Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn Dies

Noes! Howard Zinn, one of most favorite leftists, is dead at the age of 87. His most famous book, A People's History of the United States, is one of the best sources on the subject. I devoured this book as part of a college course, and then discovered that both my dad AND my grandmother had also read Zinn in school. For a person once considered an outsider and a radical, Howard Zinn created a real and long-lasting legacy that will hopefully continue. Who knows, perhaps our baby will grow up to read him in school too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Financial Advice

M and I happened across this little bit of advice on TV the other day.

It seems that most major banking institutions include riders on their mortgages and credit cards allowing them to arbitrarily raid your checking and savings accounts if all your accounts are held with them and you are late on a payment. They don't need permission and they don't have to warn you it's going to happen. Many banks are using this technique specifically when accounts are already low on funds because that allows them to collect insufficient funds penalties as well.

Therefore, it is entirely in your interest to make certain that no one institution holds all your accounts at the same time. No one ever plans to miss payments on their debt, but bad things can happen to anyone. Besides, when it comes to banks, we really have to do our best not to let the sneaky bastards win.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Behavior Management

The other day, I was attempting to run a simulation with my class. This activity requires students to move their chairs, sit on the floor, and follow along as I run them through a series of physical and verbal tasks. At the same time, I was attempting to monitor the make-up work of a kid sitting just outside my door. This division of my attention was challenging, but I thought I was doing reasonably well. Then the blood appeared.

It seems that one girl got her very first period on one of the chairs, and did not notice until she got up to move for the simulation. Not wanting to embarrass her, I tried to keep the simulation moving and hustle her out of the room at the same time. Thus I found myself, checking in the kid in the hallway, running the simulation, and getting out the blood spill kit all at the same time. I wouldn't say I did spectacularly well at any one of these tasks, but at least it all held together. I'm hoping that after all these years of such experiences, motherhood will seem like the proverbial walk in the park.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Twilight Action Figures

Before it gets too long gone, I just had to mention one cute Christmas story from '09.

It's become more challenging, in the last few years, to buy Christmas gifts for the nieces because they have gotten so sophisticated and mature. You cannot simply buy them fun books and toys. Now it's a matter of finding the perfect novel, the perfect art supplies, or the perfect article (this is REALLY hard) of clothing. They will, however, help you out if you ask. In fact, the older they get, the more specific their Christmas lists become.

This year Elder Niece was really, really specific in asking for dolls. No, not just any old dolls (which are stupid and awful and she has NEVER enjoyed them) but Twilight dolls. Yes, I know what you are thinking, but it's no joke. This Christmas, there were two, TWO, different varieties of Twilight dolls from which to choose. Elder Niece was also very clear that she DID NOT WANT the Barbie Doll kind. Instead, she was after the action figure version.

Thus on Christmas morning Grandma came through. The best present of the day (for Elder Niece anyway) was a matching Bella and Edward action figure set. They were beautifully detailed and very much resembled the actors, but I really wondered what the heck one would do with Twilight action figures. Elder Niece had no problem in this regard. She put the figures in the pockets of her jacket and carried them with her wherever we went.

She put on mini versions of the movie while walking in the park. She got them out and stood them on the table while we ate brunch in a restaurant. More than one waitress complimented her on their innate fabulousness. With tongue somewhat in cheek, she used them to do commentary on all sorts of passing people and places. In other words, they were thoroughly enjoyed. It's nice to see that eleven is not too grown up to still play with toys sometimes. As long as they're super cool action figures anyway.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Great Blergh of 2010

I counted myself so lucky because I did not throw up even once during the early part of this pregnancy. However, I may have congratulated myself once too often. The gods were surely listening, and they decided to punish me for being smug. Earlier this week, I got the fun of experiencing at least a month's worth of morning sickness compressed into one terrible night.

The stomach flu has been going around school, and I was no exception. Any description of the symptoms would be un-lady-like in the extreme, so all I can say is that I haven't been that sick since I was a child. Avoid this one at all costs!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Great Vitamin Battle

Not long ago, my mom and I were in a Vitamin Shoppe waiting for a third person (who shall remain nameless) to make a purchase. It turns out that you really can't trust the two of us in that kind of store. The longer we spent there, the noisier and more disruptive we became. It started out small with giggling about the names of protein powders and muscle builders and moved on to jokes about complexion softeners and urine conditioners (urine conditioner?!). By the time we reached the shelf of royal bee jelly (good for smelly feet, allergies, and male satisfaction!) we were practically rolling on the floor.

