Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today's High and Low

Today, my world didn't reach out and grab me. So, I'll tell you about this dumb thing I do at the end of the day before it slides away, unexamined. I make myself think it over and decide on the best moment and worst moment of the day. This isn't easy on a regular day, because the highs aren't very high and the lows aren't very low. That's the challenging part.

Low point for today. Easy! The English as a Second Language program that I run is an evening school, and we use the same classrooms as the children use during the daytime. In between, there are meetings, social services like legal aid, and a whole bunch of other things going on. We've been beating this building into the ground for about 20 years, and it shows. My students have to be careful, because we get blamed when things are messy or broken, whether we were responsible or not. So last week, a team of volunteers came to the school to paint some classrooms and they did the preschool room. At night, I use the preschool as a childcare facility. For reasons I can't really fathom, a volunteer stashed a little plastic bucket full of paint in the play refrigerator and forgot it. So tonight, some little kid opened the toy fridge, reached in and pulled out the paint (which was still pretty liquidy) and spilled it all over the preschool carpet. Then walked in it and walked around a little, looking for help. It was interesting. I have paint in my hair, still. Luckily, we're getting new carpet soon. Also, when I called the executive director to tell her what happened, I got to the part where the kid took the paint out of the fridge, and she thought I was about to tell her that he drank it. She was so relieved that he didn't - she was delighted that he'd just spilled it. Disaster is relative, I guess.

High point. Hmm.... that would have to be running this morning with my new iPod, and realizing that a half-hour had gone by and I hadn't even looked at the clock. I have all of my favorite stuff on there from the CDs in my collection, so now I want new music. If you comment oon this posting, tell me what your latests music addictions are.

I don't think my highs and lows are terribly interesting, and you probably won't either. I'd rather collect some of yours, 'cause I like collecting stuff like that. Tell the best and worst moment of your day. Only two rules: it has to be a day that is basically over, so it might have to be yesterday; and it has to really be a moment, not an hour or something.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Toothbrush Cutter

Before I get to my actual post, I would like to say that I am perfectly happy just at this moment because:

1. I'm eating Whoppers.
2. My son pooped this evening without medical intervention. Plums are a mom's best friend.
3. My mouse was so horrible, but I just took it apart and cleaned all the crap out of there, and now its moving as smoothly as Nathan. Aaaah.

I'm a cheap date, I know.

"Toothbrush cutter" is a term used to describe a backpacking purist. A person who will go to great lengths to save even a fraction of an ounce of weight, including taking a hacksaw to her toothbrush. My dad is a toothbrush cutter ("Why would we need two potatoes? There are only six of us; one potato's enough."); Simon and I used to be. Now, we are hypocrites. True, we cut our toothbrushes, but we will be taking two apples and two oranges. Oranges are an insane luxury. Carry the peel in, carry the peel out. Suspend the fragrant, varmint-attracting peel 15 feet in the air at night.

Are we planning a backpacking trip or having a marriage encounter session? Who is this guy? In a different epoch of our life together (namely, before kids), Simon and I backpacked all the time, and there was no need to negotiate or compromise. We knew the drill. We haven't done this since I was pregnant with Sara, though. He's changed. He is not the man he was.

Evidence. Exhibit A:

"OK, lunches. What should we take?"
"What did we use to take?"
(What am I , the historian?) "Hardtack and margarine."
"That's all!?"
"Uh...dried fruit. Apricots, pears..."
"I don't like dried fruit."
"Since when? You used to eat dried fruit."
"I ate it, but I never liked it. Let's take fresh fruit."
"Fresh fruit!? Do you have any idea how much that WEIGHS?"
"I know how much it weighs. If you like, I will carry the fruit."
[suspiciously] "What kind of fruit were you thinking about?"
"Apples, oranges."
"Oranges!?!" [At this point, I pass out.]

He would say that I have also changed with the passing of time.

"No more oatmeal. I used to put up with eating that mushy s***, but I'm done gagging down oatmeal."
"So, what are you going to eat for breakfast?"
[perkily] "Clif bars!"
"That's all!?"

I think he wants to take a ridiculous amount of toilet paper. He thinks my rain gear is too heavy. Tomato, tomahto. Potato, potahto. But we're not going to call the whole thing off. We have successfully managed to negotiate eating utensils (2 tablespoons, one fork to share, one teaspoon to share), after all. Score one for the home team. We're getting our s*** together in the basement, so we don't have a last minute scramble to pack after I get home from work late Thursday night.

