Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Monday, March 31, 2008

The elephant in the room

Lots of people are talking quietly about it, but I haven't really heard anyone question publically about what has happened to the Blogher Ad revenue lately. I've heard countless people comment that their revenue has been seriously diminished, and I've even seen some people give up and take Blogher ads off their site. But I've yet to see anyone from Blogher explain why the revenue has dropped so much. Everyone has their numbers. I've read over and over that as people's hit counts increase, their revenue decreases. I've seen that on my own blog as well. What was a fairly decent revenue a few months back halved, and then halved again all the while my hit count doubled.

I don't really understand why this has happened. I'd like to hear it addressed by the Blogher representatives. But they have ignored it so long, I think they're trying to just pretend it isn't happening. But it is. And they need to talk about why.

Many of the ads that have been rotating recently are ads about Blogher itself, and about charitable organizations. My feeling is, we're giving Blogher free advertising, which bugs the crap out of me, and the charitable organizations aren't paid for either. These aren't the small buttons that we all voted for years ago when the idea of posting charitable buttons in place of ads when there was nothing to put up first occurred. Nope, these are large, professional ads and they're eating up revenue.

No, I'm not a bitch for being a bit irritated that we're pushing charities on our blogs. I give large amounts of my small income to charity, and I also volunteer for charity. I believe in charity. That's not the problem. I think that Blogher isn't being particularly honest and aboveboard about their relationship to these charitable organizations.

I am also concerned that the ad network is growing too quickly so the original rates for ads and has diluted the amount each blogger receives. Opening up the network again might have been an error in judgement, especially if it causes other long time members to leave the network rather than to have non-earning ads on their blogs.

Today Erin was ranting about how we are brands, and we are professionals selling our blogs to corporations. Well, Blogher is a corporation and I feel like they aren't buying into the whole blogs as brands thing. Nor are they dealing with bloggers honestly about why the revenues have falling so drastically. I feel like they ought to practice what they preach. Their ads run on our blogs 24/7 and yet the revenue is absolutely paltry. It didn't used to be, but it is now. I can't see a difference between Blogher Ads and any other ad company at this point.

If MommyBlogging is a business, then I, for one, want to hear honestly why the ad revenues have dropped. I think Blogher owes every person in their ad network that respect and honestly.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

My trip to the Kosher Store

And we're off! Yes, the Passover frenzy has officially started. So far, it's killing me, which is par for the course. I've misplaced my favorite Passover cookbook. The seder has grown from a few people to 28 adults and 5 children. We've chosen to use paper goods and plastic despite Al Gore because who the hell wants to wash that many dishes? Not me, and not anyone I know.

In good news, the menu is planned. Which of course means a trip to the Butcherie, aka The Kosher Store. It's kind of an amazing place. Tiny aisles. Packed to the gills with food you're not really sure you want to eat and yet need to. Food that costs an arm and a leg. Food that may or may not be entirely edible. But every year around the world Jews go through the ritual of hitting the Kosher Stores and setting their bank accounts back several hundreds of dollars. Or more.

So here's a short look at what we did at the Kosher Store today.

The first aisle we just had to visit was the candy aisle. The Girl, who accompanies me every year, is in rapture in this aisle. It has all the candy she loves. Fruity things that make my stomach churn, but it's all good for her. I bought sucking candy (Hey Neal!) and strange fruity things and Bisli and Bombas. The child is now happy and excited for Passover.

Next we hit the meat aisle. I needed chicken for the soup, and of course chicken to eat during Pesach, and a brisket for the meat tzimmes I'm going to make. Check out the size of those briskets on the right. Some of them were 2+ feet long and cost a frightening amount. I got one a little over 5 lbs, which is a bit small, but we're also making two Wise Organic turkeys that weigh about 17 lbs each. The brisket was gorgeous.

New it's time to move on to the gefilte fish aisle. I don't like the jarred kind, and the canned might as well be cat food as far as I'm concerned. I don't even think the Worthless Pet would eat it. I often make my own, but when I'm cooking for an army, shortcuts are good. So I bought 5 logs of the frozen gefilte fish. That should be plenty!

Finally, let's look at the cakes. Every year I look at them and think that they're going to taste great. Every year I am terribly disappointed. They do not taste great. They are easy and they look good, but they do not taste all that fabulous. So, I'm baking a hazelnut chocolate torte and some chocolate orange macaroons. We bought some of the smaller cakes, the rainbow 'cookies' that we all love and a 7-layer cake that is edible.

We got home and tossed all the non-perishables under the sideboard where they will remain until the kitchen is turned over.

And then we packed the freezer without an inch to spare, dumped off more food at my friend Iris's house, and then booked it over the the Christmas Tree Shop to buy incredibly cheap cooking stuff that will now be KLP. We got huge roasting pans for $2.99 each that we'll use for making the kugels, and a nice 3 tiered plate rack for the desserts. Plus some other goodies. I love that store. You who aren't in their neck of the woods have no idea of what you're missing, but damn, that place is a bargain hunters paradise!

Back home before 1, and naptime!

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why bad drivers happen in good states

I've been reading the latest tome put out by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. I need to read it in order to pass my written driving test on Monday. I am dismayed to report that there is no reason to wonder why Massholes exist in every city and town in the Commonwealth. It is because that book was written by a bunch of morons. It is almost unreadable, has very little information about actually driving, and requires you to read through pages and pages of material that is not of interest to anyone wanting to get a license. The book is fairly worthless.

Some of the rules it states are just bizarre. You know how everyone tailgates in MA? You want to know why? Because the state recommends only a two second pause between cars. In other words, you count one-onethousand, two-onethousand and that's as far back as you need to be. Yeah, in order to DIE in a crash. In California the law is six seconds.

Much of the book is about the amount of money you will pay if you break the rules of the Commonwealth. They have table after table showing if you're under 18, over 18 but under 25, and 25 and older what the penalties will be for things like driving without a license, driving under the influence, etc. They tell you what the legal limit is for under 18 (0.2) and for over 18 (0.8) but they never tell you how to calculate your body weight, the time you drank, and when it's safe to drive. That's kind of important information they're leaving out, doncha think?

The book contains 41 long, dense pages on how to apply for, replace, renew, convert, replace, and change the address on your drivers license. Forty one pages. A bit excessive, since most of the information is not relevant to most drivers. That's just chapter one of this tome.

Then we have another two chapters on how to keep your license with the tables of all the violations and penalties, and safety. They actually have 18 pages on seatbelts, airbags, car seats, etc. We're now up to 77 pages with no information on the actual rules of the road.

Finally, on page 77, we get to the meat of the matter. The rules of the road, including speed limits, traffic signals, pavement markings, road 'respect' (who are they kidding, this is MA), parking, and rules for pedestrians and bicycles. This chapter is 28 pages long.

The rest of the book, worthless. A chapter on "special driving situations", another on owning a vehicle that has all the do's and don'ts of vehicle registration, and then a bunch of appendices.

In other words, 28 valuable pages contained with 150 pages of mostly dreck.

Now, maybe because I've been a licensed driver in other states: California, Colorado, and North Carolina, all of which required me to read their manuals and take a written test, I've come to expect that the Commonwealth's Driver's Manual might be chock full of good and important information. You know, there's an ASS in assume for a reason. This book sucks. Plain and simple. It's a piece of trash. It's terrible.

My favorite part was the Sample Permit Knowledge Test. It was 5 questions long. FIVE. And best of all, it had no answer key. Now isn't that a useful test? Not. One of the questions, I kid you not, is "What color are stop signs?" And it's multiple choice. What the hell use is this? Any child over the age of 3 can tell you stop signs are red.

This book really angered me. All those nice healthy trees destroyed for this crap. And the poor kids who are reading it for the first time and trying to determine what might be on the test. They need to determine what is crap (80% of the book) and what is useful. That's not fair. This book needs to be rewritten. By a writer. Who knows what not to include in it.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

When good teens have feet that reek

I can remember a long time ago reading about how teenagers tend to have feet that are, shall we say, odoriferous? Smelly. Stinky. Disgusting. I thought about it and wondered just how bad it could possibly be. Surely those moms were exaggerating. Nothing could be that bad. I mean, a bit of foot odor. We've all had those days when our feet stank a bit, right? What were these moms complaining about? How bad could it be?

Bad. Really really bad. So bad you think you might drop over dead from the stench. So bad that when they enter a room, you turn a sort of green and scream, "Your feet stink." So bad that your house starts to smell like a high school locker room all the time. Oh man, it is BAD.

