November 30, 2006

Not Adieu, But Au Revoir

I've just looked at the calendar, and I'm pretty sure that today is the last day of the month. That means I actually made it through an entire month of posting every day (and a few times, twice). I'm feeling pretty good about it, since I tried hard to maintain the high(?) standards of writing and doses of humor(?) that you've become accustomed to here; no one-liner whines of "nothing to write about." Really, as I figured out early on in this whole blogging thing, finding things to write about is NOT the problem; finding time to do even a half-way decent job of writing (or even writing at all) is the main issue at this point. Same old conundrum: when there's nothing going on, I've all the time in the world (but then you're subject to old news or my own personal random thoughts); when life is interesting and blog-worthy, time to type is at a premium.

So how did I do this for a month? Well, the girls haven't had a whole lot of new preschool material lately (I'm not sure they care; I have kept them well supplied with crayons, and they were free to color on the last unit's posters, which are still up on the wall!) Apart from the recent sweeps with the Dyson (and quite a difference it has made--I can sit down without getting stuffed up within just a few minutes!), my house is really no cleaner than usual. And I have stayed up late (or not napped when I needed it) a few times. Some days it's no fun being a perfectionist!

What has been especially cool, though, is in reading some of the other blogs who participated. I realize that there are just a TON of people out there who are writing pretty much the same kind of random, slice-of-life things that I am, and they're good. This sort of thing gives me hope, the kind of hope that helps keep someone who loves to teach writing going. (i.e., not everyone writes like a C- high school sophomore. Hallelujah!) Most of them are funnier than I could ever be (if only because they swear so much more, or write about things that, frankly, I'm not sure most of my audience would enjoy, or that I just can't bring myself to publicize.) In many ways, it is perhaps most comforting to know that I'm not the only mildly tech-savvy Mommy who's chosen to both stay home with the kids, and write about it from time to time.

I have enjoyed the whole experience, but now I'm a bit tired. So I'll try to be more regular in posting...but I'm not gonna keep up every single day. At least until next November, at which point, we'll see....

November 29, 2006

The Perils of Being a Parrot With Technology

Laura loves to memorize books, and now we know that she will memorize them even if she just hears an audio version, sans pictures (clearly, she's a strong auditory learner. Swearers be warned...I wouldn't tell any big secrets around this kid, either!)

So we're driving off to practice, and I'm not really paying attention to Laura since I'm looking out for black ice and such. She's singing kiddie songs to herself, but eventually...

"Mama?"
...
"Mama?"
...
"Mama?"
"Yes, my darling?" (That's what I'm supposed to say. If I don't, I get reminded.)
"Mama?"
"Yes, my darling?"

Sooner rather than later, I needed a break from that game, so I suggested she "do" The Velveteen Rabbit for me, one of the books she's recently been memorizing (I am in awe; she's got a good ten minutes of it on the "tape" in her head; obviously she'll be fine doing memorized speeches later on....). So, this is what came from the back seat:

"This...is a Librivox recording....All Librivox recordings...are in the public domain. For more information, or to volunteer, please visit...Librivox dot org. Recording by...Marlo Dianne, forbidden dragon dot blogspot dot com. The Velveteen Rabbit, Or, How Toys Become Real, by Margery Williams.....There was once a Velveteen Rabbit... "

When I finished laughing and could again see to drive, I gently explained to Laura that that...wasn't part of the story. That all the Librivox recordings start out that way.

I think she thought I was crazy! It's either a)time to stop listening to things on my computer, or b)listen to lots more, so she gets the Librivox sensibility down. (Can you guess which one I vote for?)

Ice Will Suffice

Well, I don't know about you, but I didn't do my snow dance last night. There was still a somewhat unexpected two-hour delay this morning, due to frigid temperatures combined with all the wet roads and melting snow creating lots of ice. No complaints here! (although it makes me wonder about the effectiveness of all that dancing...could it be that it's having no effect? Shhhh..is that thunder? Uh-oh, the snow gods are coming for me...Send help!)

November 28, 2006

Behold, The Beast

Our new vacuum arrived yesterday, and once everyone was awake, I finally got to give it a try. I like it!

Its moniker is actually "The Dyson Absolute D17 Animal", which brings up quite a number of connotations for me. There's the Def Leppard song. And then there's this Animal. And of course, how could I leave out the non-animal? I think, however, that the marketing minds at Dyson actually had in mind its ability to pick up pet hair, at which, I can now attest, it is truly magnificent.

So, you might be asking, what do you get for ~$500 worth of vacuum? I'll tell you: quite a bit. (and, for the record, that was on a sweet sale, with--naturally--free shipping.) My comparison is to a really very adequate Hoover, which I purchased 10 or 11 years ago from Sears, largely on the strength of its ability to pick up particles (like cat food pellets and stray cedar shavings) and the fact that it could be fitted with "micro-filtration" bags.

I'm lousy at suspense, so I'll just start with its coolest feature: it has a waaaaay long extendable arm, which connects to a truly amazing little power-beater upholstery/car seats/stairs tool. It's amazing because a)it works pretty much as well as the floor beater-bar; b) it stretches out to a full 16 feet on the extender thingy(I was able to do our basement stairs for what is likely the first time in four years--we've been sweeping them, which makes them look better but is hardly helpful in my situation...), and c)the power source to it can best be described as magic, since there are no plugs or anything...you just stick in onto the extender arm and it goes. How DO they do that? I remember using a canister vac in the '80's where you had to be sure the little power plug was connected from the "mother vacuum" to the powered beater bar, so now I'm really curious. Anyway, it's a very handy feature, and one of the reasons we got that model (so now I'm feeling very smug.) My only criticism is that the extender arm thingy does put one aways away from the action, but I can see the engineering point: if you're designing the beast for people who are trying to eliminate allergens, it's probably just as well to make it harder for them to have their faces right up in the bugs (and the bug poop, which is, more accurately, what makes me sneeze, cough, etc.)

It does a superior job of "fluffing" up the carpet, and is no louder (and may actually be a little softer) than our former vacuum. Both the main and the accessory power beaters turn off at the slightest hint of having caught a snag of something; very important as they are both very powerful. They both come with separate and fairly convenient on/off switches. Once I got used to it, I also appreciated the fact that while the vacuum will turn on, the beater bar doesn't come on until you tilt the whole apparatus into it's "I'm doing the carpet now" position; that's good for when you don't feel like turning it off but want to play with the attachments, as it has a pretty powerful desire to move around the cabin at the slightest touch (and this way, with the power bar off, it holds still). It comes with an under-beds-and-couches attachment to hook to the extender wand thingy; I haven't gotten around to trying that yet, but seems like a good solution for the otherwise tall profile of the main canister part. It does seem to do great at automatically adjusting itself to the height of the floor your're working with.

Did I mention how much I loved the upholstery tool? Now that the beds are fairly encased and I wake up in the morning breathing through my nose--a novelty!--I'm really noticing all the other dusty places in my life. One of them has been the rocker I sit in twice a day with Emily. Having attacked all the upholstery in the basement last night (wearing my trusty but science-fiction looking RediMask all the while), it was entirely better.

The whole thing is pretty light weight, nice when you live on three floors as we do, and also nice because, while I appreciate getting a housekeeping workout, I'd just as soon be able to determine its intensity on my own. (To the point where Matt wondered if it was a little flimsy; it comes with a two-year warranty, and has so far been stubbornly idiot-proof [I am living proof that they're always coming up with a better and higher quality of idiot!], so I guess we'll find out. I have a feeling that it's lightweight because it's almost entirely built of high-impact plastic.

Emptying the canister was a little challenging, but that's really because of my one main criticism of the whole shebang: no extensive written directions. They have cool pictures, but somebody needs to tell them that in spite of the "picture is worth 1,000 words" thing, sometimes pictures are ambivalent. I may be the last of a dying breed, but I really and truly like to open a new purchase, maybe get it part way out of the box to see what I'm dealing with, and then sit on my keister and read the directions booklet. This, alas, did not take me long. But I have figured out most of it (see "idiot-proofing", above).

