Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shaun the Sheep

Welcome to Iain's latest animated interest. This time, it's claymation (or something like that). Think Wallace and Gromit except with sheep, pigs, a herding dog, and a bull as the main characters. Also, Shaun dances briefly at the end of each bit. Yes. Dances.

YouTube does not have a clip of "Saturday Night Shaun," but let me just say that the sheep set up a nightclub with a sheep DJ and Shaun dances until his wool falls off. The sheep like disco, but when a group of chain-wearing, dew-rag-sporting pigs break into the barn, they switch the music to breakbeat. True story.

It's fun, and funny, and it will help maintain Iain's total immersion in British children's programming. Yesterday one of the afternoon staff at his school asked me, "Does Iain have a little accent?"

"You mean because he says "Should I have a go?" and "can't" pronounced "cawn't"?

Yup. She thinks it's cute. I think it's a sign of how much he loves Kipper.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Tonight's newest obsession: Weird.

As in, "That's so weird!" "You weird, Mommy!" and "I'm weird!"

He has no idea what weird means.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine

He's Alive! In the shrubbery! Check it out.

In other news, we attended our first street party. Iain was unsure what we were doing there. The tables sat in the street, directly across from our house. So he kept saying, "Should we go home?" and I'd say, "Well, there's our home." Cue confusion in toddler. He also knows that when he's near cars, he should hold my hand. So at one point he looked at the street, at the tables, at me, and said "I have to hold your hand in the parking lot."

The only negative to the evening was that I forgot all about bringing a dish until 5:45. Technically, that's also the time I got home. The party started at 6. Oops.

But I had a huge box of strawberries, and fresh local peaches, and plenty of full-fat Greek yogurt. So I just piled the fruit up (well, I topped the berries, sliced the peaches and arranged everything attractively, if you must know) and mixed a batch of brown sugar yogurt sauce (ingredients: brown sugar. Yogurt. Mix the two. Eh voila!). I think it was a hit, because the fruit disappeared and when I went to get the sauce bowl I found a gaggle of kids scraping out the last bits. When a 9 year old demands the recipe - you're in good shape.

All in all - good times. Iain came home to a bath and his Thomas the Tank Engine jammies, followed by bed. I'll spend the rest of the evening reading an essay for school tomorrow. There's no rest for the forgetful.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Today I listened to a portion of the newly-renamed radio program, "Being." In case you're confused - it was called "Speaking of Faith" until last week. Krista Tippet interviewed Nicholas Kristof, a journalist who has written widely on issues like human trafficking and rape.

At some point, she asked him about his favorite philosopher, and they talked about ideas and the way that they shaped Kristof's approach to life and writing.

I started to wonder what I would answer to the question, "who is your favorite philosopher?" Putting aside the question of whether you can or should have a "favorite," this strikes me as one of those litmus-test questions. Presidential candidates face the question, and they had better be ready to answer someone who rings all the right bells. Say "Jesus," and the media assumes you're winking at your evangelical supporters. Say "Martin Luther King, Jr.," and you send a completely different message.

But my background in philosophy is thin, thin, thin. So suppose someone jumps out of the bushes and asks me to name a philosopher? Ouch! I could drop a famous name on the fly ("Denis Diderot! Because it's fun to say 'Denis Diderot!'" or "Kant! Because I like to hum, 'Emmanuel Kant was a real pissant...'") but that would only reflect the shallowest possible knowledge of what that person actually had to say. turns out that I do know a philosopher. One whose life and personality impressed me intensely. One who taught me something about thinking when I was a child - something I taught to my own students last week. I knew Ferdinand Schoeman, philosopher.

Dr. Schoeman's son was my classmate from kindergarten until we graduated high school. And because his son was in our classes, Schoeman visited and told us what I can only describe as philosophy stories. He talked about the progress of time. He talked about the unknowability of the future. He talked about ethics and morality and sin and redemption and generosity and complexity and fun. He was great.

