Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Another Halloween come and gone in our family! This year, the older boys both decided they wanted to be much more creative with their costumes, which meant of course that I had to be more creative! Neither of them opted for store-bought or hand-me-down costumes. We seem to have amassed a nice costume trunk over the past year, but they were thinking "outside of the trunk"!

Chris couldn't decide what he wanted to be, so he ended up amalgamating his choices into what Mike coined "the holy trinity": Howie Mandel, Simon Cowell, and Charlie Brown! A yellow t-shirt, some black tape, a little toy case, a cup, and my printer and laminator, and voila! :)

The Super readers: Alpha Pig, Super Red, Super Why, and Princess Presto

Kieran has fallen in love with a new PBS show called "SuperWhy." It's about a foursome of superhero readers--it's really adorable! He was the lead superhero, "Super Why."

Super Why at preschool this morning

Charlie Brown/Simon Cowell/Howie Mandel at his school costume parade

Multnomah Village began a new tradition this year--this afternoon they invited families into the village to go trick or treating. Starbucks provided free coffee, and the stores gave out candy (and the dentist gave toothbrushes, which our little toothbrush-obsessed Nicholas loved!). It was a warmish October day in Portland, so we took advantage of the nice weather and headed to the village. Everyone else in SW Portland had the same idea! It was mobbed. Many of the stores had run out of candy by the time we got there, but that was okay--there was still plenty!

The family this afternoon in the village

Just the kids...

Our little Pooh Bear Bumblebee

Recognize this kid? Kieran in the same costume in 2004!

And now, I'll close on a very ADULT and some-would-say-sacrilegious joke....that made me laugh today! I got it from a coworker:

A cabbie picks up a nun. She gets into the cab, and notices that the VERY handsome cab driver won't stop staring at her. She asks him why he is staring. He replies: "I have a question to ask, but I don't want to offend you."

She answers, "My son, you cannot offend me. When you're as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about everything. I'm sure that there's nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive."

"Well, I've always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me."

She responds, "Well, let's see what we can do about that: #1, you have to be single and #2, you must be Catholic."

The cab driver is very excited and says, "Yes, I'm single and Catholic!"

"OK" the nun says. "Pull into the next alley."

The nun fulfills his fantasy with a kiss that would make a hooker blush. But when they get back on the road, the cab driver starts crying.

"My dear child," said the nun, "Why are you crying?"

"Forgive me but I've sinned. I lied and I must confess; I'm married and I'm Jewish."

The nun says, "That's OK. My name is Kevin and I'm going to a Halloween party."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Who's Ready for Halloween?

Yesterday Mike took Chris to see the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie in the afternoon, and I took the younger kids to the pumpkin patch. I think I had the better task, given the gorgeous fall weather we had yesterday!

We hadn't been to a pumpkin patch for a few years, since Kieran was 2, so I thought I'd try out a new one closer to home (especially given the fact that it was just me and the kids). We went to Baggenstos Farms in Tualatin, a fairly easy jaunt from our house. They had free hayrides to the pumpkin patch, a huge corn maze (which we skipped, given the fact that I had two little ones), a small hay maze for the little ones, a play structure, some goats and sheep, pumpkin bowling, and snacks to purchase such as kettle corn, french fries, etc. Both boys loved the adventure, and it was a fairly inexpensive outing. We bought a medium-sized pumpkin for $3 and a mini pumpkin for 50 cents, and also got some kettle corn and italian sodas.

And here is a very fun article about what your Halloween candy of choice says about your personality. As I was perusing the list, I was afraid to get to my favorite, but was very pleased to discover that it said I am a "generous soul...who understands the salty in life, as well as the sweet"! It goes without saying that if my Halloween candy wouldn't have reflected well on my personality, I certainly wouldn't have posted the link!! The full truth is that this year I did buy some Reeses peanut butter cups (my favorites), but I also bought some fruit snacks to offer a healthier choice and also for kids with allergies.

Tonight I will need to start figuring out how to help my kids with their VERY CREATIVE Halloween costumes. I'm proud of them for thinking out of the box, but it sure would have been easier to just go to the store and pick up a couple of ready-made costumes!

Here are some photos from our fun afternoon:

On the hayride

Nicholas exploring the pumpkin patch and all those big orange things!

Kieran imitating a scarecrow (his idea)!

Don't hold onto me!! Let me go!!!

Kieran's first attempt at photography!

Kieran with his pumpkin

Navigating the hay maze

Pumpkin bowling (he wasn't half bad!)

Let me go!!

My little lamb!

Friday, October 26, 2007

New in my iPod

I treated myself to two new CDs this month by two of my favorites: Girlyman and Annie Lennox.

