Friday, January 30, 2009

Open letter to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh Board of Education

Mayor Ravenstahl:

I am sure you are aware of the planned delay scheduled for Pittsburgh Public Schools this upcoming Monday, February 2.

I want you also to be aware that, happy as I am for the Steelers, this is in no way appropriate, and I am livid, and disappointed beyond belief, with the people in charge of my child's education.

I am the parent of a second-grader and a kindergartener in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system. My children have had at least three previous snow/cold days this winter, and at least a couple delays. Inconvenient though these may be, I fully understand the necessity of keeping our students safe, warm, and protected from the elements and/or hazardous road conditions.

But to schedule a school delay because of a football game (however "important" and exciting it may be)? The event is the NIGHT BEFORE, not during school hours (not that I personally think that would be ok either, but that's neither here nor there.) I am beside myself with anger and astonishment. We are tacitly condoning any sort of immature behavior that would affect parents' and employees' ability to do their jobs the next day- to get their kids to school, and to transport and teach our students. Worse (in my opinion), we seem to be expecting this sort of behavior from people to whom we entrust our children, and I for one think it's insulting to my sons' fine teachers and aides to assume they can't be responsible enough to perform their jobs the next day.

How can PPS continue to try to lure parents to the public school system, using, among other things, the Pittsburgh Promise, improved test scores, and incentives such as the IB program, and then delay school because of any or all of the above reasons? How do you expect the students to take our efforts as engaged parents and educators seriously? What sort of example does this flagrant disregard for the importance of education set for our children?

Also, we must consider the impact a school delay has on many parents who struggle to obtain adequate childcare for legitimate delays. To force a parent to juggle these issues for a football game is insulting.

In addition, my son will miss, for the third week in a row, his scheduled gifted education program. I plan to look into how these district-enforced absences impact his IEP, and perhaps the tax dollars received by the district due to the services they are supposed to provide due to those IEPs.

I have emailed everyone in charge I can think of and asked them to consider canceling this delay. I have asked them to please consider impressing upon our children how very important it is to be mature and responsible about the privileges of education.

And you as Mayor of this fine city should know that if you intend to continue to improve Pittsburgh's public school system, this sort of disregard for educational standards is completely unacceptable.

Thank you.


Dear 'netties:
If you wonder where I am, I have spent all my creative energy firing off angry missives similar to the one above to everyone I can think of who might have anything to do with the above insanity.
Perhaps when my anger has cooled (and the Steelers have won), I will have some energy to write actual posts about things like BOOKS.
Or I may need a nap.


Monday, January 26, 2009

"Good housekeeping lies at the root of all the real ease and satisfaction in existence."*

I am thoroughly enjoying this book, curling up in bed with it at night and pretending I have any amount of time to work on MY gracious living.

*Harriet Prescott Spofford

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"The American people are hungry for change."

And today it starts!

Congratulations to our 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

I am beside myself with joy and excitement and optimism.

Friday, January 16, 2009

“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”*

Everything was going swimmingly until I realized that there was a breach in the deep end. The water must have seeped through the plastic seam - next year I will spring for a solid piece of plastic. This year I had to make do with 2 long rolls of 10' width each. But I let the water freeze solid overnight and will resume - one hopes successfully - filling today. It certainly is cold enough - it's so cold my guys are off school.

H wanted to know how deep is deep enough? (I believe he was envisioning our water bill...) I think 6 inches will do it. A line level could have solved the depth question - for example, if our yard were only an inch off end to end, I could have built the thing with 2x4s. I used the widest boards available at Home Depot (2x10) since I didn't level more accurately. But once the first layer is frozen, it will (one hopes) seal the end, as it were, and therefore the water will find its level and fill the whole shebang.

Unfortunately, the outdoor spigot is frozen solid - how do I know? Because the hose snapped in two while I was trying to take it off and it was full of ice. Hose-shaped ice. Also unfortunately, that was my longest hose so there's some jury-rigged hosiery going on outside as well. And I had to figure out a way to run the hose up from the laundry room in the basement without leaving the doors wide open to the subzero temps...'cause what would suck more than the rink not working? My laundry hoses freezing.

