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Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper here. I take care of family, garden, and coffee, when I'm not teaching and doing laundry.

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  • Thursday, February 28, 2008

    I guess I won't hog the microphone.

    I'm sharing the stage with the Mayor tomorrow -- for about 15 minutes. It's Read Across America day, and our school is doing it up big. Read Across America celebrates uses Dr. Seuss' birthday, March 2 as a target date to celebrate the love of reading. Since the magic date falls on a Sunday this year, we're celebrating on February 29.
    It's a school spirit day, with everyone who cares to participate dressing in Cat in the Hat colors: red, white, and black. I hesitate to waste a casual Friday on a dress-up day, but since I dressed down for the talent show yesterday, I suppose it all evens out in the end. Husband asked if I was Thing One or Thing Two when I pulled out my red and white striped sweater to wear with my black pants. Most years I wear my official Seuss sweatshirt proclaiming One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish, but it's a rather thick fleece, and the weather may be close to thirty degrees (that's positively balmy, for those who were wondering).
    So back to the staging of this event. We'll open with a short talk by the mayor, possibly hear him read The Cat in the Hat, and then I'll read my own Dr. Seuss tribute poem.
    Then we'll move from room to room and listen to a variety of Dr. Seuss books read by local volunteers and celebrity guests. After it's all done, and the students have moved back to their classrooms, we'll have cake. That may be the part the kiddos will look forward to the most! I plan a short period of SSR (Self-Selected Reading, also known as Silent Sustained Reading) to help my highly active class settle down after the excitement. I'd hate to send them home for the weekend wired to the max.
    Then again, sending them home on a mild sugar high might be fair enough.
    Back to the main topic, I won't need to worry about upstaging the mayor. He gets top billing.
    But can he rhyme?

    I didn't hog the microphone: he did. There wasn't time enough for the poem, and I'm okay with that. The students enjoyed all of our guest readers, including two from the public library and one school board member. The board member complimented me on the poem; our librarian had included a copy in his "gift bag" for the day. Well, it's not major swag like the Oscars, but we wanted to show our appreciation for their time. All in all, it was a good celebration.

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    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    Random thoughts on getting a passport renewed

    I gathered everything I could possibly need for this application. Birth certificate, driver's license, old passport, marriage license, proof of address, and more. I filled out the written form. I packed my checkbook.

    It was much too easy.
    When I arrived at the office, the official took my old passport, asked to see my driver's license because my name had changed since the old passport, and that was all she needed.
    But did she have to laugh at the photo?
    I mean, really, we all looked like that in the late seventies, didn't we? And the worker handling the application was my age, too. I'm sure her picture would have appeared just as dated as mine, if she had one from that era. The hair carefully feathered back from the face, big glasses with the photosensitive lenses (hot technology, it was), not to mention the plaid shirt with the solid color turtleneck under it. Hey, at least it was in black and white. That shirt had some pretty funky colors in it.

    So she took my new photo, showed it to me, asked if it was okay (of course), and then took my money and handed over my receipts.
    Sorry, I can't post the old photo. The old passport is heading off to visit a few government offices while my new one goes through.
    But it could be worse -- it could be my school picture this year! Now that's scary.

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    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    To be truthful...

    The Liar's Diary by Patry Francis is a compelling and unpredictable story. Jeanne Cross, perfect doctor's wife and high school secretary, finds herself carpooling with a rather atypical teacher who strikes a chord with her and becomes a close friend. In the process, however, Jeanne ends up witness to events that shock the traditional school gossip channels. The faculty lounge grapevine doesn't usually dabble in life and death headlines -- until free spirited Ali Mather joins the staff. Soon rumors pale in relationship to real life, and Jeanne faces unwelcome truths and unearths skeletons she wishes had remained buried. Her loyalty and her honesty collide with brutal results.
    From the opening chapter to the riveting climax, this novel just doesn't quit. The pacing isn't a walk or a jog, but a speedy drive on a tight mountainous pass: fast, twisty, and totally on edge.
    Don't read it alone, don't read it in the dark, but absolutely do read it. The Liar's Diary is fascinating and enthralling. Patry Francis ties her readers in knots and doesn't let them loose until the very, very final page.

    Note: I received a copy of The Liar's Diary, no monetary compensation, in order to write this review for MotherTalk.

