Friday, February 28, 2014

Part Two: Downton Abbey Report Cards--Violet, Cora, Robert, Isabelle

This is second in the series of Downton Abbey Report Cards. Check out part one to see comments on Tom, Mary, Edith, and the Kitchen Triangle!


Violet Crawley:  What a joy it is to have Violet in my class! Her sharp wit is very entertaining. We will be moving Violet into the Gifted program. She performs well above her peers. I’m concerned she may become bored and stifled. -Mrs. McCormick

Translation: This kid cracks me up!!!  I know I shouldn’t laugh, but when she zinged Tom the other day about knowing how to steer, I could hardly keep a straight face. I am worried she’s bored. This curriculum SUCKS, hardly worthy of a kid of her talents. I hope she doesn’t transfer to another school.  Without her, I don’t know how I could face this group. -Mrs. M

Cora Crawley: Cora is a very nice girl, who never causes any problems.  -Mrs. McCormick

Translation: Cora is a very nice girl, who never causes any problems. THAT'S THE PROBLEM! The other day I looked right at her, sitting quietly in the back of the classroom, and couldn’t remember her name. Give me something, Cora, ANYTHING! -Mrs. M

Robert Crawley: Robert is doing well since his placement in our Special Education class. He tries hard, but problem solving is very difficult for him. At times he can be stubborn and refuses help from those around him. When this occurs, his assignments are disastrous. I’m so glad he’s taken to Isis, our therapy dog. It does seem to be helping with his temper issues. -Mrs. McCormick

Translation: Explaining things to Robert is like explaining things to a balloon. The other day I asked Mary to help him with his assignment. First he yelled, then he pouted. When he calmed down enough, he saw Mary was right. It can’t be fun to feel so dumb ALL THE TIME. I’m trying to be sympathetic, but teaching that entitled blue blood is maddening! At least the dog likes him. -Mrs. M

Isabelle Crawley: Isabelle is a delightful student. I know she’s struggled since the death of her son, but she is very resilient. I do think she might have a bit of detective in her. The other day my letter opener went missing, and she methodically discovered its whereabouts! One thing you might discuss with her is her tendency to Mother Hen. I know she means well, but sometimes she oversteps, creating friction with the other students. Socially, she’s doing well. She and Violet have become good friends. We have a new boy in class, who also seems interested in getting to know her. -Mrs. McCormick

Translation: Thank goodness I can count on Isabelle to police this three ring circus. She sniffs out injustice like a blood hound. I’m not all that surprised by her friendship with Violet. They’re both strong personalities, and quite frankly, they keep each other in check. On a different note, what is it with that new kid?! (I can never remember his name...) He’s all over Isabelle. I can’t tell if she likes it or not. Better keep an eye on things.  -Mrs. M

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Downton Abbey Report Card: Edith, Mary, Tom, and the Kitchen Trio

You know how at the bottom of every report card, there’s a comment section for the teacher to fill out? Usually you see soft-soaped versions of what the teacher REALLY thinks, ie: “Johnny is a very social boy. It requires a great deal of effort to redirect him.” Translation: “Johnny won’t shut his yap. I’m sick to death of him.”

I’m a former teacher, so without further ado, here are Season Four's report card comments for Edith, Tom, Mary, and the Kitchen Triangle.

Teacher's Comments:

Edith Crawley:  Edith is quiet and struggles a bit in her social relationships. She tends to rush through her work, which leads to a lot of re-dos on her assignments. Please discuss this with her. -Mrs. McCormick

Translation: Your kid NEVER THINKS. She signs documents without reading them, has unprotected sex, plans illegal abortions, changes her mind, adopts out her baby, then takes it back to give to a pig farmer with dollar signs in his eyes. Edith needs some serious counseling! I’ll be sad to see her go at the end of term. Her bad decision making, while damaging to her, is unending entertainment for the rest of us. We're taking bets in the teacher's lounge as to what stupid thing Edith will do next. –Mrs. M

Tom Branson: Tom, though a delightful boy, has been introverted and withdrawn since the deaths of your family members (I’m very sorry). He seems unsure of himself and often makes bad decisions based on these insecurities. I’ve tried to help him, but progress is slow. I think a change of scenery this summer will do him good. Let me know what I can do to help.   -Mrs. McCormick

