Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Insert Spooky Laughter Here...

As promised: PICTURES! Love 'em while you've got 'em, because I'm going to delete this post in a few days. Having full-face pictures on the internet makes me uneasy, but these are just too good to pass up.

The truffle during the school parade. Notice Mr. VeryTall behind her. Seriously, the man has to duck to go through doorways:

The crew, on the way out to scam some loot. This is the first year Daddy went out with a costume. He liked having the cape - it was chilly last night:

The take! There's one house that, every year, gives out GIANT Crunch bars. Someone in that family must work for Nestle or something, because those bad boys ain't cheap:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Did You Hear That?!?

That was ME, WHOOPING for JOY!

I came home from teaching this afternoon to find that my husband had come home for lunch and...

...installed my new keyboard and power button! I'm back on MY computer with MY bookmarks and MY files and MY mail program! It's like I've been given a limb back, People. Seriously!

(and this picture? It's a picture of THIS post - kind of like when a hostage holds today's newspaper to show proof of life - just so you know I'm not making anything up)


Sunday, October 29, 2006


Well, thank GOD for small miracles!

It turns out that the battery switch a couple of weeks ago DIDN'T kill my computer, as we'd feared. After much tinkering by both computer repair guys (which amounted to exactly zero useful information) and my husband (who, genius that he is, figured out what the real problem was), it's been determined that my power button crapped out.

That's it! No disc failure, no hard drive meltdown, no memory damage, just a wonkey power button!

There is much rejoicing in Chili Land!

Husband says he's ordered a new top bit for my computer; he wanted to replace the keyboard while he was at it - I've worn some of the paint off the keys and my bracelet, my wedding gift from my husband, has worn all the pretty metallic stuff off the right side of the keyboard where my wrist rests. The replacement parts should be in sometime this week!

The Darkness...

I forgot that with the end of Daylight Savings Time comes the early darkness. It's five minutes past five and pitch black outside. Pretty soon, it's going to start getting dark at three thirty in the afternoon, and I'll be gripped with an almost impossible-to-resist urge to crawl into my pajamas. I'm pretty sure humans were meant to hibernate.


Sunday Love

I teach two classes at the health club on Sunday mornings: a step class that runs from 8:30-9:30 and a yoga class that runs from 9:30-10:30. I've been teaching these classes for years now - I forget how many, really - and nearly every single Sunday morning, my beloved has rolled over as I've snuck out of bed and made little coughing noises, indicating that I should call in sick and crawl back under the covers.

I won't say that I've not been tempted, particularly on cold, rainy (or snowy) mornings when the pull of the feather comforter is especially strong. Add to that the fact that Sunday is "pancake day" in my house - my husband makes breakfast of some of the best chocolate chip pancakes ever experienced by human beings - and I miss it. Sure, there are leftovers waiting for me when I get home, but it's just not the same. It's almost enough to make me stay in bed.

I don't call in sick, though, because - nearly every single Sunday for as long as I've done this - the people who come to my classes make it worth getting up and braving the cold (and missing the fresh-off-the-griddle pancakes). I have my "regulars" who, just by their presence, make the classes fun and rewarding. I've developed a sort of situational relationship with some of these people, and I really do look forward to seeing them each week.

Today, my step class was populated with seven regulars, and we had a blast. Strangely, the yoga class was packed today - 22 people in all - but several of them are people I see consistently each week. Two of them stayed after the class to tell me how much they enjoy it, how they look foward to it all week, and just generally conspired to make me feel glad about getting out of bed this morning.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fall Back

Daylight savings time
ends tonight. I always feel strange this time of year: I dread the impending winter with the cold and snow and the darkness that comes ever earlier, but I LOVE warm sweaters and woobie socks and the holidays.

And the extra hour of sleep I get tomorrow morning.

Today - or, rather, tonight - is one of my favorite days. It seems silly and insignificant, but I really dig the extra hour of sleep. For the first few weeks, until I start getting used to the shift, everything seems easier. I have more energy, I feel less rushed. My logical side (and yes, wise-guys, I have a logical side; I just choose to not use it too often. Don't want to wear it out, you know) tells me that it's only an hour. What possible difference can an hour one way or the other make?

My body tells my logical side to shove it - it makes a hell of a lot of difference. Talk to me in the spring when I'm always late for everything and dead tired for the first week or so of DST. I pry myself awake at what, yesterday, was FIVE-FREAKING-THIRTY IN THE MORNING. That's just not right, and I resent it for longer than I should, despite the freshening weather and the extended play time in the evenings.

Falling back is, by far, my preferred direction.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Items of No Particular Note

So, I really don't have anything interesting or exciting to say, but I feel the need to write, so you get this:

*While on a whirlwind vacuuming tear across my house yesterday, having finally gotten fed up with the bits of dried leaves, myriad spider webs, and cat hair tumbleweeds, I found Beanie's home folder! It's been missing for more than a month and I've been giving her regular doses of shit for not having it. Anyway, I left it in the middle of the great room floor for her to find when she came home from school and when she saw it, her eyes lit up and she said, "MOMMY! You FOUND it?! You must be MAGIC!" Why, yes, thank you. I am.

