Thursday, November 30, 2006

You Have about 24 Hours to Get Here

Friday Dec 1 at 7:30 pm I open for Mark Erelli at the Listening Room. I'm playing a few new songs, including one (probably against my better judgement) that I wrote this week. So, come to Nebraska! Plus, you'll get to hear the fabulous Mark Erelli, who alone would be worth the trip.
I know the quality of the photo is dodgey, but everytime I shot it it had a glare or a shadow. A local artist named Bennett Holsworth uses an antique printing press and make each poster by hand. They usually start out one color (mine [okay, Mark's] has two!) and then he prints another layer on top and sells them at the shows. It's pretty cool. Mark Erelli has a song about a pine woods--that was the inspiration for the design. I wonder what the final version will look like.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


The night before we left for our Thanksgiving trip we watched Akeelah and the Bee. Then we spent the weekend playing Scrabble. We have continued to play at least one game of Scrabble each day we've been back. Good stuff.

I've never been much of a speller. For as much as I read and love all things language related, you'd think I'd be a natural, but I'm just not. I just don't have time for it.

When I write I try to to get things down as quickly a possible. Ideas are viscous, slippery things and if I don't punch the words into the keyboard pronto, they might slither through my fingers and dissappear forever. So I pound it out. I might write a sentance three times in a row different ways, then come back later and pick which one I like best, or cut and paste them together into one good version. It's always a race to the finish, not because I want to be done (though that might have been true in college) but because I get excited about where the essay/paper/letter/email is going and I want to get there. Then if I really like what I've written I want to get it up on the blog or sent off through cyberspace as quickly as possible so the recipient can read it.

Spelling falls to the wayside. Way, way to the wayside. I rely heavily on spell-check.

When Paul was in seminary I would sometimes type his papers. He wasn't a very good typer (times have changed), so he would dictate to me. This proved to be one of our first marital tests. Paul is the ying to my yang which makes for good balance and sometimes for crazy-making.

Paul's way of writing a paper is the dead opposite of mine. He writes one draft. Perfectly. SLOWLY. He mulls over each sentence, rolls it around inside his brain and when it is just how he wants it he puts it on the page...or in this case, would speak it aloud for me to type it out. I spent long intervals sitting at the ready, fingers on keys, waiting to type something. This made me long to go do other things besides help my new husband with his schoolwork.

But, as nerve wracking as it was for one used to barrelling through at a breakneck pace and tidying up later, this was a marvel to watch. He would craft each sentance with perfect syntax and punctuation and when he got to the end of the paper that was it. Hit print. Done. No revisions or spell-checking necessary.

He kicks my butt at Scrabble. Every time.

This why I hated Scrabble when we first played on our honeymoon. I remember sitting poolside in Jamaica (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh) with the Scrabble board between us staring blankly at my tiles....frozen. A resort waiter came and sat behind me. The longer I sat there stupid and unmoved the more figety he got. He finally reached around me and started rearranging my tiles and whispering to me what I should play. He was good, but I found this annoying and slightly humiliating. I imagine now that I got up and went for a swim while Paul and the waiter finished the game, but I don't think that's how it really happened. That just makes a better story. Really, I'm sure Paul and the waiter both helped me kindly, Paul won gracisously but I was mad and bored and never wanted to play again. And never did.

But I can now appreciate the slow strategy in Scrabble. It's a challenge for me. A good challenge to not just put down whatever word comes to mind first. It's a practice in patience and planning for me to look at the board and use the special squares to my advantage. It's a discipline to hold onto my "s" for good use later then to waste it on "is" early in the game.

I do get bored with myself staring stupidly at the tiles sometimes and will throw down a cheap word just to move the game along, but I'm learning.

In my writing I think I'll look for a healthy balance. I love getting to the end of a post (like this one) and find myself wrapping it up in a way I hadn't planned or expected. That is what makes writing fun for me---the discovery is in the writing itself---rather than being a record of what I've already discovered. But maybe all the Scrabble playing will help me to spell better and look at things a little more closely.

