Friday, December 28, 2007

Updates, and a Question

Well, the good news is that my cousin is already back from Seattle. In fact, she called me on Christmas Eve and asked of she could come over for Christmas dinner. Yes, PLEASE!

The bad news is that no one has applied for the job that I've posted. Geeze! It's been two whole days... I opened my e-mail hopefully this morning, to find nothing but a message from my daughter's Girl Scout leader, telling me that, if Sara wants to sell Girl Scout Cookies, there's a mandatory meeting for me to attend (right in the middle of the work day, 20 miles from my office). Yay. Hooray.

This is a sucky time to try to hire a teacher.

I have a feeling this is going to make me crabby.

And here is my question:

At what point is it reasonable to expect one's partner to call home and say s/he will be arriving late for dinner? At what point do you call the absent partner and ask about Estimated Time of Arrival?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Well, I had in mind a humorous post about Christmas. But I have just walked into the office to find that the only full-time teacher on my staff is gone. Just gone. Her desk is bare. I found a one-line letter of resignation on my desk, along with her key to the school. The recycling box is full of all her lessons and materials. Nine years we worked together. She did not give one word to indicate that she was considering leaving.

What to do in this situation?
  1. Stand like a stunned ox, mouth hanging open, reading the one line over and over like it's going to reveal a secret explanation, a la Tolkien.
  2. Stand like a stunned ox, mouth hanging open, holding the same letter out to the Executive Director. Perhaps she can break the code and reveal the hidden motive.
  3. Realize that my mouth has been hanging open for a while and my tongue is drying out. Shut mouth.
  4. Lock myself in the ladies room and put my head between my knees for a few minutes as I realize that I have to make a major hire, pronto, during the Christmas holidays, and that this teacher's classes will somehow have to be covered. Snivel a little when I remember that I have three grant proposals due in the next week and hadn't really planned on fitting a hiring/training into my schedule.
  5. Look at the empty desk and think that, well, it WAS filthy, and now I will at least get a chance to dust it.
  6. Eat chocolate.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Zoo Lights

Our local zoo is lit up for the holidays.

Most of the animals were tucked in for the night, but a few nocturnal creatures were on the prowl. After many summer afternoons spent peering forlornly into seemingly empty enclosures, it was fun to finally see the cougar, the tiger, the ocelot and the owls up and about. There was a little mishap at the end, when Si was holding a mitten for Nate and he shoved his hand into it a little rambunctiously, thus punching Si in the 'nads (to quote Nathan). The cold 'nads. What do I know, but I guess that makes it worse? Under normal circumstances, Si would have keeled over, but we were in a public place and he's British. He managed to stagger back to the car. Nate felt bad, but was somewhat puzzled, as was Sara. Honestly, I'm mystified as well. Since I've never experienced a nut-shot, I guess I have no understanding of the white-hot lightning bolt of pain that must result, judging by the usual male response.

Nate spent the drive home punching himself in the crotch as hard as he could, muttering, "I just don't GET it. It doesn't hurt that much..."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Last night was the annual Potluck Holiday Dinner for my students and their families. We hold it at the church hall next door to the school. As you can see, we take our potluck seriously. When it comes to rivalries over who makes the best posole, spring rolls or momos, the competition is heated.
Some of my students give me presents. One gentleman returned from a trip to Vietnam just a few days ago, so he handed me a necklace! A bracelet! Coconut candy! All from his country! And a WalMart gift card. Not from his country. Well, or, these days I guess it could be.
This year, I was honored to receive a clock. Over the years, the teachers in my program have been given so many odd clocks that we have developed a collection. It started with a pink china elephant clock many years ago (which deserves its own blog entry one of these days). Now we have clpcks shaped like bird houses, bowling pins, the Emerald City...yeah, I know - like it isn't cluttered enough in here. On my desk, I have the tiger clock, the teacher clock and the Last Supper clock. Now I will add this one. What is my student want me to convey with this clock? That I am dignified. Executive. Directorial. For the woman who signs things a lot? He got that part right.
Now, if only the rest of its surroundings lived up to it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Witless in Seattle

Well, my cousin abruptly left Salt Lake and has returned to her cheating, abusive, meth-head estranged husband in Seattle. She left without telling anyone that she was going (she knew what we would say). My aunt called me from Phoenix last night to tell me. For the record, Cousin, you could have called me and told me. I would have recommended that you not go, but I wouldn't have tried to stop you. I would have told you that you can stay with me again if you decide to come back.

I know that this is often how it goes in these situations. I wish I could say that I was surprised. Aunt is anguished: worried about Cousin's downward spiral. I tried to cheer her up with a wager. We will both guess the date that Cousin will leave Meth Head Asshole and come back to Salt Lake, I told her. The winner buys the loser a present. "Chocolates?", she asks. "Sure, if you like." She rallies a little (As always. Aunt specializes in rallying.) "I'll have a 1 pound box of dark chocolate rum-pots from Cummings Studio. Deal?" "Deal." Now we just need to negotiate the details. Aunt thinks Cousin may be returning in a body bag. I told her the wager didn't cover such contingencies.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Cocktail to Die For...

...unless it kills you first.

I had a dinner party over the weekend and cooked southwestern. So I was looking through Cooking Light, as usual, and saw this recipe for Sparking Chimayo Cocktails.

1 C gold tequila
3/4 C sparkling water, chilled
2 T creme de cassis (black currant flavored liqueur)
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 (750 ml) bottle sparkling apple cider, chilled

Just throw it all together, stir and serve immediately.

It was lovely. Smoooooooth. The tequila was a presence, but didn't dominate. I ended up drinking...uh...4 glasses, I think. Since I was eating as well, I felt completely sober; until bedtime, when I started to felt the onset of H.H. (Heavy Head). I drank a lot of water, but still woke up in the morning with a crashing headache.

I would recommend this drink: it's tasty, looks great, etc... But maybe drink only...3 glasses... Don't make the mistakes I've made.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Where Are The Lights?

"Si, where are the lights and the power strip?"
"I don't know. Aren't they in the closet?"
"No. They aren't where I usually keep them. Did you see them when you got out the other decorations?"
"No. You put them away last year They're wherever you put them."
"They are not where I put them. Are you sure you didn't move them when we had the floors done?"

Finally, Sara reminds us that we used them to decorate the patio for a party last summer and liked them so much we decided to keep them there. "At the time," she said smugly, "you said you'd just get more lights when Christmas rolled around."

Oh, yeah.

Quick trip to Target and we're all set. Now I just have to find the ornaments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fun Quiz

My friend John sent me the link to this intresting quiz today. You can measure how far you are to the political right or left, as well as where you fall on the libertarian / authoritarian continuum.

This is how I turned out.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I know - it's an ongoing theme at my house.

Wow, I haven't blogged since last Wednesday! Christmas is coming, so my to-do list is getting to me. Let's totally unrealistic list of things to do after the kids go to bed tonight:
  1. frost chocolate peppermint bars
  2. plan remaining Christmas shopping, if any
  3. iron
  4. mend the lining of Nate's jacket and fix his two broken plastic swords
  5. bring in holly and other greens to use for decoration
  6. write annual family holiday letter
  7. wrap gifts for my program's support staff
  8. make donation to Heifer International (buy water buffalo! How often do I get to say that?) in my parents' name for their Christmas present
  9. sync iPod
We'll just see how much of THAT I get done. Pfft.

At any rate, it snowed again this past weekend. BIG SNOW. Almost time to go skiing! Usually the boughs of my favorite tree stand straight up, but they got so weighted down that I went out and knocked the snow off after I took this picture.

Time to make plum pudding. Naturally, since my husband is English, this is a tradition. The first time I did it, I was concerned that it might not be as good as his mom's. "Are you kidding?" he laughed. "She doesn't make plum pudding. She just buys it at Marks and Spencer!" Well, not I, so here are the ingredients.

Nate was my loyal assistant. Here he is (or at least his hands), snipping dates.

We always put in a sixpence; whoever finds it gets good luck for the coming year. The picture is a little blurry, but that's fine. You can't see that this coin is in fact not a sixpence, but some denomination of drachma. We are fresh out of sixpence pieces - Si is a bit annoyed: after Christmas dinner, the sixpences have not been making it back into his coin collection to use another year. I hope this doesn't wreck the mo-jo.

Nate loves the part when we drop the Don't worry - it's wrapped in foil.
Here it goes, into the pudding mold....

...and into the pot I use to steam it, suspended perfectly by the old coat hanger I bent to this purpose 15 years ago. "Ah," says Simon. "Coat hanger having its annual outing, I see..."

