Saturday, September 12, 2009

Things To Do Today


Send birthday card

Get honey from farmers' market

....destroy world with world-destroying robot??

Ah, the chalkboard. It first appeared in my blog at its purchase, two and a half years ago, and it's seen a lot of fact, last year I painted over it with chalkboard paint, changing its classic school green to black, but restoring its writeability after one of the kids decided white crayon would work just as well and ruined the surface. However, since our move last summer I had yet to put it up in a good high-traffic location. Finally, I had some free time yesterday and decided to hang it up near the recycling bins, where I could keep a daily reminder list of things to do that I would see often. Only took me a year! And the comedy opportunites began again immediately.

My child hates art class, shuns crayons, and can only be coaxed to spend his time drawing somewhere around Day 3 of a total blackout, when he's run through every other non-electric entertainment available including "watch Mom's plants grow". Yet he can never seem to resist the siren call of the chalkboard.

The funny thing is, he asked me what to draw. I said a puppy. No really, the conversation went something like this:

Duncan (watching me write my to-do list): Can I draw something on the chalkboard? I'll draw something for you. Go ahead. You tell me what to draw, and I will draw that for you, whatever you want.

Me: Okay, a puppy!

Duncan: Ugh, no.

Me (resigned anticipation): Robot with a laser?

Duncan: OKAY!!

I went off to cook dinner, and later in the evening, sure enough, there he was. My robot with a laser, just under "get honey from farmer's market". And I do have to say, he's a pretty swell robot. I mean come ON. He's not only got a laser, but "power of destroying worlds", an alternate laser charger, a laser drainer (ha, ha!), and rocket shoes. Then, because destroying worlds totally needs a great soundtrack, he's all set to go with a boombox arm handily installed. And yes, he's saying "Die, butthole!" in the picture.

But I'm pretty sure a daughter would have drawn me that puppy. With a rainbow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mi Cabeza Está Quemada!

I have a new toy, and you can find it as well at Edufire! I've been wanting to learn foreign languages, particularly Spanish and Japanese, for a long time now. Growing up in Arizona, I knew some Spanish - not a lot, but enough to hold my own in a very basic conversation - but I've lost most of it over the years. I don't really have the money or the opportunities in this area to attend classes, and I find I just do not learn well on my own. Intrigued by this fairly new service, I signed up for their Superpass and got started with some Spanish classes.

What an experience. In one class I attended, it was only me and one other student. In the second, I was the only one there. And this tutor made us talk...constantly. It was so uncomfortable. I struggled every minute. I felt like my head was going to spontaneously burst into flames and I wrestled my brain for every word. It's like that dream you have where you have to give a speech in class and you've forgotten your notes, and everyone is staring at you. In your underpants.

And I think this is exactly what I need.

Because this is why so many of us never get very far, isn't it, with our Spanish for Dummies and our Learn in Your Car CDs. We learn it, we read it from the pages of the textbook, but we get far too few opportunities to put it to use. And when we do, we shy away. Attempting to speak a foreign language we don't know well makes us feel lost, ignorant and foolish. I could be using what little Spanish I know to order at the Mexican restaurant, or to speak to the cashier at the local mercado I occasionally visit. But I'm so afraid I'll drown in the ensuing conversation, I chicken out. And there's no chickening out with this tutor. For a solid hour, he speaks almost nothing but Spanish, and neither do I, though I don't understand 100% and every fiber of my being is screaming to escape. In English, this is the sort of thing you would have heard in my class, with occasional corrections and gentle prodding:

Teacher: And what did you do today?
Me: the store...and wash, no, washed...the clothes.
Teacher: Do you go to the laundromat? Or do you have a washer and dryer?
Me: I...have a washer and dryer.
Teacher: And did you dry the clothes in the dryer? Or did you hang them to air dry?
Me: Uhhhhh....uhhhhhh....what does "hang" mean? (he writes the verb and translation on the screen). Oh, no, I don't to hang, uh, hang the clothes. I...dry...I....dried...the clothes in the...dryer.....

And so on. A painful, hair pulling process, and one I've always shied away from, but this is how I'm going to learn. I'm sure of it.

