Friday, September 19, 2008

A Hogeous Post

Tolstoy wrote " Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". What he didn't mention is that every family, happy or unhappy, speaks its own language. A lexicon peculiar to that family and its members, trickling down through generations, enhanced by new additions to the family through marriage and passed on. An oral tradition, if you will.

My mother's family had a rich tradition of words. I don't think so many words have ever been spoken in all of New England as were uttered by her family. By volume alone they are staggering. I did not know, however, nor suspected as a child, that the language I was learning from my mother was not quite English but some strange concoction resembling English and complementing English, yet wholly their own invention.

My mother's version of family history includes a huge migratory period of her ancestors from the Ukraine, traveling ever westward across Europe, settling in England for a time and then ending up in the American colonies and Canada. I am not sure what they were running from, this was never made clear to me, but apparently it was greatly appreciated that England had provided asylum for them in their flight from whatever it was. It may have had something to do with their brief stint in France.

In any case they were so indebted to England for something, not sure what ( not throwing them out perhaps) that they refused to fight against the English in the Revolutionary War and became outcasts once more, being forced to flee to Canada due to their unpopularity. By this time, I should think they would have gotten used to being chased out of countries.

I mention this as it may hold the keys to some of the words and sayings that I heard as a child, and still use today despite the occasional odd stare. "Hogeous" is a perfect example. I am not sure of the spelling, this is how my mind's eye always saw it spelled. It may well be spelled "hojus" but I doubt it, that would be spelling it as it sounds. I am sure that is too sensible an idea to be true.

Hogeous has many uses, usually meaning something vile or distasteful, often related to pungent smells. However it can also be used to describe a rather unpleasant dish being served to you, as in "I dont know what they had to run down on the road to make that stew, but it was hogeous"!

Anything cunnin' was cute. A soulcase was a person, most often a child. If you were called a cunnin' soulcase, you could be sure that meant they liked you. You did not want to be called a poohcat, though I confess to not knowing what that was. It was just bad. Something hogeous.

My mother had a gift for delegation and if you were so insubordinate as to ask why you were elected to any unpleasant chore, she would simply shrug and say "Why keep dogs and bark myself"? We were advised to "scud to school or you'll rue it". Education was important, and we had to scud to get it.

And then there was the mysterious medical condition known as a "split straddle". A girl always had to be careful of certain types of physical activities such as riding a boy's bike with the bar across, as there was a possibility that she might "split her straddle". She usually followed this up with the story of a girl she had known personally who had this happen to her, and it was horrible and irreparable. That touch of realism usually did it for me. My mother was good at supplying horrifying graphic images to make sure you were sufficiently emotionally scarred.

And more than anyone I ever met, my mother knew how to use words to her advantage. I remember her telling my father "Jack, I am your wife. Your money is my money and no one is going to tell me how to spend my money". Her logic was impeccable.

Now I must go and do my daily readings. Reading the blogs of others is a great way to avoid writing your own. I mean, why keep blogs and write myself?

Christian Lifestyle

I have a friend who is single, but with her job and busy lifestyle, she just doesn't have time to go out and meet new people. As a Christian, she doesn't want to do the bar scene or sign up for dating services where the members won't share her beliefs and principles. I am going to put her onto this new site I found, and hope she enjoys success. It's a place for Christian Singles to meet and chat, and hopefully find that special someone who can be a life partner.

This site is specifically for Christian singles. It's free to join and browse through thousands of profiles. If you're looking for that special someone who shares your faith, is great resource.

What Every Kid Knows - but will never tell

Every mother faces that day - the first day of kindergarten when they leave their child to the unknown world of school. I remember when it was The Boy's first day.

Timid and shy, he stood with his back against the brick wall of the school, only watching as the other children ran about to greet schoolmates they had left behind when classes ended in June. On his first day of school, The Boy stood as close as he could get to me, with all the clingy need of a kindergartener , eliciting promises from me to stay with him. I was calm, reassuring and comforting. I told him all about his day and how much fun he would have. He looked up with the eyes of a dog that had been beaten as if to say "How could you do this to me"?

But that was the first day of school. By the third morning, when his older sister was not going to be able to watch over him, and I was torn between staying or being on time for work, I was told in a confident voice "Just go ahead, Mom, I can handle this myself".

A strange thing happens to your beautiful, loving and needy children when they start school. They become kids. They speak the language of kids, their ideas and opinions come from other kids and the only people who are acknowledged to know anything are other kids. I remember all too well the innocent five year old girl with the silken curls, the frilly pink dream of every mother that I took for her first day of kindergarten 9 years ago. That little angel went into the school that day, but she never returned. Instead, they sent home a kid. I still have not recovered from the first time those soft, cherry lips uttered her first kid phrase: "Duh, Mom, I already know that".

I assume that whatever strange and mysterious things go on at school, they are too secretive to share with parents for it seems the children are debriefed at the end of the day with strict instructions to never admit to knowing anything or remembering anything that occurred during school hours. The Boy has only been in school for two weeks before he knew the routine well. I could see his resolve in our conversation while driving home one day that first year.