Three hours steaming happily and it comes out.....[drum roll]....

LOPSIDED! Just like it does every year. Oh, well! Luckily, I'm not entering it in the county fair.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Two Evangelists

I called home to talk to Dad, but Mom said, "He's not here. He's still in Guatemala." WTF?? I had no idea he was going anywhere. They never tell me anything.

"Guatemala?! What's he doing there?"

"Medical mission," says Mom (Dad's a doctor. Long retired, but he keeps up his license, I suppose, so he can go off on amazing adventures like this one.)

"Ooooh..." I have some jealousy issues. My dreams of being a doctor were thwarted by high school chemistry. Not only is he a doctor, he's being one in Latin America. "Wow. I wish I were there."

"Well, that's something you could do if you wanted."

"In what capacity?"

"Well, they took four nurses, three doctors, two dentists-"

(A little voice in my head sings, "...and a partridge in a pear tree...")

"-and two Evangelists."

Huh? "Like I said, I don't really see what I-"

"You could be an evangelist."

"I could..." I burst out laughing. "I really don't think that's-"

"Well, who knows about the future? I keep thinking one of these days, you'll learn something."

About faith, she means. Oof. I changed the subject. It's bugging me, though.

Dear Mom, (reads the letter I compose in my head, but will never write for real)

I'm 40, for Pete's sake. I still have a lot to learn, but I have managed to take a few things on board so far. One is that belief in God isn't something I can just decide to...have. I regret that I have no faith, but I don't. Another is that it is actually possible to demonstrate compassion and make a difference in the world without being religious. I'm sorry that this is a disappointment to you, but as long as there are Christians who attend the funerals of fallen soldiers in order to scream "God Hates Fags", I think I'm happier in my benighted state.

Yours sinfully,

Monday, December 3, 2007

Finally, Decent Snow

We had about 10 inches of snow over the weekend. My husband works in the ski business, so to us, it looks like little dollar bills, floating down from above.

There was enough for the kids to play in. There was enough for me to shovel. Mentally rubbing my hands together and puffing my chest, I got my snow shovel down from the garage wall.

I"m going to do some serious bragging. If shoveling snow were an Olympic Winter Sport, I would have made the US Team. I would dominate all other contenders. This is because, before we moved to Burb World two years ago, we lived in a cabin up at 9,000 feet. The road to our house was closed in winter and the cabin would get buried in snow. Oh! Maybe I have a picture.

I took this one evening after I was done with the day's shoveling. That's the snow piled up way past the top of the deck rail, reaching to the eaves up above.

Here's our downstairs window, all covered over with snow. The last winter we were there, the whole lower story was buried entirely.
So, I got really good at shoveling mass quantities. I developed "moves". The Overhead Chop (for when the drift is higher than your head); the Underhand Distance Toss; Forehand; Backhand; and I'm really fast. When the only thing between you and a cup of hot coffee enjoyed with your feet toasting in front of the wood stove is a back deck that has to be shoveled...
At any rate, that was then and this is now. So I took down my snow shovel and I thought, "Well, I don't even really NEED to do this driveway. We can still get in if we use four-wheel drive." No, no. All the neighbors are revving up their snow blowers. If I don't go out there and shovel, they'll come over and do it for me, and then I'll have to spend the afternoon baking cookies for them. So I go out and get started. I'm like John Henry, keeping up with the steam drill. Shoop, shoop, shoop. I'm showing off. I add a few flourishes.
Later, cooking supper, I reach up to the cupboard for the olive oil, and my arm won't do it. Huh? Slowly all my muscles from the waist up go, "Hey, remember us, you show-off floozy?" John Henry did DIE with a hammer in his hand, after all.

Friday, November 30, 2007


This evening, when I picked up the kids from after-school care, Nathan told me that he had had a VERY BAD DAY. I asked him why.

Nate: Well, that dumb C. - the one who's two? I was playing with the Lincoln Logs and C. came over and kicked my house I was making. And then he took one of my Lincoln Logs. So then I smacked it out of-I mean, I asked him politely, "C., may I please have the Lincoln Log?" And you know what he said? He said, "You can just forget about it, you big dipshit!"

Sara: Nate! That is a lie! C. is a baby. He didn't say that to you! He can barely even talk!

Nate: Well, he said it in baby language.

Sara: Oh! And you speak baby language?!

Nate: Yes!

Sara: OK, so what am I saying? "Sjfhiuqlwerglbdcueyrpquyweruy."

Nate: (After a short pause) Fencepost.

Sara: Oh yeah? Well, now what am I saying? "Sisdjhffffferhfzzpeoir."

Nate: Poop dip.

It was all potty talk after that.

And Seven More Things

Super Hero tagged me back after I tagged him, so I'll do "Seven Things" again; but this time, it's "Seven Things I Encountered When Reaching into Nathan's Nightstand Drawer". I was able to sneak into his room while he was engrossed in a video and give it a bit of a sorting out. The drawer closes again, now. The first seven things I found were:

1. a handful of twigs;
2. a big rock ( of course);
3. a plastic lei;
4. a photo album in which he cherishes all his photos of ceilings and people's feet;
5. a place mat he made for Thanksgiving, out of strips of paper, now liberally daubed with gravy and cranberry sauce;
6. a plastic turtle;
7. and one of those cheap, foam-rubber visors that are held on by a stretchy spring.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Seven Things

Well Lillian, my fellow Utahn, tagged me to play "Seven Things". I think this should be called something like "Seven Dweeb-y Things".

1. I make lists. And sub-lists. And follow-up lists. There's the sticky-note list that I make during the day, of items that need to be assimilated into the main list. There's the "floating list" of all the things I never get around to, but am tired of writing down day after day. I stick it in the planner with tape and just move it forward day by day; each day's list ends with "Item # 87: Finished? Hah! Refer to Floating List."

2. I get heartburn sometimes; in fact, I've had heartburn every day this week. I'm worried that it's because I'm 40. Now, I am old. (Sigh of despair) A codger. With heartburn. When it's happening, I say, "No more!" No coffee, alcohol, chile peppers. I promise that I won't wolf my food. I will take dainty bites of rice and boiled chicken breast, which I will chew 30 times before swallowing with a ladylike sip of water. Then the heartburn goes away and I go back to snarfing all my favorite foods, 'cause I'm still YOUNG, dammit!

3. I like doing laundry. (In a lilting, dreamy voice) You take the dirty, smelly, food-crusted, nasty clothes; carry out a few simple processes, and you've got warm, sweet-smelling piles of tidy squares. And, it's the gift that keeps on giving. I get to ride this wave every Saturday!

4. I'm gregarious with my close friends, but surprisingly jittery about making new ones. I love giving parties. But for every party I plan and give, there are maybe three that I just think about and never throw. Some of my fantasy parties include: the all-neighborhood block-off-the-cul de sac street fair and cookout... the two-days-before-New-Year's open house for the neighbors...the make-your-own pizza party with the parents of all my kids' close friends...the summer corn and brat roast with my staff.... So far, I have only given these parties in my head. I'm a social chicken s***. One of the reasons I keep bombing out of churches is that I find coffee hour with all those new people so excruciating. I lost religion at the coffee urn?

5. When I buy my husband's shampoo, I amuse myself by finding the ones with the most effeminate names possible. Tangerine Tickle. Frothy Papaya Smoothie. Field of Flowers.

6. I am a highly controlled (meaning, no screaming in front of the kids or they'll grow up just like their neurotic mother) arachnophobe. I lived in North Queensland, Australia once, in a house that was infested with Huntsman spiders. They are about 10 inches across, and furry. I once called an exterminating company to come to the house and kill the one that had crawled into my bedroom. "Just the one, ma'am?" the exterminator asked, incredulous. Yes! Just do it and stop asking questions.

7. I went to St. Olaf College in Minnesota, which is something of a music school, and I loved to sing. I was at the movies with my kids last week, and suddenly in the middle of the trailers, this preview came on for a special screening of the St. Olaf Christmas Concert. There on the big screen in front of me were 20 year-old images of my friends and me. My permed, 1980s hair. My old buddy Monica, head ten feet tall, playing the violin in the orchestra. Seriously weird.

Now, I need to tag seven people. Since I have admitted to my fear of new social situations, I will tag some of my newer friends. How proactive.

Super Hero
Gypsy Jane

And a couple of familiar frinds, 'cause the last time I tagged them, they didn't do it. Let's try again.



