Monday, April 28, 2014

Insider's DC: Maryland Day

Now, don't worry.  I haven't given up on Blogging A to Z.  It may take another month, but I will finish.  However, I know there are some of you out there (Mom) who enjoy this blog not only for its writerly content, but also for the pictures of the kiddos.  So, today, I give you that.  Tomorrow, back to the writing.

One of our favorite annual DC activities, which does not, in fact, happen in DC, is Maryland Day.  On a spring Saturday, the University of Maryland fills their campus with family friendly activities.  Games, music, cool demonstrations, free balloons: basically, it's everything that kids and their grown-ups could want.

This year's highlights included a bubble machine, some Kurt-powered light bulbs, a performance from the UMD drum line (Elijah's favorite) and a rare moment of Elijah non-camera shyness in the back of a police car.

I know he's my own child, but seriously, could he be any cuter?

Come back tomorrow for a little bit a of story starting with the letter P.

Friday, April 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 24)
Girl loves her hats

So, as of this writing, I am up to the letter N in the A to Z challenge, which puts me, oh, ten letters behind or so.  But, I will persevere.  It might take until summer to get to Z, but it's going to happen.
Disclaimer: I am a math nerd.  If you are not also a math nerd, you may just want to skip down to number three because this particular quick take will not matter to you whatsoever.  
There is a classic probability experiment called The Monte Hall problem.  It has always, always bothered me.  I never understood why the solution is what it is.  And then, I watched this video on Khan Academy, and the metaphorical light bulb was illuminated. If you have experienced this same problem, I highly recommend watching this video.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, sorry.  But I thought I'd let you know. 

While I am typing these quick takes, I am making my first attempt at oil pulling.  I'll let you know how it goes.  So far, delicious. 

It was my turn to pick the book club book this month, so we are reading this.  Lately, my book club has had the problem of not everyone reading this book, which informed my choice.  I figure, if we all start at the beginning, we'll have at least one story to discuss.  So far, my favorite story in the book is "The Summer People."

For dessert tonight, I am making Jell-o Cheesecake.  I've wanted to make it for a few weeks now, but I held off because it was Lent.  Judge away, but I love the stuff.

One of the funniest bloggers out there, Grace, had baby number 4 this week.  Congrats to her and many blessings on her beautiful family!

Finally, I want to give a big shout out to my parents and Kurt's who have visited us in the past two weeks and have watched the kids for date nights, washed hundreds of dishes, and general been great company.  Thanks Am, Jeff, Marty, and Buddy.  You are welcome back any time.

Blogging A to Z: Once Upon a Time

               (First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge? Start here.  Or, if you don't, know that this is just the beginning of work of fiction.  It is neither complete, nor true.)

        Once, there was a girl.  She was ordinary in many ways, extraordinary in a few.  She was not a princess, secret or otherwise.  If offered the chance at a life of luxury, she might have taken it, but all in all, more or less, she was happy. 
                She lived in a cottage at the edge of a forest, as girls in stories such as this often do.  The cottage was neat and tidy on the outside, with well-tended flower beds and a sweet little kitchen garden where the girl grew tomatoes, sugar-snap peas and turnips.  She hated turnips, but an old woman had once told her that they were the secret to a long life, so she ate them anyway, mashed, with lots of butter.
                The inside of the cottage was another story, although it is still a part of this one.  It was an absolute disaster.  To open a cabinet or closet was to risk death by avalanche.  Trying to find a clear path for walking was a futile effort, so the girl just wore socks to avoid soiling the carpet of clothes, and hoped that nothing too sharp lurked beneath the surface.  Stacks of papers leaned precariously on every raised surface.  Even the girl's bed was barely discernible, as books of every size and shape littered the covers.  She had become accustomed to sleeping a top their multitudes, and to avoid being stabbed in the night, she only bought paperbacks.  If this story were taking place in the present day, the girl would have been a prime candidate for that show about hoarders, but this was a long time ago (and far, far, away), so most days no one had to witness the material mayhem except the girl herself.
                The mess, however, was not the girl's fault, or at least not entirely.  As with many girls of her geographic and temporal location, she had been cursed.  When she was five years old, she was out in the yard of a different cottage, this one belonging to her parents.  It was time for dinner, and her mother had told her to put her dolls away and come inside.  The girl simply did not feel like doing either of these things, and because she was five and not sixteen, rather than simply ignoring her mother's instructions, she decided to throw a temper tantrum.  As the tantrum was reaching its peak, an old woman entered the yard.  (It should be noted that this was not the same woman who advised the girl on the health benefits of turnips, which was a piece of helpful advice and not an actual curse.)
                The old woman saw the girl rolling in the dirt and yelling, "I will never put my dolls away! Never! Never!  NEVER!"   The old woman waited for the girl to stop to catch her breath, which seemed to take a surprisingly long time, particularly to someone who had never before witnessed a five-year-old tantrum.      In the brief silence between howls, the old woman asked the girl, "What on earth is the matter with you, child?  You are dirty and disgusting, and your toys are thrown about you like rags.  You should be ashamed."
                The girl looked up from where she was lying, and, in a moment of true childishness, stuck her tongue out at the old woman.  Well, that was the last straw.  If this old woman had been a camel, her back would have been broken.  Because, as with many old woman in that time and place, she also happened to be a witch, she did what she knew best.  She cursed the girl.
                "Dirty, disgusting child.  You show no appreciation for the gifts you have been given: home, family, nice things to play with.  When the clock strikes midnight on your sixteenth birthday, you will become blind to your own filth.  Your house will be so filled with junk that you will have no friends, or at least none that will come over and visit.  You will be like those people in the show who have so much stuff they can hardly move.  You will be the victim of your own disorganization!" And with that, although it was a clear day, there was a resounding clap of thunder.
                 This so startled the girl that she ran inside.  Unfortunately, this meant that she missed out on the second part of the curse, where the old woman would have told her how to undo it.  When the girl went back outside a few hours later, the only trace of the old woman's visit were some claw marks in the dirt.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blogging A to Z: Noodles


            (First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge?Start here.)
            Note:Clearly, I am not going to make it to Z by the end of the month.  I considered giving up entirely, but that felt lame. And I considered trying to catch up, but that felt impossible. So, I will persist as best I can, and though it may not be until the end of next month, I will complete the challenge. So stick around.

