Sunday, October 30, 2011

Twas The Night Before Halloween

For my dear husband who loves zombies and other scary, horrid things:

Twas the night before Halloween, when all through the house
All the creatures were stirring, especially the mouse.
The spiders were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that trick or treaters soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of goblins danced in their heads.
And mamma in her costume, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains on an autumn trap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the shadows did seem to glow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a yard full of ghosts were suddenly near.

With a little old zombie, so disgusting and sick,
I knew in a moment it could be no trick.
More shuffling and moaning his friends came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Masher! now, Smasher! now, Slicer and Vicious!
On, Crusher! On, Cutthroat! on, on Donnerparty and Bloodthirsty
Off the tops of their heads! to the top of the wall!
Now slash away! slash away! slash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the monsters they flew,
With the sleigh full of brains, and eyeballs too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The moaning and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney the zombie came with a sound.

He was dressed all in rags, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all covered with gore and soot .
A bundle of guts he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a murderer, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they glared! his face was so scary!
His cheeks were all rotten, his nose there was nary!
His drooling mouth was drawn up in a horrid grin,
His entire face and body were uglier than sin.

The stump of my arm he held tight in his teeth,
And the blood it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a hand in my belly,
The stench it was worse than anything smelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right freaky old elf,
And I screamed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of my head,
Soon gave me to know I had everything to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And ripped out my guts, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his cart, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all shuffled away like a piece of old gristle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Halloween to all, and to all a horrid night!"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Warm, creamy, and oh-so-fall, this recipe is a must on the first really frosty morning.  Even if you have to get up early to prepare things, it will be worthwhile once you're cupping that fragrant bowl in your hands.  Assuming you like pumpkin of course.  I hear the recipe also works with cream of wheat, but I have yet to try it myself.  Maybe tomorrow morning...

1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
4 cups water or milk
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
2 cups oatmeal (not instant)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkins at Jubilee Farm

Our friends recently invited us to meet up for a pumpkin hunting mission, and they're chosen destination was Jubilee Farm in Carnation. We were most surprised to find a farmstead full of activities tucked away down a rural road. The girls enjoyed the hayride (some are even pulled by great big horses!) and the pumpkin hunting almost as much as we did, but I think they're favorite parts were the pony rides and the chance to shell beans. The Christmas beans they had on the shelling table were a beautiful mottled purple, and I was amazed at their patience in shelling one long bean after another. We came away with a monster of a pumpkin and a real desire to go back again soon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TV for Babies?

Oh dear.  Here are two articles about children and screen time that dovetail in a disturbing way.  The first is about the renewed plea by the American Academy of Pediatrics to limit screen time among children and especially among babies younger than two.  Speech delays, cognitive delays, etc, etc, etc.  The second is about all the extra tech time kids are getting, and the forms it's begun to take.  It seems that poorer kids are much more likely to have a TV in their bedrooms where they often watch as much as they like.  The richer kids, by comparison, tend to use computers and handheld devices at much higher rates.  There is great debate about the pros and cons of each form of entertainment, but one thing is certain: kids are spending lots of time in front of screens.

Friday, October 21, 2011

18 Months!

Please inform the town crier; Delphinium is eighteen months old!  She's the sweetest little "wobbler" (though she doesn't wobble much anymore.  now we're more about running as fast as possible) that there could ever be.  She loves baby dolls (especially Bess) and stuffed animals and books, books, books!  She also loves to play in the backyard, go for walks, visit the park and the library, and play with her friends.  She especially loves when Dada comes home at night, and when her cousins and grandparents come around. 

Our girl gives the best snuggles and knee hugs you can possibly imagine.  Most of the time her personality is very sweet and easy-going, but she does have opinions about things, and does her best to let you know what she needs.  In the hour before bedtime she often becomes the silliest little person.  I'm celebrating Thanksgiving a little early this year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

School Search Part 4

Well this will certainly not be a very long post.  Schools number six and seven were nothing to write home about.  Okay nothing GOOD to write home about.  The first was an old place with an ancient director, and I'm sure it was lovely once upon a time.  Like perhaps in 1987 when it was last updated.  It was tired, grubby, and outdated, and the people who worked there looked like they were completely uninspired.  The oddest part about it all was the price.  This was the most expensive school we've seen so far.

