Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sad.. And The Bird Thing Really Did Happen, Too...

...forgive me, I was high on floor varnish fumes as I wrote this... when Mr. IQ said the floor would be done by Tuesday, damn it, he really meant what he said!!... Of course, silly old me, I thought he meant LAST Tuesday... wait a minute, today is WEDNESDAY!! That BASTARD!!....

Luciano Pavarotti died last week. Without trying to sound insensitive or selfish, I must say he picked a really crappy time to go. Could there BE a more stressful time of year than the beginning of September? On behalf of teachers everywhere who were going back to work last week and totally freaking out, THANKS A LOT, "PAV." Being blasted by your gut-wrenching, soul-searching, weep-inducing, "WhyAmIHereAnyway?"- Demanding, "DustInTheWind! AllIAmIsDustInTheWind!" Eye-Openers EVERY TIME I TURNED ON THE STUPID RADIO LAST WEEK was MORE THAN I COULD HANDLE. What on EARTH were you THINKING?? WERE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME TOO???

(Whoa, wait a minute! It's the touching works of KANSAS that make me feel all those deep things, not Luciano. Anyway.)

Without giving the impression that I'm more cultured than I really am, because, believe me, I'm not, it was terribly sad listening to him all last week. I'm sorry, but if you can listen to Nessun Dorma and not feel like sobbing your guts out, then you have no passion in your heart. Actually, I don't have a lot of passion in my heart, but I do have an amazing, near-genius ability to feel sorry for myself. Really, it's almost the same thing.

Anyway, I was going to tell you about the crickets.

Each year, when I return to work in the fall, our school is filled with the sound of crickets. They're not there in June, but over the summer they always manage to make their way into the building. Or maybe they are there in June, but haven't started chirping yet. My buddy Nitroglycol would know. My own personal knowledge of crickets comes exclusively from reading A Cricket in Times Square as a kid, and it seems to me that that cricket chirped his way through the whole book. (Yes, I do teach high school biology sometimes, thanks for asking! Shocked? Don't be. My only knowledge of chemistry comes from reading a scene in an Enid Blyton book where someone forgot to add baking powder to the scones. As a result, they didn't rise. They needed the baking powder for the acid/base bubbly thing to happen. If I remember correctly, Hilary [or was it Belinda?] was quite upset.)

Anyway. The crickets. Coming back to their chirps each fall would be quite charming, if you didn't know that they were all dying. There is one that sits and chirps all morning in my kitchenette-filled chemistry class, and try as I will, I can't find exactly where he (she?) is. It makes me sad hearing him chirp. Even the prospect of that big Mulberry Tree in the Sky that he may be going to if he's been good doesn't make me feel much better. He's giving his last performance and honestly, it's depressing as hell listening to him. Actually, it totally breaks my heart.

The first week of school is always very hard for me. I get scared and suffer stage fright, because teaching is very much like being on stage all day, and the possibility of bombing up there and being booed is very, very real. Maybe because of this, every fall when I hear these crickets I feel like crying and running away.

Of course, as fate would have it, as I was making my panic-stricken way to my very first class of the year last week, I ran into one of them. Oh, he looked so frightened, scurrying along this way and that, not sure where to go. His jerky little movements were awfully endearing, and he reminded me a lot of Baby Fangs when she was in her crawling stage: so very sweet and innocent and, damn it all, so terribly vulnerable.

"Hey, little buddy, come on, we'll flee this place together!" I tried to surreptitiously vibe him, hoping he'd jump onto my outstretched hand and be my friend as together we disappeared into my car and made a run for the border. But he wisely ignored me, so I had no choice but to head to my classroom where, left distracted (and distraught!) by the Baby Fangs crawling cricket, I found myself greeted by the unwelcoming presence of 31 unfamiliar kids, all staring up at me with unsmiling faces.

Really, there was nothing I could do but plunge nervously into my first lesson. So that's what I did.

"Okay, so I'm, uh, Ms Whippersnapper and today we're, uh, going to learn about sig figs. Sort of. Well, we're going to add them. Not add sig figs, but, uh, use them. When adding. And subtracting! So, uh, let's say we've got 7000 plus 673 plus 120, well, you've got to include sig figs in your answer so, ha ha, let's look at all the numbers, the leftmost non sig fig number in 7000 is 7 and in the other two numbers it's 3 and 0, non-sig figs that is, so you look at the leftmost sig figs and, whoa, I guess if you're looking at the overhead that would be rightmost number, anyway, you've got to add them, that should be easy, you've been adding like this since grade three at least and besides, ha ha, you can always use a calculator, anyway line them up when you're adding them, thousands, hundreds, whatever, do that and look at your leftmost sig figs in the three numbers, I mean, rightmost, well, if you've written it down now on your own paper it would be leftmost and anyway, you need to check out this leftmostest number of the three and that will be your answer. Well, not your answer, but, you know, how you're going to answer your answer. I mean, question. Yes. Well, so you look at it, and it's thousands, right? Right? Right, so you take the thousandsplaceandputitinyour answersoeventhoughtheanswerisreally7793you're doingtheleftmostthingsoit'sgoingtobe8000. See? HAHAHAHAHA! Pretty easy, huh?"

