Monday, October 31, 2005

Memorizing Plasma 23

Today at school I was working with a group of fourth graders. One little boy asked if I had a Bible in my classroom. I said that I didn't. I have thousands of books in the room, but not a Bible. Then a little girl pulled out a Bible she had in her bookbag. She pointed out a couple of verses she liked, and then said she was memorizing Plasma 23. At first I was puzzled. Plasma? PLASMA? Then the answer dawned on me.

"Psalms 23?" I asked.

"Yes!" she answered. " I couldn't remember how to say it!"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Weekend: Flying in a Bonanza, Shooting Skeet, Riding a Four-Wheeler, Shopping, Going to a Memorial Service

I flew to Georgia this weekend with PawPaw in his Bonanza airplane. I'm getting quite adept at climbing up onto the wing, easing down into the plane and sliding into my seat, putting on my earphones and connecting the jacks. I've learned how to read some of the instruments, and I love watching the GPS unit as it tracks the plane's progress. Coming back this afternoon, flying out of a tiny airport south of Atlanta, we were directed on a flight path over Stone Mountain, GA. I remember years ago climbing Stone Mountain and thinking of how HUGE it was. From the air, it doesn't look nearly as impressive. As a matter of fact, when PawPaw first said, "Look, there's Stone Mountain!" I thought he was wrong. That small mound of rock couldn't possibly be Stone Mountain, could it? As we got closer, it was obvious that it was, indeed, Stone Mountain. When we passed over it, I saw the lake that's around part of it, and the roads, and the park area - all vaguely familiar from when I was there years ago. I looked back as we passed and could even view the carving on the side!

I've flown with PawPaw many times, and I never cease to be amazed at how things look from a few thousand feet in the air. First of all, on the ground it looked like a brilliantly clear day. At six thousand feet, the layer of haze and pollution is clearly there - definitely worse around Atlanta than more rural areas. The other thing that I'm amazed about is how orderly and beautiful everything is - like a giant crazy quilt of shapes and colors and patterns - constantly changing as we go. During part of the trip we were above the expressway I usually travel when I'm driving between Tennessee and Georgia. Everything looks so different from the plane. At one point I found I-75 and tried to figure out which exits I could see. Later, I was able to pick out I-24 as it curved through Chattanooga, and then the foundry plant next to the river north of town. Most of the time, though, it was difficult to identify familiar places on the ground.

A lot was crammed into a couple days. I went four-wheeling through the fields early this morning around PawPaw's barn. I had ridden with Scalawag last year when he first got his four-wheeler, but I had never ridden it by myself. What fun! Yesterday I went shopping with Meah while Scalawag and PawPaw hunted. We had such a good time talking and looking through stores at the mall. I loved being at the farm later when Scalawag finally broke his 4-year deer-hunting dry spell -- and being able to congratulate him on getting a 10-point buck. I had fun shooting skeet and Dr. Thunder cans yesterday afternoon. I FINALLY hit a can and watched as the carbonated contents exploded. PawPaw and Scalawag hit the skeet and cans almost every time. Out of all my shots, only one connected. I guess that means that the bad guys are fairly safe around me - but not when I'm with PawPaw or Scalawag. The cans were the most fun to shoot because Scalawag would shake one up first and then throw it in the air. When it was hit with the shotgun, the can would start spinning wildly in the air with Dr. Thunder spewing out in spirals. (P.S. Dr. Thunder is Wal-Mart's version of Dr. Pepper. A case of 24 is about $3.00 - cheaper than some targets, and definitely more fun!)

Then came the reason for the trip to Georgia. This afternoon we attended the memorial service for PawPaw's cousin, Kathy. The chapel was so crowded that people were standing outside, listening to the service. A wonderful soloist started off the service by singing "Amazing Grace" a cappella. Then Kathy's husband, in a breaking voice, gave a tender eulogy for his wife of 22 years. The minister that spoke next was the same one who had married them years ago.

One observation since I've attended two memorial services this week. In both services, the minister did what we used to describe as an "altar call" during the service - calling on the people there to give themselves to Jesus. Is that typical at funerals - to try to convert people? I don't know why it bothered me, but it seemed to take away from what I feel is the purpose of a memorial service - to honor the person who died. I wanted to hear stories about Kathy - things she did during her lifetime, the people she touched, her accomplishments. People can go to church for a regular church service if they're looking to be saved or if they want to hear a sermon. It seems unkind to play on people's already raw emotions at a funeral by trying to convert them. A funeral is to celebrate the deceased's memory. I'm sure others view the practice differently, but I thought it was tacky and opportunistic.

That pretty much sums up the weekend. Although the past three days have included two funerals, it has been an enjoyable time. I saw people I hadn't seen in a long time, I was able to get outside and have fun with some of my close family, and I got to fly in a small airplane twice.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Memorial Services & Appreciating Life

Today I attended the memorial service for my best friend's boyfriend. It was a meaningful service honoring the memory of a kind and good man. During the service, two young nieces spoke lovingly of their Uncle Roger. A nephew gave a eulogy that made me feel that I knew the man I had only met twice. At the end of the service, a color guard folded an American flag and presented it to his son, a soldier himself. Roger's father sat on the second row, quiet and stoic - appearing unsure of what was going on. Roger's ex-wife, a previous girlfriend, and his girlfriend of the past year (my best friend) all comforted each other - joined in the grief of losing a man they all had loved. It was strange and touching at the same time.

Right after I left the service, I called PawPaw to tell him that I would get home later than I had anticipated. We had planned to get together tonight for dinner and to watch TV. He said he had very sad news to tell me. His cousin, Kathy - a bright, precocious eleven-year old when PawPaw and I got married in 1969 - died this morning. She was forty-five. Her teenage son had gone to tell her that she had a phone call, and he found her dead in her bed. Probable heart-attack. She leaves behind a husband and two teenage sons.

It seems almost like a season of mourning. Three times recently, tragedies have struck someone close to me. Hopefully, the saying that bad luck comes in threes is true. I'll fly to Georgia with PawPaw tomorrow morning in order to attend Kathy's memorial service on Sunday. There won't be any camping this weekend. The Median Sib will have no new posts until Sunday evening or Monday.

There is nothing like death to make one appreciate life - to see the value in each minute spent with loved ones.

What NOT to do when planning a conference

(Note added on 10/31/05: The conference described below was a two-day conference. I was only able to stay for the first day. This morning I emailed some friends who stayed for both days and asked if the conference got any better the second day. They ALL said that it did - that the second day was very good. I wish I could have been there for that day. It's too bad that there were so many problems on the first day.)

I attended a conference on Thursday of the Alabama Reading Association in Huntsville, AL. It was a disappointing experience. Almost always I can gain something of value from attending a conference. Not this time. The conference planners could have written a book entitled WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN PLANNING A CONFERENCE. Here are the main points of their yet-to-be-published book.

(1) Obtain a nationally recognized speaker - one that is so well known and popular that teachers from surrounding states will attend the conference. That will get lots of people to attend the conference. Get so many people to register for the conference that the conference hotel will fill up quickly, requiring many participants to seek hotel accommodations elsewhere. Then, during the keynote speech, when you have the civic center auditorium filled with eager attendees, have an audio system so poor that the speaker's voice is distorted, and people can't hear the speech. Compound the problem by not having the speaker stand on the speakers' platform where she can be seen by all, but rather off to the side on the floor among the audience. That way only a few of the people present can see her. Have a large projection screen, but don't be a copycat and show the speaker on the screen like other conferences. Instead, show grainy images of the speaker's transparencies that can't be read by most of the people in the large civic center auditorium.

(2) Next, when planning the "concurrent sessions", have some of them lined up along the sides of that aforementioned large civic center auditorium, but separate the different "rooms" using only 8-foot high partitions. This will allow sound to travel so that participants can hear bits and pieces from several sessions at the same time. Then don't provide microphones for the speakers OR enough chairs for all the participants. That will ensure that, once again, most people are uncomfortable and won't hear the speaker. All those people having to stand up or sit on the floor are an indication of how successful the conference is.

(3) In planning where to have the more popular speakers conduct their sessions, don't put them in large rooms. Rather, put them in small rooms with only a few chairs. That way, people will have to stand up along the walls and sit on the floor in the back. It's a good way to test the determination of the conference participants and prove quickly who has the mettle to stand for an hour.

