How We Found our Home in Spring, Texas

When we relocated from Oklahoma to Texas we rented an apartment for the summer to give us time to find a house.

I was determined to be far away from any possible hurricane danger, so I preferred far north of Houston in the piney woods. I would bundle up my two boys and set out driving to explore places of interest.

I liked the natural setting of Spring, Texas, so I decided to check it out. I took an exit off the highway and seemed to reach the end of the spot a Dairy Queen.

We enjoyed our snack and then I ventured to ask the manager could retell me where Spring, was–clarifying I had driven all around and reached a dead end. He asked me if I had gone east of I-45. I nodded. He asked me if I saw a filling station. Still nodding. Did I see a boy and a dog? I said yes.

He then exclaimed, “Lady, you done seen Spring!”

Later I found the old timers, although welcoming the jobs Dairy Queen brought, weren’t too eager for newcomers to move in. In fact, for many years there was animosity for those “South County folks.”

Not to be discouraged, I got back in the car and ket exploring through deep forest till I found a little subdivision I loved. We won a bidding war with another purchaser by a mere $100. and enjoyed the place with forest on four sides for many years.

I’ve since learned that when a man starts a sentence with “Lady…” it might be time to stand firm as that sometimes was code for an agenda which would not be in my favor.

 

 

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I Used to Cook Book — Quotes and Quips

 

I was never a great cook, but I did cook on a regular basis. Proof that I used to cook came when my sons would call and ask me for a recipe. Since I was a budding cook I’ve seen teflon, roasters, slow cookers, electric skillets, and the advent of microwaves. (Kenneth saw that we got one of them!)

Much has changed since I used to cook.

The history of our lives finds its way into our stomachs. I told my sons, “I’m not sure you remember I used to cook. Here’s hoping this spurs some positive memories of cozy times we had as you boys were growing up.”

The kitchen is a fine place to make memories and have a multi sensory experience of togetherness and savory scents. I reminded my sons that society is slowly but surely improving its diet choices. When I was young, food for social occasions meant home-baked and sweet the former of which was fine.

I always thought wearing a fancy apron and humming knowingly helps the flavors along.

But the last few decades have seen me and others emphasizing serving real food at social occasions as opposed to junk–because I indeed believe “You live in your body.” Even my school set a record for serving healthy but tasty food at parties, thus there is less getting wild, sick or sleepy afterwards, and a good time can be had by all–even our bodies.

Finger Foods and Snackin’ Moods

Call them hors’doeurves when you’re all dressed up. Party it up with sausage balls, crab dip (made with carp!), eggs devilled or as egg salad, pea salad or even a baked snazzy dip for royalty with sour creme, creme cheese, and buttered pecans for topping.

Stuffing Ourselves

First you stuff them (poultry, peppers, mushrooms, etc.) Then you bake and stuff yourselves.

Entrees

This is the real reason for kitchens.

Meatloaf or meatballs could make a meal magnificent and magical. They made good sandwiches later. I used lots of hamburger meat, for more than just hamburgers, and before Hamburger Helper. Unhelped, they were quite tasty.

One summer we found a lasagna recipe in the newspaper. Jeff latched onto it and became a champion lasagna chef. We all pitched in to help eat it, though.

Skillet suppers helped used leftover stuff in the fridge. We joined a vegetable coop so often had extras at the end of the week which fit well into a skillet. Good with hot bread and hunger.

Chicken fried steak was a Texas tradition, but ours was often made with deer or elk. I always had to make enough so some would be left for supper after everyone would sneak a piece before we sat down to eat. Fix a gravy similar to what you make at Thanksgiving. Jeff has become an excellent gravy cook.

Hillbilly Chile   

Stew meat, chopped beef, venison, or whatever Lady Luck (or a hunter) brings home.  Use chile mix and destroy the evidence! Serve beans separately so Kenneth won’t have to eat them. Then feed the crowd before they are madding.

Hint: Most meals are better with mushrooms and sautéed onions added…

Days of Quiche and Slimmer Poses (to the tune of Days of Wine and Roses): Sing or hum while fixing, and smile and strike a proud pose while eating.

Breakfasts and Brunch

Ask your clock to know the difference between the two. (I always had a hard time with this one. After I found I had low blood sugar I learned to snack before cooking in early mornings.)

When we had company to spend the night, breakfast was always a joyous budget. I love to fix bacon, sausage, fruit, cooked cereal, eggs, etc, then spend an hour or more with company grazing and sipping coffee while catching up on each other’s lives. (Sometimes the sausage was homemade, pushing it into a Pringles can to form the shape.)