Translation: Wake up, Mom and Dad. I know Tom's been through a lot with the deaths of his wife and brother-in-law, but the fact is, he's an OUT-OF-CONTROL APPROVAL JUNKIE! Twice now he’s been put in compromising situations by sly, scheming women. First, a flirty maid plays on his insecurities, gets fired, gets rehired, gets him drunk, then tries to blackmail him with a false pregnancy. Somehow his honor scrapes through with the help of smart Mrs. Hughes. You’d think he’d learn after that. But nooo.... two seconds later, a manipulative teacher from the village convinces him to take her upstairs at the Abbey. He doesn’t want to. He protests. He whimpers. He drags his feet. But alas, the teacher shuts him up with the insurmountable third grade challenge, "Are you chicken?" Tom is stupid and has no hope of regaining the intelligence and self-esteem he once had. He must be shipped off to America at once where he is sure to succeed in politics.    -Mrs. M

Alfred, Daisy, Ivy: Dear Parents, I am writing the same note to all of you as your three children have great difficulty working with one another. Not a day goes by when they are not in each other's business or trying to pit one person against the other. This makes for an unproductive, emotionally-charged learning environment. I’ve tried separating them, but they always seem to manage to come together. I am planning a firmer strategy of Divide and Conquer that will hopefully prove successful. I welcome your suggestions. -Mrs. McCormick

Translation:  Hear me now, parents: Your kids' pathetic love triangle is on my LAST NERVE! Alfred, for all his wide-eyed earnestness about making perfect hollandaise, is an INSTIGATOR. He knows Ivy couldn’t care less about him. He knows Daisy’s in love with him. Does that stop him from pursuing Ivy right under Daisy’s nose? No! I’ve had it with his mealy mouthed, I’m-so-innocent-in-all-this attitude. If I had my druthers, I’d pack him off to London, arrange for Ivy to work in America, and plant Daisy forever under the strict eye of Mrs. Patmore. Frankly, I’m counting the days til they’re all out of my class.  -Mrs. M

Mary Crawley: Mary has made so much progress this year! She’s grown into a strong, independent student, who can complete tasks on her own.  She is very self-possessed and caring to those who struggle. She does seem to attract a lot of unwanted attention from boys. I’m monitoring the situation, and so far she appears to be on top of it.  
–Mrs. McCormick  

Translation: Finally…Mary can put herself to bed without the aid of a maid! Hallelujah! Now that’s progress for a pampered princess. What a spoiled brat she is! I have to admit, she is surprisingly caring towards her employees, particularly Anna and John Bates. One wouldn’t think that possible with her nose so far up in the air. And what is it with the three boys? (“Mary’s Men” as Grandma calls them).  I just want to box them on the ears! What part of NO don't they understand? They won’t give up, though, so on their heads be it. Someone please bring Mary’s grooming to her attention. The other day she came to school smelling a bit like pig.  For the most part I enjoy watching Mary's non stop shape-shifting (Lady of the Manor one day, livestock manager the next) but even she's becoming tiringly predictable. Where have all the interesting students gone? –Mrs. M

Next Report Card: Violet, Cora, Robert, and Isabelle

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Best Underdog Moments of Sochi

The Sochi Olympics are over. What will we remember most about these games-- stray dogs, yogurt scandals, pink eye, soft-serve snow? For me, I will remember these games as being The Year the Underdog.

Everyone loves an underdog, especially those of us who ARE underdogs. That said, here are my top four underdog victories of the Sochi Olympics:

1. Men’s Snowboarding Slopestyle  

Expected To Win: Emperor, Shaun White (who later withdrew)

Next Expected To Win: Wunderkind, Mark McMorris of Canada, competing with broken ribs no less. 

Next-Next Expected To Win: A whole line of “proven” riders who make up snowboarding’s royal court. 

WINNER: Sage Kotsenburg

The commentators, who had plenty to say about the favorites, had not one utterance about the actual winner. That is, until he WAS the actual winner.

