Monday, November 27, 2006

Shoe Shining

On a recent trip that involved several walks through airports, I noticed, again, a practice that has always struck me as strange: grown men, sitting in large chairs, having their shoes shined by other men.

There are two reasons this practice bothers me: first, this seems like some kind of semi-private act that one normally does in one's bedroom, and I often feel some mild sensation of embarrassment as I walk by. True, there's nothing obscene about it--but it seems akin to ironing one's shirt in public, or maybe having one's hair brushed. Why is it socially acceptable for fully adult men to have other men polish their shoes in the middle of a walkway?

Secondly, I'll admit, there's something about the sight of men in business suits sitting on throne-like chairs having their shoes rubbed by men in workclothes bending over their feet that just rubs me wrong. It's some strange overt physical manifestation of class that looks so awkward to me.

I know, I know--I must be the only person who thinks this. But there it is.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Things are quiet in blogland--folks must still be recovering from turkey overdoses. We're back in our hometown with an across-the-city move in front of us this week--much less daunting than an across-the-country move. A good time was had by all this past week, with lots of family in a pretty small space. We even had a dinner out with LCS and her DH while grandma and grandpa watched the kids--lovely.

And now it's back to rain/snow and work tomorrow. Sigh. It was fun while it lasted, though!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


...why isn't our blog showing up? I'll try a new post and see what happens.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What do some fraternity boys and a Romanian village have in common?

There are lots of things I don't understand and don't really care that I don't understand. But the currently-famous comedian Borat is one thing I very much don't get. And it kind of bothers me.
First, I must make the disclaimer that I haven't seen his movie and have no intention to do so, thus I'm posting this with only a vague sense of what his schtick is about. I know that he poses as a reporter from Khazakstan who is touring the US and interviews people and basically makes fools of them, all in good fun. But the other thing he does is go to a desperately poor area of Romania, which is used as the setting for his homeland in this movie. He basically makes them out to be poor saps who do crazy things like live with cows (in their homes) and marry their sisters and such. He pays them anywhere from $3.30-$5.30 to do things like put cows in their homes and act like Third World stereotypes that the First World's citizen's already believe. Without telling them this is going to be a movie that US (and other) movie-goers will see and laugh at. And apparently it's... funny?

I guess no one should pick on anyone in front of a global audience without their express permission, so I should feel bad for all the Americans as well as the Romanians (Gypsies, actually) who were duped. Two fraternity brothers have sued him for defamation, claiming they had no idea what his intentions were. I'd be quite annoyed if it were me. But my heart really goes out to the Romanians. Picking on frat boys whose lives, let's be honest, are far from drudgery, is silly. But making people out to be chumps when they already have nothing is plain mean-hearted. These are people who scrounge for food to eat, don't have electricity and live in tin-roofed shacks. Does he end his day thinking, "I really made the world a better place today"? Or perhaps, "I really made a zillion dollars off of that guy's pathetic situation"?

Will someone explain what's so funny about this guy? Have I completely lost my sense of humor?

Monday, November 13, 2006

A house is found!

We signed the last counter-offer papers tonight! Yippee! We have an amazing, tireless, incredibly patient realtor who must have shown us every house in some areas of Mountain City. We shopped and shopped and shopped some more; I was totally tired of looking at houses, but DH never wearied and would patiently check the new listings every evening. Something popped up as newly reduced last week; we looked at it last Friday night and made an offer.

It needs some updating, but it's *steps* from an amazing bike path here and in a very cool sub. It'll feel *great* to finally be a bit more settled--even if it is in 1980s architecture.

Hip-hip-hooray for us!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

kid music

Another parenting post! It's a nice break in the midst of teaching classes, writing up classroom observations from thirteen new teaching assistants, trying to keep on top of academic administrative trivia and important matters, planning for the b-day lunch/party, looking for a house, getting ready to be gone for three days next week.

I'm sitting here at my computer humming Chenille Sisters songs that were playing at our house last night--they're great! It's kid music that's not annoying or saccharine. Our kids mostly listen to what we listen to--but they love "Frieda" (really, "Free to be You and Me") and they like this one too--in the car #1 was humming "Teaching Hippopatomi to Fly" tunelessly).

Any kid music you really like?

Monday, November 06, 2006

one moment in raising a daughter

#1 and I went clothes shopping this weekend. (Side note: believe me, while our daughter has at various points in her life had far too many clothes, right now she does not. Case in point: the last two weeks have been filled with morning struggles over getting her into appropriate clothes. Since all that was in her dresser were the lonely, stained, straggly remains from summer, she'd show up to school (after tears and wailing) in a t-shirt and skirt with bare legs. At 37 degrees, it's no suprise her preschool teacher was ready to report us to child protective services.)

