Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Little Thing

Samantha had her first Cheetos yesterday at Target.  She looks good in orange.

The Incremental Invention of the Sewing Machine

Part 2 of Adam's series.  (His title that says, "part 1 of 2" indicates that he has split this particular section about the invention itself into 2 parts, but this post is still #2 in the whole series.)

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is presented to you by One Reality, one of my favorite blogs.  (I definitely need to update by blogroll.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who Cares About the Invention of the Sewing Machine

Here is part 1 of Adam's series at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Elbow Grease

Adam and I are finally getting back in the habit of working on the house.  We did a great job unpacking and making repairs until we went to Florida for Christmas, but then Adam started a new semester, we got sick, and other projects seemed to get in the way.  We did a few things, but our momentum was lost.

A couple of weeks ago, we prioritized the list of home improvements we want to make.  It's probably a 10 year plan, and it comprises 71 tasks - things that range from repairing two toilets, to finishing unpacking, to remodeling the entire kitchen. 

Having a prioritized list really kick-started our efforts.  Last weekend we hung most of our art.  Adam has always been a stickler for getting this done quickly after a move, so the fact that it took us 5 months shows you how busy we were this winter.  I had forgotten how many nice prints we have, and having them on the walls makes it feel like home. 

I've managed to continue cleaning the house.  I don't mean the daily chores like cleaning toilets and mopping the floors, but things like scrubbing walls and baseboards with a stiff brush.  This house was just filthy and disgusting when we moved in.  I'm still finding long, dark hairs stuck to doors and walls.  Nobody in our family has long, dark hair.  Ewwwww.

I'm just about finished with a project I started in March:  cleaning the tile grout on my kitchen floor.  I use OxiClean and a scrub brush and it's quite a workout.  I can't do the whole thing in one go since I have fractured time, so I've been doing small sections.  I think I've done about 15 sections at 1-2 hours apiece.  But here is the difference it makes:

Elbow Grease


I really love owning a home.  I love making it better, bit by bit.  I love my long list of things to do.  Sometimes I get stressed out about all the money it will take to accomplish what we want to do, but then I remember that we don't have to do all of these things right this instant.  Even if we had all the money we needed, it would still take a few years to get it all done.  And doing these things is fun.  I enjoy it.  Holy cow - I actually enjoy the process!

I've come a long way since last year, when I wrote about my time sickness.  Good job, me!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eat Your Veggies

This song, sung to the tune of "Where is Thumbkin," got Samantha to eat a big plate of vegetables.  Making up food songs seems to be a great trick for this particular kid.  I wonder if that is universal?

Eat your veggies
Eat your veggies
Finish them all
Finish them all
Chew them and then swallow
Chew them and then swallow
Yum Yum Yum
Yum Yum Yum

Monday, April 27, 2009

It Was Bound to Happen

My husband, Adam, will be making his blogging debut this week at The Volokh Conspiracy.  He'll be writing about his sewing machine article, so if you were intrigued by my description of it but didn't have the fortitude to slug through an academic piece, this may be the way to go.

I can't believe that I beat him to blogging.  He taught me what a blog was, back in 2002.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Easy Orange-Cream Chicken Drumsticks

My first pet was a cat named Geddy who was a tabby-Siamese mix.  He was orange and white like a tabby, but his short hair, markings and face (and his loud, demanding meow) reflected his Siamese heritage.  He was so sweet that we often called him the "orange creamsicle."  Don't you remember those orange popsicles with the cream inside?  We had to put Geddy to sleep almost 3 years ago and I still miss him.  He was an irreplaceable value to me. 

Anyway, I'm a sucker for orange and cream now.  This recipe is just a modification of something I found in Joy of Cooking, but I made it up in honor of my old cat.  I don't like sweet dishes much, but this one turned out delicious, with just a hint of orange/citrus.  It was cheap and easy and I loved every bite.  This one's for you, Geddy!

Orange Cream Chicken Drumsticks

  • Enough chicken drumsticks (or other parts you like) to fit in your biggest frying pan (I got 9 drumsticks in mine, probably about 2 pounds?)

  • 2 Tablespoons butter

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1-2 Tablespoons minced garlic

  • 1 Tablespoon honey

  • Pinch of allspice

  • 1 cup chicken stock (or less, to taste)

  • 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice (I used a lazy squeeze of one whole orange)

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I might have used more)

  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

  • Salt and pepper

Season your chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until golden and fragrant. (I used the vegetable oil as recommended this time instead of my usual olive oil but I'm sure you can substitute any fat you like.)

Arrange chicken pieces skin side down in a single layer in the pan.  Fry until the chicken is nicely browned on the bottom and detaches itself easily from the pan, about 6 minutes.  Turn and repeat.  Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the chicken, turning often, until the dark meat pieces excude clear juices when pricked, about 20 minutes more. (I had to do it more like 40, including some time with the lid on the pan, but I had reduced the heat to medium-low to keep the fat from burning. You must use your judgement, here.)

