Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First Photos, Then a Meme?!

What is happening to this blog?!

Saw this one at Ericka's, like Libby.

Things I've done are bolded.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (I can’t believe I haven’t done this)
55. Been in a movie (but I’ve been on TV)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (I always quit before they can fire me)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
(several times, but once with Geraldine Ferraro!)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club (no, no, a thousand times no)
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (but I have swum in the Dead Sea)
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day.

61 (tied with Ericka)

Of the items I haven’t done, I’d actively like to do four; I’d be fine if another five happened; and I couldn’t care less about the rest.

Edited to add: You know, I must have held a lamb, but I can't say for sure...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Email Etiquette Questions

I am currently on two cancer email update lists, neither one a close friend. Am I supposed to respond to these updates which arrive every week or so? Always? Occasionally? Am I a boor if I never do? One person I see once a year; the other person I run into fairly regularly, and it is generally easy to tell, in person, whether I should say something or not (though I'm not quite sure why).

A dear old friend who lives across the country and whom I see every few years sent a mass email today announcing that her father died last night. He lived on the other side of the world, but I have very fond memories of a good chunk of time I spent with them, long ago. I responded immediately to her email, with some of those memories, my sorrow, my regards to her mother. Do I still send a note (i.e. on paper)?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I just went

UPSTAIRS to tell the children to behave in the (filled-to-their-necks) tub.

[Yes, that should probably be a Twitter or a Facebook update, but this is the only place where I know everyone will understand the implications of what I'm saying.]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Behind the Times, as Usual

I know this SNL skit is so last week, but I only caught up with it tonight, thanks to M.  I don't know what's the best part: the always excellent Paul Rudd, Beyonce with a feminist consciousness and a soft heart, or Justin Timberlake in leotard and heels.  (Stay tuned for my analysis of "If I Were a Boy," if I can figure it out.)

The New Julia Glass Novel

This review of I See You Everywhere is spot on, so I do not need to write the long post I was going to write. I will simply say, in agreement, that the unpleasantness of the characters makes the book essentially unpleasant, despite some lovely writing (along with some real clunkers). Similarly, I did not like the way the characters have no women in their lives besides each other, and their narratives progress largely from man to man, but I realized eventually that those were character flaws, not writing flaws, though on the other hand I'm not quite sure of the interest-value of writing such characters, at least for me. Finally, and here I am definitely speaking for myself, the animal thing does nothing for me as a reader, and in fact turns me off. Glass's novels are increasingly full of animals, and I am persistently uninterested in animals, even bear cubs undergoing cardiac surgery, after long discussion of whether it is the right thing to perform cardiac surgery on bear cubs.

Edited to add: OK, I guess I do have more to say, which may be a positive comment, in that it is a thought-provoking book, except that the thoughts it provokes have to do less with its content, than with questions over the success of its form. Anyway, perhaps it is that I read it this week, but I felt that there was a fundamental narrative dishonesty in the book's treatment of suicide, not on the part of the one left behind, whose response was thoroughly convincing, but in having a first-person narrator (the book has two) commit suicide with barely any foreshadowing. Oh god, I can't explain what's wrong with that--I mean, I know, but I really don't feel like writing about this book, so I'll just leave it at the fact that I found it to be a problem.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Outlier

Or, perhaps: The Limits of (Generalized) Data

I do not think of myself as particularly happy, but I watch hardly any television.

Renovation Update: Done

For Dawn.

Looking up the stairs:

Looking down the stairs:

Hall (from the other end, i.e looking toward the top of the stairs) (alcove for records on left):

M's room is L-shaped. From the door:

From the window:
E's room from the door (with the last of the flotsam and jetsam):
E's room w/ colors and closet:
Our room (note skylightS):MY closet:
Long, deep rectangular tub:

Much obsessed-over vanity (now appreciated for pharmaceutical vibe):

Sink (most excellently rectangular, in my opinion) (marble not what we originally planned, but also now appreciated, i.e. along the pharmaceutical lines):
Skylight to look up at while I shower:

And now what you've all been waiting for: the doorknobs!


