Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kindergarten cookbook

Jonathan's new kindergarten class put together a Thanksgiving cookbook. They told the teacher how to cook their favorite dishes, and she wrote them down. Here is a selection.

Apple pie (as told by Jonathan)
First you make the crust. Then you get some apples and sugar and mix it up. Put it in the oven 70 degrees for 20 minutes. Put on the white kind of ice cream.

Thanksgiving turkey (by Caleb)
First add chicken. Cut the chicken. Cook in the oven, really hot for 15 hours. Put green bean sauce on it and apple sauce.

Cranberry sauce (by Caleb)
Add some pumpkin and then some seeds and then you add some corn which is Indian. Then you add some red food coloring. We just put it in the oven and add some shells and cheese. Then you add some fruit which is not very healthy and then you put it on the oven for 3 hours. Add some water and cranberries and cut it up.

Green bean casserole (by Courtney)
I think you take some bread and green beans. Add salt and pepper and onions and green bean sauce. Put in marshmallows on top. Put in oven until the marshmallows melt. Then let it dry for one hour. Then you can eat it.

Rolls (by Sasha)
Take some flour and a little bit of sugar and some brown flour and protein and we can put in a little bit of pepper. Bake it in the oven for 5 minutes. The oven should be 60 degrees. Eat them.

Corn (by Sasha)
Put hot water in the pot and then boil it in the pot and put it in the oven. Make it for 5 degrees and then you want to warm the oven to 6 degrees and put in a bit of salt. If you want to save it for lunch you can put it in the freezer. You can put on butter and sparkles.

Pumpkin pie (by Sasha)
I think you put a little flour and then some eggs and I think just a little bit of pumpkin stuff. You can put in cinnamon. Bake at 6 degrees for I think 7 hours. You can put on some decorations like flowers or stars or a face. You can use candles.

So there you go. The reason why kindergarteners don't make the Thanksgiving dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's called a toilet

Lena came over Friday evening and we reminisced about living in England. One topic that came up was word usage. All over the world, every single day, people use toilets. In England, they call them toilets. If you are looking for a toilet, you find a sign that has an arrow pointing you to Toilets.

In America, people are afraid of the word "toilet". If you need to use a toilet here, you look for a sign that says "restroom". You tell your friends you are off to "powder your nose."

If you would like to buy a house, you do not inquire about the number of toilets. You inquire about the number of bathrooms. Two and a half baths means there are three toilets. If you bathe in the bathroom, what is a half bathroom? Do you take half a bath there? This is a room with just a toilet and a sink. Which one do you use for your half bath? Or what half of your body are you bathing? These are questions you have to ask in America.

A Jonathan post

So we've had one week in the new kindergarten/daycare, and we are all very happy. Monday through Thursday Jonathan went to the quiet blue school across the valley, then was picked up after lunch and driven back to the preschool where I work, where he has been going afternoons. Friday Jonathan stayed all afternoon at the new school, and went to kindergarten there with the older children. I asked him afterwords how it went. He said he "really really liked it." That's two really's. What a huge relief. I actually don't know if I am allowed to be relieved yet or if I need to give it a few more weeks and still ask about really really's. But I am still optimistic that all will be well.

Now that we know Jonathan is a reader, we've tried to do more to encourage that. We picked out some library books yesterday from the "early reader" section. The books were color coded to indicate reading level. Red was early beginning, purple medium, and yellow more advanced. Well in my own oh-so-humble opinion, the red books were really boring. We got a couple purple, but I found the books I liked had yellow stickers. Books like "Frog and Toad are Friends", and "Green Eggs and Ham", and "The Giving Tree." So those are the books we checked out.

Last night Jonathan started reading "The Giving Tree" to me, and he was getting most of the words -- until about the middle of the book when there is a whole page of words. Then Jonathan got tired and asked me to finish it. Even so, while he read I kept stopping and flipping the book over and saying "Wait a second -- this is a YELLOW book! You are not supposed to be able to read this!" Jonathan would laugh and keep reading more.

Daddy was away watching football (more on that later). First thing this morning Jonathan wanted to show Daddy how he could read the yellow book. This time he read "The Giving Tree" from start to end.

We are very proud of our little reader. While he likes reading, and is excited about it, we'll keep him reading.

