Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Swap Meet

I took my kids and Sara's little friend N. to a coffee shop the other day for hot chocolate. One of my little treats at the coffee shop is to grab an issue of City Weekly, which is a free local publication. Somewhat edgier than our daily print offerings (doesn't take much). So, I generally expect some eyebrow-waggling content: the hookah bars; the strip joint ads; the too-weird-to-be-funny comic strips. Sara and I like the column "Ask a Mexican", a tongue-in-cheek cultural primer; and I was about to flip to it when the cover story (this article) caught my eye.

Swingers in Utah? I was more than interested. A junior high-type fascination. I almost covered my mouth and tittered. The kids must have seen my gob-struck expression. "What? What? What's that story about, Mommy? Why are those people on the cover in their underwear?"

Flap! The newspaper disappears. "Nothing! There is no way I could explain it so it would make any sense to you. How's the cocoa?"

But later, of course, I read the whole thing. Aw, 'cmon. There must be, like, 15 couples in the Valley that do this, right? So I paid a visit to the website mentioned in the article, and was doubly gobstruck: if you look at the postings on the message board and the discussion lists, LOOK AT ALL THE PEOPLE FROM UTAH! Is there a more conservative state in the country? And the cities where a lot of the comments originate? Layton, Orem, PROVO. Could any towns be more straight-laced? I'm eyeing my neighbors in a different light, I'll tell ya'.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lesser-Known Super Heros

Like Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl. I’ll bet they aren’t lighting up anyone’s Saturday mornings anymore. Anyway, who needs them if we have Zebra Woman and Leopard Man?

It’s that time of year again: when Simon works days on end without a break and comes home with the most bizarre stories of customers and how they torture him. This week…

1. There was the guy who bought $500 worth of reduced-priced passes at an outlet in Provo, then left them in his car without tearing of the little receipt thingies. His car was broken into and the tickets stolen, along with other stuff. He came to the resort, insisting on a full refund. Sure, and Sears will compensate him for his missing tools and Sanyo will be replacing his stereo.

2. And then there was the guy who got mad at one of the staff in the ticket office. She was making a season pass for him and misspelled his name. When he pointed it out to her, she said (jokingly, she claimed) that perhaps if his handwriting were a little neater… (Ha-ha-ha-ha! That is so funny! Why she couldn’t have just said, “Very sorry sir. Let’s do that again, shall we?” I don’t know. Some people just can’t.) At any rate, he didn’t like her tone. Then, she made the corrections but forgot to save them; so when she printed out the pass, the spelling error was still there. At that point, he went ballistic and started screaming the house down. Can’t believe the insult! The outrage! *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* The opportunity to try to scream his way to a free season pass. No apologies were adequate. Not from her, her supervisor, the head of the ticket office: he insisted on sit-down meeting with Si. He showed up with pages torn from the resort employee manual on customer service. He had highlighted the salient points. Simon offered to him a full refund if he would just please hand in the pass, go away and never come back. He finally settled for a $50 gift card. His request that the ticket office employee be publicly flogged is still under consideration. I think that, provided with a cat o’nine tails, Si would love to have a go at them both.

3. Finally, there are Zebra-Woman and Leopard-Man. They like to shred the steep powder in their spandex animal costumes and wish only to be seen caped and masked. They fill out their pass forms, “Last name: Woman First name: Zebra”. The signatures on their risk awareness forms: “Leopard Man”. They are outraged that Si won’t let them be photographed masked on their passes. What a killjoy. They’ll have his badge for this! No wonder Si’s rum and Cokes get rummier and rummier this time of year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Definitely NOT from the Olympics

So when Mark disappeared from the party and came back a few minutes later dressed in THIS, we all just about wet ourselves.

Besides working with us at Guadalupe Schools, Mark works for Friends of Big Brothers / Big Sisters. He coordinates the trucks that drive around collecting second-hand items that Friends then sells to thrift stores to fund its programs. So, Mark finds some really weird-ass stuff, but this takes the cake. The costume is essentially a spandex wet suit. Doesn't leave much to the imagination. All I can say is that the muff keeps the thing from being NC-17.

Nice gloves.

We all had to mess around with the boots. I have never been that tall.

But here's the mystery. Where the hell did this thing come from? Mark said, "It's from the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics."

"Weren't the opening ceremonies all on ice skates?

"Opening Ceremonies of something, maybe, but not the Olympics."

"I went back and looked at the opening ceremonies again, trying to find it. There is no one wearing that thing. "

It has the name "Andrea Coffey" written in all the pieces. I think it's from some Vegas show and Andrea Coffey was a showgirl. I Googled her, but there are a LOT of Andrea Coffeys out there. Is she:

  • the board member of the Salinas, CA Jaycees?

  • the 41 year-old from Waynesborough, VA?

  • The 1994 Emory grad residing in Fort Lauderdale?

  • The Charter School Coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Education?

  • The Australian amateur photographer who loves playing board games?

The world may never know.

Andrea, if you ever Google yourself and find this blog entry, we want to know whether you're a Vegas showgirl; whether you absconded with your costume; and why you ditched it (Actually, I have a pretty good idea of why you did that).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can I Just Go to Bed Now and be Warm?

I’m freezing. You’d never guess that I was born and raised in the upper Midwest. I can recall walking to school when it was so cold that my eyelashes would freeze and seal my eyes shut. I remember delivering Domino’s Pizza in the middle of a Minnesota winter night when the thermometer on the bank clock read -30F. So, where is that girl? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m thinner? Or older? I blame this drafty house.