The last school of the day was also the best deal of the whole week.  For only $1000 (har!) they will watch your child for ten hours per day (as limited by law) five days per week.  They will feed your child three meals and three snacks, put him or her down for naps, change diapers, arrange hair cuts, and in every other way take over the job of parenting for you.  In fact, you only need be responsible for getting them there in the morning, and putting them into bed at night.  Some people actually want that situation, but most are probably forced into it by circumstance.  Either way, it's pretty sad for the kid. 

The facility was open, airy, and even clean, but I still do not want to send my girl to a place that specializes in warehousing kids.  Also the teacher yelled across the room at one child, and that was when she knew we were there listening.  Can you imagine what she would be like when there was no one around but the kids?  Thus far we are not overly impressed with the schools on offer.  Only one seems like a real prospect to me.  It shouldn't be this hard to find quality care. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Baby Sings!

As I've mentioned before, our baby is quite a fan of her Kindermusik classes. She's been bopping along to the tunes and dances since she was only seven months old, and now she's really able to participate. One of the songs they've been using a lot lately is "Ring Around the Rosie." She loves the way you hold hands, dance in a circle, and then all fall down.

She demands that we sing and dance with her (and at least one babydoll) several times a day. Then I noticed that she was actually singing along! She can't make the actual words yet, but she is definitely setting her babble to the tune. I know, I know, one day I'm going to wish she would just sit down and be quiet but not yet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PA and NYC

We are just back from our trip to visit Uncle J! I was not at all sure if it would be fun or work (due to the vagaries of travelling with a tiny child) but I think a great time was had by all. We got to visit many exciting locales, get a sense of where he lives, and also get to spend quality time with the family. I'm absolutely thrilled with how the whole thing turned out.

First things first, Delphinium was a rock star on the plane. She did not cry coming or going (in large part due to Grandma interventions) and she was amazing about going, going, going for five days in a row. She ate mostly whatever we were eating (for the most part), stayed up late with the crowd, and amused herself in a grown up house with very few toys. She even skipped her nap one day without any terrible consequences (first time ever going without). Who knew our girl could be so flexible?

We got to see the town where Uncle J. teaches (so cute!) and even made it in to New York City. We only had a little time, but it was well used visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park. Delphinium seems to like museums, and she was especially excited about the recreated rooms from the palace of the Sun King. She kept ooo-ing and ahh-ing over the chandeliers, gold furniture, and rich fabrics. Who knows what she might be asking for in a few years when we’re trying to re-do her room.

M drove us the whole time including NYC, and it was amazing watching how fast he adapted to the cut-throat techniques used by east-coast drivers. I would have panicked when I saw such a mass of cars all trying their hardest to kill each other, but he was cool as can be. He's definitely the hero of the whole adventure. I have not forgotten that we all still need to club together and buy him a very expensive glass of scotch.

Another wonderful feature of the trip was the chance to get a feel for that part of the east coast. We saw some incredible examples of autumn leaves (you get a lot more of that when 75% of all trees are not evergreens). Plus a most memorable visit to a boulder field. It reminded me of a sandbox for giants because it was a huge open area filled with rocks varying in size from your fist to a small car. You couldn't walk between the boulders because there were too many of them, and it was necessary to step from rock to rock to get across.

It's always good to see Uncle J, and now we can actually picture him when he's far away. His house, his office, and his classroom suit him perfectly. Besides he (and K) are excellent hosts, and we were spoiled from beginning to end. We will have to make sure to return before too long.

Monday, October 10, 2011

School Search Part 3

I am very happy to report that school #5 DIDN'T SUCK!  Yay!  Not only that, but it does not require kids to be potty-trained either.  It's greatest downside seems to be that it doesn't open until 7:30am which is too late for me to take her and then get to work on time.  This is not a problem as long as M can take her.  I don't exactly know what we would do for those few days a year when he was sick or away.  With some careful planning, it has the potential to work. 

