Tuesday, October 30, 2007

spooky tales

Monday, October 29, 2007

Huck Finn's Warehouse and More!

The kids and I met some friends at the Corning Preserve last weekend, and on the way home C spied a sign for Huck Finn's and asked what it meant. I was perhaps a little too enthusiastic in my description- both the kids immediately begged for the Huck Finn's Experience. Conveniently, we were only blocks away, so off we went.

I've been thinking about getting A a new bed for her birthday, since she's ougrowing the toddler mattress. So after letting them rock all the cradles and sit in all the child-sized chairs and gawp at the cardboard displays intended to represent books or computer monitors*, I directed them to the bed section.

I've always been a big fan of beds with trundles and lofts with an entire bedroom's worth of furniture underneath. Turns out the kids are, too. Huck Finn's has an exciting selection of lofts with futons, and desks, and closets, and shelves, and drawers, and every possible combination thereof. The kids ran from bed to bed, climbing ladders and exploring the built-in tents and slides and cupholders, until they picked their favorites. We all decided that this style was the coolest because instead of having a ladder to the top, it has steps that pull out so they also function as drawers.

* C: Why do they have that there?
S: Because otherwise people might buy the shelves and think they're supposed to put salamanders on them.
C: (concerned) But salamanders need to live near water!
S: Exactly.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Who is the pumpkin king?

little cat A

Halloween Haunts

A's birthday is coming up-

so we're figuring out which ornaments to make for her birthday wreath this year. I'm deciding between a doll or a backpack. How tiny a purple princess can I sew....

Friday, October 26, 2007

At the playground on Tuesday, A filled all the buckets from the sandbox with wood chips and carefully lined them up on a bench. Thankfully no other kids showed up to demand seating or sand toys.

I can’t decide how to manage the kids’ use of public space. I would lean toward letting all but the most obnoxious behavior go, but the parents at Bethlehem playgrounds tend to micromanage the kids’ play. Disapproving comments have been made about rather innocuous behavior: A using trucks outside of the sandbox, C putting wood chips on the slide, both kids climbing up the slide. I understand complaints about their more annoying tricks- monopolizing one of the slides for an hour, hauling buckets of water into the sandbox. But even then I don’t know when to intervene. Yes, I understand you don’t want your kid to get muddy, and it’s hard for her to watch someone else making a moat when she’s not allowed to do so herself- but 75% of the sandbox is still available for her use. (Pouring water down the slide is something I don’t allow, because that ruins the slide’s attractiveness for everyone.) Yes, I understand that taking turns is important, but your kid can take his turn going down after my kid climbs UP the slide. (I was probably lax in letting C sit on a slide reading for an hour last weekend, but given that there were multiple identical slides and that we were at a less rigidly monitored Albany playground, I gave up trying to make him move.) A lot of my enforcement of playground etiquette depends on our exact location, whether toddlers are present, and whether overbearing parents are watching, which means I’m pretty inconsistent. C responds just as poorly to arbitrary restrictions as he does to inconsistency, though, so I’m sort of going with the do-what-you-want-as-long-as-no-one-complains-loudly rule.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

This is really strange. It switches direction each time I look at it, but I can't make it switch if I try.

cargo trike

Friday, October 19, 2007

S: Did you sing any songs today at school?
A: Yes, we sang three songs.
S: Who did you sit next to when you sang the songs?
A: Clara. I like to sit next to girls better than boys.
S: Why?
A: Because boys pester me too much.
S: And the girls don't?
A: No.
S: What do boys do to pester you?
A: They do things like make alien hands* at me.
S: Well, C does that; do the boys at school do that too?
A: No. But Paul says, "stop looking at me!"
S: So that's why you don't like to sit next to Paul.
A: Yes.
S: Do you like to sit next to Casey?
A: Well, Casey likes to say, "I'm a dragon!" and I don't like dragons.

Unfortunately, C's bus came just then so I didn't get to hear what was wrong with the rest of the boys.

*Alien hands is what C calls it when he waves his fingers in someone's face. A hates it so much it makes her cry. We hate it so much that it makes us reconsider corporal punishment. Alien hands have been banned from our home.

Zombie Prom tomorrow.
*sigh* And I can't go.

I've been getting five hours of sleep most nights now, and (sadly) it's made a pretty big difference. I don't know whether the improvement is from weather changes, decreased daylight, magnesium supplements, or just chance, but I'm hoping it continues. And is not totally derailed by Dan's absence this week- since I need to deal with the kids' nightwakings, I usually get much less sleep when he's gone.