(4) To top off the day, put a 40-minute lunch break in the daily schedule. However, don't provide lunch for the conference participants and provide no information about possible places nearby where lunch can be obtained quickly. Instead, ensure that there is only one concession stand in the civic center to serve the thousands of participants. That way, the participants will enjoy the social opportunity of talking to other participants as they stand in line for over an hour to get greasy chicken strips and fries. As a bonus, the long lunch line also ensures that many participants will not be able to attend the session following the lunch period. That should help solve the over-crowding problem in the first concurrent sessions after the lunch break.

(5) To sooth any ruffled feathers, end the day with a popular author and have the sound system work well. He can be heard clearly, and his message is great. However, in order not to interfere with the general theme of ineptitude for the day, tack an interminably boring local honors and awards time at the end of the speech. That, along with all the other absurdities for the day, will keep the audience down to only the loyal few.

I hate to think that I missed a full day of being with my students to attend such a poorly planned conference. There were fantastic speakers - and the potential for a powerful and meaningful conference was there - but it was unrealized. If I were one of the speakers or presenters, I would be furious that my hard work and preparation were rendered useless and ineffective by poor event planners.

Bathroom Breaks

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my classroom doing some paperwork when I overheard a conversation in the hallway between a teacher and a third grade student. The teacher was chastising the child for asking to go to the bathroom soon after the class had had a bathroom break. She told him that THIS time she would let him go, but that from now on he was to make sure he went when the class took their scheduled bathroom break because the next time he asked to go to the bathroom at a time other than the designated bathroom time, the answer would be "no." Her voice was impatient and demeaning. I was appalled. Do teachers still have such insensitive and ignorant rules?

Rewind the clock to over 45 years ago when I was in the third grade. Mrs. Giles was my teacher. We were taking turns going up to her desk and reciting our multiplication tables. I raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom. Mrs. Giles told me no. Soon it was my turn to come up to her desk to recite my multiplication tables. Standing there nervously, squeezing my legs together, trying to recite my math but with my mind on my bladder that felt like it was about to burst, I could hold it no longer. I peed all over the floor. Mrs. Giles didn't notice. I finished my multiplication tables and went back to my seat - humiliated and terrified of being found out. Another child came up to do the multiplication, and pointed out the puddle on the floor. Giggles filled the air. Mrs. Giles asked for the "guilty party" to raise his/her hand and admit to wetting the floor. I continued doing my schoolwork. Then she gave the class a sanctimonious lecture about going to the bathroom at appointed times so that accidents wouldn't happen. I remained quiet. There was no doubt that Mrs. Giles knew who had peed on the floor. It isn't something you can hide easily -- although it those days, girls wore dresses every day. So it wasn't as obvious as it would have been if I'd been wearing slacks. I guess I could at least commend her on not publicly pointing out who the culprit was. She let it go. Recess came soon afterwards. I ran outside and huddled behind some shrubbery -- embarrassed, but also furious. I had TOLD her I had to go. I was a good student - well behaved and respectful. Unless I was in an urgent situation, I would have waited till the next scheduled bathroom break. The situation should never have happened.

All these years later, I still recall the details of that day - what the classroom and Mrs. Giles desk looked like, what the lesson was at the time, the bushes where I hid out during recess, and the awful embarrassment I felt. When I became a teacher. I swore that I would never allow such a thing to happen to any of my students. Each year on the first day of school, I discussed our class bathroom guidelines with them, and they knew the procedures to follow, and they also knew that if they ever had an "urgent" situation, they just had to let me know where they were going and head out to the bathroom. I was a classroom teacher for 25 years -- and while I'm sure there are children who occasionally took an unnecessary trip to the bathroom, no child ever abused that plan.

As I listened to the teacher in the hall a few weeks ago, I felt bad for the child. I wondered if that humiliating experience would be something he'd still remember 45 years from now. Everyone has experienced times when, despite taking care of such things at the appropriate times, they have to go to the bathroom during meetings, during a class, or at other inconvenient times. I admit that I don't know any other details other than the overheard conversation. However, it is a conversation that should never have taken place.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What Every Woman Should Know

You most likely have already seen the "Every Woman Should Have/Know" post below. It has made the email rounds over the past few years. I took out the "Send this to three friends within three minutes..." tagline that seems to be a requisite for so many emails, and I cleaned up some of the excessive periods and spaces. I'm posting it here because, despite the fact that it's part of an email chain, it still has some good points. What do you think of it? Do you see things that you don't think every woman should have or know? Can you think of others that aren't on the list?

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE one old love she can imagine going back to...and one who reminds her how far she has come.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own...even if she never wants to or needs to.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...something perfect to wear if the employer or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a youth she's content to leave behind.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to retelling it in her old age.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a set of screwdrivers, acordless drill, and a black lace bra.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD friend who always makes her laugh... and one who lets her cry.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored..

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a feeling of control over her destiny.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD to fall in love without losing herself.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship...and how to change a tire!

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW... when to try harder... and when to walk away.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW... that she can't change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...that her childhood may not have been perfect...but its over.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...what she would and wouldn't do for love or more.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD to live alone...even if she doesn't like it.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...whom she can trust, whom she can't, and why she shouldn't take it personally...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...where to it to her best friend's kitchen table...or a charming inn in the woods...when her soul needs soothing.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...what she can and can't accomplish in a day...a month...and a year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Camping, Campfires, Beautiful Weather

I'm going to do it again. Saturday night (and maybe Friday, too) I'm going camping. I've selected the place. I'm really getting into this. There is just a feeling of freedom and enjoyment of nature. I've checked the weather, and it looks like a perfect weekend for camping.

Rosa Parks - Courage in Action

Rosa Parks died yesterday at the age of 92. As a teacher, I have taught lessons on Rosa Parks for as long as I've been teaching. Having grown up in the 60's, I'm old enough to vaguely remember stores with "white" and "colored" water fountains and bathrooms. I can remember separate schools for white children and black children. It was a world very different from today. There were some things that were better back then, but segregation and racial prejudice were not among them.

It's difficult to explain to modern children the tremendous courage it took for Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her bus seat to a white man. Nowadays we can't even imagine such a thing! I'm thankful that our children have role models from the past, such as Rosa Parks, who stood up for what was right, regardless of the personal cost. I wonder who their role models from today will be. It is often the everyday person - someone not in a position of prestige or power - who ends up being the most influential. An ordinary person, like Rosa Parks, doing extraordinary acts...and changing our world.

Wondering - Theresa Heinz Kerry

I read a news report today that Theresa Heinz Kerry was awarded $15 million in the wrongful death suit she filed after her husband, Senator John Heinz, was killed in a mid-air crash of an airplane and a helicopter. She sued the owners of the airplane in which her husband was traveling along with the owners of the helicopter. $3 million of the settlement goes to Heinz Kerry as the executor of the estate, and the remaining $12 million goes to her and the three sons she had with Heinz. The crash also killed six others - including two first-graders on the ground.

I am wondering if the families of each of those six others also received $15 million. Where does one find information such as that? I would think that surely they did, but you can never tell. The news report, of course, was only about Heinz Kerry.

A personal opinion and aside: Heinz Kerry was enough reason not to vote for John Kerry in the last election although he provided enough reasons on his own - and I haven't knowingly purchased a Heinz product since then - and won't in the future.

Monday, October 24, 2005


I just got off the phone from talking to my best friend, Patti. Patti is near my age -- a few years younger - in her early fifties. We got to know each other in our church's singles group, and have been good friends for six or seven years. We've seen each other through ups and downs, through various moves, various relationships, and we've sat together and boohooed over lost loves. Last year, though, she met Roger, and they had been together since then. I remember the first time I met Roger. All he could talk about was how wonderful and beautiful Patti is. I was so happy for her because she SO deserved having a good relationship where the guy really appreciated her. He danced, too - a definite plus in the boyfriend department. They spent this past weekend together, and last night, after watching the Titans game together at Patti's house, Roger left to go back to his house. Patti got the call from Roger's sister today - Roger apparently got up this morning and was eating a sandwich -- and died. They don't know if he had a heart attack or if he choked on the sandwich. Either way - he's gone. His sister found him about six hours later.

Life is short. There are no guarantees.

Later note: The official cause of death was choking. He died eating a grilled cheese sandwich. He had knocked over a chair -- apparently trying to do the self-Heimlich maneuver.

