Thursday, October 20, 2011

Something for Everyone

Every year, educators and students throughout the state of Minnesota pause for a two day breath, of sorts, called Education Minnesota -- a Thursday and Friday in which educators educate themselves and students, well, frolic during two days of freedom.

Monday, the Matron realized that this year was actually the Education Minnesota Festival -- not two, but three days without school for her three children.

Tuesday, the Matron realized that the Education Minnesota Festival meant that she herself was also liberated from teaching her Thursday class, if not from grading all of those papers and exams. Drat.

Wednesday morning, as the children woke, the Matron realized that while HWCBN and the Diva were fully loaded with activities and homework, Merrick had NOTHING TO DO.


Matron on phone: "N? Can J play?"

Matron on phone: "H? Can R play?"

Matron on phone: "Grandma? Do you want company?"

Email: "hi hope all is well . . we'd love to see (insert name of close friend and then distant relative) today. . we can host AND I can drive . . no rush to let me know but here's my cell number.

Nothing. All of the buddies were already farmed out to various camps by parents who actually think more than two hours ahead.

Matron: "Merrick honey, there are no friends. Stryker and Scarlett are both going to be gone almost all day today and tomorrow. Dad and I both have to work. You're just going to have to hang in there and find some stuff to do, okay?" Translation: you get to watch TV for three days

Good sport that he is, Merrick did the only logical thing. He put on his favorite camouflage footie pajamas, grabbed a dog or two, and hunkered in for some quality screen time. For the next day and a half, he basically sat in the back of the van while the other children were transported, watched TV, played with a stick and waited for his parents to feed him.

Finally, today, the Matron took pity on her baby.

Matron: "Merrick! Let's do something fun, just for a little while!"

She suggested the dog park, children's museum, science museum, the magic shop, Candyland, bike ride, tennis.

Merrick: "No, thank you."

She was sure that television ripped out his soul!

Until . . .

Merrick: "Mom? Can I go to the uniform store?"

Now, Merrick - he of all things police and militia - just so happened to know that A) there was such a thing as a uniform store that sold holsters, night sticks, mace, police hats, sun glasses, boots, etc. and B) where that store was.

And so the highlight of Merrick's Minnesota Education Festival? Forty-five minutes sighing with deep-seated joy over police boots, uniforms, pins, holsters and rain jackets.

It takes all kinds. . . and this one is hers. Who is currently sleeping with his brand new compromise $8. nightstick, which the Matron deemed far more acceptable than the much lobbied for mace.

Good night Merrick. Just one more Festival day left.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Today's Actual Students

Today, the Matron put her best pedagogical foot forward and administered a fair, yet comprehensive, exam in class XXX. Because students did so poorly on the last exam, she also graciously offered this version as an open book!

An open book exam! In a fun and interesting class! Sounds like a party!! Compare this to calculus and well, let's all groove on that humanities thing!

Early this morning, however, calamity struck. She's sure her students were each, surprisingly, coincidentally born under the exact same astrological constellation. How unusual!

Email 1: "I am on my way to the dentist for an emergency root canal. When can I take the test?"

Email 2: "My car stalled on the highway and I'm typing from cell phone. What should I do?"

Well . . . she guesses that depends entirely on the veracity of the report.

Phone call: "My dog ran away, Mary. I need to keep looking for him. Can I take the test tomorrow?"

Email 3: "Funeral. Same time as test."

Email 4: "All of my four children are sick and I have to stay home to take care of them."

Phone call: "I lost my book!"

By the time yours truly got to the actual exam itself, she was beaten. Demoralized. Worn to a pulp and also annoyed with the extra work she just went to, setting up a second time for these absent students to take the exam. Yes, she gave them one final shot.

Just in case there really was a root canal, funeral, stalled car, sick children, lost dog and misplaced book. She's weak that way . . what if. Damn those stars.

So she was in a no-nonsense mood when the exam arrived for the students actually prepared to take it. With a book. To the Matron, this is sort of like saying: here are the answers. But she did it anyway. . .just in case that last test really was too hard.

Those students dug in. Got to work. Focused with barely a pause for a question or two. A peaceful, somewhat foreign, aura of genuine studiousness permeated the room. She began to relax.

