Monday, January 31, 2011

The One About Mind Control and the Mouse

Well, finally I feel a little bit better. Whatever this season's virus is, it's butt-kicking and evil. I was sick during the holidaze, felt better for our trip, and then came home to gooey, multi-colored, feverish, hacking "ick" that landed me in the doctor's office begging for anything that might make it stop. One Z-pak, some narcotic cough syrup, and an anti-mold pill later and I'm almost back to normal. We shall not discuss my right ear which has not yet cleared from the flight on the 22nd. (I am completely convinced that Edgar Allen Poe was NOT driven mad by Absinthe, he merely had a plugged ear) I've been hearing my heartbeat and my jaw click, and my eyes blinking for close to ten days certainly can drive someone very close to the edge...

But, enough about me...let's talk vacation. Let's talk The Mouse...

We set off for warmer destinations on Disney's Magic. Despite my initial trepidation, I have to say that we truly enjoyed ourselves. The destinations were awesome (although St. Marten is looking a little worse for wear) and the Eggroll truly had a blast. 

Disney does a lot of things right with these cruises. There's plenty for everyone to do. As a family we enjoyed all 3 stage shows, "Tangled" in 3D, character appearances, and dinners together every night. The Eggroll loved the idea of the "Oceaneer's Club" along with Mickey's pool and Himself and I availed ourselves of the wine list. I defy anyone to find a better way to watch the Bears play in the middle of January

There were a few things that got to me after a few days. The Mouse, he is everywhere. The curtains, the blankets, the rugs, the floors. The Mouse decides what you watch on TV (8 out of 12 channel offerings were Disney. We had a tough time getting the score for the Green Bay game). Your food may or may not be in the silhouette of the mouse. It's a bit unnerving after a while. Then there are the people. They are a Stepford Mouse sort of way. I believe in greeting people, if you ask me how I am, I will give you a reply and then I will ask you the same. No matter who I asked or when, the answer was always "Magical". I know we stay in character for the kids, but I've got to say, after a few days?? Totally creepy.

Then there were the lines. Good God, you must line up for absolutely everything! I actually got in line the day we were leaving, just because I had gotten so used to it. I didn't need to be there, I was actually free to continue down the hallway. 
We had some wonderful happen as well. Our cabin attendant was awesome. I love folks who put in that little bit of extra thoughtfulness. We got the usual turndown in the evening and the hilariously funny towel animals, and then one night, the Eggroll got a surprise. We had been to the aquarium on the island and I had gotten a stuffed stingray for her. (to go with her octopus of course) We stored her stuffed animals in the cabinet with the blankets and when we came in that evening, she was all smiles to discover that the "elves" had left her a giant stingray to match the small one.
Such a thoughtful thing to do...

The other bit of wonderful was the way my illness was handled. I have celiac, and while I don't make a big deal out of it, it was lovely to have my meals specially handled without me having to do a thing. Normally I dance around the menu, picking and choosing the things that are a safe bet for me. Evenings rolled around and our server merely told me what he had ordered for me. I had veto power, but I only exercised that once. So nice not to be responsible for myself if only for a little while.

The only complaint that I truly had was that none of the literature made mention of the fact that most of the outlets in the cabin are European. This caused a bit of a kerfluffle when Himself's CPAP machine couldn't be plugged in bedside. We were forced to run an extension cord across the room to another outlet. Not tragic, but certainly not the safest thing if you have a child who gets up in the middle of the night. I didn't think too much about it, but I did write about it on the survey thingie they give you on the last night. Color me surprised when I received a call from Disney several days after I got home. They offered their apologies and then asked me for suggestions. Seriously, just put it in the literature. Most of us who travel have our own converters...