                Noodles.  That should have been my first clue that today was going to be one of those days.   I walked into the dining room, my hair still wet from the shower, and there was my son, Elliot, seated at the table, napkin on his lap, necktie over his t-shirt, eating a bowl of pasta.  For breakfast.  He had sprinkled what appear to be almonds over the top, and had some sort of fruit, a peach maybe, sitting on a plate. 
                "Good morning," I said, attempting to make eye contact.  He was staring at his pasta and did not look up.  
                "Elliot, we have been working on this.  When someone says 'good morning', the polite thing to do is look them in the eye and say 'good morning' back.  Can you try that, please?"
                He looked up at me.  Right in the eye.  I held back an audible sigh of relief.  I felt my shoulders relax, though I hadn't realized they weren't already.  I waited.  One prompt, said the therapist.  Don't nag.
                "Nice," he said.
                This is puzzling.  Usually, he either humored me and mumbles "Good morning," or said nothing at all. 
                "Nice what?" I asked.
                He shrugged.  "Nothing."
                I realized at that moment that I needed coffee if I was going to continue this conversation.  I walked into the kitchen. 
                I called into the other room.  "Do you need a ride to school today?"  Brooks Elementary is three blocks away, but sometimes, particularly when there is a chance of rain, or even a chance of a chance of rain, Elliot would rather not risk the raindrops.  Cold and wet are his two least favorite sensations, and he avoids them at all costs.  Personal hygiene is a challenge for us. 
                "Not necessary," he called back. 
                Not necessary.  A complete thought.  But there was something else that pricked my consciousness when he said that.  Not necessary.  Alliteration.  I am, after all, a middle school English teacher.  If there's one thing I know, it's poetic devices.  I walked back into the dining room.
                "Is today an  N day?" I asked.
                Elliot beamed.  Jackpot.  "November ninth," he replied. 
                Suddenly, it all made sense.  Noodles, nuts and a nectarine for breakfast.  A necktie.  I looked down at his feet.  Nikes.  I felt triumphant.  My son is a ten thousand piece jigsaw puzzle and for one moment, I had actually put two pieces together. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Blogging A to Z: Monday's

                   (First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge?  Start here.
        Monday's my favorite day of the week.  One time, I heard some white guy with a suit say TGIF to this other white guy in a suit at the bus stop, and I asked my friend Neecie what it means and she said it means, "Thank God it's Friday," because the weekend is coming, so now Neecie and I say TGIM except we say it like T-gym, and it's secret code for us because we both like Mondays best. 
                If you came to visit my house, it's the one with the peeling green paint and the trash in the yard, you would know why I like Mondays best.  Mondays are school.  Neecie and I are both in the seventh but we're not in the same class like we were last year.  That was so great.  This year, I'm in Ms. Burgess's homeroom and she's in Mr. Angelo's homeroom and we only see each other at lunch time and when we walk to the library afterschool so that neither one of us has to get home to early.  Neecie can never stay too long, though, because she brings her brother David with and he always gets to whining about how hungry he is after we've only been in the library for five minutes and you can't eat in there because of how rats like crumbs.  I know rats like crumbs because my house has them.  Crumbs and rats, I mean.
                But you were asking why I like Mondays the best, and I guess I haven't really been clear on that.  Let me tell you about my school.  Everything there is clean and neat.  We each have our jobs to do in homeroom, and this month I am in charge of watering the plants, which is sort of fun but last month I was in charge of sweeping the floor which was better because the tile is smooth and flat and real easy to get the crumbs off.  Plus, there's not that many crumbs because Ms. Burgess doesn't let us eat in there.  Some kids get mad about that but I don't mind because at my house my mom doesn't have any rules about where you can eat and my brothers, all five of them, they eat wherever they want and the crumbs get into the cracks in the floor boards and no matter how much I sweep, which I do a lot, it never gets clean.  But the classroom floor is so clean that you could wear white socks and no shoes and I bet they wouldn't even get dirty.  At my house I keep my shoes on because even when I sweep up the crumbs, the floor still feels sticky and I do all the laundry and I don't feel like washing my socks all the time.
                Also, at school, everything has its right place.  Like, if I need a new pencil, I just go over to the closet and find the bin that says pencils, and there they are, a nice, neat row of them, all yellow, all sharp.  At home, when the cans of food come from that place down the street, my mom just shoves them wherever she feels like and that drives me totally crazy.  I'll be trying to fix dinner, which when you have five brothers is a lot of dinner, and I don't know if we are really out of tomatoes or if they are just under the sink or maybe even down in the basement, and by the time I find them my brothers are hungry and they just microwave cups of noodles which have a lot of salt and no good vitamins.  I know because I saw it on this TV show with doctors.