Strategies for staying warm (besides sticking burritos in my cleavage):

1. Leap out of bed, grab clothes and go dress in the bathroom, which is the smallest room in the house. Try to stand on the heater vent while dressing. Fall over.

2. Wear at least three shirts (that’s the number I’m wearing at the moment).

3. Cook supper in a muffler. Scorch the fringe. Of course.

4. Before folding the freshly dried laundry, sit on the sofa and tip the basket over myself, moaning in ecstasy.

5. After using the oven, turn it off and leave the door open. Stand near the open door. Try to eat supper in that position. Feel bummed when the family insists on my joining them at the table.

6. Make tea and drink it, holding the electric kettle in my lap. Carry electric kettle around the house, clasped to my bosom.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pass The Speculum, Please

There was no way I was forgetting this gyno appointment, because:

  1. My blog-buddy SueSun is going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. I have been scared straight.

  2. In every morning paper this week, just below the comics, was depicted the smiling face of my new gynecologist in this big ad: "Western Gynecological would like to welcome the newest member of our team, blah, blah, blah!"

She should cut it with the advertising - the girl's (I mean that literally. She's about 20.) hands are full with the patients she already has. I was Mary Poppins spit-spot punctual at 9:00 AM sharp, and spent an hour waiting for an examining room to open up. How can things get this backlogged at 9:00? At least I had my book.

Y'all know the routine. Get into the exam room, shed the clothes and put on the gown. Except it isn't a gown. I swear everything in this benighted land is being downsized. It's a cute little shoulder cape thingy. It is hard to maintain one's dignity and keep one's mind on one's book whilst freezing to death in a little cape.

Finally she breezes in and it's wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Two minutes communing with my whoop-woo, another minute fondling my breasts; recommendations for all the expensive tests I need now that I am in the geriatric zone of 41; and fwing, I'm outta there.

Oh, not quite. They insist on weighing me. 128! This is what I get for all the working out? All the weight lifting? Muscle weighs more than fat, yeah, I know. Wah, wah, wah. Does this mean that, if I let myself get any fitter, I'll soon weigh 130!?! Maybe I don't want muscle after all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Made It! I Made It!

Whew! I'm on my blog!

My absence has been involuntary, believe me. The goody-goody priss-heads at the Utah State Office of Education are trying to stifle my artistry. The school where I work has several types of programs, including an elementary school for Kindergarten through Third Grade. It is our great good fortune that the State Office provides our Internet service. Ahem. Look, I'm telling you with a straight face that I'm grateful! I am!

Now, the adult education part of the school doesn't have a lot of contact with the children. Some, but not much. Our hours are different; well, the whole culture is different. We in adult education like to view ourselves as geeky wonks, devoted to our narrow little specialty; as more cynical. We use bad words. (Well, not all of us; but the ones who don't use bad words are gifted at saying good words in a way that makes them sound bad.) We like unfettered Internet access.

Now, I kept my cool a few months ago when I couldn't go on Flickr or Facebook anymore. Who cares? I didn't like them that much anyway. But, on Monday when I came in and discovered that I couldn't get any Blogs!?! I joined the ranks of the living dead. Oh, and we can't Google images any more. WTF!?!

This is war. I wrote a snooty e-mail to my boss telling her that blogs are the go-to network for everything these days. And, no kidding; how can you have a team of English as a Second Language teachers who can't Google images? We use pictures all day long. After my initial complaint and request for an override code, I got an e-mail from our business office, asking, "Well, tell us what images you need to Google. Maybe we could get you access to those images." Hilarity upon reading this back in our office. What images DON'T we need to Google? (Well, all right - there are a few.) I replied that, on a typical day we might have the need to Google, "volunteers helping with a community cleanup"; "man walking with his dog"; "common caution signs"; "9 X 13 inch pan". And, if we occasionally want to debate the relative merits of the different Bonds through the ages (the new guy is too mean-looking, if you ask me), well, it's a handy tool for this as well.

Which gets me to the heart of the matter: am I a lazy, unprofessional slob because I want to read and write blogs at work? The thing is that I work hard, I work a lot of hours, and I'm salaried (AKA owned). And after working a lot of hours at school, I throw a bunch of stuff in my briefcase and take it home to work on it some more. As I see it, if I want to top off a twelve-hour work day by staying for an additional half-hour and writing a blog entry, what of it? And if I want to read your blogs while I eat my lunch, well, big deal. I can't type with my hands full of sandwich, anyway.

My boss knows this, and she understands. Or at least, she acquiesces. But convincing the bureaucrats at the Office of Education will be a different matter.

And before I finish my rant, let me explore the possibility of blogging more at home.
  1. This is possible, but challenging, since Si jumps on the computer first and hogs it, doing his own office work. To get a look in, I have to stand there like Puss in Boots in the Shrek movies and promise him sexual favors in exchange for a few minutes in Blogland. It makes me feel so cheap.
  2. Then there's our computer. Start it up and it sounds like a jet taking off. Log on and go make a cup of tea. By the time you came back, it might have set up the desktop. Or not. Go to your blog. Click "View Comments". This rash act will cause the whole thing to freeze up. The computer tells me, "Come back tomorrow, bitch, and we'll see what's what." It does not respond favorably to my offer of sexual favors.
  3. And finally, it's COLD down here! The office is an ice palace. I'm proof-reading this with my hand covering my ice-cold nose.

So, there you have it. I'm in exile. No, in prison. Digging through my cell-wall with a spoon. If anyone out there knows how to circumvent content blockers, let me know. It would be the equivalent of passing me a hacksaw in a cake.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Out of Food

Goddammit, I feel like Old Mother Hubbard.

