Monday, December 28, 2009

Gleanings from the Game of LIFE

Emma got The Game of LIFE for Christmas and we spent a happy couple of hours on Boxing Day growing old together. I firmly believe you can learn a lot about human nature through board games. Don't believe me? Read on:

At first, neither Emma, nor Mouse planned to go to college, especially after learning they would have to take a $100,000 loan to be paid back with interest. Both changed their minds after seeing that I was going to to college. In the end, Emma became a veterinarian and Mouse, a lawyer. I became an accountant (yawn!). Half way through the game, Mouse changed careers to become a teacher. That's my girl! Mighty Mum was the only one of us who bypassed college for a career in hairdressing. She was very successful.

When it came time to tie the knot, Emma made it quite clear that she had no interest in getting married. Unfortunately for her, The Game of LIFE is not so evolved to allow for confirmed bachelorhood. Mouse, on the other hand, while not enthusiastic about the change didn't buck having a little blue man added to her car just as long as he rode shot gun.

Shortly thereafter, we all chose our first homes. Mouse picked a modern condo; Emma, a ranch; myself, a tudor; and Mighty Mum, a trailer. When we reached the family path, only Mouse and I took it. The Little Blue Captain and I had a baby girl followed by a set of boy and girl twins. Mouse also had twins, but chose only girls. Shocking.

To no one's surprise, Mighty Mum played the whole game debt-free. Falling not far from the proverbial tree, Emma paid off her college loans with her first two pay checks only to have to borrow again to buy her first home. I think she would have moved into Mighty Mum's trailer if we'd let her. Mouse, on the other hand, had to be coerced into reconciling her debts. Left to her own devices, I'm sure the twins would have had to pay off Mouse's student loans with their inheritance.

As much as the Colonel and Mighty Mum might beg to differ, The Game of Life ends with retirement. Mouse, even with her mid-life career change, beat us all with a net worth of nearly two million dollars. I took strange comfort in that. Surprisingly, Mighty Mum came in a close second, never having had children or leaving the trailer. I came in third and Emma was last, mainly due to frequent lawsuits inflicted by Mouse. She's little, but ruthless. Maybe I should change her blog name to Weasel.

All in all, it was an afternoon well spent. The Game of Life has changed a lot since I was a kid but is no less compelling. If you're looking for entertainment on a quiet winter afternoon, I'd highly recommend picking it up. You'll learn more than a bunch of rules, I guarantee it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stepping out of the woods.

It's been six weeks since the Baby Echos and I have been together. I've finally stopped calling Jamal, 'Miguel.' Considering Miguel is Hispanic and Jamal is African American, this should have been a no-brainer. The others have settled into their names quite nicely, too. Marques is my 'mover and shaker.' He has yet to pass a half hour in my presence without rolling on the floor. Alisha, the only girl, is my emotional time bomb. Last week she came into class and said, "Today, I'm not going to throw a fit." I've never called her teary outbursts 'fits' but apparently someone has. Miguel is my anti-Alisha, so quiet I must make a conscious effort to ensure he's not forgotten. When the rest of the crew get too loud, it's Miguel who covers his ears. Jacob routinely asks to come home with me. "But Jacob, for all you know I live in a cave," I said, the first time he asked. His eyes lit up, "You live in a cave?" He's asked every day since. Tyrone will do anything for a laugh, even if it gets him in trouble, and Jamal is the perfect audience, laughing and cheering the others on, lesson plan be damned. They could drive a person crazy if they weren't so adorable.

I was signing out after a particularly rowdy session when the classroom teacher stopped to talk to me. "I wanted you to know that all of your kids are showing improvement." She went on to explain that the six are retested every week to two weeks on their letter sound recognition using a special monitoring system called DIBELS.

"All of them had scores that showed they were at risk for reading failure back in October. They're all out of the woods now."

I left that day with a smile on my face a bit bigger than usual. We've all made progress. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back to Basics

I arrived at the test center thirty minutes early, not because I'm like that, but because my email confirmation insisted that I must. I was there to take the ICTS Basic Skills Test, the first of three licensing exams that will qualify me as a teacher.

As the name suggests, the Basic Skills Test is a five-hour-long series of questions designed to ensure that I can read, write and do basic math. (Somewhat disconcerting, isn't it, that the public school system of the US and Canada can't be trusted to achieve this.) To be honest, I was more concerned about having enough time to finish than I was about the test's content. Clearly, I can write, but good writing takes time. In any case, I was fully equipped for the long haul. I had a water bottle, two oranges, a banana and a bagel, ear plugs and my antibiotics. I also had four pencils, an eraser, and a pad of paper. I was as ready as I would ever be.

When I entered the test center, there was one examinee already waiting with her mom. I imagined my mom was home getting ready for Bridge. I was handed a copy of the test rules: no food, no water, no earplugs, no paper, no nothing! I would be issued a plasticized tablet and a dry-erase marker. Ironically, I was not to erase. If I filled my tablet I was to raise my hand and another would be issued to me. I would be video and audio taped throughout the exam. If I needed to leave the room for any reason, I had to raise my hand and wait to be escorted. I would be photographed and finger printed on my arrival and every time I entered and exited the examination room. Should I want ear plugs, a pair would be issued to me. I would also be issued a locker in which to place my effects. (At this point I was thinking that the test center could give some great pointers to the Department of National Defence.)

I did everything I was asked and even smiled for the camera. A young woman requested I turn out my pockets before entering the exam room. My personal set of foam earplugs tumbled out. "You can put those in your locker," she said.

A full half hour after my arrival I was escorted into the exam room. I left five hours later hungry, thirsty, and with a raging headache. I was fingerprinted again before I could retrieve my water bottle and snacks. It was over. I'd share more, but then I'd have to...well... you know!

Let the holidays begin!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

First Impressions

Today marked the end of my first semester as a non-traditional student. Over dinner I asked the girls what they thought of university. Mouse's reply was, "Weird."

"What's so weird about it?" I asked, thinking hard about the day I brought her along for a team meeting. For the life of me, I couldn't think of anything too unusual about it.

"The boys don't pull up their pants and you can see their underwear."

You hear that boys? Pull up your pants. Six-year-olds notice!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nut Cracking

Mouse, Emma and I stand in the lobby of the Peoria Civic Center Theater waiting for Mouse's class to arrive. Students from all over the area parade past us, heading to their seats to watch the Nutcracker. As their teachers present themselves to the ushers they identify themselves by their school's name. Schools from the north of town draw no comments from either girl. It is a school from the south, one I've heard called a 'ghetto school' by some of my classmates, that grabs Emma's attention.

"Mommy, why do all the kids from that school have dark skin?"

"Good question Emma." I'm stalling to organize my thoughts. She's right. Only their teacher is white. "The school a kid goes to depends on where they live. The neighborhood those kids are from must have a lot of families with dark skin. "

"But why?" She asks.