I tried all the usual remedies. Foot powders, odor eaters, cotton socks changed hourly, shoes rotated daily so that the offending pair is always out on the porch for 24 hours airing out.

You know what? Nothing works. Absolutely nothing. It's hormonal and to be honest, you can't control it, and you have to learn to live with it. At least when there isn't a big giant bottle of Febreze extra strength around.

Of course in our house I resisted the Febreze because it's filled with chemicals and stinky on it's own. But how wrong I was. Chemicals are good. Chemicals mask the stink of dead animals. Which is what my kid's feet smell like.

At first it was only one bottle. But like an alcoholic, I found myself buying more and more. One for the living room. One for the boy's bedroom. One for the girl's bedroom. One just in case. It was never enough. We always needed one more bottle. Soon there were bottles all over the house. I keep one right behind my desk so that if an offending foot walks by I can do a quick trigger attack. I'm no fool. The more I spray, the less my house smells like a raccoon died under the porch.

Then someone mentioned washing our whites, which means socks in their case, with both bleach and Oxiclean. That didn't work very well, but I got this idea in my head about trying Nature's Miracle in the washer. It does remove the residual stench so that the socks start out at neutral instead of slightly rancid. But the thing is, after a hour or two, it's back to tres stinky, so what's the point?

I want to know when this will stop. It's vile. Absolutely vile. My next step is to start powerwashing their feet. Or amputation. Whichever is easier.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sometimes you bring pain upon yourself

The Boy...he's roiling on the sofa grabbing his stomach and whinging.

"Ohhh, ooooooo, I feel so horrible. I'm nauseated. I've got a headache. I'm hot. I feel terrible. I'm sick."

Well, boo hoo hoo.

I know, that sounds so mean. But the child went to McDonalds with friends this afternoon because they were having a $.39 cheeseburger special. He bought 10 of them. Ten freaking cheeseburgers. What the hell was he thinking?

He was thinking he could shove 10 cheeseburgers down his gullet and not suffer the consequences. Unfortunately he forgot that he had a bad tummy ache all day in school and felt like he was going to hurl most of the day. Which is just perfect for deciding that 10 cheeseburgers would be a perfect after school snack.

Lo and behold, guess who barfed up 5 of the cheeseburgers in the McDonalds bathroom. Yeah. Nothing says loving like hurling in a filthy public restroom. Gaak, the thought makes me want to hurl.

So no, I don't have a lot of sympathy for him. Yet another lesson in "there are consequences for your actions, bucko!"

Funny thing? He brought home the other 5 (which I won't allow in my fridge) thinking he would feel better and then eat them. Um, I don't think so. Out with the trash they went.

You know, you get what you pay for. $.39 seems like such a bargain, but let's face it, McDonalds could be free and it would still not be a bargain. I can't keep him from going there with his friends, it's right up the street from where we live, and teenage boys inhale their food all the time. But if you're going to act like a pig, then you should suffer the consequences. I hope he'll learn, but I know he won't. He'll be back next Wednesday afternoon for more hockey pucks of hell.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tale of a Mom road trip

Years ago, three moms took a road trip together sans children. The cast of characters were Jo, Amy and me. Jo is from Nova Scotia and was visiting me in Boston. Amy lives in the next town and is a long time friend. We all met on the 'net before there was a web, and I'd already vacationed with my kids in Nova Scotia twice.

Amy and her husband own a share of an old farmhouse in Southern Vermont. The plan was to drive up there, bring as much fabulous gourmet food and drink as we could manage, and eat and drink ourselves into several stupors before ending the trip with a shopping excursion to the Manchester Outlet Stores.

The drive up to Vermont was uneventful except for the speeding ticket I got on the Mass Pike heading towards I91. I was ticked, as I don't usually speed (much) and we were in a fricking minivan, for heaven's sake. Who gives minivans tickets for speeding. The Mass State Piggies, that's who.

Once we dropped off my kids at my brother's house in Western Mass, we were game for anything. We arrived in Vermont, prepared an amazing dinner with smoked fish Jo brought from Canada, and treats we picked up in Boston. Fully sated with food and drink, we sat around and gossiped and laughed our asses off.

Amy's house has no television and very little in the way of amenities besides a HUGE country kitchen, wrap around porches, land galore, and a nice big river that runs through the property with a bit of a swimming hole right down the hill. So naturally we spent a lot of time in the swimming hole, which was icy cold and surrounded by the most slippery rocks known to mankind.

The second day we were there, I unfortunately got some kid of a mean stomach bug. Like the kind where everything was pouring out of every orifice, the fever was high, and I was rendered useless for anything other than an occasional moan. That afternoon the sky turned very dark, and a huge storm blew in. It was the kind of storm with so much lightening and thunder that it seemed like a show in a planetarium. Crashing winds and huge booms went on for a bit, and then the electricity shut off.

Now one would think that a country home in the woods of Vermont would have some kind of contingency for an electrical outage. Not this house. Owned by three Jewish couples, planning for a big storm was way down on their list of things to have in the country home. Way behind board games, books, and great cooking tools. Not only did we lose electricity, the entire region lost electricity. For about a hundred miles in any direction, we were all in the dark.

Our most immediate need was ice, for we had valuable food in the fridge. But for me, there was another, even more pressing need. You see, in this house the pump ran on electricity. The water pump. The one that flushed the toilets. Remember that flu I had? Um, yeah. But then something else happened. Jo got her period and our need for water became even more pressing. She's got cramps and I'm dying and poor Amy is the only one still on her feet. She kept walking down to the river with a bucket and filling it up so we could 'flush' a toilet, but the truth is, it didn't work all that well.

We did find ice for the fridge, moved all the food from the fridge to the freezer so it wouldn't spoil, and found enough flashlights, oil lamps, and candles to light the house at night. But the truth is, it wasn't all that fun because we all felt like crap after a while.

So we went home. We shut up the house, turned off everything, packed the car, threw away everything that might spoil in the fridge and took it to the dump, and then headed for home. Listening to the radio on the drive to pick up the kids, we heard that the power was restored about an hour after we left.

Honestly, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life as hearing that the power was back on.

That was the most disasterous trip I've had in a long time, but it ended up being one of my most favorite memories. Every time I return to the house in Vermont, I think about how funny it all was in hindsight. And what has been one of the oddest Mom vacations I've had has morphed into our family's favorite place to go and chill out for a long weekend. But I always pack flashlights and candles when we go.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

WFMW: Make your own fruit leather

Both of my kids love fruit leather, and I found a recipe where it's simple to make it at home by yourself. Saves you money, and you can control the amount you want to make, the size of the leather, and even the types of fruit you want to use. You can make pure flavors, or combine different fruits for a really special treat. Plus, the best thing of all: NO SUGAR!


2 cups pureed fruit (cooked or raw)

Yes, that’s all that goes into these magical strips of yum. The key to the technique is patience. Cooked fruit will yield a glossier leather, but raw will retain more of the fresh taste. It is completely up to your personal preference. Wrap a cookie sheet in plastic wrap and spread the pureed fruit, keeping at least two inches from each edge.

The fruit should be between 1/8th and 1/4 inch thick. Place in a 175 degree oven with the door cracked and wait. Wait some more. Hang in there, it’s going to be a while.

At the 3 hour mark check the leather. It should be slightly tacky and will pull away from the plastic wrap, cleanly. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut into strips and enjoy. The first time I made the fruit leather I was only experimenting so I made a very small batch. However, made in large batches fruit leather will stay fresh in an airtight container for thirty days or in the freezer for a year. Since my first time, I've made big batches when fruit is dropping off the trees. A basket of peaches makes so much leather you'll be eating it for snacks for months!

Enjoy the taste of spring until the next crop arrives.

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I like helping others

I volunteer to help parents get fair treatment by their various school system. What I do is called Educational Advocacy work, and often it is incredibly rewarding. I have worked with families across the country, working with special ed kids that are not getting a fair shake by their school system. In most cases, my work is to help schools remember that they are required by federal mandate to uphold an IEP. It's very upsetting to me how many school systems feel that the IEP is just a bunch of 'guidelines' and not a ruling that can be upheld in a court of law.

