Thursday, December 31, 2009

Most Wonderful Events of 2009

10. Baby!

9. Baby!

8. New Orleans for C's birthday

7. Baby!

6. Oregon Country Fair before the rain came

5. Visits and holidays with family

4. Baby!

3. Our first anniversary

2. Baby!

1. Baby!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 09

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family near and far. I hope your day is full of good food, great companions, and plenty of holiday cheer in whatever form you enjoy most. My little companion keeps wiggling to remind me that by next year, our holiday will be completely different. I think we're ready for the change. Have a lovely day everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Rush

Today I am getting my proverbial ducks in a row. I took my car to the tire place this morning to have the three seasons swapped for the winter ones. While it was there, I ran over to the mall and bought the last few gifts I need before Christmas actually arrives. Next up, I'm taking the car over to the mechanic to have a regular service plus a tune-up. Last, but certainly not least, I need to head to the grocery store to stock up on the goodies we will want for Christmas dinner and the holiday weekend. I wish there had been time to fit in a hair cut somewhere in there, but I just couldn't cram that in. On the plus side, being on vacation is allowing me to do so many more things than I could in a normal work day. On the other hand, this is not exactly my idea of relaxation. Nevertheless, by the time the holiday actually rolls around maybe I will be ready to sit back and enjoy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Needless Markup Christmas

Not long ago, a town near ours acquired a new store. Normally this would not be such a big deal, but the store that opened its doors only a short drive from our house is Neiman Marcus (or Needless Markup as my brother likes to call it). Now don't get me wrong, I would never actually set foot in such a silly place (I have an allergy to certain kinds of conspicuous consumption). However, driving by recently made me remember the existence of said store. I had to do an internet search to see if my prejudice would be confirmed. I was NOT disappointed.

Here is a sampling of some of the "indulgences" offered by the gift section. Were I to win the lottery, my friends and family could suddenly find themselves getting much more exciting gifts! For example, I could buy my brother a $2200 folding bike, or perhaps my mom needs a $3500 cashmere robe? I'm sure my Auntie D. would just love a $4800 elephant clock. Have these people not heard of the "new modesty?" Or perhaps this IS their version of restraint. Maybe the fur trimmed cashmere cloak is meant to make up for the fact that you aren't getting a new Beemer?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pregnancy Eating

Food and I have always gotten along well. In fact, you might say that we've been a little too close in the past. Often I've had to fight off my desire to spend more quality time with food than is technically good for me. Fortunately, we had reached an uneasy peace in which I usually ate carefully, but still very much enjoyed my meals.

Then along came pregnancy, and everything just went crazy. Now the relationship is not just between the two of us. Somebody else is very much impacted by the choices I make, and, as if that weren't complicated enough, she likes to make her wishes known as well. Sometimes, I feel as if the three of us have reached an eating impasse.

Early on in my pregnancy, the food thing was the most complicated. At the time in my life when I most needed to eat well, I had the least interest in food. Nearly all vegetables, formerly some of my most favorite foods, became unpalatable. Many strong flavors were unappealing, and the only things I really wanted to eat were plain pasta (the whole grain kind at least) and fruit. I forced down so much non-fat dairy and ginger (not together) during that time that I still have trouble with those flavors.

Now that the nausea has gone away, I find that food is easier, but still not the same as it was in the before times. For one thing, I'm now hungry all the time. I can't eat much at any meal, so I have to eat constantly. However, just because I'm hungry doesn't mean anything sounds good. There are times when I know I should eat, but it is very tough to get motivated about anything. I keep a running tally of protein, iron, and calcium in my head, and I keep less careful track of fiber and other goodies. This should allow me to bulk up on one or more items if I'm running low. Often it works, and I eat good healthy things.

Then there are the cookie times. I don't think I've had any actual cravings, but I am having more trouble resisting the call of some kinds of goodies. The old me frequently passed up plates of holiday cookies. The new me is far less disciplined. Let's just hope that our little darling gets everything she needs to grow up big (but not too big!) and strong, and that I don't become a spherical object in the process.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Buzzwords 09

He, he, he it seems the word "unfriend" is the New Oxford American Dictionary word of the year. Not to be outdone, MSNBC provided us with an entire list of buzzwords from the year 2009. Most of their list comes, not from Facebook, but from the plethora of words and terms relating to the financial crisis. Here's a random sampling:

-Great Recession

-Shovel Ready





-Credit Crunch

-Cash for Clunkers

Monday, December 14, 2009

We're Having a Girl!

Yes it seems that the pink wagon will be stopping by our house. Our most recent ultra-sound just confirmed that our little hummingbird is a she. Personally, I am not at all surprised, since that was my feeling since early on. Nevertheless, it is nice to have confirmation.

It was also great fun getting to tell some of the immediate family. I had the day off of work due to the doctor's appointment, and so I got to have lunch with several family members. I slipped away from the lunch, walked over to the doctor, met M, and then did the ultra-sound. When the appointment was over, I was able to walk back to the lunch group and deliver the news. The nieces are especially excited. They only have one cousin, a much older boy, so they are very happy with the news. Me too!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ten Stupid Holiday Ideas

M and I had the misfortune to watch a holiday decorating program on TV the other day. The premise of the show was that two professional designers would offer tips in between segments of viewer suggestions. I thought it might inspire us to do a little holiday decorating of our own, but I should have known better. All we did was laugh and groan during the entire thing. Here's a helpful list of wonderful decorating ideas:

1. Instead of a real tree, make one out of pillow stuffing.

2. Instead of a real tree, make one entirely out of teddy bears

3. Instead of a real tree, cover a Styrofoam spike with candy using a hot glue gun.

4. Instead of a real tree, hand a branch upside down from your ceiling

5. Instead of a real tree make a green triangle on the wall using strings of lights

6. Get an old metal gate, hand it on your door, use it to hang all your Christmas cards

7. On a bare table-top make an "arrangement" of branches and candles. Light candles. One assumes you then have to buy a new table when finished.

8. Cover every inch of mantle with ribbons and bows such that you cannot actually have a fire.

9. Fill your bathtub past the top with mounds of round glass ornaments.

10. Make a ten foot high Star of David, and use it as the entry way to your party. Also, make a menorah costume for you (the host) to wear.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Winter Cold 09

No, no, not the sniffling sneezing kind. I've had one of those recently, but I hope that is not blog-worthy. Though I do usually have a rule against weather posts, I often set it aside in extreme cases. The last few days represent an extreme case of weather for those of us used to more temperate climates. No, no, again it's not what you are thinking. We haven't had any flooding, wind storms, or feet of snow. All we have in the PAC NW these days is cold.

Right now, it is around 11am, and it is 24 degree Fahrenheit outside. That's warmed quite a bit from the overnight low of 14! 14! We are not used to those kind of temperatures around here. On the bright side, we haven't had much trouble with ice since everything is so incredibly dry (including my skin), and the sun is brilliant every day. On the down side (from my POV) we haven't seen a single flake of snow with all this cold. For a while they were predicting some, but now they expect to see things warm up and skip the snow step entirely. Fingers crossed for some sort of white December.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Modern Christmas List

Recently I asked both nieces to write a Christmas wish list. This is nothing new, I ask them to do this every year, and this time, like always I received a hand-scribbled note with very cute spelling. After they left, M and I had a great time deciphering their wishes. What do they want? Toys, video games, art supplies, and "books, books, books." Nothing very new there either.

The surprise came the next day when I received an email from Younger Niece. It was an invitation to share a Google doc with her. What do you think was on that doc? You guessed it, a perfectly typed and spelled copy of her Christmas list. This is a person who knows how to maximize her opportunities.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Baby Moves!

Last night, for the very first time, I had my hand on my stomach when the baby moved! I've been feeling little fluttery nudges from the inside for a few days now, but this was pretty incredible. There is something absolutely astonishing about that feeling even when you've been expecting it for some time. I absolutely love having the reassurance that she's still in there and still doing well. Of course it seems cute now when she doesn't have much power behind her kicks and punches, but I wonder how I will be feeling in another month or two when she's keeping me awake a 2am?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Emergency Preparedness by Kids

Before reading a story about survival, the students were assigned to write a list of things they would want to have in a survival situation. They were limited to items that are legal and reasonably available, and they could not "bring" any more than would fit inside a standard student backpack. After much discussion (no you cannot have a gun) and consideration (can you comfortably carry fifty gallons of water?) they came up with their lists and turned them in to me. Many students, like this girl, went the highly sensible route:

-Swiss Army knife with many attachments

-flashlight and extra batteries

-water purifier

-6 cans of food

-can opener


-emergency blanket

-waterproof matches

-cell phone

-first aide kit

-1 extra set of clothes

-Ramen packs with any extra space

Many other students, unfortunately, were not quite so pragmatic. Here's a brief sampling of some of the more, ahem, interesting items the students selected.

- Jello

-50 cheeseburgers

-Color pencils

-Hand lotion

-50 gallons of water

-A puppy

-5 shurikens

-A Nintendo DS/PSP/Other video game system

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dogmatism Quote

"The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism."

