Monday, March 31, 2008
I'm glad we took this little break since I'm heading off tomorrow to take the kids to Vegas by myself and I know it won't be that kind of a vacation. We spent Friday night and Saturday with our friends, then headed into the city Sunday morning to hang out with my sister for the morning. After brunch (more impossibly slow service--don't servers realize a toddler in a restaurant is a ticking time bomb?), Mr. Fob and the kids drove home and I got to hang out with my sister. We spent the rest of Sunday talking, eating raspberries and cream, eating chocolate covered almonds, and watching Once. Then today we ate breakfast here (chocolate croissant), lunch here (caprese panino with basil, tomato, and mozzarella), bought way too many books here, and then I rode the train home. It was fabulous.
Also this morning I went to a Jeopardy! tryout (yes, I have done this before). And I'm back in the contestant pool for another eighteen months, so keep your fingers crossed that I'll be on television sometime soon. The tryout was a lot of fun, but I can't say much about it because they like to keep their secrets. So the verdict is that I just had one of the most fun vacations I've had in a long time. I just need good friends to talk with, good food, and intellectual stimulation. And apparently only a little bit of sleep.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
But then this afternoon I had one of those sad moments where I really did (and do) feel like a bad mom. When I get ready for work in the afternoon I've gotten in the habit of plugging in my curling iron in the bathroom, shutting the door, and going in my room to change while it heats up. So far my carelessness has worked out fine because usually the kids are in the other room watching TV and Little Dude doesn't know how to open doors yet. By now I'm sure you can tell where this is going. This afternoon S-Boogie had a friend over playing and they decided that Little Dude was the "bad guy" who needed to be shut in the bathroom. I was in the bedroom with the door closed and Mr. Fob was in the living room, so before we realized it Little Dude had grabbed the hot iron with his little hand. I feel so, so bad. Especially since I had to run off to class to give a final shortly after it happened. Apparently he spent much of the evening crying and holding up his little hand, hoping someone could make it better (thankfully Daddy figured out that keeping it in a glass of cold water helps). Hopefully he'll be feeling better tomorrow and I will be too. I hate knowing that my carelessness hurt my sweet little guy like that.
Monday, March 24, 2008
For dessert we had Easter basket cupcakes. I actually made them because I had to contribute a dessert to a dinner our ward was sponsoring over at the Ronald McDonald House and cupcakes seemed like a fun idea. They weren't spectacular in taste, but they were certainly festive and the kids enjoyed them. S-Boogie ate everything except the frosting and coconut and Little Dude only ate the frosting and coconut from his. Kids can be so weird.
We did have a somewhat spiritual Family Home Evening between dinner and dessert. S-Boogie can remember a number of details about the Easter story, although when we told her the picture was a tomb not a cave she retorted "well, I call it a cave". She also made up a song about the Easter Bunny when I said I didn't know one. I did take pictures of our egg hunt experience on Saturday and their new Easter clothes; they're on the kids' blog. If you want to know where to find it, just email me.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I also have an irrational phobia of running out of gas. Our car has a little light that comes on telling us to "check gages" when it hits empty. As Mr. Fob constantly reassures me, there are usually still at least three gallons left, but the little red light on the dashboard combined with the "E" sends me into a state of panic every time. Tonight the light came on shortly after I got on the highway to come home. I kept trying to reassure myself that I only had about 15 miles to go, so I would be fine. Plus the highway is not an easy one to get on and off of. I've made the mistake before of trying to get off for gas only to find myself wandering around lost somewhere in Bellevue in the dark. So I spent a long time debating with myself while trying to ignore the light on my dashboard. Finally the phobia got the best of me and I got off on the last exit before the bridge. It's really the bridge's fault; I have to cross a bridge that is very narrow and it would be horrible to run out of gas in the middle of the bridge. And my cell phone had died and was in the middle of being charged by the car. So I made the mistake of getting off the highway. Sure enough, I soon found myself on a dark street in a very hoity toity neighborhood with no signs of civilization anywhere nearby. The street was fairly wide and I started speeding up and down the hills. Yes, I allowed myself to go much faster than the posted limit of only 25 (which I think is totally stupid, by the way). And yes, I got pulled over.