Family breakfasts were especially enjoyed when potatoes were included. Fried well-browned potatoes and onions with eggs were usually gone before the burner cooled. I learned I could never make enough. Then leftover mashed potatoes were the makings of potato patties with the addition of six eggs and seasonings. Fry till crispy and they will ask for more.

There is nothing finer than friends or family, food and fine moments to invest in a pot of coffee.

Pancakes, Waffles and French Toast

Get them while they’re hot, or they’ll be gone. Place a big X of bacon slices as you pour the waffle batter  and you’ll be hooked. But no pecan halves on Ken’s. For French toast, dip, fry, butter, add toppings, open mouth, smile. Provide several toppings including syrup and much more. Brag for weeks.

Hot Cereals

Check the thermometer to see if the weather is cold. Oatmeal is good, and Cream of Wheat is great when you swirl chocolate chips and butter just before eating. I like to toss some peanut butter chips on top.

Omlettes Add tidbits from the fridge, including tomatoes, onions and cheese in the center, then sour creme or picante sauce for topping.

Cinnamon Toast  Sprinkle bread with butter cinnamon and sugar, broil and Jeff will show up.

Soups and Stews

My cooking represents my general outlook on life–you might call it philosophy in a pan.

Stews and soups are an event, not a recipe. In winter fix often. Start with a base, clean out fridge, chop things that smell OK, discard the rest, take out trash and shine the fridge inside and out while enjoying the aroma and cooking.

Bread: The Staff of Wife

For years I had heard bread was the staff of life, but my upbringing had a slightly different connotation. The lady of the house did the cooking; no doubt I am thrilled that household tasks are now spread more evenly between the genders.

Homemade bread was a special occasion at our house. I always said it was easy enough to get around to often. We gathered to punch it down after the first rising, soaking up the delightful smells of yeast. My recipe didn’t make you knead it, but I promise you need it! Some burned lips have occurred when it was tasted a bit too soon after coming out of the oven, but it was worth it.

Bisquitry on regular days involved drop biscuits but when Aunt Gladys came she rolled out old time biscuits. And cold weather and soups were always perked up with muffins.

Crescent rolls were enjoyed as pigs in a blanket, cheese filled and rolled in sesame seeds, or just out of the oven with butter.

Then Mexican cornbread with whole kernel corn and cheese invaded our taste buds but I was into mild so I avoided jalapeño peppers, preferring sweet ones. December was a great time for red and green bell peppers.

We all loved banana bread and gingerbread and Ken got us started on cranberry bread.

Drinks – Fruit drink made in blender with bananas and peaches, spiced tea, wassail…

Desserts — The Exclamation Point of a Meal

Cookies: p. butter, chocolate chip, sugar. We found a great recipe and story in

Creme Puffs – Beat till you arm hurts mightily.

Cakes – Apples make good food, upside down cake, strawberry shortcake

Cobbler – Especially good with peaches and whipped cream

Pies – Boxton Creme Pie is not pie but is delicious, Easy creme cheese pie crust. Your fingers may never leave your hands as you flute the edges of the crust.

Pudding – My crowning glory. I eventually developed a way to do it in the microwave after many years of using a double boiler. Closest thing to heaven I know.

When you eat dessert, enjoy, then avoid the scales for a week or two:-)            It’s not the recipe that counts. It’s the time spent together in and around the kitchen that matters. Enjoy the fine fragrance of food, chat, play games, laugh and make memories.

 

 

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Of These My Children: Jumping to Seclusion

Getting up in the morning is always fun since I know I get to go to school. The children teach me new things each day and I usually go home happy tired.

Science makes the students glad to be at school too. Kids are good thinkers. We were reading about the natural world. One guy asked, “But isn’t all our country part of the national world? Another scholar corrected him saying it was “nocturnal world”.  Days like t6his are what keep me up at night.

In Spelling class there was a bonus word automobile.  Of course I just had to go into teaching mode, saying, “Mobile means move.”  I even mentioned the city in Alabama called Mobile.  A kid asked, sincerely, “Does that mean spinning around or just move straight?”  A teacher’s work is never done!

Opportunity was the other challenge word that week in Spelling. One eager reader said, “pituitary.” But before I could tell him had seen that word in Health class, another budding genius clarified, “He means obituary.” By the time I could weave our way back to the spelling lesson the opportunity was gone.

I should have known better than to start Language class next. First we sang our song about compound words ending with, “Snowflakes and classmates, they’re compound words.”  I started the session with, “How do you break a compound word into its elements?” One guy, half asleep, sat straight up and yelled, “What does that have to do with elephants?!” 