"That's not a simple question to answer, Emma."

Just then Mouse's class arrives, excited, breathless, and all colors of the rainbow, though decidedly white. Mouse runs off to join them.

I put an arm around Emma and head for the door. "Let's go," I say, all the while planning a very different field trip.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Move over, Rudolf!


Make way for Honey!

Sporting her adorable antlers, I was sure she was going to get her picture in the paper. It was the annual Peoria Jingle Bell Run and Walk and Honey was in her element. She was petted more in one day than in the last five years combined. Unfortunately, she only got her name in the paper thanks to an upstart Yorkie who had the audacity to lick Santa's beard. Bummer. Next year I'll dress like the Grinch, hitch her to a sleigh and call her Max.

Read all about her here:
Ringing in a record run - Peoria, IL - pjstar.com

Posted using ShareThis

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's in a name

The classroom teacher has pointed out my students who are scattered all over the room: five boys, one girl. Miguel, Tyrone, Jamal, Marques, Jacob, and Alisha. Try as I might, I can't keep the boys straight. I hate the fact that I fall under the white man stereotype of not being able to tell African Americans apart. They are all unique. I can see that. But still their names shuffle through my mind like the ball in a game of shells. If they would only stop moving.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Baby Echos

The school gives me six names, six children, all five years old, who need to learn to read. Their names aren't like mine, names from lands generations away, held close by years of oppression. But they are still kids, my kids. They prefer bumping fists to high fives. I show them I can learn. They show me they can, too. This is our story.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pious Poultry Sighting

Due a patch of fowl weather, this bird made it through Thanksgiving 2009 by the skin of its waddle. Score one for the power of prayer!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Toxic and loving it!

We did it! The Captain and I detoxed together and no one filed divorce papers. I had my full-caf cappuccino Friday morning with a gingerbread bagel and I swear I was higher than a kite within 15 minutes. Honestly, my pupils were dilated. It's taken me this long to come back down to keyboard level.

On a more serious note, I've decided that diet colas are not my friend and that I'm going to stay away from them. Since going back to school I've ingested a sickening amount of caffeine. It was taking its toll, evidently, because I never got a fever despite having flu-like symptoms for two days and a mild headache for five.

I have to say that the Captain was especially irritating over the duration. As he's been known to eat things like muesli without the pretense of detox, all he seemed to crave was his evening beer. I, on the other hand, was missing something morning, noon, and night. Sometimes he looked so damn relaxed that I was tempted to wave an open bottle of Guinness under his nose just to see him suffer. Let's just say detoxing does not bring out my best qualities.

So detox is over and it's only three days until American Thanksgiving. Stay tuned for pictures of my neighbours' inflatable fowls. Leave it to American suburbia to take gratitude to a whole new level.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Confessions from Detox: Day 5

I entered the lion's den today — Panera. I was there to buy bagels for tomorrow morning's celebratory breakfast. Dreams of caffeine-stoked carbicide danced in my head as the smell of warm, gingerbread bagels greeted me at the door.

It's not been easy, this detox thing. I've discovered that I reap an incredible amount of comfort from the more-than-occasional sweet and cuppa. It has definitely made me aware of how often a convenient cracker, bowl of pasta or granola bar takes the place of a vegetable or fruit in my diet.

An unexpected byproduct of this experiment was how my new habits influenced the girls. While I did not insist that they eat what I was eating, suddenly Emma was scoffing down rice cakes with baba ghanouj and Mouse was fighting me for the raisins. It was nice to see them making new food choices of their own accord. I, for one, will not miss my oatmeal tomorrow, but something tells me that Emma will be asking for some.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Confessions from Detox: Day 4

It's either swine flu or my entire body is striking on grounds of caffeine and refined carbohydrate abandonment. I snuck in a cup of black tea with soy milk this morning. It wasn't the same and didn't change a thing. Thank goodness for Tylenol.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Confessions from Detox: Day 3

The corn noodles clumped. The rice noodles disintegrated. What can I say? I can't wait 'til Friday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More Confessions from Detox: Day 2

Today, of all days, my professor brings homemade cookies for the class. Grrr!!!!!!

Confessions from Detox: Day 2

I walk into the library's Starbucks for my usual after-first-lecture pick me up. The coffee girl leaps to her feet.

"Cappuccino, right?"

"I wish! No, a green tea and please don't let me buy a cappuccino until Friday."

I explain that I'm in detox.

She laughs.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Confessions from Detox: Day 1

I am an absolute bear. I'd just as soon send me to a deserted island for the next four-and-a-half days. As for the Captain, I think he'd buy the ticket...one way.

Allow me to bring you up to speed: a friend convinced me to do a 'detox' diet for five days: no caffeine, no sweets, no processed junk, no alcohol for 120 hours. I agreed mainly because I knew my tea, coffee, soft drink and Halloween candy intake was getting out of hand. Given the raging headache I am experiencing a mere six hours in, I would say 'out of hand' was a gross understatement.

Is my real personality a by-product of Tetley, Nespresso, and Hershey's Heath Bars? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Rare Specimen

As part of my studies, I am required to take a class in Communications. For your entertainment, here is the speech on self-concept I gave on Monday to my freshman classmates. video

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Whole New World

I knew from the very beginning that the school I volunteered and worked at in Geneva was exceptional in virtually every way. Tuition for kindergarten started slightly above 15,000 Swiss Franc a year. While not every parent was abundantly wealthy, it was not uncommon to see a handful of Porsche Cayennes in the parking lot. Designer-clad eight-year-olds sporting cell phones were not unusual. But the kids were still kids and, with as many as 18 different mother-tongues in any given classroom, their proper education was a challenge. The teachers were outstanding: respectful, caring, highly skilled and responsive. Support services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and special education were at the ready. Field trips were a regular occurrence as were invited guests that included theatre troops and published authors. The library was extensive. It was an ideal world I wonder if I'll ever see again.

This week I began my field experience in the public schools of P-town. From now until the end of term I will spend one to two mornings a week at an area high school and two afternoons in kindergarten. The kindergarten class serves an exceptionally poor population. The school itself was established to help the most at-risk families in the area. Most children live at or below the poverty line, therefore qualify to receive breakfast, lunch and two snacks at school. I've been told that, for some, this may be the only food they receive all day. The high school is the institution that these kindergarteners will eventually attend. There I've been assigned to the Behavioral and Emotional Disorders classes: rooms filled with some of the biggest personalities I have ever met. (Considering I worked three years at an inner-city hospital, that's saying something.) It should make for an interesting ten weeks, to say the least.

