rivka: (Default)
One I stop posting, it starts to feel like I shouldn't post until I have something really momentous to say. "You've barely posted in months, you didn't write about X, Y, and Z, but you're going to make a post about trivial topic q? Really?"

That's a large part of why I never restarted Respectful of Otters. I couldn't let myself just post sporadic small things - I couldn't restart unless I was going to make significant posts on a regular basis. With the first one super-awesome-earthshattering, of course, to make restarting justifiable.

So the hell with that. If I go ahead and post a few random trivial things, maybe the spell will be broken and I'll be able to start writing again.

Random trivial thing of the day:

You can easily tell by looking at Colin how many days it's been since we've done laundry.

First day of clean laundry: green and grey striped hoodie.

IMAG0524 IMAG0509

First few nights of clean laundry: moose hoodie PJs. Yes, he sleeps with the hood up.

moose_pjs2

Second day of clean laundry: orange hoodie with raccoons on it.

hoodie_boy

Third day of clean laundry: grey hoodie whose hood doesn't stay up very well, but it is partially redeemed by having a picture of a bulldozer on it.

If Colin is wearing an item of clothing that doesn't have a hood, it's been at least three days since we did laundry. Simple as that.
rivka: (boundin')
This year at SUUSI, instead of taking a bunch of different short workshops and nature trips as I've always done before, I focused all my programming time on one workshop which met every day. For two hours every morning, regardless of what else was going on - and a lot else was going on - I immersed myself in bookbinding.

It was a wonderful experience.

We made three books in five days. The first day, we built very simple sewn pamphlets using materials our instructor had pre-cut for us. It was an easy project, but still exciting to make a real book. The second book took most of us two full days and was considerably more complex, and the third book was even more technically involved. I never would have imagined, on Monday, what I would have learned to make by Friday.

Our instructor teaches university-level business classes. Bookbinding, paper marbling, and papermaking are just her hobbies. Every morning she set up a complete workshop in a dorm study room, fully outfitted with tools, reference books, and examples of handmade books. Every afternoon she dismantled it, even removing the tables, so that a meditation class could meet in the same room in the afternoon. She was dedicated. She was also incredibly good at breaking down complex tasks into small, easily understandable steps; without that skill, I don't think her undeniable artistic talent would have taken us very far.

Here are pictures of my three books. I'll put most of the pictures and all the detailed description under cuts, because otherwise this post would be enormous.

Simple sewn pamphlet.
pamphlet_1

more about the first book )

Game board book.
game_board_book_1

more about the second book )

Coptic bound book.
coptic_bound_book_1

more about the third book )

I am clearly very much a beginner, and yet I am so proud and satisfied of these books I made. Our instructor did such a great job of choosing projects and leading us through them. I liked that we learned precise techniques, but also had a lot of flexibility and creative opportunities with the design. I doubt I'll do more bookbinding - I don't have time for my current hobbies, let alone a new one - but it was an immensely satisfying way of spending ten hours at SUUSI.
rivka: (panda pile)
[livejournal.com profile] txanne just finished visiting us for a couple of days.

I think that Anne is probably the person I've known the longest without ever actually meeting. Until she got out of [livejournal.com profile] misia's car Wednesday evening, I didn't even know what she looked like. But we've been friends since neither one of us had Ph.D.s, since before Michael and I started dating, since back when I couldn't walk without crutches.

We met in alt.callahans. I don't miss a.c, but I have to concede that I met some awesome people there. Hanging out with Anne reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in years. An extremely tedious and hostile political flamewar had broken out, and she and I (and [livejournal.com profile] saoba, and a few other people, as I recall) decided that we wanted to end it. So we did our level best.

Hey Anne, do you remember what this is before clicking on the link? )

Worked, too. As I recall. (Damn, do I ever feel old and creaky right now.)
rivka: (Rosie the riveter)
We live in an old, old house, and the doors and doorframes aren't necessarily trued up anymore, and also the doors and their mechanisms are pretty old themselves. Some of our doors swing into a closed position but the mechanism doesn't actually latch. Some can only be closed by wedging the door into the doorframe so they're sort of stuck closed. Some of them close with no problems. Every day is an adventure, especially as Colin gets more and more proficient at operating doors. (He can't turn a doorknob, of course, but you don't need to do that to open most of our doors.)

Early this morning I went into the study to check my e-mail. To keep Colin in the room, I closed the door firmly, engaging the latch. I don't know, this may have been the first time we ever did that - just pushing the door into a more or less closed position used to be good enough for any reasonable purpose.

Time passed. Colin needed a diaper change. I picked him up and turned the door handle. It spun freely in my hand.

I tried turning it in different directions. I tried just pulling. I tried wiggling the knob. I tried reaching up to the top of the door (there's a sizable gap at the top of the frame) and slipping my fingers in to try to pull it open that way. Nothing worked.

Fortunately, the tool box is currently stored in the study closet. I got a flat screwdriver and slid it between the door and the jamb. Unfortunately, I was on the "long" side of the vaguely triangular latching mechanism, and I couldn't depress it with the screwdriver.

