Friday, August 31, 2007

"Life Water"

It's lunchtime and I'm at work. I went down to the cafeteria here and bought a nice, cheap lunch. I decided the liquid for washing down my chili and chips today would be Sobe "Life Water" which projected a certain style to me through the glass doors on the cooler.

Does anybody out there remember Tang or, even more obscure, "Start." My orange/tangerine "Life Water" tastes to me like the nutrasweet version of those. (I recall from early childhood that one of those was actually eventually banned for some reason).

I'll let you know if the antioxidants and B vitamins make any difference in my afternoon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Summer into Fall

Another beautiful day at the top of Vermont. This new school regime means I get to see a lot of it. The Kids only like me to chauffer, so though Woolfoot Husband has been home all day, mostly doing nothing, I promised to do all the ferrying. It's time to go, but here are a few pictures of the kids in their snappy uniforms and another in my unending snaps - and a new feature, some video! (admittedly on the dull side) -of the Jay woods. (I went walking there after drop-off this morning. A moose (unseen but definitely heard) snorted at me. I almost ran out of the woods... Time to go get the kids. It could be worse.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

School Again

This, obviously, is not the school where Woolfoot Kids 1&2 are now attending. It's the Stowe Rec Path, where I was walking at 8:30 this morning after I dropped off Kid 1 & 2 at their new school. What does their new school mean to me? At least one morning a week when I have an hour and a half from drop off to appearing at work for my four-hour-day. That's a good part to this new arrangement. There are other good parts, like band for Kid 1, and French and fencing. The uniforms make them look cute and special, which they are.

The bad part is that the school is 50 minutes from the last house. Getting everyone out and there on time is proving a challenge. It is a HAUL. I am not sure I'm going to be able to adjust to it. Of course, it's not exactly like having to endure the Gulag Archipelago or the Killing Fields. I guess (for once) I'll try not to complain. I hope the neighbor who also hauls her kids there will start expressing a more immediate interest in car pooling - slightly evasive on this point.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Walking with the Kids

Instead of going to court today (we settled the matter yesterday) I was able to go hiking with the kids. Here are some pictures. (I hope)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Stupidity of Giants

I was reading "Jack the Giant Killer" to my son (who is six) last night. The version comes from a book from the 1920s called Once Upon a Time (q.v.). The cover suggests the wonders inside. The tales were written, rather "rewritten" since they are all ancient classics, by Katherine Lee Bates (most famous for writing the words to "God Bless America"). The illustrations are by the great and gifted Margaret Evans Price. My mother had bought a copy at a garage sale when we were kids. As adults, my sister and I sought out copies of our own (the garage sale copy not having survived our childhood). Bates does a great job with the writing, which flows and is informed by a poet's sensibility. Some of the language is too archaic for my kids so I update it improvisationally. Not all the stories are popular with them but all of us like "Jack the Giant Killer." It includes several beheadings, a hanging, one inadvertent suicide and death by pick axe (all for giants, of course).

Reading it again yesterday, I was struck by how dense these giants are. Giant number one, Cormoran, is killed when he is lured into a pit by Jack. After he tumbles into the pit, Jack strikes him "a terrible blow on that empty skull" with a pick axe. Stupid. The next Giant, Thunderdale, catches Jack asleep in the woods. (I guess Jack, despite his reputation for cleverness, can also be charged with some stupidity. When he is found asleep in the woods by Thundredale, Jack is wearing the belt given to him by the grateful Cornish people that identifies him as, "the valiant Cornishman who slew the giant Cormoran." Not a good idea to where such a label when you're snoozing in giant country). Anyway, Giant number two picks Jack up and puts him in his pocket. When he gets back to his castle (despite being complete clamwits the Giants are always very rich) he sticks Jack in a high-up room. Thunderdale then goes off to get a Giant friend to come for dinner (Jack is on the menu). Jack can't find a way out of this room, but he does find a coil of rope. Thunderdale has obligingly announced his plans, allowing Jack to work up a plan. Jack ties two slip knot nooses into the rope, which he drops over the heads of the two giants when they walk under the window where he has been imprisoned. Both are strangled in two minutes. Stupid times two.

The next giant is stupidest of them all. This is the two-headed Welsh giant. Bates's illustration depicts this one as a greasy open-mouth breather. Jack, a tired traveler, knocks on his castle door, not knowing a giant lives there. The Giant invites Jack in for dinner. His motives, as one may guess, are not pure. Jack, however, having no other choice and coveting some marvelous possessions of this Giant, stays the night. While he's trying to get to sleep, however, Jack hears the Giant muttering his plans to prevent Jack from seeing "the morning light because he will "dash his brains out quite."

These Giants need a seminar or a handbook or something. Rule number one: Don't mutter your plans to kill a victim while he sleeps where he can hear you. This, of course, is in the vein of the "Fee Fi Fo Fum" mistake of the stupid giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk". This is the same mistake made by every villain in James Bond stories. There was a fabulous Saturday Night Live skit once which brought all the Bond villains together to discuss their problems. They worked out that the thing they should do when they next capture Bond is to kill him. Don't tell him your plan then set him up in some torture chamber set on auto-kill. Just shoot him. Maybe Ian Fleming had these fairy tale giants in mind while he was writing Goldfinger etc.