I'll keep you posted as to when you can come over to skate and slurp hot cocoa liberally laced with kahlua. Yeah, kahlua. Did I mention we are staring down the face of a four-day weekend two weekends in a row now? Yeah. Top up my kahlua, please.

*Elbert Hubbard (NO, NOT Elron. Sheesh.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed."*

I was VERY busy this morning.
And as soon as H comes home with a new hose and a pressure coupler for the basement faucet, we can fill this baby and then...
let the skating games begin!

*Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 12, 2009

"For argument's sake, let's say I'm not smart."

If I were a vampire…

I’d bite you in the morning, I’d bite you in the evening…all over this land…wait, no, that’s just me not able to help myself, sorry.

Let’s try again.

If I were a vampire, I would, as Edward Cullen points out somewhere in the third book, have an awful lot of free time. They don’t need to sleep or eat or go to the bathroom. (I wonder if they need to shower?) I would have an eternity, without any distractions, right?

I would have time to read every book I have ever wanted to read – hell, I could finally finish Anna Karenina. For that matter, I would have time to learn Spanish and Russian, so I could read War and Peace and Love in the Time of Cholera not in translation.

I would have tons of time to write – but oddly, probably not as much to write about, or the ability to be as truthful or introspective as I might now.

I would have all sorts of time to knit and quilt. I’d be an expert. (Suse, is that your secret? Are all your perfect and charming knitted adorables a result of you being one of the Undead?)

I could listen to a lot of music. I have proof that vampires like Radiohead, and in fact, if I were to discover that Thom Yorke was a vampire, it wouldn’t shock me hardly at all. I would probably never ever have to listen to “Philadelphia Chickens” or a Wiggles album ever again; there is a noticeable dearth of vampire toddlers.

I would have time to bake all I wanted, but without the inclination to sample the goods, what would be the point? I suppose I could “swallow manfully” (as Edward does his wedding cake, and, boy, is that a phrase you ever expected to hear in relation to Edward Cullen?), but again, what would be the point? This is a problem for me. I know Bella doesn’t want to give up human sex, but I? Wouldn’t want to give up human brownies.

BUT, theoretically, I could eat all the baked goods I wanted (if I ate) - vampires are by necessity physically lovely, and have you ever heard of a fat vampire? I would have all kinds of time to run and swim and skate and bike, like I try to do now to stay fit and – no, not beautiful, maybe marginally-less-repulsive, but I am sure I could not uphold an unnecessary exercise regime. I considered running marathons as a vampire, and socking away my winnings (doesn’t one of the vampires consider that in one of the books?), but there’s the sparkly skin-in-sun problem there…and eventually the other marathoners would catch on, don’t you think? Basically, what I am saying is that my being a vampire would probably not change my fundamental laziness.

Two things I could not do if I were a vampire:

I could not have babies. Any more babies. I am okay with that. See next point.

I could not hang out with my husband and/or kiddoes, lest their luscious scent tempt me to kill them. (Their luscious scent of what? Baby poop?) And dudes, seriously, it’s hardly their delicious smell that makes me want to kill them – one more snow day, yes; yummy scent, not so much.

One more random vampire thought – I chew my cuticles, often till they bleed. Yes, I realize, bad habit, blah blah blah. What would Edward have done if Bella were a dedicated nail-biter? A ripped hangnail could have sent him right over the edge. Inquiring minds want to know…

What? You didn’t think I was engineering world peace or considering the next Secretary General of the UN while I was plodding out my three miles around the reservoir on weekend mornings, did you?

*Bella Swan, "Twilight"

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness."*

Random random:

1. Can I tell you how pleased I am that today didn't turn out to be a snow day?

2. The difference between the first child and the fourth child: Quarto is sitting on my (admittedly filthy) kitchen floor right now, shaking the contents of his morning bottle on the floor and swishing them around the tiles with a grubby little paw. He crawls through the damp mess once in a while for good measure. But he's quiet and smiling and isn't getting stuck in the undersides of the kitchen chairs. So instead of distracting and preventing and clearing up the milk (and probably giving said baby a bath AND mopping the floor, both of which I would have done with Primo), I shrug my shoulders and keep playing WordTwist. Yeah. See how much my mothering skills

3. I went to see "Twilight" again last night. I haven't seen a movie in a movie theatre since the second Harry Potter, and now twice in two weeks, and THE SAME MOVIE BOTH TIMES. I don't think I need an intervention yet but possibly soon.

