Monday, March 31, 2008

The Thing - The Coolest Thing!

When I was dropping the Lone Star Baby off at school this morning, I was arrested by the sight of a new addition to the playground. I was entranced. I was amazed. I was astounded at...The Thing. The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Seen.

It's...a banging frame! I don't know what else to call it...a big, square wooden frame - taller than me - and hung all over, with the aid of some stretchy, bungee sort of stuff, with metal pots, pans mugs and spoons in bright colors.

Have you ever even imagined anything so incredibly cool? I thought not. All hail The Thing!

Quaker Spring Potluck And Little Friends Ladybug Release

We had our Quaker Meeting over on Saturday evening for what was intended to be a backyard potluck, but it rained a bit, so we ended up squeezing inside to eat - crowded, but still nice. After we ate, it was dry enough to go out back and let the Little Friends release 3,000 ladybugs to celebrate spring. They had fun.

The ladybug release has become a spring family tradition for us, over the years. Garden stores sell tubs of them in March and they will hibernate in your refrigerator for a few weeks. They wake up when they get out of the cold. My kids have released ladybugs themselves, with the Brownies, with the neighbor kids, and now with the Quakers - I think it's a neat way to celebrate spring.

It was lovely to have the Meeting over for a little get-together. Our lives are so crazy-busy that we don't do much entertaining, but I am always happier when we get to spend time with our friends.

What are you doing to celebrate the springtime?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

County Convention

Yesterday was the Nueces County Democratic Convention. Lone Star Pa and I had agreed to be alternates, somewhat under duress as we really didn't want to go due to the childrearing responsibilities of the day. We figured we could help the precinct round out its slots, though, and that we probably would not have to go, as alternates. We got tons of telephone calls in the latter part of the week from people from our precinct's delegation who wanted to make sure that we would have enough people there. I agreed that we would go sign in, so that there would be a good count of Obama supporters, and handed out my cell phone number so that if some of the actual delegates left and they really needed us to come vote on something, we could. We headed over to the high school yesterday and it was very crowded - again, a crazy amount more than had ever attended in previous years. We had to wait in line forever to sign in and get our credentials, but it was stirring to see so many people taking an active part in the democratic process. Once we had our credentials, we went looking for our precinct. There were enough delegates and alternates there to fill the needed delegate slots, so we left, and they never called us, so I suppose that things went well.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Greening

Happy Springtime! It's sort of weird, having St. Patrick's Day, the first day of Spring and Easter all jumbled together this week.

I, of course, have accomplished but little of what I had hoped to do - both practically and recreation-wise - during this lovely, restful break. I have met my green goals, though. I am generally appalled by how complicit even my breastfeeding, vegetarian family is in the destruction of the planet. It is so hard for me to try to make substantial lifestyle changes when our lives are so unbearably harried as it is. To combat that feeling of being overwhelmed, I tried to set three manageable goals for action that we could take without too much disruption of our family life to treat Mother Earth a little better, starting this spring:

1. We have switched our household cleaners to green products. We mainly used green multipurpose cleaner already, but for this spring we have made sure our detergents and other cleaning products are green as well - we are mainly using Seventh Generation products, but have found some other good ones also.

2. We have gotten back on the ball with our City's recycling program. We had let our participation lapse and had gotten out of the loop as to when our proper recycling day was. We have gotten a new bin and we are putting all of our recyclables in it, now. We know what our every-other-week day is to set the bin out and have marked the calendar and are eagerly waiting for it.

3. We are switching our electricity service to a company that offers a green plan using renewable energy to power its customers. I am told the switch may take a month or more, but we are setting it in motion now.

I know that these are small steps, but small is what we can manage right now and I feel good about taking real, concrete steps in the right direction. Yay, us!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Movie!

The Lone Star Girl and I took the Lone Star Baby to her very first movie yesterday! Mind you, the child has seen far too many movies already in the past year, but she's seen them at home, on video or DVD, giving us just a few blessed minutes to go to the bathroom, make lunches, etc.
Yesterday was her first time to actually go to a movie theater.