Monday Morning - The Week Ahead

Monday mornings seem to always make me want to think of goals for the week. Not that I ever really stick to those goals, but I THINK about them anyway. Maybe writing them down will help me focus more on them.

First there is old faithful - the ever-present goal. I will exercise each day - even if it's only getting outside for a 30-minute walk.

Second, eat reasonably and healthfully.

Third, go through one box of papers in the storage room.

The coming week will be unusual for me. I rarely travel for my job. However, I will be out of town at a reading conference from Wednesday evening until Friday evening. I'm driving my car to the conference, and three other reading specialists are riding with me. About fifteen of the twenty reading specialists in our school district are going. That's because Regie Routman is one of the keynote speakers. I'm really looking forward to hearing her speak. I've read her books - they're considered practically the Bible for reading education.

I feel fortunate that in the past year I have heard Ellin Keene, Shelley Harwayne, and Sharon Taberski speak. And now Regie Routman. Wow! These are all women who are well known nationally in the area of reading education. Ellin Keene was by far the most dynamic speaker, followed by Sharon Taberski. They both literally changed the way I teach.

Oops! Got sidetracked there! Back to weekly goals. The three I mentioned are it. I got sidetracked because I started to write that I would go through THREE boxes of papers, but then remembered that I would be at the conference and wouldn't be home for half of the work week. So I'll only shoot for one box.

So: exercise, diet, organize. The big three for the week.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


While I'm in a book-recommending mood, I thought I'd write about THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK. There are several different versions, including one on surviving college and one on surviving at work. I have the original one (above title), along with THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK: DATING & SEX.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex

The original book includes things such as how to fend off a shark, how to take a punch, how to deal with a charging bull, how to jump from a moving car, how to deliver a baby in a taxicab, how to land an airplane, along with thirty-four other crisis situations. The authors take no stand on what could have happened to get you into one of the situations. It's simply that you're there - now what do you do? They've talked to "experts" in each particular field to develop their recommendations of how to handle each crisis.

The volume on dating and sex includes chapters on how to determine if your date is married, how to fend off an obsessive ex, how to escape from a bad date, how to deal with body odor, how to deal with a bad kisser, how to survive if you wake up next to someone whose name you don't remember - and about thirty other situations in the realm of dating and sex. They take no position about right and wrong. You're in the situation - now what do you do?

Both books are at times humorous, interesting, and sometimes informative. Definitely nothing deep - but a good read when you want something in short, to the point chapters. And who knows - there's a reader somewhere, someday, sometime who will find him/herself in the path of a charging bull - and having read this book will save the day.


Have any of you read THE CHILDREN'S STORY by James Clavell? If you have, I'd like to know what you think about it. I first read it about fifteen years ago when another teacher recommended it to me - as an example of the awesome responsibility and power (yes, POWER) that teachers have. It's a quick read -- it takes about 30 minutes to read, give or take a few minutes.

The back cover gives the background for the story: "It was a simple incident in the life of James Clavell - a talk with his young daughter just home from school - that inspired this chilling tale of what could happen in twenty-five quietly devastating minutes. He writes: 'THE CHILDREN'S STORY came into being that day. It was then that I really realized how vulnerable my child's mind was - any mind, for that matter - under controlled circumstances. Normally I write and rewrite and re-rewrite, but this story came quickly - almost by itself. Barely three words were changed. It pleases me greatly because it keeps asking me questions. Questions like What's the use of 'I pledge allegiance' without understanding? Like Why is it so easy to divert thoughts? Like What is freedom? and Why is it so hard to explain? THE CHILDREN'S STORY keeps asking me all sorts of questions I cannot answer. Perhaps you can - then your child will . . . '"

Maybe it's unrealistic, unlikely, or simplistic. But, nevertheless, it's one of those rare books that really make you think.

Another Camping Trip & Another Birthday Party

Okay, already! This is for all you people who felt I wimped out by going home early from last week's camping trip. I went camping again last night, and (drum roll, please) I actually stayed all night! (applause, cheering) I went to a different state park than last week. Weather-wise, it was much cooler - which was nice. I had bought an air mattress -- a nice one -- and a rechargeable pump to inflate it. And what a good night's sleep I got! It was wonderful! I set up camp quickly, built a roaring fire and enjoyed a very pleasant evening. Paw-Paw drove over and spent a couple hours sitting around the campfire and talking with me. That certainly made it more enjoyable than being there by myself. We had to move our chairs to one side of the campfire to get out of the smoke -- and that put us where we faced the bathhouse across the path. We laughed about what a beautiful view we had from the campsite - could brag about it after we got back home. We talked about going camping in the Smokey Mountains - backpacking. I don't know that I'm ready to do that kind of camping yet. I DO enjoy being able to sleep comfortably, and I'm not sure I could carry in a backpack all the equipment I'd need to ensure that! We decided we'd do more car camping for awhile and then do wilderness camping later.
I had hoped that Stinkeroo would bring Sweet Stuff and Sunshine over for awhile. I thought they'd enjoy roasting marshmallows over the fire and seeing the tent. However, Sunshine has been having a difficult time with asthma, and Stinkeroo felt the cold air and smoke would make it worse. Poor Sunshine -- it's so bad, the doctor wants Stinkeroo to call their office EVERY morning to give them an update on how she's doing -- breathing treatments regularly throughout the day, along with medication.

Tonight is another birthday party. Meah's birthday was Friday -- 26 years old. Her parents were in town and they all went out to eat to celebrate. So tonight is our family's turn to celebrate with her. She and Scalawag, along with Stinkeroo, SD, Sweet Stuff, Sunshine, and PawPaw will come over to my house later this evening for dinner. Meah requested chicken and dumplings for dinner, and coconut cake for dessert. I don't need a recipe for the chicken and dumplings, but I will have to look up a recipe for the coconut cake. Sweet Stuff hasn't designated yet what kind of party we will have. With her fixation on princesses, it is highly likely that Meah will have a princess party.

(Note from much later) Poor Meah - I didn't have time to make a homemade coconut cake - I had to unpack all the camping stuff and do some straightening up first. So I bought one. I sure hope it's good. Then, I make chicken and dumplings quite often, but THIS time, for some reason, the dumplings started dissolving in the chicken stock rather than keeping their shape. Now it's in a big crock pot, and hopefully it won't be chicken paste by the time dinner rolls around. I anticipate that this meal will definitely NOT be one of my better ones. C'est la vie. They're family, and it's a free meal. It's the fellowship and the intent behind the meal that counts... Right? I'm sure my throngs of readers will await anxiously for word later this evening as to how the dinner went.

(Note from much, MUCH later - after dinner) Okay - the chicken and dumplings turned out pretty darn good after all! Yea! Enough of the dumplings held their shape -- and the ones that dissolved just made the stock really thick. So it turned out well, and I made enough to have some for lunch a couple days this week. Now the coconut cake -- can't say it turned out that well -- it was mediocre at best. Maybe I'm wrong, though, because everybody -- even the girls -- ate some of it. I didn't realize that everyone on my little branch of the family tree likes coconut cake. So I promised to make a homemade coconut cake the next time we get together -- except when I said that, Stinkeroo and Meah both said they wanted an apple pie instead. OK -- that's enough written about that one meal.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Three Wishes (NBC)

I was listening to a talk radio station the other day, and the host was talking about the NBC show "Three Wishes." So I set my TiVo to tape it. This morning, as I sipped my coffee, I watched last night's show. Talk about a tear-jerker! What immediately caught my attention and made me watch it is that last night's show was taped in Covington, Georgia - a small Southern town close to where both my mother and father were born and grew up. Another reason I was interested in watching the show is that it is hosted by Amy Grant - and she and her family live in the same area of Middle Tennessee as I. In each episode, the "Three Wishes" team goes into a town, sets up a "wish tent" and all interested townspeople come in and tell them their wishes. They then select three wishes to grant. After the wishes are granted, they have a concert where Amy and selected guests perform. This week's concert featured Hootie and the Blowfish.

The first wish for this week was a thirty-something schoolteacher who found out, when her parents died a few years ago, that she had been adopted. She felt that her birth mother was still alive, but she had been unable to find out any information about her. The second wish was a young college student who had such a severe stuttering problem that he had difficulty in communicating. And finally, there was a woman who founded "Second Wind Dreams" which grants wishes for elderly people. She wanted to be able to grant MORE wishes for them.

