April Update: Factory Edition

Yes, I’m still alive. (In answer to Nann’s query.) However, everything around me seems as if it’s in a suspended state of animation. And on fire.

The latest coronavirus “pause” has been extended. “Pause” means The Young Human Factory, located in a county-wide hotspot, is closed to all but staff and a few choice young humans who need extra quality-control.

The Great Lakes State is in the throes of a surge (along with our neighbour Ontario). The official response is maddening. The state requested more vaccine doses; request denied. But good news: the US Department of Education (DOE) waived the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. Surely the students will be safely home for another week.

No. The DOE denied the state request to waive spring tests. Thus, the Factory is closed to students – except for mandatory test days.

I am already running around like a headless chicken. This latest is just “the sugar on the frosting,” as a sweet French-speaking lady put it.  

Late-breaking news… %&*$&#!!!

Today is Sunday. Churches have just opened again for normal operations, so I was gung-ho to attend and going through my last-minute check.

Stockings without a rip? Check.

Mask secure? Check.

Ringer turned off? Check… wait a minute. What is this notification from work?

I scanned it: “Please check your emails…. face to face pause… increase in Covid cases….”

GAH!! The Young Human Factory is closing again!!

We’ve been through a lot, particularly those who have been quarantined more than once already. Yes, more than once. The quarantines are based on contact tracing, which is like a game of Six Degrees of Separation, but less fun and no Kevin Bacon whatsoever.)

After all the restrictions, all the care the kids have been taking, the assigned seating at three separate lunches and two separate cafeterias, not to mention their teachers getting vaccinated* – my students will be freaking out and furious tomorrow.

Heck, I’m freaking out and furious TODAY. I just hope by waiting until after lunch, I won’t have as much competition for the printers and copiers. (Then again, making packets for nine days of absence is a lot of printing and copying!)

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*The first shot was on a “snow day,” when inclement weather cancelled classes. It was kind of cool to see all the administrators, teachers, and support staff who braved the trek.

Little People

As I prepare for the new, improved sanitized new year at The Young Human Factory, the little ones are squeezing in all the fun they can manage before this extraordinarily long summer vacation ends.

I heard a child’s yell of outrage in the morning. A girl of four had come up my driveway, dumped her bike on the lawn, and was walking back to mom. Seems she JUST got the training wheels off and was having trouble steering.

I went out and chatted with her mom. I tried VERY hard not to laugh at the oh-so-serious little girl. She had a doll, and her daddy mounted a doll carrier to her bike so she can take Dolly for rides. Dolly will keep her company when her sibling enters full-day school.

The Middle School Mafia, once limited to bikes, electric scooters, and the occasional dirt bike, has acquired a golf cart. It isn’t clear who commandeered it from grandpa, but they were running the road with five kids on it. Next week, their little band is breaking up. Some of them will be attending school; others are taking the online option.*

For my part, I am prepping for the weirdness to follow an abbreviated school year and continued restrictions. And I remind myself: I have to keep an upbeat attitude!

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*NOTE: Families have two weeks to decide if their child is enrolling in an online class or attending in-person classes. Frankly, I hope a good number do the former, since the rosters are ungainly: 29 to 35 students cannot social distance.

Hunter’s Salad

Someone asked me about go-to dishes and when I mentioned Hunter’s Salad, wanted to know more. It’s the local name, but I suppose it exists in similar forms elsewhere.  I originally bought it from local delis, then decided to try my hand at it.

Here it is, with no measurements because I eyeball everything:

It uses a wild rice (or riced veggies) base. Add green onion (aka scallion);  chopped walnuts or similar nut;  celery; and dried cranberries,  cherries, or blueberries (lots of choices in Michigan).

Top with a balsamic vinaigrette. I used Newman’s Own walnut cranberry until it was discontinued. Now I make my own with a dash of Montmorency tart cherry juice and walnut oil.

 

Of Spiders and Exploding Toilets

Returning to La Casa de Tontería after more than a week away, I settled to the usual post-vacation routine: doing laundry and evicting spiders. I killed two in my bedroom, drowned one in the shower, and made plans to clear the shed* when the weather cools next week.  Michigan has only one poisonous spider – the brown recluse – but an array of house spiders and wanna-bes.

