Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Is there anything better on a crisp day than the first slice of pumpkin bread?
The knife tip pierces the bread and a puff of steam rises up, smelling of moist pumpkins, cinnamon and cloves.
I should wait, but the smell convinces me to grab a piece and put just a dab of butter on it. It melts on contact. I can see the golden raisins all plumped up.
And now I know that the only thing better than the smell of that pumpkin break is the way it melts on my tongue.

I hope that your Halloween has some yummy treats in store for you.
The recipe I use is from the Southern Living cookbook.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I'm a little self-centered and sometimes I need to be reminded of that. My friend Ruth is only too happy to oblige.
We were talking on the phone recently and I was listing my husband's charity work.
For years now he has been driving about an hour and a half to clear a trail for the Nature Conservancy.
Recently, he has added weekly volunteer work at a child welfare agency that helps underprivileged and developmentally delayed kids. He had to have fingerprinting and background checks twice, recommendations from three people who aren't family and a physical before he was cleared to volunteer there.
Then last week, he announced that on his only day off, he was going to work at Habitat for Humanity.
He took Tucker with him, who seems to be following in his father's volunteering footsteps.
Of course, I think it's great for both of them to help others. I'm proud of them. But their activities make me start taking an account of my own actions.
I organized the refreshments for the school's musical evening. That took at least an hour of emailing. I'm on the board of the swim team and we meet at least once a year along with answering emails and texts from the coach. No, my volunteer hours don't seem to compare.
So I was feeling a little guilty as Earl and Tucker traipsed off on a cold, rainy night to build a house for the poor.
"Do you think he's only doing it to make me feel guilty?" I asked Ruth as we talked on the phone.
"I think," she said, "that it's not about you."
That gave me something to think about.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Snapshot -- American-sized Donuts

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
For Spencer's birthday this week, I went to the local donut shop before he got out of bed. I bought a dozen donuts, two little cartons of choclate milk and a plain coffee. The total price was more than $23.
"Those are some expensive donuts," I said.
It wasn't until I got them home and put the apple fritter out on the plate that I saw how big they were.

I guess I needed to buy fewer donuts. Still $23 is a lot for a dozen big donuts.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slacker Parenting

I know what you're going to say, I worry about parenting too much to consider myself a slacker parent. But, the thing is that I spend time thinking of ways that I'm not putting in the effort that I used to.
That's why I was so relieved to see a commercial the other night that said the first five years are the most important. I was a good, engaged parent during my kids' early years.
My kids didn't watch TV. We were outside exploring the natural world. We had in-depth conversations and played make believe. I homeschooled them for nine years, continuing to set the rules and make sure they followed them. When they went to school, that's when I started to slack.
So I was thrilled when I found an article last night that talks about ways to make your child a genius.
I did most of these things. Okay, my kids haven't shown outward signs of being geniuses, but I know they've had the preparation, so they may find a way to be geniuses in their own fields.
One way to make a genius, don't let them have a television in their rooms and don't let them watch too much television. "59 percent of under-twos watch two hours of TV every day." See, I can feel slightly smug. They may watch a ton of television now, but they didn't when they were young.
Next thing I did right to make a genius, breastfed babies score 5 percent higher than non-breastfed. I think it has been established that I might still be breastfeeding my children had my friend Michelle not forced me to go to Paris for 10 days when Tucker was 3.

