear of death in the boondocks.

When I signed up, I assumed I’d be standing on the bank of a babbling brook, filling test tubes and maybe swirling a pH strip. That was it.

That was not it. The day before the workshop I got an email with a first line reading, “Don’t forget your waders.” Waders? Hubba-whaaaaa? The term “waders” suggests I’ll be wading and a city girl thigh deep in stream water, deep in the heart of rebel country makes her nothing more than a water-logged, easy to shoot, target.

When I broke the news of what I was about to undertake my husband, The Turk, was not a fan.

“I don’t think you can go.” The Turk proclaimed, the night before my workshop. (His crazy is not as extreme as mine, but he’s not heading to rural Indiana for fun either.)

“Why?”

“Why you stand deep in stream? What if you drown?”

“What??? Drowning? Why did you bring that up? Shot by a redneck yes, but I didn’t even think of drowning!”

“I am water engineer more than 20 years. I see things. One time, back in Turkey…”

“NO! Stop right there. Every time you start a story with “one time, back in Turkey,” someone meets an untimely demise in a horrific manner. Keep your death stories to yourself.” For reals, those stories are the stuff nightmares are made of. The only thing worse are his stories that begin, “When I was in Turkish army…”

“Ok. You go. Don’t say I did not warn you.”

Early the next morning I headed out to meet my doom. If I survived my foray into the backcountry and managed not to get shot, then chances were solid I would drown like a hairy Turk in a wastewater cesspool. Damn professional development.

I immediately learned most of my workshop comrades were homeschooling mothers from local farms, striving to keep their numerous young’uns safe from the heathenistic horrors of public education while giving them a biblical understanding of science…(Oh reader, I only wish I’d made that up.) Thankfully, none of them appeared to have firearms tucked into their mom-jeans.

As we hit the stream I was grateful I’d chosen this workshop during a month-long drought. The stream we were tasked with testing wasn’t so much a babbling brook, but more like a belching stream. I wasn’t going to drown today. But then our instructor sent us around the bend.

From her spot safe and dry on the bank, she instructed, “Next you’ll need to test the velocity of the stream from that spot right in the middle.” The lone dude in the group volunteered to go but he needed a partner and since I only have two children where the rest of the homeschoolers had between 8 and 9 children each (again, totally true.) I was sent to the middle of the stream.

If you’ve never tested the velocity of a stream, (And why would you?) it involves an apple, a stopwatch and math. As my extremely tall Hoosier partner headed into the stream, I timidly waded in. Thanks to my stump-like legs, the mid-calf boots I’d ordered hit me about mid-knee so I thought I was safe and I was, until the apple didn’t move. (Note to self- next time someone says bring waders…bring waders…)

We stood in the stream, stopwatches poised, waiting for the apple to pass the finish line. Thanks to a still day and low tributaries, we waited and we waited and while we waited the sludge beneath my boots began to open-up and suck me in. Like a 70’s superhero, I’d fallen victim to quicksand. (Or not, but quicksand seemed so much more dramatic in the moment.) My boots started taking on water. I was going down.

Then, the apple passed my timing arm and we were safe to head to dry land…safe, were I not butt-cheek deep in stanky swamp water.

After sharing a few new words with my homeschool moms, words they’d likely never heard before and words that likely burned their righteous ears, my man-partner helped me free my boots. While we fought with the sludge, I’m pretty sure the mothers on the banks sent thoughts and prayers into the ether for my nearly orphaned children and their potty-mouthed upbringing. Within moments I was safe on a muddy bank, soaking wet and smelling of stank water.

After another three hours identifying macro invertebrates and learning more about mayflies than I knew possible, I was sprung. I’d almost made it out alive when my joy turned to panic on the interstate ramp. As I was sprinting towards the safety of a northbound interstate lane, I was nearly side-swiped by a large pick-up truck sporting a window decal filling his entire back window. Half of the window displayed a massive gun while the other half read, “Careful, both driver and cab are fully armed.”

An overwhelming sense of justice swept across me. My fear was vindicated. The Hoosiers of the backwoods were just as I’d suspected. My crazy was validated. I could do nothing more than chuckle as I floored it back to the safety of suburbia all the while vowing never to leave again.

 

Can I Order a Sister-Wife On Amazon?

hilda 2

I needed new sneakers. So this morning I went online, found the model I like, picked a festive color and with a few clicks the deal was done before I even made it through a full cup of coffee. Tomorrow my new kicks will be waiting on my doorstep when I arrive home, ready and willing to escort my tired tootsies through the next 30 casual Fridays. Bingo bango, the interwebs solved my problem.

This got me thinking. I have another big problem. Could the interwebs solve that problem too? This problem is a bit more complex though; because I’ve decided I need a sister-wife. For real.

