Friday, November 30, 2012

November goals progress

Is it already the end of November? It's time for my monthly update.

  1. I decided to work on a new novel during NaNoWriMo for November. I started "Dear Grace", an idea I've been thinking about off and on for over a year. While I did start, I didn't get very far. I found that having to work on it made it harder, made it a chore. So I've gotten back to writing just when I feel inspired. Yep, I'm never gonna be a full-time writer. And that's ok. I want to enjoy writing.
  2. No new progress on the play.
  3. I've read 36 books so far this year. Only 4 more to reach my goal of 40. I'm on track to do it.
  4. November was a very busy month for us at the IU Cinema. We started the month with From Here to Eternity, followed by The Motorcycle Diaries, Cabaret and, finally, A Trip to the Moon last night. 
  5. We didn't get to any of the state forests this month. One Saturday we considered it, but ended up going to an SCA archery practice instead. 
  6. And the cold weather takes away any desire to run. I think this one will be on hold until the spring.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving memories

It's that time of year again when Thanksgiving gets lost between the ghoulish, sugar fueled giddiness of Halloween and the bedecked hysteria of Christmas. I like Thanksgiving. I like Halloween and Christmas too. But I'd really like Thanksgiving to have its due. 

Growing up, we always spent Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family. Each year was at a different house. There was a rotation for Thanksgiving and another for Christmas, based on who had enough space. Some years Grandma hosted, or Great-Aunt Elaine, or my mom, or one of my aunts.

The food was usually the same, with minor variations: turkey roasted in the oven, sage stuffing cooked in the bird, gravy. Heart-attack mashed potatoes, with a brick of cream cheese and a stick of butter. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli casserole - the kind with Velveeta and crushed Ritz crackers. Caponi Macaroni, my grandma's macaroni salad that beats store-bought hands down. A choice of Jello-like canned or Aunt Jill's homemade cranberries. Rolls. Pickles and olives, usually eaten as hors d'oevers while we waited for the turkey to be ready.

Grace would be said, giving thanks for the meal before us and for all the good things that had happened in the family that year. The uncles would pile their plates high, everything mixing together. Some of us kept our food neatly separated*. When we were all stuffed and couldn't eat a bite more, there were the pies: pumpkin, of course, and apple. Often a chocolate variety as well. We'd pile whipped cream on the pumpkin pie until it toppled over. 

Afterward, the kitchen would be cleaned, the tv turned on. If we were at Aunt Elaine's, she would play the organ. I have fond memories of sitting next to her while she played Christmas carols. At Grandma's, the kids would disperse to the basement play area tucked next to Grandpa's work bench. We knew better than to play with his tools. 

Some time in the evening, the adults would draw names for the Christmas grab bag. They would each write their name and three gift ideas under $20. The trick was to get a name that wasn't in your own household. 

On the way home, we'd tune the radio to a station playing Christmas carols. These were the first signs of the Christmas season. It wasn't a never-ending barrage from September on. But once Thanksgiving was over, all bets were off.

We would go to the Christmas tree farm and cut down our tree on the day that has come to be called Black Friday. It would go in a bucket of water in the shed until we were ready to put it up, much closer to Christmas. We'd spend the weekend decorating the house, starting with the outside lights. Christmas music would blare from the record player; hot chocolate would be drunk. This was the start of Christmas.

But not before we enjoyed our Thanksgiving. Not before we gave thanks and enjoyed a day with family.

Nowadays, we usually go to Chris's parents'. There are some different dishes and ours are the only kids there.  My parents usually join us, and Chris's grandparents, and some friends. We eat, the kids play. Sometimes the kids watch a movie while football plays in the other room. There's often ham in addition to the turkey. Sometimes Downs family specialties like creamed onions and turnips join a wild rice dish from a family friend. Dessert is usually a fantastic creation from another family friend who loves making cheesecakes and other delights. There's usually still a pumpkin pie for the traditionalists.

* Legal moves when filling a holiday plate: the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing can touch. They can all be covered with gravy, depending on preference. A skilled plate fille will use the mashed potatoes and stuffing as walls around the turkey to keep the gravy from spreading. Cranberries must be segregated from everything else, especially the mac salad. Putting broccoli casserole between those two is an excellent buffer, although some broccoli may be lost to spreading cranberry juice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When it's ok to talk to strangers

I walked into my 4 year old's preschool at pick-up time. His teacher was just finishing a story.

"And remember, NEVER talk to STRANGERS."

Inwardly, I cringed. Because the more I've read, and the more I've thought about it, I really think the whole stranger paranoia is giving the wrong message.

We walked out to the car. "Mommy, NEVER talk to strangers."

"Well, sometimes it's ok to talk to strangers."

"But Ms. Paula says never talk to strangers."

"I know, and in school you shouldn't disagree with her, but Mommy and Daddy think it's ok to talk to strangers sometimes."