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    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Fear and loathing on the front porch, with ice

    Remember the lovely icicles on my front porch? They are still there. Or more accurately, they keep coming back. I've knocked down icicles twice a day, morning and evening, but there is so much snow and so much other frozen wonderland on our south-facing roof that there will be icicles for a while. Make that quite a while.
    Yesterday I was knocking down a batch of these lovely wet stalactites of ours and I startled a woman walking her dog past the house. She saw what I was doing and laughed; I had to laugh back. My icicle obsession seems so pointless.
    So why do I bother fighting this losing battle? Safety. When the sun shines on the icicles, they melt. They drip. They drip onto the front steps and the sidewalk, and then they refreeze. This means the very same sidewalk that Amigo uses to get to and from his school bus becomes ice-covered and slick, very slick. This is also the very same sidewalk that the postal carrier and paper deliverer use each day. They need a safe walkway, too, just like Amigo. So in addition to knocking down the icicles, we spread salt and kitty litter on the sidewalk regularly. Husband spent some time chopping and removing the accumulated ice today, so for now the sidewalk is clean.
    We'll see. There's another storm predicted for Monday overnight.
    If I keep fighting these battles, I know eventually I'll win. Maybe in May?


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    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    Fur Elise is not for amateurs

    (or) Reflections on a day spent judging piano solos

    "Fur Elise" may be a standard, but it's not easy. When middle school students realize this, maybe they're stop butchering the piece. Poor Ludwig must be turning over in his grave -- or at the least, decomposing.
    Student performers introduce their own pieces before they play. This can lead to some interesting statements. "An interesting aspect of this piece is that it's pretty." "Something unique about this piece is, um, is, um -- I'm sorry, I've done six of these intros today and I just can't remember any more."
    Tears before the festival judge will not improve a rating -- but it won't harm it, either. We only judge the performance.
    Excuses for mistakes will not improve a rating, either. See above.
    Yes, I did overhear the neighborhood police liaison officer teasing the volunteer by telling her not to spill the donuts or she'd get a ticket.
    Festival judges like coffee. At least I do. Keep it coming, and I'll be more alert for much longer! (That's a message to the festival managers, not to the performers, by the way.)

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    Friday, February 22, 2008

    Kids these days

    Kids these days. I was frustrated as all get out today, dealing with behaviors that were simply out of line and unacceptable. Most of all, I was sick and tired of dealing with the Diva/ Draft Choice type: those who decide that the rules are for everyone else. For example:
    Despite the all-school assembly earlier this week discussing recent thefts and the tightening of rules and regulations, a student followed up immediately after the assembly by walking into the classroom unsupervised. When I reminded him firmly that he had broken the rule that we'd just reviewed, his response was, "But I needed my math book." A few days later he and a friend turned up at the classroom door before the bell. "Oh, we were first in line." Even after the principal pulled him into her office and issued a detention, he did it again this morning!! When I confronted him and asked him to tell me the rule about going into a classroom alone, he came back with, "But I needed an overdue book from my desk." He spent afternoon recess in detention. Again.
    Another student has been behaving badly and doesn't respond to reminders and reinforcement. In fact, he talks back, making excuses and acting like he's being picked on. The last straw came when I caught him throwing crayons. His "Uh-uh, I was just putting them back in the box!" did me in. He lost our end-of-the week reward, extra recess time, and had a note written to his parents. I know they won't put up with this kind of rudeness and backtalk, and neither will I.
    But really, kids these days. I've been allowing a small group to practice their talent show dance in my room at recess. A few of their friends stayed in and washed the chalkboards for me and then re-wrote the day's date next to the daily schedule with a lovely flourish of well-practiced cursive writing. When I went to erase the board at the end of the day, I noticed they'd added a personal note. "Mrs. DaisyTeacher Rocks!"
    Ah, kids these days. Aren't they great?


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    Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    The kids may grow up, but they still need us...we think.

    Mid Century Modern Moms is a relatively new voice in the blogging world: the voice of the moms parenting teens and young adults. We are a group of moms of teens, many of us of 'advanced maternal age' who are dealing with drivers' licenses, negotiating through the maze of college applications, and sighing with loneliness once our kids have moved out. We're an under-represented group in the blogosphere, but not for long.

    We're done with the diapers and breastfeeding vs. bottles, but we still deal with parent-teacher conferences, homework, laundry, and a lot of other parental dilemmas.
    The Terrible Twos have been replaced by Teen Attitude.
    Diaper rash is now acne.
    The "kids" have moved from formula to Mountain Dew.
    Child care budgets have been shifted to college tuition.
    Forget Disney Princess costumes: we're dealing with the latest jeans, pierced ears and more, and haircolors not found in nature.

    We're interested in learning which blogs you read that are authored by mothers who are in the throes of the teenage insanity, moms who are guiding young ones on the path to college, and other beyond-the-carseat topics.

    Do you know of other bloggers addressing these issues? Please let us know by leaving a comment here or at Mid Century Modern Moms.

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    Sunday, February 17, 2008

    View from the front porch of a snowbound Midwesterner

    8 AM

    8 AM


    ...and someone else was out at noon, too.