So summary: very happy with the new school. Very happy Jonathan is in kindergarten at the new school. He is tall enough to be in kindergarten, and he is apparently reading at least at a kindergarten level. I don't know how much progress we've made socially in the last week, but the new teacher is aware of our concerns and believes he will become good friends with the other children. You have my permission to feel relieved, at least until I tell you otherwise.

Friday, November 21, 2008

This week's crisis

Cheating on an exam. A question was leaked, which means by Monday morning it was all over the floor and an army of professors and TA's had to come in with mops and buckets and clean up.

So that fact and this fact probably provide sufficient explanation for this post (since you asked, Emily).

Wonder what's up for next week?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Last week's crisis

So a week and a half ago, on Friday, things came to a head, and Tim and I realized we needed to let our nanny go and get Jonathan into something new and stimulating as soon as possible. I started searching, placed an ad, and lined up a visit to a full time kindergarten / daycare on the other side of the valley that weekend. Things happened very quickly. By Sunday night we had visited the new school, checked references, and come away extremely feeling positive about the program, the teachers, and the home cooked meals provided at this school. So we signed Jonathan up. Yeah! No more lunch planning duties for me!

The following Monday, we had planned to sit down with the nanny and tell her that things weren't working and give her three weeks notice. Actually, we were debating into the wee hours the night before whether we should just pay her up front for three weeks and send her away and not have to deal with her again, or whether we should make her come over to earn the money. One major problem was that Jonathan couldn't start at the new school for another week. Since we were paying for childcare, shouldn't we get it? On the other hand, bad news of this sort would sour both parties toward the idea of seeing each other at all. Very bad idea for child care.

Anyhow, Monday morning before 7am, we got a call from the nanny. She was too sick to work. So I gave her the news over the phone. She sent me a polite email later that night stating that she wouldn't be coming in for the remaining three weeks. She wanted to spend her three weeks job hunting. So that problem was solved in the most financially easy way possible for Tim and me.

The bad news was that we had a week without child care. I took the afternoons, Tim took the mornings, plus a day off work on Thursday, and we made it work for that short time.

Yesterday morning, Jonathan started his first day at the new school. He really liked it. I asked him today which he liked better, the new school or the nanny? His response was immediate. The new school. Hands down. I am very very happy with the way things have worked out. This new school will be very good for Jonathan. It is small enough that he'll be getting the individual attention we were hoping for from a nanny, but with other playmates and a very experienced teacher and a licensed facility and home cooked meals! Did I mention the meals? I'm very happy about the meals.

The only problems: For now, we're keeping Jonathan in his old afternoon preschool, for a little continuity in his life. Plus, he's just starting to make friends there. Unfortunately, that means I have to drive around during the lunch hour playing shuttle. Since the new school is on the other side of the valley, I've had to convert my one hour walking time into one hour of driving back and forth and back and forth. I need to find a way to fill that time so it isn't completely dead. Any suggestions for books on tape?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Train wreck!

(I did promise shorter posts for a while.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On work

I really like my job. I have bad days, but generally I really like it. I think about my job as I walk to work in the morning. I plan out ways to improve my teaching and try to organize bits of research papers in my head. I think I'm generally pretty good at my work, and I do believe I am improving as time goes by. I honestly believe my little corner of the world is a better place because of the work that I do, and I like it.

I wish the people I hired to work for me all liked their job as much as I like mine. I wish they thought ways to improve and organize their work while they're at home in the evenings. I wish they understood that by doing the job well, they were making the world a better place. I wish I could find those people and hire them. It would be easier to get things done right.

Anyway, I have a few deadlines coming up at work. They are mostly self-imposed, but they shouldn't slide any more than they've already been sliding. I think I may be cutting back here at the Clown and Poker to spend more evenings finishing those projects. I will have to write shorter, smarter posts for my seven consistent readers. Or maybe I'll call you. That would be novel.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Our four year old is a reader. We knew he read a handful of words. Occasionally we could convince him to read a couple of words in a sentence in one of his books. Tonight we were talking about reading, and he asked why Zoe, age five, could read big books. I told him that he was also learning to read, and he would someday also be able to read big books. Several minutes later, just before our usual five minute scripture reading time, when I had opened the book but had not yet started, the little boy moved his finger over the words and began to read. "And it came to pass that Jesus..." He really read! He didn't get the word "commanded" the first time, or "cease" or "disciple", but he figured out almost all the words in between. Words like "they", "the", "and", but also words like "pray", "stand", "multitude" (how in the world did he ever figure out the word "multitude"?), "give", "bread". Tim and I both had jaws resting on our chests. We had no idea he could read like that. And of all the books to begin to read, he chose the one written in 16th century King James English? Who is this child?