They have a variety of other classes as well, from mathematics to health classes, but these are just starting to come about - those pickings are still slim, and the main focus of the website so far is language classes. You can attend a 'class', or you can request one-on-one tutoring. You can pay per class, or there are many classes that qualify for the "Superpass", a monthly fee for unlimited classes. All you need is a computer, internet access, and a headset or microphone (I would strongly suggest a headset). Webcam is optional - some tutors use it and like to be able to teach face-to-face, but a lot don't.

So if you always wanted to take a class or get some tutoring but didn't have the resources out in the "real world", check it out. And if, like me, you're a struggling beginner wanting to practice your Spanish (though he has other skill level classes as well, from the very beginnings to the more advanced), look for "Enrique", my delightfully relentless profesor, and join me in one of his beginner/intermediate classes. No, really, I need the company so he's not talking to me the entire time!

Nos vemos allí!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dental Attraction

So, I've been putting off seeing a dentist for a long time, but I've been having some pain in a few teeth and think I need a bridge - I've had this gap since I had a tooth pulled a dozen years ago and my teeth are getting out of alignment around it. I picked a dentist from my plan and went in yesterday, they took x-rays and I'm going in tomorrow to see the results and discuss what we need to do.

Today I got a small envelope in the mail from them. Amused, I figured they probably have one of those reminder setups that automatically sends you a card before an appointment. Kinda unnecessary this time, but whatever. So I open it.

It's a note, clearly handwritten in ballpoint. It says:

"Dear (Calamitybird),

Just a short note to let you know how much we appreciate having you in our practice.

We value you not only as a patient, but also as a friend.

Yours truly,
Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental"

So...I saw them for the first time ever yesterday morning, and this must have been in the mail by afternoon. I have to say, I found it a little weird. I mean, I like you, Comfort Dental, but we just met. But Comfort Dental would like me know that already they feel a deep connection. They understand me the way those other dental providers don't. Comfort Dental is sure that they are the only dental provider for me, don't you see? If I were to end it now, surely I would find the Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental standing under my window, Peter Gabriel blaring from the boombox held defiantly over the heads of the Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Maybe it's just good old-fashioned customer care, and it's just my imagination that the wording is a little...stalker-esque.

Then again, when my husband passed my desk earlier I saw him pause, peruse the creased little stationery note, and declare, "That's creepy."

Monday, August 31, 2009

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Brick

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that I was growing up too fast. She also used to tell me she was going to tie a brick to my head so that I wouldn't grow anymore. As I grew even older and taller, she'd lament that she hadn't used the bricks, telling me she was going to order me to fail all my classes in school so that I would never graduate and move away. Through all her sentimental protestations, I simply rolled my eyes.

Then before I knew it, I was a grownup, then a wife, then a mother. My own son was born, and by the time he was a preschooler I was telling him the same thing. Well, not the bricks - that was my mother's thing. No, my approach was more hands-on.

"You're growing too fast!" I'd say. "I'm going to squish you so you stay little." I would then put my hands on top of his head and press down, lightly of course, but making a big show of effort and plenty of "hurrrrggghhhh!" sound effects. Giggling, he'd crouch down, and I'd let go in triumph.

Moments later, he'd pop back up as though spring-loaded. "NOPE, I'M STILL GROWING!" he'd squeal delightedly, while I pouted and stomped my foot.

Folks, I've been more than usually sentimental about it this year. Maybe it's because he turned the big 1-0. Double digits. Out of elementary school and on to intermediate school. And while I know I've been watching this happen every day, seen every one of those years from birth to ten pass before my eyes, it still feels like he's grown up behind my back somehow. He makes me laugh often now, not in a "Kids Say the Darndest Things" kind of way, but with real wit, intention, and a keen sense of satire and comic timing. We have conversations these days that are less mother/little kid and more conversations that I would have with anyone, talks about beliefs and politics and day-to-day stuff.

Anyway. I was running errands today, all the little here and there mini-quests that I've been putting off. I finished up at the post office - just around the corner from Duncan's new school - around the same time that school was letting out. So I was driving home past the school during the mass exodus of wave after wave of children. Waiting at the traffic light, I looked off to my left and sure enough, I saw my little man.

