Monthly Archives: December 2012

Take Out From Another Time Zone

‘Twas the night before the Christmas break, when I found myself standing in the checkout line, admitting I’d reached a new low.

Because there was bread in my cart.  And frozen lasagna.

And yes, the lasagna was every bit as bad as I imagined it might be. My children were pretty vocal about that, in case I didn’t notice that we were eating Chef Boyardee in a pan. The store-bought bread…. well. I’d resorted to that before. One resigns oneself.

But lasagna?

The thing is,  I know that having family dinners is important. But unfortunately, me and quick-and-easy meals haven’t really made one another’s acquaintance yet. And so every day at 3:30, I brace myself for that inevitable question:

Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?

Most days, I don’t have a good answer.

Alas, Stouffer’s wasn’t it, either.

So now I have a new plan. I only have one New Year’s Resolution for 2013, and I’m asking for your help to make it happen:

This year, I resolve to provide my family dinner, at least five days a week, 52 weeks running. That’s 260, sit-down, eat-at-the-table meals–and I’m going to post photographic evidence to prove it. (And no, this is not going to turn into a food blog, I promise.)

If I miss, and you call me on it, I have to cook you dinner. That’s right. If I miss more than two days in any one week period, and you are the first person to call me on it, I will provide dinner for your family–even if that means I order pizza across international datelines to keep my end of the bargain.

I’m serious.

I really feel like there is no single more important thing I can do for my family at this time in their lives, and yet week after week, they end up eating way too much cold cereal. Maybe the prospect of cooking dinner for two families will motivate me to consistently do it for just one.

I’m starting tomorrow, so that means our weeks are measured Mondays from midnight until the next Monday at midnight, and I can’t count more than one meal as a sit-down dinner in any 24 hour period. Meals can, however occur at any time of day.

Just to make that clear.


The Punchline in My Backpack

About springing that run on me yesterday: I expected some stiffness this morning. You know, calves, thighs, hip flexors–maybe even the bottom of my feet, first thing.

All understandable.

None of which are even slightly stiff.

But my entire back? From neck to upper waist? In agony? Seriously? Since when does running exercise my dorsal regions?

I took it as a sign from the Teaching Gods that indeed the “not more than 7 hours a day, 180 days a year” language in my contract really is a joke, with the punchline found somewhere in the depths of that pile of student essays I brought home for Christmas break.

Speaking of back problems (because yes, after about two weeks navigating hallways designed for half the number of students congesting them, I abandoned my cart and began to carry everything I need in an enormous back pack–between all three classes, home and back again)  it is rumored that I get an actual classroom next year. Knock on wood–all the wood you can find.

At any rate,  this morning I stayed in bed and plowed through all 237 ungraded assignments.


I also got a head start on syllabus writing for next semester. Yay, holidays.  Lesson plans and curriculum for two new classes are on the docket for next week.  And also,  figuring out how to translate Ernesto Sirolli’s method of mentoring entrepreneurs into authentic teaching. Because I’m pretty sure there’s a connection:


I took a four-and-a-half mile run today, after months of slacking–partly because I’ve been living on poppycock and oranges since Christmas, but also because when I retrieved our garbage can from the street, my heart rate went above, like, six beats a minute for the first time in four months and I vaguely remembered how good it feels to do that.

I probably won’t be able to get out of bed tomorrow, but right at this moment I feel like I can think straight for the first time since September.

And I quit, why?



I have a job that consumes my every waking moment.

I really ought to do something about that.

When Ethiopians “Hack” Android

My 85-year-old grandfather just signed up for Facebook. He is experiencing a steep learning curve. Today I tried to make a comment more intelligible for him by posting a relevant hyperlink and recommending that he read it.

The question remains: Will he know to click on the hyperlink, or will he just read the strange blue text and be even more confused? I’m guessing he’ll figure it out; he’s smart like that.

But what a strange world we’ve so quickly immersed ourselves in and become accustomed to! Especially our children. I read about a study done by MIT , in which children of totally illiterate Ethiopian communities were given tablet computers, without any instruction. Every week, the researchers return to swap out memory cards so they can see what how the computers are being used. Here’s what happened:

“Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on-off switch and powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

Depending on the news source you consult, reports have it that the children are also more advanced in learning to read and write in the first nine months with these tablets than your average American kindergarten student is. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? About our current system?

I’m not arguing against teachers (I am one) or for giving every kid in every classroom a computer, but still! Right now, my thirteen-year-old son is arguing with his brother about the possible values of y given x, and how many tessellations are needed in order to make the software program they are writing run correctly. They’ve had this new computer for two days, and this is what they’re doing with it. These are not homework assignments. These are skills that naturally develop in consequence of their environment–and developing quickly.

What environment is the average American student educated in? What skills are they developing in our schools? Are those skills relevant anymore to the modern world? Or are they products of an outdated system? If you haven’t watched this video, I recommend it. It moves fast, and I don’t agree with everything he says, but it’s worth thinking about:


Orange You Glad?

It occurred to me that this is the last year my children will all be home for Christmas, for at least the next 11, possibly 12 years.


I got all weepy for a while, and watched 7 years of grainy Christmas footage before coming to a decision:

In the absence of matching pj’s or other traditional American tokens of familial solidarity this year, we will mark the occasion by permitting Santa to hide the stockings extra thoroughly.

And the jolly old elf did not disappoint.

Which meant Daughter had to buckle down into full-on search mode Christmas morning, as she has only one week before heading back to college.

Son 3 is still searching–even though, through various interrogation tactics, he has determined that:

  • it isn’t in or around any furniture, cupboards, or appliances,
  • is in the kitchen, and
  • requires no bending over to discover.

And also, we asked him, three times in one hour,  “Orange you glad there’s no school?”

He’s opened the 40-pound box of oranges four times now, without shifting the top layer enough to notice that only about 20 pounds of oranges actually remain.


When All Else Fails, Get Out the Cello

An hour and a half ago, I closed up every other thing I had going, opened this blog and said I was going to write something.

Preferably something spectacular.

Mostly I’ve just worn my backspace key out a little more thoroughly.

When you go a month without writing, there is too much to say.


When there is too much to say, you go a month without writing?


When all else fails, and you have to have something spectacular, I guess there’s always the  The Piano Guys.  Have you seen their new song? No goofy parodies or surprising blends of rock/classical like they usually do–just a beautiful message: