Emily and The Tree

Little Emily loves the Japanese maple in the Maywood yard.  It’s over fifty years old, planted by Emily’s great-great grandmother Retta. And it is the perfect tree for little ones to learn to climb on.

The main trunk divides into two very low to the  ground, so little legs can easily climb into it.  The next branch is a short leg swing above that, providing a perfect spot for a three year old to sit and ponder.  Of course, the natural thing to ponder is how to get up higher in the tree.

“Help me up,” she says.  “I want to go up there,” she says, pointing to a branch that is over my head and absolutely impossible for me to reach.  I can’t put her there.  The only way to get there is for her to climb there herself.

“But I want to go up there,” she says.

“You have to do it all by yourself.  You have to think about it and figure out how to do it.”

If you think that three year old Emily thought about it and climbed up to the high branch, you will be wrong.  I turned around to watch out for her little brother and–that quick–she fell out of the tree.

Boom. Right onto her elbow on a stick.  Instant adult panic that she could have broken her arm on my watch while the parents were away.  Instinctive reaction to protect her, take her away from the dangerous tree and go back to the house for a popsicle.

That’s when she amazed me.  She got up, surprised but not crying, and she climbed right back into the tree.

emily & the treeThis time she had real respect for the tree.  She carefully considered where to place each foot, how to hold on.  Her goal was no longer how to get up to that very high branch.  Her new goal was to master the distance from the ground to that first branch.  And she did.  While I diligently spotted her.

Oh, the Winnie-the-Pooh lessons to be learned from Emily and The Tree.  On the way to school Monday, I thought of how I wanted my students to be more like courageous Emily.  They tend to want me to implant knowledge in their brains, like Emily wanting me to put her on the higher branch.  However, they panic when things are difficult, fear making mistakes, and want to bail on the whole learning process when it doesn’t go as quickly as  they want. They also absolutely, positively do not focus on anything for longer than a nano-second.

“I want to tell you a story,” I began first period class.

“Are you going to yell at us?” they asked. (They are so paranoid.)

“NO! I just want to tell you a story!” (Ok, I might have yelled that a teensy bit. Sometimes their way of thinking makes me crazy.)

So I told them about Emily.

“Are you saying that learning French is like climbing a tree?”

Um, yes.  And then I told them what branch they were currently on and how we were going to climb today to a higher  branch.

“Are we going to fall out of the tree?”  they asked. (FYI, these are high schoolers and 8th graders.)

“Actually, yes, some of you are going to fall out of the tree.  But we aren’t up very high.  You will not die.”

That seemed to calm them down.  Apparently they believe that learning will kill them.

Friday, my colleagues and I attended a workshop on Teaching the 21st Century Learner.  The speaker was good and had extensive handouts of his very scripted presentation that covered all the usual blah-blah about active learning, none of which I can recall without reading the handouts.  His presentation did not teach me nearly as much as I learned from little Emily.

  • Students want to climb high.
  • Students want the teacher to put them where they want to be, but…
  • Students have to do the climbing themselves.
  • Students are afraid to make mistakes, but…
  • Students learn from their mistakes.
  • Students need diligent coaching and spotting while they climb.

I’m tempted to assign tree-climbing for homework, but they would fall from their trees, injure themselves so they couldn’t participate on their sports teams, and I would get blamed for such a stupid idea. I guess instead I’ll focus on how to better coach and spot them.  They do want to climb, and I don’t want them hurt on my watch.

 

Bees in the mancave? How cool is that?

It started as a joke at choir rehearsal.  The bitter winter killed off all the bees and some wise guy suggested that we bring them inside for the winter.

Roars of laughter as we all contemplated John and the bees watching football in his mancave.

More laughter at the death glare I shot at my husband because I know the wheels are spinning in his brain.  He has already been scouring the internet.  How do bees survive the winter in places like Idaho?  They bring the bees inside to potato cellars, which are dark (so the bees sleep) and a constant temperature (cool but not cold).

Alas, people are  researching this.  Granted, they are not researching it for the backyard beekeeper, but the information is out there…

Research is currently being conducted on controlled environment wintering. A temperature somewhere in the mid- or low-40° F (5° C) range, total darkness, ventilation to reduce excess moisture and humidity, and fall feeding of Fumidil B to suppress nosema disease are some of the major considerations. Provision for refrigeration should be considered also because sudden warming spells in late winter or early spring could result in undue restlessness and activity within the controlled-environment room. Colonies on flat-bed trailers that can be rolled outdoors or back into the room during warm or cold trends also would be desirable.

http://www.beesource.com/resources/usda/overwintering-of-honey-bee-colonies/

It looks so innocent from this side of the door.