Sir William Osler

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful List 09

This is a list of one hundred things for which I am truly thankful, both big and small, in no particular order:

A Great Book
Autumn Leaves
Spring Flowers
Blue Jeans
My Husband
Thai Food
The Right To Vote
A Great Movie
My Parents
Fresh Summer Tomatoes
Flannel PJ’s
The Symphony
Fancy Dress
Great Friends
My Aunties
My Nieces
A Good Joke
Candy Corn
Fresh-Cut Grass
My Brothers
My Garden
A Fire in the Fireplace
Word Games
Backyard BBQ
Sweet Tea
Mt. Rainier
Good Health
Snow Days
My Music
Clean Water
Sitting After a Long Day
My Computer
American Democracy
American Liberties
Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate
Soft Slippers
Friday Night
Ripe Peaches
A warm and comfortable home
Dinner with Friends
Sunshine, Sunshine, Sunshine
Grilled Cheese
Friendly Email
Sunday Brunch
Ice Skating
A Nice Hot Bath
Baseball Games
The Dishwasher
The Washer and Dryer
Basketball in the Park
The Pacific NW
Farmers’ Markets
Cozy Sweaters
Indian Food
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
The Beach
Travel to Other Lands
Friendly Dogs

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Moon Review

Ahh the Twilight franchise. Yes, it's overwrought, overly sentimental, and oh so overexposed. Nevertheless, I find myself still a fan. The books have a certain quality to them that makes them very, very hard to put down. Perhaps the best word for it is voice. That uncanny ability, by the author, to make you feel that her story is fresh and authentic even when the themes should be old and tired. Whatever the real reason, the success of these books cannot be denied.

Fortunately, the movies have retained most, if not quite all, of the charm. The first installment was too brief and involved some silly scenes, but it more or less told the story of Bella and Edward. Approaching the second movie, I was not sure what I might find. The second book is, more than anything, an exploration of depression. It relies heavily on subtlety, and I wondered if this would be lost when it was translated to the screen.

This new movie also had some profoundly silly scenes, but over all, it was a decent effort. I was colossally annoyed by the dissolving ghost of Edward appearing all over the place (NOT in the book), and I thought they edited out some of the best dialogue. For example, in the book Bella is much more straightforward with Jacob, and she does not give such a strong impression that she is leading him on only to leave him.

Even so, I had a great time watching this movie. After all, I am a part of the target demographic (i.e. women). Not only that, but I try to avoid the cardinal mistake when watching or reading something from the YA shelf: over thinking. This is a story simply to be enjoyed. Relax, let yourself go, and try to stop worrying about purple prose, implied themes, or the poor quality of Taylor Lautner's wig.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tofurkey Attacks Begin 09

I feel like a broken record, but it seems like I can't avoid the topic once again. As we near the holiday season, the cracks about Tofurkey, and about vegetarianism in general, begin in earnest. I will not give credence to these people by repeating the various diatribes in this forum. Suffice it to say that this is the time of year when people feel the most entitled to comment on all manor of things that don't really involve them. Since this is a topic we've covered before, and the issues remain largely the same, I'm dusting off last year's post. I think it may become my annual pre-Thanksgiving message:

I Like Tofurkey

I actually do. I have no idea if it resembles turkey or not, and I really do not care in the slightest either way. I enjoy Tofurkey because it is warm and fragrant and it tastes nice on my tongue. My consumption of Tofurkey is is no way meant to:

-make a political, religious, or environmental statement

-make a judgement about what you are eating

-create a talking point about why I'm a vegetarian

-cause you to change the way you eat

-attack the meaning or historical significance of the day

In short, it's just shouldn't be that big a deal. Think of it as me choosing the peas instead of the green beans or the apple pie instead of the pumpkin. Or better yet, just don't think about it at all. It really isn't any of your business anyway. If you would like to ask a few polite questions, that's fine. However, don't view that as an opportunity to then explain "your side" about how awful, disgusting, or unnatural you think it is. You wouldn't come to my house and tell me I had terrible taste in furniture/pets/dishes/fashion/cars/husbands, so why would you think it was okay to malign my choice of food? Do us all a favor this holiday season and SAVE IT. Thank You.


The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Vegetarians (SPCV)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Baby Update

For those who care about Baby Watch 09/10, an update. We visited the doctor quite recently, and got the results from our last round of tests. It seems that the numbers from our Down's Syndrome tests were, in the words of our doctor, awesome. Now we are on to testing for Spina Bifida and a few other disorders.

Older mothers tell me that none of this testing was available when they were pregnant, and I'm really not sure if the innovation is a good thing or a bad thing. In some ways, I think the testing makes you worry more. However, it is very reassuring every time we hear more good news. Sadly, we did not get to see more pictures of the baby at this appointment, but we did get to hear the heart racing along at 160 beats per minute. It seems that this is quite normal for a baby of this gestation. That fast little humming-bird thrum is music to my ears.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I Used to Enjoy

Morning tea with honey and milk


Soft creamy brie


Tangy crumbly blue cheese

Lifting heavy things

Having room for all my own organs

The occasional drink

Staying up past 10:00pm

Not worrying

Normal boring every day pants

Nevertheless, I wouldn't change the current situation for anything in the world!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine --- Done!

Ahhh. That was a collective sigh of relief just released from many of the pregnant mommies of the greater Seattle area. Due to some serious organizing, and some very long days on the part of many wonderful nurses, hundreds of pregnant women in my area were recently able to attend an H1N1 clinic at our local hospital. I was delighted to receive my jab because, along with my seasonal shot, I am now much less likely to get seriously sick this winter.

I was touched, but also a bit shocked, to discover that we were getting our shots before the medical people. H1N1 is a phenomenon that has so many people in crisis mode, and it seems like many decisions are not being made in a clear and logical fashion. Nevertheless, I was very grateful to receive coverage. Now if we can just work out how to get the vaccine to other at-risk groups before we go giving away doses to regular healthy people or even major financial firms.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More from the Eeyores

Dear Eeyores,

When I tell you about my brother, who is graduating soon, it would be nice if you could just hang on to your negativity, and let me be proud of him for one slender minute! There is really no need to tell me how bad the job market is, or how unlikely it would be for him to find something nearby. Perhaps you think you are helping me to recognize the realities of life? But I'm perfectly capable of seeing them for myself. Also, has it ever occurred to you that perhaps your cousin who had so much trouble finding a job might, just maybe, be in a different set of circumstances? I simply prefer to remain optimistic since there is no point in doing otherwise. Your forbearance is much appreciated.



Friday, November 13, 2009

My Dear Husband

There are many reasons to love my husband, but every once in a while he really bowls me over. The other night he took me out for a lovely dinner. We had a great time, and stayed out a bit late (it was a school night!) chatting with our friends. Driving home, I was really looking forward to slipping on those pajamas and getting into bed.

Then, as I went to get out of the car, I realized I didn't have my purse. Yes, pregnant brain strikes again, and I'd left it at the restaurant. Cursing my stupid self, I started making plans to pick it up the next day, but MDH said "no." Instead, he sent me inside and drove back to the restaurant (20 minutes? 30?) to fetch the missing item. I barely remember him coming in later because I was already mostly asleep. Nevertheless, when I went downstairs the next morning to go to work, there was my purse hanging on its usual hook. I've been calling him my handbag hero ever since.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ultra-Sound is Fun

That very first appointment with the OBGYN was SO exciting. Even though a home test and a doctor's test confirmed the pregnancy, it still didn't seem quite real until that appointment. As the NP was doing her exam, I remember her saying, in an uber-bright voice, "oh yes, we're all kinds of pregnant!" and suddenly it began to seem real. This feeling was compounded when they wheeled in the portable ultra-sound machine. We got to see our little "pollywog" at last.

Later I discovered that the portable machine really doesn't give all that great a picture. At our next appointment, we had a chance to meet up with the Big Kahuna of ultra-sound technology. Okay, no, it was not one of those impressive 4-D models, but really I didn't mind. On the screen this time was a recognizable baby with a face, hand, feet, and other details too. We could see the baby moving all over the place, and we could make out arms, legs, and even face. One of the best bits was when she began bouncing off the wall (me!) in a sort of gymnastic flip. I kept forgetting to stay flat on the table because I wanted to turn and get a better look.

Then, of course, there's the part where you get to see the beating of that teeny tiny little heart. I mean to gush, but that particular picture is awesome. And I truly mean awesome. Not the way teenagers use it to mean "pretty good" but the real meaning of the world where you are struck dumb by the amazement of the thing. I absolutely cannot wait for our next appointment with the big machine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Show Court Date

Several weeks ago, M and I both received subpoenas in the mail. It's quite a shock to get something like that when you've never had so much as a parking ticket in the past. These papers stated that we required to give evidence in the trial of our former neighbor. We were a bit taken aback by this news since the events in question happened more than two years ago. However, knowing there was not much we could do to get out of it; we made plans with our employers to take time off of work.

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of those "proceedings," so I had the whole day off, and M was planning to leave work and then head back. At virtually the last minute, an officer of the court called to say "oh never mind" it seems that the hearing was "stricken" and we were no longer required to attend. Yay hooray, we didn't have to go, but it would have been nice to know this a little earlier. Meanwhile, the trial is still on for next month.

All this time, all this money, and for what? It seems like there should be an easier way to deal with small-scale issues. I know we want our justice system to be just, but still this seems a bit excessive. Here's hoping that this gets resolved before M and I have to spend four whole days (unlikely but not impossible) sitting in that courtroom all because a dog got loose and tangled with a cat.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Who Wants to Read About Palin?