The boiler at the school where I work is out again! Yesterday morning when I came in after the long holiday weekend, the temperature in my office was 52 degrees. I spent the day wrapped in a blanket, only poking my fingers out enough to type. The school cook had ham and egg burritos left over from the kids' breakfast, so I heated one up and stuck it in my cleavage. I only wish I'd had two more: one for each sleeve.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tur-key Din-ner

You know, this month I did not hear Adam Sandler sing his Thanksgiving song even one time. Which is fine, really, because every time I say the words "turkey dinner", his little voice starts singing in my ear, anyway.

I hope everyone who reads this (in the USA) had a great Thanksgiving! I had four days off in a row, which I largely spent in Afghanistan, in the company of Khaled Hosseini. I need to give some thought to my (so called) book review of "A Thousand Splendid Suns", but I don't think I can write it until I have had a chance to recover. I will say this much: have Kleenex handy. Oodles of it. I cried in the shower; I cried while cooking supper. I soaked the sofa cushions and Simon had to get out the wet/dry vac to deal with the puddles I left on the sun porch floor.

I'll be able to consider it on its literary merits in a couple of days. And thanks, Lillian! I see you have tagged me for a me-me, which I will do tomorrow. I have pressing business today. Look out - I'm feeling all serious.

The cost of food (and not just lamb chops) is starting to hurt. My family, sure, but I've noticed the most trouble in the food panties. Freudian slip: I mean "pantries". This isn't about edible underwear (although I'll bet its cost per pound is going up as well). This has been kind of sneaking up on me for the last 5 or 6 months: every week, it seems, I'm on the phone with our local food bank; whining, begging, threatening, cajoling - we need more bread to give out to our clients. Sometimes, we only get half the usual amount, sometimes less. Finally, I spoke with an executive who explained to me that there just isn't any. It used to be that bakeries produced surplus to make sure everyone had access to the full range of products all the time. What didn't get sold was picked up by the food bank and eventually made its way to my school where we gave it out. But as the price of production has gone up, not only has the higher cost been passed on to consumers; but bakeries aren't making any extra. In the interest of cost effectiveness, they are making less and allowing it to sell out in the stores. This is smart business, but the food chain that used to rely on their leavings is still out there.

Then there's the turkey crisis. I love giving out turkeys because they can usually provide a family with a couple meals and soup bones after that. Always in the past, we have been given some turkeys for families that needed them, both for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. This year, the food pantry couldn't spare us any. I met an acquaintance today at the rec center and we went around the track together a few times. She said, "I have some good stuff to donate to your students." "Great!" "Clothes and shoes?" "Perfect." (I was running, hence the one-syllable replies.) "And what about school supplies?" "Awesome. (I gather enough breath to form a sentence. I have become good, over the years, at asking for stuff.) Can I tell you what I'm really looking for, though? Turkeys! Do you know anyone who could do a turkey-drive for us this year?" Her smile faltered. She said she'd think about it.

Why is this happening? Anna Quindlen addresses it, succinctly and with style, in the latest issue of Newsweek.

I am surprised by the things I'm learning about the ethanol boom. Turns out it consumes more energy than it creates. I had high hopes, but I'm starting to see that we grow food, then use it to fuel our cars. But this isn't meant to be a political rant. I want anyone who reads this to go out and buy three frozen turkeys and FedEx them to my school. Don't worry - they take forever to thaw. OK, just kidding. But we need to check in with our local food pantries: now, and again every few months. In addition to turkeys, they will happily accept peanut butter, tuna, pasta, canned fruit and veg (especially beans and tomatoes), lentils... Oooh, I sound preachy. Yuck. I'll stop now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

From our local genius, Pat Bagley. Katherine, this is especially for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Where Did You Play?

I'm collecting your stories today.

My colleagues and I were talking at lunch yesterday about places where we used to play that our parents probably would not have approved of.

When I was a kid in rural Wisconsin, there was a big lot full of large farm implements, which we called the Machinery Lot. It belonged to the local dealer, who also rented out large machines to farmers who only needed them for short periods of the year.

So, behind my mother's back, we climbed up and slid down in the gravity boxes, scaled the hay wagons, ripped our pants open on the manure spreaders, and crawled onto the combines. No kid these days would be allowed to go near a place like that. Which is a bummer, kind of.

How about you? Where did you go to play when you were a kid?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Font of all Bulls**t

Do you ever go to meetings, and everyone has to take a turn saying something about him/herself? Today, it was, "Tell us something about yourself that we wouldn't know from a work context."

"I used to be a fashion model in Japan."
"I'm an avid fly fisher."
"I have just published my first novel."
"My oldest son just graduated college, and my other son just had a bone-marrow transplant"

[It will soon be my turn. What the hell am I going to say?]

"I'm a personal trainer."
"My daughter was just diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome."
"I love to sing."

It's my turn. I stand, still uninspired, and hear myself say, "I'm passionate about cranberries."

Sad. A sad reflection.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


If you don't already know, that stands for "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition".

That was Friday. I can finally laugh about it.

I had to give an all-day training that started at 9:30, and my plan was to be there at 8:45 to set up. I don't know why both my alarm and my husband's didn't go off; but at 8:20, Sara appeared at our bedside saying, "Hey, don't we have school today?" You know that horrible feeling when you open your eyes and know the the light in your room is all wrong and that it must be incredibly late? OMG! I sprang out of bed and landed in a crouch. "Ah! Ah! What time is it!?" I was so lucky that Sara actually decided to wake us up. A few more minutes and I would have been in big trouble. Thanks, Sara!

No breakfast, no tea, no big deal. Tearing hurry. I arrived at my destination and picked up both of the big, heavy cases of materials I needed for the training. Normally, I would make two trips, but there was no time. I made it into the building, staggered to the elevator, reached to push the button and dropped my keys. Loaded as I was, the floor may as well have been five miles away.

Then came THE WORST part. I was setting up for the training and getting all my stuff laid out. One of the main components of the training involves watching video clips. Hours' worth. I grabbed the video case out of my briefcase and realized that it was... empty. My heart stopped. The training room was filling up with people who had come from all over the state. One lady had flown in for the day. And where the HELL was my video? I literally broke out in a cold sweat. I remembered that I had used it last about 6 weeks ago, at another school in Salt Lake. Here's where luck was once again with me.
  1. My previous training had been in Salt Lake, and not in some other city.
  2. When I called that school and asked to talk to my colleague, Ted, he was actually in his office and picked up the phone. That must be a first.
  3. My video was lying around in the room where I had last used it, and he found it.
  4. (This is big) He offered to drive it to me. Not a short distance, either: about 30 minutes, one way. Ted, what would you like? Half my training fee? Sexual favors? You name it buddy. "Aw, buy me a beer sometime," he said. I'm dropping off a case of premium micro-brews at his office on Monday morning. I could cry, I'm so grateful.
You know, the day did not improve.

My hands shook for two hours, from the shock of the missing video. Big deal.

An instructor barged in during the training and yelled, "I don't know who told you that you could use this room, but I've had it booked for a month, so clear out NOW!" I'm not exaggerating. But I scarcely noticed her.

The company that catered lunch didn't bring enough food. I always eat last at these trainings, and by the time I got to the buffet table, there was almost nothing left. I was starving because I hadn't eaten breakfast.... I thought the half of a roll I managed to score was the best-tasting thing I had ever eaten.

When the training was over, I carefully checked the room to make sure I was not forgetting anything, but still I have managed to lose my phone. Oh, well. I'll get it back.

At home, Nate fell and hit the back of his head on a table. I picked him up to comfort him and next thing I knew, we were both covered in blood. I mean soaked. It's amazing how much even a little cut on the head bleeds. I calmly put pressure on the cut until it stopped bleeding, peeled off our bloody clothes, pre-treated them with a little "Tide", and told Nate it was time for bed.

Oh! And the lamb chops turned out well, but the recipe said to broil them, which created a lot of lamb-y smelling smoke, and my house now smells like a kebab stand. I've decided that I love the smell of scorched lamb fat.

I don't care about any of it. Thanks to Ted, I am the luckiest woman in Utah.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I have these boots...they are so darn cute. Chocolate brown (fake) suede; high, spiky heels; kind of bunched and gathered at the ankles. They're great, but they are decorated with metal rings at about ankle-level, and they jingle when I walk.

This is an annoyance that I try to overcome with my imagination. I pretend that they are...spurs. [low, sotto voce] I walk into the saloon, and the place goes quiet. You can hear a pin drop as I walk deliberately up to the bar: chink, chink, chink. I say, "Jack. On the rocks." I'm so f***ing cool.

Then, there's reality.

"What's that jingling noise?"
"Oh. My boots. There's these two rings, see, and they-"
"That is so cute, what with Christmas coming and all. You're like a little elf!"


