Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birthday Thoughts

This morning we're off to what will probably be our last trip to the water park for the summer.  I still can't get used to this thing where pools and amusement parks completely shut down after summer.  I'm from Los Angeles, where these things are open year-round.

Sammy's birthday party was this past Saturday and it went very well.  Adam planned and executed the whole thing.  I've delegated the birthday party thing (both attending and giving) to Adam.  It's a nice, self-contained, and rewarding thing for him to do.  A perfect dad-job.

We decided to opt-out of the "goody bag" phenomenon.  I can't stand the idea that the host of the party owes something to the guests.  A birthday is a celebration of and for the birthday child, and the party is a way to share the fun.  Gifts for the birthday child are a way of recognizing that this is his or her special day.  When gifts are given to the attendees, whether you mean it or not, it lessens the special nature of the day for the birthday child.  We did not give out goodie bags when I was a kid, and I'm sure this developed out of the egalitarianism that has run rampant in our culture since the 1970's.  We did give each child an extra piece of birthday cake to bring home, along with a couple of balloons.  This was just a good way to get rid of all that stuff.  We still came home with tons of cake and balloons.

Sam's real birthday is on Thursday.  She hasn't opened her gifts from us or from the party yet, so we're going to bring them over to my parents' RV and have a special dinner and gift-opening event.  She'll also get her usual room full of helium balloons that morning.  That is the one birthday tradition we decided on from her first, and we really enjoy it.

Now, I'd better go get my bathing suit on before Sam explodes with anticipation!

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Little Thing

We've made no real effort to teach Samantha to share or to be giving.  She has discovered the joy of sharing and giving on her own, probably just by watching us.  Quite often, when she is enjoying a particular food, she'll offer a bite to me or to her dad.  In fact, sometimes she excitedly insists that we try the tasty morsel! But sometimes if we ask for a bite she says no, and we respect that too.

It works that way on the playground, too.  Sometimes she enjoys sharing her toys and using others' toys, but sometimes she just wants to play with her own stuff and not share it at all.  We've taught her how to use her "firm voice" to say no when other children grab or pester her.  (She's not very good at distinguishing her "firm voice" from her whines or her screams, but she is working on it!)

When we go grocery shopping, I allow Sam to pick out one item, at four dollars or less.  She can pick anything she wants.  She's picked candy a few times, but she has also picked scented pinecones, a little cactus in a vase, and Gatorade.  Last time we went shopping, she picked out a treat for Toby - Beggin' Strips.  I thought that was just so sweet!  And when we got home I got a wonderful reminder of the benevolence of rational selfishness when I saw the look on her face as she gave him one of those treats.   I think she got more pleasure from it than from any of her other picks.  Except for maybe the M&Ms.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

I'm a bit late with the news this week, but the Round Up is up and ready for your reading pleasure, hosted this week by EGO.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Thought You Should Know

I try not to gripe too much on this blog, but this information is just too important not to share:

Never, ever, ever buy a front-loader washing machine.  Here is what is required to avoid your clothes smelling like mildew:

  1. You must never allow the clothes to sit in the washer for more than an hour or so after the cycle finishes. (You mean I have to sit at home while my laundry is going as if I were at a laundromat?  Sorry, but my clothes routinely sit in the washer for a full day.  Or, at least, they used to when I had that crappy old top-loader.  Now I am a slave to laundry.)

  2. You must leave the door open when the washer is not in use. (Not a big problem for us because we have a dedicated laundry room in the basement, but even in the basement, I know the door is open and that BOTHERS me.  And how long do you think it will take before the cat decides that the washer is a nice place to sleep?)

  3. You must wipe out the door seal, soaking up any excess water with a towel, after each load.  (More work, yay!)

  4. You must occasionally (some say daily!) run a sanitize cycle with bleach and then do a load of white towels.  (I guess I need to go to Bed Bath and Beyond to get some white towels.  Oh, and bleach.  Who uses bleach?)

  5. You must buy a special, expensive product to clean the mildew out of your washer.

  6. You must clean the inside of the washer tub with bleach periodically.

  7. You must check to see if there are any other places that trap water on your particular machine, clean them regularly with bleach, and find a way to air them out.

Don't believe me?  Feel free to waste an hour of your life like I had to, reading this stuff.

Full disclosure:  I was able to kill the smell with just washing the tub and door seal with bleach, and running a sanitize cycle with bleach (I was surprised to find that I had some).  I don't know how long it will last, though.  In the meantime, I've run countless loads of laundry through the washer twice, worn really stinky clothes, and thrown away at least a dozen kitchen towels before I realized that the problem was my washer and not my old towels.  I already ordered the Affresh tablets so I'll keep them for an emergency.  But this is not progress.  This washer looks cool but makes more work for me. Please, do some research before you buy a front-loader!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Little Thing

Sam was reaching up, stretching her arms to the sky.  I didn't know her purpose so I asked:

"What are you doing, Sam?"