(and the magic of a clean house didn't last. I babysat my two nephews last night, and all four of the kids spent about an hour in the leaves in the front yard. My house is back to looking like the enthusiastic start of a really good compost pile. Sigh)

*Today is Hallowe'en in the girls' school. Punkin' is going as a "rose fairy" - she's got a light green formal dress (a hand-me-down from a friend's daughter) and fairy wings. Beanie is going as a Lindt truffle. A milk chocolate Lindt truffle, to be more specific. Daddy - an engineer - designed and built a contraption using under-floor heating pipe, tin foil, Duck Tape and acetate gift wrap. She's going to look great. I MAY post a picture of them - a real, face-on picture - so you can see for yourself what gorgeous children I have. You'll have to look quickly, though, because I won't keep the photo up for long.

*There's a change that has happened at the health club where I work that I want DESPERATELY to blog about, but the Universe is telling me "NO!" in rather emphatic fashion, so I'm going to refrain. I even had a whole section written about it, but the voices in my head screamed at me to delete it. Better judgment wins out over the desire to bitch.

*I'm spending the morning with Organic Mama. We're going to do some in-service work for TCC and then go shopping. On Wednesday, we co-wrote a kick-ass final for the grammar classes we teach, but we didn't get around to the homework our bosses gave to us, so that's on the agenda for today (because I think it's due on Monday). Even if we blow through the in-service, we won't have time to get to Trader Joe's, and I'm a little disappointed about that. A Target just recently opened in our general neighborhood, though, so that's where we're headed. I need to remember to pick up some girl-mittens and some dishwasher soap.

That's about all I've got for you this morning. I promised you content - I never made any claims about the eloquence or excitement thereof...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Kizz's List, #15: Friends

(author's note: I reserve the right to re-visit this list item. I am profoundly blessed in the friend department and don't think I can limit my posts on the subject to just one.)

I spent yesterday with someone I love and care for very much, and I'm feeling so much better for it.

WeedWoman is someone I was guided by the Universe to meet; looking back on it, I don't think I really had much choice in the matter. She used to work at the health club and I distinctly remember seeing her every now and then but not really thinking much of it: we never had occasion to speak to one another. Then, one night, we were attending the same (boring) staff meeting and the Universe was insisting, rather emphatically, that I introduce myself.

I was, I will admit, a little hesitant to do this. WeedWoman looks, on the surface, to be a crunchy-granola, Earth Mother type, and I'm none of those things. I wasn't sure I could handle a relationship with someone who looked likely to be a strict vegan; I wasn't interested in subjecting myself to the disapproval of someone who lived a cleaner, more wholesome life than I do. Still, I promised myself that I would LISTEN when the Universe spoke to me, so I took the chance, walked up to her after the meeting ended, and thrust myself rather unceremoniously into her life.

She is now someone I can't live without, and wouldn't choose to even if I could. While she does have her Earth Mother tendencies, she is neither militant nor judgmental about them (I remember very clearly asking her, early in our friendship, if she was a vegetarian. "Oh, GOD, no!" she replied, "sometimes a girl's just gotta have a burger!" It was sometime around that point that I knew she was a keeper.)

There are a lot of reasons why I love her. She's smart and observant. She's practical and trustworthy. She appreciates the simple pleasures and she's a walking riot. I cannot spend five minutes with this woman without laughing. She cracks me up all the time, and I do the same to her. I think it frightens our husbands a little bit that we're always laughing together. They don't always get what's so funny. I kind of like that, come to think of it.

I am so grateful for her presence in my life, and am finding out just how much I HATE that she's moved. We're not within easy distance from each other anymore. Seeing one another requires forethought, decent weather and a full tank of gas. Gone are the days of a "Hey! Whatcha doin'?" phone call followed by impromptu lunch or shopping. It does mean, though, that I treasure all that much more the time that we DO get to spend together.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Le Chat Noir

In many things, my beloved and I have a very yin-yang thing going on. He is very often quiet and reserved and I am, well, not - at least, not often. He is math and science smart and I'm all about the language and the literature. He wants to know HOW things work and I just want to know THAT things work. He revels in the process, I'm more focused on end results. For the most part, these differences in how we operate work out quite nicely for us; we fill in the missing pieces and complement each other very, very well.

Sometimes, though, it's not such a perfect fit.

The fact that I blog makes my husband uneasy. I respect and appreciate his reasoning; blogging can be an extremely risky undertaking. He's seen me get dooced. He worries about cyber-psychos and stalkers and identity theft and the like. All of these are well-founded concerns; the internet can, indeed, be a dangerous place. Still, he recognizes that blogging is a creative and intellectual exercise for me and has come, I think, to a grudging respect for the medium and my use of and affection for it.

In the process of blogging, I've come to "know" a few people through their own writing and their comments on my sites. Contrary and her husband, Pookie (who, I'm betting, is nothing like what I imagine a "Pookie" to be). Blue (whose site I can't link to, because everytime I try, it locks me out of my browser!!**) and her husband, Asshole (who, I'm betting, is exactly like what I expect an "Asshole" to be, but in the best possible ways, like "you call me "Asshole" like it's a bad thing"). One of these, Vanx over at Verb-Ops, is a particular favorite of mine. He's smart and funny and, over the course of about a year now, we've had conversations about everything from hair styles and hot sauce to Frankenstein and the nature of human existence. I can tell, from our correspondence, that he's someone I can really like and respect and, as such, I've been a little less careful about keeping my secret identity a secret from him (the fact that he's so smart that he kind of outed me once is beside the point, really).

Vanx has made a couple of trips to France in the past year, and one of those journeys resulted in a photo on his alternate site, Foto-Ops, of a store that featured posters of Le Chat Noir. I commented on this picture that I have always wanted a copy of that poster. Dear, sweet man that he is, Vanx scored one for me on his most recent trip! He emailed me early last week to find out how to best get it to me, and I sent him my address.

