Saturday, October 28, 2006

changing the terms

So I'm sitting in an Advising Institute that's to help faculty learn how to advise students more productively. I'm more aware than ever of how challenging can be, even in very small arenas, to change the ways we use language.

For example: there's a simulataneous push-me-pull-you in our cultural discourse surrounding college. College profs often bemoan students who are overly focused on accumulating credits towards their degree rather than focusing on the learning that's going on. And yet here, like most public universities, we have multiple ways that students can pretty literally "buy" courses (eg., take a $5 test and see whether you too can get credit for your first-semester writing course! hey, maybe you can take it while you're still in high school!). Why in tarnation *wouldn't* students be focused on college-as-credit-grabbing when that's the way _we_ market it to them?

This drives me crazy, to understate it. Part of my goal here is to get _all_ of us on campus to focus less on how to help students get general education courses "out of the way" and focus more on all that students can learn within a particular course--and putting *students* in charge of thinking really hard about what kinds of experiences and learning they want to have.

Sorry to get all job-by on you all. Now, back to family and books and fun.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Another tragedy we should not forget...

I'm not trying to cover up my sister's last post (see below) but I want to address this tragedy in Riverside which has so far taken the lives of 4 brave firefighters. (A fifth firefighter is in critical condition.) I don't understand the mind of the arsonist and I don't know if I could summon up the kindness this particular one (or ones) need. Now there are four, and potentially five, families who are grieving the loss of someone who just wanted to do right in the world. When I say goodbye to my DH and he goes off to his shift, I often don't even think about the danger he could face. But really, it's just a numbskull's work that could leave my kids fatherless and me a widow. I hope those families have good support and lots of love to help them through this awful experience.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

consistency--my problem in all aspects of life!

I was glad that Lisa posted her challenge here--I'm taking it up, even if it's not once a day--I do want to be a better blogger, and part of it is just in getting more consistent. LCS and I had a long chat the other day about, among other things, how we want to keep this blog lively, and how much we love it when conversation breaks out in the comments. The "smart" part of SS for me was asking my sister to do this with me--her posts totally crack me up. My own students can only wish for a teacher as witty and smart as she is!

So, a vow to write more often, about various topics--including but not limited to
--interesting books, chick lit and otherwise;
--learning to live in a new place;
--balancing work and family (or see-sawing it. Or plate-spinning them.);
--designing fabulous kids' birthday parties that don't involve hugely creative mom input.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Your friendly book reviewer returns with another opinion (surprise!)

WARNING: I'm going to blow the plot line for you here, so quit reading this post if that bugs you. The reality is I'm saving you from reading a terrible book.
After a lively discussion of chick lit a few posts back, I now bring you a chick lit book to avoid. If you've ever fallen in love with the adventures of Bridget Jones, don't forget that authors rarely maintain their literary prowess after writing fun books like those.
Helen Fielding wrote *Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination* which, I regret to say, is worth putting down. And not picking up again. I have to hope that a ghost writer was involved because it is so bad on so many levels. The plot is silly and completely unrealistic. The writing is plain terrible. The whole book is about as smooth as an airplane ride in a thunderstorm. It's as though Ms. Fielding's editor made some suggestions, and Ms. Fielding, feeling like quite the acclaimed author, simply said, "Whatever," and continued writing trash.
The first person we meet is Olivia. (Insignificant sidenote: just for fun, Olivia changed her name upon entering adulthood because her entire family had been killed in an auto accident and now she's decided to reinvent herself. Whatever.) She's one of those working-really-hard-but-not-making-it-because-her-(male)-boss-doesn't-get-her-work types. She works at a newspaper in London and instead of hard hitting news, she's relagated to the Style section. Never mind that her character development seems rather appropriate to a person writing in the Style section, but again, whatever. As the gripping plot develops she meets up with terrorists posing as perfumiers, terrorists posing as divers in Honduras and even goes to cover a pretend story (she goes undercover) in the Sudan, sponsored by a (you guessed it) terrorist posing as an Arabian Nights type of prince in shining camel. Basically she has hunches that this one guy is a terrorist and contacts the British CIA folks and goes undercover, except that there's another British spy playing both sides who outs her. The really, super-duper gripping part of the story involves her spy ring (which I thought was something you got in a Happy Meal, but according to this it's real spy equiptment), her gas bomb (which knock out the terrorist who eventually hold her captive) and her spy kit. Puh-lease. It's so dumb, I can't even write about it. (Oh, and did I mention this really unpredictable part where she falls in love with another spy who has something like a "rock hard chest rippling with muscles". AAAAAAAAHHH! I can't believe I read this book cover to cover!)
The moral of the story is, if you've written one or two fun, good books, don't rest on your laurels and think people will eat up whatever garbage you produce. This book is awful and even the biggest Briget Jones fan knows it. Unless your only other option is a thousand needles in your eye, don't waste your time on this one.

