Wednesday, June 28, 2006


The girls attend our neighborhood's Catholic school. Parents are strongly encouraged to give of their "time, talent, and treasure" to be more committed to the school and church community. Since I am a teacher, I don't have much "treasure", but I do have a bit of time and what can be passed off as "talent", so I am a Brownie leader for Claire's troop. Let me tell you, being involved with Girl Scouts (or Boy Scouts, 4-H, whatever) is a lot of work! Parents might complain about paying dues, but they have no clue as to how much of leaders' own money is spent for projects, etc. Plus, leaders have to PAY to do it!

Not to leave Lydia in the dust, I also volunteer my time to her Daisy (pre-Brownie) troop. I don't do any of the planning, just help out at meetings. Last week we met at a local park- it was a perfect evening, we had a little cookout, the girls sponge-painted t-shirts. We were having a group discussion about "being a sister to every Girl Scout", which is part of the GS Law. We were discussing what that meant to us and then some of the girls started giving examples of how they had been dissed (my word, not theirs) by other kids. We also talked about "being responsible for what I say and do", which is another part of the GS Law. One little girl, who is usually about 2 steps behind everyone else, raised her hand. Here's what she had to offer:

"Sometimes my dad says cuss words at my mom when they're having 'scussions."

If I'd have been drinking milk, it woulda come out my nose. Thankfully, years of teaching have given me the gift of the non-reaction. "Really? Sometimes grownups do that, huh? Anyone else?"

And for the record, I am not worried that this child has to endure her foul-mouthed dad 'scussing with her mom on a regular basis. I'm sure my husband and I have our own 'scussions, although we try not to "say cuss words at each other" when the kids are within earshot. And believe me, I am pretty salty, so it's hard for me to hold back sometimes.

Monday, June 26, 2006


In communities that have "pockets" of ethnic groups- especially recent immigrants, it seems as though they find a business niche. In many parts of the country, Pakistanis/Indians own and operate hotels and convenient stores. In the Chicago area, Dunkin Donuts are also run buy people from India. Here, many restaurants are Greek businesses, as are a couple of service stations.

In the mid to late seventies, the local Catholic Dioceses sponsored Amer-Asian families to come here. Consequently, we have a fairly large Vietnamese community. They have the corner on the nail salon market right now. Last week I had an unexpected kid-free 2 hours in the afternoon and I decided to go get my hooves (oops!, I mean feet) scraped and sanded and polished. The whole pedicure thing is quite the ordeal and I was totally in awe of the four Vietnamese women who were bent over their clients' feet and how hard they were all working. The woman who was working on my feet spoke little or no English and literally had to communicate with me be gently pulling on my leg and pointing. I kept thinking that she was working for "The Man" and that I was "The Man". I had this whole inner struggle as she massaged my feet and calves, scraped away all the rough spots on my heels, trimmed my toenails (!). I guess one way to look at it is that she's earning a living and that she needs customers to keep the business going.

Some people are uncomfortable when a language other than English is spoken in their presence- they fear that they are being "talked about". I'd like to say they are just being paranoid, but having been in that situation myself, I know that it's a wonderful tool- to be able to talk about others around you without their knowing what you are saying. But, I have to say that the 4 ladies working at Fancy Nails hardly spoke to each other, and when they did, you could tell it was work-related. I imagined what the woman with me could have said about me to her colleagues. "Damn! These are like horse's hooves! Could her feet be any nastier???" I could go on and on about not being able to eat Parmesan Reggiano ever again, but I'll spare you the visual. I just have complete admiration for all pedicurists everywhere. If you treat yourselves to one - and I highly recommend it- make sure you tip her well.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Little Town

Last night I was reminded of why I live where I do. I KNOW. It's Iowa. Mountains? We have none. Ocean? Have you looked at a map? But, where I live, we do have the Mississippi. It's big, it's muddy (really), it floods (REALLY) and when they are working on any of the bridges, it's a big pain in the ass in bi-state communities like mine. We don't have traffic like LA or Chicago, or even Hartford, for that matter. But, being stuck in bridge traffic sucks. Nothing like being stuck way up high, water below, and nowhere to go. Can you say "Xanax"?