There's a good reason why schools don't want to follow IEPs. That reason, shocking as it might be, is money. Good old fashioned capitalism in a not-for-profit arena. Schools only get a certain amount of money per pupil. It varies from city to city, school district to school district. That money has to be used for paying teachers salaries, building upkeep, heat and electricity, books, supplies, desks, and all the electronics used to educate your kids. It rarely covers even the standard costs, especially in places where the cost of living is high and salaries reflect that cost of living. It almost never covers the cost of special education, so the states come in to rescue each school system with money for special ed and extras. In our state, some of the money comes from the state lottery. Each town applies for the money they need to meet their budget. They don't often get it all, which is why every spring there are hints of layoffs, increasing class size, getting rid of special electives and gym. We all go through this regardless of where we live.

Because of how the schools in the US are financed, which reflect property taxes in the districts, there is little equity in the schools. Poor districts have less money to work with, wealthy districts often don't even have to turn to the state at all. Whatever the monetary outcome, special education is often run on a bare bones budget and it is the schools that decide to reject kids from the special ed programs even though they are certainly entitled by law to be included. The schools have learned how to snow parents by using intimidation, lies, and an unwillingness to give out information. Parents in better educated, wealthier communities have the opportunity to do research on the web to find out what the laws are. Parents that have no access to a computer and no idea of where to start due to the educational lingo flung at them by the school systems are at a severe disadvantage.

Those are the parents I try to help. I'm the representative that charges no money, works for single parents and often the underemployed. I want to help them get what they are due by law. I tend to win when I fight along side the parents. I'm big, I'm intimidating, I know the lingo and the laws backwards and forwards, and I don't take shit from anyone. Ever. I just don't.

Today I worked with a mom that has been totally bamboozled by her school district. The lies these people have put forth are so horrible and so illegal that she could beat them down with one hand tied behind her back. We went through her kid's records today. Rarely have I seen a kid more qualified for SpEd, both for physical and mental health reasons. The school has refused him an IEP. I am so outraged, so shocked by the treatment she's gotten that I really want to go to the school administrator and strangle her. It's just outrageous!

I tell you this because I'm on a mission. I am the parent of two SpEd kids, and I fight and fight and fight all over again to ensure that my kids get what they are entitled to. It is often a difficult fight, because the schools tend to forget that I don't take crap. They are wrong.

My mission is to never allow another parent to suffer from an uncaring and untruthful school system. My mission is to help anyone whose kids need support that they aren't getting from their schools. I do this because it's the right thing to do. Because so many people just don't know what their rights are, or don't know how to stand up to intimidating and often rude SpEd administrators. It's not right and it is horribly unfair. For the wealthy, there are educational advocates and educational attorneys. An advocate can and do charge about $100/hour. Educational attorneys cost around $300/hour. Can you afford that cost? Most families can't. Which is why I do what I do. Again, because it's the right thing to do.

If you have an issue with your school system and don't know where to turn, I will help you. I will do this because I never want another kid to suffer from a lack of support they deserve. I'll send you to the right web sites, teach you how to write letters that get results, find your state's office of education representative, and tell you what to say at your IEP meeting. I'll even do phone calls if you need it.

I will help you. I promise this from the bottom of my heart. No more hurting kids. No more administrators that push parents to the edge. No more. Just no frigging more!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Held Hostage By My Town

I've had a festering problem with the city I live in for a long long time. I've tried to settle it over and over again, but the city refuses to budge on something so stupid, so idiotic, so moronic that it's almost unbelievable. And yet it's true. The city refuses to believe that my family lived in California from 1998 to 2002. No matter how much proof I give them, it's not enough. No matter what I am told I need to prove my claim, they will not accept it.

Why does this matter?

Well, in MA we have a little extortion called excise tax. Every year you get to pay the city for the privilege of owning your automobile. It isn't small change either. It can be hundreds of dollars. You pay this excise tax yearly, and if you don't, you cannot renew a license, nor can you register your car. In other words, it's real extortion.

Now, from 1998 to 2002 I did not live in the Commonwealth. I lived in California. I registered my car in California. I got a driving license in California. And when my city billed me for excise tax in California, I sent it back telling them I did not live there. So they mailed it directly to my California address. Because they are morons. They kept billing me in California every year. Even though I had long since left the east coast and had notified them of that. You see, I was supposed to send back my plates. But when I registered my car in CA, they took the plates. I thought that was the way it worked. But it isn't, at least in my city. Who knew? Not me, and not the CA registry that took my plates. So, because they never got the plates back, my city kept billing me at my CA address. For years. How stupid is that?

When I moved back, they refused to believe that I lived in California, even though they had, and still have, my California address in their computer. OK... that makes absolutely NO SENSE, but that's only the beginning. They wanted to see my California registration from 1998. Um, do you keep your old registrations? I don't. Even the state of California doesn't require you too, but evidentally that doesn't matter to the Commonwealth. They want the registration.

I went to the Registry and they told me that all I needed for the City to stop this nonsense was a form proving that my car is no longer registered. Since the car no longer exists, that's not a big problem. I got the form and brought it back to the city. The city refused to even look at it. They want PROOF that my car was registered in CA in 1998. So I sent the state of California this form I got off their web site, waited 2 months for it to be returned...wrong. The state didn't recognize the car id# and said it never existed in their system. I called the DMV in CA and they told me to fill out the form again. I sent a COPY of the last registration I had, from 2000, with the exact information they requested. They sent back another letter saying that they didn't have any record of my car, even though I sent them the damn COPY of my registration, and a copy of my driving license in CA. Oh, they knew about the license, but not the plates. WTF?

So I went back to the city with all this information, and again they refused to believe me. But this time I saw a bunch of different people, each more unwilling to help than the last one. At first they wanted me to pay $600 in back excise tax. Last week it was $800. I can't pay that. I don't have it and I won't ever have it. That's totally out of the question for me to fork over, especially since I do not owe it. I DO NOT OWE IT.

So the city is holding me hostage. I cannot fly without a driving license. I cannot go pick up my car in DC without a driving license. I cannot go anywhere or do anything unless they let me get a driving license in this stupid state, and the ONLY people keeping me back are the sad employees of our city hall.

What gets me the most is that this doesn't EVER have a statute of limitations. The IRS does. The Mass Dept of Revenue does. But the... nope. If I owed excise tax from 1933, I'd still have to pay it. It's the stupidest rule because nobody keeps registration records for that long. You don't have to. You only have to keep your current registration. Why would I move that 3000 miles across the country? Who even knows that MA has such arcane rules?

I need to get a license. I can't keep living without one. I have absolutely no identification whatsoever because I cannot even get my passport renewed without a driving license. There's a law that was passed recently about a national ID. I can't get one. I have done absolutely wrong other than to move back to this God-Forsaken city. I swear, if I could drive, I'd be outta here in a flash. I'm that annoyed. I'm that frustrated. I'm that angry.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sucked in by Twitter

I've been twittering for a long time, and what I've noticed about my Twitter habit is that the more I Twitter, the less interested I am in reading blogs. Twitter is so instant, so up to date, it seems silly to go back and read what people are blogging about when I know what they're doing that instant.

Which makes me question whether Twitter is just a time suck, or the greatest application since Blogger. I tried to stop the Twitter habit. I set myself some rules, like I'll only Twitter on weekends. Then I had to stop cold turkey for a while. I took a few weeks off Twitter and found hat I was able to go back occasionally for a tweet session without getting dragged back into the Twitter obsession.

Until zeFrank announced the Twitter color wars. Now, admittedly nobody has a clue what they're all about, but it took me days to decide what team I wanted to be on. This did not bode well for my ability to stay off Twitter. Of course, once I committed to the VeryGreenTeam, I had to keep apace of the first challenge announcement. That came earlier tonight, and I was on it like a cat on a hot tin roof. I couldn't wait to get my entry in.

Damn, I am sucked back in. There is just something so desirable about being able to chitchat with so many people at the same time. I never liked IMing because it took too much time to keep up several conversations at once, but the way Twitter works, it's totally easy. Plus, you can eavesdrop on other conversations and see who is chatting with whom.

If you can't find me, try Twitter. I'm probably there, chattering away. Sad, but true.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

When good kids go bad

My kids have their issues, God knows, but essentially they're nice, polite, well-mannered kids. Ok, they have some things that drive me nuts, and I'm working hard with them to make changes, but for the most part they're fairly normal teenagers.

However, they are slobs. Oh boy, are they slobs. The Girl has never conquered the idea that when you unwrap something you throw away the wrapper. Every bandaid, every piece of food, every candy bar... no matter what it is, she sheds that wrapper and where it falls is where it stays. She just can't seem to make the connection that once it's off the item, it's garbage.

