Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Next Time the Drive-Thru Looks Tempting

Chemical cocktail, anyone? Here are the ingredients in a Burger King chicken nugget. If this doesn't make your stomach turn, how about BK's unwillingness to toss an additional penny a pound toward tomatoes, a move taken by other mega-corporations in order to give migrant workers some more money. Scary when McDonalds looks like the good guy!

Dig in:

Chicken breasts with rib meat, Water, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Flavors, Chicken Fat, Propylene Glycol, Water, Sunflower Oil, Artificial Flavors, Sodium Lactate, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Chicken Broth, Polysorbate 60, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Hydroxide, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean & Cottonseed Oil, Papain, Chicken Powder, & Thiamine Hydrochloride, Flavoring. Breaded with: Bleached Wheat Flour, Enriched Wheat Flour (Enriched with Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Salt, Spice, Dextrose, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate) Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Extractives of Paprika, Soybean Oil, set in Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil. Battered with: Water, Bleached Wheat Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Spices, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Soybean Oil, Onion Powder, Dextrin, Extractives of Paprika, Yellow 6, Red 40 Lake, Natural & Artificial Flavor (Including Butter Flavor), Lactic Acid, Not more than 2% Sodium Silico Aluminate added to prevent caking. Predusted With: Wheat Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Spice, Extractives of Paprika, Soybean Oil, Onion Powder, Not More Than 2% Silicon Dioxide Added to Prevent Caking. Contains: Wheat.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Not Like Nancy Regan

Just say no is the theme of David Walsh's new book, No: Why Kids -- of All Ages--Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It. This Minneapolis based educator and psychologist has long been a hero to many, particularly since penning Selling Out America's Children.

I love that Walsh is going to hold my hand. He's got Parent Tool Kits and chapters like "How to Curb the Gimmes." There are questions to answers, lists to check off.

This book, along with Boys Adrift, has moved to the top of the stack by my bed.

I'm about fifty pages into No but am already thoroughly depressed. Not defeated, but . . . when he describes how children develop self-discipline through parental rules, it pretty much looks like the opposite of our household.

Some days after school, I actually carry in their backpacks (now boots and snowpants) so they can scramble to the basement without missing a minute of Malcolm in the Middle. Sometimes I have to make two trips. While they watch TV.

Lotsa calcium in that back bone, huh?

Discipline and respect have come to the forefront in our household because they've gone missing. The past few weeks, Merrick has taken to screaming commands rather than requesting: "WHERE'S MY BWEAKFAST?!!"

Scarlett has mastered the art of the eye roll. Well-delivered, this can communicate every shade of disdain.

Stryker? He's why I'm buying the books.

Last week, we took baby steps in a better direction by instituting a 'family work time.' This replaces 'chores.'

The problem with chores was that they seemed to be inconvenient or contrived. Some days we had no time at all for chores. Others, Scarlett was slated to dust or Stryker was supposed to fold laundry when all the shelves looked shiny and every cloth, clean.

The family work time is 20 minutes to half an hour a day of combined, communal labor on whatever needs to be done. Work time can be right after school (uh, after Malcom), before bed or at 7:30 or whenever. We don't dream up jobs but look around the house. Bedrooms in dissarray? That's today. Or someone cleans a bathroom while two people vacuum and dust. There is always something that needs cleaning or mending or putting away--or walking.

So far this flexible family package is working -- oh, and the best part! Participating in family work time is the only way to earn your hour of screens for the next day.

We would still make David Walsh cringe, but we're trying. Expect a continuing theme.

The Linguist Among Us

Students focused on rough drafts of their essays today, critiquing each other's work in small groups.

I was able to read and comment, too. One student had a long, convuleted essay that needed a lot of reorganization.

I penned in the many changes and returned the essay.

His complimentary comment to his small group? "Wow, Mary can really move this shit."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Scarlett is Never Thirsty

She's dehydrated.

Paper cut? You must mean amputation.

Time to get out of bed? Not until you've had the daily weeping. "I just need to cry before I can get up." Every day.

When the eye doctor told her she needed glasses, she fell to the floor.

Later, instead of trying on some (actually much-needed, bad parent) glasses, she glowered in the optical shop, sitting on the floor in a corner. The wise technician told me to try again later.

We did! That's when we bought the $300 pair of glasses that she- -- "lost."