Exploding toilets are a looming threat. Continue reading

Covid-19 Lockdown: A Child’s View

Between floods and riots, I sometimes forgot that it was May, not summer (yes, that’s the season of floods and riots). Only two weeks are left in The Young Human Factory’s scholastic year.

As a brief writing assignment, I asked middle schoolers to imagine that they were elderly and their grandchildren asked about the historic quarantine. I wanted to share some of their reflections on the shutdown. I did not edit them except for brevity and added commentary in brackets for clarification.

“Quarantine in 2020 was honestly very boring. There wasn’t much to do because of social distancing. A lot of kids were super happy at first because they didn’t have to go to school. But later on, they became super unmotivated to do the online school work.  Lot of them missed school because they missed the lack of being able to talk to their friends everyday that wasn’t through a screen.”

“Everybody went crazy and got toilet paper instead of food. There was no more toilet paper left.”

“I started to really miss my friends and the school environment. Even though all of us would complain about being at school everyday, we took that for granted because for a lot of us, that was our main source of socialization other than talking to our parents and/or siblings. We didn’t really know when Quarantine would end because every time there would be a date that the stay at home order would be lifted, it would get extended.”

“It was very scary thinking you could get a sickness that could kill you and you wouldn’t even know you had it for a few weeks and you could cause so many people to get sick and also die. It was also very scary for the people who were having a child during the pandemic because babies have very week immune systems and could easily get the virus and die from it. It was also scary for elder people with many health issues being it made them have a bad immune system and they could also get the virus and die.”

“Corona virus was one of the best and worst times of my life, everyone in the world was moving so fast and now the world slowed down more home cooked meals, family’s spending time together, people are enjoying nature I mean this has never happened. I enjoyed quarantine because I had time too play with my brother and I had time too also play my Xbox and enjoy peace and quiet.”

“i whould tell them like any old person whould it was horrible we fought over tolite paper as clans of goons seized towns…. breakins and horders scavaged the land gasmask filters were of thin supplie but i managed to find a few as total war raged outside … and just like that you have never wanted to talk to another human person in your life now GET OF MY LAWN!” [NOTE: I told the students specifically not to include “Get off my lawn.” But instructions, like auto-correct, don’t exist in this child’s world!]

The Volunteer

When I first moved into La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), my parents gave me bulbs from their own garden in the north. Most didn’t make it.

Squirrels dug up and ate some. The bearded iris couldn’t thrive in different soil. My beautiful milk-chocolate tulips grew scraggly and dwindled to one, which disappeared under the transplanted hostas.

The dahlias were a horror story. I wintered them inside as usual, but when I tried to replant them, they were mushy and crawling with white, half-worm, half-millipede things.

And then there are the grape hyacinths. They grew along the wall just outside the front door of my childhood home. Every spring their purple crowns would rise through the blah landscape and their long, narrow leaves curled like ribbon.

They didn’t die off after the move to La Casa de Tontería, but they turned cranky like a relative who refuses to be satisfied with any accommodations. Put them in a garden: meh. Transplant them to a pot: fine, if we must.

I let them go and planted other things, only to discover they love the lawn.

The jerks.

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ADDENDUM: A former student came to get some of my over-multiplying daffodils and chives. I offered her it and she accepted.

The Garden Beckons…

There is a sinkhole in the backyard, a spot where the previous owners removed a dead oak. I used to pour sand into the holes that formed as the roots rotted beneath the sod.

Later I paid a tree-cutter to take down a gnarly young oak and grind down the stump. Now its subterranean decay creates a natural cistern. Last autumn, I poured out a nearly-full bag of soil into it and spread grass seeds over top.

The grass hasn’t appeared yet, but the nutrient-rich soil brought out dormant crocuses: bright yellow and waxy purple. Even if it snows again, these hardy harbingers of spring are here.

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“I’m back! Spring is here!”

I am rich… in masks.

Because of the Coronavirus epidemic in China, masks are selling out everywhere. I heard that news and supposed that surgical masks were in demand.

This weekend BabyBro visited for his Christmas present: a ticket to a musical in  nearby theatre. Before he arrived, he asked if I happened to have any dust-filtering masks he could have. He needs them for spring gardening due to high pollen.

“Sure! How many do you need?”

“Two. I can’t find them anywhere.” Continue reading