Monthly Archives: January 2014



A day of firsts.

Today was the first day I ever…


played “money trade” (a game in which Philip and I raided his piggy bank and traded coins of equal value, e.g., 1 dime for 10 pennies until it was time to move on)

made scroll books out of random strips of paper (topics: Master Librarian Dog, Cat, Horse, Sheep and Rabbit who “travel through time and space” to collect books; coins–their value, their size and shape)

made macaroons (used leftover coconut milk in fridge, corn starch, agave, vanilla, salt, shredded coconut and topped with melted non-dairy chocolate morsels.  Yum!)

read the book Pea Boy and Other Stories by Elizabeth Laird (please note: for sensitive readers, reinvent the ending to Miss Cockroach and Mr. Mouse.  It is not OK [spoiler alert!] for Mr. Mouse to fall in a pot of soup and boil to death)

ate chicken-fried tempeh (recipe from Allyson Kramer’s Great Gluten-Free Eats From Around the World).  FYI, it was delicious!

learned about how bed sores develop.  I’ll tell you because I like to share.  The same pressure that makes your knee red when you cross your leg is a sign that blood flow has been reduced to the area.  If not alleviated, the pressure can lead to pain and, later, bed sores due to the interruption of blood flow.  Hunh.   (Thank you, hospice training for that knowledge!)

made an Origami sunburst star (after looking at the pics online [some of these are amazing!], it is clear that I need lots more practice.  To keep ours more stable, we glued the different flaps.  Then we painted it for fun.  Bruce wore it after he came home and looked like the Statue of Liberty.  We all laughed.)

Now, the day is done.  It’s fun to think it was full of so many “firsts.”  I think you’ll find you have many firsts, too, if you take the time to reflect on it.  I urge you to try.


Time for sweets


Hooray at the Y
Philip rode the trike
He ran for his team
All helped to clean

Library came after
Two blocks of laughter
As the wind blew hard
And Philip walked backward

Inside with Ms. Jo
Away he did go
Stacks of books from Leann I borrowed
Talk of correspondents lost–we sorrowed

The session ended, a running embrace
Hugs were huge, kisses covered my face
Alone we watched the snow swirling past
Coats, hats and mittens were on…at last

Car hummed and we waited patiently
Mom and 2 kids unloaded gratefully
Freight train stalled on the tracks
Under the bridge went the car, no looking back

Basil, broccoli, tofu and rice
Warmed up for lunch…mmm mmm…nice
Philip to the LEGO room
While Mom cleaned up the food

Science experiments began
In plastic reservoirs, many mixtures swam
Citric acid, vinegar, salt and wine
Wires connected, the clock worked fine

The dog walked from room to room
Time to walk him.  Must be soon
To the pasture we walked
Holding hands we talked

Three pheasants flew to the tall grass
The creek ice broke with a smash
Ant hills hither and yon on our trek
Crawling under fences, fruit trees we checked

Peas, carrots and potato pie
At dinner we did dine
Leftover bread made wonderful toast
We ate lots. Philip ate the most.

Jenga wood crashing, tears flowed
Off to brush teeth, put on clothes
Viking stories first, then to sleep
Dad returns, time for some sweets.

Helping hand


I am getting ready to leave school for the day and will post before I head home.

I met a new faculty member today who teaches religion.  I mention him because I helped him establish his web-based learning management system account.  As always, I find that I am so eager to help people.  I felt bad, at first, because I was not able to retrieve the name of the URL that he needed right away.  But, on the upside, I DID get it and was able to give him a quick tutorial on how to upload files and organize folders.  That was nice.  Felt good.

It’s always hard to tell whether a class session went well or was worth the students’ time.  As a result, I am going to remain kind of quiet on that front.  I just know that I went to my classes prepared and that I tried to get my students involved.  I have recently begun to love worksheets and I will be coming up with activities for the students to do in the future.  If I get some successful ones, I will share them.  If nothing else, it will help me answer the interview question, “What’s the best activity you’ve had in class…one that really helped students succeed?”  That’s the hope, at least.

Time to drive home, see Bruce, eat a late-night snack and then head to bed.

Hope you had a good day and will have a good night.

Phantom Power, Parapherna


I learned a couple of cool terms in the past two days.  Since they both start with P, I am including them in the same blog.

Yesterday, while looking up the proper definition of parapet (so that I could assert my medieval castle knowledge with Philip), I stumbled across parapherna in the dictionary.  You can follow the link to find out what it means, but I will also tell you.  It refers to a woman’s property that remains her own and is not party of her dowry.  To me, it gives paraphernalia an added meaning.  Now, when I hear the word, I will be inclined to think about all the new husbands who say, “Oh, that’s just her parapherna” in a dismissive tone, much like Sean Thornton in The Quiet Man.  But, if you saw the film, you’d know (because fiction does inform reality) that those other things really do matter to the woman.