Click, click click. Ten minutes are the test time was up, she gave the stragglers a two minute warning.

Click, click, click. The stragglers wrapped up and sort of meandered about, a few waiting to talk to the Matron. Except one, who kept on writing even as her instructor (the supposed authority figure) stood next to her and said: "really, it's time to stop."

Student Q: "I just need, like, another hour."

Matron: "Well, it's a timed exam with a grace period. That's all part of the process." Plus, the Matron had plans for that hour that did not include sitting in this classroom.

Student Q sighed deeply and shut her book: "Okay, but I did horrible."

But, there appeared to be a solution for Student Q. She handed the Matron her test and said: "You should just let me take this again tomorrow, okay?"

Now . . . the Matron isn't sure if it was the build-up -- the well-timed emergencies, the hours spent creating an exam (open book tests are tricky), the grading ahead -- or if it was just the 'you should' part that hit that wee little gas light that had ignited within her that morning.

Actually, she's pretty sure it was mostly shock that colored her reaction.

Matron: "ARE YOU KIDDING? NO. No. NO. This is a TEST which means how you actually perform on it MATTERS."

Student Q: "Well, it was just an idea. How else can I get a better grade on this test?"

Matron: "You can't! It's a test! Like Driver's Ed where if you crash you fail. The 'how can I do better' part is over!"

Student Q: "Well, the whole test situation just doesn't seem right."

Here, she was in complete agreement.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Good Mother

Saturday, the Matron was overcome with the urge to decorate for the upcoming holiday (Halloween - not Christmas). Now, this is not Standard Matronly Operating Procedure. Indeed, her sainted husband is the one who arranges furniture and selects drapes; even her idea of decorating for Christmas is opening the door when John brings in the tree.

But Saturday, the Matron took a look at the neighbor's yard: stark witches, ghosts, orange lights, tombstones, and spiders! She just knew there were apples to bob right on their front porch, too -- knew it without even landing an eye. One look at her own barren porch spoke volumes: her children were being deprived of their God-Buddha-Oprah-Allah given RIGHT to garish Halloween fare all over the front yard.

So she put on her best June Cleaver apron.

Matron: "Kids! Let's go into the basement and see what we can find for free Halloween fun!"

Merrick: "Awe you okay, mama?"

Scarlett: "Shouldn't we go to Target instead?"

Merrick: (honestly said this) "Okay, but do you WANT to do this or will you get cwabby?"

Frightened already (who needs Halloween when you've got the Matron!) into the basement they dove and much to the children's amazement, discovered much that could be eventually somehow with a little imagination construed as 'fun.' Forgotten treasures were unearthed -- some orange signage, lights, a witch's hat. Channeling mothers throughout time, the Matron (who actually does not even own a sewing needle because safety pins are more decorative) even created a few dozens ghosts to hang from a tree -- white plastic garbage bags scrunched into figures to hang by some string.

She was pretty darn pleased with herself. Once again, she had saved her children.

After they trotted off, she returned to the basement. Rumbling through boxes, she came across the only dolls that her oldest ever received, a beautiful Raggedy Ann and Andy given to him by his grandmother when he was just a few months old.

Tossed back a life time, the dolls made the dear Matron smile and return to those early days of babies and toddlers. Indeed, holding that Raggedy pair, her entire life as a mother flashed before her eyes.

Now, she's not sure what happened next. She really didn't think anything at all, but suddenly was overcome with a certainty -- an instinct, a drive, a compulsion -- that these dolls would make the PERFECT Halloween prop. She turned her artistic hand to the task and found it oddly, well, cathartic.

And so hanging from the front porch . . . Raggedy Ann

And her sidekick, Andy

For some strange, subterranean reason, the Matron felt that these macabre Halloween delights were . . . perfect.

She couldn't wait to show them to the children.

As Scarlett ran out the door to a neighbor's the Matron inquired: how do you like my creations?


Matron: "Really? I think they look super terrific!"

Scarlett, poised on the edge of womanhood, took a good, long look at her mother and said: "No, it's creepy because YOU, a mom, did it."

Just wait, darlin' . . . she's got some plans about what to stuff with that turkey.