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By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, April 27, 2007
I had a different post in mind but this article
that appeared on yesterday's editorial page by Kathleen Parker inspired me to take this post in a different direction.
Parker says that bookworms are a dying breed as are newspaper readers. The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently eliminated their book editor position from the newsroom. Parker says eliminating such jobs contributes to the dumbing down of American society. She notes that "fewer than half of Americans read literature" although more and more books are being published each year.
The whole article is just sad. I've loved books ever since my grandpa and I dug out an old Dick and Jane book that belong to one of my uncles. My grandparents came to the United States in the 50s as Ukrainian refugees of WWII. They took a English as a Second Language class and learned to read at the same time I was learning to read in first grade.
So we sat after school and picked out the words of simple books together. Most times my grandpa would cheat and ask me to read to him. I'd look over and see him dozing in his easy chair, a habit that remained throughout his life.
I love to meet people who read. Often times when I'm at a loss for my next book I just ask around to see what others are burying their noses in.
We had a book club for awhile here at the Sentinel but ultimately it failed because the groups interests were too diverse. "Blindness"
by Jose Saramago was the best book the group ever read. A close second was a comparison we did between "Catcher in the Rye"
by J.D. Salinger and "The Bell Jar"
by Sylvia Plath. It sparked a great conversation about teenage angst and depression.
I'd love to hear what others are reading. Recently Robin and I finished "The Kitchen God's Wife,"
by Amy Tan. I'd never read anything by Tan until Robin loaned it to me and I'm so glad she did. Tan has a great voice and is an excellent storyteller. The plot tells the story of a WWII refugee telling her daughter about her life during the war, something I can relate to based on my family's history.
I'm currently reading "Exile and the Kingdom"
by Albert Camus with my friend Velvet. It's great to have a friend that likes to eat lunch and discuss philosophy. Previously we read "My Sister's Keeper"
by Jodi Picoult. You can read my review here
I'm always in the mood for new books and I couldn't agree more with Kathleen Parker that not having book reviews in the paper is a great loss to our culture.
Let me know what you've read by leaving a comment or feel free to email me anytime with suggestions.
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Just before Margaret's first birthday, she got a box from her Pappy and Gramma Fran filled with presents.
One of the presents was a Beanie Buddy birthday bear.
It was soft and cute and little Mar Mar (as we used to call her) loved it. She carried it around by the ear and hugged it to her neck.
I, too, loved the bear — but in a different way. I loved that it commemorated her first birthday. I wanted to keep it forever as a reminder of her first year of life.
So I did what any more-than-slightly neurotic and probably OCD mother would do, I took it away from her. But first, I took her to the store and let her pick out another Beanie Buddy.
Her little 1-year-old self, chose this one:
I put the birthday bear on a shelf and she permanently attached herself to this brown rabbit. Margaret would nap with the rabbit and take him to daycare. It quickly became the toy of choice. She would go to sleep at night rubbing his ears.
Originally, we called the rabbit "Ears" as that was the name that the manufacturer called it. But then she started calling it "Bunny Rabbit" as that was what her lovely daycare gramma called it. Eventually, it was shortening to just "Bunny" — "Brown Bunny" if there was a need to distinguish it from any of the many other rabbits in her arsenal of stuffed animals.
Bunny has had a permanent place in Margaret's life since that first birthday almost six years ago. And he's been through a lot, including several trips to the washing machine. Perhaps his most tragic experience was early on when Mar was about 2, she carelessly flung him on to the stove top and his face was burned on the electric burner. She would touch the burned rings on his face and say, "Owie!"
I remember one evening getting a frantic call from the babysitter. The first words out of her mouth were, "I can't find Bunny." Back then, those were words that could ruin an evening out in that there was no way she would be able to go to sleep without those ears between her fingers.
Now, she doesn't have to have Bunny firmly tucked under her arm to go to sleep, but more often than not, he is the one that gets dragged along with her when a nightmare or a bump in the night causes her to climb into our bed.
If I had a penny for every time I woke up to see this face staring at me ...
