Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seen on President's Day at My Daughter's School

Some of their parents have angry bumper stickers on their cars. Some of their parents believe that health care - and food - are privileges, not rights. Some of their parents might even belong to groups that wish the President dead.

But these first graders have different priorities.

If I were President I would . . .

Empty my bank account and give the money to poor people.
Stop wars.
Help homeless animals.
Every single child in this particular class wanted to be a Good Samaritan. Every single poster talked about helping people or animals in tough situations as a first priority. Every single one.

I loved the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett. One of the most memorable parts - never elaborated on, never explained, but perfectly clear nonetheless - is black maid/nanny Aibileen's firm insistence on never caring for white children over age eight. The novel is set in Mississippi in the early 1960's and Aibileen is raising her 17th white child. She feeds them bottles and changes their diapers. She plays with them and potty trains them. She sends them off to school. But before they begin to see her as black, as other, before they start treating her as their parents do, she moves on to a new family.

We teach our children about kindness and generosity and manners and giving and thanksgiving. Inclusiveness and thoughtfulness. But we teach them other things, too. I see this in my own children. I see the way my six-year-old stomps off to be alone when she's angry. I hear the way my three-year-old can say "fiddlesticks" as though it's a vile curse. And I know: this, too, they learn at home.

On the balance: what do we teach our kids? And who will they become?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

that my kids say:

After two solid days of trying to convince Paul and me to go out on a date so they could stay home with a babysitter, the girls gave up and tried a new tactic.  "OK, now Ada and Ellie go out on a date. Mommy and Daddy stay here with Janelle!"  Tempting . . .

"Shoe-kick" is Ellie for music.  And it's wonderfully descriptive, don't you agree?

"Some-evabody" is Ada for both somebody and everybody, depending on context.

"Assinick" is Ada for accident.  It's pronounced "ass-in-ick."  And again, I say, these kids are powerfully good with description.  I could learn from them.  (As a sidenote, let me explain that Ada believes that a "car accident" is a messy result of two cars slamming into one another. See illustration, above, for the source of her confusion. Go, Dog. Go!)

Have I mentioned that Ada's two stuffed dinosaurs are named "Bite" and "Chewy," respectively?

Today, Ellie had her annual visit with her cardiologist.  (It went very well.)  At one point, as the doctor listened to Ellie's chest and described what she was doing/observing, Ellie said, "Just like a scientist!"

Just like a scientist, indeed.

It's all linguistics over here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

100% Chance of Rain

When I was a kid, we did a cool musical in church one year.  It was called 100% Chance of Rain and told the story of - you guessed it - Noah and the Ark.

Yesterday, the kindergartners through middle schoolers at our church performed the same show.  And I cried.

My reaction was partly nostalgia.  But it was also a different, newer kind of sadness.  Because I should have had a child up there singing the songs I sang as a kid.  Instead, my kindergartner sat beside me, wriggling on her daddy's lap.  She started out the year in choir last fall, but just wasn't ready.

The choir director was happy to include Ellie; the decision for her to sit out was ours.  Or, more accurately, Ellie's.  I insisted that Ellie and I attend the kindergarten through second grade Cherubs choir all fall semester, but Ellie struggled.  She really wanted to spend another year in preschool MusikGarten.  So I agreed and she, Ada, and I have had a wonderful time together with our friends in MusikGarten this spring.

I love my kid.  I cherish the way she enjoys music and I melt with happiness when she glows at MusikGarten.  I know we made the right decision for her.  But it's still hard, sometimes, seeing the differences in what our lives are, what Ellie's struggles are, from what I expected them to be.

Mostly, things are good. Really good. But it's still hard sometimes, too.

I'm bummed that I couldn't find a recording of my favorite song from the show, "Follow the Instructions," but here's some other church's kids singing "The Admirable Admiral."

