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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #62: Apples

On the off chance you’ve been holed up in a cave for the last month or more, let me update you: it’s back to school time. And (despite the 80-degree weather outside) almost autumn. So let’s jump right into school mode and solve this math word problem:

What do you get when you add one stampede of energetic students to a group of hard-working teachers, multiplied by a ton of tired parents, divided by a hint of fall, minus a summer that vanished in an instant?

(A) The first week of school.
(B) A headache coming on.
(C) An apple outfit.
(D) All of the above.

Extra credit if you post your answer in the comments section!


Here's my initial sketch.

And here's the finished product.

When did I come up with this idea, and how? I'm not sure, exactly. Could it have been inspired by a teacher I know, Mr. Brady? He has a wonderful apple shirt. I saw the shirt a year ago, but it only occurred to me a few weeks ago to make an apple outfit. Interesting how the seeds of an idea sometimes take a long time to grow. Yesterday I asked Mr. Brady if he’d wear the apple shirt today and he did. We’re twins!

Are you wondering why it’s a tradition to give a teacher an apple? I thought so. I poked around online and decided that Smithsonian Magazine’s website seemed a reliable source. Here’s what the site had to say about apples for teachers:
Long ago it was the common for students and their families to give teachers food (but never rotten apples, even after a bad grade!). On the frontier families housed and fed teachers. And eventually the apple became a symbol of teachers.
This blogger thinks a B-12 shot and a pot of strong coffee would be an even more helpful/relevant/accurate symbol of what teachers need, but hey—traditions can be hard to de-establish. And I have nothing against apples. I like them! They’re colorful and delicious and every Kindergarten and first grade classroom in America has a picture of an apple next to the Aa leading the alphabet around the top of the walls. So why mess with tradition?!

Total cost for this outfit:
Fabric and dye from stash                            $      0
Red, yellow, green felt                                 $ 1.20
Hot glue sticks                                                $   .60
Red fabric for apple hat                                $ 1.50
TOTAL                                                               $ 3.30

I made my dress from fabric I had, which I dyed red (which faded to pink once I rinsed the fabric the requisite million times). Then I painted apples on my dress and hot glued fabric apples onto it, too. My apple hat I made from fabric and felt, and it is filled with bubble wrap I already had.
Even if I’m not mentally ready to jump back into the school year, at least my outfit is. And regardless of whether I feel ready for school, I’m always ready to give a teacher a high five. They work so hard and give so much. Call me preachy, but I’m going to urge you to give a teacher a hug or a smile today. Teachers, you are amazing. Thank you for all that you do. Let’s give these teachers a bushel of apples. And a gold star!       


Friday, August 19, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set…

I hate to brag (no, really), but for once, I’m ahead of the game.

Today I finished up almost all of the school supply shopping for my older kids. Man, it feels good!

And this is new for me. Most years, I’ve finished getting supplies a day or two before school starts. The night before school, I’d find myself awake later than planned, counting and organizing and assembling everything they needed to bring the following day. But this year I’m almost a week early. Some might call this “last minute.” But they are wrong. The last minute is the night before school starts.

When I arrived at the store this morning, the school supply section was somewhat busy, but not the mob scene it will be next week. I groaned to a woman near the binders. (And I know that I’m fortunate that I can buy supplies. I heard about a village in another country where students shared a single pencil. I am grateful, really.) But school supplies shopping means summer is ending. And I’m not ready.

Gathering supplies is not hard, per se. However, you have to be very much awake, and this morning I was not. Noticing details on the front of spiral notebooks takes an attentive mind. You easily could buy wide-ruled paper by accident, when college-ruled is on the list. Finding a three-subject spiral notebook as opposed to a five-subject spiral requires that one is alert. And once you find the five-subject spiral, you then must make sure it’s college ruled, not wide ruled. And what if the only ones left are yellow or pink, and your son is not fond of those colors? Nope: supply shopping is not a slapdash chore. You’ve got to bring your A game.

Plus, these days kids are using more advanced equipment than when I was in school. They use computers. They use scientific calculators. Requiring me to find the right thumb drive is even more complicated than sending me out into the wild to get the correct spiral notebook! Still, it had to be done. And I survived the expedition with only a few minor cuts and bruises.

As for my middle child, she wanted to get a lead on this chore and last June she told me that we should get her school supplies. Early. In mid-June the last thing I wanted to think about was the upcoming school year. I needed a break from school. This was the week after school let out, and I was exhausted from the school year, to the point that I had no fight left in me and getting the supplies (much as I didn’t want to) was easier than arguing with a very strong-willed child. I caved. The silver lining, though, was that today I had only half as many supplies to find, which was a relief. (But don’t tell her I said that.)