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
This morning my toddler was being a little cuddle bug. It's a rare minute when he'll sit on my lap holding a toy car snuggling his head under my chin while I gently rocked my knee. Needless to say I love it! We were enjoying the moment so much I postponed the drive to work for ten more minutes.
While we sat I watched the TODAY show
. They had a segment titled Best Improvements for Moms in the past 20 years or something like that. I'm not finding it offhand on their website but feel free to take a look around.
Basically their list included working from home and redefining the workplace to be family friendly. And of course the gadgets
The one I agreed with most was the fact that men are so much more involved in their families than they used to be. It think this has to be one of the best things that has ever happened for women these days.
Long gone are the days when men showed up at the hospital, looked at their kid in the nursery, then went to the local pub to hand out cigars.
I think it's awesome that most men want to be a part of their child's birth, helping the mom through labor and helping get breastfeeding started.
I can't imagine not letting my husband experience the birth of his children. I'd feel like he missed one of the most incredible experiences he could ever have. It is definately something to bring a couple together.
On top of that he plays a crucial role in keeping our household functioning. He is just as likely to lay dinner on the table, change a poopy diaper, or kiss a baby boo-boo. It's what is expected of men these days and families are so much stronger for it.
His friends don't think twice about his role as father. Some have opted to let the woman work while the man stays home with the kids. Nobody is looking down on stay-at-home dads anymore.
I'm voting involved dads as the biggest improvement in a mom's life in the past 20 years.
What do you think has improved?
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I was in the grocery store at 6:42 a.m. today. We’ve been out of milk for days and that was the only time I could schedule grocery shopping. I turned down the aisle marked “feminine hygiene products” and wondered, not for the first time, why they called it that.
The “feminine” part I get. I’m good with “products” too. But why “hygiene”? It indicates that the whole monthly process is somehow dirty and needs to be cleaned up. The term itself just seems like a hangover from the late 60’s when it was OK to start talking in public about things like your “monthly visitor” or your “friend.” I think that’s when discreet, very discreet, TV ads started to appear for feminine hygiene products. I remember girls in floaty dresses skipping through a meadow of flowers and we were supposed to make the connection to tampons.
I could use a little of that discretion today. Now we’re bombarded with images of blue liquid poured into little pads with wings! Girls in class passing feminine hygiene products to each other like we used to pass notes. And what’s with the comparison to absorption and women twirling around in skirts?
As I pondered my choices this morning, it occurred to me that just because I’m a woman, I’ve spent a small fortune hosting my friend every month for over 35 years. At close to ten bucks a box for tampons, plus Midol, chocolate, wine, potato chips and Tylenol, the tab has got to be close to ten grand!
I’m aware that the end of this particular friendship is close at hand. Part of me is soooo ready to say goodbye. And part of me is really dreading our last get-together. I feel like I’m trading one necessary evil for another.
But hey, there's a silver lining. With the money I’ll save on tampons, I can buy better wine!
By Robin Dearing
Monday, April 23, 2007
After picking up breakfast at the bagel shop downtown Saturday morning, Margaret and I walked down to the toy store. Mar had some allowance saved up supplemented by Tooth Fairy donations and she was itching to spend it.
Mike, the owner of Toys for the Fun of It, greeted us as we entered and immediately asked me where Bill was. I explained that he was on his way home from taking a group of students to the state SkillsUSA
competition in Colorado Springs (Bill teaches machining and math at WCCC
at the college level).
Mike wanted to tell Bill that he had the opportunity to see some of the work coming out of WCCC's machine shop and was impressed by it. I knew what he meant.
I am amazed over and over again by what a good machinist can do.
A couple months after we bought our house seven years ago, the plastic knob on our washing machine broke off. I brought the broken parts to Bill and said, "We need to buy a new washer."
He laughed and took the broken pieces to work with him the next day. That night he brought home a new knob machined out of aluminum.
He made a new knob.
Then a couple years later, the drummer in my band stripped an important screw out of her drum kit. Bill brought the kit to his shop. He made her a new screw.
