Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Know You Are But What Am I?

A friend has asked me about my eight-year-old daughter Sara's love-life, documented in earlier blog entries. I should start by saying that men are mysterious creatures. I'm guessing that boys enter that "Girls are gross" stage because they need to strengthen their male identities and so have to separate themselves from girls in order to focus on guy-ness. This has been a blow to Sara. As her little boyfriends turn eight, they suddenly start to think that she's a...well...cootie.

Her little brother still adores her, but this is cold comfort. She has no idea how good she's got it. He serves as her body-guard, often in full plastic armor, and strikes strange Ninja-like poses if anyone says anything disrespectful. Except himself. He has exclusive rights to calling her a "dumb-dumb poopy head". This results in a volley of "I know you are but what am I?" and "Takes one to know one."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nate's Room V

It's coming along...

I'm Losing My Mind

I'm trying to blame my good environmental intentions. But the truth is, I'm forgetful lately. Distracted? A...ditz?!? NO! PLEASE!

I went to Smith's on Friday morning for groceries. I got out of the car and opened the back to get my canvas shopping bags, full of myself for remembering to use them. Then I walked into the store and did my shoppping. Came out to see that the whole time I was in the store the driver's side door was standing wide open.

Immediately, my eyes scan the parking lot. I'm not looking for criminals - I'm making sure I don't see my husband's truck. At that time of day, he could also be pulling into Smith's and he'd give me s***. I try to justify this lapse - it was a very hectic day - but STILL.

I filled two canvas bags and also had a big bag of frozen peas. I went to work and stashed my groceries in the fridge until the end of the work day, but I noticed the peas were gone. I remember taking them out of the freezer case...paying for them.... then what? All that day, I was hoping they'd "turn up". Now, I really hope they WON'T.

Friday, May 25, 2007

San Rafael Swell

I have just posted photos on Flickr for the first time, and I'd like a link with a photo panel, like Jessica has, but I can't seem to get Flickr to talk to Blogger. Jess, how did you do it?

Since I'm thinking about you, Jessica, I'll borrow a page from your book and make a list, entitled "Why the San Rafael Swell is so Awesome for Camping"

1. There is no one out there. If you look at my pictures and you see big, empty-looking landscapes, it really is that empty. We went into the Swell from Temple Mountain, not far from Hwy 24 and Goblin Valley. I was kind of worried. The population of Utah has grown quite a bit since our pre-children days when we used to camp regularly in the San Rafael. Maybe it would be hard to find a good camping place. What if all the good spots are taken?! There was no one out there. The dirt roads branch off into smaller dirt roads and the smaller dirt roads branch off into tracks. You can get lost out there. Perfect. For 24 hours we didn't see a person or a car, or hear anything but wind.

2. I love dirt (my friends can attest to this), and there is an abundance in the desert. I wore my "camping pants" with the big tear in the knee. My hair was full of sand and my fingernails were black. I wandered off and brought back deadfall for the fire, wrapped up in my big shirt. I kind of knocked the sand and bugs off it first. Kind of. When I go camping, I always take a little towel for washing, then never use it. This makes for a deeply fulfilling shower after I get home.

3. The flowers and grasses are incredible this year. There was grassland where there's usually just sagebrush.

4. The Geocaching is epic. We found one cache in Little Wildhorse Canyon, which is a well-known and much-visited slot canyon at the edge of the Swell. We went after another one in a spot that was hard to get to, necessitating prying open a makeshift gate in some cattle fencing. Very cool hidden slot canyon that you have to climb down into. And a hill covered in geodes, although most of them were pretty small. We didn't plan on spending hours there, but we did. John, are you out there Geology Man? How are geodes formed?

This was our first non-campground camping trip since Sara and Nathan were born. The kids didn't give a rat's ass about the lack of amenities, so I think we're officially "back to normal". Well, regarding camping, at any rate.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Desert Feet

Also known as "Teva Toes", a mark of how much fun you're having in the desert. We did our best to stay covered in dust the whole time. I'm going to figure out how to post some other photos on "Flikr" tonight.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Victoria's Secret, Again!?