The next sign is playing the piano or a stringed instrument. Both of my boys played violin and Grace played piano. I'm just whizzing along on this. I'd better check my kids' test scores. They should be much higher.
I'm not sure about whether my kids are able to delay gratification, which is the next sign. They tested kids by giving them a cookie and telling them if they waited 15 minutes to eat it, they could have two. I know Grace would have passed this one, because she used to eat a bit of a candy bar and save the rest for later. I wondered if she might have been switched at the hospital.
Children raised in a home with more than 500 books are 36 percent more likely to graduate high school and 19 percent more likely to graduate from college. (But less likely to have the money for college tuition because their parents spent all the money on books!) Okay, check on that one.
Women who used cocaine don't get geniuses, and I did not, once again saving my children from a life of mediocrity. Overweight children score lower on reading and I pretty much had stick children.
"Aerobic exercise increase executive functioning by 100 percent!" Give my swimmers and basketball player and soccer players a corner office then. We were constantly running and jumping and playing.
Children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate high school. Two of my kids went to preschool. Spencer hated it and by the time I got to Tucker, we were homeschooling so he never went. Hope he stays in high school in spite of my choice not to send him to preschool.
I also messed up in picking an older father for my kids. Children born to 20-year-old fathers have higher IQs that children of 40 year olds. Sorry guys, but your dad has made up for it in other ways.
Juggling apparently increases brain capacity too and I never enforced that particular trait.
Children in poorer families have fewer conversations and hear fewer words than children of professional families. I don't think my children ever suffered from a lack of conversation. They might think I went overboard on that.

Kids who studied foreign languages do better on the SAT. I started teaching my kids French when they were little and they have all studied languages in school, so we're good in that category.
Students who spend more than two hours a day on computers or video games score lower on tests. I think I've already established that I limited their screen time, although their tests scores may be lower now because of it. We didn't even have a game system until Spencer was in 8th grade.
Children whose mother were exposed to pesticides had lower IQs. That's something I managed to avoid too.
So many of the signs of genius are planted in my children. Now I just have to sit back and wait for the seeds to grow. That, and try to keep them out of teenage trouble.
How about you? Did you raise a genius?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Joys of Adulthood

Yesterday, as we sat waiting for the doctor so Spencer could have his yearly physical, we realized the walls in the office were rather thin. We could hear our doctor discussing a girl's ADD through the walls and her need to become physically active.
Embarrassed to overhear, Spencer and I decided to have a conversation. Spence lounged on the plastic doctor's table, the white paper covering it crinkled when he moved. "So what can I do when I'm 18 that I can't do at 17?"
He turns 18 soon.
"Well, you can vote," I said, excited that we've already registered him and he gets to vote in the November election.
"You could get a tattoo," I said, knowing he hasn't expressed an interest in tattoos thus far.
"You get to come to the doctor by yourself," I said. "Oh, and you have to register so you can be drafted if the United States ever starts drafting men again."
Hmmm. None of these options seemed to be thrilling him as the bottom half of his legs hung off the table, his clunky black shoes resting on the step he'd pulled out.
Still waiting for the doctor, I texted our friend Bethany who turned 18 about six months ago and was determined to make the most of her new adulthood. Bethany is now in Los Angeles modeling.

Here's a test shot of her by Lotus Josephine.
I remember that Bethany went to buy a lottery ticket on her 18th birthday. I wondered what else she'd gotten up to. So I asked.
"What can Spencer do when he's 18 that he can't do now?"
Then I waited for her response.
"Cigarettes and porn," she replied.
Actually, she texted "Cigarettes and pron" but then followed it up with a correction, "porn."
Great. My 18-year-old can buy cigarettes, porn, get a tattoo and seek medical advice without me.
I'm hoping he decides to ignore his 18th birthday and look ahead to his 21st.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Problem with Headlamps