It looks so innocent from this side of the door.

Unfortunately, we have such a space.  It is the room of outer darkness.  The entry is through the death trap known as “Dad’s Workshop.”  Well, that’s what the sign over the door reads.  It’s more like a holding bin for every man-toy needed to do any man task, a conglomeration of total disorganization amidst whiffs and piles of sawdust.

The room of outer darkness is a full cinderblock basement room under the side porch.  In an earlier vision of our house, the side porch was going to be a library-sunroom but we eliminated it to save a few thousand dollars and because it was over-the-top not needed.  However, by the time the room was cut from the project, the basement was already in place.  (Don’t even ask.)

The room of outer darkness is underground with–duh–no windows, so it is dark.  Being below ground, it maintains a constant cool temperature.  It is ventilated, so air circulates.  It could  be a good wine cellar, except that we can’t keep wine in the house long enough to bother storing it way back there.  And there is very real danger involved with walking through “Dad’s Workshop.”

So, is the outer darkness the right kind of “cool” for the bees?  The main mancave, when the woodstove is not on, stays in the 50’s, which is  great for using the treadmill but too warm for hibernating bees.  Mr. Beeman would have to monitor the temp in the outer darkness to see how cool it really is. The last thing we would want is bees waking up to take a cleansing flight in the mancave while we are watching TV.

That raises another question.  Can bees last an entire winter in a cool, dark room without occasional bathroom breaks?  This winter was difficult, not just because of the bitter temperatures, but because of the extended stretch of days that never went above 50.  Bees take advantage of balmy winter days to relieve themselves.

Would the bees be better off outside with better winter protection? Rusty, at Honey Bee Suite, successfully overwintered by using a quilt board and wood chips.  Moisture in the hive is a bad as cold, and the woodchips successfully insulate and absorb moisture.  Mr. Beeman might want to check out the following link:

http://www.honeybeesuite.com/how-i-overwintered-ten-out-of-ten/

Fortunately, Winter 2015 appears to be over.  New bees arrive (we hope!) the end of this month.  That gives Mr. Beeman an entire season to research the dilemma of Winter 2016 and to maybe clean out his shop and the room of outer darkness.  Hmmm…if overwintering the bees inside gets him to clean out the basement, it just might be worth it.

Ha!

Squirrels with tiny shovels?

You know it has been a long winter when the woodland critters start digging themselves paths through the snow.

I wish I had seen them with their little shovels!

I wish I had seen them with their little shovels!

This morning, I looked out the kitchen window to see not just prints but a regular daggone pathway leading from the house to a hydrangea bush.  I figured it was a squirrel route, but squirrels (like my students) don’t have the attention span to dig a pathway.  They just leap and scurry.  No, this pathway must be the work of tunnel digging chipmunks.  In summer, the rock wall by that hydrangea is one of the entrances to their Maywood Metro System.  Yeah, I can just picture Simon, Theodore and Alvin (!!!!! ) with tiny little shovels working their way across the garden.

The snow pack  reveals a lot about who is coming and going out there.  For example, it revealed my brother-in-law’s visit to the front door the other day.  It also reveals all the routes the squirrels take to get to the house. One route is across the patio and over the abandoned hot tub where they leap on the house and into the attic to party until spring.  There are other routes that involve leaping, Tarzan-like, from trees to the roof.

Like the squirrels, the mice have no desire to shelter under a hydrangea bush in the Maywood subway system. No, they want the full comforts of home for as long as  they can get away with it.  Maywood Man keeps tossing snapped invaders and still they come.  You’d think they would  get the message that the one-way track of mouse prints leads to a cozy house of death.

Meanwhile, out yonder, the deer have gotten the message that we are turning the clocks forward tonight for Daylight Savings Time.  They have been seen traipsing across the field, brown against white, as though spring is coming, it isn’t below freezing, and they aren’t walking through nine inches of snow.  Is it the longer days or the lack of men sitting in trees that signals to them that it is safe to use their usual paths through the yard?  It sure isn’t the weather.

So it’s March, and we have no idea who remains in the beehives  because it has been too cold to look inside and they certainly have not been coming out to play in the snow.  We know at least one hive is empty and suspect that a second was not going to last the winter.  It would be great to find the two strong hives waiting for us when the temp breaks 50 later this week. Regardless of who has survived, we ordered four packages of bees for the new season.