I wasn't there to pick him up. He was unaware of my presence. And sitting alone in my car at that moment I had this weird feeling like I was looking through a window into his private, increasingly independent world, his world outside that didn't include me. He was just walking down the street, confident of his own way, bookbag slung over his shoulder, chatting and laughing with friends on his way home. And suddenly I had something in my eye, because dammit, he looked so grown up. Not my little one, but a pre-teen, all Wonder Years and stuff. The light changed, and I drove on without alerting him.

Mom, you were right. We all grow up too fast. I rolled my eyes at your sentimentality, just as I'm pretty sure Duncan now rolls his eyes at mine. I'd say I can't wait until he has a child of his own and understands it himself, but you know what? I can. I really can.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Life You Can Save

I was at my local library a few weeks ago when a title in the “New Releases” section caught my eye. The book was entitled The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty, by Peter Singer. I was intrigued, so I brought it home, and devoured it over the course of just a couple of evenings.

The book is…troublesome. Especially from the viewpoint of having just recently finished reading Atlas Shrugged, which was the definitive free-market, virtue of self-interest tale of the 20th century, I did find this book over the top, and outright insulting in a lot of ways. It devotes quite a few chapters to ragging on our extravagant lifestyle, right down to the little things like bottled water. The author makes extended metaphors and philosophical slippery slope arguments which allow him to all but outright accuse the average person of mass murder for not giving more.

More interesting as the book moves on, the author explores the psychology of giving, studies on human behavior, what tugs our heartstrings and what does not. Moreover, he spends considerable time examining the charitable opportunities out there (unsurprisingly, most of them in Africa), which I had never heard of but were absolutely fascinating, such as Population Services International and the Campaign to End Fistula. The book also talks about microloans, which have interested me for some time, and I have renewed my determination to participate in this.

Toward the end of the book, the author lays out his plan for ending poverty, complete with a general guideline of what percentage of their income the more fortunate should be willing to give. This does seem to be targeted toward the more affluent readers, beginning with those who are significantly rich, and using a tiered guideline down to those who make $100,000 per year or more. No specific parameters are outlined for those earning less than that (though it is interesting to note that, according to the author’s statistics, it is the poorest among us who currently give the largest percentage of their income to charity.)

As I said, it’s a tough read. It is particularly difficult to get through the early chapters of the book without feeling personally attacked and defensive. Make of it what you will, but I would still recommend it. Whether it changes your life, in a big way or a small way, or whether you disagree with his philosophy…it did make me step back and examine my life, and as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

A Few Things My Dad Did For Me:

Taught me how to swim.

Never 'let' me win at chess.

Bought me my very own C64 at a time when the kids I knew just didn't have personal computers, encouraged my love of puzzle games and math programs, and insisted I learn Basic.

Took away my C64 privileges when I decided it was more fun than applying myself at schoolwork.

Took me with him to the darkroom when he had an interest in amateur photography for a few years in the this day the smell of a photo lab makes me sentimental.

Had the wackiest sense of humor of anyone I knew, and taught me not to take myself too seriously.

Spent weeks at a time coming home from a long day at work only to drive me all the way across town and sit long through the dinner hour in a rehearsal area when I decided I wanted to do community theatre instead of the high school play.

Always seemed to know when I needed a kick in the ass, or a lecture, and when I just really needed an understanding ear instead.

I couldn't have picked a better guy myself. I love you, Dad.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Surgery Day

Whups, it's been a while since I updated! Well school is out and summer is here, so I've had the boy underfoot more often, and I've been trying to get caught up on a lot of projects and get my house more organized. The biggest event of the last few weeks was this: Last week, my baby had surgery. He had his tonsils and adenoids out, wooo!

Poor guy has had problems with them for years, and certainly as long as he can remember. Tonsillectomy as an option has been on my mind for quite some time, but his pediatrician would never commit to recommending it. He always said that Duncan didn't get quite enough infections per year to warrant it, we should try longer-term antibiotics, yada yada. Surgery is a pretty major thing, no matter how routine the procedure, and without the backup of his medical provider I was very hesitant to commit. But when my poor baby got yet another case of strep, complete with fever, inability to eat, and utter tearful misery, I'd had enough. I went ahead and scheduled him for just after school let out.

It's always been a simple procedure, but I was still amazed. Most of the time went into getting down to the Children's Hospital early, getting processed, and meeting with the anesthesiologist, the surgeon, and the nurses who'd be looking out for him.

