Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Friend In Need

I've mentioned once before about my friend and co-worker who was treated for cancer during the late spring and fall. He has seemed to recover well...getting back to work and seeming to feel much stronger, less tired, etc. And all that was great.

Till yesterday. He was taken from work to the hospital yesterday. He began reporting that he felt dizzy to a couple of folks around the building. They sent him down to the school nurse who asked a few questions and pretty quickly decided to drive him to the hospital.

By that time he was dizzy and complaining of blurred vision. The hospital took him right in and started tests. And last night and today, all his friends have been waiting for periodic calls from his wife as she has tried to keep us updated on what they've been learning.

The latest report indicated two things were going on. They diagnosed some heart issue that relates to periodic rapid heart rates which can cause the dizzy feeling. But in doing another test, they also located what they thought was a clot in his brain. They've now changed that to a tiny occipital bleed in the brain.

I have no idea if/how these two things could be related. Or perhaps it is just coincidence that both were taking place. But it has certainly made the last 24 hours stressful for his friends as we wait for more news.

And it just feels like he has been through enough this year. The poor guy deserves a break.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I just gotta know...

I think perhaps my kids have some serious visual limitation. Or maybe they somehow split their existence between this universe and some alternate time/space location. I mean, they get pretty decent grades, they make friends, they seem to have a variety of interests.

But...and here is where I'm worried....they don't seem to be able to see their rooms.

Oh, I don't mean they can't find their rooms. They locate them without any problem. They sleep in there. The listen to music. They read.

But they don't SEE!

For example, today I opened the door to Son16's room and the door would not push all the way open. I stretched my neck to look around behind the door. And suddenly, a mystery was solved. Now I know why he has not had many clothes in the laundry the past couple of weeks. They were behind the door. Which apparently, he could not see.

Daughter13, a person you would find charming if you met her out in public, does not seem to have the capacity to see that many of her books are near the bookshelf, not actually on the bookshelf.

I did mention today, in a most gentle and loving parental voice, something along the lines of "are you guys ever gonna clean your rooms...or should I just consider everything on the floor to be trash and throw it all away?" They both responded by rolling their eyes so far back in their heads that I'm sure some sort of ocular damage resulted.

So maybe it is a vision thing. Or some altered form of existence. Or something else that I just don't know about. But I'm worried. As a good parent, I need to try to get them back in touch with this universe. To help them see just how their rooms look.

I wonder if their vision would improve if I were holding on to their DS games???

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Winter Break

Yep, this is the week our schools take off so we can all sit around and think about how cold it is outside. The time off doesn't really apply to Son19 since the colleges keep right on having classes and his job keeps right on expecting him to show up. But the rest of us are getting a break in one way or another.

My wife took the opportunity to go visit her mom again - who just finished her second round of chemo and is slowly recovering.

I'm sleeping late, catching up on my Netflix movies, spending far too much time on the internet, and reading a lot. I know, I know...those of you who are working this week can just go ahead and hate me! :)

But no one knows how to celebrate a week off like Son16 and Daughter13. I have managed to convince them to shower and change clothes at least once since school ended last Friday. And they have eaten most meals. But if I really want to see Daughter13, I have to take the book out of her hands (she is totally hooked on the Guardians of Ga'hoole series) or try to find her over her DS.

Son16 will either be found building new robots and castles and anything else that comes to mind with Legos, or he'll be hiding behind his own DS.

The best way to tell them apart? By the games they play!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Word Police

A word has come to my attention. It also seems to have come to the attention of school librarians everywhere. And I'm going to use the word more than once in this post, so if you are offended by words, feel free to click along to another site for now.

For those of you who are left, the word of the day is 'scrotum'. See, that didn't hurt, did it? And yet, school librarians are banning a book just because it uses that word.

Here's the story. The book is called "The Higher Power of Lucky". It is written by Susan Patron, who also happens to be a librarian. And the book is this year's winner of the Newbury Award, the most prestigious award in children's literature. Sort of like being named the Oprah Book of the Month. The book was first published last November, but it wasn't until it won the award that people started to take notice.

