May 2008 Archives

Subway's discrimination

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I'm jumping this post because it's about homeschooling and I sort of lose my mind in it a bit, which is what I tend to do when I'm very passionate about a subject. If reading me discussing "issues" evokes a feeling within you similar to walking in on your parents doing the nasty, then seriously, don't follow the jump. I have to get this off my chest, though.

Turkeys gone wild

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I am so aggravated with my POS Dell at the moment that I need to take the rest of the day and relax. Email is piling up and I have no intention of going through it until at least tonight. In the meantime:

1. I'm discussing my favorite television show, David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," over at Mamapop. Go forth and check it out.

2. If you're free this Saturday evening myself and some of my contemporaries are speaking over at the Midwest Media Conference. I propose a game wherein you have to do a shot of Wild Turkey every time Bill Streeter says "vlog." (Responsibly, of course!)

3. A few months ago photographer Jonathan Pollack wrote and asked if I was interested in doing a photography trade for a mention. I wasn't able to, but suggested Kim and her daughter instead and the results are beautiful. Take a moment to check out Jonathan's gallery (type KimandMaddy in the box at the bottom). Best of all, he's Photoshop-free, which speaks loads about his skill behind the lens. Thanks a bunch Jonathan, you rock!

A Good Turn

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Sunday afternoon we met a massive herd of Scouts at the Jefferson Barracks' National Cemetery for the annual Memorial Day Good Turn, which began here in St. Louis during the 1800s. The gist of the observance is to pay a good deed back to the brave men and women buried there by sticking American flags by every headstone. There are a lot of those simple white headstones: from satellite it looks as though the earth is perforated.


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(I've written before how my family has a thing for cemeteries. (OK, fine, to an extent I suppose I do as well.) They engage in what I call a Southern Graveyard Vigil, wherein they habitually visit our family's ancient cemetery atop a hill in the Ozarks, and gaudy it up with Wal-Mart gewgaws like wind chimes, scary resin angel babies, and expensive fake flowers. You've only to step one foot in our family cemetery before knowing which headstones are those of our most immediate kin: they're literally covered up with stuff. I imagine some of my aunts going up together and gathering 'round the headstones like the Peanuts gang around Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. It's like they're trying to incur favor after the fact or make up for a mistake - some of them are. My mother has tried in vain to involve me in this morbid family tradition. I have resisted mainly because I think it's weird and because I don't believe that people are tied up with their bodies anymore after death. I feel that a person's memory is best honored by acting decent and converting their death to legend by describing them to the next generation. If a person is able to somehow visit the earth I think that the last place they'd loiter is the place they're buried. That's the last place I'd go, anyway. I'd haunt the hell out all those I didn't like just for kicks.)


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When I told my mom about the Good Turn I heard her face crack a smug expression through the phone line. It wasn't the same but yet it was. For us, it was more about making a public statement of support and using it as a physical lesson to teach Liam about the cost of liberty. I know this is America and all, but it's one of those things that you can't put on credit. During the flag ceremony they played "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes and holy Moses that, coupled with anything from Allison Krauss on the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack, and Susan Tedeschi's "Angel from Montgomery" are the only pieces of music that move me to tears. As the flag raised black storm clouds pushed across the sky; the wind blew and the rope clanged against the metal flagpole and kept cadence with the music. All were somber.


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Afterwards the Scouts were let loose in the cemetery; each troop had its own section. We picked up our flag bundles and quickly, yet respectfully, weaved through the headstones sticking flags into the ground as instructed. We were warned that we had but minutes to do the job before the storm arrived. No one balked at their duty. Then the heavens opened up as though mourning the loss of all those put into the earth by war. I snapped a couple of photos from under my umbrella before putting it away and joining my gleeful boys who traipsed about the tombstones waving their flags in the rain. That's when I wish life had a button I could push to change the pace of living to "slow." There are moments you have as a family that you instantly know will define you as a unit, moments that you'll all preserve in your skulls and reminisce over when around the holiday table. This was one of those for us.


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We ran out of flags after the rain stopped. Together our troops had covered every headstone in our area, an older part of the cemetery on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi. Our job done, we trekked back to our can holding hands.


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Click any photo for the caption; click here for the entire set. These are some of my favorite photos that I've taken.

