Sunday, March 13, 2011

Copping an attitude

I don't know why, but it always seems that when it's time for Alison to study Religion, it's my turn to help with homework. This, if nothing else might convince me that there is a God and he/she has a twisted sense of humor.

It's been the Beatitudes. I know a bit about attitudes, but put a "b" in front of it and I'm less than scholarly.

Anyway, the assignment was to write down the original version and put it in your own words. Ali and I had already done this one, but Mrs. Zinkan had lost it and a few others so it was to be done again. While it seems to me that if a teacher loses a piece of finished work, it's an automatic "A" for the student who turned it in. Not so at CKS.

So Alison is parked at the kitchen counter, working on the translation document. I was cleaning up from dinner.

It was a stop and start kind of homework assignment with her getting stumped (or bored) and coming up with other things to do like coming over to the sink to repeat a movie quote or a line from the play we'd seen, or playing yet another version of When the Saints Come Marching in on her recorder. My job was to keep her focused in between trying to track down and actually wash, dry and re-put away the dishes we'd put away thinking Jeff had run the dishwasher while we'd been gone. (Yes. I saw the irony.)

Alison was on No. 8, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven," when she had an epiphany.

"Hey Mom," she said in what had to be her eight attempt to slack off the assignment. "I'm in No. 8. I have been persecuted!"

Now that'll make you stop fishing for dirty spoons.

"Really?" I said. "When was this?"

"Well there was this time at school when I pushed a kid into a snowbank," she started.

I turned around. "Um, who was persecuted?" I asked.

"Wait. I'm not done. I pushed the kid into the snowbank so he wouldn't get his split wide open with a ball someone was throwing. So I pushed him into the snowbank to keep him from getting hurt. And then, I got in trouble for protecting the kid! I was persecuted!"

While she was dreaming about which particular chunk of celestial real estate was coming her way, I tried to give her an example of how a debate-ably unfair punishment might stack up against real persecution. I find the Holocaust rarely fails to effectively show the disparity.

She saw the definitional difference and grudgingly agreed she might not actually fall under provision No. 8. She's still bitter, though. I'm pretty sure there's a Commandment or something that might guide her on when to let go of those grudges.

I might need to review that chapter myself...

We were doing homework on Sunday night because we've done nothing but run since Friday. Ali had a sleepover and play date Friday, which meant so did Jeff and I. Ali and I drove down to Sullivan County Saturday to see niece Rebecca in her her first high school play -- Beauty and the Beast -- and we'd indulged in a hotel stay so we could play in the pool.

I drove to Chicago and back on Friday so I'm just a little bit ready to end it all. I might have to pretend that I forgot to reset my clock in the morning...

Oh, wait. We studied the Big 10 along with the 8 Beatitudes and I'm pretty sure No. 9 is the one where you're not suppose to lie.

I just heard Alison bust Jeff on breaking No. 2 a minute ago. He's trying to get better at Mario Kart so he can beat her. It's not going well and he's been practicing while she's been out of the house.

I think I'm going to have to remind her about that honor your father and mother. I'm guessing Moses would say she should let her old man win a time or two...

The picture is Alison showing off her braces. She's been fairly good about getting them and keeping the gunk out of them. She's sad that she'd had to give up most of her candy collection. Folks at Jeff and my office however, have been thrilled...

Monday, March 7, 2011


We've been entertained for the last few weeks by the dulcet tones of Alison and her brand new recorder.

She started out with the old standards -- Mary Had a Little Lamb and Hot Cross Buns -- and has finally mastered Ode to Joy and When the Saints Go Marching In.

It's been a journey filled with squeaks and slurps and more than a little frustration. But enough about Jeff and my reactions...

Yesterday she reached a high mark. "Mom! Mom! Look! I can play all of Ode to Joy with my eyes closed!"

After the applause ended, I reminded her that she'd be marching in the Indianapolis St. Patrick's Day parade and it might be smart of her to try marching and playing at the same time. That kept her honking and squeaking for most of the evening.

It brought me back to my days of forced clarinet playing. My siblings were not so gentle listeners to me as I am proving to be to my daughter. I was invited (not so gently) to go practice my craft outside. I ended up down at the creek at one point. I can't remember if I dragged it up in the big maple tree in the front yard or not.

I read a lot of books up in that tree. Years later I was talking about that and looking fondly up at that tree, my dad started laughing. Seems that tree was the nesting place of a family of black snakes. I'm petrified of snakes and he knew it. I think he must have spent hours watching me in that tree just waiting for the day I'd look up from an exciting chapter only to come face to face with a serpent and fall right down.

It wouldn't have mattered if I'd broken bones or brought the snake down with me, I'd have been dead of fright before I hit the ground. Oh my god. Can you imagine me charming those snakes with my clarinet?! Ack. I guess I wasn't very charming, thank God.

Anyway, I've been encouraging the recorder practice and marching practice. I'll even go watch her, although parades and maple trees hold the same amount of attraction to me, which is to say none at all.

After years of marching with the clarinet, Shakamak High School had a surplus of the licorice sticks in my junior or senior year. I moved onto the percussion section where the boys were. When the band instructor discovered (right after the parade where I made my bells debut) that I couldn't play piano and therefore hadn't a clue how to bang out a tune on the bells, he was in a quandary. All the snare drums were taken -- not that I could make a drum roll to save my life -- but he did believe that I could count to four.

So he gave me to the bass drum. And yes, I meant that I was given to it. The bass drum is big. Really big. I was no taller then than I am now -- 5'4" on a good day.

I think Mr. Scott looked at me as comic relief more than anything. His testament to my musical career involved more of a dissertation on how many romance novels I read during band practice than it did my reed or stick work.

So throughout parade season -- the sticky, sweaty, Indiana summertime -- there I'd be: wearing a long-sleeved, long pants, wool suit, a goofy at with a plastic neck strap tasked with keeping the beat but totally without a speck of rhythm in my genetic code.

The drum would tip me forward so I had to lean back to keep upright and hope to high hell I was walking in the right direction. Looking down wouldn't have helped -- I couldn't see my feet for the drum.

It was actually good training for pregnancy. But I digress.

I'm sure Alison will have a much better parade experience than I. If anything, she'll be a little chilly if the weather doesn't break. If you need a little culture, I'm certain I know a little redhead who will serenade you. Let me know and I'll find you a front row seat.

Or you can meet me at the parade. I'll be the one cheering on any short girls attached to bass drums....