Monday, January 31, 2011

Now this is an idea that is long overdue...

Tesco parent-child parking spaces (UK)
New York City is considering a bill that would give women who are having difficult pregnancies special parking privileges. Many grocery stores and other establishments in the UK have special parking spaces for parents with young children. In fact, a young woman in Worchester is demanding more family parking in the city of Droitwich. In ways such as these, Britain is more family friendly than U.S. In other ways, not so much (for example, the dearth of ADA-accessible doorways and buildings, which make stroller access very difficult...or the intolerant glares of not-so-child-friendly people...).

When Chris was on oxygen as a newly discharged NICU baby, we had a disabled parking sticker, which came in handy with an infant on oxygen. Of course, we hardly ever went anywhere in public with him, since it was winter and we were terrified of him catching something.

Pregnant women--especially those special ones who are having difficult, high-risk pregnancies--deserve to have life made a little bit easier for them. I've always been shocked to see the lack of chivalry displayed both by men and healthy women who fail to give up their seats for pregnant women.

And while we're at it, parents with young children also deserve a little bit of extra help at the supermarket.

Of course...if the U.S. were ever to enact such special parking privileges for either high-risk pregnant women or parents with young children (not that this would ever happen here!), it's too late for us to take advantage of them! :)

What I read in January

Here's my month-end summary of my reading activities and blog posts at Marie's Book Garden.

Rock Paper TigerRock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann, 2 stars: A female Iraqi vet ends up in China and ends up on the run from both Chinese and American authorities. Riveting in the beginning, but ultimately I was disappointed, especially with the ending.

This month I read two connected Dean Koontz books for my book group:

Odd ThomasIn Odd We TrustI'd never read Dean Koontz before, and I liked Odd Thomas much more than I thought I would (3 stars). Odd Thomas is a 20-year-old pancake cook living in the California desert...and he sees dead people. In the spirit of "Medium," he solves crimes by using this gift. In Odd We Trust (2 stars) is a graphic novel, a prequel to Odd Thomas (which is the first in the series of novels). I was less impressed with this one, but it took me only a few hours to read.

Knowing Jesse: A Mother's Story of Grief, Grace, and Everyday BlissMy only 5 star rating this month went to Knowing Jesse: A Mother's Story of Grief, Grace, and Everyday Bliss, by Marianne Leone. Leone gave birth to a 30-weeker (premature baby) who developed cerebral palsy. Although he couldn't talk much or walk, he lived a vibrant, loving life until he died at the age of 17. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but I loved it.

Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less TimeNext I read a quick little time management book, Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy (2.5 stars).  It gave me a few organizing ideas that I've put into place at work.

Up in the AirThe loser award for "put down before finishing" this month went to Up in the Air by Walter Kirn (2 stars), which is not a bad book, per just wasn't what I was expecting. I didn't find it be particularly compelling, although the writing was sound. Perhaps if I had been in the appropriate mood, I would have enjoyed it more.

The Lightning Thief (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)I've been reading the Percy Jackson series with Kieran, and we started with Book #1,  The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (3 stars). Were Kieran giving the rating, it would be 5 stars. Now we are nearly done with the Sea of Monsters, although Mike's been reading part of it too so I have lost the plot!

The 19th Wife: A NovelThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (4 stars) was the best novel I read in January. I enjoyed the mix of historical fiction (about the "19th" wife of Brigham Young) and modern-day polygamist murder mystery.

I also wrote about other topics:

 The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or On the Segregation of the Queen/A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (Mary Russell Novels)I'm a little over halfway through our February book club selection, The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, and am enjoying it. Why had I never heard about this series--about a spunky young woman who becomes apprentice to Sherlock Holmes? It's great fun.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Teach your children well

This beautiful video reminds me that our children and the children of our family and friends live a life of privilege. They are cherished, loved, and protected, while the children in war-torn, devastated developing countries (or sometimes in our own country) fight every day for their survival...and see things no child should ever see. It brings to mind the brilliant Suzanne Collins "Hunger Games" series. We are the Capitol, and they live in the districts.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why I refuse to read fashion magazines

These are just a few of the priceless photos posted at I Hurt I Am in Fashion, a relatively new blog that showcases completely bizarre or misogynistic (or both) photographs of the fashion industry. Each photo has a witty, inciseful caption. I encourage you to check out this blog: you'll never look at fashion models or photos in the same way again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Big brothers

I'm sure it's hard to be the youngest child at times. (I wouldn't know, being an oldest child.)

Even though he does get a fair amount of bossing around and has to fight for his rights sometimes (solely with Kieran, really), Nicholas is lucky to have two older brothers. (I would have liked an older sibling, even though I also liked being the oldest myself.)

The other day Kieran gave Nicholas a martial arts lesson--Nick was wearing one of his old belts and using oven mitts for martial arts gloves (not sure who came up with that idea!):

I've had meetings the last two nights after work. Last night I home from work to find Chris reading a book to Nicholas. He was watching him while Mike took Kieran to martial arts. Such a wonderful sight! I had only a half-hour before I had to go out again, and was trying to eat my dinner while Nick wanted to clamor on my lap. Chris suggested they go up to his room together. Soon I heard Nick singing, which he does when he's happy.