M's little door to the eaves:

Door to E's room (note decorative base):
E's closet door:
Our room:
And last, but not least, the fabulous bathroom knob:The end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What I Could Write About

The Eternal Smallness of East Coast Big City

Everyone knew everyone in the corner of East Coast Big City where I grew up--and if you didn't know them yourself, they went to high school with your brother, or you went to high school with their brother, or your brothers went to high school together. Since we moved back, even though we live in Town, not City, we still move in those circles, but S and I now both work in East Coast Big City proper, and we are discovering circles we had no idea existed, in which everyone knows everyone. So the smallness persists, even as our circles expand.

The Dilemmas of Facebook

When to unfriend? What to do, practically and emotionally, about the ex-boyfriends you are actively not friending, but who are apparently just as actively not friending you? Whether and why to update how often? How much you feel like a ridiculous high school student, except that the high school students don't think twice about any of this, because it's just like breathing for them?

What I'm Not Writing About

How A's suicide threads through the East Coast Big City circles S and I now seem to be part of. How I worked with her; and my friend S, who I work with somewhere else, grew up with her; and S's ex-girlfriend used to babysit her; and she lived in the new building down the street from the restaurant, upstairs from the new restaurant; and the main investor in the new restaurant was the one who found her, cut her down, and tried to do CPR; and he spent that afternoon drinking at the bar, but S didn't know why until later; and my friend S knows him too, because she knows absolutely everyone; and the teenagers, my god, I can't even talk about the teenagers.

How a Facebook page becomes a memorial as bereft friends pour out their grief into notes on the wall.

How unfathomable the unexpected, unexplained suicide is.

How banal it feels to write those words.

How presumptuous it is to appropriate the ragged grief of others, and how determined I am not to do so.

How I can't sleep at night.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


S is obsessed with the GM situation, and he's sucking me in. My instincts are absolutely two-fold. On the one hand, I feel like they've screwed it up, so let them fold (i.e. the free market should do its thing). On the other hand, I feel like the ripple effect--jobs that will be lost, peripheral businesses that will fold, communities that will be slammed--is untenable, both ethically and economically. I'm not being original here: that's the dilemma the government faces. And it makes me really glad I'm not in the government, so I can just stew over it, rather than having to make a decision.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

California Dreaming

I don't think about California for months at a time, and then suddenly the desire hits me, like a punch in the stomach (sorry for the cliche, but that's really what it's like).  The yearning is palpable, physical.  I see whatever place I miss in front of my eyes, and I'm desperate to be there. This time, again, it's the road from San Rafael to Point Reyes, the climbing green meadows, before you enter the woods.  I feel just desperate to be there.

(This evening, a clear cause: a California scene in Julia Glass's new novel through which I am diligently plodding, but, oh, California...)

(Can you tell, from the three posts today, that yesterday I once again decided I might as well give up the blog?)

Chocolate-Pumpkin Layer Cake

Do I dare?

Getting Closer

The school secretary's husband was laid off a few weeks ago. A girl in E's grade's dad was laid off last week. E's best friend's father escaped his company's big layoffs this week, but he warned that another round was rumored for January, and, sure enough, the front page of today's paper confirms the rumor. He thinks he's going to be OK, but his wife lies awake at night worrying.

I parse our situation every single day. So far, aside from the same hit as everyone else on retirement funds we won't need for a long time (that is, the same hit as everyone else who even has a retirement fund), we're OK.

I think S will be fine. His boss owns three restaurants and the other two are tanking, so he is the golden child at the moment (and likely will continue to be, due to structural characteristics of his restaurant and the fact that he is really good at his job) (KNOCK WOOD).

I am fine till June 30, when my two big contracts end. One, which is in good financial shape, has assured me that there will be work for me next year; the other, which has already laid off one person and decided not to replace a second, has pointedly assured me that they will not try to alter the terms of my contract this year. I know a coded warning when I see it.

I can't say I lie awake--mainly because I am again completely exhausted and fall asleep most nights before I even get to bed--but I do think about it every single day, always appreciative of how lucky we are at the moment, always anxious of what the future will bring.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Valerie Jarrett

I don't know about the rest of you, but I never heard of Valerie Jarrett till last week. Since then, she's been everywhere, and she sounds pretty cool, and it seems like she'll be an asset to the Obama administration. But I'm particularly impressed with what she did during the campaign. According to the Times:

In his presidential campaign, Ms. Jarrett served as a top aide, giving personal counsel to the Obamas, consulting on all major decisions, and serving as an emissary to the external world.