It was interesting to follow along as Amy and a detective looked for the schoolteacher's birth mother. They found her, of course - wouldn't make a good TV show if they didn't. And the birth mother was thrilled to be able to connect with the baby she had given up for adoption so long ago. Turns out she had been unwed, and only 16 years old. The man was married and his wife was also pregnant - and apparently he offered no help to her. She was poor and had a bad home life and knew she couldn't provide for her daughter. So she gave her up without ever seeing her after her birth.

There were some quotes that were memorable.

Olivia, the young schoolteacher, said, "Not a day goes by that I don't wonder who my mother is and what's she like." She said this when she was first being interviewed - before the investigation to find her mother had begun. Alice, her birth mother said, "Not a day goes by that I don't wonder where my daughter is and what she's like." This was said before she knew anything about her daughter or before she had met her. Two people -- wondering the same thing about each other.

Anthony, the young man dealing with stuttering, talked about his grandfather who had died two weeks earlier. "My grandfather never saw my disability. He saw me as an overcomer." I LOVED that statement. It so much highlights the importance of having a family that supports, encourages and uplifts you. It reminded me of the Heller Keller quote I posted last week about how the world is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with the overcoming of it. The show taped him making a non-stuttering speech as he announced his candidacy for junior class president at his college. His mother remarked, "That's my son, and that's the young man that's going to change the world." High expectations, along with love and support. I was fascinated by the fact that after going through a battery of tests, he was fitted with a device in his ear, much like a hearing aid, that STOPPED his stuttering. Immediately. How phenomenal is that? Even though they explained briefly how it works, it was beyond my understanding.

Throughout the show they highlighted the different senior citizens whose wishes they granted. One was a 72-year old woman, Mary Nell, who had always wanted to be a flight attendant. So she spent a day as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. Then a 73-year old woman, Daisey, wanted to do the weather on TV - which, thanks to a local TV station, she did. An 85-year old man, Ernie, wanted to play jazz piano in a club again - and as he played he commented that because of the experience "the years melted away." And then there was a 77-year old woman who wanted to ride a Nascar race car. When she introduced herself, she said, 'My name is Louise Jones, but here at the nursing home they call me Trouble!" (Note: My mother is 82 years old, and she looks FAR younger than any of the 3 women shown on the show who were in their 70's. Yea for good family genes!) Louise's sons cheered her on and she rode in a pace car - up to her requested 100 mph.

I've watched other wish-granting TV shows, but I thought this was the most authentic. There was no over-the-top game-playing and showmanship to appeal to the TV audience. It granted mostly simple wishes (relatively speaking) that everyone could relate to and appreciate.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches

I had dinner last night with two friends of mine, and we ate at a country restaurant where one of the specialties is fried green tomato sandwiches. Since both the other ladies had eaten at this restaurant before and absolutely swore that I HAD to try the sandwich, I did. They were right. It was delicious. Probably had a month's worth of fat grams in that one meal. It was nice, though, to sit and chat with friends for a couple hours.

On my way home from work awhile ago, I stopped by Stinkeroo's office to mail Joan her winning BLOG HOG bag. I figured I'd get free postage there, they'd send it out with their daily mail, and I wouldn't have to fight the crowd at the post office. To my surprise, Scalawag was at the office, too! He's usually out on a job somewhere when I drop by the office. PawPaw had already left for the day. So I didn't see him. However I'm going to see a movie with him in awhile - so I'll see him later. How nice to spend some time with my two children! They're both so funny. We had a good time talking for a few minutes. Scalawag unknowingly gave me one of the nicest compliments imaginable. As I was about to leave, he asked me to come outside so he could introduce me to one of his employees who had just driven up. I was thinking as I drove home about how good it made me feel for my son to go out of his way to introduce me to someone. Maybe he was showing his employee off to me, but I choose to think that he was showing off his mother to the employee.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Exercise and Nutrition - All Your Questions Answered

Okay -- I KNOW this has made the email rounds numerous times. It's still funny, though. So I will post it here for your enjoyment.

Q. I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it...don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good.

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO ... Cocoa beans ... another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around.

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Hopefully, this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets and remember: Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - strawberries in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming ........
"WOO HOO! What a Ride!"

500th Visitor - Is It YOU?

A fellow blogger recently celebrated having her 100,000th site visitor, and rewarded that visitor with a cool t-shirt. In that spirit, I will follow suit - in a way. The Median Sib's visitor count is almost at 500! Wow! That's 1/2000 of a MILLION! So if you happen to be the 500th visitor, I will provide you with a gorgeous BLOG HOG tote bag. Isn't it cool? I created a unique, one-of-a-kind design which I printed onto an iron-on transfer sheet and subsequently ironed onto the bag. I already had all the materials on hand from when I made bookbags last year for the kids I teach.

To find out what number you are, go to the bottom of this page and look at the site meter (yellow background, blue numbers & words). As I write this post, it is at 499. If the number is 500 when you look at it, then YOU are the winner. Send me an email and let me know!
NOTE: The Winner is JOAN from Georgia.

A Visit to the Doctor

I had my yearly physical today. I had put it off for as long as I could. Going to the doctor is second only to going to the dentist on my list of things I hate to do. But I went. I had written down some things to cover with the doctor, and we systematically went through the list. I always feel pretty upbeat when I visit the doctor - maybe it's part of the "put on a happy face" mentality that I've always had. I bop along the halls at school like I'm the happiest person on earth. Having that happy face is good most of the time, but I decided it was time to take off the happy face and be honest. I'm depressed - have been for several years - I'm doing better than I was two years ago when it was at its worst, but still not good. Most days I come home from work and hibernate at home until I go to work the next day. I don't get out and do things with my friends because I have gained weight...and we're not talking about just a few pounds. There have been weekends when I've gotten home from work on Friday afternoon and haven't left the house again until I go to work on Monday morning. Sitting alone at home, day after day, doing little besides watching tv and eating, is not a good thing. Since talking to a counselor and trying to make myself get out and do things have not worked for me, The doctor and I discussed my trying a "mild" antidepressant, and so that's what I'm going to do. I feel hopeful that it will help. I know that at heart I'm an optimistic and outgoing person. The past four years have thrown some fairly serious emotional punches at me - and maybe this will be what I need to get back to my old self.

Monday, October 17, 2005

New Blog - The Reading Teacher

I started a new blog tonight - The Reading Teacher. It will be the site for information on teaching reading, book recommendations, lesson plans and reading strategies. I'll post my monthly reading newsletter there, too. There isn't much there right now, and it'll be Wednesday before I can put some time into it. But just give me a few days. I've got big plans for it!

Names and Nicknames

I've pondered for awhile about what to do with family names since this blog is a public venue. One doesn't want to provide too much personal information while still being able to write about activities and people freely. I've decided to call everyone by their nicknames. My daughter will be Stinkeroo and my son will be Scalawag - because those are the names that my father gave them when they were little. My oldest granddaughter is Sweet Stuff and my youngest is Sunshine. Problem solved! Now I just have to go back and change all the previous posts!

An Unexpected Evening

Got a phone call around 5:00 -- part of the family was gathering at Stinkeroo's home for dinner. PawPaw had prepared spaghetti sauce which he modestly declared "the best you've ever tasted" and wanted to share it with everyone. So I was put in charge of buying the bread on my way over to Stinkeroo's home. I stopped by a convenience market thinking they'd have Italian bread. They didn't. I bought hot dog buns, figuring I'd put garlic salt and butter on them and toast them, and they'd be just as good -- and they were. When I drove up, the girls were in the backyard with PawPaw - playing pirates. They both ran to the fence to greet me. So sweet! Dinner was great. As a bonus, Scalawag showed up right before we left. He was picking up his two dogs that Stinkeroo had dog-sat over the weekend. So I had an unexpectedly enjoyable evening. Sweet Stuff showed off by reading several books for PawPaw and Scalawag who had not heard her read before. The girls had gone to yet another Pumpkin Patch on Sunday and bought more small pumpkins. So I was presented with two lovely pumpkins to take home with me -- as were PawPaw and Scalawag. Unplanned evenings can be very enjoyable!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Question of the Day: Gift of Magic?

I was reading the above book, and I thought I would add a question here. Readers can respond if they want to - or not. Here is the question (from p. 94):
If you had the gift of magic for one day,
what would you do?

