Friday, April 17, 2009

Planning The Wardrobe

My children have been accepted at Excelsior Academy, our new charter school. And now begins the process of planning how I'm going to get the boys into understanding school uniforms.

Princess has already been at a school with uniforms, and in fact she prefers the sharp look of uniforms, so she won't have any trouble transitioning. The problem lies with Sonshine and Bagel, both of whom have attended schools without uniform policies and both of whom have Asperger's Syndrome, making changes to daily routines very difficult for them. Wearing school clothes (and changing into play clothes when they get home so they don't rip the knees out of their school pants) is going to be a major paradigm shift for them. I'm going to have a hell of a time convincing them to wear button-down shirts and nice looking pants on days that aren't Sunday, after I've spent all this time convincing them to make a distinction between everyday clothes and Sunday clothes.

I think the best approach would be to pick one style of clothing that will be School Clothes, and cull everything from their wardrobe that looks like it might be School Clothes but isn't (e.g. polo shirts that are in non-dress-code colors). Picking just one is easy enough to do. The problem is finding the One Style that I can afford. I've been having to do a lot of the school shopping at thrift stores. It's gonna cost a pretty penny to outfit three kids in uniforms, and with business being slow I'm a bit short on even ugly pennies.

So my next-best idea is to devise some labeling scheme or drawer organization scheme whereby the boys can tell which shirts and pants are authorized for school. The major drawback to drawer organization is that Bagel and Sonshine frequently turf everything out of their drawers and don't put it back. Right now it's just a nuisance that results in a bit of nagging and occasionally doing extra laundry. If it mixes school clothes with play clothes, it can result in meltdowns and fights. Labeling is a second-best choice too because the labels would have to be on the inside. Without a drawer organization scheme to go along with it, the school clothes and play clothes will be all mixed up in the drawers, getting further mixed and turfed out as the boys rifle through looking for a clean shirt with a label inside. A certain amount of this is to be expected, but it'd be a lot quicker and less frustrating if they knew they were looking for, say, a polo shirt.

I'm leaning toward only polo shirts for the boys for school. Polos are cheap and they pop up all the time at thrift stores. I just have to figure out what to do about pants, and how to tell nice looking navy blue school pants from nice looking navy blue Sunday pants. Any ideas?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party Report

We went to the Tea Party today at noon at the Federal Building in Salt Lake City.

The weather was really crappy, but everyone was in good spirits and did not flinch, even when it started to snow heavily. Because of the poor weather, Knuckles got clingy and so I didn't get a chance to take any pictures. Princess, our resident photographer-in-training, had her warm woolly mittens on and so she wouldn't take pictures either. I asked her to take a picture of me with the pig and this is all we got:

The pig's sign says "THIS Little Piggy KILLED the free market!" on both sides. That's me holding it, out of the frame.

It was a big hit and lots of people took pictures of it, so maybe it'll be on the news. It got snowed on too and it's only made of papier-mache, so I knew it wouldn't survive the day. As we left, we handed it off to some people in yellow ponchos headed toward the rally. There wasn't much point in me taking it home to throw away if it could spend a little more time at the rally before being thrown away. And Knuckles didn't do too well in the snow. He had to go on the nebulizer when we got home.

I learned a few things that I'll work on for next time:
  1. The pig head started sliding down the pike so we taped it at the top, but if I make another one I'll make sure it's more firmly attached to the pike.
  2. I will make the pig look better from all angles.
  3. In the future I'll be more prepared for ill weather, and bring a stroller or wrap for carrying Knuckles.
  4. People of all genders and ages, not just 9-year-old boys, love bloody pig heads on pikes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why I Am Going To The Tea Party

I've never really been much for protests. Not that I have a problem with anyone attending one, of course-- I'm all for freedom of speech. Protests just have never really been my free-speech vehicle of choice.

When I was in college, I got to experience a protest first-hand during the Rodney King incident. Thanks to a protest, I almost didn't make it home from the store. The bus I was on had to be re-routed because a sit-in was going on at a key intersection, and I got dropped off in a different part of the campus. I had to walk back to my dorm past another arm of the protest, and as I skirted its perimeter I came a few inches away from being hit in the head by a randomly thrown rock about the size of two fists that came arcing over the crowd from somewhere in the middle. And to top it all off, one of my suitemates, who was in support of the protests, was whooping it up and really didn't care if anyone was hurt, because in her opinion anyone who was hurt deserved it. My other suitemates were aghast at her callousness. They had family near the violence going on in L.A. and in those pre-Twitter days had no way to communicate with them other than through the overloaded switchboards. After that I figured I didn't want to have much to do with people who were so angry that they would throw rocks over a crowd and not care if it hit anybody. And I was only inconvenienced by the change in bus route, but if I'd been in a wheelchair or on crutches I'd never have gotten home, because the route I had to walk involved going up a very steep hill.