We need to get an early start on Friday morning. The trail head is on the North Slope, which means we have to drive up through Evanston, WY to get there, then drive quite a way on unpaved roads. Tonight, besides cutting my toothbrush, I oiled my hiking boots, water-proofed my stuff sack (rain in the Uintas in August is almost guaranteed) and sharpened the knife.

Soon, the only big questions left will be:

1. Will I get to the top of King's Peak without chickening out?
2. Will the weather cooperate at least a little and not send a bunch of lightning just as we're about to reach the peak?
3. (The really big question) Is there any way in hell I can manage to smuggle Harry Potter along? It's on my nightstand right now, driving me insane with anticipation. No. Must...resist... Still, I can't stop myself thinking...Weight? About the same as two oranges....

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I'm Obsessed With His Ass!

Nathan's! Whose did you think?

Nathan is constipated. The problem (which I have heard is not all that uncommon in a busy little kid) is that there is always something he'd rather be doing than pooping. He's even perturbed about taking time out to pee, which is why he still has an occasional accident. At preschool, if he suspects that anything interesting is about to happen while he's in the bathroom, he'll come mincing out with his pants still around his ankles, saying, "Wait! Wait for me!"

So, I can see how this comes about. I talk to his teachers so they can encourage him to go. I promise to perch on the edge of the tub and read stories if he'll just sit still on the pot for a few minutes. We discuss foods that are good for pooping. Oatmeal, good. Cheese, bad. Plums, good. Salami, bad. The first time he got really constipated, I gave him Colace for a few days, and he was OK again. This past week, that failed to do the trick, and after about 6 days, I was stumped. It became a constant, nagging worry. I called the pediatrician. "Time for an enema," she said. When I was a kid, the dreaded enema was an ongoing threat that my mother used to keep all of us kids regular. I had only the vaguest of notions about what was involved, but it sounded sinister.

Nathan was intrigued. When I took it out of its package last night, his eyes lit up. "Are you going to put that up my bum?" I was at a bit of a loss. This is supposed to be a quasi-medical procedure; to be taken seriously and anticipated with solemnity. I got him arranged on a towel on the bathroom floor as per the instructions and carefully administered the thing as directed. Simon was ready, thinking he'd need to be held down. On the contrary, he just giggled and said, "Well, this is awkward!" It worked like a charm and he was totally blissed out by the experience. He sat there with a huge grin and gave me a blow-by-blow description of how it felt. He hopes he'll need another enema again soon. I'm worried that he'll never want to poop in the conventional sense again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rain! Rain!

It's raining lightly right now. I can hear the exotic pitter-patter. If it keeps on for a little while longer, it will provide enough water that I can turn off the sprinklers tonight and save $25! It rained yesterday as well, the first rain in our part of the Salt Lake valley since early June. I was so glad to see it that I was partially immune to the irony of it showing up the very moment the Butlerville Days parade started. July 24 is Pioneer Day in Utah - a major state holiday complete with time off. Our 'burb piggybacks on the big holiday with the (much smaller) Butlerville Days festivities. Parade (including a few big floats making an encore appearance after the giant Pioneer Day parade downtown that morning), inflatables, smashed candy, horses, music...the usual good stuff.
Here are the soggy festivities. Simon was working, but if he had been there, he would have said that it's just like the rained-upon carnivals of his youth in England.
Sara has just started Brownies. The Butlerville Days parade was her first scout activity, hence the pristine vest.

Lots of great fun getting wet butts of the sopping inflatables. Added an element of water-slide-ish-ness.

The police helicopter circled for a while, then landed. I told Nate they were coming for him.

This is Nate's wheedling face. I suppose he thinks he looks like Puss in "Shrek". He wanted to stay longer, but we had to go home because Sara was planning to make lasagna for supper, and it needs a while to bake.

Here is Sara making supper. She'll have Cooking Merit Badge in the bag. (Actually, in Brownies, they call them "Try-Its", not merit badges. Girl Scouting has changed a little since I was in it.)She has to stand on a milk crate, but she can do the whole thing: measuring, browning the meat, cleaning up when she's done. I open the tomato sauce can and deal with the hot oven and its scary hot door. I thought I'd put this in to prove that she's really not a goth or a flapper, as per my earlier blog entry about her.