Stay tuned: I'll share what I can here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Mature Student

When I completed my first degree, I didn't need a computer. I had an electric typewriter with an LCD screen that granted me a fifteen letter lead time to catch mistakes before they were printed. Research was performed at the library; class hand-outs were the norm; and access to professors was limited to their office hours. I shared a landline phone with two roommates and a cat who liked to re-program the answering machine. Perhaps it is needless to say, but twenty years has changed a few things.

For one, a computer is an absolute necessity. Not having an email address is tantamount to living in a cardboard box and hoping for the odd telegram. Research is performed on online databases; handouts are now downloads; and professors dispense their home numbers with strict instructions on when not to call. Cell phones are the bane of every professor's existence: texting during lecture will result in your immediate dismissal. Phones must be turned off, not to silent. And homework is submitted, for the most part, electronically. It's a whole new world.

So how am I liking it? I'm loving it, but it is quite the juggling act. I'm behind in writing to friends and reading their blogs. As it is, I should be sleeping right now, not writing this. I've completed one and half weeks of fourteen. Here's hoping I can keep things together for another twelve and a half!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dis-orientaton

"Hi, my name is Shelly and I'm a freshman from Streetor, Illinois."

"Hi, my name is Britney and I'm a freshman, too, from Springfield."

The room is filled with girls in their late teens wearing make-up that says "I'm trying to look older," but doing just the opposite. I feel nostalgia for the person I was at their age: determined, dedicated, but ambivalent.

I have more in common with my professors than my classmates. I won't be partaking in the campus-wide water fight later on this evening. A course syllabus rests on my nightstand. I don't want to be twenty again. Couldn't be. It's strange to be wading the same waters, revisiting the eddies of adolescence, if only from the water's edge.

Tomorrow I will attend my first classes and step out into the fray. Let's hope I can keep my head above water and my feet on the ground.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Death By Anticipation

If it were possible, I'd be six feet under by now.

Days before I start school: SIX!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer at Camp Mighty

The girls finished school at the beginning of June and soon thereafter began swimming lessons at Dunlap High School. There they were taught every stroke from breast to butterfly by a collection of mostly male soon-to-be seniors. Well, you'd have thought they were being taught by the cast of High School Musical given the awe with which they regarded their instructors. Conversations on arriving at the pool were often like this:

"Where's Nathan? Oh, there he is!"

"He's my teacher, not yours!"

"I can still look for him."

On graduation I promised the girls a trip to Claire's to chose a small trinket. After much deliberation, Mouse settled on a collection of fluorescent spiky earrings that looked much like a cluster of neurons trapped in the eighties. Emma circled the store once, twice, ten times before finally pausing before the ear piercing station. She called me over.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yes."

Minutes later the deed was done: Emma the Brave, the girl who once swore she would never get her ears pierced, was sporting a pair of cubic zirconia studs from her lobes — and smiling.

It is hard to believe but, in a mere three days, the girls will be back to school. From the precipice of June third, summer seemed never-ending. I remember wondering how I would ever fill the time. And then, one by one, we took in the area attractions: the Peoria Zoo, Wildlife Prairie Park, Detweiller Park, Kellogg 9-hole Pitch and Putt, the library, Lakeview Aquatic Centre and Museum, Safety Town, and Princeville Pool. There were still more kid-friendly attractions that we haven't been able to squeeze in, but then summer isn't really over for over a month.


When the Colonel and Mighty Mum came to visit we took in a Peoria Chiefs game and initiated the girls to the national pastime. Now when asked if they root for the Cubs or the Cardinals, they answer, "The Chiefs." Talk about supporting the home team!

After two weeks in Canada, returning to P-town felt like coming home. One set of neighbours had cut our lawn and kept my herbs alive while another had collected our mail. My bed had never felt so comfortable, nor my coffee so smooth. It was good to be home, no matter where home happened to be. After Geneva, is it possible to be happy in P-town? The answer is yes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

549 Miles

When we left Geneva four months ago, even our most reluctant selves conceded that it would be good to live closer to family again. No jet lag. No jet. Simply hop in the car after breakfast and be among our oldest and dearest by dinner, at least the closest dear ones, that is. Well, we're officially putting our intentions to the test with our first family road trip. Today's 549 mile leg will be surpassed only by the eventual return trip of 997 miles. With 425 miles behind us already, I can honestly say it's not so bad. The girls are watching movies on my lap top and, now that the Captain's behind the wheel, I have the use of his work computer. Yippee! Mobile blogging.

Aside from seeing old friends and family, a change of scenery is long overdue. To be perfectly honest, I'll be happy for a break from my livingroom's lime green patina that has only become more offensive with each passing month. Changing the powder room from builder's white to cocoa bean taupe was enough to remind me that painting is a lot harder than it looks. The living room will eventually get a new coat of something less bilious, but for now I'll be happy not to be reminded of this task every time I walk through the room. I'll also be glad to stop planning for back to school. There is only so much that can be done to prevent the inevitable. I'm fairly certain the university admissions office will be glad of a break from me, too. It would seem a foreign degree from 1993 is quite a daunting thing to assess. Ah, well. Eventually we'll be out of each other's hair.

We've hit our first patch of heavy construction, but the wireless connection is humming. Life is good.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Every Parent's Tool Box: The Tidy Up Check List


In five and a half weeks I'll be going back to school after nearly eight-and-a-half years as a stay-at-home parent. To say I'm a bit nervous would be an understatement. Fears of child delinquency and domestic chaos are not unfounded and I'm doing my damnedest to get prepared. Here's my first solution: the tidy up check list.

Materials: two sheets of paper and an envelope, a colour printer, word-processing software, access to a laminator, packing tape, and about two meters of velcro.

I've made a separate laminated tag for virtually every category of item found in my children's rooms. They attach to a support page by two long strips of velcro. The envelope is attached to the support page by packing tape.

Putting the system to work:

PARENT: Let's take a look around your room and see what needs to be done.
CHILD: Soft toys, books, clothes and my bed.
(CHILD takes the necessary tags from the Done! envelope and places them on the board.)
PARENT: Don't forget the dolls in the bathroom.
CHILD: Oh, yeah.
(CHILD takes the Dolls tag from the envelope and places it on the board)
PARENT: What do you want to start with?
CHILD: The soft toys.
PARENT: Sounds good. I'll be back in five minutes to help.
(Five minutes pass. PARENT returns. CHILD is nearly finished. All but one tag is left on the board, the rest having been returned to the Done! envelope by CHILD. )
PARENT: Wow, I can see your carpet. Great job! Can I help with your bed?
CHILD: Sure!

So far it's worked amazingly well. Mouse often overwhelms herself with her capacity for chaos, so a task list makes things less daunting. Emma likes it, too, and has taken great pride in making her bed, a task she was never obliged to complete. Assuming we keep up with it, not only will the house be more organized, but also the girls will be sure to get the recognition they deserve.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Golfing Mighty-Style

The Captain loads the clubs into the truck.
Emma fills the water bottles.
I get the money and
Mouse brings the knock-knock joke book.