Anyway, I debated internally for a while whether I wanted to have a bagless model--risk of dust being re-introduced to the environment, versus the endless purchasing of specific brand-name vacuum bags. Cheap won out, and I'm feeling okay about it since I can do the emptying over our outside garbage bin, and while wearing a mask. To empty this particular puppy, the canister snaps off of its mooring, then there's a release button you push and the hinged bottom drops away from the canister, dumping all the small particulate out (we got about two inches last night....yuck!). There's an inner assembly which can be removed from the canister; that tends to collect the pet hair (which is staticky, so may require a little hand action to remove--that's the messy part), but it's just like taking the lint off the dryer lint filter, except it looks more like a colander that you're dealing with. Again, now that I know how it works, I don't think I'm going to get a snootful of allergens when I empty it. And, since it has that patented "never loses suction" thing, even when the canister is full, I don't need to do it every time.

I don't think I've mentioned it, but of course it has a "lifetime" HEPA filter, which was the number one reason for the whole purchase. It's supposed to "clean the air" that it exhausts, and you know, it did seem not to kick up as much dust as the regular vac; there's no way to avoid some dust movement as long as you're pushing something around on the carpet, but they seem to have done as much as possible to make breathing easier around it.

I am very happy with it so far, and would freely recommend it, especially for pet-owners and allergy sufferers.

Also, Laura recommends it because....it's a very cool purple!

Consolation Prize

Well, it was a good effort, but yet again, we have failed. This time, I know you tried--heck, even Joe's hometown had a late start this morning, which tells me those Washingtonians were doing their duty to help--but Matt still had to go off to work after a two-hour delay. Ironically, the local district had a delay, then closed entirely. Which makes me a little worried about Matt, but at least he has my (bigger, heavier, more comfortable) car.

November 27, 2006

Dance Like There's Snow Tomorrow

Alright, people. I'll take some of the blame for not being specific enough. The snow dance doesn't count as successful unless the snow actually sticks, enough so that school is actually cancelled. Not just a two-hour delay, which gives the poor teachers the worst of several worlds: they have to drive in the snow, the time in class is crazily shortened (requiring changes in lesson plans), and the children do not want to be there (those who show up at all).

Since a two-hour delay is, in fact, what we got (and the local district didn't even get that), I can only assume one of two things. One, you didn't do the dance correctly. Were you loud? Were you in your front yard? Did your neighbors point, giggle, and/or threaten to call the police? Were you singing the right song? Did you forget some of the words?

Or, is it the second option...did you not dance at all?

Judging by the snow production this morning, I'm guessing at least some of you are innocent of that last--you just need to try harder, and be joined by the slackerweasels who "forgot" last night.

So come on, people. It takes a group effort. There's still a chance for tomorrow!

November 26, 2006

Holy Year End, Batman!

We made it to church today for what I think is the first time this month...there's been a tournament each and every weekend until this one, making it hard to get out and go anywhere on Sunday between shopping, laundry, and general breathing in and out before the week.

(Yes, I know, I could probably go shopping with the girls during the week sometime. And as my energy continues to rise amazingly with drugs and environmental controls, I may actually try that. But Matt--the extrovert--likes to go shopping, and I hated it even before I had two children to strap in and out of carseats while scanning the parking lot for creeps.)

Anyway, it was nice to see everyone there again. It's the official end of the church year, Advent being the beginning. Can't let the pagans have too much influence on us, since they already got all the good holidays. ;-)

I have also officially resigned my post as chief scheduler for the place; it wasn't a difficult job, but it stressed me out more than it should, so someone else gets to do it from now on. I can still read when I need a stage thrill, and I'm on the Sunday School teacher list.

(How funny is that? Me, as a Sunday school teacher? Fortunately, it's scripted, so I don't think I'll do anything too warping to the younger generation's minds....)

We also picked up a little wire Advent wreath and candles to light, and some coloring stuff for the girls (hey--I know pre-prepped preschool materials when I see them!), all of which we are jokingly referring to as our "God propaganda" (somebody at church called it that, which gives you just a slight flavor of our house of worship: we work hard not to take ourselves tooooo seriously!)

November 25, 2006

The Snow Watch

I have a confession to make: I love snow days. (And, I'll confess for Matt: he loves snow days, too.)

I realize that as teachers, this is a little sacreligious, but it's the truth. Yes, it's a pain to rearrange one's lesson plans. Yes, the days often have to be made up at the end of the year. But there's just something so delicious about the thought of an unexpected day off (that does not involve anyone dying, going to the emergency room, or going through three boxes of Kleenex and one of Imodium-AD).

I mention all this because we are currently on a snow day watch for Monday. Conveniently, since we don't live in the district in which Matt teaches, there is often no (or negligible) snow here, and there can still be a snow day there. That makes it even easier to goof off. (As I've mentioned, his district is large geographically, and as I probably haven't mentioned, a good chunk of it is in the Cascade foothills...hence the higher probability of a day to goof off.)

One of the most precious memories we have from Laura's babyhood is due, in large part, to the Big Storm of 2004, in which ice destroyed our ponderosa pine, but also kept Daddy home to further bond with our November child. I'm pretty sure it was on one of those snowed- and iced-in days that he got her to smile for the first "real" time. Who knows what wonderful memories the next such day could bring?

So let's all do the snow dance, shall we? (As taught to me by my sophomore English teacher so long ago, in between proper grammar and various sentence structures; obviously, we're not the first teacher types to enjoy the white stuff...) You must go outside, preferably into your front yard. You must dance goofily around. You must sing at the top of your lungs: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow." You must not explain to the neighbors, unless they express a desire to join you.

Thank you for your support.

November 24, 2006

Scheherezade Gets A Night Off

I received two lovely gifts yesterday, both in the "intangibles" column (although one does cost money).

We spent Thanksgiving dinner time at my Aunt Barb's house. It's hard to describe my family, but in general they are quiet sorts; the most animated discussion around the table centered on which apples were really best for making pies. And then the discussion shifted to pears....

My children were no worse than usual, and that led to the first gift: my grandfather, a man not known for his long and close associations with those of a short and diaper-wearing persuasion, told me he thought they were very well-behaved, and that we appeared to be doing a great job raising them.

Wow! That ought to get me through at least three mornings when Laura refuses to feed herself, and probably two days' worth of Emily being insanely tired but refusing to sleep (and running into things, crying about it, etc.) I'm not sure it's true, but I'll certainly take it!

The second lovely gift was a big surprise, since I had completely forgotten about it as a possibility. (It happened to a coach friend of ours, and I raved about the idea at the time, but my brain had apparently moved on...)

Matt and I generally celebrate our wedding anniversary, and also at least pause for five minutes to acknowledge the day we decided to "go together". We've never really made a big deal about the day we met, though (since it was right before Thanksgiving), we often--okay, mostly Matt--say, on Thanksgiving, how many years it's been. So I was a little surprised to see a card propped up on the piano yesterday. I said, "Why is there a card on the piano?" And Matt, stinker to the core, said, "I forgive you for forgetting."

Ack! Forgetting? When we never celebrate? (It's okay, I inadvertently got good revenge, because, once I [thought I] realized what it was, I didn't open it right away. This quickly drove Matt insane...)

Because, inside the card, was the gift.

I get to have a night OFF. He reserved a room for me at a nearby hotel for a night during Christmas break (complete with amenities like a jacuzzi...), and there I will go by myself. Alone. No crying children. Not even a husband with needs to tend to. Just selfish little me.

I can hardly wait!

As the card pointed out, I have put in well over 1,001 nights of childcare without a break (in fairness to Matt, we've tried a couple of times, especially when I was pregnant, and it just didn't work out. Mommy's number 1!) But, short of any true emergencies, this should work.

Oh! I am all a-twitter about which books to take...I have to keep reminding myself that it's only one night....

November 23, 2006

Genevieve Ruth

Yay! She has a name! (and a good one, too).