I shouted for Alex a dozen or so times until she finally woke up. She came out and tried to open the door from her side, but couldn't even budge the knob. I asked her to go downstairs and get the phone (although I'm not sure what I envisioned happening next, because it's not like she could've passed it to me), and instead she began to weep. So I hunted around until I found an old corded phone we don't use anymore, unplugged the DSL modem, plugged the phone in, and called Michael. He suggested that I might be able to reach the latching mechanism from inside if I removed the doorknob.

So I unscrewed the doorknob and the metal plate around it, and was left with a tiny hole - maybe 3/8 inch. It was clear that I wasn't going to be able to reach the latching mechanism through that. I tried some more with the screwdriver. On her side of the door, Alex got increasingly upset because she didn't understand why I didn't just come out and help her with her morning routine. On my side of the door, Colin desperately needed a diaper change and was very unhappy every time I set him down to fiddle with the door. Also, he really wanted to get into the toolbox.

I called Michael again. He agreed to start walking home to rescue us.

Finally Alex removed the doorknob on her side, as well as the long pin that connects the two knobs. Once that was out, the whole metal frame that held the lock, latching mechanism, and doorknob assembly was more able to wiggle. I abandoned any attempt to keep from damaging the doorjamb and set to work again with the flat screwdriver. This time I was able to push the whole mechanism thingie deeper into the door, and it disengaged from the latch. Whew. The jamb has some flaked paint and a couple of gouges, but it could have been a lot worse.

I praised Alex for her efforts. Changed, by this point, not only Colin's diaper but his entire outfit from the skin out. And left the doorknob disassembled, just in case.

It was an exciting start to the day, all right.

Moral of the story: NEXT TIME JUST PUT UP A DAMN BABY GATE.
rivka: (Rivka and Misha)
When Michael started at his current company, a transportation engineering firm, he had been unemployed for a long time. He started working there as, essentially, a contract laborer, doing unskilled or barely-skilled work for a low hourly rate, sometimes working very strange shifts and very long days in undesirable conditions. It helped put food on our table.

He got signed on for a longer-term project, still low-paid contract work, conducting a survey of public transit passengers in Baltimore. He spent a lot of time riding buses and trains on distant routes over scary parts of the city. Sometimes he had to be at the bus stop at 5am. When the bus-riding part of the project was over and they were compiling and checking the data, Michael distinguished himself by showing that he could make good data out of bad, applying logic and reasoning to figure out what was meant by the responses to a poorly filled-out survey.

A job opened up as a courier. Still menial labor paid at a low rate, but full time. They offered it to Michael. He did it well. It offered him the opportunity to be known around the company.

Then a job opened in the accounting department. Michael had been wanting to move into a financial position, having developed that interest serving as the treasurer of our church. He interviewed well for the job, but it was hardly surprising (although disappointing) when they gave it to someone who had several years of experience working in a similar position. Michael kept on with his courier job, doing it cheerfully and well.

Eventually the supervisor of the accounting department contacted him again. They kept being slammed with work, and she had received permission to create a new position for someone to help out with a variety of tasks across the department, filling in for someone who was about to go on maternity leave and then also picking up the slack in a number of areas. She thought Michael would be a fine person for the job. He stopped couriering and was given an office of his own. He learned billing and accounting skills on the job.

Over time, Michael has developed a reputation in his department: if a project is a total mess, and something very strange has happened in the intricate details of billing and payment, and you can't figure out what the hell is going on, Michael is the person you want to give it to. He digs back through years of records and straightens everything out. He likes the challenging assignments. Over time, his boss has handed him responsibility for more and more tricky projects.

On Friday she called him in to her office. The partners had announced that no one would be getting raises this year due to the dismal overall financial climate, as he knew, but she wanted Michael to know that she was so impressed with his effort and his skill and his positive attitude about challenging projects that she had gone to the mat for him. There won't be any COLA raises across the board, but she was able to secure Michael a 10% merit raise. In this economy, that's a very big deal.

I am so proud of Michael for getting his foot in the door at this company and working his way into a great position via techniques which are almost Horatio Alger-esque. He never acted like the early, crappy, menial, contract projects were beneath him. He made himself highly visible as a person it would be good to hire and then promote, and it paid off, and now he has a job he enjoys and a job he does extremely well.
rivka: (christmas penguins)
We had above-freezing temperatures and sun for a while today, and some of the snow melted. But they're still predicting 10-20 inches of snow starting late this afternoon, as well as "near-blizzard conditions." A few light flakes have started to fall. The public schools have just given up and closed for the rest of the week. My university was closed yesterday and today - I can't think of any other time that's ever happened. I expect that it will close tomorrow as well. And Michael's office will be closed tomorrow, which his boss said has never happened because of weather before.

I took the kids out today, cautiously picking my way through the snowdrifts with Colin in a front carrier. We went back to the neighborhood grocery to see if the milk truck had arrived (nope) and hit the art store for some emergency keeping-Alex-busy supplies. She's doing remarkably well with being cooped up, poor kid. To help keep us pleasantly occupied we're doing some advance homeschooling, which you can follow on my other blog if you wish.

I have never experienced weather like this in my life. And I've lived in both upstate New York and Iowa.
rivka: (I love the world)
Colin's feeling much better today. Thank God for ibuprofen, because unlike the Tylenol it actually reduces his fever. He was clingy today but not burning hot or miserable.