And yet there's hope! I'm currently reading *The $64 Tomato* by William Alexander. (Wouldn't you love a name you could shorten to Bill Al?) It's great fun, particularly because I've been in yard and garden crisis ever since we moved into this house. A positive review is sure to follow, unless the last half of this book takes a great big turn for the worse.

Friday, October 13, 2006

And in other child abuse-related news...

This just in from Florida. Seems this 9-yr old's parents were so concerned about their son's safety that they kept him in a deadbolted bedroom for the past 3 years. He was under video surveillance 24 hrs a day. He's had no school, no medical attention, no friends, and is only allowed to leave the room once a day to go to the bathroom.
The child's mother defended the actions of the father (I guess he was the warden in this situation) by saying they were trying to protect him from a relative who had molested their son (or another child, that was unclear) some years ago. The child's paternal grandmother defended the warden/father saying that he is simply a control freak, and he knows it. Huh? Apparently any act is defensible if you don't consider the impact on others.
The child's mother also said their son was rather hyperactive. No kidding. If I keep my three year old in the house all day long, he's rather bananas. And how did she conclude he is hyperactive (and not just a normal, energy-filled child) since he hasn't had medical care in three years?
After he was found in his underwear in a urine-scented room, the police department reported that he said he had to keep pinching himself, because "days like this just don't come along very often." By "days like this" he meant days you get to leave your room.
So what's my point? As far as I understand it, there will always be nut jobs in this world who do ridiculous things and in their own minds are completely justified and rational. That's called mental illness (or personality disorder). But what about all the people who are so willing to defend the nut jobs' actions? That's what makes me nervous.
Whole towns turned a blind eye to the atrocities of Hitler's regime, perhaps based on fearing the consequences. But what mother, what grandmother, can know what is going on in a home and not be concerned enough to take action on behalf of a 9-year old boy with no friends? My bet is, more than we'd like to think.
When this whole Iraq war/terrorist stuff got started and John Ashcroft encouraged us to report any suspicious activity, even though we didn't necessarily know what that might be, something closer to home was ignored. Why has no one ever said this: Americans, it is your duty to take action when an adult is abusing or neglecting a child. Quite honestly, the social ramifications of years of deprivation or abuse might be of greater impact than a suspicious gathering of people playing checkers in the park. Someday, maybe we'll have learned that lesson. Unfortunately it might not be a very comfortable lesson to learn.
Love up your babies. Protect them from bad things and bad people. And teach them not to turn away when other people are in need.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Where did that come from?

I'm sure you've all heard this week's story of the woman who used her 4-week old baby as a weapon in a domestic dispute. That's right, 4 WEEK old baby. Seems she and her current flame were drinking and fighting and she just starting picking things up and throwing them. Her defense is that she just didn't realize what she had grabbed until after the baby's head hit her man. As her beau explains, "People are trying to make a big deal about it, but she did not do it on purpose. ... It was just a mistake," he said. (Thanks to for that quote.)
Wow. A new societal low.
Apparently after she weilded the baby as a bat, her boyfriend punched her in the eye, which accounts for the lovely one-eyed mug shot.
Will someone please take those children far from these abusers* and give them half a chance to succeed in life?

*Abusers not just because of what she did with a newborn baby (which is horrific and bad enough by itself), but because all five of her kids were witnesses to what seems to be their rather frequent domestic disturbances. So now they have taught them how to abuse and how to be abused, setting them up for failure.