Marijuana - Medicinal Use & Melissa Etheridge

Tonight was my night for reading the news online. I read about Melissa Etheridge's "admission" that she smoked pot to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. It is amazing to me that something of that nature would make the news. Why would anyone care what she used to ease the suffering of the cancer and chemotherapy? I hope that if I ever have to deal with cancer and chemotherapy that there will be someone who will help me get marijuana because, in that situation, I would smoke it in a heartbeat. It seems bizarre to me that marijuana is not legal for medicinal use. Drugs that are much more addictive and dangerous are used legally for medical reasons all the time. It would seem the compassionate and yes, Christian, thing to make sure that suffering is alleviated by whatever means we have available.

Hawaii - The Underpants Run - The Ironman Triathlon

I was reading the news online and came across an account of The Underpants Run in Hawaii. It's a "light-hearted" fun run leading up to the celebrated Ironman World Championship. Some might think it's inappropriate, but I think it sounds great! Not that I'd participate myself, but it's fun to see others do such things! Here's a link to the article about The Underpants Run.

The Camping Trip

I did it. I went camping. It took me less than 15 minutes to put up the tent. The dinner I cooked on my nifty mini-stove was great. I built a great campfire and enjoyed sitting by it and reading my book using my head-light. By 8:45 p.m. it had been dark for two hours, I had read all I wanted to read, and I had enjoyed looking at the campfire and at the big moon above while sipping a mug of chamomille tea. I was tired and sleepy, and I figured it was time to go to sleep. I had selected a nearby state park because it was close to home, and it felt safe. The ranger made several rounds during the afternoon and evening, and there were lots of family groups camping nearby.

And so I went to bed at 8:45 p.m. That's when I discovered that I didn't fit my sleeping bag. I had selected my sleeping bag at the store the other day, and the clerk asked me how tall I was. Apparently the sleeping bag came in short, medium, and tall. She said the short one would fit someone up to 5'8". I'm 5'6", but I asked for the medium one anyway so I'd have a little extra length. I'm a firm believer in having "free feet" during sleep. She must have picked out the short one instead because it didn't fit. When I got in the sleeping bag my toes were crammed into the bottom. And when I say they were crammed, I don't mean they were simply snug. I mean it was doggoned uncomfortable! I knew immediately that I couldn't sleep that way. Sometimes I can be annoyingly indecisive, and other times I KNOW what I have to do. This time was the latter. I knew there was no way to solve the sleeping bag issue before the next day. There were no nearby blankets to use in lieu of the sleeping bag, it was too cool to simply sleep on top of it, and the night was just beginning.

At 9:01 (16 minutes after I went to bed and discovered that the sleeping bag didn't fit), I was in my car on the way home! Amazing how quickly one can take down the tent, re-pack the car and be off! Of course I didn't repack everything neatly in their bags. I just stuffed it all in the car to be sorted, folded and stored away later. I dumped what was left of the bag of ice on the coals of the campfire, checked the area with my head-light, and left. I was home by ten o'clock.

Earlier in the evening, when I was sitting by the campfire, I had made a list of what I needed to do differently next time. The first venture is always the test experience - the time to find out what works and what doesn't work. I loved my tent. It went up easily and quickly. No problem for one person. Apparently my trial run in my family room the previous evening had helped! I had remembered to bring a hammer for the stakes. I packed pretty well, anticipating what I would need. Next time I'll bring a broom to sweep the area where the tent goes. All the campsites were surrounded by nut trees (walnuts?) and there were nuts all over the ground. A broom would have been great to clear and smooth out the area before pitching the tent. Another item to take next time is a comfortable camp chair. I brought two little fold-out chairs that I already had - one to sit on and one to prop up my feet. They're great for a few minutes, but they're uncomfortable for long periods of time. I would have loved being able to really stretch out and relax and be comfortable by the campfire. Little things - a potholder (a wad of paper towels was fine last night, but a potholder would have been better), a pot with a lid (so I don't have to be concerned with insects getting into my food and water as they're heating on the stove). And finally... despite the fact that I can be a wimp about not getting enough sleep, if the sleeping bag had fit, I would have stayed all night and slept okay. However, I think I might get one of those aerobeds -- the ones that self-inflate. Since I'll be doing mostly car camping, it won't matter that they're bulky, and if I can sleep well while camping, I'll feel so much better. So I'm seriously considering adding an aerobed to my list of camping supplies.

Items that were useful/helpful: The head-light was wonderful. It was great for reading, walking to the bathhouse, and for doing things around the camp, and it was perfect to see in the dark as I pulled up the stakes and took down the tent as I prepared to go home. I adjusted it too tightly at first - resulting in a headache. I ended up making it so loose it kept slipping down - but no headache, so I kept it that way. Citronella candles and insect repellant - I had bought a citronella candle bucket that really helped with keeping mosquitoes away. The park is alongside a river, and so the mosquitoes and other insects were plentiful. That mini-stove - just love it! I used it to cook my dinner, and it heated the water for my chamomille tea in just a couple minutes.

So...first camping trip is now under my belt. I didn't spend the night, but that is insignificant to me. I set up camp, cooked dinner, built a campfire, and did all the things that needed to be done. Most importantly, camping alone no longer intimidates me. It wasn't scary. It was fun and relaxing. I'll go again soon...maybe next weekend. It was nice being outside, and the campfire was wonderful. What IS there about a campfire that is so relaxing? The only improvement (other than a longer sleeping bag) would have been to have someone there with me.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Security - swapping one for another

At my mother's the other night, everyone was arriving for the chicken and dumplings dinner that I had so generously offered to prepare - generously offered BEFORE I got there with two preschoolers to manage. What happened is that Mother ended up preparing most of the meal. My only contribution was making the dumplings with Sweet Stuff - resulting in a mess that Mother cleaned up. I'm afraid my visit was not a restful one for my mother. Just as everyone arrived for dinner, Sunshine awakened from her nap and wanted nothing more than for Grandma Carol to hold her. When we sat down to eat, Sunshine sat between Mother (Grandma Ruth) and me - but insisted on holding my hand the entire time. She held my right hand - so I had to eat with my left hand. About halfway through the meal, Sweet Stuff asked me to take her to the bathroom. I asked Sunshine if she wanted to go with us because otherwise I'd have to let go of her hand in order to go to the bathroom with Sweet Stuff . She looked at me, looked at the chicken and dumplings that she was REALLY enjoying. Then she let go of my hand and immediately reached to her other side and held onto Grandma Ruth's hand and continued eating - effectively swapping one security for another.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Preparation for camping - putting up a tent

The time has come to put my words into action. I bought my tent the other day, and I have all the supplies I need to go camping. Tomorrow will see me venture forth on my first (in a VERY long time) camping trip. In order to prevent myself from being the comical entertainment for an entire campground tomorrow afternoon when I put up my tent, I decided I would practice at home first.

So I brought everything into the family room and pitched the tent in front of the TV. OH. MY. GOODNESS! I am so thankful that I tried it in the privacy of my own home before I did it in public. I can just see the people near me at the campground punching each other and pointing in my direction as I demonstrate my one-person imitation of the three stooges putting up a tent. When the people at the store demonstrated it, it looked so simple. Quick and easy - five minutes and you're done - absolutely no problem for one person to do. Wrong! Thirty minutes, and the sweat was pouring off me. Forty-five minutes, and I'm seriously considering packing it all up and taking it back to the store. A little over an hour, and the tent is up. . . incorrectly. An hour and a half, and the tent is up correctly. The directions apparently assume that the person reading them has a background understanding of how to pitch a tent. They were wrong. I will take the tent down later tonight and pack it away, and then I will put it up again. The second time HAS to be quicker. And then tomorrow when I put it up for the third time, it should be a piece of cake - hopefully. At least that's what I'm counting on.

I tried out my nifty little hand-size stove, too. Just screw the little burner into the propane canister (or some kind of canister of gas -- I guess it's propane) - and VOILA! A working stove. Of course after I turned it off, I started to fold it back up and burned my hand. Note to self: Let the stove COOL OFF before putting it away.

Edward the Emu and Metacognition

Edward the Emu
I taught a demonstration lesson in a second grade classroom the other day. The topic I chose for this first lesson on comprehension strategies was "metacognition" - thinking about one's own thinking and learning. When children become aware of the mental processes they're going through as they read, they become better learners. Plus, children love learning new words. They enjoyed saying "metacognition" aloud and practicing how they would answer the "What did you learn in school today?" question they'd most likely hear when they got home that afternoon. I chose the book Edward the Emu as the literature for the lesson, and I used "think-alouds" as I read the book to the class to highlight what I was thinking about as I read the story. We talked about predicting, questioning, and making connections. In the story, Edward kept trying to be something he wasn't. He learns that it is best to be himself. It is an obvious point that is made, but the story and the illustrations take it beyond the typical books that try to teach a lesson. I loved watching the children's faces as I read the story aloud to them. They were so into the story!