The police officer was very nice, and I'm sort of glad he was able to help me out because otherwise I probably would have run out of gas while wandering around in the dark. But I really didn't not appreciate getting a ticket for $150 (he clocked me at 37). Like I have that kind of money just sitting around to throw at the traffic court. So now that I have a lovely moving violation on my record and an empty bank account I guess it's time to start being more humble about my driving.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I have been thinking about this lately because I just read two books on the importance of nature in our lives. The first, Last Child in the Woods, talks about what the author terms "nature deficit disorder" in the lives of children. He discusses changes in the way that children interact (or don't) with nature and ways we can change our society to encourage a "sense of place" in our children and a better attachment to their local environment. While I found a number of his points interesting, I actually had a little trouble reading the book and it seemed disjointed at times. The other book I read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, was much more fun to read. The author is certainly enthusiastic about her subject and I can understand why the book is generating so much positive press. She describes her family's efforts to spend one year eating only seasonal food that they have grown themselves or acquired locally. I loved it because I love food and I would love to learn about gardening, plus the writing is really that great. I have heard it presented as somewhat of a how-to or call-to-arms sort of book, but if you read closely you will find that Barbara Kingsolver spent a number of years in preparation for her year-long experiment. I don't think that I'm feeling fired up about raising and killing my own chickens just yet, despite having read this book.
Reading both books reminded me of the extent to which nature really influenced my childhood. On the one hand, I grew up in the city. I've never lived on a farm. I've also never been a particularly active person and didn't spend a lot of time hiking or communing with nature in that way. On the other hand, I spent a lot of free time outside in unstructured play. I walked to school for most of my childhood, even through high school. My mom grew up on a farm and we often visited my grandmother's farm in Wyoming. I know that milk comes from cows, carrots grow from seeds planted in a garden, and raspberries come from bushes and are only best in July. My mother is also very committed to the importance of fresh food, gardening, and canning. We even had our own chickens for a time; I have vivid memories of a dish of eggs in our fridge that had come out of the insides of the chickens we'd just slaughtered. I thought it was the coolest thing ever--shell-less eggs directly from the chickens. We also spent time as a family camping, hiking, exploring tide pools at the beach, and other outdoor activities. I'm grateful my mom valued nature and made it an important part of our lives.
The main thing that bothered me about the first book was that the author never really was able to answer his main question: why is nature important for children? What benefits do they get from spending time outside, getting to know local plants and animals? He pretty much takes it for granted that time in nature is good, and I agree. I just can't figure out why, and maybe no one ever will. I think one benefit I've had was a sense of place; I know how to look closer and really savor things that make each part of the world special. The world is getting more homogenized and globalized, and I think it's good to preserve the unique features of each area. Both authors point out that our understanding of science and natural processes like evolution of species or the life cycle of plants is seriously damaged by a lack of exposure to animals and plants. I actually don't have a lot of experience with observing these things up close, but I think that experiencing the death of pets as a child or the difficulty of trying to grow a garden helped me deal with change. Animals get old and die; sometimes an early frost kills your plants; nature can humble us and teach us that we are not all powerful.