She said:


Monday, August 23, 2010


I mentioned recently that my new doctor recommended moderate exercise to alleviate my pain.  I’ve not had a stable enough life situation to have any kind of regular exercise for many years.  I did a yoga class here and joined a gym there, but between having a baby, moving four times, and then being pregnant for two months, then not for two months, then pregnant again, then not, etc., I haven’t settled in to any routine.  And it was my last yoga class that coincided with the worst pain I ever had, so when the pain came back I decided to avoid physical activity as much as possible.

When I told the doctor this, he said it was possible that exercise might hurt more than help, but that I should give it a shot again.  He said that I should only exercise “up to the point of injury,” whatever that means.  I can’t even walk without pain, so it’s going to hurt, no matter how little I do.  I just took him to mean that I should not push very hard on those areas that give me trouble.  And having “doctor’s orders” to exercise is just what I needed, since I was really feeling like a slug and needed that to change.

So I decided to look for the right kind of exercise, but I had the damnedest time.  I looked for yoga classes, but there was nothing in the right time slots when Sam was in school.  Or there was, but only once a week.  What good would that do?  Working out on machines in a gym bores me to tears, and I hate having to wait for a machine and remember the whole set of things I want to do.  Anything outdoors is out because I won’t do it in hot or cold weather.  (Poor Toby has had about two walks in the past three months.)  Workouts on tape at home are good, but that takes a lot of discipline.  The sirens of The Little Things always beckon.  Swimming (indoors) would be perfect, but the transaction costs are too high – an hour of swimming seems to take three hours, what with all the changing and showering and wet clothes.

Then I remembered Curves.

I had used Curves briefly after Sam was born when I was told that exercise might help with my mild post-partum baby blues.  I have no idea if it helped because I had to quit just a couple of months later when we moved from Michigan to San Diego because Adam became too busy at work to watch Sam even for a few hours a week.  (Curves does not have babysitting services.)  And the hell of moving and living out of boxes with a 10-month-old (and a mostly absent husband) made me much crazier and angrier than I had ever been due to hormones.  Or maybe it was the hormones that made the moving such hell, or maybe it was that I stopped exercising…but I digress.

Curves is a place filled with little old ladies with short, puffy white haircuts.  It’s for women only, which I guess matters to some people.  I could care less.  I guess the old ladies are there because you can do the workout in just about any physical condition.  The little old ladies probably keep out the younger set, but I think that is a big, secondhanded mistake.

Curves is a circuit of about 15 strength-training machines, with cardio stations in between each.  You arrive at any time you want and jump into the circuit at any point.  You use a machine for 30 seconds, then you do whatever cardio activity you choose (running in place, jumping jacks, leg lifts, squats, etc.) for 30 seconds.  Then you move to the next machine.  And so on.  There is lame but bouncy music on in the background and a voice-over that tells you to “change stations now” every 30 seconds.  You do two circuits, then you stretch.  The recommended stretches are posted up on a wall.  The whole thing takes about 35-40 minutes.

What I like about Curves the most is that you don’t have to think about it at all.  The first time you go, you need about 10 minutes of instruction on the machines, and that’s it.  (If you want more coaching, I think you can get it.)  After that, you show up and go. There is nothing to calculate, measure, or count.  Once you get in the groove of it, it becomes very routine.  I suppose this might get boring for some people eventually, but I’m pretty good at setting my mind to thinking about other things, so I find the time at Curves to be doubly productive.

Also, the workout is as intense as you want to make it.  If you want intense, you push yourself to do more reps in the time allowed, and you do something difficult for the cardio.  You can also “double up” on the machines or do more circuits if that floats your boat.  I’m sure fitness fanatics scoff at this, but if your goal is simply basic exercise for general heath - cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility – I believe this workout can be challenging enough for anyone.  The only exception would be people who simply can’t focus independently without an outsider pushing them.  Plenty of the little old ladies at Curves push lazily at the machines and walk in place as they gossip and chatter and never break a sweat. But Curves has a solution even for them, if they choose to use it.  Every 10 minutes or so, the voice over prompts you to “move away from your station and find your heart rate.” Then a 10 second count is marked for you so that you can calculate your heart rate.  Another poster tells you what your target heart rate should be for your age.  How easy is that?

I like that the workout is fast, and that I can go at any time on any day.  I can drop Sam off at school at 9, go straight to Curves, come home and shower, and be done by 10:15.  That leaves me an hour and a half of continuous me-time before I have to pick Sam up.  A formal yoga or cardio class might start at 9:30 or 10 and go for an hour, which would leave me a few minutes on each end.  Great, more fractured time – just what I need.  (Now, during the summer, Adam stays home with Sam three mornings a week so I can go.  It really was a difficult and unusual situation when we were living in San Diego.)

The Curves workout is also compatible with pregnancy, so I won’t have to drop it when the time comes - or comes and goes, as the case may be.

I’ve modified my Curves workout for my pain situation.  I realized that jogging in place was making the pain in my feet worse so I switched to low impact cardio only.  Usually, I do the elbow-to-knee crossover leg lift, if you know what I mean.  One of the machines put a lot of pressure on a tendon in my arm that was sore, so now I skip that machine and double-up on the next one, which happens to be one that I need more work on.  I think I’ll want to add in a bit of extra abdominal work once I’m in better shape and I always do extra stretches because having a strong core and being limber are helpful in many situations involving pain.