Mother and baby are doing fine now....Genevieve had to spend some time under an oxygen hood at first, but things seem to be cleared up and she's now snuggling with her Mommy and Daddy.

Sometimes it's good to be (further) reminded of the important things in life.

Who Knew...

...that you could get gifts for Thanksgiving? But that's what happened to our friends the Borahs: they welcomed their fourth little girl into the world yesterday!

Welcome, Baby Borah! (we're still waiting on a name...after three great girl names already, I can't blame them. :-) )

November 22, 2006

The Age of Not Believing

Have you ever tried to explain a rectal thermometer (sight unseen) to a three-year old?

I have, and it doesn't work.

The background: last week we took Emily in for her checkup, and Laura was going to get a flu shot. They were both (well, all four of us were!) sick--and the nurse wanted to verify that, in fact, we were dealing with fevers--so she used one of those quicky ear thermometers on Laura. She's never seen one in action (well, maybe when she had to go to the ER as a baby, but not since then). They had the fevers, they didn't get shots, we rescheduled that part.

Monday we're driving home from practice, having one of our long car conversations ("Mommy, don't drive FAST. You're going TOO FAST!" Not, mind you, because she doesn't like the speed, but she knows that if I'm too focused on driving--as when I need to go 55 or so--that I'm not going to talk very much.) We were talking about how we needed to go back to the doctor's office today to get the shots that were postponed, and she said she was scared of the doctor's office. We established that it was "the ear thingy" that she didn't like--it beeped at her, after all!

So I was explaining that it was a thermometer, just like the one we have at home (which generally gets used under the arm, though we tried having her hold it under her tongue just for kicks a few weeks ago). "The monitor?" "Thermometer." Since I was only doing 45 or so, I went on to explain that there are lots of different kinds of thermometers, and that sometimes--especially with babies, there are some that go "right into your poo-poo."

This is where the conversation broke down.

"No, mama, that's not right. You don't put the monitor in the baby's poo-poo!"

"Really, they do. Sometimes babies are too wiggly, or they need to get a really accurate temperature, so they do take their temperature that way."

"NO! Mama, you don't put the temperature in the poo-poo! You WIPE the poo-poo."

And so it goes.

November 21, 2006

What a Great Idea!

You know, if Emily hadn't cut me off, I might've gone, long drive and all.

Perhaps they'll have more "nurse-in"s in the future. Heckuva way to raise consciousness, after all...

TtBTF, #8

Things to Be Thankful For, #8: Heat, Power, Shelter

Now, this is not meant as a ploy to get you to donate to your favorite charity, but as we're approaching Thanksgiving (a.k.a. "Turkey Day"--bleh! What a symptom of employing the least common denominator as a moniker. Let's just go ahead and call Christmas "Present Day," shall we?), it's worth remembering how very much in the purely physical realm we all have to be thankful for. I suppose there's a tiny chance that someone reading this won't have everything on my list, but it's remote. Most of us have:

~electric power. Of some kind or other, or you probably aren't reading this.

~tools and toys to plug into the power. Like, you know, a computer? And most of us have lamps so we don't have to stop goofing off just because it's dark outside. Stove! Crockpot! Microwave! and....Electric coffeepot! I try to remember that not only is the concept of having power 24/7 pretty foreign in many parts of the world, but what we get to do with that electricity is just plain awesome.

~heat. Of course, there are many places where heat's not such an issue, though even the dark desert can get pretty cold at night. But this is one that, sadly, lots of people close to home don't even have. Or, they have to choose between heat and, say, food.

~shelter. Most of the Earth's surface is relatively inhospitable to humans at one point in the year or another. Having a place to call home--not to mention a place to store all our stuff, another foreign concept to many (what? You have stuff you don't have to abandon in the middle of the night?), a place that you can decorate any way you want, that is reasonably secure from outside intruders, somewhere you and your family (if any) can relax and sleep in something resembling safety: this is not a universal. I'm grateful to have one to call my own.

{Swelling music of "We Are the World"....NO! Stop! I said I wasn't going there. Music fades away.}

Just a few more things to add to my thankful-for list. They're easy to overlook in the hustle and the bustle of daily life, but I sure would miss them if they were gone!

November 20, 2006

TtBTF, #7

Things to Be Thankful For, #7: Matt

(As an aside, we'll see if he actually reads this. I've been ribbing him a lot lately for not checking the blog. In fairness, he usually gets to hear about whatever I'm writing about either just before or just after it shows up here; but I'm not telling him about this one.)

I'm sure I can't list all the things in one sitting that I'm thankful for on this subject, so in no particular order:
~They say that two major things determine one's happiness in life: your significant other, and your job. For at least the last ten years, I've loved all my jobs, and Matt has definitely provided the other piece of the happiness puzzle. Does he piss me off? Well, sure, sometimes. But never so much that I could imagine life without him. And most of the time, we go together like peanut butter and jelly.
~He is an awesome dad. He changes diapers, feeds and bathes, cuddles, tickles, and even comes up with goofy words to songs to entertain. Also, he is tending well to their musical education; without him, surely Laura could not sing along to "Ironman" or "Mamma Mia."
~He is a good example (for me, not just for the children). I figured out quite a while ago that one of my prerequisites for hotness in men is that they must be better than I am at something. Now, I know I've teased him about being better at worrying than I am, but truly, he's better at "walking the talk" than I am. We both care a lot about social justice, but Matt's the one in there slugging it out with District officials every spring in contract negotiations; he's also the one who is the "go-to guy" for teachers whenever there's a question of teacher discipline of any sort. They know he'll fight to make sure they are treated fairly (not that they necessarily wouldn't be; but Matt's always in their corner.) He likes to teach about controversial issues, not to stir up trouble (though sometimes that happens), but to ensure that students are thinking.
~I have also heard it said that we always marry our relatives. Not, thank God, in the literal sense, but more in that we seek the familiar, and find people who remind us of whence we've come. In many ways, Matt reminds me of what is good about my family members. He makes me laugh like my brother can; he sings constantly like Paul did; he shares my mother's disgusting sense of humor; he can schmooze like my Uncle John; he is sensitive like my father, and he believes in service to others like my grandfather (apologies to anyone I left out!) The best part, of course, is that I don't have to live with all the OTHER parts of those family members!

November 19, 2006

Farewell, oh Ducky Tub

The giant yellow duck will no longer be appearing in our tub. Nothing bad has happened to it (well, unless you could the endless sequence of naked baby behinds it has endured...), but I finally gave in last night and bathed the girls together in The Big Tub.

I didn't mean to.

Actually, I had been thinking in the back of my head that it would soon be time, but I was going to forego baths entirely last night, putting them off until Daddy came home today and could help (me still getting over the nasty cold that's had us all in its grippe, after all). That is, until I noticed the poop on the kitchen floor, which made the bath no longer optional. (I was, however, very grateful that it was on the kitchen floor and not, say, the living room rug.) So Laura--the poop perp this time--was rib-deep in the water, when Emily made it as clear as could be that she wanted to join her.

E.: "UP! UP!" (pointing into the water behind Laura)
Me: "Are you sure?"
E.: [exaggerated nod] "Yyyyyup!"
Me: "You want to go in the bath with Laura?"
E.: [exaggerated nod] "Yyyyyup!"
Me: "In the Big Tub?"
E.: [exaggerated nod] "Yyyyyup!"
Me: "Are you sure?"
E.: [exaggerated nod; eyes starting to roll in exasperation] "Yyyyyup! UP! UP!"
Me: "Laura, is it okay if Emily shares your bath? What do you think?"
L.: [nodding sagely] "I think Emily's going to bonk her head."
Me: "Probably. But are you okay if she's in there with you?"
L.: "Yes. That would be alright."

And so it was. As it turned out, no head bonking occurred (but there's always next time.)

I suspect that the fact it's taken us this long to plunk them both in a bath together is a clear symptom of how obsessive and anal we are; or, it could be conditioning from Laura's dislike of anything new and different (Emily is obviously new and different in that regard...)