Would I do it again? For a destination, yes. We've already discussed doing the Alaska thing with them just because the weather can be so iffy in Alaska. We'd love for the Eggroll to see Alaska, but we're not so foolish as to think that sitting on the balcony watching otters and whales is going to be enough for her. When it comes to kids, Disney does it right...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The One About Being A Guest
Just a quickie list because I'm swamped. And sick! With my second bout of virus from hell. I'm actually so sick I'm seriously considering calling the doctor. If you know me....that's a really big deal. Anyway, we spent the last week basking in the Carribean sun on the Mouse Boat. It's been a while since I've traveled with a "group" of people, and I'd like to offer a few suggestions for those who....well... don't get out much.
1) Vacation is not synonymous with anarchy. Really, look it up. Check yourself....
2) The people who work on these boats are real people. Treat them accordingly. Please and Thank you will go a long, long way.
3) Other guests on these trips would sincerely appreciate you treating them as real people as well. Say "Excuse me" "please" and "thank you". Teach your children and spouse to do the same.

4) Do not throw yourself bodily in front of anyone or anything other than a bullet...

I have more, but I'm off to hack up a lung..... Bringing sexay back aren't I??

Friday, January 14, 2011

The One About What Happens When I Try To Fix Stuff

I'm one of those people who "fixes" stuff. If I think you're hurt, if I think you're in pain, it turns into my life's mission to fix it. Add that to the fact that I'm a Daddy's girl and it almost explains this:

This is the Sentinel. 27 pounds of Brittany that not only thinks she's a Rottweiler, but has to be maintained on anti-anxiety meds. I got her for my dad after his 13 year-old female passed away. The Sentinel is a beautiful dog, very sweet, very loving and very, very crazy. Since my Dad still has a 13 year old male, it's a very bad match. The breeder said I could bring her back, the Eggroll says that she's her favorite, and Himself and I.... well, we're weak. Oh yeah, and then there's my dad, who didn't get the dog... 

I need to let people fix their own stuff...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The One About Feeling Warm

Because sometimes you need to be reminded...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The One About the Parenting Thing

Just because I'm difficult that way, I'm going to keep the whole Amy Chua, Tiger Moms thing going for one more day. To tell the whole truth, I actually do my writing the day before posting, so this topic is pretty fresh while I'm writing it, it may be redundant to you..

If you haven't already read the WSJ piece, you can read it here:
Go ahead, I'll wait....
There have been a number of pieces written about this. Google the topic and you should receive a plethora of opinions. Some grounded in fact, some in emotion. Almost all of them disagree with the idea that the Chinese or Asian style of parenting is somehow superior to western style. I'm not sure that I agree.

Many will cite the high rate of suicide among Asian Americans (women in particular). While it's certainly not something to ignore, it is quite possible that there are other factors that contribute to that number besides the pressure to excel and conform. WHO statistics still put the US rate of suicide considerably higher than any Asian country and I would think that the pressure to excel and conform is much higher in home countries where an entire family's very survival may depend on the earning capabilities of their children. 

The next thing that comes to my mind are the western "uber" moms along with their partners, the "sports" dads. Aren't they, in essence. doing the same thing? The articles on over scheduling and ten-year pre-school waiting lists, not to mention the numerous incidents of sports related fights and worse among PARENTS would indicate that these parents are viewing sports and education as anything but pressure free... I suppose that they might say that they're creating a "well-rounded" child, but are they??

The next thing that seems to bring about great furor is the name calling thing. This subject is the one that seems to get under people's skin the most. As parents, there are those moments, there are those days, when "my beloved child" is just not the correct description. Heck, we call our daughter TLC (the littlest communist) as a joke, but there are days when it fits her to a tee. I have looked at my child and told her to stop being a "brat". Does anyone out there really think that a four year old kid can differentiate between the verbs "being" and "acting"??? Have I damaged her already?? Puhleeze! If my, or any other child for that matter, is somehow "damaged" by the occasional rantings of a frustrated parent, they've got bigger problems than whatever name they're being called.

My favorite thought on this whole discussion is the education part. Asian children consistently outperform their western counterparts across the board in education. There's a dirty little rumor out there that many universities were, for a time, limiting enrollment of Asian students. Why? Because the Asian students were skewing the curve, making the US students and the schools they attended look less competent, thus, less attractive to alumni and prospective students alike. Unless someone can point me to a genetic difference in Asian students, I almost have to believe that there are distinct cultural and societal differences throughout an Asian childhood. That leaves the door wide open to debate the difference between Asian and Western philosophy in parenting, both at the nuclear and extended level.