Monday, October 09, 2006

All noisy on many Fronts

Since it's been almost 2 wks since I've posted, I thought I'd get you off the edge of your seats by filling the posting box with a few random items you've all been wondering about.
  • On the Dead Mouse front: Unfortunately I cannot report success. We caught one mouse on the first day of trapping season, and since that time, not one mouse has wanted our peanut butter. We've got sticky traps, spring traps, plastic traps, you name it. DeCon is the only thing we don't have because our baby is a little too adventurous to attempt that safely. Suggestions, anyone? I have to admit, it's really super-duper fun to live with my kitchen stuff spread out all over the house (so as to prevent having to wash them all again). Knives are in the laundry room in a box on the dryer. Cookie sheets? In my bedroom. Bowls? Top of the fridge. So every meal includes a scavenger hunt, which is really a hoot. Highly recommend.
  • On the Boy #1 front: He turned 3 last week. He's too old. He can ride a bike. And he has more monster trucks, cars and other items with wheels than would seem humanly possible. BUT. He really does play with them, so I don't feel too bad. (Or should I?)
  • The Book front: Just finished reading *The Ha-Ha*, as recommended by Lisa and jmbmommy (thanks). LOVED it. I was cautiously optimistic because the story seemed a little depressing, or maybe just frustrating. (The main character can't speak. I, for one, would call it a day if that were my situation.) But it was wonderful and uplifting, in an not-all-tied-up-in-a-bow kind of way. Great.
  • The SAHM front: I am going to quit writing about that, because y'all must be bored of hearing it. I'm just going to have to find a way to get myself out of the tedium of days with kids ad nauseum ad infinitum. They are delightful, wonderful human beings, walking definitions of the meaning of joy. But, I need some growed-up things to do as well, as Boy #1 would say.
  • The yard (back and front): I have really enjoyed working in our yard since we've moved here, because it was a mess and it was sort of like starting fresh. I've decided I like plants because they can't talk and when they are need something, it's usually water or fertilizer. I can handle that kind of simplicity.
  • The sleeping front: I haven't had much because Boy #2 has decided that sleeping through the night isn't all it's cracked up to be. He's waking 3 and 4 times per night (I know there are worse, but...). So I have a new idea. I'll stop thinking about sleep during the day (I just can't nap) and I'll go to bed with the chickens to get my sleep at night. And I like emilyruth's suggestion of doing housework/chores/etc for 20 minutes and then feeling free to surf the net, blog, etc. Guilt-free my time. Like the sound of that.
  • The kitchen front: (I'm sorry, I didn't realize how many facets to my life there are.) Anyone up for a Dream Dinners party (Jay Are, Lisa?)? My sister-in-law went and said it was actually great food and fun to have dinners planned... no decision making every night!
  • And my final installment, The family front: We celebrated Boy #1's birthday over the weekend, which was a smashing success because we have a wonderful family! The only downer to the party was that prrrof's family couldn't be here... next time, we hope. But my parents are good fun to have around. They are so friendly, I didn't feel like I needed to escort them around and make introductions. My brother was really good with the kids, they loved him. All my inlaws were here, which in my world, is a good thing. Some people struggle to endure their in-laws, while mine are easily enjoyed. I love them, one and all. And I love how our families get along so well. I have *great* sisters-in-law who are always pitching in and helping or herding kids or whatever. My mother- and father-in-law help out however they can, and have great senses of humor besides. They are all kind, thoughtful and fun people. And no one competes for the love of the grandkids, which is just so nice. I can't tell you how great it is to see my own mom and my mother in law making plans to get together, just the two of them. They are friends. I am truly lucky beyond words.

So that sums it up folks. If your daily dose of Ambien didn't work, surely this did. Sweet dreams.

Monday, October 02, 2006


We've now lived here three months. More than any other move we've made, this has been easy. The weather, the terrain, having lots of people in town who are old friends--all of this has made it a good move. It's a move that's felt like a settling-in (even though major portions of our lives are still up in the air. DH is just now working into fuller-time work; we're in a rental house.)

Most of this feeling of being somewhere that "fits" is because of the geography, but not all. I wondered today if I'm finally growing up, just a little bit--if I'm becoming just a little bit more accepting of things, a little bit more able to simply enjoy these rich, wonderful, ordinary days. It's easy for me to just drift; I like life, a lot, and I'm generally (generally) happy where I am. This place feels like one we could be rooted in for a long time, and I want to be rooted in other less tangible ways as well. Moving shouldn't be *only* about changing location, should it?

It's just so strange to think that a year ago we were visiting a pumpkin patch in Midwest State, with no real inkling of where we'd be in a year!