We're ready.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Outraged Part 2: A Sticky Situation

It's been three weeks since Emma's cheek was glued shut and two since I learned the cost. An itemized bill indicated we were charged $190 for this:

Dermabond Topical Skin Adhesive

The cost for its correct application was $495 in addition to a $145 charge for the facility. This does not include an additional $42 charge for wound cleaning supplies — gauze and an anticeptic cleanser. The care was prompt and courteous and the wound has healed without complication, but a $836 grand total was and still is a bit hard to swallow.

I decided to do some investigating to determine how much Dermabond sterile skin adhesive might cost. The most expensive I could find online was $480 for a 12-pack, or approximately $40 per unit. The cheapest was $22 per unit. This prompted me to call the hospital administration to pose the question, "Why?"

Here's what I understood from my conversation with OSF St. Francis:
  1. Virtually no one pays the original list price. Insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid all demand discounted rates and, thanks to a recent Illinois law, even the uninsured cannot be charged more than 35% above cost.
  2. Insurance companies want to be able to offer discounted rates to their clients. They aren't interested in lowering the original charges.
  3. If discounts were not demanded or expected, the hospital fees could be reduced by up to 50%.
Interesting, isn't it? Ultimately, after discounts and insurance, our family will be out-of-pocket $74 for the procedure. One might argue that's reasonable. I suppose. But what worries me is the inherent deception: price gauging to give the false impression of discounted rates. It's a sticky situation, and I'm not talking Dermabond.

Did you miss Outraged Part 1? Read it here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colour Me Happy

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Don't bother trying to talk me out of it. I'm painting the powder room, dammit, and no one can stop me. Builder's white, be gone!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The House on Blue Corner

It's been coming since the day we left Switzerland. I knew it was. But with all the unpacking , organizing and planning I was able to forget, at least temporarily, that I was going to feel desperately sad for the life I left behind. Next week is Swiss Promotion when all students are celebrated for having completed the school year. Our American equivalent celebrated only the star performers in athletics and academics. I was left with a sad heart for the children who were not recognized, my own included. A dear friend back in Switzerland just had a baby and I would love to go see her. The Geneva Writers' Group had their last meeting of the season on Saturday and I wasn't there. 

I know it will pass but, for now, you know where to find me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Love, Lies and Lollipops

We'd been in the doctor's waiting area for a matter of seconds when the Jar of Temptation was discovered: a glass canister filled to the brim with lollipops. 

"Can we have one, Mommy?"

"Yeah, can we?"

I paused. "Well, I was planning to go for ice cream after this."

"Mmm, ice cream," said one daughter, licking her lips.

The other dove for the jar. "I don't want ice cream. I want a lolly." 

A half hour later my appointment was over and so was the sweet. "Let's go for ice cream," I said. 

One child bounded for the door while the other sulked and shuffled her feet.

"Mommy, I didn't have a sweet after lunch. Can I still have an ice cream?" the sulker asked, hopeful.  In our family a sweet after lunch is as natural as breathing.  I could follow the sulker's logic to it's conclusion: the lolly was her after-lunch sweet therefore she still qualified for an ice cream.

Bullets of rage flew from the bounders eyes. "Yes, you did have a sweet! I saw you.  It was a chocolate ball."

"No I didn't!"

"Yes, you did," screeched the bounder.  "Mommy, she's lying!"

I hadn't been home at lunch but was tempted to believe the bounder.   "I suppose I could ask Lateeka if you had dessert."

"I didn't and neither of you believe me."

Ouch. She'd played the trust card. 

"I want to believe you, sweetie, but I also know how much you want an ice cream. Let's go," I said and walked to the car. 

We were pulling into the Dairy Queen drive-thru when the bounder asked, "So, are you going to call Lateeka, Mommy?"  The sulker was quiet, but listening. 

"I'm not sure," I said meeting the sulker's gaze in my rear-view mirror.

Suddenly a voice squawked, "Welcome to Dairy Queen. What can I get for you today?"

I turned around and looked the sulker in the eye. "Vanilla cone or a dip."

"Dip."

"Dip," echoed the bounder.

"Two small vanilla dips and a small vanilla cone, please."

We were half way home when I noticed the sulker was not eating her ice cream. Only a small bite was taken off the top. The rest was sweating profusely.  I've never liked dips.

"Don't you like it?" I asked.

"No," she said.

At home she threw the cone in the trash. 

 "Are you still going to call Lateeka, Mommy?"

"I don't think I should have to.  Come. Let's go talk, just you and me."

Once alone in my room the truth trickled out along with a bucket of tears: "I think... I think I may have forgotten that I did have a sweet after lunch, Mommy." 

"You think?" I said, hugging her close.

"Yes."

"Did you really not like the ice cream?"

"I liked it, but I didn't want to get in trouble."

"Oh."

"I'm sorry, Mommy."

"I'm proud."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Outraged

As some readers may recall, Emma suffered a fall shortly before we left Switzerland, splitting open her chin. The cut was not large but gaped and bled profusely due to its location.  We went to the local emergency room where the wound was cleaned, assessed and determined to require stitches. Multiple injections of local anesthetic were required, as were three nurses to keep a hysterical Emma from moving. In the end, Emma left with three sutures and a smile on her face.  We'd both survived.

Leap forward now to two weeks ago when Emma's cheek was split open by a flying tow rope handle. The cut was slightly over 1 cm long with straight, well opposed edges but due to its location —just under her eye— we drove to a nearby walk-in clinic to have it checked. A nurse took Emma's vitals and cleaned the wound.  Shortly thereafter the doctor on duty examined the cut and judged it to be small enough to glue closed.  No anaesthetic or assistants were required for the procedure which took about five minutes from start to finish.

Let's compare bills, shall we?

Switzerland: $549 (converted from Swiss Franc)
USA: $836

OSF St. Francis Prompt Care has some explaining to do.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gone as an Applet

An interesting answer to the question, 
"So what's your novel about anyway?" 

The image above was created by software that analyses how often a word is used in a given text. Note how large the word 'like' is in the image above. It makes me wonder if my use of similes is a bit heavy-handed.  Perhaps it isn't, but it's worth a look. Thanks, John, at Manner of Speaking, for reminding me of this fun, web-based tool. 

Make your own Wordle applet at http://www.wordle.net/

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Feeling...Mature

I entered the university admissions office dressed like I was going to a job interview. From my floral-print linen blouse to my sensible shoes, I was the picture of sensibility, commitment, and drive, a 'future teacher' poster child if there ever was one. Without a lick of hesitation, I presented myself to the receptionist. 