Certainly no one has to agree entirely with Ms.Chua's thesis. But one would be a fool not to consider it....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The One About Defective and the Rhetoric
This past weekend in Tuscon Arizona, a young man made a somewhat conscious decision to shoot a congresswoman, kill a young child, a federal judge, a few other folks and wound over a dozen more. I have no words for the act, just prayers for the families and those who were hurt or killed.
Himself and I watched and listened with interest in the next few days, and I think we were both disheartened by what we heard and saw.

I have known my vets since they we were all in high school. We have a friendship as well as a business relationship. They have cried with me, debated with me, and worked with me over more than twenty years. I have never known them to be anything other than thoughtful, compassionate and responsible. So it came as a great surprise to me when I brought the Sentinel and I encountered what I did.

As I was leashing up the Sentinel, a gentleman in a truck next to me took out his Pitbull. The animal was beautiful. Huge head, muscular but proportionate body and that strut... they headed into the office. I chose to wait a few moments, because the 27 pound Sentinel believes that she is a 160 pound Rottweiler. She was in heat at the time and I had noticed that the Pit wasn't neutered. Discretion is the better part of valor and all. A few minutes in the waiting room and I could hear the low, throaty growl of the Pit in the exam room. Then the vet tech came out. And there was more growling. I ushered the Sentinel into another exam room while the receptionist closed the door and windows to her office. 

I heard my vet, my friend, tell the dogs owner, "This dog needs to be destroyed." "He is a liability." "He is dangerous and shouldn't be around people." "This animal is defective." The owner was none to happy and as he strode out of the office, my friend ended with "For God's sake keep that dog away from children!" Needless to say, I was appalled. 

When we stopped talking about the Sentinel, I made mention of the fact that I was shocked by his reaction to that animal. I'm a bleeding heart when it comes to animals (and kids, and old people) and I just couldn't wrap my head around what had happened. "Sometimes, no matter what you do or how you feel, things are just defective" he told me. "As much as I want it to be different, I can't change it and I can't, in good conscience, pretend that it doesn't exist." I spent days thinking about what he said.

After the shooting in Tuscon, the television, radio and internet were abuzz with a singular theory. That somehow, someway, political rhetoric and the divisiveness of the current political climate caused this young man to do the things he did. 

First the blame was laid at the feet of the Tea Party. Then the "right-wingers", then came the right as a whole, and we mustn't forget Sarah Palin... What was missing was the idea that this man was responsible for his own actions. Not that, the rhetoric made him do it. What was missing was the idea that this young man might just be "defective". 

As of this writing, it has come to light that this young man had a very troubled past. That he was refused by the military, dropped out of school, removed from community college, and a whole litany of other things that in hindsight, were warning signs to the nth degree. He is, by all reasonable criteria, "defective". But that's not what people are going to remember. That's not what's going to be printed on the front page of every newspaper, that's not going to be what fuels discussion in the next few weeks...

But maybe it should be.....

Monday, January 10, 2011

The One About Changing History

I'm always curious as to why folks try so hard to change history. The first time I remember being incensed by it is back the the 80's when Turner obtained the Hanna-Barbera catalogs and began systematically re-coloring, re-voicing, or shelving altogether, episodes of Tom and Jerry that may have contained characters that were less than "politically correct". Mammy Two Shoes was given a new voice, the cannibals were set on the shelf and scenes with characters in black face were edited out all together. I'm a bit of a cartoon buff, although Hanna-Barbera was never my thing, I was (and still am) more than annoyed that the "art" of a generation (or two, or three) was altered in the name of "political correctness".
These so called "offensive" cartoons were drawn in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's and that language, those depictions were part of the time and the culture. It doesn't make them "right" in doesn't make them less offensive to some, but they are a record of the history of the time. Removing the images and/or altering the language is not going to magically make that history disappear.

The same thing is going on again, this time with Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" This time the idea is to remove the N-word (who am I kidding? the word is "nigger") from the text and replace it with the word "slave". Sadly, these words are not synonyms.
"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. It is the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening."  - Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn is not just a work of fiction, it is in many senses a historical record. It may not reflect that past in the best light, none the less, it is a reflection. 