I met a woman at a meeting on Tuesday who'd had gastric bypass surgery. I'd heard of it before but never thought much about how it worked. It sounded like while the surgery reduces the body's ability to absorb food, the main reason it's effective for weight loss is because it makes people stop eating. They get so sick if they eat more than tiny amounts of food at a time that they give up.

If someone's desperate enough to be willing to so radically change their relationship with food, I'm surprised there's not a way of doing so that's less drastic. (This woman was in the hospital for five days, and now, two years later, she's still barely able to eat.) Never having had a major weight problem, I can't speak to that experience, but it seems like there should be some other way....

The meeting was held in a large white windowless room. There is no clock. Its sole features are a projection screen and a Big Brother-ish poster of an eye that reads, "HPO WATCH: WE SUPPORT LEADERSHIP FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE." It's the only formal meeting I've ever been to where attendees were expected to pony up cash for the mediocre lunch provided. One thing PRA knew how to do well was run meetings- everyone's happier and more productive in pleasant environs with lots of good food.

(I realized afterward that I hadn't sized up my competition- in this case, I knew my precise location in the organizational hierarchy before I even went, so it wasn't necessary. I didn't need to jockey for position.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

I've been to a few more redistricting meetings and asked around, and learned that the comments on "socioeconomic diversity" do indeed seem to refer to the fact that the school C currently attends has a bit more rental property within its current catchment area. It's pretty darn funny.

Excluding NYC, about 32% of elementary school students in New York qualify for the school lunch program. 55% of those in Albany's Montessori magnet school do. It's only 6% at Elsmere, 3% at Hamagrael (the "rich" school). It amazes me that people really stress out about those 19 "poor" kids (potential bad influences?) without seeing the bigger picture here.

(And it just occurred to me that I've been spending too much time going to redistricting meetings. Dan and I have an agreement that each of us can go out two evenings a week; that still leaves us at least three nights a week together. He spends most of his nights out seeing friends or playing volleyball these days. Me, I go to meetings. I need to get a life.)

It's extremely difficult to motivate myself to work when no one's pressing me for results, I know full well that the output will be meaningless, and getting it done will require deciphering old syntax files.

(Syntax example: /OUTFILE=* /BREAK=caseid /iwbefore_intake = SUM(iwbefore_intake) /iwintake_birth = SUM(iwintake_birth) /iwra_birth = SUM(iwra_birth) /ywbirth_year1= SUM(ywbirth_year1) /twyear1_year2 = SUM(twyear1_year2) /hwyear2_year3 = SUM(hwyear2_year3) /hwyear3_after = SUM(hwyear3_after) /prenatal = SUM(prenatal) /postnatal = SUM(postnatal) / hvclosed = Max(hvclosed) / racloscd = max(racloscd)/ int_char = first (int_char)/ oy_char = first(oy_char)/ ty_char = first(ty_char)/ hy_char = first(hy_char) .)

And it's a beautiful day. This is my favorite season, and I really don't think I'll be missed if I roam around Washington Park for a few hours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I was wrong about the garden being finished- the warm weather over the past week set the zucchini going again, and we have five more. Glad I was too lazy to pull out any plants yet.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

An article about speeding up Ph.D. completion.

What it fails to mention is what I saw in my program:

- people stayed in because they didn't have jobs yet, and didn't have anywhere else to go. You need a university affiliation to be considered by a hiring committee; you can't just go work in a quarry while you wait for the offers to roll in.
- other stayed in because they were comfortable there, and in no hurry to go out into the big bad world.
- a good amount of time needs to be spent learning academic culture and playing the game, including putting face time in at conferences and hoping to get introduced to important people.
- a lot of students get bogged down just because they're lazy- I don't know anyone in my department who regularly worked productively more than 25 hours a week (including myself). Motivation is tough, but necessary.

It also doesn't point out the fairly obvious fact that we really don't need too many people with Ph.D.s!

Monday, October 08, 2007

After A went to bed, we broke out the Indigenous Peoples Puzzle. Our Columbus Day tradition for the past three years has been to do the puzzle, which is an illustrated map of pre-Columbian North America societies, and talk about the different cultures represented and what happened to them. This year involved less discussion (C was cheerily humming while he did the puzzle, and he's been so contrary lately that when he's happy we savor the moment and avoid changing anything) but it's always sobering to see the names that now only exist as place-names if at all.