I wonder who served as emissary to the internal world.

Monday, November 10, 2008

You know

sometimes I still can't believe Barack Obama is really going to be our president. (The dress looks better a week later.) (And I love the way she sits with her knees and toes pointed in--like a real person!) (And call me a white girl, and, yes, you've heard me say it before, but I just love the Bidens.)

[link from Sandra]

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Idea of Order at Our House

[I feel that I have used this title before.]

I did not go on the computer from Friday evening to late Sunday afternoon.  

Friday evening I was frantically finishing up some work, because it was the first weekend since I can remember that--if I frantically finished the work at hand on Friday night--I did not have any work to do.  I finished the work, and told various people that I would be unavailable over the weekend.  Then I thought, why not really be unavailable?  There's no work that needs to be done, nobody I need to be in touch with who's not in my phone/in-person vicinity...why don't I see what it's like to stay off the computer?

It was awesome.  On Saturday, there were a few moments of down time here and there where I felt the urge to check my email.  But I didn't.  There were moments of wanting to look something up or tell someone something, but I figured either I'd remember to do it later, or it didn't matter.  By Sunday it was a non-issue.

What did I do instead of work or be on the computer?  I'm not quite sure.  Let's see...

Friday night I watched a movie (stupid) and a Friends episode (funny, but especially funny in concert with how funny E found it) with the girls, then read my book for three seconds and fell asleep.

Saturday I cleaned the house, went for a run, took M and E on a shoes/tights/purse-shopping expedition, went to a bar mitzvah, drank vodka gimlets, convinced my friends to drink vodka gimlets, told hitchhiking stories while drinking vodka gimlets, watched children play silly bar mitvah games, came home and fell asleep.

Today I went for a run, had coffee with Lucy, went to E's last soccer game of the season, started cleaning the sunroom, threw out two big trash bags of destroyed games and art projects, packed a big box of outgrown games for the homeless shelter, read the NY Times, helped M with her geography project, and watched another Friends episode.

It was the most relaxing weekend I've had since I can remember.  Now the question is: how much of this was the absence of work, and how much the absence of computer?  I'm not quite sure, but I will say that it was awesome to not be on the computer, and I'm hoping that a weekend of cold turkey will help me generally decrease the computer time--not the productive time, but the poking around, reading things I don't need to read, playing games I don't need to play, based on the subterranean fantasy that I will somehow find the thing I didn't even know I was looking for that will finally satisfy me (you know, Lacan and all that).

We also, at dinner this evening, renegotiated the girls' screen time rules, because we have once again fallen into the them-heading-for-screens-all-the-time-and-me-being-made-crazy-by-them-heading-for-screens rut, which is as much a problem of my craziness as their screen obsessions (we had the same old discussions too, E pointing out that they are well-balanced children, M pointing out that we always have this problem in winter), but something had to be done.  So we came to a new policy, which is not that different from the old policy, but shaped a little more specifically to current circumstances (we have now differentiated between productive or playful activities that just happen to take place on the computer--like checking email, reading, writing, or dancing to YouTube videos--and activities that are valuable only as mindless leisure--like dressing up supermodels or staring at Zack and Cody--not that there's anything wrong with mindless leisure, which is why there is some time allotted to it, but it's a limited amount of time).  It was a very cheerful, agreeable conversation, and we are generally good at sticking to our policies for some time, until we all forget that we need them, so I am optimistic that the screen situation will become more copacetic on all fronts.

Cleaning the sunroom (go back three paragraphs, if you've forgotten) is part of the slow but steady effort to prepare for moving half the downstairs upstairs, which is just ten doorknobs, eight cabinet knobs, four light fixtures, and some bathroom accessories away.  But the irony is that, through the preparation effort, the downstairs has become so much more livable that I almost feel like we don't need the upstairs, and that renovating has been a ridiculous act of financial and cultural hubris!  

Hmm, it's more complicated than that, though, because of course the hope inspired by the renovation has inspired some of the changes--like finally cleaning off my desk in the corner of the dining room so I can actually work at it, which means I no longer feel desperate for the office I will have any day now.  But of course the desk was a disaster because the apartment is so small that there is no place to put anything which is what the new office will remedy.  Ah, it's late and I'm starting to go in circles.