"I'm here for Campus Orientation.  Am I in the right place?"

"You sure are, honey." She handed me a course calendar, campus map and name tag. "Have a seat over there."

I followed the line of her hand to a large cluster of chairs behind me where sat at least a dozen other prospective students — with their parents.  To make matters worse, I'd missed the 'jeans only' memo. I had a sudden urge to colour my hair. 

A lot has changed since my last university experience.  For instance, the campus library stays open until 4a.m. and serves munchies at midnight. I told my tour guide, a bright-eyed junior, that I hadn't been up at 4a.m. with any regularity since breast feeding. She smiled incredulously. "Really?"  

That was it: I would buy some Clairol on the way home. 

In all honesty, I expected no less.  The good news is that I've been accepted to study education in the fall at an NCATE-accredited school only fifteen minutes from home. So what if I'm the oldest person in the room.  It's worth it. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This American Life

It's taken two months, but the feeling of having moved onto Wisteria Lane on the outskirts of Springfield is beginning to fade. It may not be fair, but I've found it difficult to shed these caricatures of American culture.  They're just so true — and not.  The other night Emma and Mouse went chasing after the ice cream truck, money in hand.  The Captain and I smiled wistfully after them. It was a memory we could never have given them in Switzerland, one that bridged a gap between our childhood and theirs.  Minutes later the pair returned with popsicles as long as my forearm and, whamo, I was back in Springfield. Jeez Louise!  Must everything be super-sized?

I can't say I feel settled yet, but I'm not pining for Switzerland either.  It's strange, this emotional no-man's-land.  Next Tuesday school will be over and the girls and I will be free to explore.  I'm sure that will help. 

Name That Bloom

If you know what this is, please leave a comment. There are three big clusters of these growing in my garden. Lovely.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Peanuts from Eddie

In honor of American Memorial Day, I invite you to read my short story, Peanuts from Eddie, which first appeared in Offshoots 9: writing from Geneva and beyond, a biennial anthology of the Geneva Writers' Group.   The effects of war ripple through too many lives.  May peace be with you.

Edward Walker lived in the park outside the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto. His was the bench furthest from the din of Queen Street traffic, the one guarded by a mammoth oak and chronically littered with peanut shells. When it rained, he moved to a nearby streetcar shelter. Only when cold threatened to claim one of his seven remaining toes did he venture indoors.

Harmless when sober, Eddie was down-right charming as he panhandled each day in the deep shadows of Bay Street, opening doors, lighting cigarettes, and exchanging pleasantries with bustling bankers in a voice graveled by a near half-century of smoking du Maurier’s.

Of course, there were many who, in good conscience, would not give money to Eddie. His sweet fermented scent was indisputable, his fingers stained amber by nicotine. But Eddie was not particular. He accepted generosity in all its forms. Even a used newspaper was gold. Complete, he could sell it for full price in less than three minutes; sold in sections, he could make three times that but it could take all day. He once made a clean five bucks off a Globe and Mail, and all before 9 a.m.. He called it quits early that day.

With his spoils Eddie would buy himself a bottle of Wild Turkey, a pack of smokes, a bag of peanuts and a meal, then spend the rest of the day in the park, nursing his bottle and feeding the squirrels. But steeped in bourbon, Eddie became ill-tempered and prone to violence. So when his shoulder was shattered at the hands of an overzealous security guard, treatment was rendered but no charges were laid.

One surgery, two metal screws, and eight days later, Eddie’s reputation preceded him to the rehabilitation department at Saint Michael's Hospital. There he was assigned to the care of Miss Soo Kim, physical therapist and devout Christian. Eddie was late and drunk. With utmost discretion, Miss Kim requested he return the next day, on time and sober. Her smile was friendly, her almond eyes forgiving, but her tone was firm.

Eddie lowered his gaze, scrubbing a tawny hand across steely eight-day stubble. “It helps with the pain, is all.”

Ms. Kim touched his arm. “So can I, Mr. Walker.”

The following morning, Eddie arrived thirty minutes early and so sober he shook. When he launched into a profane account of his assault, Miss Kim interrupted.

“If you want my help, Mr. Walker, you’ll have to stop swearing.”

Eddie attended treatment faithfully and did all of his exercises, often to excess. At some point during his care, he traded his bench with a view for a cot at the Salvation Army, and from there he managed to find a more permanent low-income residence in Regent Park, a short walk from his bench and the clinic.

“Couldn’t go too far,” he said, presenting his new hospital card, now complete with an address, “My friends would miss me.”

He meant the squirrels.

When the pain in his shoulder did not subside, x-rays revealed the splintered fragments had not united. This required a second surgery, a third screw, and yet another round with Miss Kim. In the end, he never was able to reach his back pocket or scratch his own back, but the pain faded to a dull stiffness. On the day of his final visit, he gave Soo Kim a bag of peanuts.

“It’s what I give all my friends,” he said.

Eddie had become a fixture in the physical therapy department, so his absence was felt by all. Months later, when his name appeared on the hospital census, the department receptionist was quick to inform Soo Kim.

Edward J. Walker, Room 813A—Oncology.


Eddie appeared shrunken, his face pale and clean-shaven, smothered under an oxygen mask. But when his glassy eyes met Soo’s, he visibly brightened.

“Sang Cho,” he said, “You came.”

“No, Eddie, it’s Soo—Soo Kim from therapy.”

“Cho, they say its cancer,” he said then erupted in great heaving coughs. Soo helped him sit. He spat blood-tinged mucus into a metal kidney dish.

Eddie clutched Soo’s hand. “I’m sorry I never came back.”

This time Soo did not correct him. All she said was, “So am I.”

Days passed, gilded with best intentions, but Soo never saw Eddie again. The following week, his name was missing on the hospital census. His nurse said he had died in his sleep. Someone from the Canadian Legion had come to collect his effects.
Lance Corporal Edward R. Walker had served in Korea.

That afternoon, Soo bought a bag of peanuts and went to the park. Eddie was gone and someone had to tell his friends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Simple Pleasures: An Opening in My Schedule

I'd booked off this afternoon to harass my former alma maters.  Three weeks ago I requested copies of my somewhat-dated transcripts to be sent to the university where I've applied to study teaching. According to said university's user-friendly student porthole, the paperwork had yet to arrive. On a whim I decided to check matters with a resident human before opening a can of you-know-what north of the border. As it turns out, all three transcripts have arrived, safe and sound, with no harassment required. The university said I should hear in the next two weeks whether I'm accepted . Whoopee! 

