If I Should Die Before I Wake

Most of my energy came back yesterday, but it’s a fickle thing.  It likes to hang around all day eating up the Doritos, and then when I need it most, saunter out the door with me asking plaintively, “But where are you going?”  “Out.”  Fickle, fickle energy.

What I’m up against now is the Nighttime Coughing and none of my old tricks are helping.

Falling asleep with a cough drop–doesn’t work.

Sleeping propped completely upright in a chair–doesn’t work.

OTC cough suppressant–doesn’t work.

As soon as the sun goes down The Coughing begins.  Darling Husband has been delightedly making fun of my coughing as payback to all the fun I made of his cough earlier this month.  Ok, I wasn’t technically the one making the fun. Boy8 was.  But I did laugh at Boy8’s antics.  Clearly, Darling Husband is collecting his payback.

And then, when I lie down, it gets worse.  The dragon awakens in my lungs and begins to bellow.  Roar, roar, roar.  After an hour or two of endless coughing, I finally pass out from the drama only to be awakened again every 30 minutes from The Cough.  The Cough leaves me with no air in my lungs and me gasping for breath, tears streaming down my face from the force of the cough, afraid I’ll suffocate by morning. Really, I can’t breathe.  It makes the prayer, “If I should die before I wake” feel dreadfully relevant.

The only thing that works is standing up.  If I stand up, the urge to cough goes away.  I’ve spent the last three nights alternately trying to sleep on a chair, propped up on a couch, or pacing the room mentally inventing various harnesses that would hold me up in a standing position so I can get some sleep.

My last resort is a medicine called  Tessalon Perle.  It’s a gel capsule that is supposed to anesthetize the tickle that makes you cough all night.  Barbetta, my nurse practitioner friend, told me about it at dinner one day.  Someone else at the dinner was complaining of a cough and Barbetta talked about using “pearls.”  I thought this was fascinating since Barbetta is normally highly skeptical of home remedies.  Why would she think that swallowing pearls would help a cough?  But we got that all cleared up (tessalon perle, not pearls) and I said to her, a bit testily, “How come doctors never tell you about this stuff when you have a cough?!  How would I get my hands on this stuff?”  She said that you have to call them and tell them you cannot sleep and ask them for heeeeelp.  I filed this tidbit away for a rainy day.

So this morning, clearly a Rainy Day, after three nights of unrest I called my nurse practitioner (Jen) and got an appointment.  Jen works in the same office as Barbetta, which is a good thing.  I tell Jen all the time, “Barbetta tells me this and Barbetta tells me that,” about my medical conditions.  If Jen didn’t know Barbetta I’m sure she’d just roll her eyes at all the things “my friend Barbetta” tells me.  But Jen knows Barbetta and hopefully trusts that Barbetta knows her stuff.  So when I desperately grapped Jen by the lapels and demanded said, “Barbetta told me that Tessalon Perle can help coughs. Give me some!” she gave it to me.

We’ll know in a few hours whether or not it works.

Oh!  And she also said that it sounds like I had the flu.  The flu!  Influenza, people!  That’s way worse than a man cold.  No wonder there was all that whimpering and lack of energy and tissues everywhere and having my family wait on me.  The flu!  That’s what killed Edward and turned him into a vampire, people!  This is serious stuff!


I finished Breaking Bad two days ago.  I had to buy those last 8 episodes, if you recall.  Without giving anything away to those who haven’t seen it, the one thing I expected to happen, happened.  I mean, we all saw that coming so it wasn’t a big shock.  We were just curious as to how the writers bring it about.

But all the other stuff!  Ay yi yi!  Those writers were brutal.  Wow.  I didn’t expect any of the other thing to go down the way they did.  Breaking Bad is a cautionary tale:  If you do wrong, you’ll get your due.  No exceptions.  Even the innocent bystanders.  Yipes.

