Christmas Season Without Mom

Mamacita says: I used to put a 6-ft. Christmas tree (tiny, by my standards) in my office window. People who live here couldn’t really see or appreciate it (except me) but Mom told me that when she stood at her kitchen sink and washed her dishes, next door, she could see it perfectly and loved to see the twinkling lights, so I really put it there for her to see while she worked. I didn’t put a tree there this year.

Parents: Do Your Job! Make Magic!

Mamacita says: I know there are people out there whose personal beliefs hold no toleration for celebration. I’ve had students who never blew out birthday candles, or hung a stocking, or had any kind of day singled out for any reason whatsoever. I’ve been asked NOT to put a sticker or stamp or any kind of decoration on a child’s perfect paper that might make him feel special in any way. And while I have always tried to respect the beliefs of others, and while I have always tried not to criticize any family’s particular quirks, I can’t be quiet any longer. I have something to say to families who do not allow their children to celebrate anything: Shame on you.

We owe it to our children to make sure they realize there are worlds of wonder living side-by-side with the world of everyday life. Each world needs the other for proper contrast.

I can’t stress this enough: parents have the power to separate ordinary days from extraordinary days for our children, and for ourselves. Use your power, for your children’s sake and for your own. Give your children’s lives some special sparkly moments. And hurry up with it, because every day your child is one day closer to leaving you and setting up a household of his/her own.

Make sure that the few years with you are good years. Give your children memories of magic and twinkling lights, of birthday wishes and valentines and sparklers, as well as the memories of everyday life. Both are vital. Both are wonderful. Key word: both. If anyone tells you such things are wrong, don’t believe him/her. These things are very, very right. Do it even if you personally don’t approve. There’s nothing to disapprove of, and everything to embrace.

The world does not revolve around you; it revolves around none of us, but shining a little light and some smiles on each other as we make our way through life can make a big difference. You don’t have to connect it with a religion or any kind of belief system. You can do it just because it’s the end of the year and winter can be dreary and why not let it go out with a bang instead of that whiny whimper?

Holiday season is upon us. Get on it. It’s time to start.

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

Mamacita says:  This day used to be known as Armistice Day, in honor of the armistice that was signed on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”.  This year, 2020, marks the 103nd anniversary of Armistice Day.

People wear poppies on Veterans’ Day.  Do you know why?

John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”

This term also refers to the fact that back in ancient times, a worker who was hired at the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour workday was paid the same as those who had worked all twelve hours.

After World War II, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans’ Day.  Many people do not realize that this is an international holiday, observed by many other nations as well as by the United States.

Schools do not teach students much about World War I, and I have never really understood why.  Most social studies classes, unless it’s a specialized elective, study the Civil War (Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn) and then make a giant leap over everything else so they can briefly mention World War II (Hitler was bad) and then leap again and remind students that JFK was assassinated (“I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris”) (“I am a jelly doughnut!”)  all just in time for summer vacation.  I learned most of what I know about World War I from reading L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside, and yes, it’s another Anne book; this one is mostly about Anne and Gilbert’s daughter Rilla. I cry every time I read it, even though I know what’s going to happen.  You’ll cry, too.  This book was written eighteen years before Anne of Ingleside, which takes place when the children are very young and was was sort of “inserted” into the list of Anne books, but that’s all right.  I would imagine, though, that at the time the books were being written and published, that might have been confusing to readers.  Anne of Ingleside has an ominous vision in it, that comes true in Rilla of Ingleside.  I have not been able to re-read Anne of Ingleside ever since I realized this.

On this day, let us honor the men and women who keep us safe, both past and present.

“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. Freedom is never free.” – President Barack Obama

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” – former president Bill Clinton

I also like this one by Calvin Coolidge:  “The issues of the world must be met and met squarely. The forces of evil do not disdain preparation, they are always prepared and always preparing… The welfare of America, the cause of civilization will forever require the contribution, of some part of the life, of all our citizens, to the natural, the necessary, and the inevitable demand for the defense of the right and the truth.”

And I’ll end this post with this one, by FDR:  “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.”

God bless America.

Back Off My Series Books!

Mamacita says: One of my majors is Children’s and Young Adult literature, and I do love my series collections, so I am telling editors everywhere to BACK OFF MY SERIES BOOKS!