So I follow her around with a brown paper bag and make her throw stuff away because I'm that mean. Yes indeed, I am.

However, this slovenly behavior is not limited to wrappings and packaging. Oh no, it's everything. There is no such thing in our house as away. Like in "put that away." To them, away means someplace else. So if I tell them to put the scissors away, and they DO know where they have gotten them from, they'll move the scissors from the coffee table to the desk, but they will not make the effort to put the damn scissors in the drawer.

This is driving me nuts. NUTS, I tell you. So this week I've vowed to keep the house clean at least through the weekend. The kids didn't have school today, so essentially this is day one of the effort. I've had to tell them to pick up their glasses, cups, dishes, et al pretty much every time they put a morsel of food in their mouths. I've had to make them throw everything that is garbage away.

They were into it at first. At first. But by late this afternoon tempers were wearing thin on both sides. I kept saying "If you do it right the first time, I won't bother you. Just throw it out, put it away, and keep the dishes out of the living room." These are not hard rules, but by 8, they were ready to declare a mutany.

When one is parenting teens, one has to be on their feet at all times. So I started in with the threats. Cell phones are already gone. That's always the first to go. Ipods are next. So I threaten the Boy with taking away his Ipod and deleting Itunes. He is horrified, and tells me I can't do that. I retort with "Watch me" and he says, "That's like deleting your blog. I'll just delete your blog if you take away my Ipod."

You should have seen his face when I told him that my blog is backed up weekly. He was so disappointed.

Score one for Mom!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

LOST Discussion Friday: Meet Kevin Johnson

Previously on LOST, Sun made it off the island in time to have her baby and catch a dubbed episode of "Exposé," but Jin wasn't so lucky. We still don't quite get the Jin is dead, however. Sayid and Desmond ran into Michael on the freighter, but for some reason he's posing as an innocent janitor named Kevin Johnson. We also met the captain of the Kahana, who is getting really tired of his crew members going insane and killing themselves.

Tonight's episode marks the final Lost installment until April 24, which is when the show moves to 10pm. However, since my mind is officially blown after watching this episode, and my heart is still pounding like I've run the marathon, I think I'm actually going to feel OK about some time off. This show is killing me this year. I mean it, my heart is having a hard time taking this stress! I love every second of it, but I'm not sure it's good for my overall health. OK, on to tonight's recap.

We begin tonight with all of Locke's followers sitting in his living room, waiting for Locke to appear. They've been called for a family meeting. Locke drags Miles in front of the barracks gang to make him tell the truth to all of the Lockies. Miles, after biting a grenade for a while, looks more than happy to tell all. Miles explains that his people are there to get Ben, and that's when Ben finally decides to spill the beans. Not only does he say that the freighter folk will kill everyone on the island after they capture him, but he also admits that Michael is his spy on the boat. The news about Michael does not go over well with Sawyer and Hurley, who are pissed. They recall all to well that Michael killed Libby and Anna Lucia, made a deal with Ben, and left the rest of the high and dry on the Island.

On the freighter, Captain Gault is pissed. While Sayid and Desmond are sleeping, an alarm sounds and they rush to the top deck. Some of the crew members tried to escape the freighter by taking off on the raft, but the Captain would rather beat them senseless than allow such a thing. Captain Gault tells Kevin Johnson to clean up the stains on the deck and takes off, but before "Kevin" can do that, Sayid intercepts him and asks him why he's on the boat. Michael's response? "I'm here to die." That was shock number one.

After the commercial, Sawyer wants to know why Miles wants Ben to get him more three million dollars, but of course Miles isn't up for revealing that information. He only says that Ben will most definitely come up with the money. Inside, Ben gives Alex, Karl, and Rousseau a map to the Temple. Even thought Danielle has been on the island for 16 years, she's never heard of the Temple. Ben tells them that the Temple is where the rest of the Others are hanging out. Ben says they'll be safer there and tells them to go immediately. Alex isn't sure, but Ben gives her a googley eye stare of love, and she, her Mom and Karl take off into the jungle for the site of the Temple.

Sayid and Desmond corner Michael and ask him once again what the hell he's doing on the boat. Instead of giving a straight answer, it's Flashback time! Michael is sitting in some dumpy apartment writing a note. He pins the note to his shirt, goes outside and gets into his car and hears "It's Getting Better" by The Mamas and the Papas on the radio. However, the music of Mama Cass doesn't sit well with him, because he decides to drive his car into a dumpster at 90 miles per hour. He mutters "I'm sorry" right before crashing. He's trying to kill himself, but...

Michael wakes up in the hospital and is shocked to see Libby bringing him some blankets. He starts screaming, and then a nurse comes in. Luckily for Michael, the Libby spotting is just a dream. The real nurse asks if she should call Walt, but Michael says no. There is a Christmas tree right outside of Michael's room, so we know that it's December. After he gets out of the hospital, Michael goes to visit his mom, who is looking after Walt. Mom is upset that Michael came back from a plane crash without giving her any explanation as to where he was or what happened. She says that Walt barely talks and is terribly upset. She won't allow him to see Walt, but he does appear for a moment in the window as Michael walks away. Michael is totally despondent at this point.

Next, Michael stops at a pawn shop and trades Jin's old watch for a pistol. The man is really determined to kill himself, and even goes into an alley and gets ready to blow his head off. As he's sitting in the alley loading the bullets into the gun, and then holding it up to his head, Mr. Friendly, AKA Tom, shows up and interrupts him. Michael tries to shoot him, but it just leads to a brutal fight instead. Tom totally overwhelms Michael in the fight. Tom wants Michael to listen to what he has to say, but Michael refuses to cooperate. Then Tom figures out that Michael told Walt about the murders of Libby and Ana-Lucia, and now Michael can't stand the way his boy looks at him. However, he tells Michael that it's impossible for him to kill himself because the island won't let him. Creepy! He tells Michael that he's staying at the Penthouse of some fancy hotel, and then takes off.

Michael loads up the gun, goes back to his shabby apartment, and tries to shoot himself in the head. Nothing happens. The gun has jammed. He checks the bullets, and they're all there. He gets ready to try again, but is interrupted by the news of the Oceanic 815 crash on the TV. The news report states that they found the airplane, but can't find the black box. They go on to say that all the passengers will never be recovered because the plane is in such a deep ocean trench.

He then goes to visit Mr. Friendly and his off-island gay lover, Arturo at the hotel penthouse. Finally, confirmation that Tom is gay! Friendly explains to Michael that the Flight 815 crash was staged by Charles Widmore. Michael doesn't believe him and asks for proof.

Tom has the proof in a black leather folder. He shows Michael photos of the empty graveyard in Thailand where Widmore dug up the corpses for the staged crash, as well the Purchase Order for the old retired airplane that was used. He shows the requisition documents for the machines used to dump the plane in the deep ocean trench. Michael is convinced.

Tom goes on to tell Michael about the freighter that Widmore has financed, gives him his fake "Kevin Johnson" passport, and tells him to go undercover on the freighter. Michael is to board the boat in Fiji, where the boat is putting on supplies. Widmore's boat is going to the island to kill the castaways, but if Michael tags along, he can redeem himself by murdering the freighter folk before they get there. That is why he's on board the freighter, trying to kill everyone on the boat so he can save both Ben's Others and the Losties.

The sketchy freighter named Kahana is getting ready to set sail. Kevin Johnson shows up and first meets Minkowski, who tells him to sign in with Naomi before boarding the boat. Naomi tells Kevin that there is a large wooden crate with his name on it waiting for him. She'll have it delivered to his bunk. Once on board, Michael also meets Miles, who instinctively knows that Kevin is not his real name. He tells Michael not to worry about it, since a lot of the people on the freighter are lying about something. Friendly gives Michael a call and asks him about the "care package" that was waiting for him on the boat. Michael tells Tom that yes, the package was delivered. Michael feels uneasy about murdering people, but Tom reminds him that all of his friends will die if he doesn't do something. Michael is uneasy about opening the locked crate. I don't blame him one bit!

While Michael is leaning over the boat's side, Lapidus comes up and introduces himself to Michael. Lapidus tells him the story about the fake 815 crash. Michael looks appropriately shocked. Frank admits that he's on the journey so he can find the real plane wreckage and maybe rescue some people. He says he joined because they believed him. Remember that Lapidus, when seeing the initial reports of the plane being found said that he knew it was NOT the pilot. Later, while Michael was working, some of the freighter folk amuse themselves by skeet shooting with a machine gun. Michael asks them what they're doing and they dismiss him but they look really evil. This is not the type of crowd I would want coming to my rescue, let me tell you.

