Thursday, October 16, 2014

Self Serve...I don't think it means what you think it means

I managed to get my outdoor fall decorating done with plenty of time to enjoy it while the weather is...well...fall like (this is MN and that could change in a NY second and it cite the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 as evidence).  And it has been an absolutely gorgeous fall here.  The temperature must have hit on the exact combination of warm days and cool nights for peak color.  OR God just decided to show off his handiwork. (my money is on "option B").  The colors this year have just been SO vivid, actually still are pretty vivid.  And I frequently have to remind're DRIVING. *blush*

So, here is the front of the house:
The hay bale and corn stalks this year this year came from Jim's Apple Farm...also known as Minnesota's Largest Candy Store AND, I know, you be like there's MORE?, they have in stock somewhere around 6000 jigsaw puzzles, because...MINNESOTA) and the stalks were full of dried corn ears (as they should be).  

So, it's all good right?  UNTIL...I get this brilliant idea yesterday.  We were putzing around getting ready to send our youngest two off for Fall Retreat with their church group and as I was watering my pots I  thought, HEY, Fr Dick always gave his dog Erin dried corn cobs.  So, I found an unobtrusive cob down near the base of the left hand stalk and pulled it off, stripped what was left of the husk and gave it to Remy.  Who promptly ran off into the yard to eat the corn off the cob.  She was actually pretty funny with it.  You'd have thought it was a bone from Von Hansons by the way if you approached her she would pick it up in her mouth and want to show you what she has. (in case you're wondering she has NEVER shown aggressive tendencies with anything and will drop anything in her mouth on command). 

We got the girls loaded up and dropped off and I came home alone as the husband was helping a friend.  I came in through the garage, as did the dog.  OH, about an hour later she went to the door to be let out and THAT is when her activities became apparent.

Apparently, Remy interpreted my off the cuff gesture as "help yourself" and while we were gone ripped the entire left corn stalk off the front post (it was tied in 2 places with twine...broke through the twine), dragged it onto the front walk and then, given her lack of opposable thumbs, proceeded to rip off an ear of corn AND pull the husk off of it enough to get to the corn:
Of course, THEN, after all that 

20/20 hindsight.  Amirite?

Of course, I failed to get a full pictorial accounting of her activities until this morning, AFTER I had rectified the damage.  But maybe a side by side before/after pic?

And the front walk:


But, she's so freaking cute.  Even when she's been dog shamed.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Glorious Weekend

I'm not sure we could have asked for a better weekend than this past weekend.  It was simply glorious.  The weather was predicted to be in the upper 70s to low 80s and it did not disappoint.

The husband worked half day from home on Friday then we headed out to Prior Lake.  It was pretty much empty, which is a crime for such a beautiful day but worked for us.  There is this one tree
that is stunningly beautiful in all its fall glory.  Well, guess what?  Turns out there isn't just one.  The one in question wasn't in full color.
It's the tree just behind the fistbump (yeah, I don't know why he does that either).  It's getting there, just not there.  Now THIS one...this one is there:
But the man...well he was in his element, his happy place:
We had lunch on the boat, made a quick stop at Captain Jacks and took an #indiansummerselfie:
Wait...can you say Indian Summer anymore?/insert politically correct eye-roll

Friday night was also the homecoming game.  No  child involved in game related events meant we didn't have to stay for the game so we hightailed it off for dinner and a rewatching (several times) of Jeter's clutch hit in his last game in Yankee Stadium (seriously...what a way to end your career).

Saturday started much like Friday so we dropped the boat into O'Dowd for a couple hours with the ifloat and my youngest and her two friends actually braved the water:
Saturday was also the Homecoming Dance so I had to trot off to where pictures were being taken.
*sidebar*  OK, I get that kids want to get pictures taken with their friends (especially girls, as you'll see) and I get that it's convenient to do them all at once and be done.  But when did taking pictures become almost a bigger party than the actual dance?  And someone has to host these types of events which means it almost always falls to the parents who have the large homes (50 kids PLUS their parents) with bonus points if they have professionally (or appearingly so) landscaped yards.  Not many do, so it tends to fall to the same people.  Luckily, most kids (thanks to moms) don't arrive empty handed and, hopefully, are respectful.  At any rate, here is my middle daughter's group of friends (doing the "gang" sign that she has made famous, by doing in EVERY.SINGLE.PICTURE):
 And the gingers in the group:
 And Squad-Up:
I hope the neighbors thanked all the girls for aerating their lawn.