This time, it was the catalogue. Eight-year-old daughter Sara is concerned about my body image. So, she picked up the catalogue and immediately said, "Eeew! These women are so skinny. Mom! I hope you don't want to be skinny like this. They are thinner than the thin-crust pizza we had for supper."

She peruses the catalogue. "Underwear....underwear.....Mom! Is this whole catalogue about underwear?" "Well, no. There are some pajamas, shoes, clothes..." "Well, it's mostly underwear. What is the big deal? It's not like there's going to be an undies inspection or something."

I thought fast. Choice of responses:
1. "Well, sometimes a person wants an undies inspection." Nah. This would require further delving and explanation.
2. "And if you get in an accident and have to go to the hospital?" Nah. The concept of a catalogue catering to potential accident victims would freak Sara out (especially since I"m on their mailing list).
3. "Well, not everyone likes Winnie-the-Pooh undies." Ooohh. This would be really throwing down the gauntlet. Sara is a Winnie-the-Pooh fan, and will defend him to her last breath.

Spam Haiku

AKA "Spamku". Please visit this link. Here's a teaser:

Pink beefy temptress
I can no longer remain

Oh Argentina!
Your little tin of meat soars
Above the pampas

Friday, May 18, 2007

"A Yellow Raft on Blue Water", by Michael Dorris

OK, this is my debut as a book blogger. Don't worry - I don't read as voraciously as I did before the kids came along, so I won't burden the world with my pretentious English-major persona very often. I have a feeling that it's not easy to write about books in an interesting way.

But I know a good book when I read it, and this one rates very high. On my Damn-Good-Read scale, this one was a 7.5.

It's about a Native American grandmother, mother and daughter. It's about women, but I don't think I would pigeonhole it as a "chick book". Men of the world, you should read it. It is a family history told in reverse, starting with the granddaughter's experiences today and then backing in to the underlying circumstances that created her reality. This guarantees that important plot revelations are saved for the end of the story. Each character narrates her own story completely before the next character is introduced, so the book is divided into three sections: "Rayona", "Christine" and "Ida". By the time the grandmother's story begins, near the end of the book, I was feeling the suspense that drives the plot - I wanted so much to know why she is the way she is and had questions that only she could answer. Each women often describes the exact same moment from her own perspective, so you are able to see how each saw and interpreted something differently. One character will do something that seems completely irrational, until it's her turn to tell the story and suddenly it all makes sense.

Dorris is sparing with his prose (no big desriptive passages), but he's able to convey to perfection how it feels to drive for hours downs empty stretches on road or go to stay with people you barely know. And I like the way he doesn't tie up every single loose end in the story. There is still a lot going on that reaches beyond the conclusion of the book.

Quality writing: 7
Interesting characters: 9
Interesting plot structure: 10
Addictiveness (the un-put-down-ability factor): 6

The End of the Soccer Season

The kids seem ready for spring soccer to be over. They like it, but they're getting as little burned out, I think. At Sara's practice yesterday, little Savanna sat down in the midst of scrimmage and assumed the Lotus position. "OOOHHHHHM......OOOHHHHHM.....", she said, oblivious to the play going on around her. What there was of it. Coach Paul sent the girls dribbling to the goal at the other end of the field. By midfield, they had all stopped and were lolling in the grass, balls balanced on their bellies. In despair, he asked, "What do you WANT to do?" Brylie said, "Sit in a circle and drink our water."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tomorrow...Is Another Day

I haven't been very amused for the last few days. I wanted my blog for stuff that strikes me as humorous, so all the serious stuff on my mind has not made the blog.

I am writing a federal grant proposal for my little adult English as a Second Language (ESL)program, and the thing is a behemoth. Must include my resume, key job descriptions, a letter from every community collaborator, explaining the partnership and signed by both parties.