Spring is coming.  It always does.  The chipmunks are ready.  And maybe some  bees.

Spinning Wheels

Let’s start with a poll:

When I came home yesterday, I immediately noticed footprints leading to the front door.  We hardly use the front door, so we don’t shovel to it.  Maywood Man has enough to do with plowing and there’s no reason for me to shovel a walk that no one ever uses.  There has been snow upon snow all month, so we’re just waiting for spring to deal with it.  Hence, my surprise at the footprints.  UPS knows better.

It was my brother-in-law, come to check out locations for tree stands for next year’s hunting season.  Tromping through the snowy woods in March must mean he’s going a little squirrely indoors.  However, he didn’t count on our driveway being a sheet of ice.  That’s another thing about March this year.  If isn’t snowing, it’s coating us with freezing rain.  So Jim and his truck slid down the driveway to within inches of the Weber grill that waits forlornly for warmer weather.  And then he was stuck at the bottom of the driveway with nothing to do after his woodland walk but sit with Maywood Man sipping coffee until the driveway melted.

Where was I?  At work.  With some difficulty and great trepidation, my Camry and I made it up the slippery slope so that I could go to school and manage squirrely teenagers and their Ipads.

I had a parent conference at noon.  The mother shared that her daughter seems to get overwhelmed by too much stimulus.   It’s not that she can’t focus.  She just can’t figure out where to focus.  I totally get it.  I told her about my sister, the one with Attention Surplus Syndrome. (You gotta love the acronym!) She pays attention to everything. Try riding in the car with her while she drives, notices every realtor sign, and avoids every manhold cover and pothole in the road.  She needs blinders, like a horse.

So what am I supposed to tell this mother whose daughter sits in a class with audio files and video clips and online text and online workbook and online classwork submission all in different apps while doing partner work with classmates who can’t even figure out that I want them on page 152?  She doesn’t need more stimulating activities.  She needs blinders.  I explain that the technology of the paperless classroom is actually helpful for those students who lose all their work in a crumpled mess at the bottom of their bookbags or somewhere in the hallway or maybe under their bed at home, but even as I speak, I know that often I am completely overwhelmed by the “too much” of it all. The mom and I can’t even get our days straight as we talk…the umpteen snowdays have the two of us completely befuddled.

Today, while it pours snow, I ponder remedial work for some students.  There are so many resources available to the students online that they did not have last year.  I search for something that will be helpful.  One auto-correcting activity will not work with pop-ups on the Ipad.  Another has so many publisher errors in it, that I will not use it.  I discover video activities.  I regularly use these in class with paper handouts, but–voila!– all the resources are right there on the Ipad!

Or not.

I click on the video pages to discover that the video activity link does not contain video activities.  It contains all the teacher answers to the workbook.

I’ve spent the afternoon spinning my wheels online.  I’m thinking that I need less.  I need slow.

I like the idea of sitting by the fire with a spinning wheel, simple work.  A manual task that is repetitive and yields a tangible product.  If I’m lucky, I’ll prick my finger and a  magic spell will let me sleep for a hundred years.

Behind Closed Doors

It’s another snowy day and, while Maywood Man braves the elements to keep tractors running, slays a tree for firewood, and plows us out, I need to do something more than read by the fire to justify my existence.

Pumpkin soup, venison chili, and fennel tea cookies are not sufficient offering. No, I must do something truly sacrificial.

I will clean out the bedroom closets.

Saturday while the snow pours down, I tackle my closet.  All I do is remove hangers that have nothing hanging on them.  The floor is covered with hangers.  I separate them into three piles:

  • Tangled wire dry-cleaner hangers that date to when Julie worked at a dry-cleaners and got free dry-cleaning and I sent sweaters regularly to be cleaned instead of washing them on “delicate” and spreading them out on towels on the floor to dry where the (now-deceased) cat could pee on them.
  • Plastic hangers that once hung in perfect uniformity on store racks but hang at an annoying variety of heights in the home closet.
  • Color coordinated hangers that I actually bought from Target.

The Target hangers go back in the closet.  The other hangers–just from my side of the closet–fill two paper grocery bags. (You can’t dispose of wire hangers in a plastic bag or they–the hangers– will kill you.)

Down on the floor, I say farewell to backless shoes that are no good to walk in, orthopedic shoes that supported me in my pre-bionic hip days, and any shoe that would make me cringe in shame if I were standing next to my sister-in-law Eileen.  So that clears out some space. I even have some shoes left in the closet.

I lift a pile of old sweaters, thrust once upon a time into the closet in a tidying fit and then abandoned. I discover evidence of a mouse.