Sage, the human version of Crush in Finding Nemo, hadn’t won a medal since he was eleven. With nothing to lose and a head and heart filled with love of his sport, he took it all.  I wish I could bottle the joy he felt that day. GREAT JOB, SAGE! Kookookoochoo!!!

Sage Kotsenburg

2. Women’s Freestyle Aerial Skiing

Expected To Win: The Chinese dream team, who stacked the event. 

Next Expected To Win: Lydia Lassila of Australia. 

Next-Next Expected To Win: Well, there wasn’t any need to go there. The commentators KNEW who was going to take it. 

WINNER:  Alla “Super Duper” Tsuper of Belarus.  

Alla, a veteran of the sport, was spared nothing from the NBC commentators, who made their snide digs about how she barely got out of the qualifying round, and how at the venerable age of 34 it was a miracle she wasn’t in a retirement home somewhere.  Alla responded to their snipes with a HUGE, perfectly landed jump that earned her the gold. V VASHEM LITSE!!!  That’s Belarusian for “IN YOUR FACE!”

Alla Tsuper

3. Men’s Alpine Skiing Super G 

Expected To Win: Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. 

Next Expected To Win: Bode Miller (who should have spit in that stupid reporter’s face). 

Next-Next Expected To Win: Any number of talented skiiers.

WINNER: Kjetil Janrud...yawn.

It’s the silver story, however, that makes me believe in fairy tales. Andrew Weibrecht, known as “War Horse” for all his injuries and perseverance, hadn’t done well on the World Cup all year. He was slated to ski last on a rutted out course with crappy snow conditions.  The commentators had all but packed up and left. I could just picture them as Andrew readied at the start, checking their emails, wondering where to eat dinner that night. He simply wasn’t on the radar. 

A second later, the world watched speechless as Andrew rocketed down the mountain with no thought of brakes. Jansrud, the winner of the event, said his legs turned to jelly watching Weinbrect’s descent.  And so they should have—Andrew came in behind the winner with just three tenths of a second difference!  He might not have won it all, but Andrew will touch more lives with his silver than Jansrud ever will with his gold. WAY TO GO, ANDREW!

Andrew Weibrecht

4. Women's Figure Skating

Expected To Win: Yuna Kim of South Korea

Next Expected To Win: Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia

Next-Next Expected To Win: Carolina Kostner of Italy. 

WINNER: Adelina Sotnikova

I’ve saved my favorite sport for last.  I follow figure skating closely, even in non Olympic years. Last year, I attended the U.S. Figure Skating Championships when they came to my home state of Nebraska. (In fact, I got a high five from Gracie Gold as she made her silver victory lap around the rink!) 

Yuna, the reigning gold medalist from the Vancouver Olympics (and arguably the best figure skater that ever lived), faced some stiff competition from a band of up and coming teenagers. Although she skated perfectly in both her programs, she seemed uncharacteristically clouded throughout.  In the end, she took home silver. Although disappointed for Yuna, I was thrilled with the underdog winner: Adelina Sotnikova.

17 year-old Adelina took the ice as the most under appreciated, most ignored, most forgotten member of the entire Russian team.  A four time national champion, the Russians wouldn’t even let her skate in the team competition. 

Instead they (and the American media…good grief) focused all their time and energy on a 15 year-old phenom, named Julia Lipnitskaia.  Seriously, it was Julia this and Julia that AD NAUSEUM. Every so often, the NBC commentators stopped slathering over Julia long enough to comment on Gracie or to beat the dead horse story of Ashley Wagner and her controversial pick for the American team. But throughout the coverage, not one mention of Adelina… video snippets of her life, no pre-competition interviews with her…nothing.  

That is, until she almost won the short program. Then everyone started falling over one another to find something, anything, about her. In the end, Adelina prevailed with a performance that brought the crowd to its feet, regardless of nationality.  The skater no one cared about took GOLD. Underdogs of the world unite!!!

Adelina Sotnikova

The Bible says God will confound the wise, aka the know-it-alls. No where has that been more obvious than the Sochi Olympics. Remember that the next time you think you have things figured out. See you in four years in Pyeongchang!