Anyway, for those of you who'll miss making the ducky tub's beak quack on your way to the john, we'll try to arrange supervised visits.

November 18, 2006

Good News on the Bug Front

One of the things that is often suggested to control dust mites is a dehumidifier; dust mites don't like to reproduce or live in anything much below 70% relative humidity. Basements are often right around that (or even worse). However, since I remember writing just a few short weeks ago about how quickly water dries up in our basement, I thought I'd better check. The hygrometer I ordered appeared yesterday, so I popped in its batteries and sent it to work.

I now feel fully justified in spending that $12, since it saved us from spending hundreds; our basement is around 53% relative humidity. That's enough for mold to grow, although I'm hoping that won't be much of an issue since--I am happy to announce--now all of the water from our downspouts drains not only away from the house, but separately from the city's storm sewer system. And it's definitely lower than the rotten little allergy bugs like it. I am happy not just to save money, but because I was not looking forward to maintaining a big machine; you have to find a safe place to plug it in, drain it regularly (or trip over the hose as it's attached to a drain) and clean it often, since it's full of water which grows mold and...dust mites!

In case you're wondering about how this miracle of basement bliss occurred, I have to give credit to all the people (including us) who spent time remodeling down there: we all wanted heat, and so we all punched holes in the heating ducts which run to the rest of the house via the ceiling of the basement, thus connecting that space to the forced air gas heating system. Between the dryer being properly vented (but still pumping out heat, just not moisture, into the area), the furnace shedding spare BTU's as it heats the house, and, probably most important, those vents providing both heat and moving air, we lucked out. Score one to the Ogles in the Bug Battle. It's about time.

November 17, 2006

TtBTF, #6

Things to Be Thankful For, #6: The Public Library

I'm sure we would find ways to make our lives complete without it, but there is certainly a richness to our daily existence that owes everything to our local public library. Let me count the ways...

~Whenever I want to find out more about something: Montessori, gardening, allergies, 9/11, quilting with denim...anything!, I have two stops: Google and the library. Between the two of them, I usually end up feeling fairly well-educated on whatever it was I wanted to know about.

~It's massively convenient, and keeps me in touch with my mother. Her hobby is going to the library, and she has copies of our cards (mine and the girls; Matt's never gotten around to paying the buck to have another copy of his card). So I put things "on hold" here at home, and when she goes to the library, she picks up our stuff for us. As a payoff, I put things on hold for her, including things I know she likes to read about, and random things that she probably wouldn't have thought of (and, when she commits one of her obnoxious social gaffes, advice and training books, which she takes with good humor. For instance, one day she accidentally let fly with a four-letter word while playing with the girls--and felt quite guilty about it--and the next week, there were about four books with titles like "How to Stop Swearing" waiting for her.)

~The girls enjoy story time, it socializes them by being around lots of little kids, and they swap germs (not required, if you ask me, but supposedly it's good to have a certain amount of exposure to bugs, since it gets your immune system up and running.) Also, Laura has finally discovered the Victorian doll house they keep in the children's area (completely decorated, and usually changed around for the seasons). Since seeing that doll house is one of my own earliest (positive) memories, it's nice to be able to share it with her. We have to check it each time we go to story time now.

~It has totally fueled my preschool efforts. I have music, pictures, flannel-board stories, activity ideas...and it all came from there. Free. I did buy one book (having looked at the library's copy first), mostly because I did not want to copy its 500+ pages, having realized that I wanted most of what it had.

~My girls are both good little pre-readers. We couldn't have done it without the library's resources. Even Emily will toddle over to our basket full of books (a laundry basket-sized basket; stocked some with our own books, and an ever-changing collection from the library. We can check out 50 items at a time on each card....), pluck out a book, sit herself down, and flip interestedly through the pages. I'm trying hard to make sure they grow up in a culture of literary richness, with the idea that there are always more cool books out there to read and enjoy. I figure I shouldn't stop reading to them or anything, but that at this point the seeds of reading are obviously planted and growing well: books are their favorite toys. YESSSS! (Ginger does a little victory dance.) It's things like this that make English teachers curl their toes with pleasure.

~It's helped Matt not miss television. When we first gave up the tube, he wasn't much of a book person, suffered from being a slow reader, and really didn't think he'd ever change. But he got bored and, since I had my nose in a book, he sadly picked one off my (burgeoning) shelves and tried it. And liked it. And wanted more. He's gradually gotten a lot faster at reading, which improves the experience for him, and now I check out books--after consulting with him--for him on my card, using the handy "Mah's Delivery Service" (he's currently about two thirds of the way through the complete works of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child).

~I can slake my lust for reading new and interesting things, not to mention keep up with my favorite authors without breaking the bank. Usually, the library will post books that it hasn't even got its hot little hands on yet, allowing one to place "holds" before items are actually published. With a sharp eye, it's possible to use this system to get books before most people are through the first chapter (for instance, a recent score was the last Lemony Snicket book. Yes, I beat out some innocent child and was the first to read one of the library's brand-spanking-new copies of it. But I did send it back before its due date....)

Thank you, library!

November 16, 2006

Apparently, Biology is Destiny. Darn.

I find that being a parent--specifically, a mother--makes me totally not objective, particularly in the health arena. Even though, intellectually, I know that Emily's going to be just fine, listening to her losing her little voice (her crying now sounds especially pitiful because of that), coughing like a three-pack-a-day smoker, and snorgling (snoring + gurgling) in her sleep just makes me feel...desperate. (And this is after her regularly-scheduled doctor check-up yesterday, at which her ears were checked as usual, and just as usual, there is no infection--lucky us! Considering that we all have the same thing, it's also obvious that it's just a cold, and the doctor even reassured Matt that her little lungs are sounding great so far.) We've been here many times before, and every time, it's the same. I feel sorry for myself, I feel sorry for Matt, I feel concerned for Laura, and absolutely frantic about Emily.

Since this is obviously something hardwired into the whole motherhood thing--or else Matt would suffer as I do, and my Vulcan-like thoughts would have some effect--I'm trying to figure out how it's a positive adaptive strategy. I mean, okay, you wouldn't want Cave Mom running off and leaving sick little Cave Baby alone; you want her to take Cave Baby with her while she gathers food, preferably tucked into some warm dead animal skins. But how does making her worry about Cave Baby (more accurately, Cave Toddler) with every breath help? Is there no middle ground?

Could we maybe make it a goal to change this for the next few generations? I mean, is it possible to purposely affect our own species' evolution? If we all tried really hard, I bet we could do it.

You go first; I have to check on Em.

Better Living Through Chemistry

I raked the leaves in the front yard on Tuesday while the girls were sleeping. Now, that might sound like a boring, mundane chore to some, but I haven't raked leaves in, oh, twenty years? Every time I tried, it wore me out so thorougly and quickly that I threw in the rake. Not so this time; I paced myself, but was not completely exhausted by the time I finished. (I even did the somewhat aerobic task of flinging them into the front flower beds, where they finish their productive lives as lovely mulch.) This is progress of huge magnitude; those drugs are awesome.

Also, yesterday the first round of dust solutions arrived, and promptly went on our mattress, and several pillows--our bed ones, plus one each for the girls. That will make snuggling not so sneezy! Since we all still have miserable colds and spend a lot of time at night hacking and coughing (and thus, not getting enough sleep), it's far too early to tell how much of a difference they'll make. But it certainly feels good to know that at least we're doing something to help.

November 15, 2006

Anatomy of a Speech Tournament

I've already shown a little bit of what we do on weekends, although that was only one kind of speech, and only from the student's perspective. So I figured it was time to see what goes on behind the scenes.

Here we see three of our "tab" (short for tabulation, aka "Headquarters") workers, ready to start the day: L-R, Michael, Emily, and the famous Jane.