Most importantly, he was open-handed and open-hearted with his ideas. I'm sure he's not the only philosopher who speaks about ideas to third graders (and then fifth graders, and then seventh graders, and then...), but he told me things that I remember - in detail - 25 years later.

So if anyone ever asks me, my favorite philosopher is Ferdinand Schoeman. He specialized in writing about privacy, and in influencing kids to be more interesting thinkers. There's a lecture series in his name at his university, because he died too young.

I'm So Happy, So Happy, So Happy

"I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story. She sings, "I'm so happy" in a way I can really relate to today.

Iain is asleep. In his bed. With the sun shining outside.

In other words: no more pack-n-play (I must go pack it up and put it away!! My office/the guest room will feel so much more spacious! Yay!). Yesterday and again today, I put him in his room at around 2, told him it was quiet time and asked what 2 things he needed to do.

He replied, "Stay in bed and be quiet." "Right!" He can play, and he did for about 10 minutes. Yesterday he slept from 2 until nearly 5. Today, he was asleep just after 2 and as of 3:10 all's quiet on the Diaper Front.

If we can get him to nap like this I will be the world's happiest mom. And I don't even need to sing about it.

See Ya!

We visited Toys-R-Us this morning. Iain has a new armful of trucks, dinosaurs, and trains (ok, one train). He's thrilled, and willingly submitted to 4 errands in exchange for his bonanza.

Just now, I offered him a jam sandwich and a bunch of grapes for lunch. He picked up the toys, said, "No! I must play!" and walked away. The parting shot: "See ya!" Niiiice.

Of course, now he's standing at the table, taking a bite of sandwich, then running across the room to resume playing.

Friday, September 24, 2010


There's a street party Monday, and we're invited!

In case you forgot: our street in Lexington had a party. We were not invited. We lived on a cul-de-sac. So one night we came home to find the end of the street cordoned off, speakers on stands, a band, and every single neighbor partying away. They played 'till about midnight, while we lay in bed and listened.

Wah. We're pathetic.

But hark! What street party doth yonder break? I came home today to find a flyer taped to our mail flap. It's an invitation to the street party, where we'll be eating BBQ and hanging out with our neighbor peeps and generally being all neighborly.

And get this: the flyer openly says that we're not getting a permit. We're just roping off the street "old-style" which apparently means chairs and a ladder! I love these people!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


At dinner: Iain demands a taste of our sauteed shrimp with lemon noodles. I pass over some noodles. He tastes, then pronounces them "Lexsuxting!" That means disgusting.

In his bath, Iain drinks a mouthful of water. I tell him it's time to get out. He refuses, and has a little fit. He promises no more drinking the bath water, and I tell him he can stay in a little longer. Charles comes in and comments, "Mommy's vicious, Iain." "Mommy delicious!" "No, Iain," I say, "Vicious. Vvvv-icious." And he says, "No! You a vuvuzela!"

Just before bed, we're hanging out while Charles folds his laundry. Iain's in a playful mood. He lays under a small blanket, in his jammies, and says, "Let's count sheep!" "Let's count ducks!" "Let's count pigs!" After each one, we have to count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,20.....I guess we know where he stops remembering the sequence.

Bitter Bitter Bitter

Maybe I'm just tired. But here's what I think:

If you hang a huge sign outside your store, advertising 70% off, you should expect that shoppers will be looking for the sale merchandise.

And if, in fact, you've only put on sale two small racks of crammed-together stuff in a tiny closet in the back, then you fail to provide any signage, then your employees choose not to greet any customers (including those who wander the store for half an hour looking for a gift)...

Get ready for me to be annoyed with you.

I love cute boutiques. I love local stores. But really? I felt like I was unwelcome, and like your sign was a sham. You know who you are, at the corner of 9th and 9th.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Art, France, Music - What More Could You Want?

