Sunday, November 29, 2009

One time there was this goat, The Finale

Before you read this, you should check out part one and part two.

As I stood in my friend's classroom in my pleated black slacks, fitted blouse, and fabulous Steve Madden pumps with my new goat under my arm, the plan began to formulate. One of the ag teachers offered for the vet tech kids to help take care of the goat during the day, and I must have looked like she offered me a million bucks because I agreed so quickly!

It was Wednesday, which meant that the boys had to be picked up from choir at five. As soon as I could get away from school (about 4:15), I sped to the feed store in Wellborn, waited impatiently behind a man buying some sort of livestock feed, and then asked the cashier for a bottle to feed a baby goat. Up until then we'd been using a nipple on a water bottle, and it leaked terribly.

The nice young man got me a bottle, and I flew home to change out of my dress clothes and into my goat-handling gear. I tossed the dog's kennel (now a makeshift goat kennel) in the back of the Prius and headed to church.

I was only about five minutes late picking up the boys, and on the way out of the church I whispered to them that we had to hurry because we had to go get the goat. I thought Keaton's head was going to pop off because he was so excited! He must have said the word "goat" one hundred times on the ten minute drive to my school.

Because this story is getting a little too long, let's just say we loaded up Goat in the kennel and headed home.

I had already decided that she could live on the tile floor in the entry until I could get her to mom, so I asked the boys to make a wall to keep her in. Here's what they did:

Yes, friends, those are football helmets. It only took Goat about two seconds to escape from that impregnable fortress.

There were two "best things" about having the goat.

The first is that even Trey (clearly not a natural goat-lover) got into the fun. He called my niece Jodi to say, "Hey. Are you going to come see my goat?" Not long after that phone call there were pictures on facebook of Goat posing with Jodi and Goat posing with Tiffany.

Also, when Goat got restless, Trey picked her up and held her really close, and she was instantly quiet and still. It reminded me of when the boys were babies. For some reason when I held them they would just get wiggly-er, but he has such a calming effect on people (and goats). It was sweet.

Best thing number two was Farmer Keaton. In case you didn't know, Keaton tells people that he is a farmer and has a farm. He has named most of my dad's cows, has deemed his black boots his "farmer boots," and often talks about his tractors (some real, some not-so-real).

He was so darn happy to have that goat. He decided to train her to stay in the entry, and he was so patient in dealing with her. I was completely shocked because, let's be honest, I would never use the word "patient" to describe him and if you've met him you wouldn't either.

When she would get out of the entry, he would gently pick her up and put her back. Then he would stroke her back and quietly tell her, "Marion, this is your room. See the brown walls? The brown walls are your room, and you have to stay in here, okay?"

Of course, she'd get right back out, and he'd repeat the lesson all over again. It was amazing to watch.

(Sidebar: Mom named her goat Marion despite the fact that she will forever be Ethel to the English department of A&M Consolidated High School. Why Ethel? Why Marion? I have no idea what the answer is to either question.)

One time Marion peed on the carpet (because Tucker let her out when I said not to), and before I could get to the mess, Keaton had cleaned it up. For real! I think this little farmer is ready for his own pet.

Each morning I would get up, feed the goat, get dressed, and load her in the car to take her to school. During my conference period I'd feed her, and at the end of the day the goat and I would head back home. It must have been quite the picture to see me bringing my goat to school every morning.

On Friday after school, something came up and I needed to meet a friend in Bryan. Believe it or not, Trey suggested I just drop off the goat at the bank rather than trying to get her home and being late to my engagement. So not only did this goat go to school every day, she also went to the bank one afternoon.

Saturday afternoon Trey and I met my parents in Jewett to pass off the goat. We also decided to loan them Keaton until Thanksgiving, so he could "do some farmin'" and help out with the goat. I don't know how much help he was, but he had a great time.

And so the saga of the goat begins. She now lives on the farm with Grandma (who insists the goat can be house trained but Daddy won't let her even think about trying). I think Marion may have even gotten a goat friend or two today so she won't be too lonely.

I love that my kids will always remember the day their mom brought home a goat. I want them to know that sometimes I did (and let them do) something crazy just for the adventure of it. I want them to find exciting things everywhere they look and jump at opportunities to do the unexpected.

If they look really hard, they just might find a goat.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One time there was this goat, part 2

When I learned that the goat had survived the night and made it to school, I sent an email to my friends: "So I have this goat..." Of course, wit and hilarity ensued via email, and we made all of the applicable jokes:

  • "Stormy has a new kid!"