Michael finally opens up his care package and finds a tray of tools, and under the tools, a bomb. It looks like it is his mission to blow up the entire ship and everyone on it, including himself. He takes the case with the bomb into the engine room. Michael gets ready to set the bomb, but he's distracted by visions of Libby and more Mama Cass floating through his head. He finally hits the "Execute" button, the bomb counts down from ten. . .and a tiny scroll pops out. It reads "Not Yet." Shock number two. I so did not expect that. Neither did poor Michael!

Michael is bouncing a tennis ball against the wall of his bunk, which may explain the noise Sayid and Desmond heard while in their room. Minkowski comes in to tell Michael that he has a call from Walt. Michael tries not to look excited, but he almost jumps for joy when Minkowski leaves him alone in the communications room. Bummer! It's really Ben on the other line. Ben explains that some people on the boat are innocent, and he has no desire to kill innocent people, hence the fake bomb. He explains to Michael that the difference between him and the 'bad guys' is that he cares enough not to kill the innocent. Ben wants Michael to compile a list naming everyone on the boat, then he's meant to destroy the radio and the boat's engine. Ben ends the call by saying "Welcome to the Good Guys." I don't know about you, but I thought that was simply chilling!

And we're finally back to the present! Sayid and Desmond are still standing where they were when Michael started his tale of how he got onto the boat. Remember, they don't get to see the flashbacks! After hearing the story, Sayid is furious that Michael is working for Ben, so he drags Michael in to the Captain's quarters and spills the true story.

He tells the Captain that Kevin is really Michael Dawson, that he was on the island for two months, etc. The Captain looks stunned. Sayid, why would you do that? I think that was a strategic error, myself.

Now we finally get back to that trip to the Temple. Rousseau, Karl, and Alex are still in the jungle. Danielle tells Karl and Alex that they can take a two minute drink break. While Karl and Alex are sitting down to drink, Karl starts to worry that Ben has set them up. Oh no, it looks like he's right. Or that someone is trying to get them, anyhow. Arrows start flying through the jungle and Karl gets shot in the chest and killed. Alex freaks out and starts wailing. Danielle tells her to hold her hand and they will start running on the count of three. She counts, they get up and start to take off when Rousseau gets shot as they run away, but she cannot possibly be dead because I refuse believe that could happen. She hasn't even had her flashback episode yet! Alex stands up and screams that she's Ben's daughter while the shooter moves toward her.

And Finis. The end?! Noooo! It's going to be a really long month waiting for this cliffhanger to be resolved.

So we have yet another questionable death. Last week Jin, this week Rousseau. Do you think she's really dead?

Why do you think Sayid turned Michael over to the Captain?

What do you think is going to happen to Michael?

What's the deal with the island not letting you die until it wants you to die... does that mean that Tom and the other Others who died at the end of last season had already completed their "missions"?

Do you think Ben really set up Rousseau, Karl, and Alex? I just don't know. I thought Ben loved Alex. As much as he could love anyone. What do you think?

Do you think Frank taking a group of Freightors to the Island might be who killed Karl and Danielle? (remember how he was on a "mission" last episode?), which ties into the scene of the Freightors taking target practice during the flashback. Frank likely had no idea what the mission was, but this means there are Freightors on the Island, and they're looking to kill some Others.

Did you like this episode?

Here's an extra special treat. Want to see how Michael lives in the real world? His LA-based house is up for sale. Check it out.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Days Are Here Again!

Every once in a while, I get exactly what I want. It's rare, mostly I compromise, but not today. Today I was clear about what I wanted, and even clearer about what I didn't want. And it worked! Holy Moly, it freaking worked!

Today was the Girl's emergency IEP meeting. The meeting we've been trying to set up for weeks, but the school just would not cooperate. The meeting where they conveniently 'didn't have time' to invite most of our support team. Um, yeah. So I came into the conference room, sat down at the head of the table, and confronted them immediately about leaving out such important people. That set the tenor of the meeting, and they got the idea right off the bat that they were not going to screw with me any more.

First, they presented a program that I had already refused. They had asked me about it a week or so ago, and I told them "no" but they felt they needed to do the hard sell. The guy that runs the meeting gave me this song and dance about how it's only a 45 day program to reintegrate kids back to school, that it isn't an academic program, that there are only 8 kids in the program, blah blah blah. I told the attendees that the reason the Girl was in the situation she was in, besides her obvious NVLD social issues, was that she empathized with kids that were in trouble to the point where she took on their pain. I DID NOT want her in any more dumping ground programs for kids that are into severe drama.

The hard sell continued, however, until the Girl spoke up and said she had no intention of being stuck in this program which isn't even on school grounds. "No way", said she. And that was that.
The next option was to put her into a sister program of the Boy's program, held in the other high school. She absolutely refused. She does not want to go to another school, plus the other school's quotent of high drama is even worse than our school. It's drug central in town, they have more kids from difficult environments, and even the Girl realizes that this is a recipe for disaster. Go Girl! So that was out as well.

The last option was the one that I had cooked up with the Pupil Services representative from the school department. It's an actual Individualized Education Plan. Not just shoving the Girl into one program or another. It's designed just for her. Wahoo!

She'll be attending school for a couple of blocks each day. She's going to take Biology and Math at school. She'll still be working with her tutor, who will be coming for increased hours. She's right behind me here, as I type this. For English, I'll be working with her. She needs to make up 120 hours of English, which they will allow her to do by reading 5 books and writing 5 papers. Now, to me this seems like a total gut, but to the Girl... OMG, this is hard hard work. She's not a competent readers, she's slower than molassas, and she does not understand much of what she's read. So we'll be choosing books that are already movies, so she can watch the movie before she starts the book, and will be able to understand the plots better. We've already started with the Merchant of Venice, which she's watched twice. Now that she's got the storyline down, she'll be able to attempt to read it. Shakespeare is difficult for a good reader, for the Girl it's almost impossible. But we'll get through it together.

History is tossed. She only needs 3 years of history, including one of US History, in order to graduate. We're blowing off this year since her history teacher, who coincidentally lives directly behind us, is totally uncooperative. She refused to work with the tutor and does not want the Girl in her class. Nice and neighborly, eh? But honestly, I don't care. She can make it up in her senior year with social science electives, which are more interesting anyhow.

So what's left is "Wellness", the politically correct name these days for PE. They will give her credit for PE because she's in therapy. I have no clue as to why, but who am I to argue with a free pass for PE? I only wish I could have done that when I was in high school.

The upshot is, she'll get enough credits to move forward to her Junior year, she'll be out of most of the drama of high school and under my nose more, and we'll be able to work together to ensure that she gets everything done. It's the best of homeschooling combined with the best of high school. I'm so happy! And so is she.

Of course, and all you lovers of the NCLB will find this especially grating, next week is the MCAS and they were desperate to get her to take it. You take it in 10th grade and if you pass it, then you're DONE and you can graduate. If you don't, you have 2 more times. So they want her to do it. She was not thrilled, but she'll be there and they'll be accomodating her up the yin yang. Stupid test. 3 days of testing and that's just for the English part. Math comes later. She's already passed the Science!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

WFMW: Steak Nachos

This past weekend my son had 7 friends over for a 24 hour Guitar Hero3 Marathon. We had just gotten the game and the boys couldn't wait to play the newest version. They originally showed up for the afternoon, but by 11 pm it was apparent some of them were not going home. And they were hungry. Of course they were, they are teenage boys.

Surveying the contents of my pantry and fridge, I decided to make steak nachos, something I only made up very recently. They are incredibly easy to make, extremely filling, and the perfect food for a passle of young men with hearty appetites.

Remember, I made this recipe up, so there's no measuring involved!

1 lb London Broil steak
1 can black beans
1 ripe avocado
1 can Rotel
1 red/yellow/orange bell pepper, julienned
3 or 4 scallions, sliced thin
1 bag Tostidos, Restaurant Style or Trader Joes tortilla chips
Monterrey Jack and Mild Cheddar cheese, grated

Step one: Brown a seasoned london broil steak, about an inch thick or more, on both sides in a heavy pan or cast iron. After it's browned and formed a nice crust but is rare/raw inside, place the steak, in the pan, into a 350 degree oven until it's cooked rare/medium rare. Remove the steak from the oven, let it 'rest' for about 10 minutes, and then slice into thin, bite sized pieces.