I am absolutely floored to see that the new book about Sarah Palin is a best-seller on many new book lists. Why in the world do people want to read this book? There can't be that many hard-core Palin fans out there right? Is it more that urge to stop and stare at the traffic accident? This woman was an absolute embarrassment to women, regardless of political affiliation, everywhere when she was on the campaign trail. I simply cannot believe that anyone will give her the time of day let alone $28.99.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Halloween 09

Halloween '09 was a very good one indeed. I got to spend the whole weekend with a zombie soccer player and a carton of milk. The soccer player costume came about because Dad, being Dad, brought the wrong soccer jerzy home from Europe. Instead of Elder Niece's favorite German team, he purchased one from an opposing Spanish team! Horrors! Luckily, it was realized that turning this player into a zombie for the sake of a costume was really a slam. Whew! Day saved!

The milk carton came about because Younger Niece planned to go trick or treating with a friend, and they wanted their costumes to compliment. Thus they decided on milk and cookies. Unfortunately, at the last minute, the cookies had to cancel, but the carton of milk still went. Her costume was another Grandma original, and it was quite fabulous. Younger Niece herself had the brainwave to put an expiration date of 1492 on the carton, so that she could be sour milk. The response to her costume was HUGE. People were leaning out of car windows to congratulate her.

Next year: baby costumes!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Finding Out

It's a very little story, but I wanted to get it down before I forget the details.

It all started for us when we were heading home from a weekend away. I was driving, it was the middle of the afternoon, and we had only been on the road for an hour at most. In spite of getting a full night's sleep the night before, I found that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Eventually, I had to pull over and ask M to drive because I was so tired I thought I might get us into trouble. All I thought about this was "hope I'm not getting sick."

Later in the week, I made our weekend night dinner in the usual way, and I happened to boil some eggs to put on the salad. They were beautiful farmers' market eggs, and they were perfectly cooked if I do say so myself. Nevertheless, when it came time to actually eat the salad, I found that I could not stand the thought of eating those eggs. I realized that they smelled terrible to me. M seemed to be enjoying his, so I gave one a try. Nope, they tasted even worse than they smelled. How could it be that I'd never noticed how vile and disgusting eggs really are? Then, finally, the idea hit me. Maybe it wasn't the eggs. The next day, I trotted off to the grocery store to buy my self a test. Sure enough, it was me, and not the eggs all along.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy "Dress Up" Day

Today is "dress up" day here at school, and most of the kids are certainly taking this opportunity to be someone else. They are also taking the opportunity to eat illicit candy, and generally run around like crazy maniacs. Oh well, I suppose one can hardly hold it against them. My only contribution to this day is to read ghost stories in Language Arts class. The Moonlit Road is my favorite kid-friendly site. And a very happy "dress up" day to you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spare Me Your Bad News

It seems that when you tell some people about some good/exciting news, they feel the need to play the devil's advocate. Now I can understand the desire to see both sides of a situation, but some people take this to the extreme. Rather than just letting you bask in the glory of your news, they figure you need a little puncturing to return you firmly to Earth. In order to achieve this charming goal, they riffle through their encyclopedic knowledge of bad stuff that happened to somebody one time, and trot out the litany of unhappy things they once heard about. I think of these as Eeyore people.

In many cases, it can be almost any type of news that causes the Eeyore reaction. You could be telling about how you just ate a particularly delicious sandwich, and one of these people would feel the need to tell you about a really terrible one they once had. By the end of five minutes, they would have moved on to that story they once heard on the news about a sandwich that was so bad it actually melted off a woman's face (or some other terrible end).

In general, the bigger the news, the bigger the Eeyore reaction. College choices, getting a new apartment or buying a house, buying a car, getting a new job, getting engaged, getting married, and having babies are all huge triggers for Eeyores. There really does not seem to be any way to shut down the Eeyore (at least none that I've discovered) but at least one can try to limit the length of their tirade.

The one good thing that's come out of my encounters with Eeyores is an improvement in my own negativity. It may seem tempting sometimes to talk launch into a story about that wedding you once went to where the bride caught on fire/exposed herself/died of the plague, but it really is better just to hold off. If nothing else, save those stories for the car ride home. Above all, don’t let those Eeyore people get you down.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Things That (Used To) Make Me Green

Tennis balls rolling around on the floor of my car

Traffic Circles


The person next to me on the bench bouncing

Quick scrolling on the computer screen

Raw tomatoes

Jiggly camera work

Rapidly boiling liquid

M's green veggie juice breath

Standing up

Old cut flower water


Strong smells

Writing this post

Friday, October 23, 2009

We're Having a Baby!

I can hardly believe I'm writing it, but M and I are finally expecting our own little one. I've been told that some people feel ambivalent when they discover that they are pregnant, but I am not that way at all. This is pretty much one of the most fantastic things that's ever happened to me. Of course you mothers out there are thinking "oh just you wait!" I'm sure it's true that we have no idea what we're really in for, but I am still excited to find out.

In the next week or so, I'll be posting a few things I wrote in the last few weeks but couldn't post because no one else new our news.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nieces Return to the Symphony

Not long ago we took the nieces back to the symphony for a little further exposure to classical music. They always claim to be very excited to go to another concert, but I am never sure how much of that is actual enjoyment of the music, and how much is amusement at confusing their father by liking something he can't stand. Either way, when we offer them tickets to a show, they always jump at the chance.

Therefore, on a recent Saturday evening, we all met up in the foyer of Benaroya Hall. The girls were looking very fancy; the elder wearing a jacket and satin blouse, while the younger sported a beautiful black and white dress with a long puffed skirt. It never ceases to amaze me that two such pretty girls could be related to the rest of our family, but it is true.

We turned over our tickets and headed down to our new seats for the first show of the season. Unfortunately, we've lost the prime cheap seats we used to enjoy, and now we are off to one side. This would not normally be too big an issue except that the stage was set for a soloist, so virtually every space on the stage was filled. All we could see were the backs of some violinists. Nevertheless, the music was wonderful. Ravel, Rachmaninoff, and Dvorak impressed us all.

Okay, so maybe not everyone was impressed. During the surprisingly quiet Rachmaninoff piece, Younger Niece managed to nod off. She was drooling peacefully onto her own hand when a noisy bit of percussion suddenly woke her from her sleep. She jumped about a foot into the air, but managed not to make a sound. After that, she sat quietly, and seemed to enjoy the show.

It amazes me how much they've grown up in the last two years. That very first performance attended by only Elder Niece was nerve-racking since I didn't know how she might behave. Today, they are veterans, and often their behavior is quieter and more attentive than many much older symphony patrons. I wonder how long the sweet spot can last.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Essay Grading

It's that time once again when the English teachers in my school have to grade and grade and grade student essays. We sit in a conference room, giant box of student work in front of us, and read all day. The funniest line I've collected so far goes something like this:

"Amanda is my friend and hero because she has everything. She's good at things and shes nice. You could say that she has the perfect package."

Another great one would be:

"This was a great man who showed us all how to do good things. He had the courage to stand up to what he believed in."

More to come I'm sure.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cookbook from 1895

A friend of mine was sifting through those free Google books that are out of copyright, and she came across this fascinating little book. It is a cookbook from the year 1895, and it makes for a very interesting read if you like that kind of thing (which I do!). The suggestions for putting together a fancy dinner party are very cute (a tray filled with grass and flowers to look like a lawn makes a great centerpiece...). Some of the recipes seem like nice things to try, but many of them are strange or even downright horrifying. Some of the weirder ones include:
Jellied veal cube decorated with hardboiled eggs

Boiled calf's head with vinaigrette

Grilled bones

Boiled cucumbers

Stewed lettuce

Farinaceous foods

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Congress Protects Gays

Hooray! Congress has finally acted to expand the Hate Crimes Act to include crimes based on sexual orientation. Can I just say, once again (no dead horse jokes here), that this is the civil rights issue of our times?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 Prices

Since I so enjoyed reading those historical shopping lists with prices, I was inspired to provide myself with a similar type of amusement in years to come. In the year 2019, it might be entertaining to look back on the prices we paid for things here in the distant past. I used that same list from 1909 and updated the prices on as many items as I could. Of course they are just estimates based on local market prices. I couldn't resist adding the gasoline price for good measure.

Food & Beverages

Apples, $2 per pound

Beef, Sirloin steak, $5-16$/lb

Butter, fancy creamery, $4/lb

Chicken, roasting. $3.00/lb

Coffee, $10/lb

Eggs, $2.50/dozen

Fish sardines, $3.00/can

Flour, 2.75/5 lb sack

Lemons, $1.00/2

Macaroni, 2.00/pkg

Mustard, Colman's, 3.98

Peanut butter, 4.50/lb

Potatoes, white or sweet, 1.29/lb

Rice, Japan, .85/lb

Salt, 2.50/pkg

Soup, Campbell's, 1.79/can

Tea, 3.50/20 bags

Also had to include

Gas 3.05/gal

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Horrible Terrible Very Bad Southern Lunchbox

Earlier this fall, I spent some time researching new and different ideas for packing that eternal lunchbox. I'm always on the hunt for things that will inspire me to eat healthy lunches instead of pre-made frozen meals. Of course this is a big topic when all the kids are heading back to class, so I was able to find many interesting ideas. A few of the good ones included hummus pita, apples and almond butter, and vegetarian pie pockets.

A few of the weirder ideas were Jell-O molds with vegetables, do-it-yourself lunchables (because they're cheaper, but still maintain that utter lack of nutritional value!) and egg salad with raisins (yuck!). It was all more or less within the expected range of ideas until I came to one fateful website. The lunchbox section of the Southern Food section of came as quite a shock.