When the Lone Star Girl and I recently went to see The Spiderwick Chronicles and saw the trailer for Horton Hears A Who!, we knew that would be the movie - the perfect choice for her first movie theater experience. So that's what we went to see, and she really enjoyed it. We went all out - popcorn and even Sprite - such forbidden luxuries! At three and a half, she is barely heavy enough to keep the seat from folding up on her, but she took the darkness and everything like a trooper. She had a great time.

Staying Home

Easter is Yearly Meeting time, but we are staying home this year. While I really think that Yearly Meeting is vitally important for our family, we feel we should be with our larger family this first Easter after my Grandad's passing. Our other First Day schooler will also miss it this year. After attempts to arrange it with others have come up with possible, but not definite, ways of getting it there, I am hoping that the Peace Quilt makes it to Yearly Meeting without us and that people still sign the border and donate to the American Friends Service Committee. I am really going to miss being there.

March The Lion And Mud Rain

On Tuesday, the Coastal Bend got its fourth tornado this March (we and ours are all fine, thanks). This is highly unusual. Although tornadoes have happened here before - one hit the school I now teach at five years ago - we generally only get them if they come in hurricanes. It is North Texas that has the tornado alley reputation. This is seriously weird.

Weirder yet, Tuesday's weather also brought a rain of mud all over town. Although the severe weather was fairly limited in area, pretty much every car in town that was outside during the rain is now crusted over with mud. Is that weird or what? Strange times.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Five Years Is Too Many

This week marks the five-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq - and we are still there. There was never any justice in starting this war for even one day - five years is an abomination.

Yesterday, the Lone Star Girl and I stood with our peace signs and a few other witnesses to protest the war. There will be more events this week marking the invasion's anniversary and we will help raise awareness as we can.

We've stood so often now with our signs in these past five years, watching how citizens react to us as they drive or walk past. As a social scientist, I know that you cannot really judge the mood of the nation by the reactions you get at one busy intersection, but it feels like you can when you are standing there. You watch the children, straightening up in their seat belts to peer at you curiously, their parents either trying to get past you before they ask questions or pointing you out and encouraging the kids to wave. It feels like you can taste and smell the shifting attitudes...sense somehow the national zeitgeist.

I didn't like what I was tasting yesterday.

When the war began, most people supported it. We protesters got angry gestures and nasty epithets from people more than anything else. People would walk up to us and scream things - they would even harangue our children. The mood was clear - our views were a definite minority. Those reactions changed over time, though - the people who saw us holding vigil became gradually more silent and thoughtful, uncertain and troubled, rather than angry and defensive. Gradually more people started honking and waving, nodding and smiling, holding up peace sign fingers as they passed. As recently as a year ago, things had shifted so much that almost all the responses to our presence that I saw were positive.

Now I feel things shifting again.

Yesterday, I would say our presence generated many more openly positive responses than openly negative ones, but most responses were neither. Most were that quiet, troubled thoughtfulness, that quick avoidance of eye contact. While once such responses signaled a sea change that rolled against the war, I fear that the tide is creeping backwards a bit now. I hope not.

We are so close. We could get the troops home so soon. I hope we don't lose the chance before January, or even before November.

Please witness in what ways you can...remind our nation that this war is still real and still wrong. Pray for peace. Vote. Hold on.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Paddy's Day

The girls and I are proud of our Irish roots, so we like to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by wearing green and festively dying food items green, as well - today we had sweet green rolls, instead of sweet orange rolls for our holiday breakfast, with our breakfast strips. We are not, however, truly fans of the so-called St. Patrick. Filled with misogynistic guilt for knocking someone up in his youth, good ol' Patrick decided to atone by persecuting the Druids (also known as driving the snakes out of Ireland), instead of, oh, maybe, getting married and supporting his child. We aren't the sort of "Christians" who approve of religious persecution, so we celebrate being Irish today, but not Patrick.