Now, what to do with myself?  Considering I was all charged up for some patience-busting bureaucracy, I think I'll go wax my legs.  It's either that or do health claims. Do you hear that insurance companies? Leg waxing is more pleasant.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mighty Mom Spin Off: The Creative Parent

I'm proud to present The Creative Parent, a new blog by yours truly on the topic of raising kids.  Never fear: The Adventures of Mighty Mom will continue. Where else could I vent about running two blogs when I barely have time for one? But in all honesty, The Creative Parent will offer a more structured format for fellow caregivers to find solutions for every day life — with kids.  If you have a minute, swing by and take a peek.  If you're feeling brave, share a dilemma. If you have a solution that works, I'm all ears. It takes a village to raise a child. At The Creative Parent, your village just got bigger. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pity Party, Table for One

  1. The dentist office lost my forms but managed to make me sit through sixteen x-rays. 
  2. The credit card company put a hold on our card because of 'suspicious activity.'  It's called moving, people!
  3. My wedding dress was the only item water damaged while in storage. Can mold come out of brocade? 
  4. The pediatrician's office took two hours to read the girls' Canadian immunization records. 
  5. I drove over 45 minutes to another town to buy a lawn mower only to have my credit card declined.  Again!
  6. The university I applied to lost my online application twice.  The third version I completed long hand and faxed only to be sent a bill for not applying online. Visa and Mastercard accepted.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Truth Comes Out

We were driving back from our first family boat trip, when the Captain says to me, "For a person who's never pulled a water skier before, you did really well."

"Are you kidding? Before today I've never even driven a boat."

You should have seen the look on his face. Priceless.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle en Vogue


Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I'm not the most fashionable person.  The last copy of Vogue I bought was in in the early 90's and even the Captain prefers when I shop for clothes with friends who have a better eye for style than I do. That said, I have to admit this handbag hits all the right buttons in my book: it's small, stylish, completely recyclable and mine.

A good friend of mine has the exclusive Swiss importation rights to these bags (in various styles and sizes) and, for a short time only, they are available at Globus in downtown Geneva. If sales are good, they may soon be found in Globus and Bon Genie across Switzerland. These bags, made in Brazil, are an immediate conversation piece and as easy on the eye as they are on the conscience.  She also carries bags woven from plasticized map and label misprints. A personal favourite of mine is the London Tubes shoulder bag. Waste not, want not, as they say. 

So, if you're looking for a new accessory and are game for a little attention, head to Globus on the rue de Marché. It will make her day and, perhaps for this mother of four, a new career. 

Markus Zusak: You Wrote My Favourite Book

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak has to be the best book I've ever read, and by no means is this an exaggeration. Not only is it a compelling story, but it is told with such disarming originality that I'm promptly rereading it in hopes that it might trickle over into my work. In this tale told by Death during WWII, metaphors consistently do double duty, if not triple, creating mood, character and plot points in a single brush stroke. It was launched as YA novel, but undoubtedly has infinite cross-over potential. Bravo, Mr. Zusak. I should only hope that one day my book might share a shelf with yours.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Confessions from the Land of Guilty Pleasures

It doesn't take much to make me feel guilty.  Given that I'm living in the the drive-thru-buy-now-pay-whenever capital of the world, temptation lurks 24/7.  What am I working so hard to resist, you ask? Here's my top 10: 
  • Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (It's half the price it was in Geneva. That means I can eat twice as much, right?)
  • Champagne (my Kroger carries Krug!!!)
  • Espresso in all it's milky variations
  • Coke Zero
  • Ranch-flavored Doritos (I used have to cross-border shop for these babies. Mmm...)
  • Twizzlers (the 1lb economy size is the best deal, no?)
  • a Harvey's hamburger with mustard, tomato, onion and pickle with  a side of onion rings (only in Canada, eh! What's a 10 hour drive when you're hungry for a burger?)
  • Kraft Dinner (i.e. macaroni and cheese. Read more about my obsession here.)
  • Glossette Raisins (similar to American Raisinettes, only better)
  • Dairy Queen Soft Serve, hold the dip
How can DQ and Champagne end up on the same list? Bloody good question. Perhaps I'm mistaken. A taste test should put this issue to bed.  It's just gone 9pm but I'd be willing to bet both DQ and the grocery store are open. If not, I could always go to Home Depot or Walmart. They're open 24 hours and, last I checked, there's a Starbucks in the latter.  

Sorry, gotta go. A tall cappuccino awaits... and Twizzlers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blogging My Novel: Back in the Game

No more excuses: it's time to find an agent in the grand ole USA. If you've not been following the saga, let me bring you up to speed: I had two British agents very interested in my novel. One recommended some revisions which, in the end, they liked very much. A second agency read the revised manuscript and liked it, too. But when they heard I was moving state-side, both highly recommended I find representation here. Grudgingly I've moved back to square one, though I have to admit, it makes sense.  
Researching agents and publishers to find the right fit takes time. I spent a half hour in the doctor's waiting room today pouring over the 2006 Children's Writer's & Illustrators Market. Over the next five days I hope to send out five queries. With Mouse home in the morning, that may be the most I can manage. We'll see. I kind of want to find my toaster, too.  I sent off a query less than an hour ago and it's already been rejected. Got to love technology... Onward ho!

(Addendum: track my submission progress in the sidebar. The risk of public ridicule always keeps me on my toes! Oh, and I found my toaster. Five years does not do good things to crumbs.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Simple Pleasures: Double Vision

Honey's got a boyfriend—or a twin!
Meet Butch, the neighbourhood stray.  He's on the left.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tidy Up

It's official: the Mighty household has been downgraded from 'domestic disaster' to a 'bloody mess.'  In the past week I think I've handled every last thing we own at least twice and still there's work to be done. 

Mouse and I spent Monday morning arranging her room, putting her toys away and sorting her clothes.  The following are a few pictures I took after we were done that I plan to make into 'My Room is Tidy When It Looks Like This' cue cards:


I've yet to do the same with Emma, but then she's in school twice as long. As it stands, her room is tidy in the 'out of sight, out of mind' sense. Ask her to find something and I guarantee she'll draw a blank. Does it matter? Yes, and for a number of reasons: 
  1. Possessions are a privilege: too many children in this world go without basic necessities.
  2. Predicability: next to food and shelter, knowing what's going to happen and what is expected are essential contributors to a child's psychological well-being.
  3. Planning: ordering their physical space can be a child's first lesson in planning.  Where do you want to keep your dolls? Where do you like to play with them? By including kids in the process, they are more likely to maintain the results.
Interestingly enough, it's my own room and bathroom that will be the last to receive the Mighty touch. The kitchen was the first. Read into that as you wish. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The prettiest part of my new house...


