Why You Don't Need Toys

Packing paper from recent IKEA purchase + googly eyes + washable markers.
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Is Fit go?

M and I bought a car today. It's bright red, and brand new, and very spiffy.

This was a new experience for us. M drove his last car for almost 12 years. (Remember back in 2006 when Sandy hit 90,000 miles while we were driving a lazy, counterclockwise loop around the country?) The car we most recently had been driving belonged to my grandmother, and was also nearing 12 years old. I never really got over the time the brakes failed while we were driving with another couple to birthing class. I barely knew Sarah at the time, and I'm happy to report our friendship remains strong, despite this terrifying event. Anyway, we decided the repairs that need to be done soon are not worth it, so we traded it in.

M made me promise that we would not eat in the car (the cheddar bunny situation got a little out of hand in the Taurus), and to wash the salt off on a regular basis.

The Fit is subcompact, but feels surprisingly roomy. Since M did most of the work researching the car and negotiating the price, he got first dibs on driving it. But I got my turn soon after that. Laurel was all for getting a new car, as long as it was red.

One of my favorite things about the car was that the carseat was ridiculously easy to install. Previously, I would always end up sweaty and cursing after fighting with seat belt straps. The Latch hooks were clearly marked and easy to reach. Also, we've been listening to our music via the old-school tape deck adapter. Boo for sound quality with that set up. However, now we can just plug our phones right in and the music plays from the radio. You can even change it from a button on the steering wheel!

So, Fit is definitely go! And I smell a road trip in the near future!


General Updates

Shortly after rocking out to Patti Smith, I was hit by a stomach flu. However, I am happy to report that I recovered quickly, and it also gave me a window of opportunity to wean myself off coffee. I love coffee. I love cupping my hands around a warm mug during winter morning breakfast. I love an after dinner espresso. I love smelling coffee beans right after they are ground. And one of the few pleasures of teaching early morning algebra classes, is doing so while sipping a travel mug of coffee. Even though it's usually the cheap Maxwell House stuff my coffee club friends at school bring in and not the fancy, single origin, fair trade stuff my dad and M are into.

Last week I had my first acupuncture appointment, and I was given a diet designed to cure my "dampness". Chinese medicine says that I have an imbalance in my yin and my yang and a dampness in my organs. Especially my spleen. So all week, I ate a lot of gluten-free porridge, blueberries, and root vegetables. I cut out the dairy and the coffee. I took some probiotics, and applied castor oil packs. No tropical fruits. No alcohol.


I guess I feel better. I always feel better on Fridays, though.

So, in toddler news, Laurel had several playdates this week. The most interesting thing about the toddler crew these days is that they all talk in mostly comprehensible ways, and they play together. Well, mostly they fight about sharing things. But sometimes they play together. While M and I were down with the stomach flu last weekend, she watched approximately 24 hours of television. One of the DVDs we got from the library was The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog - which I personally enjoyed as an adult, and found much less annoying than Thomas the Train. Anyway, there was a line from the book, "I have a question. I have never eaten a hot dog before."

Laurel must have said this to us a thousand times this week. And before we realized she was quoting the movie, we kept saying "That's not a question!" or "You've never eaten a hot dog because you are a vegetarian!"

One of the most delightful parts of the day is sitting down with M after Laurel goes to bed and sharing our stories about what she said to us. He told me that this week she wanted to talk about trees and roots. She spent a lot of time with me saying "nice to see you, Mama" and shaking my hand.

And in news about M, well, he just discovered how to make microwave popcorn by just putting regular old kernels into a paper bag and sticking it in the microwave. It turns out that all the crap they put in commercial microwave popcorn really is just crap and is not needed to make the corn pop. If you put oil on, it kind of burns. Thanks a lot, Alton Brown.

So, life is good, same as ever.


Space Monkey

L requests Patti Smith. And then we all rock out.
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How many kids in Pittsburgh...

...can say they get to school by sled?



Freedom of speech and free access to information is vitally important to keep our families safe, to promote real education, to address injustice, and to maintain our democracy.

Click here for a good website that explains the SOPA and PIPA acts, and what you can do to send a message to congress and the White House today.


This never happens....

....but it probably should. Weekly, at least, if not daily.
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A list of Happiness

These things make me happy....

1. Questions that stump me. For instance, today in Algebra 1 we pondered what happens when you try to apply the distributive property to absolute value symbols. And Laurel asked me what that thing is called that you put the money into on the PAT bus.

2. Having photos around. I just ordered some random prints from Snapfish of things like me climbing on mountains and Laurel splashing in a fountain in Chicago.

3. Getting mail. I have two friends that regularly write to me. Coming home and seeing a colorful envelope with a familiar return address lifts my spirits before I even open the letter.

4. Cutting things out of construction paper. I don't know why, but I'm really into this right now. My classroom is starting to look mildly kindergarten-ish.

5. Quiet spaces in my day. Ninth period prep. Driving to school at 6:00am - no traffic, no radio, still dark outside, except on occasion when a full moon lingers in the sky. But these are relative quiet spaces...still quite noisy. I think a silent retreat would do wonders for me. True quiet and stillness for days and days.



I remembered the mountains today in 8th period. We're studying personal finance right now. Calculating interest rates on car payments and imagining up all kinds of wild and crazy scenarios for employment. Today we were trying to balance the budget of an imaginary classmate who worked at Kennywood and lived in Etna. One girl claimed it was possible to take the PAT bus...she had done it. I believed her. She's one of several children of infamous parents in our district. They run wild, and I could totally hear her mother's gravely voice telling her to go on, get out, while shoving a twenty into her palm.

Others suggested walking since even a monthly bus pass was stretching our budget. A car payment had already been ruled out, with cell phones with a data plan taking priority.

Maybe a bike, someone guessed.

Have you ever ridden on route 837, I asked them? Let's add in a better medical insurance plan.

You couldn't walk there, they said. Too far. Not possible.

Oh, it's possible, I told them, I once walked from Georgia to Maine. And for a moment I went there, to the place where my legs are strong and the weight of my pack makes me feel comfortably grounded to the earth. I saw the mountains stretching out a thousand miles in front of me, and a thousand miles behind.

I remembered what it was like to have all the time in the world.

I just bought Laurel a pair of boots. I'm the kind of parent that doesn't plan ahead too well. For instance, I waited until the day it actually snowed, with temperatures plunging into the teens before I actually went out and shopped for winter clothes for Laurel. Pickings were slim at the Target, since they already had a display of bathing suits in the children's section. I don't know what's wrong with me. I mean, this is Pittsburgh. It's obviously going to snow and be very cold for months and months. And she walks almost a mile to daycare every day!

Anyway, I bought her some snow boots, which she absolutely loves. Yesterday we walked home from daycare. Wandered would be a better word for it, I suppose. With our boots on, we could happily slosh through the muddy melting snow in the park. We took a detour down one of the trails and watched a squirrel gather dried leaves and then stuff them into his little hole in a tree. Laurel talked to him. Hello, squirrel, she said, what are you doing? We saw the moon rise, and watched a lone bird fly towards the sunset. We stopped to admire some snowmen.

Walking is my meditation. I know who I am and what I care about when I'm on foot. I see and hear more. I feel good when I've done a lot of it. I wonder if Laurel will grow up with that idea firmly planted in her head, or if she will be like my students- like I was, and believe that 2 miles is a very far distance, 10 nearly impossible. Two thousand...unimaginable.