The poster arrived on Saturday and my husband, seeing the tube, asked what it was. I told him it was a poster. He asked if I'd gotten it from eBay and I, not in the habit of lying to my husband (or to anyone, for that matter), told him that it had come from Vanx.

Suffice to say that this did not go over well.

I don’t think that the problem was so much that Vanx had bought me a present, but that I gave him my address so he could mail it to me. After a very short and uncomfortable discussion about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of divulging such information to strangers, Husband made a dismissive comment about it being "my life" (the unspoken implication of which was that I could play fast and loose with it if I wanted, but that I was doing so very much against his will) before he left for a police auction and I left to teach a yoga class.

He left first, and I spent a little bit of time pacing the floor and fuming. It wasn't long, though, before I was struck by a moment of clarity and saw this confrontation as an opportunity for us. Before I left, I wrote this note and stuck it to the door for my beloved to find:

Dear You,

I am, by nature, outgoing and friendly. These things are essential parts of who I am and part of why you love me. I need for you to trust me to make sound judgments about the people I choose to let in. Good friends are worth a little risk.


We haven't really spoken about this since I left the note. I suspect that I made my point well and that he's taking some time to process the idea that it's not his concerns for our safety that upset me, but his lack of faith in my ability to judge character and to make decisions about who I invite in as a friend. One of the things that I adore about my husband is his ability to really consider new things and his willingness to change his thinking if presented with a valid reason to do so.

Wait: that’s TWO things...

(**Blue, if you're reading, check into that for me, would you? I haven't been able to properly congratulate you on your clean amnio results because your blog freezes my computer up solid!)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

We're Experiencing Technical Difficulties; Please Hold.

The replacement battery for my laptop, one that's not supposed to be prone to, well, explosion, came on Thursday. Thinking that it was a good idea to have a stable battery in my computer (he's sweet like that), my husband removed the old battery and replaced it with the new one.

I was planning on taking the computer with me to a seminar I attended on Friday, so my husband shut her down so I could pack her into the briefcase for the trip. I'm not sure what caused him to do it, but he hesitated and said that he'd better try to restart it, just in case.

That's when all the trouble started.

The new battery didn't explode or anything (I just thought that the picture above was pretty dramatic and would get your attention), but it seems to have scrambled the brains of my laptop. It won't turn back on. It's not responding to anything. Husband tried everything he could think of; he put the old battery back in, he plugged the power cord in with the new battery, then the old battery, then NO battery. He called the tech support line for Mac and was given a couple of secret-code-ish things to try ('press this, this, and this button simultaneously while pushing the 'on' button and whistling the theme to Star Trek"). Still nothing.

Our local Mac repair place is in the midst of moving from a location in our town to a new store a few towns over and won't be able to take a look at the computer until at least Monday. I'm hoping that they'll be able to flip a switch or press a magic sequence of buttons or whisper some magic Mac Voodoo to wake her up again. In the meantime, I'll be posting from WeedWoman's old laptop, because I just can't be unplugged for too long.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Problems I Can't Solve for Her...

Damn! This Mommy business is tough stuff!

Last night, I went into the girls' room to sneak a couple of nighttime smooches when I found Beanie crying. I scooped her out of her bed and took her to the couch with me where I held her until she was able to tell me what was wrong, and it seems that she's having trouble fitting in at recess. She'd mentioned that this was a problem a couple of weeks ago, and we made the typical suggestions ('try joining in with what the other kids are doing, rather than insisting that they play what you want to play' and 'start a game of something fun and see who wants to join you.') but, so far, her best efforts to remedy the situation have come to naught.

She's sat down with her teacher and talked about the problem as it concerns a specific girl who is nice enough to her "when grown-ups are around," but who snubs Beanie on the playground. I should mention here that she talked to her teacher because she was looking for advice on how to manage her feelings about this girl, not because she wanted her teacher to intervene on her behalf in any way: we're teaching the girls to deal with things as best they can on their own, but to go to trusted grown-ups when the situation is more than they feel they can handle. Beanie thought that going to Mr. VeryTall was a good idea "because he's been teaching second grade for a long time and maybe he knows something special about us that I (Bean) don't know." It was an inspired thought, and we encouraged her to run with it.

Anyway, I emailed the teacher again this morning, both to mention last night's trauma and to bring him up to speed on some other things we're working on with our precious seven-year-old. Here's what I wrote:

Hi, Mr. VeryTall,

Please don't think I'm a crazy stalker or a helicopter mom. I'm neither, but Bean seems to be in a developmental stage where she needs a little extra attention.

Three things: 1 - it seems she's still having playground problems. I wouldn't worry about it so much, but it's enough to have had her in tears last night. She's trying to invite kids to play with her, and it doesn't seem to be working. I've suggested that she try to join in their play, or to invite kids to play with her BEFORE recess - to make 'dates'. She said she'd try. I just want you to be aware that this is something going on for her.

2 - on Tuesday, I found two bad bananas, a bag of dehydrated apples (that were never meant to be dehydrated) and a bag of grapes nearly turned to water in her back pack. I didn't send her with a snack today because I don't trust her to not leave it in her bag. Eating well is an issue for her - if you notice, can you encourage her to eat whatever fruit or dairy Mom sends in, please?

3 - She still hasn't found her damned home folder! I found her spelling test in her bag this morning - bust her about getting it back to you late, please. We're working on issues of personal responsibility, and it's a tough sell at the moment. Any encouragement she can get in the classroom would be well appreciated.