And here's a different version of the whole show. "Follow the Instructions" shows up at about 16:15 into the 33 minute performance.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eyjafjallajokull Photos

More from Eyjafjallajokull - The Big Picture -

This is easily one of the coolest slideshows I've ever seen.  Here's the first photo as a teaser.  Click through!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Tonight's Dinner - not vegetarian

  • EVOO
  • 2-3 pound brisket
  • steak rub (I make my own which is quick and fun. Also cheap.)
  • beef broth (low fat and low sodium since there's probably salt in the rub and the salsa)
  • salsa (the chunkier the better for this dish)
  • black beans (2 cans, drained and rinsed)
  • corn
  • fresh cilantro

Main dish: spicy roast
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet while trimming all the fat off the brisket.
  2. Rub the brisket with steak rub and brown it all over.
  3. Place the meat in a crock pot and cover with broth and salsa
  4. Leave on low heat overnight and all throughout the next day. Serve with a slotted spoon for dinner, making sure to catch some tomatoes. The meat will be so tender it's falling apart.

Side dish: cilantro beans
  1. Place beans in a saucepan over medium-high flame.
  2. Add a cup of water an a chicken bullion cube (or a little chicken broth)
  3. Toss in a cup or so of corn
  4. Dice up some fresh cilantro and stir in.
  5. Boil off excess liquid, stirring occasionally.
This makes a delicious, easy, family-friendly meal and you can control the heat with both the salsa and the steak rub. Plus your house smells fabulous for at least 24 hours!  (Paul was out tonight so he missed first dinner. To tide himself over until second dinner he wrapped his first serving in a tortilla to eat in the car on the way to his meeting. He says it would make a great taco filling or spicy salad meat, too.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Did I Ever Tell You . . .

about the first time my children got their own breakfast?

Yes, that's a frozen pizza and a bottle of vanilla vodka. Both fortunately unopened. We no longer keep alcohol in the kitchen freezer! Isn't it cute when they surprise you by learning new skills all of a sudden?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's That on the Door?

I don't remember if it was my mother or my sister who gave my daughters this particular present. So I'll simply address my note to...

My dear family,

I appreciate your generosity in giving my children a set of window markers. But I've gotta say, they've wreaked a bit of havoc around here. For one thing, they tamper with the whole "We only write on paper!" lesson I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to enforce.

And I've discovered that no matter how thoroughly I scrub the windows after we use the markers, the glass still looks streaky.

But not cleaning the windows is even worse. As it happens, after a few weeks any color from the markers fades to brown so that it looks like the girls smeared our windows with, well, see for yourself:

So, again, thanks. But no more, please.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

His talent? His TALENT?!

Skimming though my "drafts" folder I found a bunch of old blog posts that I never published for one reason or another.  This one is from last fall, when Swiss police arrested producer/director Roman Polanski because of his outstanding U.S. warrant (the U.S. then formally requested extradition).

There was a huge uproar, with many filmakers, actors, and producers coming out in support of Polanski and his "unjust treatment" because of his "extraordinary talent."

To recap: Polanski drugged and raped (and sodomized) a 13-year-old girl.  He pleaded guilty to "engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse," a lesser offense, in a deal to preserve the girl's anonymity. To escape sentencing he fled the country and never came back.  He remarried and lived as a free man in Europe for thirty years.  He continued to work.  The 13-year-old-girl, now all grown up and wanting to move on with her life and stop being asked about Polanski all time time, tells people to just let it go.

For the record, the situation with this child was hardly a solitary "lapse in judgment" on Polanski's part.  His first two wives were younger than he, though both were certainly legal.  Then there was the 13-year-old-girl.  Then 15-year-old Nastassja Kinski when he was 43 (they dated for a few years). He's currently married to Emmanuelle Seigner, who is 33 years his junior. That wouldn't be so unusual for Hollywood, perhaps, if it weren't for the larger pattern. She was in her early 20's when they married. (See link below for his chilling commentary on the normalcy of his desires.)

My thoughts:

Does this mean that I can ignore any laws I want as long as I'm talented enough?


If rape is wrong, then rape is wrong. Why should a convicted rapist get a free pass because he left the country and eluded arrest for years? Horrible precedent.

Backlash builds against support of Polanski

"on ABC's "The View," in which panelist and actress Whoopi Goldberg made the comment that she didn't believe the original charges against Polanski were for "rape-rape," as what he views as a pervasive attitude.

"I assume [Goldberg] regrets saying what she said, but she really didn't say anything that is not under the surface anyway," Weeks said. "This is just the attitude, that children are property and crimes against them are not real crimes." Video Watch a discussion of about Polanski's supporters »

Goldberg's fellow panelist, Sherri Shepherd, said during the show that she believed Polanski should still be punished.