And the winner is

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Oh my goodness. This was hard. It's not up to me to judge whether or not I think that a person's situation is more worthy or desperate than another ... which is why I wrote everyone's name down on a piece of paper, threw it all in a glass bowl, and said a little prayer. I only wish I had more Wiis to give away. Assisting me for this afternoon's drawing is Ewan. So without further adieu, drumroll:



The winner is the Ranken Jordan Pediatric Hospital. As per their website, the facility is a non-profit that administers to children regardless of their ability to pay. Can those who nominated Ranken-Jordan email me (mamalogues at yahoo dot com) and we can work out arrangements? I will need to get a contact and a proper shipping address so that Nintendo can ship the Wii (I do not have it).

Thanks to all who nominated!

Some things I'm loving

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- Anything from Irene Suchocki, particularly this print and this print, and this print. I have a sort of Tim Burton/Marie Antoinette aesthetic and the I love the haunting and beautiful quality of her pieces. I could fill my entire house with them. Hers will be my first art purchase online.

- Holly McCraig designs and photography. I've written about her design company before and then my entries were wiped out (but will be restored! Turns out we can get them off the server!). I love the color and wit in her photos; some of her work is slightly southern gothic/Americana to me which I love, love, love. I especially like this photo and this photo. I don't scrapbook, but I would totally use her scrapbook designs to embellish framed photos.

- Simply Thai in Florissant, seriously the best Thai food I've ever eaten.

- My very good friend Nicky's food blog, Fud or Something Like It. She's a wonderful cook, baker, and seamstress and she made my kids these art bags and pillowcases for Liam's birthday:


- Sia. I heard "The Girl You Lost" on some gossip site and promptly bought her whole album on iTunes. My favorite song by her is "Buttons" which you can hear (or watch) here. Here's "The Girl You Lost:"
  

(Don't forget, today is the last day for the Wii contest!) Sorry, contest is now closed! Winner will be announced after Memorial Day weekend on Tuesday, May 27th.

Mougar!

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The other evening Chris, myself, our film friend, and his friend saw an advance screening of "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" and were shown to our seats by a woman who - I kid you not - looked the spit and image of Kim Cattrall. Like, Cattrall from her "Mannequin" days. Chris can barely separate Cattrall from her character on "Sex and the City" and thinks she's a skanky hag. So I was confronted with this awful dilemma: do I compliment the PR lady who EVERYONE thought looked like Cattrall (she's probably heard it before) or worse, if I do, what if she also thinks that Cattrall is a skanky hag and interprets it as an insult? So we all just stared at her instead and made incessant remarks about how my gawd, she is really pretty and looks like she just walked off the show's set. (We also sat behind a herd of Rams players. I have never seen bigger men in my entire life.)

Since I've gotten completely off-road with that, I've a review of the movie up over at Mamapop, for whom I'll occasionally be writing.

What ifs

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The other day I was finishing using the bathroom while they boys argued with each other in the living room.

"I can't take this anymore! Go upstairs and aggravate your father," I hollered, because I like to practice awesome parenting daily.

We removed all the baby gates from the staircases except for the stairs at the top of the third floor as Ewan can easily walk up and down the stairs; though I still either trail him or watch him from the bottom step. I washed my hands and planned to walk over to the staircase and monitor him when I heard it: FUMP, WUMP, THWAP! CRY, WAIL, SCREAM!

Foot stomps echoed throughout the house as I dashed over to him and Chris raced to get downstairs. Ewan tried to carry his Thomas the Train backpack up the stairs with him on his fat little legs; he got as far as the fourth step when he lost his balance and toppled over, hitting both the front and back of his head. He had a scrape on his forehead and a goose egg was forming on the back. Before I choked on my heart I calmed him down as Chris readied and ice pack. He was fine, except for his knot-head and scrape. I felt awful. He fell because I told him to go upstairs when I should have been waiting at the bottom of the stairs before I told him to go up. If I had checked to see that he had his backpack I could've prevented the tumble, if I had demonstrated a bit more patience I wouldn't have told him to go upstairs, if I had used the restroom faster I could've been at the stairs quicker, and if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle.

There are a lot of "what ifs" in parenting. I didn't bring my A-game and as an indirect result of that, Ewan has a knot on the back of his head. Fortunately, it's shrinking. I could beat myself up over it or acknowledge it as a lesson learned and a continuing opportunity to practice true, non-facetious awesome parenting as best I can.

(Though I still snuggled the mush out of him today and slipped him a few M&Ms with his breakfast when he asked.)