My worst moment - having to part ways at the OR door. They let me walk alongside the gurney until they reached the operating room, at which point they told me to say goodbye and go check in to the waiting room. I felt a fleeting moment of panic as they wheeled him in, like I wanted to grab him back and forget the whole thing.

My most amusing moment - I'd brought a book, I'd brought a Nintendo DS, but knowing he was in surgery, I instead did the only thing I had the attention span for...I put some meditation music in my mp3 player, sat crosslegged in a chair in the waiting room, and just started meditating, figuring he'd be in at least half an hour. So after about 15 minutes, I became aware that the person next to me was giggling uncertainly, and then someone tapped my hand, and presto! the surgeon was standing over me with a bemused expression, not sure whether to disturb me. I blurted out, "Already?"

So the surgeon, this ENT specialist who'd told me in consultation that Duncan was "borderline, could go either way, totally my decision" yada yada, told me the surgery had gone just fine and that Duncan's tonsils were actually quite large, his adenoids were scarred, and they were definitely obstructive. I actually felt so relieved to be vindicated, hell, I'd have done this long ago if a doctor had recommended it instead of letting me agonize over whether I was jumping the gun.

No great YouTube material or anything after surgery...the nurse told me she'd never seen a kid come out of anesthesia so quickly and smoothly. Apparently he'd told the first nurse that talked to him when he woke up that he was "bored". When I was allowed to see him he just sipped water and told me about how weird anesthesia had felt, that he had forgotten who he was for a moment before he went out, and occasionally sticking his tongue out and telling me things like "one side of my tongue feels bigger than the other" and "my leg feels funny". Once his IV fluids ran out, they took out the IV, let him get dressed, and gave him a sick bag for the ride home just in case.

Recuperating, tonsil-free!

He did get sick right after we got home; post-anesthesia and a long car drive just don't mix. But once that was out of his system he immediately began asking for food, and has made a very quick and reasonably comfortable recovery.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Givin' it Laldy!

as the Scots say, meaning 'doing something with gusto'.

Apparently, my bonnie bairn has been studying his heritage in school, and it was to culminate in a day of Show and Tell (they didn't call it show and tell, of course....ten-year-olds do not have Show and Tell.) But I got a letter home saying that he was supposed to bring in something from his heritage, be it a costume, musical instrument, food, or even just a photograph. I think that last one was added as an "out" for those (like me) who might panic over this. Due date: Tuesday. Paper was brought home by Duncan Disorderly: Friday.

What to do? 'Kilt' sprang immediately to mind, but I do NOT sew, and the one time about 10 years ago that I had read written instructions on how to wrap a great kilt, I couldn't picture what was being explained. 'Haggis' also sprung to mind, but only fleetingly, and largely for amusement.

"If you bring food, please make sure to bring enough for the whole class to try," said the notice. I gave myself the giggles picturing the faces of his classmates on that one. "An cut you up wi' ready sleight, trenching your gushing entrails bright, like ony ditch; and then, O what glorious sight, warm-reekin, rich!* ...and I brought enough for EVERYONE!"

Ah, but the internet! Bless it. Ten years ago I'd never heard of YouTube...these days, you can find just about anything on it. Visual step-by-step instructions made it suddenly so easy, and after acquiring a few yards of appropriately plaid material from a bin of clearance fabrics, I managed to drape my bewildered little man (generally) correctly on the first try. For good measure, I also tried my hand at treacle scones, and while I'm sure they will appreciate it more than haggis, it may be a dubious improvement. I am not a great baker by any means, and I did scorch them a bit on the bottom. Oh well.

The kilt, with apologies to the Scottish community for my amateur job:

Pleating by hand down the middle.

Wrapping it around...

Off the floor, and so much fabric still!
The final look.  Yay, my pleats!

Of course I showed the hubby, whose comment was "Wrong tartan burns!"

"Yes dear," I said. "Next time he has a school project with 3 days' notice, I'll be sure to order our tartan from overseas at about 40 pounds sterling per meter."


* Address to a Haggis, by Bobby Burns

Friday, May 29, 2009

She Cooks a Mean Breakfast, Too

To one of the most amazing, beautiful women I have ever known...

To a woman who sings along unabashedly with the in-store music at the grocery store.