Please disregard any spelling mistakes in this post.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

small miracles

Tonight Paul and I were playing Scrabble (more on Scrabble later). Moses was milling around the table, talking to us. He stood looking over my shoulder at the board and whispering under his breath. He does this a lot. When he is telling a story he will often whisper a word to himself first, to kind of try it out and see if that's really the one he wants, and then speak it aloud. "Today I was playing on the purple ( equipment at recess."

He was looking over my shoulder and saying, "That says (j...jet) jet. That says (woah-man) woman." And I realized that he was reading the Scrabble board. He was READING the Scrabble board. This is my Kindergartener who only in the last month has shown any interest in letters and what sounds they was like a little switch turned on in his brain a few weeks ago. And tonight he was reading the Scrabble board.

We have a set of books called Bob Books that are for this very very first reading. I bought them for Phoebe when she started Kindergarten and they were the first thing she read. They come in a box of ten tiny little booklets with texts like "mat, cat, hat" and pictures for each word. I told Mo to go find those and we'd read them at bedtime.

He came back a few minutes later saying he couldn't find the Bob Books, but did find Dick & Jane. Mo sat next to me at the kitchen table and slowly started reading, "Look, Dick. Oh, oh! Dick, look! See Sally? See Sally and Spot? Look, Dick. Look at Sally and Spot."

It was the most amazing thing. One minute: non-reader. Next minute: reader. I was totally transfixed by the workings of his six-year-old brain. How did that happen?

With Phoebe we worked on those books--typical first child stuff. We went over letters and we sat with those books long before she had any success with them. I mentally charted exactly what she knew. We'd try the Bob Books, which she initially found very frustrating (and so did I, because she wasn't ready) and I'd put them away for a few weeks and then try them again. And slowly...slowly...through force of will she'd make those letter sounds, haltingly, pronouncing each syllable correctly but unable to make sense of the word until finally she read. I say "finally" because we put a lot of work into it, not because she was by any means a late reader. And I don't think I was pushy about it -- I was just a little more involved than perhaps was ideal.

So, because of my first-child-is-always-an-experiment-tactics, Phoebe's reading was a reward for her efforts. Whsch is fine. It's great. She practiced and she read and now she's an amazing reader and gets as much pleasure out of reading and being read to as Paul & I do. Mission totally accomplished.

But Mo's reading tonight seemed like magic. Abbra Cadabbra See Dick Run.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pretty Much

"Hey, you know those green guys...with all the gold...? They pretty much have the same hats as pilgrims."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm already planning a party

I think I'm bored. I know I posted a list a few weeks back of all the things I did during a fairly busy day, but not all days are like that. Some are crazier than that one, but the past few days I feel like I've just been passing time.

The things I do do are so varied and scattered that they don't seem to add up to much. I baked at the bakery on Saturday. I've had some library business to attend to. I've had to plan ahead my Sunday School lesson and find a sub since I'll be in St. Louis. I've done some housework. That's all well and good, but you put it all together and you have....what?

My plan has been to wait until all the kids have been in school for year before I make a life change. It's been hard to imagine what it will be like when they are all out in the world. But, three months in to Ollie gone half days and Phoebe and Moses gone all day....and I can't foresee another year of staying at home without some sort of outside action.

So, I went online to look at the Masters of Arts in Teaching program here at Hastings College. It's a good school. That program is just what I want. But it's expensive. There's the University of Nebraska Kearney, but it's an hour away. There's an online program through Doane College (here in NE) that I have some friends going through, but I don't like the idea of online.

HC really would be my first choice. It's a beautiful campus right across town. I could ride my bike. I have several friends who are professors or work there in some capacity (though none in this program)--it would just be a nice place to study, a nice community to be a part of.

I filled out an online form to request info because there wasn't much on the website about the graduate programs. About 12 hours later the phone rang and it was my friend Darcy. She goes to our church. Her daughter and Phoebe are good friends. I knew Darcy worked at HC, but I didn't realize that she was the Graduate School Coordinator and when I filled out that form it went directly to her!