4. I will say that "Twilight" is THE sexiest movie without any sex in it I have ever seen. EVER. And Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen makes me swoon like the geeky 13-year-old girl I definitely was and still feel like inside.
(Excuse me as I go hunt for my retainer, which I am pretty sure I left on my lunch tray in the cafeteria. Yeah, I was one of THOSE girls.)

5. Things that amuse me no end:
The way Terzo pronounces Byron the train “Bye-RON.” As in, "Bye-RON wants some ice cream but Thomas won't share."
Which reminds me of another amusing thing: the way he also says “Byronicles” instead of "Bionicles."
Yes, I have the cleverest children on the planet. I know. What?

6. I bought a bunch of yarn yesterday; my local yarn shop was having a bit of a sale. I don't even need to knit anything with it (but I will); I could just sit and run my hands lovingly over it and get my money's worth that way. Suse, darling, this is ALL YOUR FAULT.

7. Badger brought it to my attention that Haven Kimmel has a new novel, Iodine. But according to Amazon, it's a departure from her usual style. And I love her usual style so much that I own everything else she has written. So, I will buy it (because I like giving authors I enjoy my money) and I will read it, but if YOU don't like it? Don't hold it against me.

8. I am also reading Perri Klass's Mercy Rules and think it's a terrific novel. You'd like it.

9. I am shocked and amazed that neither the cats nor the baby have even attempted to dismantle the giant and intricate Hot Wheels structure H and the older boys built in the living room last night (after I went to the movies to feed my vampire jones). Shocked and amazed, I tell you.
The tracks were a Christmas gift I forgot to give them on Christmas, so they unwrapped them last night as we celebrated Ukrainian Christmas. (Drooling over hot, gorgeous vampires is a new Eastern European holiday tradition, didn't you know?)

10. I am awaiting my Beloved Babysitter so I can ostensibly run away to edit a dissertation about...something that adults write dissertations about...but really? I will finish the third Twilight book. Because if Edward doesn't bite Bella SOON, *I* may die.

*Sidney Poitier

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for."

Here we are again: another nasty winter, yet another child to pass his germs along to me, and said child causing even less sleep than I had before thought humanly possible to survive. (Does that sentence make sense? I am not sure, and equally unsure that I care...)

And I would like to announce my annual bout of hurty ears/swollen glands/feels-like-broken-glass-when-I-swallow throat. (See this post. Wow, I was quite a good bit funnier when I only had three children, wasn't I?) Since I seem to have been pregnant for the past eight years (or at least close to it), and since I have had three different primary care physicians run away from the practice I went to, I have no doctor.

I briefly considered, while hauling three of my four children to the pediatrician THREE times in the past two weeks, begging my dear Dr R for antibiotics for ME (I don't care if it tastes like cherry instead of orange, even, see how easy I am? How could he resist?) but I managed to manfully act like an adult and just procure a thousand and one prescriptions for my germy, snotty, cough-y children.

After shivering through the night Sunday, I thought about the new urgent care center that just opened right across the bridge. The one that is on the way to the grocery store, the one with oodles of free parking right outside its door, the one with a doctor in attendance twelve hours a day. And this morning, after self-medicating with Motrin and Excedrin and whiskey-in-tea all last night, I hooked a quick left instead of continuing past Go to the grocery store and handed over my brand spanking new insurance card (MY co-pays went up this year, you?) and was seen by a bona fide doctor (although at this point I don't care if he only played one on TV). He poked around in my ear and said what every doctor who has ever done that says: "Huh. Adults USUALLY don't get ear infections. Oh. But, I see..." and wrote me a lovely scrip for amoxicillin. He also recommended judicious use of Sudafed, but hey, judicious schmudicious...

And know what? The words "Magic Swizzle" NEVER passed his lips.
Must be because he was older than 18, or maybe 'cause he was a REAL doctor.
Or maybe I am scarier than ever.

*Irish proverb (natch)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"He looks at you like you're something to eat."

I have been brainwashed. And I am not talking about my Facebook obsession any longer. I am talking about my Twilight problem. Yeah, I have a little Twilight problem.