Fun with murals and music in France. Did I ever write a happier sentence? It's all zen until they get to Paris, and then its freakynuttyfun time. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lazy Sunday

In case you're wondering, no. Iain is not wearing black while sitting on a black sofa contemplating the virtues of evil. He's wearing navy. But for the record - they don't make enough black clothing for kids.

The fish face is popular around here this week.

We divided the weekend between madness (yesterday) and utter calm (today). After the SHOPPINGSHOPPINGSHOPPINGCLEANTHEHOUSEPREPTHEPIZZACOOKCOOKCOOKMOVIE! craziness, we needed to take a deep breath.

So today we read books, ate a quiet lunch (mmmm...leftover pizza), took Iain for a playdate with his friends, and generally watched the sun move across the sky. It was good.

This is what a lazy Sunday produced in the living room, though. We need a containment shield around this kid. Also: let's count those vehicles. You got your car carrier, your dump truck, your crane, your firetruck, and countless smaller items (tractor, train, car, bulldozer...). We are an internally-combusted household.

During bath time, Iain held up his plastic dump truck for his father's inspection and said, "That's a goood lookin' truck!"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pizza Dough

At last. AT LAST.

In Kentucky, we purchased pizza mix. But stop right there before you get all judgemental: it was local pizza mix, made by a local mill that had been around forever. And it was good. The dough mixed in a flash, sat for 30 minutes max, and made thin, crispy pizza in the oven without a pizza stone. Perfect.

Flash forward to Utah. We still have no pizza stone. And thanks to the configuration of the kitchen, we can't really handle a pizza stone or peel. So we do the same thing we've always done: bake on a high-quality sheet pan in a hot oven (500 degrees F).

But our pizza was fluffy. It was dough-y in the middle. "Grill it!" said friends. We gave our grill away. "Get a pizza stone!" said friends. We can't use a pizza stone because I can't get the pizza on it because of the kitchen's shape!

What we needed was the right recipe. And tonight I found it here. Ingredients: basic. Mixing: easy! Rising: if you like, or not, if you prefer. Result? Crisp! Brown! Chewy and Delicious!!! Even better, I doubled the recipe and that worked, too (it doesn't, always, in baking). Then I made a third batch on the fly while the first pies baked, and the third batch was just as good.

1 Tablespoon yeast (mine is the kind in the jar. I keep it in the fridge.)
a pinch of sugar
3/4 of a cup of warm water

1 and 3/4 cup flour
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of olive oil (or more - I greased the bowl after the dough was mixed, and that probably added another Tablespoon)

Mix the yeast, warm water, and sugar, then let it sit for a few minutes (10-ish) and get all foamy. Then add the flour and salt. Mix it up with a wooden spoon, then squish with your hands a bit. Add some olive oil and more water if necessary (I added a bit more by filling one cupped palm under the tap and just flinging it in).

Swirl a bit of olive oil over it, twirl it around in the bowl to coat, then cover with a dishtowel and walk away for a while (30 mins, an hour, whatever). Go prep your pepperoni or whatever.

When you're almost ready, turn on the oven to 500. [Note: the original recipe calls for 550. My oven, which is pretty standard, only gets to 500, and even then it sets off the fire alarm after about 30 minutes. So just get it as hot as you can). Get a heavy cookie sheet or sheet pan, and line it with a silpat.*

Pull off a chunk of the dough (like a handful - you'll get the idea by feel), and squish it into a rough circle. Lay it down on the sheet and press with your fingers to make it bigger and bigger. Get it really, really thin. Now put on some toppings (not much sauce!!! This will make a huge sloppy mess if you glop on sauce).

Pop that in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. You can open the oven to look, but don't singe your eyebrows, dude.

When it comes out, slide it onto your cutting board (I use my huge-o cake spatula for this) and slice. Don't burn your mouth, and if you gain 10 lbs. next month don't call me.

*If you do not own a silpat your life is an empty shell. I'm not a gadget girl, but those things are amazing. They cost $20. Go get one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Did I Mention...

