Monday, January 29, 2007

The Fix 'Em Up Shop

Hi there folks! Welcome to Big Daddy 's Fix 'Em Up Shop. I'm Big Daddy and this is some of my crew. I'm going to take you around my fine establishment here and show you the sights. You'll see more of these guys later on. Well... look who's here!

Hey there, Bob! This is Bob, my tow truck driver. Looks like one of our boys in blue is having some engine trouble. Go ahead and take it around back! Okay, let's go on inside now.
Howdy Folks! Hope you all haven't been waiting long! But it can't be all that bad when you are in a waiting room like this, complete with all the comforts of home...

We got ice cold sodas, five channels of television, and a little snack machine if you've got a sweet tooth. Julie can make change if you need it. Speaking of Julie...

Here she is! Julie is the heart and soul of this operation. She our cashier and the office manager. That means she does all my work for me! HA HA! Just kidding!
Here's Julie hard at work at her desk. Is that a Chai Latte? Sure smells good. Why don't you make me one?
This is my desk. From here I can oversee the whole place. On my desk here is my computer and this lovely photo of my dog. But enough of this, let's go around back so you can see where the magic happens!

Here at the Fix 'Em Up Shop, we take care of all sizes of vehicles- from the tiny ones to big monsters like this. Under there is Larry. How's it going Larry? What? Oh, that's Harry. Well, keep up the good work, boy!

This must be Larry then. Working on these little cars takes a lot of special training and equipment. That's some toolbelt, Larry!

But this here is my favorite employee, Car Bot. I love this guy! He's never late to work. He never asks for a raise. He never steals tools! I wish I had three of him!Honestly, I don't know what half the stuff in here does, but as long as cars are getting fixed, then it's all good!

We take good care of our customers here at the Fix 'Em Up Shop. Did you know that everytime you get a repair here you get a complimentary....


Wash!Here's loyal customer Jane. She was in today for an oil change. Let's follow her through my state-of-the-art car wash. First, you put in the token and wait for the light to turn green.

All these gizmos blast your vehicle with water, soap and wax.

Finally, after you're all clean, your car is blown dry and heated.

Here's Jane and her car is looking good. Jane's looking pretty clean herself!

Here's an ariel shot of my car wash. Enjoy it. It cost me a fortune to get this shot.

The shop, too. That pilot was a thief!
I hope you enjoyed the tour of my shop. It's my pride and joy! Come back anytime!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sharpen This!

You might think you know what my job is, but you would be wrong. I might pose as a "substitute elementary teacher", but in reality, most everyday, I'm a director in one of the greatest musical productions you've ever heard. It goes by many titles-- "Lead Dread", "Get to the Point!", or "Misery Wrapped in Wood". But the title I prefer is "Tragedy of the Pencil".

This show plays daily in most 1st and 2nd grade classrooms. It's a long show, usually five to six hours long, so wear something comfortable and make sure you have plenty of Tylenol on hand. As you move up through the grades, the length of the show decreases, but every now and then you''ll hear one of its catchy reprises or haunting melodies.

The marvel of this show is the variety of the musical styling. Some days it's sung to zany circus music; another day it might be an operatic lament. Will it be a big brass band complete with a cannon in tow or a retro interpretation of a dull needle on a skippy, scratchy LP recording of "Songs to Annoy". Whatever the tune, the libretto is always the same. Here's a small sampling. Feel free to tap you toe along to any tune that strikes your fancy.

My pencil needs sharpening! My pencil lead broke! Can I sharpen my pencil? Will you sharpen it for me? Our pencil sharpener doesn't work right. I hurt my hand sharpening my pencil. HE'S EMPTYING IT AGAIN!

Can I use the electric sharpener? ONLY THE TEACHER CAN USE THE ELECTRIC SHARPENER! Nuh-un! Yes-huh! The electric sharpener is too hot! It's overhot! It's our third one this year! She's putting colored pencils in the sharpener! I have a fuzzy pencil! I have a shiny pencil! I have a glitter pencil! She broke the sharpener! HE'S EMPTYING IT AGAIN!

I lost my pencil. Can't find my pencil! I just had it and now it's gone. He took my pencil. No, this is mine! No it's not! It's mine 'cause I found it on the floor! That's my pencil!

I broke my pencil. She broke my pencil. My pencil won't sharpen. This pencil doesn't have an eraser anymore! This eraser only makes black marks. Can I glue my eraser back on? Look at my cool eraser. Hey, that's my eraser! Nuh-uh! Yes-huh! I found it on the floor yesterday!

Our teacher lets us have mechanical pencils. My lead keeps breaking. I'm out of lead. [Sound of tiny bits of lead hitting the floor.] Opps! Can I borrow some lead? There's some in the teachers that drawer right there...she lets us borrow. I took my pencil apart and there was this tiny spring that was really fun and I was squeezing it and it went boing boing boing and then it flew over there and now I can't find it and now I don't have a pencil. HE'S USING A PEN!