I went running this morning before work and took my work clothes with me in a shopping bag. When I changed in the restroom after arriving at work, I realized that I had not packed shoes. I don't teach today, so there's no real reason why I can't pad around in my bare feet or my running shoes all day, but the first thing I saw on today's agenda was that I had to make a major presentation to our Board of Directors this afternoon. Great. I wandered around for awhile, asking if anyone had a spare pair of shoes (yeah, right, but you never know) and wore a size 7 1/2. My colleague Dorothea came to my rescue. She wears the same size as I, and was wearing a pair of shoes that matched my outfit. When she left work at noon, she left barefoot and passed the shoes to me to wear for the rest of the day. Her husband picks her up, so she didn't have to drive, but still! Thanks Dorothea! I owe you a BIG favor!

Monday, July 23, 2007


Today was a day in which a lot of things that I thought were neatly fastened in place came undone.

Snap, went my temper. I had a doctor's appointment scheduled for late this afternoon, but this morning I knew I was feeling better and didn't need it after all. [I don't know about you, but I always start to feel better as soon as I call the doctor.] So, I called to cancel the appointment.

At 8:30, the hold-queue was 7 minutes. I decided to try later.
At 11:30, I just got a busy-signal.
At 12:30, the message said that the doctors were at lunch and if it was an emergency I should hang up and dial 911. No way to leave a message.
At 1:30, same thing. Dial 911.
At 2:00, busy signal.
At 2:30, I got a person. I told her that I'd like to cancel my appointment, and she said that would be fine, except I would be billed for it anyway because I need to make a cancellation more than two hours before the appointment.

I let her have it with both barrels. Then I let her supervisor have it, too. They reversed the charges. I got so hot under the collar, I pulled my shirt off and was skwawking at them in my camisole. Quiet day at the office, luckily.

People who know me can say what they like about how "Type A" I am, but hardly anyone sees me lose it, because I almost never do. This was an exception, however. I told Simon about it later and his eyes widened. "You lost your temper?! Like that time with the Maytag call center?!" "Don't worry. It wasn't that bad."

Crackle, went our backpacking plans. Our partners for the King's Peak trip, Jodi and Ralph, are not coming along after all. Jodi is having trouble with her toe. Of course, Simon and I are still going. In fact, we're off to REI tomorrow for the quad map and a water filter (after 20 years of boiling water, we're going to join the ranks of the filterers). New gear! I was upbeat and said that, well, we can take our books and read all we want without having to worry that we're being unsociable... but some of the zip has gone out of the trip. At least temporarily.

Pop, went a tiny but (I suspect) very important muscle in my groin. I was working out at the rec center tonight and was doing that weight machine where you squeeze your legs together, thereby making the inner thigh sleek and toned. I finished and got off the machine and something went "poing". S***. Gingerly, I walked back to the car like a toddler with a full diaper, gradually adding a little more and a little more movement...it feels sort of OK now, but something is not quite right. "Well," said Si, "You'll have a clearer picture in the morning." I suspect so. Can't wait.

This post is a little whiny in its tone. I will conclude with some good news. It rained today. The first rain I've seen since early June. Not at my house; but as I driving home, I drove into it on the freeway. It was like a car wash. A deluge for about 200 yards, and then I drove out of it onto completely dry pavement. When they talk about isolated showers out here, they are not kidding.

I'd better surrender this day and go to bed before anything else comes flying off.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

She's a Big Star

So, Sara's Theater Camp is finished, and her recital was last night. They staged a short play they had made up themselves. Sara was one of the "bad guys", whose evil plan was to steal the toys of all the children in Salt Lake and sell them back at double the price. She looks scary, huh? I get this look every time I ask her to set the table.

Here she is after the show. Personally, I think she looks more like a flapper than a villain with evil powers. They should have ratted her hair and spray-painted it red.

I didn't really stop to consider until after the recital that we were going to have to walk back to the car, several blocks away, with an eight-year old who looked like this.