Now that my grant is in, we're moving ahead with an exciting plan we've been talking about for a while: redesigning how our house is laid out. Right now, Michael and I have our desks crammed into the dining room. The dining room table tends to attract piles and piles of paperwork. Alex's art supplies are in the playroom, but she doesn't really have a good place to spread them out without Colin being able to reach what she's doing. And we don't have anywhere to spread out any adult projects, like church work or whatever.

Meanwhile, one of the largest and most beautiful rooms in the house is our bedroom, which we really just use for sleeping and dressing. Most of the time it's a massive staging area for laundry. And we have a third-floor guest room which gets used a couple of weeks a year.

So we're planning to move our bedroom upstairs to the guest room on the third floor. There's a tiny room across the hall that will become Colin's bedroom when we decide that he's done co-sleeping. The guest room is small and ugly (70's-era paneling and a dropped ceiling), but it has room for our bed and our dressers and we probably won't spend a lot of time examining the decor. And it has an en suite bathroom, which is nice.

Our current bedroom, large and beautiful with a bay window and three floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases, will be turned into a study.

Master Bedroom

I think Michael and I will probably put our desks on either side of the radiator. We can set up the little desk we got for Alex alongside, with Michael's old computer.

We went to Ikea today to get some other furnishings for the room. The main purchase was a big Expedit bookcase - a simple grid of 25 cubes, plus doors for a few of them and file boxes and things to go in a few others. We're planning to use it to hold books, art supplies, papers, and homeschooling stuff like math manipulatives. Since we're going to be dismantling our guest room, we also got for the study a very simple low couch that folds down into a bed. And an impulse purchase (which, I feel compelled to say, cost much less than it says on the webpage): a really cool gateleg table with drawers in the middle. We can load the drawers up with pencils and markers and scissors and tape, and use the table surface for art or puzzles or games or work that involves reference materials or Legos or any kind of project we want to be able to spread out without baby/toddler interference.

So soon our dining room can be just a dining room, and we won't be as likely to wind up with an even layer of crayons and markers scattered all over the entire house, and the large amounts of time that we spend at our computers will be in a more comfortable and well-laid-out room, and we'll have more spaces where Colin can be near Alex without messing up her things, and when we start homeschooling this summer we'll have a great space to do projects and keep all our stuff. And maybe - although this might be asking too much - the top of my desk will stop being a complete disaster area, because I'll have other places to store my papers and things. (Hey, stop laughing! It could happen that way.)

I think we'll make the move in two weeks. Between now and then we have some packing and clearing-out to do. We're going to need to hire a couple of hours of help to do the actual furniture-moving. And I want to see if I can find a few straight chairs at thrift stores, to go with the table. (If we pull our desk chairs over we'll tear up the floor finish.)

I am really excited about how much better we'll be using the space of our house.
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
We got home from Memphis last night. I'm in the office - the only day I'm coming in this week - and I must admit I'm kind of enjoying the peace and quiet.

I finally snapped at Michael's stepmother. As we were packing up to go she kept very persistently trying to get me to take Michael's bronzed baby shoes. I smiled and said nice things the first several times. "Oh, we'll definitely want them eventually, but I don't want to take them away from Bill." "Yes, but I really think Bill likes to have a reminder of Michael's babyhood around." She kept insisting: "Oh, don't worry about that. We've got plenty of reminders of Michael around." (Like the picture she hung back behind a cabinet, I guess.)

So finally I just looked at her without smiling and said flatly: "Betty, if you want them out of the house, then yes, we will take them."

So of course she backpedalled. And had the nerve to try this one out: "You just insulted me, saying that I want them out of the house." Uh huh.

Michael's father came in to talk with us about it. He said that he wouldn't take any amount of money for those baby shoes, but that we could have them if we wanted them. Although he would worry about them getting broken in transit. Anyway, he just wanted to make sure that we understood that they weren't trying to get rid of them. I felt bad because I really try not to put him in the middle, but.

Our flights home were beautifully uneventful. There didn't seem to be any increase in security at the main screening lines, and when I got pulled for secondary screening (I always do, because my artificial hip sets of the metal detector) the TSA who screened me seemed perfectly relaxed and easygoing. They had a TSA at the gate pulling some people aside for random pat-downs, but it was the most ludicrous security theater imaginable: he only stopped men, didn't stop anyone who had a ton of stuff to carry (presumably so he wouldn't inconvenience them too much), and only patted them down above the waist. He would've found someone carrying a gun in a shoulder holster, but that's about it.

Our kids are beautiful travelers. When I see other people dealing with screaming tantrums on a plane, I feel very lucky.

I did learn an important lesson about Colin and traveling, though. (Did I know this when Alex was his age and then I forgot it? Maybe so.) Yesterday I gave him solid food for breakfast at my in-laws' house, and then I nursed him throughout the day as we traveled home. He got frantically unhappy in the car on the way home from the airport; I nursed him again and he cheered up, so I decided to give him some solids even though it was already 8pm. And that boy ate: a full slice of deli cheese, three handfuls of Cheerios, a jar of baby food (chicken-apple compote, one of the higher-calorie options), and at least a quarter-cup of mango bits. He was starving. I think of solids as being kind of optional to his diet, replaceable by nursing, but it's now obvious to me that at this point they really aren't.