Sunday dawned, beautiful again and off to church we went.  I know that I've talked before about how the message always seems to be directed at me and Sunday was no exception. Still, I heard an interesting line which resonated SO much:  
Religion is man reaching for God. 
Christianity is God reaching for man through Jesus.
It doesn't get any clearer than that.

Having replanted my pots to reflect the season earlier in the week:

I started cutting down my perennials.  HOLY CRAP do we have a lot of perennials.  And I probably only did about a third of them.  I leave the sedum and the flame grass through the winter, but I also hack back the hydrangea (which I also left for later).  But the funny part was I was working for about an hour with my iphone set to music when I got a message from a local bar letting me know that they have some football specials going on.  Which alone wouldn't have been funny but they ended the text with the following hashtags:  #sundayfunday #lategame #enoughyardwork⃖  Like a voice from above, right?

I really hope we get one more weekend like this, but as I learned at church, I will count my blessings.  And the minutes until these kind of days return.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Forcing Inclusiveness

I am officially crotchety.  And while I am still struggling with the label (really?  crotchety?  Can't we find another term that doesn't have such a vivid mental picture?), I'm OK with it.  So, what makes me crochety, besides teenage daughters, freezing cold weather and stupid drivers texting while driving?  Well, it's Homecoming Week.  Enuff said.

WAY back when my son was a senior, we had a similar issue that is happening this week and I'll be honest with you when I say it scares me that school administration JUST.DOESN'T.GET.IT.  So, not so much the t-shirt issue but this whole idea of "inclusiveness", and it's getting out of hand.  Let me explain.

The HS is a 10-12 grade school (and has ALWAYS been that way) and the school colors are Black/Red/White.  No idea when this happened, but each class has their "designated" color:  seniors are black, juniors are red, sophomores are white.  Now, here is the kicker...THEY are all A-OK with this rite of passage.  THEY know and embrace this, because like the real world, to climb the ladder of success you have to start near the bottom.  When they have pep fests the students actually separate themselves into classes and sit with their class, dressed in their class's colors.

For some reason, the administration has decided to frown upon this act of unity, AS A CLASS, and is attempting to FORCE the students to act as a school, not just a class.  But here's the thing.  They DO come together as a school for the games, although they do separate themselves into classes for the games with a set hierarchy to the student section.  If they're having a black out, they all wear black, or a red out, they all wear red, or a pink out (cancer awareness) get the picture.  The pep fest is an opportunity for the students to show their CLASS spirit, and I can't for the life of me figure out why the administration feels the need to bend the students to their will, AND do so unsuccessfully.

So, I'm going through my email this morning and from the principal (he is new this year, but apparently he has been briefed) there were these two little blurbs in his "Student News and Announcement" email:

Please show us your SHS spirit by participating in Homecoming Spirit Week:  ...Friday is EVERYONE, including students and staff, wear the color red.

So, Friday is the day of the Pep Fest and typically the day the students show their school/class spirit by wearing their traditional class colors.  There is an entire week of spirit activities in which students can participate in school unifying activities, why is it such an issue that the students have their one day to show their class spirit while also showing their school spirit?  My daughter has said she's not sure if they'll be sending students home if they choose not to follow directions and wear red (which would probably mean the entire senior class and sophomore classes will be sent home), but that I should expect a phone call Friday.

Pep fest:   We really want to promote Saber Unity during our school pep fests!  This year when you enter the gym for the pep fest on Fridays, please mix it up and sit all over the gym!  We will not be separating by grades-we are all Shakopee Sabers and we are better together!

I'm curious as to how they are going to enforce this because the students themselves do this.  They WANT to sit with their friends, most of whom are in the same class as they are.  My sophomore daughter has already said...yeah, that ain't happening. (She's a SOPHOMORE and gets this).

Do schools really not have enough to do that they feel to create problems where there are none?  Has anyone actually thought to take students aside, let's say a good representation of all students in all grades, and actually ASK if they feel like the division of students into grades/colors creates a divisive atmosphere or is it just good-natured healthy competition?

I have 4 more years after this year and I suspect our school system and I  are going to go toe-to-toe MANY more times before my youngest graduates.  And what I find completely disheartening is that I have always been one of the number one cheerleaders for our district, even when the scores of standardized tests put us below the state average, I KNEW there were extenuating circumstances and had faith.  Now I have difficulty recognizing what the school has and will become.

So, I stay vigilant.  I hope other parents are as well.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nine Months and One Day Ago...

So, here's my problem.  I can't figure out whether, when I come back to my blog (and believe it or not, I come back often) I should just pick up and go forward without any mention of what has happened in the interim time, or I should do yet ANOTHER brief history of the happenings.  Then I decide that I'll decide tomorrow.

