Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vacation pics

...are here:

Eventually I will figure out how to get a password on there. When I do, it will be:
username: "myfirstname"
password: "mylastname"

I know that Macs are supposed to be simple to use, but I can't for the life of me figure out all the new features of the change to "mobile me." ( I'm not sure how they are related, still. I know, I know. I'm an idiot.)

Yes, they told me I could watch a tutorial. But who has time for a tutorial? Luckily, I am married to my tech support, so he will figure it out and show me.

Until then, no password.

I've basically been on vacation for the last two weeks. And it has been lovely. We are having a glorious weekend back at home, with perfect weather, visits to the pool, parties, fun with friends.

Everything will come crashing down on Tuesday. School starts for both kids and I head back to work. Tuesday will be tough.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Good pick for McCain

If someone had told me years ago that the Republican Presidential candidate would pick a Vice President running mate who reminded me of my sister, I would have laughed in their face.

And then, today.

(Ing, if you are reading this - don't worry - she doesn't remind me of you in the slightest in your political views. You are liberal. She is conservative. I doubt there is any agreement at all on any social issue.)

But....the similarities (on paper) are eerie:
1) hockey players
2) flute players
3) long time Alaska residents
4) Moose aficionados
5) Beautiful
6) Smart
7) Can pilot a float plane
8) Politically active
9) Tough
10) Independent

Until today, my sister was the only float-plane flying, hockey playing, beautiful, smart Alaskan resident I've known. (I'm sure there are many - but I only know the one.)

I say this is a good choice for McCain. Shakes things up a bit.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What a speech

The one good thing about being back in the Midwest is that I no longer have to stay up past my bedtime to feed my political speech addiction.

Over the last four days, I've watched boring speeches (Kerry), I've watched clever speeches (Clinton, Bill); I've watched good, but fundamentally strange, speeches (Clinton, Hillary); I've watched folksy speeches (Biden); I've watched business-as-usual speeches (Warner). I've watched a lot of speeches.

But tonight is perhaps the first time in my life that I've ever felt inspired by a political speech. Obama just makes you want to go out, serve the country and do good things for the world.

(Hmm...maybe I should do some recruiting calls tomorrow for my favorite program in the world - Big Brothers/Big Sisters - maybe other people heard the speech too...)

We all have one particular issue that speaks to us above all others. For some it is the environment. For other, taxes. For me, it is childhood poverty.

I've been active in mentoring programs since I was 21. I'm going to be 40 years old next week. So, I've seen a lot of poverty. In almost 20 years, this will be the first time that I have EVER felt, truly in my heart, that a national politician "gets" poverty. And has concrete plans to eradicate it, using both government programs and personal responsibility.

I know one thing. My "little" will be listening to that speech in full. I'll find it on the internet, somewhere. We'll watch it together and I'll show her that there is at least one very important man out there who truly cares about her and her future.

What a speech.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pictures from a vacation

We are on our last day of a fabulous vacation in MD/DE/NJ with my parents. Pics are below. Real photos with actual identifiable faces will be posted on the website or the facebook account upon return. Back to real life in Wisconsin tomorrow. : (

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


We've been very hot-and-cold with our Olympics consumption. If we turn it on at night, we're hooked - sucked in for the night. If we don't turn it on, we don't care, and are pretty uninterested in the results.

Mostly we watched the swimming. I also got sucked into the women's marathon. To my surprise, NBC showed us almost the whole thing. And I watched it. I am perhaps the only person in the universe who thinks it is fun to watch women run for 2 hours and 19 minutes.

As I approach the big 4-0, I particularly enjoyed watching Dara Torres swim and Romania's Constantina Tomescu-Dita run. I have a theory that childbirth makes you stronger and gives you more endurance. I'm a much better runner now than I was 20 years ago. I ran 18 miles this weekend. The most I could run when I was twenty was 5 miles. The biggest change, for me, has been recovery time. Ten years ago, I could go all-out on a super long run, and then continue on with my day. Now, I need to rest. and rest. and rest. When I do an 18 mile run, my poor husband is pretty much in charge of just about everything for the rest of the day.