I have a big important meeting in an hour and a half, and I am nervous. To give you an idea of how important a meeting it is, I am wearing a blazer to work - something I do about twice a year. Some of you will be coming along in the form of a silver otter pin which you chipped in to give me at alt.polycon 12, so, thanks. It's nice to feel like my friends will be with me.

Now that I have a webcam on my work computer, I can show you what I look like when I'm trying to appear professional! Here I am:

me@work
rivka: (I love the world)
We went to a cookout yesterday at the home of one of Alex's friends. This little girl only wears dresses and is always exquisitely dressed. (Perhaps because of her influence, this summer Alex has started refusing to wear shorts or pants. Although we insist sometimes, for things like hiking in the woods.) Well, at the cookout, the mom revealed the secret of her daughter's large and impeccable wardrobe: "There's this great thrift shop up on North Avenue..."

So today we checked it out. And it was the least prepossessing piece of urban blight imaginable. North Avenue is a sketchy street to begin with. The thrift shop had a blank, stained concrete wall facing the street, with a dirty old sign saying "Village Thrift." You had to park in a lot surrounded by a high fence, up against a housing project, and walk around to the back of this huge blank concrete edifice. There was no directional signage. You couldn't even tell if anyone was there.

But inside... whoa.

I took a quick glance at the media section near the door. Thrift store book sections are usually a waste of time - Harlequin romances and earnest Christian tracts - but I quickly found myself balancing a big stack of classic juvenile/YA literature. And then the video section: all the classic works of Disney, movie musicals, the Anne of Green Gables miniseries with Megan Followes...

new_media

When we tore ourselves away and made it back to the girls' dresses section, we found the selection to be equally good. We pulled about fifteen dresses right away, then winnowed them down to eight. None showing any significant wear. Some had obviously only been worn once or twice.

new_dresses/

We even let Alex buy this ridiculous Christmas dress, because why not? It was $2.50. It will be a nice addition to our dress-up clothes after the holiday.

santa_dress

Our total, for eight nice dresses, nine books, and ten videos - eleven, if you count both halves of the Anne miniseries - was $22.74.

$22.74. Isn't that ridiculous?

I'm kicking myself, because just Saturday I went to my usual upscale consignment store and dropped about a hundred bucks on the bulk of Alex's winter wardrobe. Okay, so those clothes were largely better brands - although two of the dresses I got today are from Land's End - and I got some beautiful things that I'm totally happy with. But still. Had I but known.

I never in a million years would've stopped at this place on my own. It looks too awful. I just can't believe the selection they have. Where on earth do they get their things?
rivka: (phrenological head)
I don't remember ever being punished for swearing. My mother responded to even mild profanity with a calm, but firm, "I don't like that kind of language." My recollection is she said this instead of, not in addition to, responding to the content of what we were upset or complaining about, so eventually we figured out that swearing can derail communication.

My father used mild profanity in front of us, and did not object to hearing it when my mother or other potentially offendable people weren't around. Lesson #2 learned: different language for different contexts.

But there are two incidents in my childhood that really stand out, in which my parents taught me extremely valuable lessons about swearing.

Incident #1: We were on vacation. My father took my 11-year-old brother and another boy out on our little Day Sailer, and without warning the mast snapped. When they got back to the dock, the boys reported, awed, that when the mast broke my father uttered only two words: "Oh, dear."

Lesson learned: Sometimes the most impressive thing is the profanity you don't use.

Incident #2: One year my father absent-mindedly forgot to sign up at work for his vacation weeks. This was a huuuge deal, because we had already reserved and put a deposit on a rental cottage, and there was a chance that we'd just miss our vacation, while paying the deposit fee, if Dad didn't secure the right to take the proper weeks off. (Turns had to be taken, so he couldn't take just any week.)

My mother, who never swore and never tolerated the use of words like "hell" in her presence, discovered Dad's lapse in the middle of family dinner. There was a silence. Then she turned to him and said, "You asshole!"

I remember nothing that happened after that, because the moment itself was so apocalyptic in my mind. But I'll bet you that every single member of my family remembers when she said it, and why. And you damn betcha my father fixed the vacation thing and never ever repeated that mistake. I have never heard her utter another curse word ever again.

Lesson learned: If you are known to never swear, people will pay attention if you do. If you swear regularly, the words don't have that power.
rivka: (talk about me)
The "favorites" edition...

[livejournal.com profile] vom_marlowe: We're due a snowstorm here. I was thinking of that time we went to the ski cabin, and had a Finnish sauna. Do you remember that? That was sooooo much fun. It's one of my favorite memories.

What's a favorite memory of back then?


I do remember that. All my ski cabin memories are really happy. I wonder if the ski cabin is still like it always was, and if they still keep it unlocked so that I could go there if I wanted to. (I remember the directions.)