I thought the protesters were selfish. I felt they put their cause, about which their gathering, candle-lighting, and rock-throwing would do nothing, above the safety of others. It made no difference whether people in San Diego had an opinion one way or another about incidents in Los Angeles, because the Los Angeles city government was in charge of that. So I thought the protesters were feckless as well. I figured if they really wanted to spend time and effort doing something about a cause they felt passion for, they should quit having meetings to plan an agenda to call a committee to write a paper about how passionate they are; they should just get out and DO something about it. And that's why I had never attended a protest, until the first Salt Lake City Tea Party. (The one tomorrow is the second.)

So why did I do it then? Why did I drag my kids, who can't even all make it to the planetarium, to the Capitol Building and stand for an hour holding up a sign?

I honestly don't know, but here are some factors.

For one thing, my view of protesters was softened up a bit by some of the anti-Iraq war protests. Groups like Code Pink didn't help any; they only reinforced my previous view of protesters as bullies with bullhorns who can't abide people having different opinions. But others, like former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, showed me that not all protesters are like that rock-throwing yahoo at UCSD. There are peaceful protests and people who genuinely believe in using their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and speak. I would disagree all day long with Mayor Anderson on a variety of issues, but I admire the fact that even though he was in office at the time, he did not hesitate to speak his mind as a private citizen.

For another, I wanted my kids to see this aspect of government. Left or right, people are noticing that the voice of the people is left entirely out of the political equations nowadays. Protesting is one aspect of the voice of the people. I love our Constitution and I didn't want my kids growing up thinking they didn't ever have a chance to speak their minds, no matter how feckless that speech may be. I want my children to know that I have an opinion and am not afraid to use it. Unlike the youthful activists I met at college, I don't hold any illusions that my meager presence will rock the world. I'm not going to the Tea Party for the sake of the world or even the nation; I'm going there for my own sake.

Another factor is that through the fight against CPSIA, I'm discovering that my tiny voice, when combined with others, really can make a difference-- but that if I am silent because my voice is too tiny, no one who's listening will know I'm there and my view will be entirely left out. Without the combined tiny voices of the others like me, Congress hears only the whispers of those closest to their ears. And because Congress is composed of human beings, they are vulnerable to fallacy in choosing those to whom they listen.

Do I agree with every thing that every person who attends a Tea Party has ever uttered? Certainly not. Reasonable people can and do differ in opinion on many topics. Do I hate President Obama? He's only been President for less than a hundred days. Though I don't like the cut of his jib, he may yet be blown by the winds of history into a position where he can do something great, and I don't pretend to know the future. Do I think taxes should be abolished entirely? No, because there are legitimate functions of government that cost money. Reasonable people can disagree on what those functions are and how much money should be spent on them. And sometimes you lose the argument.

But when reasonable people are cut out of the conversation wholesale, leaving only those in power who feel free to change the law to suit themselves and their friends without at least consulting the people, there is no chance for disagreement at all. That is the point at which I feel moved to speak up. I feel we have reached that point.

And so I will see you and thousands, tens of thousands, of my fellow Americans at the Tea Party protest tomorrow.

Sic Semper Sus

A number of people (2 is a number, right?) have asked me to post pictures of the construction of the Papier-Mache Pig Head On A Pike that I've made for tomorrow's Tea Party protest. Ask and ye shall receive!

Why, you may ask, did I want a papier-mache bloody pig head on a pike? Well, besides the fact that Glenn Reynolds complained that there weren't enough giant papier-mache puppets at Tea Party protests, I want to send Congress a message at the protest that we'll be coming for them if they pig out on our money, only not in a violent way. So I didn't want to put any particular person's head on a pike, because that would be a violent threat and that's not the message I wanted to send. That's why I chose a pig head. And if the pig head was on a pike but wasn't bloody, it might be mistaken for a delicious barbecued treat or might be thought to be cute. Also, a bloody pig head is a good way to get young boys like my sons interested in protests. Nothing attracts the attention of boys like a bloody pig head on a pike, except possibly a bloody pig head in a catapult.

The kids had a lot of fun making the pig head. They loved the slime and mess from papier-mache and now they really want to make our next pinata. Maybe we could make a pig pinata for the next protest, but we'd have to clear that with the protest organizers.

First, I made a pig head frame out of chicken wire. (I forgot to take pictures of that stage, but I basically made a cylinder, then made slits into each end of the cylinder and overlapped the resulting tabs to form the back of the head and, at the other end, the snout and mouth.)

Then we covered the chicken wire frame with papier-mache and let it dry overnight. The pictures begin the next morning, when we taped the ears on. The ears are just cups from an egg carton.

Here is the pig with its ears on.

The next step was to cover this in another layer of papier-mache, this time in white (made of plain white printer paper):

The white paper makes it easier to paint in one coat. We were kinda short on time. If we'd had more time, we probably would have given it an additional layer of newspaper mache before putting on the white layer.