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil (or put in a low oven) to keep warm.

Leave the fat in the pan, keeping the heat at medium, and add your garlic, honey, and allspice.  Saute for a couple of minutes.

Increase the heat to high and add 1/2 cup chicken stock and the orange juice.  This is where you need to use your judgment about how much liquid to add.  The idea is to scrape the bottom of the pan for all the good brown stuff and boil the liquid for a while (5 minutes or so?) until you have a nice, condensed, fatty, tasty liquid of about 1/2 cup.  I like a concentrated taste and reducing seems to take much longer than recipes call for, so I add less liquid, but the recipe called for a full cup so you might need it.

Then, add 1/4 cup heavy cream.  I didn't measure, but I think I used about that amount or maybe a bit more.  Again, this is the art part.  Add enough to make it creamy, but not enough to dilute the flavor.  I like cream.

Boil until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes (don't let it boil too much...keep stirring.)

Add the vinegar and stir.  Add salt and pepper and any other seasonings to taste.  Right now, the sauce should taste STRONG.  Remember, you are not eating it straight.  If it is bland, you need to reduce and add spices.

Once you have a strong, absolutely delicious sauce, turn off the heat, pour it into a cup, and serve it with the chicken.

I'm trying to reduce carbs now, but this is one dish that goes well with mashed potatoes or anything else that you like to sop up sauce with.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Little Thing

Having an appreciative audience for my own crazy performance of David Lee Roth's Just A Gigolo.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Never Did Get to That

Today is Earth Day, or as I prefer to celebrate, Exploit-the-Earth Day. (See yesterday's post for more on that subject.)  Last year I promised that I'd post links to some art that I like that contrasts the natural with the man-made.   That was right after I started the blog and didn't realize that MAKING PROMISES TO MY READERS ABOUT FUTURE POSTS IS A BAD IDEA.


Now I'm finally free of that old promise.  What a relief.

But then there's still that Selfish Parenting thread I promised...

Environmentalism is the New Bogeyman (and God)

Besides the fact that environmentalism perverts the very concept of value (by placing some intrinsic value in nature, apart from man), reflects a terrible method of thinking (non-scientific/non-rational), and calls for human sacrifice in a way that is potentially more destructive than any holocaust in history, environmentalism is now indisputably the new religion of our age.  I take as evidence, the fact that it is more scary than hell.

I'm being a bit bombastic here, and I'm not sure the exact results of the survey can be trusted, but we know at least some percentage of kids are really frightened by the potential for environmental disaster. Personally, I'm frightened by this statement from the article:
Interestingly enough, kids vex over the state of the planet, especially when it came to safe and clean air and water, regardless of any pro-environmental measures on the part of their parents. A staggering 95 percent of the children surveyed said their parents pitched in by recycling, using rechargeable batteries, and conserving water and electricity.

It's amazing to me that whoever wrote this never considered the possibility that "parents pitching in" is exactly what is contributing to the children's fears.  It's like saying, "In a surprise finding, Catholic children fear hell more than all other children combined, despite the fact that the religion shows them exactly how to avoid hell."  It only makes sense if you accept the premises of Catholicism and believe in hell.

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just for Fun

Here are a couple of neat dance routines to get you in the mood for the premier of So You Think You Can Dance on May 21. 

If you take your eyes off of this for just a second, any second, you'll miss something wonderful. I love the interpretation of the music - Coldplay's Viva la Vida - especially the spins through the break at 1:40 in the video:

This one is just smoooooooth:

Dollar Menu

I'm glad Samantha is growing up before cash totally disappears.  It's going to be more difficult for future generations to understand money when all transactions are electronic.  As it is, Sam hardly ever sees cash, except at McDonald's and maybe when the pizza delivery Peopleguy comes to our house.

Samantha's aunt gave her a lovely silver bank when she was born.  It's been sitting on her bedroom shelf collecting dust ever since, but Adam and I have been looking forward to the time when she could start using it.  Yesterday, we finally got around to giving her a few pennies to put in the bank.  I sat with her on the floor and gave her a cup with a dozen or so pennies it in, and showed her how to put one in the bank.  She grabbed the cup from me and said, BYE-BYE MOMMY! which is her way of asking to be left alone.  I sat in a chair nearby and watched as she joyously started shoving pennies in the bank, saying to herself:


Sunday, April 19, 2009


Today is my one-year anniversary as a blogger.  In a coincidence that satisfies my craving for round numbers, this is also my 400th post. 

Even though I've always loved to write, I was never good at keeping a journal.  Blogging is much more fun.  I love organizing my thoughts into short essays, finding ways to make them fun, and sharing Sam's development with family and friends. 