Just for the record…don’t ever offer me food with black sesame seeds on it, ok?

The floor must be vacuumed. I haul the vacuum up from the family room where John used it to vacuum the filthy bits of log debris by the fireplace.  It won’t even suck up a little piece of thread.

I don’t care that John slayed a tree to keep me warm by the fire.  He busted the vacuum with wood chips.  He must fix it.

And he does.

Back in the closet I turn on the now functioning vacuum, move the suitcase, and scare the MOUSE who was hiding under it and who now scurries around the closet trying to flee the vacuum and the crazy screaming woman.

I slam the closet doors and position the running vacuum in front of them to scare the mouse from coming out.

John investigates and can not find the mouse.  I vacuum the closet. He sets a trap. I call it quits for the day on closet cleaning.

A few hours later, I send John to check the trap.  He returns with the snapped mouse.

“Is this him?”

Probably.  But how would I know if it were the country mouse or his cousin from town?

So now it is a new day.  A bright sunny above freezing day.  And John’s closet awaits.  Oh, Lordy, who knows what lurks behind those closed doors?

All that glitters

All that sparkles is not glitter

All that sparkles is not glitter

That extra sparkle about me this season? It ain’t Christmas cheer. It’s that daggone glitter on the wrapping paper.
Seriously, wrapping paper with glitter on it should come with a warning label. CAUTION: Contents of this shrink-wrapped tube of paper contain microscopic bits of green sparkles that will stick to every surface they contact, including your clothes, hair, and under your fingernails.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all about twinkling and shining. My collection of silver bells gives me great joy. Twinkly lights adorn cabinets tops, mantles, and doorways throughout the house. Candles glow everywhere. I love light and sparkle and shine and all the brightness of Christmas.

I just think that there should be a special place in hell reserved for the inventor of glitter. I have wrapped one gift and already I’m blinking like a Christmas tree. The Scotch tape has so much glitter dust on it, I’m surprised it even sticks to anything. The countertop has a green hue to it. Every single gift I wrap, no matter how plain the paper, will now have glitter on it. My daughter, recipient of the afore-mentioned glitter gift, will take glitter home with her and it will stick to everything in her home. That’s after it sticks to everyone who comes to my home for Christmas.

Why isn’t there some environmental commission investigating this??? Surely glitter does not decompose. Apocalyptic films have completely ignored this environmental disaster. When the planet has been nuked and life as we know it has disappeared, there will be nothing left but cockroaches and…that’s right, glitter.

‘Nuff said.
Ho! Ho! Ho! May your Christmas be merry and bright.

Appropriate twinkles

Appropriate twinkles

Bee-bopping the Christmas Bread

It’s raisin bread day. And I’m hopping around the kitchen with Pentatonix “Carol of the Bells” on repeat, trying to nail my part. The KitchenAid mixer is thumping bread dough in time to the music. Maywood Man joins in with the tenor part.

Oh how they pound, raising the sound.

Who knows what the bees are doing out in the yard. Inside we’re a-buzz–humming and oooing and ding-donging away.
Pretty much everyone I know would laugh to watch us. Not that we’re singing…but that we’re bopping.

I hope the bread turns out. Distracted baking results in disasters, like that time I accidentally hit the broil knob on the oven during the last ten minutes of baking and burnt a whole day’s worth of bread making.
My “MERRY CHRISTMAS! THERE’S YOUR BREAKFAST!” has gone down in family history as the best angry outburst I’ve ever terrorized the family with.

This time, though, I actually am trying to pay attention. Ding-donging aside, I’m noting all the little things that make for good bread…the little things that are not on the PDF of my handwritten recipe that I emailed my daughter. The little things that I’ve learned in the 40–gack!–years I’ve been using my grandmother’s recipe. The little things that my daughter might not know to do and will doom her entire Christmas morning to an epic fail.

I did tell her that perfect dough is warm and soft like a baby’s butt.
I did say to add the raisins before all the flour…they blend better that way.
I did say that the bread is done when you thump the bottom and it resounds like a drum and not like a thunking blob.

Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. (Now it’s Little Drummer Boy on repeat.)

I didn’t tell her that the perfect temperature for dissolving yeast is when the water is just hot enough for her finger to stand it without burning.
I didn’t tell her how to knead it. Or to be sure to take her diamond ring off before doing so.

I told her the perfect place for the bread to rise was in an oven preheated to “warm.”
Did I tell her to turn the oven off?