And of course, everyone knows I'm coming. It makes me think of my mom. I used to be a nursing assistant at a long-term care facility, and my mom was Director of Nursing there. We were often on night shift together, and in the wee hours you could hear her walking the dim hallways, 'cause she had this soft, breathy whistle thing that she did. Always "What A Friend We Have In Jesus". We'd hear her coming and snap to it. Not that my boots necessarily have that effect.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Maybe There's a Secret Handshake, Too

I was at the meat counter today, thinking about lamb chops. I have never made them before, and there were none on display. I was just about to ask the butcher when a woman came up and asked about lamb chops herself. I overheard and inserted myself into the conversation. He was telling her that he would cut 6 for her, so I asked him to add another 8 for me.

He went into the back and the woman and I stood side be side for a while. After a bit, I asked, "So, what are you making?"
"Oh, a new recipe I haven't tried before. You rub the lamb with cumin..."
"Mmmm...that sounds good."
"Yes, and then you serve it with couscous and dried cranberries."
"That's funny. That is the identical thing I'm going to do with my la- " We both said, "Cooking Light?" at the same time and then, simultaneously, "Yeah, I have a subscription."

By the way, lamb chops are TINY. Eight of them cost $20. I almost died when I saw the price.

Floor is Done!

Hooray! The flooring project is almost over! I must admit that having the computer set up on a card table in the living room has been kind of fun, with the exception of the 2 miles of phone line we had to run in order to get on the Internet. And the Foosball table...well, I'll miss it when it finally moves downstairs.

There's still a little bit left to do. Here is Si, carefully fitting IKEA tab A into IKEA slot B. We had to remove the old desk in order to do the project. There was a reason the previous home-owners left that desk behind: there was no getting it out of the office intact. Si literally chopped it up. I'm sure that was satisfying.

The guest room is pretty much put back together except the heavy stuff.

The rec room...well, this is as "put together" as it ever looks. Someday, this will be a great party room. For now, the Foosball table will reside in splendid isolation. Until we have money for other furnishings, it is the sock-foot skating rink, the "Blind Man's Bluff" floor and the dance studio.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rain Man

I was unexpectedly interviewed by our local Fox affiliate on Thursday. As in, my boss burst into my office and said that Fox was doing a special report about whether or not immigrants really want to learn English. Would I do an interview? "Sure. When do they want to do it?" "They're on their way over." So much for camera-ready.

I hate watching myself on video. I mean, really hate it. Is this common, do you think? The mobility of my face, when I see it from the outside, looks weird to me. "Ooooh," I think. "Whoever she is, she needs to calm down." At any rate, I dispatched the interview; it ran during three time slots; I tolerated watching it once, (online, with my hair pulled over my eyes, like that's going to help) just to make sure they didn't edit my quotes out of context. In fact, they generously let me keep my sound bites intact. Duty done.

I was in the produce section yesterday (have you noticed that this seems to be where stuff happens?), and a man came over to me to comment on my choice of pomegranate. Then he looked at me intently and said, "Do I know you?" This happens sometimes at the local supermarket, resulting in the well-known verbal square dance: " your kids go to XYZ school? Play soccer? Do you live near here? Work out at the rec center?" I opened my mouth to start the routine, and I saw his light bulb come on (it must have been my open mouth that did it). I know! You were on TV! Wow!" I was completely freaked out; first, because he remembered my face after about 30 seconds on the air the day before; but especially because he was making an embarrassing scene about it. He was loud and effusive. "Wow!" Wanted to shake my hand. "Cool!" My eyes were bugging out of their sockets from startlement. Textbook "deer in the headlights". I pointed out that it was extraordinary for him to remember a face in that way. "I guess I just have a photographic memory!" he said, still thrilled. God, what would he have done if I were Angelina Jolie? Stuffed his face into my cleavage? Yeah, OK, what cleavage?

He must be some sort of savant. Unable to function in society, but remembers every face he's ever seen on TV.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"A Long Way Gone", by Ishmael Beah

Our book club doesn't meet until Sunday, but (if any of my fellow book-clubbers visit), I won't give anything away.

[Let me preface this in the same way I preface all of my book reviews. I am a dorky amateur and I would never claim that this is a real book review. Just my impressions, for what they're worth.]

I can be fairly unequivocal in this case, however. "A Long Way Gone" is an important book, and it needs to be read. By you.

It is the autobiography of a young man (now in his 20s and living in New York), who was caught up and displaced by the civil war in Sierra Leone when he was 13. Don't worry if you don't know a lot about the history of Sierra Leone. I don't, either. It doesn't matter. He describes his flight from anti-government rebels; wandering homeless, alone and with other boys; his eventual recruitment into the army and his evolution into a killing machine. He then relates his rehabilitation and his escape from the increasing chaos in his country.

Everywhere in the world where there is war and unrest, people do despicable things to each other and to children who get in their way. Lucky middle-class Americans like me know this on an intellectual level, but there aren't many opportunities to read a detailed, first-person account of these atrocities: not only because lots of kids don't survive them; but because the kids who do lack the opportunities, education, support and emotional strength to tell their stories in a compelling way. Beah, in his acknowledgements, credits a lot of friends who convinced him to write this book and urged him to finish what must have been a harrowing project.

"A Long Way Gone" is an excellent prescription if you need an attitude adjustment. When I feel stressed because Nathan called someone a "dip s***", I need to remember that, in many countries, I would be living in constant anxiety about whether my kids would get blown up today.

Quality writing: 8 Like several of the books I've read lately, this book doesn't feature carefully crafted scenes or background information. Beah is matter-of-fact about his experiences and doesn't waste a single word. Having said that, I often felt (unfortunately) like I was right there. He's at his best when he's depicting the inner landscape of his feelings, reactions and memories.

Character development: 5 It's really a story about being alone, even when he's with other people. He describes his friends and family, but he doesn't flesh out many of characters; and this is surprisingly effective, because you sense how transitory his relationships become.

Interesting plot structure: 9 The action never stops (no matter how much you wish it would). His journey becomes more amazing in every phase. I could say more, but then you'd want to kill me.

Addictiveness: 9. I brought it home from the library and read the first three chapters standing in the kitchen with my other books under my arm and my jacket still on.

Overall grade: 8

Monday, November 5, 2007


There's no school today, so I told Nate he could invite his friend B. to spend the night last tonight. B. had never slept away from his family before, and Nathan had never had a friend for an overnight, so this was a major deal. I pitched a tent in Sara's room, and they could pretend they were camping. All three of them spent the evening running around and around, pointing imaginary wands at each other and screaming "Avada Cadavera!!!". If two people screamed simultaneously and there was no clear "killer" and "killed", I would hear a long pause, followed by a muttered, "OK... 'Scissors, Rock, Paper', then. One, two three! OK, you have to die."

I also heard them discussing plans for later.
B: Well, they call it a "sleepover", but that's a dumb name.
Nate: Yeah, 'cause we're not going to sleep, huh, B.?
B: No, way. I mean. It's "sleepover" 'cause I come over, but we're not going to sleep.
Nate: No, we're stayin' up all night and sayin' potty words.
B: Yeah. Poopy, poopy, poopy.
Nate: You are a butt-butt.


They were both fast asleep before Simon was done reading to them.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Die, Dishwasher, Die!

Our dishwasher is, I think, older than the house, which was built in 1986. Most of the built-in appliances are from about 1972, judging from the instruction manuals helpfully left behind by Charles and Linda S., when they downsized their lives. I used to think this was a cost- saving measure on their part, but have since revised my position. Now I think Linda loved her kitchen stuff and brought her range, wall-oven and dishwasher from the old homestead out of intense personal attachment. Perhaps I am insensitive, but my first priority is that an appliance works well; not misplaced nostalgia about how I used it to cook the first meal of my married life. Two days after we moved in, we replaced her old range. It only had two burners and the oven was so small a cookie sheet wouldn't fit in it. She stopped by about a month later to get something she'd forgotten, and she was devastated. "Oh! You got a new range?!? Well. Oh, my goodness..."

Damn, Linda, if I'd known you cared so much, I would have saved it for you.

At any rate, all last week, the dishwasher wasn't working, and I thought, "YES! This is it!" But then I made the mistake of looking at the chunky square push-buttons on the front, and noticed that none of them was currently pushed in. Experimentally, I pushed the one that said "Automatic Wash Cycle", and the dishwasher sprang to life.