And people ask me why I run marathons. Ha!  You get 3 hours away from all your responsibilities in the morning due to the long run. And than a whole afternoon of resting. What else will give you that free time?  All you need is a very nice husband.  And the craziness to actually enjoy running for that long.  

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's like a trainwreck.

I can't stop reading this Atlantic article on the Clinton campaign. And the actual memos. Oh my.

I'm finding this more pornographic than the Edwards scandal. Well, I guess there wasn't any sex involved. (Bill's memos aren't included.) So should I say politographic?

My favorite description:

Penn believed that voters view their president as the “father” of the country. “They do not want someone who would be the first mama,” he counseled. “But there is a yearning for a kind of tough single parent.” (He did not propose divorce.)

It's fascinating to read all the assumptions throughout all these memos about what voters want...what they they'll vote. It's almost as if they truly believed it. Really? I'm yearning for a tough single parent? I hadn't noticed.

(When husband D goes to Asia, I'm a single parent for many days on end, and honestly, the only way I get through is by drinking lots of red wine. Trust me, you do not want me running the country after I've had lots of red wine.)

And the office miscommunication and mismanagement by memos, oh my. This has *got* to become a sitcom. The Hollywood writers should be lining up. "The Office" has nothing on this!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Through the eyes of a lens

We took our "little" to the local botanical gardens. We've been a few times before, but she's never really shown much interest. I was taking a picture of her looking at a butterfly and she asked me if she could hold the camera and take a few pictures.

What a difference. We were there for another hour and she was entranced the entire time, taking some pretty phenomenal photos. (granted, I may be biased here.) She photographed some flowers and spots that I'd never even noticed. For some reason, the camera made everything fascinating to her.

At the end of the visit, she looked up at me with wide eyes, and said, "Do you think I could be a photographer someday?" I have to admit I got a little choked up as I replied, "Sweetie, I think that you can do whatever you want to do."

I try not to blog about her - she's not my kid. But she's a huge part of my life. She faces obstacles that neither I or my kids will ever really understand.

And I think she takes some pretty great photos that I can't resist sharing: (except for the fuzzy out-of-focus one, with her in it, I took that one.)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dear John

John, John, John.

Normally, I could care less what you do in your personal life, as long as you and your spouse have agreed to the arrangement. Maybe you've got a Clinton-esque union? It's not for me, but who am I to dictate the terms of other people's marriages?

But this post puts it best: How could he be so stupid?

Did he not realize that this would be national news in a split second? He may have gotten away with this 30 years ago. Or in France. But in America's 24-hour news coverage culture? My office has a TV in our lobby set to CNN. John Edwards ran across the ticker all afternoon. Constantly.

How does a man face his children when his indiscretions are the CNN ticker?

The really sad part is that his wife is so absolutely phenomenal. I think she's been an inspiration to many of us. One of my friends interviewed her last year and was very impressed. She deserves better than this.

Another sleazy political career bites the dust. Good riddance. Add him to the long legacy of philandering politicians: Clinton, McCain, Gingrich, Spitzer, McGreevey.

And God bless Elizabeth Edwards. She seems all the more amazing now, facing this *and* cancer in the course of a year.

I wonder, if this had come out earlier - would Hillary have gotten the Democratic nomination? Stuff like this makes me want to vote for a woman. I'm not sure why, really.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Above the Arctic Circle

Talked to my sister tonight. She is here in Kaktovik, AK, otherwise known as the end of the earth.

I was telling a neighbor about her adventures up there, about how she is working with the Inupiat/Eskimo/Inuit children (Not sure which word is correct...) and about how she is about to embark on a 2 week solo bike ride across the wild northern lands of Alaska to Fairbanks.

He looked at me with great puzzlement. "You two are related?" He asked. "Are you sure about that?" (Me, who thinks that a trip to Banana Republic without my credit card is roughing it.)

