Thursday, December 22, 2005

Reindeer Food is Nutritious

I was a Christmas Party Volunteer at for my son's first grade class. Several of us got there early to prepare the room while the children were having recess out on the playground. Even though I am a "food person" by nature, I did not get assigned to pizza preparations or cookie placement. For some reason I am always tortured by crafts. Right to the craft table I go! We will be creating reindeer puppets out of a brown paper lunch bag, construction paper body parts, and of course glue. And even though I am (psychologically) allergic to glitter, that of course was mixed into the equation in the form of "Reindeer Food" that we would be putting into little plastic Ziploc bags. Reindeer Food is made up of standard rolled oats plus the glitter. My son's first grade teacher said the children could scoop the oats into the bag, but she wanted us parents to handle the glitter. This was due to an incident involving one of her own personal children a number of years ago. They had to visit an emergency room in order to extract glitter from her child's eye. As I have mentioned before, I am very Craft-Unfriendly. Nothing turns out better due to my participation in it. My very presence causes glue to harden, construction paper to curl up, yarn to develop split ends, sequins to scatter, glitter to clump up. I was becoming concerned that "I" would get glitter in my eye and have to be transported to the emergency room, still clutching my adult scissors. So the children filed back in to start their Christmas party activities. I did one useful thing, which was to go around the class with the hand sanitizer and make everyone wash up. Then they scattered to various tables to play Christmas Bingo, frost Christmas cookies and of course to construct their reindeer puppet and assemble the reindeer food. Eight or so first graders gathered around my table, smiling expectantly. I was sitting in a first grade chair, so my knees were approximately at my ears. I moved one knee out of the way and said, "Welcome to the reindeer table!" That brought an immediate chorus of "Where's mine Give me the scissors I don't have one Hey he took the glue You're too close to me I can't find my other antler...etc." Fortunately the pieces they had to glue onto their bag were already inside the bag. They all dumped out these pieces onto the table, which caused them all to start elbowing each other in case someone else was reaching for "their" pieces. Never mind the fact that they were all the same, and no one was likely to steal "your" reindeer eyeball to give "their" reindeer a third eye. One girl said to me, "What is the glitter for?" "It's part of the reindeer food," I said to her. "It helps the reindeer fly." "So they eat the glitter?" she said skeptically. "How do they fly before they get there?" I frowned. "They already know how to fly because they're magic reindeer." "I don't believe in magic food," she said. I shifted to a more technical explanation. "The glitter helps the reindeer find the food on the lawn. It's an optical enhancement," I tried to say with finality. Now if I were that girl's parents I would be tempted to borrow a neighbor's dog poop, sprinkle some glitter on it, and throw it on the front lawn for added reindeer realism. But that's just me. After the children finished glueing all the pieces to their paper bags they were supposed to put their name on their own reindeer. One child added, "Made in China." I guess he pays attention to labels in the stores! When we finished our reindeer they all gathered in front of the teacher for the wrapped book exchange. One thing I notice about first graders is that they allow each other practically NO personal space. While sitting on the floor they jam right up against each other like they're on a pilgrimmage to Mecca. The teacher kept saying, "Spread out! No one will be able to walk up to get their present unless you spread out!" Another thing about the first grade class it that at first glance it sort of looks like a hockey player awards dinner. They all smile broadly and no one has any teeth! I wonder if the teacher gets used to that look. As each child's name was called, he or she was supposed to go to the pile of wrapped presents and choose one. They spent a lot of time on the choosing, even though these were all books and you had no idea what book was inside. So they were choosing based on the style of wrapping paper and contours of the package. Which were all either square or rectangular. Book-shaped, for heaven's sake! Why was this taking so long? The tag said who the gift was "from" so each recipient was supposed to say something thankful and give a holiday greeting to the giver. But you have to admit a "book exchange" is a good idea for first graders. Even though everyone wanted to trade once they opened their book. Finally I was released from duty. No glitter in my eye. No stab wounds with scissors. No glue in inappropriate places (best as I could tell). Only one girl whose tenuous hold on the reality of Santa may have been threatened by my reindeer food explanation. Next I will be working on the physics of how the sleigh stays up there. "Magic" has become seriously undermined as a working explanation.

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