Then there's the grant itself. Pages and pages of questions. Explain how my program helps students learn to read through use of systemic phonics and phonemic awareness. There are two sections on "need": "Statement of Need" and "Serving Those Most in Need". Well, what's the difference? One addresses the need our students have for English, and the other is the need the community has for our program. This is a little hard to tease apart at 2:30 AM. And then, there's "The Chart". The chart tells me, for example, that the federal government expects 46% of my students who start in Level One to advance to Level Two next year. To the right are the boxes where I project how many Level 1 students will enroll next year, how many will advance to Level 2, and a place to put the percentage. Let's see.... according to my calculations, that will be....46%! What a coincidence! And by the way, all the volunteers I use? Are they qualified? And my teachers. Please indicate how many of them have a K-12 teaching certificate? Ummm...that'd be 1. How many have a K-12 teaching certificate with a ESL endorsement? Well... none. I'm looking for the place to indicate that 6 of the 7 teachers on our staff have MASTER'S DEGREES in TESL, which totally trumps any other qualification. Not included. I guess I'll write it in.

The thing is going to be f***ing War and Peace by the time I get done with it. It's due on the 31st. I work on it for hours every day, and it's still not close to done. Oh, the the government has the application in electronic form, but it's "read only". I called to ask how I should fill in the charts, etc, and was told that I should use a typewriter. I think Guadalupe still has one...

So, none of this amuses me about his except my own attitude to it. I don't work out like I should, I am crabby to the children, the house gets dirty, the garden gets weedy; but I'm an eternal optimist. Every night when I get into the shower, I always think the same thing. "Ahhh! Tomorrow! A blank slate! Tabula Raza!" The potential for superwomanhood renews itself daily, and always when it's too late to do anything more about today. Tomorrow I will write concise but profound things on the grant, tighten my buns, bake cookies, get the tomatoes planted, make no past tense errors when I speak Spanish, design flawless lesson plans for all my students, and maybe...maybe...dust my desk and throw out the plies of plastic coffee stirrers on it. The keys to the kingdom might all be mine in the morning. And since, as usual, tomorrow has arrived, I guess I'd better get chopping.

I'll be funny again tomorrow, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nate's Room IV

The sky is done. Red rock coming soon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Kate's Test Kitchen, Episode 3

OK, last night's experiment was supposed to be "quick and easy". Thread skewers with shrimp, pineapple and red onion, then brush on some Teriyaki sauce with some toasted sesame seeds and Bob's your uncle. Broil and go. Serve with mashed sweet potatoes and asparagus. Perhaps a more competent person could handle this. My advice, if you want this to be quick and easy:
1. get shrimp that have already been peeled.
2. buy pineapple that has already been cut into chunks.
3. (this is a big one) buy skewers. Oh, yeah.

The sweet potatoes were easy, though. Just slip the suckers out of their skins when they're done roasting, mash with a little butter, a little salt and a tiny drizzle of maple syrup. Sprinkle with some leftover sesame seeds.

This meal would have been a lot more popular if it had not taken me so long to prepare. I had promised the kids an outing to the park after an early supper, so I was in the motherly dog-house. I only regained my status on the pinnacle of motherhood by asking them if a picnic supper at the park the following night (tonight) would suffice as compensation for my broken promise. After some deliberation, they agreed.

Taste rating: Pretty yummy. Even if you don't like onions much, a red onion wedge roasted with Teriyaki sauce is delicious. The kids were a little weirded-out by hot pineapple. I reminded them that they like it fine when it's on a pizza... The sweet potatoes were a big hit. I like the seeds because I don't handle the texture of mashed sweet potato very well. The crunchy seeds mitigate the mush factor. Oddly, the kids didn't like the seeds,and requested seconds, but seedless.

Hassle rating: That depends. Are you an inefficient kitchen nimrod like me? Or are you organized and with-it? Hopefully, now the world can learn from my mistakes.

Overall: Good, but problematic on several levels. Probably not a keeper. I would end up calling it something like "Lost Playground Skewers".