Now this may not be a problem that everyone has to deal with, but I'm probably starting a petition and I expect all of you to sign in support of me.
Headlamps are a problem for runners -- not the runners who have them but the runners who don't.
We run at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and most of the year it is fairly dark.
The trail meanders along the Scioto River, but roads are nearby and street lamps or porch lights provide peripheral light. Then don't forget the ghostly moon and the sparkling stars. We can usually see the dark strip of asphalt in front of us well enough.
Until a runner comes along with a headlamp.
I'm sure you've all seen them, those obnoxious lights that glare out of people's heads like a cyclops eye. The problems are two-fold: Number one if I'm running toward someone with a headlamp, I'm blinded.. I can't see a thing. The runner could be a Mack truck coming toward me. I think the headlamp would be a great idea for someone lurking waiting to abduct someone because it would blind the person being abducted.
The second problem is that the bright light lingers after the headlamp wearer has passed on. My eyes need to adjust again to the dark as I search out the trial, which was perfectly visible before I was blinded by the headlamp wearer.
My friend Pam was the first one to complain about the headlamp wearers.
We tried shunning them, refusing to say hello to headlamp wearers when we ran. We'd even look away to try to save our vision.
Then Saturday, in the dark and the swirling fog, Pam showed up wearing a headlamp.
"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," she said.
So we ran a bit with the headlamp like a spotlight in front of us.
I decided that whoever had a story to tell should run in front in the spotlight, but that took too much effort.
Then I tried jumping into the spotlight and singing:
"Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter
Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade"
But it's surprising how much breath it takes to sing and run at the same time.
Then Naj suggested Pam turn off the light. So she did. And we could see fine.
We ran the rest of the way complaining about those people with their headlamps.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why Saturday Was a Good Day

Not to discount the 10 miles we ran in the fog on Saturday morning, but the day took a turn for the fabulous around 11:45 when I sat down at a quasi-French restaurant with my husband.

He got the bread; I got the mimosa.
Then we ordered just an appetizer, but, oh, what an appetizer.

Brie fondue with apples, broccoli, carrots and chunks of hard bread to dip. My favorites are the apples. Or maybe the broccoli.
I scraped the bottom of the crock and blew out the little candle so it didn't char the remnants of cheese.
We've tried to make brie fondue at home but it is never as good as the fondue at Bon Vie. (Yes, the French teacher rails at the name. Couldn't they have spelled it Bonne Vie?)
I finished with a tiny cup of espresso then walked outside to this sparkling day where the fog had blown away.

It looks fake, as these "hometown" mall developments are supposed to. Rather Disneyesque, but sometimes it's okay to suspend belief, to enjoy a brie fondue and mimosa, and make believe I'm not in central Ohio.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Snapshot -- Paris Sky

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
My daughter Grace who is staying in Paris for a few months took this picture of the sunset from the balcony of the apargment where she is staying.

Then a few days later, she took this shot from Sacre Coeur.

Unfortunately, while wandering alone in Montmartre, she was set upon by some men who were overzealous to sell her things or flirt with her and she had to elbow one to let go of her. But, that's her story to tell, if she decides to.
Enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

This morning I woke up in a Carl Hiaasen novel.
Hiaasen writes novels set in Florida where seemingly unbelievable things happen, but they always do actually happen in Florida. Today, Ohio has an exotic animal escapade to rival Florida's best adventures.
The basics of the story is that an exotic animal owner in southeastern Ohio was found dead with all of the animal cages open. When the sheriff arrived, the “four, aggressive” animals were apparently eating the dead owner. The other animals were roaming the Ohio countryside.

The owner kept camels and giraffes, along with lions, tigers, bears, cheetahs, and wolves. 48 animals in all that are now hiding in Ohio. The sheriff's office, of course, shot to kill the loose animals. So far they've tracked down about 30 animals. The Columbus Zoo sent people to help, hoping to tranquilize the animals rather than kill them. Schools down there are cancelled today as people crouch in their homes looking out the window.
So I wondered, how did the guy die? The animals couldn't have opened all the cages. My first thought is suicide. He decided to open the cages and let the animals attack him, plus, he got the last laugh on the officials who kept citing him for violating the exotic animal codes.
And I would have gone with that theory if not for the end of the news article which explained that another exotic animal owner near Cleveland, Ohio had been in trouble too. That owner was found dead this summer, tied up and wearing a mask.
Now the Hiaasen plot kicks in. Obviously, someone is going around Ohio killing exotic animal owners and creating havoc. Why would someone do this?
Ohio has one of the weakest exotic animal laws apparently. So the obvious answer is that it must be some Ohio legislator who wants to strengthen the exotic animal law. He can't get the needed votes or attention. That's why he starts killing exotic animal owners and letting the animals roam loose.
Now he has people's attention.
What do you think? Too far fetched? Has Hiaasen already written this novel?

