Tuesday, December 28, 2010

re-entry

We've been back about a week, and it is great. We arrived in the height of last week's snowstorm (which nobody remembers, after this week's). You know how houses have smells, and you don't notice the smell of your own house unless you've been away? I was relieved to notice that ours smells mostly like... wood. In a nice way, I think. I guess. Anyway the girls went beserk, running around remembering stuff and hollering their discoveries at each other: "LOOK! The play house! The piano! The PINK TOILETS!" (Yes, we have pink toilets... the house was built in the 80s, and we've had more important improvements to make since we bought it in '00, but the pink toilets are SO on our list.) They were especially happy to get in their own little beds. They liked sharing a room out west, but neither of them says they will miss sharing a bed. Evidently the Bean steals the covers.

In the morning we went right to the service station to address the tire pressure warning light that, along with the icy roads, had me stressed out all the way home the day before. I'd put air in the tires, but it kept coming back on. I've been assured that the tires weren't dangerously low and that those warning lights are more trouble than help. It hasn't come on since, so I'm happy to forget all about it.

We next hit the post office to pick up our mail and notify them to resume delivery (incidentally, if you've got an ongoing home improvement project - and who doesn't? - ask the post office for a change of address packet. Inside is a coupon for 10% off at Lowe's, which can be a fair bit if the project is enormous, as ours tend to be. There, don't say Noted & Blogged never gave you anything), and -- what was this sentence about? Oh yes -- then stopped for lunch at The Bee-Hive Tavern. I can't make up my mind about that place. The food is always good, but sometimes I don't get a particularly friendly vibe there, especially if I have the girls along, which I both understand (lots of kids behave badly in restaurants) and resent (mine don't, and I'd appreciate the benefit of the doubt, at least at the front door).

On to the grocery store, which, of course, has been significantly reconfigured in our absence, and will take longer to get through till I've got the new pattern down. We were almost done when the Bean just completely crashed. Out of the blue she said "Mommy I feel terrible," and had a distinct fever. We left right away to get her to bed.

Rest and ibuprofen had her on the mend, but not well enough to go to school on the 23rd. The Peanut was raring to go, though. The last thing she'd done at her west coast school, on the day before winter break there, was wear pajamas to school and watch The Polar Express. She was ecstatic to learn that on the last day before winter break here, her class would be doing the same. Must be a nationwide 1st grade tradition. So she put on her PJs with cupcakes on them, and off we went.

After school she said she was glad to be with her old friends again, but that "it felt like I was famous, and I didn't really like that." I guess they made a huge fuss of her, because the Peanut seems like someone who would dig fame. Anyway that's much better than having her feel lost in the shuffle. She also reported, in detail, what everyone else had on their pajamas. Kids are really interested in other kids' pajamas. I'm sure her classmates went home and told their parents the Peanut has cupcake pajamas.

All in all, getting settled in has not gone as smoothly as I'd hoped. The snow, the girls being sick (the Peanut has since come down with what ailed the Bean), a couple days in a row of constant sibling bickering that had me fit to lose my ever-lovin' mind, unpacking, laundry, a newly broken dishwasher door, and trouble getting to sleep before 2:00 AM... I'm tired. Really tired. And there is still our postponed Christmas -- not my favorite holiday even under normal circumstances -- to prepare for.

The big picture, though, is all good. We are safe, sound, and content -- and tomorrow, we are leaving the house No Matter What. (Please melt, please melt, please melt.)


Oh! Before you go, because you were doubtless wondering, here is the cheesiness that was in my head yesterday:



Today's earworm is a distinct, a-u-t-omatic improvement I think. I love me some artist-formerly-known-as, and boy, did I play this album a lot in its day. This "video" is just the song playing to a still of the album cover, but you get the song anyhow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome back to New England!

Do risk your lives driving the icy highway home from Boston!  At home, your consolation prizes await:  12" of wet heavy snow in the driveway and a large bottle of maximum strength Advil!

Still, it is so good to be back.

More anon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Other Kids Suck, part the Nth

Some little shit of a kid ("Torrey") punched my very own Bean in the stomach today. I think it was more game-gone-too-far than intent to really hurt, but still. He PUNCHED her. In the STOMACH. And it did hurt her, so much that she felt it in her throat. (I swear, give me one minute in a room alone with either or both of his parents, and I'll show them a punch they'll never forget. Oh wait... lead by example... damn. This parenting thing? Hard.) 

We will be addressing it with her teacher tomorrow morning.  A kid throwing unprovoked punches around in class is worth letting someone know about, I think.  I will stand with her, but I want the words to come from her, so she'll be standing up for herself.  I see the tears, after school, about a hurtful thing that happened... but I don't see enough indignation, enough HEY!  I DIDN'T DESERVE THAT!.  She doesn't like to make that kind of noise, but the little rotters of the school world are going to smell out that she won't say anything.  I tell her she may never hit first, but she may always hit back, and if she gets in trouble for that it will not be with me.  She'll never do it.  But I want her to know she has my absolute support to be fierce in protecting herself.

After that happened, she went right to math class, where she is minding her own business, working on her line plot exercise, and a different little shit of a kid ("Grayson"... where do people come up with these names?) bends back a plastic ruler to use it to fling something at her, and of course it snaps into pieces. The Bean doesn't want to tattle so she lets him say they were both goofing around when it broke. Because they were sharing the ruler, they have to replace it. Naturally little Grayson says he won't. So the Bean's very upset because she doesn't want to give up her own ruler (which she wasn't using because she has math with the fourth graders and leaves her own class to go to theirs). Absolutely she will not give up her own ruler. I do wish she had spoken up at the time, but she's writing the teacher a note explaining what happened. Darling Grayson can figure out how to make up for his own behavior.  The lesson for the Bean is that if you let yourself be talked into sharing the blame for something you didn't do, you will also be expected to share the consequences.

Third grade:  not as easy as it looks.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

SOTD

This video doesn't say "oooh, fun" to me, but hey. It's still the song of the day even though these kids should get off my lawn.



Also: you may have noticed word verification is back, for commenting. I'm sorry to have reinstated it but I was getting an awful lot of spam.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Road trip reflections

So our west coast adventure is about done and we're winding down, making preparations for the trip home. Back in August, I drove out here and Mr. Sandy flew with the girls. In two weeks I'll fly home with them and a friend will join him to drive the car back.

Though I'm eager to be home sweet home as soon as possible, I'd happily do the drive again. I had such a great time on the way out here. People kept asking if it wouldn't seem less daunting to have a companion along, but I was frankly craving the time alone.

I get so excited for a long road trip! I love to drive, which helps, but beyond that, I often get itchy to see... well, anything different. Where does that road go? What's around that bend? on the other side of those hills? down that valley? What would happen if I turned? kept going? pointed the car west and just didn't stop? Nothing scratches that itch like a drive across a continent. Wheee!

I figured on day 1 I'd get as far into Pennsylvania as I could manage, with a midday stop to see friends in New Jersey.

Now, it doesn't matter if New Jersey is the end of the line, or just the first of many stops in a heady adventure leading all the way to the glorious Oregon coast -- there's no getting around that unlovely bit of I-95 S through Connecticut (the unlovely bits of I-84 through Connecticut are arguably not progress). So I was about 40 minutes into my journey before I was tempted to flip off another driver. This was a BMW driver from New York. I had been driving almost 55 minutes before I was tempted to flip off another other driver. This was also a BMW driver from New York.

Ah, the lure of the open road.

But really... really. There is nothing like crossing the great, gorgeous, rolling American prairie for hours upon hours, and seeing a towering, snow-capped mountain range come into focus out of the far horizon's gray haze. My first strained view of the Beartooth escarpment from the ranch lands of eastern Wyoming brought tears to my eyes. (See, I can't have anyone along for something like that. I have my curmudgeonly reputation to uphold.) What must that sight have felt like from horseback or covered wagon? I just can't get my mind around it. I'm sure many a pioneer diary just left off at the 19th century equivalent of "ho-ly shit."

For the return trip though, it's my turn to fly. That'll be OK. I'll get back sooner, I won't have to cross the Rockies in winter weather, and it will be really fun to see the girls rediscover their own home, which they've missed so much. Maybe they'll be so delighted to see what toys they've forgotten that I can avoid Christmas shopping altogether. Now that would suit my curmudgeonly reputation just fine.

(Oh don't worry, I'll get them Christmas presents. I'm not that big of a Grinch. Yet.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

SOTD

I don't know why. If I knew why, it wouldn't be the song of the day.

But I found a really cheesy video for it. Behold:

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Peanut's Wish List

I am working on translating this into an Amazon.com wish list, but interested parties may preview here.  Some of this stuff she already has, but has forgotten because she's been away from them (marker set?  bead set?  Is she kidding me? Our house is full to overflowing with markers and beads).  Some things I'm not sure she'd be interested in for long (stick horse? isn't that a toddler thing?), but here it is, typed as received for better or worse.   I'm told I shouldn't worry about her spelling, but to be delighted that she loves writing so much...