Apparently my 70 year old aunt is watching Breaking Bad, too.  She posted a bizarre post on Facebook calling us all “B——, yo!”  Huh?!?  Aunt Ginger!  You are not a 20-odd year old drug dealer!  You’re a little old lady!  You can’t go around calling people names like that.  Someone’s gonna beat you up, yo.

Do Not Disturb for the Next 8 Hours

I was doing so well and then major setback.  Major.

I slept in until 9.  Darling Husband brought me breakfast in bed at 10.  I sat there looking as pathetic as I could to garner sympathy, watching Breaking Bad on the ipad until noon.  I showered and I ate.  I was feeling pretty good.  Just a little worn out but not like being hit by the truck, like yesterday.  One more good night’s rest and I’ll be right as rain.

And then I finished the last episode of season 5 which is when Breaking Bad runs out on Netflix. (Nervous anxious sound)

Ok. This is ok.  There has to be another way to watch the final 8 episodes of the series.  There has to be.  I mean Hank just saw the WW book!  He saw it!  I can’t stop now!  (voice increasing by an octave)

Ok. Ok.  Deep breath.  I can go to Amazon.com and buy the episodes.  No problem.  Click that purchase with a single click button.

I get a message that it won’t work. What?!  Why not?! Ah.  Old credit card on there.  Add the new one.

It still doesn’t work!  Why?  Why doesn’t it work?  Whiiiiine! Ok.  Now I need to create some sort of pin number.  Ok–created.


I was starting to feel much, much better, my man cold all but gone, but this stress has set me back.  I need to go lie down again.  Darling Husband took the ipad from my shaking fingers and said he’d figure it out and told me to go assess an essay.  Assess an essay!?  What, now?  When Hank found the WW book?!?  Ahhhhhh!

Don’t tell me how it ends.  I mean, obviously our guy has to go.  He has to.  We all hate him by now.  He’s terrible.  I have no more sympathy for the guy.  I just want him caught.

Jesse should leave the country and start a charity for orphans and devote the rest of his life to doing good.  I want weepy Jesse to get out alive.

Skylar should burn the money in a big soul cleansing fire and pour her energy into making her job a success and in about 7 years, when she can trust people again, find herself a man of strong morals who doesn’t cheat on his taxes.

I don’t know what to do about Walt Jr.  I don’t want him to find out what his dad did.

…Hang on….Darling Husband is coming into the room. …Hang on…

He fixed it for me!  Huge sigh of relief.  What a man!  He said that in the process I managed to buy the final season twice plus a lone episode, but he called Amazon and got it all fixed.  I’m teary-eyed.  Darling Husband said, “You can download these to the ipad so that if you’re away from our wifi you can watch them.”

What?  Away from our wifi?  As if.  I’ll have these watched by tomorrow morning, yo.

I’m still alive

I’m still alive, in case you were wondering. The man cold hasn’t killed me yet.  Boy8 and Boy11 have been making me toast and caressing my brow and saying, “Poor little bunny,” throughout the day.

Boy8 asked me what I used to do when I got sick and they were babies.  Thinking back I remember having woman colds back then.  I’d manage to tend to them while being sick at the same time.  I told him, “Well, one always takes care of the babies, so I would take care of you no matter how bad I felt.”

Thank goodness those days are over!  Man colds are way better than woman colds.  Bring on more toast and poor little bunny carresses!  Of course, when I’m done suffering through my man cold I’ll add a home ec class to homeschool so I can teach the kids how to cook my favorite meals for the next time I’m stricken with a man cold.  A woman cannot live on toast alone. A little Tuna Helper is welcome from time to time.

I Have A Man Cold

I have a Man Cold*, people.  A Man Cold!  Ahhhh!

I’ve never understood those women who talk about how their husbands become big babies when they’re sick.  When Darling Husband is sick he still goes out and shovels snow and mows lawns and irons clothes and basically never stops and won’t let me play nurse.  I’ve given up.  Now when he’s sick I just sort of wave my hand in his general direction and say, “What, sick?  Do you need some aspirin or something?” and leave him be.