When I was a kid, I wanted nothing to do with this place, wanting instead to move somewhere "exciting"- I wanted more of a big city atmosphere. That lasted until I had my first child. I was all set to go to graduate school in New Mexico- SOUTHERN New Mexico, and I just freaked out. I couldn't stand the thought of uprooting and finding someone to take care of my new baby, making new friends, etc. So, here we are. Most of our families live here or at least close to here, so we don't have to spend precious vacation time (not everyone gets the summer off, I know, I know) coming back here.
I know that where I live isn't typical Iowa- our community is shared with the neighboring Illinois cities, for one thing, and it's also a little bigger than your average Iowa town. One thing we are lucky to have this summer is free live music every Friday evening downtown- there's a nice courtyard right by some nice restaurants and easy access to the skybridge
. Last night we went with the girls, got some pizza, then moseyed over to the music, where we were met with the pleasant surprise of hearing these guys. We ran into people we know (and like), it was family friendly. I feel so lucky- because to go downtown is nothing. It's 5 minutes from our house, on street parking is free, in the ramp is a whopping $2 for the whole evening.

Tonight, we are going here to see some performance art thing, barge dancers or some such. That is, unless we get rained out, which looks like it might just happen.

If anyone's curious here's some more info on where I live.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson

So, last week I'm sitting with the other moms at the girls' swimming lessons. They take lessons at someone's home, so we all sit poolside and chat while our kids learn how not to drown. You could hear the buzz of lawnmowers in air, the chirping of birds. You could smell that pool smell- the warm wood of the deck, the chlorine, Coppertone, a faint smell of flowers- and, unfortunately, dog poop. Pretty soon, a new smell entered. It became stronger, so much that one of the moms bravely, and quietly asked "Does anyone else smell pot?" I don't know these women that well- this was one of those situations where you have to be very careful how you answer. Too quickly and too eagerly, you're all of a sudden like, Stoner Mom. Too naive and clueless, you become June Cleaver. We all got the giggles, then- imagining our conversations in the car after the lesson. "Hey, are you kids hungry? Do you like want to go to McDonalds? Mommy's got the munchies..."
We were then trying to figure out who it might be. We figured it was probably some kid whose parents were at work- just figured he'd wake and bake for the summer. Or maybe someone hired to do lawncare in the neighborhood, taking a break.

To add to the excitement, all the moms had a brief Mrs. Robinson moment- one of the students in the class has a "manny" (male nanny). He is European- we could tell that even before he opened his mouth, and no, it wasn't because he was wearing a Speedo. It had more to do with the green socks worn with the athletic shoes. But, I digress. He looks Greek or Italian, speaks with an accent and has the. buffest. arms. How much more Desperate Housewives can I possibly be?

Off topic, but a quick question: should my soon to be 3rd grader be playing Truth or Dare with the neighborhood kids at the park? Cuz, I think she shouldn't, but then again, I have an Inner Priss. Let me know what you think.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pomp and Circumstances

Hello, my faithful readers. I apologize for the lack of posting. Those who know me at all know it is certainly not from lack of having anything to say. That doesn't happen.
I have been to a flurry of graduation parties this past weekend. First of all, let me just say that I NEVER in a million years would have thought to have invited any of my high school teachers to my graduation party. I don't think any of my friends did, either. I can't quite figure out if the kids at the school where I teach invite all their teachers or just the ones they like, or..? At any rate, the parties I attended were as varied as the students.

Party #1
Friday night I went to a "double" party- one party for 2 grads. A boy and a girl, best friends, but just friends. It was held at a rather shi-shi (how does one spell that, anyway?) restaurant- actually the upper level, which is connected to a museum. There were stations at which were crab stuffed mushrooms, gourmet pizzas, a ginormous antipasta platter with olives and roasted red pepper and asparagus and other yummies. There was an open bar (!). There was the standard table with the scrapbooks, the baby pics, the college acceptance letters, etc. There was also a slide show, with all kinds of party pictures of the grads, including ones that were risque- even by my standards, which are questionable. The moms of the grads are also friends, and demonstrated that friendship by planting a big wet one on each others' cheeks. When they walked away, my husband and I wondered if they had ever fooled around. We decided they probably had. The grads themselves are fun, intelligent, slightly left of center. One will attend a small liberal arts college in the Northeast, the other will attend a state school and wants to go into the medical field. Their families are educated and fairly prominent members of our community.