I really loved the Reed formals. I loved the way everyone got so dressed up, by whatever definition they personally had for "dressed up," and the way the majority of the clothes were obviously from secondhand stores. I had a perfectly amazing formal dress, rich black velvet with a wide band of dangling jet beads at the neckline. It made me feel gorgeous. The formals I remember best had fantastic swing/jazz music. I love dancing to that. And at formals I always felt like I could walk up to people and ask them to dance. (That was probably all those bottles of vodka they kept stashed under the tables so that the bars could clearly be seen to be serving just juices and sodas.)

[livejournal.com profile] fairoriana: Which other countries in the world do you feel the most association to? Why?

I don't really feel personal connections to other countries, although I have fond memories of Scotland (where Michael and I honeymooned) and Wales (where I went with my sister), because in both places I had a wonderful time and the locals were incredibly nice to us. I have a little faint intellectual interest in where my ancestors came from, but it doesn't make me feel connected to those places. I'm an assimilated American, the third generation born in the U.S.; the "old country" doesn't have much meaning for me.

There are plenty of countries that I'm interested in and would like to visit, but I think that's a different question.

[livejournal.com profile] marykaykare: What's your favorite piece of jewelry? What do you look for/attracts you most about pieces you buy?

I wear very little jewelry. I have a couple of Elise Matthesen necklaces - I couldn't say what drew me to them, because they just reached out and grabbed me in a process that was entirely emotional; it bypassed my reasoning mind.

I will say, however, that I'm coming up on ten years of marriage and I have still never seen a ring prettier than my engagement ring.

[livejournal.com profile] patgreene: What's your all-time favorite movie, and why?

Casablanca. Because it's so beautifully filmed, and because it's such an incredible cornerstone of our culture, and because it's so well-acted that even when I should be rolling my eyes, I don't.

[livejournal.com profile] guruwench: If you've watched any of the Muppets, who's your favourite, and why?

I like Beaker best. Doesn't everyone?

[livejournal.com profile] chargirlgenius: What's your favorite section of the Walters? What kind of art really speaks to you?

My favorite section is the Chamber of Wonders, the recreation of a 17th century nobleman's private house museum. I love the way art and natural history pieces and artifacts are jumbled together. Plus it reminds me of a very strange book I enjoyed, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder.

I am pretty ignorant about art. My personal tastes run towards outsider art, the kind of thing that's exhibited at the American Visionary Art Museum. And I saw a truly amazing exhibit of trompe l'oeil paintings at the National Gallery a few years ago, which I still remember vividly. But for the most part I would rather go to a history, science, or natural history museum than an art museum.
rivka: (foodie)
This time I'll tackle the food questions.

[livejournal.com profile] ailbhe and [livejournal.com profile] minnehaha K: Your dinner.

Tonight we had baked chicken thighs, Southern-style biscuits with butter, and carrot sticks, and ice cream for dessert. Dinner was cooked by Michael, who is getting to be a better cook every day. (Usually the cooking is my responsibility.) The chicken skin wasn't as crispy as I like it (my fault, not Michael's, because he was following my directions) - we probably should've upped the oven temperature. But overall, it was very good.

[livejournal.com profile] hobbitbabe: Do you have any kitchen appliances for mixing stuff up, and what do you make with them and should I buy one or more of them? (giant immovable mixer, food processor, immersion blender, old-style blender, etc).

I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a generous gift from [livejournal.com profile] wcg a few years back. It is, as you say, giant and immovable. Unfortunately, it has to live in the pantry and be carried out every time I want to bake.

I use it to make cakes, cookies, and other desserts. It replaced an ancient underpowered hand mixer. The difference is most notable with stiff batters like cookie dough. I made pumpkin cranberry bars to give as Christmas gifts this year, another very thick-battered recipe, and found that my mixer could easily handle double batches. It's also excellent for things that need to be really, really, seriously, impressively well-beaten, like this gingerbread cake roll.

Oh, and the other difference I almost forgot about: because it has a paddle that is cleverly positioned in the bowl, rather than beaters, you almost never have to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl when you're mixing. Which is very nice. Should you have one? If you bake regularly, yeah, you probably should.

[livejournal.com profile] bcholmes: You seem to have a lot of things to say about food: different recipes, liking exotic vegetables, eschewing chef-boy-ar-dee. What kind of relationship did you have with food growing up?

It was uncomplicated, for which I am extremely grateful. My mother was a good cook in what I think of as the classic home-cooking style of the northern U.S.; her meals were simple (usually meat-starch-veg)
but well-prepared and tasty. Food was never in short supply, and we had free rein to help ourselves except for the hour before dinner, which was known as "starving time." I don't remember negative comments about people eating too much or too little or the wrong things, except in the context of taking more than your fair share of a scarce resource like leftover cake. We did have to accept on our plate at least a "no-thank-you helping" of everything served at dinner, and we were expected to at least taste some of everything on our plate. Oh, and we were required to have milk at dinner, but I loved milk so I didn't mind.

We had family dinner together every night. My mother would start watching out the kitchen window for my father's car at 5:55 every night, and the minute his car pulled into the garage she'd call us to the table. We rarely went out to dinner and almost never had fast food - not as a whole family, anyway. Just if we were traveling somewhere.