So, Darcy said if I can get a Graduate Assistant position my tutition is waived and I get a stipened. She looked up all the graduate assistant positions and the one for the learning center (where you go get help on papers) will be open come May.

I would have to apply, get two letters of reccommendation and take this Praxis test (in lieu of the GRE). Filling out the application itself is easy. And I can round of some letters of rec from good folks in the community with whom I've worked on various committees and things (which initially I was nervous about because I don't know that any of my college profs would remember me--I was a transfer and I graduated early--I was only at Valpo for 2-1/2 years). I wondered how hard the Praxis would be until I looked at practice questions. It's basically reading (basic comprehension), writing (they give you a topic and you write an essay) and math.

Ah, math. The practice questions looked hard to me. Most of them I knew how to figure out. I just don't know if I can do it within the time limit. There were a few geometry questions that were compltely outside my realm of knowledge. So, I will have to study math...but so what? I can learn math. I might not like it, but I can do it.

I'm really excited. I know that really it's just the first wave of excitement--the I HEARD ABOUT THIS YESTERDAY AND I'M GOING TO CHANGE MY LIFE Excitement. But, euphoria aside, it looks like a really smart move. Especially if I can be a graduate assistant.

Ollie can start kindergarten the same day I start graduate school. And then when he's in third grade (and Phoebe's in sixth and Moses is in fourth) I can start teaching. That seems like a pretty good plan....?

And then I just skip on ahead to my graduation party. I remember my friend Rachel saying she threw a graduation party with a tent outside for Kyle when he completed his phD and I always thought that sounded fabulous. So, in three years you are invited to my graduation party...that is, if I acutally apply to graduate school.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

not QUITE what I had in mind

I am going on a trip. By myself. I get to fly. I'll be gone Fri-Tuesday.

Unfortuneatley, this is because my dad fell off the roof and busted himself up good. He is okay, by which I mean, it is not life-threatening. However, he completely shattered his left wrist and broke his right elbow. He's having surgery on both tomorrow. It sounds like there will be multiple wrist surgeries. He's been in dual casts from fingers to shoulders all weekend in a trauma unit. He also has a huge gash on his forehead and just generally roughed up. I haven't talked to him (how would he hold the phone?) but my mom says he's just mad as all get out that it even happened. But that's the nature of an accident, right? Something catastrophic that you didn't foresee, so how could he have known? Somehow, I don't think sharing that would make him feel any better.

Anyway, I'll be glad just to see him and hang out and help where I can. He'll be home by then, I think. So I can, at the very least, sit and visit and go get him a Coke Zero when he's thirsty and change the channel if he can't hold the remote.

Burn That Book!

I'm on a committee to review a book that a patron has asked to be removed from our local public library shelves. He found it "shocking" and "inappropriate."

I picked up my copy Saturday afternoon. I asked the children's librarian if I should lock myself in my bedroom before I opened it or cover it in brown paper so my own children couldn't see it. She just flashed a sly grin and said she wasn't going to say anything about it, that I'd have to figure out for myself what was objectionable.

The book is The Baby's Catalogue by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Apparently, when the Ahlberg's child was a baby s/he delighted in looking at catalogues. My kids still do. So they made a book that was very catalogue-like, but with baby-relatable images. There is no real text, only, "mommies" and "meals" and "bath time" or "bed time". Each page has a series of illustrations that pertain to the heading. The illustrations are small (five to ten per page, the book is only about nine inches square) and softly cartoony and pastel.

My copy of the book came through interlibrary loan. There is a sticker on the back that says, "This book is recommended for month 8."

Here is the so-called problem: under the headings "Babies" and "Lunches" there are illustrations of a baby breastfeeding; and under "Bath Time" there is a little boy sitting in a shallow tub with his penis visible.

I can only imagine the person who filed this complaint saying, "This is completely inappropriate! An eight month old has no business knowing ANYTHING about BREASTFEEDING!"

The illustration shows no bare breast, no nipple, no nothing. You see a mom holding a baby in profile, her shirt is open from the top and pulled to one side (the other side completely covered). There really isn't even the outline or shape of a breast, just flesh and the baby's mouth pressed against it. It is really a very sweet picture--the baby is fingering the mom's buttons in in one picture and a ruffle in the other, the way babies do.