March 17 is also the birthday of Jazz - a fine reason to celebrate all on its own.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Memorial Meeting

We usually meet at our clerk's house, but they are away this week, so we met at my house. Easter weekend is Yearly Meeting and we had some business to attend to so that we would be ready. The main thing was that our Meeting's founder has died, something we only recently learned as she has lived out of state since a few years before I moved back to Corpus. One of us wrote a Memorial Minute for her and we had sort of an impromptu Memorial Meeting for her today.

I never met the founder of our Meeting, but I have heard so many stories. She was the daughter of a late citizen of some renown in our community - a photographer whose black and white history of our city never loses its fascination. She was a passionate activist for peace, against racism - for justice. Whenever her name was mentioned over the years, people who knew her would smile and roll their eyes, too - she caused all sorts of controversy through her sanctuary work and steamroller drive to do whatever she was called to do. Her children were involved in the landmark Supreme Court decision of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

We lost our last original member who was still in town last year, my friend, and now we have lost this weighty Friend, who I never knew. Such strange times...I know we must cleave to each other and find a way through so many changes and such a loss of our living roots.

As I hold this Friend in the Light, I will strive to follow her example and heed with more courage and energy the leadings of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lego Lone Star Girl

This is what she says she'd look like as a Lego. Very Quakerly.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Going To School With Boys

I don't mean to be sexist or anything, but I think we all know what manner of people the Lone Star Baby gets her booty-butt-stinky-butt-bumblebee-ice-cream vocabulary from...the boys. It's really hard to act all stern about it with her when that is her response to a behavioral directive - one wants so much to laugh.

Story Time Withdrawal

I miss story time. P.J. Story Time at our branch library was a Monday night commitment for the Lone Star Baby and I...we were there. It was our special mommy-daughter thing that we never missed. Our children's librarian had to have surgery, though, so P.J. Story Time was canceled for February and March. Other librarians are filling in for the daytime ones, but only our real librarian cares about us working-in-the-daytime families. We miss her. I hear she's doing well and am looking forward to seeing her again in April. Until then, it is withdrawal.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

My Man Maslow

It is somewhat fashionable, it seems, in certain youth-serving social services and education circles, to knock the behavior of the parents of said youth. Everyone loves the kids they work with, but many teachers and social workers and other human services professionals seem to find it acceptable to bemoan the sins of the parents of those children - their lack of involvement, lack of supervision, etc. When I was a young social worker, I was just the same, making judgements and shaking my head. It did not take me long, however, to grow up and see that we were facing problems of systems, not parents. The parents of troubled youth are generally victims of the same inadequate social support systems that leave so many of the children we love hanging. From growing up hungry in insecure and transient housing, to the sorts of educational experiences that leads to, to the lack of secure jobs with benefits and flexibility to deal with family concerns, to punitive systems rather than true supports for struggling families....poor parents fight an uphill battle everyday and they need systemic change and support, not judgement and advice and parenting classes.

Abraham Maslow developed the famous Hierarchy of Human Needs theory, which postulates that people must have certain needs met before they can worry about other sorts of needs. When survival needs are met, people start working on the next type of needs. Always, but never until the more urgent needs are met.

I've heard a lot of people say that they wish the parents in these scenarios cared. They care. They may be hard to reach for conferences on grades and behavior, but when you won't let their kid wear his jacket when it's cold because of dress code, they call. When the weather gets scary, they show up to get their kids out of there. They care. They are busy making sure that their kids survive, living with the very real specter that some of them won't.

Until we, as a society, ensure that those survival needs are met, we need to get off our high horses about the rest.

Cookie Chronicles

The past few weeks have been a blur of delivering the Girl Scout cookies, collecting the money and booth sales. Have I mentioned that this is my least favorite part of Girl Scouts? I like the cookies, mind you - just not selling them. The Lone Star Girl had two booth sales the weekend before last and one booth sale last weekend. Our cookie money officially got turned in on Friday, so we should be done, but we have some cookies left over from booth sales and need to hoof them or our troop will get stuck paying for them out of the part of our cookie money that we keep to pay for the girls' activities. Of course, we've sold all of the Thin Mints and Samoas, which are the ones people really want, so we are trying to unload Tagalongs, Trefoils, All Abouts and the new Lemon Chalet cookies - sigh. Almost done, almost done...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Caucus That Grew And Grew All Night

Wow. There's so much to write about that it's Thursday and I still haven't found the energy to give you my summary of how we spent Election Night. It was surprising and disturbing and wonderful all at the same time. Democracy is not always fun, but it still beats armed revolutions as a method of transferring power, doesn't it? I think so.