A 19-year-old's Adventures in France

I can't believe that Grace left for France a month ago.
The time has flown past for me, here in Ohio.
At first, I was afraid that this was going to be one of those experiences that Grace could look back on and appreciate, rather than enjoying it now. She was tired and frustrated with the language. She panicked when it came time for Earl to come home without her.
I got texts, I got Skype calls. Her eyes were wide and darting around as if searching for the exit.
I talked to my friend Michelle and was surprised to learn that her daughter had felt similar despair while in France the previous year. She suggested I go with the 10-day plan.
"Let's give it 10 days," I told Grace.

And after a few days, when she seemed about to sink into the mire again, unable to negotiate the big city in a foreign language, I read her the riot act.
"Get out of your room. Go get a Metro pass. Make a plan to do something."
And she did.
She's captured days like this where the sky was incredibly blue and no one could be sad or lonely.

Not every moment has been happy since then. She caught a cold and spent a weekend sniffling in bed. But she has embraced the idea of traveling and exploring.
Most everyday she ventures around the city and discovers some small joy.
Yesterday morning, as I was getting ready to leave for work, she messaged me on Skype:
oh my gosh!!! best day for the early part of today, cant wait to tell you about it

That made my heart soar.
Later I found out that she discovered a market and explored it. The little adventures are adding up.
I'm so glad that she can enjoy these moments and know that she'll be able to look back on them with pleasure too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Paragraph Tuesdays

On Tuesdays, I usually participate in the meme by Diane at Bibliophile by the sea.

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.

Last week, I added the meme for Teaser Tuesdays.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I love learning about new books as I read everyone else's responses too.
This Tuesday though, I'm not opening a new book.
My friend Howard gave me his manuscript to read about a month ago and I gave him mine. I've only read the first few pages of Howard's book and I'm feeling pretty guilty about it. After all, he trusted me to read and give him an honest opinion. He put hours and days and months and years into this manuscript and I laid it aside, grabbing books that are sure things.
I'm no better than the guy who decides he'll text his girl back later, after the football game, after the drinking with the guys, basically, when he has nothing better to do.
And that's not what a friend would do. So I'm making Howard's book a priority, before any of those other books calling to me from my shelf.
Here's a teaser from Howard's book titled A Deliberate Exercise of Love.
As I listened to Burton, I could picture Erin at her old house because of the way Burton described her. The scream elicited by this discovery of whatever it was must have torn the soft membranes of Erin's throat as she slipped into some kind of dark, prehistoric confusion. All logic, all memories, were gone, vanished with the rest of civilization. She probably looked around with large eyes upon an unfamiliar world and screamed a scream that cut through the atmosphere of other dimensions. Maybe she fell, crawling along the floor like a sluggish, dying anmial, or maybe she saw the sunlit face of someone dear to her in one last yellow burst of memory. She must have felt her bones turn black and watched the wood of the furniture and the blankets on the couch swirl around has as she collapsed.

Who knows, maybe someday, Howard's book will be a choice on my bookshelf too.
Can't wait to see what everyone else is reading.

Java Addiction

I'm pretty sure this is a bad sign.