The pictured menu at the top of the page is a ham salad role (what could be better than pork and tons of mayo?) on white bread with a side of fries. Now doesn't that sound like a lovely thing to pack in your little first grader's box? Of course the little guy will be wanting something sweet too after all that mayo, so be sure to pack one of their wonderful dessert suggestions. Pecan brownies, sour cream cookies, and chocolate sour cream cupcakes just to name a few. Gosh, I wonder why the southern states have higher obesity rates than any other part of the country?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Polanski is Yucky

If you believe the justice system, the facts in the Roman Polanski case are clear. In 1978, already a grown man, Polanski lured a thirteen year old girl to a friend's home, plied her with alcohol and drugs, and then had sex with her repeatedly and in a variety of ways. He was convicted only of statutory rape in a deal that let him off of much creepier charges. He served 43 days of his sentence, and then fled the country. In my book, these are not small crimes. This isn't like an 18 year old having sex with their 15 year old boyfriend, or a grown man being caught with a grown woman who is not his wife. This is beyond creepy and into the predatory territory.

Why, then, are all sorts of French and Polish officials and Hollywood mucky-mucks rising to his defense? If these charges are even half true, this is not a "youthful indiscretion" as one French authority tried to put it. Does the directing talent of this man somehow forgive his incredible nastiness? If so, that would be a terrible miscarriage of justice. I also don't buy the "oh sure but that was years ago" excuse. Unless some really surprising new evidence was to show up, I hope they throw the proverbial book at Polanski.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned Books Week 09

Welcome to banned books week! It seems incredible to many of us that there would still be people trying to ban books in the year 2009, but it actually happens all the time. In the past seven years, more than 3700 book challenges were reported to the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. It is believed that this represents a small portion of those books actually challenged since not all institutions report such events to the ALA.

The single greatest reason for such challenges was concern over sexually explicit material. Other challenges occurred because of offensive language, violence, or homosexuality. At least 200 books were challenged over a "religious viewpoint." Some of the frequently challenged authors were:

-Phillip Pullman
-J.K. Rowling
-Chris Crutcher
-John Steinbeck
-Katherine Paterson
-Walter Dean Meyers
-Mark Twain
-Maya Angelou
-Toni Morrison

Of course whenever I hear about a book challenge, it always makes me want to go out and read the book in question. I hope this kind of list causes these authors to do better, and not worse, on their quarterly earnings reports. Therefore, go out and buy a challenged book today! More info about Banned Books Week may be found here at the ALA.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1909 Prices

I was just flipping through a book of old magazine articles from the early part of the 1900s. I love to read through the old stuff just to see what was popular back one who century ago. Certainly, the articles are about different topics such as "Should Women Be Given the Vote?" and "Why Women Shouldn't Be Given The Vote" and "Millie: The Fictional Story of One Woman Whose Life Was Ruined By Getting The Vote" (I am not making any of this up I swear).

However, given that this was a women's magazine, some of the topics were really very familiar to those you might find today. "Managing Your Home on a Small Budget" was a topic repeated many times with different titles. "Fashions For Real Life" was another. One of the parts that was most striking was the inclusion of prices on a sample shopping list:

Food & Beverages

Apples, .15/6 quart basket
Beef, Sirloin steak, .16/lb
Butter, fancy creamery, .39/lb
Chicken, roasting. .22/lb
Coffee, Best Maracaibo, .20/lb
Eggs, .26/dozen
Fish sardines, .03/can
Flour, 1.75/49 lb sack
Lamb, leg, .16/lb
Lemons, .10/dozen
Macaroni, .10/pkg
Mustard, Colman's, .10/pkg
Peanut butter, .11/lb
Potatoes, white or sweet, .10/6 quart basket
Rice, Japan, .05/lb
Salt, .07/pkg
Soup, Campbell's, .25/3 cans
Tea, 1.00/2 lbs

It all sounds shockingly cheap, but given that the average blue-collar worker earned only about $30-$50 per month, it does put things into a different perspective. Nevertheless, I have to wonder what percentage of income people spent on food or housing versus what they spend today.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Get Well Soon Justice Ginsburg

Here's hoping that one of my favorite Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, is on the mend at last. She's been hospitalized repeatedly in the last few months, and even fell ill in her own chambers last week. At least we have a Democrat in office who could choose her replacement, but I would far rather see the 76 year-old stay on the court. Her sense of law, and of history, are amazing.

"So that's the dissenter's hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Co-Worker Agony

I'm trying really hard at work to shift off a responsibility that's been mine for years, but should always have belonged to someone else if you really read the job descriptions. I've tried a few times before to readjust the situation with no success. This time, however, I think I have a real shot. The new person in that "other" role is ready and willing to take on the task, and now we are in that phase where I try to break her in without breaking her.

Last week she called her very first meeting to discuss the next project. She presented the plan, and all I did was nod and smile and offer a little encouragement. However, before she called for comments about the proposed project, I did speak up to remind the group that her experience as leader was entirely dependent on the way they chose to treat her.

I tried to explain that constructive comments about the proposal were helpful, but that too many cooks will spoil the proverbial pot. I also told them to respect her judgment and professionalism is creating the proposal. After the fact, my boss told me that he was very glad I'd spoken.

What do you think happened next? Some people did take my advice to heart. There were several who looked at the proposal and said that it seemed like a decent and reasonable idea. However, you guessed it, there were several who felt that if we would just make a few "tweaks" to the plan it would really be ever so much better.

There were even a few who actually went so far as to suggest throwing out her plan entirely to come up with something that would be more "fun." These people have never tried to write one of these proposals, and they really have no idea how hard it is to come up with something that will work on a broad level. That didn't stop them from criticizing for one second. Why? Why? Why? Must people be so insufferably nitpicky!? It's not just rude but counter-productive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To-Do Over Obama

I just had to share my shock and amazement that the to-do over the Obama speech to kids actually infected my school. It seems that the talking heads on TV succeeded in stirring up trouble, and there were enough parent phone calls to create administrative concern. Each teacher had to register if they intended to show the speech, and parents got an email message letting them know that they could have their child excused. Then, each teacher got a list of kids who were to be sent out while the speech was on. All that organizing and agonizing, and what do you think happened on speech day? Three kids went to the library instead of watching. Three.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Modern Dilemma

Imagine, if you will, a totally hypothetical company. Perhaps this is a science company called Smith Labs, for example. In this company, scientists work in small teams do research projects. Each team is made up of equals, or people who are considered to be on the same professional level. Each manager runs several different teams, but he or she does not actually work on any team.

Now imagine that one team has a member who is consistently an underperformer. This person is talented and bright, but does not contribute even half of what they should to each project. The nature of the work, and the required division of labor mean that the under performer can never clearly be caught out for their lack of participation.

When members of the team press the under performer about the lack of participation, this individual makes vague noises about "depression" issues. Now a split emerges between the other members of the team. Should they press management about this continuing problem person, or should they respect the difficulties of living with depression and put up with the problem for good?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey Pesto!

A very much belated second "thank you" to the lovely person who gave us the food processor for our wedding. I must admit that it's taken me until recently to become fully involved with the glories of the fabulous machine. M, with all his techie affinity, understands the complicated workings of the various blades and features. I, on the other hand, am still trying to figure out simple things like locking the safety lid. Nevertheless, I recently ventured into the realm of pesto.

Now I have to say that I've made pesto before. You can accomplish the task in a blender, but it is not any easy thing. You have to constantly mash around the nuts, basil, and cheese with a spoon to get them all to blend properly, and at the end, you still have a sort of chunky product. Pesto with the Cuisinart is a whole different story. Pop the afore mentioned items in the bowl, lock the lid, and add oil as you whiz away. Viola! Pesto!

I was amazed. It was so easy and quick to make the pesto that I decided to make hummus as well. A can of chickpeas, a little tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil, another whiz, and again practically instant food! This thing is addictive. Now I'm on the prowl for things I can whip up in the magic machine. I hear gazpacho is a good option, and it's supposed to be great for coleslaw too. There are just so many wonderful options. Now if you could just spare a moment to help me with this sticky safety lock?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seen at a Stoplight #2

While waiting for another light on another day, I had my chance to observe fascinating stoplight moment number two.

The first thing that drew my attention to the SUV was the accordion quality to the whole front end. It was clear that this driver had experienced a rear-ending in a big way, and the car was still unrepaired. A moment later, I had cause to look up at the same car because the cars behind it started honking.

It soon became clear that the SUV driver had failed to see the light turn green, and he was just sitting there doing not much. Finally, as the honking got worse, the SUV began to move slowly forward. At this point I could see that the driver was not looking at the road at all, but had his eyes glued to the small device resting on the lower portion of his steering wheel. Sheesh! Move over drunk drivers, texters are here to challenge you for the title of most scary people on the road.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Hayao Miyazaki is, in my humble opinion, a film genius. His more famous movies, such as Totoro, Princess Monoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle are nothing short of brilliant because they have a unique and fascinating style. His newest movie, Ponyo, isn't quite up to these illustrious standards, but it is still definitely worth the time. Elder Niece and I agreed that it is the best and most beautiful retelling of "The Little Mermaid" story that we have ever seen. Go and see it if only for the incredible hand drawn visuals.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Great Quotes #849 and #925

These two are so quite insightful, and they really do seem to go together:

"The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself."

