Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ahoy, Matey!

Last night Mark and I judged the first annual Oregon City High School cardboard-duct-tape boat races at the OC Swimming Pool.

I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard.

Maybe it would help if our students lived near the ocean, and had more experience with boats?
Maybe it would help if cardboard floated better?

Let us just say that there were many hilarious moments of ignominious, sinking defeat.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!! Loved every minute of it.

I was able to snag a few photos...

Gearing up for the big race. The guy on the left has his roll of duct tape. The guy on the right has his cell phone. Both essential, I am sure.

 This craft's design was a bit unusual. We never could figure out what the extra structures on the bottom of the boat were supposed to accomplish. You can see that there is a box-like-thing sticking out of the bottom under the "S," and another one under the "O." Ummm...they weren't very helpful once the boat was launched. The steering wheel was a nice touch, though.

 These fellows thought they had a winner with their "outrigger" design--the banana box on the far side of The Black Pearl. What they forgot to take into account was that the outrigger structure would prevent them from being able to paddle on the starboard side of the vessel. They didn't go far...too bad...

 Classic cardboard boat design. These nautical engineers took it a step farther by incorporating oars instead of the customary paddle. Let us just say that the oarsman, once in the water, strove mightily, but unfortunately, he didn't understand how oars are designed to work, so he was paddling facing front. Again, a mighty effort that sank on the first round.

Now here's a snazzy craft. This one was designed by a couple of teachers, Becky Dyche and Karne Harper, who did quite well in the race. More about them in a bit.

 Sorry the photo is dark...someday I'll get a new camera. Two boats making reasonably good progress...both still afloat.

 Here's that teacher boat again, Pier Pressure, with Karen Harper paddling. It ended up winning 2nd place overall! One of its chief advantages was that it stayed afloat through numerous rounds. This was a really sturdy design. The flimsier boats just didn't hold up, even if they were covered in duct tape... you can see here. This little classic cardboard-duct-tape contraption is just about to go under. No matter how fast they were, if they couldn't stay afloat, that was a major problem, and once they started to bend, they would start shipping water, and that was the beginning of the end.

Another teacher craft, Pete's Pontoon. Here's Laura Jeffrey, being pushed off by the principal, Nancy Bush-Lange. This one was sturdy and stayed afloat, but some of the other boats were faster, so it was eliminated after a few rounds.

The prize-winning cardboard boat was the shape and actual size of a real canoe. That got Mark's and my attention...we know how to paddle canoes...maybe we'll sign up in a future year!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tunnel of Love

Mark had to run a quick errand to the bank this evening. I said, "Hey, why don't you run the car through the carwash while you're at it?"

(Besides the normal January grime, there was a big old muddy dog print on the driver's-side door. Woof! That was scary! Cranky dog tried to eat me through the window a couple of days ago. I was backing out of his driveway when I went visiting teaching, and he didn't like it. Luckily he was on a chain. And I was inside the car with the window up.)

Anyway, the car has been needing a wash, and there's a quick carwash just around the corner from the bank. You know, the kind where you put the gear in neutral and it pulls you through and it's all swishy-washy-swishy-washy-oh-no-here-comes-the-typhoon-now-it's-done. Love it.

Mark pulled a pouty look when I asked him if he'd take the car through the car wash.

"It's not just the car wash," he said. "It's the tunnel of looove." He said it like that. And then he said, "You want to go with me to the tunnel of looove?"

What's a girl to say?

The car is nice and clean now. And there may have been a kiss involved.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do you know where you were 32 years ago today?

I do.

I was shopping with my mother-in-law at the Galleria Mall in Glendale, California. It was about noon. I was pushing my daughter, Julia, age 2 1/2, in a little umbrella stroller.

We cut our shopping excursion short because I was beginning to have some labor contractions. My mother-in-law didn't drive for health reasons, so I drove the 3 of us home, and I went to take a nap. When I woke up an hour or so, I was definitely in labor.

When my husband got home from work, we drove to the doctor's office, about 30 minutes away. I wanted an out-of-hospital birth, and I had found a doctor in Azusa, California, who had his office set up with several birth rooms.

We were thrilled to welcome a beautiful little baby girl...back in the days before ultrasounds that revealed the gender ahead of time. She was so tiny, only 5 lb 10 oz, but healthy and wonderful.

We named her Polly, after my great-grandma Polly Tarbox.