My Wish list

jump rope (shorte)
any barby
tigre stuft anamle (orang)
loinge juprope
chowe Topazz Fary (ranbow magic)
Prinsses char
Toy car
stick hors
miny computer
toy sord (with case)
toy leesh
D.S.
Diary (kitin)
stuft anaml duck (and duckling)
Webcin (yoonacorn)
miny staplr
math book
toy bote
pinsas ozma dresup
dogy dresup costoom
kitin stuft anamle
markr set
memary mach card game
beed set
dressup hiy heels
batan
Ice age moovy
miny bulatin bord
marbl set
sily bands
toy teliscop

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Things I will miss when it's time to head home, part the first

I love my home.  I say that a lot, and I mean it.  A lot.

Happily, I love it here, too; I'm going to miss several things about living here.  Rather than wait for a comprehensive list to spring from my mind to the keyboard and emerge from these hallowed intertubes crafted, complete and suitably comical for your brief amusement, I figure I'll just post stuff as it occurs to me.

Pause, sip, savor... mmm.  Here's what occurs to me first:

I will miss being able to buy wine in grocery stores.  They even sell it at Rite Aid here, fer cryin' out loud.  Not just the cheap stuff, either, although particularly for wine, even very good ones are much less expensive than at home... by half, in some cases.  And cases are what I should be buying, because I'll be back in the land of overpriced "package stores" (= liquor stores.  It's a New England thing) before Paul Giamatti can holler "we are NOT drinking Merlot!"  (What did he mean by that?  I love Merlot.)

A while back there was a ballot question in Massachusetts about allowing supermarkets to sell beer and wine.  I honestly can't remember how I voted on it; I do like the idea for its convenience, but I think in the end I was concerned that losing grocery store shelf space to beer and wine would make for fewer choices in the food aisles, which are largely full of mainstream junk as it is.  The bigger worry for most people (well, maybe for less selfish people) was what effect (not "impact," goddammit) it would have on the folks who own package stores, who wouldn't be able to compete with prices the big grocery store companies could set. 

I don't know how that plays out in places like this.  There are wine shops here practically adjacent to supermarkets that sell wine, and neither seems to be suffering for it, but I really don't know.  I think that at home, unless being able to sell beer and wine would result in the food stores immediately adding square footage, my concern about allocation of shelf space is valid.  Grocery stores here are freakin' huge (about which more later).  Wine shops are nice for getting advice and discovering new things, but to stock up on familiar wines, I want to go where they're least expensive.  Here in my home-away-from-home, that means one-stop shopping.  Bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, bananas, Pinot Noir, IPA.  Cool. 

The Massachusetts ballot question failed, so for better or worse, package stores will remain for the foreseeable future.  In my home town of some 23,000 people, I can think of at least ten stores that sell wine; probably there are more.  My favorite (I would link to it, but its home page appears to have been designed by used car salesmen) has a good sale on the first and third Thursday of the month.  Even so, I'm in for some sticker shock on my return.

Do you think it's a good idea for supermarkets to be able to sell beer and wine?  How does it work in your neck of the woods? 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yikes

I just got an email from Barnes & Noble suggesting that I get a jump on my holiday shopping, and oh by the way someone in my life might enjoy reading this:


I can kind of understand their recommendation, because I am a fan of horror fiction, and this cover made me jump.  "Spoken from the heart"?  The photo shows a creature who might like to remove my beating heart from my chest with her fingernails. 

Seriously, does poor Mrs. Bush not look like she vants to suck your blood, here?  Who on God's green Earth was her stylist, and does this stylist live above ground?  Why didn't anyone SAY something - or was this the best of the options? Good grief, with friends like that, she doesn't need enemies.

But if she has any enemies, they are likely to start wearing garlic.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

in which I revisit my brief academic career

Mr. Sandyshoes, in temporary residence at the excellent Oceanography department here at MWCU, gets seminar announcements from the Geology Department as well. He forwarded one to me today. The advertised lecture was about marine sedimentation, and I thought, what the hell. That's a language I used to speak. I should go.

However, I felt as though I had a neon "IMPOSTER" sign on my forehead. It has been almost twenty years since I was in grad school for geology. From time to time I take out my degree just to remind myself, yep, it happened, and this is a real and true thing that came out of it. Then I shake my head in bafflement, put the official paper back in its official file, and get on with the laundry.

Today, though, I dashed off a flip facebook status about planning to sit in the back row with a pillowcase over my head, checked the online campus map, put on my shades, and headed out.

It's nice to live such a short walk from the university. Sure I was lost within ten minutes, but I was lost inside the right building. I walked the hallways a bit, unconcerned about being a couple minutes late, as arriving after the lights went down would lessen the likelihood of anyone jumping up to point at me and shout "HEY! You don't belong here! You should be at the grocery store!"

I passed classrooms and labs, displays and bulletin boards -- the usual Science Building stuff. One small office I walked by was shared by six grad students, each bent over their desks. The stress was palpable even from the hallway. In that brief moment, I had two strong and conflicting impulses: to shudder -- God, I remember how much that sucks -- and to do this. I'm not proud of that one, but there you go. Schadenfreude. It can be funny. At least I'm pretty sure that twenty years ago, my stressed-out officemates and I would've thought it was funny.

Thus cheered, I entered the seminar room, sidled over to an out-of-the-way seat, and settled in to see if any of it would make sense.  Happily, much of it did.

One of the things I've always loved about geology is the vocabulary.  So many delicious words!  Bioturbation, box cores, piston cores, isotopic dating, concretions.  Turbidite.  Paleointensity.  Worm tube.  (Heh heh.  I said "worm tube.")

Audience manners, I noted, have not improved over the years. You're going to tuck into a big crunchy apple during a professor's presentation? Seriously? Unless it's a "brown bag" seminar (implying bring your lunch), that seems kind of rude, no?

Something else that hasn't changed:  the mid-talk sleepiness.  I have never fought so hard to stay awake as during department seminars in grad school.  You try everything.  Coffee, of course.  Also rapid breathing, rapid note taking, blinking, not blinking, pinching yourself.  I used to fantasize that if I were made of money, I'd donate a lecture hall to a science department, and include a private room for myself behind it, where I'd put a really comfortable recliner from which I'd watch and listen to talks with complete freedom to close my heavy eyelids any time.  The talk could be fascinating, but the dark room, the white noise from the slide projector fan... what?  It was the 1990s.  They used slide projectors then.

Quit looking at me like that.  You have your fantasies, I'll have mine. 

Anyway.  I understood enough of the talk to be emboldened to attend another one.  Maybe I won't even be stealthy about it.  But I promise not to bring an apple.

two in a row

Monday, October 18, 2010

today's earworm

When I worked as an environmental consultant in Brattleboro, Vermont, there was a young woman in the same office who was having boyfriend trouble. I can't remember the details -- it seemed like there was no kind of trouble I wasn't having myself, in those unhappy days -- but he didn't treat her as well as he ought, and she left him, though it broke her heart to do it.

He made things right, they reunited and eventually married. This was the song they first danced to at their wedding. I'm surprised I remember it actually, as I had a few week-old Bean with me at the wedding who spit up repeatedly, requiring many exits from the reception and three complete changes of clothes, and I could probably have used a change myself by the time the night was through. Those early weeks of nursing are not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, it was a lovely song then, and it's lovely now.



My friend and her husband live in the White Mountains now, own a building company, and have three boys. The youngest are twins. I expect that's not for the faint of heart either.

We're not in close touch any more, but I hope all her days are best days, still.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

3rd grade homework

One of the Bean's current assignments is to "begin saving some interesting items from your recycling box!"  Evidently next week they will "create something" from these "interesting items."

I hope and trust that further guidance will follow, or I will be forced to conclude that third grade teachers just like fucking with parents from time to time. Not that I could blame them.

Mr. Sandyshoes is the one with the family full of artists; this is totally his jurisdiction.  Naturally, he is away this week. 

Ugh.  I always hated doing shit like this in school. Styrofoam ball solar systems, shoe box dioramas of life in a covered wagon, ugh, ugh, UGH.  Whenever possible, I chose the essay option.  I would rather have written a 30 page report on the history of the space program than create a single aluminum foil spaceship.

Also, what "interesting" is there in the recycling bins?  It looks to me like she's going to have to make something largely out of wine bottles.  I'll do my part by making sure she has enough of them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

house and home

We are renting a three-story Tudor which sits prettily on a small corner lot with a neat front yard and the back garden made private by dense vegetation between neighbors and a fence on the street side. Thick, tall rhododendrons block the front and side windows. There is an enormous white pine, an herb and flower garden, and a hot tub in the back. The driveway is very narrow. Since the dense hedge of sharp-leaved holly alongside it scratched my arms to ribbons on Day 1, I have decided street parking is the way to go.

It's a very different setting than at home, where we have a neighbor on one side, nothing but woods on the other side and behind, and a treed island in the circle between us and the neighbor across. Here, houses surround houses on streets laid out in a tight grid. Some blocks are charming, some shabby. Everywhere has sidewalks and bike lanes, low speed limits and lots of stop signs. (After a couple of weeks here the Bean asked me, "Mommy, are there really stop signs every 15 feet in this town?" I guess I had been grumbling about it.) The density is nice in some ways -- it certainly feels less wasteful than the acre+ subdivision zoning we're used to, and the neighborhoods have histories which if I lived here, I'd want to get to know -- but not so nice, in others. It's noisier, obviously. I really, really like quiet. I savor it, at home, and when I am home again I am going to savor it all the more.