I then spent the rest of the period going to each student individually and re-teaching what I had just "taught" to the whole class on the overhead.

But that was last week. This week has gone better. I think.

Except that I googled "Crickets" and discovered that to make chocolate-covered crickets you have to rinse them in water first and then stick them in the freezer until they're "dead but not yet frozen."

Then while reading Salmon Rushdie's book Fury in the tub, I emerged dripping and headed straight to the office (the office! Oh god, the office! Don't get me started on the office) to google the word "strappado." Finding out what it meant didn't exactly lift my spirits.

And then a bird flew into our house. Oh, poor bird. It settled on the dining room window sill, and I thought that I would be able to save him, because that window pushes open so easily. But when I moved forward to set him free he flew off frightened in the opposite direction, bashed into our living room window and went crashing dead onto our floor. It happened so fast it took me several seconds to even register what had happened.

If I were a clever girl, I would be able to make some clever connections here about all these dead and/or dying pretty tune makers. But I'm not, so I can't. All I know is that the cricket's little chirp was very faint today. He sounds so sad, and I still can't find him. I can hardly bear it that he's spending his last days cooped up in a dully painted, ugly-floored home-ec room.

But I know. He's only a cricket.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Awfully Short Post

...give me a week or two of this "working for a living" business to get myself properly sorted out OK? It's been quite the shock to this lazy girl's system...

Because I'm part-time these days, I'm usually on the highway over the noon hour, and I've taken to listening to the UMFM's broadcast of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman during my disgustingly long, carbon-spewing ride home from the small town in which I teach. I'm not ashamed to say that I think I have developed a little bit of a girl-crush on her. Her growly voice just kills me, and she's sort of everything I'm not but wish I could be: Politically articulate, objective and emotionally IN CONTROL when it comes to the pressing issues of the day. Because this has been a weepy week (Baby Fangs has sobbed uncontrollably each morning as I've left for work) her show and that voice have had an incredible impact on me. Words and phrases like "melting polar ice caps", "Abu Ghraib" and "Jimmy Carter" get me bawling in ways that can be confusing (JIMMY CARTER???) and probably not emotionally healthy. I would be reluctant to write about it here, were I not so positive that it is only a temporary affliction brought on by the terrible upheavals of the week.

Actually, a lot of things are making me bawl these days. (Ball whom? Hahahahahahaha blehhhhhh.)

Like the crickets.

I'll try to write about the crickets tomorrow.

Friday, September 07, 2007


...that doesn't stand for what you think it stands for...

Today's schedule, in brief:

5:30 am: Wake. Make up chemistry worksheet. Get ready for work.

7:00 am: Leave for work.

12:47 pm: Return from work.

4:10 pm: Leave for work again to supervise "Gym Night."

8:39 pm: Return from work.

Total hours spent on work (including, admittedly, the commute): 10+ hours

How swell it is that I'm going PART-TIME this year! I can't tell you how RELAXED and UNDERWORKED I FEEL.

PS: Piss off, spellcheck. Underworked is too a word.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Final Update Until Everything's Done

...and it WILL get done...the floor is half sanded, and will be finished's looking swell, but I'm tired of writing about it, so I'll spare you any more details until the last coat of whatever that stuff is you put on wood to make it shine has dried... then, really, honestly, truly, there will be pictures...

Do you know how people say things like, "Well, my house can sure get messy, but at least it's never DIRTY"?

Well, right now, this house is dirty.

Or, even better, people who go on and on and on about a disaster zone in their house and then when you finally get to see it you find it's not even slightly disastrous? (Heather sprang one of these on me last month when I was allowed a peek at her infamous laundry room. It was sparkling neat and the disappointment I felt and the feelings of betrayal I experienced when I saw it were frankly soul-crushing.)

Listen: My house really is a total and complete disaster zone.

I feel like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz when describing what the Winged Monkeys did to him. ("They took my arms and threw them over there! Then they took my legs and threw them over there!") The contents of my house have been thrown everywhere, and while I know it has not been done irrationally, we're working towards a greater good here and it's all part of a well-thought-out master plan, having a pile of books sitting in my bathtub of all places is enough to send any good woman over the edge. Especially when that someone is about to return to work after 16 months!!