Polly has always been a joy in my life. She currently lives in a rural town here in the Northwest, where her husband teaches high school and she is a stay-at-home mom to their three active children. Polly has a wonderful craft and family blog, but as you can see from the photos below, she was involved in craft projects long before she became a mom.

That's Polly on the right, at age 23 months.

Polly is on the left, helping her younger sibs make a Halloween craft in 1989, when she was 10.

Here they are with the finished skeleton, made from paper plates and brads.

Happy 32nd Birthday, Polly!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Job Security and Tipped Pickles

I teach high school English. I love my job. One of the best parts of it is helping students learn and grow as writers. It is fascinating to read their stories and encourage them to develop their writing voices.

It is also, sometimes, really really funny.

Today I'm reading stories that my students wrote. These are juniors and seniors in high school, 17-18 years old. I spent some time trying to figure out the following sentence, which one of the boys wrote about going fishing on the Columbia River:

"On a tip, pickle day all you have to use for lead is 8-ounce weights..."


I read the sentence 3 or 4 times before I figured out that it was a spell check error. What he meant to say ways, "On a typical day..."


Recently the Oregon Department of Education decided to allow high school writers to use spell check on the state writing test. They've been catching lots of flak about making the test too easy, with people griping about "spelling isn't important anymore" and blah blah blah.

In my opinion, these people who object to kids using spell check are missing the point.

This is the 21st century, after all. The kids will be using spell check constantly in their work lives; why not use it as a tool on the writing test, too?

Besides, as my students are constantly reminding me...

On a tip, pickle day, it's still easy to spell it / write it wrong.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mormon Mommy Blogs

Last week a friend sent me the link to an article on Salon about Mormon "mommy blogs."

It's an interesting article. Salon was the first online-only magazine, started back in 1995. It addresses politics and modern life, and the articles often tend toward edgy and sophisticated (at least to me...but you have to keep in mind that I am neither edgy nor sophisticated), so it's a surprising venue for the article.

The article was written by a feminist who is fascinated by blogs written by young Mormon mothers. The author, Emily Matchar, questions her own interest in the blogs, saying, " use a word that makes me cringe, these blogs are weirdly "uplifting." To read Mormon lifestyle blogs is to peer into a strange and fascinating world where the most fraught issues of modern living -- marriage and child rearing -- appear completely unproblematic. This seems practically subversive to someone like me, weaned on an endless media parade of fretful stories about "work-life balance" and soaring divorce rates and the perils of marrying too young/too old/too whatever."

Reading her article, I felt like I was reading by looking in the mirror. Not that I consider myself a member of the club she's writing about; I guess I'm a Mormon "grandma blogger," a generation removed from all the fun she follows. 

But still, some of my very favorite people are Mormon mommy bloggers--although I didn't know the term until I read it in Salon. These blogs aren't as "hip" as the ones linked from the Salon article, but I love reading them, and not only because I love the writers. The blogs are real and uplifting, and they open windows to interesting people who share their lives online.

Katie writes Notes from a Very Red Kitchen, with updates, craft projects, and thoughts about life from her university-student-housing apartment. She is honest and funny and takes excellent photos.

Polly writes Helping Little Hands from her rural home. She started sharing fabulous crafting/recycling ideas on her blog, and while those original and creative ideas are still the heart of her blog, she also shares insights from the ups and downs of family life.

Angela, with 2 children with celiac disease, writes a blog aimed at helping others cope with the challenges of gluten-free living in the Bay Area on Gluten-Free Teacups

Holly has been updating Meaningful Mothering regularly, but she's on a short hiatus while she and hubby and their two children move almost 2000 miles to a new home. I hope she'll be back on line soon!

Julia's Musings doesn't fit the "Mormon mommy" mold. Her children are older, and she freely admits that her craft projects don't reach star quality, but she writes thoughtful insights about navigating daily challenges.

Ok, ok, so I'm biased. Full disclosure requires that I 'fess up--these talented bloggers are all my daughters, step-daughter, or daughter-in-law. Lucky me!

Here are a few more of my favorite Mormon mommy blogs. Not related to these people, but I love checking in with their lives.

Bridget of Arabia fascinates me because she is raising her two young children in the Middle East, where her husband has a teaching position. Her posts are always interesting, and they're usually funny, on top of that.

Mrs. Maughan is kind of a shirt-tail relative, but I always enjoy her blog--fresh and honest and funny.