When it’s bad weather we have recess inside. It’s always nice to see the kids enjoying unconstrained activities. At one table they were rolling dice. One said he got four, another three, then I raised my head when the last one said, “I got fox.” He wasn’t constrained by the fact that the others were using numbers. Then I noticed his die landed near a picture of a fox. I walked on to another area since the children seemed to be having fun their own way.

A girl was playing puppets with some friends, and I complimented how polite they were with each other. A sweet young lady said, “My mom says I’m manure for my age.” I found myself commenting several times that day about how mature the students were that day. We are all aware that children are growing, but I don’t think they need any fertilizer to help it along.

One girl was sitting by herself and I thought a chat was in order. When I sat down and asked her if she was okay, she said, “I’m upset cause I had a dog and he had to go to the doctor. Then my mom walked to the car and said the doctor shot him and he died.” I let recess go long that day since I had to explain about terminal illness, pain, and giving a shot wasn’t the same as being shot. I encouraged her to draw a picture of her dog and write about it instead of the afternoon’s usual assignment.

As we went back to our work one kid said wistfully, “Maybe tomorrow it’ll stop raining and we can play hopscetch.”    I decided that we’d better take out the sidewalk chalk tomorrow and spruce up our hopscotch area after all this deluge.

Sometimes misinformation flies around the room like wild bees. We were playing word games and a girl looked at the picture on a card and said, “curtain” but clearly pronounced “kur train”.  Someone hollered asking if she meant “kerchoo” and another explained it was “a choo choo train”.  Dear God, please help me.  I’ve lost control of my vocabulary lesson!

A mom told me a fascinating story about the night before at her house. He was getting tired of  his mom griping at him to do his homework. She told him if he didn’t do it he’d get a big fat zero! He wanted to know if there was a difference in a big zero and a little zero. I was happy to know she had to explain that one away.

The school day is over and I reach for my cup of tea and snack. My energy is sapped and I decide to take the advice of one of my students and jump to seclusions till my brain settles down a bit. Maybe the lesson on jumping to conclusions should wait till next week.

 

 

 

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Jazz Soul Ramblings

Back in the country I started out listening to poetry of gospel songs.

Some were about joy and peace: It is Well With My Soul, Take Time to be Holy,  A Beautiful Life, Peace in the Valley. As a youngster I sang my heart out performing Heavenly Sunshine at various churches in California.

I learned of work and service from Work for the Night is Coming.

Then when I needed healing and comfort: A Balm in Gilead and Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. 

Hope was basically an idea for the afterlife: I’ll Fly Away and When the Roll is Called Up Yonder. 

Contemplation: I Walk Through the Garden Alone

Fellowship: Will the Circle Be Unbroken

and even Technology! The Royal Telephone

My family used to go to Singing Conventions every few months, and every night after supper we sang shape notes from Southern Harmony while my sister played the piano.

I’m the only person my age I’ve ever run into that picked cotton as a child. My goal was always to get to the shade tree at the end of the row, and I was disappointed that my bag wasn’t as big as the rest of my family’s. We also picked pecans after my dad climbed the tree and shook it to make the nuts fall.

I cut my teeth on Thoreau, Emerson, Twain and greeting cards and Ideals booklets at the library and store. I learned of abuse early on as my preacher father had issues with anger. So I sought solace in my Bible, reading, poetry, and music. Thus my poetry grew to be what I call “folksy”, or low-brow if you please. Poetry just occurs once in  while, if you can catch it before it’s gone.

I write some for parents and teachers, humor, grief, bibliotherapy for children, teaching tips and vitamins (hi-brows would call them words of wisdom…) I started writing on a New York City roof–the first time I’d had time to myself that also felt truly safe.

Some people take vitamins. Sometimes I write them. Here’s some Vitamin Soup:

  • Life is a weed, but it doesn’t have to be. Love it, care for it, and it’ll be fine like a tree.
  • The is our one last Earth–stay here and thrive.
  • Parenting is a holy job.
  • Don’t use a trickle down theory. Choose to Siphon Up!
  • Underscore your life by underwriting your death.
  • Trim your life like you trim dead leaves from your plants. Use sharp decisive movements, and water well afterwards.
  • Watch expectantly for new growth–it lies neath the ugly.
  • My life’s motto: Cheer them UP when they need it. Cheer them ON when they don’t
  • Let all enthrall, as we all freefall.
  • Allow your mind out once in a while to run and play.
  • Sing in the shower–it’s soup for the soul.
  • Let your conscience be your guide, but don’t throw all thought aside. It’s a dance of feelings and fact. Both must be included in the pact. Work to train your conscience right. And hold it safe in the truth of light.
  • Learning what life is for is like holding a piece of paper and wondering what it’s for. The harder you squeeze it, the less value it has. Yet paper can be written on. Write your own script of life and beat your own drum.
  • Inspire, don’t require.