I ate a lot of junk food as a kid, and was really skinny anyway. I used to spend my school lunch money (65 cents a day, as I recall) on candy at the 7-11. I'd split it with [livejournal.com profile] kcobweb, and in turn she'd share the dessert from her packed lunch with me. That horrifies me today, but obviously I survived it and was reasonably healthy. My mother didn't buy tons of junk food - mostly for budgetary reasons, I think - but we always had cookies, chips, and ice cream in the house and it wasn't rationed. I remember being surprised to go to friends' houses and be told "you can have two cookies."

I have a lot of happy childhood memories about food. Holiday dinners, church potlucks, cookouts and picnics at the lake, standing on a chair to help my mother bake.

Grandma Susan: Given that there is so much conflicting information about nutrition and health, how do you decide what to believe and/or what to feed your family?

Honestly? I spend very little time thinking about nutrition and health. My impression is that this is an area where a lot of people, including health professionals, have very strong opinions - yet the data backing up those opinions is often weak. I think the whole food-as-medicine thing is hugely oversold in American culture. So I decide what to feed my family based primarily on considerations of taste. I try to avoid language about "good" and "bad" foods. I strive vaguely for balanced inclusion of a broad range of foods - proteins, carbs, veggies and fruits - but I don't worry about fat, carbs, sugar, etc. I wouldn't eat pork rinds 24/7 because it would make me feel like crap, but I'm not going to worry about the components of my reasonably balanced and varied diet.

I do try to feed organic foods to babies (Ack! We've veered into parenting territory!) based on the vague idea that pesticides may be more of an issue when concentrated into a very small form, but it's even more heavily based on the fact that Earth's Best organic baby foods taste so much better than Gerber. Oh, and I was careful about introducing potential food allergens into Alex's diet because of our strong family history of food allergies, and I'll probably do the same with Colin.
rivka: (books)
You guys know it's going to take me a while to get to all of these, right? Here are the book questions, grouped together.

[livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu: Of the Aubrey-Maturin books you've read so far, which is your favorite and least favorite? Or, if that's too difficult, most memorable/lingering and least?

The Aubrey-Maturin books are so clearly chapters in the same long novel, rather than separate books, that I have great difficulty keeping track of what happens in which book. If I had to choose by whole novels, I think I'd say that Master and Commander might be my favorite. I love the beginning of Jack and Stephen's relationship, and Jack's first experiences of command. Least favorite: the last two books. I think O'Brian started to lose his touch about when to show and when to tell, and also in many ways he was just rewriting earlier bits; spoilers! )

Sumana: Are you missing any Cherry Ames books you wish people would send you?

It turns out that there's a sharp drop-off in quality after the first few books. The first four take you through Cherry's training, her efforts to decide between military service and civilian nursing, and her military career. Cherry Ames, Chief Nurse takes place in jungle hospitals on Pacific islands and is quite harrowing. I'm interested in the next one after that, Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse, because it continues the wartime setting, but judging from the poor quality of the later Cherry Ameses I've read, I have no interest in seeking out titles like Cherry Ames, Department Store Nurse.

[livejournal.com profile] marydell: What's your all-time favorite book, and why?

I can't do a singular favorite book! Hmm... it's totally cliche to say Pride and Prejudice, isn't it, but Jane Austen's books are ones that I never get sick of rereading, and P&P is my favorite of them. But yeah, total cliche. Jeez. Okay, the other book that comes to mind is Lois McMaster Bujold, either Barrayar or Memory. I'd say that Barrayar stands better on its own. I love the way it examines womanhood and motherhood from so many different angles, through so many different characters, and I love Cordelia. Memory is an even better book in some ways, but it needs the rest of the series to give it full resonance.

[livejournal.com profile] moobabe: What's your favorite nonfiction book?

If I had to pick one nonfiction book to have on a desert island, it would be the Norton Anthology of Women's Lives, which is a huge collection of excerpts from women's autobiographies.

[livejournal.com profile] ororo: What's the last book you read for your own pleasure? What did you like best about it?

It was Georgette Heyer's Cotillion. No, wait, it was Jennifer Crusie's Fast Women. That's not the best Crusie by any means, but I like that, like all her books, it has strong secondary characters who are important in their own rights - not just as appendages to the protagonists - and because there is much more going on than just the romance. Cotillion is the book I read just before Fast Women. It's my very favorite Heyer. The first time I read it, I misinterpreted the signals and thought the hero was gay. Not in a slash sense - I thought I was supposed to read the hero as gay. Boy, did the ending surprise me.
rivka: (ice cream)
1. [livejournal.com profile] hazelchaz sent Alex a giant box of Big Sistery goodness. Key features of its excitingness:

  • The box was super-huge, big enough to climb in and play. A smaller box inside held the actual goods, but the mindblowing size of the delivery box was very much appreciated.

  • Both boxes were liberally packed with bubble wrap (yay!) and these cellulose (I think) packing peanuts that double as bath toys because they dissolve in water.

  • Books! Including a replacement of a long-lost favorite, Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever, and Alex's first introduction to Calvin and Hobbes, and some chapter books - one suitable to read now and two to grow on. Very much Big Kid material.

  • The book was addressed to Alex care of "CDA," her imaginary workplace. Which shows that [livejournal.com profile] hazelchaz has an unbelievable memory for detail. She was thrilled. Waiting to open it, she speculated, "Maybe my boss is being very very kind to me." The fact that the package was signed inside "from Mama's computer friends" did not diminish her belief that it actually came from her job, which she apparently believes is just real enough for this.