Today, as part of our science lessons, Philip and I read through Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun by Caduto et. al.  This was my first introduction to the term phantom power.  Phantom power, in brief, represents all of the energy you are consuming while you are not actively consuming it.  For example, a digital alarm clock, a cell phone charger, etc.  There is a cutesy section called “Ohms & Watt-Son’s Detective Notebook” which helps you write down the action of the “energy theft” as well as the “action to take to stop the theft.”  I have been trying very hard to reduce extra (unnecessary) consumption of energy lately and discovered that I had been leaving some items plugged in without realizing it.  The book also introduces several projects and products.  One project that I would like to try this spring or summer is known as “A Dark Day of Enlightenment.”  This involves being free from fossil-fuel driven activities for 24 hours: no cell phones, no car trips, no lights on in the house and so on.  Kind of like that PBS show  “The 1900 House,” but with an eco agenda and no period costumes.  Or, more appropriately in my area, going Amish for the day.  The product that I was tempted by is known as a personal solar power system.   The link that I provided is for solar powered laptop battery chargers.  Sadly, the cheapest charger is the same price as my laptop.  Definitely not going to rush out any time soon.  In response to my desire to reduce waste, I went to, per the book’s reference, to learn more about stopping junk mail in our mailbox.  This service  will cost you $20/year and states on its website that it will “reduce your junk mail 75 to 90%.”  I think I will continue to recycle here and make a couple of phone calls to get removed from mailing lists as they come.

In other news, Philip and I read a lot of books today.  We are still on a Magic Tree House marathon.  Poor Jack and Annie found themselves in Pompeii today–on the day of the famous eruption, no less.  I am beginning to wonder about this librarian Morgan Le Fay.  She seems pretty adept at putting these kids in perilous situations.  What price, books, eh?

Thankfully, other books served to divert us today:

Fraction Action by Loreen Leedy
Fraction Fun by David Adler (has great hands-on activities)
Subtraction Action by Loreen Leedy
Stronger than Steel by Bridget Heos (revelatory)
Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock (a Philip favorite)
Jump, Kangaroo, Jump! by Stuart J. Murphy
The Penny Pot by Stuart J. Murphy

This afternoon’s Book and A Snack was spent cuddling with our new issue of Click! magazine which is all about libraries…one of our favorite places in the world.

On that note, I’ll sign off now.  It’s been a good day and I bid you good night!

Cold Day, Lentil Stew, Elsie and Mairi


It was my first ever Cold Day.  This occurs when school is canceled because the weather is too cold outside.  This morning’s temperature was -2 degrees Fahrenheit (felt like -26, so told me).  I didn’t think it would happen.  But, it did.  After a quick trip to the curb to drop off recyclables, I was more than happy to stay inside for most of the rest of the day.

The horse seems to be doing well.  She is eating and is in good spirits.  Around 2:00, she was down in the valley grazing.  That is one tough mare.  The dog and I, meanwhile, are comparative wimps.  He had on his winter blanket, a fleece scarf and his snow boots.  I wore my barn coat, two scarves (one inside the coat, one outside), a hat beneath a hood, my fleece-lined boots and my tough gloves (that are falling apart at some of the seams, that I have tried to repair, that I have discovered I need a thicker/stronger needle in order to fix).  This morning, the cold was intense.  The wind was biting.  This afternoon, at least, there was sun.  All of the trips have been short and the house, struggling to stay above 60 degrees, feels like a sauna when you first come in.

I made lentil stew for lunch and some cornbread.  Here’s the recipe for the (one-pot) lentil stew:

1/2 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
2 medium carrots chopped
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups chopped green beans
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste

As for the cornbread, I experimented a bit and it fell a little flatter than usual, so I am not going to share that recipe.  I will spare you the disappointment.

This afternoon, the boys went to nap while I nearly finished a library book I have been reading, Elsie and Mairi Got to War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front, by Diane Atkinson.  I picked this book up last Thursday while Philip was in his reading session with Ms. Jo.  I wandered the book stacks looking for something, but I didn’t know what.  All I knew is that I wanted something different.  I found this in the history aisle and I am glad I did.  The book chronicles the lives of two women, Elsie and Mairi during World War I.  The two women met because they were both motorcycle enthusiasts and attracted the attention of a man named Dr. Munro.  He was was recruiting for a ambulatory service in Belgium for soldiers in the trenches and thought they had the “pluck” needed to do the job.  As I read the tales of their exploits (driving down muddy roads with injured soldiers, warming men up with hot cocoa, trying to create hope in the face of fear), I was reminded of another book I had read recently: Hope in Hell by Dan Bortolotti.  In both cases, some days would be calm.  Other days would be tragic.  Every day was uncertain.  Sometimes, bureaucracy, interpersonal dynamics and resources helped make things bearable.  Other times, they would be a source of strife.  In Hope in Hell, there is an extensive discussion about the “showmanship” of some of the founders, how often they used publicity to raise funds and awareness.  This World War I organization was not much different.  Elsie and Mairi, celebrities in their day, frequently found themselves in the position of petitioning for funds to help sustain their operations.  Letters sent to friends in England were subsequently published in local papers with pleas for aid from the editor.  When supplies ran low, Elsie and Mairi would go on speaking tours, tell their stories and solicit funds.  These women were serving in a war and had to actively raise the money to support their efforts.  Sometimes, it is easy to forget that marketing across multiple channels and networking are not new phenomena.  In fact, Elsie Knocker seemed to use every opportunity to raise funds for their cause.  She was so committed to her work.