It's funny how two people can grow up with the same parents, in the same house, go to the same schools, have the same pets, be the same gender and practically the same age and turn out so fantastically different. (Although, I did listen with great interest to last weekend's "This American Life Switched At Birth" - I suppose anything is possible.)

I often blame the difference on my own two kids on gender. But I suspect that's just an excuse - an easy thing to pick out.

I'm scouring the map looking for actual roads between Kaktovik and Fairbanks. I don't see any roads - nothing that even resembles a road, really. How exactly, does one bike when there are no roads?

I stuck my fingers in my ears and started singing "la la la" when she was telling me about the cute polar bears. Polar Bears are cute on National Geographic videos. Not live and in person.

The kids, however, are enthralled. Can you imagine anything on earth cooler than an aunt with a life like that?

Monday, August 4, 2008

No child gets ahead, revisited

A teacher at daughter D's school wrote this article for the Progressive.

Teachers like her are what make our school so amazing.

Our standardized test scores are low, so we have a reputation for being a "bad" or "failing" school. The fact that 30% of our school speaks English as a second language skews our test scores low. If I'd taken my 3rd grade language standardized tests in French, I would have gotten a low score.

The test scores are published in the paper each spring. And each spring, I'm amazed by how many parents make school decisions based on the test scores. Of the latest scores that were published, Guess what? Ours were low.

But if you delve into the raw data, you realize that within this particular group of test-takers - a grand total of 8 students - yes EIGHT - were considered "not economically disadvantaged." All it takes is for one of those students to have a bad day and the percentages of "advanced students" go way down.

It's a vicious circle. You need to get the test scores up to get/keep funding and to attract parents to your school. But the minute they start teaching for the test, the teachers become less effective.

I'm not against measuring progress and testing for knowledge. But using the same test at both a school with 100% english-speaking, above-poverty-line students at a school like ours....that doesn't really tell you much. It punishes the schools that are already dealing with huge problems (poverty, immigrants, etc.)

There's got to be a better way.

McCain seems to think that school choice is the answer:

For parents like us (over-educated, with easy access to transportation and flexible schedules), school choice is an attractive option. But really, will it solve anything? Our poor schools will just become more poor. Poverty doesn't go away just because you can't see it. I'm not 100% against the concept of school choice. I just haven't seen an option that wouldn't result in a huge segregation between the "haves" and the "have nots." And McCain almost seems to blame the school for the problem. I don't like that. In our case, at least, the school is doing everything it can with a group of fantastic teachers.

Obama seems, to me, to be hitting on the larger issue:

We need to get to these kids BEFORE they hit elementary school. And expand before/after school care for those in need. That's the only way we are going to get those test scores up, in my humble opinion. I also like what he says about NCLB - about supporting the schools that need help - not punishing them.

It's August. My first of way-too-many school-related meetings is tomorrow. Let the crazy life of a reluctant PTA president at a "left behind" school begin...

Friday, August 1, 2008

I'm Mr. Heat Miser, I'm Mr. Hundred and One.

Finally, REAL summer has arrived in Wisconsin. Highs are up in the 80s (almost 90s!) and the humidity is sweltering. I love it. I should really be living in the tropics. Everyone else is complaining, but I'm secretly overjoyed.

The problem, however, is air conditioning. I hate air conditioning. Normally, I can keep it off - citing cost savings, energy conservation, etc. But when the high temp is 89 with 80% humidity, and the rest of the city has had their A/C on for weeks, I must compromise and allow my dear husband to turn it on.

So, I walk around the house with my winter fleece on. It's criminal.

And don't get me started on my office. I'm convinced that Mr. Snow Miser is in charge of the corporate thermostat. I leave the house with my parka in hand so I don't get stuck shivering through a meeting.

So far, the kids seem to be immune to any extreme temperature. They love to play outside when it is 20 degrees. They love to play outside when it is 90 degrees. I don't think I've ever heard them complain about the weather.

However, they have become experts at conniving to get decadent snacks at the extreme temperatures. Who can say "no" to a strawberry ice cream cone when it is sweltering? Who can refuse making a cup of hot cocoa topped with whip cream when it is frigid?