On Twitter, she tweeted, "Whew... long day at 'The View'... two shows today... hot debate over the Statutory Rapist Polanski. 45-year-old man plies a 13-yr-old w/drugs & Liquor and anally & orally penetrates her w/o her consent is a RAPIST. We hunt down 75-year-old Nazis. We must protect our children."

Actress Kirstie Alley wrote on Twitter "JUST FOR THE RECORD....RAPE IS RAPE...this is one HOLLYWOOD STAR who does not CELEBRATE or DEFEND Roman Polanski..his ART did not RAPE her.""

Earlier in that CNN article (link above) there's a list of celebrities who signed "a petition which states, "Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom.""

Well, yes. That's generally how we punish rapists. And child molesters.

Filmmakers demand Polanski's release

Artist Rally Behind Polanski

Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child Finally arrested 32 years after he fled sentencing for unlawful sex with a minor, the director is ... a big hero?

"Everyone wants to f--- young girls."

Sanity: Roman Polanski Has a Lot of Friends (I really wish I could write like Pollitt.)

I'm going to remember the names of some "stars" who support Polanski:
Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and John Landis
Penelope Cruz, Tilda Swinton and Monica Bellucci
and many, many others.

A positive suggestion from the internet: "Instead of making the petition about releasing Polanski it should be stated as a petition for the social approval of drugging and raping a 13-year-old child."

Petition for the Release of Roman Polanski

In the Mirror

I keep talking to people who are really bad at ending conversations.

Eventually, I recognized the common denominator.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Go! St. Louis

At heart, I am a lazy, slovenly, and gluttonous person. Fortunately, I've found that being healthy and active doesn't necessarily mean I need to change my nature.

Active weekend:

Friday evening: We head down to SLU so that Paul can pick up his race packet then drive the course together, explaining to the girls about Daddy's big run on Sunday.  Then home for dinner and a movie.  (The active part here comes from playing outside with the kids earlier in the day plus making exercise - like this weekend's big race - a regular part of our lives.)

Saturday: We all go to soccer with Ellie. Afterward, Ellie and Daddy head to "practice reading class" and Ada and I go for a nature walk at Powder Valley. My favorite part of the day: pasta for dinner followed by cheesecake for dessert.  This is OK because of the morning's exercise, plus we're gearing up for tomorrow . . .

Sunday: the girls and I go downtown to watch Paul compete in the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. This involves a bit of walking and running while stroller pushing for me and lots of standing, waving and shouting. I'm sure Paul extended a little effort, too, running 13.1 miles in 154 minutes.

After the race we hustle off to a reception for some friends leaving town. Alas! Then home for lunch and down time: Ada down for a nap, Ellie downstairs to watch a video, and Paul down and out on the couch in the front room.

Since I've been carb loading as if I too were competing in a half marathon, I decide to take advantage of my own down time. I turn on the Wii Fit and run for 80 minutes. According to me, I covered zero miles. (After all, I was jogging in place on a trampoline in front of my television set.) According to the Wii Fit I ran 13 miles. Of course I ran for just over half the time Paul ran, plus I didn't have to propel my body forward at all. So I didn't really do a half marathon.  Still, it was a solid workout.  Tonight?  TV and a treat.

If I exercise, I can eat without counting every single calorie.  For me, this is a very good thing. 

Tomorrow?  Housecleaning!   (See above, re: slovenly.)  Also on the schedule: catch-up on overdue things like email and committee work.  That should set me up with enough free time to keep up with my lazy later in the week.  Cheers!

Friday, April 09, 2010


There were five lovely, warm, sunny hours between wake-up time and church.

Our girls wore white hats.



Nature walk.

Were you counting? Ellie appeared in four outfits on Easter!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Cougar Club by Susan McBride

This month for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club I'm reviewing THE COUGAR CLUB by Susan McBride (HarperCollins/Avon) as is Staci of Life in the Thumb.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that my husband, Paul, is two years and nine months younger than I am.  Does that make me a cougar?  I don't think so.  But I will admit that what feels like no big deal in our 30's felt a little more significant when we were 22 and 19.  Also, my best friend is four years older than her husband.  And my sister is a whopping five months older than hers.  So you decide: are we a Cougar Club?

McBride took some heat for the title of her new book even before it was published.  Apparently, some people find the term "cougar" to describe an older woman dating a younger man offensive.  McBride - married to a man eleven years younger than she - has a wonderful sense of humor about the whole thing.

