Friday, November 02, 2007

Wisdom of a 5-year old

A portion of conversation between V and a neighbor boy that was over tonight: They are making a fort with a blanket draped over various chairs and an ottoman. To keep the blanket from drooping in the middle, V puts weighty items on top of some chairs to hold the blanket in place. Neighbor boy (J) wonders why she leaves one chair empty. V tries to explain to him that the blanket was not sliding off that chair so therefore there was no need. He tests her statement himself and finds she is correct. J: "Oh, there's something holding it down, down down." V: "Yeah...gravity."

Ira Glass and This American Life

I am now officially addicted to "This American Life" on NPR. Actually don't listen to it on NPR (I think it's on Sunday afternoons?). What I am addicted to is listening to archived episodes from their website while I am working. Earlier this week, I was flipping through the huge repository of music files my company IT dude keeps out there "on the G drive". I discovered 8 files of "This American Life" and was enthralled all day with stories of the Little Mermaid voice mail message, the policemen and the squirrel, Music Lessons, and something witty by David Sedaris (per his usual). I had to crank up the volume so I could hear it over the photocopier, and not miss a single line. The remaining days this week I went to their website and started at the top of their "Favorites" list, listening to about 5 hours of shows each day. These stories have a way of sticking with you long after you listen to them. They are food for thought, an expansion of a viewpoint, an mini-education you would not normally receive, narrated by Ira Glass, whose voice can soothe me through any stress, with sound bytes and interviews with everyday people. Some of them cause my eyes to get dewy, some make me laugh out loud (I had only one co-worker walk in while I was laughing and wonder why. Unfortunately it was something vulgar that David Sedaris had said and I could not elaborate.), and all make me wish I was listening alongside another person so we could discuss the shows. Because I don't have an office-mate, however, I did discuss one of the more child-friendly topics with V, because I knew she could relate. From the "Cruelty of Children" episode:
Author and kindergarten teacher (and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient) Vivian Paley tells the story of an experiment she conducted in her classroom to make children less cruel to each other. She instituted a rule: "You can't say 'You can't play.'" In other words, if two children are playing, and a third child comes over and wants to join them, they can't tell him or her to get lost. They can't reject him or her. This is the cause of unending pain in most classrooms and playgrounds. The experiment was a remarkable and immediate success.
So now I am interested in reading Vivian Paley's book regarding this experiment. V acted as though it made total sense when I explained it to her.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

In other news...

Recent happenings in no particular order:
  • V's first trip to horse races at Bay Meadows.
  • I place 2nd in my company pumpkin carving contest.
  • I get to Zachary's in Santa Cruz for Mike's Mess (with Oatmeal Molasses toast, of course).
  • Strongest Girl in the World

    This Halloween, for the first time since 2001, I didn't have to sew anything. Not that I *purchased* one pre-made, but one came together thanks to a helpful neighbor. This year V wanted to be Pippi Longstocking. She got to dress up twice: once for the school Fall Festival on Friday, and once for trick-or-treating. Similar to last year, the costume did need to be washed on Halloween day to be ready in time, but not because she was ill, only because I didn't get a chance to wash it until then.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    You Never Forget How

    I've ridden my bicycle more already this year than in probably the last 10 to 15 years. I am a bicyclist of convenience, and until this year it was not convenient. First, I have a Specialized Rock Hopper that I received as a gift in approximately 1995. The big knobby tires had seen so little use, the tiny rubber strings were still on the sides of the tires 10 years later. Riding to work on streets with these tires was labor-intensive, despite it being only 1.7 miles away. Plus, my helmet was outdated and looked like a big eggshell on top of my head. This year two things changed. First, my husband changed the off-road tires to smooth road tires. Hills I used to labor up are now a breeze. Second, I hit the jackpot at a garage sale where some bike afficionados or store owners were getting rid of inventory. I got a sweet new helmet, two bike pumps, and a headlight and taillight. This year my company participated in Commute Options week and I went 5 for 5, riding my bike every day, and even winning two of the daily drawings for prizes! I feel like a new person. Essentially, riding my bike makes me feel younger. That is why I don't desire to invest in serious cycling attire. I want to hop on my bike wearing regular street clothes and shoes and ride away. Just like I did when I was a kid, riding my bike to the marina or the ice cream parlor at the drop of a hat. No shoe clips or lycra for me. Here's hoping I ride so much these tires wear out before the next 10 years!

