We saved up our best stories just for you! That, and if we don’t write them down, we’ll never remember to blackmail our children with them.
The Top Ten Things We Learned in 2006
10. Never teach butt spelling on Colossal Burger day. Marjie was tired of her students failing spelling tests so she ranted about how simply staring at the words didn’t qualify as studying and gave them several options to get the words “in their brains and out their bodies.” She demonstrated how to air spell, hand spell, draw spell, rainbow spell, foot spell, and yes, butt spell. Her sixth period class was enthusiastically practicing various methods when one quadrant of the room suddenly and noisily cleared. Left alone in the miasma was a single boy who said, “I’m sorry, Ms. DeWilde. I was practicing butt-spelling when it just came out!” While she aired out the classroom, Marjie checked the lunch menu. Colossal Burgers. Deadly.
9. Just when you think it’s hopeless, they get it. Teaching spelling for schwa vowels is difficult. First, Marjie has to convince students that there is such a thing. Then she has to break worse news. That /uh/ sound is in thousands of words, can be spelled by any vowel, usually appears in unstressed syllables, and follows few spelling rules. By the time she’s through, the gawping, confused looks from the students don’t inspire confidence. Then one day, she saw doodled on a girl’s folder, “Hi, I’m Mia. I’m an unaccented schwa.” Right on, sistuh!
8. Sometimes you just can’t kill a spider. Nothing disrupts a classroom faster than a bug. Kids jump up screaming out of their seats while others rush to see if they can find it. The screamers will not sit back down until the critter is located and dealt with. Marjie’s usual method is to squash it quickly and move on. But one day, her classroom aide found it first, a spider this time, on a book. Instead of flattening it, he carried it out the back door and took forever to release it while the entire class stood on their chairs to watch. When he returned, Marjie asked him why he took so long. “I couldn’t kill it,” he explained, “It was on Charlotte’s Web.”
7. Brownie vests are symbols of a mother’s love. Iron-on patches don’t iron on. You press the front and back for twice as long as the directions require, giving extra attention to the edges, burning a finger, and singeing a press cloth in the process. For this effort, you are treated to watching the patch slowly curl up and fall off over the next few months. And if you’re really lucky, your daughter is in an active Brownie troop that earns over a dozen patches a year. Marjie has given up. She now sits down every June and hand sews all of those patches on. It takes three days, a few stabbed fingers, and memories of Marjie’s mom complaining every time Dad got arm patches for his marshal’s uniform. However, if Hailey ever doubts that her mother loved her, she has only to look at that beautiful vest.
6. Three-year-olds don’t always get the concept. When Hailey and Anna started arguing about turning out the bedroom light because Hailey wanted to stay up late reading, we decided to put reading lights over each of their beds. With great ceremony amid stories of reading into the night from Marjie’s own childhood, we took them shopping and even found lights the girls could decorate themselves. Once everything was installed, the girls excitedly hopped into their beds with piles of books to read. Anna, after turning several pages, dropped the books on the floor and walked off muttering, “I still can’t read.”
5. You need to read the fliers. We’ve all ignored those faded warnings posted on the message boards at local parks. David pays more attention now. He was hiking alone at Rancho San Antonio when he turned a corner and came face to face with a mountain lion three bounds away. As the cat crept toward him, David followed the flier’s directions, threw his arms and backpack up, and desperately tried to look huge. The cougar fell for it and moved into the brush. David, for unfathomable reasons, continued his hike. Nonetheless, our entire family now blesses those fliers. Long may they fade.
4. Horse racing is a cra* shoot. We have proof. We had a family day at Bay Meadows. To keep the girls interested, we spotted them $10. For each race we studied the race program, watched the horses being saddled, talked about which ones looked the best, and in Hailey’s case, which ones smelled the worst. But the big winner of the day? Anna. She paid no attention to anything except the horse’s name and went 3 for 3 in the first three races and 4 for 7 overall.
3. Every era, and its truths, has to end. Our cordless phone gave out and with it went the answering machine. This would not have been a big deal except we lost the greeting we have used for years, recorded by Hailey when she was four. “We can’t come to the phone right now. It’s either because the baby’s crying or me running away from home or my dad’s running away.” We miss our greeting, and while no one is running away anymore, we find we don’t have any childish truths to replace it.
2. Kids have unique solutions. Marjie had been putting in long hours at the computer grading schoolwork. Anna was tired of it. When she couldn’t get Marjie’s attention by asking her to play and then climbing into her lap, she took the mouse away. When Marjie tried to get it back, Anna giggled, “No! Your mouse is on timeout.”
1. You never know where a child’s imagination will go. While David was with Anna in Missouri repairing the five figures of damage that squatters did to our house, Marjie and Hailey were home alone for over a month. During chore time, Hailey climbed on the dryer to clean out the lint trap for the third time in as many days. When Marjie asked her what was so special about lint, Hailey replied, “I like to pretend that this is all the bad dreams that came out of my pajamas.”
We hope that your lint trap catches all of your bad dreams, that no one has to put your mouse on timeout and that your family, like ours, is together for the holidays.
David, Marjie, Hailey, Anna, Bentley & Harley