Tag Archives: country school

Life’s a Fillet of Fish

10 Feb

Yes, it is.

It’s been one of those days.  You know the type, where every time you turn around there’s spilled milk, pencil writing on the wall, toddlers plummeting off desks, odd literary cakes to bake, leaky dirty diapers, second graders who can’t remember long vowels, knitting stitches that don’t add up, 467 small stones spilled on the floor of the unheated sunroom, and the clock reads just 10:32.

And to top it all off I’m bookless.  There is a giant void in my life where a book should be.   It’s very uncomfortable.  So this Friday you’ll have to settle for a movie/soundtrack/DVD post.  Can we all agree to dumb ourselves down for the day and let that happen?  Whew.  I’m glad.

Yes Thomas, it’s time to start the music.

Several weeks ago we checked out some old Muppet Shows from the library to occupy the hour or so of screen time that makes it possible for me to prep supper, fold laundry, talk to my sister, and visit the restroom in peace.  Go ahead, call the Good Mommy Police,  because at about 5:00 p.m., solitary confinement sounds cozy to me.

Kermit and his gang were an instant hit.  And since my tolerance for Imaginex and Planet Heroes DVD’s sometimes wains, this was a huge score.  I don’t mind having  Harry Belafonte, Julie Andrews, Paul Simon, and even Fozzie the Bear accompany my evening ritual chant of “Serenity Now!”

We kept riding that Muppet bandwagon and purchased Simeon the soundtrack from the new Muppet Movie for his birthday.  Also an instant hit. It’s been blaring out of the stereo singers (Thomas only calls them speakers if he’s playing on audiobook) during every free moment of the day, and some moments at night.  You see, the boys and I are still in negotiations about when night ends and morning begins.

My dear nephews first introduced us to the soundtrack over Christmas break, but at the time, I was blinded by a bright flashback to fourth grade.  Because on this fabulous CD is “We Built This City” by Starship – song so popular in 1985 that Stacy and I knew it.  And what that means, is that this song was really, really popular.

Our little school, all seven of us, made up a recess dance routine to perform while we belted what I now know were the incorrect lyrics across the barren corn fields.  We leapt out of swings, jumped over teeter-totters, circled the propane tank.  The song was awesome, the choreography was awesome, we were awesome.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone to contradict me – those cows are long gone.

I haven’t taught the kids the routine yet.  Hmmm . . . maybe that’s a solution to my day.  We seem to already have our own soundtrack, maybe all we really needs now is a dance number.


Save the Books

4 Nov

I have a problem, and I’m not afraid to admit it.  I’m a book hoarder.

Have we ever told you that Stacy and I fell heir to an entire elementary school library?  We did.  Granted, it wasn’t a very big elementary school, but in it’s hay-day, and there is a lot of hay near that playground, I think Raven (for that was its name) might have had three rooms.  And I’m not counting the bathroom and porch.  Three classrooms.  That is super huge in the world of one room school houses.

Well, in the last ten years that world has gotten smaller.  Significantly smaller.  As in, there are no more country schools in the county where we grew up.  But Raven held on for a long time.  My childhood friend Amanda was the teacher in those waning years.  And on Raven’s final academic year just she and one student occupied the classroom.  Yep, you read that right.  One student.

When the pair final made their way to Town School (for that is not its name, just what we call it) the contents of the building were up for grabs.  I’m not really sure how all the details fell in place, but it seems that no one wanted the this old school’s library collection.  The Town School and the Public Library already had the titles and didn’t need to incorporate duplicates, and so these dear, beloved tomes were teetering on the edge of destroyment (to borrow a word from my super-smart, well-read nephew.)

Pastor Williams – our good friend, childhood Shepherd, and Rachel’s Father, hereafter known as the Reader’s Rescuer – gathered unto himself the volumes nearing their imminent demise.  He invited our families into his living room to sort through them all, choose whatever we liked, and then forward the remaining works to other voracious readers.  So while our oldest sons still wanted to digest books orally rather than aurally my sister and I fostered a new love, and addiction to literature.

There were plenty of books judged by their covers that day.  The older, dingier, and most frayed covers won immediate spots in our “keep” boxes.  Anything resembling an award or medal also went straight into our possession.

There were also lots of covers that didn’t make the cut. With no regret biographies of Tara Lapinski and Fred Savage continued on their journeys to find that perfect big haired, leg-warmer wearing reader that needed them.  But I still experience guilt pangs for gems that might have been lost due to our ignorance.  Did some classic slip through our hands because a publisher chose to give it a dorky, glossy cover?  Every time I put another title into my library’s search engine I wonder to myself, “Did I once hold this hardcover in my hands only to deem it unworthy of our overcrowded basement bookshelves?”  It haunts me.