The Curves franchise is HUGE.  There are Curves everywhere!  When I travel, I can go to the local Curves if I want.  There always seems to be one nearby.

I have to admit, I also kind of like the little old ladies and the gossip.  There is a friendly, non-competitive culture at Curves, and it makes for a more pleasant workout.

So, laugh if you will.  I get the feeling that Curves is seen as an “exercise for dummies” kind of workout.  But my firsthand judgment tells me otherwise.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

The Crucible hosts this week's Objectivist Round Up.  Enjoy!

A Little Thing

Sam and I were at the grocery store and I picked up a jar of olives.  She asked:

They're olives.
Chicken with olives and cheese and lemon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bedtime Choices

The topic of bedtime battles came up recently on an e-mail list that I belong to, and it got me thinking.  We really have not had much trouble with bedtime with Sammy.  But there are times when we struggle.  Our latest bedtime battle was solved by offering a choice.

Sammy recently moved from diapers at night to pull-ups.  When she takes off the pull-up to use the bathroom, she turns it inside out and she doesn't know how to right it, so she calls us. She has learned from this!  Now, every single night, the first thing she does after we leave her room is she uses the bathroom. Then we need to return to turn her pull-up right-side-out.  Then she demands to be tucked in again. This can all be very time-consuming.

Since we know that the whole going-to-the-bathroom thing is a ploy, we started refusing to tuck her back in, but she raised bloody hell.  (There is no way we're going to discourage her from using the bathroom, so the tuck-in is really the issue!)  Finally, I gave her a choice: if she wanted to be tucked in a second time - fine.  But she would not get her usual "5 minutes" of talk-time the next night (that is probably her favorite element of her bedtime routine, except for reading books.)  I explained to her that I am not willing to spend an hour on bedtime, so if she wants two tuck-ins, she has to give up something else.  She agreed with this plan.

So far she has chosen to be tucked in twice every night.  But that's not really a problem - it's just a new bedtime routine.  She hates not getting her five minutes, but I know she understands the issue because she doesn't push it.  If she makes bedtime go on any longer, then we'll remove other parts of her routine like singing songs or even reading books.  I have confidence that eventually, the highest values will win out.  And whatever they are, that's fine with me.

I didn't intend it to be so, but I think this is a great lesson for Sammy on delayed gratification, using logical consequences.  If she wants the special five minutes of talking before bed the next night, all she has to do is stay in bed after the first tuck-in tonight.  I don't think I've yet seen Sammy choose a greater good at a later time in any area of her life, but I can see her considering the tuck-in issue.  I think she is ripe for this.

But I didn't think about that when I considered the problem.  Really, I just focused on what the real problem with two tuck-ins was - for me.  I wasn't  interested in a power struggle, but I also didn't want this delaying tactic to grow and grow.  I want to put her to bed and go read my book!  This solution seemed to solve both our problems.  And in the process, this great potential lesson has come about.  Yay for selfish parenting!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Summer Fun

Here's another thing we've been doing a lot of this summer:  the townhouse version of the plastic pool.

This little "pool" is really meant for babies, I think, but it fits in our tiny front yard, and it's even more fun than a regular pool.  Sam likes the little fountains of water that spray up when you hook up the hose, and she manages to get herself completely wet.  Considering how much we've used it, this was a $25 bargain.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Earl Grey, Hot

I've been having trouble with caffeine lately - my body just can't seem to process it as well as it used to - so I decided to switch from coffee to tea.  The trouble is, I hate making tea!  You have to wait for the water to boil and then wait five whole minutes for it to brew - all for just one measly cup of tea.  I don't have that kind of time or concentration in the morning.  The last time I tried it, I ended up putting salt in the tea, thinking it was the sugar.  With coffee, you can set it up the night before and have the liquid heaven in your hand as fast as you can drag yourself to the kitchen and pour it.

I started looking around for faster ways to make tea, but then came upon this little gizmo:

It's a single cup brewer.  It makes coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even iced tea or coffee.  And it makes one cup in about ten seconds.

This device has opened up new worlds of hot beverages to us.  If one of us wants a cup of decaf in the evening, we don't have to go through the whole brewing process for just the one cup.  Actually, we never did that - it was more trouble than it was worth.  But now Adam has coffee almost every night.  I can have coffee or tea, depending on my mood.  Adam and I don't have to use the same brand of coffee.  (We were both compromising before.)  And when we have guests, we can offer everybody exactly what they want.

This is how it works.  You fill the machine with water, and it holds quite a bit.  It keeps the water hot enough to start brewing on-demand.  (You can also use a timer to keep the water hot only at certain times to save energy, but I haven't tried that yet.)  When you are low on water, it flashes this pretty blue light at you and you just dump some water in the reservoir.  The things on the left side of the photo are "K-cups."  I'd seen them in the store but had no idea what they were until we bought this machine.  There are K-cups for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  You stick the K-cup of your choice in a slot, put a cup on the tray and push a button.  Ten seconds later you are done.

There are three downsides.  When Adam wants to have a thermos full of coffee to bring to work, he has to brew two cups and pour them into the thermos.  The brewer has five cup size settings, and one is almost large enough to fill a thermos, but since you're using the same K-cup no matter what size you pick, the coffee is just weaker.  Unacceptable!  Still, brewing two cups takes all of thirty seconds, including the time to change the K-cup and pour the coffee.