Let me start by saying that I have been attending precinct caucuses every other year (that's how often they are held) since I turned 18, which was 18 years ago. I had been thinking that I missed one right after the LSG was born, but upon closer reflection, I realize that was an actual (small) election, not a caucus year. I did miss one caucus when the LSG was little and the weather got really scary after I got her home from daycare and I was afraid to go out again, but that's it - so I guess I've been to eight, if my math is correct. Four or five of those were since we moved into our house and became part of this precinct. Most every time, it has been me, this nice old neighbor lady who volunteers for the local party, and sometimes a few more people. Lone Star Pa has gotten good about going in recent years, but I cannot remember ever attending a caucus here where there were more than 5 adults my kids. On Tuesday night, there were 150 or so people at our precinct. Possibly many more. It was pretty crowded.

The crowd there in the lobby of the local Catholic high school that was our polling place was the most obvious harbinger that a very different sort of night was in store for us, but there were other early signs. There were folks, from the two campaign offices, trying to organize people right away into separate caucuses (cauci?) for the two candidates. Lone Star Pa had decided to join me and sign in for Obama, even though he voted for Hillary in early voting (yes, you can do that) because her later negative campaigning troubled him (it didn't actually trouble me - I wish they wouldn't do it, but I think they all do). The nice neighbor lady was there with the precinct packets, as the temporary chair. I didn't know which candidate she supported but I wanted her to be permanent chair because I knew she knew all the rules and because I knew she had been faithfully serving the precinct year after year, when no one else cared. I was disturbed that people (people from our precinct to be sure, but still) from the campaigns kept telling her what to do, like the caucus was more about their campaign machines than our neighborhood. She told me early on, though, that she didn't want to be permanent chair, so I didn't really care who was, as long as they would handle the paperwork stuff for our precinct and run the meeting, which is what the job is about.

It took well over an hour for everyone to get signed in for their prospective candidates. I had packed lots of activities for the LSB, but had not anticipated being there more than half an hour (good thing we ate first), so I ended up having to do things like breastfeed and bribe her, also. That was fun.

After everyone signed in, the next order of business was to elect a chair and a secretary for the precinct caucus, who would then count all the votes, so they could determine how many Obama delegates and how many Clinton delegates there would be out of the 13 delegates that our precinct would send to the county convention (plus alternates). I didn't know anyone who wanted these positions, so I didn't care who got them - I had done this enough times to understand their administrative nature. Someone nominated someone and a bunch of people started to repeat her name. They were standing around a woman who had passed out a bunch of Obama stuff when we first came in, so I thought they meant her and raised my hand to vote in favor, since she seemed enthusiastic about helping.

At that time, the Lone Star Girl backed into a vase of philodendron and broke it. Grr. I became distracted with making her clean it up, apologize and promise restitution to a nun*, and with keeping people from slipping.

While I was dealing with this minor crisis, a woman with whom I had been chatting amiably earlier hissed that I was voting for a Clinton person. Apparently that name did not really go with who I thought it went with - but the person who it did go with was another enthusiastic young Democrat, so I found it hard to care - the job is not affected by who your candidate is - you serve the whole precinct. I said as much distractedly, indicating that I was kind of busy, and she said that the Obama caucus cared and she couldn't trust me anymore. Well. Very different indeed. In our tiny precinct meetings past, we had all worked together with none of that, there not having been enough people present to do otherwise. And was not I one of the Obama caucus? She obviously meant the campaign - but I was more into my precinct, and I had a vase to clean up.