He. Made. A. Screw.
You don't make screws. Screws are bought from screw farms where they grow lovingly cared for by screw farmers. Right?
Needless to say, I'm mystified by what my husband does for a living and even more amazed that he can teach others to do it, too.
And he does one heck of a job.
This year at the SkillsUSA state competition, one of his WCCC students won first place in precision machining technology. This student will now go on to the national competition. The winner of that will move on to the international competition — last year's international competition was held in Helsinki, Finland.
It's a big deal for Bill, his student and WCCC. It's so nice when hard work pays off.
Congratulations to all the WCCC students who participated and did their best in SkillsUSA state competition.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, April 19, 2007
All kinds of statistics about what we should or shouldn't be eating are available on any slow news day. The information is impossible to keep up with. One day we should be eating lots of fish for their Omega fatty acids and another day we should avoid fish altogether due to mercury levels exceeding acceptable standards. Eat more vegetables but don't drown them in dressing 'cuz then you might as well be eating a cheeseburger. Eat eggs...no don't...eat salt...no don't. And on and on.
Most of the time I choose to ignore the information but I think this article
is probably really true and I see it happening in my own house. It basically says that parents with toddlers in the home eat more fat than childless people.
Now that the babyfood making
is done (for the moment anyway) we've moved on to setting kid friendly meals on the table. By kid friendly, I mean something that is physically possible for a kid with six teeth to eat. It's unreasonable to think he's going to sit down to a steak dinner because it just isn't physically possible for him.
My meal planning has definately changed. I wouldn't say drastically but the changes are evident. I don't think toddlers should have special meals prepared for them but I do have to put some thought into what SoJo can eat and make sure the meal centers around that entree. My cooking has become rather bland whereas it used to be spicy. I love to cook with full robust flavors and I've had to tone that down considerably.
And, I'll admit I'm guilty of a buying some prepackaged kid friendly food just for convenience like ravioli's, mac-n-cheese, and fish sticks. It's not often but I've done it.
I'll also admit that I pop a few fish sticks in the oven for myself or finish off a disgarded hamburger. Prior to Soren I'd never have had those temptations in the house.
But the article overlooks the fact that I think a lot of parents still try to eat sensibly despite their limited food choices. We always have a starch, meat, and vegetable on the plate. If the kid eats it...fine...if he doesn't...well, he'll just have to wait until the next snack or meal. We never make something special just for him.
And, thanks to my hubby, this has been our saving grace:
For six weeks we've been eating fresh spinach, mustard greens, and mixed lettuce. Those who say it's too early don't know anything about gardening. Soren loves his spinach and mommy is growing a whole other person so she needs it too. Everyone in our house is getting fatter except for daddy which is exactly how it should be at the moment.
There are 30 heirloom tomato plants, 20 various peppers, and two rows of peas in the ground. A variety of herbs are waiting in the cold frame for a warm planting day.
So despite the tendency to serve fattier foods for Soren's sake, we are trying to put quality food on the table.
Oh, and if you're in the mood for salad....we have enough to share!
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
We didn’t make Margaret finish her dinner Sunday night. Instead, we tried to pretend like everything was OK, like everything was normal.
And it had been normal up until the point when Margaret’s airway became blocked by some candied carrots.
She started to choke, sitting right in between her father and I, while we ate our dinner.
She stood up hunched over and tried to put her fingers down her throat. Her mouth was gaping and her face was red. I immediately recognized that she was choking.
I don’t remember saying anything, but Bill says that it was my actions that made him realize what was going on. He grabbed her away from me and quickly used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the small clump of partially chewed carrots.
Margaret coughed and cried for a while. We held her and told her that everything was OK. Bill and I tried to pretend like it wasn’t the scariest 30 seconds of our lives.
It happened so quickly, but I knew that we had to act fast or
well, you know what could have happened. That night before we went to sleep, I thanked Bill for saving my daughter’s life.