Our local United Way was gravely mistaken about what they are calling the Neighbor to Neighbor Response. They’ve been doing a media blitz; asking the community to donate money, food, blankets, toilet paper and baby stuff to needy people at designated drop-off sites. My school is one of these sites. Here’s what our “pantry” looks like at the moment.

Last week, it looked better. A corporation did a drive and brought us three truck loads of items. The hallway was piled high and I spent most of one work day sorting out the tuna from the peanut butter, gloating about how we would be able to help all of our own students and the community for several blocks around. But after it went (and it ALL went – even the jars of cilantro honey glaze and the cans of pimentos), no more came. The students have been trying to help it along by bringing in what little they can manage to contribute themselves. Often, that’s a single can of chili; a partially used package of diapers; half a sack of pinto beans, held closed with a rubber band. What’s left on the floor in this picture was donated by people who already have too little.

The economic situation has been hurting my students particularly badly. Every day that we have class, people are telling us that they have lost their jobs, their apartments, their health care.

I wrote a big long post about the growing anxiety, but Blogger errors prevented me from posting it, twice. I guess that may be a sign that I should drop it for now. Suffice to say, things are getting pretty sad.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sara's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

how are you. first I hav a few QUESTIONS.

1. Do you cut down your own christmas tree, or do you send the elves to do it?

2. where do the elves sleep?

3. when you deliver present, Do the elves come with you?

4. it there really a red and white pole to mark the north pole?

5. what's your all time favorite cookie?

and now I'm going to tell you what I want for CHRISTMAS...

1. iPod or Mp3 player (whichever one it's easier to make)

2. a how to draw horses book thats not really complacated.

3. Big toy horse stable that holds some horses & a rider doll (a doll that can actually ride a horse.)

from Sara Diggins

PS if any of the questions intrude on your personal buisnuss you don't have to answer them

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Little Break

Obviously, I haven't been blogging lately. Just busy, and I'm trying hard to get to bed by midnight these days, when possible. Back very soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Dance Needs To Be Over Soon

It's been a while since I've mentioned the fundraising dance we're having on Saturday. That is because I'm too freaked out and am trying to pretend that it isn’t really happening. Here's the thing. About 6 months ago, P.T. (one of the preschool teachers at our school) said that our usual fundraisers are kind of elitist. She wanted to plan an event that would be inexpensive enough that our students and their families could come. They could help us raise a little money for projects and equipment. What about a dance? Maybe ten dollars a ticket? I liked the idea. My students love to dance, and they'd like the idea of an affordable fundraiser that would allow them to make a contribution to the school. So I offered to help. P.T. is Latina and goes out to dances a lot, so she's the provider of the inspiration. I'm the un-cool gringa who last saw the inside of a dance club in 1988; but I’m good at making to-do lists, calling people, following up. I supply the perspiration.

Things that are ready:
1. Fliers are circulating throughout the universe;
2. Tickets are made, cut, and available for sale.
3. The dance hall at the Mexican Civic Center is booked, contracted and paid for ($1,000);
4. The DJ is signed up for 8:00 - 10:00 ($300);
5. The Norteño band is contracted from 10:00 - 12:00 ($400);
6. My one-way ticket to Siberia is waiting, in case we don’t make enough money to cover our expenses.

Things that ware still giving me fits:
1. Drinks (Soft drinks? Lemonade? What kind of lemonade? How much? Sell or give away? Cups? How many?)
2. Since we didn’t get a beer license, people are asking me about spiking the lemonade, bringing 12-packs, tailgating, etc…, causing me to put my fingers in my ears and go, "LALALALA". The little angel sits on my shoulder and says, “What if there were an accident? Huh? Guadalupe could get sued! What if the cops come?” The little devil on my other shoulder says, “Just find out who’s bringing the tequila.”
3. The lead singer for Norteños Valle is sick. He needs to get better, PRONTO.
4. I still don't know how to salsa. Or cumbia. I can sort of do a marengue-type thing.
5. Did I mention that we are almost $2,000 in the red?

Best Case Scenario. Picture this:
The place is dark. Packed. Sweaty. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. The DJ is (despite the idiotic moniker "DJ Dan") amazing. People are blowing off a night clubbing at Caramba or Mariposa to come down to the Civic Center for our dance. My feet are killing me. My students are all pestering me for dances. I have to put them off for a minute so I can run to the ladies' room and wash my hands. They are filthy from handling such obscene amounts of money all night. Two volunteers and I are raking it in as fast as we can. I make a trip to the safe every ten minutes or so. Security comes to find me and says that they are going to have to rope off the door, as the hall is at capacity (500). People will have to wait to go in until it empties out a little.

Worst Case Scenario. Picture this:
The empty gymnasium echoes with the endless “oompah, oompah” of one stodgy tune after another. The lead singer of Norteños Valle can barely make a sound. He and his accordion wheeze together. Twenty people are there, but half of them are slumped at tables, picking at stale chips and salsa. People come up to me all evening and say, "Hey, can I give you a little feedback that may be helpful if you guys are ever dumb enough to do this again? Get a beer license! Get a decent band! Get a cool DJ instead of this goof-ball DJ Dan!" My boss appears at my elbow with her eyebrows raised. “How much have we made?” "Uh, about $200." "I see. And how much do you have to make to cover expenses?" "Uh, ten times that much?" Everybody’s getting drunk out in the parking lot, which is more fun than coming into the dance, anyway. Still, there is plenty of puke on the bathroom floor when I drag the mop in there are 1:00 AM.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sky Mall

My original purpose in starting a blog was so that I could post about all the crazy stuff in the Sky Mall catalogues that I peruse while flying. The cat massagers, heated toothbrushes, replicas of the earrings Hermione Granger wore in the Yule Ball scenes of Harry Potter IV… Then I got busy blogging about other stuff, but the Sky Mall catalogues still amuse me. Oh My God! Can you believe it? You can get special liners for your votive candle holders that keep the candle holders clean and play a festive holiday tune!