Clinton supporters got elected chair and secretary which horrified a couple of Obama supporters, but, again, not me, because it really didn't matter. The Obama supporters had a lot of questions about the counting process (these were Hillary supporters, not Jeb Bush) and the secretary, who was kind of grumpy, wanted them to shut up so she could actually count without losing track. They sniped at each other quite a bit. I offered a short speech on the fact that the chair and the secretary represented our whole precinct, not just the Clinton supporters and that we were all in this together and would eventually need to work together anyway, and couldn't we be nice, please? No one paid any attention to me. The chair was pretty diplomatic, however, and she eventually got people moderately calm, with the help of a more experienced Obama campaign person who was coming to see how silly it was getting. The proportions of our precinct count came out so that 6 of our 13 delegates would be for Obama and 7 for Clinton, which was really an excellent showing for Obama since the county ended up being 66% Clinton, 33% Obama. By this time, most people had gone home.

We split up to choose our delegates to the county convention for each candidate and had to dig through the sign-in lists for people as, after a couple of hours there, we were back to the more familiar state of having more delegate slots to fill than people present. We found people, though. Before we got back together to look at resolutions, I tried to apologize to the woman who had hissed at me, explaining both that I had originally thought I was voting for an Obama supporter and that I knew that what really mattered was a work ethic, not candidate preference - but she disagreed and was still pissed at me.

After getting the delegates sorted out, it was time for the resolutions - my favorite part. My resolution was adopted by the precinct as well as two that I submitted from the teachers' union and a bunch of others. The LSG was all about people voting for my resolutions.

When it was time to elect a chair of our precinct's delegation to the county convention, an Obama campaign person suggested the chair person who had run our convention - the Clinton supporter that the other person had gotten upset about my accidentally voting for. I was glad to see a little teamwork.

We didn't leave until 10:30pm and had to get up in the morning for TAKS testing at work and school, so it was a pretty exhausting process.

I have always been a huge advocate of educating people about the caucus process, and have always been very frustrated that most people don't know that it even exists and that they need to participate. Now everyone knows. I found myself having a lot less fun at this well-attended caucus than I had always had at our tiny ones, though, because of all the conflict between people. Except that I really don't understand the territorial behavior of my species in many of its manifestations, however, this caucus was the way they really should be. It was messy and rough, but it was also democracy - people hashing it all out and deciding who would lead together - with no bloodshed.

I love democracy.

* She took the nun a new vase yesterday, despite the nun's protestations that it was fine.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Farmers' Market Inspired Sandwiches

Spicy white radishes with butter.

Egg salad with lots of fresh dill.


That's My Girl

I asked the Lone Star Baby to tell me about a drawing of hers that she brought home from school today. She pointed to a structure and said that's the voting thing (a reference to the electronic ballot machine, I believe).

That's my girl.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Math Girl

The Lone Star Baby is all about numbers lately. She wants to count with you and add things and take away things and have you ask her what number comes next and which number is more and which number is less...I'm impressed. Today, we were walking and I was asking "what number comes after...?" and when I got to 12, I wasn't sure she knew, so I stopped to ask:

LSM: Do you know what comes after 12?
LSB: Yes.
LSM: What number comes after 12?
LSB: 13!
LSM: That's right! 13!
LSB: You've been married 13 years!

The things they remember!

Meeting Resumed

With recent events, I have missed our last three Meetings and we only gather twice a month, so that's missing a lot. Today we made it back and had First Day School and Meeting and some good conversation - it was very nice. When I am overloaded to the breaking point, the thought of going to Meeting seems like one more pressure. When I really go, though, it is always just what I needed.

In First Day School today, we continued our exploration of Hinduism. Next, the girls are going to bring back some Hindu history and art to tell each other about and come up with some questions they would like to ask someone Hindu while I look for someone. Unrelated to our study of Hinduism, they also came up with a great idea for a project...more on that later.

We talked a bit today about diversity among Friends. I have been reading some Quaker blogs and share their concern that, in this neck of the woods, our Meetings seem overwhelmingly white and middle to upper class. I am worried about those elements of our culture that may be off-putting to others and...well just about becoming too insulated myself. I am worried about the "I can't" that speaks inside me to some of my leadings...worried that I am not living up to the tradition of those Quaker women who jumped on a horse, left the ten kids at home, and rode off to do what the Inner Light demanded of the same time as I feel a certain animosity towards a mother who would ride away from her children and after God...or maybe that's a certain animosity towards God, for asking it. There is so much I have not yet discerned.