    3:30 PM

    6:00 PM

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    View from the dining room window of a snowbound Midwesterner

    8:00 AM

    3:30 PM

    6:00 PM

    I stayed inside, made coffee, read the newspaper, did my homework, read a book, and stuck the camera out the door now and then. Amigo and Buttercup stayed mellow with me. Husband? He was stranded out of town.
    The snowplows started coming around at 7:30, and it was still snowing.

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    Saturday, February 16, 2008

    To read, perhaps to think

    Charles Schultz created a cute Peanuts cartoon many, many years ago that showed Charlie Brown home from school, tucked in with a cuddly blanket, saying "Happiness is being too sick to go to school, but not too sick to watch TV."
    From my perspective, contentment and calm come from being too sick to teach, but not too sick to read. As miserable as I've felt in the past week, the plus side is that I've been able to stretch out on the couch with a refreshing beverage by my side, vaporizer on the floor, cozy blankets all around me, and a good book in my lap.
    I started with a re-read of the SuperMom books by Melanie Lynne Hauser. I like rereading. I get to refresh my experience with details I might not have noticed the first time, enjoy the hints and foreshadowing, and revel in the writer's craft. I still laugh at my favorite parts, and I still want a few of those adorable scrubbing bubbles for pets.
    I found a complete change of pace with All the Numbers by Judy Merrill Larsen. Maybe it was good that I read this slowly while under the weather. It's not a book to rush through, to race to the finish. Instead, it's a book to grasp, consider, examine. Moms face issues in ways non-parents might not understand, no matter how close they are to the families. This story isn't about motherhood as much as it is about coping, recovering, grieving; facing truths that are not always comfortable. It's intense and thoughtful, a rich and worthwhile read. But have a tissue box by your side -- and don't way I didn't warn you.
    I was about to start Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes, something I picked up at the B&N book fair last weekend, but then Patry Francis' The Liar's Diary came in the mail so I piled into it instead. I'm only a few chapters in, but the part that's struck me already is the importance of female friends. Guys may minimize this as "chick talk" or the "housewives eating bonbons" bit, but these friendships make our lives so much richer. A good quality novel, whether for women or by women, will have relationships (good or bad!) between women.
    For example --
    SuperMom: Carrie. Birdie needed her, and when they were on the outs, it hurt both of them.
    All the Numbers: Anna. And more, but mostly Anna. With Ellen being on her own, no husband, even though her parents were emotionally supportive, her friends were her foundation, her rock.
    The Liar's Diary: Granted, I've just begun reading this book, only getting a taste of the characters and their relationships. but the friendship between Ali and Jeanne is ripe for growth. Both need a female confidante, both are different enough to be drawn to each other, and both are emotionally needy in their own ways. How that evolves, I have yet to find out.

    If I get sick again (no-no-don't-even think-about-it), I'd better make sure my lesson plans are up to date, and my home bookshelf is full. Better yet, there's a blizzard on the way into town...the candidates will be stranded here, and (darn) so will I.

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    Friday, February 15, 2008

    shoulds are bogus, or good intentions pave to road to you-know-where

    I should compost year round.
    The reality: it's too cold in our lovely winters. A banana peel placed in the bin in December will still look like a banana peel in April.
    The end result: I feel mildly guilty throwing away coffee grounds, orange peels, and other biodegradables. Sigh.

    I should have taken my own bags to the bookstore last weekend.
    The reality: I didn't. I had the bags sitting out on my dresser, and then I got caught up in my search for gift cards. I left without the cloth bags.
    The end result: I left without the cloth bags. I realized it when we were checking out. Fortunately, I only needed one plastic bag. All in all, that's not bad, but I really intend to make a habit of turning down the one-use plastics.

    I should be exercising regularly.
    The reality: I'm not. I was all set to start and then I got sick.
    The end result: This too shall pass. Amigo has set a goal of exercising weekly, and I'm going to join him. Just -- not today.

    I should be eating healthier foods.
    The reality: I'm feeling lousy and reaching for comfort.
    The end result: I continue to pretend that lemon bars have enough vitamin C to have some nutritional value.

    I should be resting and drinking herbal tea.
    The reality: I'm wasting time blogging and drinking diet orange soda.
    The end result: liquids are liquids, and they'll help rehydrate my aching body and drippy nose. (More than you wanted to know, eh?)

    Knowing that Husband missed three days of work with this virus, I should have made sub plans in advance.
    The reality: Monday is a relatively easy day with a decent amount of prep time. I used my time to write sub plans for Tuesday and rest then.
    The end result: It's true. I saw the doc on Tuesday, and she told me I'd be sick for the week. Maybe I should have ... no, let's not start that again. I think I'll reach for more ice water and yogurt.

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    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Valentine, will you be mine?