I jumped and looked around frantically. Oh, man! What have I DONE?! I was peering at the front panel, trying to figure out how I could return it to its state of disrepair when my husband walked in. Busted. Si said, "Well that explains that. I wonder how that button came un-pressed. Maybe someone bumped into it." Happy that the problem was solved, he wandered away again.

Anyone know how to sabotage a dishwasher?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

So, Mom, Know What I Want to be NEXT Year?

No. Just give me a few days to recover. The first thing Nate said when he woke up this morning was, "Is it November today? Do you know what that means? CHRISTMAS IS COMING!" Erk!

This was a great year for trick-or-treating. The kids are old enough that we don't have to hold their hands and walk them up the sidewalk to each door any more. Our little neighborhood is a dead-end street with two cul de sacs branching off it. This year, the kids all joined in a pack; roaming the neighborhood, running across the lawns, leaping the flower beds and hiding in the bushes. It had a pleasantly marauding atmosphere. Simon and one other dad just stood on a corner chatting and sort of keeping an eye on things. We ran out of candy. When Sara and Nathan came in, I made them sort through their loot for stuff they didn't like that much, so we had something more to give out. Si figures that, if that were to go on long enough, we'd all end up with the same candy we bought in the first place. Some kids came around twice, but had actually gone home and changed costumes. That level of initiative should be rewarded, in my opinion.

Nate was so wired I couldn't really get him to stand still for a photo. You can see by his poses that his skeleton was kind of His eyebrows are still charcoal-colored this morning.

Since Hermione always looks pretty serious on the "Harry Potter" movie posters, Sara has to as well, I guess. I told her she looks good as a brunette, but she's not buying it - says it makes her look too much like me. Dear me. Perish the thought. Finding a Gryffindor tie was not easy. In fact, this tie used to be grey, blue and red. Isn't it fortunate that "Gryffindor gold" is exactly the same color that we painted our office walls last year?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lemme At Her!

I have had a bad weekend, even though absolutely nothing went wrong. The bad is all in my head, brought about by an uber-mother to-do list that would gag Martha Stewart. (BTW, since I don't have TV, help me out on this. Is Martha Stewart still around? Still an icon for over-achievers? Or should I choose someone else? Who?)

Who is the "she" in, "I don't know how she does it?" I hate that bitch. Or, "She who must be obeyed?" Lemme at her. What do they have that I don't have? Brains? Talent? A superior day-planner? A better multi-vitamin? My husband, seeking to comfort me, actually dared to say, "Don't sweat the small stuff..." I spun around and pointed my blazing six-shooter glare at him. "Are you about to tell me, '...and it's all small stuff?'" Si raised his hands in the air "No. That's a stupid saying. Not everything is small stuff." "That's right. The person who coined that phrase? Notice how we haven't heard from that person in a while? That person was murdered by some mother who found out at the end of the first quarter that she was in charge of treats for her daughter's soccer game." "Oh...which reminds me...", he says, looking at the roster on the fridge.

Deep down, I know I'm being dumb. I'm reading a book by Ishmael Beah that graphically depicts what it's like to have real problems. (By the way, I'm about half way through it, and recommend it highly if you, like me, need to be reminded about what is and isn't "small stuff") Maybe this is why I'm more frustrated than usual: I'm not able to make headway on even non-life-threatening tasks.

Kate's list of recently dropped balls, all of which need to be scooped back up and juggled some more, along with a whole bunch of new ones:
  • Colored pencils in diverse, multi-racial skin-tones for Sara's art project.

  • Nate's skeleton costume. Still consists of a black body suit and a pile of white felt.

  • Four pots of decorative, drought resistant grasses bought but not planted. I got the lilac bush in the ground, but not these. Will the neighbors get to watch me this evening, digging in my garden in my skirt, stockings, dress shoes? Won't be the first time.
  • The Duplo, Brio, Playmobil, Lincoln-Log and Polly-Pocket families had a major block party this weekend and are all hanging out, hung over, in each other's boxes. Frankly, do I care? The kids don't.
  • My ex-vegetable garden is still clogged with crispy tomato plants, rattling in their cages, waiting to be removed.
  • Work. God, let's not even go there. Of, yeah. I am there. Well, OK, I'd better get to it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gourds are Good

So the gap that Nate carved in the jack-o-lantern's teeth works well for this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fire Drill

[Before I write tonight, I want to aplogize for my neglect. I have not been to visit my friends' blogs in a few days, and I miss reading about each of you. I makes me sad to miss out on the happenings in your lives, and I will be reading madly to catch up in a couple of days.]


At the school where I work, it is Emergency Preparedness Week, which means that during the day the little kids march outside for fire drills; shelter under their desks from imaginary earthquakes; and practice lock-downs, in which everyone pretends that the doors to our classrooms actually lock.

People are, I have discovered, much less concerned about the evening adult education program. I suppose this is partly because they are grown-ups and party because my boss, who is in charge of fire drills, doesn't work nights. In the 15 years I have worked at my school, we have never had a fire drill during evening classes, so we decided to give it a try. This was a drill for a drill, really. To do a proper drill, the fire alarm has to go off, and it has to be a surprise. Setting off the fire alarm requires a joint effort on the part of my boss, the alarm company and the fire department. Sometime soon? My students tell me they would prefer to wait until summer, when it's warm.

At any rate, the staff and I assigned ourselves evacuation tasks and decided to have the drill at 7:50 PM. I spent time before the drill going from classroom to classroom, explaining fire drills and evacuation plans to our students. This is an English as a Second Language program, thus requiring broad gestures to indicate the proper stairwell, the nearest exit and the "meeting place". By the fourth explanation or so, I felt like a flight attendant, or like I was doing the "Macarena". Everyone agreed to pretend to be surprised and put their coats on.

It went pretty well, but we did learn some things from the experience.

1. Regarding the sounding of the alarm, there is no substitute for the real thing. Kate parading through the hallways with a pot and lid from the school kitchen is a poor (though amusing) substitute.

2. If you have a fire drill at night, it will be dark. I had told all the groups to congregate on the street in front of the school, find their supervising teachers and check in so everyone could be accounted for. Instead, we all milled around trying to find each other until we gave up and went back inside for coffee. I need to get a little flashlight for each teacher, so she can be easily spotted. As it was, we were reduced to bleating like sheep searching for our lambs. And you know how it is. You call out, "JOSE!", and eight male voices from all directions shout, "HERE!"

By the way, when is the drill over? When can I stop the stopwatch? When everyone is A) out of the building? B) clear of the fire zone and at the "meeting place"? C) accounted for by the supervising teacher? If it's "C", the drill isn't over, yet.

3. Walkie-talkies are cool, but it helps to know how to use one. As arranged, our Floor Manager, Mark, had grabbed one and I had grabbed the other at the beginning of the drill. As we exited the building, I could hear him: "Kate, the building's clear. Do you read?" In the dark, milling with the crowd, I was randomly squeezing bits of walkie-talkie, going, "Hello? Hello?" Afterward, back in the building, he showed me the button to press. Oh, OK. I went to the end of the hall so we could try it again, and unthinkingly held it up to my ear, causing my head to explode when he talked. "It's not a phone, Kate!" Right.

I don't know if our students feel any safer, but they were highly entertained.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Pumpkins 900"

Unfortunately, my degree in mommy-ology did not include this course. It's graduate level, and I didn't get that far. After I failed "Girls' Hairstyles 350", they didn't think I had potential for an advanced degree. Here's the jack-o-lantern Nate and I made.

In my defense, Nate and I both worked on the mouth, and while I was smoothing and trimming one side, he was busy on the other, humming softly to himself. " am a dentist..."

Simon, on the other hand, sort of took over Sara's jack-o-lantern. He likes to try something a little edgier. Push the envelope. He would never admit it, but he LOVES carving pumpkins, 'cause he's English and they don't do a lot for Halloween; at least they didn't when he was a kid. The Celts (I believe) made the first jack-o-lanterns, but out of turnips, not pumpkins. Talk about time-consuming... Here's Simon's interpretation of Harry Potter in flight, reaching for he snitch with his scarf blowing out behind him. Can you see it, now that I've told you exactly what it is?

Oh, yeah, sure enough.

And then "HP" in lightning-bolt letters on the back.

Sara and I think we would just get him a pumpkin of his own next year. "Sunset" magazine had some great falling leaf patterns.

Get busy, Si.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mixing Paints

I had actually planned to write on a different topic, but the kids are sobbing and shrieking upstairs. Finally, I can't stand it any more.


The sobbing comes closer...closer... They are standing at attention in front of me.

"What. Is. Going. On?"