Beany Malone
Nancy Drew

I will not have an updated or politically-corrected version of any book in my house; therefore, Nancy Drew drives a roadster; Judy Bolton is amazed when she sees the maid at Lois’ house; Beany Malone uses her home ec skills learned at school to keep house while her father is away on business (no mother, just teens), and feels it’s her own fault when her date bruises her shoulders; Mary Fred buys a horse without asking permission; little Brian Belford rides his bike all over Denver; Trixie Beldon pretty much runs wild (so cool); Pollyanna Whittier pretty much exists to placate her mean aunt (the aunt reforms in the movie but reverts back in

the series) Anne Shirley spanks the brat in her classroom; Emily Starr would rather stay single than marry a man she doesn’t love no matter how rich he might be; The Story Girl, Sara, makes her own rules; the kids in the Harry Potter series defy the rules and in doing so save the day; Portia and Julian pack a lunch and run wild until dark; the Melendy kids all do their own thing – alone! – in New York City! as well as together; little Oliver Melendy befriends strangers and enters their homes; Stacy Belford is nearly raped by a man twice her age who gets off with a tongue-lashing and a warning; Ben Belford helps to support his siblings and works his way through college; Dulcie Lungaarde makes all her own clothes and drops out of high school to marry a man who also quit school; Martie Malone frequently leaves his children home alone for weeks at a time; Cuffy shares a house with a man and his kids; Jennifer Reed marries a serial cheater because his parents thought marriage might calm him down; Kay Maffley’s son is deeply disturbed; Rosellen Kern is confined to a wheelchair and later crutches; both Kay and Rosellen die; Joe Collins and Kay run off and get married when they are eighteen; George

The Melendy kids

Fayne’s clothes are stolen by a bratty boy and Nancy finds her nearly naked in the bushes; Carson Drew is an attractive wealthy lawyer who has been widowed for many years but doesn’t date; Bess Marvin is fat; George Fayne is boyish; Honey Dobbs was a thief; Lorraine Lee is a terrible snob; Lois is two-faced; Mrs. Bolton is terrified of hypnotism; Lucy Smeed eloped at seventeen with a circus sideshow man and died in childbirth; Hannah Gruen lives with a single man and his daughter and keeps house for them; Horace Bolton is described many times as a sissy and a coward, and helps himself to his sister’s money and spends it on himself; 15-year-old Judy Bolton is attacked, tied up, and left in a shack; Bert Bobbsey is wrongly accused of breaking a store window; Nancy and Ned Nickerson don’t date without a chaperone; Garnet Storm is a whore who takes advantage of Ben Belford’s kind heart; Jeannie Kinkaid decides not to pursue her search for her birth mother; Stacy’s friend Claire, homely, braces, glasses, counts on Stacy to find her escorts to dances and sports because nobody would ask her otherwise; Jill Belford acts like a boy; Rose Belford leaves her children alone at night to play the piano in a night club; Miguel Parnell drove to Denver from Mexico alone, enrolled in school under a fake name, and lives alone for months; and you know what? All of these books are the better for it. Better. The Nancy Drew books, especially, have been changed, even a lot of the names! until the characters and plots are barely recognizable. Not in my house, editors. Not in my house. The setting of a book is as important as a character; we learn history and culture from the setting. If someone doesn’t like or approve of the way a book was written, let that someone write his/her own book.

What’s next – change the movie stars on Anne Frank’s wall to more modern stars that today’s kids can identify with? That would be really stupid, wouldn’t it. Now think about that.

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2020

9/11 tribute Mamacita says: I’m guessing that many most bloggers will be posting tributes today, and telling the blogosphere ‘where we were’ when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Here is mine. This is actually the nineteenth time I’ve posted this on 9/11, so if it seems familiar, you’re not crazy. Well, not on this issue, anyway.


The morning began like any other; we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and sat back down to watch Channel One News, which had been taped at 3:00 that morning in the school library, thanks to the timer. But Channel One News didn’t come on.

Channel One News, a news program aimed at teens, did not come on that day.

Instead, the secretary’s voice, over the intercom, told the teachers to “please check your email immediately.” We did. And we found out what had happened.

I scrolled down the monitor and read the end of the message. The superintendent had ordered all teachers to be absolutely mum all day about the tragedy. We were not to answer any questions from students, and we were especially not to offer any information to them.

The day went by in a blur. Many parents drove to the school, took their kids out, and brought them home. Between classes, frightened groups of students gathered in front of their lockers and whispered, gossiped, and cried, and begged us for information. By that time, the superintendent’s order had been seconded by the principals, and we were unable to give these terrified kids any information. In the computer labs, the MSN screens told the 8th graders the truth, but they, too, were instructed NOT to talk about it to the other students. Right, like THAT happened. The story was being repeated by 8th graders, and it was being told we’re-all-going-to-die style.

