Playground rhymes for our troubled times

Do you remember that little song from the playground game, “Ring around the Rosie” from your childhood?

Ring around the rosie,

A pocket full of posies.

Ashes, ashes:

We all fall down!

Now, I wonder if you learned– even as a child, like I did–that this nonsensical-sounding ditty dated back to the bubonic plague decimating Europe’s population in the Middle Ages.

It turns out, the Black Death explanation is apocryphal and didn’t appear until the mid-20th century. Even so, the notion of kids taking notice when the world seems on its way to Hell with an oversized hand basket strikes me as accurate.

I haven’t got a COVID-19 rhyme composed for you today, though I’m now tempted to try my hand at one.Map of Mariupol, Ukraine generated by cell phone GPS app

I did, however, have a politically motivated stab at nasty name-calling in verse! come together in my mind over the past few days. While imperfect–and my apologies to the masterful teacher Michael Clay Thompson, whose MCT Langugage Arts curriculum I used with my home educated child in very recent years, so that I now have the vocabulary to describe how weak my doggerel truly is in form and meter–my not-quite-best self still prompts me to post it here.

I’d also like to ask if others can do better. Please, post your own rhyme in the comments, or tweet away!

I feel as if every child in the free world should have such poems on their lips these days. With luck, the wind will carry them across borders to those less fortunate youngsters growing up under dictators.

The literal future of human freedom lay presently with democratic nations around the world who must confront the warmongering by Russia’s “elected” leader and would-be-czar.

Upon seeing the news report of the bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9th, 2022, I brought these words together.

Printed text of verse in historical typewriter font: Pathetic Putin, killer of babies. Can’t defeat soldiers so he bombs ladies

I debated posting something so mean-spirited. It goes against the very nature of this blog. Really Wonderful Things tries hard to be a bringer of light, and a force for good, human and wildly imperfect as its author is.

“Pathetic Putin…

What is Really Wonderful, however, is my right to comment on politics and politicians. God bless America, and hurrah for my freedom of speech! We are not perfect, yet I don’t hesitate to write these words or share them with the world. I am safe, though I express a controversial opinion, and in strident tones.

…killer of babies…

A miracle, frankly, if you know much of history.

How grateful I am that this is so… for me. How deeply I wish everyone shared in this good fortune.

…can’t defeat soldiers…

What I hope to accomplish by encouraging innocents to chant insults aimed at distant autocrats is the absolute, utter celebration of democracy and representation for the common individual.

…so he bombs pregnant ladies!”

Every school kid should know that such a system exists, God-willing, right on his or her doorstep. Every free person alive should be teaching those children the rights and responsibilities of an empowered electorate.

We the people of free nations owe every other human being, potential and living, our efforts toward sharing our ultimate luxury.

The people of Ukraine have made clear their disinterest in being re-shackled to their former Soviet masters. The bravery of those defending their homes should serve as a stern reminder for all who hear the news.

Representation is an inalienable right, but it is ultimately a privilege that must be constantly protected from jealous usurpers. The world will never lack for tyrants, in temperament if not in fact.

I stand with Ukraine.

Exposé: He doesn’t want a collard shirt

One of my kids just had a growth spurt. With both babies and teens, it’s amazing how they can seem to change form when you look away for a mere moment. I’ve been helping him go through his wardrobe and purge those garments that no longer fit.

Though I often purchase almost every type of item—even fitted clothing—online, add to my list of pandemic anomalies not going to a shoe store to get a son’s feet measured when he’s obviously grown more than just one size. This fact was easier to miss than usual with everyone working remotely, wearing slippers more often than outerwear. SF wardrobe slippers Soft Star

FYI: I was very successful using the printable sizing template from the Oregon company, Soft Star Shoes. The “elves” there make most of our leather slippers. My son ended up with new footwear from two different brands that fit well thanks to that tool.

As it happens, this child is considering a school with a more formal dress code for next year. Collared shirts, dress trousers or khakis, and leather shoes would be a daily requirement. Looking ahead to that possibility, I plan to replace some of his outgrown t-shirts with button front oxfords and a second pair of hiking sneakers with more formal brown or black shoes.plaid collar of shirt visible above jacket neckline

Fortunately, this is a kid who enjoys dressing up. He’s been a bow tie guy since he was little and has a nifty collection of them now mostly silk, but pre-tied. I haven’t had the heart to tell him yet that men wear a larger tie to suit their broader faces, and these will soon be outgrown, too.

Pro Travel Tip for Bow Tie Aficionados: a jumbo, hard-sided eyeglass case makes the perfect protective “suitcase” to keep spiffy pre-tied neckwear from being crushed in transit.