And finally--last but not least--I have to give a quick shout-out for The Skinny. Authors are Katie (Notes from a Very Red Kitchen) and yours truly--a mother-daughter team working on weight loss and healthier living. Katie and I update our progress every week, and other blog authors chime in from time to time with healthy encouragement to the rest of us.

If you're interested, there's an article in Deseret News about the Salon article.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mopping the floor with a diaper...

...and other interesting updates from the week.

Today Mark and I helped David and Holly move out of their apartment. They have given away or sold most of their furniture. Today they took the boxes of belongings to the trucking company, and then loaded their van for the drive to Kansas and their new job/life there.

We vacuumed the carpets, and then it was time for one last mop of the not-too-big kitchen floor and dining area.

Oops! No mop. No rags. No paper towels. Everything was packed. What to do?

I pulled out a (new) disposable diaper from Holly's diaper bag and began swabbing the decks. It sort of worked. Modern disposable diapers are made to be very absorbent, so it quickly became full of the soapy water. But it didn't wring out well, at all; it just hung on to the moisture. And the diapers are made to stay dry on the surface, so that baby's bum is comfy, so it was hard to get much moisture on the floor.

But it did work, after a fashion. Between the diaper and some Lysol wipes, I "mopped" (diapered?) the floor of the kitchen area. Before I tackled the larger dining area, a sweet woman from housekeeping had wandered by and offered to loan David one of her mops. I have to say, the actual mop did work better than the diaper. But if you're ever in a pinch for a mop, it is possible to make a diaper do the job.

Another interesting tidbit from the week: my left big toenail fell off last night. It's been on it's way out (off?) for a couple of months. First, I noticed that when I changed my bright pink toenail polish every couple of weeks, that toenail had a large dark area. Ominous. Didn't want to think about it, so I quickly covered it up each time with more of the bright pink toenail polish.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed one morning that the toenail was distinctly "flappy." As in, it was still attached on one side, but not the other, and not along the toenail bed. It didn't hurt, so I've just been keeping it trimmed and covered with a bandaid so it wouldn't get caught on a sock and pull itself off prematurely. To tell you the truth, I was feeling a little squeamish and nervous about the whole thing.

Yesterday afternoon I went to trim it again, and it just lifted all the way off. There is a new toenail growing about 1/3 of the way up the toenail bed already. It doesn't hurt, and it doesn't look gross. It's nice not having to worry that it's going to get accidentally ripped off. I have no idea what I did to injure the toenail in the first place. Maybe hiking, maybe stubbing my toe one night in the dark...I don't know, but it's a good feeling to have the old one gone.

One more update from last week - something very satisfying to me - I'm taking a PSU writing class again this term, one which focuses on writing the thesis. I had that 200 pages of rough draft I wrote over the summer, so on Thursday night, when I had the quiet house all to myself for several hours, I pulled out the rough drafts and rewrote Chapter 1. Very Satisfying. I will take it into my writing class on Tuesday, and we'll critique it the following week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Camp Natoma Sweatshirts

My sweet, darling parents stopped by this evening. They are on their way to California for the memorial service of a dear friend. When they came in the house, my mom was wearing a "Camp Natoma" sweatshirt. Within 5 minutes, she had pulled a matching sweatshirt out of a bag for me!

Camp Natoma is the summer camp for Camp Fire Girls that my mom and her sister went to for years. It's in the foothills of central California. I also went to Camp Natoma for a week or more every summer from the time I was 6 years old until I was 14. Sometimes I still dream that I am there at Camp Natoma. It holds a lot of wonderful memories for me.

The sweatshirt I am wearing came from my mom's sister, my Aunt Mary Anne. She passed away last spring, and this month my cousin sent a few of her mementos to family members. My new Camp Natoma sweatshirt will not only remind me of my childhood summer camp experiences, but of my sweet aunt, who was kind to me my whole life.

My parents have special memories of Camp Natoma, because my mom was a summer camp counselor there the year that my dad decided he simply could not live without her for another minute. While my mother--the young, sweet Nancy Holman--was at camp, my dad went to her parents' home and asked if he could marry their daughter. My dad, my grandparents, and my uncle all drove up to Camp Natoma that very evening. Poor mom! She had no idea they were coming, and when they all showed up, she thought she was in big trouble! Haha! She didn't know what to do when her sweetheart proposed. She loved him very much, but she also loved being up at Camp Natoma!