We closed up Twin Trees for the winter over the weekend. We're enjoying A's newfound ability to remain halfway reasonable in the car; so long as we feed her continuously, she can usually handle the confinement for a bit over an hour. Once she's finally full, though, things get desperate. On the ride up, no one was exactly impressed by my dramatic solo rendition of the buzzard song but it did shock them into silence for a while. C likes Mercedes Benz because he doesn't understand its irony, but we haven't come up with too many other songs both the children will allow us to sing without complaint. (Oh, in desperation I tried Thick as a Brick and they actually put up with it, but I only remember half of it, and not in order, so I couldn't keep it going for too long without a flute.)

In between raking and wood-stacking, we got to go to the harvest festival at Gore Mountain again, and attempted to dance to the Ernie Williams Band while A insisted on holding our hands and C ran around us in circles. We remain confused as to where all the people who attend the festival come from; it's certainly larger than the population of North Creek.

We missed Aunt Maureen and Uncle Gene, but were glad Aunt Meredeth spent the night and that we didn't encounter any unforeseen disasters. (Just the predictable ones.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My ideal of keeping our books corralled on the number of shelves we currently own requires regular thinning. When we moved bookshelves around last year, an entire box of books somehow didn't fit on them anymore, and I finally got around to redistributing them a few weeks ago.

This is always a somewhat fraught activity in our household. I feel that the public library does an excellent job of storing books, and we only need to keep on hand those that are not generally available or those that have significant personal meaning and are reread over and over. Dan disagrees, or maybe it's more that he feels EVERY book he's read has been important in some way. At any rate, I've given up trying to pass on the worn paperback versions of modern classics ("Half the pages are falling out!" "But it's Aldous Huxley!"), less-than-amazing titles ("It's yet another writer writing about writing- yawn." "But we know the author!"), poetry ("When was the last time you referred to the Western Wind anthology from freshman year?" "I plan to frequently, once our lives are less busy."), or anything work related ("Isn't there a bit of duplication between the The Art of Tracking, The Science of Tracking, The Art and Science of Tracking, and the Science and Art of Tracking?" "No!!!")

I think our longest debate was over Jack Kerouac. On the Road had a good beat, but its whole point was pointlessness; I found the first half about as interesting as sitting around with a bunch of stoners telling stories, and the second half sad but predictable. Dan, however, must've read it at just the right time; for several weeks, he channeled Dean's manic persona. (I wonder if I still have any e-mails from back then; just as Dan temporarily picks up foreign accents with long exposure to them, he assumed a stream-of-consciousness writing style in response to Kerouac.) As one might expect, this made me dislike the book even more, and at some point when we were preparing for a move, I tried to give it away. Dan caught me, though, and now I must forever live in fear that he'll re-read it at some point and start raving feverishly about jazz and freedom.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Our garden is mostly done for the year; my two attempts to put in broccoli for the fall were foiled by the slugs, and I didn’t take the time to plant greens because none of us really LIKE them- we’ll usually eat them (though much of our spring spinach went to seed), but we don’t especially enjoy it. We still have tomatoes and peppers, which I’ll leave out for a couple weeks, and then we’ll hang up cherry tomato vines from our kitchen windows and spread the bigger green tomatoes out on trays to ripen. The past few years we’ve eaten the last of our tomatoes right around Thanksgiving. I don’t think they’ll last so long this year- the cherries ripen more quickly, and the larger tomatoes were mostly determinants this year, so they’re pretty much gone. We’ll see what the Romas do, though.

I planted the Romas for drying, but didn’t get to do a lot of that. They tended to drop before they were ripe, and then the bugs damaged them on the ground before I collected them- not sure whether we were supposed to pick them when they were green or if the plants were unhealthy or what. We still got to use a lot of them in cooking, but since they were not perfectly ripe I didn’t take the time to dry them.

So far, the local produce experiment has gone well, though Dan and I have had some disagreement about what qualifies. I didn’t think we should be buying processed potato products, like fries and chip, but I was overruled. This weekend I felt a sore throat coming on and bought orange juice to fend it off- though maybe I could have found local cranberries instead? The kids demand bananas whenever they see someone else eating one; we let them know we’d be buying them in the winter. We’ve been less able to obtain organic fruit, but we knew that would be the case. I’ve been trying to keep everyone away from apples while we have other options- the peach and blueberry seasons just ended, and we can still get pears- but I’ve pretty much given in now. (Good local apples are available until early spring, so I don’t want everyone to get sick of them now- they’re our main winter fruit.)

I should itemize what’s in our freezer; we’ve been putting in small quantities whenever we have a chance. We have a lot of black raspberries, pesto, and tomatoes in there, my lone jar of pear butter, and several quarts of blueberries. Nowhere near as much as we’d originally planned, but this pesky job wasn’t on my radar then.