But me?  When I’m sick?  The world stops.  It’s into the bed for long naps, it’s balled up tissues littering the floor, it’s bottles of cough syrup and bags vitamin C drops on tv trays, it’s whimpering and looking for sympathy and letting my voice crack when I try to speak.  I was going to take a picture to show you how miserable I look but that would involve standing up and pressing a button.  It’s just all too much.  Blech.

Darling Husband and Boy11 have been coughing for 5 weeks straight now. They’re getting a little better. Boy11 can shift positions on the couch without going into a coughing fit.  Now he only coughs if he bounces through the house.  He certainly hasn’t been to his karate class in 3 or 4 weeks.  Running around like that would set off an embarrassing coughing fit.  I’ve honestly been a little nervous that maybe the karate people would call some sort of child protection agency to tell them I was hiding my child.

For the past few weeks I’ve been leaving Boy11 at home when I drop off Boy8 at the karate studio so he doesn’t have to breathe in the cold air. But since he’s getting better today I took him with me to drop off Boy8 and then Boy11 and I ran some local errands.  After the errands we arrived at the karate place and the karate instructor saw Boy11 through the big window and came out to greet us.  He had a confused look on his face.  At first I wasn’t sure if his confused face was because Boy11 was actually there, or if it was because Boy11 was wearing his fez. Yes, fez.  It’s a Doctor Who thing.  Boy8 wears his cool fedora everywhere he goes and Boy11 wears…the fez.  Sigh.  It’s a darn good thing he’s homeschooled or he’d get beaten up after school, I know.

Anyway, the karate instructor comes out, glances at the fez, and says, “Boy11!  We wondered where you were!  I thought your parents might have sold you for some extra cash.”


Hang on.  I just remembered that Boy8 ordered himself some bowties.  They should arrive any day now.   It’s a Doctor Who thing as well.  I guess they’re both equally nerdy.  A fez and bowties. Hey, what’d you expect with parents like Darling Husband and me?   They’re doomed, poor dears.

And now I need to go lie down and watch some TV.  I’m almost at the end of Breaking Bad** and realized that Netflix doesn’t have the last 8 episodes.  Ugh.  And when I’m sick, too.  What a world, what a world (yo)…


*After I finished writing this I looked up the link to Man Cold.  Hilarious!  That’s exactly how I am when I’m sick.  It’s uncanny.  Do you see all those tissues around the guy and the stuff on the coffee table in front of him?  That’s me right now so you don’t even need a picture to know what I look like.  Yes, when I’m sick I look like an overweight British guy.

**Speaking of selling people, I’m on the episode where Jesse thought that Gus was selling him to the cartel.

Cool fedora below.  We didn’t take pictorial evidence of the fez.


Why do we have to learn this stuff? When will we ever use it?

Huge tactical error on Boy11’s part.  Huge.

Boy11’s usual grammar assignments are for him to read sentences and then diagram them.  But yesterday under the Challenge section in his grammar book he was given the assignment to compose four sentences and then diagram them.  Ok, no biggie until you get to the end of the instructions.  You must compose sentences to be diagrammed and the sentences must include…are you ready for this?  no, really…are you ready?  The sentences must include direct objects, compound indirect objects, predicate nominatives, and predicate adjectives.

Boy11 sat there miserably for our 40 minute grammar class staring at the paper and not actually doing any of the work.  This mean that he would have to do it after dinner for Homework.  Nooooooo!  Homeschoolers aren’t supposed to have homework!  What is the world coming to?  It was like Charlie Brown having to read War and Peace on his Christmas vacation. I mean, homework involving “predicate nominatives”? Was this assignment even real?  Does anyone even know what a predicate nominative even is?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Darling Husband loves grammar and loved diagramming sentences in school.  Today, when Boy11 was given the task of diagramming 14 (14!) sentences he asked Darling Husband to help him if he got stuck.  Darling Husband was delighted to be asked: he always loved diagramming after all.  There Darling Husband was, home due to a snow day and merrily ironing our air-dried wrinkled clothes, and he was asked to diagram sentences.  What a happy day!  He assured me from the next room, “I can help Boy11 diagram his sentences.”