My absolute favorite, though, is the alarm clock that, when it goes off in the morning, also launches the alarm mechanism into the air. It shoots off across the room, forcing you to wake up sufficiently to find it in order to turn it off.

Last time we flew somewhere (which was to Oregon in August), I took the Sky Mall catalogue from my seat back carrier to amuse the kids on the long car trip that followed. Then, a few weeks ago, a new Sky Mall catalogue appeared in my mail box at work. It took me a second, but then I realized what that MEANT. They’ve found me. How? I didn’t order anything! No way! Ordering something is not what Sky Mall is all about. I mean, there may be people who do order something, but…well…I don’t know who…

So, how did they find me? The only way I can imagine is that the flight attendants have to look through all the seat back carriers after every flight and record which seats no longer have a Sky Mall. Then, they match that information to the seating assignments and put my name on the Sky Mall mailing list! And now I’m going to get Sky Mall catalogues at my…work? Wait! How did they get my WORK address??? It’s all a bit sinister, if you ask me.

Or actually, not. My friend Moira came up to me the other day and asked me if I got the Sky Mall catalogue she put in my box. She had been on a flight the week before and brought it back with her. Oh.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When Crack Kills

I didn’t see the spider on the ceiling until I was already in the shower and wet. I hate that. It was directly over my head, perfectly positioned to drop right onto me. I had to keep an eye on it, shampooing as quickly as I could. I resent this, as my hot shower at the end of a long day is one of my greatest life pleasures (pathetic, I know).

As the steam rose, the spider sensed trouble and started making its way closer to the wall. Good, 'cause I was seriously compromising my cervical vertebrae; bad, cause it kept losing its footing on the steamy ceiling and almost falling right onto my face. It would crawl, drop and catch itself. Crawl, drop and catch itself. Finally, it made its way toward a corner and I relaxed. I rinsed my hair, and when I turned around to check on it again, it was gone. Empty expanse of spiderless ceiling. My worst spider nightmare come true. Where is the little bass tard? S***! S***s***s***. Maybe it dropped onto the little shelf where the shampoo bottles hang out. I gingerly poked them to the right and left, but no sign of the spider. GASP! What if it’s in my hair??? I slicked my hand across my wet head, horrified. Couldn’t feel anything. BIGGER GASP! It’s on me in an undisclosed location! AH! AH! A frantic search, and…it was clinging to the small of my back. If he thinks he’s going to hide in that crack, he’s got another thing coming.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To Read or Not to Read

A reflection on (but not a review of) “What Came Before He Shot Her”, by Elizabeth George. I generally love Elizabeth George’s mystery novels. This book is a departure for her: a novel that explains the background and motives of one of the killers in an earlier book, a twelve year-old boy.

Well, I launched in to this expecting that the characters would be well-developed (which they were) and the plot would be compelling (which it was). But maybe too much so. The book was emotionally draining. I would think about it all the time. I would have nightmares about the characters. I would lie in bed and cry over the young people in the story and the circumstances that were eroding their lives. It was so real to me: the gang activity; the poverty; the distrust of social institutions. Also the mentors and caring, well-intentioned people who tried to help.

Simon told me repeatedly to stop reading the book, and I wanted to; but then I thought, “Well, what's with that? Are you a coward? An elitist soccer mom who can’t face the truth about how children suffer in this world?” On the other hand, is life to short to read a book that is making you miserable? I finished it, and felt like I had put down a cinder block I had been carrying for weeks.

What’s your opinion? What do you do when you’re reading a book that is upsetting you?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Tooth Fairy?

If she knew....

Nathan lost one of his front teeth the other day, and told me that he really, really hoped that the Fairy would cough up one of those gold Liberty dollars. She brought one another time, and he loves it. “It’s solid gold!” Wary (and trying to remember what I had in my wallet), I told him that special requests might not get processed as quickly. We could put in our customary call to 1-800-CHOMPER, but it might be too late for her to make a bank run. So, sure enough, the TF didn’t come that night, and Nathan wailed in the morning when he woke up. I reminded him of his special request and the resulting delay. No doubt she would come tonight. He subsided, but a little while later, Sara pulled me aside and told me that Nathan had called the TF “That bitch.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night

I am always at work on Election Night, since it's always on a Tuesday. Tonight, we accessed streaming coverage in the computer lab on FOX, MSNBC and CNN simultaneously. Staff, volunteer tutors and students poured in and out all evening. For many of our students who have just passed their citizenship tests, this was the first election in which they had voted. Many of them stood watching, with their "I voted" stickers on their chests, while their tutors explained the graphics, percentages, results.

We have a lot of people from just about every possible background at our school, so I'm careful about what I say or do.

Everyone's gone, now, though. So, I'm alone in my office, listening to Barak Obama's acceptance speech and wiping my eyes. I have often thought that his much-lauded oratorical skills are a bit overrated, but not tonight. He is right on tonight. So, now I'll go home and raise a glass.

Where were you on election night? At a party? At home? At work? Tell us about it. Reactions?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Candy Stats

Star Wars, Episode III 1/2, in which Obi Wan takes up baseball....