Setbacks in Independence

We've been going backwards a little these days. It happens. Frustrating, though.

Until the last month or so, the Lone Star Baby had almost always been able to get her shoes on the right feet without assistance, Suddenly, though, they were mixed up as often as not. I was confused. Then I had an epiphany. Until the time they started getting mixed up, the Lone Star Baby had mainly been wearing Dora shoes and she knew that the pictures of Dora were supposed to go on the outsides. She got a new pair of shoes with a uniform butterfly print and, without the help of a distinguishing feature, had no idea whether they were on the right feet or not. We wrote her initial in sharpie on the outsides of the rubber part of the shoes, and now she gets them right.

The Lone Star Baby has been a real pro at potty learning. She was mostly dry, day and night, well before summer and during the summer, I came to trust her dryness so much that I even took away night-time pull-ups. She then quickly went from about an accident a week to an accident a month to hardly any accidents ever. Months ago. Lately, she's back to having about one a week. This seems to be a combination of the fact that she has developed an aversion to wiping and flushing and wants someone along to "help her" and the typical child's resistance to abandoning interesting play for the bathroom. She's not doing it at school where it might embarrass her, which is fairly telling. Also, I think the blue stuff I put in the potty really does distress her a bit. I won't get more of it when it all flushes away. Sigh.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Farmer's Market

I tend to have good intentions about visiting the little local Farmer's Market, but don't tend to actually get up early enough on Saturdays to do it. Since we were up early to go to the bus barn today, the Lone Star Girl and I went, and it was nice. We saw vendors who also write for We the People and friends from Meeting who were also shopping there. We saw a ladybug.

We bought spinach, a lovely heirloom lettuce, carrots, white radishes, sugar snap peas and dill. Yum.

Leap Day Joy/Leap Day Annoy

The Lone Star Baby is really not a morning person. Possibly, she is just a grouch most of the time. She definitely does not like getting off to school in the mornings, as the neighbors can confirm (yikes). I do believe she loves her school. Many days she would rather stay home with her mommy than deal with the formidable task of restraining her natural impulses in favor of grace and courtesy all day, but she still loves it. Even if I did not have to work, I would send her for the morning-only program at this age, three. She is the sort of child who needs more stimulation than I would be able to entirely provide at home without driving myself crazy. Still. Mornings are no fun at our house.

Yesterday morning was fun, though. The Lone Star Baby's school was closed for one of its numerous staff days and the Lone Star Baby had been eagerly anticipating her day with Ms. Aubrey all week. Ms. Aubrey is a friend of mine from La Leche League, with three kids, one just a tad younger than the Lone Star Baby. She started babysitting the LSB for me on days when the school is closed last school year and the LSB loves her. Yesterday morning, the Lone Star Baby woke up squealing today is the day I am going to see Ms. Aubrey! You have to love that. They had a lovely day together and I was so pleased. Sadly, Ms. Aubrey is moving this summer. I don't know what we'll do next year...

After school yesterday before I left, I got a page to come to the office. It was the Lone Star Girl, hysterical on the phone. She had realized upon boarding her bus that she had forgotten something and asked the bus driver to wait while she got it. She claims that kids do this a lot and that the bus driver agreed. When she got back to the bus, however, the bus was gone - with her backpack, her laptop and her lunch box. This made the evening a bit more complicated, as I was supposed to be picking up the LSB and Lone Star Pa was supposed to be picking her up at home and we were all supposed to meet at the tax office at 6pm for our appointment. I couldn't reach Lone Star Pa and had to pick up both girls, which meant I couldn't get to the bus barn before it closed at 5:30pm. Lucky for us, it is open from 5am to 9am on Saturdays. We went out there today and got the stuff - no harm, no foul. And we made the tax appointment last night.

Now I'm going to take a nap.