Long Days - Short Years (from Readers Digest)

I saw a quote in Readers Digest this morning that really spoke to me: With kids, the days are long, but the years are short. (John Leguizamo in InStyle)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Personal Responsibility

We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice - - that is, until we stop saying “It got lost,” and say “I lost it.”
…….Sydney J. Harris

I came across the above quote today, and I immediately thought of all the blaming going on about everything, it seems. When something goes wrong, the first thing many people think is, "Who is to blame?" A phrase I've heard used by educators is "boss your brain". In other words, instead of being a victim of distractions and circumstances, be the one in charge of yourself. Take personal responsibility for your actions and words.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Helen Keller - Suffering - Adventure

I found this quote by Helen Keller: "Although the world is very full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." Another favorite quote by Helen Keller is: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure."

Being Thankful

I had mentioned in the last post that I had dinner last night with two coworkers. We got together because of Nancy. Nancy lost her husband two years ago to cancer. She nursed him through some awful times, and then was left to take care of her two sons by herself - both young adults - late teens/early twenties - the youngest still living at home. At the beginning of this school year - during the anniversary week of her husband's death - she went upstairs to check on her son before leaving for work. He was still in bed asleep, and so she decided to let him sleep. She went on to work. She got home that afternoon, went upstairs and found him exactly as he had been when she'd left that morning. He was dead. Now, almost two months later, the autopsy report still isn't back. Other than satisfying curiosity or determining if there is someone to blame, the autopsy results don't matter. They won't change the fact her son is gone - that she is going through every parent's worst nightmare. And I can't do anything for her except just be there and cry with her - and get together occasionally for dinner to get her out of the house and with friends again.

Tragedies like that make me both thankful, and they also scare me. Thankful for my close family and for my healthy children and grandchildren. Scared because maybe my life has been too easy - maybe life is just waiting to whallop me with a major blow. That sounds pessimistic, but it isn't. I don't dwell on it. It's just a thought that goes through my mind at times. Is there such a thing as being too lucky?

The Good Life - family & friends & shopping

I've had a good past few days. I had the birthday dinner with my family on Sunday. Monday I had dinner with two friends who also happen to be coworkers. Then I had dinner with my best friend tonight - lots of girl talk . Lots of dinners, huh? To top off a nice few days, I went by the outdoor equipment store tonight and bought everything I need for my camping trip. So when I get home Friday and take the grandkids back to their mom and dad, I'll be ready for my first camping trip! Yea! I've been investigating places nearby where I can camp, and I've made my choice. I'm looking forward to it, and apparently the weather is going to cooperate with me.

After work yesterday, I drove by a house for sale - a GORGEOUS house - way out of my price range but still fun to look at. It was a for-dreams-only home - on 21 wooded acres - very scenic and restful looking. Just spectacular. I fantasize about living in a place like that. I saw deer along the road on the way there and on the way back.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Forget Power Rangers. It's Spiderman to the rescue!

It was a Spiderman kind of night for Scalawag's 27th birthday party. When Sweet Stuff and her daddy went shopping for Power Rangers supplies, they couldn't find any. So Spiderman stepped in and saved the day. When Scalawag was a little boy, he was rather partial to Superman, but I think he was happy to shift his loyalties to Spiderman for the evening. (Side note: I saved the red Superman cape I sewed for him, and gave it to him a couple years ago. I hope he kept it so someday his little boy can play with it.)

There are few things more satisfying than a great time being with family. I thank God daily for my family. I love being with and watching them all. Scalawag and Meah had work still to do tonight, and so they left soon after dinner. Stinkeroo, SD and the girls stayed awhile longer. Stinkeroo had brought the girls' pajamas so they could take their baths here before heading home. What is there about being naked that makes children want to laugh and run around? Both girls tore around the house with pure joy before finally getting into the tub. There is nothing in the world sweeter than freshly bathed children -- all sweet-smelling and cuddly. I enjoyed brushing and drying their hair. They had not brought socks, and so I gave them each a pair of my socks so their feet wouldn't get cold on the way home. They wore them almost like tights -- with the socks coming above their knees.

I'm sitting here at the computer, smiling at the memories from such a wonderful evening with my family -- Singing "Happy Birthday" to Scalawag, pirate costumes, Captain PotBelly, Spiderman masks, the story of Meah's first patient, SD teaching the girls to say "Go, Dawgs, go!", watching Scalawag grill the steaks, hearing Stinkeroo tell about her trip to Texas, and then watching each car drive out of sight with blown kisses and I-love-you's filling the air.

Party Time! Oh no! I forgot the Power Rangers!

I wrote earlier about how this past Wednesday was Scalawag's birthday. Today we will have his birthday party. Rather than meet at a restaurant, we'll all have dinner at my house. It'll be easier on the girls not to be confined to a restaurant. At my house they have toys and plenty of room for playing. Plus a home cooked meal is almost always better than a restaurant meal. Last night I went to the grocery store and bought the ingredients for Scalawag's favorite cake - my Aunt Mary's strawberry cake - a cake I don't care for at all but that has always been Scalawag's favorite. But that is good. I can bake it and not be tempted to eat any of it. I bought steaks to grill for the adults and hamburgers for the children. I'll also cook some of the vegetables that I froze during the summer. Before I left the store last night, I mentally went over the entire dinner and was satisfied that I'd bought everything I needed and wouldn't have to make another trip to the store today. So I was set...except that I realized when I woke up this morning that I had forgotten about THE POWER RANGERS! (Click HERE is you don't know why I'm talking about Power Rangers for a 27-year old's birthday.)

Not wanting to go to the store again today and being a little devious, I made a phone call. Perfect! Sweet Stuff answered the phone herself. It seems that when she answers the phone herself , she feels "in charge" and she carries on a great conversation. Often if I talk to Stinkeroo first and she asks Sweet Stuff if she wants to talk to Grandma Carol, the conversation is short, and Sweet Stuff's not into it very much. This morning she was INTO it. I wish I could relate the conversation word for word. I told her that we were having a birthday party for Uncle Scalawag today. That got her excited because she LIVES for birthday parties. I could hear her relating our conversation to Stinkeroo in the background. Then I told her that I'd heard she wanted to have a Power Rangers birthday party for him. Oh yes, she said - Power Rangers for boys. Then I asked what Power Rangers things I needed to get. "Cups....plates.... napkins," she replied, pausing thoughtfully between items. (I heard Stinkeroo talking to Sweet Stuff in the background.) Then "We'll get everything!" Those were the words I was hoping to hear! "How about party hats?" I asked. That, too. Then, since they had made blueberry muffins for breakfast, she said she wanted to bring Uncle Scalawag a muffin, too. I talked to Stinkeroo after Sweet Stuff and I were finished chatting. She said she was going to the store in awhile anyway and that Sweet Stuff would love to pick out the Power Rangers stuff.

So I'm all set. No need to go shopping again. I can have a nice relaxing day at home. The smell of the cake baking will be wonderful, and I'll have time to prepare for the party with no rushing. Yea!!!! It seems that often when I think I have EVERYTHING covered and everything planned perfectly, there's some little detail I've forgotten. It's nice to have other family members who can take up the slack.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, camp stoves

I spent a couple hours this morning at a store that had everything for outdoor adventures. A friend who is also wanting to get into camping met me there and we chatted with the salesperson for a long time and asked a lot of questions. The salesperson was most helpful, and I believe I know what I need to go camping. I was SO tempted to buy everything today and go camping tonight. However I reined in my impulsivity (is that a word?) and decided to think about it a few days, and if I still have the camping bug, I'll buy what I need later this week - and go camping next weekend. And since I know myself fairly well, I'd put money on the fact that I'll be buying the supplies this week and camping next weekend. I'll be doing what the salesperson referred to as "car camping" - driving to a park with established campsites, and just moving my camping stuff from the car to the campsite. No hiking involved in getting there. The backpacking can come sometime in the future depending on how well the car camping goes.