He got really upset and started crying. Which made me start to tear up. I pulled myself together, glad I was in the front seat and he was in back (and thus couldn't see me).

"When is it ok to talk to strangers?" I asked. "Can you think of something you did recently when you talked to strangers?"

"Trick or treat."

"Yep. You went trick or treating and talked to lots of people you didn't know. Do you know when else you've talked to strangers?"


"Do you play with kids you don't know when we're at the park?"


"Well, those are strangers. When do you think it would be ok to talk to strangers?"

"I don't know."

"What about if Mommy got lost in a store? Do you think it would be ok to talk to a stranger? Maybe find the register and ask for help?" A pause while he considered that. "How about if we make a different rule: don't go with strangers."

"Ok," meekly from the back seat.

"If someone came up to you and it wasn't trick or treat and said 'here, little boy, have some candy' what should you do?"

"Say no."

"Yes. And if someone offered you a ride and you didn't know them, what should you do?"

"Not get in the car."

"Exactly. And you should yell, really loudly, 'NO! I don't know you!'"

"But that's not appropriate." (We've had talks about yelling lately.)

"This is a case when it's entirely appropriate and I want you to yell." Another pause while he thought about that. "If Mommy or Daddy couldn't pick you up at school, do you know who is allowed to pick you up? Who you can go with?"

"No." More tears. This whole conversation was very upsetting for him, especially the idea of Mommy getting lost or not being able to pick him up.

So I listed the people who are approved to pick him up.

"Do you think most people are basically good or basically bad?"

"Basically good."

"You're right! So are most of the strangers you meet mostly good?"

He nodded.

"So is it sometimes ok to talk to strangers?"


At that point, he didn't want to talk more. This will be a conversation that we'll need to address time and again. Learning to judge when it's ok and not ok to talk to strangers takes a little practice. But it's a lesson we need to work on because knowing how to live in a world where most of the people you encounter are strangers is good.

This conversation is quite timely, actually. I'm going to a parenting book club with my moms group tonight where we will be discussing Free Range Kids. I've been following the blog for a while and have read the book. I've done at least the baby step in each chapter. While Chris and I have talked about a lot of the ideas in the book, this was the first big conversation with one of the boys about the topics.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A mini election

The boys and I were talking about the election today. I asked if they wanted to participate, which they did, so I made 'ballots' for them.

The ballots were pretty simple: pictures of each candidate, with their names, and a box to check. I only printed the top races: President/Vice President, US Senate, US House, Governor, State House, and State Senate.

The election was purely done based on pictures of the candidates.

Sam, age 4, seemed to randomly select candidates, telling me he picked each one because he "liked" them, but was unable to tell me why he liked them.

Wil, age 5, chose his candidates based on particular features. Since I thought his reasons were interesting, I will share them here.

For President, Wil chose Romney/Ryan because Biden looks too old with his white hair. He also thought Obama had an old face.

For US Senate, he picked Donnelly because Mourdock's eyebrows are scary. Good reasoning for a 5 year old. He's seen The Smurfs cartoons from the 80s and those eyebrows remind me of Gargamel's.

Gargamel and his cat Azreal. Photo from Wikipedia
For US House, Wil picked Shelly Yoder. She reminds him of his teacher.

For Governor, he didn't like any of the candidates because they all looked too old.

Interestingly, he didn't pick Matt Pierce, who is running unopposed for State House, because he has glasses. Even though Chris and I both wear glasses, he says he doesn't like glasses -- except on us.

For State Senate, he picked Stoops. He didn't have a better reason than that he liked him.

So there it is: not knowing anything else about the candidates, they had to go based on looks. And 'looking old' is a huge liability for young kids. So is looking scary.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October goals progress

It's November 1st. I supposed I should post my October goals progress.

  1. I worked on my novel a little. Got some good feedback. Lots of notes to apply... when I'm ready to work on it more. I'm starting a new novel in November for NaNoWriMo
  2. Got some good feedback on the play. I need to work with Chris to add action (it's currently dialog heavy).
  3. I'm on track toward my goal of 40 books. I've read 33 so far. I'm currently reading 2. 
  4. We spent a lot of time at the IU Cinema in October. Casablanca on October 4th, Bride of Frankenstein/Freaks double feature followed by The Gamers: Dorkness Rising/Beverly Lane double feature on October 27th.
  5. Does driving through Yellowwood State Forest count? Because we did that. We didn't get out and hike, but it was a nice drive.
  6. I've fallen off the running wagon. I got out a few times, but the cold has been an issue. I picked up some warmer running clothes, so that should help... as long as I can keep from getting injured and actually get out. 
Overall, a pretty good month. I think I'll add yoga or some other exercise in place of trying to run so much. It may be the cold, but I've been more likely to hurt after running lately. November is looking to be a very productive month.