With a concerned frown I hollered back, “Um…are you sure?  Do you remember how to diagram an indirect object?  Or a predicate nominative?”  Shifty-eyed silence from the room beyond and then, “Uh….Boy11, ask your mother for help.”

Anyway, back to yesterday’s assignment.  After dinner he managed to write the sentences and diagram them and they were mostly right  But look at what he handed in:

Sloppy work

Are you kidding me? What a mess!  As Miss Shields would say, “Margins, margins, margins–F!”

This morning I looked it over, checked the work, and then told him to re-write it, but this time to actually follow the rules of basic sentence structure, like, ahem, starting each sentence with a capital letter and ending it with a punctuation mark.  Yes, there was a touch of exasperation in my voice when I told him to re-write it following the rules.   I mean, he totally knows better.

So he re-wrote the assignment:

Neat work

Do you see how beautiful that is?  He has never, ever turned in anything this beautiful.

And that’s the tactical error.  He set the bar too high.  It’s not like I’m going to ignore this.  I am the same mother, after all, who made him write sentences with compound indirect objects in the first place.  You think I’m going to let him get away with sloppy work ever again?

Poor, poor Boy11.


Why in the world would I make Boy11 diagram sentences and learn what predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives and all the rest are?

Because one day he might want to be a history teacher in the state of New York.  In order to be a history teacher in the state of New York you have to pass a certification test.  On that test you have to read passages by our Founding Fathers and then write an essay based on the passages.  The passages are something like this:


Those are the practice passages New York gives to you.  The practice assignment is to write an essay explaining what government actions these two men would support based on the passages you read.

I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised at how many people who are looking to me for help on this sort of essay are completely miserable over trying to decipher these passages.  They tell me, “I tried to write my essay, but I can’t figure out what these guys are even saying.”

This type of English isn’t esasy, but if you can sort through which words are modifying which words and who or what the direct object is, you can understand these essays without too much effort.

Boy11 may never becomes a history teacher in New York or an early American historian, but the exercises are still good for his brain.  That’s why we do it.

Two Things I am NOT Thankful for

Two things I have NOT been thankful for today:

Thing 1:

All the horrible singing that goes on when you listen to To Hobbit on an audio recording.  OH MY WORD.  People who read books out loud are not the same people who can compose Dwarf Music on the spot.  There we were trying to soothe ourselves while doing the dread task of Cleaning The Playroom by listening to the Hobbit.  I mean, cleaning the playroom was bad enough, people, but when the reader started warbling the dwarf song at the start of the book, Boy11 ran from the room screaming and Boy8 just crumpled to the ground and wept.  Why, oh why couldn’t the reader have just said the Dwarf song?  Why did he try to compose a tune on the spot and then sing it?  Thank you, thank you, thank you Peter Jackson for hiring a real live musician to come up with that really cool dwarf melody in The Hobbit movie.  Thank you.

Thing 2:

THIS clothes hanger.  THIS CLOTHES HANGER!  I hate this clothes hanger.


You all know how cheap Darling Husband and I are.  We rarely use our clothes dryer.  Dryers are wasteful of both energy and money.  Everything gets put on clothes hangers which are then hung on extra shower curtain rods in the shower stalls to dry for free in the air.  For free!  Ha!  Free!  I love it!