Step two: Take a large broiler pan and layer it with tortilla chips, making sure that the whole pan is covered with at least a double layer, if not more, of chips. You're essentially making a crust for all the other stuff.

Step three: Open the can of Rotel and the can of black beans. Rinse the beans and then sprinkle over the tortilla chips. Drain the Rotel, pouring out the watery juice. Then spread the Rotel as evenly as you can, making sure you only add the solids. If you put in too much liquid, it will soak thru the tortilla chips making them soggy and gross.

Step four: Spread the julienned peppers and the sliced scallions over the Rotel.

Step five: Peel and slice the avocado into thin strips, then spread over the peppers and scallions.

Step 6: Grab a handful of the cheese and spread it over the pan, covering lightly all of the chips, veggies, etc.

Step 7: Thinly slice the steak and cut into 1" bitesized pieces. Spread over the entire pan, so that every chip will have a bite of steak.

Step 8: Cover with more cheese so that the top will be nice and bubbly, but not too thick. You want to ensure that the steak is cooked a bit.

Place the pan in a 350 oven until the cheese is all bubbly and stretchy.

Serve with paper plates on the side, and a large spatula to serve each kid a nice big helping.

Stand back and watch the food disappear before your eyes!

I wish I had a photo, but the food disappeared before I had a chance to photograph it.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Ah, the afterglow!

I could talk about how tired I am.

Or how I lost another lb and went up another level on the elliptical machine.

Or how I'm enjoying my yoga class despite the fact that my bones make the most horrible popping noises every time I bend my neck in a stretched out position. Crunch!

Or even how my son milked his migraine today to stay home and drive me absolutely bonkers with the throwing and the poking and the stupid comments galore.

I could complain about how somebody, and I'm not naming names because I don't know who, broke my beautiful purple ceramic vase that was a birthday gift from an old friend.

Or about how nobody has washed a dish in over 24 hours.

Or how my daughter thinks that school nights are for socializing all of a sudden.

Or how cold it is outside.

But I'm not gonna.

I'm simply going to say that creating this new blog has been such a labor of love for me. I want to say that the reception the blogosphere has shown us, and the lovely things you all have said, has made every second of the craziness behind the scenes totally worth it.

You all know that I don't work much anymore, and I'm sure many of you know that creating a group blog with a large group of very busy women isn't a piece of cake. But what you don't know is that I did the entire site by myself. I ported it over from blogger to typepad, which is an adventure I would not like to repeat anytime soon. I didn't use any of the typepad templates because of their limitations, so the entire site is hand-coded. It's been YEARS since I did anything like this, and my brain was stretched to it's limits several times during the process. I worked more hours than I have since my heart started it's downhill slide. I lost 5 lbs. The only thing that kept me going is knowing that we had something special there. Something I wasn't willing to push aside.

But I'm not complaining. Not one word of complaint. This has been a huge labor of love for me. And I'm so proud of the site, of the people who are writing for it, of my family for being so patient and excited for me, for my friends that put up with my talk of code issues ad nauseum, and for my readers for accepting some pretty sad drivel during all this work.

The reception Mid-Century Modern Moms received today, and is continuing to receive makes it all worthwhile. Honestly, I haven't felt prouder or more filled with the satisfaction of a job well done in many years. I loved creating it, I loved the craziness of the creation itself, and I'm going to love writing for MCMM.

So thank you to everyone involved, from the writers, to the new readers to all my support system behind the scenes. You all rock!

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Ta Da! It's a Brand New Blog

Several months ago, a few women bloggers determined that we haven't quite received the community feeling we needed from the blogosphere. We're older moms with older kids. Kids in high school or college, or even beyond college. We needed a community for us, the mid-century moms. After some discussion, Mid-Century Modern Moms was born. We've been posting there, and we've been adding some fine writers as well.

Now we're ready for our grand opening. We want to welcome you all to Mid-Century Modern Moms, where parenting teens is our daily job. We're a diverse group of moms, with a very diverse group of teens and young adults. Some of us are experiencing the empty nest syndrome, while others of us can't wait to get our smelly teens off to college!

To welcome you in grand style, we'll be offering a contest. Yes, free stuff! Everyone's favorite. The contest entails reading the archives to answer some key questions. It will be up in the next day or two, so keep your eyes sharply peeled.

See this beautiful banner. It's the work of my very special friend, Secret Agent Josephine. Doesn't it look kinda familiar? It's my family! Even the Worthless Pet is there. She's such a wonderful artist. Go and give her some special loving while she's vacationing in Hawaii.

And don't forget to visit us every day at Mid-Century Modern Moms. I can promise you, even if your kids are still small, there's plenty to learn about teens at MCMM. It's not all scary, either!

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shameless self promotion!

Do you read WorkItMom? If not, why not? It's a way cool 'social networking' site for working moms. No matter if your work is as a SAHM, an executive in some high-faluting office, a doctor, a lawyer or whatever.

Well, this week they are profiling me. Yup, me! I'm so excited because I have been lucky enough to have spent a wonderful evening with the founder of this site, and she is so delightful. And, for what it's worth, she has the cleanest house I've ever visited. :-)

So check out the site, register, and find some friends. You'll see plenty of folks you know and love.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Keep your eyes peeled

On Monday, bright and early, I'm going to make a big announcement. Oh yeah, I've got something up my sleeve that's been brewing for quite some time, and finally....yes FINALLY it's ready to reveal. It's something new, something that really hasn't been done before, something that I've poured my heart and soul into. I'm psyched, people, and I can't wait to share it all with you.

So keep your eyes peeled for something exciting on Monday morning. And no, no hints before hand. Not even little ones!

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Yoo hoo! Mother Nature!

I opened one eye and turned to look out the window. "You have GOT to be frigging kidding me, Mother Nature", I screamed.

It was snowing. Snowing. Have we not had enough of this to last a lifetime and then some? Why yes, I believe we have. Plus I had places to go, things to do. And snow was not part of my plan.

So I did what any right-thinking person would do. I pulled up the covers, plopped my head back on the pillows, and went back to sleep.

Awakening several hours later, I did my errand, which was to sell all my surplus gold while gold was still at such a high value. Now I have enough money to pay for car insurance. For my new car. Which I should be picking up in a couple of weeks.

A car. Tra lalalala! A Car!

And we will be free again.

In other fabulous news, the Boy is so happy I think he's about to burst. A wonderful local blogger, Rhea of The Boomer Chronicles, won a Guitar Hero3 at SWSX and not having an XBox (or any teenagers), she gave it to the Boy. Isn't that the coolest thing ever? He's got 4 friends over right now and they're "beasting" it, whatever that means. They love this game, and I have to admit, it's wicked fun. So go over and visit Rhea and say how nice and pretty and generous she is. She deserves it!

Lastly, I have a new rule. Teenagers that come over to the house MUST take a shower first. Ahem. We've had a couple of 'incidents' with teenage boys to whom the concept of bathing appears to be foreign. One kid whom I had never met before came over and he smelled so bad that my entire house REEKED of him. The first thing I said when he left was "Grab the Febreeze and spray the furniture." Yes, it was that bad. OMG, you guys with younger kids, you are not going to believe the odiferousness of teenage boys. It is truly astounding. Bad, but astounding.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

LOST Discussion Friday: Ji Yeon

Previously on LOST Juliet went to The Tempest station and discovered that it's capable of releasing toxic gas on to the island. Locke found out that Charles Widmore is the man who sent the freighter, and he also learned who Ben's man on the boat is. In exchange for this meaty bit of information, Locke let Ben out of the basement, much to the surprise of Sawyer and Hurley.

Tonight's episode promises to clue us in on the identity of Ben's mole, while also informing us who the final members of the Oceanic Six are. The episode delivers on it's promises. We do learn both the very unsurprising identity of Ben's mole, and the final members of the Oceanic Six. But sadly, the outcome isn't when we hoped for.

LOST begins by introducing us to Regina, who we've been hearing over the phone for weeks. She's standing guard over Sayid and Desmond, who are still locked in a room on the freighter. She does not appear healthy. She's sitting in front of the door to Sayid and Desmond's room holding a book upside down. Lapidus clues her in that the book is upside down, but the poor woman looks like she hasn't slept in a month and can barely eek out a coherent word. On the other hand, Lapidus is nice enough to bring them some delicious canned lima beans, but he's not nice enough to let them talk to the Captain. I don't know about you, but if it were a choice between starving and eating canned lima beans, I believe I'd choose starving.