And what did they find? Right on page one, Lucky, the 10-year-old heroine of the book, overhears the word when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog on the scrotum.

“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book says. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

There ya go. That's the word. Used in context. And it is freaking people out. The book has already been banned in a handful of states and it looks like there are more planning to follow.

The author says the intended audience is 9-12 year olds. Sounds right to me. When my kids were that age, they had heard the word scrotum. They knew what is was. They also knew testicles, balls, nut sack, berries, and probably some words to describe it that I don't even know! Kids know these things. This just doesn't seem like a horrific thing to me.

But one librarian who was interviewed said this was what she would call the "Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope." Has this woman ever heard Howard?!?! Howard talks about scrotums at the breakfast table!

I'm just baffled by peoples' reaction. I can't believe a library would censor a book based on the proper use of the name of a body part. But one elementary school librarian said parents wouldn't want to have to explain that kind of vocabulary. Really? I would not want my kids to know about their bodies? Gee, don't speak for me, lady! If I'm nervous about explaining vocabulary to my kids, that is my issue. Not theirs. Not the author's. And not the librarian's.

I'm sure a few of you may be thinking...gee, glad Em isn't the person making the final call on the books my kids read! And that's okay. Every parent has to make that choice. But that seems to be the key. It is the parent's choice. When we ban books and censor material, parents never get the opportunity. I trust myself to make choices for my kids. I don't trust the Word Police.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Synchronized Blowing

It does not matter how long it snows. It does not matter how much it snows. It only matters when it stops. Mere moments later, garage doors roll up almost simultaneously and the roar of snowblowers fills the air.

We all mow our lawns, but that can happen any day of the week. At any time. But blowing is a unified experience. We emerge from our garages and push our blowers up and down the driveway in a steady, zombie-like walk. Straight lines, one path carefully overlapping the previous one. Same pace. Back and forth. Stepford blowers. Moving in sync as if controlled by some central intelligence.

It is a bonding moment. As we reach the end of the driveway and make our turn, we nod and wave to the neighbor across the street, never quite sure if that is the 'him' or the 'her' underneath the down parka and hood with the scarf covering much of the face. He/She looks more like the Stay-Puf man than the neighbor who actually lives in the house.

Eventually the walks and drives are clear and we move back into the garage, moving at the same steady, unbroken pace with which we began. The garage doors roll down behind us, leaving the street in silence.

A passerby just minutes later would never know the precision performance they had just missed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Day of Love!

It's Valentine's Day and I wanted to show some love to my wife. And I decided the best way to do that would be to share one of the ways she shows some love to others.

See, my wife loves to crochet. And I've watched her do this work - this process of poking that little needle-like probe in and amongst a tangle of yarn and ending up with clothing. It seems like magic that a bundle of yarn turns into something nice and warm. At one point I thought that looking at the directions would help me understand the process. But then I saw this one line of instructions...
dc next 9 sts, dc dec, 9 dc, dc dec, 4 dc, 2 dc in each of next 8 sts, 4 dc, dc dec, dc remaining sts
...and realized that not only was she creating magic with her little stick but she was reading a secret language that only those blessed by the gods of crochet could understand.

She has made a variety of winter hats and scarves for the family. She has made some baby blankets for friends with newborns. And all of her stuff looks great.

But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about her hats. Her premie hats. My wife crochets hats for premature babies at hospitals. It seems that the hats which hospitals sometimes have available, even in the NICU areas, are often too large. Also, they aren't adjustable and don't have openings in them for the various monitor leads that get attached to the baby's head. So there are special patterns for creating premie hats that really meet the needs of the doctors and nurses while looking cute and snuggly on the babies.

The local hospitals collect some. And there are national organizations, working through web sites, that collect them and distribute them to hospitals nationwide. The Premie Project is one such web site, but there are many others, dedicated to providing hospitals and families with hats, blankets and booties for premature babies, and burial dresses and other items through their Infant Bereavement Program.

Here is a sampling of my wife's recent creations...

Watching her make these is pretty interesting because I am not a crafter and the process mystifies me. But then holding these little hats is just a bit heartbreaking. After watching our three children being born, I hold these hats and am amazed at how small a baby would be that would need a hat this tiny. The photo above doesn't really give you a sense of the size, so I took one additional photo where I put my car keys on top of one of the smaller hats. We all know the size of a key...so now you know the size of the hat...