Coming back to Jack, having been supplied this bit of intelligence regarding the two-headed giant's pans, Jack the Giant Killer slips out of bed and puts a Jack-sized log in his place. The Giant comes in with his club and smashes the log.

Query: Why did the Giant not notice that he was beating on a log? Wouldn't a log struck with a club sound different than a boy? (Sorry for that image but one can't help wondering).

Query: Why did the Giant go whistling out of the room that night after his terrible deed instead of looking to see what he had done to Jack?

These were stupid, fatal mistakes. Jack wakes up the next morning and heads down to breakfast, which is a washtub-size helping of hasty pudding. The Giant plays it cool. Jack does too. He claims to have slept well except for when a rat scurried over him and slapped him with his tail a few times. The Giant is flummoxed but they eat together. Jack, however, only scoops the pudding into a leather bag under his jacket. And then, he famously challenges the Giant to a challenge. Jack can cut himself open and let out his breakfast without doing himself any harm. Can the Giant do the same? You guessed the ending. The most colossal act of stupidity in English literature - an act befitting a stupid Giant.

This Giant was known to possess four wonderful things, which Jack had determined to get for himself the moment he agreed to stay the night. These are a cloak of invisibility, shoes of swiftness, a cap of knowledge (which gives all the right answers to any questions) and a sword that can cut through anything. With these tools at his disposal, the last few Giant killings are pretty much a cake-walk. The Giants are still dim, but they never would have a chance even if they were Einsteins.

Of course, I never noticed any of this when my Grandma read this to me or when I read it myself as a child. Kids are credulous or willing to suspend disbelief. I couldn't help raising a few of these points to my own kids. I don't want to ruin the magic of fairy tales for them, but I also don't want them to be simps, like these Giants.

Friday, August 10, 2007

August at the Last House

Another day in the sunshine here on the Canadian Border. The Woolfoot kids spent the day with the neighborhood children who attend Bishop Marshall School in distant Morrisville, Vermont. It looks like we're headed there in the fall. Yours truly is hoping that the parents of these two nice children stand ready to take on a big chunk of the transport duties but, though friendly, the Mom has been evasive on this point. Well, what can we do but cope, and dig deep for the $10k we'll need for tuition.
Here's a fairly horrifying story that ran in the Caledonian Record yesterday about the demise of Newport's Sacred Heart School, where my children will not be attending school in the fall.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sacred Heart Bites the Dust

Sacred Heart School in Newport, Vermont is closing. Unless you live around here (on the Vermont/Quebec Border) you probably don't care too much. Since my kids were supposed to start school there in three weeks, and since we relocated from Burlington on the strength of our belief that the school was on a good footing. When I wrote an email to a member of the board that I know six months ago and asked how things were going he told me Up Up Up. I don't blame him. I think at that moment things did look good. Plans were in the works to buy a new building. Funds were being raised. We had A Plan.

Last Sunday all us parents were called to the gym of the old school building and told enrollment had not been sufficient to hold school in the building and the lease offered by the nuns who own the building was not acceptable. A last-minute switcheroo to a local parish sunday school was proposed. We checked it out the next day. New and clean, though small. Not great, but the public school in our village is famously lousy (open mouth breathing/foot dragging all that goes with poverty in rural America). We figured it was our best bet. Then, tonight, the call. The Trustees met tonight and, I guess, they did not get enough commitment to open the school at all. So fifty families and a bunch of teachers have to figure out what to do.

The school has been around here for 100 years and the roots go deep. There are not many institutions of any size up here - no big hospital or college. I think there is going to be a lot of genuine heartbreak when the news gets out.

And yet, this disaster probably opens the door for a new private school here. I have been thinking for a long time that a country day school, with an emphasis on academics and outdoor activities, might have room to grow here. I don't think we can assemble anything in the next three weeks, but you read it here first...

If anyone has good ideas on what to do for our 4th and 1st graders, let me know!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Last House Today

A couple of weekends every year, we get perfect weather. This was one of them. A stay-at-home North Troy weekend. Twice up to the Mountain: once for a picnic with a ski group and this morning for a walk in my beloved Jay Woods. The wild flowers are unspeakably beautiful. Here are a couple of pictures from around the last house.
By the by, kids and I saw the Simpsons Movie at the Newport Waterfront Cinemas last weekend. I liked it, but it wasn't as good as the best episodes of the show. Odd thing was that the power in the theatre went off just at the moment when Mr. Burns was facing the delegation that was asking him to provide power to the town. His bony finger was poised over the two buttons - one that was labeled "Release the Hounds" and one labled "Power" (or something like that). Then, the movie went off and we all sat there wondering if it was part of the movie. It would have been sort of brilliant if it had been. Then the manager came in and told us there had been a power failure.
Kids gave it two thumbs up.