I cannot even begin to describe how fabulous it is to start off the school year feeling so wonderfully organized!

Actually, I'm very much looking forward to going back to work. (Having said that, if I wasn't part-time this year, I must confess I would not be blogging right now: I would be upstairs staring at my sleeping children and sobbing my guts out.) But getting out every morning is going to be great, and, despite what people might tell you, teaching is actually an absolutely fantastic job. It's a well-kept secret that teenagers are the funniest people on the planet, and I am NOT lying OR exaggerating when I say that every day at work I get at least three honest-to-goodness belly laughs because students have said things that are hilarious.

So yeah, teaching is great.

If it weren't for the insane workload (do you KNOW how many hours teachers put in at home?) the overflowing classrooms (a blog post of its own) the stupid education "specialists" (you would not BELIEVE some of the crap they've tried to make me do in my classroom) the crazy parents ("how dare you look at my [spoiled, lazy, stupid, rude, total asshole] child sideways!") the finger-pointing media (who blame us teachers for EVERY societal woe from increasing crime rates to childhood obesity) the resentful taxpayers ("how dare you get all those holidays! And what's up with your five hour work day anyway?") ("five hours": ooooh, don't even get me started) and the patronizing academics ("well, we know she's not smart! If she was smart she would have become a doctor!") why, honestly:

It would be practically the most perfect job there is.

PS: Apparently I will be teaching my chemistry classes in the home-ec room this year. Yes, you've read that correctly: Chem labs in the morning; cooking classes in the afternoon.

Someone is going to die.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Update #6


The last two posts have been a little negative, and I'm thinking I'd better end the day a little more positively. Besides, things have actually turned out to be OK.

We never found the driver's license, which doesn't surprise me. This place is crazy. (I personally have been unable to locate my own license since last October. Really. I'm telling you, we're not normal people around here.) When Mr. IQ finally seemed resolved to this fact, I gently brought up the issue of floor sander rental.

"If we bring it home today, we'll get an extra day free because the store is closed tomorrow," I said.

"OK, let's do it," he said.

So we did and when we got home he got to work right away. The machine made a lot of noise, and seemed, in my humble opinion, a little out of control. He looked like a cowboy holding a bucking bronco by the horns, only, you know, without the cowboy hat and cheesy cowboy moustache. The whole place was vibrating in an (I'll be honest here) not altogether unpleasant manner. But the expression on his face told me that Mr. IQ was not going to be getting his rocks off on THAT 150 pounder: Not today; not anytime.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I'm not sure," he said. He checked the Internet and then phoned the store. They had him run it while they yelled directions to him. "YOU MEAN IT SHOULDN'T BE BOUNCING LIKE THIS?" he shouted, trying to keep the phone to his ear and maintain control of the machine at the same time. Apparently the answer was no. Slamming the phone down, he yanked the sander out of the room and dragged it down the front steps of our house angrily like it was a recalcitrant child.

"THE @%&!! THING IS BROKEN!!" he shouted, "I'M GOING TO GET MY MONEY BACK!!!!" Shoving the 150 pound vibrator into the passenger seat, he climbed in behind the wheel and tore off around the corner towards Rona, wheels screeching.

I walked slowly back into the house with a heavy heart. There had been only one machine available to rent today. The floor was not going to be fixed any time soon. I started to make supper, vegetarian chicken noodle soup. The vegetarian chicken chunks, which transform into rubber when placed in boiling hot, chicken-flavoured water (I didn't know they did this) symbolized my inability to navigate normally through the murky waters of this basically ridiculous world. And the noodles symbolized nooses, nooses which invitingly beckoned me towards a happier, less stressful place, a place where physical limitations would prevent me from getting into projects that are way over my head (attractive coffin makeovers for example.)

I hope you don't think I'm serious.

(Total side note: The soup, as you can imagine, ended up being thoroughly disgusting, and High Intensity howled all through dinner about how gross it was. It reminded me of the book Trainspotting where the main character says something like, "Everyone grows up thinking their mother is the best cook in the world. I did too, until I grew up and realized she can't cook for shit." Poor old H.I. She knows my culinary skills suck and she's only four years old.)

Anyway! Mr. IQ returned. And he had another sander!!!

"I was very polite," he said, "but I think they could see the quiet rage." To make a long story short, to make up for the inconvenience of sending us home with a faulty machine, they've refunded our rental money, and the first $90.00 of sanding supplies we need are ON THE HOUSE!!!!"