However, without fail, WITHOUT FAIL, every time I try to hang a hand towel on a hanger, I inadvertently reach for THIS clothes hanger.  Do you see the problem?  What’s up with those little plastic columns on the inside edges of the hanger?  I can’t stretch the towel out on the full length of the hanger so that it can dry smooth.  No.  The edges bump into those plastic columns on the inside edges and leaves my towel bunchy and wrinkly.  I have about 70,000 hangers and none of them except this one have those little plastic things that get in the way.  You’d think that the odds would be low that every single time I dry those towels, this hanger pops up again.  There I am hanging smooth towel after smooth towel on all the normal hangers and then BAM! I run into this hanger.  Do I run into that hanger when I’m hanging shirts?  No!  When I’m hanging underwear?  Never!  Only with the towels.

It’s concrete shoes and the river for you, Hanger. 

You look like General Zod, yo.

Sorry to out you, Scott, but pictures don’t lie.  We always wondered why you’re never around whenever Superman shows up.



Today we had Photo Club.  For the first two years of Photo Club we’d all blithely show up and sit expectantly waiting for Scott to come up with clever photography ideas for us to try out.  He is the leader after all.  But he kept saying over and over, “I’m NOT the leader!” To our ears that sounded like, “Whaa whaa whaa leader!”  Yup.  Everything’s right with the world.  Scott is our leader.  We all heard him say “leader.”

He finally had a little sit in and refused to come up with new ideas.  We’d meet for Photo Club, Scott would shrug at us, we’d exchange recipes, and go home.

Unfortunately for me, I have one of those “nature abhors a vacuum” types of personality.  If someone’s not getting the job done I feel the need to step in and do it.

That’s why when I took one of those goofy Which Star Wars Character Are You tests online I turned out to be either Darth Vader or Leia.  What was it that Leia said when they botched up her rescue?  Oh yeah, “Well, somebody’s gotta save our skins.”  That’s me in a nutshell.  As long as you’ve got things under control, fine.  But if I get the slightest whiff that you’re falling down on the job, I’m right there to swoop in and fix it.

It’s tough being me.

Or not.  Consider today’s Photo Club:

As usual, it was Friday and Photo Club was looming and no one had offered any ideas of what we’d do on Saturday.  After a few seconds of thought the idea popped into my head that we could set our shutter speeds very slow, like for 30 seconds, and get a single picture with two or three poses in it.*

Later, another idea popped into my head.  Three different poses in a single shot…what about someone transforming…what about Clark Kent transforming into Superman?!  Aha! I sent a little message to everyone telling them about my idea and asking them to wear their Superman shirts and black rimmed glasses to Photo Club.

I arrived at Photo Club this morning and had a few words with Scott over who had to take charge figuring out how to get the picture done, “It’s your idea, Lizard, tell us what to do.” “Who me?  I don’t know what to do!” I think he’s just glad that he wiggled out of being “the leader” and enjoys being able to throw responsibility on someone, anyone, else.  After talking over what we each had in our mind’s eye of how the picture should look, we all headed for the cloak room where it was nice and dark and we could control the light with flashes.  (Photo Club meets in a church.) We started taking pictures.

First a picture without a flash, just to see:


Ok.  Get out the flash.  Kevin was the Holder of the Flash.

Scott would get into the first pose, Kevin would fire the flash directly on Scott, Scott would get into the second pose, Kevin would circle to a new spot and fire the flash directly onto Scott, third pose, Kevin circles, flash–then time would run out.

I set the camera for 30 seconds.  But first, quick practice with the flash for the proper power settings:


Then practice how the clothes would have to be arranged:


Hold up! Something’s missing:  a tie!  Clark Kent always wears a tie with his button down shirt.  There was discussion about whether or not to call Darling Husband to bring a tie.  (Nah, let him rest.) We looked in the Welcome Center to see if someone had lost a tie recently (no.)  Oh well.  Press on.