7 colorful bow ties in acrylic storage case next to yellow tie in a protective eyeglass case

Just for fun, here’s a particularly sentimental bow tie of the skinny, Colonel Sanders variety that’s now in my son’s collection. It was my maternal grandfather’s originally, from the Oregon Centennial celebration in 1959, and we found it amongst my mother’s treasures when I emptied her closet after her death.

There was no dissent in the family about which of Mom’s grandsons would be most likely to wear this commemorative novelty neckwear! I don’t recall my grandfather ever wearing it in my presence, though he was a bolo tie guy when he would join us at church in my youth. Come to think of it, Grandpa rocked a bow tie on special occasions, too, so my kid is in good company.

My son prefers suspenders to belts with his suits, striking that distinctive old-school lawyer-in-the-courtroom pose as soon as he’s dressed à la Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. As early as the elementary grades, he was sincerely delighted to receive clothes as gifts… if they were flashy items like a velvet blazer, a mini tuxedo, or a new fedora.

Suffice to say, this is a child who likes to wear clothes that garner attention. It’s a skill he developed well before learning to tie his own shoes.young child in white oxford, yellow bow tie, and top hat

It was in this context that I brought up clothes shopping over lunch with the kids. I was nagging them to sort through the shoes strewn about the mudroom, refusing to buy new boots for the one whose feet were getting wet in sneakers on every slushy February walk until this dull but necessary task was done.

With the outgrown ones underfoot, there was no room to put away new shoes. Also, someone will be grateful for hand-me-down boots in excellent condition. One side effect of growing so fast is that few items are worn out before they need a new home.

I want to see everything that currently fits you before I start shopping for anything new,” I explained to my reluctant young assistant in the endeavor.

I think I need to get you some more collared shirts, too,” I added to my sharp-dresser. “You might need them for school next year and it’s not like you can’t wear one instead of a t-shirt working from home this spring.”

His response?

Collard shirts? Heck no, I want bok choi shirts!”

Green leaf of collard laid out on a purple towel

Collard shirts? Heck, no, I want bok choi shirts!

Amidst thunderous eye rolling, loss of my appetite, and a chorus of groans, DS1 tried to flee the room, but I kinda sorta got them to agree to work on the clothing sorting project before anyone enjoyed any video games over the weekend.

And you got to enjoy my dear child’s most dreadful pun yet of the pandemic.

O frabjous day! I’ve got sprouts on my windowsill

Because harbingers of spring seem like the most Wonderful Thing to share these days, allow me to present the first shoots of my nascent 2021 garden.Kale and Collard sprouts grown in peat pucks in disposable aluminum muffin tin

I feel like the preening mother of debutantes. Stand up straight, my darlings! Never fear; the one in the front on the left is tall and proud now.

I’m not really much of a gardener, so my delight is no doubt outsized. Add my family to the ranks of pandemic plant-tenders, motivated by grocery deficits in 2020 to expand from a handful of pots to a balcony-full. My pride in such a minuscule accomplishment certainly feels weightier than four spindly seedlings gracing a disposable aluminum muffin tin full of peat pellets.

Here’s a close up of my first born sprout. Though I do feel a bit guilty contributing yet more photos of kale to the internet. At least it isn’t on a plate…

Kale sprout one inch tall

I’m particularly happy that these seeds germinated since they were left over from DH’s burst of gardening enthusiasm at the beginning of the pandemic last year. The little beauty above could be any of four types included in Burpee’s Kale Blend, though, statistically, I suppose she’s most likely to be Dwarf Blue Curled Vates.

Lest any hapless would-be gardener look to me for inspiration, be aware that I took the earliest possible seed starting dates for my zip code from an online calculator offered by A Way to Garden. Being a true nerd, I also added a sheet to record my seed starting results to the Excel spreadsheet* where I track my annual purchases of plant and seed varietals.

Early planting reflects both my enthusiasm to welcome the coming season in a year where indoor socializing has been so sharply curtailed, and also the high probability that I will kill some of these poor plants and need one or more subsequent sowing to end up with any healthy seedlings to transplant by the time our last frost actually passes.

Open Burpee Kale Blend seed packed with 2020 scrawled on it

Kale and collards both—according to my online sources—are better sown outdoors directly and left to grow in peace. I started a few anyway. The seeds were here and I was curious to know if they were still viable. At a cost of less than 4 ¢ apiece, this form of experimentation is cheap.

Also, I’m itching for spring, so why not engage in anticipatory activity? Heaven forbid my idle hand become the devil’s workshop!Popular origin of saying about idle hands and the devilNot strictly Biblical, this phrase comes to us mostly thanks to Chaucer and Saint Jerome. See line 1595 of the former’s “The Tale of Melibee.”