When she wants to make a point around the house--comment on her discontent over any old thing or maybe request a cookie--she just wails. We all see it coming: the decision and the sobs.

Remember this kid? The one who decided (at three) that she was never going to poop again and then proceeded to prove that point for 21 days and a hospital visit?

Scarlett's latest role at SteppingStone Theatre requires her to cry on command, twice.

She said to me: "Mom, I don't know if I can make myself cry on purpose."

Am I allowed to shake her?

Worth Four Grand More In 11 Days

Today I was supposed to get those movie star teeth.

The implant went as well as anything could go that involves drilling half-inch screws into one of your bones.

A bone near your brain.

So the six luscious crowns (white!) aren't going in easily. There's lots of "bite down again, hard" and inspection of jaw, contour, lines. My dear dentist drills and shaves to try to get everything to bite right, fit.

He's drilling a new crown and says, "Uh-oh."

And that's the end. The crown broke. And it broke because he was trying to drill it down because the bite was too high, because some guy in a lab in Chicago erroneously molded or plucked or pinched.

So now I have to wait until a week from Monday for the new set!

But in the meantime, I have pain. And, temporary fake teeth so nobody knows I live on the East Side!

Employee of the Year

Alberto Gonzales worried me this morning.

I fretted about him during my daily run. Which reminds me: shovel, people! Good God. If I can haul myself out of a toasty bed at 6 am, you better pave the way.

Now that's out of my system -- Alberto.

What does he do now? Just sit around and wait for indictments? Wouldn't that be super stressful?

I googled "Alberto Gonzales Gets New Job" to see if he had found gainful employment. After all, his legal bills may rival Montana's state revenue soon.

I didn't find out if Gonzales has a current gig, but got Mo Rocca's funny take on the search. It's from April but wicked wit never gets stale.

The State of the Nation

I'm teaching Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir, by Suzanne Antonetta. It's a lovely, complex memoir from someone whose body was shaped by the cesspools of pollution, chemical and nuclear waste in New Jersey in the 1950-60's. The book was a New York Times Notable Book when it came out in 2001.

Here, she's describing the political environment in the 1970s as the nation prepares for another presidential election, still in the midst of Viet Nam muck:

"Lying had become a ritual ceremonial act, one that's since become deeply embedded: every four year's a man's face floats up in the ghost space of television, says things he doesn't mean and we do not believe, and we vote for him and spend the next four years watching those few months of promises unravel. As if we need that: a buildup and a jilting ("Read my lips!" "A swift end to the war.") As if we were bored."

Frightening how apt this seems, still and again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Boys And That's a Problem

A few days ago, I heard pediatrician Leonard Sax (over-achieving with a PhD and MD) talk about a phenomenon he's witnessed over the years: the girls in a family are motivated, accomplished and engaged while the boy(s) want to play video games.

Sound familiar?

He's written a book that I will buy, read, and purchase stock in: Boys Adrift.

His main contention? With all this (rightful) focus on leveling the playing field and buoying our girls, we haven't noticed that boys stopped battling the real world. Here, he points to studies showing that college men have trouble maintaining an erection during real sex, but could ride for hours watching porn.

They actually report preferring porn. The real thing? "Too much trouble."

Masculinity? How's Homer Simpson for a role model? Sax singles The Simpson out but just think of all those sitcoms with beautiful skinny, razor smart mamas and beer belly dumb Dads.

He cited study after study of slipping math scores, college attrition, lost wage potential and more. In so many areas that mark youth's achievement, girls are firmly surging ahead. If Hilary wins this election, she could be the first in a trend.

During the radio interview, Sax was quick to remind listeners that he's not advocating a return to the fifties. Instead, he wants a return to or creation of an ethos surrounding work, struggle, achievement and self-esteem grounded in the real world.

I haven't yet read the book but some of the solutions he mentioned on the show were a rigorous religious life, replete with obligations that require some kind of self-abnegation, as well as limited 'screen time,' hosts of household chores, and a father with an attention span that included his own kid.

The interview gave me pause.

Yesterday, Stryker gave me this Christmas list.