If you have no idea about what competitive speech and debate is, the closest analogy in the sports world is probably track and field. Just like track and field, there are two main kinds of events: speeches (Individual Events, or "IE's", even though one of them involves two people!) and debates, which may involve two people on a team, or one competing person alone. IE's have preliminary rounds that work very much like track and field, in that they are generally randomly matched, and the best performances from there get to advance to finals (except, of course, in National Forensic League tournaments; they have their own very specific rules, built around a double-elimination system. Don't try this at home.) Debate, on the other hand, generally works like college basketball; once one or two rounds have happened, a system of bracketing is used. Most tournaments "power-match" within brackets; some tournaments, at some times, "power-protect" (i.e., the 8th ranked team is put against the 1st ranked team. It always makes life easier for the people tabulating when that 1st ranked team wins, but they have to prove their worth!)

Although there are many different kinds of speeches, and different flavors of debates, it's not necessary to understand them all to understand how we do the calculations of winning and losing. There is one more handy thing to know about scoring, though, and that is the difference between rank (or win/loss in debate) and rate. "Rank" is basically how someone places in an IE round: 1st, 2nd, etc. "Rate" is how they compare to the world at large, and since some people would rather die than do public speaking, the points start at 15 or 20 or so, and go up from there to show better performance. "Rate" in debate is called speaker points, and we use rate, in general, to break ties whenever we need to (students can also get "speaker awards" in debate, since the best speaker is not always guaranteed to win the debate, or the tournament--just look at the last Presidential election--but is worthy of acknowledgment anyhow.) [Here's Laura, hard at work being spun around by one of our worthy babysitters; Laura's job at tournaments it to look cute, try not to fuss, and distract Emily. Note the plethora of toys scattered on the library floor in the background; we try to go prepared!]

Before a tournament starts, we assign "codes" for each competitor. They're usually alphanumeric (i.e., "A12"), with the letter representing the school, and the number, the particular speaker. It's quicker to write them than names, and it's also supposed to keep the suspense up a bit for the students about who they may compete against (in theory.) It also makes matching up rounds easier, since obviously we don't want two "A's" debating against each other if we can help it (though students from the same school often have to compete against each other in IE's, we can at least see and minimize it as much as possible.) In debate, we have a card made of cardstock for each competitor (they're yellow in the picture), so we can keep track of who they've hit in each round, which side they were on (since we try to alternate Affirmative and Negative positions each round), the win/loss record and speaker points. If you look closely, you'll see that we lay them out in pairs, so it's easy to tell at glance what the match-ups are. In IE's, we just usually make a list of all the codes for each event, with a grid to keep track of their rates/ranks in each round.

Next, we match the first round. It's usually pretty quick for debate--just lay all the cards down and make sure nobody from the same school is competing against each other. Same drill for IE's, except we have to divide them into "panels" of around 6 (sometimes 4 or 5, sometimes 7) speakers. Once the first round is done, we can do all the other preliminary round matching of IE's; we wait until then because sometimes students "drop" out of the competition without telling us (emergency, sickness, or just general flakiness). Once all the matching up is done, we make ballots for the judges, with all the code information included. For debate, we use NCR paper so each competitor (and the tournament itself) can have a copy of the feedback and results, and for IE's, there are individual ballots to provide feedback to each competitor (they get them after the tournament is over) plus a "cover sheet" that sums up the scores for the busy people in the back room. [The picture shows cover sheets for two different events--we try to color code as much as possible to keep us from going any more insane--and a "cum sheet" for whatever the event with the yellow cover sheet was.]

Confused yet? I have heard speech and debate referred to as a cult...

Next, the ballots have rooms marked on them, we make a "posting" to put up that shows the codes matched up to their rooms (so the students know where to go to speak), and judges are assigned for each ballot (one per judge, although sometimes more than one judge is needed for a particular round, notably, finals.)

Okay, so the first round is finished, the speakers have spoken, the judges have judged, and we have a stack of ballots back. We record win/loss records and speaker points for debate (That's what Jane and Patrick are doing here; Pat's reading the scores, while Jane records them. We try, whenever possible, to work in pairs so we can catch any mistakes. "If it doesn't make it out the door, it's not a mistake!" is our motto.), then create piles of cards ("brackets") based on win/loss records: at this point, 1-0 or 0-1. Then we try to match up debaters within brackets; if there's an uneven number in the top bracket, we "draw up" one poor soul, randomly, to compete in the bracket above where they should be. We try to make sure debaters get to be on the side they weren't just debating, for variety and competitiveness reasons, and again try to keep people from the same team from going up against their sparring partners from home. Then we get to repeat the recording of information on ballots for the next round. We repeat the process as needed. Ideally, finals are decided on win/loss record, but usually, there's either only one undefeated team or there are more than two, so we use speaker points to decide who gets to go to finals (highest points get to go to the Bowl Game, as it were.)

If you're still with me, we also have the IE's to deal with. For those, we just record the "rank" and "rate" in each round as they come to us. Once all the preliminary rounds are done, we figure out the finalists. Generally, the magic number of competitors we aim for is six (or, half of the total number in the event, if it's really small--like, four finalists if there were only eight competitors.) We add up the "ranks", so that if they got 1st in the first round, 2nd in the second round, and 1st again in the third round, they would have a score of 4 (1+2+1=4; darn good.) [Patrick can be seen here working on some of the math for an IE; Emily is supervising.] The people with the lowest scores here go on to finals; if some have the same (low) scores, we go to "rates" again (or some other things) to see if we can break the tie (it's more complicated than that, but I don't think you want to know the whole list of tie breakers. One of them involves reciprocal fractions. Trust me on this; you don't want to know.) Once the finalists are chosen, we randomly order them (there's a whole body of knowledge about speaker order and its effects on both the judges and the performers...), fill out ballots (again), post the information, and enjoy the screaming. [That's what Emily's excited about...perhaps.]

I bet you can figure out from there how we figure out awards once we get the finals ballots back.

While all of this is going on, we're also collecting and sorting the ballots to go back to the individual speakers and debaters. We sort them out by school (using those handy codes), and generally stick them in a manila envelope (see photo, below, of the ballots being sorted by school) to be examined by the coaches and students after they've left the tournament site (always hoping that there is useful information from the judges in there on what they did well, and what they could do better.) We're also saving records as we go--cover sheets from IE's and one copy of each debate ballot--in case there's a problem.

There is always a problem. Students go to the wrong room, and don't get heard. Debaters do all manner of weird things. Judges forget to fill out their ballots right, or even completely. Somebody does something bizarre in a round and we have to check to see if it made any difference at all in the scores. And then, there is always the chance that we somehow messed up...that's one reason that in every school packet is also a set of "cums"--that's pronounced kee-yoooms, short for "cumulative" scores, and yes, I realize it looks just like another word that is pronounced and means something entirely different. And no, you don't want to know how often we say "cum sheet" in the tab room. But we are always careful to pronounce it correctly! Anyway, there's a listing in there (often in tiny print, to save copy money) of every competitor's scores and win/loss records.

After that, we clean up the room we've been working in, make sure the teacher's rooms are in good shape, find food (I do NOT cook on nights after a speech tournament!), come home and collapse. (Some of us collapse a little early; here we see Grant, another coach's son, snuggling Emily. I already told her he's way too old for her.)







November 14, 2006

Steel Band Jamboree

I've been looking for exercise music that is not on video/DVD, since the DVD and VCR are both in the--carpeted--basement (as is the sole, un-connected to an antenna or cable box, TV) and my computer doesn't read DVD's (Matt's does, but it is in the--carpeted--upstairs.) I've found a few at the library, mostly kid titles; that's fine with me, since I hardly ever get to exercise alone. Besides, it's just plain fun to watch them try to figure out new moves! (And they certainly have as much energy as the peppiest preppy you could find at the gym...)