Sir Richard Francis Burton

"If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."

Anatole France

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Seen at a Stoplight #1

Recently I was waiting at a stoplight (near the campus for a certain corporation we all know and love) when I happened to see a man come running around the corner. He was dressed in the modern runners' outfit of expensive athletic shoes, spandex, and more spandex. He also looked like one of those people who lament out loud at dinner parties that they may never reach 4% body fat. But what was most striking about him was the way he was running. He was barely moving at all. I could probably have walked faster than his pace. It was a very strange scene since he looked like the sort of person who would do so much more.

Then, from around the corner, came another man. This one was not dressed in the latest running fashions. He had on jean shorts and a huge, flopping white t-shirt. He was also quite a large man with far more than 4% body fat. This man was running for all he was worth. All of a sudden, the whole thing made sense. Serious runner guy said to his friend "I can help you get into running. I'll even run with you to get you started. Maybe we could run together at lunch time?" and the friend agreed. Or so I imagine. I hope they keep it up. I also hope newbie runner guy gets a smaller t-shirt.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Count Your Blessings

As the summer comes to a close, I sometimes find myself making grumbly noises about having to return to work. Life at school can be intense, stressful, frustrating, and exhausting. This is one of those jobs where you just don't get to have an off day. If you do, somebody ends lighting somebody else's hair on fire (yes that really happened at one of my schools). In other words, whine, whine, whine.

Then I use two strategies to get myself out of this pity party. First, I think of all the great things about the profession (I've already blogged about these at length). Second, I think back on all the jobs I used to have before I became a teacher. During my teen and college years, I had a wide variety of part-time jobs in order to get by. Here is a partial list:

-Baby-sitter (who hasn't done this?)
-Stable-hand (surprise, surprise I loved this job)
-Vineyard worker (pruning, picking, pressing grapes and keeping yuppies happy)
-Nanny (for many years)
-Print shop assistant (only in the summers)

The reason I listed the last one several times is that I worked as a clerical temp for about 18 months, and so I got the fun of experiencing several different working environments. The tax office was stuffy and particular (oh the dress code!). It included a guy who chased me around the office and blocked doorways, so I couldn't leave until he decided to let me. The gravel crusher machine company was cold, dusty, and FAR away from home. Then there was the emergency supply sales office which was freezing and filled with ants. You get the idea.

But the worst, the very worst, of my temp positions was at the motor home R & D facility. This was the place where I answered the phone on a help line where people called to report mechanical failure on vehicles still under warranty. Over 300 calls a day from people who were royally pissed to discover that their brand new $100k motor home was broken.

This job was boring (mind-bendingly so), stressful, pointless (it's just that I was cheaper than a robot), depressing (every single person in that office HATED their job), and choked with strange smells and diesel fumes. Plus, I am not making this up, we had to listen to top 40 hits all day every day because the office manager decreed that we would. Certain pop songs from the turn of the millennium are permanently burned into my brain, and I think of them with horror every time I smell diesel.

Ah, there we go, I'm feeling so much better already. I love my teaching career. It is not often boring, most of my co-workers are reasonably cheerful kinds of people, and my room is usually clean, warm, and comfortable (and ant-free). Sure, it can be stressful, and I still do have to get up at an ungodly hour, but at least my work means something in the long run. I could not (easily) be replaced by a robot. Also, nobody, but nobody, can force radio upon me ever again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


In case you happen to care, here is the response from Senator Murray's office. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Dear Mrs. Totheworld:

Thank you for writing me to share your thoughts on health care reform. It is good to hear from you.

Health care reform is one of the most critical issues facing our nation. Our current health care system is unstable and unsustainable. Too many people do not have health care coverage and many of those who have coverage are worried about losing it in this uncertain economy. Businesses and families are finding it harder and harder to deal with increasing health care premiums.

In addition, Washington state family budgets cannot sustain the continual rise in health care costs and hidden taxes in the form of rising premiums to cover the uninsured. If we do not get health care costs under control, local, state and federal government budgets will have to take on the weight of rising health care costs. While health care reform may require an initial cost investment, I strongly believe that it will pay off in the long term and the cost letting the system become more unstable is much greater. Without reform to our health care system, premiums will continue to rise, coverage will become more uncertain, businesses will lose competitiveness and it will be harder for Americans to have access to care.

After months of hearings and over 50 hours of public markups, I was pleased that on July 15th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Affordable Health Choices Act. The Affordable Health Choices Act lays out policy changes for health care reform in America. This package works to rein in health care costs with a goal of lowering them in the long term and ensure that all Americans have access to high quality, affordable health care coverage. It allows those who like their health insurance to keep it and provides options to those who do not have access to health insurance coverage.

This bill includes provisions to implement several key health insurance reforms. For example, insurance companies would no longer be able to refuse coverage to individuals due to preexisting conditions, patients' out-of-pocket expenses would be limited and all annual and lifetime caps on insurance coverage would be eliminated.

The passage of the Affordable Health Choices Act out of the HELP Committee is a major step in the longer process of health care reform. The Senate Finance Committee is also working on many aspects of health care reform and the Affordable Health Choices Act will need to be combined with this legislation in the future. The Finance Committee is expected to release their proposal soon. In addition, the House of Representatives is working on a separate version of health care reform legislation.

As the Senate moves forward on health care reform legislation, I will be weighing the many concerns that I am hearing from constituents all across Washington state. As this effort continues, I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind. You can find more information on my Website at

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for my weekly updates at Please keep in touch.

I hope all is well in your town.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Berry Picking

I love, love, love picking berries. This is one of the quintessential summer activities that makes me feel the season has truly turned. This summer, thanks to one intrepid friend, I've been on both blueberry and blackberry picking runs, and much bounty was found by all. There is something very satisfying about meandering through the bushes looking for the perfect sweet fruit.

On the most recent run, we were able to find plenty of free fruit at a berry patch in a local park. However, pay to pick places are never very expensive, so they make a great choice too. Remlinger Farms has u-pick berry patches all over the greater Carnation area, and the last time I checked, the berries were only about $2 per pound. This beats the pants off the $4 for a 1/2 pint in the grocery stores.

This morning, there were lovely fresh blackberries on my cereal. Tonight, there will be a decadent blackberry crumble with oat and brown sugar topping. Go find yourself some amazing fresh fruit that is actually ripe for a change. This is a limited time offer.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great Quote #643

"I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this."

Emo Philips

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Will Make Him in My Image...

Back to school is in full swing, and we have been inundated with ads and circulars from stores hoping to cash in on the bonanza. I guess they must be trying even harder this year than usual because, just like in every other area, so many people are cutting back on their spending. Perhaps this is why we received a "Crewcuts" catalog from the J. Crew Company.

Now don't get me wrong, I have owned items from J. Crew, and I even step into their store from time to time. Mostly their clothes are too expensive for me, but I admit that they are well made. I might splurge on a coat or a sweater, especially if they are on sale, because I know the item will last for several years. However, the same cannot be said for kids’ clothes.

This crewcuts catalog is entirely for kids, and it is both hilarious and ridiculous. For obvious reasons, kids cannot wear the same clothes for years on end (unless, of course, you have a serious hand-me-down economy working at your house). Therefore, spending huge amounts of money on their clothes is a foolish waste.

Not only that, but the fashions in this catalog are so stuffy, and the materials so easily damaged that kids would be prevented from running and playing as they should. Who wants to stomp through mud puddles in their $148 Italian leather shoes? How about climbing a tree in your $98 silk skirt? I'm sure some kids do manage to sneak out and play in these clothes, but then they have to endure the shrieking from Mom about dry-cleaning bills when they go home.

But the worst, the very worst, part about this catalog is not the silly fabrics or even the extreme prices. The worst part is the "mini-me" quality to the fashions. Kids do not belong in cashmere cardigan sweaters with silk shantung shells underneath. They do not need wool blazers, or silk ties, or HERRINGBONE DRIVING CAPS! They are not going to cocktail parties or boardroom meetings! They are KIDS for goodness sake!

Pardon me if I've become a bit shrill. I think all my years teaching in the upper crust may be getting to me. Besides, I don't actually have any kids, so I shouldn't judge. Perhaps if I ever do, I will suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to buy them cashmere sweaters, white wool peacoats, and Italian suede boots. Yeah, and pigs wearing $165 silk dresses might suddenly learn to fly.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sleep Less Gene?

It seems that scientists are on the trail of a genetic mutation that makes a person require less sleep. A major sleep study came up with two women who just naturally need only about six hours a night. The authors were quick to point out that, unlike millions of other people, these two are actually fully rested after the shorter night's sleep. I wish, wish, wish I had this gene.

Think what a jump you would have on the rest of the world if you only needed four or six hours and then woke up fully rested. You could work, read, exercise, socialize, or do any number of other things, and still be bright-eyed when it was time for the rest of the world to wake up. Now that would be a mutation to be proud of.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Les Paul Dead

What you've never heard of Les Paul? You are probably still a fan without even realizing it. Name the major event in the history of Rock, and he, or one of his guitars, was almost certainly there. When I took The History of Rock in college (yes really) we learned about all his innovations to the electric guitar. He is credited with giving the instrument its "unholy" sound. One of his early converts was Buddy Holly, and there were many more to come. I guess we can't be too sorry for his loss since 94 years is a pretty good run.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The End and The Beginning

Summer has been so relaxing, so rejuvenating, and so simply glorious that I have been very much not wanting to see it come to an end. Sure, I've done quite a few errands, appointments, and house chores, but I've also spent a lot of time doing exactly as I please. Who wouldn't want to take a couple months off like this? Nevertheless, all good things must pass.