... is outside it. Our things have finally arrived from Switzerland and they're everywhere.  What a mess! 
For the record, I'm not complaining. 
Just an observation. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simple Pleasures: Cardinal Sighting


For the past five years, cardinals have been characters in books or the subject of songs, not something that can visit the back yard or fly in the school bus window.  Beautiful...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cultural Drift

We've been on American soil two days short of a month and already I sense change.  Emma is coming out with expressions like, 'That was shack-a-lackin!' and Mouse has a sticker of Hannah Montana that she carries with her everywhere.  She isn't quite sure who Hannah Montana is but she wants to see her movie. What's happened to Emma's 'Oopla!' and Mouse's obsession with snails? It's as if we've jumped into a river without knowing which way the current is flowing or, for that matter, if that's the way we want to go. 

There are almost a dozen children living within shouting distance of our new home—a mixed blessing if there ever was one.  At one point on this weekend, I found all of them in Emma's room.  We've never lived so close to playmates before and, even if we had, there would have been two meter tall hedges and Swiss propriety to keep spontaneous visitors at bay. To complete this quintessential picture of American assimilation, the Captain and I have already consulted a lawyer over the moldy basement.  We've not bought a big screen TV or a recliner with cup holders yet, but these things take time.

Ambivalence is running high: I want to get settled, yet I'm homesick for Geneva and the life we had there. I'm thrilled to see the girls so happy with their new school and friends, but worry for their French.  And then there's the house: I love it, but it's also a huge source of stress. Not to mention, it smells. Thursday our furniture will arrive and, with it, some semblance of normalcy. 

One thing's for sure: this life needs a rudder.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

**it Happens

76 bags x 2-3 piles of poop per bag = 152 - 228 times 
I've had not-so-nice thoughts about the previous home owners.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wah!!!

My basement, the first one I've ever owned, has flooded. A faulty sump pump appears to be to blame. A wet dog smells better. Our neighbour was kind enough to tell us that this isn't the first time. We've been in the house less than a week! Wah!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good Words

"I'm frustrated because you won't stop bothering me and I've asked you THREE times!"

We were driving from the second mattress store of the day to the third when Emma said this to Mouse. Obviously, the two weren't getting along but what I was hearing gave me pause, in a positive sense. Emma's voice was firm, not whiny, and she was speaking to her sister, not complaining to me. 

"Good words, Emma," I said.

In the back seat Emma's frown relaxed, validation smoothing the creases. Mouse, on her part, backed off and peace settled over the valley... for about five minutes.

How often do we ask kids to stop fighting without teaching them how to negotiate? Likely too often, and I am no innocent in this. It's far easier to fire off rules like 'no hitting' than it is to delve into why a child felt compelled to slug her best friend. Emma and Mouse argue. They've even been known to push, pull, snatch, scratch, and bite when the spirit moves them. But they are also being taught to negotiate and, given enough reinforcement, will eventually gain independence--I hope. So far the trend looks good.  You be the judge.

That's Mine, This is Yours
A Play in Infinite Acts
(for our purposes I'll keep it to two)

Act 1: Let's Share 
Scene 1
Emma, age 3; Mouse, age 1.  Emma is playing with toy blocks. She puts one down while searching for one of a different colour. When she reaches back for it she sees Mouse has picked it up.

EMMA: Hey! 
EMMA snatches the block from MOUSE.
MOUSE howls. 
When that doesn't work she bites EMMA on the leg.
EMMA howls.

Scene 2
Hours later...
EMMA is playing blocks again. MOUSE joins her. EMMA quickly moves the blocks out of reach. 

MOM: Mouse, do you want to play blocks, too?

MOUSE nods.

MOM: Say, 'Emma, can I play, too?' 
MOUSE: (to EMMA) Me, too?

EMMA gives MOUSE three of at least a hundred blocks. MOUSE is happy.

MOM: (to MOUSE) Say thank you.
MOUSE: Tanko.
EMMA: You're welcome.

Act 2: My Turn
Scene 1
EMMA, age 5; MOUSE, age 3. 
EMMA enters the kitchen from outside. 

EMMA: Mouse won't let me play on the swing.
(Rough translation: Make Mouse give me a turn before I clock her one.)

MOM: She's allowed to have a turn, Emma.

EMMA: But she's not even swinging. She's using it for Pink Bear's bed.

MOM: How about we put on the timer for five minutes. When it goes off, it will be your turn.

EMMA: Okay. 

EMMA walks back into the yard with the timer in hand. When it finally goes off, neither girl nor bear is using the swing. 

Act 2, Scene 2
Later that day, in the bathroom, after the bath. MOUSE is combing her hair--poorly. EMMA is still in the tub.

MOM: (reaching for the comb) How about you give Mommy a turn, chickadee?

MOUSE: No. Me do it.

MOM: You've done it long enough. It's Mommy's turn now.

MOUSE: NO!

EMMA: Maybe you should get the timer, Mommy. I think it's by the slide. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gruyère: the back story

Five years ago when the Mighty's moved to Switzerland, Emma the Brave went off all food except milk and bananas. For two weeks my willful three-year-old shunned everything from apple juice to pasta, claiming she didn't like the taste. Granted, nothing tasted the same--not even the milk.  Progress was made but was painfully slow.  Almost two years later we took the girls on their first ski holiday. We arrived at the rented chalet in time to feed the girls lunch. When it came time for dessert I gave each girl a cookie I'd bought especially for the occasion. Mouse, then almost three, accepted it, but handed it back a few minutes later untouched. "Save it," she said. She meant for home. Suffice to say, change hits my kids in the taste buds--hard.

Five years has done little to change the girls' characters. We've had one meal in two weeks that we've all enjoyed and that was sushi. Perhaps we'd be better off in Tokyo than the American Midwest.  After five years of Swiss-style selection--or lack there of-- I should be thrilled. Do I want baked beans sweetened with brown sugar or molasses? Hotdogs made of turkey or beef?Hmm...let me think. Instead I find myself with three jars of pickles in my fridge that my family won't eat and a block of Wisconsin Gruyère that isn't awful, but isn't Gruyère either. 

Shocking.

This is the part of moving that is tough to bear: the part that you spend wishing you were back where life was just a bit more predictable. A trip to the grocery store should not be over-stimulating. A brand-new clothes dryer should work past the first load. And when you buy a house, you shouldn't have to clean up after the previous owner's three dogs before you step into the yard. I still attest that this move is easier than the last, but it's going on six weeks since we left home and I'm tired. 

Tonight I'll sleep in our new house for the first time on a mattress on the floor. It may not be an illustrious beginning, but it's a step in the right direction.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reality Check

We all have our challenges...some more than others. What follows is a video montage in honour of the Hospital for Sick Children's annual Change Crusader fundraising campaign. Ashley's my cousin and, in every way, a hero. Way to go, chickadee! You've come so far.