For my sake, I hope her bread turns out lest I get blamed for failing to transmit the full recipe. As insurance though, I have an extra loaf rising just for her.
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!

post scriptum…insurance loaf to be delivered due to a case of 24 hour Bah-humbug attacking the 3 year old and preventing Mommy from attempting the bread.

20141224-142724.jpg

Where’s Mom?

When we were little, my siblings and I used to do hide-and-seek with my mother. It wasn’t a game. She was really hiding. And we were seeking. It was a big house–three floors plus a basement–and as we climbed the stairs calling, “Mom! Mooooooooooooommmmmmm!” we were sure that she must have gone down to one floor while we were ascending to another. Years later, when we were in high school ( and a smaller house), we learned that Mom had been hiding in her walk-in closet. It was her only refuge. We always found her if she tried to sneak a minute of peace in the bathroom.

My cell phone rings. It’s my sister. The one who wasn’t born yet when Mom played hide-and-seek.

“Where’s Mom?”

First thought: How the heck should I know?
Second thought: It’s the day she volunteers at the soup kitchen, but she would have been home hours ago. Maybe she’s napping.

“I’ve been texting and calling her for days and she doesn’t respond.”

First thought: She’s lying on the floor of her condo unresponsive and/ or dead.
Second thought: My sister is calling me because she’s having the same first thought. She could just go over to Mom’s and let herself in, but she’s calling me because she doesn’t want to go over there by herself. She wants me to go with her and call 911 and read the advance directive that Mom has posted on the fridge.

“She was alive on Sunday, ” I say. “She rsvp’d for Thanksgiving.”

“I know,” my sister says, ” I saw that she signed up, but she hasn’t responded to me since.” (We use an online sign up program, so everyone coming to Thanksgiving knows that Mom is bringing shrimp and her famous Vienna Cake.)

Ok. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I saw her sign up post but haven’t talked to her for a couple of weeks.. Days have passed with no word from her.
Oh wait…was this the week she was going on a bus trip to West Virginia with her church friends? Or did she already go on that trip? I talked to her about a trip…wait…that was the trip to Cape Cod. The trip where none of the other travelers drank and she felt awkward having her vodka at dinner.
More guilt. I should know if this is the week she is going to West Virginia. I should have it marked on all my calendars in bold letters: MOM IN WEST VIRGINIA.
I tell my sister, ” This might be the week she’s on a trip to West Virginia.”

“Why doesn’t she tell people these things?”

“She told me.”

“She should tell more people.”

“I think she doesn’t so that we will have to get worried and call each other.”

“Well, I am nearly hysterical with worry!” says the sister who decades ago called Mom in post-partum distress threatening to harm someone. Mom flew in her car to save the baby from a crazed mother. When she arrived, the baby was quietly settled down for a nap while my sister calmly prepared a cup of tea.

“You do have a history of overreacting.”

“Wait…she’s texting me. She’s in West Virginia. I have to go. I’m going to call her and yell at her for scaring me.”

Poor Mom. She has forgotten the most important part of hide-and-seek….stay hidden.

The Ghosts of Vegetables Past

Giant Mutant Pumpkins.  The larger one still reigns on the front porch.  The smaller one has deflated.

Giant Mutant Pumpkins in their  glory.

Deceased mutant pumpkin.

Deceased mutant pumpkin.

This is not a refrigerator story.  It’s a tribute to the dead mutant pumpkin on our  front porch …

…and a reflection on why white blobs embalmed in red liquid creep me out.pickled turnipsThe dead mutant is one of three giant pumpkins produced in the garden this year, grown from giant pumpkin seeds.  One of them–a white pumpkin– cracked and had to be cooked immediately.  As a result, I have many little bags of white pumpkin puree in the freezer. The dead mutant is number two, not quite making it until Halloween and definitely not making it into any pies.  The fate of the  third and Greatest Mutant Pumpkin is yet to be determined.

Now, as for the white blobs embalmed in red liquid…they are pickled turnips.  This is so completely not on my list of anything I have aspired to eat.  When Pioneer Man laid out his fall garden to include rows of turnips, I rolled my eyes.  I do not eat turnips.  I have never bought turnips. But God, with His Ultimate Sense of Humor, blessed the turnips above all other plants in the garden.  We have a bumper crop of turnips.

Pioneer Man is thrilled.

I am trying to overcome my childhood aversion to turnips.