Yesterday I went to school for the very first time since went got out in June. I'm not actually required there for another week yet, but I prefer to ease into these things, and so I made a brief visit. I was pleased to note that my head did not explode as I walked through the doors. All that relaxation has worked its magic, and I really am somewhat prepared to get stuck in once more.

On the first day all I did was say "hello" to the office staff, pick up my keys, and head off to my classroom. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the custodians did not pile all my furniture into a leaning tower of horror (as they do some years when they clean the carpets). Everything was pushed to one side, but that was all. I did a little unpacking, and taking down of dust covers, but I only stayed for a couple of hours.

Today, I went and covered my bulletin boards with bright sari fabrics, and managed to not fall of the various precarious perches I used to do the job. Braving the spaghetti of cables and cords, I managed to set up one computer, but I still have seven more to go. I also ran out for lunch with a friend which seemed very decadent of us, but when we got back I saw that only an hour had passed. I am jealous of those people who always get an hour for lunch!

Tomorrow is more of the same. Bit by bit I'm getting closer to feeling comfortable about the start of the new year. I must confess that a small part of me is even finding a bit of that old enthusiasm, and hopefully that will carry me through.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Speaking Your Piece

For what it's worth, below is a copy of the email I sent to one of my state senators. I don't have any illusions about it actually being read by the senator, but I'm hoping that some lacky will put a check mark in the "pro universal healthcare" collumn as he or she sifts through the day's emails.

Dear Senator Murray,

I will keep this simple. Seeing all the yelling and screaming and carrying on in the news about healthcare reform, I feel the need to try and balance out at least one of those loonies. It is essential that we create a system of universal health care in the United States. I believe this is one of the single most significant issues of our times, and it is so important that this issue not fall by the proverbial wayside.

My husband and I have excellent health coverage due to our employment in public education and a major corporation. However, not all members of my family are so lucky, and it makes me ill to think that a person can work as hard as humanly possible throughout their lifetime, and still end up being financially ruined by a health crisis that occurs before they reach medicare age.

I am strongly in favor of a federal healthcare system, and I vote in every single election. Fight, Senator Murray; fight hard.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camano Island Camping

Over the last weekend, we did our annual camping trip to celebrate the birthday of Elder Niece. This time we visited Camano Island State Park, and found it to be a highly enjoyable destination for car campers. Our sight was on the upper loop, and it was roughly 200 ft from the edge of the bluff. The only thing between us and a view of the water was a stand of tall trees and a cliffside trail.

One night we watched the moon rise above the trees. There was singing around the campfire, and writing activities such as circular poetry and madlibs also filled the gaps. One day we walked along the shore and turned over the rocks to look at all the little crabs underneath. The nieces know how to catch these little creatures without getting pinched, and they carried several around in empty clam shells. There was also a "serious" game of wiffleball in one of the clearings, and I learned that I am still not good at playing sports.

Not only do they have camping at Camano, but also cabins. It turns out that the park has a little village with units that can be rented out year-round for quite reasonable rates. Reservations can be made up to 18 months in advance, so I am already thinking about a return trip. I would certainly recommend the place for a weekend away.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vampire List

It seems that Entertainment magazine has a feature about the recent success of the vampire genre. On the whole, I thought it was fairly boring coverage (I read it at the gym I swear!), but the list of the top twenty made for interesting reading. There's is from most important to least.

1. Lestat, Interview With the Vampire
2. Christopher Lee’s Dracula
3. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula
4. Edward Cullen, Twilight
5. Bill and Eric, True Blood
6. Asa Vajda, 1960’s Black Sunday
7. Angel
8. Mr. Barlow, Salem’s Lot
9. Schuyler Van Alen, Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods series
10. Gary Oldman’s Dracula
11. Klaus Kinski’s Dracula
12. Zoey Redbird, P.C. and Kristin Cast’s House of Night series
13. Jean-Claude, Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series
14. David, 1987’s The Lost Boys
15. Miriam Blaylock and Sarah Roberts, 1983’s The Hunger
16. Blade, the Blade trilogy
17. Eli, 2008’s Let the Right One In
18. Countess Bathory, 1971’s Daughters of Darkness
19. Selene, the Underworld trilogy
20. Caleb and Mae, 1987’s Near Dark

Now I must confess that I am not familiar with all of these characters (hey, I'm not totally obessed!), but a few of them are favorites of mine. I certainly prefer the sexy vampires to the horrific ones. For what it's worth, here are ten of my favorite vampire characters in no particular order:

1. Lestat (of Rice's Interview fame)
2. Edward Cullen (of Meyer's Twilight)
3. Bill Compton (of Harris' Southern Vampire series)
4. Angel (of Buffy fame)
5. Spike (also of Buffy fame, but deserving his own number)
6. Dracula (how could you not include him?)
7. Nicholas Knight (of Forever Night)
8. Barnabas Collins (of Dark Shadows)
9. Nosferatu (because you have to give a nod to the pioneers)
10. Lord Ruthven (of Polidori's The Vampyre --- if only because it was the origin of the sophisticated vampire)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bad Gardener

Earlier this summer, I happened to pick up some flowers in hopes of adding color to our back yard (aka the dirt patch). One combination I thought was quite fetching was a pair of young dahlias in striking shades of red and white. I planted them together in a single pot, and, for a time, enjoyed the two different colors of flowers and their fresh green foliage.

Not long ago, I happened to be sitting in the yard when it occurred to me that the pot of dahlias looked different somehow. It was still beautiful and full of blossoms, but now they were all red. Now some kinds of plants can change the colors of their flowers based on soil conditions and other factors. However, I'd never heard of dahlias being able to make a change. I pondered the question several times as I watered the garden over the next few days, but the color change remained a mystery.

Finally, one day last week, I found my answer. While bending in to pinch off wilted blooms, I noticed the skeleton of one plant all but eclipsed by the first. It seems that the white plant died without my even noticing, and then the red grew in to fill the space. This is how observant a gardener I am! This could be why our garden always looks sort of scraggly and under-loved. Ah well, at least I didn't kill them both.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Signs of Summer in the PNW

One of the most memorable sights of summer for me has always been garter snakes. They are common where we grew up in Oregon, and my brothers and I used to catch them all the time. We never did anything with them except to keep them in a bucket for a few hours in order to admire them. There are many stories about the escapades of Elder Brother and his pet snakes, but I don't think I will get into that here. This pic was taken at my dad's house earlier this year. However, garter snakes are also common up here. This one raised it's head a bit and looked at us (Elder Niece and I) while we took the picture.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Hate Barbie Dolls

In breaking news (okay maybe not this very instant) it seems that the Mattel company, in its endless quest to make questionable choices, has found a fabulous new update for the Barbie doll line. Say "hello" to the Totally Stylin' Tattoo Barbie! She's now available from fine retailers. Your young child can choose from the many adorable tattoos to decorate her doll according to her taste.

For example, your little darling might choose the pink butterfly for her arm, or perhaps the name of Barbie's boyfriend as a "tramp stamp" on her lower back. Some might argue that these are supposed to be temporary tattoos, but that is not clear from the name or the packaging. I know, I know I sound like an old lady to be complaining about this, but I can't help myself. Yes, I suppose people should have the right to choose if they will have a tattoo or not, but I don't think they need to start contemplating that personal dilemma when they are four years old.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hot Weather Dinners

The last few days in the Pacific NW have been scorchers. Places like Seattle and Portland are experiencing 100 degrees plus while the rest of the nation seems to be enjoying mostly 75-90. Clearly there is a great big bug in the planetary punch cards because this is not the way things are supposed to run. Now would be a good time to investigate the fashionable (finally!) topic of climate change. However, I think the majority of my readers are up to speed on that one, and really I'd rather discuss the all important issue: dinner.

Making dinner when it is so hot out is not something most people want to contemplate. Not only do you not want to turn on that stove or oven, but the heat also suppresses appetite. Many solve this problem by heading for an air-conditioned restaurant. We tried that a few nights ago, and the result was an absolute herd of people with the same idea. Therefore, on a hot night, I prefer to find my own ways of coping with the food question.

The perfect solution is salad bar dinner. My mom used to do this all the time when I was growing up. On any hot day she would make things that would end up being cold by dinner time. Our house was quite comfortable in the morning and afternoon, but by evening it would be sweltering. Cold dinner served on the shaded porch was perfect.

All sorts of things might go on the menu. Dishes such as potato and broccoli salad with garlic vinaigrette, deviled eggs, sliced peaches with cinnamon, Greek salad with real feta and olives, coleslaw, and iced cucumber salad with dill were all common. She grew all the veggies in her massive garden, and harvesting was part of the fun. We (actually I should check with my brothers to see what they remember) loved these dinners because they were delicious and because they were a departure from the norm.

Did I mention that we all sat down to dinner together nearly every night? That was simply expected of every family member who was home, and we thought nothing of it. Of course you would sit down to dinner, otherwise you might not get any food. Lest this sound too sickeningly Rockwellian, I'm sure there was plenty of name calling, potty humor, and argument. Nevertheless, it was nice.