Happy Birthday, The Little Things!

Verbal Skills

As you can probably tell from my recent posts, Samantha is quite a talker now.  Her soliloquies are much more sophisticated than the series of nouns she used to string together.  I've been having a hard time recording her speeches because they are too long to remember, but I got this one down the other day, pretty much verbatim, as she went around the house looking for the cat, whom she likes to kiss when she's feeling blue:


"Can't find Jinx anywhere."  "Maybe Jinx upstairs hiding."  Wow!  That blew me away!

(And, yes, I helped her to find Jinx, who was upstairs the whole time.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Little Thing

I told Sam that something was crooked and she repeated the word:  CROOKED.  It reminded me of a nursery rhyme, which I attempted to tell her:  "There was a crooked man and he lived in a crooked house and he had a crooked cat and it found a crooked mouse." 


Sorry, I don't remember the rest.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Taking Turns

Samantha is learning how to take turns!  After a few Montessori classes, I can see the light bulb going off.  

She really likes to play with a particular toy at Montessori:  a low, flat box full of hard clay, with golf tees and a mallet with which to pound them into the clay.  This week, the clay toy came to her attention when she saw another girl pick it up.  She went over to grab at it, and I did my usual explanation of how the other girl had chosen it and Sam could have a turn when she was finished.  Sam didn't protest, and went on to work on a puzzle.  But in the middle of it, she leapt down from her chair and raced away.  When I looked up, I saw that she was picking up the clay toy just as the other girl returned it to its shelf.  She had her eye on that toy the whole time!  And since that lesson was the most important at the moment, I didn't call her back to put away the puzzle, but went with her and told her that THAT was called taking turns.  Ok, so I probably praised her too.  I'm still working on less praise and more description.  But I was so pleased!

Round Up

I'm a bit late with the news, but here is the latest Objectivist Round Up, hosted by Tito's Blog.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


How does a 27 pound human being make that much noise just walking across a wood floor?

A Little Thing



Right!  What else?



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Drama Queen

So I'm unloading the dishwasher and Sam is in one of her moods and wants attention.  What does she do?  She runs around until she falls down and hurts herself.  I walk by without comment and she screams and lifts her arms, asking me to pick her up.  No such luck, girlie.  As I'm putting the dishes in a cabinet, she gets up, runs after me, and screams again.  I say, "I see that you were able to get up on your own."  That silences her immediately.  After a moment of thought, she runs and falls on her face again.  I walk by once more, saying, "I'm not playing that game."  As she is howling and screaming and whining, I can just make out her words, YES, PLAY THAT GAME, MOMMY. PLAY THAT GAME.

I swear, I'm working on the not-laughing thing.

A Little Thing


What do you love?


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beware of Twitter!

Did you know that Tweeting can make you immoral?  It's true, say some scientists.  Here are some excellent points that you just can't dispute:
...[R]apid-fire news updates and instant social interaction are too fast for the 'moral compass' of the brain to process.

...[H]eavy Twitters and Facebook users could become 'indifferent to human suffering'.

Celebrities of all types - from rugby players to chefs to pop stars - are becoming hooked on the instant updates [and we know celebs are BAD].

'Lasting compassion in relationship to psychological suffering requires a level of persistent, emotional attention.'

I feel really bad when I see roadkill.  Does that make me moral?  Sometimes I spend minutes upon minutes thinking about the suffering of everyone who ever watched a Michael Moore documentary.  I must be really good.  But those kids today - they're just moving too darn fast.  I know cuz I have that science stuff to back me up:
The study used compelling, real-life stories to induce admiration for virtue or skill, or compassion for physical or social pain, in 13 volunteers.


My Good Boys

We had such a nice morning with Rational Jenn and her family last week.  We just hung out while the kids played for a couple of hours.  There were a million things I wanted to talk to her about and didn't have the time.  It's pretty nice to make friends over the blogosphere; normally it would take me a couple of years to become that comfortable with someone.   

The kids got along great.  I had forgotten that Jenn's son is a bit afraid of dogs, but luckily we had put Toby in his crate before they arrived.  Ryan was visibly nervous when he arrived to the sound of a barking dog.  Toby, although he is the friendliest dog ever, can sound pretty scary!  Paradoxically, everyone immediately falls in love with Jinx, who is the real terror. 

Adam is so good with kids and animals that I think he kind of took it upon himself to cure Ryan of his fear.  First, he helped ease Ryan into petting Toby through the crate.  Then he had Ryan stand on top of a trunk where Toby couldn't jump on him, and he opened the crate while making Toby stay inside.  Then he called Toby out in a controlled way (I think he used the leash, too) and made him sit again.  Adam showed Ryan how Toby obeyed his commands.  Ryan liked it when Adam sent Toby up and down the stairs over and over just to show that he would do it.  Ryan was not "cured," but by the end of the morning he was able to handle being in the same room with Toby loose, which was awesome to see.  Yea, Ryan! 