On oour first peek at the beachies, Jin wants to discuss names for the baby, but Sun thinks it's bad luck. I'm with her. We Jews never tell the baby's name until they are officially named in synagogue. Jin wants to name her Ji Yeon, but Sun advises that they should wait until they get off the island before picking a name. These two are so adorable together that I just know something horrible will happen to one of them.

First flash forward time. Sun is off the island, very, very pregnant, and feels an immense pain in her uterine region. She also appears to be back in Korea, in some nice apartment. She calls 911, or whatever the Korean equivalent is, and tells them she thinks something is wrong with the baby. But where is Jin? Uh oh. Is he working for the horrible Mr Paik again?

It looks like Jin is just fine, so there's no need to worry. He's busy at the store looking for a stuffed panda for the baby. He buys the panda, and as he's hailing a cab, his cell rings. When he goes to answer it, he gets nudged, his cell drops, gets run over, the panda, which is in the back of the taxi disappears when someone else gets into the cab and speeds away. This does not make Jin even remotely happy. It's a funny scene.

Back on the island, Kate is telling Sun about how she got bonked over the head last week. She also fills her in on the events in "the poison gas factory," all of which makes Sun start to think that rescue is out of the question. Sun's getting nervous and when she's nervous she tends to want to flee the scene.

On the freighter, Sayid and Desmond get a note passed to them through the vents in their door. It reads, "Don't Trust the Captain." It looks like Ben's mole is up to his/her old tricks again. They look at each other like, Hmmm, this must be Ben's man on the ship. Excellent.

Meanwhile, Sun moseys down the beach to question Daniel about whether or not they're going to be rescued. Daniel gives his usual dumb bunny look and hems and haws. She gets really annoyed and then he says it's not for him to decide. Sun runs off and tells Jin to pack enough food for a couple of days. It's time to go visit John Locke. See, true to form, she's running.

Juliet figures out that Sun is planning a trip when she sees her trying to snag some prenatal vitamins. Juliet advises her not to go to Locke's camp, especially due to the fact that she'll die if she stays on the island. Sun doesn't believe her, stating that Claire and her baby are just fine. Juliet doesn't explain that because Claire conceived off the island, her pregnancy didn't count. Ditto for Alex, btw. Sun doesn't trust Juliet and has no intention of staying. She wants to get to Locke's lair for some delicious barbequed rabbit, I think.

Back in Korea in a flash forward, Sun is about to give birth in the hospital. The nurse mentions that she's one of the Oceanic Six. She also tries to take off Sun's wedding ring, but Sun won't allow it.

She tells the doctor to get her husband immediately, but unfortunately he's busy losing his giant panda bear in the taxi that takes off without him. He goes back to the store and demands another panda. He talks the store keeper into giving him the last panda, which was on hold and paid for in full by another customer. Jin only wants a panda, which I found a bit weird. What's so special about pandas? I wish I could enjoy the comedy on display, but I keep waiting for something bad or shocking to happen to Sun or Jin.

On the beach, Kate draws Sun a map to Locke's place, but Juliet interrupts. She tells Jin about Sun's condition, but unfortunately he doesn't believe her either. She does the whole "in three weeks you'll be sick, in four weeks you'll be in terrible pain, in 5 weeks you'll be in a coma, and then you'll die" speech, but Sun wants out of dodge and won't believe Juliet. She's honest and tells her she doesn't trust her because Juliet has lied before. True enough. So Juliet, showing her true colors in order to save Sun's life, Jin about Sun's affair, which is something he most definitely believes. Sun gives her a hearty slap for spilling the beans while Jin stalks off down the beach. Sun tries to explain to Jin that the affair was a long time ago, but he doesn't want to hear it. As he's leaving, Bernard asks if he can join Jin. Bernard clues into the fact that Sun and Jin are in the middle of a big brouhaha, but Jin tells him he can come. They go and find a small outrigger (where did THAT come from?) and fish while chatting about marriage. I love Bernard and Rose. Bernard tells Jin about Rose's cancer and how she's cured by the island but still wants to be rescued. They both ponder that until Jin catches a nice big fish. I'm glad Bernard is around, because he's able to explain why Rose didn't want to go with Locke back in the season premiere. Even though she needs to stay on the island, she'd never go anywhere with a murderer.

Back on that hunk of junk called the freighter, the Captain finally wants to meet Sayid and Desmond. They come out on the deck and notice two very weird things: 1) Lapidus has taken the helicopter somewhere, and 2) Regina is jumping off the boat with huge chains wrapped around her. Desmond freaks out at this apparent suicide, but Captain Gault comes out to calm them down. He says she's gone. He can't risk any more of his crew going after her. While Regina is jumping off the boat, none of the other crew members even attempt to help her. They act like this is a daily occurrence. VERY weird. I'm sure there will be more to this whole suicide thing later on, because it just made no sense at all. I just can't imagine how they're going to fit this into the plot.

Gault explains to the Losties that his crew has been going a bit mental lately, which he thinks is due to their proximity to the island. They all appear to have a terrible case of cabin fever. But to jump overboard? OK! He also freely admits to Sayid and Desmond that Charles Widmore sent the boat. He casually mentions that he knows that Desmond knows Widmore. You betcha he does! In another strange turn of events, Captain Gault is also in possession of the 'black box' from the staged crash of Flight 815. He raises the question that many of us have been wondering: who has the power to gather together over 300 dead bodies and fake a plane crash? Gault thinks that Ben will have the answers to these questions. He implies that Ben did the staging, but it seems like it's possible that Widmore could have as well. I'm very confused about this plot point. Any ideas?

Juliet is still trying to convince Sun that she'll die if she stays on the island from her position back on the beach. Sun isn't buying it. But then we have a flash forward, where Sun is still waiting for Jin to show up at the hospital. She's in the throes of labor, things aren't going well, the Junior Doctor wants to do a C-section but she refuses and keeps calling for Jin. She wants to wait for him to arrive to birth the baby, but he doesn't arrive by the time the baby girl is born. And might I just say that the creepy jelly that they put on that poor baby was gross. Anyhow, I have a very, very bad feeling that something has happened to Jin aside from wacky panda bear buying shenanigans.

After spending a few hours being entertained by el capitan, Sayid and Desmond get moved to a new room that has a large blood stain on the wall that looks like somebody blew their brains out. It also has many delightful cockroaches. It's a real palace! A janitor comes by to clean up the mess, and the janitor is Michael! His appearance is probably the least surprising moment ever, but the fact that he's going by the name Kevin Johnson is certainly interesting. The escort introduces "kevin" to Sayid and Desmond, who pretend they've never seen Michael before. And that's the last of him we see tonight. That's question number one answered. We know for sure that Michael is Ben's man on the boat. Not surprising at all, but at least it has finally been confirmed, right?

Anyway, back from fishing, Jin finds Sun in their tent on the beach and brings her a lovely fish dinner. He explains to her that he understands why she had an affair. He knows what kind of man he was in Korea, and he acknowledged that he was unable to share his feelings with her back home. He forgives her and says that they can go to Locke's suburban hideaway, but Sun has started to believe Juliet's tales of imminent doom. The one other thing Jin wants to know is if the baby is his. The two of them break down in tears when she tells him the answer is yes, yes, a million times yes. So we know that the island has restored Jin's fertility as well as his personality. He's been healed by the island, too.

Jin arrives at the hospital with his giant panda bear. However, he's not visiting Sun. He's still working for Mr. Paik and delivering the panda to the Chinese ambassador who is now a grandfather. As he's walking out, he tells the nurse that he's only been married two months. It's all a flashback. DAMN! Well, that solves the mystery of that damn panda bear. But we still don't know where Jin was while Sun's baby was being born. I knew that Sun and Jin still being together was too good to be true!

Hurley stops by to visit Sun once she and the baby are home from the hospital. He's all dressed up in a suit with his hair, which gets longer and longer with every flashback, all brushed into this horrid do. That boy needs a stylist. He is nervous about seeing the baby, and then he says "well we should go to see him. Sun, Hurley, and little Ji Yeon go to a cemetery to visit Jin's grave. And tears well up in my eyes. No! Not Jin. I LOVE Jin. LOVE HIM. I wish I could read Korean to see what his grave said. Sigh. I'm so sad.