So I've made several salad suppers recently. They are not nearly as good as my mothers. Not all the produce comes from our garden, but I am inordinately pleased when I can add a handful of our own tomatoes or a few leaves of rainbow chard. If this heat continues, I may start to run out of ideas, but then we can just move over to the wonderful realm of sandwiches...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rules for Summer Living

Not long ago, we had a family dinner at our house. We ate a dinner of salads and deviled eggs, went very slowly for a walk, and even played in the sprinkler for a few minutes. It was a very enjoyable way to combat the heat. While there, Younger Niece (who often amuses herself with writing activities during boring times) gave me a list she'd been working on in the car on the way over. Here it is:

Summer Rules for Auntie J. (not my real initial)
1. Read two hours daily
2. Write a novel
3. Work on novel at least once daily
4. Make a garden grow
5. Learn to fly a rocketship
6. Play Fable 2 (video game) at least ten times a day
7. Make your Sim (another video game) character go to work in a jet
8. Make fifty gallons of blueberry jam
9. Do coffee experiaments on cats
10. Make fifty gallons of coffee and make Uncle M. drink it all in one day
I do have a list of things I need to get done before my summer break is over, but it reads something like this:
1. Dentist
2. Doctor
3. Haircut
4. Hem pants
5. Clean car
Who wouldn't prefer Younger Niece's list of goals and aspirations to my own? I'll have to call about those rocketship flying lessons ASAP.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Be a Good Husband

Dear Men,

Do women confuse you? Do you have trouble understanding why they do the things they do? Do you often struggle to see what it is that women want from you? Do you throw up your hands in disgust and walk away? Do you wish things could be different? Do you long for the day when your wife or girlfriend is actually happy to see you on a regular basis? Well now you can! All you need is the Superior Husband Program (SHP). This program, based on the many sterling qualities of my superior husband, is centered around ten simple rules:

1. When she talks, actually listen to what she says (try, always try, to take an interest!)

2. Respect her as a person (remember, she somehow got through childhood, adolescence, education, and perhaps even a job and independent living without your help!)

3. Don't try to fix every problem (sometimes she just wants you to offer comfort and support)

4. Show her that you are thinking about her (this does not have to cost a lot) when you are apart.

5. Be generous with your appreciation of the things she does for you (around the house for example) and stingy with your complaints

6. Do things together both old and new (and be brave about this)

7. Pitch in! (boy can you get a lot of credit for doing chores when it's least expected)

8. Tell the truth about what you are feeling and what you want out of life

9. Stand together (do any disagreeing in private)

10. Tell her that you love her in a multitude of ways (most women really don't get tired of this!)

You can laugh, if you like, at my naïveté, but it's all true. Nobody is perfect, and M is no exception. We both have our moments. However, he truly is a superior husband, and I am still quite thrilled to be his wife. Now I'd better post this quick before I get embarrassed and lose my nerve.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stupid Summer Reading

Okay fine! I confess! I enjoy crappy magazines. In fact, during the summer I have been known to read everything from Allure to Ladies Home Journal to Redbook. The only place I draw the line is at purely gossip mags (those are only for reading at the gym or the doctor's office so I don't actually contribute any money or subscriber numbers to that yucky business) and those which focus entirely on sex (Cosmo, I used to love you, but then you became so single-minded!). Otherwise, most titles are fair game.

What is it about these magazines that is so satisfying? There is something about content that speaks to an old-fashioned part of my personality. Perhaps the articles address my insecurities. It's as if they are saying "you too can be a better wife/housekeeper/fashion plate/decorator/fitness/nut/friend/community member/etc in only ten easy steps!" My rational mind knows perfectly well what is going on, but that doesn't seem to matter. I still read all ten steps. I can hear the serious-minded women out there scoffing right now, but that is the best explanation I can offer.

I must not be alone. My grandmother, a PhD sociologist, was also a great reader of women's magazines. My father remembers her have stacks of them (a practice they would abhor) alongside her academic journals. Lest you think I might be in danger of growing soft-headed, I must defend myself by pointing out that I enjoy many serious reads such as Harpers, Discover, and The Atlantic. However, that is beside the point.

Therefore, scoff all you like, but I'll keep reading. There is nothing so summery as taking your glass of iced tea and your terrible magazine and sitting in the backyard. Also, while you are there, you might just learn some incredibly useful information about how to clean your grill, decorate with throw pillows, or be at peace with your in-laws. Who could resist wisdom like that?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

So Much More Fun Than Tupperware

Today on Spacebook I got a targeted ad for a home sales party. I'm sure you know the kind. This is where the host offers you food and maybe a few goodies, and you're supposed to buy into the fabulous products they are representing. Tupperware made this practice famous, but you now find these types of parties for everything from cleaning products to rubber stamps to designer clothes.

So why was my ad special? It was for a tuna party. Yes, tuna. Bumblebee will cheerfully send you a party packet including "recipes, goodies, great food, and an amazing party!" I don't think that ad targeting must be working very well if it is suggesting that I be the host for a tuna party. However, I don't want to be judgmental. If you feel like hosting the party, please do be my guest. Just don't invite me because I'm pretty sure I have an important, um, thing I need to do instead.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Ahh it feels good to be home! We've only been away for a week, but it feels like more due to the nature of our travels. First, several days before we left, I went into frantic Country Fair mode. The combination of camping and commercial endeavors means that you need a wide range of gear in order to get by. I spent ages building a vast pile in our family room to ensure that I didn't forget anything essential to our comforts or to the running of our booth. Of course this means I forgot lots of things.

At some point, I must go into each of these phases in detail, and with some of the photos I took. However, for the moment, here is a brief run-down of our adventure:

--- Tuesday night I washed the nieces and packed the massive pile into M's highly useful car

--- Wednesday morning we drove to Oregon stopping once for Subway (note, it was a fairly peaceful drive because I used luggage to create a tall barrier between the kids. I highly recommend this trick.)

--- Wednesday afternoon we went out to the fair and got our wristbands that allow us to stay on-site after the public gets kicked out for the night. Huge line for no discernable reason. Frantically tried to pour mosquito repellent on Elder Niece who is mildly allergic.

--- Wednesday night, we arrived at my Dad's, had a slap up dinner, and found various spots to lay our sleeping bags (it was really good to see my dad, and I'm only sorry we couldn't stay longer)

--- Thursday morning headed out to the fair with both brothers and their guests. Thus the great pack in began. This is where you carry everything from the massive pile to your booth which is located about 1/2 mile (roughly) away. Back and forth back and forth.

--- Thursday afternoon we set up our booth and our camping area which is hidden right behind. I'm happy to say that three teachers, two engineers, two economists, one editor, and two kids make a pretty good booth team.

--- Friday was a great day at the fair. We made a fair (har!) amount of money (good because we make a sizable investment in order to come each year) and I think most people had fun. The Tofu Tias and fudge (a Friday tradition) were divine.

--- Saturday was also a good day. We didn't make quite as much money, but then again we never do on Saturday. I also went to a music show with Elder Niece, M, and the two economists. Turns out everybody enjoys Beatles cover bands. One of my two most favorite aunties arrived that day too! It wouldn't be the fair without her. Cheesecake at midnight is another delectable family tradition.

--- Sunday was where everything came apart. In the morning, the thunder crashed and the rain came down, and I have never seen such a wet fair. Our booth is such that you can sort of keep things dry, but it's a constant effort. No words can describe the way the earthen path became a sea of mud. I'll just have to post the pics. It was a quite miserable day. The pack out was made far worse by the rain, the lack of people to help (several left early), and the extreme distance to the cars. I suppose what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

--- Sunday evening found us finally done with our fair exit and on the road to the Oregon coast. We stayed at the Overleaf Lodge, and enjoyed views of the ocean, clean beds, no drum tower while we were trying to sleep, and bathrooms instead of port-a-potties. It was heaven. There is nothing quite like going from the mud hell to a third floor hot tub overlooking the ocean.

--- Monday we walked on the beach, enjoyed the most amazing collection of tide pools, and relaxed.

---Tuesday we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Rogue Brewery (very close together so you can make the kids and Dad happy in almost the same visit) and then drove home.

What a long strange trip it's been. Now I have the very same mountain of stuff in the family room, but it all needs serious washing. Is the fair worthwhile given all the work and discomforts? That is tough to say. The assembly of nearly the entire family is quite wonderful, and in a normal year, I think that is the deal maker. However, the mud was another thing entirely. Let's just hope it really is on a twenty year cycle (my mom and I think the last big rain at the fair was in about 1989) and we won't have to deal with anything like that again for a good long time. At least I am once again reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to live my luxurious First World life. Okay, that's as much time as I can waste on blogging. Now I really must get back to the pile.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welcome Baby A!

Wow, you go away for a few days, and the whole world changes. It seems that my friends, R and J, had a baby just a little early while I was away. It could not have happened to a nicer couple who are honestly two of the best people I know. Luckily for the baby, J has had lots of practice on her three cute nieces. Plus, unlike many dads, R has actually had quite a bit of hands on experience as well since he was around when my nieces were babies. Baby A is sure to receive nothing but the most tender care from her parents. Welcome to the world Baby A. We are very excited to know you.

Monday, July 06, 2009

You Know It's Summer When...

1. you no longer need the dryer in order to finish the laundry (I love that sundried smell)

2. you can go for a walk AFTER dinner, and it's still sunny and beautiful outside

3. the mosquitoes come out (I just got bitten ON MY BOSSOM! How rude is that?)

4. concert season begins at all the outdoor venues (yay for picnics on the grass!)