-Mrs. Chili

I got this in return:

I'm on it! If it is any consolation a lot of the second graders have social problems at recess and accountablity is always an issue.

I have been checking in with her about how recess has been going. I 'll do a better job.


It IS a little bit of a consolation that this is a typical second-grade problem, though it still rips my heart out to hear my outgoing, lovely, social baby cry because she can't find a friend to play with. While talking to Organic Mama about it this morning, she mentioned that "second grade is the puberty of elementary school" and that there's so much going on developmentally, socially, and cognatively that it's a wonder kids survive.

I say, it's a wonder the mommies survive.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kizz's List, #5: Christmas

Christmas is going to be held at our house this year.

This is a huge deal for me. Huge. Let's just say that the addition wasn't specifically built to accommodate our having yule celebrations at our address, but it was certainly one of the contributing reasons we refinanced ourselves up to here and have endured what seems like an endless transition period.

For as long as I've been alive, I can't recall a Christmas that hasn't involved getting dressed up and going somewhere. Well, there wasn't always the "dressed up" part - my parents weren't the "dressed up" type - but it ALWAYS involved going somewhere. No one ever came to us, ever. There would be the Christmas morning, opening presents routine, then all the new toys and books would have to be abandoned so we could all pile in the car and make the rounds to the various grandparents.

This didn't change after I moved out, either. Every December 25th, for my entire life, has involved driving to see someone, even after Husband and I were married. His family has a tradition of sharing the two big end-of-year holidays between his mother and her sister-in-law: if Thanksgiving is at Auntie El's house, then Christmas is at Mum's, then they switch for the next year (and they pass the same plum pudding between the holidays. I'm here to tell you that brandy can preserve ANYTHING! But I digress...)

The addition is built and - mostly - put together. We went to IKEA a couple of weeks ago and bought a gorgeous table with two leaves that can seat 12 people without cramping anyone's style. My kitchen is fully functional and I have absolutely no doubt that my culinary skills are up to the task of cooking for the masses. So what's the problem?

The shifting of traditions and the bruised expectations that come with it.

While agonizing over who to invite to our Christmas celebrations over a couple of slices at our local Pizza Hut a couple of weeks ago, Husband and I stopped ourselves short and looked at the children. Really, the main reason we want to have Christmas at our house is so that the girls can have the memories of their own house filled with family and friends on that big day; so they can remember NOT having to leave their new books and toys behind to get in the car and drive to someone else's house for the better part of the day; so we can all be together and in intimately familiar surroundings without having to watch the clock or worry about who's offended that we didn't chose to spend a certain portion of it with them. Feeling proud of ourselves that we'd made that grounding realization before the whole mess spun out of control, we put down the pizza and asked the girls to compile a list of people they want to have with them for Christmas celebrations.

We four, of course.
Uncle Corkie (Daddy's twin)
Auntie (Mommy's sister)
Grandmom and Grandad (Daddy's parents)
Nana and Grampa (Mommy's adopted mom and step-dad - more on that later)
Uncle Naked (don't ask) and Auntie Bobbie
Gramma C and Grampa B (Mommy's adopted grandparents)

(then they mentioned that they wanted the Bowyer and WeedWoman families to visit in the afternoon, "after they're done spending time with their other families," which was beautiful. The girls love these people as family - there's never been any question that they were ever anything less.)

That's it. That's the girls' dream team for Christmas day.

My in-laws really are lovely people. They are kind and smart and worldly. They are polite and know how to behave in public. They are not going to be happy about any of this. First of all, Auntie El and Uncle Tee and their grown son, daughter and son-in-law don't appear on the list. While I'm going to make an executive Mommy-decision and invite them anyway, I have to say that, were I making a dream-team, I'd probably leave that part of the family off, too. We only see them for major holidays, weddings and funerals. They are perfectly nice people; we're just not close. Uncle Tee is Mum's brother, though, and there is a sort of obligation they feel - drilled into them by their own mother - to gather together on "important" dates, even though they'd all probably rather be somewhere else. Still, Aunt and Uncle don't DETRACT from the environment, so I don't have any issue with inviting them beyond the fact that they'd bring my dinner guest number up to 19, and even WITH the addition, I'm not sure I'd have the space.

The second issue is that I'm adopted. Not LEGALLY, though I suppose it would be an easy enough thing to do at this point. I was taken in as a teenager by Uncle Naked's (don't ask) family. They wrapped themselves protectively around me and propped me up and kept me whole and alive through some things I still can't remember with any reliable clarity. They ARE my family - far more than anyone related to me by mere blood. My mother-in-law, though? She just doesn't get it. She can't get through that I belong to these people - and that they belong to me. She can't reconcile the fact that my husband (HER son!), our children and I are far better off without my biological parents anywhere NEAR the picture. She refuses to see my adopted family as anything more than "just friends," and it's not right to spend Christmas with "just friends." Christmas is for FAMILY, and she gives off the distinct feeling of disapproval when she realizes that, yet again and for as long as I've known her, we're leaving their place to go and visit my adopted family.

What all this is leading up to is that I'm worried that combining our families for Christmas, particularly if Uncle Tee and Auntie El don't accept our invitation, will leave my in-laws feeling like strangers in a strange land (which is highly likely, as Aunt and Uncle's daughter was married this past year and it's likely that their holiday traditions will change as a result). I don't know if my in-laws will accept the presence of my people in a gracious and open way.