I discovered Girlyman when they opened for one of my all-time favorite singers, Dar Williams. (I'll blog about Dar soon.) Somewhere I read them described as a modern-day "Peter, Paul, and Mary," although they are two women and one man. I'd say they're somewhere between PPM and the Indigo Girls. Gorgeous harmonies, and songs I cannot get out of my head for the life of me! (In a good way, not an annoying one!) When we saw them in concert, I bought both CDs because I fell in love with their music. They just released their third CD this year, "Joyful Sign," and it's just as wonderful as the first two. My favorite song is the title song. Nicholas likes it too! Whenever I put it on the stereo, he gets excited. (But granted he does that for just about any CD or form of music!!)

If you haven't listened to Girlyman and you like folk-rock and gorgeous harmonies, check 'em out! You can listen to samples on their web site. Hey! I just checked their web site and found a wonderful free podcast of Girlyman singing with the Indigo Girls! Fantastic!!

I've long been an Annie Lennox fan, since my days in Japan when our Scottish friend Cath (who matchmaked between me and Mike) introduced me to a number of her favorite musicians. At that time, it was the Eurythmics era, and "Missionary Man" was one of their top hits. Although I loved the Eurythmics, I've enjoyed Annie Lennox's solo efforts even more over the years. Her beautiful voice, combined with her classical music training, result in lovely, and at times haunting (when not rocking!) music.

The highlight of the month I turned 40 (3 years ago this month!) was attending my one and only Annie Lennox concert. Actually, it was Annie Lennox followed by Sting, but Sting paled in comparison. I've been a marginal Sting fan, but after Annie, he was very disappointing. Annie was ELECTRIC! She was such an inspiration, too, for someone turning 40 (I believe that she's now 52, so she's nearly 10 years older than me). She rocked the Rose Garden. Amazing.

She doesn't put out CDs very often, and her latest one was worth waiting for: "Songs of Mass Destruction." It addresses global warming, Iraq, AIDS, religious conflict, global poverty, and gender inequity. As Annie said, "It is a dark album, but the world is a dark place. It's fraught, it's turbulent. Most people's lives are underscored with dramas of all kinds: there's ups, there's downs--the flickering candle. Half the people are drinking or drugging themselves to numb it. A lot of people are in pain."

One of the songs is a feminist anthem, "Sing," with a collaboration of 23 female artists, a sort of postlude to "Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves." It grew out of Annie's involvement and commitment to human rights, specifically the African HIV AIDS crisis.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Now That's One Brave Idaho Catholic!

A Boise coworker of mine sent me this opinion piece from the Idaho Statesman, by Will Rainford, the legislative advocate for the Roman Catholic Diocese: "When I weigh all the issues of importance to me as a Christian, I must vote Democrat."

I admire his bravery to speak out in such a public forum in a staunchly red state. And his words resonate with me, too. As a Christian, I must vote my conscience and my beliefs. It's very hard for me to understand how someone can profess to be a Christian and believe in what Jesus Christ taught, and support politicians who vote against funding of children's health care and helping the poor, and are in favor of warmongering and discriminatory policies. How do people reconcile being a Christian with these things? I just don't understand.

There's no doubt that a great deal about the Catholic church gives me personal grief, but one thing I do admire about it is its consistency in supporting life and caring for the poor and disadvantaged. Personally, I am pro-choice, but I have an easier time understanding Catholics who are against abortion, the death penalty, and big war and defense spending than understanding someone who is anti-choice at the same time as advocating killing in the form of war or the death penalty.

This country is so deeply divided. I realize that the comments in any newspaper online run the full gamut of extremes (judging from the comments below this editorial and also our own Oregonian forums), but it is clear that there is no unity in sight.

I wish that I felt more hopeful about the future of this country. I guess the reason for hope is in our young people, who seem a lot more tolerant than their parents are!

This one's for you, Shelia! :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Attempts to Remain Wheat Free in Spite of Stuffed Pizza for Dinner!

I've been successfully eating wheat-free for the past four days, in spite of temptations surrounding me. My workplace is full of opportunities to indulge in baked goods or other wheat-laden goodies. But I have continued to stay steady on my course, and my stomach is thanking me.

Yesterday, after a breakfast of Trader Joe's ginger granola (my favorite), a lunch of chicken pho, and a snack of an apple and a clif bar, I returned home to the wonderful smell of pizza baking, and this greeted me in the kitchen:

I know my busy stay-at-home dad husband needs to be able to prepare easy, kid-happy meals, and the kids go crazy for pizza. But I did have to give him a hard time for this one! Fortunately, it was the "meat special," and I generally forgo red meat (although the kids don't) that made it a bit easier to pass up. If he'd ordered my favorite, the Chicken Garlic, it would have been much more difficult to avoid.