The United States seems to be a nation of quick fixers, people who want an easy way to get result NOW! The vitamin fascination plays into this just perfectly. Perhaps that is why, even in this economy, the vitamin business continues to thrive. However, Slate's new article on the subject douses some serious water on the efficacy of many vitamins and supplements. It seems that many compounds originally thought to be beneficial either do not have the good outcome, or, even worse, they have an unexpected downside. This is not to say that all vitamins are pointless, and they are careful to note a few well-respected examples (like pre-natal vitamins). On the whole it seems that my freshman biology teacher was right: Pills are not a shortcut to healthy diet.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kids Today

"Children today are tyrants; they contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers."

-Socrates (470-399 b.c.e.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Future Christian Homemakers are Now

Not long ago, I was reading a fun little homemaking blog that had been linked on by one of my friends. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see if this sleek little blog was someone of importance in the blogging world, so I put the purposefully simple search "homemaking blog" (or something close to that) into Google. Sad to say, that little blog was nowhere to be found of the first couple of pages. Instead, I found a nearly solid list of Christian homemaking blogs.

It's not surprising to me that Christian homemakers should want to blog just like anyone else, but I was surprised by the prevalence. Just out of curiosity, I left my original search in the box, and added "-Christian -lord -prayer" to my search. The original search resulted in 3.4 million hits. The updates search (without the god words) resulted in 1.3 million hits. Now I'll grant you that I may not fully understand how Google search works, but I still think this shows a pretty amazing pattern.

Unfortunately for me, I looked through many of the top blogs in the original search, and they are, how can I put this, really emphatically not for me. You might think that religion would not really come up when discussing issues of meal planning and how to get stains out of laundry, but you would be wrong. This makes me want to trot off and start a blog called "The Atheist Homemaker" or perhaps "The Godless Housewife." We would use science, not Jesus, to get our whites whiter.

"Aha!" you might be thinking "but I've been to your house! It's not so clean! And you make pasta with bottled red sauce at least once a week! You can't pretend to be a REAL homemaker!" That all may be true, but, based on those Google stats, no one would read it anyway.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Geography Lessons

Sally (brandishing map like a flag): Mrs. T! Mrs. T! I just got back my map and there is a BIG problem!

Me: Oh dear, Sally, what seems to be the trouble?

Sally (very aggrieved): Well! I just got back my map and YOU said that I didn't do the Gobi Desert! See right there in the corner, you took off two whole points for the Gobi Desert.

Me: Yes, I see that you lost points for the Gobi Desert.

Sally: Well that just isn't FAIR! I had the Gobi Desert put in right there (gestures to map). It's not missing at all!

Me: Sally, you didn't lose the points because the desert was missing. You lost them because you placed the desert in Indonesia.

Sally: SO!?

Me (as patiently as I can possibly manage): Well the Gobi Dessert is not actually located in Indonesia. It's much further north. You know, around Mongolia?

Sally: Oh.

Me: It's not just about having the feature on the map; it has to actually be in the right place to get credit.

Sally: Oh. Yeah. Okay.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sneaky Borrowing

Today I got an email asking to borrow something important. It's the sort of thing we are all needing right about now, and a good planner would have already locked in one of these things for use in the next few weeks. However, for whatever reason, this person was in a bit of a pickle and asking for some help (I'm being purposefully vague here):

Her (to the group): Hey Guys! Does anybody have a widget I can borrow? I really need it, and I will only use it for two hours today. I could come and pick it up any time you say. Anybody?

Me (after waiting a bit to see if anyone else would bite): Okay, you can borrow mine, but I will need it back by the end of your two hours. You can come and pick it up.

Her: Great! I'm on my way!

So she came and got the item, and we were both very cheerful with one another about the whole thing. Before she left, she promised again to return in to me in two hours. I said "fine" and we parted ways. About ninety minutes later, I had this email exchange:

Her: Hey thanks for the loan! Did you want me to return this today? I was thinking I might keep it for about the next week, and then we'll be done, and I'll give it back to you? Would that be good?

Me: No, I need this today.

Her: Oh well, I promise I'll give it back. You don't have to worry about that. I just need a week.

Me: No, I use this every day. I need to have this back.

Her: Could we share?

Me: No, I use this every day twice a day, and that doesn’t leave any time for sharing.

Her: Okay fine.

She did finally send it back to me just barely in time for my afternoon class. I'm just dumfounded. This item is really nice to have, but it is by no means required. What would cause a normally rational person to behave like this? You can be sure I won't be volunteering to help her out in the future.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Six Months!

Woo Hoo! I'm now officially six months along in my pregnancy, and that means our baby is now considered "viable" by the medical community. It seems that recent developments in lung function mean her odds of surviving now without me would be above 50%. Obviously I have no plans to evict her any time soon, so it is really a moot point. However, I'll take every little bit of reassurance I can get.