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Summer TV

    I don't know why I expect to have much to say on this topic since I only get two channels, but I love this time of year on TV. Maybe I should say this time of year on NBC. When I was a kid (late 70's-early 80's), I thought that Summertime was reserved for reruns. During the "season" it was all new shows, and then at some point, which I think coincided with the end of the school year, they started from the beginning and showed the season all over again. Now it seems much more complicated with shows replacing shows mid-season and reserving all the "good stuff" for sweeps week, etc. I don't understand it at all. Except that during the Summer we get new stuff of different shows. Like "Last Comic Standing" and variations of dating shows ("Average Joe", "Age of Love"). "Last Comic Standing" and "America's Got Talent" are two that I easily get sucked into. During the regular season, I also get into "Biggest Loser" and "The Apprentice", and of course the Thursday night lineup of "The Office", "30 Rock" and, to a lesser degree, "ER". I love "My Name is Earl" as well, but V doesn't go to bed in time for me to catch it. Something I do miss is on the other channel I get, public television. They used to show these series where a group of people live in a house together in a different "era". Sort of like "The Real World" meets "The Time Machine": "Manor House", "Colonial House", "Texas Ranch House", "Frontier House". Those were fantastic shows. When I have the opportunity to see cable television, I pretty much only watch "The Food Network". Not only do I like the shows, but it's the only channel that I know I will not show something my daughter should not see. No questionable language, no pushy commercials aimed at children, no scantily clad women. Just food and how to prepare it. The rest of the time, I consider TV mostly a waste of time. I get news and information from the internet, watch "The Daily Show" on the Comedy Central website, show V my favorite clips from "The Electric Company" on YouTube, and rent movies from the local independent film library or the public library.

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    VOCs of home

    This evening I planned to have V paint our house address numbers to match our trim, and only 1.5 years after we changed our house color to tan, thus rendering them invisible. We took them off the siding yesterday, just in time to confuse the people coming over to pick up stuff from Freecycle. ("Remember, the address is 1107, but we're the house *without* the numbers.") Anyway, V's body decided it would rather run a fever. So she's in bed obscenely early, and happy about it. She even voted herself into a short bath, which she never wants. So I get to relax with the Mexican Wedding Cookies I bought from the Women's Rollerderby Bake Sale on Saturday. (They were too good to pass up, being my favorite cookie, *and* rolled to my car by two flashy women on skates.) And post some stuff on E-Bay, and periodically check in on the San Jose City Hall Peregrine Falcons. In other news, I received the Summer 2007 Philatelic catalog from the U.S. Postal Service and was surprised to find a new addition to this year's stamp releases which was not originally publicized in the 2007 collection: Star Wars. Still think my favorite of the year will be Pollinators. V's dance recital is coming up on June 16. The theme, much to my chagrin, is Disney. Boy, I love them Disney productions, don'tcha know. Her class is performing a dance dressed like newspaper deliverers ala "Newsies". Pinstriped knickers and ties, black flat caps and red leotards. Their song is by "Squirrel Nut Zippers". Could be much worse, considering the alternatives. And the topic I originally named this post for, the Volatile Organic Compounds of home. I realized recently that I love this time of year not only for the tangible appearance of sunshine, but also the aromas that begin emanating from the inanimate objects in the house when the temperature rises above 75 degrees. When I can walk in the door and am instantly hit by the smell of *my* house. All the vapors in the air melding into something so familiar, so homey and comfortable, that you only notice it within the first few seconds of opening the door from the outside. Also coming up: hosting Bunco this week, hosting a Pampered Chef party next week, and then front-row tickets to see the Killers in concert!