The adult dinner was curried lentil soup (prepackaged) and toast. Fortunately, the spelt bread was a different variety, Dave's Killer Bread, and much more palatable than the other brand Mike has bought. I decided to make myself feel better by making myself a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the spelt bread.

I told Mike that the pizza temptation was almost, but not nearly, on a par with the time I came home from the hospital after having had jaw surgery...forced to eat nothing but liquids for 6 weeks, through my wired jaw...and I walked into the house to discover that my sister had made my VERY FAVORITE COOKIES, and I was totally, utterly, physically unable to eat them.

They are called chocolate oatmeal drops, and ironically, I'll continue to be able to eat them in their unadulterated fashion because they do not contain any wheat--hooray! I think I will go home tonight and whip up a batch to make myself feel better!

Okay, so the pizza was not quite as bad as that. I would have been able to eat the pizza, whereas I wouldn't have been able to eat the cookies. But it was a true test of willpower. I won. So perhaps he was (1) trying to test my willpower, or (2) trying to make me succumb so he could be the only nonwheat eater in the household! HAHA! (See Monday's post.)

Just kidding. He was the one who suggested that I blog about this. :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gluten-Free Pair

A few years ago, Mike did an elimination diet to identify what was causing him some gastrointestinal distress, and pinpointed wheat as the culprit. He also saw a naturopath, who confirmed that he does indeed have a "wheat sensitivity," not to be confused with a wheat allergy. He now buys spelt bread and avoids eating wheat whenever he can, and his stomach is much happier now.

I've looked at this curious development with pity, as the kids and I have been able to continue on our merry wheat-eating ways. We buy brown rice pasta and rice or spelt tortillas for Mike, and at the Farmer's Market we buy him rice puddings or other goodies while we eat muffins, etc.

Well, suddenly at the age of 43, I have been struck with the dreaded "wheat sensitivity" myself. I started having vague stomach pains at bedtime, and although Mike urged me to go to the doctor (I'm due for a physical anyway), I wanted to see if I could identify a food culprit first. After much experimenting in the past couple of weeks, off wheat and back on again, I'm afraid that I've succumbed to the condition as well.

Where Mike and I differ is that I've gone into research mode...locating wheat-free and gluten-free cookbooks and resources on the Web, and identifying a place (New Seasons) that sells bulk spelt and rice flour. I am determined to find a way to make this work without having to eschew the wonderful typically wheaty items that I love (baked goods, desserts, bread).

One such timely resource is Gluten-Free Girl, a Web site and now a book by a lively writer named Shauna James Ahern.

Mike, in his typical fake curmodgeonly way, has expressed dismay that going wheat-free is apparently now "in." He had overheard a conversation the other day between two women who were talking about their need to follow a wheat-free lifestyle. I pointed out that the more people who can't eat wheat, the more demand there will be for goods that make eating wheat free easier for all of us. He pooh-poohed my Pollyanna comments! He probably thinks I'm a copycat wheat-freer!

JK Rowling Outs Albus Dumbledore!

Albus Dumbledore
(as portrayed in the past several movies by Michael Gambon)

And what fun she is having! I have to say that I'm tickled to learn more plot details about the Harry Potter series than actually made their way into the books. Having finished #7 within a few days after publications, I'm missing the series already.

If you feel the same way, you might be interested in the transcript of JK Rowling's Q&A session at Carnegie Hall on Friday. SPOILER ALERT!!! If you haven't read all seven of the books, I urge you to avoid this link (unless you are like my mother-in-law, who reads the last page first of every book she reads!).

And what a kick! Dumbledore is gay! I love it! The plot details in #7 actually make much more sense, now that I understand a bit more of Dumbledore's motivation around the Grindelwald character.

So do you think that Snape was gay, too, and he was in love with Dumbledore? That, too, would explain a few more plot details... :)

As portrayed in the books

Friday, October 12, 2007

Welfare in Japan

I just read this story in the New York Times about the state of welfare in Japan. Three men have died in the past 3 years in the city of Kitakyushu, which is supposed to be the "model" for welfare systems in Japan. The men died because their welfare benefits ran out and they couldn't get them renewed.

In Japanese society, it is expected that people rely on their families when they are in need, not on greater society. Receiving welfare or charitable assistance is considered shameful in Japanese society, even more so than in the western industrialized countries.

When I lived in Japan, my friend used to volunteer in a children's hospital. No one ever talks about unwanted children in Japan, but they do exist. She used to tell me about the relatively healthy children who lived in the hospital because they had nowhere else to go. It's expected that families take care of their own. Abortion is accessible, and because of the importance of bloodlines, adoption is relatively rare.