Practice with actual costume change:


No…everything needs tweaking and we need a way to tell how much time is passing.  Hannah held the ipad with the stopwatch app and hollered out time periodically.  I pressed the shutter button:


Better, but one Scott is mostly solid and the other 2 are see through.  It was Kevin’s job to work on that problem.*


The pastor of the church walked by and saw the Photo Club all stuffed into the cloak room. “Hey, Photo Club!  What are you doing?”  We turned to look.  And lo!  He was wearing a tie!  There was a bit of tension in the air we considered how we could separate the pastor from his tie, but he looked pretty dapper in the tie.  A little too dapper in his tie and a dark suit. The sort of tie and dark suit you wear to a big event…like a funeral.  Can’t take a tie from a man whose about to do a funeral.  Our better judgement won the day and we let the pastor leave un-accosted.**

We got back to work with Scott doing a lot of costume changes, Kevin circling and holding the flash near the ceiling, Hannah keeping track of time, and me pressing the shutter button.   Gerhard…well, Gerhard was there, but was getting sidetracked by his friend, Harold.***

Kevin began to sweat from all the circling and the picture is too dark.


Whoops.  Missed a flash. Try again:


Scott began to sweat from all the costume changes.  Try again:


At this point, Kevin made the quiet observation that Scott looks more like General Zod than Superman.  Yup.  Kevin was right, but you gotta feel for Scott.  There he was, his turn to shine, getting to be the hero in the picture, and his best buddy just has to point out, “You don’t look like Superman.  You look like General Zod, yo.”  Aw.  What a let down.  The whole exchange struck me as funny and I had to pause in my shutter pressing to get in a good chuckle.

We soldiered on.


So close!  But the 3rd pose is too covered by the 2nd pose.  And then:


Got it!  This is the one.  We all agreed there wasn’t anything else we could do that would make it any better, in camera.  

And that’s when Scott said he wanted the same picture on his camera now, but in a slightly different pose, with the open shirt in the middle.  Time to start all over again.  And we did:  Scott doing the costume changes, Kevin circling and holding up the flash, Hannah keeping time and me…just pressing the button and then standing there relaxing for 30 seconds at a time.  By the end of Photo Club they were all sweaty and shiny but I was cool and matte.

Hey, I may have to save everyone’s skins from time to time, but I’m also really good at delegating.  😉


So…original in camera:


And after post processing:



* If you really want to know what settings we used, and how Kevin solved the solid/see-through problem, ask in a comment and I’ll tell you.

**We found out later it was a wedding.  A wedding?!  In that case we could have totally taken the tie.  There was only one of him and five of us.  Too bad he got away before we realized it was for a wedding.

***Harold is a conspiracy theory nut and lives off the grid in New Mexico.  He refuses to have mail sent to him because he doesn’t want the government to be able to track him down.  He has his mail sent to Gerhard’s house in Pennsylvania, who then sends it to Harold’s P.O.Box in New Mexico.  Something went wrong and Harold didn’t get an important piece of mail. Gerhard was talking to Harold about it during our meeting.  There’s always something interesting going on when you’re with Gerhard.

Oliver Twist Mush vs Twinkies

The curse of being a picky eater strikes again.  I made dinner in the crock pot today and have been looking forward to eating it for 6-8 hours on low.   But now that the time is up, I can’t eat it.  I mean, look–look at my dinner:


It tastes like the mush they gave to Oliver Twist but no one is asking for more.  Blah.

We’re forced to eat Twinkies for dinner.  Well, the boys and I are.  Darling Husband is determined not to waste the whole crock pot of Oliver Twist Mush and is in the middle of a flurry of adding different spices to see if he can salvage it.  I can hear him from behind me muttering,  “Yuck…no, not that one.  Ew.  Wait…Old Bay!  Everything’s good with Old Bay.”

Good luck Darling Husband.

You want to be a brain surgeon? Can you even spell brain surgeon?

News alert!  There are rules for spelling in English!  Who knew?!  It all seemed so random and inexplicable.  Well, it is random and inexplicable but not as random and inexplicable as I thought.  You can learn a lot if you go back to a 3rd grade spelling classes.