Wii Wii Wii all the way home

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Just to preface, the general rule of house is that I don't do product reviews. I just don't. In the four-plus years I've blogged I've only written three of them and it was because the product was too big and cool to refuse. This is one of those times.


Read the rest here and find out how to win a free Wii ...
**Contest is now closed! Thanks for participating; the winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 27th!** (I nearly forgot that Monday was Memorial Day.)

Handoff

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This morning I emceed an event so far out west I didn't think that Mapquest would recognize the address. All this means is that I have completed my transformation into a City Driver, one who is loathe to drive outside of city limits and crosses the Missouri in white knuckle terror. I enjoyed a couple of blissful hours in my expensive black suit with my favorite t-shirt underneath, eating bacon amongst executives. Even though my backside gnawed on my pantyhose, I did not adjust myself in public, thankyouverymuch Mother. I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and the bagger mistook me for an office mother. I made a mental note to wear fancy clothes more often. And to get new pantyhose and burn the old ones.

I arrived home to find my children still in their pajamas with doughnut icing smeared across their faces; they ran to hug me and then went back to fighting over Wii games. I hung my suit back up into my closet, where it will stay for another however many months, and slipped into my track pants. I had my turn this morning; Chris is now gone to work and regular life resumes.

My mother has the ability to embarrass me simply by speaking. One time, after I returned home from a choir competition, I asked my mother what she and my step-dad did all weekend.

"We got naked and sat all over the furniture," she responded in an unintentional impersonation of George Carlin.

It seems that Liam has inherited her power.

A couple of weeks ago I took the boys with me to shop at Trader Joe's. As we wound through the aisles Liam asked a multitude of questions about this or that; he's responsible for reading my grocery list and locating the items we need. He always greets people and knows no stranger; despite all the worried emails I get about how homeschooling will turn him into an unresponsive social freak.

He knows many of the checkers in the store and grills them about their jobs, why certain things are on sale, even what my motivation may be for denying him a box of the candy near the register. They always chuckle and engage him. During this particular excursion our checker was a woman with a disfigurement around her eye. I never dissuade Liam from asking questions and try to view them as an opportunity to teach but sometimes I just want him to shut his mouth - like the time we saw a little person while visiting my uncle in the hospital and Liam stage-whispered in my ear: "LOOK, MOM, he's like Mike T.V. from Willy Wonka."

I swiped my card at the register and chatted with the clerk while monitoring Liam from the corner of my eye. He stood silent; his head cocked to the side as dogs often do, and stared at the cashier. I could sense his questions coming. Just don't, just don't, just don't I said to myself. I tried to send him a message with my eyes: IS RUDE. NO. His eyes responded: WHATEVER, I'M NOT LISTENING. WE'RE IN PUBLIC.

"What happened to your eye there? Why does it look all funny?" he asked. I know I said that I don't discourage him from asking questions OK, but I was raised to not ask any question which may cause someone else discomfort. Honestly though, I don't know what's more discomforting: asking someone a personal question or pretending that an aspect of a person doesn't exist so as to not cause yourself potential embarrassment. Luckily the woman was very laid-back and demonstrated the enduring patience of one who is used to children.

"I shot a firecracker and it hit my eye," she told him as she put my frozen stuff in my velcro bags.

"Did it hurt?" Liam asked.

"It did. I lit up a bottle rocket and wasn't being careful." She explained it a bit, including how he should always be careful with fireworks. I had to practically drag him out of the store so we could leave. He wanted to ask which particular fireworks might put out his eye, and he wanted to know whether or not her eye came out at any time and it was all I could do just to grip his wrist a little tight, talk over him, and usher him out to the car. I forgot my wallet in my rush, which she kindly brought out to me in the parking lot, right as I was telling Liam that if he MUST ask a question, ask A question, don't grill the woman. He understood. I don't want to scare him away from natural curiosity but at the same time, there's a way to decorously go about it.

I'm still learning how to teach him that.

Tom Jones would've been proud

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I am recovering from a very busy weekend, one which included karaoke of Tom Jones' hits post four beers. Then there was the terrible Heart cover of "Magic Man" in which my caterwauling sliced through bar patrons' ear drums with all the ease of a dull, serrated knife. I normally do not seek out karaoke bars because I can only endure so many drunken frat boys singing off-tune pop-country songs, but I recently reconnected with my best friend from high school who's always loved karaoke. As it was her birthday, the birthday girl sets the rules. Plus, it's always much more fun to karaoke with people who can actually sing - and by "sing," I mean if it weren't for the smoke and the Roger Daltry look-a-like running the board, you'd swear you were witnessing a Grammy's performance. I danced and screeched and the birthday revelers put all the other karaoke singers to shame. Chris took video and I respect the art of music too much to post it. However, I am a bit concerned as he now has his own Flickr account.