  • "Who is going to get your goat?"

  • "Did it follow you to school one day?"(okay, that one was about a lamb, but remember this was hilarity, so it didn't matter)

During lunch we all decided to go see the goat, so my friends and I traipsed down to the ag department kennels and found this:

I know what you're thinking. That goat is pretty darn cute, right? Well, she was cute, and "oohs" and "aawwws" commenced as soon as my friends and I saw her. Someone asked her name, and I was very clear that this was grandma's goat so grandma would be naming her. I decided that for the time being she could just be called "Goat."

So then word was out about Goat, and I had to show her off so as not to leave anyone out. I decided to first take her to the yearbook lab because it's very close to the ag rooms, and I knew my yearbook peeps would love to see her.

I scooped the sweet, quiet little thing up into my arms, and she immediately began screaming like her tail was on fire. I don't know how else to describe the sound except to say screamed. Perhaps bleating is appropriate goat-lingo, but that doesn't capture the sound made by a two-day old goat in a high school being carried around like a baby. In hindsight, I'm just glad Goat didn't pee all over me.

We "oohed" and "awwed" over her in the yearbook lab for a moment, and then I returned her to the safety of her kennel and got back to work. Right away I learned that some of the life skills students had come to see her, so I grabbed her up to take her to them for a quick visit.

But I couldn't handle the screaming the second time around. She screamed so much and so loud that in a moment of panic I just deposited her on the floor, at which point she immediately quieted. In fact, I'm pretty sure she smiled a sweet little goat smile. Trust me, I was there.

Not sure what to do next, I called to her, "Goat. Come here Goat. Some kids want to meet you," and she followed me through a classroom and across the hall, skipping and jumping all the while. The life skills kids petted her and spoke to her, and then Goat followed me back across the hall and classroom to her kennel where she calmly stayed the rest of the day. Her willingness to blindly follow me over the river and through the woods, so to speak, led to my new title of Stormy the Goat Whisperer.

However, at some point in the afternoon it occurred to me that I needed to get her home, but I also realized that the Prius isn't really made for hauling goats. In addition, the fact that she needed to be fed every 2-3 hours the next day became problematic because I have this job that they liked me to show up for, and I'm pretty sure there's no button in our absence system that says, "out for goat care."

Clearly, I had not thought this completely through. I needed a plan, and I needed it to look like a simple, flawless plan so that Trey wouldn't have me committed for bringing home a baby goat.

It's a good thing I'm really good at making plans...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

One time there was this goat, part one

It all began on a Tuesday during lunch. Morgan, a friend and fellow teacher, came into our lunch-eating area and asked, "Does anyone know of somebody who would want a baby goat? We've got one that lost her momma, and she needs to be bottle fed." I offered that my mom had been talking about getting goats, and that I would ask her if she was interested.

On way home, I made my daily phone call to Mom (on the bluetooth in my car which I'm pretty sure irritates her but that I have to use because I'm in a school zone when I call) and when I asked her about the goat, she said, "Sure. Yeah. I'd like to take the goat." I did a little cheer inside as I became excited about the possibilities that were beginning to unfold.

I called Morgan and made arrangements for her to bring the goat to school with her the next day. Then I called my favorite ag teacher and asked if there was a place to keep the goat for the day until I could take it home. I made all of the appropriate arrangements. Except one.

Later that evening Trey and I stood next to each other at the kitchen counter making dinner. Here's how the conversation went down.

Me: Anything exciting happen today?
Trey: Not really, just ___________

(See, here I was trying to think of how I was going to tell him that we were getting a goat. I'm sure I was listening carefully to what he was saying, but I don't actually remember it.)

Me:'s a possibility that I'll be bringing a goat home from school tomorrow.

Trey (without looking up from what he's doing): What are you going to do with a goat?

Me: Well...bottle feed it.

Trey (now he looks up because he realizes that I'm seriously talking about a real goat): Why?

Me: It's only a couple of days old, and its mom died, and Morgan can't care for it because it has to be bottle fed every couple of hours. (Clearly he wasn't asking why the goat would need to be bottle fed, but why I would be bringing home a goat. I wasn't quite sure how to answer that one yet, so I skimmed past it.)

Trey: What are you going to do with the goat?

Me: Mom wants it (good thing he loves my mom), and we'll just have to keep it until we see her. But it's an orphan and may not even make it through tonight, so we'll just see, okay.