I should know.  Boy8 and I just spent about 57 hours straight on a single spelling lesson.  It was the longest spelling lesson in the history of spelling lessons and Boy8 and I are one second away from having our heads pop off from the sheer frustration of the lesson.  At least we now know why there are two p’s in apple.  Why couldn’t we have been born somewhere with a reasonable language like in Rome where they speak pig latin and you know how each word ends?  Eesh-shay.

And don’t even get me started on our piano lessons.  After 3 months of fruitlessly trying to explain to Boy8 how the lines and spaces on sheet music tell us the names of the notes, he finally told me, “Apparently I’m not a good boy, because I’m not doing fine.”

Every Good Boy Does Fine is a mnemonic to help you remember the names of the notes.  Mnemonic?  What the heck kind of spelling is mnemonic??  Oh, save me from the spelling lesson where we learn how to spell mnemonic.  And when did I ever say I wanted to grow up and be a teacher? I don’t remember ever saying that.  How did I end up spending 7 hours every single day teaching?

Here are all the things I’ve ever wanted to be:

1.  A clerk in a dollar store.  Yes, a dollar store.  I like dollar stores.

2.  A maintenance guy, because don’t you think you’d have a lot of job satisfaction as a maintenance guy?

3.  A truck driver.  Tooting the horn.  Bullying your way into the next lane.  Sleeping in the little alcove above your seat.  What a great life.

4.  A brain surgeon.  That was a short-lived desire and I read too many novels to be a brain surgeon.  When Barbetta was getting her Nurse Practitioner degree, she didn’t read a novel for three years due to all the studying she had to do. Yuck! I could never do that. Brain surgeon is off the list.

5.  A librarian.  Ah.  A librarian.  Who doesn’t want to be a librarian?  I never understood why Clarence was so distressed when he told George, “She’s just about to close up the library!”  Sounds like Mary made out pretty well whether George lived or not.  Lucky Mary.


Here is why there are two p’s in apple:

First, let’s look at the word with one p:


If there is only one p the word is Aaaay-ple and not Aaaaaa-ple.

But why?

It has to do with syllables.

First.  Split the word aple into syllables.  Whenever a word ends with a consonant-le, the consonant-le is its own syllable.  So we know to split the word at a/ple.

Ok.  We know how to say the “-ple” part.

But the “a” left all alone is an open syllable.  There is no consonant closing it–the vowel just dangles there.  There are rules about open syllables.  A vowel in an open syllable has the long sound.  It sound like it’s name when you recite the alphabet.

Think of hotel vs hot.

In ho/tel the “ho” is an open syllable.  There is no consonant closing up the vowel, so the vowel is long.  O.

But in hot, that’s just one syllable.  Hot.  It’s a closed syllable.  There is a consonant closing up the syllable.  So, now the vowel is short.  Hot.

Same thing with aple.  A/ple.  The A is open.  It says its name.  Ay/ple.

In order to close up that syllable without changing the sound of the word, you add another P.  Ap/ple.  Now the first syllable is closed and can make the short vowel sound.

Eight-year-olds don’t follow this sort of logic very well.  They get bored and start falling off their chair and doodling on their paper.

You can see why our heads just about popped off.

Bird Killer on a Rampage

So the other day a friend of mine (Jeff, the judge) enigmatically posted on Facebook “Despite all the snow this winter, my annual battle against starlings has been a complete victory for me!”

Battle?  Victory?  That sounded deliciously violent so I asked what he was talking about.  (It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?) He said it was Just Too Much to explain in a simple Facebook post.  A few days later I received the following in my email inbox.  I will share it with you:


One of the things my father instilled in me is a love of songbirds.  He taught me to set out nesting boxes in the summer and feeders in the winter.  He taught me to identify songbirds and to track visitors to bird houses and feeders.  But he also taught me to be a bird snob.