My Starbucks gold card came in the mail yesterday.
I didn't even know they had gold cards.
I may have an addiction.
And Starbucks doesn't even know that I'm getting my other fixes at Caribou Coffee.
Oh, what a world.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Adolescent Brains

It's 12:30 in the morning and I desperately need chocolate, but I'm not willing to go out in search of it.
I guess, I shouldn't have expected that raising teenage boys wouldn't result in one of those midnight conversations that "I'm almost 18 and I'll do what I want to do and if you have to call the police so be it."
I guess I'd seen Spencer's anger building this past weekend, but I always think my kids are rational enough that they can think logically. I forget about the adolescent brain and the fact that it doesn't fully form until their mid 20s. After nearly an hour of yelling by Spencer about my choice for him to come home rather than staying at a friend's house, after covering past choices and decisions good and bad, I conceded defeat and said I would drive him back to the friend's house.
He stood kind of stunned for a minute. I sat on the couch, wrung out like a dishrag, wondering if there is any way to keep my kids totally safe. I know there isn't. I told him that next year when he goes away to college he'll get to make decisions, good or bad, on his own.
He speaks in extremes -- life is all or nothing. It is the best time or it sucks. No happy mediums in this adolescent brain.
If I could, I would step back 10 years to the time when he played pretend in the backyard, grasping a plastic hockey stick like Davy Crockett's rifle.
I wish I could wrap him up and keep him from making stupid choices or at least buffer them. Give him a do over card in case he messes up.
All I can do though, is let him know that I love him and keep encouraging him to talk to me.
That and keep some chocolate in the house for times like this.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Snapshot -- Cat, Crackle Pop

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
We put our recycling on top of this oak pie safe by the back door. Once the Rice Krispies were finished, the younger cat, Tybalt, decided this box was the perfect cardboard nest for him.

He had no problem falling right to sleep.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Culinary Adventures

While I have been busy lamenting the fact that my husband came home from France without sufficient chocolate supplies, I almost overlooked something important he brought home.
A tiny package wrapped in white paper with two small wheels of goat cheese -- chevre.
Somehow, just unwrapping that package and smelling the pungent cheese made up for the lack of chocolate.
What to do with the precious French cheese?
On Wednesday night, I cut a butternut squash in half, dribbled it with olive oil, salt and pepper then stuffed some sage leaves in the cavities. I put them face down in a baking pan for an hour then scooped out the insides. Pureed squash with goat cheese crumbled into it. That was good.
Last night, I cut thin slices of Italian bread and topped them with tomato slices, fresh basil, goat cheese and olive oil. I baked them in the oven for about 10 minutes. More yum.
This trip to France just keeps on giving. And we haven't even cracked open the wine yet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review -- Best Staged Plans

Teaching seven English composition courses in college sucks up my time like a giant vacuum. I'm either preparing for class or grading essays. So the minutes when I can read for pleasure are stolen gems. Yesterday, I picked up Claire Cook's Best Staged Plans and never looked back, gulping it down like an ice-cold Coke on a sweltering summer day. Afterwards, I felt happy and satisfied, ready to return to my laboriously written English compositions.
The main character, Sandy, wants to get her house ready to put on the market, so she and her husband can pay off the bills of kids in college and a daughter's wedding. Sandy's a home stager, so she's meticulous about preparing the house. She's a little bit like me in that she's frenetic and demanding, glaring at each tree rather than enjoying the walk in the forest. Her husband and adult son aren't helping out the way they should and she's had enough. A trip to Atlanta to stage a boutique hotel helps give her some perspective on life.
A lot happens in this 238-page book as Sandy attempts to corral her life into order when no one seems to be following her directions, not her daughter, her new southern son-in-law who calls her "Mo'am," her best friend or even the guy at the post office. Sandy's time in Atlanta helps her look at the big picture and realize the value of family.
The author also has a link on her website that encourages her readers to donate reading glasses because "Not having reading glasses is the biggest obstacle to disadvantaged people over forty re-entering the workplace."
Pick up this book for the story and it will give you plenty to think about when you're finished.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Early Thanksgiving