Trey (with "that" look): okay

And so I began wondering what in the green earth I was going to do with a goat in my house. I wondered if the goat would live. Okay, I secretly prayed that the goat would live because I would be the coolest mom in the world if I brought a goat home to Keaton. I thought of the memories my kids would have, and I thought of how much my mom would enjoy watching a goat act ridiculous (WAY more fun than chickens, if you ask me).

At school the next morning, I waited anxiously for Morgan to arrive so I could determine if I would actually get to take the goat home. But it was meeting day for me, so I left a note asking her to take the goat to the ag shop if she had brought it and went on about my morning.

When I returned to my classroom, I learned that I did, in fact, have a goat.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today was a success. Not the perfect, nothing-ever-goes-wrong kind of success, but a more guttural kind. The kind of success you find when you take a risk and step WAY out of your comfort zone and don't get hit by a truck.

A few weeks ago, I masterminded a guest speaker for all of the on-level junior English students. A retired CIA operative and current teacher at the Bush School agreed to come and talk to our students about what it was like to live undercover as a spy in the modern world.

I say masterminded because this isn't something I've ever done before - scheduled a guest speaker to talk to 350 teenagers in a formal setting. First, I had to ask permission and explain how this lecture would fit into our TEKS (the standards that the State of Texas says we must follow). We were reading Fahrenheit 451 at the time, and I knew the technology of the CIA would be fun to compare to the technology in the novel that is implied to be almost innately evil. Our administrators are supportive people who look forward to providing opportunities for our kids, so they gave me the green light.

Then I scheduled with the speaker, unfortunately for a time well after the completion of our novel study. I was so far into the process that I determined the timing didn't matter that much, and I pressed on.

But then I went all crazy the way I do. I started seeing opportunity upon opportunity brought on by this one event. I knew that this was our chance to work with kids on how to behave during a formal occasion. Honestly, many of the students who would attend had never had an experience being part of an audience, and I was beside myself excited about giving them the education and opportunity to be able to do so.

Every time someone asked, "So are just the AP kids going or the honors, too?" I responded with defiant joy that only the on-level kids were going, and I loved the confused looks I got which were usually followed by a timid "Oh. Good for them."

I envisioned one of my students in ten years, invited to attend a formal banquet fundraiser on behalf of his employer. I saw him walk into the room properly dressed, shaking hands and introducing himself, feeling confident that he knew exactly what to do and expect. And in this little dream of mine, somewhere in the back of that kid's head he remembered his first experience listening to a formal speaker, and he remembered something -- anything -- I told him to do, and he did it. And he felt good about himself and people noticed.

In preparation for the speaker, I talked to my students about how to behave, when to applaud, what to listen for, and all the other odds and ends about being an audience. I asked one student to read the speaker's introduction and another to present him with a thank you gift after his presentation. I doled out my best "responsibility" speech, complete with "I worked hard to make this happen for you, and I want this man to leave here and tell everyone he sees how wonderful this school is, and only you can make that happen."

When the big day came today, I dressed in my most professional outfit, re-applied my lip gloss (that never happens), and set out to be the model of perfect formality to these kids. While 75% of students listened attentively and behaved perfectly, I couldn't let go of the 25% who weren't.

I threw out every teacher and mom strategy known to man. I gave disapproving looks. I mouthed "stop it" in my sternest, most silent whisper. I held my eyes in such a way that said, "If you don't cut it out I will make you rue the day you behaved this way. RUE IT!" I marched around in my fabulous heels as discreetly as possible to pull the proximity card on ne'er-do-wells. I prayed. I prayed as hard and fast as I have prayed in many years that the kids would be perfect and that the whole thing would end soon so I could breathe. I thought, "I will never do this again. Never!" All the while knowing that I will do it again and making mental notes about how I'll do it better.

At the conclusion of our assembly, we thanked our speaker, and I dismissed the students from the auditorium. As I turned to exit the stage, a crowd of students ascended the stairs. They shook the speaker's hand, told him how grateful they were for his taking the time to speak to us, and they asked wonderful, intriguing questions that he seemed excited to answer.

And I remembered that young man in my fantasy at his first formal event as a professional, and I remembered that today that young man was seventeen and so were all of his friends.

It wasn't perfection, but it was success.

Two final notes: One. Today's guest speaker and the conversations leading up to and after fulfilled one of the state's requirements for the year, TEKS 14 and 16 regarding listening and responding appropriately. Yes, I'm that nerdy.

Two. After the presentation, one of the students asked the speaker if the government is really making light sabers. I laughed out loud until he very seriously said, "I know what you're talking about, and we have the technology." light sabers? wow.