Pretty damn small! It makes me sad in a way. But I'm awfully proud of my wife for donating her time and her talent to make this small difference for a family struggling through the birth or their little son or daughter.

I love my wife for many reasons and her generosity towards others is certainly one of them!

Happy Valentine's Day to my wife...and to all of you! Hope you have a great day!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Easy Mac Breakdown

A couple of days ago, Son16 was making some Easy Mac. Now before you assume that we only feed our kids prepackaged foods that can be cooked in the microwave, let me reassure you that is not the case. We feed them honest-to-goodness real cooked food once a week whether they need it or not!

But on this particular day, it was every person for himself and Son16 grabbed two packages of the Easy Mac Big Packs.

Now let's establish a few of the necessary background features for this story. First of all, we've never had the Big Packs before, only the 'regular' size packs. Secondly, you may recall, Son16 is diagnosed with multiple special needs - among those is obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder.

Those two pieces of information help explain why he was totally unsure how to combine two packages and still have it turn out right. So he asked for help. I showed him the instructions for one pack, explained he would just double the amount of water, milk and butter, and he would end up with macaroni and cheese, just like with the regular packs.

And I observed as he so very carefully got out measuring spoons and measuring cups to begin the process. I commented that he probably didn't need to be that precise in his measurements, that an estimate would probably be good enough.

His eyes bulged to the size of softballs as he considered the imprecision of that pathway. "No dad, that would just wreck my noodles!" he informed me.

As he started to measure the 1 and 1/4 cups of water - yes, with the 1 cup measuring cup and the 1/4 cup measuring cup - I suggested he either use the 1/4 cup and fill it five times or else use the 1 cup and just estimate the 1/4 amount.

"What are you talking about?!?!"

"Look, Son16, watch this." And I proceeded to put in 1 cup of water and then estimate the 1/4 cup. He anxiously paced the kitchen telling me several times "You're wrecking my noodles!"

While the noodles did their thing in the microwave, I showed him how we would just cut a little chunk of butter and toss it in rather than measuring a precise tablespoon. I even mentioned that we would not actually measure the milk at all, but just pour in a bit, as needed, to get the consistency of the sauce he wanted.

As I began to demonstrate those things with the cooked noodles, he was getting two more packages from the box, certain of the fact my haphazard concoction would be inedible.

Somehow, in the midst of his repeated declarations that I was "wrecking his noodles" and while his whirlwind of pacing went on around me, I did manage to make macaroni and cheese using my freakishly bizarre method called 'estimating'. And I set it before him with the assurance that "your noodles are not wrecked".

He tasted it. He ate it. He told me it was 'okay'. But he assured me it would have been better if I had done it 'correctly'.

I'm not sure if the noodles would have been better. But his heart rate might have stayed in the normal range!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

How weird do I have to admit to?

Nancy tagged me to share six weird things about me. This is my first time to be tagged. It's kind of exciting, I'll admit. Perhaps Nancy just needed to find six people who had not already done this meme. But I want to think she made a careful selection from among some of her favorite blogs. So while others may moan about being tagged, I feel oddly giddy. A virgin experience. In fact, I think I'm looking forward to this enough that this alone qualifies as #1.

2. Not sure if this is weird or just an intense fear, but I have an unreasonable aversion to snakes. All snakes. Teeny, tiny snakes are as frightening as giant ones. But it isn't just that I don't want to hold them or walk among them. No, I don't even want to see a picture of one. If I'm reading a magazine and turn the page to find a picture of a snake, I get a huge surge of fear. As you can imagine, commercials for the movie Snakes On A Plane almost made me stop watching TV for a while.