Last year I saw a very chilling Japanese DVD called Nobody Knows, based on a real story, about a family of Japanese children who had been abandoned by their single mother. They subsisted on the meager amount of money she left them. They were able to exist unnoticed on their own for quite some time, because observers just looked the other way. As a child, I was a big fan of the Boxcar Children--the idea that children could exist on their own without parental guidance was fascinating to my independent spirit--but the real-life story was very disturbing and terribly sad.

Japan is a beautiful, fascinating country. Japanese society is much better about taking care of and respecting its elders than our society. I understand that patients who stay in Japanese hospitals are brought meals by their family members. I found the Japanese to be incredibly generous to their families, friends, and acquaintances (and strange foreigners like me).

But every country has its dark sides. What happens when people do not have any family to care for them? As the NYT article points out, Japan has no religious tradition of helping the poor. Most charitable organizations are run by Christian churches or missionaries.

I hope that these deaths are a wake-up call to Japanese society, but I fear that they will not be enough to change the deep-set opinion that the less fortunate have somehow brought it upon themselves.

Doris Lessing Wins the Nobel Prize

As only the 11th woman in history to win the Nobel Prize, 88-year-old Doris Lessing certainly deserves the attention and accolades she is receiving in her advanced age.

I was first introduced to Doris Lessing in my Feminist Theology course, taught by Rev. Dr. Joanne Carlson Brown at Pacific Lutheran University in 1985. The first book I read was The Golden Notebook, a ground-breaking novel first published in 1962 and an inspiring piece of work in the burgeoning feminist canon. As an English major and religion minor, I did an independent study course with Dr. Brown where I read a series of feminist spirituality books and discussed and analyzed them through reports and discussions. For this course, I read the entire Children of Violence series.

If I were more organized, I would find my college journals and papers and would be able to share with you my 21-year-old impressions of Lessing's novels. But alas, any organization on my part is all a facade! :) And now that I have three children, I'm afraid that my dreams of organization are fading off into the distance into the far-reaching horizon!

I am pleased that this outstanding, groundbreaking woman writer and scholar (who NEVER FINISHED HIGH SCHOOL and didn't write her first novel until she was 30) has finally achieved the worldwide recognition and notoriety that she deserves.

Monday, October 8, 2007

My Little Prince Among Princesses

Kieran recently attended his first "princess" party. He was the only boy invited to this "costumes encouraged" party, and he enthusiastically looked forward to making a grand entrance as a prince in costume.

We hit the Ladybug Theater costume sale a week beforehand--perfect timing--and stocked a costume trunk for our little dress-up hobbyist. This is the dress rehearsal for the appearance of the prince:

Doesn't he look like Prince Charming in that blonde wig?? (He then decided the wig was too uncomfortable to wear for very long...)

After weeks of anticipation, when the day finally arrived and we walked in the door of the party house, he had an attack of nerves. He clung to the staircase and would not walk up the stairs to the party (where all the princesses were busy decorating tiaras with jewels and feathers). After letting him skulk on the stairs for a few minutes, I finally was able to coax him into the house by telling him we would leave in 5 minutes if he was not having any fun. But he kept his crown pulled low over his eyes and barely participated in the party activities...a very shy prince indeed, and very unlike my outgoing, theatrical son!

The reading of "The Princess and the Pea," followed by the princesses lying on the mattress to see whether they could feel the pea...and of course, they all could, after which they were bestowed a glittery bracelet and deemed "a real princess"

The way Kieran looked for most of the party...

Finally, at the end of the party, the crown comes up and--a smile! :)

The party was for a very sweet little girl named Lily, and Kieran chose some yellow (his favorite color) flowers at the farmer's market for Lily. He also insisted on giving her a purple purse for her present (because of the Kevin Henckes' book Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse).

The party was certainly an education for this mom of three boys. Most boys do not sit around in fancy party attire, calmly listening to stories and daintily trying to pin the horn on the unicorn. They do not typically decorate tiaras and try to catch butterflies with nets. This was a very well-orchestrated, creatively planned party. The cake was made in the shape of a unicorn.

Last summer I carefully planned a craft activity for Christopher's birthday party, where the kids were to decorate CD cases with fabric paints. The activity lasted 2 to 3 minutes, if that. The most vivid memory I have of that chaotic backyard party was that one of the kids led the others into our garage, and soon we had a report that someone had locked Kieran into one of our cars!! Certainly no princess party!

Our little charmer coming out of his shell, discovering the prince within...

At last, consenting to pose with the lovely Princess Lily...