It seems like all of my posts have been fairly negative lately, so I thought I should stop and be thankful instead.
So, here, the Wednesday after Canadian Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for: My husband who, although he came home with only one chocolate bar from France two weeks ago, has worked everyday with only one day off. Sleep in today, honey. You deserve it. And take a second day off this week.
My unswollen, though still flaking, face. I'm on the last leg of the steroids the doctor gave me to combat my reaction to the Aveda moisturizer. With steroids, the medicine steps down. So I started taking six pills a day over a week ago, and now I'm down to three. Before you know it, I'll stop feeling all jittery and need more than four hours of sleep each night. I am accomplishing a lot since I don't need sleep. When you get up at 3:30 a.m., you can get an amazing amount done by 6. It's like the day's half over.
A second car. We've been a one car family since Labor Day Weekend when Spencer drove in front of a truck and, basically, had the front end of his Honda Accord taken off. No one was hurt, but for over a month now, we've had one car. That means I've just driven everyone where they need to go rather than Spencer or Earl (or Grace while she was still home) taking a car. Somedays, I never sat down in my house, just walked in the door after work and drove people around all evening. But now we have a second car. That the boys can drive to school or Earl can take to Home Depot. It's an Explorer, but, since two of my children have totaled cars and I have one more learning to drive now, I wanted something big enough to keep him (and the rest of them) safe -- just in case.
I'm also thankful that two of the college classes I'm teaching will end next week and I'll have a mini vacation, teaching only five course through Christmas.
Other things, yes, the weather has been gorgeous. The cats took a nap outside in the hammock with me yesterday. Well, I napped. They kind of clung to the hammock.
And when Tucker was hanging outside with me and the cats, he asked to take a picture of Tupi's fat hanging through the hammock. Not mine.
See, lots of things to be thankful for.
How about you? Are you thankful for something?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Paragraph, Teaser Tuesday -- 13 rue Therese

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
Continuing my obsession with all things French, I have the book 13 rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro. I picked this book up at the beginning of summer, thinking Grace might want to read it before she headed off to France, but she didn't. Last night I picked it up and thought it looked intriguing. An American professor arrives in Paris and finds a box of artifacts that tell the life of a woman who lived through both World Wars. He becomes consumed with the story and the gaps between. Here's the first paragraph:
Josianne's gift is a simple square box, its sides about as long as her forearm. It is about as deep as her hand is wide. The white plastic lid has a quaint red crosshatch pattern on it, like the sort you might see on a tablecloth in a small family-owned restaurant. The box is nothing extraordinary, though its contents have been known to induce fevers. At least, that is one of the effects it had on Josianne when it first came to her -- perhaps she decided to pass on her gift as much from a need to get it away from herself as to share it with another. At least, the box let her think she decided.

What do you think? Would you keep reading? Just in case you haven't decided, take a look at this Tuesday Teaser.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Here's my teaser from a random page:
She wants to laugh at this, but at the same time, she wants to curl up, wrapped in sadness. The fire of this overwrought feeling -- this constant feeling of the animal self caged and unable to run free -- she thought that this feeling would wane after the end of the war, after the first flame of her youth faded. It is not so.
~p. 128, 13 rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro
To keep reading or not, that is the question?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Football Funk

I love football, especially college football, as I've written before.
Saturday night, instead of meeting friends and going to antoher friend's stage production, I stayed home to watch football. I felt a little sheepish admitting to my friend Linda that I was obsessed with watching college-age men run the football up and down the field. Of course, I also had papers to grade, so I could fall back on that, but the real reason was that I wanted to watch.
What I am learning is that football is not nearly as much fun if my favorite team is losing. So that's been a double whammy for me this year.
Living in Columbus, I root for Ohio State, and that has served me well the entire 13 years we've been here. They've been a good team. A top 25 team.
Not this year.
Saturday night, I felt my mood rising as a totally new Ohio State team took a commanding lead. Where were these guys the previous 5 weeks, I wondered. I was happy. I texted Spencer to update him on the score since he was working.
Then halfway through the third quarter, with a 27 to 6 lead, the quarterback got hurt and suddenly the entire team fell apart. They ended up losing.
Zoom. My mood plummeted.
The second whammy is that my favorite professional team, the Pittsburgh Steelers have also been off to a slow start. I didn't even bother to watch them on Sunday. I was surprised to find they won!
So, what I learned is that I love football, but mostly, I love winning football.
Guess I'm the fair weather fan after all.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