I was pretty proud of my dog.  As we always say, "Toby: he's a licker and a lover, not a fighter and a biter."

But I was even more proud of Adam.  I wasn't paying that much attention to the whole thing, but I know how he is - he is so empathetic and patient - it's what makes him a great dad.  Come to think of it, that must be where Samantha gets her strong sense of empathy!  I never made that connection before.  Neat!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Funny Parenting Concepts

Ayn Rand said that concepts represent, "condensations of knowledge, which make further study and the division of cognitive labor possible."  (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology)  We form concepts so that we can hold an unlimited number of concretes as one unit in our minds:
In any given moment, concepts enable man to hold in the focus of his conscious awareness much more than his purely perceptual capacity would permit. The range of man’s perceptual awareness—the number of percepts he can deal with at any one time—is limited. He may be able to visualize four or five units—as, for instance, five trees. He cannot visualize a hundred trees or a distance of ten light-years. It is only his conceptual faculty that makes it possible for him to deal with knowledge of that kind.

Ayn Rand, “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” The Romantic Manifesto

In every field, there are concepts called, "terms of art."  These are concepts necessary in that field, but not to the public at large.  Lawyers have a million of them.  In parenting, there are some shared terms of art, but I have the sense that many families make up their own.  A bit of humor is almost always part of the mix.  It's no different with us.  Adam and I have two favorite made-up concepts, both of which are acronyms:  TOOMA and LWEA (pronounced la-wee-ya).

TOOMA is "theorizing-out-of-my-ass," and we made it up when Sam was a tiny baby, when we found that we were going off the deep end with "maybe's" about why she was doing anything other than being a blob.  "Why is she making those bubbles?  Maybe she is teething.  Maybe she is congested. Maybe she is autistic.  Ah, shit, I'm TOOMA-ing again!"

LWEA is a more recent development.  It stands for "leave-well-enough-alone," and although this seems like a simple idea, we've found that having a distinct concept helps a lot, and that it's slightly different than the common phrase.  I find that quite often I want to ask Sam questions, or show her something interesting, or see how she might handle something, so I interrupt what she is doing to ask, show, or give.  But when she is busy with something, I should really leave her alone.  It's better for her not to be interrupted, and when she is happily occupied, the selfish thing to do is to leave her alone and do something for myself!  "Hey Sam. Hey!  Do you want to see this video of a whale on YouTube?  Sam?  Hello?  Ah, shit, LWEA!"

What are your unique parenting concepts?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

One Room Schoolhouse

Here is the second story that my aunt transcribed from my grandmother's writings - this one about her experience in the classic one-room schoolhouse.  I loved to learn that she skipped a grade and was not fond of physiology, just as I skipped a grade and hated all the memorization of my 7th grade biology class.


My Year in a One-Room School

by Mary Afflerbach

When I was ten year old, my older brother contracted tuberculosis and leaving his job in New York City he came home to try and regain his health.  Thereupon, my parents moved back to the rural upstate Pennsylvania community where they had grown up, in the hope that the mountain air would prove therapeutic for my brother.  There were no miracle drugs at that time and the only treatment for tuberculosis was fresh air, good nourishing food and rest.

As the disease was known to be highly infectious, I was packed off to live with Aunt Mary and Uncle Will, who lived on a farm a short distance up the road, and thus, I entered the sixth grade at the country school about a half-mile away.

The schoolhouse to which I went was a small, white-painted frame building with a short bell-tower.  The bell was rung to summon us inside for the start of the day's work and at the end of lunchtime and recess.  Inside the building there was a row and a half of double desks, starting at the front with the smallest and increasing in size as they went toward the back.  As you were promoted from one grade to the next, you moved back a row to a larger desk.  Everyone had a seatmate.  I didn't like the girl I sat with very much.

Behind the short row of seats was a Franklin stove which provided heat for the building in winter.  In front of the teacher's desk was a bench to which each grade in turn was called to recite.  On the wall above the blackboard were large framed pictures of Washington and Lincoln, and on the side wall a classic schoolhouse clock on which the hands moved ever so slowly toward 4 o'clock, the end of the school day.

There was no electricity or indoor plumbing; the toilets were in a double outhouse, one side for the boys, the other for the girls.  Every morning one of the older boys was dispatched to a nearby farmhouse to bring a fresh bucket of water for drinking.  We each had our own collapsible metal cup which we filled from a dipper that hung by the water bucket.

The schoolhouse sat on a plot of about a quarter-acre and this was our playground.  In fine weather we played our version of baseball or tag or various circle games during lunch time and recess.  In winter we all gathered around the stove and had informal classes there.