    I've never been a big celebrator of Valentine's Day. Husband and I used to go out for lunch or dinner when we were young and childless. Now and then we'd get a sitter and do the same thing. But now, we rarely celebrate this seemingly created-by-Hallmark date on the calendar. We have some nice Valentine stories in our past, and it's a good time to look at wine glass as half full rather than half empty or (in engineering language) twice as big as it needs to be.

    In the deep and philosophical approach, a day when Husband knew what I needed and took care of it, would be nice. But those days don't happen very often because, well, we don't need them very often. We take care of ourselves and each other a lot, but we also make sure there's a little specialness now and then.

    My February 14th would have been exhausting and crazy, if I'd been in school. I feel for my substitute! Being sick on Valentine's Day was not in my planning book. My students are usually almost as hyped as they are for Christmas. Sugar, holiday, big snowstorm, long weekend ahead...oh, this sub might never speak to me again.

    Husband has Friday, February 15th off, but it won't be an easy day. He will be home with Amigo all day because teachers have staff development and students have no classes. They'll probably sleep in, have a late breakfast, and then Husband will start packing for his weekend train show. As soon as I get home (if I'm well enough to go, that is), he'll hit the road.
    I don't need a celebration of the hearts and flowers type. I'll put a simple supper on the table Thursday as usual for a weekday, maybe simpler than usual due to the extra stress of being ill. If Husband is home early enough, maybe we'll break open a bottle of wine and relax a little bit.
    But I have to admit, he surprised me this morning with a coffee mug flower arrangement and a small package of really nice chocolates. What a sweetie!
    Happy Love Thursday, everyone.

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    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Random thoughts while feeling under the weather

    Drinks that feel good on my throat:
    Cranberry - grapefruit juice. Mmm. So smooth on my raw throat!
    Coffee: a dark chocolate-peppermint blend from Harry and David, half and half with regular Folgers.
    Peppermint tea from Celestial Seasonings. I ordered a free sample last year and it worked; I'm hooked. This is delicious without being too sweet. It feels wonderful, and has no caffeine to keep me awake.
    Water. Cold, refreshing water.
    Food that feels good on my throat:
    A fresh orange and a bowl of oatmeal. I'm way beyond the need for preventive vitamin C, but it tastes good.
    A Nutrigrain bar. Smooth, nothing sharp, slides down my throat without making me cough any more.
    Hard boiled (organic) eggs. Husband buys them from a coworker, and they're delicious. They really do have a richer flavor than store-bought eggs.

    Things to do while awake, not napping:
    Reread a good book or two. Confessions of Super Mom and SuperMom Saves the World were on my list this week. They made me smile while I was feeling down.
    Start a new book: All the Numbers is sitting by my side. Look Me in the Eye is upstairs on my bedside table, too.
    Check in on old favorite blogs and new blogs. My trusty old laptop on top of my blankets, pillows propping me up to avoid the coughing fits that happen when I'm horizontal, make the couch a great place to settle.
    Watch the Weather Channel. I don't watch much TV, but I enjoy seeing classic episodes of Storm Stories and watching the updated weather in all parts of the country. It amazes me that our own little state can rate a story on this national and even international station. Madison, WI, has had record snow this year. People who live there seem to be almost matter-of-fact about it. "Well, if we have to shovel and snowblow, we might as well get the satisfaction of scoring one for the record books." That's the good Midwestern outlook on life!
    Work on simple schoolwork. This is a necessity so I don't go back feeling totally overwhelmed. I'm feeling fortunate for the way I structure my reading classes and my social studies, due to the major variety of needs in the class. It takes more thought and more work to get a unit up and running, but once it's up and running, the students almost handle it themselves. It made sub plans easy, too. "Group 1 to station 3, group 3 to station 5" etc. And the kids will know what to do! That's a relief for me and for the students. Fewer changes, less stress for all of us.
    I'll be well rested (I hope) by next week. I have a training day on Friday, and I'll reserve judgment on whether I"m well enough for that. It looks valuable.
    Watch Ellen. I don't do this often enough. Ellen Degeneres always makes me smile. She is so creative and spontaneous; she should have been a teacher!