Earlier that same day we had the first public meeting of the St. Louis Bloggers Guild, which was crazy and fun, and I met new cool people. We're partnering with Playbackstl to start St. Louis's first interactive festival in conjunction with Play:STL. It's very exciting and I'm looking forward to pulling it off with so many other talented individuals.

Now we're going to go out and enjoy some sun.



Somewhere over the rainbow

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I walked into a Dierbergs, a locally-owned grocery store here, for the first time in my life yesterday. I recently stopped buying Trader Joe's meat as Chris and I are very particular about cuts of meat and I'm just not happy with the selection TJ's offers. I hate having to go to a frillion places to get one week's worth of groceries. The Schnucks (another locally-owned market) off of Loughborough has a great butcher, but I don't want to drive back and forth between two interstates. So I stopped into Dierbergs to check out their meat.

Ohmygawd.

Their produce sparkled like diamonds. The kids and I were in such awe that passerby must have thought that we were urchins who'd never set foot inside a grocery store before. Their bell peppers? They were meticulously arranged so that all their little butts were pointing outwards. I am freak about my food and we are instant BFFs if you order your kitchen items with a dash of OCD. There wasn't a withered piece of produce in the bunch; there's always a suspicious bag of grapes or a browned apple in the mix but not at this store. I like to touch, smell, and feel up my produce, not unlike foreplay, before I place it in my cart. It seemed pointless to do it here. They had everything categorized. There was a giant ORGANIC sign marking all the naturally grown products. I wish Schnucks organized their organics as thoughtfully. As I only popped in for meat - and OMG those cuts were SMOKIN' - I didn't go through the whole store but I'm sure that the aisles were paved with tiles made from crushed unicorn horns and that there was a pot of gold in the last aisle. We briefly considered erecting a tent in the cereal aisle and just like, live there for ever.

When we approached the register there was - GET THIS - a bagger waiting at the end of the conveyor belt. In some other stores, even when business is slow, I have to practically shake down a cashier to get a bagger. And when one isn't available there's this awkward moment, you know, when you attempt to bag your groceries and you try to hide how you bag them so the cashier doesn't glance over and roll their eyes. You stand there like an unwelcome houseguest as your groceries accumulate at the end of the conveyor belt, like should ... should I start bagging this? No? Is that a bagger over there? Is he...he's coming over here - no, no he's going on a smoke break. Ok, so I bag? When the cashier has to bag your groceries the people behind you in line are all "Gawd, we HAD to get behind a FAMILY purchase," because all they have is a box of wine, toilet paper, and beef jerky (party!) and boooo on you for buying family-size quantities of food. Ok, maybe it's just me. 

But anyway, there was a bagger there and he just stood there and then when my groceries came down the belt his arms went blurry and he bagged the hell out of my groceries like I have never seen them bagged before. When he was done his hands were actually smoking and he blew on him like a gunslinger blows on a gun after winning a draw. Slightly exaggerated, but still. Then the checker gave the boys stickers and because they are bought and sold with anything miniscule so long as it's free, they were all "WE LOVE IT HERE." 

(I was seriously not paid, contacted by, or cajoled by Dierbergs to write this. I just get really excited over little things.)

Scheming on a thing

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This Saturday I'm meeting with some of the St. Louis internet for the first public meeting of the St. Louis Bloggers Guild. We'll be at Benton Park Cafe, owned by a friend of ours, and my saying that it has some of the best eats in the city isn't bias, it's truth. They're graciously putting the Guild up and serving as our home base-of-sorts. Many thanks to John and Jess.

Please join us if you can; we'll be there from 1 - 3 p.m. and are discussing our first big project. Click here for details and to RSVP.

The best pick-up line ever

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A friend of ours whose in-laws work with Energizer recently gave us his-and-hers gift bags full of trimmers, razors, and other cosmetic things. Chris is fascinated by gadgets, no matter how small or for what purpose. While I watched television he disappeared into the kitchen bathroom and I heard the small "reuuuuuuurr" of tiny machinery. He reappeared some time later, walked up to me and smiled.