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cruising With Nathan

I know that summer is really here because five-year-old Nathan has started cruising. For him, this means that we crank the car stereo on the way to daycare. He likes to choose the music for best effect: Johnny Cash, maybe; or one of the Shrek soundtracks; today it was something from my collection of Spanish-language dance music. We put on "Sopa de Caracol" and he rolls all the windows down. Then he reclines as much as he can in his booster seat and waves at people on the sidewalk, his eyes sort of half-lidded, so he'll look cool. He wants me to drive a little bit slow and is constantly asking for the music to be turned up "One more second. Louder. Turn it up another second." All he needs is low-rider.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Kate's Test Kitchen, Episode 2

Spicy, combined with cool. Am I describing myself, or Pork Vindaloo?

This recipe was a piece of cake, unlike the Salmon en Papiotte I tried last week. I managed to make it without any major accidents. Cut up the meat and a sweet onion; spice it with, like, 12 different spices, brown it up in a pan and chuck a couple of tomatoes in there. There's a raita that goes with it, which is a better recipe than the one I've been using. Yoghurt and cucumber, as usual, but also tomato and garam masala.

Vindaloos are HOT! Too hot for little kids. I only put in a dash of Cayenne, then put the container on the table, so the grown-ups could add more.

Taste rating: Super! Great! Nathan kept calling for "More chicken!" "Nate, it's pork, honey." He had three helpings. There were almost no leftovers, unfortunately. I'm sitting here at my desk at Guadalupe, trying to make a lunch of the pathetic leavings while writing this.

Hassle rating: Easy and fairly quick. In fact, I knocked it together in about thirty minutes, which meant I had time to go out and weed in the garden before supper.

Final Analysis: Keeper.

Playoff Fans

Despite not having TV, we still get the pleasure of Hot Rod Hundley, voice of KFAN radio. Simon was working on a project in the stairwell. I watched him standing stock-still, oblivious to the heavy extension ladder on his hand, for 10 minutes, while the Jazz went into overtime.

Jess, in response to your posting, I could have sworn I heard you yelling.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"Silk", It's Soy

It's weird, actually. Impulse buy at the store yesterday. The labeling promises yumminess with vanilla flavor and less sugar, more vitamins, more calcium, etc...than regular milk. Put some on my cereal this morning and tried to see it as an adventure. I'm discovering that, for all my experimentation at supper-time, I really don't like anything messing with my breakfast rut.

And since I'm little Miss Product Tester, I tossed a tin of the new Altoids onto the conveyor at Target this morning. Dark chocolate mint. The checker asked, "Ooooh! Have you tried those, yet?" "No, this is my first time." "You're going to LOVE those. I tried one, and then I couldn't stop eating them." Then the lady behind me chimed in, "Those are GREAT! I ate a whole tin in one day!" Maybe it's stealth advertising: Altoids Corp. hires actors to play satisfied mint consumers. Their eyes followed me as I left the store, probably to see if I tore the cellophane off before I got to my car. I didn't, but I opened them the minute I had closed the car door, and ate 4 while driving to Guadalupe. I have self-control, though. I have written this whole post without eating one.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Victoria's &*(^&%*# Secret

Preparations are required before a visit to Victoria's Secret. I wear my favorite jeans, boots, shirt. I've been working out. I can do this.

As I walk through the mall, I catch sight of myself in the plate glass and think, "Cute! You look great!" The sales associates there are very helpful, too, informing me that I'm a "B". "But I was an 'A' the last time I came in..." "Nope. 'B'". OK, the tape measure never lies.

Then I go into the changing room, and I swear that in a matter of moments, I have gained 30 pounds. How does that happen? Anyway, I spend $$$$ and bring home my acquisitions in a bag the size of a pocket handkerchief. Then I go running.

Nate's Room (Part II)

Friday, May 4, 2007

Nate's Bedroom (Before)

Since we can't go camping this weekend, as planned, Simon is going to get started on redecorating Nate's room. The built-ins are going out, as is the wallpaper. Nate and Simon have decided on a red-rock mural, including Delicate Arch, Nate's favorite place. We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Update on Sara's Love Life

This is my second post today, but I have to take a minute to (verbally) scratch my head over boys and love. In an earlier post, I had mentioned the rivalry between O. and B. for Sara's affections. B. is aware that Sara likes O. better, and the necklace he gave her did not sway her affections.