Next, the K-cups are expensive, they take up a lot of space, and you are limited to the brands available.  There are a lot of brands to choose from, but you can't get Starbucks coffee or Lipton tea, which are our favorites.  We hope that will change someday.  To deal with the space issue, we got the handy-dandy dispenser shown in the photo which makes the process even more fun.  Luckily we have enough kitchen counter space to accommodate this without any trouble.  As for the expense, I'm currently bargain-hunting.  We'll probably end up ordering them on-line, which is a bit of a hassle.

Finally, the K-cups don't allow for the art of brewing either coffee or tea. Adam has always enjoyed grinding the coffee beans to just the right consistency and using the perfect amount of coffee.  With this machine, you have no control over the strength of the beverage.  There is a way around this problem, too.  You can buy a filter which allows you to use your own coffee grounds.  It still doesn't make the coffee quite the same way as a regular brewer, but at least Adam is not limited to the brands available in K-cups.

Overall, we love this thing.  When I use it, I feel like Jean-Luc Picard, and that's priceless:

(link to video)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Fun

I can't believe how busy I've been this summer!  I'm having trouble unloading the dishwasher and getting the laundry from the washer to the dryer, and the whole house is covered in dog hair and apple juice.  (Thank god the maids are coming for their monthly visit on Wednesday.)  I think this means that I'm having fun!

My Big Project for the summer was supposed to be getting a new deck installed. It took me about 3 months just to get 3 quotes, and I did a terrible job because each time I finally got someone out here, I asked for something different, so I can't even compare the bids.  It worked out pretty well, though, because as soon as my parents arrived in town, I asked them for advice on the project and now I know exactly what I want.  But now I need to start over with the bids.  If we get it completed by winter, I'll be happy.

Adam has been busy painting parts of the house and installing new light switches.  I don't know where he is finding the time, but he's doing a better job than I am at keeping up with everything.

Sam and I have done no Montessori work at all this month, since my parents arrived in town for the month of August.  It seems that every moment we're not visiting with them is spent doing errands or other life-maintenance activities.  Or, if we are at home and looking for something to do, all we have the energy for is watching TV.  Mostly we just hang out with my parents, but we've gone to the US Geological Society, the Washington National Cathedral, and the county fair.  (We might have done more than that but it's all a blur.) We still haven't made it to the water park or the aquarium.  One month is just not enough time!

Sam has "slept over" at my parents' motorhome twice since they arrived, so Adam and I have had a couple of great date nights.  First, we went to Wolf Trap (the local outdoor concert venue) to see Bugs Bunny at the Symphony, which was mostly for Adam, but which I also enjoyed.  Then the next week we saw Hal Sparks' stand up act at a small theater.  He was hilarious, and it was a great night.

So, this summer is turning into one long vacation.  It's actually been really nice to have Sam at home with me all day, instead of in school.  I was so worried that we'd run out of things to do, but the opposite has been true.  We can't seem to fit it all in.

In a few weeks, Sam will turn 4 and then she'll go back to school.  I'll have a lot more time for the exciting projects I planned at OCON, blogging, and maybe even fiction-writing.  Hopefully I'll be able to make the transition back to that mindset - you know, the one where you actually work on long-range projects.

How did I end up back on the academic calendar?  I swear, once we're done with Montessori we're going to homeschool year round so we can even out the fun and the work just a bit.  Even though work is fun and fun is work, I like each day to have a little of each.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Objectivist Round Up #161

Welcome to the August 12, 2010 edition of the Objectivist Round Up.

Today's Ayn Rand quote comes from the article, "Bootleg Romanticism" in The Romantic Manifesto.  I just finished reading a great mystery/adventure book so these sentiments are uppermost in my mind. 
“Thrillers” are detective, spy or adventure stories. Their basic characteristic is conflict, which means: a clash of goals, which means: purposeful action in pursuit of values. Thrillers are the product, the popular offshoot, of the Romantic school of art that sees man, not as a helpless pawn of fate, but as a being who possesses volition, whose life is directed by his own value-choices. Romanticism is a value-oriented, morality-centered movement: its material is not journalistic minutiae, but the abstract, the essential, the universal principles of man’s nature—and its basic literary commandment is to portray man “as he might be and ought to be.”

Thrillers are a simplified, elementary version of Romantic literature. They are not concerned with a delineation of values, but, taking certain fundamental values for granted, they are concerned with only one aspect of a moral being’s existence: the battle of good against evil in terms of purposeful action—a dramatized abstraction of the basic pattern of: choice, goal, conflict, danger, struggle, victory.

I hope you've found some good reading lately.  Speaking of good reading, let's move on to the Round Up:

Burgess Laughlin presents A mystic in reason's camp? posted at The Main Event, saying, "This post briefly describes one pro-reason advocate's encounter with an unusual type of mystic -- at a conference for pro-reason advocates. The post also begins discussion of how best to classify this particular form of mysticism."