This post is getting really long and I'm not sure what my point is. I'm feeling like I've lost some of my connection to nature and I'd like to get it back. I especially want to do this for my kids. Every year I think that we'll try camping or go for a hike or start a garden, but it never manages to happen. Hopefully I'm finally building up the energy to make a change this year. Last year we tried picking our own blueberries and the end result was enough mosquito bites to send S-Boogie to the emergency room with a badly swollen hand. I hope that we can start having more positive experiences with local food, and the only way to do that is to keep trying. Of course we'll be taking baby steps, because as long as California strawberries are only three dollars a package I'm going to consider that as "local". It sure smells like home to me.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I've taken other personality tests since then. I find them interesting, but I don't feel like they define everything about a person. Today on another blog I read, someone pointed out in the comments that you can often tell a person's personality by the way they respond to conflict on threads. Several people referenced the Myers Briggs test, which I don't think I've taken before. So I decided to take it. It apparently measures four different areas with two possibilities in each area and so is thought to be somewhat more comprehensive than other tests. I took this online test and it labeled me as ISFJ, which means that I am "Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging". According to them, my preferences for introversion and judging were very pronounced, while the sensing and feeling were a little more towards the middle (the other options there are Intuition and Thinking). So, what does this all mean? According to this test I am:
Introverted: Many tests I've taken have described me as introverted. I'm still not sure I agree. On the one hand, I can be socially awkward and I hate large crowds. I would rather be home reading a book than out in the middle of a big party. On the other hand, I've become increasingly more comfortable leading discussions, teaching, and drawing attention to myself. I'm usually one of the few people commenting in classes at church and I have no problem expressing my opinion in public. That is, after I get to know people first and feel comfortable with the group. So I guess I'm not necessarily "introverted" in the sense of being shy, but I would say I am more inwardly motivated and need to reflect before acting.
Sensing Function: Apparently what this means is that I prefer information that is concrete and able to be perceived with the senses. I am interested in data more than hunches or intuition, which is definitely true. At the same time, I have been known to go on a hunch, but that's usually after thinking it over for a while and finding some kind of outward confirmation. I also have a hard time with the theoretical and abstract; when analyzing literature I tend much more strongly towards historicism or formalism than the theoretical. It's also why I like translation and grammar so much.
Decisions based on Feeling: This means that I prefer to make decisions based on some sort of sense of equality or balance, with an emotional attachment to the problem rather than viewing it from a detached, outside perspective. I can agree with this one; I always find myself thinking "it's about priorities--what do you value?" and "you have to go with what feels right to you".
Judging: This is based on how we interact with the world; apparently people who use their judging form and base decisions on feeling are more "empathetic" than logical. I'm not sure I agree with that. On the one hand, I would like to think that I'm more logical and that I stick to rules. On the other hand, when I interact with other people I tend to have a very hard time telling them anything negative and I often feel "squishy" with my students. It hurts me very much to make people uncomfortable and I have a hard time being firm with my own kids too.
According to the test I took, people with my personality work well in education, religious life, and translation. I guess I'm on the right track after all.
This isn't really a meme, but I'd invite my readers to take the test and find out what their personality is. I'm curious.
Monday, March 10, 2008
1. Blogger has this cool feature where you can embed links into your posts. I love linking to things, but I hate to draw attention to them. I'd rather just add a link, with perhaps some sort of textual clue like "I read this article the other day." Notice how the words "this article" were highlighted in the sentence; that means you can click on them and go read the article that I am referring to. That will give you some context to understand what I am talking about.
2. Also referring to context, it's important to look at the entire context of the piece. Sometimes inflammatory words like "birth control" or "school vouchers" or "gay marriage" or "Holocaust survivor" will jump out at you and get your hackles up before you even read any more of the post. I've been guilty of dashing off angry comments before stopping to understand what the person I was responding to was even trying to say. I'm getting the feeling that my last post would probably have been much less inflammatory if I had merely mentioned that the man was an observant Jew or perhaps an immigrant from Germany. I honestly meant no offense, merely solidarity with other religious people.
3. A third note about context: know who your author is. If you've spent the last few years reading my blog and feel like you understand all about me, then feel free to hate me and to let me know how arrogant I am. I already know that I say rude things and think prideful thoughts all the time. Sometimes I don't express myself well. The point of the last post really had nothing to do with social drinking or my lack thereof ("word of wisdom" is another common inflammatory topic). It actually wasn't until today that I really understood what my point in that post was. My husband stopped attending church over a year ago. Many of family members no longer attend either and I have a number of friends who no longer share my strong faith in the gospel. It gets very lonely. And not just in a "oh no, I'm a dork who doesn't drink coffee" sort of way. I just used something a little less personal as an example of the isolation I feel. Choosing to follow the gospel doesn't just mean that I feel self-conscious at parties; it means I feel left out by some of the people I love the most. Many days I do want to just follow the "easier" path, but I just can't at this point in my life. So, that was what my post was really about; doubting whether or not the choices you make really will be worth it in the long run.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
I lived in Utah for so long that I became very comfortable in not having people think some of the things I do are strange. It was challenging this week to be back in an area where people questioned my choices and I had to explain "I'm a Mormon" (yeah, I know we should say LDS, but Mormon feels more comfortable when I barely know people and don't want to explain a lot). My students that I teach know I'm a Mormon, but they've usually been fairly accepting; I think it's because they didn't really find out until we'd gotten to know each other over the course of the semester.