Now that school has started I am a hot mess. Between my full-time teaching job and my full-time job as a Turkish wife and my full-time plus job as an overbearing S-mother, I’m dying. Our household fluctuates between panic mode and squalor on the reg and my forty-something ass is dragin’.

-Dinner is mushy? Sorry family but that happens when Mom starts the slowcooker at 4:45 AM.

-“Hello? Yes this is Nugget’s mother. He didn’t wear his hearing aid to school…again?” That’s what happens when Mom isn’t there to micromanage putting him on the bus.

– “Yes, I realize the house looks like a crack-den but I’ve got a mountain of papers to grade.” I’m on it this weekend.

-“What permission slip? You needed it 2 weeks ago? Sorry Number 1 Son.” I’m on it.

-“No, the fish tank isn’t supposed to be green.” I’m on it.

-“Why are you discontinuing my cell service? Really? I haven’t paid the bill since July?” My bad. I’m on it.

-“What’s the…is that… cat barf on my foot?” Even the cat is out to get me.

A mortal woman can only keep this up for so long before being drawn to drastic measures, like pharmaceutical assistance (Though I don’t think Mother’s Little Helpers were really intended for upping the pace, were they?) and since I’m of an advanced age and our judgmental world now frowns upon such things, I’ve decided there is a better way. The way of the sister-wife.

Anyone who knows me (especially my husband the Turk) has long been troubled by my fascination with the whole concept of sister-wives. It started years ago in Turkey when Big Love was one of the only shows we got in English. Then there were the various documentaries I consumed on the topic followed by every episode of every season of TLC’s train wreck, Sister Wives. My obsession is strong.

Mock me if you will, but if you put all your Judge Judy tendencies aside, it makes good sense. Like a fool, I’ve given my family an unrealistic standard of mothering and while I kept it up for many years, now I’m ready to call in reinforcements.

If I get a sister-wife, she could stay home to make sure bills are paid, hearing-aids are worn, permission slips are actually signed and my house is kept in an inhabitable, dare I say, clean state. Currently there is a pod of cockroaches waiting on the doorstep in little fedoras carrying tiny Samsonite just waiting for the moment I lose the frontline battle with the crumbs. The struggle is real.

My sister-wife, let’s call her Eunice. Why Eunice? Because Eunice is a sensible name that says, stability, strength and no sex appeal. It’s a name fit for a sister-wife in a floral frock rocking excess facial hair and a uni-brow. More importantly, have you ever seen a big-boobed bombshell called Eunice? No. (I’m desperate. I’m not stupid.)

Even with Eunice’s mad housekeeping skills, love of gluten-free baking and ability to take on any issue that might arise, I have no worries about my husband trading me in for Eunice. For one, being from Turkey he’s seen a lot of bearded women with uni-brows and it’s not his jam. And for two, The Turk and I have equal levels of crazy that no other mortal would dare take on. As the Turks say, “There is a lid for every pot,” and much like Ricky was the lid for Lucy, the Turk is mine. Eunice hasn’t a chance.

According to the TLC series and Big Love, Eunice and I will be able to sip coffee together in the morning as we lament our daily duties, but we will often argue over small things until we draw up a workable, color-coded chore chart for both of us. I can handle that. It’s all about balance. If reality television is to be believed (And it is right? I mean, of course it’s true love on The Bachelor, right?) we won’t share clothes (because Eunice is selfish with her frocks) but we will cheer each other on as we visit our personal trainer and when difficulty arises, we’ll have our family therapist make a house call. (*note to self-get a family therapist and keep her on retainer.)

So you see, I’ve got it all figured out. Since there are not enough hours in the day for me to manage the life and limb of all the beings in this home and in my 6 daily classes, AND make sure no one in either position dies, I don’t see any other choice. If a fat, white man in America can order a hot Russian bride over the internet, why can’t a desperately exhausted mom find herself a lifesaving sister-wife the same way?

Eunice, I need you girl. I know you’re out there and my search has begun. I will find you. I won’t rest until I do. But I should probably bring this idea up with The Turk first…

 

Ya’ll Need Some Science Up In Here

science

In my 15 years  plus year of teaching, I’ve taught art, theatre, English, ESL, writing and a few other related subjects administrators threw my way. But now this ol’ grammar gal is teaching science. And while it has required pulling up some knowledge from the deepest recesses of my frontal lobe that I have not accessed since college in the early 90’s and provided my hippocampus with some marathon-caliber workouts (not to mention teaching me all these fancy new words) I absolutely love it. Somewhere between explaining cellular respiration to a room of stinky, middle schoolers and prepping microscope slides on my kitchen table, I realized I should’ve been a science teacher all along.