I was surprised when I started buying books for the Eggroll. Many of the childhood stories I remember have been altered to be "gentler" or more politically correct. The first one that comes to mind is Little Red Riding Hood. Did you know that the woodsman lets the wolf escape? Yeah, me neither. 
I wonder how it is our children are to learn from the past if we continue to change it. We tell them, and ourselves for that matter, that the past is something to be valued, and something to be learned from. And yet, we allow the changes or in some cases make those changes ourselves. To what end?

Friday, January 07, 2011

The One About Men Ruling the World

Of course it's a "national treasure"....

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The One About All Kinds of People
 This gentleman and his "friend" seemed to be everywhere we were.
The only thing I could say? "It takes all kind of people to make a world"

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The One About The Education of Tiny Humans
So the Eggroll came home from pre-school the other day all puffy and proud of herself telling Himself and I that she learned a new word. She plunked herself down at the table, handed me a sheaf of papers, and proudly began spelling.

"B..E..F..O..R..E..!" she crowed triumphantly. "Before! See Mama, I learned a new word!"

"What do you think it means?" I asked.

"That there's a princess and a castle..."

"There's a princess and a castle? Is that what before means?"

And the whole thing spiraled down the rabbit hole. I should have gone through the sheaf of papers first. Had I done that, I might have discovered that the Pre-K teachers had decided that it would be a fabulous idea to teach the kids to read. And that they were kind enough to include some homemade flashcards and a lovely letter that explained why we, as parents, should be ever so grateful that they will be teaching our children to read by using "sight identification" or "Sight Words". I AM NOT GRATEFUL! NOT GRATEFUL AT ALL...

The premise of this silliness is that almost half of written material is made up of 100 of these 220 words. The Dolch Sight Word List. And that these words are best learned by sight, rather than phonetics. Many of these words are known as "exception" words, that is, words that don't adhere to basic phonics. The idea being that the child will be successful early on. The definition of success in this case is being able to identify the word on the flashcard.

We teach phonics in this house. I learned to read that way (and read by the age of three) and Himself learned to read that way (he also was reading before kindergarten). To be fair, as children we both tested out well above the "gifted" level at the time. He more than I. The first step, obviously, is sounding out words,and then "chunking" where certain letters that appear together often are sounded out (e-a, o-u, o-a). These two steps gives children the tools needed to be able to sound out any word. Not memorize a word based on a flashcard. Take that word out of context (flashcard) and studies have shown that 80% of children can't sound out or identify the word. 

So needless to say, I have problems with this. First, I think it's teaching to lowest common denominator. Every child in the class gets a pat on the back since they can recite the words. Hell, half the kids probably don't even have to think, they can just harmonize with the rest of the class.

Second, I don't think it give children tools. Once kids have the correct tools, they can read/learn at whatever pace they choose. Phonics is a tool. It can be used on any word in the language, not just 220 that appear on a list.

Next is comprehension. What about the words on a page that aren't part of the magic 220? What then? Speaking of that, what about the success thing? Does the child then fail because they don't know or can't sound out a word that isn't on the list??

I want my child to have self-esteem. I think everyone does. But I want my child to gather her self-esteem from the actual learning, the actual act of doing something well, figuring out something herself, using her tools. Not from being able to recite a list of words along with everyone else.

I also must admit that this system has me thinking that the teachers truly are lazy. It must be tons easier to have a group of kids recite a list of words than it is to make sure each child is pronouncing each sound correctly. And I can't help but be sore about that one because I'm paying for this....

If there are any parents out there who would like to offer their opinion on the matter, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The One About The Women

The new year always brings about reflection and resolution. I don't care who you are, and whether or not you act on your resolutions, I'm pretty damn sure you at least THINK about the past year and reflect on what you'd like to change.