They were married the next week. They were young and poor. My dad was still in college, so they lived in a small trailer parked in my grandparents' back yard, and then in student housing. Mom finished high school, and my brother and I were born a few years later, after my dad was drafted into the army during the Korean War.

Mom said we should have another photo, with Dad in the middle, because he was "The Disruptor" of Camp Natoma. That made us laugh. It was so wonderful to have a couple of hours with them this evening!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Taking Another Night Class

I've started another night class at Portland State University. This is a class on thesis writing, which meets for 4 hours every Tuesday night. There are only 10 students in the class, all of them in the same graduate writing program that I am in. I have taken classes with all of them before, and I know the professor well. It promises to be a good term.

I will also sign up for 2 or 3 independent thesis credits this term. I took 1 thesis credit last spring, and I have to complete a total of 8 thesis credits, plus take one more literature class, in order to complete the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree in nonfiction writing.

Most of the other students in the class are unsure what they will be writing about for their thesis. I'm grateful for all the writing I did last summer, because I feel like I have a good start already.

I've been taking night classes at PSU in this program since the spring of 2006. After five years, it's hard for me to believe that I will be finishing the master's degree in (probably) two more terms!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kicking and Screaming into the 21st Century

On Tuesday I used a Bluetooth for the first time. Oregon only allows hands-free use of cell phones while driving, so Mark and I bought the gizmo for ourselves--Merry Christmas to us! I kind of have the hang of it. Not sure I would know how to answer a call if one came in, but I successfully called two of the kids on my way to my PSU class. I even used a voice command to "dial" the numbers.

(Hahaha - no, I don't look that cool when I use it.)

[Do kids today ever wonder why we say "dial"--signifying something circular--when we speak of entering the correct digits in order to call someone? Anyone out there remember the old dial phones? Remember how your finger almost got sore if someone's number had lots of 8s and 9s?]

Mark and I upgraded to new cell phones last week. I still can't figure out how to get all my messages. I'm working on it.

We're talking about getting a Wii fit. [I realize that the Wii is no longer a new-fangled gadget to many people. But still...] In order to make that work...if we get one...we moved the television back into the living room last week. I have mixed feelings about that. So far it hasn't taken over our lives. [I realize that a television is not a "21st century" innovation. But moving it into my living room might be.]

I do love my iPod touch. It has completely replaced the paper-pencil calendar I always carried in my purse. The iPod allows Mark and me to share calendars all the time--I never want to go back to any other way of keeping track of our comings and goings.

Another thing I love about the iPod touch--Mark and I use them for reading scriptures right before bed. Then it stays on my nightstand all night, and if I wake up and can't sleep, it's so easy to read a little more without having to turn on a light and bother him. My scripture app lets me read in "night" mode, so it hardly makes any light at all.

A couple of years ago my high school started installing "SMART Boards" in some of the classrooms. The math teachers loved them. I couldn't imagine using one in an English classroom. Haha! Now I use one every day, and I can't imagine having to go back to teaching without one. This morning I "clicked" on the board to show the class a youtube video about the Modoc war, for background info on the book we were reading. So high tech. It really does help keep the kids' attention.

Here's a cool little video about SMART Boards, in case you haven't seen one in a classroom.

I could go on and on some more, but I won't. The technology is so ubiquitous now; it permeates nearly every aspect of my life. It's helpful and useful. But thinking about all this makes me want to pack a lunch and get out in the woods for a hike.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Blessing - Take 2

I heard this the other day over the P.A. system at the local hospital lab when I went in for a medical appointment. At first I thought it was a little cheesy to have a morning meditation read over the sound system like that, but as I listened and thought about my garden, my maple tree, my challenges, and my loved ones, it did become a lovely, reflective moment for me.

Hold on to what is good
Even if it is a handful of earth
Hold on to what you believe
Even if it is a tree that stands by itself
Hold on to what you must do
Even if it is a long way from here
Hold on to life
Even if it is easier to let go
Hold on to my hand
Even if I have gone away from you
Pueblo blessing

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Blessing - Take 1

This new year's blessing came my way from my dear friend, Mark Kelley:

“May peace break into your home and may thieves come to steal your debts.

May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet for $50 bills.

May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips!

May happiness slap you across the face and may your tears be that of joy.

May your problems forget your home address!

In simple words, may 2011 be the best year of your life!!!

Happy New Year!!”