Our teacher was Mrs. Fitch, a petite young woman who had grown up, and still lived on a nearby farm and consequently was well-acquainted with all her pupils.  She was something of an exception, the school board not looking with favor on married woman teachers, but since she was still childless and possibly because her family had some clout in the community, she was allowed to continue to teach.  She was a graduate of "Normal School," which was the forerunner of the State Teachers Colleges, which eventually became the regional State Colleges and Universities of today.  she was friendly and kind, and taught with a quiet dignity and firmness, and I remember no time when her discipline was challenged, even by the 15 year old boys who ere repeating the 8th grade because the law said they had to got to school until they were 16.

As an example of her dedication, I remember a morning after a big snow storm when I trudged through knee-deep snow to attend school, to find no one there except the teacher.  As we had no telephone, she had no way to let me know that school was cancelled, and believing that I might come to school despite the snow, she made her way to the school and kindled a fire so that I might get warm before starting back home.

The year I attended Sugar Point School there were about 15 pupils, ranging in age from 6 to 15, divided among 8 grades, although I am not sure that every grade was represented.  One boy and I comprised the 6th grade.  The school day began with the teacher reading from the Bible, followed by our recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.  Then starting with the first grade, each class was called to the front to recite.  The first grade learned the sounds of the letters and to read by phonics.  They also learned numbers, writing and spelling.  Each day I had arithmetic, reading spelling, grammar, geography and history.  Since I was a quick study, I listened in on the higher grades and by the time the term ended, I was doing 7th grade work and was promoted to the 8th grade.

Once a week we had physiology and Palmer method writing.  Physiology was my least favorite subject because there were so many things to memorize, such as the names of all the bones in the body.  I never got very good at making those perfect loops and circles by arm movement, either.  Every Friday we had a spelling bee.  Everyone participated, the younger pupils being given easier words.  We stood half on either side of the room until we were "spelled down" by missing a word.   I don't remember if I was the last one standing, but I don't think I was ever the first to go down.

I enjoyed the intimacy of the school and I am sure I learned some basics there.  There was a lot of rote learning, but it was probably good memory training.  Of course the year was overshadowed by my brother's illness and my separation from my family, although I did see them frequently.  Shortly after the school year ended, my brother died and we moved back to the city.  The next year I went to a conventionally graded school, but I always appreciated having the unique experience of my year in a one-room country school.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up can be found at Titanic Deck Chairs.

More Socializing

We have three social events this weekend.  Tomorrow, fellow Objectivist mommy blogger Rational Jenn and her family are coming to visit.  I feel like I'm going to meet a celebrity!  Saturday, we're spending the day with a friend from Taiwan who is town on business.  I only wish his wife and son could have come too but it's going to be great to see him again.  Sunday, we're celebrating a local friend's birthday by watching some DVDs and getting some sushi for dinner.

I'm exhausted already!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More Book Reviews

Believe it or not, I've read another two books already.

First, I read The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, for my book club.  This one will stay with me for a long time.  It's not a great book, but the characters and setting were so vivid and unusual that they were memorable.  The book is naturalistic, with events mostly just happening to the main character, Wang Lung.  He is a peasant farmer in rural China in the early part of the 20th century.  He struggles to survive in harsh conditions, and ends up weathly due to hard work, some luck, and reliance on the land as the only source of security.  You might think this sounds like a great premise, but the author's point is not to show how Wang Lung created wealth for himself, but to show a slice of life - the way real Chinese farmers lived and thought.  She did a good job by presenting a very likeable man whose character was flawed mostly by the cultural norms of the time: the treatment of women as less-than-human, family duty, and no ambition beyond the scope of one's immediate surroundings.  This book is worth reading and has many interesting issues to analyze such as whether Wang Lung has any independent values, what is the cause of his unhappiness, and to what degree he can be excused for bad behavior rooted in the norms of his culture.  But mostly it is just interesting to observe the world that Buck presents.

Next, for a breather after the intense Good Calories, Bad Calories, I read Night Fall, by Nelson DeMille.  It's a novel based loosely on the crash of TWA Flight 800 back in 1996.  There were some good aspects to it but overall I thought it suffered from too much testosterone and a very disappointing ending.  I've read this author before and I don't like him much, even though I like the bad-ass-detective genre.  Vince Flynn and especially Lee Child are much better.

Professor in China

One of my favorite amateur writers has finally quit the e-mail updates and started a blog!  Actually, Robert has gone back and forth between blogging and sending e-mails but either way, I think he's a great writer and always has something interesting to say. 

His current subject is his adventure teaching English Literature at a university in Dalian, China.  I love his observations of everything from stinky fruit to timid students.  His photos are really great too.