Everyday Theology

God is a Hammock, not a box. With God I’m not in locks.

Jesus, and Santa did some pretty neat things. Santa brought gifts. Jesus cared for all, associated with outsiders, and welcomed folks, offering love and responsibility to all. He served goodies and goodness, and came regularly to visit to sick and troubled. He inspired many with his teachings.

Soul Soup 

A good recipe to use when you have a sore soul: mix some love, kindness, helping others, and stir well. Serve warm if it’s cold outside.

It is a good pathway to take when a problem spurts out:

*grief and pain

*sweat and fear

After a good serving you may see an opportunity for hope or even joy.

Attitude

My brother always told a story about a guy just arriving in town. He asked the cab driver how the people were around there. The cabby said, “How were the folks where you came from?” The traveler said they were just wonderful people. The driver responded, “About the same here.”

The next fare to be picked up asked the same question, to which the taxi driver came back with “How were the folks where you came from?” That traveler replied that they were just terrible, hard to get along with, never friendly, no good people. The cabby again replied, “About the same here.”

I never forgot the influence attitude has on our experiences in life.

Kindness

On Valentine’s Day I had the kids make Kindness Books, clarifying times when they were kind to others or people were kind to them. It was worth the time to catch a glimpse of the power of kindness in all our lives.

Just as Vitamin K aids in bone health, Vitamin Kindness can be vital for the functioning of your soul.

Smart Alec Theology 

If one is suspicious of organized religion, does it then follow that they prefer disorganized religion?

I imagine God gets a good giggle out of that one:-)

Jazz Talking

When we gather with friends to eat, chat, and tell puns, we’re really doing jazz talking. Maybe we could call that a jam session, or, since there’s no music would it be a jelly session? 

May you jazz speak your way through this one life on our one earth. When times are bad, moan musically. When times are good, howl in harmony to high heavens!

 

 

 

 

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Of These My Children: Liver Tea and Justice for All

I must be one of the luckiest people in the world to love my job so much. And they even pay me a bit to do it. I do appreciate that since we all have bills to pay.

The small private school is set back on an acre in the country but close to suburbia. Those kids keep me on my toes. Yet some days I have to do a balancing act to avoid keeling over in delirious chuckles.

We start the day with a patriotic song, the pledge, and then one student gets to “dedicate the day” to someone they admire living or not. What a great way to get our day going!

I announced that one teacher couldn’t be there today because she’s “tied up” but she’d be back tomorrow. One boy’s eyes got big as he took it literally, saying, “Isn’t that against the law?” The next day we began with a unit on Colorful Expressions.

When the students arrive in the morning, their brains and mouths are full of what happened last to them. One gal rushed in to tell me she and her mom “saw eagle-ly blond” last night. While I was writing some vocabulary on  the board I added eagle and legal. I laughed so hard I almost became legally blind!

Geometry makes most students happy since it is a cousin of art. When I was introducing the subject–saying it included all kinds of shapes–one gal said, “I already know one of those: the scare.” 

Frightened as I was, I continued and clarified that square had a “qu” in it juicy like the word queen. Since she thought herself a princess, she agreed to call it a square striking a queenly pose each time she said it.

When Math time came, I was excited to hold up a chart which said Fractions.  One boy yelled, “Fractures?! Did somebody get hurt?” A kid corrected him saying it was factions. I clarified broken bones as fractures, but I just wasn’t ready to get into the politics of factions. There’s always tomorrow.

Lunch presents an opportunity to share bits of our lives. When I was injured falling out of a car I looked horrible for quite some time. I had  black eye, red eyes, and my face was all messed up. Luckily the children couldn’t see my arm and leg. A boy spoke tenderly, “Doesn’t that hurt, cause it really hurts me to look at you.” 

Then came Spelling–where details count. I was explaining y at the end of short words can make a long i sound and longer words ending in y make a long e sound.  Then I wrote WHY on a chart for one list and BUNNY for the second list. Kids took turns adding words to either of the two lists. Then one eager fellow volunteered to write one under the short word list. I wondered if he would write fry, my, try or etc.  He sauntered up to the front and confidently wrote Y!  Who could argue with that?