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    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Comfort food

    A few weeks ago I felt compelled to make homemade comfort food for Husband because a lengthy business trip was imminent. Then Amigo got sick, and I kept cooking comfort foods with the intent of helping his weakened body heal. Next, Husband came down with the virus, which turned into bronchitis. With the help of antibiotics and an inhaler, he's improving, and now my throat is sore.
    My repertoire isn't that fancy. I'd just as soon pack a frozen meal for lunch as make a sandwich. But it's become a point of pride that I can and do actively pack a lunch most days, and actually cook an evening meal without resorting to frozen pizza too often. (Notice I didn't say never?) In the past few weeks, I've made tuna casserole, rotisserie chicken, followed by chicken dumpling soup, meatloaf, and more. I baked, too: hootycreek cookies, beer bread, and then lemon bars.
    Last night I got lazy (or more accurately, started feeling under the weather) and made brats and baked beans. Husband wasn't feeling up to cooking, and I wasn't feeling much more energy than he had.
    Maybe I should quickly make some chicken soup and freeze it. I'm not sure anyone else will be around to cook for me in the next few days. Campbell's chicken noodle is okay, but it's not the same as my homemade.
    Better yet, maybe I'll get over this lousy virus quickly and be ready to cook again.


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    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Headline: virus travels through family, family prepares to travel

    The two really aren't related.

    "Make three days worth of sub plans," Husband said, and he wasn't kidding.
    Amigo was sick first. Sore throat, then minor cold, then complaints of ear pain.
    Husband was next. Sore throat, then major cough and congestion, followed by active bronchitis.
    My sore throat started Saturday. I hit the preventive medicine immediately: oranges with lunch, lots of fluids, vaporizer, nap, and a glass of airborne for a bedtime snack. I slept much of the day Sunday, and spent my waking moments drinking fluids and sitting by the vaporizer.

    And while I sat in my rocking chair next to the vaporizer, we searched through our file of Important Files to see if we have what we need to apply for passports. We're pretty darn close. I have everything I need, Amigo does, and Husband might -- if his birth certificate copy is sufficient. We're not sure it is. His copy isn't notarized, is a tiny photocopy that's hard to read, and might not be official enough. I guess that's the next step: find out if it's sufficient, and if not, procure an official copy. La Petite has a current passport. If she decides to come along (which she might not, given her need to make hay while the sun shines, er, earn money while she's not in classes), she's ready.
    Friends of ours had a close call last year. They followed all the advice and applied for their passports in plenty of time according to the Powers That Be, and had a near panic as the trip neared and they had no passports. Just in time for their trip, the administration put a temporary hold on the need for passports to Mexico and Canada. Ah, relief! With that in mind, we're applying this month. If we travel at all (it's not a sure thing), it'll be in late June. If the overworked staff can't get our passports to us on time, we may need to postpone this trip for another year. We'd like to have a chance at actually getting them in time.
    That's another stretch of logic. If too many folks think like us and apply well in advance, won't that jam up the works just as badly as large numbers of people applying on time? If the new laws didn't result in an adjustment in staffing to recognize the increased workload....let's not discuss that possibility. It's much too likely.

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    Sunday, February 10, 2008


    I'm off to a bookstore later today for a fundraising book fair sponsored by our PTA. I have a gift card and I'll make myself stop when I've used it up. For me, buying books is like eating chocolate; it's really hard to stop. That's one reason I enjoy doing book reviews. I need no pay for these; the complimentary book is enough. I can find a new home for the book later, since most of my friends and colleagues enjoy reading as much as I do. However, I do try to stick to books that I can review honestly, stories with which I have some connection.

    Dadditude, by Philip Lerman, turned out to be one of those.

    Dadditude's subtitle is "How a real man became a real Dad". Philip Lerman was a man's man in a man's world, doing a macho job in a tough and manly field; he was an executive producer on the television show America's Most Wanted. Let's put this in perspective: he talked to police officers, local, state, and national, and heard and dealt with stories of increasing violence on a daily basis. He managed teams of reporters and directed well-known television host John Walsh.
    Then Lerman became a dad.
    When he and his wife, Rachel, decided to have a child, they were in their late forties. Time was running out on their biological clocks. They were willing and eager and sped through medical fertility processes at a speed that would make a pregnant mom nauseous. Oh, wait, that doesn't take much. But I digress. Typical of "older" parents, Lerman thought that since he'd handled cops and reporters and managed a television empire, he could certainly deal with something as simple and tiny as a child.
    I hear you chuckling. Snickering. All of you parents who learned the hard way about the sleepless nights, the terrible twos, and the indescribable worries that come with motherhood and fatherhood, you know of which I speak. And at this point you can predict that Lerman's Dadditude contains a lot of familiar moments and funny anecdotes that will make you laugh out loud and say, "Oh, been there, done that. So true it is!" And you will. I certainly did.
    Phil Lerman's chapter titles hin at the wealth within. "The Vagina Dialogues" -- who else but families dealing with infertility can discuss reproductive organs so calmly and carelessly toss about language that'll make most of us blush? Well, maybe the middle school sex ed teacher can. Trust me on that one.
    "To Dream, Perchance to Sleep." Anyone who's raised a child can nod in understanding. Unique to Lerman's perspective is his age: a 40-something dad has a harder time dealing with little or no sleep than one in his twenties. As he floats seamlessly from serious anecdotes to lines that bring laughter in snorts, readers realize that this dad's not kidding when he describes "...the delirium caused by the sleep deprivation."
    I hear your question: How can a 40-something mom of a teen and a college student feel any kinship with a couple that became parents at, well, the age I am now?
    Trust me: you'll never forget. I think I'm still making up for sleep that I missed when my kids were babies. It doesn't take much imagination to think about how grateful I am that I'm not lifting a two-year-old to a diaper table with my middle-aged back and aching knees. It was much easier twenty years younger. But even as I admire (and question the sanity of) parents who start their families later in life, I remember well the hassles of potty training. The growth charts. The guilt and the worry of leaving a child in preschool and day care, even though I was a preschool/child care teacher myself.
    So Lerman's transition from the macho world of television (where my husband makes his living these days) to the confines of the stay-at-home father is anything but smooth. We readers should be grateful for that, because a smooth transition wouldn't have given Lerman such wonderful stories to tell.
    Yes, I recommend Dadditude for a fun and fascinating read. Buy it for Father's Day or read it now; you'll enjoy it.

