Friday, May 30, 2014

Schoolhouse of Wonder

At six o'clock this morning I heard someone tiptoe to our bedroom and close our door, which meant that I had to get out of bed to investigate who was doing the tiptoeing and why they were closing our door. It was Rachel.

"What are you doing?" I asked as she opened the blinds.

"Checking the weather," she said. "I'm not quite sure what to wear but I have to choose my outfit. I can't be late today!"

"Rachel, it's six o'clock in the morning," I pointed out.

"I got up early," she said, "Because I didn't want to be late."

"You're not going to be late," I assured her. "How many times have you been late to school?"

"Like, never?" she guessed.

"Exactly. I'm going back to bed. You can do whatever you want."

By the time I got up Rachel had eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, brushed her hair, packed her backpack, and read a book. And what was the reason behind her pre-school angst? Why, it's field trip day!

She has been stressing out about being late on field trip day for weeks now, probably because every reminder sent home said, "Please make sure your child comes to school on time since we will be leaving soon after announcements." But Rachel is usually on time to school (I think she was marked 'tardy' once and even that was super lame because it was a day when I brought in a bunch of stuff to school for her winter class party, so even though we arrived to the parking lot on time we were barely late when we hobbled in the door laden with two preschoolers, a tub full of ice, three ukuleles, a stroller, a diaper bag, a plastic bag full of toilet paper rolls, and a bunch of other stuff—I'm pretty sure the current secretary would have waved us on but the previous secretary was a little...grumpy) even when we wake up late. 

The real irony, though, is that I was one of the parent chaperones for the trip and yet Rachel was stressing out about missing it.
I dropped her off at school (with plenty of time to spare) and then drove to West Point on the Eno, where her class would be meeting for a Schoolhouse of Wonder Field Trip. I got there half an hour early and sat in the parking lot reading until the school bus showed up (I figured that would be better that than driving back home and then having to peel myself away from Benjamin again, though when I met up with Rachel's teacher he said, "Where are Benjamin and Miriam?" and I said, "I left them at home with Andrew," and he said, "Oh, you should have brought them! They would have loved it!" but really it was kind of nice to leave them at home).

Andrew had instructed Rachel to "ignore Mom. Don't hang all over her—walk with your friends" and so forth. She took "ignore Mom" quite literally. She didn't even say hello to me and even avoided me. It was kind of awkward until I finally caught her and explained what Dad meant. He meant to keep acting like a grown up and not revert to a baby just because Mom's around—not that you shouldn't even say hello to your mother. Sheesh!

The field trip was lovely. We had a guide take us on a plant adventure where we identified poison ivy, tasted some leaves of the sourwood tree (delicious, by the way), burned some red cedar bark, cracked open walnuts, and chewed plantain leaves to a pulp to soothe mosquito bites, among other activities.

After lunch our guide took us on an insect adventure, which consisted mostly of flipping over logs in the forest and looking at bugs. Great big millipedes, shiny bess-beetles, slugs, termites, grubs, worms, daddy long-legs (or long-leg daddies, as Miriam calls them). There were plenty of bugs to be found.

When we tired of flipping over logs we retired to "the barn" to look at old wasp nests and cocoons and cicada shells and other novelties. The kids had a great time and were quite exhausted from all their hiking around (making me glad once again that I'd left Benjamin and Miriam at home). 

The closing "celebration" consisted of a song—led by our tour guide—that was very similar to one I sang around the campfire growing up, though it had a definite southern spin to it: Mole in the Ground.

I grew up singing "I Wish I Was A Little Bar of Soap," which is sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It." Wikipedia says that the formula for "Little Bar of Soap" was taken from "Mole in the Ground," and that's probably true. Both songs can have as many made up verses as you care to make. I don't recall ever hearing "Mole in the Ground," though it is in Rise Up Singing and I think my grandma (and perhaps my mom) have a copy of that book.

Anyway, it was cute listening to the kids make up their own verses.

After singing another tour guide told us a couple of stories. The first was a jump tale (so named because one of the goals behind telling the story is to make the audience jump) called Tailypo, which was a typical ghost story but, once again, with a bit of a southern spin. Who knew tales and songs were so different out here? I feel like we have a lot of "Western" tales floating around in the library—traditional stories set in the wild west—but I personally haven't come across many "Southern" tales. Perhaps I should do some research on that. Maybe they're just waiting to be found. 

Most of the kids enjoyed the story but one little girl couldn't take it. She started rocking back and forth with her hands clamped over her ears, tears streaming down her face. Poor thing. She left for the second half of the story, which I thought was too bad because a lot of ghost stories for children that I know turn funny at the end (like Bloody Fingers or like these), but once Tailypo had been told all the way through I was glad she went away because that story does not end well! 

There's no "Then get yourself a band-aid!" punchline. It's just: "And then the creature pounced on him and gobbled him up." The end. Good night. Don't have nightmares. 

Oh, and in case you'd like to just forget I ever told you this story so you can move on with your life, "sometimes on a stormy night I can still hear the creature calling, 'Tailypo! Tailypo!' in the wind."

I didn't find the story too scary, though I'm a grown up now, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember my mom reading a similar story to me. My mom once checked out a book of ghost stories to read to me and my siblings while we were in the bathtub (I don't know why...). A few of those were scarier than Tailypo. Ruby Red Lips is one that I remember freaking me out. My mom has an excellent witch voice. It doesn't even matter that the story ending is funny. The rest of it was bone-chilling because of her witch voice.

Mom—weren't you Fruma-Sarah in the Fiddler on the Roof once? That character always freaked me out, too. Just imagine that calibre of shrieking and cackling. That's how talented my mom is at freaking little kids out. (Don't feel guilty, Mom, I survived my childhood fine and have lovely memories of you reading cheerful bedtime stories to well as scary bath time ghost stories...for whatever reason).

The next story was a funnier one about Brer Rabbit (another character you don't hear very much about in the west) and how he got his house (which you can read here, disclaimer: it may be a tad racist on account of it was written in the south in the 1880s (the version we heard today was not told in the dialect it was originally written in)). This story was appreciated by all the children (ie. no tears were shed over it).

And that was it. The kids loaded onto the bus and I drove home. 

A couple hours later we went to ukulele.

When we got home from that the kids wanted to go swimming.

And now I'm totally beat.

But tomorrow I'm teaching swimming lessons in the morning and then we have a primary activity in the afternoon. Then it's Sunday, which is busy in its own way. And then it's Benjamin's birthday eve, which means I need to make a cake and finish making his birthday gift!

After Tuesday I'm going to sit and do nothing for a long while so I can fully rejuvenate my poor little introverted soul.


  1. I do not remember reading bath time stories...maybe it was because there was no time for both story time and bath time for whatever reason, so we combined them?

    1. I'm sure that's precisely the reason (I remember it was dark outside) because it wasn't a regular thing, no.

  2. Rachel is such a little adult! Love her humor.... ha, she is just being herself!!

  3. We just read a whole book of Brer Rabbit stories over the last few weeks in the old dialect. That's what I've loved about them since I was a kid. My girls loved them too.