We are now about 270 tomorrows later.  So, I'm choosing door number two.  Try and keep up.

On Dad...2 weeks back in NY and 4 months later, we finally get a diagnosis(and I won't go into my opinion of the absolute clusterfu@k I thought that process was):  cancer.  While originally he had wanted to do the Whipple and take his chances, the fact that he as pulmonary fibrosis and could possibly end up on a ventilator the rest of his life changed his mind.  So, treatment wise he has gone with radiation and continuous chemo for 35 days.  Today he starts weekly chemo and will continue til before the holidays when another MRI will be done to make sure that the tumor has ceased growing and reduced in size.  At 80, the Drs have been amazed that he has handled a difficult treatment with very few side effects.  So, we're back to the waiting game.  For now.

School:  the boy (I really need to find another term for him but 20 year old habits die hard) returned for a short 10 days from NDSU before heading to Keesler AFB to do his ANG training.  13 weeks of it.  In Mississippi.  In the hottest part of the summer.  He survived, came home for 4 days then headed right back to school.  Here is he the day he got home:
The pride I have in him...words simply cannot express.

My oldest daughter went to her prom:
Then she graduated from high school:
Then she did a lot of fun summer things and nannied before heading off to St Thomas:
My middle daughter, well she's had a tough 270 days.  She had all 6 wisdom teeth pulled (yes, she had 6) three days after she stabbed herself on a very sharp Cutco knife requiring stitches in her hand (I'll refrain from posting those pictures, but rest assured, I DID take pictures).  She did some nannying this summer too and made bank.  But mostly, she worked towards this:
Which means, with 3 licensed drivers in the house in addition to me and the husband, I may not have to pick up a child again.  Like EVER.

The youngest daughter danced in her 9th recital:
Then made her third donation to Locks of Love:
Spent some time fishing:
And danced for the first time in the Derby Days Parade (do NOT adjust your computer terminal, the video you are about to see is all the fault of the incompetent operator.  That would be me):
And basically having the dream summer of any teen.

Of course, the school year has started up with my older two at their respective campuses and my younger two partaking in the yearly banner tradition (I won't get into how difficult this has become, but as God is my witness, I will continue this for 4 more years):
For the adults, it was pretty busy as well.  We went and saw Tesla:
Someone had the bright idea of running a 5K (I DON'T RUN) on my birthday:
I don't think technically you can call what I did "running" but for argument's sake we'll say I ran.  Then the husband did his 6th Earth Day Half Marathon and clocked a personal best (1:51:27).  
We did a little Three Doors Down action at the MN Zoo:
The boys decided to purchase an ifloat that got put to good use all summer:
Spent Fourth of July up at Bay Lake where more running Nisswa Firecracker 10 K was done, this one with his brother.  He's such a happy runner, amirite?
Hit Dan Patch Days for a little Hairball action:
And of course Derby Days.  What would Derby Day's be without the Derby Day 5K (6th in his age group...and YES, there were more than 6):
And the bag tournament.  They figured out that the top 3 teams don't drink beer while tossing bags.  Which, IMO, defeats the purpose (unless, of course, you WANT to win):
And the obligatory picture with some kind of advertising mascot at the parade:
We took the girls to Boneyard in Uptown:
And managed to get an adult trip out to Captain Jacks:
Guess who we saw while finishing up our summer activities at James J Hill Days in Wayzata:
There you have it.  A not-so-quick synopsis of the past 270 days.  I have purposefully left out one event simply because it is just too big of an event to give just a one picture blurb.  It needs to be its own post.  So, stay tuned. (That was kinda cool how I set the hook, right?)

Friday, January 10, 2014

When In Doubt, Bake

So, we are still in a holding pattern.  As of right now we really don't know much more than we did a week ago.  And that was that dad was admitted to the hospital with jaundice, off color "output".  A CAT scan showed nothing.  An ERCP scope to stent the valve between his liver and pancreas and take a scraping of cells from the valve showed no signs of cancer  after biopsy.  However a blood test showed his C19 levels (a mark for pancreatic cancer) increased.  Not off the charts but with all presenting together Dad's gastric Dr is fairly convinced it's pancreatic cancer.  He has been recommended to a surgeon in Albany to help diagnose and treat.  We head down Sunday for a Monday morning CAT scan and a meeting with the surgeon to discuss our options.

In an attempt to pave the way, as it may be, we have hit every Dr to get him cleared for any possible surgery so that we can hopefully get him on the schedule as quickly as possible.  We've seen his pulmonary Dr (check), his gastric Dr (check), his cardiologist (check) and his family practice Dr (check).  The only Dr left to see is his nephrologist and we'll hit him when we get back.  But the major ones have signed off on any surgery.