There's nothing that makes a parent more content than seeing his or her children spend time with each other and enjoy each other!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dumb as a post...

One of my dear friends and coworkers used to call a certain other coworker DAAP, which stood for "dumb as a post." (Said coworker no longer works in my firm, by the way.)

No, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) did not work for my company. But she fits the bill perfectly.

Now she claims that the founding fathers were the ones who abolished slavery.

Seriously. I'm crossing my fingers--seriously--for a Palin/Bachmann Republican ticket.

Bake sale to buy music, anyone?

"It'll be a great day when education gets
all the money it wants and the Air Force has to
hold a bake sale to buy bombers."
~Author unknown

Previously, our wonderful local elementary school had a phenomenal music program with a talented, committed teacher. Chris began playing in the band in fourth grade, and throughout his time at the school, he performed in a variety of band and choir concerts. The first-graders traditionally sang at the mall...fortunately Kieran got to participate in that last year.

Then came the devastating school budget cuts. No more music this year, and only a part-time PE teacher (because it's mandated by the state). The computer teacher/librarian only got to keep her job because of funds raised by the school foundation last year.

I'm on the foundation campaign committee this year, and we had a kick-off event on Friday evening. I desperately love our school community. So many people (especially the amazing staff) are dedicated to doing all they can to ensuring our kids have a well-rounded education, not just focused on hardcore academics. We are attempting to raise a very large sum of money this year ($84,000!), which will be extremely difficult because we are not a rich--or large--community. Many of our families have at least one stay-at-home parent (or part-time stay-at-home parent). Others are in lower income brackets. A few are disengaged or apathetic--or do not believe they should pay anything extra. We are aiming high but know that it's unlikely we will accomplish our goal.

May I just say that raising money to provide music and computer/library enrichment programs just plain SUCKS? I feel sorry for those first-graders who didn't get to sing at the mall this year, or the fourth-graders who don't get to start playing an instrument. How about the fifth-graders who learned how to play an instrument last year, but this year cannot continue in band? Or the kids who love to sing but have no way to do it?

Something is seriously broken in this country when we cannot provide our children with these very basic opportunities for learning and self-enhancement. It makes me very upset.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Imaginary Invalid

This afternoon Mike and I saw "The Imaginary Invalid" at Portland Center Stage (PCS) after a nice lunch at Noodles (love their tomato basil bisque) and a browse in Powell's.

"The Imaginary Invalid" is a broad farce written by the French playwright Moliere in 1673. It's the tale of an older man, Argan, who is a desperate hypochondriac. It's a biting satire on the snake oil practice of medicine at the time. Argan pays a fortune for pills and potions that he believes will relieve him of his horrific flatulence and bowel irritation. He's convinced he's on death's door, and this idea is encouraged by his unscrupulous doctor and even-more-unscrupulous young and conniving wife, Beline (who only wants to get her hands on his money).

Fortunately he has a very wise and spunky servant named Toinette and an adoring daughter, Angelique. Argan decides to marry off his daughter to a doctor (which she has never met), while in the meantime she has fallen in love with the dashing Cleante. Toinette plots to demonstrate to Argan Beline's scheming ways and convince him to let Angelique marry Cleante.

It was the last play Moliere wrote, and ironically, he collapsed during its fourth performance (during which he was portraying the lead role, Argan). I've never seen a Moliere play, so I had no standard of comparison. After reading the full plot summary (it was designed to be a three-act, even-more-complicated play), I was grateful that PCS chose to stage a shorter adaptation! I also read the critical reviews on Willamette Week and the Oregonian Web sites, in addition to Chris Coleman's fascinating discussion with the Oregonian theater critic. It's not the first time that I've attended a play and disagreed with the critics.

As always, the play was beautifully staged and costumed. We laughed out loud several times. I poked Mike a few times, too, as he is wont to be overly dramatic when he is feeling sick (Chris is prone to this tendency, too). When we were first married and he felt under the weather, he'd moan "It's been nice knowing you!"

I had no idea that doctors used to wear getups like this! My sister is a physician--wonder if she's ever thought of wearing such a costume?

I enjoyed this madcap comedy and especially appreciated the acting of Argon (world-class actor David Margulies) and Toinette (the always-wonderful Sharonlee McLean), and the overacting by John Wernke and Christine Calfas.

Even though medicine is much more reliable and ethical than it was in 1673, the play did bring to mind the modern comeback of "colonic irrigation," which people actually voluntarily request and are convinced will bring about improved health. These treatments can cost $55 to $95 a session, and typically a series of sessions are recommended. The main character, Argon, loves his enemas. Colonic irrigation is a prettier word, but an enema is still an enema, whatever you call it!

Best protest sign ever.


"You can tell if people are following Jesus, because they are feeding the poor, sharing their wealth, and trying to get everyone medical insurance." — Anne Lamott

Friday, January 21, 2011

Think I have a villain in the making?