Sara, through her tears: "Itoldhimhecouldpaintwiththewatercolorsbuthedoesn'tevenreallywantto painthejustwantsto mixthecolorsallup. He's MIXING and MIXING..." (She dissolves again into tears.)

Nathan: "Weeeellllll, I DO want to paint..."

Sara: (Interrupting) "YOU DO NOT!!! Moooommmmm, he's not painting! He just keeps telling me he's going to flick paint at me."

Nathan: "Am not! I want to paint and I need to mix the colors. (In a meditative, sensual tone...) I MIX the colors, they are soooooo pretty. I put my brush in the red, and then in the orange..." He is looking sideways at Sara. He is saying this because he knows this will make her scream:

Sara: "NO!!! NO MIXING!"

Nathan: "Aaaand, she is (he holds up his hand and begins to itemize on his fingers) pinching me, slapping me, flicking bits of paper at me..."

(Sob-surge from Sara.)

I am exasperated at this point. "Oh, Sara, cut it out. You know how much those paints cost? Almost nothing. Big deal if he mixes the colors - we can get more at the grocery st-"


Actually, no, I was not aware of this important distinction between our two little trays of watercolors. They both look utterly hashed to me.

Finally, I said, "Sara, Nathan can paint any way he wants. If he mixes the paint, big deal." While I was thus chiding Sara, Nathan got this smug, s*** eating grin.

"And you, Nathan..." Ooops. The grin is wiped suddenly and cleanly from off his little face, replaced by false remorse. "There will be no flicking, throwing, smearing or other uses of paint for torture."

"OK, Mommy." "OK, Mommy."

Nathan exits the interrogation and Sara, once dismissed, lunges after him in a way that makes me yell, "SARA? I saw that. Do not pinch your brother." I guess I'd better go upstairs now. There is an eerie silence that does not bode well. My husband had to work today. I envy him.

Friday, October 19, 2007


We just bought flooring at a local furniture place and got a $99 special deal on this fabulous foosball table. It'll be great in the rec room downstairs, after the flooring project is over. It arrived a few days ago, and Si opened the box, just to "make sure nothing was broken".

I came home the next evening and he had emptied the box, to "check that all the parts are there".

Then the little men went on their rods. May as well get started with some of the preliminaries.

Two nights ago, I discovered it was all put together except for the legs. Si was eyeing them and saying, "Those legs. I hope they're not wobbly. It seems sturdy up to this point, but the real test will be the legs."

Yeah, sure enough I got home last night, and it was all done. Now it's too big to remove from the living room.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Five Things

I was tagged by "Flying Pink Elephants" to play "5 Things". I like being tagged - it offers me a chance to blog without pondering a topic. What a relief.

5 things found in my room:
  • MY BED! God, how I love it. I don't get to spend nearly enough time in it lately, so I think about it all the time. Cream-colored flannel sheets patterned with autumn leaves...cotton comforter from Target that I just bought this summer, but feels like it has been washed a thousand times. Orgasmic.
  • Cozy sofa with brass reading lamp;
  • The beginnings of my black and white photo gallery;
  • Books I've hung onto since I was a kid: "Anne of Green Gables", the "Little House" books, "Narnia", "Winnie the Pooh";
  • Unused bottles of perfume on my dresser. I'm not a big perfume person - patchouli, if anything. But every time my MIL comes to visit, she brings me a bottle.
5 things I’ve always wanted to do:
  • Scuba dive;
  • Ride in a helicopter;
  • Take a nice, long canoe trip in the Boundary Waters in September. Maybe 8-10 days;
  • Go to medical school so I can join "Doctors without Borders" and be useful;
  • Visit the places my students are from: Mexico, Vietnam, Tibet. Not like a tourist, though; like a member of the family.
5 things in my bag (I'll do my carry-all, 'cause my purse is so boring):

My carry-all is genuine fake patent leather. It has a slinky woman in silhouette cavorting on a chile pepper. It says "Muy Caliente!"("Very Hot!") It is beyond tacky and utterly inappropriate.
  • Flash drive in a Ziploc bag, 'cause I lost the cap;
  • "Energy" mints, with caffeine. The can in which they are contained has a satisfying rattle. Unfortunately, it takes 8 mints to equal a cup of coffee. Geeze.
  • Leatherman tool;
  • Receipt from "Hair by Edie" (I went there today. Being shampooed by Edie is almost as good as going to bed.)
  • Ancient bottle of hand lotion so gross and crusty that it once tested positive for explosives at airport security, necessitating a pat-down. I've been frisked.
5 things found in my wallet (this is REALLY boring):
  • A tiny booklet called "The Basics", which tells me how to use my cell phone; then the remaining contents are all cards....
  • Pink punch-card for 10 free spinning classes at the rec center. I need to use it before it expires. The pressure.
  • Cards, cards, cards: voter registration, credit, debit, rec center membership, city library, county library, health insurance, dental insurance, driver's license, Costco;
  • Oh, and a little money;
  • And a blank check, folded small in a hidden compartment.
5 things I’m currently into:
  • Uh, blogging.
  • Photography. I'm trying to learn. I wish I could move to Florida and apprentice myself to Seagrape. She's incredible.
  • Making terrariums (or, is it terraria???), which is my upcoming project with my daughter's Brownie troop next week. Pray for me.
  • My knees. My friend M. had knee surgery last week, and ever since I've had...knee awareness. Ooooh. Is that a twinge I'm feeling right now? Could it be (gasp!) the meniscus? I'm being so nice to my knees this week.
  • Tequila

There! Whew! OK, I'll tag 5 friends now, per the rules of the game. Anyone else want to play? Please do!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


"Apuesta" is Spanish for "bet". I learned that from one of my adult English as a Second Language (ESL) students tonight, when he coughed up this lucky charm as his forfeit.

Thanks, Carlos!

Carlos and I wager on things occasionally. He usually pays up with food though, and I had forgotten about this bet until he reminded me. Our ESL school has a childcare and some years, (particularly if Halloween falls on a Tuesday or Thursday night, when we have the class), the children do a Halloween costume parade. Carlos is obsessed with this notion, 'cause he loves to dress up in his hideous rubber ghoul costume and scare the crap out of the kids. He is hoping to continue his reign of terror this year, with a new crop of kids.

Here he is a couple years ago, posing with one of our volunteer tutors. Yeah, hi, Carlos. Sweating much in there?

"Teacher. I dress for Halloween and SCARE the children. Halloween is on this year Tuesday!"
"Hmmm. No, I think it's on Wednesday this year. "
"No, Tuesday."
"Uh-uh. Wednesday."
(Here we go again...) "Carlos, I bet you $2 it's on a Wednesday."

After a quick lesson on what "I betcha" means, we shook on it.

It'll be great on my rear view mirror.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Worm Society

I had really hoped to get into the mountains this weekend, but gazing in frustration from the sun porch was about all I could manage. Very sad.

The weather has been shitty in Salt Lake for the last three weekends, including Saturday this weekend, so that left us just Sunday to take care of business in the yard. Almost everything's done, except my mums, which are going crazy.

Simon and the kids spent the day digging me a new garden in the front yard. This isn't because I've been wanting a new garden, but because we can't get the lawn to grow there, no matter what. Well, it would grow there if we'd water the hell out of it, like the previous owners did. This is a desert, after all, so we're trying to phase in more drought resistant plants and cut back on watering. In fact, Simon wants to xeriscape the whole front yard, but I'm chicken. What if I can't make it look good and the neighbors have us arrested? This little drought resistant garden is my test patch.

The kids "helped" by rescuing worms. Every worm they overturned had to be relocated to a safer garden. "A safe and happy life for every worm, no matter how lowly." That was the original mission statement of the Worm Society. But, as often happens in well-meaning charity endeavors, they experienced what we call "mission creep". Soon, services expanded to include potato bugs. This then led to infighting on the Board of Directors regarding the direction these services should take. Those for preserving potato bugs (Sara, because they're cute) were at loggerheads with those declaring potato bugs bad for the plants (Nathan, who advocated euthanasia). The final straw was the further expansion of services in order to reach out to slugs. I uprooted and threw away the shriveled zucchini plants, revealing a big fat one; Nathan somehow saw it to be within the purview of the Worm Society to chop the slug in half with my trowel, screeching "Hi-YAH!". After the resulting gooey gore-fest, the Worm Society was disbanded in disgust, and Sara and I went inside to bake a pie instead.

This photo as taken in the early, happy days of the Worm Society, before the trouble began.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Scariest Part of Halloween?