So, this week has been a lot of appointments and in between a lot of waiting.  I don't do well waiting.  Instead I have chosen to make myself useful by taking over pretty much all the cooking.  We've had steak and shrimp (per Dad's request), beef vegetable soup (in the midst of that bitter cold) with beer bread, chicken marsala, spaghetti (the way Dad makes it so he walked me through it),  stuffed pork chops and tonight was chicken pot pie.  All of which takes up my afternoon, but leaves me at a loss during the day if we're not hitting appointments.  In an attempt to stay busy during the morning, I decided to make a Walnut-Pear Sour Cream coffee cake.

I've made this before and now I remember why I don't typically make it very often.  As I told dad I believe I deserve congratulations are in order because I managed to do what I don't think HE has ever been able to do:  in the making of one cake, I managed to use an entire set of 5 graduated bowls.  And use them CORRECTLY.  

Because I've been requested for the recipe and since, if my thighs have to be big, yours should be too, I'm willing to share:

Walnut-Pear Sour Cream Cake

1 cup broken walnuts
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and sliced (about 2 cups)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1-8oz carton dairy sour cream
½ cup broken walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9 inch spring form pan or a 9x9x2 inch baking pan.  Combine  1 cup nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon (bowl 1).  For topping cut the 1/4  cup butter with 1/3 cup flour to make coarse crumbs.  Stir in ¾ cup of the nut mixture(bowl 2).  Set nut mixture and the topping aside.

Toss pears with lemon juice(bowl 3).  Set aside.  In a medium bowl combine 1 ¾ cups flour, baking powder, soda, salt(bowl 4).  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat ½ cup butter with electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Beat in granulated sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each(bowl 5).  Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately to batter.  Beat on low speed after each addition until combined.

Spread two-thirds batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with reserved nut mixture (without the butter).  Layer pears over the top.  Gently spread remaining batter over the pears.  Sprinkle with topping (with butter).  Bake 10 minutes.(  For a chunky top, sprinkle with ½ cup more nuts (I bypassed this and just baked it for 40 minutes then checked the doneness of the cake every 10 minutes ~50 minutes).  Bake for 45-50 minutes more or until wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes.  Remove sides of spring form pan if using.  Cool at least 1 hour (yeah, right).  Serve warm with whipped cream if desired.  Serves 12.

In the end, it should look like this:
And yes.  It does taste as good as it works.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Five Year Circle

I started this blog almost 5 years ago as a way of keeping track of my thoughts regarding my dad's health and its impact on me as I headed back to NY for his heart bypass.  I never expected less than five years later, I would be back.  I'm just gonna say, a mid afternoon phone call on New Year's Day saying your dad has pancreatic cancer, isn't anywhere on my list of top 100 ways to start a new year.

So, a quick phone call (and a big shout out to Delta for getting me back to NY within 24 hours in the midst of one of the biggest storms to hit the east coast), a fairly "easy" trip with no surprises (for me) aside from a really ugly ferry ride from VT to NY and I'm at my dad's.  And the current news is that the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, might...MIGHT have been premature.  He had a scope procedure to place a stent in his liver/pancreas and a scraping was taken for biopsy as well as a cat scan and the biopsy and cat scan came back with no indication of cancer. HOWEVER, the Dr has said that he WON'T say that there is no cancer. He is sure there is something there, he's just not sure what it is.  Unfortunately, the internet isn't very optimistic with regards to pancreatic abnormalities.

Next step, consultation with a surgeon in Albany to see what they can do.  I don't THINK that they're looking at a Whipple Procedure (which involves removing a whole bunch of organs) but if they get in and find that which isn't there, then we might just be looking at that.  We talk to the surgeon on Monday.

What I am most concerned about at this point is the lack of urgency.  No rush on the biopsy report. No rush on chatting up a surgeon.  The only rushing going on has been me and my siblings hauling ass to NY.  My poor sister is on day 2 of traveling and we still don't expect her until tomorrow.  She had reservations from Seattle to Burlington via Detroit, thinking Detroit is more capable of dealing with snow.  She made it to Detroit to find her Burlington leg cancelled and ended up at LaGuardia via Cleveland, expected to leave LaGuardia at midnight only to find her plane to Burlington was sitting in Raleigh.  Put into a hotel at midnight, back in the morning to find her 330pm flight was again cancelled.  So, maybe tomorrow.  Fun huh?

