Favorite Quotes:

Child sitting on parachute: "Don't shoot me up too high, okay?"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Power of Pixie Dust

From time to time, I take out a beautiful glass bottle that is filled with "pixie dust" and topped with a flower stopper. Whenever I do this, the children's eyes widen with anticipation. Sometimes it is sprinkled on princesses at coronation ceremonies, and sometimes it is used to create a magical path for fairies to follow.

Recently, I was doing a “Nutcracker Sweets” program, and the children were pretending to be various characters from the ballet such as sugarplum fairies, snowflakes, wooden soldiers, and dancing flowers. Pixie dust was an essential ingredient in creating the magical atmosphere. I sprinkled the snow fairies with pixie dust, and they twirled away into a land of candy canes, gumdrops, and sugared snowflakes.

At the end of the program, it was time for the children to leave their magical world, and get ready to go home, much like Clara herself. As I was making sure that the students had all of their belongings, two of the little girls approached my husband and asked him if they could have a bit more pixie dust before they left. My husband replied,

“Let’s wait for Miss Angela to finish, and then she can do it.”

One of the little pixies looked up at him and said,

“Why? Because we might turn into frogs?”

The faith that children have in possibility and their willingness to accept that magic is at work in the world is just staggering.

Children are the truest of believers, and that is one of the reasons I so enjoy working with them. Flying reindeer? Giant bunnies that deliver chocolate? Some lady that pays for kids’ teeth? Why not? They really do not know the limits of reality (lucky them) and therefore, are willing to give most ideas a chance. When it comes to children, seeing isn't believing. Believing is believing.

The frog comment reminds me of the following anecdote, which I wrote several years ago after an event:

Raising my glittering magic wand in the air, dressed in my pink, sparkly princess crown, a tiara, jewels, and glitter head-to-toe, I am tackiness personified. A prom-queen-in-pink-taffeta nightmare times ten. In the eyes of the three year-olds, I am beautiful. Tacky+sparkly+lots of pink=beautiful. Disney and Mattel figured that out a long time ago. I say to the children with excitement,

“…and now! I am going to cast a spell on you!”

I prepare to wave my wand dramatically, when a little hand shoots up.


“Will it be a good spell, or a wicked spell?”

Will it be a good spell, or a wicked spell? It sure would be nice to know ahead of time, wouldn’t it? We spend so much of our lives trying to figure out whether what’s coming our way next is good or wicked.

The little princess was prepared to accept her fate, for better or worse. We do the best we can, but some things we just have no control over.

“A good spell, sweetie,” I answer.

I raise my wand, and with a dramatic swoop, I cast the spell, secretly wishing for them a lifetime in which the good far outweighs the wicked.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Carolyn Out in the Snow

Happy holidays to all of you, and especially to Carolyn, out in the snow.

As an overly sensitive child, I remember being distressed by how casually the singers of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” would sing perkily about how there’d be, “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and Carolyn out in the snow…”

I would puzzle over how people could be celebrating in their cozy, festive homes, while they knew perfectly well that poor little Carolyn was standing out there in the snow. It was definitely NOT the hap-happiest season of all for Carolyn. I would expect that summer would be her happiest season. At least she wouldn’t be freezing to death.

The picture that always came to mind was as follows: It was early evening, and the temperature was about 5 degrees...cold enough that the sides of your nose stick together when you sniff. Carolyn did not have a hat or gloves; just a hand-me-down coat and boots that were two sizes too big. She was not one to complain, so she would never think to ask to come in, but she did enjoy looking in on the happy scene with people dressed in their holiday finery, toasting one another. She would particularly enjoy looking at the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, and wondering what kinds of things were wrapped up in the beautiful presents beneath the tree.

If I continued in this vein for too long, I would eventually come to tears. Who was this Carolyn that she got a special mention in the song? I would wonder. Why was she out in the snow alone? Where on earth were her parents? Was she lost? Maybe she ended up dying, like the little match girl. Good grief, why wouldn’t anyone let her in if they saw her out there?

I remember singing in an assembly during elementary school, and the song that our grade sang was “Bless the Beasts and the Children” (for in this world, they have no voice…they have no choice…for this world can never be, the world they see…) singing this song would hit me like a ton of bricks every time. I would picture all of the little helpless children like Carolyn, and lost puppies and kittens. My throat would swell up into a lump, and I would squeak through the rest of the song, while the kids next to me would shoot suspicious looks at me out look of the corners of their eyes.

To this day, I am still often gripped with agony over the plight of the beasts and the children. I once risked my life pulling over on a highway, to save a cat that was on the median. It turned out to be a stuffed animal. I held up traffic on Route 4 saving a baby bluebird that was standing in the middle of the road. I spent one Easter driving a stray cat to the vet, and a shelter. My husband’s “potential animal-in-distress radar” kicks in pretty quickly, and he attempts to diffuse the situation before I can say anything: “It looks well-fed. It has a collar. It knows where it’s going…you can tell.” Children are part of my protection program as well. I hang around whenever I see a child who appears to be too far away from his/her caregiver in a store, just to make sure that everything turns out okay. Children standing up in grocery carts, leaning too far over bridges, wandering alone in store aisles, or standing too close to the road are all potential problems. I also rescue children that I see being bullied.