2. Our lovely and charming next-door neighbors celebrated Colin's arrival by going on a shopping spree at Whole Foods for us. They arrived at our door with the perfect baby gift: a big bag of tasty and healthy treats that can almost all be eaten one-handed by someone who is holding a baby with the other hand. Including, if you can believe it, organic cherry-pomegranate Pop Tarts.

Is it condescending of me to be charmed by picturing this hip urban gay male couple picking out a box of organic "mother's milk tea" to add to the bag? "Look, Scott, it has fenugreek to boost her supply."

3. Grocery delivery service. I know it's been around for years and years, but we had never done it before. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we saw a Safeway delivery truck parked down the block and decided to investigate. Dude, it's cheap. I had no idea. The prices are the same as at the store, and the delivery charge ranges from $7-13 depending on how much you spend and when you want them to drop it off. I really like the web interface - you can shop by category/store aisle, or you can type in a list and they'll pull up all the things they have that match items on your list. It saves your old shopping history, so you can easily rebuy the things you've bought before. And you can go back and add things to the list right up until the night before delivery.

We've done a full shopping by delivery service once. They don't have everything the store stocks on its shelves, which is unfortunate but I suppose understandable. I was very pleased with the quality of the produce and meat they picked out for us. (That's always been my sticking point for grocery delivery - wanting to select produce and meat myself.) The delivery driver showed up one minute after the start of our two-hour delivery window.

I can't believe I kept dragging myself to the store when I was nine months pregnant. I just had no idea.

4. I've discovered a fascinating new-to-me TV show, a Canadian production called Survivorman that runs on the Discovery Channel here. This show probably isn't new to anyone else, given that it's had three prior seasons and is now in reruns only, but I find it utterly fascinating. The premise is that the host, Les Stroud, gets dropped off in various remote and mostly inhospitable locations and picked up a week later. Survival in the interim is up to him. Unlike similar shows, he doesn't have a camera crew with him - he films himself. So there isn't a hidden infrastructure and connection to civilization - it's just him and a stack of cameras, on a rock or a barren beach or a raft floating in the ocean or whatever.

He has varying small amounts of gear - in most of the episodes I've seen, they've tried to simulate a particular kind of accident that might've led to him being stranded, and he has appropriate gear that one might retain after that kind of accident. For example, when they dropped him off on a South Seas island, they simulated a scuba diving accident. He had his dive gear, and a wreck of a boat with a few miscellaneous things in it like a tangle of fishing line and a rusty gas can with a little gas mixed with seawater. He always gets a Leatherman-type multitool and a harmonica, but he doesn't usually get matches or a tent or food or fresh water or medical supplies. It's pretty brutal. Which makes it fascinating.

5. Five things make a post, right, but I can only think of four that fit this category. No, wait! My friends Daria and Lo are coming up to Baltimore with their kids for a day of sightseeing next week, and they have promised to come by and do housework for me. My friends are awesome.
rivka: (Rivka & kids)
1. We went to the pediatrician yesterday for a two-week checkup. Colin now weighs 8 pounds, 4 ounces, so he's more than regained his birth weight and is continuing to gain almost an ounce a day. Everything else looks good as well. Words cannot begin to express how relieved I am by all this good weight gain. Hilariously, it prompted my dad to divulge his former theory, not previously shared with me, that I was anatomically unable to breastfeed, perhaps because I was so - how did he put it? - "overly ample."

2. After the pediatrician's office we went to the bra shop. I am more relieved than I can say to report that I haven't actually gotten any larger - my bra was just worn out and needed to be replaced. Poor Alex kept taking little pink lacy things off the racks and bringing them to me, not understanding that those don't come in Mama's gargantuan size. Or in nursing styles.

3. Alex has hit the full flower of the asking-questions stage, OMG. On the one hand, it's good to have her preferred mode of interaction be something I can do with my hands full of baby. On the other hand, these constant questions are killing me. They range from the interesting but difficult to answer - "Mommy, why did people in England think they could tell people in America what to do?" (in reference to the American Revolution) - to the maddening extended-hypothetical - "What if me and Zoe and Leo climbed a tree and got stuck and couldn't get down, and you and Miss Emily and Miss Suzanne were on the other side of a high wall?" "We would get a ladder and climb over the wall and come get you." "Well, what if the branches were too light and you couldn't climb up, and what if we were up there for ten hours?" - to the utterly confounding - "Mommy, what does 'of' mean?" And there are dozens of them per hour. It would kind of be nice if she had a little less intellectual curiosity.

4. Our new couch is ready! I just called and arranged for the old couch to be picked up by the Salvation Army on Tuesday. (Yes, I know, ordinarily I wouldn't do business with the Salvation Army either. But in this case I consider that I'm accepting a service from them, not giving them anything.) Now I just have to call the furniture store and arrange for the new couch to be delivered on Wednesday. I am so excited! And grateful that Colin doesn't really spit up.