It is strange, living in someone else's house, with all their stuff. We have settled in, but everything still feels not-quite-right, and we won't be here long enough to make it so.

The girls have been given the third floor as their play space; it's cool to play at the tippy top of the house, and by happy coincidence, that room has the fewest antiques. For a bedroom, they are sharing the one opposite ours on the second floor. They're doubled up in a queen bed. I wasn't sure about that at first, because they have very different getting-to-sleep and waking-up styles. At night, the Bean needs quiet, and the Peanut is almost incapable of quiet; you can guess who's the early bird and who's hard to roust. But they felt strongly about having each other close in this unfamiliar place, and with the other bedrooms on different floors from the master, this seemed the best option. It hasn't been entirely trouble-free, but working things out is good for them, and I think they'll treasure the memory of When We Shared A Room Even Though You Sometimes Drove Me Nuts.

We spend a lot of time in the back of the house, an addition to the original structure, which has a sunroom with the TV/DVD player, and a cozy library where we've set up our desks. Well, Mr. Sandyshoes has the proper desk. I am perching at a corner table. I tried out the desks in the other two studies (yes), but the wireless is strongest here and, well, I need those Daily Show clips to stream smoothly, damnit.

I am still not used to the noises this house makes, or the shadows cast by its big dark furniture and the foliage which seems in constant motion outside the windows. It is impossible to move around quietly through the main part of the house; every floorboard makes a deep squeak. In the darkness, I see movement where there is none, and hear sounds I can't identify from rooms with nobody in them. More than once, very late at night, there has been a kind of brushing sound from the main part of the house while I worked in the library. One night, with the girls long in bed, I walked by a hallway and a light was on that hadn't been on earlier. I turned it off. Next time I walked by, it was on again. The next night it happened again. This was, of course, while Mr. Sandyshoes was back in Massachusetts for a week. Were I easily unnerved, I'd have been pretty unnerved.

I miss my shamelessly huge home theater screen and sound system. Movie-watching is so awesome at home.

I miss the Atlantic; but I love the mountains and big national forests that are everywhere here, and the great Pacific right within reach.

I miss my pantry, clean, bright, and stocked to keep us going through the zombie wars if need be. Paradoxically, in order not to accumulate too much stuff here, I feel like I am shopping all the time.

I do not miss having a bathroom right off my kitchen. Having it down the hall is a really, really nice difference.

I have learned that I do not like dark cabinetry, half-ring dresser drawer pulls, or kitchen counters made of tile, but I do like a Tempur-pedic mattress, a gas fireplace, and a good radio in the kitchen. The kitchen radio seems an obvious thing, but I don't have one at home, and now it's on my wish list. Sadly, I have no hope for a Tempur-pedic of my own, as Mr. Sandyshoes hasn't taken to it. (I won't even comment on a gas fireplace. He wants a wood stove, and I hate them, and round and round we go, but we'll end up with a wood stove.)

He has taken to the hot tub, though, and what's not to love about that? Well, besides the electric bill. I'm not sure I could stomach that part of owning one myself, but as the nights get chillier, soaking in the heat under the stars makes not-quite-right feel just fine, for a while.

Friday, October 08, 2010

unanticipated hiatus

Fear not reader(s), we are alive and mostly well.

We have been traveling a fair bit around our home-away-from-home, and it is wonderful to spend some time on the west coast.

Still and all, Noted and Blogged has been feeling a tad Lonely and Depressed. I am coming out of it though. No way out but through.

Back soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Arrival

Overdue greetings from MWCUville! (To recap: Mr. Sandyshoes, on sabbatical from his home institution, is visiting a Major West Coast University for the fall semester, so we have all moved out here for a few months). It has taken some time to get used to our home-away-from home. It has taken even longer to get around to writing about it, but now the girls are in school, Mr. Sandy is at work, a routine has happily settled upon us, and Noted and Blogged is back to noting and blogging.

The house we're living in is almost a hundred years old, has three stories plus a finished basement, and is full of nooks and crannies, window seats and little closets. It's a far cry from our own 1980s, basic Cape-style box.

The owners of the house are professors with grown children. They are good-humored, thoughtful people, and I liked them immediately on my arrival last month to officially begin our tenancy. We did a quick tour of the property, me taking notes on how often to water the plants, etc. I really, really don't want to wreck the joint.

Their home is full of antique furniture, Tiffany lamps, Oriental rugs, and walls and walls and walls of bookshelves filled with all the volumes two academic lives can accrue. There are books on feminism, literature, politics, geography, language, history, sociology, poetry. Books in English, French and Arabic. Initial shelf scanning revealed nothing by Stephen King or Carl Hiaasen... maybe there is a "guilty pleasure" shelf to be discovered later. In any case it feels good to be renting from nice people who read a lot.

We wrapped up the tour in the formal living room. Over the mantle, there is a painting of domed dwellings closely gathered on a hillside beneath a burning orange sun. To either side of the painting is elegantly framed Arabic calligraphy, with intricately patterned borders in jewel tones. I haven't the foggiest idea what it says, but it's lovely to look at. The man said gently, "I am from a Muslim country, and this is Arabic writing. If it bothers you, or if you think it might offend your guests, please just set it aside and I will put it back when we return." I was embarrassed for our whole country - this is what it's come to, that he felt he should say that to make me comfortable? I could only shake my head -- of course I wouldn't take it down, it's beautiful. He then showed me some old photographs "of the oasis near the cave where I was born." "It's not every day you meet someone who was born in a cave," I said. He looked at me, smiling. "No," he replied. "Americans do not understand this."

I received the house keys, unloaded boxes from the car, and we shook hands and parted ways. They left for the airport to begin their journey across the globe. I headed north to reunite with Mr. Sandyshoes and the girls where they'd been visiting friends after their flight from Boston. Though it would be another week before we dipped our toes in the chilly Pacific and I declared my trip across the continent officially completed from ocean to ocean, the solo part now did feel complete, from house to house, from home to home-away-from-home.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I know I've been away from the news, but

what's this I hear about Glenn Beck "reclaiming the civil rights movement"?

The man is crazier than a shithouse rat.

Also, he lies quite a bit. Evidently Fox viewers like that kind of thing? Weird.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For those playing along at home

Greetings from the Mountain Time zone. Just a quick post to say I am safe and well and so happy to be crossing this great land. With all the visiting and sight-seeing and resting my tired eyes I have just not left time for blogging.

I do have a persistent earworm to pass on this morning:


You're welcome.

Now to Mount Rushmore!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On the road

I'm off. It is hard to leave my babies, even though they are 8 and 6 and will be just fine with their Daddy. We will all call each other a lot.

Work is in progress to form and pour the foundation walls today as well. It is both unsettling and, frankly, a relief to leave that behind. It's not as though I can competently supervise any of it anyhow.

OK then - to the driver's seat with me! Catch you in a few hundred miles.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Leaving tomorrow

Packing's done... I think. I hope. There's room in the car if I've forgotten something, but it's a matter of time, now. I'm ready to get going, and don't want to spend the morning loading "one more thing" a dozen times.

Turns out everything I need to wear for four months takes up about three cubic feet. Remarkable. I don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed. I'm a simple dresser and I didn't pack anything fancy. Talking about this trip over dinner with some friends earlier this summer, they asked if I'd started figuring out what to pack yet, and if I was anxious about it. Nah, I said. What do I have to pack? Clothes for fall, right? And how complicated can that be, when all I wear is jeans, turtlenecks and fleece vests?

The girls are a little upset. I haven't taken this long of a trip without them before. I do get away for the occasional long weekend -- Mr. Sandyshoes is very good about accommodating visits to friends on my own -- but not for ten days. This time, when the girls see me again it will be on the other side of the country, after a long flight to a completely unfamiliar place, at the home of people they've never met. It's all feeling pretty momentous to them. Plus, their backyard is wrecked and the driveway's all torn up, and the deck is pulled apart. It must seem like a lot of upheaval. It seems that way to me, and I'm not 6 or 8 years old.

I've told them they can call me as often as they'd like, and say "where are you now?" and Daddy will show them on a map. The Peanut thinks it will be hilarious to call me before I've even turned the corner and ask me where I am. She is planning this and giggling. The Bean isn't finding any of it funny yet, but that will come in due time.

I drove around a bit today, saying a mental farewell to my favorite parts of town -- library, beach, pretty town center. When I return, it will be wintertime, and I'll have missed a Town Meeting (I know, the horror! but I almost never miss one, and this will be a biggie) and two elections (got my absentee ballots though), and many school committee meetings. It is probably for the best that I miss those latter, as I'm starting to feel more frustrated than is useful with all the goings-on of late. I love this town, but I fear the school district is being taken over by Bears of Very Little Brain, and this in a critical budget year. It'll be refreshing to spend time in a place where I know none of the ins and outs of how it's being run, and I won't be there long enough for it to matter anyway. I can stay in the loop online, of course, but it might not hurt to disconnect a bit, either. We'll see if I can manage it.