Yesterday, in an attempt to get her attention, he asked one of his fourth-grade buddies to run up to her during recess and hit her. So his friend ran up to Sara, CLOCKED her between the eyes (which made her cry and caused a 30-minute nose-bleed), and then they both ran for it. I think he saw that the plan backfired.

I was apalled. Sara was only able to prevent me from going over there and making a scene by assuring me that the culprits got sent to the office.

"The playground is a mean place, Mom. You've got to be tough."

Kate's Test Kitchen, Episode 1

This is only "Episode 1", because kitchen weirdness is a recurring theme with me. I'm always trying new and impractical recipes. Shirley, if you're out there in the ether and read this, it's addressed particularly to you, regarding "en papiotte". Hope I spelled that right.

Last night's recipe was salmon "en papiotte" with a cucumber dill sauce. One thing I liked about the recipe was that it called for fresh fennel and leeks. Yummy. The kids had not tried fennel before. Sara liked the smell when I was cutting it up and hung around, eating raw off-cuts, which she said were good. (Nate was at soccer practice with his dad.) Cutting out the parchment wasn't a big deal, and I managed to fold it like the picture in the magazine. So, you put the leeks and fennel in the middle of the paper, lay the salmon on there and splash some white wine around. Except the recipe said the salmon had to be skinned, and mine wasn't. That was a major, sticky, screw-around business. In fact, that alone could be a deal killer. Oh, well, the little packets looked so cute. They made it into the oven, and I started on the sauce. Easy: grated cucumber, dill, garlic, plain yoghurt. So, I open the tub of yoghurt and it's raspberry. Damn, damn, damn. Damn "Mountain High" Corp. for making all their tubs look alike except for the TINY lettering to indicate the flavor. After a minute of staring into the fridge, mentally willing a tub of plain yoghurt to appear, Sara and I make a mad dash for the store, hoping to make it back before the salmon "en papiotte" becomes the salmon "flambe". I was grateful that I wasn't up in Brighton. At any rate, we managed to get back in time.

Taste rating: "pretty good" (although the kids just picked at it and mostly ate the baked sweet potatoes I made to go with it)

Hassle Rating: "why bother"

Final analysis: "Not a Keeper".

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Real Salt Lake (A Rant)

Well, I love going to Rice Eccles Stadium to watch Real Salt Lake play on a warm spring night. It's great to watch the setting sun casting its golden light on the mountains and the full moon rising. I was grateful for the scenery, because there was NOTHING happening on the field. [Cue silence, with faint chirping of crickets.] How hard is it to find a goal-keeper who pays attention? Why is our new star, Freddy Adu, hanging out waaaaay over in the wings, when he's supposed to be a striker? How much are we chipping in to build them a new stadium? Oh, yeah, $35,000,000. From the beginning, Colorado dominated the middle of the field, and RSL played down the sidelines. Humiliating 0-2 loss; but don't worry, guys, no one saw, because there was almost nobody there. [Cue faint, scattered applause.] An RSL funcionary approached us to ask our opinion of the Monday night matches - management thinks more Mormons will come to watch the team on Mondays, sice its Family Home Evening. We pointed out to him that, on Family Home Evening, they stay HOME (And watch the Jazz on TV). You can tell the Real management is from out of town.

The best part of the evening was 5-year-old son Nathan. He is all about nonsequiturs these days, quoting random lines from movies. For the last few days, he's been saying, "Turn on your lights, you moron!" (That's from "Cars") to everyone, so we had the big "'moron' is not a nice name" lecture, and I told him to cut it out. Naturally, every time the people behind us at the match last night shouted it, he turned to me and gave me a naughty look. At any rate, he's moved on to another line, from "Robots" this time. He was in the bouncy castle at the pre-game carnival, running and slamming himself into the corners as hard as he could, yelling "Tastes like chicken!! Tastes like chicken!!"