Update #5


Oh, and the open-faced sandwiches? The ones without slices of bread on top? The ones that, here in North America, seem naked and incomplete and definitely missing something? They symbolized EVERY STUPID PROJECT THAT WE HAVE STARTED AROUND THIS STUPID HOUSE AND NEVER GOT AROUND TO FINISHING.

Not that I'm calling us pathetic, unorganized and scatterbrained or anything like that.

Update #4

...I knew yesterday had been too good to be true...

The day has started slowly, and we just wasted a good hour preparing a large tray of Scandinavian-style open-face sandwiches and consuming them. It was a highly symbolic meal, although no-one at the table other than me was aware of this. The canned wild salmon symbolized my fragile mental health, which, like the wild salmon, is highly endangered right now. The Havarti sandwiches with red pepper rings symbolized the sour, I-Am-Smelling- Something-Bad expression my face is quickly assuming as it dawns on me that we'll probably never get that damn floor finished. (If you've ever gotten a sniff of someone with Havarti breath you know what I'm talking about.) The yogurt symbolized the bacterial cultures that will help decompose Mr. IQ's corpse after I snap and kill him. And the Chinese green tea symbolized Asia, the continent to which I will flee to avoid my inevitable arrest and conviction for my role in his death. (Although were I to be tried by a jury of my peers, assuming these peers were married women, they'd find a way around the law and set me free I think. They'd know. They'd know.)

Why is the project stalled today? Because Mr. IQ has lost his ID and we are spending the day searching for it. He needs it to register for school on Tuesday.

My hair has turned white.

I can't stand this.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Update #3

...I know these posts are boring, as I said before, I'm doing this to keep me focussed. WE WILL FINISH THIS!!!...

I cannot believe this: I've LOST the battle. He phoned Rona and is renting a floor sander tomorrow. Apparently he can get the whole thing done by Tuesday.

So weird.

Pictures tomorrow. Promise.

Update #2

...I keep thinking of the show Trading Places. What I wouldn't give to trade places with you right now...

This morning I woke up at 7:30 and spent the next hour or so sorting through a bunch of Mr. IQ's crap that had to be moved for us to work on the TV room. Then he returned from work.

"Say!" he said, "There's a really great looking garage sale down the street! Wanna go?"

My response would determine how the rest of the day went. If I screeched, "GARAGE SALE???? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKING MIND?????? HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MUCH CRAP WE HAVE IN THIS HOUSE ALREADY???" the day, I knew, would go badly. So I did what I needed to do to make everything go smoothly today. I said, "No, but why don't you take the baby and check it out yourself?" He did and came back empty-handed but cheerful.

I am getting so damn wise in my old age.

There WAS hardwood floor down there, but it's in pretty sad shape. Mr. IQ has just spent two hours pulling out nails from it and is now taking a little snooze. We are having a bit of an argument about how to proceed. He wants to strip the floors and restore them to their former glory. I say buy the laminate wood flooring and have the thing done by tomorrow night.

Fifty bucks says I will win this argument.

Update #1

...oh, things aren't that bad... of course, my lovely parents just picked up the kids...

As I paint these walls I am reminded of this time when I was in high school. I had noticed the walls in our house were particularly dirty and so wet my finger with my spit and wrote HI at the top of the stairs. A few days later I noticed that someone had added an "S" to the beginning of my greeting and a "T" to the end of it.

My mom had done this, and it stayed like that for many, many months.

You should never fight your genetic inheritance. I should have just left these walls unpainted and I would be a MUCH happier person right now.

On the bright side, under the ugly linoleum in the TV room there is a big layer of plywood and under the plywood may be hardwood floors!! Mr. IQ is investigating as I type. Keep your fingers crossed, MAN would it save us a lot of time if it is.

I don't know why we call it the TV room. We never watch TV.

Distress Signal

True story, all of this. In the last few weeks alone, I have:

1. Lost a set of keys in the park

2. Left my bank card at the fruit and veggie store and had to go back for it

3. Left my wallet at the vintage clothing store and had to go back for it

4. Lost a pair of sunglasses

It is a major fact of my life that I:

1. Spend A MINIMUM of 40 minutes each day hunting for something I've lost (and really, that is NOT an exaggeration.)

2. Am about as absent minded as they come

I have not yet deteriorated to the point where I leave the house and forget to put on my pants first, but I suspect it is coming to that.

Looking around this house right now, the despair I feel is beyond description. This is awful.

Honestly, I wonder why people like me are even on the planet. I am so unsuited for the workings of everyday life it is ridiculous. I'm back to work in three days and this place is completely, totally and wholly upside down. We can't find anything. And we have a fruit fly infestation again.

I'll post some pictures in a few hours. You would not believe what this place looks like.