But what I really wanted to write about was the living room, which has practically nothing to do with anything said above.  Our living room has always been wrong, but I've never had any idea of how to fix it.  Basically, the layout of doors and furniture made the living room as much a hallway as anything else, and about as not cozy as could be.  I felt this especially a few weeks ago, when I had some friends over, and we were sitting in the living room after dinner, and I just thought: this is not right.  It just so happened that that weekend I was taking in our downstairs' neighbor's mail, so the next morning I walked into her living room, which is just below ours, and almost identically laid out, and realized how I could rearrange the furniture!  So I went upstairs and rearranged it that very day (basically by myself--S was out of town, and I wanted to surprise him, and for some reason it was easier to move heavy furniture by myself than with two children), and it was transformed!  It's cozier, it's happier, it's less prone to chaos, and it makes me like the whole apartment better!

So really, we didn't need to renovate after all.  We just needed to stop spending so much time on screens and rearrange the living room.  Now I wonder if I can return all those doorknobs...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Can We Talk About Eliot Spitzer?

I know: he's so last year. Now it's a new day in America. We have a Black president. Who cares about a disgraced former governor? Uh, me?

Spitzer is not going to be charged "for his role in a prostitution scandal," according to the AP. Go read the article. You don't even have to read the whole thing, just the first two paragraphs.

Did you see it? The money quote? In case you missed it, here you go: "federal prosecutors typically do not prosecute clients of prostitution rings."

Does that bother anyone else the way it bothers me?

The NY Times provides a bit more detail on the rationale:

The policy [of the Department of Justice with respect to prostitution offenses], detailed in the Justice Department’s manual for United States attorneys on how to carry out their duties, advises that unless minors are victims, prosecutions “should generally be limited to persons engaged in commercial prostitution activities.”

Hmm. Here the money word seems to be "commercial," and I'm guessing we're supposed to interpret that line as meaning that if you're making money from prostitution, you get prosecuted. Which means that if you're paying money for prostitution, you're off the hook?

Am I missing something here? Isn't prostitution itself a crime (whether or not you think it should be, currently it is--unless you're in Nevada)? In which case, shouldn't all participants be prosecuted, i.e. those who sell and those who buy? What's wrong with this picture?

Oh yeah, silly me...I forgot all about entrenched racism, sexism, and class privilege! What a goofball I am! I wasn't even thinking about the fact that the people who pay prostitutes HAVE money, and the people who are prostitutes NEED money. Which means, you know, the people who pay tend to be, like, men of means. And the people who get paid tend to be...women of no means.

Oh no! Does this mean that the practice of law is biased against...the underprivileged!? Well, shoot me with a watergun. Maybe this does all lead back to Barack Obama. And maybe it's a great thing to weep and celebrate when a Black man gets elected president. But maybe we've still got work to do.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Will Miracles Never Cease?

My god, even Maureen Dowd abandons the snark for the heartfelt. It's a new day in America. (As I try to wean myself of my political/news junkie habits.) (Though we are all about Malia and Sasha over here, being a two-girl family ourselves, with a similarly responsible older and goofball younger.) (Love the dresses. Curious about the school. Jealous of the puppy--some of us, at least.)


My friends have been hassling me about not listening to NPR (it is, perhaps, my greatest point of deviation from my demographic). So I decided to give it a shot.

Yesterday it was all election rehash, nothing I hadn't read in the newspaper, plus I listened three times (driving in c. 7 a.m.; driving from one place to another c. 2 p.m.; driving home c. 4:30 p.m.), and basically they said the same thing each time. This morning I listened driving in. First I heard Norman Ornstein, then I heard Bob Kagan, both talking about how people's high expectations for Obama are going to be dashed (talk about the media driving the story) then I heard John Weaver (scroll down) talking about where the McCain campaign went wrong. Later, driving from one place to another, I turned it on again, and I heard some woman whose identification I missed talking about how race doesn't matter because we are colorblind and if we're not we should be, and she just voted for Sarah Palin because she identified with her. This is our liberal radio? This I need? I put on Smile and gave up on NPR once again.