One of the finds was Steve Leto's Steel Band Jamboree. I started playing it, they started boogeying, and now Laura is bugging me constantly to play specific songs again. And again. Generally, she needs to hear a song at least three times before it goes on her "most requested" list, so that's a pretty good recommendation. One caveat: some people find steel drum music annoying, and even repetitive. I'm not one of them (I often find repetition soothing.) (I often find repetition soothing.) I'm not one of them (I often find...okay, bad joke. I'll stop now.) Anyway, it's a good time, I like the tinkly music, and the kids are on board. Three thumbs up!

(As a side note, people could save a lot of money on personal coaches if they just have a child like Laura. She loves the exercise DVD's and any music we inflict on her, but more importantly, she is a champion nagger. Now that I'm feeling better, I can sense my resistance--and thus, my ability to say, "Not just now, sweetheart"--fading. Maybe we could rent her out for people who just need that one little extra push....Meantime, I have to admit it's nice to have someone around to inspire me.)

November 13, 2006

Paradigm Shifts

I realize, as I get older and my attitudes harden, that I do not "do" paradigm shifts well. I've had two here recently, and I'm still kind of reeling. It's really stupid, because in most ways, they are good changes.

The first one, which I've mentioned before but still amazes me, is the whole getting-my-body-and-energy-back thing. The biggest shift in my mentality is knowing that when I'm tired or sick or whatever, it will get better. For those other years, that just didn't happen; I was the world's biggest, limpest dishrag, and vacillated between sluggish movement when required, and no movement at all even when it was required (fortunately, breastfeeding is mostly done sitting down.) So now, whenever I get those sluggish days, and then I feel better, I keep saying, "Oh, yeah, that's right, it's not forever." And then I'm irritated because a) I wonder why I didn't remember that in the first place, instead of being all down about whatever wasn't getting accomplished, and b) I Hate Change. Even changing my mind. Especially changing my mind.

Of course, the more recent one is the whole allergy thing. I'm about sick of writing about it, so I can only imagine how my loyal readers feel, but I think this'll be the end. I feel really stupid because, truly, it's good to know what the problem is. The way ahead of me to work on fixing it is very, very clear. How much better is that than how it's been for years? Also, I feel stupid to be a bit depressed for two reasons: first, it's not as if there's a new diagnosis. I'm not suddenly condemned to death, serious flatulence, or chronic Republicanism. I already had the symptoms, and now they're just labeled. Second, it could be so, so much worse. Hey, it's not cancer (and as a result of one ultrasound, one X-ray, plus all the tests I got while pregnant, I can now reveal that pretty much everything in my torso is in good working order, or "within normal limits.") And yet I am a bit down, in part because...I have to change my thinking. The other drag on my mentality is the huge number of things I have to do as preventative medicine. Knowing that if I don't do them, I'll have myself to blame for increased symptoms is totally not a happy feeling. And that feels stupid, too...how many people would be delighted to have some control over their illness? Instead, I just want to not feel guilty.

So, today is Donkey Day. I'm somewhere between Eeyore and Old Benjamin. But hey, like Scarlett says, "Tomorrow is another day..." (Let's not even go to Macbeth, though....)

November 12, 2006

Die, Bugs, Die!

I am in recovery from a burst of Internet shopping. It was not nearly as much fun as it should be, but that's because it was all about allergy relief stuff.

From everything I've read, you get the most bang for your buck with pillow and mattress covers, so that's where I started (I had already gotten stuff for our own bed, sometime shortly after my doctor's appointment; this is for everyone else's, since not only do the girls share some of my [cursed] genes, but it's not a great thing for those rotten little bugs to be in anyone else's bed, either, if we're trying to cut down on the general population.)

In consultation with Matt, I decided to go with the Dyson line of vacuums (thanks to Tami for the recommend), and I also found a permanent (though you have to take it out and wash it off every month) electrostatic filter for the furnace. I did both of those in no small part because it's going to be a while, logicstically and realistically speaking, before we move out of the basement and/or get rid of the carpet down there. They should help ease things until then, and afterwards, they'll still be useful to own.