When I am in social situations that involve things like coffee, I do feel uncomfortable. As I've said on here before, I don't like standing out. I also don't want people to feel like I'm judging them negatively for their choices. I'm going to have to relearn how to deal graciously with difference. As I was pondering this last night, I read this interesting article in the New York Times. It's about Holocaust survivors who emigrated to the United States shortly after the Second World War. One of the couples profiled ran into difficulty because the husband could not change his work schedule to accommodate his Sabbath observance. Although quitting his job could not only mean a loss of income but also deportation, he took a chance and quit. He ended up getting another job and went on to have a successful career in engineering. Now looking back over fifty years later, his wife said:
“It is worth living with ideals, even though it’s sometimes difficult. It’s worth fighting for a meaningful life.”
That quote from her really gave me hope. Even though sometimes it's difficult for me to keep living the gospel when so many people around me don't, it is what make my life meaningful. My testimony is very important to me and I will keep choosing what I feel is right, even if it makes my life awkward sometimes. I hope that in fifty years I can look back and say that I have lead a meaningful life.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
On the other hand, the summer we spent trying to find an apartment in Seattle was horrible. I don't think we have the time or money to come back down here in a few months to search for housing. Plus most contracts here seem to start in September, but S-Boogie needs to start school during the last week of August. And if I want her to get registered for the Spanish immersion school, I need to have a signed lease as proof that we're planning on moving to Davis. If I sign a contract next week, I have a much better chance of getting her into the program. Unfortunately one of the cons of the apartment is that is on the other side of town from the kindergarten that I want. It is, however, down the the street from In-N-Out. If that isn't serendipity, I don't know what is.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Last night when I came home he was in the process of making an oversized scroll to go along with his costume for the first play. And I was reminded once again about how much I love his creativity and artistic impulses. I always dreamed about marrying someone who played a musical instrument or who sang well; unfortunately Mr. Fob has not been blessed with those talents. But I've gotten over it because he sure looks cute in green tights.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Saturday, March 01, 2008
This was our bookclub pick for this month, and even though I've read and analyzed it a few times in the past I thought it would be good to reread it. I still like it quite a lot; I think it's one of my favorite Austen novels. The only thing I don't like about is that the age difference between her and Mr. Knightly is so large that their relationship seems a little skewed. Nevertheless, I still like all of the characters and think they are well-developed. It is one of Austen's longer novels and took a long time to get into, but I found myself enjoying the story despite knowing how it was going to end.
Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and Its Silent Past by Giles Tremlett
This book was pretty long and took me a while to read, but I enjoyed all of it. Well, I'll admit to being distracted by some sloppy editing (like switching referents between kilometers and miles in the same paragraph). Other than that I thought it was an excellent book. Tremlett has lived in Spain for nearly twenty years and so offers a perspective that is both outside and inside. I learned a lot more about recent Spanish history than I had known before. And, not surprisingly, I found myself longing to return to Spain.
The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konisburg
Edgy recently reviewed this book, so when I saw it on the shelf at the library I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately I picked a cranky day to read it. Plus one of the main characters really irritated me; I'm not a fan of books packed full of eccentric characters with little method to their madness. But, Konisburg is a good writer and I managed to like this book despite some annoying characters and somewhat implausible coincidences. Perhaps if I read it again I might like it even more.