A friend lent me the first book – and shockingly, despite its somewhat repetitive prose and mundane heroine, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Stephenie (note the “e”) Meyers isn’t so adept with normal people, but her vampires and their history, myths, and legends are fascinating.

I sealed the deal by going to see the movie. I was leery of the casting at first, but Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) warms up and emerges into his role about twenty minutes into the movie, by which time I was crushing so badly I felt like I was 13. His eyes, people! My God, those eyes. Kristin Stewart as Bella is just lovely, and Charlie is perfect, although so much sexier than I anticipated. The bad vampires – Laurent, James, and especially Victoria – are incredibly perfect. I wasn’t sure about Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen, but he pulls it off. His obvious love for his family is what clinches it for me, as well as his remarkable self control. It can’t be an easy feat to work in the ER as a bloodthirsty vampire, and I do like a man with self-restraint. A tortured soul with self-restraint? Even better. All the vampires were fine – Alice was especially adorable, even if Jasper had a bit of that Edward Scissorhands vibe going. The scene when Edward brings Bella home to meet his family, and they are all chopping vegetables and grating cheese to make her an Italian dinner, even though they have no need to eat human food? Priceless. Possibly my favorite scene in the whole movie.

The movie is better than the book (and oh so pretty); the movie somehow makes Bella a real person, not just a whining, obsessive nitwit (which is definitely how I feel about her in the book, even halfway through the second one). And the special effects are quite nice to look at - the scene where Edward shows Bella his super vampire skills is unbelievably sexy. There's something about a man trying to convince you not to love him...

That whole obsessive relationship thing that people squawked about? Doesn’t bother me. I mean, yeah, it’s maybe a little creepy that Edward watches Bella sleep, but she wants him there, and really, what the hell else is he going to do all night? Why the heck not? Aren’t there worse rules to break – such as sucking the blood of humans? Or murdering a bunch of humans to get to the one you want? What did bug me - at least in the book, the movie handled it much more subtly -were all the stupid excuses Bella conjures up to explain all her injuries. It was too reminiscent of excuses one hears for domestic abuse - even though that’s so not what is happening. In fact, Edward is indeed the last character in the book who would ever harm Bella – but also the most likely, should he ever lose control.

Here’s my new take on the Edward Cullen phenomenon: Everybody wants the bad boy. But in this case, the bad boy is also the very, very good boy (I mean, can you get much better than a vampire who is dying to sink his teeth into you but won’t because he loves you?) which makes it exponentially more romantic. (See: Mr. Rochester - if he hadn't been fooled by Bertha's family into marrying someone destined for insanity, he wouldn't be such a romantic figure - he'd just be an asshole.) So Edward's “bad,” (I mean, he’s a vampire for Pete’s sake) but we can love through that because deep down, essentially, he's GOOD.

So would I argue that Twilight is akin to Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? You know, I just might. I read Jane Eyre as an adult, and enjoyed it tremenedously, but it follows the same story arc - only Mr Rochester has a crazy wife, not venomous teeth. Wuthering Heights? Throughly, completely overwrought and full of angsty, melodramatic characters who wander around pointlessly on the moor, with not a whole lot of character development anywhere. How is this so much different than Twilight?

The writing in these classics is obviously so very much better, I am not arguing for the quality of Twilight's writing. Is Meyers a good writer? She’s adequate (although, as my friend A points out correctly, each book does get better - at least the writing does.) But honestly, the book reminds me of nothing quite so much as the long serial novels my best friend in seventh grade and I used to scribble during boring math classes.

My enjoyment of the books and Meyers’ take on her supernatural creations, and my crush on Edward, has been fed by the draft of Midnight Sun available on Meyers’ website; it is a take on the first book from Edward’s perspective, and it enlightens us as to his (admittedly bipolar-esque) behavior, and more of his history. It develops his human side by elaborating on his vampire side, also nicely highlighting Meyers’ strengths.

I am looking forward to reading the next two books, and even more looking forward to going to see the movie again. Which is, as the cashier at the box office informed us, geared to target the 30-something mom demographic. I feel oddly flattered. Or should I be insulted? I don’t care. I’d like a small popcorn, a small Coke, and Edward Cullen, please.

*Mike Newton to Bella, about Edward, "Twilight"