I'm trying to tell myself that all in all, we still spent less than we did on the brakes for the Honda, with hopefully a similar sort of return (stopping the car is important, breathing in--and especially, out--with asthma, is also important.) And the covers, vac, and filter all come with a much longer guarantee than the brakes did....
~~~~~
In other bug news, although both children were, relatively speaking, sicko stinkers yesterday, there were no more emesis episodes, even while Laura was coughing last night. I think she's actually finally feeling a little better today, too, though she has that droopy, "I've-been-miserable-sick-and-now-I'm-exhausted-and-whiny" status. So here's hoping those bugs are also on their way out.

November 11, 2006

Me and Sydney Carton

Originally, I was going to post this. In fact, I had it all typed up to post this morning before I left, because in case you hadn't noticed, I've been trying to post each day so far this month and I was worried I wouldn't get a chance later on.

Losing? the Coin Toss

I'm off to take the team to a tournament.

Originally, there were two tournaments today, and we were each going to go to one (me taking the small children along, and therefore not doing much). One of the tourneys got cancelled because of low numbers, so I'm going to the other one and Matt's staying home instead of me for once.

We decided to see who felt sicker with the cold/mild flu/whatever thing; I lost. Must be all the drugs!

Of course, the last time I went anywhere for all day without the children was jury duty, and that was the first time. I actually said yesterday that I figured it would be less physically exhausting to drive for a half an hour, sit in a cold bus for another 40 minutes, walk around a high school all day and into the evening, then ride for another 40 minutes and drive for another thirty (in the forecast torrential rains), than to stay home with The Children. And I'm pretty sure I'll be right!

Who says women are the weaker sex?


But, instead, I'm not there. It was in the middle of the night last night, around 12:30, when we both woke up to desperate crying from Laura. And as our eyes clicked magnetically together a few minutes later, as we stood tending to her quivering, vomit-covered body, I said as gently as I could, with that lift of the eyebrow that indicates it's an honest question and not sarcasm: "Are you sure you want to stay home with this tomorrow?"

Matt took a few minutes to think it over, as we started laundry, changed her clothes, calmed her down, etc. By the time we realized that the spare waterproof mattress pad was in the washer due to an earlier diaper leakage incident at nap-time (and therefore, would need to be dried before The Laura could be returned to its bed), he allowed as how he thought maybe I'd be better equipped to handle things.

About then, Emily woke up and wanted to join the party.

With Laura snuggled in our bed--but far from asleep--Emily uncomprehendingly watching from her crib (and obviously also not asleep, foreshadowing a long time in the rocker eventually, which did in fact come to pass), and the cursed mattress pad circling in the dryer, Matt escaped to the relative peace of the guest room to finish sleeping. I believe I closed my weary eyes again around 3 AM, having seen both little girls at last to sleep (one on a fresh bed).

So here I am.

It is a far, far better thing I do....

November 10, 2006

Children Who Raise Themselves

That last post was kind of a downer. So here's a little scatological humor to cheer you up.

I figure at the point your children start raising each other, you are either: a) a really good mother--look what a fine example you're setting! or b) about to called on by Child Services. I choose to assume the former, thanks.

What brings on this lovely reflection was the following exchange:

Emily: (censored)
Me: "Oooooh, Emily, you tooted on me."
Laura: "NO, Emily, you're supposed to toot on Daddy!"

Obviously, I'm doing my job well.

...and Dust to Dust

I haven't written about a major development yet this week, because I knew it would take me awhile.

I was severely "physicked" on Monday, and it's been a long time coming. I've had allergies and asthma for many years, but I figured things were basically as good as they'd get; I had an internal medicine doctor, and assumed she knew what she was doing. Mostly, though, she just saw me to renew prescriptions, and did the equivalent of swat me on the behind, tell me I was basically healthy (then why couldn't I do what all these healthy people do all the time???? Like walking up a flight of stairs without sounding like a choo-choo train, or really enjoying a hike, or digging a nice raised bed?), and send me on my way.

So I'd planned to finally see an allergist, but then I got pregnant, and was breastfeeding, for the many-times-mentioned three plus years. Not many cool drugs I could try under those conditions, so I waited. Finally, when I changed doctors this fall, I was referred (without even asking--I love our doc!) to an allergist. I couldn't see her until November because, if they're going to do testing for allergies, they usually like to do it in the "off" season for pollen.

In my case, it turned out to probably not matter (ohhh, the irony), because I am allergic to dust mites.

Dust bothers most people as an irritant, but I actually get to have a real histamine reaction to it (which is very likely one reason why my asthma can flare up unexpectedly and severely...all I need is a good snootful, and I'm off). I did not, however, react to any of the pollen I *thought* I'd be allergic to. So maybe there's something dusty I get into every time I'm ready to go outside....the one upside to all of this is that I see vast vistas of gardening in my future, an activity I'd been afraid would have to be limited. Of course, I still have those twitchy airways of asthma, over and independent of the dust allergy, so there are still a number of things that could bug me in the out-of-doors.

The reason this is a major development, of course, is that there's no way to avoid dust; it is literally everywhere. But there are lots of things you can do to reduce exposure, and that is where we are. I've already ordered some mattress and pillow covers, which is the number one thing everyone seems to recommend (mattresses and pillows are simply *crawling* with dust mites, and short of sleeping au naturel in a different spot on a non-permeable floor every night--with no covers or pillow--there's really nothing that will prevent that. So, we contain and try to avoid making the feeding grounds any more plentiful with the covers.)

Keeping the rest of the house--especially the bedroom--as dust-free as possible is the second challenge. Housework, especially dusting, has always been my Achilles' Heel, and of course now I know why a simple round of even 15 minutes would exhaust me for the day. Duh. But, I'm looking for a few things that will make it easier. And obviously, cleaning up and de-cluttering (which I wanted to do anyway) is now a real health issue.

I may even give away or sell some of my beloved books. I at least plan to move most of them out of the bedroom.

The third area we're looking at is the big picture. Our bedroom is in the basement: not recommended. The basement has carpet: even more not recommended. So we're thinking of taking steps, as we're able, to fix those. Much is in the brainstorming stage now; for instance, the carpet will probably go, replacement TBA. We were always planning to move the girls upstairs eventually, and we'll find some plan for that--we're talking about moving our bedroom into what is now the "guest room" (though we can hardly ever get anyone to stay there--serves you right, slackers! now we're gonna take away your option!) and turning what was the bedroom into a family room/movie area, with some provision for sleeping down there on the really, really, really miserable hot days (maybe ten all together in a year) of summer.

In the meantime, I came home with five--count 'em!--prescriptions Monday, and that doesn't even include the three long-term ones I already had and am continuing on. So I'm quite the pill-popping, spray-spritzing, inhaler-inhaling mama. (My lungs feel GREAT, actually. But at the moment I have a cold, and I got a flu shot Monday, too, so it's kind of hard to tell how some of the other things I'm on are working....I'll have to give 'em a few weeks.) I'm also the proud owner of two Epi-Pens, now...I mention it because, of course, we're never supposed to share prescriptions (and they absolutely shouldn't be used on children, because the dose is too big), but if someone's here and goes into anaphylactic shock, and forgot their's at home...well, it's nice to know they're available. I certainly hope never to need them, but will try to be responsible about keeping them up-to-date.

A final good thing: I'm glad I found out now. Of course, the ideal time to have realized all this and dealt with it would have been, oh, before I had children, or even before we bought a house, but we can't do much about that now. At least I'm not trying to figure it all out/fix as much as possible while I'm working full time; I'm here, looking around and thinking thoughtfully about what we can do.

November 9, 2006

Unsolved Mysteries of Motherhood

{Blogger seems to be having heart attacks the last few days, so,
apologies if this shows up more than once....I'll fix it eventually if
that happens.}

~Why is there *always* enough laundry to make a full load? Even when
I've just finished doing all the laundry? I swear, it multiplies much,
much quicker than rabbits.

~How can it possibly take me an hour, some mornings, to consume one
medium-sized bowl of oatmeal for breakfast? (Believe me, it is not
because I chew so slowly. I think it has to do with...children.)

~How does Emily know when Laura is sick, and thus, even when she is
tired, behave as well as she possibly can? (If knowing the answer
would break the spell, forget it. Let's leave this one unsolved!)

~Why doesn't this happen in reverse, with Laura being good when Emily's
sick? Wouldn't that make for a more just Universe??

~How many different "bonks" can one small toddler head take in one day
without causing a concussion? Can concussions be cumulative?

~Why do children resist trying things they will absolutely like? I'm
not talking about Brussels Sprouts here....I'm talking about food and
clothing. I can't tell you how many times in the last year I have
said, "Just one bite. If you don't like it, you don't have to have
aaaaany more." (She finally succumbs). I say, "Is that good?" She:
"Yeah." Me: "Do you want more?" She: "YEAH!" Or, "Look, this is soft
and pretty and warm." She: Fuss, cry, "No, no, no, Mama, *don't*, I
don't *like* it!" Me: "Go look in the mirror." She: "Oooh, Mama,
that's pretty. I *like* this!" Is this some sort of cosmic obstacle
course one must run to prove one's worthiness? Surely, surely I have
shown my patience adequately; can I be done now? There's really
nothing wrong with living entirely on whole-wheat raisin bagels,
vanilla yogurt, and applesauce, right? Or wearing sleeveless
sundresses when it's 40 degrees out?

November 8, 2006

TtBTF, #5

Things to Be Thankful For, #5: The Election

Now, before I really tick off my conservative friends--of which, believe it or not, I have a fair number--part of what makes me happy is a restored faith in the sheeple. I like to think that even if I weren't on the side that made the most gains yesterday, it's really, really nice to see that the vast majority of people seemed to think before they went to the polls (or, in our case, stayed home from the polls.) They used their votes to express something; a desire for change, a rebuke for the status quo (at the national level), and even an acceptance of more taxes (at the local level.) The reason this makes me so happy is that I've had the sense in the last several elections that most folks are just kind of going with their gut (even when they vote for "my people"). This feels very, very different. As a Social Studies teacher, it always warms my heart when I see civil liberties being civilly and thoughtfully exercised.