Right now though, the important thing to manage is not to stay up all night wondering what I've forgotten to pack.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

T-2 days

Can't blog. Packing.

Also: foundation footers being poured today.

Also: have to go to Grandma & Grandad's to deliver houseplants and say farewell. Will try to avoid too much obvious glancing at my watch.

Also: a few pesky errands that couldn't have been done sooner.

I hate this part.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

T-5 days

I AM TYPING TO THE SOUND OF

Sorry. I am typing to the sound of concrete being jackhammered to tiny bits, and asphalt being broken up, and a deck being sawn apart. To build more house, we have to wreck some alcove, some driveway, some deck. Did I mention it's loud? It is freakin' LOUD.

Still, it is a different loud than the half-dozen 8 year-olds made during the Bean's slumber party last night. Good grief girls, why all the screaming? I just don't get it. One friend in particular is a screamer, and my Bean isn't far behind, and holy shit that sound cuts through my skull like a jackhammer cannot. I had them playing outside as much as possible. Mr. Sandyshoes laid out giant tarps across the dirtscape that is our once-lovely backyard (the new septic system went in yesterday and all is well with that) so that there is a bright blue path from the part of the deck that still exists to the girls' play structure. It

...what fresh screeching hell is this? Oh, concrete saw.

... anyway the big blue tarp making a path like that looks like some sort of water park feature. I kind of want to hose it down, dive off the deck and slide like a penguin out into the yard. Needless to say that would end in all kinds of sadness, but it's fun to consider.

The best part of the party, for me, was dinnertime. I made tacos. Kids are supposed to like tacos, but holy crow, kids are also picky eaters. How do they grow, these children that won't eat anything? Anyway, I heard a fair bit of "I don't like taco meat," but I had them try just a tiny scoop on their plates and lo and behold, it wasn't what they thought it would be, and they loved it, and both pleased and embarrassed me by saying so as much as they did. (My advice, which I know you didn't ask for: Don't cook with "flavor packets." They're revolting, filled with salt and MSG and who knows what the hell else, and really no less complicated than adding your own cumin and chili powder.)

Anyway the party went well -- playing outside, sand art on the deck, dinner, cake, presents. We were about to get set up for the movie at that point but the girls were being nuts and Mr. Sandyshoes, because he is awesome, hollered "WHO WANTS TO RUN AROUND THE CIRCLE?!" and dashed out of the house, and they all followed him around our little cul-de-sac a few times, and returned panting and quiet. Heh.

Then the movie (the chihuahua one, but at least I didn't have to watch it again -- pre-screening it was 91 minutes I can never get back), then bedtime. They were set up in the playroom. As the night wore on I made a couple of bad-guy appearances to tell them it was time to sleep, and as far as I can tell it was actually quiet from 11:30 until 7:30 this morning...

...just in time for the excavators to arrive. The noise didn't get really going until just before the parents were due to pick up their girls, so there was some unfortunate overlap. We hollered thank yous and good-byes over the pounding of the jackhammer. Since then I have had some time at my desk while the girls chill out to The Lion King. Any moment my old friend will arrive, frayed from a long drive in Cape Cod-bound summer traffic but hopefully happy to be here.

And yes, I'm still leaving in 5 days, but, you know, hakuna matata.

SOTD

Thursday, August 12, 2010

T- 7 days

I hit the road for the West Coast in one (1) week. This time next Thursday I will be as far west in Pennsylvania as I can stand to drive in one day. Hopefully at this hour I'll be settled in a comfy hotel room, watching whatever's on cable and browsing the AAA Tour Book for where to stay in Indiana the next night.

However, a few things have to happen before then. 

We are having a new septic system installed tomorrow. A hulking yellow excavator sits silent in my torn-up back yard as I type. Early, early, early tomorrow, its cheerful operators will be here to get the job going. They will be cheerful because they started on it today, and it looks like they'll get a jump on the weekend.  Their cheer may be short-lived, because Mr. Sandyshoes plans to ask them if the system really needs to be oriented exactly the way they've staked it.  Cheer or no, I really, really hope the job goes well, because:

Tomorrow afternoon begins the Bean's slumber party for her 8th birthday (btw, the Bean turned 8).  Six other eight year-olds will be here for a crafty activity (why yes, I am doing sand art again... the Bean requested it), dinner (tacos, again by request), cake and presents, a movie (God help me, this might turn out to be Beverly Hills Chihuahua; I tried to sell her on that new documentary about hydrofracking, but no dice), and then they will all go to sleep, right?  RIGHT?   Anyway sometime between now and when these friends arrive, I have to bake and frost a cake, take the Peanut to get a present, clean the house enough to have everyone sleeping (humor me) on the floor, and tidy it enough to have room for all their stuff. They leave after breakfast on Saturday, which is good timing, because:

A different excavator will be here by then, ready to break ground for the foundation to an addition to our house.  Did I mention we have been planning an addition to our house?  And that we got the building permit earlier this summer?  And that having the building permit means we have to start work within six months?  Which means we have to start before we leave for MWCU?  Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Because that's just how we roll.  Haha!  In fact, I thought we didn't have quite enough on the calendar, so: 

A friend from high school whom I haven't seen in 25 years is coming to visit Saturday - Sunday.  It's going to be really great to see him.  Sometimes, visits just need to happen no matter what else is going on. 

So that's the weekend.  I can only look that far ahead at this point.  Beyond lies packing, and nobody wants to look there. 

SOTD

No particular reason this song should've been plaguing me at zero-dark-thirty this morning -- I haven't heard it in who knows how long. Still, there it was. And thanks to the Great and Powerful Series of Tubes (RIP Ted Stevens), here it is for you, too! This is a weird little video. The blazer! The turtleneck! The standing basically still on top of a box! The turtleneck!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Holy crow, it's really happening

A few posts back I mentioned that our family is headed West this fall, to spend a semester at a Major West Coast University where Mr. Sandyshoes will be on sabbatical.  Actually, that was way back in March that I mentioned it, and here it is August and we are leaving soon.  Whoa.

In the interim, we found housing (important!) in MWCUville, made arrangements for our own house, figured out where the girls will be attending school for the first half of third and first grade, and bit by bit, got details decided on and buttoned up.

For weeks I've been aiming at using up everything in the pantry, and the shelves are looking pretty bare.  I'll have to really get creative to leave things as empty as possible.  Quinoa and chocolate sauce, anyone?  Canned pineapple and navy beans?  Come on over, I've got a decent Chardonnay to go with!

Now it is time to think about packing.  I hate packing, so I'm prolonging the list-making phase as long as I can.  It's weird, for this long of a trip.  On one hand we have to bring, well,  everything, so it should be a long list.  On the other, "everything" is really just clothes/coats/shoes, and some games, scooters for the kids because they take up less space than bikes, a few important files/documents... what am I forgetting?  Something obvious, no doubt.

We're bringing a car out.   For a while, we thought of taking all of August to drive out there all together, but the timing didn't work.  Mr. Sandyshoes is at sea on a research cruise (less lovely than it sounds, but still exciting) and won't be back in time for us to have made it the trip we wanted it to be.  So I will drive the car out myself, and rendezvous with Mr. Sandyshoes and the girls at a friends' place, and we'll do a little west coast sightseeing all together before we settle into the house we're renting.

When I tell people I'm about to drive across the country solo, I generally get one of two responses:  "Why?  Are you insane?" or "oh wow, I wish I could do that!"  The are-you-insane camp doesn't like driving and/or solitude, and is overly concerned for my safety.  I love both driving and solitude, and while not unconcerned for my safety, I'm not worried about it, either.  Common sense + car in good shape + phone + AAA + GPS = I will be fine.

Actually, I am late to the whole GPS-in-the-car thing, though I had a hand-held model way before it was common.  I didn't see the need, because I never had any trouble using good old-fashioned maps (except in Boston, where all direction-giving aids, including actual road signs, are, infuriatingly, useless).  I know people who got a GPS device, and suddenly can't navigate their own home towns without it.  How does that happen?  But it is nifty, and probably useful for locating hotels in unfamiliar places, and the little voice will give me something to talk back to.  I hear you can download a Darth Vader voice for it.  Heh.  Give me Patrick Stewart, though.  Or Alan Rickman.  Oooh, how about Ian McShane as Al Swearengen from Deadwood:  "Turn fucking left, or prepare for eternal fucking traffic lights, and the like."  That would be awesome, and I will be going through Deadwood...

I digress. 

Anyway, I'll be fine.  I've always been a very independent person.  But you know, you get married, you have children, maybe you quit your paid job... before you know it, that proud independence plays a faint second fiddle to the wife-and-mother part of life.  I miss it.  This road trip gives me a chance to taste that again, for a little while.  Also, I do plain love driving.  Which is good, because 3400 miles is a hell of a long way to drive.

In related news, I am delighted to report I have found a travel mug I don't hate.  There shall be tea on the road, without styrofoam cups!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Don't judge! Oh wait, do. Do judge.