Fame fades with time, though, unless vigilantly managed.  Both Elsie and Mairi moved on to different careers after the war ended.  I found myself appreciating their struggle for a post-war identity.  Despite their notoriety and many awards for bravery and service,  doors were not opened to them.  While they had a brief stint with the Women’s Royal Air Force, that group disbanded a year after they were recruited.  It must have been hard for them both, who probably defined themselves so strongly with their acts of service, to find their skills no longer in demand.  We often speak of these occurrences in the face of layoffs and collapsed companies.  Employees are forced to reinvent themselves or perish in the marketplace.  We grudgingly accept it as a fact of modern life.  Yet, these women, who led unconventional lives for a time, experienced this a century ago.  Was it more or less difficult for them then?  I suspect it was a greater challenge.  So many more stigmas and limitations.

I laughed to Bruce that it seemed to me that many people are very loyal to products and brands, but they are not necessarily as loyal to other people.  All the photographers that took photos, the journalists who wrote stories, the leaders of different aid societies who solicited funds probably continued to take pictures, write stories, and raise money for a cause.  They just moved on to different causes and different phenoms.  All in a day’s work.

It’s a reminder.  So many of our personal challenges have been faced by someone else before, in a different time, a different place.  Our challenges should not be measured relative to theirs as better or worse.  Just human.  And, as such, we should all remember that, like Elsie and Mairi, when you face obstacles, you keep trudging through because you believe in an idea and the best you can do is try.

Incremental vs. punctuated change


Years ago, I rode horses.  It all started when I was visiting my Aunt Mary’s in Maryland.  Aunt Mary had horses at her home and my cousin, Jill, decided to take me for a ride.  There we were, in the middle of a field, riding one of their horses tandem bareback.  I sat behind Jill as she steered and urged the horse to move faster.  At one point, the horse bucked and I went flying.  My cousin ran over to me in a panic, Was I hurt?  I had my head down and was laughing.  It was the most fun I had ever had.  After months of persistence, I finally persuaded my mother to let me have riding lessons.  I was eight years old when I started.  I rode all through grammar school and high school.  I went to competitions nearly every weekend (or so it seemed) during the season.  I rode every day.  The hardest part of training, though, was trying to determine if I had made any forward progression.  I could never tell.  Every day meant working at the same thing, trying to refine a sticky transition or loosen a stiff side.  Was I making progress?  I didn’t know.  I just had to remain committed and keep the faith.

These days, my biggest day-in and day-out focus is helping to raise Philip.  Each day, we work, little by little, at instilling manners, practicing patience and so on.  Some days, there are setbacks.  Some days, there are triumphs.  Every day, we try.  Today, I sorted LEGOs and made a new rule: LEGOs need to be picked up and sorted, at a minimum, once a week.  We had gotten behind and it took a long time to get the chaos returned to order.

In management theory, we often talk about different types of change: incremental or punctuated.  Incremental change is marked by slow, consistent modifications to processes, approaches, etc.  Punctuated change, however, is a bit more dramatic.  It tends to be quite drastic and obvious.  In general, while punctuated tends to get more notice, incremental changes seem to be the preferred course of action.  Slow and steady wins the race, as the saying goes.

As I look to my personal goals of raising Philip and improving the way our family uses resources, I have to remember that change and progress tend to be slow.  Further, slow doesn’t mean no progress is being made.  Small, steady steps (and a few backward ones) are the key.

It is good to remember this.

Ice Age, Curiosity


During lunch today, we were reading Mary Pope Osborne’s Sunset of the Sabertooth.  We were all alarmed that poor Annie and Jack wound up in the freezing cold with blowing snow while being dressed in only their bathing suits (since they had just come back from swimming lessons.)  BRRR!

I remembered that I had read something about how we are still in the midst of an Ice Age and mentioned it, how it still amazes me to think about it.  Of course, being in the middle of winter with lots of blowing winds helps set the mood a little more resolutely than being in the height of summer.  Bruce said, “Really?”  Then, I started doubting my memory (an easy thing to do.  It’s not 100% reliable.  Maybe 50/50.).  So, tonight, I looked it up and found my answer: YES.

But, in the midst of finding my answer, I found a thought-provoking website that I am going to share with you: Curiosity (the Discovery Channel’s TV show website).  I admit it.  I don’t have cable, a dish or watch Hulu online.  So, I am probably not telling anyone anything new.  But, I did enjoy the Topics section.  Some of the underwater photos are pretty incredible, too.

It’s a good reminder to stay curious, keep exploring and keep the mind open to possibilities.  Another great way to help change the world!