Here if You Need Me: A True Story by Kate Braestrup
I keep finding great memoirs by women; I think it's my new favorite sub-genre of books. This is another fascinating one. First of all, the story is interesting. The author was widowed suddenly and left a single mother of four children. She decided to go to seminary to become an ordained minister and ended up getting a job as the chaplain for the Maine State Warden Service, which oversees search and rescue missions as well as wildlife control. Not only that, but she's a good writer. The book is a collection of thoughts on the nature of God and mortality, search and rescue in the woods, parenting, and the meaning of life. It's hard to describe, but very compelling reading (if you have recently experienced a traumatic event or unexpected death you may not want to read this right away, however).
Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro
This book was not what I expected it to be. I had my expectations of cooking and food in the 1950s, but they turned out to be wrong. This book was actually quite interesting and taught me a lot of new things about what I thought I knew. It would probably be most interesting to people interested in food and the history of "foodie" culture, but I got a lot out of it about the evolution of food and nutrition in American popular culture.
I don't know much about life in modern Israel, and anything beyond the current conflict with Palestinians rarely shows up in US media. This book was an interesting look at the life of a family that has recently moved to Israel from Los Angeles and I learned a lot from it. Sometimes I didn't particularly like the author's prose style (it's a bit hyperbolic at times), but I generally thought it was well-written and illuminating.
A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotsen
For a "fluff read" this was surprisingly good. Sure it had the stereotypical story of the ordinary, poor, humble girl who meets a fabulously wealthy and handsome man who falls madly and inexplicably in love with her. Yes the coincidences and turns of the plot were a little ludicrous. But it was fun to read and I genuinely liked both the main character and her love interest. My only real objection is to the cover; the heroine is continuously described as plain and humble, but the person on the cover is way too sexy to remotely resemble her.
The Babes in the Wood by Ruth Rendell
I managed to acquire this book somewhere for free and have had it sitting on my shelf for nearly a year now. It wasn't until I decided to read it that I realized it was part of a series of mysteries about a British detective. I'm not really a mystery fan, and I didn't particularly enjoy this one. It was well-written, but I didn't like most of the characters. For some reason I can handle world-weary police officers and dysfunctional families a lot more on television than in books.Movies
The cover of the DVD bills this as a "romantic comedy", but it certainly doesn't follow American comedic conventions (it's German). Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, although the tone was somewhat darker than I had expected. I also spent way too much time in needless suspense because I was expecting more American-style angst and drama.
I Know I'm Not Alone
What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
I checked this out from the library to see if it was still good now that I'm not a mopey fourteen-year-old girl. I still like it a lot; it's a sweet little movie and Leonardo Di Caprio is amazing.
Plan 9 From Outer Space
After watching Ed Wood last month we decided it was time to watch this movie. It turned out to be pretty boring and we only got about halfway through it before giving up and watching the interviews that were also on the DVD. The best of the DVD was actually the trailers for some of Ed Wood's other movies, like Glen or Glenda.Bringing Up Baby
I think I'm just not a fan of screwball comedy, because this gave me a terrible headache and left me feeling frustrated for hours. I can see how this film inspired so many future romantic comedies, but I hate romantic comedies and other things based on misunderstandings. I will admit that I laughed during a few parts, but mostly I just wanted to scream.
We made our annual pilgrimage to the movie theater and I think this was a worthy choice for such a momentous occasion. We both enjoyed it; it managed to be funny and serious at the the same time. The story is interesting, the characters are all great, and it's a good "adult" movie that manages to be fairly clean in content.
Superman 2: The Richard Donner Cut
Apparently Richard Donner directed the first Superman movie as well as most of the footage for the second before being booted from the project. Then, two or three years ago, people decided it was time to find and restore all of his footage to make his movie possible. I thought this was pretty good and felt like I enjoyed it more than I remember enjoying the other version of Superman 2. Either way I think that both of these movies are way too cheesy for my taste.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Another movie watched simply to increase my cultural literacy. Mr. Fob and I both agree that this is an excellent movie; it's pretty dialogue heavy and feels like it could be a play rather than a movie, but the characters and story are fascinating. Some aspects of it seem dated, but generally I feel like the issues it raises are still relevant today.