I enjoyed looking at all the possible things to buy. There was every gadget imaginable. However, the one thing that got me excited was the COOLEST stove! It's a small hand-size unit that screws into a propane canister - it has little arms that fold out and you set a pan on the arms. Easy, simple, probably not very steady -- but I loved it! The tents were interesting, too. If you haven't looked at tents lately, you should know that the designation of 2-person, 3-person, etc. is deceptive. The three-person tents would only be practical for three VERY friendly people. I believe I'd get claustrophobia in the one-person tents and even the two-person tents. The tent I will most likely buy is a 3-person tent. It will provide plenty of room for me when I go by myself, and if I find someone who wants to go with me, there will be enough room for two. I really wouldn't try to squeeze three in there, though -- unless two of them were Lily and Sophie. Which is actually an idea for maybe a year or two from now when they're a little older. They'd think camping was a big adventure.

Now that I know what I want to buy, I'll concentrate on where I want to go. It'll probably be a state park somewhere within a hour's drive of home - with lots of hiking trails and some pretty scenery.

Pumpkin Patch Bound

The details are worked out. My fall break starts next Wednesday. So as soon as I get off work I'll pick up Sweet Stuff and Sunshine from school, and we'll make the 3 1/2- hour trip to visit my mother - their Grandma Ruth - in Georgia. In one of my mother's guest bedrooms, she has two twin beds and a full bed. The last time I took the girls to visit my mother, the three of us slept in that bedroom, and they thought it was such fun. They each had their own bed, and Grandma Carol slept in the room with them. So we'll drive down on Wednesday. Then on Thursday we'll go to the Pumpkin Patch that their Aunt Debi manages for their local church. Aunt Debi will let us join a preschool group that will be on a field trip to the Pumpkin patch. We'll participate in story telling and pumpkin decorating. The girls will have a great time, and we'll bring lots of pumpkins home with us. We'll come home on Friday morning - just in time for the girls to spend the weekend with their parents and for Grandma Carol to go camping. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I've heard a lot about FREAKONOMICS in the past week or so, and I want to read the book.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Here's the publisher's description of the book: Steven D. Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives - how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of...well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

It sounds fascinating to me -- and with all the press it has gotten, apparently it is fascinating to others as well. I'll report back here after I read it.

ONE GRAIN OF RICE by Demi - Mathematical Folktale

Another book recommendation is ONE GRAIN OF RICE by Demi. This is a book that always grabs the kids' attention. In this story set in India, there is a rice famine, the people are starving, but the raja is hoarding all the rice for himself. Then a clever village girl named Rani returns some rice that has fallen from one of the raja's baskets. He decides to reward her for her honesty. When he asks what she wants for a reward, she requests a single grain of rice, and continues "Then each day for thirty days you will give me double the rice you gave me the day before. Thus, tomorrow you will give me two grains of rice, the next day four grains of rice, and so on for thirty days." Each time I read this book with children, they want to know if the math is really true. How does one grain of rice become over a billion in only 30 days? So we do the math and see that it is indeed true. It's a great way to teach multiplication and other math concepts through authentic literature. Plus it throws in a lesson on honesty and caring for others.
One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale
One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

Homecoming Parade in Small Town, U.S.A.

Today was a special day at school. It was Homecoming Day at the high school across the street. Ordinarily a high school homecoming wouldn't affect an elementary school. Not here, though. Homecoming Day means that the high schoolers would have their homecoming parade and that it would come through our elementary school parking lot. Around 1:45 p.m. there was an announcement over the intercom that the parade was starting, and that all classes who wanted to see it should make their way to the front parking lot immediately. Such excitement! Children, teachers and parents lined the parking lot and waited while the local police stopped traffic, and the parade began. The floats were obviously a labor of love of the high school students. They wouldn't have won any awards in a commercial parade, but that didn't matter. The excitement and fun reflected on the faces of the students were better than any award. Most of the parade vehicles were student-driven cars and trucks that had been decorated with streamers, balloons, paint and, in one case, mud. Two police cars led the parade with their blue lights flashing. Another cruiser with flashing lights brought up the rear, with an assortment of floats, cars and trucks in between. High school kids were packed into the cars and trucks -- standing up through sun roofs - hanging out windows - packed in the truck beds -waving and cheering, honking horns, revving up the engines. Excitement reached new heights whenever brothers and sisters or friends would see each other. Little ones would proudly point out their older sibling, and the older ones would yell to the younger ones. The high schoolers threw candy to the eager elementary students. I watched as high school students caught the eyes of former teachers and called out and waved to them. I imagine most of them were remembering past years when they had been the younger students in this event. It was loud. It was not a standards-based learning activity. It was a tender moment - one you wouldn't see in city schools. I looked down the road at the traffic backing up behind the police barriers, and I wondered what non-locals were thinking of this display of small town pride and celebration. Traffic was stopped for a good 20 - 30 minutes as the parade moved from the high school, across the street to the elementary school, through the parking lot and then back across the street to the high school again. When the children got home from school this afternoon, they may not have been able to remember what they learned in class today, but I guarantee they'll remember the fun and excitement of that parade.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I don't know why I've got such an impulse to go camping. I don't like being uncomfortable. I like sleeping in my own bed. I don't like being by myself - especially outside - in the dark - all night. And yet... I keep thinking that maybe I'll see if I can borrow a tent from somebody and give camping a try this weekend.

Imagination - blockbuster TV in the making

Today I was working with a group of four third graders. As they read, I asked them to make connections. Did the story or illustrations make them think about anything else? Did it remind them of something that happened to them or something they'd read about or something on the news? In the story, there was a cartoon character who was trying to pull a giant turnip out of the ground.

One girl (I'll call her Karen) told me about how the picture reminded her of the time that she was trying to pull a piece of metal out of the ground and it flipped her up into the air. Then her sister tried to pull it out, and it flipped her into the air, too. And then her father tried, and it even flipped him into the air. Karen looked at me with wide eyes and a sincere expression as she related her tale. Karen wasn't lying to me. She was imagining pulling on something stuck in the ground, and then being flung into the air where she flipped around and landed softly back on the earth. I could see the excitement in her eyes as she visualized the experience.

In education we talk about connections - text to text connections, text to self connections, and text to world connections. Karen illustrated a connection that isn't in the books on teaching. She made a text to imagination connection.

And the thought came to me that such childlike IMAGINATION is what is seriously lacking in everyday life today. Creators of TV shows and movies have lost the ability to think beyond the ordinary in innocent flights of fancy, fun, excitement and adventure. Instead, their imaginations have gone in the direction of the dark, cynical, and sexual. And we're the worse for it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Wordless Books

Wordless books? What's the use of wordless books. In wordless books, the author tells the story through the pictures. Then the reader “reads” by making up his/her own story to match the pictures. It’s a great way to foster creativity and the use of expressive language. I have two favorite wordless books. The first is Tuesday by David Wiesner. I've used this book with all elementary grades, and they LOVE it. I love to watch the children's reaction when I show them the last two pages. You can just see the wheels of thought and imagination turning in their heads. Children of all ages and abilities will enjoy making up the story to go with this book. As I've worked with third, fourth and fifth graders teaching them how to be effective"reading buddies" with the younger grades, I've used Tuesday as an example of a book they can "read" with their buddies, regardless of their buddy's reading ability.

A great wordless (or nearly wordless) book for engaging children in creative writing is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. This book contains fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption. The children are first intrigued by a mysterious introduction explaining how the incomplete manuscript had been found. Then they are invited to finish the stories.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Apprentice - Martha Stewart's style

I started to write that I watched Martha Stewart's "The Apprentice" tonight. However, that would be a lie. I started watching it, but it was so boring, I switched over to re-runs of "The Amazing Race", but that was a re-cap show, aka a filler show. The B word again. So I turned off the TV and started a batch of yogurt instead. A perfectly logical change of activities. Since I TiVo'ed "The Apprentice", I checked later to see what happened in the boardroom. Even when Martha called the entire Matchstick team back into the boardroom so she could fire the person she wanted to fire rather than choose between the two the project manager had selected, I was still yawning. I can't put my finger on why Martha's show is boring - and Donald's isn't. I WANT it to be better than Donald's. Unless it gets better very quickly, I'm thinking that it's unlikely there will be a second round of Martha's "The Apprentice."