Two judges are on my mind today:

1) Elena Kagan, whose confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court makes both history and good sense;

2) Vaughn Walker, who wrote this excellent sentence, among many others, throwing California's shameful Prop 8 out on its ass:
"A private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation."
(Read more.) 
Also, watch this, though it's got naught to do with Judge Walker:


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Midsummer

Well folks, summer on Cape Cod is lovely, and we've been having a thoroughly terrific time of it.  Even I have not been especially grumpy, which is really something considering all the summer things I usually find to be grumpy about.  Heat, humidity, crowds, mosquitoes, relentless searing sun, blah blah blah.  There has been all that, but for whatever reason none of it has bothered me overmuch. 

We've been to baseball games, town band concerts, and the County Fair; to birthday parties, family gatherings, and reading group meetings.  We've swum in the tidal creek, the lake, the ocean, and various pools. We rode bikes in the town parade on the Fourth of July.  We've had a steady stream of guests, and were even sad to see some of them go.  We've had lettuce, peas and beans from the garden, cookouts, campfires and s'mores in the backyard and at the beach, and picnics at the Cape Cod Canal, where we watch the boats go by as we eat our dinner. We caught the tail end of the World Cup and dreamed of stretching the word "vuvuzelas" across two triple word score squares. 

Oh all right, that last was just me.

Just this week, I have noticed that the girls are starting to get on each other's nerves earlier in the day than usual.  That I'm feeling less inspired to mow different patterns into the front lawn, and more inclined to flip off tailgating assholes from New York and Connecticut (New Jersey seems underrepresented this year) than move aside for them. 

I know I am nowhere near the end of my rope yet, but I can sense it starting to fray.  Hopefully a total unraveling can be avoided altogether, or will at least hold off until Mr. Sandy is back in town.  He is intensely, if not frantically (though I just heard him actually swear) preparing for a research cruise, and will shortly be away for a couple of weeks.  My shopping list for before his departure consists of non-drowsy formula Dramamine for him, red wine for me.

Stay tuned.

How's your summer going?

Monday, July 26, 2010

SOTD

Today it was the ballad part of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Specifically, the lyrics "I don't wanna die... I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all..." which have always upset me for some reason, ever since I first heard the song as a kid. I must have had some kind of disturbing dream to have those lines on endless loop for most of the morning. Not a good feeling.

Anyway, video:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SOTD

Been a while since I subjected you all to my Song of the Day -- that song that somehow manages to be stuck in my head before my eyes are even open in the morning.  Some days don't have one, but a lot do, which seems strange to me since I don't go to sleep or wake up to the radio or anything like that, and sometimes I can't remember when I even last heard the song outside my own head.

Anyway, today: 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Forgive me for saying so, and I know it's a small thing, but there's got to be a better way.

For the record, I'm well aware that in the great scheme of things, this is not a big deal; that there are more important things worth complaining about; and that I'm truly, profoundly grateful for my and my family's good health.  That said:

Is it just me, or does it seem like every time you go to a doctor's office these days, you have to fill out a new form with your name, address, social security number, birthdate, emergency contact, insurance information, etc. etc.?  I'm not talking about visiting a new doctor for the first time. I'm talking about practices where I've been a patient for years -- in one case, over a decade -- and every year when I go for my exam, they hand me a clipboard with a few pages of forms on it, and tell me to just have a seat and fill this out.

Yes, I know that medical information privacy policies change and that the office needs a current signature attesting that, look, they gave it to me, see? and if I don't know what it says, I have no one to blame but myself, right?  Right, fine. Give me the new signature sheet, and I'll sign it.

And yes, of course people's addresses, insurance providers, and names do change. I've moved and changed jobs a fair bit myself, and my name has changed three times. Still, these things do sometimes remain the same from one year to the next, no? The date of my birth, in particular, is immutable. I know this, because I'm having no luck muting it.

Oh, office managers, I know the potential for efficiency is there.  Consider the nifty little ink stamp you use to save us writing a mere two words when making out the check for our co-payment. So why can't we patients just review the forms your files already contain, and make changes if any are necessary?

Fellow patients, don't bother asking this question, no matter how friendly you are.  They can't have that.  Just take the clipboard, shut up, and start writing, bitch, because... well, because maybe they're "going to a new system"!  or maybe they don't know why it has to be that way but an innovative thought might kill them on the spot!  or maybe they're conducting a long-term handwriting analysis, which, by the way, YOU WOULD KNOW ABOUT if you'd read the privacy policy!  or maybe they just bloody well feel like having new forms, and in any case, anything they make you fill out is NOTHING compared to what THEY have to do, so JUST. TAKE. A. SEAT.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Bean and the No Good Very Bad Naptime

My girls are 7 and 6 and still have "naps."  They don't sleep at nap time -- haven't for years -- but it's just an hour in the afternoon during which they go to their rooms and read or play quietly by themselves.  They each have a phone in their closet that can buzz the other one (it doesn't work for anything else; it's just a sister-to-sister intercom Mr. Sandy rigged up because he is the Best Daddy in the Universe), so sometimes they sit in their closets and talk to each other.  The idea is just to get them some quiet down time each day.  Some days they need it more than others.

Yesterday, the Bean was out of sorts by afternoon.  We'd had friends visiting us for several fun-filled days, and they'd left that morning, so she was let down and tired.  She couldn't sleep at nap time, but couldn't leave the Peanut alone either.  I had to go upstairs and scold her for banging on her sister's door.  "Knock it off," I said. "WHY DON'T YOU CARE ABOUT ME AT ALL?" she screamed.  Sigh.  I left that unanswered, except to say we'd talk later -- clearly, nothing was going to come of pursuing it then -- and came back downstairs.  When it was time for her to come down, she presented me with a list:

WHEN YOU LEFT, I FELT
hungry
thirsty
tired (but not sleepy)
bored
mad
angry
wanting to go down stairs
sad
poor
mean
wishing
unhelpful
left out
selfish
cruel
and uncomfortable
and last of all; annoying
ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

We fixed hungry and thirsty right away, and a lot of the other stuff just went away.  We talked about how not being allowed to bang things doesn't mean she isn't cared for, but she knew that -- just needed to scream something, I guess.

I like the negative emotion inventory.  Kind of a mature thing to do, I think.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

What to do, what to do?

I asked the girls to make me lists of what they'd like to do this summer.  The Bean is a born list maker; she even color-coded it, until she forgot to. 
[Bean]'s 25 and more Things to do in the Summer

List key:  sentence color = gray, activity color = red

B   1.  Go to the arcade
      2.  Go out for ice cream
E   3.  Have a playdate
     4.  Play outside
     5.  Pack up for our Big Trip
H  6.  Go to a playground
      7.  Eat outside
A   8.  Catch bugs in bugnets
      9.  Play in the sandbox
P   10.  Make strawberry rhubarb ice cream and pie
     11.  Go in the sprinkler
P   12.  Go to the pond
     13.  Play dressup
Y   14.  Pick vegetables
     15.  Go hiking in the woods
!    16.  Go on a scavenger hunt
     17.  Go crazy
     18.  Decorate bycicles
     19.  Ride bycidles
     20.  Be an artist
     21.  Go to the library
     22. Go to the movies
     23.  Camp at the beach
     24.  Go to state park
     25.  Make a Haunted House
     26.  Be wierd
     27.  Be a summerethemist

Peanut doesn't let little things like spelling hold her up. Read hers phonetically.

[Peanut]'s list of this samr ativades

1. spriklr
2. pond
3. ce krem
4. look for ranbows
5. tret from bin [we keep a "treat bin" of all the candy they get here and there]
6. see vokano
7. pik pees
8. eet berries
9. bisikls
10. hav fun!

Oddly, neither of them mentioned doing laundry or mowing the lawn.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Here's how short my wait, what?

So I open a tab in Firefox and start Pandora, then switch back to a previous tab and look at something else, and when the music starts I jump out of my skin because in the three seconds it takes Pandora to load, I've forgotten that I turned it on.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Missing: One month. Reward for safe return, no questions asked.

What the heck happened to June?!

There's always a mad rush of things to do at the end of the school year.  End-of-year concerts, recitals, plays.  Summer activities to be registered for and scheduled.  Teacher gifts and birthday presents to be bought or contributed to.

It does seem to be birthday season.  Two of the Bean's friends had slumber parties.  The first was smallish, just four girls invited.  They started around 4:00, had games, dinner, cake, presents, a movie, and went to bed around 10:00 - late for the Bean, but pretty good by slumber party standards.  Next day, they had breakfast and a late morning pick-up, at which the Bean was happy and tired.  It was a great first sleepover experience.  The second one, this past weekend, was for a classmate who invited all the girls in their class and a few more besides.  This was a pool party *and* sleepover, starting at noon, going till 8:30 the next day.  The Bean had a piano recital that afternoon, so had to join the festivities after the pool part was done (she was disappointed, but I was frankly relieved.  She can't swim yet - gah!! - and I don't feel I can leave her at a pool.).  Then it was arts and crafts time, then presents, dinner and cake, a movie that started around 9:30 PM, and who knows what else, but nobody was asleep until "between 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning," the Bean reports.  At pick up the next day, her eyes were open but her demeanor trancelike.  Good times.  It's taking a couple days for her to get her sleeping groove back, but she definitely had fun.  I'm proud of her.  She's a bit younger than her classmates, and a classic introvert as well - despite loving her friends, I think sometimes she has to psych herself up for these things.