School, Education and Intelligence

The longer my kids are in the school system, the less I think school, education and intelligence go together.
This lesson came back to me last week when Spencer, who is a senior, won the school chess tournament. He named the boys he played and shrugged it off, even though one of the boys is the valedictorian of their class.
I imagined how this really smart boy must have felt to know that my mediocre student could beat him in chess. The problem is that the intelligence to win in chess, or even on the basketball court, are different from the skills needed to succeed in school.
As many of you know, I homeschooled my kids until the oldest was a sophomore in high school and the youngest in 6th grade. They then opted to attend school. Yet none of them seem to have bought into the school system's game. I tell them that having chosen the playing field (the school) they must now play by those rules, which means achieve high grades.
None of them seem motivated to do the little bit of extra work it would take to achieve an A when they can do very little work and get a B. After all those years preaching about the love of learning, I have a hard time enforcing the "A" standard.
Spencer probably struggles the most with grades. If we'd sent him to grade school, he probably would have been diagnosed with ADD. But we didn't, and he has adapted with decent grades.
To me, Spencer will always be that little kid with the round glasses and the blonde bowl haircut sitting on the floor, one knee pulled up to his chest, the other under his bottom staring at the chess board.
He learned to play chess in 1st grade. We were at Borders bookstore and he requested a beginning chess set that came with a book to explain how to move the pieces. I went through the book with him and he started playing with his friends. I began to get an inkling he thought differently than I do when we were leaving a friend's house one day.
"Wrap it up, Spence. Time to go," I called as he stared at the chess board.
"Hold on. Two more moves and I've got him in checkmate," he said.
"What? How can you tell that?" I asked. I figured the number of moves were infintesimal and he couldn't predict what his friend Michael might do. But it was true. He could figure out the available moves and how to trap his opponent. It's what a good chess player does.
Once he started school in 8th grade, he gave up on the private chess lesson, the trips to national chess tournaments. He worked hard to be a normal jock with B grades.
This year, as college forms should be filled out, I told him he needed to add another activity. Back to chess, I told him. And so he did.
Spencer holding the flag is not with the chess club in this photo.

On Tuesdays at lunch, he goes to chess club. And he's succeeding. Which reminds me why school and education and intelligence just don't always go together.
Getting good grades, in my opinion, requires the will to please other people and a good memory. Those skills will make the 4.0 plus student in my kids' high school.
Grace and Tucker both have those steel trap memories like I do, so they have the ability to excel at school, if they only had the other part, that urge to please people.
The problem with not having a good memory, is that school can feel like a beat down everyday. Those other people with good memories just stride through it. Maybe chess will help Spencer remember that there's a light at the end of the school tunnel. Maybe he'll find a career where he can excel because he can see the spatial relationship like those between the pieces on the chess board or between those players on the basketball court.
And maybe someday there will be a school where kids who have a wide variety of intelligences, not just good memories for the things they see or hear, can feel like they're succeeding too.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Saturday Snapshot -- Water and Sun

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Earl took a lot of good shots on his weeklong trip to France. I loved the sunshine on the water in this one as he took a boat tour along the Loire near Nantes.

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Grandma by Any Other Name

I'm not sure why I started thinking about this. Maybe it was when Tucker, the 15-year-old, started talking about getting a P tattooed on his shoulder in honor of his great-grandmother Pauline, and I choked on my coffee. But I started wondering about names that kids call their grandparents. The grandparents I knew were Nana and Granddad. Because my mom's parents died, I don't even know what the 25 other grandkids called them before I came along.
My parents decided to avoid the grandma and grandpa tradition. My dad became Gran and my mom became Nena. I'm not sure if Nena is an offshoot of Nana, but it works.
Then my dad's sister became Nonni. I have no idea where that came from.