People must have thought we were either very tolerant of her "Goth Tween" stage or that she's the Bad Seed and that we're afraid of being murdered in our beds if we tell her to take off the eye makeup.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Big Excitement at the Dentist

Personally, I find it less than thrilling to go to the dentist. But with the bright light...the chair that goes up and down...the groovy camera that photographs your teeth...the tickly tooth polisher...Nathan likes it. He likes it a lot; he spent most of today's visit grasping his crotch. Always on the lookout for potential accidents, I asked at one point whether he needed to go potty. Contemptuous, he replied, "No, Mom! I'm holding my wiener for excitement! Can't you tell?" He then demonstrated a slightly tighter, more imperative grip. "When I grab it like THIS, I need to go potty." Well, now I know.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Numbers Keep Getting Higher

First of all, there's my age, which rolled over to 40 on the giant odometer of life today. Fortunately, I'm too busy to wallow in self-pity today. Maybe I'll indulge over the weekend. This pill was somewhat sweetened by cards from Sara and Nathan, each signed in their best handwriting; and I got an iPod, which is very cool! I won't be dependent on whatever music is issuing from various aerobics classes when I'm running at the rec center. I took a quick look at it this morning, and it seems pretty self-explanatory. Hopefully, I can load it up with tunes this weekend. I might have to do that instead of whining about my age and contemplating an eye-job.

The other large number causing me some concern today is 800, which is related to our upcoming climb of King's Peak. Si did a little research, and downloaded some info about the hike and the climb. We're planning to hike in about 10 miles the first day, spend the second day getting to the top of the Peak and back down, then hiking out on the third day. He read aloud to me while I cooked supper. "Shady trail....gradual elevation gain...great scenery...excellent camping choices..." Sounds good. I ask him about how many thousand feet of vertical we need to gain. "From trail-head to peak, 5,000 feet." No big deal, spread out over what looks like about 15 miles. It isn't really nasty until it's 1,000 feet of vertical or more per mile. And of course, the big elevation gain (the grind) won't be until the second day. "No technical climbing required...but the last segment of the climb is talus and boulder field." What? Talus? Boulders?Oh, ick. For those of you who don't hang out much in the mountains, "talus" is that loose, flat, broken s*** that slides out from under your feet, and we have a lot of moutains in Utah that are talus-topped. Since I like staying on my feet, I don't love talus/boulder scrambles. I glanced over Si's shoulder for a second. "Oh, well...that's only the last 800 feet. I can do it." "Actually, that 800 feet is the vertical that we gain in the scramble. It's actually about .8 of a mile long. " Oooooh. Well, all right... That's...a lot of talus. I better kick my workouts up a notch. The iPod arrived just in time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Camp Misconduct

Every year for the past 6 years, our book cub has planned a camping trip. We find a campground in a fun spot not too far from Salt Lake and book three adjacent sites. We bring our families (so we generally are about 14-16 people, ages 1 to 50-something) and spend a weekend acting like complete idiots. Each family volunteers to provide a meal, and we just throw snacks and drinks around randomly. The weekend is generally spent:

Lounging in camp chairs with books open in our laps while we fall asleep. Also commenting on who snores/drools while doing this.
Cooking and eating lavishly.
Geocaching, in some cases.
Swimming, sort of, if there is water.
Taking incriminating photos of each other. Except me. I always bring my camera, but get too distracted to use it. I'm sure I'll be getting some photos other people took in a few days.
Other important camp chores, such as jockeying camp chairs for the best position at the fire; trying to keep the picnic table clear enough to eat at; and sending representatives into the nearest town for ice, rum, chips, wood and Pull-Ups.

We used to call this "Camp Book Club", but a few years ago, someone (I think it was Rich) began to refer to it as "Camp Misconduct". This year I pointed out that, for all our swagger, we don't really get into much trouble. Wanna hear just how BAAAAAD we are? Here is a list of crimes that I observed (but perpetrators not named, 'cause others will want to take credit).

1. Copious alcohol consumption, resulting in dirty jokes, occasional butt-grabbing, and one camper referring to a bottle of South African Cabernet as "Cheetah Piss".
2. Cigar smoking.
3. Swimming in Silver Lake Reservoir even though the bottom was muddy and slimy. We live dangerously.
4. Picking a fight with the people at the neighboring site about whether they were "cleaning" fish at the communal tap, or just "washing" them.
5. Riding scooters in the road. Against the rules, according to the campground hosts.
6. Dipping a marshmallow in Sambuka (sp?) before toasting it, to see what happens.
7. Eating a package of Double-Stuff Oreos before the people who had brought them got any.
8. Saying that we were going to discuss the book, but blowing it off.
9. Lying and deceptive behavior regarding the rumored existence of a bag of Funyuns.
10. Turf wars over the sweet spot for achieving golden marshmallow perfection.
11. A major tussle over language. So, we're taking a survey.