Ah, slumber parties.  A staple of girlhood I guess, though I don't remember any, myself.  I do remember having a friend sleep over in third or fourth grade, and that she freaked out and went home in the middle of the night. Sigh. 

The Peanut's social calendar has been densely filled as well.  There have been Disney character-themed parties, pinatas, face painting, bouncy houses, minor accidents, and birthday girl meltdowns galore (honestly, I think it's just too much for them sometimes).  Her favorite?  Being the only girl at a backyard Star Wars birthday party.  She's not seen the movies yet, but you'd never know it.  When I arrived to pick her up, she was executing some mad Jedi moves with an inflatable light saber.  Two little boys were "fighting" her, and she was whirling around between, keeping them both at bay.  The force is strong with that one.

And now here we are, already... tomorrow's the last day of school!  The Bean wants to go immediately from school to our awesome public library to sign up for their "go green"-themed Summer Reading program.  You know, to beat the rush.  Hee!  The force is strong with that one, too.

Friday, May 21, 2010

And as long as I'm posting syrupy updates about the children:

The Sandyshoes family are big fans of The Muppet Show.  We have never seen Hannah Montana or American Idol, but we have all the old Muppet Shows on DVD and the girls know all the guest stars, many of whom their peers have never even heard of.  Dom Deluise, Peter Sellers, Gilda Radner, Valerie Harper, Carol Burnett, George Burns, John Cleese, Dudley Moore, Ethel Merman, and many, many more.  Luminaries!  Statler and Waldorf heckling Milton Berle... it doesn't get better than that.  See for yourself:



The Peanut will often pop a Muppet Show episode in to chill out with when she gets home from school.  She has special favorites that she likes to watch again and again and again.  She gets to know all the musical numbers, and goes beserk for the Muppet News sketches ("This is a Muppet News Flash:  a charter flight carrying the London Symphony Orchestra has been forced to jettison some of the musical instruments [piano falls on newsman].)   Good stuff.


In news you'd think unrelated, the other day there was a Kindergarten Author presentation in her classroom.  Parents were invited to come by and see their kiddos' writing.  The children each had an All About Me booklet in which they'd written and drawn pictures.  It listed their names, birthdays, siblings' and pets' names, favorite foods, etc.  You get it.  One question asked for their favorite song.  And on that line, in her kindergarten print, complete with backwards "y" and little curlicues on the tails of some of her letters, my gentle, cheerful, loving Peanut had written:

Welcome To My Nightmare 

The teacher's eyes got sort of wide when she read it.  I tried to explain about Alice Cooper's guest appearance on The Muppet Show in 1978, but I'm not sure it helped. 


Here's the number the Peanut loves so much (not sure why it has the not-Muppet intro, but whatever):

The child is obsessed. She's talking about dying her hair black when she grows up, and she won't have it in a ponytail anymore because "Mommy, then I can't pretend to be Alice Cooper!"

She's a hoot.  Welcome to my nightmare... I think you're gonna like it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guest post by the Bean

The Bean's class had a one-paragraph writing assignment last week.  Topic:  What qualities do you look for in a friend?  Why are these qualities important to you for a friendship?  Here's what she wrote:
These Qualities usually help me with friendship.  Don't look at what they look like, but what is in their heart.  If you want a new friend, and you find someone who looks really pretty, don't take her/him as a friend before you know what is in their heart.  Because if you have a friend that is mean, you will not be very happy.  So if you want a nice friend, look right through them, right into their heart.  The best friends are nice friends that help, share, play, and are nice to you.  These qualities are very inportant to me.  Most of these thing help you choose friends. 
Words to live by, even if the x-ray vision aspect is a little creepy. 

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

in which I am 40-something-else

Concluding Birthday Season I in our family, I am now Even Older.  (Doesn't that get on your nerves, when people who aren't remotely elderly talk about how oooollld they are?  Mine too.  Get off my lawn. Oh wait. OK, I'll get off my own lawn.  But I'll be back on it before long, as it's about to need mowing.)

I had a lovely birthday, which started when my lovely husband made sure I was exempted from getting our lovely daughters ready for school.  I was supposed to sleep in, but was wide awake at the usual time.  Grrrr.  He also made me a beautiful chocolate cake, and I can now say definitively that the chocolate frosting recipe on the back of the unsweetened cocoa label is much superior to the one I'd been using for years.  Riveting news, I know.  But chocolate frosting improvements are always cause for good cheer.

I got a fishing pole and a Nancy Drew book and a Black Eyed Peas CD (the one with the boom-boom-pow song that I can't stop singing. "Them chickens jackin' my style," and stuff!) and Season 3 of The Muppet Show.  The Muppet Show makes me very happy.  Also a new novel, socks with flamingos on them, and a Life Is Good t-shirt.  And it is, folks, it is.

In other news you will be delighted to know that I finally finished the biography of George Washington that I've been reading on and off for FIVE YEARS now.  Of which more later.  My cat-herding exemption was for one morning only, so I'd better hit the hay.

Monday, April 26, 2010

And Now She Is Six

So the Peanut is six.  Six!  I looked through the blog archives to see what I've written about her previous birthdays.  On her fourth, I shared her birth story; on her fifth, noted that she'd had a wee meltdown the night before about not being four any longer.  That seems to be a pattern of hers.  She's such an irrepressibly joyous little person, but at times the bitter-sweetness of growing up overcomes her.  The other night, saying our goodnights at the close of a typically happy day in Peanutville and some words about looking forward to her birthday, she broke down in tears.  She sobbed and sobbed and held me tight.  When she could get words out, she said, "I don't want to go to school full day."  She's in a half-day kindergarten program, and I guess the major significance of Sixness is that you go to First Grade, and it lasts "all day."


(Our town has a full day K option, but we never considered it.  My thinking, in brief, is:  heck, she's still little! As long we're making things work without my having a paid job, why not let her play dress-up and read stories in the afternoons, or be out and about with me?  People say kids in full day get "ahead" academically and kids in half day will be "behind," but to my mind, that misses the point.)

But a sure sign that the Peanut is about to be ready for something is that she cries and says she's not ready for it.  It's as if she clears a lot of anxiety out with a major bout of tears, and then she's good to go.   The next day, she said she was actually ready for first grade "right now."

That makes one of us.  But I'm really, really proud of her.

in which my Peanut is Six and we have a busy but lovely spring break

Phew.  We've been busier than one-armed paperhangers around here.

Last week was school vacation.  The Peanut's birthday fell on a weekday, and we had her party on the weekend.  I made a small cake for her birthday, and a giant cake for her party.  She requested a "sunshine party, with a yellow cake with yellow icing and an orange sun and a big orange 6!"  Okey dokey -- as long as she keeps the frosting colors down to two, I can manage.  Shopping for presents was also fairly easy, as she'd written up a wish list which included things like a "real purse," and a Zhu Zhu pet (= a battery operated hamster-looking thing that scoots around and makes noises.  Definitely a playroom-only toy, and knowing how to make it "sleep" is key). I also got her a cute little watch.  The Bean got one on her 6th; it just seems like the right year for it.  So, we got presents, party supplies, favors -- all manner of errands got run.

On her birthday itself we went to the public library to get her very own library card.  All our library staff are great, and the children's librarian is exceptional.  "No, no, Peanut, you have to be six," he told her.  "I AM SIX!" she said.  "Oh, well, then, you have to come in with your Mom or Dad."  "MY MOMMY'S RIGHT HERE!"  "Oh, but you have to know how to spell your name... " etc., until eventually she'd proven herself worthy and was presented with her very own wallet-sized card which she had to sign, and a little globe keychain to attach the smaller card to.  She was fit to burst with pride from the whole transaction.  Have I mentioned how much I love our library?

What else?  We had picnics at playgrounds and beaches, and Mr. Sandy took a day off to join us on a trip out to Race Point to look for whales from the beach.  We had a wonderful time but didn't see any whales.  I still think they were probably all breaching and dancing on their tailfins just around the corner from us. 

So it went... and now we are back to our regularly scheduled routine, which is always a pleasure in itself.  Next stop, summer vacation!

Monday, April 12, 2010

They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I think you can judge a town, or a school, by its library.

This week is National Library Week, in which we celebrate libraries and librarians, and their contributions to our communities.  Environmentalists say every day is Earth Day; I say true dat, and also, every week is library week.  I spend a lot of time in libraries. 

In my daughters' school library, parent volunteers have always been helpful for checking books in and out, shelving them, putting books in order when they aren't, and rescuing books that have been mis-shelved and might as well be lost to anybody looking for them in their correct place.  This year, we're not just helpful, we are essential free labor.

