School is coming back!

The governor of Michigan has decided that schools can open up in 2021. I am so glad.

I was at The Young Human Factory past midnight two days this past week. Each day, I read and responded to more than 125 emails. Virtual meet-ups? Did them. Long phone calls? Yes. Making videos of everything from grammar lessons to “How to Do Today’s Work”? Heck, yeah!

And then my poor students had to do the work, which was bad, and read the directions, which was… worser. (Actual vocabulary of middle-schooler.)

My favorite conversation this week occurred when I received a desperate plea from one of the Brainiacs (the contentious members of the Middle School Mafia). He was encountering problems doing a grammar practice.

Brainiac: [Detailed explanation of the problem.] I can’t figure this out.

Me: You did not read #3 on my instructions today. Therefore, you have failed your first reading comprehension assignment of the day! Ha ha!

Brainiac: Oh poop.

In school, this Brainiac would have been in the honors class with other Brainiacs, who would tease and laugh. The back-and-forth conversation of class is the most fun, especially when peers help each other learn by repeating what I just finished saying. (Fun fact: A teacher can say “Read the directions” forty times, but when a student says “Read the directions” the first time, the other students hear it.)

I look forward to hearing “Oh, poop” in person.

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!


*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.

A visit from the Middle School Mafia

Thursdays are usually my “screen day” of work, which means hours preparing lessons, answering emails and commenting on students’ submissions. Every 25 minutes, I must look into the distance to give my eyes a break. 

The week before last, I looked up and saw two boys warily approaching La Casa de Tontería; a third waited on the road. They were heading back home after an afternoon in the State Park, an unaltered section of which lies beyond the dead-end of my street. They saw my house and wondered…

Yes, I welcomed them! It was good to see them “in the wild,” so to speak. One admitted to staying up all night – and it showed in the darkness around his eyes. Another was sent outdoors to give the rest of the family a break. The last is the quiet type with brains, which could go either way.

But they aren’t thieves or druggies. And they weren’t on the prowl for victims, just checking up on a neighbor-teacher. 

It reminded me why I like kids.

Love Languages: Middle-skooleze

Last year I had a funny, snot-nosed brat who loved wisecracks and flipping plastic bottles (a real obsession with middleschoolers last year).  Last week, a giant eighth-grader came loping down the hall toward me.

I was wearing one of my “new” sweaters, a green one with a white deer leaping in the center. I don’t know what he was wearing because I didn’t have binoculars to see above the first mile of legs.

“Hey, Missus,” he called down with a grin, “it’s not Ugly Sweater Day!” (Translation: It’s good to see you, Miss B!)

“It’s not Ugly Kid Day, either,” I replied, “but here we are.” (Translation: Nice to see you, [name redacted])

He burst into laughter and yelled, “You roasted me!” (Translation: You still love me!)

“You roasted me first.” (Translation: You love me more, you monster.)


Are you okay, Boomer?*

I have been trying to instill fear grammar into my young charges. It has been difficult. Some of my colleagues think it’s because of technology; others think it’s because their parents don’t value reading or writing.

I think the Middle School Mafia is trying to break us and take over the Factory.

So it warmed my teeny-tiny crabapple of a heart to hear two boys discussing grammar as one finished his homework.

“It needs a comma.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. If you leave it out, it’s ‘okay boomer’ like they’re good boomers. But with the comma, it’s sarcastic like ‘Okay, boomer!'”

Now I’m apprehensive about reading the homework. I’m not that old!

*I came up with the title by imagining what a “concern troll” would say. I’m doing my part to destroy the usage by saying to seventh and eighth graders, “OK, boomer.” Because nothing takes all the fun out of something cool like having your teacher use it.


Attempted Assassination Foiled!

As faithful readers know, I am a Quality Control Inspector at the Young Human Factory.  Some of you may remember that two years ago, my assignment was altered so that not only do I inspect the late-stage production of young humans, but I deal with the delightfully defective* Middle Schoolers.

Yes, my nemesissies. (I’m not sure if that’s the proper plural of nemesis, but it ought to be.) The Middle School Mafia have brought me many things over the years, including eggs, mudpies, and now attempted murder.

There I was, inspecting the widgets, when one of the females kicked away her classmate’s desk – with said classmate still in it. The child-propelled desk slammed into my thigh just below my hip.

Yes, that hip.

Honestly, the pint-sized assailant is shaping up to be one of the best students this year. I just hope she can be realigned away from mayhem and murder.

* To you who protest “they aren’t defective,” I must ask you: have you met any recent Middle Schoolers? According to the custodian who cleans the bathrooms, they urinate on the walls near the ceiling. And the girls’ bathroom is worse.




The Hottest Spot to Hang Out

…is La Casa de Tontería (aka my home aka The House of Nonsense). Specifically, the road in front of my house.

I blame one of my frequent readers (but NEVER commenter) who asked me why I don’t write more about the Middle School Mafia. Not that he wants me to have trouble, but…

He jinxed me. Continue reading

Tochos…or notochos. That is the question.

I have noticed that several new blog-followers have been attracted by my entries about food. In the spirit of adventure, I dedicate this post to you, gentle readers.

Consider it a shakedown cruise to toughen your spirits.

As work winds down for another fiscal year,  the cafeteria at The Young Human Factory makes do with ingredients on hand. And whatever appeals to the collective tastebuds of developing hominids who have weird tastes.

They like Chicken Bowl and bags of Doritos filled with spiced hamburger, salsa casera, and cheese. They have been known to eat their boogers. (Thankfully, the latter have yet to appear on the menú del día.)


Behold the cuisine of the Young Humans and tremble!

So what the heck is that thing? I’m sure it has a name, like the Blob or the Thing You Eat Because It Smells Good.  The menu christens it “Totchos,” which is the eccentric child of Nacho and Tater Tot Dos-Cervezas.

The YHF version has four layers: a base of tater tots, seasoned beef, refríed beans (which spellcheck insists are “refereed beans” because it knows things), sour cream, and a garnish of cherry tomatoes.

“Did you eat that?” you may ask.

“Heck, yeah!” I may answer, using the lingo of the Middle School Mafia. I don’t think I will again, though.

Recommended Reading

The family history of Totchos.


Hell on Wheels!

The Middle School Mafia has taken to the roads. Motorbikes and 4-wheelers are flying down the street from mid-morning until dusk. I had to go onto the porch yesterday to evil-eye them as they decided to pull up onto the neighbor’s lawn (strategically, the section with a stand of trees blocking the neighbor’s view).

Several years ago a similar band of mobile middle schoolers ran the blacktop. However, I don’t think this group has the audacity to come up to me and boldly request gasoline when their tanks run dry. (Not a joke; the previous gang had wretched ideas about what complete strangers owed them.)

I suspect the road-running will wane when the summer gas prices rise and parents need to budget for their weekend boating. In the meantime, vroom! Vroom!