Next comes a little pink spray paint:

After the pink, we paint on details like eyes and snout with some other colors. And the most important detail of all: the RED. The pig needs a patch of red at the base of the head to signify that it's been cut off; otherwise it just looks disembodied. And of course the pointy stick it's on (taken off an old yard sign leftover from a failed campaign) needs to be red, with drips running down it. To make the drips, you have to elevate one end of the stick and then spray in one spot till the paint runs. There's a cinder block behind the cardboard for that purpose.

Now cut the entry wound:

and the exit wound:

And impale your papier-mache pig head on the pike.

Now it's ready to be taken to a protest to send a message to Congress!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Ahhh, Easter Sunday! It is now time for that age-old Hermit family Easter ritual: the microwaving of the Peeps.

The kids put two Peeps on a paper plate and stick toothpicks in them as if they were swordfighting. Then they microwave them and watch the Peeps swordfight. Once the thrill (or sugar high) of breakfasting on candy while Mom and Dad are asleep has worn off, this is the highlight of their sugary celebration.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Good Cause

Yesterday I was a vendor at a fundraising event for Mothers Without Borders. It was their first such event in our area. There were many vendors there and all they asked was that a portion of the proceeds from the sales go to their organization.

I was impressed by Mothers Without Borders. I was kind of afraid that like many aid groups they would be serving their own egos first, but they were definitely not. This is a group of ladies who only want to help people in need. They gladly accept donations of any size, because even a few cents will help pay for baby formula for a baby whose mother has AIDS, or a few dollars will buy a pair of shoes for a child to wear to school. The ladies of MWB were very gracious and caring. And they are anxiously engaged in a good cause.

I recommend that if you can spare even a few dollars, that you donate to their cause.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Do It The Hard Way

When my husband and I are in our eighties, we will still be having this cute little grumbly fight.

Twice a year our church broadcasts a conference. It is broadcast over the internet, and in our area it also is broadcast over radio and television. While the broadcast goes out simultaneously over all these media, there is always a slight delay between different versions.

When the time comes, we turn on the conference and listen in. And FH likes to have it going on in every room so that we can keep hearing it no matter where in the house we are. No dispute there-- I spend a lot of time running around after children. The problem with this is that he wants it on in a different medium in each room, thus defeating the continuity that is supposed to be gained by having it on in every room.

The other problem with it is that FH insists on giving preference to the most difficult methods of obtaining the conference feed. To get the feed over the internet, you have to install players, etc. It can take 10-15 minutes to troubleshoot all that crap, with our chewing-gum-and-duct-tape home network. But it takes 5 seconds to turn on the damn radio. (If I insist on fumbling for the remote control instead of walking across the room like an antiquated sucker, I can get that up as high as 15 seconds.) If I can't get the feed up through the internet, what's the solution? Not "turn on the radio," that would be too easy. No, I've gotta do all the troubleshooting, blah blah blah.

And to top it all off, we almost never look at the screen during the conference anyway, so there's really no point on having it on in any medium BUT radio.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I Had A Job Like That Once

When I moved to Tooele, I went to the university extension office. I'd been teaching at the main campus and thought they might take me on at the extension. Sure enough, they had a class they wanted me to teach.

The Tooele area is home to a chemical depot, where chemical weapons are being destroyed. When the job is done, the people employed there will have to seek other employment. So the extension was offering special classes for them. Their schedules are truly strange-- some of them are on a schedule where they don't work every other Friday, and some are on a three weeks on- one week off schedule where during the 3 weeks they rotate shifts. My job was to teach a math class that accommodated the latter schedule.

Now, math is not like some other subjects. The vast majority of people can't do more than a couple hours of math in one session. It's a process where you have to build the skills gradually through practice and feedback. What they were asking me to do for the chemical depot employees was to teach ten hours of math in two back-to-back days once a month. Sure, I can teach that long; but can students learn for that long? And can they retain it during the month-long gaps between classes?

I've always been a fan of continuing education. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart like seeing a person go back to school to better themselves. I relished the chance to teach the chemical depot employees. And I'm always up for a good challenge when it comes to working around people's needs. But this? This was impossible.

I tried to put a good face on it, to spin it as a "challenge". But some part of me was saying this was just nucking futs and there was no way in hell it was going to work. And in the end, that part was right. I was spared having to actually do it by the fact that too few students signed up for it. I could hardly blame them; I wouldn't have recommended it for them either.

Acting CPSC Chair Nancy Nord is in just such a position. She's being asked to implement a law so strict that if interpreted literally, it will take up all her resources and then some to enforce. But if she interprets it not-so-literally, Nord gets spanked by Congress for not doing her job. Nord has simply been given an impossible task, and now she is getting the blame for it not being done. At first she tried to spin it as a challenge and work the problem, but as it increasingly became evident that the problem was unworkable, she said so. And when she said so, Congress jumped down her throat.

I suspect this is why Nord has urged President Obama to appoint a third commissioner. Let somebody else get chewed out for failing to do the impossible.