Here's a little taste of his writing, from a post called Road Sage:
Chinese-style "traffic control" might be arguably described as population control. There seem to be no actual rules of the road, and who owns a particular piece of the lane has much less to do with who has some sort of legal right, than with who has a stronger desire for it.

It is a battle of wills here. You don't worry so much about what you're "supposed" to do, as about what you can do. Elbows are strong in China, and they get used.

Car horns here are a basic means of communication.

Let's say a taxi driver is approaching an intersection, and five people are trying to walk across the street in front of him, while two cab-drivers are trying to move into the street from his right. He can toot his horn, gently, to say "no, you wait: I really want to go now." Another cabbie might lay on his horn, to say "sorry, my passenger is in a hurry, so I'm going to go anyway." The first cabbie will either slow down and let the more-urgent driver get through, or lay harder on his own horn. It's a kind of nonverbal communication that a professor could write books about...

You'll have to click over to read the rest.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One of Those Days

Sam and I gave up on trying to see the cherry blossoms on Sunday because the Metro station was so crowded I didn't want to deal with it.  (I heard later that I was right - it was unbearably crowded in DC on Sunday and people were waiting for trains for a long time.)  We have tons of time on the weekdays, so I decided to try again today.  It's very cold and windy today, but at least there was no rain in the forecast.  The bloom period is almost over, so it was today or never.

The parking lot at the Metro station was full.

I decided to drive in and take our chances on finding parking.  I don't mind driving, and I get to listen to Leonard Peikoff's podcasts in the car. (Sam loves the word Peikoff.  Every time he says his name she repeats it in her cutsey voice:  PEIKOFF PEIKOFF PEIKOFF.)

Not only was there no parking, but I couldn't even figure out how to get around with all the closed off streets.  I ended up going about 10 miles north of where I wanted to be because I could not find a place to turn around or pull over.  Sam had fallen asleep so it wasn't so bad, but still, what a waste.  This might end up being one of those DC things I never see, just like I never saw the Mackinac (pronounced "mack-i-naw") Bridge while we lived in Michigan, even though it was number one on my to-see list.

We drove back to our burb and I decided to take Sam out to lunch so we'd have something to show for our long journey.  I did get a good Rueben, but the deli was so crowded that I ended up with a headache and some anxiety.  I had had enough of crowds already!  While we were in the deli, I think I saw a few snowflakes falling outside.  Now that just made me mad. 

When we got home, I found a notice on my door that my water had been turned off, and indeed it had.   Apparently, my sewer bill comes from the county and my water bill comes from the city - not the city I live in, but another one.  I paid the quarterly sewer bill and assumed it covered both like it did at our old house just down the road, but apparently, the city that we don't live in had sent a bill in January, and then two notices in February and March - to the wrong address.  They were able to find me to turn off the water, but apparently, didn't have my correct address to send me a bill.

I was able to convince them to remove the $50 fee and to pay by credit card over the phone.  My water should be back on by 5pm.  Lucky me.

I'm temped to just hole up here at home but it's too depressing, so we're going to the library.  If I can pull a good day out of this one, I'll be very proud.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A New Hero

Come on, admit it, you've always been curious about this book.

My Grandmother's Grandmother

My grandmother died recently and her children are busy sorting through her possessions and dealing with her estate.  My aunt found some handwritten stories my grandmother wrote for a class on "How to Tell Your Life Story," and has transcribed a couple of them.  This one is the story of my grandmother's grandmother, and I thought it was interesting enough to share here.  It's amazing that there are just a few generations separating me from Indians, civil war prisons, and a life so much more difficult than the one I actually have. 


My Grandmother, the Folk Doctor

By Mary B. Afflerbach


When I first got to know my maternal grandmother, she was well into her eighties and blinded by cataracts.  She was a round little woman who sat in a rocking chair most of the day, usually with a half-knit sock in her lap or a pan of peas to shell.  She could tell fascinating stories, though, about the Indians who used to roam the surrounding mountains, and the adventures of her brothers, one of whom fought in the Civil War and was, for many months, held prisoner in the notorious Andersonville prison.  My cousins, with whom my grandmother lived, were bored by her stories which they had heard many times, but I never tired of them. 

My mother, however, gave me a different picture of my grandmother - one of a strong, pioneer woman who overcame personal tragedies and gave much aid and comfort to her neighbors.  She was of Scotch-Irish descent, but her roots in the Pennsylvania mountains where she lived ran deep.  One of her ancestors fought in the American Revolution and is buried in the local churchyard.  She married a Pennsylvania-Dutch farmer from "over the mountain," but she herself probably never traveled 50 miles from where she was born.  She gave birth to 12 children, only half of whom lived to grow to adulthood.  With no immunizations, childhood diseases took a heavy toll of infants, and despite my grandmother's considerable nursing skills, 6 of her babies died before they were 2 years old.