Rachel Miner presents Teaching by Essentials posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, "It's so easy to overwhelm when teaching new information. I noted this frequently as a nurse when teaching new moms and I see it all the time in parenting! This post is about being most effective when communicating new information and it's a plug for Scott Powell's History at Our House too because he does this so well!"

Jane Eisenhart presents I Hope Lady Gaga is Disappointed posted at Hometown Grotesque, saying, "In this blog, I examine the cultural institution that is Lady Gaga using prototypes from The Fountainhead."

Jim Woods presents Mexico’s Drug-induced Anarchy posted at Words by Woods, saying, "Mexican President Calderón reports to his country that the violent drug gangs and mafia plaguing Mexico seek to replace the state."

John McVey presents Work on value in my economics 'grimoire' posted at John J McVey, saying, "I've finally done what I said I'd do regarding criticism of my rejection of the existence of subjective values."

Roderick Fitts presents A second proof that "Reason is Man's Means of Survival" posted at Inductive Quest, saying, "A second inductive proof, gained from six weeks of observation and the tutelage of Dr. Peikoff's OTI course. I'm beginning to understand Objectivism inductively now!"

Ari Armstrong presents Harry Potter's Lessons for Journalists posted at Free Colorado, saying, "This is an op-ed length treatment of journalism as presented in Harry Potter."

Sean Saulsbury presents The False Hope of Failure posted at SeanCast.com, saying, ""Failure" is a buzz word in today's startup and business world. Many are focusing on it, saying not to be intimidated by it. While the intention is good, the growing focus on failure is a false hope that cannot bring success by itself..."

Jared Rhoads presents "How an Economy Grows" by Peter Schiff posted at The Lucidicus Project, saying, "Here are some notes, thoughts, and reactions related to Peter Schiff's new book, which explains economic growth through a parable."

Stella presents Government food ratings get an F posted at ReasonPharm, saying, "Unfortunately, New York City has decided to follow many other municipalities in giving letter grades to restaurants. Here's why New Yorkers should stick to their own judgment rather than relying on a bureaucrat's grade."

Martin Lindeskog presents SENATE HALTS EFFORTS TO DESTROY AMERICA | EGO posted at EGO, saying, "Guest blog post by Roland Horvath."

C. August presents The Great Depression Reenactor posted at Titanic Deck Chairs, saying, "Christina Romer has spent most of her academic career studying the Great Depression. As Obama's chief economic adviser for the past 18 months, her experience was supposed to help. Instead, she just helped the country reenact her favorite historical period."

Andrew Dalton presents The mosque is just a symptom posted at Witch Doctor Repellent, saying, "If the United States still had a culture of achievement and resilience, rather than our present morass of harm-avoidance and self-doubt, the New York mosque might not have been an issue."

Amy Mossoff presents Tumbling posted at The Little Things, saying, "We found a way to help our daughter learn to take some risks. Cute video alert!"

Rational Jenn presents The Story of MiniCon posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "Kelly and I finally got around to writing up a few notes about what we did to get MiniCon 2010 up and running!"

Kelly Elmore presents Poetry Recommendations posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, "This is the first post in a series that shares most of the content of my Mini-Con course on poetry appreciationg. This is my handout for the class. Check back for videos and comments on enjoying poetry more."

Diana Hsieh presents Colorado Senate Candidate Ken Buck on Abortion posted at NoodleFood, saying, "Ken Buck is now the GOP's nominee for Colorado Senator in 2011. Could his views on abortion be any worse? I think not."

Zip presents In Other News... posted at UNCOMMON SENSE, saying, "In Other News... Rain falls, Dogs bark, alcohol is addictive and bad for your liver."

Nate Phillipps presents The Rule Of Gold posted at Faith Through Fear.

Peter Cresswell presents The “safety net” is actually a hammock posted at Not PC, saying, "A report into the sacred cow of New Zealand's welfare state gave me the opportunity to tell two-thousand readers about the moral cannibalism of state welfare--with a little help from the Ayn Rand Lexicon."

Edward Cline presents Cordoba House: A 'Man-Caused' Disaster posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "I detest Islam because it is one of the most degrading, anti-mind, anti-individual, collectivist creeds in existence. I detest it for all the crimes it has committed throughout history, perhaps more than I do the crimes committed by the Catholic Church in its heyday, perhaps more than the atrocities committed by any religious creed. I understand the sensitivities and emotions of all their victims. So, if that is bigotry, I will make the most of it."

Jeff Montgomery presents Boulder Three Peak Run posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, "A post about a run/hike in the peaks west of Boulder, CO, with photos."

Jeff Montgomery presents North Table Mountain Run posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, "I submitted this post mainly for the cool closeup of a grasshopper. What amazing natural engineering."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Objectivist Round Up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Little Thing

Since my parents live in their motorhome, when they come to visit they often bring laundry--a cute reversal of the usual parent/child relationship.  My mom brought a couple of loads the other day, and not only did she do all of my laundry along with her own, but she folded my underwear!  Before I was a mom, I would have thought this behavior crazy, but now I get it.  I hope that I will have occasional opportunities to take care of Sammy when she is all grown up, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


My daughter is physically cautious.  This makes life very easy on me, but it's not something I'm completely happy about.