When you are anticipating something eagerly and can't wait to get started, you are "________-ing at the bit". What verb do you use inthis expression? If you feel comfortable doing so, you could satisfy the linguist and tell me what state/country you were born in and what state/country you lived in during your late childhood. In the name of science, thank you.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Top Roping with Becca

My coworker Rebecca invited me to go "top-roping" with her today in Big Cottonwood Canyon. I agreed, even though I wasn't totally sure what it was. I don't know jack about climbing, have never touched a harness before, don't really know what it means to rappel. The main reason for this is I am pretty fearful of heights and totally paranoid about falling. When I told Simon I was going to go, he said, "But, you're afraid of falling, even when there's no chance you will!" However, Becca was a climbing instructor when she was in college, and promised me she had seen a sufficient number of meltdowns; she figured she could manage me.
The day worked out in such a way that my daughter Sara was with us for part of the time. She took some of the pictures.
Becca is explaining the climbing shoes to me. I guess they need to be incredibly tight to work properly. They hold your toes in this sort of forced curl, which I will admit is handy for clinging desperately to the rock face...

You can't see Becca, but she's at the top. This cliff's top is accessible via a trail, so she walked up there and secured the rope. Then she shouted, "ROPE!" and threw the ends down. Yes, I see that. This stating of the obvious is a safety measure designed to keep me from being clobbered on the head.

Here I go. Too bad that pictures of climbers from below aren't more flattering! My butt is really not that big! I did not get to the top. Each time, I ran out of toeholds and nerve. However, each time, I did manage to climb higher than the time before. I was petrified the first time, after I got about 15 feet up or so; but by the last try, I was maybe 25 feet up by the time I stopped. To get down, I had to lean out from the cliff in the harness and walk down with my legs out perpendicular from my body.

There were some other climbers messing around on the same cliff, and one of the m offered to belay Becca, so she went up. Like a monkey, totally slam dunking the climb in less than 2 minutes.

Here' she is at the top! Isn't she incredible? I was so lucky that she asked me to come along. Thanks, Becca.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Books and Brain Candy

I have been spending a delightful day pounding my head against a statistical report that I have to file with the government before Friday. This report addresses enthralling questions such as, "How many of your 'High-Basic' English as a Second Language students this past year were Asian males between the ages of 25 and 44?" "For how many hours did those students (that'd be the high-basic Asian males between the ages of 25-44) attend class this year?"

All sharp objects have been taken out of the office until the sums of the rows add up to the sums of the columns.

I need brain candy. I have a good book at home that I'm reading; but I suspect that tonight, I will go for my anesthetic reading material instead. Here's a new pseudo-literary question for you: Is there a book you have read a zillion times, and you keep taking it out and reading it again?

For me, the choice is always the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon. When my husband sees me reading one of those books, he says, "What?? Again?" They are quality escape-reading, though. Funny, exciting, sexy, but also detailed and historical. Love 'em.

BTW, can anyone advise me on how to do a sidebar featuring the book I'm currently reading? I see that a lot of my favorite bloggers have them, with a photo of the book cover and a link, but I can't make it work. How's it done?

Enough stalling. Next question: "How many Intermediate-Level Hipanic females between the ages of 17 and 24?"

Monday, July 9, 2007

International Product Tester

There is a dense haze over Salt Lake City, caused by the Millford Flats fire, which has burned over 250 square miles at this point.

Still, it was a good day because:

1. My in-laws flew back to England! Yipee! I was so good for 2 1/2 weeks. Feels like I spent the whole time cooking, and my face is frozen into permanent blankness.

2. Daughter Sara started Theater Camp today. This is waaaay out of her comfort zone, but she asked if she could do it, 'cause she's hoping it will make her "less shy", as she puts it. She loved it, made two new friends, can't wait for tomorrow, and learned how to die.

3. My friend John will be around when I go to Wisconsin next month, and has time for lunch.

4. I had my annual performance assessment with my boss. I won't bore you with my positive feedback. My "constructive comments" indicate that I'm "Type A" and "competitive". My boss wonders if I need to set a personal goal of relaxing more. S***, if I relax, I fall asleep. Being Type A is really just a means of staying awake.

