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


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 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.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Question of the Day

"When there's a two-hour snow delay, what time does school start?"

I'm going to assume the parent who asked this one had not yet had their coffee. Lord knows I've asked dumber things before mine.