It started when Sammy was about 10 months old.  She never crawled, but just scooted around on her bottom.   Then she didn't walk until she was 17 months old, but when she finally did, she had it all figured out in one day.  She could stop and stand still, carry objects, turn corners, and avoid walking into objects in her path.  She was also mature enough by that time that she didn't throw herself all over the place, but just walked carefully to where she wanted to go.  I never had to go through that stage that everyone complains about with toddlers, where you're just chasing them around all day long stopping them from killing themselves.  Sam almost never put herself in danger.  It was easy for me, but being risk-adverse is not something I want to encourage in her.

This slow physical development has continued and it seems to be part and parcel of her cautious nature.  Sam is definitely not a fearful child, but when she enters a new place (especially one with many people or a loud place) she will stop, look, and listen for quite a while before joining in whatever the activity happens to be.  It seems as if she doesn't want to try physical activities until she somehow knows she can master them.  We bought her a bike a year ago and she's hardly practiced at all, despite our gentle encouragement.  When she tries something and fails, her pattern is to get frustrated and retreat - not to try again.  I can't imagine how anything we've done could have encouraged this - I'm pretty sure it is just part of her temperament.  But the combination of caution and lack of persistence is going to cause her problems down the road.

(Aside: Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore have a good podcast on temperament which you can listen to here.  While I agree somewhat with their, and Positive Discipline's, position on temperament, I do have differences.  Jenn and Kelly mention persistence as a temperamental trait, meaning that some children are just born more persistent than others.  I believe that some tendency towards persistence may be temperamental, but I don't believe that it is a neutral character trait.  It is a virtue, and like other virtues, it may come more easily to some than others, but either way, it must be something parents actively work to foster in their children.)

Sam's caution and her lack of persistence seem related to me.  They both imply a kind of perfectionism, or even a fear of failure.  I don't know that a child can have those attitudes, but there must be some childlike equivalent in the way that they approach the universe.  Whether she was born with it or somehow developed it as an infant, she needs to learn another way.

Adam and I knew that the solution for this was to give Sam as many opportunities to try new things as possible, especially physical activities.  Inevitably, she would have some successes, and this would hopefully teach her that effort would bring her the value of achievement.  More experience would also help her learn that failure is not something to be feared, but a fact of life that you can learn from.  Unfortunately, Adam and I aren't very physical people ourselves, so this didn't come naturally.  Direct encouragement hadn't been very successful for us either, and we would never force her to engage in an activity she was not comfortable with (like throwing her into a pool to get her to go underwater).  We did try using peer-pressure by trying to point out how much fun her friend was having riding her bike.  This was a dangerous, second-handed path though.  I mean, it was worth a try because you can legitimately learn from others this way, but it's not something we would want to make a habit of.  To Sam's credit, it didn't work anyway.

So we decided to enroll her in one of those kind of "gym" classes for little kids. (You know, like Gymboree, Little Gym, or JW Tumbles.)  I'm not a fan of signing toddlers and preschoolers up for a lot of these kinds of activities - I think a lot of it is expensive nonsense - but we had a specific purpose in mind here.  I had a coupon for Tumbles, so that's where she went.

At her first class, Sam hardly participated.  First off, she didn’t want to go into the play area without me.  This is where I have to walk the fine line of respecting her nature and yet not accepting it uncritically.  I told her that I was not allowed to join the group – that it was just for children – but that I would come into the play area and sit where she could see me.  All the other parents sat in the adjacent waiting area, but I sat on the floor in the gym.  Sam came over to me quite a few times that first class, but always went back to the group of her own free will after a moment of comfort.

During "circle time" she did not do any of the physical activities such as touching her toes or wiggling her hips.  She just stood and watched as the other children mimicked the “trainers.”  The trainers would also have the kids repeat cheers and yell out answers to questions and such, but Sam never opened her mouth.  She just listened.  This was fine with me.  I was just happy she stood in the circle with the others.

Then the trainers would have the kids do structured activities like climbing over a foam "wall" or walking across a balance beam or kicking a ball into a net.  These tasks were performed individually – the kids would take turns and get whatever help they needed from the trainers.  Sam was hesitant about these things, but the trainers were great at gently prompting her without pushing or forcing her.  (Trust me, I watched them closely for any disrespect.)  Eventually, she tried every single activity, but with hesitation.  When she did something wrong, they would cheerfully show her how to do it right, not just let it go.  I liked that, too.

There was also time for "free play" on the slides and bars and other fun equipment, and Sam jumped right into that.  She did her own thing, totally oblivious to what the other children were doing.  She was obviously having fun, but she didn't try anything new.  She stuck to the slides, mostly, since that is what she is used to from her playground experience.

Sam went to this class for one and a quarter hours per week for eight weeks. By the end, she was a different child.

She stopped begging me to go into the play area with her, and just ran right in.  She threw herself into all of the structured activities and couldn't wait for her turn.  She learned how to climb a ladder (something she would not even try on the first day), to swing from her arms from a bar and jump down, to cross a balance beam, to kick a ball (although very badly), and many other things.  She even got to go down a mini zip-line!