Such a great day deserves to end with a piece of candy. Or two. My friend Shawn went to Taiwan for a wedding and brought me back some Taiwanese candy, which I found in my mailbox at work a few days ago. So, tonight I ate the first piece while I was rambling around the house, doing chores. Caramel-y and peanutty. Interesting. For the second piece, I actually stood still and looked at it after I unwrapped it. Hmmm... it was covered with green leafy bits, sort of like someone dropped it on a freshly mown lawn. Tea? Herbs? ....Mold or some other unauthorized green-ness? I looked at the ingredients. The English translation says, "maltose, peanut, glucose, wheat flour, salad oil laver". Whatever that is. The packet does say that it is "laver flavored". All righty, then. I wonder if the green stuff is "laver". I ate it, and I'm still alive. If this is my last blog entry ever, you'll know what happened.

It Was Danielle Steele, Admit It

This was the conversation at lunch break, so I'll toss it into the blog-o-sphere and see who answers it.

What was the first adult-themed book that you read? For me, this was the biography of Harriet Tubman, "A Woman Called Moses". I remember being amazed by the fact that there was SEX in that book (even if it was just a little bit). My mom embarrassed me because she had read it, and when she saw me reading it, she said something like, "What a great book! It's a little salty, though. Well, good introduction to sex in literature." I don't remember my response, but it must have been something like, "Oh, gack! Moooooooommmmm!" (That's the 3-syllable "mom".)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Is Marie Callender a Member of My Family?

No. It just seems that way because I blog about "her" a lot these days. I guess that, while I was at work last night, my husband, children and in-laws went out to Marie Callender's for supper. Five-year-old Nathan must have liked the peach/rhubard/strawberry mess I made over the weekend and saw an opportunity to flirt with the female server.

When she asked him what he wanted for dessert, he started with "Weeeelllllll...." All of us who know him understand that the server is about to get the long-form answer.

(Nathan has a little trouble pronouncing /r/. It usually comes out /w/.)

"I'm thinking........I would like a piece of pie..ie....ie..." (Nate does that: holds the floor and everyone's attention by dragging a word out over several breaths)....that has a bottom cwust and a top cwust. A pie with two cwusts."

"And so.......(at this point the server is probably trying to go to her 'happy place')...I think I would like...woobob. Stwawbewy woobob."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Alone In The Office

I am all alone here at school tonight, because my evening English as a Second Language program has a two-week break. Well, everyone else has a break, but this is my time to do all the final reports and paperwork for the school year that has just finished, and get ready for the new one, which begins in mid-July. Seven of us share this little office, so when I have it to myself, I...
1. Blog, obviously.
2. Swipe food from my co-workers. Diane, I ransacked your desk drawer and chewed up the last of your Altoids gum. I owe you. If Becca ever came on my blog, she would know that I also owe her some chocolate-covered espresso beans.
3. I listen to music REALLY LOUD. Tonight it is Mana, my favorite Mexican rock band.
4. Start to get twitchy as the night gets later. All the little whirs, thumps and bangs - I wonder, if it is "the ghost" (My old boss, Suzanne, now dead. I swear she's still trying to find a quiet corner of the building in which to have a clandestine cigarette), the pipes or....Lula, the new custodian?! She's just arrived to do a late-night cleaning, blowing all the mystical atmosphere of the silent school. "You're still here?!?" she asks, and revs up the vacuum. Well, fine. I guess I'll go home.

Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion...

But nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it promise Freedom from Writer's Block.

Look out! This is a serious posting, devoid of LOL. I like to try to keep my blog light-hearted and upbeat. I generally want to avoid politics and other serious topics for two reasons: I don't think I'm articulate or informed enough to write well about such complex matters and I don't want to bore the pants off my blog-buddies. However, I'm beginning to see that I need an occasional serious moment to clear my mind of a preoccupation if it stifles my sense of humor. So I have to say that the Fourth of July is no fun for me anymore.