Party #2
Imagine growing up the only child of 2 loving parents who work hard in the restaurant business. When you are 10, your mom must be put into a nursing home because of a debilitating illness. She dies when you are 12. Somewhere in there, your dad can't cope, so you have to live with an aunt. She loves you very much, but is not your mom. You move back in with your dad and it's just the 2 of you. You don't have friends over to your house much because the house is in such a perpetual state of yuck. When you are a senior, your dad becomes gravely ill. You find him in the yard when you come home from work one night. He's hospitalized, but dies around Thanksgiving. You make it through your senior year of high school with ok grades and with the loving support of some really good friends. You go to school dances with really cute girls. You party at the end of the year. You get a DUI. Now your plans to attend community college are shot, because you cannot drive yourself there. You think you'll join the army. Your grandparents throw you a graduation party in spite of your troubles. It's a small gathering of mostly family. You invite your goofy Spanish teacher even though you barely got a C in her class.
That's who's party I went to Saturday. There was a small display of pictures and football letters, but no scrapbook, no college acceptance letter. I cried all the way home and hugged and squeezed my girls the minute I walked in the door.

Party #3
Rented tents and tables in the backyard. Ice cream sundaes and cake. This girl is an amazing athlete and earned a full tuition athletic scholarship to a rather prestigious school in the East. Her parents love her very much. She has a nice boyfriend (although, in a few years, I think he might discover that she is the wrong gender for him). There were tons of classmates and teachers and neighbors there. There were 2 tables of pictures and athletic stuff, scrapbooks, etc. She wore a shirt that was the one of the university's colors. She is one of those "all-American" girls. I will be surprised if I DON't hear about how successful she is in a few years.

One of the teachers at my school retired this year. He is by far the most curmudgeonly man I've had the opportunity to meet. He entertained the staff with a witty and sarcastic farewell presentation, then proceeded to move us to tears with his final words to us. He said "The reason I decided to become a teacher, and the reason that you all did, too, is that it's the most important job there is." Testing, schmesting, standards, schmandards, it's really about the connections you make with kids. And if you aint got that, you aint got nothin.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Snippets of conversation heard at the T's dinner table:

Mr. T: (to older daughter Claire, who is using sleeve as napkin, shoving food into face, etc.) Claire! Were you born in a barn?!

Lydia: Jesus was!

Mr. T: Yeah, well look what happened to HIM!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Orville and Popeye

If any of you have read 100 Things About Me, then you may recall that I cannot resist popcorn. Today, I took the girls to see Over the Hedge, since it was a crappy, rainy gray day. I got the honkin' popcorn for all of us to share- doled it out into smaller bags so as not to hear "Hey! , " or, more accurately, "Heeeeeeyyyyyya! It's for aaaaaaall of us! Don't hog it! Moooom! She's not shaaaaaarrrring!" in stereo. We settled in for some previews- I love the previews. Previews are as much a part of the movie experience as the actual movie. Did you all know there will be a Santa Clause 3? Did we know there was a 2? And before we knew it, the movie had started and our popcorn? Gone. Does anyone else suffer from this?

I promise this won't become a recipe blog, because I really couldn't pull it off, but I made the yummiest spinach salad for dinner. To washed and dried raw spinach, add some sliced mushrooms, some bacon- I buy the real bacon that's in the salad dressing section, and some hard boiled egg slices.You could also add some tomato slices and/or green onion, but I don't.
Here's the dressing:

1 cup oil
1/3 cup vinegar (white)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
t teaspoon dehydrated onion

I prepare this in a glass jar and shake it all up. This will keep and be enough for many more salads.