Earl's sister has a grandbaby who will be two this week, and she calls her grandparents Memaw and Pop. I don't think I'd want to be Memaw.
Hopefully, this is a question I will, personally, not have to deal with for a long time, but what weird grandparent names have you heard of? What did you call your grandparents?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Foggy Run

This morning, for the first time since my face broke out into a rash, swelled then started to peel, I was able to go for a run without intense itching. I checked the temperature, 46 degrees, cold for this time of year.
When I stepped out the door though, I was surprised by the fog.

The fog wraps the streets like a blanket, muffling the noise. It feels eerie, and the person lumbering down the street could be your neighbor or ... anyone. But, it's usually the same people that I see on my runs when it's not foggy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

First Paragraph Tuesday -- Best Staged Plans

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
Teaching seven college courses right now, I barely have time to breathe, much less read anything other than essays, so I picked up what I hope will be a quick, breezy read. Claire Cook's Best Staged Plans. She's the author of Must Love Dogs. The main character Sandy is a stager whose daughter recently married and moved to Atlanta, while Sandy's son finished college and moved back home. Sandy goes to Atlanta to stage a hotel, hoping she'll have time with her daughter, but instead getting to know her new son-in-law. Here's the first graph:
Okay, so I accidentally wrapped my reading glasses in one of the packages I mailed.
"It could have happened to anyone," I said to my daughter Shannon.
"Wow, that's pretty lame. Even for you, Mom." The all-knowingness of her three and a half months of marriage reverberated through the phone line.
I ignored it. "If you get them, just mail them back, okay, honey?"
The minute life starts getting easier, your eyes go. So the time you once spent looking after your kids is now spent looking for you reading glasses. I hated that.

The eye doctor just told me that I need reading glasses when I have my contacts in, but I do hate the idea of everyone at the restaurant pulling out their glasses to see the menu.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Still Itching

I know that I'm much more conscious of the rash and swelling on my face than anyone else is, but even the teenage sons have begun to comment on it.
"Maybe you should stop using it," Tucker suggested.
Yeah, I thought of that and stopped using the moisturizer as soon as I felt the rash beginning on my neck. This all began when I tried a new moisturizer from Aveda. Now five days later, the rash and swelling are worse.
"Your eye's swollen," Spencer said when he leaned over to let me kiss him on the cheek before he ran out the door.
The left side of my face is very swollen now and the skin is very dry. Yesterday, I tried taking it easy and swallowing Benadryl every 6 hours to reduce the itch and swelling. I also tried applying hydrocortisone cream, but I felt nervous about rubbing it on my face.
Today, the left side of my face has definite jowls and the swelling under my eye interferes with my line of vision.
I searched online for a doctor on Sunday and ended up going to a CVS Minute Clinic where a nurse practitioner seemed afraid to touch me, as if the scaly, swollen skin would spread.
She ended up giving me a prescription for prednisone because, by now, the allergic reaction must by "systemic," she said.
I just hope that I look a little better by tomorrow when I have to work one-on-one with students.
Now I just have to figure out what is causing the back pain -- is it some of the medicine I've been taking, the allergic reaction, or the lack of running since my face flamed up from that "all natural" moisturizer.
And that will be my next step, to try to find out what is in the moisturizer that set my face on fire. I definitely want to avoid it in the future.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Saturday Snapshot -- Mont St. Michel

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
My husband accompanied my daughter to France. She has gone for three months; he went for a week to make sure she got there safely because she hates flying. They visited Mont St. Michel while in France so here are a couple of photos.
Here's an interesting detail shot that Grace took:

The tide was low, which allowed everyone to park in the lot until the tide comes in.

And here's a shot of Grace back on dry land:

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

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