That uneasy question is always followed by this one:  “Do we already own this book?”  There’s a good chance.  I have absolutely no idea what books we own anymore.  There are thousands of them.  And while I once had an ambitious week when I decided to catalog the collection in librarything.com,  my efforts were quickly thwarted when I hit their free limit of 200 entries.  (On a sidenote:  if you have any recommendations of ways to organize this mess, I would love to hear them.  And even better yet, if you want to come over and do it for us, that would be great.  I’d give you a free library card.)

And that, my friends, is the story of how our library came to be.  So, now I bet you’re anxious to hear what cover has been chosen to be judged today.  Sorry, I just couldn’t find one.  I think I’ll be heading GRPL now.

Ding ding ding ding DING! We HAVE a winner!

17 Oct

So, a few weeks ago I posted this. Well, actually, I posted something entitled “Prairie BeLLS are ringing”. It makes more sense than “Prairie BellES…” doesn’t it? Sure. Why would I make such an editorial choice? What would push me to go in and CHANGE my title, thus changing the meaning of the post??!? One would think it was because I had discovered that I had misspelled the name of my beloved alma mater. And sure, that was sort of the case. One may even assume (may) that I received a belittling phone call from my sister during which she explained to me (amidst judgemental giggles) that “bells” and “belles” are not the same thing and that we were, in fact, NOT Prairie Bells. We were Prairie Belles. You know, the girls who on the Prairie did reside. Oh. That made sense. How stupid was I?!?! Quick! Change it! CHANGE IT! Before someone sees this appalling spelling snaffoo! Save yourself the embarrassment post-haste!

So that’s just what I did. Then, later that day, as I was red-facingly explaining my little error to our mom, the waters of my understanding became muddier still. See, Mom was pretty certain that I was initially correct. What? Surely not. Really, Christina has a correctness rate of about 99.823%. We, as a family, rarely give her question. But in this particular case our dear mother felt as if she could find concrete evidence proving one of her daughters fallible indeed. Dig, Mom, dig.

Well, she dug (dig it?), and produced the most beautiful little snippet of vindication I ever did see. May I present to you “District 13 – Prairie B-E-L-L School” yearbook pages for 1984-85. CHECK THESE OUT!!!!!

See? That's me in the blonde pigtails. Christina has the perm. Our Aunt Sandy gave her that perm. In her kitchen. That's Mrs. Hall. She was my first favorite teacher. She brought animal hides for show-and-tell one day. I was particularly fond of the muskrat hide.

See the Halloween picture? We are the Lion and the Flower. Apparently there was sale on large cardboard discs that year. The track meet picture? Staged. Can you believe it? And the Christmas play? Christina ALWAYS got to be Mary. Me? A shepherd. What? NOT fair.

Prairie Bell(e)s are Ringing

29 Aug

As the school year begins I often get wee bit nostalgic. (Nothing overly sentimental, mind you, but thinking back’s kind of fun, right?) My sister and I are members of a wonderful minority: country school scholars. Yep, we got our educational beginnings in a good ol’ fashioned one room schoolhouse. To be fair, our school had 3 rooms (bathroom, coat room, classroom), but it wasn’t much larger than most middle class living rooms (those of you living in fairytale castles – picture your closet).  And every year at this time we were drooling with school year anticipation.

District 13. Prairie Belle School. Isn't that a sweet name for a school? It was ours.

Usually we would take a late summer pilgrimage to Norfolk (or sometimes Grand Island if we were feeling fancy) to go school shopping. Once laden with new jeans, tennis shoes, pencil boxes, and backpacks (if we were lucky) we patiently twiddled our thumbs until the first day of school. And, oh!, the wait was painful. There is almost nothing to this day that ignites nervous anticipation in my heart like the first day of school. Would I get to hang my coat on a high hook like the wiser students? How would Mrs. Hall arrange the desks? Would there be new contact paper on the class table? What games would be popular at recess? Would it be too hot to wear my new jeans? Would my schoolmates (all 3 to 6 of them) remember me? Had anyone gotten a new hairdo over the summer? What would my classroom job be? SO MANY QUESTIONS! And all would be answered in that one day. I might go so far as to say that the first day of school was the BEST day of school, but jumping to extremes leads me to abandon Halloween, Christmas pageant day, Field Trip day, and Valentine’s day. It’s a close race, folks.

The sleepless nights and elevated heart rates were all worth it on that first day. Armed with a fresh box of Kleenex (usually generic), a bag full of unmarred supplies, and a Care Bear lunch box (or was it Strawberry Shortcake? Smurfs? Christina, help me out here) we would trepidatiously enter that stucco learning fortress. Our school had a wonderful smell. The scents of bromegrass, cornfield, chalk, powdered tempura paint, construction paper, and mouse droppings combined to form a comforting olfactory cocktail that culled academic prowess from our pores. (Don’t question it.) As we slowly inhaled, gazed around our beloved building, and found our seats, we found ourselves – that crumble of a piece that had been missing all summer.

I’m saddened that these rural institutions are largely things of the past. I’m desperate for my own children to have the same experiences of school that were given to Christina and me and a few lucky others. But, as with so many things, their experiences will be different from mine – their memories just as sweet.