Then Language class knocked my socks off! A girl said, “I remember when we used to have a whore at our house, haha. My dad would go out there and play with it every day.” I quickly corrected her with, “Do you mean horse?”  She said, “No, you know, a big pig.” It looked like a good time to think of synonyms for pig: hog, javelina, and of course boar.  That was so hard to untangle it reminded me of unraveling old timey Christmas tree lights when I was a kid.

Finally, the day is done! Musing over another day of teaching, I remembered the kid who asked was liver tea better than regular tea, and why did the pledge talk about tea? Does it have something to do with the Tea Party?”  So tomorrow we’ll have a writing assignment about liberty and justice for all.  My work is not done…

Copyright 2018 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.

 

 

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Meditations: Life in Three-Quarter Time

We’ve all heard about “teachable moments.” Having taught for over four decades I can assure there are also “Unteachable moments!”

I walked into Music class that day planning to teach 3/4 time. As I was explaining three-quarter time signature, a guy grew agitated. When I said “3 beats to a measure” he hollered, “Beats me as to why they need a signature just to sing a song!

As I choked mentally, I gently urged him to hang on a bit. As we continued, he added his various opinions of this lesson as half-chewed bits of information reluctantly reached his psyche.

“I will NEVER understand why it has to be 3 and 4! Why not one or the other??? And why is there math sticking its ugly head in messing up music?!!

Something made me decide this just wasn’t the day for two dimensional concepts. It was time to sing, for heaven’s sake! As we sang I made triangles with my hand and most of the students chimed in to do it with me. That way some of the original lesson rubbed off on them intuitively using the multi sensory magic of music!

Before long we were all waltzing around the room as we sang and moved our arms. Such fun.

That day I was able to utilize a teachable moment for most while smoothing over an unteachable moment for one. And, ahem, before long he was making those hand triangles too.

I, too, learned from that day’s lesson. I discovered that life sometimes goes down better as  waltz. Maybe the time signature just isn’t important to everyone.

Sometimes we just need to enjoy waltzing through life in three-quarter time:-)

 

 

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Of These My Children: Bandits in School

You might not even see our school unless you are looking for it. Set way back on an acre, it is surrounded by nature: Mr. Roo Ster, Miss Popcorn Goat, The Pizza Garden, the Chocolate Porch, and a wild rabbit warren behind the fence, and plenty of birds and squirrels to enjoy recess all day.

One boy literally ran into the room this morning. He caressed his head and told me he got a burp haircut this weekend. I realize some folks may burp when they get excited, and that burr cut was surely enough to excite anyone who knew him before that day.

In Reading there was a picture of a bit 4-wheeler. A very active guy spotted it, “Racing in a huge machine like that exorcists me.” As I am a bit past my middle years, it would take an exorcist to even get me on such a monstrosity. But I’m glad it excite   s him.

An astute reader’s library book used the term dieties in referring to the gods of ancient times. He was embarrassed as he pointed to it and asked, “Doesn’t this mean diapers?”  I wonder if my glasses will help me find my way back from diapers to dieties. God help me!

Handwriting is indeed a necessary skill even though its use is much reduced in the 21st century due to technology. It can be a challenge to get some students to write on the line. One kid was helping another: “Imagine the letters are on a tightrope. If they don’t touch the rope they may fall.” It did work but there was a side effect. The new gal always sang Flying Trapeze when she sat down to write.

We were discussing the importance of manners and kindness when one young lady spoke up with, “My neighbors have a mean girl. She has emotional problems but she hasn’t been cancelled yet.” Hang on a moment, I may need to be counseled to deal with this conversation.

Sometimes I wonder if I need earplugs to get through lunch. Two boys who liked fishing were chatting and one said he “just got an Ass Masters magazine.” I snapped to attention and started devising my explanation of school rules when he pulled it out of his lunch kit. I was never so glad to see a large Bass on the cover!

Recess was the last thing on the schedule today. Part of run-in g and playing is tripping and falling, even if it’s not really in the plans. A boy rushed up to me with a whimper in his voice as he pointed to his knee. His friend knew just what to do, telling me to “Don’t we have bandits in school. He needs one quick.”

Then I saw the drop of blood and reached into my pocket where I kept my recess mishap supplies. The bandaid was purple and had fireworks on it. It made his pain just go up in smoke. Soon he was running again, yelling that purple rules. 

Don’t think I would welcome real bandits in school. But I definitely was happy to have bandaids in my pocket!

Copyright 2018 by Hildra Tague.  Obtain permission for use online or in print.

 

 

 

 

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