After watching the kids, I have come to the decision that EATING the Halloween candy is not really the point. Acquisition is the goal, rather than consumption. As soon as Nate got his loot in the door, he dumped it all out on the table so he could count and sort it.
Sara carried the covetousness a step further. I found her in the office, where her dad was helping her set up an Excel spreadsheet and pie chart to monitor candy percentages. Tootsie Rolls won: 19 pieces, for a 29% share of total assets.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gotta Do Better

How can I concentrate on blogging when I'm pondering life's REALLY BIG PROBLEMS. Like how to make this

out of this.

Which is how I spent the weekend. Or how to make this.

Which is how I spent last night. This Internet Lady makes it look SOOOOO easy...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I have not posted in quite a while. Stomach flu making the rounds. Perhaps I will have some puke-tacular tales to tell in a day or two. Then again, maybe not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Our school had a very high-end fund raiser last weekend, so I wanted to look even more marvelous than usual . This involved almost an entire day of dreaded grooming activities with products I generally ignore (wax, eye pencils, blow dryer, strapless bra, etc...) The fake fingernails had somehow found their way into my grocery cart the day before. Well, why not? I've never managed to grow a nail past the end of my fingertip, and I thought it would look SO exotic and sexy. Saturday afternoon before the event, Nathan was gone, playing with a friend; Sara was reading, so I unwrapped them and got started.

The left hand was easy, although I was a little shocked to discover that the stuff that holds the nails on is actually Superglue. Really, who are they trying to kid? I'd know that smell anywhere. S***, I'm Supergluing plastic slabs to the ends of my fingers. Is this wise?

Sara wandered into the kitchen as I was finishing my left hand. "Ew. That's creepy. " "What! See how elegant my hands look! You don't like that?" "Well, it may look OK on some moms, but on you, it looks creepy. You never have long nails." Sigh. This is not recommended on the package instructions, but I went and got the nail clippers and cut them down little. "Better, but still creepy, Mom."

The right hand was WAY harder. My already clumsy left hand was further inhibited by the claws I had just glued onto it. I Superglued the tip of one finger on my left hand to the cuticle of another finger on my right hand and hopped around the kitchen, painfully pulling them apart. The nail wouldn't stay on the middle finger. And it didn't just drop off - it would spring off energetically. I was pretty much at my wit's end by the time Nate arrived home and the mother of his little friend walked him to the door. I went out to thank her and wave good-bye. As I did so, the nail shot off. She was clearly freaked out but too polite to say anything.

I won out in the end. My nails looked great on the night, as long as no one looked closely enough to see that a couple of them were on kind of crooked. But now, I have them and they are not necessarily a plus.

1. I am overly enthralled by them. I stare at them, click them, drum them, gesture more than usual, point a lot. I must be getting insufferable
2. They get stuff under them and even (since I didn't spread the glue evenly) behind them. One finger looks like it has a broken blood vessel under there, but I think it's tomato from the marinara I made last night.
3. Inserting and removing contacts? Ass wiping? Hair washing? Picking up sheets of paper? Typing? Especially typing. How do people with long nails do these things?
4. I bite on my nails a bit; but unlike a real nail that will just splinter off, these things are tough. If I gnaw hard enough, I can I can make them into misshapen shovel-like masses, covered in tooth-marks.

Luckily, they have started coming off already. I haven't lost any for a couple of days, but three of them came off right away on Sunday. I snapped one off while scrubbing the stove top, one while putting way groceries, and one while loading the truck after a Costco run. In that case, I picked it up, looked at it bemusedly and stuck it in my pocket. I don't remember which coat I was wearing, though. I suppose I will find it one of these days and it will scare the hell out of me.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fun with Phonics

Nathan is learning to read, using these little phonics books that we get from the library. They're a bit contrived at the best of times: "The squire struts down Stream Street."
His latest book, "Stan the Squid", is really taking us to the outer limits. He's a school custodian.

Obviously a widely respected member of the community.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Salt Dough Utah

Here, 4th grade is devoted to Utah Studies. Generation after generation, new groups of kids take on the perennial "Salt Dough Utah" project (hereafter referred to as SDU).

I suppose that, for kids that are kinesthetic learners, there is a point to the whole thing. Besides testing my ability to accurately cut a 12 x 9 inch piece of cardboard.
Nate wanted to make one, too. Unrestricted by a two-page packet of "SDU Guidelines" like his sister, he just made whatever the hell he wanted.

After rolling, SDU needs to be trimmed.

You can see that Sara has already added part of the Uinta range. Utah is a pretty easy shape. Woe betide the child who has to make a salt dough Alaska, Florida or Hawaii. But think of Salt Dough Kansas. Roll, trim, and you're done.

Now the Oquirrs... and the Wasatch...

Nate made Utah not as it is, but how he wishes it were. Lots of arches.

Rivers are formed with a Popsicle stick.

Then, after some time to dry ("several days!", read the instructions. More like 30 minutes), it's time to paint.

Orange = Colorado Plateau = great camping
Brown = Great Basin = more great camping
Green = Temperate Alpine = kind of crowded camping
Purple = Mountain Ranges = why camp when you can ski?
Now all we have to do is get it to the school in one piece.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Words Seldom Heard

From my 9 year-old daughter:

"You know I love apple pie, Mom; but I think I'll pass. I'm so full from all that cabbage I ate."

I have not written in my blog for a week. This is not for lack of stuff to write about, but from a simple lack of opportunity to sit down and write it. Hopefully, that will change soon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Not Exactly Hard Core

Uh... I meant hiking. What did you think I was talking about? I'll tell you this much, though: the use of the words "hard core" in my blog will almost certainly increase the number of visitors who end up here from Google. They will have to be pretty persistent, though. I don't think I'll make it onto the first page.