Hurry up and wait.  Not one of my strong points.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When Push Comes to Shove

I think it is generally accepted that Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Stop and really ponder that.  How often have you let something pass because you just didn't want to get involved.  It wasn't your place.  You didn't want to make a scene.  Especially when it's something for which you will possibly be going against the accepted "grain".

I am in the midst of such a moment.  It hasn't played completely out as of yet, but the wheels are set in motion.

A couple weeks ago, my oldest daughter let it slip in conversation that her college prep writing teacher at the high school had viewed in class the unrated version of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video.  I simply cannot post it here, but I'll wait while you do a google search.  It's out there for ANYONE to see. (Whether or not it should be is a topic for another discussion).  According to my daughter, they were dissecting the lyrics and the teacher thought it might be of some educational value. (as if the lyrics aren't explicit enough).  At any rate, I mulled it over for a while and I realized the my silence was eating at my gut and decided that it was time to shove back.

I chose not to approach the teacher on this because frankly, she had already made this autonomous decision and all that viewed the video cannot unview it.  I'm sure she rationalized why her decision was a good one and nothing I can say or do at this point would change her mind as to the appropriateness of her decision.  Instead, I wrote to the school principal, explaining the situation, giving HER a link to the video, and asking HER if she felt that this was appropriate material for children to be viewing in a high school situation.  I also expressed concern that my daughter would be subjected to criticism (which happened last year to a friend) for having informed me of the teacher's transgression (and make no mistake about it...I consider this complete lapse of judgement a transgression) and harsher evaluation especially when dealing with a subjective topic as writing. OH, because I sometimes become, let's call it overly passionate, I ran the email past my husband to make sure that I kept the focus where it should be. He approved and I THOUGHT I sent it.

This happened homecoming weekend and I figured that the principal would have her hands full with the game and dance so I didn't expect an immediate response.  After a week went by, I checked to see exactly what time I had sent the email and lo and behold, it was still in draft form.  So, I sent it a week later than I expected.  But I sent it. (Friday)

The first response from the principal came this past Monday.  She said she would talk with the teacher.  M...okay.  My question wasn't addressed to the teacher, but if the principal felt she needed to "get her side", then that's fine, but my expectation was that the principal respond to my question:  Yes or no...this video was/was not appropriate viewing material for high school students without their parent's knowledge or consent.  Today, I received an invitation from the principal to meet with the teacher, with my daughter and possibly the principal, to discuss this situation.


So, there is an explanation for showing a pornographic video in a high school classroom setting?  As a friend brought up to me, if a MALE teacher had viewed this video in class, would it have been as calmly accepted as it appears to have been with the female teacher?  Or would all holy hell be breaking loose?  I do not believe that there is ANY reason why this video should have been viewed in class, I don't care if it was a male or female.  Not this.  NOT EVER.

After speaking with my daughter, who didn't want to me to say ANYTHING about this to begin with, she said she most definitely did not want to meet with the teacher and frankly, neither do I.  I do not want to hear a teacher's rationalization why she though this would be of educational value.  Of all the "educational valuable" material out there, I'm guessing this would rank right down there with the in depth study of toe jam/navel lint.

She (my daughter) is also (still) concerned about the repercussions that will fall upon her IF the teacher learns of her identity.  At this point, I am holding out hope, since I expressed concern of the possibility of harsh criticism of my daughter by the teacher in my initial email, that the principal would show some discretion when speaking to the "a student and their parent have emailed me with concerns regarding a video that was shown in class", but I have no idea if she did.  Simply put, it does not matter.  The video was inappropriate.  EVERY student should have told their parents and their parents should have responded in a like manner.

So, no.  We have no intention of meeting with the teacher.  And sadly for my daughter, I have no intention of dropping this if the principal fails to respond and actually answers my question (IS THIS APPROPRIATE? If not, own it, fix it and make sure it never happens again).  My next stop will be the school board, although I suspect the reason I haven't yet heard back from the principal is because they are frantically looking for a way to deflect the situation.  From there, the news and blog world will be the next stop and then all possibility of anonymity (if it even existed) goes down the toilet.

I don't care about it for myself, but I am concerned for my daughter.  She is having a stellar  year this her senior year and I would really hate to see that derailed because *I* had to prove a point.  And that point is, when did pornography become part of the high school curriculum?  Is it possible that class time could be better used than by showing titillating videos in class to adolescents?  When and more importantly WHY does education need to sink to this level of perversion? Back to Burke, is this evil?  No. But it is morally and ethically wrong and to do nothing is giving implicit acceptance.

Do I wait until the schools are bringing in actual people to have sex on desks to object (yes, this was college, just  one short  year away from where my daughter is now)?  Or is there educational value in that as well?

Seriously. If not me, who?  If not now, when?