The costumes. Tonight was my deadline for costume decisions. The kids have spent the last 6 weeks or so telling me, "I'm going to be a unicorn! No! A prince! No! A hula dancer! No!..." After Friday, October 12th, all costume choices are final. "OK, guys. This is it. Gimme your first choice and a backup, in case I can't figure out how to make it."

Nate's easy. Plan A is a skeleton. Bless him. Plan B is a bat, but I won't need to go to Plan B. We have an old velour cat-suit, long since missing its tail. So all I need to do is get some white felt, cut out bones, spend a little time with Mr. Glue Gun, and we're all set. I'll buy him a mask. We have a Grim Reaper-ish hood from a previous Halloween in the dress-up box, so he's all set.

Sara on the other hand...she is passionate about her Plan A - a dragon. Ooof. No plan came immediately to mind. I Googled it and sure enough, there was a pattern for a homemade dragon costume. But check it out!

What!? How about a costume that doesn't require a degree from MIT? Her reluctant Plan B is Hermione Granger. I could do that.... I actually have the right kind of robes, left over from my Oxford days; and a woolly scarf in Gryffindor colors. We would need a wig, is all. I can tell though, that she reeeeally wants to be a dragon. Anybody out there in Blogsville ever made an easy dragon costume? I'd love advice and ideas; or commiseration will also be gratefully accepted. I see a lot of corrugated cardboard in my future.

Got kids? What do they want to be for Halloween?

"More Fun With Bad Translations"

Also known as: "Growth in Chirp Like Cricket with Poor-Acting Intercourse Transfer".

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Today's High and Low

As I sometimes do when my life isn't very blogable, I'll play my "high point / low point" game. You can play as well by writing about the best moment and the worst moment of your day today. (This works best at the end of a day.) There's a good chance that your high won't be very high and your low won't be too low, but dig deep - try to figure out what moments they are.

Low Point

K's mom. K. loves to play with my son Nathan at daycare after school. They always come up to me when I get there and beg for a play date. I've tried, like, five times to set something up, calling K's house to be told, vaguely, that they aren't sure how the day is going to go, yet; they think they might go over to the local pool at some point this afternoon...maybe if we're all there at the same, unspecified time, the boys could play. Sometimes, she tells me that her husband has stepped out to do some errands, and she needs to talk with him about what he has planned for the day, then she doesn't call back. Other times, I just leave multiple voice messages. K's mom and I arrived at the same time today, so K. and Nathan came to both of us and asked us together. Play date? Play date? K's mom laughed and made eye-contact with me. She didn't quite roll her eyes. "Yeah, sure!" she said in a fakey tone of voice that said, "When donkeys fly!" I decided not to let it pass and said, "You bet. We're not doing anything special for the next couple of weekends. I have your number! I'll call you this weekend and we can figure it out! Byeeee! Talk to you later!" I can't figure her out. Nathan's other friends all come over to play without reporting neglect or abuse... I sometimes wonder if it's a religion thing. Or maybe she's just really, really disorganized.

High Point

Talking with Sara and Nate at supper. We talked about issues. They are both pretty upset about the population of highland gorillas that is caught up in the fighting in Republic of Congo. In Sara's opinion, we should call off the war in Iraq, redeploy the soldiers to Congo, beat the mean guys who are killing the rangers and save the gorillas. Simple! Regretfully, I explained the notion of national sovereignty and pointed out that it would be a case of extricating ourselves from one civil war in order to plop ourselves down in the midst of another. It made me happy, though, that she has actually been thinking the problem through and trying to come up with solutions. (Sniff!) My baby's going to grow up to be an activist! I'm so proud! (I'm dabbing my eyes.)

I'm Really Glad I'm Not Eight Anymore

It's been a while since Sara has mentioned her romantic rivals, B. and O. I was happy; I thought they had decided she has cooties. But the saga continues. O. was the favorite, but he's on his way out. I was hanging out in the bathroom with Sara tonight, sitting on the bathroom floor, visiting with her while she had her shower.

"Mom? Are warts contagious?"
(Uh-oh. I'm really not too sure. ARE they?) "Uh... Nah, I don't think so."
"Oh. Well, O. keeps chasing me around, trying to touch me with his wart."
"Oh, for Pete's sake. Tell him to grow up. Tell him that you're not afraid of his stupid wart."
"But I AM afraid of it!"

So, the flags are not flying high for O.

B. on the other hand, is in recovery mode.

I guess, according to what she told me today, that he was being mean. "Did you know that B. told Katie to tell Kaitlyn to tell Mo to tell C.J. that I suck?"
"Really! What for?"
"I dunno."

She got out of the shower and dried off, then went into her room and came back. She had a silver key-fob with a gold-colored dolphin that read "Aloha! Hawaii!" on it, and a note: "I want you to have this it is a way of saying sorry fore all that I have done."

Hmmm... He seems to be getting a clue.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Puny, Petty, Pathetic

Lately, this is how my life strikes me. No grand adventures. No great debates. Since I'm not allowed to be bored (That would be ungrateful, and anyway, I can hear my older brother admonishing me, "Only BORING people are bored."), let's just call it...restlessness. I do realize that the reason I started blogging was to acknowledge the smallness of life and, in examining it, get beyond it. I'm starting to chafe, though. I can't influence the junta in Myanmar, but I make a superior marinara. We still don't have universal health care or an immigration plan, but my daughter flosses.
THESE are my contributions? Fuuuuck. I had bigger plans, but here I am, in the 'burbs. To illustrate...

The Petty Confrontation

I did my grocery shopping today. While I was loading my car, a big pickup pulled in right next to the cart-return corral. I returned my cart. The corral was full of carts, and I nested four of them together with mine. I turned and walked away. As I passed behind the tailgate of the pickup, I dimly registered the driver saying, "Well, it doesn't look like you did any damage to the truck." I scarcely noticed what he was saying, until he said louder, "Ma'am? I said, I don't suppose you did any damage to my truck...!" I realized that he was talking to me! I stopped and looked at him. (BTW, I loathe being called "ma'am".) I had made no contact whatsoever with his truck. I looked so befuddled by this accusation that he had to clarify: "You know, when it smashed into my tailgate?" Ummm... I told him that I really had no idea what he was talking about, and he said that maybe it was such and such other lady who put her cart away just before I did, blah, blah, blah... I felt guilty, though. I have no idea why. Had molecules from the air movement caused by my passing cart adversely affected the molecules comprising his custom painted tailgate? (Gasp!) What had I done?

I also had an impulse that I attribute to my general ennui. An impulse to make uproar. Add a little drama. I thought, "What if I were to burst into tears?" How fun! I could snivel, "Oh, my God! I can't believe you would accuse me in this way! In front of all these people! I hate being accused of a wrong I did not commit. I didn't do anything, and here you are, saying that I did, but I didn't...I SWEAR...TO...GOD!" after which I dissolve into sobs. That would have added a little interest. I didn't. But I contemplated it.

The Puny Local Controversy

According to a Letter to the Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune by a senior at Brighton High School, it is an injustice that girls cannot wear strapless gowns for Homecoming. Not even the upperclassmen! Oh, my Gawd! (When I write my next letter to the Trib and don't get published, I will remember that this girl did.) This letter has generated several days worth of response and discussion. Of course strapless is not permissible, one writer said. It would drive young men to acts of indecency! Then another young man wrote in to say that he doesn't appreciate such cheapening of the maidenly form. He prefers his dates to dress modestly. (Here in Utah, the whole issue of "modest" dress is a big deal. In fact, even the choice of the word "modest" in this discussion gives it religious undertones.) This exchange has been going on for over a week, now. In today's letter, Dwight Adams told us that we would be shocked (SHOCKED!) if we knew how a guy's mind worked when it comes to women. Really, Dwight!? You're shittin' me.
"Then there are those of us who work to control our imaginations. The more immodestly you dress, the harder it becomes for the man to control that part of himself. Many of us will deal only with modest girls, just to avoid the hassle." Thanks Dwight, for taming the raging beast within. "Males who enjoy strapless gowns..." are in serious danger of an enormous boner suddenly shooting out of their boxers and smacking them (or innocent bystanders) right in the face! A guy could lose his front teeth that way.
But you see, here is something I can hold on to! Tsk! Not that! Get your minds out of the gutter. I'm talking philosophy, here.
Feeling powerless?
Feeling like you don't make a difference?
Go strapless! Man will be forced to cope with the "...sexual stimulation that female exposure provides." (Quoting Dwight again.) You will make an impact.

Someone please come and rescue me from Utah.

And finally, The Pathetic Substitute for the campfire we should have had this weekend.

My poor kids are roasting marshmallows in the chimenea on the back patio, because the weather sucked this past weekend, and we had to blow off our camping trip to Arches NP. Could this be the actual cause of my melancholy?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Don't Worry, Folks!