According to emedicinehealth.com
, it takes four to six minutes for the brain to begin to die from lack of oxygen. Four to six minutes! What if she had been eating alone? What if we didn’t notice? What if
The “what ifs” are more than I can think about. Instead, I focus on the fact that both Bill and I had been educated about administering the Heimlich maneuver and that we stayed calm and that it turned out OK.
While anyone can choke, it’s a real threat to small children who have small airways. Click over here
to read about the best way to prevent chocking hazards.
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
**Due to technical difficulties, I'm posting this entry for Lynn**
One of my “other duties as assigned” here at the Sentinel is to give tours of the newspaper making process. It really is quite amazing to see and hear about all the steps we go through every day to get the paper to your door in the wee small hours every morning.
I have a policy that I don’t give tours to groups of people unless they are in at least 3rd grade. However, occasionally I make exceptions to that, if someone has VIP status with me - like my nephew Sam and his kindergarten class.
And so it came to pass that last week I had 24 - seemed like 54 - wiggly little kindergartners all lined up in a row waiting to hear the fascinating story of a Day in the Life of a Newspaper.
(Now, the truth is that I had two kindergarten classes come in, one Thursday, one Friday. But for brevity’s sake I am treating them as one.)
We filed into our conference room and they all took a seat and I began peppering them with questions about who reads the paper and what they read - or at least looked at.
“I read about hockey”, one voice chirped.
“I look at the comics”, said another.
“I like to read about the lunatics!” said one youngster who must keep very busy doing exactly that lately.
I then told them we were going to watch a short movie about a newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia that is owned by the same company that owns The Daily Sentinel.
“Does anybody know where Georgia is?” I asked.
One little girl raised her hand and answered, “Yes, I’ve seen Georgia.”
“Yes, Georgia the Jungle!”
I am not making this up. How could I?
We proceeded to march up the stairs to the newsroom, admired the computers and came back downstairs to the pre-press area.
I was giving them a very technical, step-by-step overview of how each page is laid out, then printed onto a piece of film, and then that piece of film is made into a plate, blah, blah, blah.
We were getting ready for the best part - the journey into the press room, but before we moved on I asked if any of them had any questions.
One little cherub next to me raised his hand and earnestly inquired, “Are your eyes dark green?”
“Why, yes, they are”, I replied.
“So are mine”, he said. And he fluttered his eyelashes for me.
Moving on to the press room we stopped in front of the giant rolls of newsprint, which they learned weighed a ton. I revealed to them that each roll of newsprint also contained about six miles worth of paper.
“Do you know how far that would go if you unrolled it?” I set myself up for the reply from one kiddo:
“All the way to the end!”
It’s humbling to be outsmarted by a five-year-old.
As we finished up the tour standing in front of the inserter machines, I asked if there were any final questions.
“Has anybody ever cut their thumb totally off in here?”
Oh boy. It would make their day if I made up some gory details to answer that. But they were little kids and I didn’t want to deal with the phone calls from their parents!
You know, they made me laugh and they didn’t even have to try. They were just who they were - wiggly little kids taking their very first steps to learning about the big wide world. They made me think about reconsidering my “3rd grade and up” policy.
I have always had tremendous respect for kindergarten teachers. I was exhausted after an hour with the kids, let alone a whole day! But here they are, and they’re so cute! Especially my little Samuel Robert Adamson, far left, flashing the double peace signs.
By Robin Dearing
Monday, April 16, 2007
Because Monday should be fun and we're always looking for new things to spice up our blog, we're copying the idea of "Fun Monday" from the Mama Drama bloggers.
This week, our challenge was to reveal something from our closets that we are keeping for no good reason.
This shirt has been hanging in my closet for ten-er-so years now. It is my high school powderpuff jersey
For those of you who don’t know, the powderpuff football game was played every year during homecoming. It was the junior girls vs. the senior girls and the boys football team dressed as cheerleaders. This was serious business with team practice three weeks in advance, an official secret playbook and good, old-fashioned chick rivalry in the halls. The town always came out for such an event because girls in my town seriously play rough. And, you know, guys like to watch in case some accidental kissing happens. There were always “accidental” black eyes, hair pulling and perhaps even a fight or two.