I digress. Silver Lake is hardly a hard core hike. Or even medium core. More like a city park, 15 miles out of town.

Here's the most scenic part of the walk. Am I talking about the tawny grasses and golden willows? About my spouse's backside? Or about the fact that he is walking around the lake using only a single crutch? His blood clot is still there, but is improving. The physical therapist has him working the leg already, so it will be in good shape for surgery when the clot does clear.

Silver Lake is up Big Cottonwood Canyon, about 3,000 feet higher than Salt Lake City, so the leaves are starting to turn color already.

It's always a little bittersweet for us to come up here. Our previous house (cabin, really) is only a short walk away. I used to take the kids to Silver Lake all the time. In the winter, when the lake was frozen, I used to come down here after the kids were in bed and cross-country ski by the light of the moon. It was romantic, looking back. So, whenever we start thinking these wistful thoughts, we have a quick reality check, called, "Five Truths about Living in a Cabin without Winter Road Access at 9,000 Feet". AKA five reasons we aren't still living there:
  • After a six-foot powder-dump, there is no time to ski in it if you are busy shoveling it all off the deck.
  • One forgotten item from the store? No going back. Once, I needed onion for a stew and had forgotten to buy any. I took some plastic bags and went skiing at Brighton. I ordered a hamburger, went to the burger-bar and loaded my pockets with onions, did a few more runs, went home and made stew. Expensive onion.
  • Shoveling a parking space out of five feet of snow out on the road, going to work the next morning, coming home and finding someone else happily ensconced in it.
  • Descending into Salt Lake in June and seeing everyone else's yards and gardens, knowing that you still have five feet of (rotten, ugly) snow in your yard.
  • Sled the garbage out. Sled the children in. Sled the dirty diapers out. Sled the groceries in. Put the groceries away and start cooking supper. Need tomatoes. Remember buying tomatoes. See that the tomatoes are no longer present. Get bundled up again and start walking the snow-covered footpath, looking for the tomatoes. Find them under six inches of snow, frozen solid.
  • And one bonus reason: it was a drag getting home with an infant and a toddler, wading through snow up to my waist and having to start a fire in the stove first thing every evening. After I shook the snow out of my undies.

BUT, for all winter sucked and lasted about 9 months, fall was fabulous. Damn, I should have had a blog when I lived up there. Plenty of material.

Si made it all the way around the lake, and is still smiling.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let's Talk About Something Else

So, when I tell my friends that I'm overwhelmed because Si is laid up, and that I can't get all the stuff done that needs doing, they probably wonder why I then spend time baking bread, of all things. I don't know why. I never got high marks for "spends time wisely".

This is how to make"Walnut Boule".
It is a yeast-rising bread, the ultimate time waster. Soooo..... pour one cup of warm water into a large bowl and in it, dissolve 3 Tbsp. of sugar and a package of yeast. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

See that the yeast is doing its yeasty thing and feel relieved. I have killed my share of yeast.

OK, so this is a special moment dedicated to my blog-panion, Dive. When we have "Cooking with Dive" (the snob), we are encouraged to use only the best of everything. Dive always gets the freshest ingredients: the wild salmon; the heirloom miso. Of course, Dive has access to something I don't: London. OK, Dive - this walnut oil was bought with you in mind. I pulled this $15 sucker off the grocer's shelf and thought of you. Stir 1 Tbsp. of this fancy-ass walnut oil into the yeast mixture. Wonder what you will do with all the rest of it and tell yourself you had better think of something. Add about 2 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour to the yeasty oily mixture. Put in 1.5 tsp of salt, too. Stir until it looks like...

Turn it out onto a floured surface and...

...start kneading. Go crazy with the kneading for about 5 minutes. This should provide ample opportunity to work through any anxiety, concern or sex-deprived feelings brought on by depressed spouses with knee injuries. The dough should feel smooth and elastic. If it sticks to your hands, add a little more flour.

Take a clean, large bowl and spray some Pam into it. Plop the dough in and flip it over, so that the Pam has coated it all over. This will prevent drying and cracking. Cover it with a dish towel and let it rise in a warm place (the turned-off oven, for example). Wonder if the food blobs in the bottom of the oven will show at this camera angle. Close the oven and go away for an hour.

Stop. Don't go. Come back, because you need to toast some walnuts before you can leave. Toast .5 of a cup of chopped walnuts. Do this sooner, not later. If you are dumb like me and you wait until the hour is almost up before toasting the walnuts you will regret it. When the hour is up, the dough should be almost twice as big as it was originally. Punch it down and knead the walnuts into it. If they have just finished toasting, this will feel a little like kneading hot buckshot into the loaf, so I hope you took my advice.

Shape the dough into a 9-inch round, and put it on a cookie sheet with a scattering of cornmeal. Worry that it is perhaps too small and has not been rising sufficiently. Cover it up again and put it back in its warm place for another hour.

OK, that is definitely doubled in size. I guess I'll stop worrying.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 tbsp of milk and 1 egg white in a little dish and brush it over the top of the loaf. Cut a crosshatch on the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. bake for 30 minutes.

There! What a sense of accomplishment, right! No! Because the laundry still isn't done and the lawn it still (STILL!!) not mowed and Sara has a plantar wart and you need to make a gyno appointment and the peaches are falling off the tree...
But...bread is bread.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm Not a Doctor...

...but I play one in my bathroom.