Our four year old is a mathematician. He knows his numbers and "plus" and "minus". When his grandparents were at our house a couple of weekends ago, Grandpa wrote on a napkin a simple problem, something like "4 + 2 - 3 = " and then handed the napkin and the pen to the little boy. He asked what the symbols meant, and I began to explain that "+" was "plus", "-" was "take away" and "=" was ... but before I finished explaining, he had written the number 3 on the other side of the "=" sign -- which was the correct answer. We all looked at each other in shock. When did he learn mathematics? Since then I've been playing more math games with him on the bus or at home. He thinks it's fun. He can now add ten to nearly anything, and do addition and subtraction with most of his small numbers.

Our four year old has practically zero social skills. Even compared to four year olds. Zip. Nada. Nil. His preschool has a one way mirror. I took some time to observe him, unknown to him, Monday afternoon. He did not talk to the children except to boss them. He did not play with the others, except at the end of play time where he bounced around the room in such silliness that one little girl laughed and followed along. Our boy, happy to have found a playmate, then ignored the teacher when she asked the children to freeze and tidy up the room. During singing time, when the other children were dancing and bouncing, he put his thumb in his mouth and didn't participate. A lead teacher came to join me in the observation booth, and said that he often would dust the children or poke them, and they didn't like it. She was trying to teach them to use their words to tell him not to. She also said that he sometimes played in parallel with the others, but never really with them. She thought he should have more play dates.

So what are we raising here? Tim and I lay awake in bed discussing our own social skills, and commented on the fact that we were both complete social outcasts at some point in elementary school. We don't want that for our boy. I asked Google how to teach a preschooler social skills, and Google gave me some good suggestions. One good suggestion was to help him form strong friendships outside of class with others from class. We've now set up a tentative regular play date with a boy we carpool with. Another good suggestion was to carefully model good social skills when we played with him at home. Last night our farm animals were more polite to each other than they've ever been before. Practice, practice, practice.

I love that little boy. I want him to be smart and socially savvy. We're going to need more good suggestions. How do a couple of social outcasts teach a little boy to make and keep friends? And now that the four year old is reading scripture, where do we go next? Shakespeare? And the math! Actually, I think I can handle the math for a little while yet.

Meanwhile, speaking of social skills, would you like to be my friend?

Saturday, November 8, 2008


October was spectacular here. Really. Living in warmer climates for ten years, I had forgotten how glorious autumn could be. Fat orange leaves on the pavement. Bright yellow trees standing against the deep blue mountains. If I were a poet, I would compare autumn to something poetical, like fish heads, and then spill my fat, juicy words across the internet for you to pick up, turn over, and admire, and then squish, like grapes. Poetry is like that. Of course, if I were really a poet I'd want to publish my grape words somewhere they might earn me some money. That is why my secret poet self doesn't put poetry on this blog.

My secret photographer self hasn't uploaded pictures of October yet, either. That's because she is lazy. Still. Just stuck in that lazy thing, and hoping that maybe Tim will get around to it.

So October was glorious, and you will have to take my word for it, because I cannot show you in pictures or poetry.

November, on the other hand, so far is just turning out to be cold. Hard frost cold. The kind of cold that makes your nose run, but you don't notice because you've lost feeling in your upper lip. The kind of cold that makes your heater turn on late at night when you have the thermostat set to economy. You wake up, shivering, and wonder if you should rethink economizing on something like heat. That kind of cold.

Then I start counting on my fingers, and realize that there are six months between November and April, inclusive, and that it will pretty much be cold all those months. Maybe that's too pessimistic. Maybe there are only five and a half months of cold.

I dress like a pillow each morning. I wear a puffy coat, a hat, gloves, and an extra layer of windbreaker pants over my jeans. There are a lot of people out on the streets as I walk to work, but I am the only walking pillow in early November. I'm guessing the others are saving their pillow gear for January, when it really gets cold.

Meanwhile, I've been considering buying a membership to a tanning salon so that I can get some vitamin D between now and April. And also maybe warm up my toes for 15 minutes every other day. Oooh that sounds heavenly.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Comments on a disturbing allegory

I was at a seminar this afternoon, and the dean of the college of humanities stood up and presented an allegory for our listening pleasure. Only I found it disturbing. See if you can figure out why. I will give away the answer at the end.