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
   Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
   He chortled in his joy.

And in another utterly non sequitur-ious aside, how does anyone else feel about the fact that the Merriam-Webster dictionary offers a definition for frabjous, but the next two exclamations from the poem—callooh and callay—don’t merit inclusion?

My understanding is that Lewis Carroll coined frabjous in Jabberwocky, and a quick internet browse and articles like this one seems to support that supposition.Merriam-Webster screen shot states callay is not found

My question for the rest of you is: Do you ever describe a thing as frabjous,” or, like me, do you mostly quote the entire line from the poem if using the term?

Literary diversions aside, new life merits the frabjous, a callooh, and a callay, in my opinion. How can one help but marvel at the super powers contained in a single tiny seed? Thank heavens for the wisdom of nature, because sometimes it’s sufficient to keep even me from wreaking havoc on my best efforts at nurturing vegetables.

Don’t tell me there are people who can pull off cultivation of more than a few vegetables, herbs, and flowers without benefit of software-enhanced data analysis!

But, of course, I’m well aware that my habitual tendency to gather and play with data is anomalous. I doubt I’m the *only* one with spreadsheets for her wardrobe, recording drive times for various routes to frequent destinations, and prices by source for the family’s usual grocery purchases, but I suspect that there aren’t too many of us who dwell more easily in the realm of information vs. the actual world.

I geek, therefore I am.

Best internet error message ever: close this page and re-launch it from whence you came

In recent weeks, I helped one of my children apply to a competitive program at a local school.

Having gotten distracted from the open application page while it was in progress, I returned to my desk to what is now my favorite internet error message ever yet received. How often do we enjoy those, really?

And here it is, lest you appreciate it as much I do:

Your session has been lost error message, including advice to "re-launch it from whence you came"

Close this page and re-launch it from whence you came,” they advise.

Close this page and re-launch it from whence you came

Yes, that’ll do, pig.* That’ll do.

I try to hold back some of the force of my tidal waves of opinion from my dear children, attempting to allow them the latitude to be whomever they wish, and offering them the reins of their own educations whenever I can get them to take them. Boy oh boy, however, am I tickled pink by this turn of phrase.

I wouldn’t quite urge my kid to enroll in a program he wasn’t keen on because of it, but… Let’s just say I’m sorely tempted.

The pickiest grammarians amongst us will now argue about the redundancy of “from whence;” the preposition is actually implied by the whence itself, of course. I count myself amongst those who hold, though, that, if Shakespeare used it, it can’t be too offensive to the English language as a tool of self-expression. Continue reading

Exposé: Stock manipulation in progress (beef, not GameStop)

Maybe you read my previous post about how I freeze leftovers, or maybe you didn’t.

Obviously, I think you probably should read every word that I’ve written, but I can hardly be called an impartial judge.

Wire corner shelving with 4 Crock Pot slow cookers of different typesRegardless, I made a nice pot of beef broth in my Crock-Pot the other day.

After leaving it to simmer overnight, I put it out on my snowy kitchen balcony to cool, finally freezing it into useful, recipe-ready pucks using my silicone muffin pan.Frozen broth popping out of flexed silicone muffin tray

Would you believe that a stinkbug made its way into my fridge on the cooling glass mixing bowl full of stock? It was drawn by the heat, no doubt. Thankfully, I’d covered the bowl with Saran Wrap, creating a wisp of perma-garbage, but also keeping the insect on the exterior. Insect bits are almost never Kosher, by the by.

Winter weather in recent days has left me a bit less than dexterous. My arthritis definitely waxes and wanes with something, whether that’s barometric pressure or my star chart. At any rate, I fumbled a little as I used my customary tongs to prize the icy soup circles out of their silicone enclosure.

Touching that chilly stuff is gross—because there’s a dead animal in there!—and also bitterly cold and painful for already aching finger joints. The tongs are useful, but approaching a necessary evil when wielded by hands I’d call ham-fisted if I hadn’t renounced pork decades ago.

I store my home-made chicken and beef stock in a plastic tub in the top, right corner of my freezer. Within that container, I subdivide the two types in a few labeled Ziploc bags that I rinse periodically and re-use for that same purpose.Hand holding stainless steel tongs placing frozen puck of broth into baggie labeled Beef Stock

Slipping the last few pucks into their baggie, I was struck by this thought:

“My gosh, I’m participating in a stock manipulation!

I think that’s probably all I need to say about that, short of admitting I wish I’d had a copy of my kids’ Game Informer magazine (a GameStop publication) to shove position artfully in the background of my photo for this piece.

Ahem.