At noon, many of the students were picked up by parents and taken home or out for lunch. Those few who returned had a big tale to tell. The problem was, the tale was being told by children, and few if any of the facts were straight. The atmosphere in the building got more and more strained. We are only a few miles away from an immensely large Navy base, where ammunition and bombs are made, and we’ve always known it was a prime target, which means, of course, that we are, too. Many of my children’s parents worked there. The base was locked down and those parents did not come home that night.  Buses dropped children off at the empty, locked homes anyway.

frightened children

Administrative stupidity did this.

Reasonable questions were answered with silence, or the statement: “You’ll find out when you get home.”  This, to children who weren’t even sure they still had a home to get to.  A rumor mill can be a horrible thing.

This, added to all the rumors and gossip spread by children, turned my little sixth graders into terrified toddlers.

As teachers, we were furious and disgusted with the superintendent’s edict. We wanted to call all the students into the gym and calmly tell them the truth in words and ways that would be age-appropriate. We wanted to hug them and assure them that it was far away and they were safe. We asked for permission to do this, and it was denied. Our orders were ‘silence.’ We hadn’t been allowed to hug them for years, of course, but there are times and places when hugs ARE appropriate. No matter, the superintendent stood firm: no information whatsoever.  Other administrators in other school systems were doing it right – calling assemblies and explaining calmly to their terrified children exactly what had happened, and assuring the children that they were safe

Not our administrators.  “Tell them NOTHING” was their edict, and we had to follow it or face the consequences, and the consequences for insubordination in this school system are devastating.

The day went by, more slowly than ever a day before. The students grew more and more pale and frightened. We asked again, and again he stood firm that no information whatsoever was to be given out.

By the end of the day, the children were as brittle as Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix.

A few minutes before the bell rang to send them home, a little girl raised her hand and in a trembling voice that I will never forget, asked me a question. “Please, is it true that our parents are dead and our houses are burned down?”

That was it. I gathered my students close and in a calm voice explained to them exactly what had happened. I told them their parents were alive and safe, and that they all still had homes to go to.

The relief was incredible. I could feel it cascading all through the room.

However.  Some of my children’s parents worked at the Navy Base.  Those parents were, of course, held at the base and not allowed to leave.  School buses delivered their children to locked, empty houses.

I was, naturally, written up for insubordination the next day, but I didn’t care. My phone had rung off the hook that night with parents thanking me for being honest with their children. That was far more important than a piece of paper that said I’d defied a stupid inappropriate order meted out by a man who belonged in the office of a used car lot, not in a position of power over children’s lives.

I'm the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.

I’m the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.

The next day at school, in my room, we listened to some of the music that had been ‘specially made about the tragedy. I still have those cd’s and I’ve shared them with many people over the past few years. It is true that kids cried again, but it was good to cry. It was an appropriate time to cry. We didn’t do spelling or grammar that day. There are times when the “business as usual” mindset simply is not appropriate.

I wish administrators would realize that kids are a lot tougher than we might think. Kids are also a lot more sensitive that we might realize. It’s an odd combination, and we as educators must try our best to bring the two ends of the emotional spectrum together and help these kids learn to deal with horrible happenings and still manage to get through the day as well as possible.

9/11 tribute torch

We will always overcome.

Ignoring an issue will not help. Morbidly focusing on an issue will not help. Our children are not stupid, and to treat them as such is not something that builds trust. Our children deserve answers to their questions.

How can we expect our children to learn to find a happy medium if we don’t show them, ourselves, when opportunities arise?

I’m still so very sorry, children, that I was forced to participate in that dreadful conspiracy of silence when just a few spoken words might have eased your minds.

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2020.  God bless us, every one.

Coming Back from the Abyss

Mamacita says: I have done little but sew masks, monitor websites and answer questions, and care for Mom since mid-March and my poor house shows it. In happier news, instead of doing housework during today’s break from packing things up at Mom’s, I bought a cat bed, a scratching pad, and a gigantic litterbox. Because of reasons related to happiness instead of heartbreak, which in and of itself is a nice break. Next on my no-housework agenda: clean out my office since I’m working on the dining room table now – laptop on one end, sewing machine on the other end, which means we’re eating in the living room or standing at the sink which is super weird but less so daily since we’re getting used to it so when we get the table back, if ever, it will seem weird to sit down and have meals there again. My office will still be my library, but the cats will have it as their eating and pooping and scampering-at-night base. It seems like whenever we have an unused room, we start using it for storage, which is a nasty habit, so there are boxes of whatever in that room which will have to be dealt with and in the mood I’m presently in, anything I don’t love dearly or associate with a beloved person or event or haven’t worn or in any way used for the past six months is doomed. I loathe clutter and I’ve been immersed in it since mid-March. Right now the house looks like it’s one phone call away from a spot on “Hoarders.” So a perhaps violent cleanout is in the near future. The very near future. I want my house back.