She has very particular tastes in clothes, and in our shopping, she lit on some sparkly long-sleeved t-shirts with various sayings on them. While I absolutely refuse to get her t-shirts with obnoxious sayings like "the princess has spoken" and others along that line, she luckily picked out one that read, "my friends are awesome." While this isn't on my list of things I'd want to wear on a shirt, she is *in love* with this shirt.

This morning, she quietly took her coat off on the walk down the hall at school. She rubbed the sparkles and smiled to herself, repeating, "my friends are awesome. My shirt says 'my friends are awesome.'"

It made me happy--happy that thinking about her friends makes her happy, happy that she got dressed without tears, happy to have a sunny girl who likes people and is satisfied with long-sleeved t-shirts.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

birthday party update

...I'm trying really hard not to fall into the "I have to be a perfect mom" trap. The problem is that I'd *like* to be really crafty, and I'd like to have really, really cool/memorable/splashy parties for the kids. But the other problem is that I'm not especially crafty.

(On a separate but related note, we went to such a cute birthday party last night: an indoor camp-out with hot dogs for the kids, tents set up, trail mix, cupcakes with "dirt" and "sticks." It was great--the kids had a ball, it was homegrown, and really cute. I was impressed.)

In conversations with both LCS and my sister-in-law (both of whom are great party-throwers totally fun ways) this week, they reminded me (patiently) that the point of birthday parties for small kids is not to cause stress for the parents. What would my kids enjoy most? Playing with their new Mountain State Town friends.

So on Friday, I did one swoop through the party store (which has lots of fun stuff for a hula party--SIL, maybe some year??) and got everything: a few simple treats for some very simple goody bags for the kids; plates/bowls/etc in primary colors; invitations. We'll invite about 12 kids and 15 adults for chili and salad next Sunday. I'll get balloons and a cake.

It'll be low-key and, I hope, really fun.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Two reviews and an odd little story.

An update on recently mentioned books:
If you find gardening the slightest bit amusing or relaxing, or if the idea of growing your own food produces some romantic sense of accomplishment, read *The $64 Tomato*. It's well written, funny, informative... just a really good read. Perhaps his book was more meaningful and hilarious to me in light of the fact that I once thought we should maximize our own 1/2-acre by planting 80 fruit trees. Let's just say my level headed husband got me down to 5 trees and I think that's about all we'll be able to handle. The author, William Alexander, has no such spouse. He had the notion that it'd be great to produce most of his own food, organically, the way nature intended and the way people (including his father) used to do on their own land, by their own toil. So with the help of a landscape architect, he designs a garden with 22 beds. Yep, twenty-two beds of soil waiting to be planted, weeded, weeded, weeded and then harvested at some point (with luck). There are definitely unforeseen challenges, but the book is not so self-depricating that he loses all the readers' respect. Really, read this book. It doesn't have a genre, so don't say to yourself, "I just don't know if that's the kind of book I'd like." Unless you've never bought even a houseplant hoping for miracles, you'll be able to relate.

And another quick review on a book that definitely falls into a genre:
Just got done with *Me Times Three* by Alex Witchel. Super-duper chick lit fluff and good stuff at that. Want a little romance, a little deceit, a few handsome dudes, and bad bosses all set in NYC? Then this is the book for you. I hadn't found a good, fun read like this for a while, so I was happily turning the pages through this one. Definitely no Pulitzer Prize in the future, but it has the kind of ending that makes you hope for a sequel so you can find out what happens after they get the house in the suburbs. Sigh. Sometimes our brains just need a little break. Even from gardening.

And one more thing that falls into the this-should-be-in-another-post-but-it's-not:
Have you heard about this? So a bunch of letters apparently addressed to a now-deceased pastor wash up on the Jersey shore, and no one with any connection to the pastor can be found. There's no family, no friends to speak of, and basically no one wants to claim responsibility for these letters. And so these letters, which consist of many people's deepest secrets, are going to be sold... on ebay. I'm as curious as the next guy about what written in them, but doesn't this seem a little cold? These are people begging for forgiveness for abortions they've had, or hoping the father of their baby will marry them... hmm. Hope my family's skeletons aren't in that closet.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Two things I've heard (maybe only cute to those I'm related to)

I was teaching Boy #1 one of my favorite little ditties, "This Land is Your Land". While we were singing in the car, he wanted to clarify: "No, Mommy, that land is your land and this land is my land." I think we've missed the point. Sorry, Mr. Guthrie.

Also heard in our house:
After I snuck a little piece of chocolate chip cookie, I went to check on the tooth brushing progress of Boy #2. "What do you have in your mouth, Mom?" he said. "Nothing," was my obvious reply. To which he said, "Then why do you smell like chocolate?"