5. you actually see the garbage get collected

6. you encounter that strange beast known as daytime television (scary!)

7. flower and veggie gardens go crazy!

8. you can stay up until the terribly exciting hour of midnight!

9. you can go to the movies midweek (see #8)

10. you get to sit in the backyard, iced tea in hand, and read your novel to your hearts content

Friday, July 03, 2009

Hooray for Franken

Forgot to mention in the last post (although I'm sure it's been done elsewhere):

Hello I'm Stuart Smalley. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggonit I'm the junior senator from Minnesota.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Super Majority!

After eight months of finagling on the part of Republicans, a court has finally decided that Al Franken is, indeed, the winner in Minnesota. That is very exciting news for Franken and the people of his state. However, in much more important news, Franken makes senator #60 for the Democratic Party. This filibuster-proof number allows the Democrats to push through pretty much any legislation they would like. This reminds me of the days when the Republicans had the house, senate, and presidency, and they took out that wonderful "Contract on America." It's payback time! But I'm not partisan or anything!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Ho Hum Book Review

Can someone please tell me what is so hot about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? This is a newish novel by Mary Anne Shaffer, and I keep seeing rave reviews about it in all sorts of places. I read this book, and I don't get it. It's a little book about a little island. The set-up is unique and so is the title, but otherwise it is just a sort of cute little story. The reviewers are treating it like great new lit, and I really cannot see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps I've spent too many years in the YA trenches, and I just don't get "real" literature anymore. I expect something remarkable before a book goes on my best loved list.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Birthday 09

Thanks to all the kind people who remembered me on my recent birthday. I am one lucky girl to have such thoughtful friends and family. M, in particular, outdid himself (you would not believe how talented he is with a carrot cake!) The Nieces also played a special part in that they brought me a light-up birthday crown, multi-colored birthday star necklaces, a big pink "birthday girl" button, and a coconut drink holder for my birthday beverages. They dressed me in all my finery, and then they proceeded to chase me around the yard with silly string. Now that is a birthday.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oregon Wildlife

Over just one day in the Oregon countryside, we saw these animals:

A brindle-brown fox trotting through a new-cut field of hay.

A tall, thin jack rabbit with loooong ears and legs racing through a stand of fir trees (it reminded me of Hester from The Golden Compass).

Coil upon coil of garter snake sitting on a warm patch of brick. He lifted his head and glared at us as we came close (pic to come later).

A small herd of deer munching grass on the side of the road.

About ten million cows.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

College Anniversary

This month marks the tenth anniversary of my graduation from undergrad. I absolutely cannot believe that much time has passed since I wore the silly gown and followed my departmental placard across the commons. My impression of campus is still completely fresh in my mind, and I think I could go back and find any classroom in any of those old buildings. I definitely feel nostalgia for those years since college was one of the most satisfying times in my life.

No, I didn't spend it partying (I turned 21 two weeks AFTER graduation) it was the actual learning that was so much fun. Yes, yes, I know that sounds depressingly teachery of me, but it is the simple truth. I loved that time at the end of every term when the new schedule of classes would come out. I would run down to the bookstore to pick up a copy on the first day they were available. Paging through those smudgy, newsprint listings was nothing short of thrilling. What should I take next term? There was never enough time for it all. Granted, I may be romanticizing things just a teeny bit. After all, hours of homework every night is not something I can pretend to miss.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blood Sacrifice

Recently, I was visiting the doctor (no, not for a pre-natal visit!) when she mentioned that she would like me to stop by the lab for a blood test. This was no surprise since doctors find my blood to be quite fascinating, and I never seem to have an appointment without some quality time in the phlebotomist’s chair. I dutifully submitted to the blood-letting, and then went on my merry way.

Three weeks passed, and I noticed that I didn't get any test results. I logged in to my online health records, and there was no test listed there either. Finally, I called the doctor's office, and the assistant answered the phone:

Me: Hi I'm calling about my test results?

Her: Okay, let me pull up your file...

Me: It was on X date, and I stopped in for a blood draw after the appointment

Her: Hmm, I don't see it here. What were they testing?

Me: I'm not sure (yeah I know I suck for not asking), she just asked me to have the blood drawn, and I thought I would know when the results came.

Her: Oh it was one of those tests.

Me: ???

Her: That test was just for the doctor.

Me: What does that mean? It was my blood.

Her: Yeah, but she was just checking something, but it's not like an official test.

Me: But it's my blood!

Her: Yeah, but you don't need to worry because she was just checking on one little thing. Everything's just fine, so no need to worry. It just wasn't an "official" test.

Me: Gah!

What the heck is all this? How do they decide what's an "official" test and which ones are "just for the doctor?" Don't most people assume they will get results when they have a test? I guess not. No wonder people get so frustrated at the high-handedness of the medical establishment. Next time I'm asking really clear questions about what the tests are, and when I can expect the results.

Monday, June 22, 2009

May 19th vs June 19th

May 19th

6am ------- get ready for work
7am ------- arrive at school, scarf oatmeal, review daily plan
Period 1 --- language arts class
Period 2 --- social studies class
Period 3 --- prep time (plan, make copies, mark papers, answer email, etc)
Period 4 --- study skills class
Lunch ----- scarf food, mark papers, answer email
Period 5 --- advanced language arts class
Period 6 --- advanced social studies class
After school --- various meetings and planning tasks

June 19th

6am ------- sleep
7am ------- sleep
Period 1 --- sleep
Period 2 --- drink tea, read paper, go to gym
Period 3 --- gym, shower, read book
Period 4 --- clean house, watch tv
Lunch ----- linger over soup and salad while reading book
Period 5 --- read book
Period 6 --- go for walk in sunshine
After school --- read book

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

At Last

Praise the lord and pass the margaritas! The 2008/2009 school year is now a thing of the past! Yes, yes, I know, I don't actually have much use for God or tequila, but it's the thought that counts. Suffice it to say that I am VERY excited about the summer. It could not have come a moment too soon because this school year, while politically much more peaceful than last, was kind of tough on the student end of things. I think I will celebrate by going out to lunch, taking a nap, and spending tomorrow reading some "penny dreadful" novel from cover to cover. Ahhh life is good.

Google Art

Be sure to check out google today. I love the different kind of art they do to celebrate various days and events. Somebody there must be a big music fan.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Kindness of Children

Sometimes we "old" (hey compared to them!) people have sort of a dim view of America's youth. To some, they seem shallow, spoiled, and just plain annoying. That all may be true of some teens, but I am here to say that the other kind exists as well. I know this may be a shocker, but there are teenagers out there who are smart, dedicated, courteous, and kind. What's my proof? Well, I could quote stats about volunteerism, school attendance, or psychological surveys, but I think a more concrete example may be found in my classroom.

Not long ago, I was away for a family wedding. When I got back, the kids greeted me with their usual enthusiasm (they have a lot) and then we got back to the business of running a classroom. One kid asked for a ruler, so I went back to my desk and opened the ruler drawer. Just then, all the kids jumped up from their desks and crowded around. I knew something was up, and sure enough, there was a wrapped package sitting in the drawer. This turned out to be a brand new music player.

It seems the kids remembered a conversation we had about music. They asked me what kind of IPOD I had, and I told them that I didn't have a fancy music player. I thought nothing of it at the time, but the kids remembered. They organized, campaigned while in other classes, and collected enough money to buy a Zune. One kid even had the task of asking my favorite color.

Now I know many people may miss the point in this story. This may sound like an example of over-privileged kids buying favor with their teacher, but that is really not what happened there. These kids were already doing great in terms of grades, and they really had no reason to offer any kind of bribe. They did this out of the kindness of their hearts, and that, not the tech toy, is what made such an impression on me.

P.S. Lest you worry about my professional morals, I did check with the Big Boss, and he said it was okay to keep the gift.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Down with Modern Symphonic Music!

The Ades piece we heard last night reaffirmed my belief that, unlike cheese, the younger a classical piece is the MORE it is likely to stink. Yes, yes, I know this may make me sound like a philistine, but that's just been my experience over the years. I understand that composers need the chance to continue musical innovation, and it would be a tragedy to music if new work stopped and we just listened to Beethoven for the rest of eternity. I also know that Beethoven and others were considered avant-garde in their times as well.

All of that does not change the fact that the bulk of this modern music is just not fun for listening. "Ha!" you might say "but you already admitted to being a musical dumbo! All the cool people enjoy this stuff! Why should idiots like you dictate what gets played?!" Weeeelll that may be true, but the announcements the conductor made before the Ades music began made it clear that he expected a lot of the audience to dislike what they heard. Go ahead modern fans, comment away. I am not alone.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kids Email the Darndest Things

Recently, I was out of my classroom for a day due to a team meeting. This late in the school year, I was pretty nervous about leaving my students. They tend to get a little antsy when they have a sub, and that combined with summer fever was a dangerous proposition. However, I couldn't skip the meeting, so I wrote my sub plans and hoped for the best. That night, when I checked my work mail from home, I found this email:

Hi Mrs. Totheworld

I just wanted to check that you got my note? I put a note on your desk to explain things. I just wanted to say that I'm really really sorry and I just don't know how that could have happened.



This kind of cryptic note used to have me tearing my hair and rushing back to work to see how bad it might have been. After several years of this, however, I have a much more Zen approach to these issues. I calmly wait until the next day, review the situation carefully, and THEN turn red, jump up and down, and threatened to throw students to the lions.