    Saturday, February 24, 2007

    5th Birthday Party

    V's 5th birthday was a great success. A month before the party, we had been (for some reason I can't recall) talking about the sphinx and pyramids in Egypt. I decided shortly after that to have V's party with an Egyptian theme. We checked out books from the library to keep her interested and found some great museum websites with ancient egyptian games she could play online. I'm not the type to fork out cash to reserve a party room or take a group of kids on an "outing" so we had it at home, and V was allowed to invite 9 people (turned out to be all girls) because we have a 10-person dining room table. One was not able to attend. This was the first real party where we welcomed gifts. Previous years we specified "no gifts please" when we were gathering at a coffee shop or for a play group to celebrate her birthday. Recently I figured that if she didn't receive gifts in a party setting, she wouldn't be able to practice being thankful and gracious. She did a fantastic job and thanked and hugged each girl before moving on to the next gift. She even handwrote her own thank-you notes. I spent most of my prep time finding the right font for the invitations that would look egyptian while still being legible by 4 and 5 year olds, and their parents. Then, for the planned treasure hunt, I needed a simple hieroglyphic font that correlated roughly to the actual heiroglyphic alphabet. I also researched online for appropriate activities that would occupy the two hours I planned for. Because the girls attending are into dressing up in costumes, I bought 10 yards of white broadcloth and made each girl a "kalasiris" or egyptian robe. Also gold rope to tie around their waist, and enough stretchy gold sequin trim to make each girl two "bracelets". I kept the robes simple, and each one took about 20 minutes to sew, even with finishing all seams except the neck hole. I made three on the larger side for the older girls, and one smaller one for the youngest petite girl. Once I made the first one and had a pattern, the rest were cake.
    Speaking of cake, I had immediately eliminated the possibility of a Sphinx cake, and settled on a pyramid cake which would be much easier to architect. V wanted something with strawberries, so I found a good strawberry cake recipe and made buttercream frosting with high-quality european butter. I estimated for 5 layers, based on the sizes of pans I had available, with a 9" square bottom layer, decreasing by 1.5" each layer up to a 3" top layer. Using the scraps cut from previous layers, I only needed one 11 x 17 and two 8" square cakes. I intended the frosting to be yellow/tan/sand colored with edible glitter, but I ended up choosing "copper" as my frosting tint. I disliked the color so much (too orange) I used the entire container of coloring and various food colorings to achieve something that was more brown, with edible yellow sparkles. I placed it on a board covered with foil and frosted the foil to look like a desert, complete with blue paper Nile and sushi grass growing along the riverbank, with a bedouin leading two camels across the "sand". One activity was that the girls would color their own neck capes, which they really got into. I only had to buy two packs of highlighters at Staples. After they put those on, we took some pictures (a couple girls, as I had expected, decided they didn't want to wear the kalasiris, or put on a neck cape, or be in a picture, but I think they still had a good time).
    After that, we played "Pin the Tail on the Camel" which was a game V came up with, because she really wanted to play "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" but we couldn't incorporate that into Ancient Egypt. I drew a pretty cool camel on newsprint using a grid, and V helped me color it. The morning of the party I felt he looked a tad plain, so I added the pyramids in the background and shadows, etc. He's still pinned on the wall like a piece of artwork.
    After cake and presents, we did a treasure hunt for the "goody bags". This part I had a difficult time planning, although I had hidden 8 encoded notes around the house, with each one pointing to the next location. Each girl was given a hieroglyphic decoder sheet in a nice big font and we ran around the house finding them all. The main issues were that the girls that knew the alphabet well and could read were the first to decode the message and run to the next location. Eventually the slower girls felt bad because they never found one first. I tried to give everyone equal opportunity by not starting to decode until we were all in a group and everyone could see the clue. Each goody bag consisted of a sheet of egyptian stickers, authentic egyptian paper money, and an egyptian action figure (all purchased on E-bay) with a short description and a heiroglyphic alphabet key.