In my classes we grow things, we build things and we take things apart and make them into something new. We make huge messes, shoot things from catapults and blow things up. We have class in the woods and stomp through streams. We form questions, sometimes strange and ridiculous questions, and then we test for the answer. It’s freakin’ awesome! All those years I sat perched on a desk discussing character motivations and surmising the story after the story, I had no idea there was so much fun happening in science class. Had I known there was a job that condoned using warning labels as mere suggestion, I’d have been on it from day one.

So why did it take me 15 years in the ed biz to figure this out? Do I really have that little self-awareness? Perhaps. But I think the real blame goes to the teachers that shaped me back in the day.

27 years ago, my high school in rural Iowa boasted a whopping 99 in its graduating class, (That total is not inclusive of those classmates who were knocked up at graduation and there was more than one…). I’m quite certain the majority of the school’s educators thought pedagogy was a either dessert from Poland or a something from page 432 of the Kama Sutra. If you didn’t stand out as a stellar scholar bound for one of the three state schools by 8th grade, you were lumped into Category 2 – a direct ticket to community college or trade school at best. Even though I was a kid with learning issues, I loved science and had big dreams of life in a lab until I met Algebra. After repeatedly coming up empty-handed in my search for X, I was awarded the Category 2 badge. While being a card-carrying member of Category 2 kept the academic expectations low resulting in far more time for my excessive extra-circulars, it took a lot more fight to get out.

Though I had the label, I didn’t see myself as a Category 2er, so even though it wasn’t sanctioned, I started the college process on my own. When I proclaimed my ardent desire to get the hell out of Iowa and head to the East Coast where I would fulfill my destiny of greatness, the school’s lone guidance counselor replied, “Oh honey, you’re not smart enough for college.”

That guidance counselor had also provided guidance for my parents 20 years prior where they too had been put into Category 2 along with numerous aunts and uncles as well as my older brother. We were a long line of Category 2s. When she regained her composure and stopped laughing, she provided me with a brochure from the nearby community college and suggested I look into their Ag Management program. “You’ve a perfect candidate for the 6 week program in Hog Confinement Management.”

From beneath my sky-high bangs and through a foggy haze of residual Aqua-net my mouth dropped open. I fancied myself to be a Midwestern Molly Ringwald, and hoped to meet up with the rest of the Brat Pack as soon as I got to the East Coast for college.

“Hog Confinement Management? Are you kidding? Do I look like I do hogs?”  I probably brushed back a strand of crispy, permed hair to punctuate my point.

“Oh dear, you’ve got so much to learn.”

On that point she was right. I did have a lot to learn and once I started learning, I never wanted to stop. I did get into college and I went on to get more than a couple degrees. However, none of them were in science because though I’d proven myself to be above a Category 2, the label was still there reminding me I wasn’t smart enough for a career in science.

But with time and especially with old age, things change and sometimes people see something in you you never saw in yourself- like a science teacher where an English teacher had always been. When I started refreshing my brain and revisiting ideas like phototropism and cell division, my passion for science was reignited and by the time I had a classroom of kids searching for cell walls under microscopes and using my nerdy rhymes to differentiate the xylem from the phloem, I realized I was more than capable. Who knew I had the potential to be a chubbier, cooler Bill Nye for the modern age?

Ironically, I teach science to kids that would easily be labeled Category 2. Many of my students are on the Autism spectrum and others are figuring out how to learn with executive function issues, dyslexia and ADHD. Some struggle to understand the material while others understand perfectly but struggle to get their thoughts out of their brain. Regardless of their diagnoses, I think they are all amazing. Never in a million years would I label one of these awesome kids and let them think they were not smart enough to follow their passions. That’s not my job. That is not any teacher’s job. My job is to give them a love of learning, ignite in them a passion for science and most of all, help them believe in themselves. 

Coming back into the scientific realm I’ve seen a lot of changes. Unlike 30 years ago, while science knows more, society trusts less and it’s a dangerous combination. Science education has never been more important that it is right now and I’m so crazy jazzed to be a part of this. The world we’re living in right now needs more scientists and science needs more people that see the world differently. (And man, I’ve got classes full of those!)

Maybe one of my hyper focused autistic kids holds the key to stopping climate change or perhaps I’m turning a kid on to plants that will become a botanist on the first Martian colony (seriously, I think I have that guy in 3rd period). What if the kid that struggles with writing sentences has the potential to master gene splicing to end a deadly disease? But instead of someone helping him, they labeled him as Category 2 and he gave up. Not on my watch. I’m pretty sure that in this era Category 2s will be the ones who will save the day. Watch out world, here we come. (Just as soon as we figure out where in the hell to find X in an algebraic equation….)

 

*In the next episode I’ll tell you all about trying to look cool at the Science Teacher’s Convention and rallying the troops for the upcoming March For Science. I’m all in baby!