"Notice anything different?" he asked, raising and lowering his eyebrows repeatedly.

"Um ...?"

I just trimmed my nostril hair. Electronically." 

Yacht Rock

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Thanks to those of you who contribute your 2c in the last post. We haz opinions! LET US SHOW YOU THEM. I never begrudge a civil disagreement because it gives us something to talk about other than how we have to wait an entire summer for the next "Rock of Love" installment. Disagreement? C'est la vie. It's more fun to party. Which brings me to the topic of smooth.

I have wasted over an hour of my time watching the "Yacht Rock" episodes on Youtube. The series is the fictitious backstory based upon the music of Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, the Doobie Brothers, and other artists whose smooth music defined a genre. It's lampooned hysterically in this series; Chris busted in the house one evening with his giant iMac and was all "WATCHTHISOMG."

It's a good series if you like music + comedy, though please note, parts are so NSFW. If you can't start from the beginning at least start with this episode. It grows on you. I swear. Before I understood the aesthetic I was all what the ...? Episode #9 is about the interesting production-marriage of Ted Templeman and The Halen and it's my absolute favorite. Turn up the smooth!

The trickle down effect

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Chris spent all last week in Madison, Wisconsin, mixing a record at Butch Vig's studio. He left last Sunday night and no sooner did he close the door behind him than Ewan erupted into a chaos of tears and wails. It was a hard week for the brothers Loesch. I've said it before in this space so many times: I cannot fathom how military wives deal with their husbands' absence for so many months.

I slept with a firearm responsibly located near my bedside. I've no apologies; I'm a woman with two young kids in the city and it, along with our alarm system, gives me peace of mind. The boys understand firearm responsibility and I've written about it extensively here and other places. I was even more glad to have it after I received email alerts about a guy claiming to be from the water department attempting to force his way into homes in my area.

While at his homeschool gym class, Liam overheard one of the kids say that guns were "stupid" and "people who use guns are stupid." Liam said "What about for self-defense?"

"No," the kid replied. "All of it is stupid. My mom says we're safer using swords."

"You don't know what you're talking about," Liam responded. The exchange angered him and he refused to interact with the kid. He waited to tell me about it until we got home.

"Well that's just goofy," I explained. "It's the people who aren't familiar with firearms who are scared of them the most and it's usually those people that end up causing or being the victim of an accident. That's statistical."

It wasn't the gun conversation that shocked me; this was my first real headlock with an opposing parental view. The strength of how we raise our kids, the quality of what we instill in our kids is tested in moments like these. I was impressed with how Liam handled the situation. No matter what we teach him, I hope we continue to successfully incorporate respect and tolerance into his viewpoints, like mortar to the bricks, despite what he may experience in future disagreements. 

Content with enough

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As we walked into Liam's art fair/competition on Wednesday night I immediately scanned the room for his entry because shame and I, we've never met. I finally saw his piece, an interpretation of a work by Jackson Pollack, with a red third place ribbon affixed to its corner.

I checked in my purse to assure that I'd packed a jar of Vaseline so as to get our egos back out the door before showing him his ribbon and congratulating him. Liam is at the stage where he could accomplish quite a lot artistically (more so than now) if Chris and I wanted to really push him, really cultivate him. But we don't. We let him do as much as he wants. We first thought that perhaps we were doing Liam a disservice, holding him back. We've since decided to the contrary. I always second-guess my parenting decisions. (I'm sure that will make the kids feel fabulous when they read this as teenagers. Hi! We've no clue as to what we're doing! Love, Mom and Dad.)

When I first began homeschooling we decided that our major goal was to discover each of our kids' particular gifts and then teach and encourage them to use those gifts for societal benefit. I don't want to burn them out on their passions during their childhood, besides; I want them to enjoy their youth. We know another young artist whom I believe to be equally advanced as Liam. He's always in some art workshop, studying in a mentor program, doing this, doing that, going here, going there. He's a brilliant kid but he doesn't act like a kid. Perhaps he's just super mature for his age but the last time we were around him and his parents in a social setting I fully expected to see him smoking a cigar and clutching a glass of scotch. I want Liam to run and revel in all that defines childhood. We have a period in our life where we're afforded a free pass to behave immaturely and explore all of our options because of our age. I want him to enjoy that. Besides, I think he does wonderfully as it is.



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Dana asks: "Thanksgiving Traditions: Yours or Your Mother's?"