[Cue twittering birds and gentle, lilting music] I can recall a time when the Fourth of July was simpler. A day for eating, swimming and parade-watching. My home town is pretty small, but the neighboring town that hosted the area's Fourth of July parade is even smaller. John, if you're out there, help me - what's the population of Dalton? Well, we'd go over there for the parade, and then go back over at night for fireworks. We'd sit in the mosquito-y grass and wait. Boom! A firework would go off. We'd admire it, then talk amongst ourselves while the fire department got another one ready. Boom! Like that. That was the Fourth of July.

Now, I live in a place with better fireworks. I can clearly remember the first summer after we moved here, seeing fireworks going off in quick succession for the first time. Simultaneously, even. I was floored. That was fun. But either I'm imagining things or the Fourth of July is changing. I would be interested to know if this is just the case in super-conservative Utah, or whether is is the same everywhere in the country.

Now, it's a holiday in which we engage in the collective Beating of Chests. In which we shout from the rooftops about our Freedoms (as if no on else has any), our God-Given Rights, our Patriotism. I capitalize these words because they have been taken captive and given new definitions by our propaganda. Heavy words that we toss around lightly because they're reduced to jingoistic catch-phrases. Here are some others that drive me crazy: Family Values; a Nation of Laws; Support Our Troops. Underlying them. they have expected behaviors, veiled threats and intent to polarize.

I'm a language person, so I pay close attention to discourse. Why do we choose the words we choose? What's our intent when we use them? Solidarity or exclusion? I'm sick of the belligerent assumptions about American superiority. Whistling in the dark, if you ask me.

This kind of thinking has actually prevented me from blogging. Maybe I need another blog for my favorite rants: health care, xenophobia, campaign finance reform. Good lord, who'd want to read it?

At any rate, after the fireworks we went home and put the kids to bed; and I made raspberry jam. It was 11 PM when I started, but mashing raspberries with a potato masher eased my mind a little bit.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Leo, The Paper Plate

Also known as Leo the Lion, created by Nathan. There he is, taking his curtain call. Of course, I would never tell Nate that Leo reminds me of a mostly eaten dish of spaghetti. My friend Mary Sue gave us a very fun puppet stage that can be suspended in a doorway, so the kids spent the weekend making puppets and staging the production "Leo, The Lion".

It was fun. I used to do this when I was a kid; roaming the neighborhood with my cardboard-box theater on my red wagon, and forcing smaller children to watch my plays. You can see that my mother- in-law is really getting into it, too.

Here's a quick plot synopsis. Leo is a circus lion, but he doesn't like it.

Leo: Roar. Roar.

Ringmaster: Jump through the hoop.

Leo: No.

Ringmaster: Yes.

Leo: No.

In Act Two, Leo decides to run away. The title of each act is announced on a piece of paper shoved out from under the stage, to be read aloud by the audience. This act was called "Boo-Ho." When we read it out loud, a little hand reached out with a purple marker and added another "o".

Leo: I hate it here. Boo-hoo. I'm leaving.

Subsequent acts (each about 10 seconds long) dealt with Leo's struggle top find a place in the world. At first, he thought he could live with the snakes, but it didn't work out; he is rejected by the spiders and the screaming monkeys; he finally finds a happy home with the gypsies.

The End.

Zay Call Me Doktor Frankenshteen

If you read "Pie", you'll know that I was in some trouble over my plans to make a rhubarb pie this weekend.
Not one to let reality stand in my way, I went out to harvest the last of my scrawny rhubarb. My total yield was a cup and a half. Well, I also had a container of strawberries to pump up the volume a little, but even the two together did not give me enough to fill the damn pie. So, after weighing my options, I remembered there was one last container of peaches from my tree, frozen last fall and still seeking a purpose. So they went in there, too. The results were wierd but good. Now, what to call it?

Pot Luck Masters

Introducing my students. Amazing that I don't blog about them more often, since they are a source of so much pleasure in my life. I'm the director of a non-profit adult English as a Second Language program, and these photos are from our summer picnic. Our potlucks are known to be epic: taquitos, mole, momos, egg rolls...all the good stuff. Hot dogs, too.

Cheers! Of course, this is a non-alcoholic event, unless you happen to know which colleague has a flask of tequila in her handbag. One student appears to be toasting with his cell phone. Very American.

Year to year, we never know what will be the big thing. This year, it was hula hoops...

and Bingo. Bingo is becoming a tradition. I bought us a Bingo set this year, as I got tired of trying to find ones to borrow. I get a bunch of prizes from the Dollar Store and it's pretty fun.