It's commercially sterile!

I expect this might not be getting regular coverage on CNN, but the story of the rat's head in the can of green beans is rocking the town of Lehi, Utah.

A lady bought the can of beans, canned by Allen Canning of Arkansas, at her local Wal-Mart, and found this when she opened the can. Yum! I think that little pink ear is so cute, and all the sloughed-off fur is SOOO appetizing...

Actually, I think she's making a bit of a fuss about it. I spent some of the summers of my youth working in a cannery, so I know that sometimes...stuff can slide on by you on the picking tables. I canned peas and corn, and I didn't see anything worse than thistle buds, smut blobs, dead bugs, giant tangled clots of sopping corn the occasional morsel of dead toad. I've heard stories about beans, though. I never worked at the local bean canning plant, which was just down the road, but I heard stories about the stuff the bean combines would scoop up and haul in to the plant. Mice, rats...I even heard once of a possum that survived both the bean combine and the cutter (it IS hard to kill a possum), and arrived out on the picking table in...well...a bad mood.

What amuses me most about this story is the cautionary tale it should provide public relations people everywhere. Do not let your company spokesperson go on record saying, "There's no way that product could have hurt her....This rodent was rendered commercially sterile."

That's the problem. Put a rat head in one can of beans, pretty soon everybody's going to want one.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


It's becoming a fall tradition - every October I find myself sitting on a rug littered with Duplo, holding a screaming toddler.

In October, we start our Family Literacy program, which meets in the mornings and so generally serves quite a few stay-at-home moms. We have childcare of course, but I have learned that people from different cultural backgrounds have different views about leaving their children, or even about putting their children down. Our childcare helpers, the long-suffering Leticia and her husband Francisco, get to spend quite a bit of October cooped up up with about 12 infants and toddlers who have scarcely ever been out of their mothers' sights.

After a while they get used to it, but the first couple weeks are...trying. It doesn't take us long to figure out who is going to be The Crier. This is the one with extraordinary endurance. And leadership skills: when The Crier cries, all the other kids start crying, too. Soon one shrill little "MAMAAAAAA!!! MAMAAAAAA!" turns into a wailing chorus. Last year, the honor went to a team effort by the three-year-old twins, A. and A. They reigned as champions because each supported of the other's effort. I'm sure that, without help from her twin, neither would have been able to sustain a two-hour crying jag. I suppose they napped well afterward...

This year, I think the laurels may go to 18 month-old M. The moment her mom lifted her out of the stroller and put her down, we knew the direction the morning was going to take. Who could guess that something so small could make that much noise? I hustled her mother out of the room to give her a placement test, but little M's screams shattered windows blocks away, I'm sure.

All you parents out there, do you know the spot in your occipital lobe that jolts you like a cattle prod at the sound of a crying child? That jangling, imperative (but not very articulate) voice: "HUH? BABY CRYING!! MUST! NURTURE! NOW!" The whole time I was testing the mother, neither of us could concentrate. Then, it was quiet. Ahhh... The mother and I smiled at each other. "She's stopped," I said. "Whew! Since she's being so good, do you want to go into the classroom and meet your teacher?" "Yes." We didn't realize that we couldn't hear her anymore because Leticia had taken her outside on the lawn. A few minutes later, she was back. The neighbors would have called the cops otherwise. Finished with my testing at this point, I went to the nursery, opened the door and walked into the original Wall of Sound. Baby M. had set off all the other babies - it was mayhem. She's smart, too. As soon as the door opened, she made for it, figuring she could make a mad dash for her mother between my legs. Nope. I have learned some tricks from being Nathan's mom. I snagged her - she punched me with her tiny fist. Sending up a little payer of gratitude that I teach adults, not kids, I sat down on the rug to wait her out.

She may be this year's Crier, but she can't go for the full two hours. She's smaller than the twins were and screaming requires a lot of energy. Finally, she was an exhausted blob of snot, and oozed her way onto my lap, snuffling and hiccuping. There is actually something very relaxing about holding a limp, gooey toddler. I am trapped. Pinned down, but mindlessly happy. Back in my office, the phone is ringing, people are wondering where I am. I am sitting there on the rug, grinding my stocking into someone's half-chewed animal cracker, rocking this kid. Note to self - the Family Literacy program needs a rocking chair.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"Stiff", by Mary Roach

Caveat #1: I like to share my opinions of the books I read, but this is not a proper book review. This is an improper book review. If you want something more studious...well, they have blogs for that.

Caveat #2: "Stiff" is a book infused with liberal splashes of black humor. I laughed; but not everyone does. If you';e not in the mood for macabre humor today, come back and read this tomorrow instead.

I wouldn't exactly say that I loved this book. That would be weird. But it was very interesting and fun to discuss. Mary Roach is a journalist and divided "Stiff" into chapters that stand alone as articles, really. And yes, the book really is about cadavers. People learn a lot from dead bodies.

Mary Roach is entertaining - downright funny at times. At one point she describes a journey to a small town in China to check the veracity of news story that a man who owns a crematorium there actually did cut the buttocks off cadavers so his brother (who owns the restaurant next door) could include them in his dumplings. Not true, she discovered after a lot of cultural and linguistic embarrassment; but I was most amused by her descriptions of the bad Chinese / English translations she encountered on the trip. It might just be an English as a Second Language teacher thing, so forgive me if you don't think it's funny; but when "We do chicken right!" translates to "Do me chicken!", I laugh my ass off.

This often leads to one of those humiliating moments when I say to my husband, "Honey! Listen! Listen! OMG, this is so funny! *Snort, snort* " He listens, bored, while I read the chicken thing aloud. I keep glancing up at him to see if he gets it. "Get it? 'Shampoo', but on the bottle it says, 'Sham Poo'! Huh? Oh, never mind. *Snort, snort*"

If you DO like bizarre translations, go to and eat your heart out. But I digress.

Roach's style combines a sort of gee-whiz disingenuousness (she knows her curiosity is ghoulish, but she can't seem to keep herself from asking inappropriate questions) with solid facts and statistics. Some of the chapters cover such topics as:
  1. What happens to cadavers in medical school anatomy labs;
  2. How helpful cadavers have been in the studies of auto safety, ballistics, and police forensics;
  3. Cannibalism;
  4. How plane crash victims can reveal important information about the cause of the tragedy.
Some of these chapters were fascinating, some didn't grab me. For example, the chapter on ballistics testing bored me a little, so I skipped to the next chapter. As there is no story line, I felt no guilt.

I will say though, that, after the exhaustive research that went into this book, a better copy editor would have been appreciated. I'll bet Roach wasn't happy when she saw "Calvary" spelled "cavalry". That stuff leaps off the page at me, and I think, "Sloppy, sloppy. What is this, my blog?"

Everyone in my book club who read it enjoyed it except one person, who said she didn't like thinking about her eventual corpse-hood. This was one of the main issues raised by the book: What can you choose to have done with your body after death? Burial and cremation, of course. I know about donating oneself to science, because one of my friends has decided to do it. But I didn't know about a technique being tried in the Midwest, which dissolves bodies down to a pile of soft bones you can crumble in your fingers, and pH neutral, sterile water. In Sweden, you can be composted. Of course! Not at IKEA, though.

Unfortunately, reading the book has turned me off the idea of donating my body to science. I would love to be a cadaver in an anatomy / physiology lab; but when you donate your body to scientific study, you don't know where you're going to end up. What if my head were used for plastic surgery practice (the eye job I could never afford in life...); my leg went to an auto manufacturer for an impact study; and the rest of me went to a police lab in Tennessee so they could see if I rot more slowly in spandex tights? Lying out on the ground, headless, in spandex.... What would people think?

I have decided that cremation would be nicer, although did you know that cremains are sterile? They add no nutritive value to the soil. So, the idea of being composted appeals. I could be reduced to little pellets and put in a special, biodegradable box after which I'm planted under a lilac bush. Or maybe I would be more useful in the tomato patch. It has sentimental appeal, and adds whole new meaning to, "Bite me!"


Quality writing: 6 (Well, there was that whole "Calvary/cavalry" thing; and Roach would be the first to admit that she's no Steinbeck. It's not meant to be a literary experience.)

Interesting characters: 8. (Some of them are alive.)

Interesting plot structure: NA.

Addictiveness: Only 5. (For me, an addictive book needs an exciting plot with characters who are living, if fictional.)

Bonus points, though, for being thought-provoking and evocative.

Overall grade: 7

Ever thought about what you what should become of your body after you die?