It looks like Matt's school district bond passed, although there are conflicting reports (I'm going with the county's numbers, as opposed to the usually mistake-laden local paper's). We were somewhat worried about it, as it represents a big property tax increase in several localities (it's a biiiiiiig district in geographic terms). The relief here is palpable, though, because having two campuses for one high school has been not only stupid but bad for kids in terms of money and instructional time lost (and probably has shortened the lives of several counselors who had to manage the scheduling to accomodate all the busing back and forth!).

It may surprise some to know that my glee at the results is definitely tempered with concern. I feel that the nation has handed the Democrats more control because they didn't like what was happening on a variety of issues; I'm not terribly worried that they'll do what they can to make necessary changes and settle our checks and balances back where they belong. That does not, however, mean that the party can straighten itself out enough to do any actual leading in a new direction, which could be mighty handy come the next Presidential election. They have two years to show that they're not just "the other option," but instead can stand for something.

On the state level, I have even more concerns. It looks like we may have an entirely Democratic state government (at a minimum, we're looking at at least two out of three). All the tax-limitations measures failed, and those two things together seem to indicate--finally!--a shift in the public's attitude toward funding services, like health care and--yippee!--education. While I'm sure our respected opponents aren't going to fade into the woodwork, my hope is that the new (and returning) leadership will be scrupulously responsible with the public's money and trust. It's just too good an opportunity to show what good government can accomplish, when it's not starved, to mess up.

November 7, 2006

Not Remotely Itsy-Bitsy

Reason #569 not to do housework: Spiders.

Night before last, as Matt was finishing tucking in Laura and I was taking Emily toward the rocking chair, I saw a HUGE spider. Now, I'm not talking about just big; this was eligible for membership in the baby tarantula club. It was bigger than a daddy-longlegs! So, brave woman that I am, I decided to watch it until Matt was done and could come kill it (I think Fiona already had a swipe at it, since it only had seven legs....WHICH WERE CLEARLY VISIBLE from several feet away, since it was the size of a Buick.)

So, Matt arrived, I told him, he looked, jumped about a foot and said, "Good LORD!", then sent it on to Spider Heaven. (While I actually mostly ignore spiders in, say, my office, or upstairs, I draw the line at anything close to where I or my babies sleep.)

Yesterday, I was doing the ironing (which, ironically, I like to do). I had been at it for perhaps 20 or 30 minutes, and it was time to fill up the water reservoir. Fill....fill...fill...and out comes a spider from the reservoir--ACK! It was not as big as the one from the night before, but still, kinda spooky. It had been in the hot iron, and was still able to scuttle in that creepy way they do. Matt not being handy, I dispatched this one myself, having to move quickly as it was fast.

Then, as I was gathering laundry from the nursery, I found the evil twin of the one from the night before: HUGE, and VERY FAST. Fortunately, it was fairly effectively trapped in the laundry hamper, and I euthanized it with a handy pack of diapers. I knew they had to be good for something besides bottoms....

I don't think I'll do any homemaking today: my nerves can't take it.

November 6, 2006

A Goose

Some facts:
~Emily hardly ever makes it all night in her crib. She usually finishes sleeping next to me.
~I do not wake up very well, or very quickly, though actual crying usually triggers the whole biological imperative and at least makes me stumble to cryer, retrieve, and return.
~I am a bit behind in the laundry, and as a result, I just grabbed an old maternity T to sleep in last night.

So this morning, I noticed something tickling me, in that vague sort of way that a fly can annoy a sleeping man on a sunny Sunday summer afternoon, without actually waking him up. It happened a few more times, and when I finally achieved consciousness, I realized it was Emily, poking me just below the tailbone, and saying, "Poo-poo-poo?" (poke) "Poo-poo-poo-poo?" (poke).

At least she has her anatomy down....

Kid Party

Laura had her "kid party" last night. With only two invitees (probably all she can handle, when the families are invited, too), it was still a big to-do. There were certain elements of the "Jump Around" scene from Mrs. Doubtfire at times!

Keep in mind that the video doesn't really show the true intensity of the Balloon Experience, since two of us were taking a break from batting them back into play in order to record the moment for posterity. You'll just have to imagine what it was like when we rejoined the fray!

November 5, 2006

TtBTF, #4

Things to Be Thankful For, #4: Good Drainage

While we were gone at the tournament yesterday, it really, really, really poured. But our basement was basically dry when we got home, in spite of the fact that the street, as usual, was flooded (we did make sure both cars were tucked into the driveway, just in case the flooding got worse....). We did have perhaps a tablespoon of water that leaked down in the traditional place behind the washer and dryer...but between the furnace and the dryer running, it's completely gone already (and just means we need to go out and clear the leaves off the roof there, wipe any accumulated moss off the gutter, and--eventually--landscape under the maple.)

I know I've written about our issues before, so it's especially gratifying to know that they appear to be solved. (And just in time; the city is hoping to soon address the issue of run-off, and I smirk smugly to myself, knowing that--because of precisely these issues--most of our water is not dumping into the storm sewer system, but is instead going onto our [entirely organically tended] property.)

It is good to have a dry basement in the rainy season in Oregon. Especially since we all sleep down there!

November 4, 2006

At the Birthday Tournament

Apparently, it is becoming a family tradition to host a tournament on our birthdays. Mine always used to fall around District, though since we've moved Districts that hasn't happened lately (some years, NFL falls nearby....) Today, of course, is Laura's birthday. So, we sang to her at 5:45 this morning before we left the house, and here we are.

It's not as bad as you might think; she not only gets excited to "go see where Daddy works," but "We're going to a Speech Tournament!" is a joyous and anticipatory statement. What's not to love, having an ever-changing kaleidoscope of teenage (mostly) girls oohing, aahing, playing Ring-Around-The-Rosy and coloring with you?

In anwser to the FAQ no one has asked, "Why does Matt host so many tournaments? The usual number is ONE, with perhaps a Student Congress snuck in on a weekday evening": It was mostly an accident. He inherited the Novice tournament in September from the school; it was actually already a tradition when I went there. But, he wanted to add a tournament later in the year, which he initially had in January. Pacific then ended up moving *their* tournament to the weekend Matt had picked in January and so he searched for another good weekend. This one was open, and here we are.

But wait, there's more. This is not the last tournament we host. He originally had a Student Congress on a Tuesday in February, closely followed by another high school's tournament that weekend. But last year, the other high school's tournament was going to be cancelled....Matt offered to host an extra tournament to fill in, since it was smack dab in the middle of the build-up to State and NFL, and then the other high school asked if they could take over the Student Congress. As far as I know, we'll be hosting that same tournament again this year. And that, my friends, is how we ended up with three tournaments.

November 3, 2006

TtBTF, #3

Things to Be Thankful For, #3: Pat's return to health.

We got to see her last weekend at the family bash to celebrate Laura's birthday (actually tomorrow, but we're hosting yet another tournament, which is a topic for a different blog.) We enjoyed comparing near-death experiences (her latest was, of course, just before her trip to the Critical Care Unit when her heart stopped for about 6 seconds; my only one (that I know of) was just after Emily was born when my blood pressure dropped to about 17/11.)

In the interests of science, here is what we discovered:

~Unlike Santa's Little Helper, we did not see a bright light ("Come to the light, boy, come to the light...") Perhaps this was because neither of us stayed in the state very long.

~While we both agreed to a vague sense of something being very wrong, especially hearing the monitors go off and knowing the hospital personnel were rushing towards us, the most overwhelming sensation was a desire to close our eyes and rest. ("Perchance to dream...")

~Pat said she noticed her vision narrowing, as if a set of double doors were closing right in front of her face. I didn't, but I gave in early on to the urge to close my eyes as part of the resting. She also said she felt her vision going back the other way--the doors opened--as they got her heart going again. I only remember returning to awareness and wondering what the fuss was (and when the @#!& I could see my BABY!). That was when the--usually, nice--recovery room nurse printed out my BP chart and shoved it in my face, saying, "You are stressing me out!" (In retrospect, I hope I had impressed them with my sense of humor; otherwise, that would be a pretty awful bedside manner! But I think they knew I'd be okay with it...I had been joking about Hurricane Emily in the OR, after all....)

~It didn't hurt at all for either of us. Of course, your mileage may vary, but as long as one's not wounded, this should be good news for anyone who's worried about Death. Not that either of us is eager to "go there" again.

Anyway, I'm glad Pat managed to stay with us.

November 2, 2006

Things to Be Thankful For, #2

Oregon has a good system for voting. (I think today's the last day to send in your ballot, by the way, if you want it to get there via the USPS. Also, it will cut down on the number of phone calls you get once it's been checked in....)

I am so glad I do not live in a state with: punchcards, electronic machines (which may or may not work properly, regardless of how easy they are to hack), or even--today, especially, as it is pouring--traditional polling places. Although I could sympathize with one of my college profs who bemoaned the demise of the common gathering of the high and the low as we all voted, I never enjoyed figuring out what precinct I was supposed to go to, finding it on the map, making my way there, waiting in line, making sure I had my mind made up, worrying about if I messed up my ballot, making sure I had ID, making sure I was not working and could actually get there between certain hours, and on, and on, and on. A few days ago, my main concern was keeping my dinner off of my ballot (and Laura's dinner, come to think of it) as I voted in the comfort of my own home. Of course, there is a possibility of fraud in this as in any system. But all the examination that's been done of voting this way indicates that there is actually *less* fraud (and mistakes) (and disenfranchisement) this way than any of the others extant now.

So, All Hail Vote-By-Mail!

November 1, 2006

Things to Be Thankful For, #1

Well, I hang out online with a group of devoted English teachers. One of them posted this today, and I am definitely thankful it was not I. Pretty awful for her, though:

I came home friday evening, to find my husband dead on the kitchen floor. Have been staying in a hotel while police investigate. He was stabbed and that's all i know.
Stay safe, folks.