Now, don't get me wrong: part of me doesn't give a flying you-know-what if they can be gracious or not. We're talking about MY house. MY family. MY children and MY husband (their SON!). If they want to come and be lovely, they're more than welcomed. If they want to be all uppity and tongue-clicky and disapproving, they can just stay the hell home. The other part of me, though, the part that recognizes that my in-laws are aging and very likely frustrated (and probably frightened) about the evolution of tradition, wants to be as accommodating as I possibly can. I'm just not sure that I can be accommodating enough without sacrificing something that I - and my children - desperately want: a Christmas in our house with people who love and care for us.

"The most wonderful time of the year," my ass.

My Space!!

No, not like THAT!! Jeez! What kind of girl do you think I am?!

Check out my new desk!!

Up until last weekend, that edge of the counter was loaded with Husband's tools and random miscellanea related to the assembly of various cabinets, remote contolled helicopters and IKEA furniture. Husband cleaned all that stuff out, though, and I've moved in!!

I'm trying to figure out how to best settle into the space. I think that the calendar (the thing with the mulit-colored note paper on the side) may just lay flat on the counter because there's really no good way to mount it. I'm going to move the coin jars from behind the computer to another spot - I have no need for money while I'm sitting here. I love the stereo speakers in the corner - I just reach over and hit the iPod's "go" button and I'm in business. Husband has promised to engineer a way of keeping all the various chargers and cords off the top of the counter - he's planning on drilling holes and expanding the outlets under the desk, but it's really not a huge priority right now. I really dig the magnetic container thingies on the wall to the right - only one has anything in it just now (binder and paper clips, in case you were wondering. I'm not sure what else will go in there). I've also got to figure a way of keeping paper and writing implements handy but not in the way, and I definitely need a more comfortable chair.

The point is, though, that I've got a space for my computer and my school books and everything! One step closer to the Holy Grail of having the house put together and relatively organized!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Almost Too Sweet

Here's the scene: It's morning, 7 a.m., to be exact. I walk into the dusky dawn of the girls' room, quietly singing the "good morning" song ("good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning, pretty babies, good morning to you" sung to, of course, "happy birthday"). I get to about the second "good morning" and a sleepy little voice from the top bunk says " It's morning ALREADY??"

They are so beautiful, and I'm so grateful they chose me to be their mom...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Good, Old-Fashioned Ass Kickin'

Or should I say "ass whippin'"? Courtesy of Tim Haft and his Punk Rope program.

You may or may not know that I'm a fitness instructor. I teach primarily step and yoga, though I can also teach strength/resistance training, aqua aerobics and BoSu. I've been teaching fitness classes for about six years; I got into the profession after joining a health club after Beanie, my second (and last) baby, was born. I took classes for about six months before I started teaching. Now I work in that same fitness center and at the university from which I graduated.

My teaching style is pretty laid back; I shy away from the boot camp style classes and the high-energy indoor cycling classes because I really don't have a go-go attitude and, well, I hate killing myself - especially in front of people. I recognize, though, that, just like my classroom teaching, I have to vary my fitness teaching every once in a while. Shake things up. Challenge myself and my students. Try new things. In fitness - as in life - it's very easy to settle into the comfortable and familiar. I don't want to get old.

I signed up for a Punk Rope certification workshop today and it was a lot of fun, though I'm pretty sure that I'm going to SERIOUSLY regret it tomorrow because my shins are already sore. I worked very hard and was occasionally embarrassed by how difficult it was to keep up. For one thing, I haven't jumped rope since I was a little girl. I took a couple of boot camp classes at my club last year and discovered that I'd outgrown my ability to jump rope smoothly. I re-discovered this today, when I managed to leave whip marks on the fronts of my ankles, the backs of my shins, and my butt. Yes, my butt. I whipped myself in the ass, dear readers, and it wasn't fun.

I was also amazed to find out just how much work it really is to jump rope and run interval drills. I can teach back-to-back step classes no problem. Skipping rope for two minutes? No can do. It requires a cardiovasuclar fitness that I don't currently possess, though I'm sure that I could build up that kind of endurance pretty quickly. This is an intense program that really encourages c/v conditioning if the participant can just stick with it.

The program is FUN, though, and an amazing workout. The interval training and rope jumping are all set to punk rock, and I was a little hesitant about the music at first, but quickly learned that the genre is perfectly suited to this kind of workout. The songs are fast-tempo and often very short - sometimes as quick as 90 seconds. Also, Tim points out, audiences at many punk concerts dance by simply jumping up and down - the "pogo," he called it. It was kind of fun, too, to hear some familiar music: I spent the better part of last year listening to my builder - who adores punk and ska - blaring both through my stereo system, sometimes loud enough to shake the walls, as he built our addition. My tastes are decidedly more mainstream and a good bit quieter. Again, it's good to shake things up.

I'm going to wait until the pain in my shins subsides before I decide how to incorporate this program into my teaching. I'm pretty sure the university will offer Punk Rope classes, but I'm not sure my club will. I was the only person from my club to take the certification, and the fitness director isn't likely to add a class to the schedule that only has one qualified instructor. I can probably get them to offer special one-of classes, though, and that will be fun. Regardless of my whining, though, I HIGHLY suggest that you take a Punk Rope class if you can. Your cardiovascular system will thank you for it, even if your shins and calves might be a little put out.

