Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jacks And Better

I saw a package of Jacks by the checkout counter at the craft store the other day and I had to smile.

That simple, classic kids' toy reminded me of the stories Mom and her cousin Eloise used to tell about when they were little girls. They were distant cousins but since the families got together so often, and Eloise was an only child while Mom had just one older brother, the two girls were much closer than most cousins. Eloise was at all our family gatherings – she and Mom rotated hosting duties for the holidays – and I always thought of her as Aunt Eloise.

The two of them told me of the hours and hours they spent playing Jacks. They talked about “onsies” and “twosies,” how to bounce the ball just the right way -- once, twice, or not at all. And always – always – they remembered “the concrete sidewalk was so hot on our little, bare legs!”

And they laughed.

They laughed so hard and smiled so much at the memories that I figured Jacks must be the most fun game in the entire world. So I would run to get my over-sized set of plastic Jacks and I'd go outside to sit on the big, flat square of concrete between the sidewalk and our front stairs. I sat out there practicing for what seemed like hours and hours, bouncing and grabbing, scraping my knuckles raw on the concrete, sweating as the sun beat down on me, feeling the hot concrete burning the backs of my little, bare legs.

Mom and Eloise would watch from the cool shade of the front porch, where they sat gently swaying on the porch swing. Dinner was over, the dishes were done, there was nothing to do but visit until it was time to serve dessert.

They would occasionally offer up advice, or chastise me for cheating. (Is it really cheating if you're playing by yourself?) Every once in a while, if my offenses were particularly greivious, one of them would kneel down beside me and show me the right way to do it.

“Ooof, that used to be a lot easier!” they would say as they struggled to stand up again, girdle and nylons, high heels, age and gravity conspiring against them.

And they would erupt into laughter all over again.

The memory of that laughter warmed me as I stood there at the store, weighing the pros and cons of an impulse buy. A surprise gift for Mom.

“Remember when you and Eloise used to play Jacks, when you were little girls?” I would ask.


But... what if she didn't remember? What would I do if she looked at me with that sweet, placid smile and just shrugged her shoulders?

I've lost so much of her already. I couldn't take loosing any more.

And so I put the package back on the hook.


But... the stories, the laughter, the kneeling in polyester skirts and nylons and heels and struggling to get back up, those are my memories.

So I bought the Jacks.

And that night as I sat on the kitchen floor, the cool of the linoleum tile chilling my (not so little or bare) legs, I practiced the bouncing and the grabbing, calling out “onsies” and “twosies.”

“Ooof, that used to be a lot easier!” I said to the cat as I struggled to stand up again, achy knees and hips, age and gravity conspiring against me.

And I smiled, knowing that through the telling and sharing, memories can live on and on.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Master Iron Chef UnWrapped Kitchen Throwdown

The following is an actual, honest-to-goodness assignment that I am going to give my students tomorrow. By doing this I believe I am incorporating 20th Century Learning benchmarks, facilitated by technological interface practices, in a cross-curricular, hands-on learning environment that reaches out to marginalized students to better help them achieve their full potential. Or it's just a cheap ploy to entertain myself while creating a fun lesson plan with marginal learning outcomes but maximal blog-post-ability. Ish.

The Great
Convenience Mix
(AKA: Mrs. Salemink is Cleaning Out the Cupboard)

  1. Foods & Nutrition 2 is wrapping up a unit on convenience foods, and Baking is learning about... well, baking. Duh. Really? Do I need a reason? Have I ever had a good reason for any assignment? There was that one lesson about that one thing... but other than that one.... We've done similar things before, but never on this scale. This... will... be... EPIC.
  2. Mrs. Salemink has had 4 hours of sleep from 6:30 a.m. Saturday to 7:32 p.m. (oops, 8:14 p.m.) Sunday, and is not expecting to get to bed until at least 10 p.m. And she is really, really old. She is not able to go without sleep for this long any more, people. Give her a break.
  1. The vast majority of you are probably going to be tired and cranky in class on Monday as well. The rest of you get to reap the benefits of our poor sleep-management skills.
  2. We are having yet another “not normal” week of class scheduling, and I'm running low on creativity. Hard to believe, but true.
  3. Because I'm the teacher and I said so. What are they going to do? Fire me?

The Assignment:
  1. EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU (yes, YOU! BY YOUR OWNSELF. Without a partner.) will go online and find a HOMEMADE, COMPLETELY FROM SCRATCH RECIPE for one of the following cake/brownie/quickbreads from the provided list. You WILL (BY YOUR OWNSELF. Without a partner.) email me a link to said HOMEMADE, COMPLETELY FROM SCRATCH RECIPE by the end of the class period. *See Random Rules and Frequently Asked Questions section below.

The Smackdown:
After democratically selecting (you will vote, I will over-rule) 2 box mixes and their homemade recipe counterpart:
  1. Each class will be divided into 4 kitchen groups. Two groups will prepare the box mixes. Two groups will prepare the homemade.
  2. If you can't come to an agreement on who's doing what, I will randomly select you. Or we may do this again and switch roles. Depends on how much you annoy me.
Random Rules:
  1. Box mix selection (and thus homemade recipe as well) will be first come, first served. In other words Foods 2 gets a better deal. Life is not fair. Get over it.
  2. YOU WILL, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU (yes, YOU! BY YOUR OWNSELF. Without a partner.) will go online and find a HOMEMADE, COMPLETELY FROM SCRATCH RECIPE BY THE END OF THE CLASS PERIOD. Or you will receive an “I.” Your grade point will crumble, you will never graduate high school, you will develop a severe case of acne, “bacne,” halitosis, pit-stank and athletes foot and you will wake up with the over-all funky body odor of the average, post-gym 7th grader, for all of eternity. No amount of showers shall cleanse you. You shall become a pariah amongst your people. Look it up.
    You may also turn into a zombie. And not the fun kind. You will become the really icky, oozy kind that everyone can outrun. You will be locked in a cage where people will poke at you with sticks. They will make countless YouTube videos and SnapChat stories about you and you will never collect a cent of royalties or receive any “likes.”
    If you are lucky, you will spend the rest of your life living in a van, down by the river. By your self. Not even the other zombies – or stinky 7th graders – will associate with you.
  3. You will not whine.
  4. YOU WILL DO ALL YOUR DISHES or you will receive an “I” and the consequences will be the same as #3 above.

Frequently Asked Questions:
  1. Do we have to? Yes.
  2. Why? Because I said so.
  3. But, Mrs. Salaaaaameeeeeenk, I'm tired. So am I. And I'm older and crankier than you.
  4. But... but... but... Nip it. Nip it! You can't see me, but I'm making the universal “nip it” sign with my hand as if I could grab your little pouty duck lips and hold them shut. With superglue. Or DuckTape. I'm not picky.
  5. Quit rolling your eyes. That's not #TheBEARway.
  6. How d... Because I'm psychic. Now get to work.

How I have never been named Teacher of the Year is completely beyond me.