    Mr. Lerman provided me with a free copy of this book in order to review it. I will be passing it on to other dads I know will enjoy it -- that is, after Husband reads it himself!

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    Saturday, February 09, 2008

    When life hands you lemons, make lemon bars.

    Baking is one of my favorite stress relievers. I enjoy the simplicity of following a recipe and enjoying the results. My family life and my professional life are both complex, and baking, like gardening, provides a necessary balance.
    I baked a disastrous batch of lemon bars long, long ago, and the trauma was enough for me to swear off trying again for decades. I tried again last night: successfully! Here's the recipe, from the same Cookie Book as the Cranberry Hootycreek Cookies:

    Lemon Bars
    from the 2007 we energies cookie book
    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1 cup butter, melted
    4 eggs (or 1 cup egg substitute)
    2 cups granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 cup lemon juice from concentrate
    Powdered sugar for topping

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium bowl, combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Blend in melted butter. Press dough into bottom of ungreased 13X9X2 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

    In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, baking powder, and remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Stir sugar mixture into the eggs. Mix in lemon juice. Pour over prepared crust. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until filling is set. Cool.

    Sprinkle with powdered sugar before cutting into bars. Makes 2-3 dozen.

    • I put much too much powdered sugar on top. Next time I'll be more sparing with the topping. Husband scraped his off. Amigo didn't mind, though.
    • These are rather rich, too, courtesy of the eggs. A small bar is a good serving.
    • They're delicious with coffee. Was there any doubt?
    • Share the story of my lemon bar trauma? Maybe, but I'd rather bake.

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    Friday, February 08, 2008

    What's on the City Council Agenda for tonight?

    No, don't answer that.

    When someone has a beef with the mayor and takes it out on the City Council with a gun, that's not right.
    Tragedy is like a pebble dropped in a pool of water. Its concentric rings represent the victims at many levels.
    Those killed and those injured are the water immediately displaced as the pebble falls.
    Those present are the first and closest ring.
    Those responding are another layer of that first ring.
    Family and friends of the victim.
    Neighbors and local people, their confidence shaken.
    Those within hearing distance of the sirens, knowing it's bad enough to rate the national news.
    People in similar arenas begin to feel vulnerable, changing the way other City Councils and municipal groups do their business.
    And it all comes down to one overwrought person, with or without a history of violence, overreacting to a perceived injustice and taking "justice" his own way.
    And the impact, the sadness, spreads. No current can ever fully wash it away.

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    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    Primarily a toss-up: heads or hearts?

    Nina put it very well at Voted off the Island. To steal her phrase, should I vote with my head or my heart? The field is narrower, but no easier, now that Edwards has dropped out. I'm still undecided between Obama and Clinton.
    I've been excited by Barack Obama since I heard (well, read) his speech at the last Democratic convention. He really took Illinois by storm. He's making contacts and learning the ropes in the Senate. He has the potential to be a coalition builder and work across the aisle with his Republican colleagues, a skill that will be handy in passing legislation that supports his agenda. He reminds me a little of Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and I've admired and supported Russ for a long time.
    Hillary Clinton caught my attention in 1992 when her husband first ran for president. I supported him and I thought highly of Hillary. I read her autobiography when it came out and was again favorably impressed. This is one intelligent woman. She could beat the heck out of me at Trivial Pursuit, and as I rarely lose, that's saying something!
    Barack Obama understands regular, common, ordinary people. He wasn't born into riches, and he was born into a challenge: dealing with race. He has a lot of courage and strength and is handling his freshman term in the Senate well.
    Hillary Clinton was a staunch conservative in her childhood and went on to lead her college chapter of the Republican Party, resigning from that office to become a registered Democrat when she felt the other party was no longer aligned with her ideals. She has dealt with many prejudices because of her gender. Make no mistake about it, she has faced a lot of adversity that comes with being a strong, intelligent, articulate woman.
    I still don't know exactly which way to vote come February 19. I'm sure the candidates' ads will run here, but that's not the best source of information. I respect both front-runners' intelligence and integrity, their knowledge and their grit.
    I think I'll do a little more research. This is going to be a very difficult and important decision.