**author's note, Monday, 6:50 a.m.** Well, here it is, the "morning after" and I'm pleased and more than a little surprised to say that I'm not completely incapacitated! It took me a little while to loosen up, but a little edge-of-the-bed stretching and I'm fine; I even managed to make it down the stairs without having to ease myself down on the railing. Woo-hoo! (or perhaps I should say "Hey, ho! Let's Go!")

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Peer Pressure! (but the good kind!)

It seems that the approach of autumn brings with it the need for activity and creatitivy. Or maybe it's just a fear of crawling under the proverbial covers for the duration of winter...


Kizz over at 117hudson has posted a list of 100 writing prompts and is going to try to make her creative way through them all. I HIGHLY suggest you mosey on over and check out her effort for #17 - it's a beautifully written snapshot.

Mrs. Kennedy over at fussy.org has put out a call for bloggers to post a new entry every single day of November (it was mighty sweet of her to give us a half month's worth of notice - I need to start thinking of material NOW!).

I have accepted Fussy's challenge - I'm going to commit to writing something every single day of November, though I reserve the right to bail out on Thanksgiving if I have to - you won't be reading that day, anyway, because you'll be all strung out on triptophan and apple pie and zoning in front of the football game. Admit it. You know you will.

I'm thinking that, on days when the muse has decided to sleep in, I'll use Mz. Kizz's suggestions and do a little creative writing. I'm not making any promises about quality, but you can count on the quantity.

I've also decided to go one step further (because I'm an overachiever and I'm like that) and am going to try to READ something new every day and to COMMENT somewhere every day. I'm figuring the worst that can happen is that I find another blog to add to my already-too-long list of places I go every day - the best that can happen is I manage to lure someone to my own blog by virtue of a particularly witty or intelligent (yeah, right) comment I leave somewhere.

Anyway, that's the plan. And I'm letting you all in on it so you can hold me to it!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

That the Best Ya Got?

I'm having trouble with this.

I usually shy away from political blogging, mostly because I don't have a sufficient grasp of the topic to speak intelligently about it, but this has just steamed my dumplings.

This moron has nothing better to say about the Foley-underage-page-sex scandal than to dig up the ghost of Chappaquiddick? I mean, COME ON. This is nothing more than grade-school finger-pointing, and it's disgusting coming from the elected officials who are supposed to represent us as a people. The fact that Shays actually said that "Dennis Hastert didn't kill anybody" leads me to believe that he's got exactly zip-point-shit to say that's helpful or intelligent.

"Don't look at the bad stuff WE do! Teddy over there did something MUCH worse thirty seven years ago!"

I hate it when grown-ups act like ill-mannered six-year-olds. I hate it even more when grown-ups act like ill-mannered six-year-olds in front of television cameras and newspaper reporters.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

There They Go

As I'm making spaghetti sauce for dinner, I'm listening to CNN as they try to figure out exactly what happened in New York this afternoon. The announcement was made about a minute ago that NORAD had ordered air cover over "certain U.S. cities." At least six fighter jets just roared over my house, and I can hear the engines to more aircraft firing up at the Air National Guard base near my house.

May they come back safely...


I give you a glimpse of autumn in New England. I took these pictures in my neighborhood (and some in my own yard). I'm feeling lucky to live here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Plant Identification

Can any of you out there tell me what these are?

I took this picture at Downtown Disney in Florida, where the stuff was growing out doors and was just about as happy as I've ever seen a plant. I bought one at the Home Depot a few weeks ago, and I'm not sure it's very happy with me. The ends of some of the leaves are browning, and the middles of other leaves are turning yellow.

A friend of mine, who loves to root around in the dirt, told me that these problems are probably due to something the plant suffered before I even got it. She said that a lot of issues with plants take about two weeks to show up and that I should just be patient and see what happens once the thing has a chance to acclimate to my house. I'm hoping she's right because I really like this plant. It reminds me of Florida.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


True story: Yesterday was "Harvest Day" in my little New England Town. It's essentially a street fair where a bunch of local merchants haul some of their shit into the street and people from all over come to wander aimlessly up and down Main Street while eating candy apples and popcorn.

While we were among the wandering crowd, I noticed that one of the merchants, an art shop, had an inflatable Silent Scream; you know, like the Bopp It toy clowns from the 70s? - lashed to the pole of the tent. The thing was swaying back and forth in the light breeze, beckoning fair-goers to see what wonders were in the offering under the tent.

Anyway, also among the crowd were a startling number of dogs on leashes. Dogs of all sizes, to be accurate - we saw everything from tiny little bits smaller than my cats to a gorgeous all-black Great Dane that was, literally, taller than my youngest child.

One of these dogs, a little mop-head of a thing, had taken an interest in the Scream Bopp It and was jumping up and down, spinning on her leash and yapping as ferociously as she could manage. What had captivated her interest so completely, I do not know; perhaps she knew it was a singularly odd thing and wanted to be rid of it, maybe she saw it as a threatening presence, perhaps she has a Bopp It at home and thought that the art store had merely provided for her own personal entertainment. Regardless of the reason for her obsession with the toy, it was no easy thing for her human to haul her away from it.

Finally giving up on pulling the leash - and nearly choking her dog - the woman bent over and scooped the still-growling beastie away. Following closely behind was the woman's husband, muttering haughtily that he'd told her to just leave the damned thing at home.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Not Exactly a Day LATE...

My phone rang yesterday afternoon. It was Jessica from IKEA telling me that the stop-sale had been lifted, that they'd been restocked and we could come and get our new doors right away.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Not Good....Not Good at ALL!