To the woman smiles with her whole face and laughs with her whole body and heart, and makes me feel clever and funny for causing that laugh.

To the woman who stood up for the rights of others as leader of the Diversity Team in her workplace, even after it earned her hate mail and harrassment.

To the woman who writes letters and sends packages to soldiers in Iraq who otherwise get no mail from home.

To the woman who taught me right from wrong, and inspires me to try and make her proud.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing, Baby

..sadly enough.

Northfield Laboratories, one of two U.S. companies making great strides in the development of artificial blood, is closing its doors, while the other company, Biopure, is allegedly struggling financially. While the science is still far from perfect, I have high hopes for the technology and hate to see this extremely important research suffer such setbacks.

Our country's blood supply is in a perpetual state of critical shortage. Sure, you've heard it last month. You've heard it last year. You heard it a decade ago. But with more stringent screening policies and donor refusal guidelines, and an aging population, it's truer than ever. And the stuff gets used more than you might think. Not just for traumas with acute blood loss, but for conditions from severe anemia to cancer to clotting problems.

Y'all may know that I don't exactly have the best track record with blood donations. Most embarrassingly, I got sick a while back at a blood drive hosted by a local veteran's lodge. It was my fault, I forgot to eat before I went down there...but retching into a wastebasket near the snack table while poor little old war veterans fluttered around me in a mild panic was not one of my more dignified moments.

But this is what I'm saying. I've got uncooperative veins and an occasional tendency to get woozy, and I can show up every 8 weeks. What's stopping you?

Eat a hearty meal before you go - saving lives is a great excuse to break that diet for just today! And drink, drink, drink, both before and after. Heck, drink a big bottle of water just before you go in. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour from start to finish.

And you'll be my hero.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Silver Lining to Prop 8?

The topic of California's upholding of Proposition 8 has a lot of folks talking - and a lot of folks feeling discouraged. I'm an ardent proponent of gay rights and found myself hollering at the radio in my car when I heard the news yesterday. But I am an unflagging optimist by nature, and I'd like to take a moment to step back and get some perspective.

An article in the Huffington Post yesterday caught my eye with its unusual title, "Why the California Court's Decision is Good for Gay Marriage" "Um, what?" I thought. But the gist of the article is that the Court's ruling was not that gay marriage was bad, but that the voters have spoken and the proposition was valid...thus placing the responsibility squarely with the people. From the article:

"By upholding Proposition 8, the California Court effectively tossed the ball back to the voters of the Golden State. The Court thereby ensured the long-term outcome of gay marriage: Given the strong support of younger voters, gay marriage will be approved in California by ballot initiative, perhaps quite soon. Moreover, when gay marriage is approved by popular vote, conservatives will not be able to blame a "judicial activist" court for their loss."

Frankly, I find it objectionable that the state constitution can be changed on a whim by a simple majority vote...and personally, I disagree with the decision. Gay marriage is a civil rights issue, and the court is deferring to the voters' right to choose a discriminatory law to restrict the civil rights of a group. (Would they have upheld the voters' right to reinstate segregation by majority vote?) But the decision is made, and the point in the article has some merit. Times aren't changing as quickly as we'd like, but they are changing, and the younger generations are picking up the cause.

We went from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights Act in just over 100 years...and less than 50 years after that, we elected a black president. Breathtaking.

We now have five states - 10 percent of the states in the Union - who allow gay marriage, and D.C. has just passed a law to recognize those marriages. Most of these were approved just within the past few months, and more are in the works...look to New York and New Jersey within the year. Breathtaking.

For all the times I want to weep over this, there are a lot of reasons to smile as well. Chins up, folks, and blessed be.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Where'd the old site go?

Anyone who has come to this site by an old bookmark may notice a sum up, "Lemon Curry?" was originally a blog I started under a former Google account, originally intended to be a general personal blog, but which quickly took on a life of its own as a blog primarily about my adventures in the best job I ever had, as an intermediate school lunchlady. However, I left that job in February of 2008, and shortly thereafter a personal tragedy took me away from blogging for quite some time.

It felt odd to just pick up and continue from there, but I love the lunchlady stories, so though they will no longer be updated I have preserved the former blog under the name Peawees and Peas, and it can still be accessed.

Life marches on. Circumstances change. I change. Time for a fresh start.