My life is so. damn. fascinating. No?

ps. Does everyone get the title of this entry? Orville as in Redenbocker- of toothsome grin and popcorn fame? Popeye as in the Sailor Man- of spinach chugging and Olive Oil loving fame?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Easy Livin

Well, now I am FREE! I easily slid into my coveted role of SAHM today. I got up, made coffee, the girls had breakfast and then it was off to swimming lessons. And a glorious Iowa summer day it is. It's like 84 degrees and sunny, not too humid, blue sky, life is good.

Because I don't have to get up early, I rented a bunch of movies over the weekend, one of them was this one. I highly recommend it- extremely well acted and interesting characters. I never heard anything about it when it came out. The boy who plays the main character is also in this wonderful film that the dopey girl at Ballbuster said was the worst movie she'd ever seen.

I have a stack of books to read, a project list a mile long and right now August 22 seems so far away....

Monday, June 12, 2006

6 hours of My Life I'll Never Get Back

Well, it's officially my first day of Summer and I spent all day at a "class", and I use that term VERY loosely. In Iowa we have to have 6 hours of college credit every 5 years in order to renew our teaching license. This "class" fulfills 1 hour- it meets 3 times from 8am to 3:30pm. It is mind numbingly boring. It is called "Closing the Achievement Gap" which loosely translates to : "Our Minority Students and Those on Free and Reduced Lunch are Testing Lower on the ITBS Than Non Minority and Wealthier Students What are You the Teacher Going to Do About It?" We were presented with a model from which to "design" our lessons (Understanding By Design). I HATE educational jargon. Hate. It. Plus, most of what I was fed today really will not apply well to the Spanish classroom. We were told not to "front load" our teaching so much (this means lecture). Yeah. They lectured most of the day. We were told that "worksheets are the evil enemy". Yeah. They gave us about 6- 3 of which were collected to prove we put in our time. Not to mention that in my subject area, worksheets can actually help students learn certain concepts like object pronouns and demonstrative adjectives. Argh. The good parts are: 1. I get to take the class with my good friend and colleague, C & S's Mom, 2. We get to go OUT to lunch, and 3. We are actually getting paid by the hour to attend. I know, crazy. But, believe me, all the money in the world didn't prevent me from wanting to drown myself in my coffee at about 10:00 this morning. I sincerely hope my own students don't feel this way in my class. I'm sure they do.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Poker in the Rear and Liquor?

Last year our neighbor, who is retired, became a Licensed Massage Therapist. We got a letter from the city asking for our ok, since it would mean that our quiet little street, which is currently zoned as residential, would have to go through some re-zoning. We agreed, provided that there be no neon signs and no glittery g-strings- unless WE are wearing them. (bow chicka bow bow)

I know it seems like it might be a GOOD thing to have such a service so conveniently located, but, I just really don't want my grandfatherly neighbor to rub his oily hands over my naked body. He kind of reminds me of Gordon Jump, of WKRP in Cinncinati fame. (and for the under 30 crowd, that probably means nothing, sorry. 70's sitcom references are a weakness of mine). So imagine THAT. Ew.

The above sign has been in their front yard for a little under a year now. Only last week did I realize that it says "Parkin' in rear". AND, count the number of fingers on the right hand.

Can't you just hear it? "Oh, that? That's my '6th finger'. " An old masseuse trick, no doubt.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A little bit of This, A little bit of That

I am getting too old to start any sort of communication with the hyper "Guesswhatguesswhatguesswhat?"- (although, if I were a dog, I'm sure I'd be of the Jack Russell terrier variety, and they act like that well into old age) So, guess what??? For my birthday at the end of the month, my husband and I are going to see THE Paul Simon in Milwaukee. It's actually on July 1, my birthday's on June 30, but that's ok. I was suckled on Simon and Garfunkel- listened to Paul all through college- saw him at the Target Center in Minneapolis on the Rythm of the Saints tour. I am sooo excited. I just love him- he's such a cute little Jewish man. If we were to have a son, I wanted to name him Simon and at one point considered Paul for the middle name- to which my husband said "uh, no." So, we get to go and have a little get away weekend- just like grown ups.