There once was a great department chair father figure. He sent two men down to work at his university. After some time, he would have them come back and report, and the one who did his duty appropriately would earn the hand in marriage of the beautiful princess Tenure. Or something along those lines.

Well, the first faculty member got right to work, but was interrupted by a phone call. It was a student who was failing, and she wondered if she could meet with the faculty to talk about the class. Then a while later there was a knock on the door. It was the star student. And he was wondering if he could discuss graduate schools. The other faculty member ignored all his phone calls and didn't go to department meetings and missed his daughter's soccer game. At the end of the story, the first guy had stellar teaching evaluations and no research results or funding while the second guy had terrible teaching evaluations but an excellent research record. And neither got Tenure because you have to be good at everything to get Tenure.

The End.

Ok. So what was it that disturbed me? Anybody catch it?

Give up?

I'll give you a hint. Check out the genders of each of the participants. The leader guy who is in control? Male. The guys who have a chance at the prize? Male. The stellar student? Male. The failing student? Female. The prize going to the winner? A hot female.

Now, you are probably sitting there thinking, "gee, there are a lot of disturbing things about that story, but I must say the sexism didn't stand out as the most egregious." And Tim is rolling his eyes right now. But you know, with a few changes the allegory might have worked without making me sit up and look shifty-eyed around the room to see who else was noticing.

I'm sure the dean did not mean to be sexist. Or even to appear sexist.

He realized it was a lame story, and he pointed that out early.

I wonder if anyone else in the audience even noticed. (I asked a colleague afterwords and he hadn't, although he could see in retrospect why I might have.)

(Of course, said colleague doesn't know me very well, so he doesn't know like Tim does that sometimes the best response is to roll your eyes.)

Still, I'm kind of glad I'm not in the college of humanities.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Anger management


"Jonathan, can you please just hold still while I read this?"

He kicks my knees.

"Jonathan! Just listen!"

He pushes my legs off the bed.



"I am NOT going to ask you again. Just settle down and listen or I'm going to close the book, turn out the light, and you can put yourself to bed!"


"Because I'm getting cross!"

Jonathan begins to sing:
"Just stop," (he holds out his hands) "take a deep breath," (he lifts his hands up) "and relax" (moves his hands back down again).

"What?" I say.

"Just stop, take a deep breath, and relax."

"Did you learn that in school?"

"Yes. When you are angry, your brain is in the back of your head and you think bad thoughts. You need to take a deep breath to move your brain to the front of your head where you can think happy thoughts."

I take a deep breath.

"OK, can we read now?"


Two seconds later: "Jonathan!"


"Just stop, take a deep breath, and relax."

"No, I'm not going to do that. You need to do that. I'm not cross."

I stop, take a deep breath, and go "HONK!"

Bedtime erupts into a tickle battle.

Jonathan starts singing, "stop, take a deep breath, and ... HONK!"

Ah, bedtime without Daddy. Good times.

Oh, and sorry, Miss Dorie, for corrupting your song.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I voted

I've gone nearly a week without posting. That's because I have been meaning to upload some photos, and I have not. I am apparently too lazy to get the camera cable out and move the files over and wait while Google uploads them. Also, I have been keeping busy. I spent Halloween night writing a paper, for example, while Tim and Jonathan were out collecting candy. I spent the next afternoon shopping with Tim's mom, buying some needed house items, and then the evening hanging paintings in the house. The living room now looks really really great. Like people really live here. It's amazing the difference it makes. These are the things I need to post pictures of. You will have to wait.

Meanwhile, a timely, but photo-free post.

I voted.

I will be able to look back on this election year and tell my grandchildren that 2008 was the year I walked five miles uphill in the rain to cast my vote.

I really did.

It really was raining.

I don't have a car at work, so I had to walk approximately 1.5 miles back home to pick up Tim. Then we walked roughly a mile to our polling location. Then we both cast votes. Then we walked home, and then I walked back to work. Total: about five miles.

It was drizzling slightly the whole walk.

That, my friends, is dedication. You can use this story in your sacrament meeting talks to tell people about how dedicated they ought to be to their voting duty.

Or you can spin it into a story to frighten your children: look what a freak you might become if you don't watch out.

Either way, I have done my patriotic duty.