Simon's injured knee was a short story that is rapidly evolving into a novel. A real page-turner. We did go to meet the surgeon on Monday; he showed us the MRI of where Si's ACL used to be. "You see this mashed potato-like blob right here?" It will have to be rebuilt, either from a ligament taken from Si's own hamstring, or from a cadaver. Hmmm... Hamstring? Or cadaver? Decisions, decisions... What do you think, Honey? Gosh! I don't know. What do we know about this cadaver? I mean, his ligaments might be unimpeachable, but was he of sound moral fiber?

I sit shivering in the surgeon's over-air-conditioned office, channelling "The Six Million Dollar Man" from when I was a kid. "We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better then he was. Better. Stronger. Faster."
Don't hum the theme song, Kate. Don't. Hum. The. Theme. Song.
Dah dah dee dah... doh doh doh doh doh dah dee doh doh.

My thoughts are starting to take me to some strange f***ing places.

The doctor asks him about pain, and Si tells him that his knee isn't that bad anymore. It's his calf that hurts. We show the doc his big, puffy calf and elephant-like ankle. The doc says, "Blood clot." WTF!!! Si has to have an ultrasound. "Don't worry, Honey! They're fun! I've had several." Sure enough. Two blood clots are the source of the pain. "Did you get to see them?" Congratulations, Mr. Diggins. Not just one, but two cute little clots! See? Here's the foot! Oooops! Well, it's pretty obvious THAT one is a boy!" They didn't even print off an image for him to bring home.

OK, Clot-boy. No surgery for you until they clear up. How long will that be? Oh, just a few days, weeks or months, depending. Depending on what? Depending on how fast they clear. Right.

Si had to go to a clot-clinic. He has to take blood thinners and I have to give him a shot in his belly twice a day. I don't know how to give shots. I call my mom, who is a (retired) nurse, and have a minor freak-out. "Oh, for heavens' sake!!" Mom comes through for me. She uses her best battle axe charge-nurse persona, which I find hugely comforting. "Anyone can do this. That drug just needs a short little needle. Have you seen the needle? It's nothing! Just pinch up a little fat and stick it in."

I'm getting used to it. In fact, I'm starting to like it.
  • I like the fancy, shiny, pre-filled syringes, each one individually packaged. It is a huge shame, though, to use each one and throw it out. I find myself thinking, "Couldn't we find a culinary use for these?" We could use them to shoot a nice raspberry liquor into some peaches. That would be awesome.
  • I like setting everything up. I "scrub" (wash my hands, then dry them on the bath towel I've been using all week). I take the cap off the needle and hold it up to the light to check the dosage. I check myself out in the mirror while I do this. Do I look medical? I love it that the pharmacy gave him syringes with the wrong dose in them, because I have to squeeze out .5 of a cc. I could just hold the syringe down over the sink, but I prefer making it squirt up in the air. Does anyone else remember the opening montage of that show "Emergency" (I watched it religiously), when Johnny Gage (when I was 9, I thought he was SO hot) squirts the syringe into the air? He had this really intense expression, which I immitate.
  • I like giving Si a hard time, in order to distract him from the fact that I'm pretty awkward at actually giving the shot: am I pushing the needle in at the right angle? It is OK that it leaves a little bump of medicine under his skin? I always say, "[Inhale. Exhale.] Breathe through the pain." My sweet revenge for the hours I spent listening to him intone that same mantra while I was in labor with Sara. Part of me has been waiting for this moment ever since.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happier Thoughts

Yesterday, I was a bit down. (Yes, I would like some cheese with this whine.) Work is still posing some struggles for me, and Simon's knee is the 900-pound gorilla of our family life. It's becoming a family member in its own right: an annoying relative who comes for a visit and then won't leave. (Maybe we should name his knee "Anita". Except that I tend to think it as a guy.) Just showering or picking up something he drops is a major deal. We are making progress, though. He went in for an MRI on Thursday, and asked that the results be sent straight to the surgeon that he is interested in. We meet this guy on Monday. Si wants me to go along, less for moral support than to be convenient so we can play the planner game. As in, "WHAT?! No way can you have the surgery on THAT day! I have to do pretesting that day, and we're understaffed! What about the following Friday?"

Any sort of forward movement is instrumental in keeping Simon's personal raincloud from enveloping the whole family. Last night, he emerged from a long, grim silence with, "You know, sometimes they use a tendon from a cadaver." (WTF??) "Well, fine. The cadaver can spare it. Does that bug you?" "It's just weird. Or they take tendons from elsewhere in your body." I pondered. "Well, I'm sitting here wondering where I might have some superfluous tendons... If I think of any, you can have them."

Right. Time for some cheerful thoughts. Let's go to my happy place. Watch Kate attempt cheer without benefit of alcohol.

1. (A knee-related cheerful thought) It could be worse. I have pointed out to Simon that, if he were a Congolese cobalt miner and thrashed his ACL, there would be no MRI, no repair, no therapy. That's how it is for most of the world, right?

2. The day was perfect for soccer and the kids both had good games. Nate's team didn't win, but he made a goal. Si is persisting as the team's coach. He clops around the field on crutches and I traipse along in his wake, carrying clipboard, goal keeper shirt, etc...

3. I'm reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to Sara, which is fun, since Anne is quite the drama-queen.

4. The peaches are getting ripe. I climbed the ladder to the uppermost branches and found about 8 that were ready for picking. There is nothing better than a sun-warmed peach, straight from the tree.

5. I called my dad, who is a constant source of amusement to me. I had loads of fun applying my verbal flame-thrower to Ten Thousand White Women. He's reading it at the moment, and I HATED it. But in a joyful way - I devoured it, ridiculing it at every page.