5. Have some Michael-and-Colin goodness to make up for the Mamacentric photo in the last post.

michael&colin
rivka: (Rosie the riveter)
My grandfather, my mother's father, was the son and grandson of coal miners. He went to college and graduate school and became a professor of mining engineering at Pennsylvania State University.

It was the custom of his department to send a letter to every young man who was the valedictorian of a Pennsylvania high school, offering a scholarship to Penn State to study mining engineering. One year - this would've been in the 1950s or early 1960s - the responsibility of sending those letters fell to my grandfather.

My grandfather did not know that there was a difference between the name "Francis" and the name "Frances." And so he inadvertently sent a letter offering an engineering scholarship to a young woman, and she wrote back accepting it.

The general feeling in the department was that the scholarship offer had been made in error, and should be withdrawn. But my grandfather dug in his heels. It had never occurred to him that a woman might like to be a mining engineer, but now that the evidence proved him wrong, he was going to stand by her.

Frances came to Penn State, was mentored by my grandfather, did well, and graduated. Over the years he mentored other female students, and in his will he established a scholarship for women in mineral engineering.

I like this story because it reminds me that sometimes it's possible to blunder into doing a good thing, as long as you keep your eyes and your mind open.
rivka: (family)
I was going to make a post complaining about how cold it is here - it was 14 F when I took Alex to school this morning, and has subsequently warmed up to a balmy 16. Then I read through my friends page and saw how cold it is where most of you live. So never mind.

Although I must say: I have an excellent coat for weather like this. It is the thigh-length parka I bought when I lived in Iowa. It is wool-lined and Polartec-filled and Gortex-topped, and the hood snaps across the lower face so that only the eyes are exposed.

There is no way in hell that it would zip over my belly.

I suppose I should be counting my blessings. It's fortunate that my standard winter coat (ankle-length double-breasted wool, although it only buttons down to the midriff) does close over my belly. It's fortunate that I have maternity tights I can wear under my slacks for additional warmth. And even more fortunately? The portable electric heater I bought for my office arrived earlier this week. Just in time.
rivka: (her majesty)
I have jury duty today. Lydia is submitting a grant that's due tomorrow. This is what you call suboptimal timing.

I am just praying that because I am a hugely pregnant highly educated white psychologist and recent crime victim (burglary), no one will want me on their jury.

Fortunately, there is a quiet jury waiting room in addition to the one where they play Muzak, allow conversation, and plan to show movies. Also fortunately, you can buy wireless connectivity for $5.95 a day - a real bargain when you're going to need to be sending grant bits back and forth to your boss. Also also fortunately, there are multiple outlets for people who need to recharge their laptops.

Unfortunately, my work e-mail website is down, as it frequently is. The access website periodically - well, frequently - reverts to "under construction." Why, I have no idea. How long, I also have no idea. Also unfortunately, it turns out that if you are excused from a particular jury by the judge during voir dire, you don't get to go home. You have to go back to the waiting room and see if another judge wants you later. So my relatively low juror number is no help at all.

When I got here this morning there was a very long line of people waiting to go through the metal detector. Then they put us in a room and had us watch a video about jury service. It began with hilarious clips from old movies showing courtroom confessions, proceeded to warn us that our trial wouldn't really be like that, and finished with an explanation of the roles of all the people involved in a trial and the critical importance of jurors to democracy. Fun stuff.

Updated to add: They called me for jury selection just as I was finishing the previous paragraph, which is why the entry ended so abruptly. I was in the courtroom for about an hour and was dismissed for cause because that my pregnancy makes jury service a hardship. Sadly, that doesn't dismiss me for the day, even though I will be incrementally more pregnant each subsequent time they try to empanel me. Still, at least I'm back where I can work.
rivka: (phrenological head)
I think most people who read this journal know that I have orthopedic disabilities. The overwhelmingly dominant one for most of my life was my congenital hip dysplasia, which led to multiple childhood surgeries, a particularly unpleasant side effect called avascular necrosis of the femoral head, osteoarthritis by the age of 11, (literally) crippling pain and increasing disability in my late teens and early 20s, and then a miraculous hip replacement at age 23 that reversed the downward trend.

The residual effects of what used to be my primary disability are pretty subtle. I can't run at all or do any kind of high-impact exercise, and the flexibility and range of motion in my right leg are limited. My right leg is noticeably shorter than my left; I wear a lift in my right shoe and sometimes (often? usually? I confess that I don't really notice this) walk with a limp. On the other hand, when I'm in adequate shape I can easily hike five miles or so over rough terrain, and I no longer have chronic pain or routinely take pain medication.

That's kind of a strange feeling. I went through some complicated emotional work surrounding my self-identification as a person with a disability, and the social, emotional, interpersonal, behavioral, and medical consequences thereof. Then the major factors underlying that self-identification melted away. Believe me, I'm thrilled about that. There's absolutely nothing in the world like not being in tooth-grindingly awful pain every day of your life. I highly recommend it. But it's weird.

So it's easy for me to think of myself as nondisabled now, except, of course, that I'm not. I also have this right arm that is half as long as the left; small-handed; missing a finger; incapable of bending at the elbow; and fairly restricted in movement at the shoulder. Most people would, uh, probably think of that as a disability. Okay, I guess this is getting long enough that I should cut it. )

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