"What did you have for lunch at school today?" I already knew the items on the menu, I was just being interested in his choices. I thought mothers do that, so I was trying it.


"Nothing? I gave you lunch money, didn't you order lunch?"

"I don't know."

"You gave them your lunch money, what did you order?"

"I don't know."

This line of questioning obviously wasn't going to work so I took another tack.

"When your teacher takes you and your class to the cafeteria, what do you do there?"

"I don't know."

"Do you get a tray with food on it? Do you sit with your class and eat?"

"I don't know."

"Okay, let me get this straight. When you went into the cafeteria you blacked out and entered some kind of vortex and when you emerged you had no memory of it?"

"I ordered a hamburger and they gave me pizza."

Finally a confession, apparently brought about only because they had made a mistake. His loyalty to the secret school society was weakened when they disappointed him.

"And white milk."

That must have been the last straw, he spat the words "white milk" as if they left a bad taste in his mouth. Even I would not have been so foolish as to forget the chocolate milk and I am only a mother.

But that was the last revelation. I tried to find out what they learned, what games they played or how he liked his teacher. But he had recognized his slip and all I got was: "I don't know".

When I went for my first parent/teacher conference, I heard what a polite child he was, how friendly and outgoing with other children. The teacher explained what letters they were practicing and how they had learned to count by tens. She showed me his artwork and praised his efforts.

But for all I know, it could all be a lie. It may be that they do none of these things. All I have to go by is this stranger's word and a few scraps of paper with some scribbles on them. I have no way of knowing what really goes on in the secret school society.

The Boy knows, but he's not talkin'.

A is for Apple, B is for Bored

One of The Boy's daily homework assignments is to read for 20 minutes. This has been a struggle in previous years, but this year The Boy has vowed to put all his effort into schoolwork. Therefore, it was with great sense of purpose that he pulled out his reading book - a peppy sounding little tale called "Pig can Jig" - and took his place on the sofa next to me, ready to regale me with stories of prancing porcine pals.

I have a faint memory of the Dick and Jane series of books that were used to teach us basic words and reading skills. I can't remember them being very exciting, so I was delighted that modern teaching methods involve such wonderfully entertaining concepts as pigs doing jigs. A few pages into the book soon dispelled this notion.

I can't say this book is any improvement over the tried and true adventures of Dick and Jane. There are cats who are fat and there's dad who had ham and jam and the pig that does jig. All the three letter words you can think of with all their rhymes. But there's no story, there's no plot. There are words strung together in accepted grammatical patterns; but aside from the sense of satisfaction he gets from being able to read the sentence, there's little joy to be had from them.

I started to understand a bit better why Johnnie can't read. It's self-defense against death by boredom.

Perhaps it is nostalgia that makes me think that Dick and Jane and their little dog (what was his name?) were more interesting and fun. But, even if they weren't, they were at least kids like us, doing the sorts of things that adults think that kids do. Sure they were written for a world of Beaver Cleavers, but for some reason we incorporated that ideal into our world and didn't notice that there were no real families like that.

I could be totally off base here, but would it be so difficult to write books that made more sense, told a story that engaged the imagination and could be mastered by those new to literacy?

If there is one good thing about these "starter" books, it is that it creates a drive to help this child master the English language, so that when it is time for the evening's reading, I can have something interesting to listen to.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who's Calling?

There are days when I curse Alexander Graham Bell. There is nothing more annoying than to be kneading dough or scrubbing the toilet and hear the phone ringing in the next room. And of course, by the time you wash your hands and get to answer it, the caller has hung up.

Not such a tragedy in the days of Caller ID, you say, but what about those calls that don't register? Of course this includes telemarketers and the like, but it also includes cell phones. And you can't do a reverse search in your regular phone directory pages for a cell phone number.

But I now have a little secret up my sleeve. Did you know there is a website where you can do Mobile Phone Reverse Lookup? It's just as simple as using reverse lookup on your regular phone pages, but you can get much more than just name and address. You can even access a background check. It's quick and easy, so why waste time wondering who called ever again?

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Winds of Change

Summer seemed rather incomplete this year, and not because it came late or left early. Some part of it must have to do with the maturing of the children in their interests and attitudes. And yet, the summer seemed hectic even without planning day trips to the beach or afternoons at the park. I am not sure where it went, and part of me is sad to see it go unfulfilled.

But an answer was heard this morning, a promise spoken on the wind. The glorious wind, that whipped through the trees and blustered through my open window, carelessly knocking over several items on my dresser in its rush to tell me. It came whistling a melody I hadn't heard in many long months, but know well.

The wind came to tell me that despite the fact that the trees are a tired, dull green instead of blazing into color and despite the persistently warm days following one after another, autumn is about to arrive.

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the crisp, cool days and the invigorating air. I love the smell of autumn and the colors. I love the winds of autumn, even though they strip the brilliance from the trees just a wee bit too soon.