An animal or child in trouble can put the brakes on whatever I am doing during the course of the day, no matter how important. I have seen ads in the Yankee Flyer for lost cats, and then see ads in the Foothills Trader for found cats that fit the description, and make the necessary phone calls in hopes of a match. I won’t even get into the lengths to which I went to “rescue” a parakeet that was loose outside near the office. It is a long, sad story, with a tragic ending.

Every story that I hear that involves a child or animal in pain leaves a permanent scar in my mind, that never seems to go away. So, if I get upset over a current animal in need, I have to revisit the cat that got hit by a car, the parakeet that died in my hands, the dog that was left out in the cold, the horse that was abused…and on and on.

I am sometimes concerned that my feelings for animals and children are disproportionate to my feelings for, say, the rest of the world. (Do you think?) If I am watching a movie, and a few adults die, well, that’s life. But if the movie is about a dog that dies, I am a mess. I won’t read many books that are stories about beloved pets, because I know how it’s all going to end. Books about the tragic loss of lives during wartime…it’s a shame and all, but I just don’t feel it on the same level.

Being overly sensitive complicates my life, and causes me a lot of unnecessary stress, but I guess that I'd rather feel too much than too little. So, if you see Carolyn out in the snow, please let me know; I’ll be right there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Gift That Keeps on Being Given

I believe that the Seinfeld show coined the phrase “re-gifting” although they certainly didn’t invent the concept. Re-gifting has probably been around for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years. Imagine that you are a cavewoman, and that you see a friend of yours loping toward your territory. You remember that she recently gave you a tasty snake, and that you haven’t yet returned the favor. You don’t have time to club anything yourself. What’s a cavewoman to do? Ah-ha! There it is! A rat pelt. Given to you by your crazy Aunt Ugg sixteen moons ago. What are you supposed to with a rat pelt anyway? So, you welcome your friend with a big toothless smile, and present her with your offering.

Flash forward to 2006. It’s the last class before our holiday break, and a little girl comes into the classroom dressed in a beautiful black and red Christmas dress. Her hair is woven into two perfect braids, each of which is tied off with bright red ribbons.

She walks toward me with a huge smile on her face. She holds out a small, perfectly wrapped box, looks up at me, and says proudly,

“Here Miss Angela. My Grandma gave this to my Mommy, and now I’m giving it to you.”

She spoke with no trace of sarcasm, humor, or any hint of awareness of her faux pas. She was a four year-old, simply delighting in the joy of giving. It was a “bite my tongue really hard so that I don’t laugh” moment.

I am not casting any judgment on re-gifters. I have done it myself, although I usually have to tell the recipient so that I don’t feel as if I’m being deceptive. But really, if you receive a perfectly good gift that for one reason or another you will never use, why not pass it along to someone that is a more suitable recipient? For example, I wouldn’t use a sequined coin purse, but my niece would be thrilled to take it off of my hands. As a matter of fact, I did enjoy and use my gift from Grandma/Mom/Daughter. In order to protect the relatively innocent, I will not mention what the item was. This year with so many tightened budgets, I bet a lot of people will be shopping at home, and I don’t mean on the internet or by catalog. I might just be one of them.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Contents Under Pressure

In one of our summer theme weeks, “Tropical Island Fun,” I conducted an experiment to illustrate how volcanoes erupt. The required items included baking soda, vinegar, a little plastic bottle with a cork, and some very quick fingers.

My original intent was to conduct the experiment outdoors, in our sand table, after having the children construct a volcano out of sand. However, shortly after we went outside, it began to rain, and we had to go back inside. Needless to say, the children were very disappointed. After weighing my options, I decided to do the experiment indoors. I figured that a little baking soda and vinegar couldn’t really do too much harm, and our studio ceiling is at least 16 feet high, so there was plenty of room for the launch.

So, having seated the children at a safe distance away, with their little plastic goggles in place, I prepared the concoction. There were several attempts during which I was unsuccessful due to being unable to get the cork in before the bottle flowed over. The kids sat patiently; I tried three more times. The area had become quite messy, so I told them that we’d have to wait until the next day when we could try the experiment outdoors. But the children were very eager to see an eruption; they grabbed paper towels and cleaned everything up, asking me to try again.

It was worth the wait. On the next try, just as I secured the cork, there was a sonic-boom of a “POP!” the cork went flying, and the foamy "lava" shot up to a great height before ultimately spraying down onto me, leaving me smiling and smelling like a giant Easter egg.

The kids clapped, and laughed, and screamed “DO IT AGAIN!”

Then, one little boy ran up to me and said, “I need a new pull-up.” And so, in one way or another, we all learned the lesson of how liquid under pressure can only stay in place for so long before forcing its way out.