My grandmother had no formal medical training, but from her mother she had learned the folk remedies and some Indian medicine, and she seemed to have an instinct for diagnosis and treatment.  In her garden, she grew the herbs to brew her teas - calomel and pennyroyal, boneset and catnip to relive the fevers and soothe the stomach.  From the fields, she gathered plants to make poultices to reduce swellings and draw out infections.  Goose grease applied to the chest on a flannel clothe was good to break up congestion, and honey and cider vinegar soothed a cough.  She was widely known for her cures and when anyone in the neighborhood felt sick, they sent for "Aunt Jane," as my grandmother was universally known.  After all, the nearest medical doctor was 20 miles away, which is a long distance by horse and buggy.

My grandmother was also a midwife and delivered half of the babies born in the county.  She even delivered by sister and older brother, but not me as I was born far away in a distant state.

When my mother, who was the youngest, was 14, her father was killed by a horse and died from his injuries.  My grandmother continues to work the farm with her sons until all of the children married and left home.  She lived until she was 94 years old, and had she not fallen and broken her hip, she probably would have reached the century mark.

My grandmother had little education, never traveled more than a few miles from home, never had much money or other possessions, never wrote a book or held political office, but when I think of all of the lives she touched, I consider her quite a remarkable woman.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Sung to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot (why didn't we think of this one when she was three months old?):

She's a little Sammy
Short and stout
When she fills with gas she lets out a shout
If it doesn't come out she start to pout
So pick her up and squeeze it out

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dolphins Blowing Bubbles

Check out these dolphins blowing bubble rings and playing with them.  Apparently, they've taught each other the behavior.  It's pretty neat how they can make the bubble rings in the first place, but the way they swish them around and pop them is so cute.  It really seems like they do it purely to amuse themselves. (Via List of the Day.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Sam Update - Thirty One Months Old

Samantha was thirty-one months old yesterday.  That's 944 days!  A while back I calculated how many diapers I'd changed and came up with 3000.  Now it must be more like 5000!  I wonder if it would have been worth it if I could have paid somebody one dollar per diaper change to do that work for me.  Probably not.  That's a couple grand per year and it's really not so bad to change diapers.  Would I do that job for somebody else's child for one buck a diaper?  No way.  Maybe $5 each would do it for me.  I suppose that's why nannies are so expensive.  Is taking care of kids really that horrible a job, where if they are not your own, you need hazard pay?

Big Girl BedThe biggest development of this month was Sam's transition from crib to "toddler bed."  Her crib is convertible, so we just removed the front gate and replaced it with two smaller barriers at the top and bottom.  The mattress is so low that she wouldn't get hurt if she fell out, but I don't think she ever has.  What she can do is get out of bed anytime she wants.  This was pretty scary the first few nights.  Not for her, but for me!  Really, it's quite a big deal when you've always known that your baby is safe all night in a crib, but now she can get out and get into all sorts of trouble.  It's also a huge milestone in the whole growing up thing.  Both Adam and I are still marveling at what a big girl she is now.

She made the transition very easily.  She gets up and turns on her light sometimes, but for the most part, she just sleeps.  The only trouble we've had is that she has started waking up early each morning.  The first few days I went to her, but now I'm trying to ignore her.  She'll usually cry for 10-20 minutes then fall back asleep, which is great, but a lot of the time I can't get back to sleep myself, so I've been quite tired lately. 

Sam and I are going to Montessori together once a week now, and she is only in day care twice a week.  This arrangement is working out very well and saving us some money too.  I'm not sure what we'll do when the seven-week Montessori program is over.  I might try to find some other formal activity for us to do together, but with summer coming we might not even need that.

Sam went through another developmental burst this month.  This means that she had more tantrums, was willful, and was extremely physical, at least, by Sam standards.  She got so many bumps and bruises for a while Falling Downthere that I was afraid her day care teachers might start thinking something bad was happening at home.  Sometimes we'd just be hanging out and Sam would fall down and really hurt herself and scream and cry.  Then one or two minutes later, she'd stub her toe, then she'd get scratched by Jinx, then she'd drop something heavy on her foot, then she'd fall down again.  It was really hard to watch her go through it.  She's come out of it now, though, and the good part is that she is clearly more advanced than she was a month ago: talking in more complex ways, running faster, less cautious, and just plain smarter.

Another good thing about this phase of willfulness is that we didn't use time outs, and it has worked itself out.  I knew we'd have to go through one of these periods before I could truly say that the positive discipline works.  I'm glad to report that it does.  It did not "spoil" Samantha to refrain from traditional punishment.  She didn't need to be punished.  She just needed guidance.  I'm pretty happy with the changes we've made regarding discipline, although I still struggle to figure out the right thing to do quite often.