I need a pencil. My pencil is too short to use. He has like fifty hundred pencils in his box and he won't let me have one. Fine, I'll just use a crayon and it will be ugly and I'll get a bad grade!

I broke my pencil in half and now I have two!

I wish I could offer you the entire show, but some things must be experienced in person to be truly appreciated. So, this is your director saying farewell and "Stop pointing that at me"!

Monday, January 22, 2007

What Happens in Book Club...

The girl belongs to a book club after school. It really seems like a great thing on the surface: They meet once a week for an hour and they are matched up with a Junior High age girl as their sister. They get a copy of the book they are reading to keep and snacks are served. Seems just about perfect. The problem comes in with the book they've been reading since the beginning-- "Little Women". Of all the wonderful, TIMELY books that they could be reading, why oh why, are they reading "Little Women"? It's been a long, long time since I read it and I'll confess I don't remember much about it. My mom had (and I'm sure it's still somewhere in the house) a Louisa May Alcott little treasury set. I can still picture it-- four little green hard-bound books in their own case. I loved how those books looked. I know that I read "Little Women", but I remember it took me a long time. I never read the other three. Not a good sign.

When the girl came home from her first meeting with her own fat paperback of it, I was baffled. What were the organizers thinking? Come to find out they are thinking that a production of "Little Women" will be in Cleveland in the spring and they are taking the girls on a field trip to see it then. Are they reading any other books? No, just this. They have a schedule of chapters to keep up with that will take them right up to the show, I guess. That is, if there's anyone left in the club to take.

Girls have been dropping out a steady pace of a one or two a meeting since the start. My girl and her two closest pals are sticking it out, though, I'm not sure why. All they do is complain- the book is boring, the older girls spend the meeting just visiting with each other, the snacks are gross- it's all unhappiness! I think it's almost a contest between them now: Who can stand it the longest.

To help the girl keep up, I checked out the book on CDs from the library. I thought listening to it would make it easier to follow for her and it seems to be working for her. Occasionally she'll come to me with a especially thick passage that she needs me to make sense of for her. This is not a fun book to read by anyones standard.

I assume that the existence of this club was to promote a love of reading, but it seems like a giant failure to me. When she comes home all bummed out by another annoying meeting, it makes me want to do is start my own book club. But I would do it right. The first book we would read would be "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman just to let them know that I mean business and this not going to be your average book club. After that maybe "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech. Then they wouldn't know what to expect. What's it going to be next? "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" or "Pride and Prejudice"? Could be anything! But I really doubt "Little Women" would ever make my reading list!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ely Pride for him!

Ethan won Ely Pride this week! Way to go sweetie! He won it once before in 2nd grade. Here's the now and then pics.

January 2007

March 2003

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dear Kate...

First, sorry for the long absence. I have no explanation. Now down to business.

Mostly I read children's and young adult literature. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I like to be able to suggest good books to the kids. No one should waste their time reading crap! Second, children's lit is what is laying around in the rooms I work in (and try to stay awake in), so I pick it up there and finish it later in another classroom or at home. Long time patrons to the cafe know that not long ago I finished the Herculean task of reading all the Newbery award winning books. That was an experience! Through all this I have acquired some favorite authors, ones I can't stand and some very strong opinions. Today, I'd like to write about the acclaimed, award-winning children's author, Kate DiCamillo.

If I was going to write her a letter, it would start something like this:

Dear Kate,
What the hell?!?!?!?

Okay, maybe I wouldn't be that blunt, but it truly is how I feel and a question I would really like answered.

You might not be familiar with her name, but I'm sure all of you know of her most famous story "Because of Winn Dixie". Now this is a great book. Truly great. It is full of rich characters and beautiful little side stories. It has loss, fear, abandonment, and sadness all overcome with love and everything ends up right as rain. Go ahead and read it and then watch the charming little movie if only to see Dave Matthews sing and play guitar in it. Hmmmm. Oh, and that dog is pretty damn cute, too.

Her next book "A Tiger Rising" is the bleak opposite of "Winn Dixie". This is one drab, dismal story with deeply sad people in miserable circumstances. It's gritty and ugly and just super depressing. It's got one of THE saddest endings I've ever read in ANY book. I actually cried. When I see this book in class libraries, I want to hide it in the back so nobody reads it by accident. But, the reason it works as such a downer is that Kate is an amazing writer and these characters are tragically real.

Then she wrote "The Tale of Despereux" another about-face. This might be (Might be!) my favorite book in the whole wide world. If you've never read this, stop reading my dumb blog and go start it now. It is an amazing fairy tale that has a little bit of everything: bad guys, good guys, a beautiful princess, scary places, sad moments, funny people, a rat with a hard to pronounce name and a satisfying ending. Kate got the Newbery for this and she deserved it. It's a fantastic book.