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    Wednesday, February 06, 2008

    Random Encounters of the Educational Kind

    I was making copies in the school office and gathering my things to go back to my room when I saw a woman come in holding an animal in a blanket. The secretaries and others gathered around, so they must have known her. She started unwrapping the blanket, and as I thought oh, no, here go my allergies the cutest little baby wallaby poked its adorable head out to say hello. At first glance I thought it was a llama, but at second glance there was no doubt. If it wasn't a wallby, it was a kangaroo, and those aren't very likely in this area!

    Two kids came in from recess today and showed me bruises they'd gotten in an encounter with another classmate. They also mentioned a number of times when their "friend" had bullied kids verbally, teasing them and putting them down. I took my concern to the principal after school and we'll deal with it. ASAP, if not sooner.

    I was teaching math (trying) when one student kept getting out of her seat, coming up to me, and tapping my arm to ask for help. I continually sent her back to her seat, but she didn't stop. finally, I simply ignored her completely unless she was in her seat with her hand up. She just couldn't master the concept that there are lots of kids in the class, and she can't have one on one with the teacher in mid-lesson.

    Can my students be "Wordless" on Wednesday? Just once? Please? I just checked the calendar, and the full moon isn't due for two weeks. So what's with the constant talk-talk-talka-talka-talktalktalktalktalk?!!!

    I'd pound my head on the wall in frustration, but the only thing I'd accomplish would be a sore head. I think I'll have some M&Ms instead.


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    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Notes to self as family brings in the germs

    Amigo was mildly ill last week. Now Husband is down for the count with similar symptoms: cough, cold, achiness, exhaustion. At school, one student was out sick today and two others should have stayed home.
    At times like this, all of my germ-phobic tendencies start shouting at me.
    No, don't touch that kid's computer mouse!
    What do you think you're doing, testing the keyboard connections yourself?
    Now you're headed for touching your nose -- uh-uh! No, no, no!
    Wash your hands.
    Don't touch that kid's pencil. Use your own to revise and make notes on his paper.
    Wash your hands.
    The doorknob? Germ factory!
    Wash your hands.

    After school I went to the quickie pharmacy-convenience store and stocked up on all the goodies that Husband had requested. Cold/flu meds in both non-drowsy and drowsy, cough drops, Nyquil (by brand name, not generic, must be cherry flavor) and more. I spent $50.
    Oh, okay, I also bought enough Valentine pencils for my entire class, anti-snore strips for me, and two paperback books. Note to self: always have a good stock of reading material on hand in case of sick day for yourself or as caretaker.
    I made a trip to the grocery store on Sunday to buy lemon tea and honey for Husband's sore throat, so Husband already had good hot beverages available. Note to self: start keeping this in stock as part of the standard pantry supplies.
    And...I bought two different kinds of hand sanitizer. One is a nice lavendar scented bottle that I can keep in my desk; the other is a small purse-sized spray to carry with me in my, well, in my purse. Note to self; good move. "Be prepared" is the Girl Scout motto.
    On that note, it's time to pack tomorrow's lunch with my daily orange. The vitamin C can only help.

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    Monday, February 04, 2008

    Random Thoughts on Super Bowl Monday

    My excuse for Starbucks this morning went something like this: I'd sure like to get a New York Times to see their sports section, so I might as well buy one where I can get coffee.

    Wouldn't it have been fun to substitute signals in case the Pats were somehow still stealing? I suggest dropping in an occasional sign from American Sign Language saying something like, "Haha, you just wasted your time and your video. I just finger spelled my college fight song."

    How about Bill Belichek leaving the field before the Giants could take their final knee? Poor sportsmanship, cluelessness, or did he just decide "Oh, well, now I can wash that filthy sweatshirt I've been wearing superstitiously all season. Might as well get at it right away."

    Does anyone feel sympathy for the eldest Manning brother, Cooper, the one who no longer plays football? I kept wondering if he was in the skybox with Peyton, but the cameras were sticking with Big Brother Quarterback watching Little Brother Quarterback.

    What's it like to be Mom Manning in a household with that much testosterone? Or is she just kind of like Wisconsin women, who know football and cheer as loudly as the men?