3. I went snow skiing one time in my life. In high school, while living in Mississippi, a group of us went to Colorado to ski. I knew nothing of skiing. It looked pretty easy on TV. If they could do moguls and jumps and all that, surely I could slide down the hill. Wrong. I spent the first couple of hours on the bunny hill, feeling silly and falling. And then I got talked into going to the top. What was I thinking? I fell down about 486 times in the first 20 yards or so. My friends tried to help me. Strangers tried to help me. I thought perhaps I could just sit down and scoot to the bottom. Do you realize how far the bottom is from the top? Well, scooting wasn't gonna work. Eventually they sent some rescue boy with a little stretcher who strapped me in and skied down the hill with me sliding behind him. I felt stupid and relieved. And spent the rest of the trip playing poker in the hotel.

4. I love eating potato chips. This is my junk food weakness. And I never realized I had a little ritual about it till people at work starting imitating me. Apparently I select one chip at a time, eat that one chip, lick the tip of each finger that was holding the chip, then wipe my hand on my pants. Then start over with chip #2. I see nothing weird about that...but others do!

5. I have way more women friends than men friends. I don't think of this as weird, but my wife assures me it is at least unusual. Maybe it is because I'm a teacher and work in a building populated primarily by professional women. Maybe it is because I grew up in the south where the majority of men only stopped working on their trucks long enough to hunt....and I know nothing of trucks or motors and can't stand the idea of hunting. I do pump my own gas but that's the extent of my motor car know-how. And I shot a bird one time with a BB gun and then cried when I had to shoot it a second time to kill it so it wouldn't suffer. I don't know the reason. But yeah, more women friends than men friends. Just saying.

6. I'm gonna count this as #6 cause it is driving me crazy...and that is probably weird. I'm supposed to tag six more people. But who? Even should I? Some people don't tag...they just invite anyone who wants to continue. But others tag because that is the rules of the game. Well, I'm very rule-governed. But I don't want to impose a burden. I didn't feel burdened at all by this, but perhaps others do? In an effort to appease all parts of my brain, I'll split the difference and tag three people. And I think the struggle over this whole thing is pretty weird! LOL

Okay....three others to take a crack at it...Tom and his cake of doom, Abby (between classes), and my friend Jill who probably wants to share six weird things like she wants more snow in Texas! My apologies if I've burdened you, but these things do have rules! :)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Welcome Back!

I've got a monkey on my back. And it isn't blogging.

Oh sure, blogging takes up a lot of time. Reading. Writing. Commenting. All good. But that is not my weakness. I've got a much bigger vice.

I spend hours every week with this habit when I could be doing more productive things. Or blogging more. And I've tried to wean myself away at least a bit. But I keep coming back. And now it's just going to get worse.

What's my problem? Television. The boob tube. That little box in the corner that brings moving pictures and sound right into my family room.

How bad is it? So bad that I've created charts to keep track of the shows I want to watch and the others I have to tape for later viewing. And yes, I've heard all about that TiVo thing. The 'bling' of television viewing. But I'm not there yet. I've got my trusty VCR. Well, two of them. See, it really does get bad.

I love CSI (the real one). I love Boston Legal. Criminal Minds sucks me right in. NCIS, oh yes. And now so many other good ones are coming back!

LOST returns. Gilligan's Island on steroids. Mystery and mayhem. Jack and Sawyer and Hurley and all the gang. LOST on the island with only a camera crew to record their every move for our pleasure. I hated the long hiatus. But now they are giving me a whole bunch of new episodes in a row, so that's a good thing.

This ain't your father's race, baby...this is ALL STARS! Racers who have been there. Racers who won't be surprised to find out they have to do something involving heights. I'm disappointed that Rob and Amber are back. Their fifteen minutes were over about twenty minutes ago! I would much rather see the Hippies return. But they didn't let me choose. They only let me watch. Every exciting moment of the race. And what more could I ask for?!?

Talk about having a bad day! The folks in Jericho are having one really bad day after another. But since I can watch from the comfort of my corner on the couch, I'm just fine with that. End of the world scenarios have always been a secret pleasure for me. The Stand by Stephen King. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The Day After, a made-for-TV movie from way back in 1983. The acting in this show isn't outstanding, but it taps into a theme I like and I'll be right here watching.