My beloved and I made a hajj to IKEA yesterday. We rented a van and headed down with the intention of buying a new dining room table and chairs, a bunch of bookcases, something upon which to place the t.v. and various entertainment-related equipment, and maybe even a small couch and a couple of chairs. We also had a bunch of kitchen things we needed to return: several shelves that we found we had no use for, a set of drawer fronts that we didn't need (we miscounted) and one of the two door fronts that lives under the sink had gotten some water on it and had already started to delaminate - we wanted to exchange that one for another.

The returning part went well until we got to the bumpy door. The girl who was working that return desk started out by giving me a gentle hard time, saying that they can't accept returns or exchanges unless the item in quesiton is in its original packaging, blah, blah, and I pointed out that a) we have no original packaging for this item as it was already installed and b) these things are guaranteed against defects like the one this particular door is exhibiting and it's unreasonable for the company to expect consumers to keep EVERY SINGLE BOX to an entire kitchen suite. It was at this point that she stopped and said "Wait a minute - this is a Kelsebo door, right?"

"Yes.." I said, cautiously. "Is that important?"

"Yeah, they've put a 'stop sale' order on this style. There's a problem with them."

Oh, dear God.

It turns out that the company itself has noticed some manufacturing defects; namely, the lovely corners - which was one of the details that sold us on these particular doors - are having trouble staying together. Consequently, they've stopped selling them.

Now, you need to understand that this entire exchange at the returns desk happened while my husband was downstairs parking the van. When he appeared at my side, the first word I said to him was "BREATHE." He turned an alarming shade of paste and did the mental calculations of just how many doors with pretty corners we actually have in our kitchen (and how many hinges and handles he's going to have to take off and replace).

The girls (we had plural girls now; the woman in the next desk over saw our alarm and consternation and jumped in, trying to be helpful) explained to us that all we had to do (pfft! ALL we had to do!) was go upstairs to kitchens and pick out and purchase new doors - it didn't matter WHICH doors, either, they explained; even if the doors we chose were more expensive than the doors we currently have - and then bring our old doors back for a full credit on the new ones. I, not so kindly, pointed out that we don't have the original boxes for any of those doors, either, but they said that, in this case, that won't be a problem. Resigned to the idea that we were going to have to change the look of our kitchen before it was ever fully installed, we made our way up to kitchens.

The department manager, a Frenchman named Frederick from whom we bought our original kitchen, wasn't going to be in until after two, but we were able to get some more hopeful information from Ivy, a lovely woman who took pity on us. She explained that the company is not actually DISCONTINUING the door style we have; they're simply re-designing and re-tooling how the problem corners go together and will start selling them again when they've got it all worked out. We were thrilled to hear this because, really, we were crushed at the idea of having to choose different doors. I'm sure that we could have settled on another style and been happy with it, but not yesterday. Yesterday, we were angry and frustrated and overwhelmed at the idea of having to replace every door in our kitchen.

SO, the story continues. We are going to keep our kitchen together until Frederick calls us to say that the doors are being sold again, at which point we'll take them all off, unscrew the hinges and handles and make another trip to the store to get their replacements. We are going to be missing the one under-sink door because the return girl took it back but, because of the stop-sale order, couldn't replace it for us. We bought our bookcases and dining room table and chairs, but we didn't get a couch - the decision-making mechanisms were a little jammed by the kitchen door trauma we'd suffered earlier.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

In Anticipation of Colder Weather...

...I bought myself some hats. They arrived today. From Israel. From a website called, of all things, Modest World.

It should probably be noted here that I am neither Jewish nor particularly modest.

The hats on the site appealed to me, though, in that they are designed to cover the whole of a woman's hair. I've got some hair, and one of the reasons that I haven't really worn hats in the past is that they've all been slightly less than up to the task of keeping all that hair in one place. I have high hopes for these.

I'm pretty sure I found the link to this site on Blue's blog, but all her archives are coming up as "page not found," so I can't give proper credit. Anyway, the post was about some of the more severe rules about women's attire in some cultures and religious groups, and she'd mentioned this site as being the most fashion-conscious of those she'd come across.

I got this just the way it looks in this picture:

and this in the "black with white flowers" choice:

I plan on being warm and pretty this winter!

**author's note: I emailed Blue and her husband found the post in question. Thanks, Asshole!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


A good portion of my intellectual and emotional energy has been devoted, in the last few days, to trying to comprehend some of the horrifying violence that I've been watching on the news. I think I may have come to something important.

When I was teaching the Holocaust to high school freshman last year, we watched a film called Nuremberg. A well done TNT production, the movie focuses on the Nazi war crimes trials and the effect the trials had on some of the key figures who took part in the tribunal. One of the characters in the film, a Jewish-American army psychologist, struggled through the entire experience to try to understand how such evil can happen: what makes people not only capable of carrying out atrocities, but believing that it is right and good to do so? The answer, he decided, is that certain people lack empathy. This lack of human feeling and connection - this soullessness - he conjectured, can be the only explanation for what happened during World War II.

I'm beginning to agree with that idea.

I've been paying close attention. I've been watching people around me for quite some time now; I've been seeing how they behave with me and each other, I've been seeing what they teach their children and how they treat their animals and how they conduct themselves in business. Now, I'm not saying that I'm living amongst a band of vicious savages, but I do have to say that I've noticed that there aren't a whole lot of people really looking out for each other. I'm only seeing a tiny bit of 'love thy neighbor' in amongst a whole lot of 'survival of the fittest.'