But unfortunately bi-polar Kate didn't stop there. She went on to write "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane", which is what prompts me to write the above letter. We bought a beautiful copy of this book at the last book sale and the clerk told us that it was "Better the Despereaux", which I thought was a lofty thing to claim. E checked out a copy of it on tape from the library to listen to on his way to Vermont. His report was very vague-- "Ummm...Don't read it to the kids until you read it yourself. I'm not going to say anything else. " It's not a long book and I read it all in one night. Here's MY report....

This is an awful book. Miserable. It is as big a downer as "Tiger", but in a different and much worse way. I can't even imagine why she wrote it moreover I can't imagine that her publisher said "Yeah, that's the ticket!" Confused by the existence of this book, I sought out other reviews of it. They are glowing! People love this bag-over-your-head, punch-in-the-face goop! I do not understand. It's like everyone is taking crazy pills! But here, you can make your own decision based on my very biased review. (Spoiler Alert! I never want you to read this, so I'm spoiling it for you!)

Edward Tulane is a three foot tall jointed china rabbit, which right there should be a clue that this book is going to be problematic. I mean, what kind of toy is that for a child to have? Anyway, through a series of tragedies, each one worse than the last, Edward goes through a variety of owners until at last you have the "miraculous" ending which is not a surprise in the least, that is, if you read the title. This book is chock full of terrible things for kids to think about as they drift off to sleep: jealousy, greed, drunken beatings, slow death, homelessness, cruelty, drowning, selfishness, being buried in garbage, nailed to a board, smashed in the head... I could go on, but I'm considering what rat poison tastes like. Think I'm being too harsh? One reviewer compared it to "The Velveteen Rabbit"; they meant it in a good way, but I think I make my case.

There was a book that came out in 1930 called "Hitty: Her First Hundred Years". If you want to read a story about a doll traveling through owners over a long period of time, read that. It's a little slow at times, but a very good read all the way around. Actually, I could suggest shelves and shelves of books you should read instead of "Edward". Unless you are stricken with some terrible disease that makes you unstoppably happy and want to mellow out because your face is tired from smiling all the time, read something else!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Friday, January 05, 2007

Menu Item: Cute Boys

Over at The Dept. there has been a lot of cute boy talk. Three posts in the last month, two this week. Who, I asked myself, would I put into a post about cute boys? But I'm afraid I've disappointed myself. My list is so typical, so unsurprising. You will most likely say "Of course she thinks he's cute. Everyone does." And yes, everyone does. My list, while full of VERY cute boys, is just lame in lack of originality. But here goes anyway:

Let's start with Johnny Depp. Now I'm talking "Chocolat" Johnny Depp, not "Pirates". Sorry, but I think Captain Jack Sparrow is decidedly un-hot. Looks like he would have a funk...
I can't forget to throw in Colin Firth. And while he is mighty fine in "Pride and Prejudice", I really prefer in modern attire, not baggy Victorian trousers. In "What a Girl Wants" (Yes, I know it's a kid movie, but I've got kids!), he does this fabulous dance in black leather pants. Takes you breath away!
Ewan McGregor is one of my ALL TIME cute boys. Totally on the laminated list. He gets two pictures-- one for sheer sexiness and the other because... well, he's in a kilt in a provocative position! What's now to love about Ewan? He's not afraid of being naked in movies - a lovely, lovely trait. He sings, he dances, he's got a smile to melt you. Hang on, I've got to go watch "Moulin Rouge" next now.My small screen hunk is Timothy Olyphant in "Deadwood". It's a fantastic show, but really, it could be just him strutting up and down the street for an hour and I'd watch it anyway. But in fairness, he's more than just a pretty face, he's got this cool about him that is irresistible.

But the guy in the #1 position for quite some time now has been Antonio Banderas. He is the end all, be all in the cute boy universe. When the kids want to watch a movie, my suggestion is always "Spy Kids". (I think they see through me on this.) "Desperado" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" are always at the top of the DVD pile; they never get dusty. Have you seen that new one where he's a dancing teaching? Killer! And this one is just for Nance... Jim Caviezel. I don't think he would make my list normally, even though he is absolutely yummy in "The Count of Monte Cristo". But if we are talking about being a hot Jesus, he's got to be in the running.

Who would be on your list?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cavs Girls!

Last night, Callie's jazz dance class did a number during the pre-game show at the Cavaliers game. What a cool and wonderful thing to do! It was one of the numbers they did for the recital back in the spring with a few changes. Thank goodness the costume still fit! They did a beautiful job!

Getting ready to perform hanging out with Olivia.
We got to watch the performance down on floor seats which was nice because our seats for the game were WAY up high. Here's the man waiting for the show to start.

That's Callie all the way on left. They made a video that we'll all get a copy of which is a good thing. It's not easy to take a picture of dancing!
Right before the 4th quarter they pulled random kids to hold and wave these big flags all around the arena.

They came around and handed out these blow-up noise makers. Ethan smacked them together for the entire game!

We had a great night, but it's a bummer that it had to happen the night before the first day back to school! We were all dragging this morning!