Out of the Mouth of Middle School Mafiosi

I have been pleasantly surprised by the members of the Middle School Mafia who are under my control supervision at The Young Human Factory.  I have only twice been subjected to rage and unspoken threats, and one of those came from a parent.

In fact, they show a delightful willingness to throw themselves into the deep end of the pool of knowledge and understanding. The following are first-semester highlights:

  • “I am good at spelling, reading and riting.” (On a very confident self-assessment!)
  • “Do ‘women of color’ come in all colors or just some colors?” (Asked by a student categorized as POC and when the term was explained, said dubiously, “Isn’t that racist?”)
  • A drawing of a girl and a bucket of water. (A response to “What image comes to mind when you think of the protagonist? Write a brief response.”)
  • “Is there a movie of this book?” – pause to hear “no” – “We should read another book.” (This was followed by an explanation of how tech-using kids today need to have audio and visual versions because reading letters on a page is something people did before the invention of cellphones.)

The Factory is not closed for me…

As faithful readers may remember, my job as a Quality Control Inspector at the Young Human Factory underwent a transformation this fall. I was put in charge of teaching English to members – or potential members – of the Middle School Mafia. A daunting task, but I am buoyed by the vision of them communicating without grunts, egg-flinging, and ritualistic doorbell-ringing.

For the same low price, I now deliver eight more hours a week of service AND the daily 53 minutes of preparation time was eliminated. But it has really helped my time management, since I have so little.

Weekends are not my own, nor vacations. Continue reading

A sunny day in the neighborhood

As family members in Washington D.C. and “warm” cities of the south endure the biggest snowstorm in decades, I found myself tra-la-laing outside. It was below freezing most of the day, but the sun was bright and there were almost no clouds in the sky.

The Middle School Mafia took a break from their mayhem to skate and bike on the snow-less roads. Sure, they were wearing wintercoats and heavy gloves, but they were thinking Spring in their tiny misbegotten brains.

Under the sun’s rays, the snow decreased enough in the back yard for the squirrels and birds to rediscover the cache of birdseed and corn kernels. In the front, the grass appeared in patches and the roof lost its white blanket.

Nuggets of Nonsense: Troisième Part

  • My sojourn in Quebec was a wonderful experience but hard to explain in words. I suppose that’s the difference between a vacation trip and a pilgrimage: ineffable souvenirs.


  • I want to learn French better. So many French-speakers approached me – evidently I look like I belong to them – and many knew no English. Yet despite the language barrier, they were so kind and pleasant. One elderly lady wanted to show me that there were better souvenirs than the one I was holding; she pantomimed and even moved her hands like runway guidance torches to show me the way. This desire to learn French was sorely lacking after I returned from Paris – but such is the power of the Quebequois and the Haitians!


  • A good traveling companion is the difference between a good trip with inconveniences and a penitential journey with bright spots. My roommate had the same sense of humor and similar interests. The humor was especially important when we awoke at 2 am to the drunken singing of a young woman in the alley below our window (no AC in the dormitory, either).


  • Music really is the universal language. Notre Dame du-Lac featured a series of musicians and singers on the feast of the Assumption. One of our party was dancing in her wheelchair while listening to a Gospel choir from NYC. The Haitian choir waiting their turn saw her roll past, clapped for her, and started seat-dancing with her. Joyeux!


  • I didn’t miss social media or radio. Everyone’s main concern was weather reports and an up-to-date itinerary (particularly supper time!). But a baseball fan asked me to text my younger brother a single important question: Did the Cubs win? (No, they did not.)


  • Several things changed while I was away – the temperature and the gas prices rose – but the grass scarcely grew at all.

Continue reading

Good neighbours

Last night (and this morning) I was sleepless because of the dog-that-never-stops-barking and the attendant drama.  The wretched creature lives on the street that parallels mine and, judging from the sound, a few houses down from mine. The incessant barking comes day or night.

Then there are the people who shush the dog. One of them is a middle-schooler with the voice of a disgruntled bullfrog. “Shuuut uupp!” he croaks. It’s bad enough during the day, but after dark I want to throw a brick at him. Preferably a brick still attached to a wall.

(No, I don’t think he’s part of the Middle School Mafia. I’m just a morning person, which means I become a homicidal maniac when someone prevents me from sleeping.) Continue reading

Hurray for rainy nights!

Despite the threat of flash flooding, I rather like the evening rains. It dampens outbreaks of Middle School Mafia.

Like cicadas and virulent plagues, its appearance is cyclical. Summer is the height of infestations because of the increase in leisure time and uselessness allows for greater levels of dumb-assery. (Please let me know if these descriptions are too esoteric. I sometimes fall into professional jargon.)

All three conditions must be met for a group to coalesce. However, it will dissolve or revert to a more benign form unless the group perceives an external threat. Please note: This doesn’t involve an actual threat, such as an angry parent or a patrolling officer or Mister Guy-Who-Just-Wants-To-Be-Left-Alone.

No, not at all. The perception is the key. Continue reading

Opportunity, or How to Prevent an Infestation of Middle Schoolers from Damaging the Garden

Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas Edison

There’s a lot of opportunity in my garden right now. Raking and pruning and mulching – I’m not sure I deserve all these opportunities. There’s also the matter of moving all the cement blocks that Jerkface MacGuyver thought would make a fine way of destroying lawnmower blades and trimmer strings marking the border of the flowerbeds.

He couldn’t limit himself to just the house. He had ideas about gardening, too. When I moved into La Casa de Tontería, the flowerbeds consisted of azaleas, dandelions, thistles, and a morning-glory-like vine that strangles other plants.

Homicidal plants. It makes me happy he never built a fire pit. *shudder*

Last weekend I bought a trellis and set it perpendicular to the shed and the privacy fence.  It’s too dark there to grow anything, but that’s not its purpose. Really, it’s a middle schooler barrier.

Rumor has it that in the Old Country, adults would hear the burping farting thundering herds of middle schoolers in the distance and they’d dig huge pits to trap them. But modern zoning ordinances do not allow for such structures. Pity. Continue reading