Thanks to (somehow unanticipated) cuts in state funding and decisions by the Superintendent about what jobs to cut in turn, the library aides in each of our K-8 schools were laid off before Christmas. Our school of some 900 kids now has just one person to manage the circulation and condition of the entire collection.  She's supposed to do this on top of teaching research skills to each of the classes that come in at their assigned times and helping the children that drop in individually or in small groups throughout the day.  I can tell you it's impossible. My volunteer day is a typical one.  There's already a library class in session when I arrive in the morning, and two more classes of 22 or so kids each come in and out before I finish at noon.  There are projects for each of them; sixth graders might be doing reports on Presidents, fourth graders on constellations, and second grade might be hearing a story and learning how to find fiction they like. Each kid puts a couple of books in the return cart on their way in.  Each kid checks out a couple of books on their way out.  A few will need speaking to about overdue or missing items.  Several ask for help finding what they're looking for.  ("Do you have any books on dinosaurs/Greek myths/kittens/Star Wars/raising cattle/Tom Brady/origami/Uganda/the moon?"  I have more or less memorized the entire Dewey Decimal system.) There just aren't enough minutes in the school day for the librarian to do all she does personally with the students and completely handle the circulation and shelving of books. We volunteers fill some of the gap.

The Bean volunteers in the library too. After hearing me talk about the district's budget problems,* she tried hard to come up with a way to help out.  (She wanted to give her school principal her tooth fairy money, because the school needed it more than she did.  How do you explain that a dollar won't help the school one bit, even if it represents her whole heart?)  We decided that because she especially loves the library, we would help there together.  So once a week, the Peanut and I join her after school.  Bean shelves series fiction and easy readers, I make a dent in the nonfiction, and the Peanut disappears somewhere with a book of her own (heck, this wasn't her idea).  When it's time to head home, the Bean's pride is palpable, and the return cart is in better shape for the next day.  We're doing what we can.

Public libraries have been in the news around here lately because municipal budgets, like school budgets, are stretched impossibly thin.  Boston is looking at closing several of its branch libraries.  My Cape Cod town will likely cut public library employee hours (if not entire jobs) and reduce its operating hours. 

Adding insult to injury, our public library is also recovering from its basement having badly flooded.  We had a crazy lot of rain this March, and groundwater is high.  The library basement rooms are used for meetings and programs and story times and a children's play center and lots more besides.  They'd just had new carpet installed, and it's all ruined.  They pumped out the water and it came in again.  It'll be weeks before the space is usable.

I visit the town library often, maybe twice a week, to exchange our stack of children's books for different ones, and hunt down the novels my book groups are reading plus whatever looks interesting besides.  We borrow DVDs and audiobooks as well.  Lots of families do all that and more.  The library's a busy, busy place. 

People more eloquent than I are going to talk a lot this week about how libraries are the heart of their communities.  I think that's true.  Libraries house all we know about ourselves, the world, and beyond.  Public libraries ensure that all this is available to everyone.  It is an awesome, venerable function, because, as a free society, we value that.  Don't we?

Maybe not.  Last week on Cape Cod's local news and talk station, a morning show discussion began of the proposed library closings in Boston, and I heard one ignoramus host say to the other that she thinks libraries are "obsolete, because you can always go to a bookstore."  Yes!  She thinks that because you can browse at a bookstore without buying anything, that's functionally the same as having a public library.  And of all the stupid ignorant things I've heard from that silly twit's mouth since someone thought it was a good idea to pay her to squawk into a microphone, that beat all.  Well, I thought.  Here, at last, will come the callers telling her what a dope she is.  But no.  In came the calls wondering yeah, why do we need libraries, anyway?  Stupid libraries.  Stupid, money-needing libraries.

Oh. My. God.  I had to turn it off.   

This is what we're up against, friends and supporters of public libraries:  people who think Barnes & Noble is an effective substitute.  

Looks like we do need National Library Week.


*probably wondering aloud why we've laid off all the library aides, yet maintain a high school ice hockey program which has made local headlines for 1) the bad behavior of its players and fans and 2) the girls' and boys' teams not having equal facilites (illegal, btw, and I'll give you one guess which team got the short end of that stick).

Sunday, April 04, 2010

An Easter joke, without warranty, expressed or implied

Q.  What did Jesus say when He went to the disco and found He couldn't dance?

A.  "Help!  I've risen and I can't get down!"

Thursday, April 01, 2010

waiting it out

This morning, as I was up in the predawn taking even more ibuprofen for the abdominal and lower back pain I've been having a few days each month for thirty years now and which neither medical science nor any hoople-headed alternative seems able to alleviate, I mistook the actual sunrise for a reflection of the light over my stove.  Really.  It's been gloomy out for so long that I didn't recognize that bright yellow light I saw just over the horizon out my east-facing window.  It took me fully a minute to realize it was the sun.

No matter.  It had disappeared again within the half hour, and the girls and I walked to school in a chilly damp wind under the usual gray sky.

The weekend's looking to be gorgeous though, and could we ever use it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Upcoming Sandyshoes family adventure!

Change is afoot!

As friends and longtime readers know, Mr. Sandy is an oceanographer.  Every few years he's eligible for a sabbatical, i.e., to do oceanography somewhere else, provided they'll give him a desk and a phone and he'll agree to be collaborative, generally friendly and useful, a fine reflection on his home institution, etc. etc.  At any rate, he'll be on sabbatical for the upcoming academic year, and so will the whole Sandyshoes family, by extension.  We will spend the fall semester at a university I will call for blogging's sake MWCU, for Major West Coast University.  (I'd have foregone the "M," but since there really is a WCU, I thought I'd spare people stumbling on this blog when searching for that school.)

Yes, I said West Coast!  Yippeeeee!  We will be crossing our great nation this summer and settling for a few months in a college town 3200 or so miles away. (My favorite segment of the Google Maps directions, if not of the actual drive:  "merge onto I-80 W.  1007 miles.")  I love crossing our great nation, I love the west coast, and I love college towns, and I'm really, really glad for the opportunity to have all those things in my life again.  MWCUville is within easy reach of many things Cape Cod has not:  Big university!  Pacific Ocean (and lots of public access to it)!  Mountains!  Enormous trees!  Friends who have already abandoned Cape Cod for the west coast!  Reasonably placed, reasonably sized street signs!  Decent Mexican and Chinese food!

The reality of all this has not quite kicked in.  There's so much to be arranged before we go. Housing is a big concern; the sooner we get an address on that end, the more excited I'll be about it (vs. stressed, which I'll begin to feel the longer we don't find a place).  Preparations have begun - I'm shedding and shifting volunteer obligations here, and won't be looking for paid work locally until our return*.  I've stopped replacing pantry items as I use them (my pantry is usually stocked for the apocalypse, so it isn't too soon to think about this).  There will be medical and dental checkups and absentee ballots and school registration and mail forwarding and subscription holds and countless other administrative things to see to. 

And then there's the trip out, itself, to plan!  So much to see -- Yellowstone?  Yosemite?  Great Salt Lake?  Rocky Mountains?  World's Largest Ball of Twine?

Stay tuned, won't you?

*Notwithstanding all the predictions that we'll love it out there so much that we won't so much as look back, the plan is to come back home.

Monday, March 22, 2010

OMG I never finished that paper! Oh wait, yes I did. 20 YEARS AGO.

So I dreamed, once again, that I had failed to write my thesis/complete an assignment/pass a class in graduate school, and never finished my degree.  And once again, finding consciousness through the thick fog of that tiresome anxiety, I had to remind myself that the degree has been mine almost two decades now, and at this point, nobody's going to call to rescind it, and even so, who the fuck cares?  I have children of my own sleeping down the hall. I have years of professional experience behind me.  I'm a home-owning, tax-paying, advice-giving, issue-voting, blog-writing, major appliance-buying, opinion-spouting, child-rearing grownup for heaven's sake, and not intimidated by much anymore, at that.  Except, evidently, in my sleep.

So I'm wondering:  How old do I have to be not to have these stupid school-related anxiety dreams?  Is there some internal switch I can flip that'll turn them off - or will I wake occasionally as a little old grandmother, momentarily convinced that I still have to turn in some wretched paper or exam?  Because if I can just convince my subconscious that, yo, I am too dang old to still be pulling this crap on myself, then that would be one aspect of the tedious midlife crisis I could happily embrace.

Friday, March 12, 2010

yawn

I feel like I didn't sleep at all last night, but went to bed and watched movies till dawn.  I had very bizarre dreams that I can't repeat, fraught with disturbing imagery and emotion.  Suffice to say that Dr. Freud would nod knowingly, and the sooner I forget them altogether, the better.

There were some less unsettling dreams as well, one of which co-starred George Clooney, but, sadly, is rated G.  In it, we were riding in the back of a limousine together.  I was the writer/creator of a high profile dramatic television series, and he was, well, George Clooney.  We weren't working together, just sharing a ride to the same work-related destination.  The limo was cruising alongside either the Cape Cod Canal, or the Connecticut River; there's a riverside stretch of country road in Hadley, Massachusetts that turns up in my dreams a lot, it might've been there.  Our conversation was easy and pleasant, as between friends who've worked in the same business for many years.  We got where we were going and said seeya.  I proceeded to go see a tedious children's play in which none of the actors spoke in a voice over a whisper, and I thought, "oh God, not another one of these."