As for the tub illustration. Does this man bathe his kids in their swimsuits? It is what it is: a baby boy sitting up in the tub, holding a duckie over his head, a towel hanging up behind him. It's not like it's an illustration of his penis. It's merely there, anatomically correct, where it should be, as part of a happy busy picture.

We will have no problem keeping this book on the shelf where it should be. If there is any dissent whatsoever, I'll just pull out the American Acadamy of Pediatritions recommendations on breastfeeding and the fact that boys have penises and no amount of cramming babies into swimsuits will change that. But, really...I can't imagine anyone really arguing this book should be banned.

Paul and I made a game of going through and pointing out "equally objectionable" illustrations. The weiners in the Shopping section are phalic, not to mention anti-vegetarian. There are two boys holding hands. There's a baby sleeping on it's stomach.

It's all a bit ridiculous. Much ado about nothing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

sick days/vacation days

I was sick this week. Every time I swallowed it felt like I was trying to choke down an apple whole. I finally went to the doctor. I started taking amoxicillin and a mad decongestant. Now I’m well. But I find I miss being sick.
I was off the hook for a while. I sat in front of the tv and watched nonsense shows that I’ve never seen before and could hardly follow--so I’d flip back and forth between a couple of them. I don’t even know what they were. What’s on network TV Monday nights?
I went to bed at 9:30. I asked Paul to cook dinner. He put the kids to bed. On Monday morning he got up and got them breakfast and made their lunches! I slept until 8:45. Once I started the decongestant I was a little loopy--tired and then wired. So I woke up at 3:00 am and couldn’t get back to sleep so I went and surfed the web and then listened to a book on my mp3 player until I fell back asleep. The next day I just napped.
Except for the feeling crappy bit, it was pretty nice. It was like a vacation.
In the summer of 05 my friend Angela and I went to the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. The year before Paul and I had gone with the kids. But in 05 Paul had used his vacation days elsewhere and we didn’t have the money for us all to go anyway. So I went with my girlfriend. It was fantastic. We listened to great music. Dipped in the ice cold creek instead of waiting in line for the showers. We listened to great music. We stayed up late sitting around campsites playing music and listening to some of the people we had watched on stage earlier, only unplugged and under a tarp at 2:00 in the morning. We walked to the coffee shop in town each morning. We started taking turns buying rounds with other Nebraskans who we shared our blankets and sat with at about 2pm. We heard Kasey Chambers and Patti Griffin and Peter Mayer and The Mammals and…. on and on. It was a fantastic four days.
That was the last time I went away by myself.
Paul sometimes goes on birding trips. He’ll hear that there is a rare owl in South Dakota and he’ll drive up, spend the “night” in a hotel, get up at some awful hour and look for the bird. He’s usually gone for 24-48 hours. I think it’s a bit nutty, but he loves it and I’m glad for him to get out there and do what he enjoys. Goodness knows he works hard enough.
But, so do I, right? And Paul would be more than accommodating if I wanted to get away…but where am I going to go? I’d love to go to some music-related event (a festival, a songwriting workshop, whathaveyou) but those cost money and are far away. Most things are far away from Nebraska. I find it hard to justify spending that kind of money (if I could find that kind of money) just to get away. Sometimes I think I should go visit a friend for the weekend--but again, who is driving distance from NE? And who would I visit that wouldn’t be saddened not to see the kiddos? And Paul?
I just answered a questionnaire on Melanie & Norma’s website that asked “If time could be stopped and everyone was frozen except you, what would you do and how much time would you need?” I answered “I'd go someplace beautiful--maybe drive to the mountains, maybe go camp out in a museum--and just hang out and play guitar and write songs and crochet until I was ready to start the world back up again.” But really, I don’t need time to stop to do that, do I? I just need to suck it up, make a plan and find a friend with a cabin in the woods…

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good Day for the Lotto

1. It's 80 and sunny
2. Amoxicillin has made me and my throat very very happy after a long week
3. The election results have made me very very happy (not entirely on the local level, but nationally--yes)
4. Rumsfeld resigned

I should go buy some powerball tickets. Things seem to be going my way.
Or I could brace myself for the other shoe to drop.
But I think I'll go with the lotto.