During free play, she interacted with the other children much more, and tried every piece of equipment at least once. The only area where you could still see a big difference between her and the other children was in circle time.  She did make some progress.  She would mimic the trainers' actions some of the time, but only when it was something she had seen them do quite a bit.  She smiled some of the time, but still spent a good amount of time looking totally spaced out with her hand in her mouth (her comfort pose).  And she never ever joined in the verbal cheers and interactions.  I don’t think that is important at all, and it might even just be a preference of hers.

The important thing is that this environment somehow encouraged her to try new things and to keep working on them.  She still never did anything truly daring, but she didn’t seem light-years behind the others.   And also, she loved it!  She loved it so much that we're having her birthday party there.

Sam is still a cautious child.  She still needs to spend about 20 minutes in any new, overwhelming environment before she gets comfortable.  She still hates loud or crowded places. But I don’t think any of those things are problematic. In fact, as long as I see her putting effort into things and persisting, I think her caution is a good thing.  I think she has turned a corner with her perfectionism, or whatever it is.  Now she seems more willing to try new physical activities, but at a slow, cautious pace.  She hasn’t totally rejected much of anything, lately.  She was fearless on our farm vacation.  I don’t know that she would have ridden the miniature horse before she went to Tumbles.  This past weekend, we went to the county fair and she rode her first roller coaster.  I knew she would like it if only she would try it, and try it she did!  We’ll just keep putting these options in front of her as often as possible, and hope that she learns from experience, that experience is how you learn.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Concierge Medicine Update

As reported earlier, I hired my concierge physician back in April and had my annual physical in May.  This was my first physical in at least 15 years.  I had all kinds of blood work done and had my first EKG. Everything was normal, which is great, but also frustrating, since my mystery pain has come back with a vengeance.  I have pain in both feet (my right toe and ankle are visibly swollen), my right thumb, my right elbow, and both hips.  The pain is not extreme, but it makes walking (and writing with a pen or pencil) very difficult, and the constant pain just wears on me.

So far, I'm a bit disappointed with my doctor.  He has definitely spent more time with me than a regular doctor would, and I've spoken to him on the phone a few times, which is unheard of in a regular practice.  But I don't get faster appointments or less wait time at the office, as promised.  I had my physical over two months ago and I'm supposed to get a CD with the results on it, but still haven't received it, so I have nothing at all in writing.  (I can't wait to tell you how my cholesterol levels have changed since I rejected the low-fat Standard American Diet in favor of red meat and fat!) And this doctor is as stumped about my pain problem as every other doctor.  His only suggestions so far have been to get moderate exercise and to have a genetic analysis done.  The exercise does not help and might even make things worse (but I'm loving it for other reasons and so will keep doing it, as I'll write about soon).  And after doing some research, I think the genetic analysis is a dead end and my doctor can't give me any coherent reasons for doing it.  The fact that he suggested it makes me distrust his judgement a bit, but at least he did have a discussion with me about it, and he respected my position and didn't push it.

I know that medicine is still a young science and we can't get answers for everything, but even I can think of many other things to try for my pain.  In fact, I've found something that seems to be helping that not a single doctor has ever suggested: ice.  This is the first time I've had visible swelling with my pain, and when something is swollen you ice it.  Duh.  I've been using ice and cold compresses on my feet for the past two nights and this morning I was able to walk straight down the stairs - as opposed to going down sideways or backwards - for the first time in a couple of months.  If I can solve this with ice instead of the painful and expensive PRP therapy, I'll be thrilled.  Also, the fact that the pain responds to ice might tell us something about its cause.  If I had a regular doctor, I'd have to make an appointment to tell him about the ice and assess our next action, but with my concierge doctor, I can just call him.  I only need to go in if he needs to see me or run tests, and that is a benefit.

So, overall, I don't know that I'm getting my money's worth, but I am getting some benefit.  (I also got a referral from him for a dermatologist who seems much better than my old one, so I suppose that's something too.)  I don't know if I'll continue with this doctor after our one year agreement.  It might be worth it for continuity's sake, but it might be better to just put that $1,500 per year into my FSA and opt-out of socialized medicine altogether by not using my health insurance.  I think if I could stabilize my health, that might be the better option.  I'll assess that when the time comes.

I know many of my readers have been interested in my experience with concierge medicine, especially considering the state of health care at present. For more information on how to protect and maintain your health in an irrational society, I highly recommend Dr. Paul Hsieh's article in the Summer, 2010 issue of The Objective Standard: How to Protect Yourself Against ObamaCare.  If you don't have a subscription to TOS, you can buy the article a-la-carte at the website.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Little Thing

We had another napping milestone this week.  I had slept terribly the night before, and by 10am I could barely keep my eyes open.  I set Sammy up on my computer to play Starfall and collapsed on the couch.  But the bed called.  I told Sammy I was going upstairs to lie down and that she could come up and wake me if she needed anything.  I have never napped before with Sammy awake in another room; when it has been necessary for me to nap while she is awake, I've set her up to watch TV on the bed with me.  This time, I didn't really think about it - I was just that tired.

I fell into a light doze immediately, but I kept my mommy senses about me.  In my sleep, I kept track of the sounds of Starfall, knowing that if they stopped, I might have to check on Sam.  But when the sounds did stop, I heard something else: the sounds of Sam doing something in the kitchen.  As long as I heard noises like that, I figured she was fine.