Now before you go all "Don't make judgements on so little evidence" and "But what about Terry Gross?" and "You didn't listen to the right shows" on me, I know all that. I know why I'm supposed to like NPR, but seriously, every single time I turn on the radio, determined to give NPR a chance, it's either offensive or boring (OK, the last time I gave it a chance was 1987, when I tried listening in the mornings while getting dressed, but the time at which I got dressed was apparently the Reviews of Pretentious Cultural Events Across the Country segment...in a word: boring).

What I realized, though, as I switched to the CD of my choice, is that my dislike of NPR is more about my...hmm, what's the word...aesthetic? sensory? I think both...my sensory and aesthetic proclivities.

#1: I'm just not an aural person. About the only thing I like to listen to on the radio is baseball. Listening to music is fine, but I rarely put it on myself unless I'm in the car and most of the time, frankly, I end up spacing out. Same thing with books on tape. If they're great, I can engage, but listening just isn't my preferred way of taking in information. I'd much rather read. Which leads to #2: I think, I realized this morning, that I like to control my information too much for radio. I'm totally down with serendipitous discovery, and I'm always reading things I didn't expect to read, but I like the way that, with text or the internet, I can survey what's out there and choose what I want to consume. Whereas with radio, you're a captive audience. It goes where it wants to go, for as long as it wants to go, and you can't go away and find something else (I mean, obviously you can turn it off, like I did, but you can't skip to another page).

Oddly, this preference, I believe, puts me firmly out of my demographic and into the entitled media demographic, which is generally, I think, considered to be younger than me. So maybe that's why I don't like NPR: because I am such a fashion-forward media consumer!

Monday, November 03, 2008

E in a Rage

"I hate you! I hate everyone in this room! I hate you all! I hate you, Alice! I hate you, Mad Hatter! I hate you Laura, and I hate you Mary! I hate you, Meg! I hate you, Jo! I hate you, Beth! I hate you, Amy! I hate you, Mrs. Roosevelt!"

First Election Results

M's school: John McCain (175), Barack Obama (853).

May it be a harbinger of everything to come.

Temperature Update

We've given up on 62; E was weeping from the cold. We're trying 65.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

La Vida Chez Moi

My kids are playing--and I quote--"pirates in Hawaii who steal clothes from the Queen of England."

OK, then.

(This post makes me think that maybe I should be twittering...)

Edited to add: I was working in the living room, and then they started to play in the living room, so I moved to their bedroom, specifically to M's bed, but somehow their game moved to their bedroom, and came to involve much checking in with me as to the realism of various costume options. It's really time for this renovation to be finished and me to have a place to work. Not that that would necessarily help. (I believe the game now involves teenagers in LA on Halloween--not sure what happened to the Hawaiian pirates.) (E: "Mommy! M just called me snobby.")

(Perhaps twitter is not for me after all...)


Last night, we were listening to The Seeger Sessions as my dad, the girls, and I drove back from Country Town. "We Shall Overcome" came up, and I said to my dad, "Listening to this, I just can't believe* we might elect a black president on Tuesday." "Me too," he said. "It makes me want to cry," I said. "Me too," he said.

I love my family.

*This is really what I said, but what I meant, which may not be adequately conveyed in the plain type of print, was that I am overwhelmed by the idea, especially in light of the last half century, not that I don't believe it will happen.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Postscript to Previous Post

What it comes down to is that E and Z were intellectually engaged with every aspect of the task, from doing the academic work, to addressing challenges, to engaging with other people.

Now, I could argue that a different kind of classroom--one devoted to inquiry and exploration in a holistic way (i.e. the endpoint is as open as the process, not just a worksheet)--would engage some of these other kids more intensely, and I'm sure it would. C (different C from previous post) and A would be on fire in an inquiry-based classroom, and so would little Y who never said a word in kindergarten. But, E and Z would be positively explosive, and I'm guessing R would still be lost and C (a third C) would still space out.

So differences, albeit different differences, would remain, though more kids could very well be served...

An Analysis, Not a Brag (I Hope)

In our house, we pretty much take E's capacities for granted. On the soccer field or singing Hannah Montana songs, she totally blends in with her peers, so we just figure she's a normal second grader, and we don't really think about the fact that she also does things like have conversations about genetics and multiply fractions and write chapter books (with a problem and a resolution).