THE COUGAR CLUB begins a new series about three best friends in their mid-40's, each of whom is making a fresh start of some kind and has a connection to a younger man.

The two best things about this book, in my opinion, are the fact that it's set in St. Louis (woo hoo!) and the characters.  They are - as always in McBride's books - so real that they outlive the pages of the novel.  I have recently realized that I'm 35.  It's not the number that's freaking me out (although, of course it's the number that's freaking me out) but also every little bump, lump, and spot I see on my skin.  I really really really want to go visit dermatologist Dr. Elise Randolph.  I think, "Oh, she's just over at MoBap. I wonder if she can fit me in this month?"  Then I remember: she's a fictional character.  Besides, I'm sure she's all booked up and it would be a little awkward anyway with all the details I know about her private life.

Last year I reviewed the first book in St. Louis author Susan McBride's last series, The Debs (Young Adult, Random House). I thought the writing good and I cared about the characters, though the style was a bit opulent and name-droppy for me.

The same is true here, to some extent.  There's far less name dropping in The Cougar Club than in The Debs, and the names the characters drop are much more my style (Krups coffee maker? Yes, please!).

I love the premise of the series.  I love the quotes from the characters between chapters.  And I love the enduring, loyal friendships between three grown women.

Also, I am really excited for a local author made good; Random House was so invested in this new series that they promoted the book, gave it a great cover, and even printed the trade paperback with spot gloss.  But enough industry talk.

On to the criticism.  I had a hard time loving one of the main characters in the novel (Carla Moss, news anchor).  And and hearing all the characters' ongoing concerns about aging, I found myself panicking about my own slow demise.  (This latter might be a good thing. I've worn sunscreen every day since completing the book. Oh how I wish I hadn't spent my college summers lifeguarding and getting so tan.)

The plot didn't move along quite the way I wanted it to.  This book felt like an introduction to the characters we'll learn more about in the next installment.  Here they are, here's what's going on in their lives, now hang on for book two.

I like McBride's writing and while The Cougar Club wasn't perfect, it drew me in.  I'll be sipping cocktails at Brio, waiting for the next novel in the series.

Here's a blog post from the author discussing reactions to her book. Definitely check it out, because there are two cute videos of the author.

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book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Sunday, April 04, 2010


The national debt is horrifying.  (Don't watch while operating heavy machinery; you might experience vertigo.)

Deficit spending is out of control. (That's less dramatic but might still make your head spin.)

And congress can't cut spending or raise taxes if its members want to be reelected.

What to do? I'm not an economist, mathematician, politician, or actuary. So maybe my thoughts are worthless. But we have to do something. Here's my idea:

1) Balance the budget, leaving out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2) Pass a law saying that whenever congress sends troops to fight somewhere, we pay for it at the same time by instituting a "Freedom Tax" to support our troops while they're at war.

There are about 138,000,000 American tax payers. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost, say, $150,000,000,000 annually. I'm thinking the Freedom Tax should be $300 per year - per taxpayer - until the cost is paid in full.  ($41,000,000,000 per year or so. It's going to take a little while.)

Or maybe all this is wrong. I don't know. It turns out I don't like working with the national budget any more than I like working with my own household budget.  But shouldn't we all be concerned about this?

COSTOFWAR.COM - The Cost of War
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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ring Around the Rosie

Being a Stay/Work at Home Mom

The Good:

This morning I played with my girls while we leisurely got dressed and listened to books on CD. We're all in comfortable, casual clothes. No make-up, no fancy hair styles, just everyday casual plus extra relaxed.

Then I walked Ellie to her bus, waved as she left, packed lunch with Ada, and drove my little one to preschool.

After getting her settled, I headed outside. The weather here this morning is sunny and lightly breezy with temperatures in the upper 60's. I took a brisk 3 mile walk before heading home.

And now I can . . . work, write, clean, or relax. The next few hours are all mine!

The Less Good:

Instead of going to bed when my eyes threatened to close last night, I was up finishing a freelance project on deadline.

That's such a minor complaint, though. I have the freedom and flexibility to work from home as my schedule allows. I get to make money and be home during the day. And I'm a night owl, anyway.

Also, it's sunny, warm, and spring! I feel very fortunate today.