Felt Up

About a month ago I crocheted and felted a hat with a pattern out of the Stitch-n-Bitch Happy Hooker book by Debbie Stoller. I'm not sure what went wrong, but the brim was gigantic and rippley. After rewetting it and trying to shape it into something I would wear, I finally cut the brim...I still won't wear it. Plus it felted a little too small for my gaint melon.Then I tried my hand at design. I like the shape of this hat much better, but again it was too small. It's hard to gauge how much something will shrink. I guess I could have done a test swatch and figured out the percentage of shrinkage and figured that into the size of the pre-felted bag, but...well... Here's hat number two, of my own design. I've chalked these up to experience.
I thought I'd try a purse. Even if a purse shrinks up too small, it can still be useful...put my keys in it...something, but my intention was to make a fairly large bag. I bought Lamb's Pride Bulky (which is spun & dyed right here in Nebraska and has become my favorite yarn...I just want to eat it! it looks like frosting or cotton candy) in sable and aztec torquoise--I'm into the brown and blue thing these days. I also went without a pattern. This is an Emily Dunbar original and this time it actually exceeded my expectations. Here's the purse(big and floppy with loose stitches) before felting:
And after two washer cycles in hot water with dish soap and 24 to dry stuffed with newspaper here is my Dr. Suessy, bell shaped, sculptural purse. I love it. It will always be a bit fuzzy, which I really like, but some of the excess just needs to be pulled off. HINTON FAMILY CHRISTMAS SPOILER: my mom is getting this for Christmas. I hope it's not too cartoony for her.

Since I can't in good conscience shell out the money for more nice wool to do another purse (though I'd really like one for myself!) at the moment, I decided to use up my stash of Red Heart acrylic yarn and try my hand at amigurumi. I'm making a pink elephant. I'll post pics upon completion. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 06, 2006


I am a member of the Board of Trustees for our local public library. It is a position for which my interest waxes and wanes. Some months I couldn’t care less about library policy and dread the meetings. Other months I get all pumped about being the backbone of democracy and providing access and information free to the masses. All in all, it is a worthwhile thing. Most of the time I enjoy it and can see that the library board is helping to better our community in our own small way.
I got an email today from our Library Director asking me to be on an ad hoc committee. Someone has asked that a children’s book be taken off the shelves. Intrigue! I’m so excited! It’s a weird thing to be excited about, I know, but won’t that be interesting?!
I’m not sure who else will be on the committee...I assume one will be a staff member…I represent the Library Board….maybe a member of the general public? We read the “offending material” and review our library policies and then make an official recommendation to the board as to whether the book should be taken out of the library or not. I’m thinking it will have to be pretty bad for me to recommend banning a book….but I guess I should go in with an open mind…but banning a book?!? I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Pirate Party

Here's the six-year-old himself yelling "aaaargh!" for the camera. How this child grew to be SIX is beyond me, but he is six indeed, so we celebrated it heartily on Saturday.Here's the gang at the breakfast table:
And just how did those hats come to be? I'm glad you asked! I bought a two-piece fish and fry at Long John Silver's with an extra side of fried clams and then helped myself to ten pirate hats.
I had three half-cans of black spray paint (your guess as to WHY I had three HALF cans is as good as mine) and so I painted over the cheesey LJS design.
I then used an exacto knife to cut skulls and party hats out of fun foam (Friday afternoon at the Blue Moon Coffee Company while drinking a Silken Moon listening to the novel The Girl with the Pearl Earring on my mp3 player--and yes I did bring a whole bag of craft supplies and camped out for an hour or two). I hot glued the pieces onto the hats and wrote the kids' names with paint pen.
I also cut black skulls and party hats out and hot glued them onto treat bags. These bags filled with candy, pencils, skull straws and odds and ends were the booty they found at the end of a treasure hunt.
And now for the masterpiece! Phoebe had a doughnut cake for her birthday and Moses wanted the same. I thought I'd make his more themeatic, though. My original thought was to build the sculpture entirely out of doughnuts, but Paul suggested using styrofoam balls as a form underneath the doughnuts -- a strok of genius, I must say. I had envisioned this turning out cool...but I had no idea it would be THIS cool. Here's the form:I secured the doughnuts to the foam with toothpicks. I used choco doughnuts cut in half for the nose hole and tooth gaps, and halved powdered ones where whole ones wouldn't fit. Here is the skull doughnut cake...voila!