An old friend. Yeah, it is a bit repetitive now. I guess it gets hard to surprise us with some new obstacle course in the jungle. And yet the most recent Survivor did seem to step it up a bit with some pretty cool challenges. And this time they're splitting the tribes between luxury living and dreadful living. But really, hasn't it always been dreadful? Oh well, it is still fun to watch people make deals and believe promises even after all these seasons. I mean, just how hungry and weak do you have to be to really believe what someone on that island tells you?!?!

All this begins this month! And I suppose I could try to scale back, watch in moderation, have a life. But maybe it's just better to admit my weakness...and embrace it!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Our National Holiday

So just a few minutes ago, this was the clock at Superbowl.com. But Super Sunday doesn't really begin at kickoff. It is already underway! Face The Nation is interviewing the commissioner of the NFL. Dan Marino and Phil Simms will be interviewed later. And we've had various specials and Sports Centers and other related programs for the past two weeks. Yep, while the game only lasts 60 minutes, the pregame-show-that-never-ends began the moment the conference championships ended two weeks ago.

And if you've paid attention, you would think that the two teams - the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears - aren't really gonna play. It seems like it all boils down to four men....two storylines.

Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith - the first two black coaches to go to the Super Bowl. It is a great thing for this to happen. It is also sad that it has taken this long. And it is sad that we live in a society where race is still an issue. I wish these two men could prepare their teams and just be evaluated based on their skills as coaches. But everyone talks about their color. I'm glad these two are getting recognition. And I'll be glad when coaches of all colors can go to the Super Bowl and we'll no longer have to admit this is a 'first'.

Peyton Manning and Rex Grossman - the two quarterbacks. One who holds almost every record in the NFL and one who is considered the weakest link. And unless you really have not paid attention, I don't have to tell you which is which. The "6'5", 235 pound quarterback with the laser rocket arm" would be Manning. Son of Archie. Brother of Eli. Holder of a bazillion records with a tendency to fall apart in the big games. And "Sexy Rexy" with the big eyes that always look like a deer in the headlights....well, he can be good. He can also play like my grandmother on one of her bad days. And the analysts pretty much break it down to how these two play. The other players....oh sure, they are important. But the spotlight is on Rex and Peyton.

My thoughts...

1) I'm a Patriots fan so I'm not sure which way to lean on this one. I suppose Peyton has paid his dues and it is his time. But the Colts are the 'enemy'. Hard to root for them!

2) Who chooses this halftime stuff? I know it has to be 'big' and it is shown around the world. But last year we watched really old Stones. They were great in their day...but the flabby arms were disappointing. And Prince? I didn't like him when he was popular. Now he seems to be a 'has-been'. Is it just not possible to get a performer who is current and popular and can buy wardrobes that don't malfunction?

3) Are there more nachos????

Welcome To The Family

I've got a wonderful family. My wife and kids are loving and fun and supportive and all the things I could ever ask for in a family. And I've got a pretty nice relationship with my wife's mom and stepfather. But that's about it. My mom and I are not particularly close. I am an only child so there are no siblings to talk with and bicker with. And my aunts and uncles and cousins are spread all over and not particularly close to each other at all.

So why am I telling you this? Because I realize I feel more of a connection to some of the folks in my blog neighborhood than I do to some of my own family. Is that odd?

I've written once before about the unusual circumstances that blogging brings about...sharing personal, sometimes private thoughts and feelings in such a public manner. And that still seems a bit odd. And yet, I've reached a point where I feel more comfortable sharing some things here than I ever did when sitting down and talking with family members.

And I'm very clear that I know more about some of your lives than I do my extended family. Many of them I have not talked with in more than 20 years. I know what you did yesterday!

Some of you have shared struggles with spouses or significant others. Some have shared about their struggles with illness. Others have talked about the challenges related to getting pregnant or delivering. And it isn't just family/relationship struggles that we talk about. People share spiritual struggle, political frustrations, job-related issues.

I like the relationships that are growing here. I feel a connection to people that I've never met. I smile when good things happen in your lives. I think about those who struggle. And I get amazing support and encouragement when it is my turn to have a bad day. I wouldn't trade this blogging experience for anything.

But maybe it is time to send a couple of notes or make a few calls to some family members, too. It couldn't hurt to re-establish a few long-lost connections, huh?