I think we've been steadily losing our sense of our place in humanity. The "greed is good" attitude of the eighties seems to have morphed into a dangerous kind hedonistic, selfish, demanding madness. Of course, I recognize that the extreme cases of this get all the press, but I do think that we're losing touch with each other. Kizz likes to refer to the pre-flight safety speech that tells us to put our own oxygen mask on before helping others. I'm not sure that most people are getting past the "put your own mask on" part - and some, I think, are taking the masks off of others.

I'm feeling helpless and vulnerable and small in the face of all this violence and randomness and fear. There's only so much I can do, and I try to be mindful of doing it every day: I strive to be kind to everyone I meet. I am mindful not only of what I TELL my children, but of what my example teaches them, as well. I give what I can of my time, my money and myself to the people and projects that resonate with my sense of humanity and harmony with the Universe.

It's all I can do, yet I still find myself asking if it's really enough.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I Have Daughters

I was IMing with Kizz this afternoon, chatting about how well my first day of teaching went, when she asked me to turn on my television and find CNN. She wanted an update on a story she'd heard on her lunch break about a shooting in a one room schoolhouse in Amish country.

This is the third school shooting in less than a week.

How do I know this? Kizz posted an entry on her blog about gratitude on September 20th(it was she, not Oprah, who got me started on the daily gratitude kick). I posted a comment on that entry about how grateful I am for our relative safety.

Three Amish girls were killed today. One girl died on September 26th. Their parents sent them to school and they will never come home.

I'm beginning to reconsider how safe I really feel.

Driven by this awful combination of fear and sorrow and sympathy for the parents of those girls, I wrote a letter to my daughters' teachers, their principal, and the superintendent of schools for our district:

Dear Messrs. Superintendent, Principal and Second Grade Teacher, and Mrs. Fourth Grade Teacher:

On September 20th, a friend asked me to list five things for which I was grateful. Here's one of the items in my list:

*Our relative safety. I don't have to worry too much about my children's school being stormed by hostage-takers or about someone walking into my local Panera and blowing themselves up. I'm not so arrogant to think that those things could NEVER happen here and am watching with increasing horror as our nation's policies continue to ignore the idea that they COULD, but for now, I'm grateful that they don't.*

I'm writing to you in response to the three school shooting incidents that have happened in the U.S. since September 20th to ask what kind of safeguards and policies are in place should something like that happen in our schools. I've been listening to a lot of news lately (the wisdom of which, at the best of times, seems in question) and it's becoming startlingly obvious that my fears should not rest with Chechen-like terrorist, but with the random hostage taker with undefinable motives.

We never think it could happen to us. My point is that if it can happen in an unknown rural schoolhouse filled with Amish children, we really have to stop thinking that it can't happen in Small New England Town.

Forgive me for being - I'm not sure how to describe what I'm feeling; "alarmist" doesn't quite cut it, as there's clearly cause for alarm, neither does "paranoid" work - let's go with "cautious," shall we? I'm certain that you can appreciate that my children are literally the most important people in the world to me and I need to feel that I do everything I can to ensure their safety and well-being.

Thank you so much for your time and attention.


-Mrs. Chili, Mom of Punkin' Pie, Grade 4 and Beanie, Grade 2

I got a response already from Beanie's teacher. I'm choking back tears. Here's what he wrote:

I want you to know that I treat and care for all my students the same way I do my own children.

I admire what you wrote and I agree that we should live life but also keep certain incidents/scenarios in the back of our minds.

Thanks for sharing.

I completely believe that he would do anything necessary to keep "his" kids safe and that does offer me a certain sliver of comfort.

It may be all I can ask for, but I'm not sure that's enough.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's a Good Day for Soup

So, last week Organic Mama and I attended a seminar at a not-so-local university (it's a two hour drive; next time, I'm going to stay over the night before because I really suck at the whole get-up-early-to-drive thing). Anyway, when the seminar broke for lunch, the host gave us the rundown of what kind of offerings were available in the immediate area. He mentioned some local restaurants (and one in particular which I think he's fond of as he mentioned it - and the "pints" - several times), and told us that the dining hall across the way was available to us as seminar participants.

I wasn't crazy about the idea of eating in a dining hall - I mean, come on, cafeteria food?! - but I didn't want to schlep all the way back to my car and risk getting lost in an unfamiliar town, not to mention the fact that I wasn't really in desperate need of pints, so Ms. Mama and I headed over to the dining halls. We paid our $5.50 and were let in and I've gotta tell you, I felt a little like Dorothy when the guy opens the big door.

I was expecting a "grab a tray and walk the line" sort of set up. What I GOT was a staggering array of all-you-can-eat choices that ranged from - I kid you not - pizza to soup and salads to custom made sandwiches and paninis to pasta to pot roast. There were at least five different restaurant-type fronts which offered up the fare: the feeling was very much like a really food court in a larger airport. College kids are eatin' GOOD nowadays, I tell ya!

I headed right for the soup-and-salad place and got myself a bowl of Canadian Cheese soup and a plate of yummy salad with balsamic vinegarette. I was so in love with the soup that I went back and got another helping. While I was up there scooping out another bowl, I accosted a woman in a food services smock and asked her if the soup was homemade. Not only is it homemade, she told me, but if I accosted yon man over there in the big, silly chef's hat, he could probably be convinced to give me the recipe.

It's cold and rainy in my part of the world today. Guess what WE'RE having for dinner tonight!