The money was used for our prom. Maybe high schools don’t do this anymore or it’s a reflection of just how small a town in rural Colorado I’m from. Regardless it was good time.
I have no idea why I keep this hanging in my closet. I contemplated wearing it to my reunion but didn’t. Maybe next time.
OK - the pink Riveter hat. Dan bought it one night when Riveter was
playing at Quincy's because he thought it was cool. The morning after he
wasn't quite so sure. So it's been in my closet ever since.
The vest. I bought it in Atlanta when I was going to a Christmas party
with my friend Ellen. That was 14 years ago. I paired it with a white
tunic top and black palazzo style pants and a glass beaded necklace. I
looked very cool - kind of chic hippie. I've tried to part with it many
times since, but I'm convinced it will come back in style.
While going through my closet, I found quite a lot of surprising things.
First, was the floor of the closet itself. For the last seven years the floor of our closet has been covered in a pile of shoes through which Bill and I search on a daily basis. It was a dirty mess so I finally spent $10 on two big plastic bins — one for each of us — and now we each have a bin to sort through instead of one huge pile. OK, it's not perfect but at least we can see the floor.
While sorting through all the shoes, I found these:
These little sandals have whistles in the soles and they were mine when I was a toddler. Judging from the wear on the bottom, I wore them a lot. My mother confirms this as the whistles drove her crazy, so she saved them and gave them to Margaret when she was a toddler. Payback is a bitch, so I plan on giving them to my granddaughter, if I'm lucky enough to have one some day.
So those don't count as a "what in the heck am I keeping these for," but this sweater certainly does:
Um, yeah, it speaks for itself ... an ill-fitting sweater my mom gave me for Christmas in 1994. I have no allusions that I will ever wear this again (for so many reasons), but as soon as I took it off after the picture, it went right back into the closet.
Yeah, I have no idea why.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, April 13, 2007
I have a jumble of bloggy thoughts in my head, none of which are related nor warrant a full entry, or your undivided attention.
Most people these days throw a "How are you feeling?" tag onto their daily greeting. I usually say "I feel great" which is mostly true. But, I can't say in all honesty that I'm not suffering from the usual pregnancy complaints and now I'm going to complain about them. I can't sleep. It totally sucks. Hubby seems to be suffering from some sympathy insomnia as well so together we listen to the rain on the roof at 4 a.m. When I do sleep, one of three things is going to wake me within the hour. Either I will have to pee again, SoJo will wake up and need to lay on my jugular cutting off airflow to my lungs, or I will have an excruciating leg cramp. I keep getting these cramps in my calves like a long distance runner and they hurt like hell!
Let's see what else? Well, I've noticed that the roundness of my butt seems to be keeping up with the roundness of my belly making me nice and proportionate. How lovely. Then there is sneezing and more peeing. And I can't leave out the fact that my brain is overloaded with hormones making me tear up at Laidlaw bus stop commericials (that girl is so cute!) or search for my cell phone everywhere when it's been in my pocket the whole time.
And the remote control is still missing which is so incredibly annoying. Not to mention how hungry I am ALL the time even at 4 a.m.!
Which leads me to the subject of comfort food. Obviously there's no logic in this thought process so just go with it.
How do we establish those food/comfort relationships??? This is how:
We are making tapioca pudding...creamy...sweet....45-minutes-to-make luxurious warm tapioca pudding. We ate it before bed so the tryptophan could help us sleep. It won't surprise me a bit when Soren is grown if he has a weakness for women who smell like nutmeg and warm milk.
His dad taught him to "shave" this week and described to me the way he lifted his little chin to get his whiskers off. I'm so disappointed that I missed it.
And finally, thanks for sticking with it here,
the Haute Mamas are taking a cue from Mama Drama
and starting Fun Monday
. Monday we will show you what odd thing we have in our closets that we just can't seem to part with. If you have something you can't part with but never wear email it to Richie Ann Ashcraft or show it off on your own blog and we'll link you. We'd love to share it!