That the other day Charles picked Iain up and the Little Man wrapped his arms around his dad, patted him on the shoulder, and said, "I'm proud of you, Daddy."

Wah! And also we laughed.

Is It Ever Going to Cool Off?

86 today. 88 tomorrow. 88 Sunday.

And then, thank God, a high of 74 for the first part of next week.

What gives? Isn't this the high desert? Aren't we cheek by jowl with the mountains? Yes. And yes! But somehow it's still hot. Hot enough that today I folded up a piece of paper and sat in my day-long meeting fanning myself so I wouldn't melt like the Wicked Witch of Surely-You're-Not-Suggesting-I-Teach-That?

In other news, Iain isn't napping. Today he woke up all 13 kids. The assistant teacher was on her lunch break, so the lead teacher found herself with 13 post-nap, cranky toddlers to wrangle. Feel free to go pour yourself a cocktail while you think about how much fun she was having. Another? I don't mind if I do.

Anyway, they're blaming his arrival time (usually around 9), but we think he's just growing out of nap. Plus, he got used to napping in a dark place, and his classroom is bright and sunny. I'm sure they'll figure it out, but in the meantime we've had 2 days of falling asleep in the car on the way home, cranky at supper, and dictatorial at the park.

Thank God tomorrow is Saturday. We can run errands, clean the house, and then settle in with friends to eat pizza (chicken with peanut sauce!) and watch a movie. Of course, we'll be sweating through one of the last hot days of the year, but nothing is perfect.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The bread is fresh, made by yours truly. The picture is sideways. No idea why, but I think Blogger should think about therapy.

Iain loves to tell us what's "fresh" these days. You may recall that the day before yesterday he informed me that car tires can be both fresh and flat. Tonight, at the park, the rocks merited his seal of "fresh" approval.

As for me, I'm not-so-fresh. Our schedules are just nuts. Charles was away all weekend, and returned Monday night. Meanwhile, my calendar is filling like the steerage decks of the Titanic. Yesterday it was walk to work (departure time: 6:45am), teach all day, join Charles to fetch Iain from school, dinner with KP and friends, a Spike Lee lecture at the university, then home. Today was pretty normal, but tomorrow includes a full day of teaching, a soccer game at 4, then Back-to-School night from 6:30 until 9:30. Friday's fully booked and Saturday we're going to watch Kill Bill and munch popcorn with friends.


So when did I find a moment to make bread? Well...a girl's gotta eat. So I wrote down a random internet version of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and mixed up a batch. The recipe works like a charm, makes yummy bread to which you can add whatever you like (I added some olive oil and herbs de provence this time, for instance), and takes practically no talent for baking (I'm not really a bread-baking person).

As Iain likes to say, "Try it."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Take My Picture, Mommy!

Iain knows what the camera can do. Sometimes, he likes to play with it, but he can't really figure out how to squint through the lens. Instead, he closes both eyes tight and waits for me to press the button.

Other times, like Saturday, he brings me the camera and demands: "Take picture of me!" So I do. But he refuses to stand still, or even to wiggle slowly. He practically vibrates. I have to resort to the flash, or chase him around, or try to talk him into being still for a second. Yeah. That works.

Maybe things will be easier when he's a little older. Or taller. Can he get any taller? Today I bought 7 pairs of trousers - size 4T. That's the largest toddler size, and he's only 2. Next stop: big boy clothes. This for a child who can't tie a shoelace, zip a zipper, or use a button yet. He just keeps eating, and growing, and eating and growing, and...

...Being cute. There's plenty of that. When I cut his hair Sunday, he resisted. And he's got me completely figured out. He kept saying, "Hold me!" and clutching me in a loving embrace. Could I resist? No. Could I cut his hair while I cuddled him? No. Sneaky little bugger.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sooo....Uh....Yeah. No.