You see, I only care for certain birds, and I don’t cater to the rest.  In fact, I actively discourage them.  I chase sparrows out of bluebird boxes and destroy their nests.  I put up wren houses knowing the holes are too small for any other bird.  I don’t feed non-native birds, bullying birds, or squirrels.  In particular, I do not like starlings.

You’ve seen starlings, although you may not know it.  These ugly, unkempt birds have dark gray-brown feathers speckled with white.  They perch by the dozens cheek-to-jowl on power lines and incessantly poop on anything passing beneath them.  They send out scouts in search of feeders and, when they find one, they invite the entire flock to devour and scatter food while chasing away other birds.  They hog the feeders, chase away other birds, and chow down until the food is gone.  Starlings are a nuisance and I am proud to contribute to their starvation and eradication.

Starlings, which are native to wide areas of Europe and western Asia, were introduced to New York City in 1890.  Why?  Because Shakespeare enthusiasts wanted to introduce into North America all of the types of birds mentioned in the Bard’s works (Henry IV, Part I).  See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=call-of-the-reviled.  Does that make any sense to anybody?  It’s just another in a long list of British imports for which I am not thankful.  The Redcoats, haggis, and incessant U.S. media coverage of the Royal Family also top the list.  What good have the British given us anyway?  Charles Dickens, Narnia, Middle Earth, 80’s pop bands, Martin Freeman, Downton Abbey, and … well … that’s about it.  Now, thanks to Shakespeare groupies, I can’t park my car at the curb without it getting splattered with starling droppings.  Thanks to a bunch of radical bibliophiles, I have to wage war with starlings to attract the actual native American birds like cardinals, finches, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, or woodpeckers.  The conspiracy theorist in me believes that Shakespeare was a ruse to cover up a revenge plot by bitter Brits who can’t get past the loss of their colonies.  Get over it!  We won.  You lost.  Keep your stupid birds.

After years of trial and error, my yard is now nearly a starling-free zone.  Each of my feeders was selected for the sole purpose of feeding songbirds while thwarting starlings.  I have a multi-port tube feeder with an exterior sleeve that drops and closes the feeding ports if the weight on the perches gets too heavy.  Six songbirds can feed at once, but a couple of starlings are too heavy.  Plus, the perches are small enough that starlings can’t sit on the perches and pick seed out of the ports.  I have a wire mesh feeder from which starlings don’t even attempt to feed.  I put out suet, which starlings love, but my suet cakes are enclosed in a cage that permits small birds to enter but keeps out the larger starlings.  I recently learned that although starlings enjoy peanuts their beaks are too soft to peck through the shells.  I’m experimenting with a whole-peanut feeder now.

The more soft-hearted among you may lament the fate of starlings.  Not me.  When I see starlings straining desperately but unsuccessfully to reach the seed and suet, both important energy sources for birds during winter, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction.  I have won.  I have saved the food and suet for birds that matter; birds that trace their lineage to the earliest days of our country; birds that bleed red, white and blue; birds that raise their young on American values; birds that love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet; birds that stand up next to you and defend her till the end because there ain’t no doubt they love this land.  God bless the U-S-A!

You can call me a radical, geo-centric isolationist if you want to, but I’m right.  And you would agree with me if you ever stopped to look into the eyes of a starving chickadee denied access to feeders by starling bullies.  I’m not stopping with starling-resistant feeders, by the way.  I propose that we build a fence to prevent more starlings from crossing our borders and consuming vital limited resources.  We should arm border patrol agents to patrol that fence.  And we should toughen our bird immigration policies.  Don’t mention immigrant bird amnesty to me.  We’ll talk about immigration reform after you clean the starling poop off my car!

It’s time for American patriots to rise up and resist the scourge that is the starling!  To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce [native songbirds] under absolute despotism, it is [our] right, it is [our] duty, to throw off such [starlings], and to provide new guards for [songbirds’] future security.”  Huzzah!  Huzzah!  Huzzah!