 
Children from all over the world come to Sick Kids for medical care they can't either receive or afford any place else. 
Give you what you can. They change lives.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Mighty's Economic Stimulus Package

With all the big ticket items we've been buying, it's beginning to feel like we are single-handedly trying to turn around the American economy. A house, five appliances, a car, and a million other odds and ends are taking their toll. It makes me think silly things like, 'Do we really need this box of cereal or can we wait a few days?' It's not that we can't afford the cereal--we can. I just have a strong urge to stem the flow. Ah, well. Profittez America! It won't last forever.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Board?

It's been over a week now since we left Geneva and with it the last vestiges of home. I'm dying to get our new life underway but due to multiple factors beyond our control, we're stuck in a holding pattern, at the 'Not Bad, but Not Yours' Hotel.  I'm doing my best to be grateful: at least there's a pool, a half-decent breakfast, and the morning paper. The room is quiet and Honey, our dog, is welcome. There's a kitchen with four of every utensil and a fridge the size of our old shower stall. But, to be perfectly honest, there is big part of me that is impatient and jealous. I want my home, my time, my privacy. I want to cook my own food in my own kitchen.  I want to have a routine that doesn't include getting quarters for the hotel laundromat. I have a novel just sitting there, a school to apply to. It's times like this that bring to mind a label I intrinsically loathe: trailing spouse. What about my career plans, my goals? I know it is only a matter of time before I'm back at it, but for now I'm the link between our old life and the new, a plain-Jane bridge without even a troll for drama. 

Then again, maybe I'm the troll.

Sulky self-pity aside, time spent with the girls has been well spent and necessary. When not poolside or walking the dog, we've made good use of the hotel's stock pile of board games. Emma the Brave is a top Clue investigator and just plain lucky at Uno. Yours truly happens to be reigning champion at Sorry, an accomplishment I'm a little too proud of given my age and that of my opponents.  I can tell Mouse is just biding her time until we break out Monopoly. The kid's a pint-size tycoon and wins by pure tenacity, if not skill.

As a future educator and parent, I can't overstate the value of playing games with kids.  Even in the most simple card games, kids must:
  • remember and comply with rules
  • take turns
  • win and, more importantly, lose with grace
  • negotiate 
  • use numbers  
  • strategize
  • and see a task through to completion
How many grown-ups do you know who still struggle in these areas? Far too many, if you ask me. Computer games, if not played against a live and in-the-room opponent fall short of many of these objectives. Rules are dictated by the program and, unless you have a junior code-cracker on your hands, can't be broken. If you lose against a machine, you can play again or quit without consequence. Perhaps my week has been a little under-whelming, but in my heart I know progress has been made, no matter how small.  

Now where's that Monopoly...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Culture Shock by Mighty Mouse

On reading a local restaurant's children's menu: 
"Chickens have fingers here?"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sick in the USA

It would appear the Mighty's have a yet unspoken family tradition: illness upon trans-Atlantic relocation. 

Prior to leaving Toronto for Geneva, I came down with the -itis trifecta: sinusitis, bronchitis, and laryngitis. Come to think of it, I had conjunctivitis, too. Around that time SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was a raging concern and I was a gasping breath away from turning myself in. Poor Mouse was a sympathetic sufferer, sporting a cold and matching ear infections. Somewhere over the Atlantic she completed the ensemble with what we can only suspect was chicken pox. Our first weeks in Geneva included multiple visits to the Clinque des Grangettes, the pediatrician and a notable pediatric dermatologist. In the end it took over four weeks to make Mouse reasonably comfortable and nearly three months for her skin to heal over. We survived, but not without considerable distress.

Now back to the present. We've been in P-town all of 48 hours and Emma the Brave has had two chest x-rays and has been prescribed a broad-spectrum anti-biotic and inhaler. Having come from Switzerland where medical doctors are as likely to prescribe homeopathic or naturopathic remedies as their synthetic rivals, I found this management style a bit of a shock. I resisted the temptation to challenge the doctor's request for an x-ray. After all, he suspected a pneumonia was brewing and she's my precious little girl. The ordered investigations were over before we knew it and we were sent on our way, pneumonia-free and prescriptions in hand.  Twenty minutes later Emma and I  were back at the hotel, a vial of bright red medication on the table between us.

"What will it taste like?" Emma asked.

"I'm not sure. Cherry, maybe?"

Emma frowned. "What if it tastes yucky?"

"It can't be any worse than the Swiss stuff."  Could it?

Emma sniffed the opened bottle. Her eyebrows raised appreciatively. "Mmm." 

I measured out her dose and handed her the cup. Please, God, don't make a liar out of me!

Emma wet her top lip with the liquid and licked it clean. Her face was impassive. 

"So?"

"I don't like it, but it's not that bad," she said, then swallowed the rest of the dose in two big sips.

God Bless America!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Impressions

Mouse threw up while in line at American immigration. Immigration paged the Center for Disease Control who took Mouse's temperature (101.9F), recorded our contact details, and called for a wheelchair. Immigration processed our visas as quickly as they could and remained polite and friendly throughout. All the while, Emma the Brave sat on the floor about 20 feet away, determined not to catch her sister's illness. By the time we'd collected our luggage and dog, Mouse was chatty and asking for someone to take her picture in her first wheelchair. Security rules dictated we couldn't. Ah, well.  Can't have everything.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Top (and Bottom) of Geneva

The number one thing I will miss about Geneva: 
The People 
(you know who you are)

The Birkenstocks

My Biking Belgian

Crazy Canadians

Muses in the South of France

The Original Diehards

Canadians--We're Everywhere!

The Geneva Writers' Group and their exceptional leader

My Corsier Family


And the number one thing I won't miss about Geneva: 
The Occasional Public Toilet

And, yes, this is the ladies room.  It's 2009 people!!!

Good-bye, Au Revoir, and See You Soon!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Geneva Top Two

Things I will miss most about Geneva #2: 
The Mountains

Nestled between the Jura and the Alps, Geneva is a short drive from some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Avoriaz

Andermatt

The Mighty's on the télésiege at Les Gets

Mouse on Top of the World

The Chalet

La campagne near Gruyère

"Allez touriste! Vous n'avez jamais encore vu une vache?"

Things I won't miss #2:
Swiss Medicine

Take a glass of the world's most bitter grapefruit juice, stir in an equal amount of dish soap, then take a sip--that's what medications taste like here. A dear friend once confessed that her child would sooner take a suppository than allow Swiss medicine past her lips.  That's just not right, yet I see her point. Medication does not have to taste like it's going to kill you to be effective!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Geneva Top Three

Things I will miss most about Geneva #3: 
The Lake


Things that I won't miss #3: 
Motorcycles and Scooters

If you share the road, share the rules!  Don't pass on the right. Don't cross a solid white line. Don't park on the sidewalk. And, for God sakes, don't jump a curb to avoid a red light. I can say this with impunity because the Captain ranks among the top offenders, maybe not for the last one, but easily for the others. 

You all are lucky to be alive.  Don't push it.