What an interesting way to structure this episode -- Jin's segments were all flashbacks while Sun's segments were flash forwards. Tricky, but clever. Damn those writers! They got me.

While Jin may appear to be dead, his headstone had his date of death as 9/22/2004. That's the same date Flight 815 crashed on the island, so maybe he's not dead after all. Or maybe there is some sort of pact about all the Losties not in the Oceanic Six having died on the day of the flight, as Kate and Jack implied at the courthouse. I dunno. I'm just sad about Jin. Or....

Is Jin really dead? What do you think? The date on his grave is curious. Sun certainly is in mourning. But what if????

Other questions. Please please answer them. I need some sleep and I keep thinking about the show. Give me your theories.

  1. How did Jin die?
  2. Who are the Oceanic Six?
  3. Who is the last body?
  4. Why did they show Michael mid-way through this episode?
  5. Why did Regina kill herself?
  6. Why did Michael sabatoge the Freighter?
  7. Where is Walt?
  8. Do the Freightors really believe Michael's name is Kevin Johnson?
  9. Should we believe anything the Captain says?
  10. Shouldn't it be pretty obvious to the Freightors who the traitor is?
  11. Why is Jack calmly eating cereal instead of drilling Charlotte and Faraday for information?

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Martha declares war on Girl Scouts

This week is "Cookie Week" on Martha Stewart's TV show. The one on ABC, not the one on whatever else that woman owns. She's one giant media mogul, that one. So anyhow, she's got another cookbook that was just released and to push it, she's baking a recipe from her book every day. Today was blond brownies. Meh. Kinda boring. But yesterday. OMG yesterday she declared war on the Girl Scouts. She made a version of Thin Mints that looked so good I was trying to reach through the TV to get one.

I love the Thin Mints. I have no other interest in any Girl Scout cookie. To me, the Thin Mint is the ultimate in cookie perfection and I have no reason to lower my standards to even try any other type. I'm loyal that way.

But, because I'm on this fricking kick to better my health by eating right and not binging on an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting, I have not bought even one box. I KNOW! It's one step away from total disaster. I have not even put one smooth, chocolate perfect Thin Mint in my big fat gob this year. Life sucks sometimes. But my weight continues to fall slowly, which is good. Not as good as a Thin Mint, but good nevertheless.

When Martha brought out that cocoa and announced she was taking on the Girl Scouts, who, she said, should MAKE cookies, not buy them (gasp!) I believe I turned a little bit dizzy. I seem to remember throwing my arm up to my forehead and swooning a little bit. I know that anything Martha makes is going to surpass anything machine made. That's just Martha's way.

The cookie itself was a dense chocolate wafer. She made a mint ganache to put between two wafers to make a sandwich. Which might have been enough for mere mortals, but not Martha. She then dipped the cookie in a chocolate coating. It was gorgeous. I know you might doubt me, but it was on par with some actual Rembrants I've seen in museums. That beautiful. That breathtaking.

Of course, being so close to Purim, I have to keep my mind on hamentaschen, but I will make these mint confections. Believe me I will make them and I will eat them and I will feel only a little no guilt.


Makes 3 dozen

  • 1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • Confectioners' sugar, for work surface

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped


  1. Make cookies: Whisk together cocoa powder and flour in a bowl. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg until well blended. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer dough to a work surface lightly dusted with confectioners' sugar. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out cookies using a 2-inch round cookie cutter; space 1/2 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining scraps of dough. Bake cookies until firm, rotating sheets halfway through, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
  3. Meanwhile, make ganache: Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chocolate. Cook, stirring constantly until chocolate is smooth. Stir in peppermint extract. Let cool slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Spoon 1 teaspoon ganache onto the bottom of 1 cookie; sandwich with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and ganache. Refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.
  5. Make glaze: Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly. Let cool slightly. Dip one flat side of each sandwich into melted chocolate to coat; gently shake off excess. Place sandwiches, chocolate sides up, on wire racks set over baking sheets. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. Cookies can be refrigerated in a single layer in airtight containers up to 2 days.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Face plant onto my table

I think the lack of sleep has caught up with me. The Girl and her tutor were watching The Merchant of Venice today and I was working on the computer when I fell asleep. At the computer. With my head on the table. Out like a light.

Then I woke up and made dinner, and lay down on the sofa to watch some trashy TV. The next thing I knew it was 11:15.

I'm exhausted.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

WFMW: Reducing Stress and Optimizing Health

Since I've been in cardiac rehab, I've been working hard on reducing my stress levels, and have been somewhat successful. The yelling and nagging has been noticibly reduced and I'm been happier. Some of the things I've been doing to optimize my self care are:

  1. Start off the day with breakfast.
  2. Quit drinking coffee (sob) and move to Decaf.
  3. Find time during the day to do "blue dots" or quick relaxation techniques, like deep breathing while driving.
  4. Organize my work by setting priorities
  5. Don't try to be perfect.
  6. Don't feel like I have to do everything.
  7. Don't try to do 2 or 3 things at the time time
  8. Reduce the noise level at home.
  9. Take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal.
  10. Always take a lunch break.
  11. Optimize health with good nutrition, sleep, and rest/relaxation.
  12. 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.
  13. Look at unavoidable stress as an avenue for growth and change.
  14. Avoid people who are stresscarriers or negaholics.
  15. Avoid the 11:00 news (it's the gory news.)
  16. Be assertive. Learn to express your needs and differences, to make requests, and to say "no" constructively.
  17. Don't overlook emotional resources available to you that are close at hand-- co-workers, spouse, friends, family.
  18. Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.
  19. Allow 15 extra minutes to get to appointments.
  20. Check your breathing throughout the day. Take lots of deep breaths when you're feeling stressed.
  21. Find something funny in a stressful situation.
  22. Find ways to protect yourself--take a mental health day.
  23. Practice being patient: create patience practice periods, like when waiting in line.

Next week I'll provide more hints!

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Support feels really good

I'm not a joiner. I don't do groups. I hate crowds. In general I hate people. I'm an introvert all the way. I'm more comfortable with small groups or one-on-one than I am in any other situation. So why did I just commit to joining a support group? Because I really need support from people who 'get' our family dynamics.

As a rule, I resist all efforts to get me to go to anything even remotely resembling a support group. In fact, the last support group I joined with after my second trimester miscarriage and I was such a walking disaster that I just had to find other people who got it. It was, by far, the hardest time I ever spent with a group of women. It was just so sad, all these women who had second and third trimester losses. I cried every freaking week and vowed never ever to join a group again.

Well, that was 17 years ago, and right now I'm feeling particularly emotionally fragile. I need to be with other moms that get what it means to parent special need teenagers. What? You mean there are more parents with kids like mine. Oh, so many more. SO many. When I was asked to come to this group, I said I would, but then I thought 'maybe I won't.' I don't commit to groups. But the group facilitator called me and we chatted and she sounded nice enough, so I said I would go.

Today was the first meeting I attended. It was fabulous. I cannot begin to express how much better I feel after listening to other women talk about their frustrations with doctors, psychiatrists, schools, and oh, did I mention schools? You know what's going on with my daughter? One woman's daughter has been out of school and any education for almost TWO years. No matter what, her school system lags and hems and haws, and her daughter is getting no education at all. Not even a tutor!

That's the thing with groups. There is always someone who has it even worse than you do.

I liked pretty much everyone there. There was one woman that was annoying. Everything was caused by vaccines. She just wouldn't stop with the vaccines, even though all our kids were teens and hadn't had a vaccine in years. I mean, wrong audience or what? She tried to tell one woman whose daughter has a chromosomal abnormality that it was caused by a vaccine. Good God, I almost punched her in the mouth. She also made this statement: "ADHD ONLY exists in the US. No other country has ADHD." That one really got me, and I corrected her. She went on to claim that no European country had ADHD and when I told her that I had lived in England and the Netherlands and assured her that both countries had ADHD cases, she said, "OH well England. They have the same system that we have." Um, no, they don't. Not the same school system, not the same educational system, not the same health system, not the same government. What is it with people that just make these outrageous statements with absolutely nothing to back them up? I hate that.

But otherwise, I loved this group and I can't wait to go back. Just knowing that there are other people struggling like I am, fighting systems that are just ridiculous, is extremely comforting to me. Plus, great women. Funny, smart, my age. What a coup! I feel on top of the world right now!

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