In our local paper today, one of the headlines in the sports section was "Amputees Really Get Into the Swing of THings." The hell??? I had to double check to make sure I wasn't reading The Onion . Did anyone actually think about how ridiculous that sounded? Of course, Politically Incorrect Me kept rearing her ugly head, creating an inner dialogue something like this:
PIM: "The SWING of things??? As in prosthetic arm swaying back and forth?"
PCMe: "SHHHH! That is so tacky-just shut up!"
PIM: "Come on! That's pretty damn funny! Do they mean they were BEING swung?"
PCMe: "Could you be any more insensitive? What if that were YOU?"
I am reminded of a disaster simulation drill my MIL had to do while working at the hospital. She had to play the role of one Eileen Stump. Seriously! How funny is that? It's like those no arms and legs jokes... (in the mailbox=Bill, in a pile of leaves=Russell, on the wall=Art, in the pool=Bob.. I got a million of them)

Ok, that's not much of a dialogue, but I DID think it was funny. I'm tres, tres tacky sometimes, though.


I am taking a group of students to Spain next summer. I had scheduled a parent meeting tonight after school that I had pretty much spaced off, thinking no one was really going to come. WRONG. I had like 30 people show up- I was totally unprepared, not enough handouts, very surprised at the turnout. I have become very adept at the art of winging it, so the meeting ended up being fine- mostly it was Q nd A anyway. If we end up with a big enough group, my husband might be able to go, too, since he is a licensed teacher. (he's not a teacher anymore-he's been in "recovery" for about 6 years.)How cool would that be?


I've purchased Season 1 of the Gilmore Girls on DVD (on sale at Target last month- $22-what a bargain) and have been treating myself to an episode a night for the past couple of weeks. For those of you who are not fans, give them a chance. It is such a joy for me to watch- I want to live in Stars Hollow. I want to buy coffee from a quirky diner every morning. I want to go where everybody knows my name.. oops, wrong show, sorry. Does anyone else love love love Rory and Lorelei????

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Humans: 4; Animals: 3

3 more days with students and one last bullshit day- oh, I mean "contract day". I can do this, although under great duress. Tomorrow and Tues. were supposed to be finals days, but we had a snow day for which we must now pay. All of this would be alright, except for the fact that all of us are just fried!

In other news, we have changed the animal to human ratio in our household. When it was just us, my husband and I had just a kitty. Until January, we've had 4 humans to 1 animal. That changed when we acquired another kitty, Shirley (her rap name is "Lil' Shirl"). So we've still been in the lead. My older daughter has been begging for a pet of her own- of the rodent variety-eek. I told her "no way." I told her "enjoy the rodents at OTHER people's homes". I told her "Mushy will eat it." I convinced her to go the turtle route, thinking I could handle a turtle- they're cute, we could name it something fun like Yertle or Sheldon. Then I started doing some research, finding out that the red-eared sliders live for like 25-30 years, that they are rather messy, that they need a huge tank wiht a "basking light" and on and on. It was going to set us back several hundred dollars to house a $16 turtle. So, I caved. While walking around Petco with Claire, looking at tanks for the turtle, our conversation went something like this:

Me: You're SURE you want a turtle?
Claire: YEEES.
Me: You know you won't be able to pick it up or anything. And they bite. And they're really messy. They smell.
Claire: But I really want a pet!
Me: But are you sure you want a turtle?
Claire: No, the only reason I want a turtle is because you suggested it after you said I couldn't have a hamster.
Me: How about we look at the hamsters?
Claire: REALLY?!!! This is the best day of my life! I love you I love you I love you....

I truly wish I had had the cajones to take a picture of the Petco guy, because he was like a Jim Carrey character. He was ALL excited about the rodents- when Claire picked out the little gray hamster she wanted, he kept saying things like, "Oh, yeah, you've got yourself a good one- see how she's coming over to say hi? Look, right in the tube - yep, she's a good one." I was like Dude, seriously, we are picking out a damn hamster that will live for 2 years, tops. We are not picking out racehorses, here. Then he went on and on about the type of "bedding" to put in its cage, even going so far as to place palm upon chest (his, not mine) and confide "That's what I use for my rats- and I've got 8 of 'em and you'd never know it." Eww. Ewww. Ewww.

So, now we've got Molly- and still keeping ahead of the animals- 4:3. I know you're all jealous.