Posted by PicasaThe kids loved it. We had doughnuts, fruit salad and punch (OJ, sprite & orange sherbet--yum!). The did a three-legged race and an over-under relay with a ball, then an impromptu game of freeze tag because they were really wound up. Then we went in and opened presents.

The final activity was the treasure hunt. I divided them into three color coded teams and gave them each their first clue in a color coded envelope. The clues were all photos I had taken of things around the yard (these are kindergarteners so they mostly can't read). They ran outside to find whatever was in their photo (the jackolanterns, the hammock, the duckhouse, the fire pit, etc) where they found another envelope with another photo clue. There were eight locations in all--the teams all went different directions--and at the last location were there treat bags. It was very Camp Soaring Hawk. The logistics acutally worked out (I was a little worried I had over looked some detail or had things out of order), it was challenging but fun, and they were all excited to find their treats at the end.

The one problem: the party was a half hour too long. At an hour and a half I was all out of material and they were done with any sort of organized activities so I turned them loose in the basement. Note to self: no two hour parties.

Okay, that was not the one problem. The REAL problem was that ten minutes before the party my neighbor (whose two kids were coming to the party) called and yelled into the phone "come get luke! the ambulance is coming for annie!" I didn't ask questions, I just hung up, ran across the yard and brought the kid back to the house. Paul was a church preparing for a funeral so I called him and he went next door to wait with our neighbor for the paramedics because her husband was at work. It was awful. So as all Mo's friends are walking up our driveway for the party, their classmate was being loaded into the ambulance next door. It was terrible! She came home a few hours later and is doing fine. We brought over her pirate hat, treat bag and a breakfast plate. Annie was more upset over having missed the party than her medical condition, bless her heart.

We had a bazillion other things going on this weekend and I am thoroughly exhausted. I hope you all had a good weekend!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

she thrifts...she scores!

I went to Goodwill this morning in search of 100% wool sweaters. Halloween is over and my thoughts have turned back to crafting Christmas presents. I've got my family presents at least planned out and in many cases underway or completed. But, as today is teacher conference day for the Dunbar kids, I started considering my options for teacher gifts.

I'm found some great sweaters which I'm going to felt up and make bags--possibly cell phone cozies?--out of. I'm not exactly sure.

Felting is when you take wool that is knit or crocheted fairly loosely together (like a regular sweater) and you put it in hot soapy water. All the fibers mat together to make a thick, tight fabric. If you've ever accidentally ruined a wool sweater--you felted it.

Last spring I felted up some sweaters and tried to construct slippers out of them...which didn't quite pan out...but I could see the possibilites of felting thrifted sweaters.

I also tried my hand at crocheting and then felting a hat. I did it twice, actually, and neither time were the results wearable. Once the rim of the hat was all floppy and rippley and the second time the form was better but it felted up too small. I figure with buying $2 I'm cutting my cost (by not buying exensive wool yarn) and effort (by not crocheting an object twice the size it will be after felting) so if these don't turn out (oh, but they WILL) it won't be so upsetting (I can chalk three botched projects up to experience and my "crafting journey"...but if it turns to four I might get pissed) .

So, I've tried my hand at felting before, but the November issue of Martha Stewart Living has some cute felting projects that made me want to try it again. I love Martha.

Here are the sweaters:
I also scored this killer postman sweater. It's 100% acrylic--so crazy warm--and that postal gray/blue with the USPS patch. I can't wait to wear it!

 Posted by Picasa