America's Next Top Model - Doing what girls do

I watched a few minutes of “America’s Next Top Model” tonight. A dozen or so beautiful young women competing for a modeling contract. One girl, Kim, was explaining to the camera about how, as a lesbian, she must deal with straight girls coming on to her – but, she continues, that’s okay - she likes to have fun. She has a steady girlfriend at home that she’s really committed to. However, she just really has a thing for blondes, and one of the other aspiring models in the house, Sarah, is just so . . . well BLONDE. And Kim and Sarah made out in the limousine on the way home from a photo shoot when they were all drunk (Note: captured on camera, of course), and then they spent even more time together and made out again (Additional note: captured via night vision lenses – much more dramatic!) - and so, as Kim so earnestly explained, even though she’s committed to her girlfriend at home, she and Sarah did a lot of making out because they’re girls and (the next line was the kicker) THAT’S JUST WHAT GIRLS DO. They have fun and make out together, but it doesn't mean anything. OK, I realize I’m eons away from my teens and twenties. But is that REALLY what girls do now? Fortunately or unfortunately, we won't see how this relationship turns out since Sarah was kicked off the show at the end of tonight's episode for not performing well enough with her "signature walk".

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Friends, Family, Strangers - a thank you

I added a site meter to The Median Sib two days ago, and it has been interesting to watch the number slowly increase as people look at my blog - 110 people so far. I may be wrong, but 110 visits in two days seems like a nice little trickle of traffic for a new blog. The meter doesn't count my many visits which is good because I log on and off all the time as I re-read things I've written, make changes, read comments, etc. I tend to be compulsive about looking for typos and re-wording things that don't read the way I intended them to read. The purpose of this blog isn't to get a lot of traffic, but having the site meter makes me think about who is here and why they're here.

My niece has a blog,
Reasoned Audacity, and she is nearing the 100,000 mark for site visitors. Her blog is less than a year old. So I wondered how long it would take The Median Sib to reach such a number. If my weak math skills are correct, at the rate of the past two days it will take around 5 years! Obviously this isn't going to be a record-breaking blog - and it wasn't intended to be. This blog doesn't have a central theme. It isn't associated with any particular cause or organization. Most of the comments so far are from my wonderful family, although there are a couple non-family comments interspersed here and there. I have some friends who read my blog, too. And then I guess there are the other bloggers who are just surfing through blogs and see something here that catches their eye and they take the time to read it.

What's the purpose of The Median Sib? Not to get a lot of traffic. Not to make money from the advertising. Not to debate the important topics of the day. It's here as an outlet for me - a communication and expression tool. So to everyone who has taken the time to read The Median Sib - THANK YOU!

Do you have class?

I was browsing through some blogs and came across one that mentioned this article in The New York Times. It was interesting plugging in my own statistics and seeing how I ranked in terms of their criteria for "class".

New Recipe (for me, anyway) - Hoppin' John

I wrote earlier about having hoppin' john with Italian sausage when I visited my camping friends over the weekend. Today I decided to tweak the recipe a bit - with good results. Here's my recipe:

Hoppin' John with Sausage
3 cans black-eyed peas
2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes w/jalapenos
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 pound Italian or summer sausage (I bought the lower fat variety made from turkey)
approx. 1-2 cups cooked rice (more or less depending on your preference)

Slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Throw everything in a saucepan and simmer. That's it - an extremely simple meal. You can make smaller amounts, but I deliberately made a big batch so I'd have several packages to freeze for quick meals later. It is mildly spicy but absolutely delicious!

My Sweet Baby Boy

1981-3 years old
1985 - 7 years old
2004 - 26 years old

My sweet baby boy will be 27 years old tomorrow. How is that possible? It seems like just yesterday that he was born. I remember the first Mother's Day after his birth when he said "ma-ma" for the first time, and then kept saying it over and over... All the fistfuls of flowers he has presented to me over the years...The cowboy boots he wore when he was a toddler -- even to bed...His determination...His kindness...His resourcefulness and ambition as he created his own lawn-mowing business in high school. He was, and still is, sweetness, ambition, toughness, mischief, strength and kindness mixed together in one multi-faceted and wonderful person.

I think most parents would agree that the driving hope of parents is to see their children grow up to be kind, responsible and happy adults. I have made mistakes in many areas of my life, but my two children are wonderful examples of where I succeeded. Scalawag has his own company that he started less than two years ago that is thriving and keeping him busy. He married Meah on a sunlit beach in Maui three years ago. They've created a beautiful home where they live with their two dogs, Hank and Mickey, and where they entertain friends often. Most of all, though, he is a good person. When I asked him to meet with me yesterday to look at that land, he was there. When I needed help with a project a few weeks ago, he stopped what he was doing, and he helped me with it.

We'll celebrate his birthday on Sunday with a family dinner. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sweet baby boy!


My allergies have been trying to flare up for several days -- the familiar coughing and sneezing, watery eyes and not-really-sore-but-definitely-a-little-scratchy throat. Nothing major, though, and nothing that my daily dose of Allegra couldn't make manageable. The walk through the grassy five acres yesterday, however, changed all that. There was a delicate balance between feeling okay and feeling sick - and being outside in all that newly-mown grass tipped the balance towards allergy-attack-ville. I'm staying home from work today. You know how headachey you feel after coughing a lot - the pounding headache feeling? That's how I feel. Then, because of the nonstop coughing, I couldn't sleep last night. This is what sick leave days are for. Poor, poor Carol -- all headachey and tired and coughy. I believe I'll go make her some chicken soup and cornbread.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Looking at Land

Today I walked over the 5 acres of land I mentioned here previously. Larisa went with me and Joey met us there before we left. As Larisa and I were walking I realized just how BIG five acres can be. Do I want to be responsible for upkeep on five acres of land? No, not on your life! I'm not a mowing, mulching, pruning, get-outside-and-do-yardwork-every-day kind of woman. So I'm going to set my sights on something a little more manageable -- like one acre or maybe two at the most. This place didn't have any trees to speak of either -- and I want something that partially wooded. Plus, the people who are selling the land live next to it -- and they are rude and obnoxious people. Larisa asked if I really would want to live next to someone like that. No, I wouldn't. That clinched the decision. By the time Joey got there, I had made up my mind. He looked at it -- and experienced a little of the rudeness himself -- and agreed with us. The adjoining neighbors (people selling the property) had an above-ground pool - strike one. There weren't any big trees on the property - strike two. They were brusque & rude people - strike three. So now it's onward and upward to better endeavors.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Perfect House Plan

Front of the house - Doesn't it look inviting?

The Floor Plan - my favorite part

I'm so excited! I re-found my all-time favorite house plan. It isn't a log house, but I love it so much, it doesn't matter. I wonder if a log exterior could be put on it? Since it was designed to be a brick home, it probably would be better to stick with that - don't want to mess with something I like so much. And it's
not huge -- a little under 2000 sq. ft. It has everything I want - an open living area that is conducive for entertaining, a great master bedroom suite, front porch, covered back porch, and a layout that isn't all boxy. I would make some changes. I want a real fireplace rather than ventless gas fireplace. I also don't have a need for a "summer kitchen" on the back porch. Cooking over a stove outside in the summer doesn't sound very appealing. A gas grill is all I need for outdoor summer cooking. I'm not a big fan of hot tubs, either. By not having the hot tub on the back porch, it'll provide that much more room for things such as a hammock or a recliner.

I found a 5-acre lot for sale today that looks like a possibility. I have an appointment to walk around it tomorrow. It doesn't have any trees to speak of, but Joey has a landscape business. So I figure he'll take care of that.

A back view of the house

Satellite dishes next to the tent

I forgot to mention that when I visited Tims Ford State Park yesterday, there was one very noticeable addition to many of the campsites. Some people had brought a satellite dish that they set up on a portable stand. During our stroll around the camp area, we saw one family with four children. All four kids were sitting on a bench mesmerized by the TV that was on the picnic table. It was still daylight, it was a beautiful day, there was a playground within sight, but they were sitting there like zombies watching a TV show. What's the use of going out to enjoy nature via camping if you're going to bring a satellite dish and watch tv while you're there? Don't get me wrong. At home I have a satellite dish, along with TiVo (a truly great invention!), but I don't want a TV with me when I go camping. Reading by lantern-light, hiking, napping in a camp chair with the breeze keeping me cool, watching the campfire, simply thinking. That's what I plan to do when I go camping.

Changing topics briefly - I saw another family who was cooking dinner on a green Coleman stove -- very similar to what I remember my parents using on our camping trips when I was a kid. It made me feel rather nostalgic.