The classrooms were mostly bright and cheerful even for the littlest kids (why do some schools think that babies won't notice if their surroundings are grim?) and I actually saw baby dolls, books, and even a picture of a bunny!  They are big on napping (not all schools are), and the kids eat lunches provided by their parents (easier to ensure the vegetarian thing and avoid Ritz crackers).  The biggest, most wonderful part is the play yard.  All the classrooms open out onto a really fabulous play yard.  It's huge, it's full of trees and other mature plants, it has all sorts of great play equipment (some schools have none), and it just makes you feel like you would want to run around and play.  When we arrived, we even saw one teacher playing running games with some of the kids.  This is the first place we visited where I could picture our girl being happy there.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Banned Books Week '11

I know I'm belated, but I just had to mention one of my great passions: books.  Or to be more specific banned books.  Last week was National Banned Books week; the time when we remember that not all readers are free to be you and me.  Many people are shocked to learn that books are regularly banned in the United States today.  Most of the time this has to do with parents complaining about books being too much for their child, so they want to strip the book out of a whole classroom, library, school, or even district. 

I do not understand the logic at all.  I absolutely do not want my little girl to read Slaughterhouse Five because she is too young to understand or cope with the very adult themes.  However, that does not mean I want the book removed from the library.  It turns out that my niece, who is much older than my daughter, would benefit very much from reading that book.  Why would I want to remove it from a situation when it can be appropriate and beneficial to so many readers?  It boggles my mind that anyone should be so self-centered that they would try to ban a book just because it doesn't suit them.  You don't see me trying to ban all the sports books or westerns from the library!

Anyway, this is banned books week, as I said, and these are the top ten most challenged books according to the accounting of the American Library Association.

The 10 most challenged titles of 2010 were:

And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint

Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit

Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Mark Bittman's New Book

I’m working my way through another Mark Bittman book, The Food Matters Cookbook, and it is just as good, if not better, than his previous ones. In the past, “foodies” and “greenies” were never found in the same place, and when they were, fighting ensued. It was taken as read that a person who really cared about delicious food couldn’t possibly be interested limiting or altering food consumption. After all, if this hand-made salami tastes SOOO good why would I ever consider NOT eating it?

This is where Bittman is a genius. He has the foodie credentials, but he also has a passion for re-thinking our patterns of consumption. He advocates a reduction in meat-eating because the average American eats more than 200 pounds of meat per year which is an unsustainable level for our country and our planet. He also considers processed foods to be an evil that is causing obesity and illness in much of the population. Of course none of this is news, but he’s pulled together a very sensible and delicious answer to the current food problem.

Did you know that if the average person ate just three fewer servings of meat per week it would be the carbon equivalent of taking all the SUV’s in America off the road? Pretty amazing stuff if you ask me. Besides, if we all swapped our burger and fries for something better, imagine all the weight we might lose as well. It’s a win-win situation to say the least. His book includes 500 recipes that will surely help to steer us in the right direction.  I can't wait to try his five ways to top popcorn and five new flavors for trail mix and that's just the first few pages.

Monday, October 03, 2011

School Search Part 2

School #4 was frightening.  I wanted not only to clutch my child and run, but also to grab up all those other poor children who actually had to attend.  People often say that they didn't like the "feel" of a place, and I used to think that was such a painfully non-specific way to describe things.  Now I understand.  Waves of depressing were practically rolling out the door.  For starters, this school is housed in strip mall right next to a Chinese restaurant.  This means that the whole place smells of eau de frying mixed with old pee.  Add to that the poorly groomed teachers, their poor English skills (native speakers all), the huge tvs in every room, and the general air of disorder and grubbiness, and it was just not a pretty picture.

I should have known from the very first since the lobby attendant called ahead in the classroom to let the teacher know we were coming (no other school did this).  The teacher then had a chance to get the children together and give the most impressive activity she could muster.  It was listening to a book on tape.  At the end of the book, one child tried to sing along to the final song and was told by the teacher to be quiet.  Did I mention the menu?  Ritz crackers and "froot" juice constituted most of the snacks.  I could go on for hours.  This is what is wrong with America.