    Did anyone notice if Jessica Simpson showed up? Did she know Tony Romo wasn't on the field? And in the same category, did anyone blame Giselle for distracting Tom Brady?

    In our household, Bridgestone won the Most Creative Commercials award. Coke came a close second with its runaway (flyaway?) balloons. Gotta love it when Charlie Brown actually wins one!

    La Petite had friends over to her humble apartment to watch the game. She and her roommate decorated in Green and Gold, complete with G-Force signs and Title Towels. Up until kick-off, they pretended their favorite NFC team was playing.

    And last but not least, I predict the Packers and the Giants will meet again next year. They're both too good to stay home post-season. No predictions on the outcome or the score, but you know which colors will adorn my fireplace mantle. My Christmas tree. My husband's feet.

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    Saturday, February 02, 2008

    Random Thoughts on a Snowy Saturday

    Amigo is again feeling under the weather. We went to the Saturday morning clinic and found out that his ears are not infected, but quite plugged up and filled with fluid. Prescription: Lots of fluids, OTC pain reliever, and a vaporizer. He's curled up on the couch right now in the "humidified" den watching TV.
    We ended up watching SpongeBob Squarepants by the process of elimination. The Weather Channel was interesting for a while (it's been a fascinating winter if you're interested in weather or climate trends), but after we'd watched three "locals on the eights" we lost interest. After all, how many times can we see a prediction for 50% chance of a half inch of snow when we've already been out on snow-slicked roads that have at least an inch or more accumulation? Now we're watching the snow fall (it's really pretty if you're indoors) and surfing the channels.
    CNN was our next stop. On a weekend that is often fluff and football, they had to cover a story of a police officer's murder in New Orleans. How sad! New Orleans PD doesn't need any more tragedy. My sympathies to the family and force.
    He wanted to watch Dora or Diego. Look, kid, you're 16! give me a break! No kiddy cartoons while I'm in the room, at least!So we eventually ended up on SpongeBob. At least this is a cartoon with humor I can appreciate.
    I had a random dream last night. It was a convoluted series of events involving people in my life both current and past, eventually ending up with my laptop being stolen while the case was left behind. Husband's response: "You really want a new laptop, don't you? Your case is still perfectly good, but the computer inside it is obsolete."
    Well, he's right, but it's a want, not a need. I can rationalize all the good reasons for a new laptop except the price. We really don't need a new laptop. It would be convenient, useful, and all kinds of handy, especially if we outfit it with Amigo's adaptive software. But no, it's not a need. Yet.
    Maybe Husband is demonstrating his sensitivity in understanding my dream. His fortune cookie yesterday told him to get in touch with his "feminine side." What could I say? "Honey, PMS stinks. Here, have some chocolate."
    And on the feminine side -- I entered a handful of Bloggy Giveaways and actually won a prize! It's a lovely handmade bag from C at MamaSaidSew! There were many, many prizes, but I only entered those that I felt were of value to me or my friends/family. In this case, it's definitely something I wouldn't make myself. I can't sew worth a darn, no pun intended. Thanks, C! I feel lucky.
    Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket. A win would fund my new laptop...

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    Friday, February 01, 2008

    Making the healthier easier

    It's a little like Supermom meeting her Kryptonite: time. If time is money and money is time, families rarely have enough of either.
    Healthy Living vs. Easy Living is like that; it's easier said than done.
    Last night, even though I'd vowed to cook from scratch more often, even though I'd declared I would make more nutritious and low fat suppers, and even though there was a package of tilapia in the freezer, I gave in to my exhaustion and threw a package of breaded chicken patties in the oven instead. Oh, it was was easy, but it was a guilt trip in the making, so I ate a homemade cookie for dessert to make me feel better.
    When Parent Bloggers Network announced their blog blast this week on the topic of healthier living, I thought about posts I've already written in the first month of this brand new year. SMART goals. Locavore food choices. "Me" time. Even safety on the ice! Well, sort of.
    The most likely way to encourage me to cook and eat healthier is to make it easy. Despite having tilapia in the freezer and knowing it doesn't take long to cook, I didn't do it. I wimped out, as my kids would say, based on the time and energy necessary to make healthy side dishes. With that experience in mind, here's my plan.
    *Keep healthy sides around as well as healthy, easy-to-cook lean meats and fish.
    *Plan ahead more often.
    *Bake (Homemade bread! Good cookies! Yum!) on weekends to prepare sides and healthier snacks in advance.
    *Cook vegetables for the adults, even though the teen often refuses to eat them. He might grow up and eat healthy some time. A mom can dream!
    *Check out the site Parent Bloggers Network suggested, Kroger online, for recipes, guidelines, safe preparation habits, and more.

    This blog blast was suggested by the Parent Bloggers Network and Kroger online.

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