Kieran's in an after-school drama club again. He's been waiting for it to start for MONTHS. After the first session, the teacher told Mike that Kieran was "advanced" because he knew all the theater lingo. She asked whether we take him to the theater a lot. Haha!

The kids will be writing their own play, and although when I asked him what it was about yesterday he said "Mom--it was just the first day!" he has come up with his costume and his character.

Kieran the gangster (notice the gray gunk on his face?)
Card shark
(not sure where he came up with this!)
From a fairly young age, Kieran's been fascinated by villains. Should I be worried?

A young pirate eating ice cream

As the Wicked Witch of the West at his 4th birthday
party (with Uncle Henry, Aunty Em, and Dorothy)

With the WWW herself (after a production of the "Wizard of Oz" at Washington Park)

Conducting a seance, communicating with the dead

Wizard in Wellies


Batman pirate

Reminds me of the photo of Sirius Black behind bars!

Dracula (Halloween 2009)

In fencing class--en garde!

The female Lisbeth Salandar
(who, I realize, is not a villain, but she is tough!)
 Then there's the obsession with weaponry:

With the gun in the pirate store I refused to let him buy
(but told him I would take a photo of)

With one of his many swords (and Daniel Boone cap)
I'm just kidding of course. Even though he's drawn to the dark side, he's really a sweetheart.

Be careful if making a right turn on a red light in Oregon

Some of you might have heard our story about how Mike received a $200+ ticket for supposedly driving in the bike lane near the Old Market Pub in southwest Portland. It was a trap set up to catch drivers, because cyclists had complained about people driving in the bike lane. No cyclists were in sight, and Mike does not believe he drove into the bike lane...but to be honest, the curve is difficult to make without veering into it slightly. He went to court but was unable to get his fine reduced by much.

Now it pays to be very careful about coming to a full stop before turning on a red light or at a stop sign. Fines could be up to $382 in the City of Beaverton.

Curious about where you can turn right on red? This site, although unofficial, explains where it is permissible. Apparently it is illegal in Britain and New York City.

Honestly, who cares if Obama has dyed his gray hair away?

His hair has definitely gone gray during the past year and a half. Who could blame him? And why should we care if he wants to dye out the gray?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tragedy, doubled aware that the image at the bottom of this post is shocking and graphic.

Isabelle Caro was a French model who became famous when she appeared in the ad campaign for "No Anorexia" (below). She had suffered from anorexia from the age of 13, and she died last November at age 28. At the worst of her eating disorder, she weighed only 55 pounds (at 5 feet, 5 inches).

This site shows photos of Caro when she was healthy, in addition to an interview with Jessica Simpson.

I've been personally touched by anorexia, because my college roommate and two relatives had it. My mom used to work with young women afflicted by anorexia when she was a mental health therapist on a psychiatric unit. It's a horrible disease, and very difficult to overcome. (Fortunately, both my college roommate and relatives recovered from it.)

Now it's been announced that Marie Caro, Isabelle's mother, has committed suicide because of the terrible grief over her daughter's death.

This terrible disease devastates lives. If you are a parent and you want to lose weight, please emphasize your desire for health instead of your desire to be skinny. Do not put yourself or your appearance down. Refrain from calling yourself fat. We need to model healthy self-images for our children. We need to teach them to love themselves, no matter their shape or size. They get enough negative imagery from the media and popular culture. My heart goes out to this poor family and anyone who has been affected by eating disorders.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rainy weekend at the beach

We spent a rainy three-day weekend at the beach...watching movies, playing games, reading books, doing plays (Nick), playing with lego, and hanging out. (I also did some work, unfortunately!)

For those of you not on Facebook (or not checking it), here were some of the conversations from the weekend:
"Nick wants Chris to be in his play, Scooby Doo and the Yeti's Winter Wonderland. Chris said okay, but then he started doing his homework, to which Nick shouted 'Chris! It's not called The Yeti and His Homework'!! Poor Chris...always getting bossed around by his YOUNGER brothers!"
"Slept in until 8:30 this a.m. Mike told the boys that I'm not an early bird like they are...and that I'm a night owl. Nick then said 'oh, you mean she's hibertating?'"

Kieran with the slingshot he bought at Flamingo Jim's...

Chris doing homework

Mike and Nick watching a movie

Nick eating grapes
More grapes
Tillamook County was hit by widespread flooding. After we drove down to the beach on Friday night, the next day Highway 6 was closed because of a landslide 6 miles east of Tillamook. Consequently, we drove back via the Mohler Road, which is very windy and full of hairpin turns (not a favorite for our carsick-prone boys, but I don't mind it). Then today Highway 101 was closed north of Rockaway because of another we are fortunate we left when we did.

Because of the intense rain, we got down to the beach as a family only once, on Monday. (Mike and Nick also went out in the rain on Sunday.)
The boys posing on a picturesque tree trunk
My little poser

The log, unadorned

My shy retiring boy ("Mom, take a photo!")

And another one...
He's determined to be the first middle child with tons of photos!

Walking on the log-laden beach by the jetty



View from the jetty--wintry, silty ocean

The other side of the jetty


Chris and Mike