I'm a subscriber to a listserv that allows teachers of AP US history to discuss their work. It's very interesting. Verrrry interesting. And, sometimes, it's disturbing.

The video above was the subject of a brief chat yesterday. Some teachers use it to introduce the Declaration of Independence.

I find the very idea horrifying. Take a little look at this thing. King George? A horrible, fat, grape-eating meany. Apparently, there's no such thing as parliament! The founders? They like to sit around the table stroking their feathers (!) and making angry faces. That is, when they're not rocking out, shirtless. [Yes, you read that.]

And content? Essentially none. Oh, wait. They imply that George denied Americans tea. Because that's accurate.

I'm torn between showing the video next week and inviting ridicule (fun!) or just moving on, shaking my head at the fact that somewhere, someone is using this in a classroom.

[EDIT: Per Megan, in the comments, the phrase "funky jig across the land" is now a part of my lexicon. US History will never be the same...]

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Conversation

Me and Iain just now:

I : "Beach called Truck!"
Me: "Oh?"
I : "And cars."
Me: "And cars?"
I : "Yes. Cars are kind of fresh."
Me: "Fresh?"
I : "They have fresh wheels. And flat tires."

Naptime must have included some interesting dreams.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Hello. Have you seen my toes? They're very wrinkly.

Iain is sitting beside me, watching Kipper, and demanding various foods. He keeps saying, "I need eat." Then, "How 'bout chocolate?" or "How 'bout app sauce?" or "Need more orange juice!"

No, dude. Dinner was 2 hours ago. You ate well. It's time for bath, for jammies, for bed, and for Mommy to inhale deeply and melt into the bed.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I am so tie-tie.

Not so much because I'm teaching again - though it's as all-consuming as ever - but because we're in the last gasps of our spring and summer of chaos.

Iain had his first day of school today (he was "Happy" and "Playful" and spent much of the day pretending to cook on their child-sized kitchen equipment, which is also what he did during the orientation and during camp. If he grows up to be a chef Mommy will be SO HAPPY ZOMG.). But he has no school tomorrow or Friday.

So for Charles and me, we who have been juggling child care with work and play and the heat and our need to pack, move, unpack, travel, and learn a new city - this is the last half mile of a marathon.

We're about ready to drop.

Today, for example: I was awake at 5:30am, for some reason. Since the alarm is set for 6, there was no reason to try to go back to sleep. So I got up. Iain then fell out of bed, thumped his head, and needed cuddling. Then it was shower, dress, make coffee, make tea, make lunches for me and Iain, make brekkie, pack school supplies, take out the trash, and go to school (all this by 7am). From there, things got busy. And I'm leaving out all the stuff Charles did with Iain, with work, and with Iain while I was at school talking about witches.*

Can you blame us for being a bit draggy? We're old, y'all.

Anyway, this is it. Tomorrow, Friday, the weekend, and we're actually back on a schedule. Regular child care, regular work hours, and hopefully a life that's a tiny bit more predictable.

My fingers and toes are crossed. Twice.

*Salem! I love 1692.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


We made Iain scrambled eggs and toast for dinner. Just now, I reached over and stole a bit.

He politely said, "Would you like another more?"

Monday, September 06, 2010

Kouign Amman - Possibly the Best Thing Evar

David Lebovitz knows things. See here. I read his post, I drooled a little, I forgot.

But what a weird name. How do you even say that? And Brittany. The Palace of Butter. Mmm...I bet that's tasty.

Imagine my shock and delight when I saw that our neighborhood pleasure palace (Caputo's), decided to make Kouign Amann.

I bought one, and I almost had to start making phone calls right there in the car. Phone calls like this: "OMG, you have to get on a plane RIGHT NOW!" And "I'm having an existential crisis. Can you be in love with a pastry like you're in love with William T. Sherman?"*

So for those of you planning to come and visit's something to look forward to.

*That second one might be a personal thing. But I bet I'm not the only one with a tender spot for Sherman.