Sam is starting to bring home learning from day care, which is really cool.  One day I picked her up and when we got home, she got out of the car and lay down on the grass.  I asked her what she was doing and she said, LOOK SKY.  Later, I read the daily report the day care center gave me and it said that they spent time outside lying on the grass looking at the sky.  Another day, we were driving home from day care and Sam started saying all the days of the week.  She didn't get them in the right order, but she had never said any of them before, so I was surprised.  Again, the daily report said that they learned the days of the week.  I really don't care if she knows the days of the week - it's just rote memorization right now - but I'm glad to see that she is trying to share these things with me.

What else can I say?  I love this kid.


The Ballerina

Sung to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot:

I'm a ballerina
Spin around
Kick up my leg and
Jump to the ground
I love to dance for the audience
When I'm done they clap their hands

Pop Goes the Sammy

Sung to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel:

All around the Mossoff house
Sammy chases Jinxy
Then he tries to scratch her face
POP! goes the Sammy

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Little Thing

Samantha has taken to saying HI PWAY-GWOUND every time we drive by the playground.  It's almost as cute as how she says HI PEE-PO whenever she sees people in unexpected places.  We round a corner and see a jogger:  HI PEE-PO.  We get out of the car at the grocery store and see lots of people in the parking lot:  HI PEE-PO.  When someone who really interests her doesn't answer, she'll walk right up to him and stand really close and look straight up and wave:  HI PEE-PO. HI PEE-PO. HI PEE-PO. HI. HI. HI. HI PEE-PO.  She's been doing this for months, and the mixed response hasn't seemed to slow her down.  I love that.

Objectivist Round Up

It's Round Up day again.  Today's issue is brought to you by Rational Jenn.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I'm finally listening to Leonard Peikoff's podcasts, his weekly Q&A sessions about Ayn Rand and Objectivism.  I tried to get in the habit of listening last year but that was when my iPod was missing, so I used some software on my PC.  That meant that I had to sit in the basement during one of Sam's naps or when she was in day care, so needless to say, it didn't happen.

Now that I'm in the habit of using my iPod again, I'm listening to all the podcasts from the beginning.  I'll probably stop listening to music until I catch up, but that's ok.

I'm still a bit shocked that I'm able to actually add values like this back into my life again.  For so long, it was just impossible to do anything new.  I do have to give up Facebook and Twitter, though.  I enjoy them, but not enough to spend the time necessary to keep up with them.  Kind of like football.   Ah, I miss football.  Maybe this fall....

Problem Solver

Yesterday, Samantha and I went to the dollar store.  There really wasn't much more of a purpose than to check it out to see if we could find some fun cheap stuff.  I ended up getting her an Easter basket with grass and plastic eggs, a magnifying glass, a "carrot brush" which looks like something she'll find a use for, a flimsy but useful extra stool (you really just can't have enough stools for your toddler), 2 mini spray bottles she can use to torture the cat, 3 washcloths for clean-up time, a key chain with one of those old-fashioned coin purses on it that is just an oval shaped piece of plastic with a slit in it, and a set of 384 alphabet stickers - all for $12.45.  Now that's fun!

Anyway, Sam has a little cold and has not been listening to me very well.  As soon as we got in the store, she started pulling things off the shelf and just generally acting out of control.  I tried to talk to her about it a couple of times, getting down on her level and explaining that if she didn't stay close to me I'd have to carry her through the store.  I also told her to ask me before she took anything off the shelf.  Usually, I let her pull things down because she'll put them back on her own (with encouragement), but there was just so much cheap stuff she couldn't resist!  She did not pay any attention to me and finally, I picked her up, telling her that I had to carry her if I was going to get any shopping done.  She threw a tantrum.  I might have left if she was not sick, or if it was a nicer type of store, but I decided to give her a chance to scream a bit to see what happened.  I didn't really have much of a plan, but I didn't want to give up on the trip quite yet.

I sat on the floor and just held her.  After a very short time, she started trying to say something.  I told her that I couldn't understand her because she was still crying too much.  She tried a couple more times and I finally got it:  MOMMY, HO-DEE HANDS.  HO-DEE HANDS, MOMMY!

She was suggesting that we hold hands instead of me carrying her!  I didn't even think of that, but she did, all on her own!  I told her that was an excellent idea and we stood up and she really did it.  We held hands, and I told her to just let me know if she wanted to stop and look at something, and it worked.  We had a great time for the rest of the shopping trip.

This is exactly the type of problem-solving Faber and Mazlish suggest that you encourage in your child.  I wish I could say that I've been doing so, but I thought Sam was too young to be that creative.  I thought I'd do that later, when she was older.  This is what I mean when I say that it is extremely difficult to keep up with your child, and way too easy to underestimate them. 

Yet another amazing, every-day parenting moment.