After I returned home, I stacked up the new school supplies, labeling some, and unwrapping others. I got a surprising sense of satisfaction, unwrapping erasers and permanent markers, and counting pencils. (Clearly, I need to get out more.) But stay with me for a minute. Before new supplies are put to work in class, they are beautiful. Shiny plastic markers gleam. Spiral notebooks aren’t bent yet at the corners or hanging onto their covers by a thread. A smooth, new pink eraser has a certain potential. Its edges are still crisp. It has not yet been stabbed by a pencil wielded by a school-aged boy.

(As a side note, did eraser stabbing bother anyone else when we were kids? I was such a meek child. It never occurred to me to stab a sharp pencil into an innocent eraser. But many boys in my class seemed to take great joy in this activity. For me, this felt very aggressive! Plus, once stabbed, it was only a matter of time before the eraser split into two pieces. Silly (short-sighted) boys…)

Assembling school supplies means that I no longer can be in denial about the approach of the new school year. This summer raced by far too fast. I’m not ready to be the homework cop again. I’ll be honest: I’m not excited about book reports. But school time is coming, and I will adjust. Still—please hold a good thought for us parents, because the school year is intense not just for kids but for us, too. Let’s take a deep breath together, shall we?

On your mark. Get set…ERASE!


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

We all Scream at Sunscreen

Summer Irony #87: Sunscreen won't stay where you put it (on your body) due to factors like pool water and sweat. But it will go where you didn't put it.  You discover, upon unpacking your pool bag at home, that the sunscreen leaked out of its bottle, all over your daughter’s sandals, your sunglasses, a juice pouch, and the inside of the bag. Because you didn’t have a million cleaning projects already.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

To the Moon!

A few days ago I relived a very special memory from more than thirty years ago.
Despite a completely reasonable fear of heights, I climbed to the top of a thirty-foot metal playground rocket ship, and held on as it swayed ever so slightly in the strong wind. It’s a different rocket ship than the one I played on as a child, but it’s very similar. The nostalgia was so strong I felt like my heart would burst open and fly up, just like the rocket ship I’d climbed.

Some of my earliest memories are from the park in my LA neighborhood, where the playground rocket ship pointed high into the sky, sunshine glinting off its metal. We have photos of our family at the park when my sister is a newborn and I had just turned two. I remember my babysitter taking me to the park in a blue mesh umbrella stroller when I was no more than three. I took ballet lessons at the Park/Rec Center, and attended summer camp and school parties there. Birthdays. Picnics. We played there every week for almost a decade. It had everything: soaring pine trees, shade, sun, play equipment, basketball hoops, trees good for climbing…

When the rocket ship was taken down I was a young teen, past the age where the park was my regular hangout. I was surprised when they took it down and replaced all the 1960s metal play equipment with the newer plastic type. But by then I was too busy reading teen magazines to mourn the disappearance of part of my childhood. It was when I became a parent that I started to miss that old school equipment. Granted, our rocket ship did sway noticeably. Clearly, it wasn’t safe anymore, or up to code. The trend in the 80s was to build new playgrounds. Nostalgia for the original equipment wasn’t there, yet.

After this week’s visit to the rocket ship, I poked around online, looking for more information about this former park staple. Apparently, many parks across the US had a rocket ship slide in the 1960s. The Space Age was booming and this passion for space travel translated to design elements in cars, architecture, toys and playgrounds. There are plenty of stories online about rocket ship slides being removed from parks, one by one, as they aged, as safety codes changed, and as trends evolved.

Only a few of these original rocket ship slides remain. One of the final few dates from 1960 and is at Los Arboles Park in Torrance, CA, the one I visited this week. Like other rocket ship slides at other parks, it too was slated for removal in the late 1990s. But once word of the upcoming change got around, the community spoke up and urged that the rocket ship be retrofitted rather than be retired. And so it was.
As I Googled images of park equipment from the 60s and 70s, I found lots of images of playground equipment similar to what was at our park. Here are a few photos from parks of similar vintage:


I love design from the 50s and 60s—in cars, in architecture, in textiles, in funky wallpaper and shelf paper. So my nostalgia for the rocket ship slide is partly due to the actual look of it, and partly due to the childhood memories it evokes—the warm days at the park, the innocence of childhood…

Here’s an ad I found online, the kind that equipment companies sent parks. This model shows a spiral staircase inside, which is how our rocket ship was. Most had ladders going from one level to the next. The text is hard to read but I think its copyright date is 1960 or 1965.


Knowing that the Los Arboles rocket ship was saved is also meaningful in another way. It’s a reminder that sometimes a community has a lot of influence over which pieces of the past are preserved. Not everything can be left untouched—and I get that. But so much of Southern California has changed since I was a child. So being able to climb up a metal rocket ship like the one I played on long ago is more nostalgic for me than visiting a new park. Newer equipment is good, too, but physical reminders of my childhood are part of my soul.

Every child should have a neighborhood park. Play is important. Moving, climbing, laughing, reaching, running…Parks are good for the body but also the spirit. Thanks for the memories this week, rocket ship. We may not have left Earth, but you took me on an unforgettable journey…