1. TV, Movie, Music
A) The Simpsons
I. The Simpsons Movie
II. The Simpsons Season 5
III. The Simpsons Season 7
IV. The Simpsons Season 8
V. The Simpsons Season 9
VI. The Simpsons Season 10

2. Video Games

A) Play Station 2
I. Guitar Hero 3
II. Dance Dance Revolution
III. THe Simpsons Game
IV Star Wars Battlefront II
V More Dance Dance Revolution Mats

B) Nintendo DS

I. Mario Party
II. Drawn to Life
III. Flash Focus
IV. Lego Star Wars: the complete saga

3. Other

A. Books

I. The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh of Homer by William Irwin
II. Any Simpsons Comic Book

B. No Clue

I. Any other Simpsons paraphernalia

I think it's that 'no clue' that bothers me most. Stryker's teacher once observed that if Stryker plays too many video games he loses his 'internal compass' and reacts to external stimuli instead. Very apt observation.

It's hard to unplug a kid once they get wired. We continue to work on finding our balance here. And, I know that I'm not alone in these concerns, and that's disconcerts as much as it comforts.

I Am Expensive

Tomorrow I am getting my shiny white new movie star teeth.

Before anyone gets too excited, I need these teeth. Toothlessness is an undesirable state and I lost many of my front teeth, slowly, over the years, after first knocking myself silly during some gymnastic show as a child. I crashed into another gymnast: she got a concussion and I got teeth in my nose. Literally.

Knowing that two of the teeth needed to be replaced soon, I thought: why pay $900 a tooth for one yellow tooth at a time? How about doing it all at once and going for that peroxide white?

Believe me, when you look at these teeth you'll know they're fake! For $4000, I'm getting the blinders.

Tomorrow's the big day! I may break the matronly invisibility barrier and post before and after pictures.

Oh, and for those of you pondering that $4000 figure: seem pretty cheap for a row of white teeth and an implant or two? The cosmetic dentist wanted ten grand. My regular old dentist shook his head and said, "We're not that kind of office. Trust me to give it a try?"

If he demands my firstborn child, I may go with that additional fee, too. See coming post.

And yes, I'll get to the coat on fire, too. So much pathology, so little time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Look Expensive

I didn't post yesterday because it was 25% off day at ValuThrift. Afterward, I developed a severe case of giddiness, rendering me unable to do anything other than hop up and down or shriek.

Scruffy the dog was highly entertained, having finally found a peer.

Yes, I bought the above Lucky purse for $7.49. A similar tote on their web goes for $188.

Mind you, I shopped at ValuThrift wearing a black full-length faux fur purchased last week for $9.99 and currently on e-Bay for $400.

So I'm in my fur, clutching my Lucky purse (lucky!!) when I spy what appears to be a good quality ski jacket, tags still on. This is a boy's ski jacket, all buttery cream colored with flashes of burgundy. It's actually Scarlett who needs a jacket because she set hers on fire two days ago.

Yes, that story, coming soon. The worst part is that she didn't seem particularly alarmed that her coat was burning. "Oh?"

Anyway, I'm unfamiliar with the coat's label so I call John and ask him to Google Obermeyer. After all, this is another $7.49 at stake. For those who don't know (as I didn't) an Oberbeyer youth ski jacket sells for $169.

I ran to the checkout before someone stopped me for theft.

John wondered: "You have a black purse. Do you really need another one?"

Yes, this one. Duh!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

PhD As In Putty Head

Last week, I bought three copies of Rising Sand, the new CD by Robert Plant and Alison Krause. I'm in love with this CD, listen constantly.

Stryker wondered, why three copies? Well, I'm going to give them away as holiday gifts, of course.

Stryker: "Why spend all that money when I can make copies and reproduce the cover?"

Because I am stupid. I am old and my brain works the wrong way, 20th century style. Thick and linear.

This is why it took me a month to discover I could add video, links and photos to these actual posts. When I pick up a digital camera, my jaw hangs open so far it hits my shaking hands, resulting in pictures that look like the one here.

It's nobody's birthday, either. The camera has DNA, I swear. It just did that.

And then there's twitter and Digg and RSS feeds and so many social networks the eyes pop and glaze. One can be fabulously, famously, plugged in.
While I work on wiping the drool from my chin, I'm reading these blogs, ones with technological muscle: redsy, lawyer mama, her bad mother, and pundit mom.

Toddling toward online literacy, let's start with something iconic for Minnesota Matron, like Redneck Mommy has.

Surely, there's some scrawny, bespectacled, aging image available.