Yesterday I was in E's class for their "Harvest" (i.e. NOT Halloween) party. In kindergarten, I was in E's class every other week, so I really knew the kids and their work. In kindergarten, E was a total outlier: she could read, she could behave, she was writing five-page books when most kids were still drawing pictures. We didn't think much about that either, though, because she was older and doing her second year of kindergarten (for birthday/preschool availability reasons that you either remember or don't care about). In first grade, the other kids started catching up with her, plus she made a best friend who is a lot like her, so we figured the maturing thing was happening (differences are largest in younger grades, when the kids are, in fact, farther apart in age, relatively, plus boys and girls have significant developmental differences). But I wasn't around much in first grade.

It was quite exciting to see, yesterday, how far all the kids have come since kindergarten. Their writing is awesome, and they are just a super-nice group of kids (for the most part--let's say 95%). But I also saw, in just an hour, how truly different E is. Unlike kindergarten, she's not alone: there is one boy like her, and there are another boy and girl who are similar, but a little different. But, wow, what a span in a single classroom.

Digression on teacher: E has a fabulous teacher. The kids love her, she has total control of the classroom, they are doing a lot of content, and they have fun. But she is definitely of the new breed of all academics all the time, even though she also makes it fun. So yesterday they had Halloween all day (aside from the party which was HARVEST, in case you don't recall). In the morning they drew haunted houses and wrote poems about them. Then they listened to scary music and chose from scary writing prompts to write stories. The party was all about the orange food: canteloupe, clementines, cupcakes, candy corn (ooh, orange C-food, though we didn't go there), and, uh, Munchkins and juice boxes. Then there were four stations--math (which was also science), science, literacy, and fun pack--through which the kids circulated in small groups. They were totally into it, but, you know, it might have been fun to make pumpkin pies or leaf collages or our own witches' brooms...only it's not that kind of school...

Back to the kids: I was momming the math (science) table where we had a scale, a small pumpkin, and a big pumpkin. The task was to weigh ourselves (themselves), estimate the weight of the pumpkins (one at a time), weigh the pumpkins, and figure out the difference between the estimate and the actual weight. All the kids loved the estimating and the weighing (though most of their estimates were off by a factor of about 40). Not all of them could follow the directions--they were writing their numbers down all over the page, when there was a specific place and sequence for each number. And the math? It wasn't that they didn't love it--the kids who got it were totally into it--but that some of them just drew a total blank. The teacher said they knew the concept of difference, but for most of them, it sure didn't seem like it. I'd ask the question in several different ways and get dreamy stares. Then there were a few who got it, but didn't know how they got it (these were usually kids who guessed things like 118, when the big pumpkin actually weighed 18, so it was easy to get to 100).

The other issue was the small pumpkin which turned out to not weigh enough to register on the scale. In the first group, we figured out how to solve this problem: weigh the kids holding the pumpkin, which everyone loved. Luckily the pumpkin weighed one pound, so almost every kid could figure out that if I weigh 56 pounds by myself, and 57 holding the pumpkin, the pumpkin weighs one pound. But some couldn't even figure that out: one thought the pumpkin weighed 57 pounds.

So what was the difference with E and her friend Z? Well, they read the directions, were a step ahead on the tasks, understood the difference concept, and did the math. Not only that, but when I asked their group how we were going to figure out the weight of the small pumpkin, E immediately suggested weighing ourselves holding the pumpkin (I had to coax that solution out of every other group). And not only that, but when I asked them to help the other kids in their group with the math, Z came up and said to me "we haven't learned borrowing yet, what should I do?" He knew how to borrow, but he knew that the other kid didn't, and he wanted to help him appropriately, not just do the math for him. In other words, what E and Z are is academically capable, creative (i.e. problem solving), and meta-cognitive. S, a boy who shares their skill level, completely lacks the meta-cognitive piece, and C, a girl who did some creative thinking (she compared the weight of the big pumpkin to her little brother's weight) is not quite there in skills.

So I guess E is different, but she's not a total outlier. I'm glad she has Z, and S and C, and, frankly, all the other kids in her class, because that's life: a whole lot of different people who need to negotiate the world, individually and together. And I am in total awe of her teacher for teaching all these kids at once: I only did it for an hour, and I was exhausted.