From my perusal of the internet as of late it seems that there's a whole lot of dis-satisfaction out there. And a whole lot of folks trying to leave their mark. That got me thinking about the women (because most of my reading is woman written) who've left their mark on me. Gifts if you will, lessons if you must. (And no, I don't think in any particular pattern...roll with it)

From the Divine Mrs.T
   She boldly went where no woman had gone before. Really. At a time when no woman would even consider doing it. She never viewed her accomplishments as such. Towards the end of her life, she was contacted by an author who was writing a book on women's suffrage and Mrs. T's role in it. She laughed out loud and told the author that the whole idea was foolish. She merely did what pleased her. She taught me that recognition won't fill your soul, the very act itself will. Be quiet, be humble, and just do.

The Very Capable Honeybee
   During the latter part of her marriage, her husband managed to bankrupt both his business and them personally, Miraculously, Honeybee returned from an outing to an undisclosed location with enough cash to sustain them. She taught me to always have my own money...

From The Ever Irrepressible Momma
    There were many. Too many to count. I remember standing in the funeral home after Momma died and the undertaker asked me if they were to attend to hair and make-up since the casket was to be closed ( that's a whole different story) and I think I looked shocked. I replied that Momma wouldn't go to the grocery store without hair and make-up she certainly wasn't going to God without... The lesson? Always be prepared.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The One About Energy and Everyday

The Swooper and the Sentinel

I wasn't too surprised to find her airborne in this photo.

The surprise would have been finding a photo of them where she wasn't.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The One About What Happens When The Men Talk

For the last year or so, I've been crabbing about space. My home is plenty large enough, but several of the rooms are just set up poorly. Specifically, I still have a formal living room and dining room. The dining room we use from time to time, but the living room? Not so much. My family room is long and narrow with doors and things in odd places. So I broke it into two areas only to discover that we only use one. And that no more than 4 people can be in that area at one time. Which means that someone always ended up sitting on the floor.
So I had an idea. I figured that if I made the living room into the family room then I could turn the family room into a kind of library-office thing that used all of the space instead of just half. I also figured that I could take my time, plan things out, sell off what I didn't need, choose my items carefully.....
Anyone see where this is going???

Oh I found some sofas and a couple of chairs. I decided to repurpose an existing secretary and a few tables. I found a more "family friendly" dining room set that I figured I could wait on... 
And then Himself stopped by Flipper's. BY HIMSELF. And then my phone rang.

Himself: Honey, guess what? Flipper is giving us a big TV for Christmas!
Nyt: Sweetie, we already have a big TV. Did Flipper perhaps fall down and hit his head?

Himself: No honey... a BIGGER TV!
Nyt: Honey, hand the phone to Flipper. (he hands the phone to Flipper) 
Flipper: Nope. Your changing around rooms anyway and you have more than enough wall space. Besides, Himself really wants it.

Nyt: I said I was thinking about it..
Flipper: But he wants it, and I'm getting it..

And 73 inches of high definition goodness was delivered to my home within the week.
Now I am grateful, I really am, but the reality of this is it's like giving someone a puppy. The puppy's awesome, all cute, and playful, and furry. But then the recipient has to get all the things that go with the puppy. And then there are the changes that have to be made because of the puppy. Puppy accessories and accommodations if you will. It's never ending.

Currently, I'm working on the whole custom blind thing. It unnerves me to see cars stop and BACK UP so that perfect strangers can enjoy our movie choices FROM THE STREET!! 

I wonder what costs less. New blinds or one of those speaker thingies like they used to have at the drive-in...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The One Where I Sort of Triumphantly Return
What?!? No trumpets? No heraldic horns? Fine, be that way...
A new year has begun, and with that, I thought I'd settle in to do some of the things that I've resolved to do over the past few years. We shall not discuss failed resolutions. What I intend to do is just ACT, just do it and enjoy the ride.
The last few months have presented challenges, more than some folks, less than others, but by and large we've made it through. We're all a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and overall a little bit more than we were before. 

I've slapped a new coat of paint on this lonesome old town (quick, name that tune!) and I'm getting ready to party. The photos are my own, including the header, which just tickles me because it's a detail of a grave outside of Paris. I do so love old cemeteries. And I'm a little bit pissed that someone thought of that before I did. Perhaps I can claim it as my own, since it is in a foreign country and from the 1800's.

I leave you with the tune you may or may not know, but you definitely should