And... that was it.  George Clooney appears in my dreams, and that was it.   Just another mommy dream, with its wistfulness for paths not taken.  If you're going to have a George Clooney dream, folks, make it more interesting than that one, mkay?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kids are so weird

As I type, the Bean is running around the yard with an umbrella, yelling "CALL A DOCTOR!  CALL A DOCTOR!" at the top of her lungs.  It isn't raining, and she's in no need of medical attention.

Meanwhile the Peanut is upstairs in the bathroom in tears.  She got a new toothbrush today but she can't stand the thought of throwing away the old one.  "Will it go to the dump?  I don't want it to get burned!"  That's the down side of loving everything, I guess.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

ch-ch-ch-changes to the blog

Just some housekeeping notes.

First, welcome new readers!  I try not to check my sitemeter obsessively, but I have noticed some new activity of late and I'm glad you're here, even if you were referred by a list of Blogs That Suck Eggs, or something.  Browse the archives  -- it's riveting stuff in there, I tell ya.  Pipe up in the comments if you're so inclined. 

Longtime readers may notice I have changed some stuff on the sidebar.  The "I post about" section is now a "cloud," not a list.  The more posts I have in a category, the bigger its font in the cloud.  Nifty, eh?  I especially like that it now appears to contain a category called "things that suck this blog."

My blogroll has been expanded to include more of the things I'm actually reading lately, some of which I just discovered.  Here's a rundown of the latest additions:  Dr. Grumpy is a new find - he's a neurologist who blogs about "the insanity of [his] medical practice and the stupidity of everyday life."  Good stuff.  He had me at "Grumpy."  Bad Astronomy is a great source of information about astronomy and many other things, with a focus on debunking hoople-headed anti-science (creationists, Jenny McCarthy fans, and climate change deniers beware).  The Deal With Disability is written by a person with cerebral palsy who documents the bizarre ways people treat her because of it.  Obama Foodorama is a shameless-fawning-over-the-POTUS-&-FLOTUS blog with a gastronomic slant -- everything from food policy information to menus for state dinners and such.  Rational Moms speaks for itself.  Kraftomatic, you have to see to believe - my very funny friend Marian finds kooky stuff on etsy and posts it for your enjoyment.  Media Matters and Politifact.com are good reality check sites if you feel like you're going insane hearing people say wildly untrue and/or inconsistent things on the news and/or Capitol Hill.  Sociological Images is commentary about myriad subtle (and not so) visual influences on society, for better or worse.  Floating Sheep I just found this morning - it's a geography blog (holla!) of maps of various social phenomena based on data from Google, making my inner geographer very happy indeed.  Also the authors are hawt, and anyone who names their blog "floating sheep" is worth paying attention to.  Chez Sven and Bob's Outer Cape Blog are written by residents of Wellfleet and Eastham, respectively, and have some beautiful pictures and news of goings-on on outer Cape Cod.  The Sandwich Broadsider is a local news outlet with an Upper Cape focus.  In the Valley has pictures of the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, one of my favorite parts of the world.  I lived there for a dozen or so years and still get homesick for it sometimes.  Finally, Evil Beet Gossip is pure guilty pleasure.  You're welcome. 

There aren't many personal/life blogs in the list - though the few that I do read (and these, I love) are still there, and I'm always up for a new one if you have a recommendation.  I don't read many blogs like my own, because unless the writing is good and the authors are people I especially connect with, they bore me after a bit.  Which would be a fair criticism of this blog too, I suppose.  Say it ain't so!

Anyhow, click away, folks, and let me know if there's anything I should be linking to that I haven't.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Nut free - oh, we should be so lucky!

There are several kids in my girls' school who have severe allergies to peanuts.  Severe, as in life-threatening.  If one of these kids inhales dust from a peanut being shelled or eaten nearby, or contacts oils from someone's peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they can go into anaphylaxis, which can kill them. Kill them. Their parents are are not making this up. 

The school had restricted what foods were allowable in certain classrooms, and set up a "nut-free" table for these children to be able to eat their lunch safely in the cafeteria.  These compromise measures weren't enough.  Pistachio shells were found on the chairs of the nut free lunch table.  A substitute teacher munched on a bag of peanuts within feet of a child with a life-threatening allergy to their dust.  These and other violations, and some serious reactions experienced by children, led the school administration to declare this school to be Nut Free.  No peanuts or peanut products are allowed.  Not for snack, not for lunch, not in baked goods for sales or celebrations.  No more.  Not worth the risk.

When that news came out, I thought two things:  "oh phew," for my friends with severely allergic children, and "oh no," for my PB&J-loving Bean, who'd been eating no-salt-no-sugar peanut butter and fruit spread sandwiches almost every single school day of her life (note to parents who scorn PB&J for lunch as nutritionally equivalent to Sugar Pops for breakfast:  it isn't necessarily so).  I was hard pressed to come up with a healthy alternative (bologna?  um, no.)  So I posted a cry for help on Facebook, and within a half hour, had several viable alternatives.  We went with sunflower seed butter, which looks and spreads just like peanut butter.  The Bean was unconvinced.  She narrowed her eyes in suspicion, examined the jar, and agreed to try a tiny bite before she'd reject it outright.  And the verdict was: "Yup, that's fine."  Crisis averted, back to lunch packing as usual. Now her only problem is explaining to well-meaning adults in school that she isn't eating peanut butter in defiance of the new rule, but that it's really sunflower seed butter.

Wait a minute, you say?  Who would defy the new rule, when children's lives are at stake?

Well, according to an article in our local weekly paper, one such person is an actual member of our School Committee, who reportedly stated that if she were a parent of a child at our school, she would send in peanut butter anyway, and presumably wouldn't trouble herself over the risk it posed to any other children.  Unless the report has it wrong, what we have here is a School Committee member essentially giving the finger to both school administration and parents.  Yikes.  Many voting parents now trust she won't be running for re-election when her term's up.

Some parents (not the ones with allergic kids, mind you) have expressed concern that a nut ban won't help allergic children cope with living in the "real world," and that because the kids will someday have to get apartments, go to college, etc., banning nuts to help prevent their death from anaphylaxis in elementary school is doing them no favors.  Now, I'm sure that the parents of kids with allergies are truly touched by this heartwarming thought for their children's well-being.  However, fear not, concerned parents!  The children will be grownups when they get their own apartments!  What they need now is just a safe place to learn to read, so they'll understand the lease.  (And spare us the charade.  If you're pissed off because you can't send your own kid to school with a peanut butter sandwich, say so if you must, and own it.  Don't dress up your objections as some kind of concern for the allergic children.  Nobody's buying it.)

At a meeting to discuss the new policy, someone suggested that the allergic kids be made to eat their lunch in the nurse's office.  The idea would be merely misguided (the social implications are unacceptable), had it not been put forward by a person running for election to the School Committee.  Indeed.  This person made a point of saying that she understands allergies because she's been a respiratory therapist for a gazillion years, and then suggested that healthy children eat in the nurse's office.  Where, you know, sick kids go before they're sent home.  You'd think that might have occurred to her, being a respiratory therapist and all.

Another objection that gets thrown around a lot (and was voiced with the requisite sneer by the "let 'em eat alone" School Committee candidate) comes in the form of the "where does it stop?" meme.  Do we ban fragrances, these people say?  Flowers?  Tide laundry detergent, if anyone's allergic to that?  Again, common sense appears to be in short supply.  The peanut issue is life-threatening.  Nobody's suggesting we ban Tide because some kids get a rash from it.  Life-threatening.  It seems a pretty simple distinction.

I don't understand the hostility this issue has brought out in people.  I don't understand the "we shouldn't have to accommodate blah blah blah" mentality, that attitude of entitlement -- "it's not my problem so I shouldn't have to change a thing."  Why shouldn't we make accommodations -- isn't it the right thing to do?  Wouldn't you want the school community to come together to support you if it were your kid in this situation?  The lack of empathy is blowing me away.  It's been said that empathy should go both ways, and I admit I'm having kind of a problem with that.  I just don't see those of us whose kids aren't allergic to nuts as aggrieved parties.  We're lucky, is what we are, and we should help make school safe for everyone.

Will a nut ban make our school perfectly safe for kids allergic to nuts?  Of course not.  But it will go a long way to reducing incidents they've had there in recent months, and those have got to stop.  I support the majority of families in our community, who are taking this in stride and not squawking to reporters and talk radio blowhards about how wronged they feel they've been.  Peanuts endanger some kids' lives?  Then of course we won't send nuts to school.  It's a no-brainer -- and by the way, kids get that.  It's grownups who have a problem with it. 

At any rate, kudos to the school administration for sticking to their decision, and for assuring people that the nut ban is in effect for as long as there are severely allergic kids in the school.  Nobody seems to understand why, but it appears that severe food allergies are becoming more common.  The issue is not going away.  I do hope that as a community we can leave behind "why should I have to help with this?" and move toward "what can I do to help with this?".  That's the lesson I want my daughters to take from it.