6. Additional amusement from Dad. He has surprised me by telling me that he is going to the Gambia right after Christmas. Seems that, while he was at the Boyscout World Jamboree last summer, he struck up a friendship with a Gambian scout leader, and they've been corresponding. This buddy, Babu, has invited Dad to visit him, and Dad's going. They will travel up the Gambia River together. I am insanely jealous. And proud of Dad: for the way he makes friends and the way he is always up for anything. I can't help imagining, though, this Gambian guy talking to his wife right now: "Yeah, he's this old fart from America. What do you mean where's he going to sleep? Put him on the sleeping porch with everybody else. He'll love it - he'll think it's exotic. Yeah, I know, I know. It's gonna be a hassle; but when I invited him, I had no idea he was going to say yes! Man! What if he wears his scout uniform the whole time?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Looks Like It

Thanks for asking about Simon. He went to the doctor and it looks like it is the ACL. Oh, joy. So he has to have an MRI on Thursday, and then we'll need to decide about surgery, therapy, etc...

In the meantime, he's hobbling around on "crotches" (as Nate calls them) or lying down. For me, realizations are coming home to roost.
  1. I would say we are probably NOT going camping in the Tetons this weekend. Just a hunch. September and October hike dates, also not happening.
  2. The grass is already so long that it'll be more like making hay than mowing the lawn. Really. You could bail it. It needs doing. This means that I will have to learn how to use the lawn mower. I was so happy in my ignorance.
  3. Less competition for the computer and more opportunities for blogging, since he can barely make it downstairs to the office.
  4. Little things like carrying a cup of tea across the room...? Until he needed me to do it, I didn't notice before how often he did it. The guy drinks a lot of tea, it turns out. Same thing with putting his pants on. Has he always done that every morning?
  5. Sex is going to be...uh...searching for an adjective...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Dreaded ACL?

ACL is the...(let's see...can I spell this?) anterior cruciate ligament. A classic skier's injury. Bad luck for Si that the season hasn't nearly started, yet.

On Saturday, he joined a soccer league and played in his first match in almost 20 years. He was pretty nervous about signing up: would they all be a lot younger? Would they be cliquey and not want him around? Would it be hyper-competitive?

Turned out to be perfect: wide range of ages; co-ed; laid back. He had a great time, at least for the first 20 minutes. Then he was charging down the field, leaped up to kick the ball and came down in a divot caused by one of the sprinkler heads. They make deep holes sometimes, which people fill with pebbles and/or spray-paint orange. Not this time. So, down he went, with an audible POP from his knee.

The party I was holding with six of my colleagues was supposed to start in about five minutes when he dragged himself into the house and flopped down on the sofa. Simultaneously mixing salad dressing, setting up drink glasses and folding a load of wash, I administered the usual: ice, elevation, compression, and 800 mg of Ibuprofen.

That was yesterday, and I have to say it looks pretty bad. I have hurt my knee a bunch of times, but I haven't seen anything quite like this. And, frankly, I would rather have it be me than Simon. Not because I want to carry his pain in blind adoration; but because, as a patient, he sucks. Refused to go to InstaCare ("They don't know what they're doing."); only wants to see his regular GP; tells me Ibuprofen doesn't work for him and stops taking it, then sees that, without it, his knee blows up like a balloon and starts taking it again; he can tell me nothing about where it hurts or what kind of pain it is - it "just hurts, everywhere."

[exasperated growl]

Worst of all though, is the attitude. Si is kind of a "glass half empty" sort of guy at the best of times. So now, we have the whole mental thing going on. You know...

"Why did I think I could play soccer? I'm too old for it, and this is the price I pay."
"This is it for me. No skiing this winter. Maybe I'll never ski again."
"I was just on WebMD. Some of these injuries are impossible to recover from. 'Permanently limited mobility' 'Permanently limited strength'."
"You know, if the ACL is completely torn, it's impossible to fix. You never recover."

I can point out to him 'til I'm blue in the face that the hole in the pitch could have tripped up a younger guy in the same way; that it might not be the ACL; that, even if it is the ACL, we live in Utah, where ACL injuries are common and there are so many orthopedists per square mile that you can't turn around without bumping into one.

He doesn't want to be reasonable. He wants to have a pity party, and I'm cordially invited. In fact, my presence is required.

I will tell you the only thing that has comforted him. Nothing appeals to Si more than a little schadenfreude.

I guess, that at the Real Salt Lake match this past weekend, our star forward, Fabian Espindola made a goal. He likes to celebrate by executing a back flip, which he did this time, landing wrong and breaking his ankle. And the goal was called "off sides" and didn't count any way.

Si clipped that article and has taken it off to bed with him. Probably going to slip it under his pillow.

I suspect we have a long haul in front of us. He's going to try to get in to see the doctor first thing in the morning. If this requires surgery, it's going to be a loooooooong winter.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Short Cut

I suggested a walk to the grocery store. We took the "short cut", which is a big misnomer. Way too much cool stuff on the short cut.

...and the playing field behind the Mormon church.

The irrigation ditch.

The special tunnel that completes the route to the school.

Oh, the sprinklers WOULD have to be on.

I said, "Don't get soaked. Fine, but don't get really soaked, OK? Or you'll freeze in the deli section."

This is called the First Grade Door. Do only first graders use it?

And of course, there's the playground. All in all, the short cut adds about an hour to the trip.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wish I Were There

It'll probably be two loooooong years before we can go back to Oregon.

Sara adores spores. I didn't know that fern spores are under their leaves. She showed us how it works. Ferns are a rarity in Utah.

I hope the time passes quickly.