Radical Honesty

Iain says, "Mommy! YOU SING!"

So I sing, "Happy Birthday To You, You smell like a monkey and you look like one, too."

And he screams, holds his ears and demands that I stop.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Oh, the Craziness

This weekend. Wow.

Saturday: playdate with an old, old, old friend and his wife and four (4!) kids. It would have been perfect, but for two things. First, I overcooked the chicken for our lunch, and second it was 90000 degrees. Later on, we joined my colleagues and their two sons for a late playdate at Red Butte Gardens. That really was perfect. We ate grapes and watched the boys play (their older son and Iain particularly enjoyed "bathing" Thomas the Tank Engine in the fountain) and fed the koi and generally had a relaxing evening.

Today started off a little nuts. I woke at 6:45, convinced that the evaporative cooler must be leaking. What was that noise? Drip, splash, drip, splash...oh. That would be the coffee machine, crazy first-thing-in-the-morning lady.

Charles departed at 7:30 to hike (or, as he described it, "scramble") up Little Cottonwood Canyon, and I slept on, peacefully, until 9:11. Great! Right? No. Iain and I were due at the park at 9:30. With breakfast for everyone else.

So we leapt into our duds, flew down to the store, picked up OJ and blueberry muffins, then sped over to the park at 9:53. We were the first ones there, proving that Charles was right when he said, "It's a good thing all parents are late."

But Iain enjoyed playing in the park (and eating blueberry muffins) with his school mates, and it killed the morning very effectively. We returned, lunched, and Iain spent 2 hours refusing to nap.

After that, it was time to join KP for an evening of cooking, eating, and ribaldry. We made veggie lasagna for a colleague (and for ourselves), LBJ baked us a loaf of fluffy white bread, and we sat out in the cooling air making jokes that involved substituting "porpoise" for "purpose."

Whew! Thank goodness tomorrow is a holiday. Our weekends are going to leave me too tired to teach.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Happy Birthday, Nana

The other day, Iain demanded frozen blueberries for lunch. Fine. He's been on a weirdo kick with food, and most of the time I'm happy if he'll agree to something, anything that's got a vitamin in it. Even fruit doesn't always make the cut.

So I made him a little bowl of blueberries, and he ate/wore them all up. Once the bowl was empty, he set it down, reached for the apple sauce cup, and declared, "And now, for the apple sauce."

If you thought he was dirty before (covered in blueberry juice, stained on his cheeks, fingers, lower leg - ??), you should have seen him after the apple sauce. I believe an Emergency Bathing Procedure ensued.

So for Nana's birthday, here's photographic proof of cuteness. Blueberry-stained, demanding toddler cuteness.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Ok, I have a plan.

Tomorrow night, I'm going to make cookies.

Saturday, we'll serve for lunch: a big green salad with roasted chicken breasts (roasted in Penzey's Greek marinade) chopped up on top. On the side, for the kids, carrot sticks and red bell pepper slices, choice of dressing. Also: crusty bread and soft butter, grapes and pineapple. For dessert, the cookies made Friday.

Saturday afternoon: a snack pack of fruit and juice. One of the kids on that outing is non-dairy, non-nuts, non-egg because of allergies.

Sunday morning: breakfast yummies purchased down the hill, plus apple juice for the kids to drink and some fruit.

No twinkies, Kate. Those are for ME!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Clow Chs Mittbls

Iain's favorite bedtime book right now is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. However, he refuses to enunciate.

So I say: "What do you want to read?" and he says
"Clow Chs Mittbls."

And I say, "Iain, say it properly: 'Cloudy' 'With' 'A' 'Chance' 'Of' 'Meatballs.'" I carefully form each syllable, and I end the words firmly, with feeling.

He says, "Quite!"

Last night, I said, "Iain, say it nicely."

And he said, I SWEAR, "Nicely."

[Day One: Yay! All happy on the western front.]