I missed the chasing of the waves this year, and my heart yearns for the ocean. Perhaps that is why summer didn't satisfy. These misgivings and disappointments would hang heavily in the humid August air, but September has sent a cleansing wind to sweep out those remnants of unfulfilled dreams and lifted my soul up to where the treetops catch fire.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Free Christian Chat Site

I started chatting online when my son was born, and over the years I have used many different chat venues. Each has some good points and bad points, but all too often they get stale with the same people and the same points of view. I have been keeping my eye out for some newer chat sites to open and here is one I think I may check out. Christian Chat City provides Free Christian Chat with video chatting. It's completely free to join or you can try it out with free guest access. It looks like a great place to gather with friends for free chat services. Check it out!

Feeling Disconnected

This morning my world fell apart. I had no internet connection.

My connection was painfully slow last night and apparently gave up the ghost completely somewhere in the early hours before dawn. I had only a steaming cup of coffee to brace me for the devastating news - "the internet is down".

I made the call I have made many times before to technical support. The most interesting part of these calls is listening to the robo-operator as she promises to check your line for trouble and while doing so, encourages you to try checking their website for online help. The most frustrating part is that it does you no good to scream at the robo-operator about how ridiculous it is to tell someone with no connection to try getting help at the website. The robo-operator will just reply "I'm sorry, I didn't understand you".

Two hours into the call with technical support I still had no internet, but had assured the human operator that I hadn't got up in the middle of the night and made any adjustments or changes to my telephone jacks or satellite installation.

When I got off the line, it still wasn't working and they had to open a ticket - the resolution of which I would be informed. Soon after that, things started working again and I have yet to hear that they have resolved the problem.

I don't think technical support actually does anything, to tell you the truth. I think they tell you to go to plug in numbers and passwords, unplug this, reboot that, until the thing starts working again on its own anyway.

But there's something comforting about taking action and calling technical support. For one thing, it's someone at the company I can whine at while I am waiting for it all to start working again. I get to be slightly disdainful of their constant questions about whether or not the computer is plugged in, and explain to them that they shouldn't treat all customers as if they are idiots.

On second thought, it might be more fun to work it the other way. Maybe one day, just for fun, I will unplug everything and call technical support. Let's see how long it takes them to teach me how to turn the thing on.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Is There a Child Molester in Your Neighborhood?

As mothers, we all look out for our children's health and safety. As they learn to walk and reach, we childproof our environments to prevent injuries. As they learn to run, we are there to cuddle and comfort when they fall. We caution them about "stranger danger" and take every step possible to ensure their safety. One way to protect our children against the danger of pedophiles and predators is to know if there are registered sex offenders in our neighborhoods.

Did you know that you can search for and locate child molesters living in your local area? There is a site that helps you access that information, regardless of where you live. At, information is available for your local area.

Get the information you need to keep your child safe from predators. Check for registered sex offenders living in your area today.

Bus Spotting as a Hobby

School began in earnest this week, with full days and homework assigned. So far it's going well. The Boy's bus has a rather unpredictable schedule thus far, but it's only the fifth day of school. I am sure it will start to be more regular, at least I hope so because right now the window of time of its possible arrival extends for about an hour.

I get a little anxious when it comes to the school bus. Okay, I really just drive everyone crazy while I am waiting for the school bus. I watch for its arrival in a near panic. It isn't the Boy's fault - he's always come straight home from the bus, it's not as if he's ever missed it and tried to cross highways to get home while sustaining himself on the pretzel crumbs in the bottom of his backpack. He's never done anything that would indicate that he's not capable of getting home on a school bus. The problem is really just a holdover from my first experience with a school bus when the Girl began school.

The Girl had been cared for by her grandmother until that first day of Kindergarten. I had watched the school bus come by every morning the year before to pick up the two boys that lived upstairs. Although they were not going to the same school anymore, I assumed the bus would make its regular stop for my daughter. That first day we stood expectantly outside the house until well after the time that school was beginning. The school apparently hadn't told the bus company that they still had to stop for children at that location.

The next day the bus did stop to pick her up. Not taking any chances, I hopped in the car and drove to the school to be sure that they had delivered her to the right place.

The third day of school, the bus picked her up, but never dropped her off. When the bus driver finished his route he noticed that he still had a small child on board. He drove her back to the school (with which I had been in feverish contact) and I had to pick her up there.

Things then went rather well for a while. I followed the bus to school for several days and all continued to go as planned. I began to relax. Then they did it again. Another bus driver who had my child on board at the end of her run, and didn't know where she belonged.

As you can imagine, my faith in the reliability of the school bus has been somewhat shaken. I drove both children to different schools for many years rather than face the uncertainty of bus stops and drop off points.

So now when I sit by the window looking for a patch of yellow to show through between the houses on the next street over, or nervously watch the clock from ten minutes before it's supposed to arrive and call the school immediately if the bus is a moment late, it seems to others that my anxiety is far greater than is warranted.

Perhaps when the Boy is 16 or so, I will be able to go about my day without looking out the window for the bus, or anxiously count the minutes till it arrives. Perhaps, but I doubt it.