When I came down about 45 minutes later, Sam told me that she had gotten herself a bowl of cereal with milk, all by herself.  She was so proud!  She has never done the whole process by herself before, but obviously, she is capable.

Why is this such a big deal?  It is yet another step towards the day when Adam and I can sleep in while Sammy gets up and takes care of herself.  Sometimes I think we're crazy to be trying to have another child, just when we're reaching that point!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Visit from the Parental Units

My parents arrived in town on Sunday for their month-long visit.  Hooray!  As I've written before, they live on the road in their RV, so when they come to visit it means that they stay at an RV park nearby and we can visit a lot without having house guests the whole time.  Nice deal, huh?

We don't have a lot of formal plans but they've already started helping me out on my current home-improvement project of replacing our rotted deck and landscaping the back yard.  Right now, I refuse to go out on the deck or in the backyard if I can help it.  It's that gross.  When we get the project done, we'll have a great deal more living space in (outside of) our tiny townhouse.  I started working on this project in April or May but then I got stuck.  Now I'm in the groove again and we have a good plan, so I'm hoping to get it done by the end of September.  I'm really excited!

My parents are also going to have Sammy sleep over at the RV at least once so Adam and I can have some time to ourselves.  Yay for grandparents!  On Friday night, Sam will stay with them and Adam and I will go to a concert at the local outdoor venue, Wolf Trap.

Besides that, we'll all probably do some typical stuff like going to the carnival, the aquarium, the water park, etc.  But mostly, we're just going to hang out with them.

The visit will culminate with Sammy's 4th birthday, on September 2.  My mom is very excited to be here for her birthday - the first time since Sam's first birthday.  I've delegated all birthday party responsibilities to Adam and he's planned a party at JW Tumbles, which is like an indoor playground and gym for little kids.  Sam recently took a class there and loved it.  I have a whole post to write about that experience, but I'll have to save it for another time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Amy's Turkey Scallopini

This recipe was inspired by the leftover feta cheese from Rational Jenn's yummy Greek Chicken recipe.  I don't use feta cheese very often but I had a whole chunk threatening to go bad in my fridge, along with some flattened turkey breast, so I put this together with some other stuff I had on-hand and it was quite good.  It also meets the Amy requirement of being fast and easy, and you don't need a side dish.

Amy’s Turkey Scallopini
(serves 4)

  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard

  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

  • ¼ cup honey

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • 1 lemon

  • 8 slices bacon

  • 1.25 lbs flattened turkey breast for scallopini (mine came in 6 slices)

  • Feta cheese (I used about 6 oz.)

  • Bag of baby spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  (Actually, you should really use the broiler but, get this: The guy who sold us this house took all of the appliances for himself, replaced them with new ones, but bought the cheapest stuff you can get so that I have an oven with NO BROILER.  This is also why I had to replace the hot water heater, the microwave, and the washer and dryer in a period of 3 months earlier this year.  Anyway...)

Make up the honey glaze by mixing together first 7 ingredients in a small bowl.  (I didn't measure so the amounts are a guess.  I kept adding more honey until it tasted good, and next time, I'd use Grey Poupon instead of the dry mustard, but I was out.)

Juice the lemon into a separate small bowl.

Fry up the bacon in a large pan until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan and set aside.  Spoon about half the bacon grease into a separate large pot for the spinach.  Do not discard grease in the bacon pan.

Coat the turkey in the glaze and fry it up in the bacon pan (yes, with all that bacon grease) on medium high heat.  Two minutes per side should do it.  You’ll probably need to do two batches.

As the batches are finished, put the turkey into a 9X12 glass or Pyrex baking pan (or preferably, a BROILER-SAFE PAN WHICH I DO NOT OWN AND HAVE NO NEED FOR--ARG!).  Break the bacon slices in half (or whatever works) and lay them on top of the turkey.  Crumble feta cheese on top.  Sprinkle the whole thing with lemon juice (I only used about half but next time I'd put the whole lemon on there) and pop it in the oven (BROILER!) for about 5 minutes (1-2 MINUTES!) – just enough to soften (MELT!) the cheese.  Seriously, the oven method threatens to overcook the turkey and all you really want to do is melt that cheese a bit.

While the turkey is in the oven, heat up the remaining bacon grease on medium-low and dump in the spinach.  Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, until just wilted.  Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

(If everyone in your house likes spinach, go ahead and pre-cook it and put it on the turkey before the bacon and cheese.  I keep it separate to accommodate others in my household, but it is excellent when you put it all together.)

Finally, call suey, like this guy:

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Little Thing

On Sunday, Samantha did the most amazing thing.  I was in bed in a Benadryl-induced coma when Sam and her dad came home from the playground, around noon.  I vaguely recall Sam crawling into bed with me, and then hearing her leave a few moments later.  I heard her bathroom door shut, then I fell back asleep.  When I woke up, I went downstairs and asked Adam where she was.  He said he thought she was with me.  I realized that she had just put herself down for a nap, completely of her own free will, without anyone to tuck her in or read her a story.

And she remembered to use the potty first!