I wasn’t traumatized by turnips, per se.  It’s just that my exposure to turnips came when a well-meaning adult—probably my paternal grandmother because I don’t recall my mother ever buying turnips– would hide them in a meal with the potatoes.  Cooked turnips, mashed, can hide with the potatoes, but they don’t taste like potatoes.  It’s a nasty trick.  The innocent child-mouth anticipates the creamy buttery goodness of mashed potatoes but is assaulted instead with the zippy tang of turnip.  It’s like telling your mouth you’re eating ice cream but tasting yogurt instead.

Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the flavor of a turnip.  I have to.  Pioneer Man keeps cooking them.  And they are tasty.  They have a zing reminiscent of radish and horse-radish.  I love radish and horseradish.  Tell my mouth to prepare for that zip and I’m all with you. But my childhood memory is still crying, “gack!”

Pickled turnips present their own problems.  They are pickled with a beet.  The beet turns the brine red.  When the red brine turns the white turnip red, the pickling is complete. Yeah, see, it’s the pickled beet thing.  And I am going to blame my mother for this one.

My mother was pregnant most of my childhood and she had her food cravings like any pregnant woman.  To this day, I’m not sure if my memories of what she ate back then reflected actual food preferences or pregnancy cravings.  At any rate, I have distinct memories of pickled beets and cottage cheese.  And the beet juice running around the plate dyeing the cottage cheese a  bloody red.  Who, besides my mother, wants to eat bloody cottage cheese?

I finally discovered the pleasure of fresh beets through a food co-op.  I never realized how wonderfully sweet beets are.  Ok, ok, I know they are sugar beets, but I didn’t believe it.  There is so little correlation in my mind between sugar beet and the thing on the plate with the bloody cottage cheese.

So now my husband is offering Wife I Am pickled turnips in beet brine.

I will not  eat them from that jar,

I will not eat them near or far,

I will not eat them here or there,

I will not eat them anywhere!

With trepidation, I taste one.

And, just like Sam I Am, I discover that they are good!  They would be a tasty appetizer with the oysters and sausages at Thanksgiving!  And I can see how fresh turnips would provide a nice zip to mashed potatoes…

But I promise–traditional mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.

Here’s how Pioneer Man pickled his turnips, based on how old buddy Sam Wahbe’s mother used to make hers:

Pickled Turnips

  • Fill 4 quart jars with peeled, sliced raw turnips
  • Add a couple of whole jalepenos to each jar…pierced with a fork
  • Add 1/4 of a raw beet to each jar
  • Fill each jar with brine.  Pioneer Man used 3.5 cups water, 1.25 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 T. sea salt.
  • Put lids on jars and let sit until the white turnips turn red, a couple of days.
  • Then enjoy and try to convince another family member to try them, too.

pickled turnip 1

Embracing the lunatic fringe

I was called a lunatic this weekend and it made me really happy.

Why?  Because I was in an auditorium filled with other lunatics and it was so nice to have company.  We were all lunatics.  Language learning  loonies who sold out a conference to hear a linguist.

Stephen Krashen spoke at the MDTESOL conference.   For the 99% of you reading this who do not know who he is, Stephen Krashen is an eminent linguist whose theory of comprehensive input has had a major impact on the field of language learning.  One can agree or disagree with his theory, but he is the man you agree or disagree with.  How cool to get to actually see him and hear him speak!

And then he called us the Lunatic Fringe.

And I was delighted.  I am a certifiable member of the linguistic lunatic fringe.  I love language learning in a country of monolinguals where being bilingual is like being a freak.  I cut my linguistic teeth diagramming sentences with Catholic nuns. (To this day, diagramming sentences is a fun thing for me to do.)   Krashen cracked a grammar joke about French past participles that only a smattering of other lunatics picked up on.  It was great.

Then Krashen said that “nobody cares” about language learning, which we all know to be true, but he wasn’t calling us unimportant.  He affirmed my membership in the club of linguistic geeks while reminding all of us that having a compelling story is what draws people in.  Compelling stories are irresistible.

Compelling story is what led one student in my 7th period class Friday to say, “I only came to school today because I knew we were watching the movie!”  That made me smile, but the student who made my Friday was the kid on the lunatic fringe.  When asked to translate Les poissons imitent un dauphin (the fish imitate a dolphin), he gave the smarty-pants answer “The fish imitate the son of the king of France.”  And I shot back, “I guess that makes it a pretender to the throne.”  The two of us were laughing like lunatics while the rest of the class went “huh?”

I suppose everyone belongs to some sort of lunatic fringe group: actuaries, tuba players, liverwurst makers.  We all just want to belong.  And hang out together. Sometimes even at a conference.

How crazy is that?