This whole pregnancy thing is the most amazing science project ever. I find it absolutely astonishing that two tiny packets of information could form the basis of this incredibly complicated process. Every week I'm reading about some new organ or system that is automatically unfurling itself in preparation for that big day when she'll be an independent person. Of course I learned about all this in my basic biology class, but there is nothing like practical application to make your really appreciate the magic.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby Brother

Happy birthday to Elvis, David Bowie, and (most important of all) my baby brother. Yes, yes, he is a handsome, capable, and clever adult now, but I remember when he was a chubby little baby waddling around in fuzzy yellow "footie" pajamas. You've come a long way Little Brother, and we'll all just as proud of you as we can be. Happy birthday once again.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Why I Sometimes Hate the Arts

I have just finished reading yet another "arts" article complaining about the American tradition of putting on Nutcracker ballets every Christmas (in Europe they are more MODERN and UP-TO-DATE). It seems that no one in the ballet community actually likes Nutcracker, but they are forced! forced! by the plebian masses to perform it every year.

Real ballet people would much rather perform modern works of great social import, but they are obliged to leave off these avant-garde endeavors due to the irritating fact that nobody wants to buy the tickets! Isn't it beyond annoying when the people at large are such Philistines?! Gah!

Needless to say, this sort of attitude is not unique to dance, but also appears in virtually every other form of art. I can understand the frustration in having to do something that is no longer new and fresh for you, but all of these artists should remember who it is that ultimately pays the bills. If you truly want to do art for arts sake, then go paint/dance/compose/etc. in your closet where you can do just exactly as you please.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Opening Moves

In my classroom last week, I agreed to host a brand new teacher who is just starting out on her career. In fact, she doesn't even have her certification yet, so she's only allowed to teach because I was there to make sure she didn't murder anyone. Fortunately, today I didn't have to jump to anybody's defense (which is good since I'm not much of a jumper these days). She's still brand new, and it shows, but over all she did pretty well.

It brings back such memories to watch her try out things like pacing, group discussions, and behavior management. I remember those struggles so well, and I can hardly believe that it's been ten years since I was in her shoes. After most of her lesson was over, she came back to me, panic in her eyes, to say that her lesson had RUN SHORT! What was she going to do with the ten extra minutes at the end?! Luckily, I was able to help her out with a little sponge activity.

Do you remember the very beginnings of your professional life? Not classes in college, but the very first few times you really took out your shiny new skills and tried to use them? I remember it being such a terrifying, but also exhilarating, experience! Still, I wouldn't choose to go back in time. Those were also the times when I worked twelve hour days just to keep up.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Doctor Visit Month Five

Another month, another visit with the OB. Not too much to report this time since it was just a quick check. No big ultra sound pics or no blood tests. Just a Doppler check for the heartbeat (still sounding fast like a hummingbird) and the usual array of questions. The doctor is quite happy with our progress, and she expects everything to go well in the second half. Next visit will be a bit more adventurous since we will do our glucose challenge (more on that later) and the doctor will start measuring my constantly expanding belly. Pretty soon we will be having doctor's appointments every two weeks instead of once a month! Only four more months to go, and I am still in love with being pregnant (yeah, yeah, I know speak to me after childbirth and see what I have to say).

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year's Resolutions 2010

In the past, I've made many new year's resolutions. Some of these have fallen by the wayside almost immediately, but others have had a lasting impact on me. I know they say you should stick with clear, measurable goals, but I find it's often the more intangible ones that work best for me. For example, last year I resolved to engage in less needless chatter at work, and I've really had great success with that one.

This year, I thought I'd look around for a little help to get inspired. Several articles offered the top ten most popular resolutions based on various polls and quizzes. If you think people are reporting these things truthfully, then:

Top Ten Most Popular Resolutions of 2010

1. Spend more time with family/friends
2. Get fit
3. Lose weight (I like that these are two separate goals)
4. Quit smoking
5. Cut drinking
6. Enjoy life more/be more appreciative of what we have
7. Get out of or manage debt
8. Learn something new
9. Help others/be a good citizen/volunteer
10. Get organized

Now not all these apply to or work for me. Some of these, like smoking, have never been on my plate, while others, like getting fit and cutting drinking are out because of my pregnancy. Nevertheless, I have shamelessly stolen the ones that I could, and replaced the ones that didn't work for me.

My New Year's Resolutions for 2010

1. Spend quality time with husband and baby
2. Remain active as much as possible before and after baby arrives
3. Eat healthy foods before and after baby
4. Wrap up school responsibilities in preparation for a year off
5. Drink plenty of water
6. Enjoy life more/be more appreciative of what we have
7. Cut spending on luxury items/dining out
8. Learn how to be a mom
9. Help others/be a good citizen/volunteer
10. Get organized