Home Again!

We're back (got back late Saturday night, actually). Yesterday we enjoyed our first kid-free day and basically did whatever we wanted (which was taking down the tree and unpacking). Then last night we did a joint dinner with our friends the Fantinis (she made the chicken and bought the other food, and I set the table and made everything to go with the chicken). Woooo! I love those nights.

Watched the Eagles beat the Bills, then played Pinochle and Sleuth (thanks, Chris and Kristin). Sleuth definitely has potential to be a lot of fun, but we're still all working out or recording techniques.

Anyway, pictures of the trip and Christmas morning to come soon.



Family Vacation

We leave in the morning for Colonial Williamsburg. We'll be there through the 29th. Then it's a stop in Chantilly, VA on the way home. The kids stay with Grandma and Grandpa for a week while Joe and I drive home late on the 29th.

Can't wait! If anybody needs us for anything, call Mom & Dad Schierer or Mom Dugan ... they'll have contact info that can get to us eventually.

I don't know if I'll have e-mail access or not.

In the meantime ...

Ps. Just received this lovely e-card from Allegheny College. Thought I'd share.


Another Sickie

When Matthew was lethargic and sleepy yesterday, I chalked it up to three nights in a row staying up past 10:30.

Then he "woke up" giggling uncontrollably around 11pm last night. He didn't snap out of it entirely until we kind of shook him and turned on the light. He still didn't seem to know where he was. Ear thermometer registered 103.5*. Called the ped on call and administered chewable Tylenol. That brought it down to around 101* after 40 minutes.

We woke up and rechecked him around 1am. Down to about 100*.

This morning I made the call to stay home with him when it was back up to 103*. And his bones ache.

Poor kid.

. . . . . . .

Afternoon Update: Matthew seems pretty much fine now and had no fever at the doctor's office (naturally!). The site-specific aches and pains he's complaining of and sudden onset of fever with no other flu-like symptoms are upsetting. He's going back on amoxycillin for two weeks and has had blood drawn for a Lyme titer. Remember this? The results will go right to our pediatrician. So we'll see.

Thursday Update: Matthew's back in school today. His fever came back Tuesday night and we kept him home yesterday. Though he was fine all day (low-grade fever 99.5-ish temp). We picked up some acidophilus to help out (antibiotics do a number on his bowels, enough said). So we should be all set for our trip. I don't know how long the labwork will take. So, we'll see.

Final (for now) Update: The labwork all came back negative. So, unless he has further joint pain, no further action is necessary, beyond finishing his run of antibiotics.



Holiday Sweaters

Do you own one (or more) pieces of festive knitwear?

We've all seen them ... from the subtle sprig of holly on the cuff of a red cardigan (class and understated) to the completely smothered Santa-and-all-his-elves- must-have-thrown-up-all-over this sweater monstrosities. In my line of work ... I've seen hundreds of these things. There something about teaching at the elementary level that causes otherwise perfectly normal adult women to dress themselves in festive garb that would otherwise make them gag.

Now, you can do the sweater designers one better. Hope on over to We Hate Holiday Sweaters and have fun designing your own holiday "masterpiece." Or, just enjoy browsing through others' creations.

WARNING: This is one of those sites that plays music. I know. I can't stand them, either. So, if you're trying to stealth-surf at work, be ready with the mouse to click off the sound.



Brain Power

Tip of the frontal cortex to my brother. And the differences in our scores may explain a lot about our history of miscommunication. Up for a Meyers-Briggs next, Chris?

I took the left-brain/right-brain quiz and came up with a somewhat unsurprising result. I always have known that I'm a generalist, and that I'm way more left-brained than people usually realize (Joe would swear I'm entirely without logic and reason).

But ... what I didn't know is that my phenomenal cranial powers result in 101% brain capacity!

Seriously, I received 50% left-brain and 51% right-brain. The evenness doesn't really surprise me. Nor does it really reveal anything about my brain usage. There's a more specific breakdown of the results which yields more interesting insight. I'm apparently a very rules and order oriented (knew that), non-creative (wha?) big picture person. And they're not evenly spread results. Very weighted in my strengths.

Left Brain Percentages:
60% Reality based (I wouldn't have guessed this to be true about me.) -- You process information with a firm basis on reality, but because of this, may lack creativity. You are able to easily create or adapt to rules and regulations. For example, you understand the repercussion of your actions. You easily adjust to change in the environment and probably do not become emotionally involved in many tasks.
53% Sequential (Yup, I knew this one. Big time.) -- When you process information you have received, you are able to order it in a systematic, logical order from first to last. You probably excel in spelling and find tasks such as mathematics and following directions relatively straightforward. You also may find enjoyment in making "to-do" lists, checking off items after each task is completed.
37% Linear

20% Verbal
17% Symbolic
0% Logical (I guess Joe is right, after all! And now that I read their description of this characteristic, I think I can agree with it.) -- You may tend to rely on a "gut" feeling to help you make your decisions from the information you have received. For example, you will often choose an answer on a test because it "feels" right, and you may be correct. This is due to the fact of your tendency to look for the whole picture but not the details that create it. You can often start with the answer and work your way back to allow yourself to see the process and parts that create the whole. You may find math problems and science experiments difficult because of this.

Right Brain Percentages:

71% Holistic (Big picture gal, that's me! With excellent visual-spatial skills.) --
You naturally see the big picture first, but may have difficulty seeing the details that accompany it. You probably experience difficulty starting in the middle and working your way to a solution. Your natural inclination is to discover what you're doing before you comprehend any of the parts. However, this method also provides your visual spatial skills that can help in physical arts, such as painting or sculpture, or athletics, from basketball to ballet.
46% Concrete (Why do these keep going back to math problems? Eeew...math. Always loved Geometry, though.) --
At times, you feel the need to see a real object in order to understand it. At other times, you are able to understand a problem on a symbolic level. For example, you may find that in solving math problems, it occasionally helps you to "draw out" the problem in order to understand and solve it.
32% Nonverbal

20% Intuitive

17% Random

16% Fantasy-oriented (Because I'm craftsy people say that I'm very creative. But, maybe I'm not all that creative, after all.) --
You have a low ability to process information in a fantasy-oriented way. You have the tendency to focus on rules and regulations rather than on creative approaches. You generally do not have a problem adjusting to change in the environment. You may lack creativity, but you do not need to become emotionally involved in tasks in order to complete them.



Odd Inventions

"They" say that inventions arise when someone sees a need and designs a way to meet that need. Some of these fill needs that probably aren't strictly needs. Some of these are just plain weird. Taken from this site. Christmas shopping possibilities for those people on your list who already have everything common and useful.

Anti-theft Coffee Cup
I'm guessing this would be ideal for shared break rooms, where people just sort of keep their coffee mugs on a tray for convenience. I've worked in places like that, but I don't drink coffee...so never had a missing mug. I'd have to think the plug would be a bit weird rattling around in your desk drawer in between cuppas.

Transparent Toaster
I guess this luxury toaster would be handy if you really only ever toast one slice of bread at a time. I wonder if it'd be adjustable for bagels. I'm thinking not. Still, if a particular shade of tan is really your thing, this would be the perfect toaster.

Day Clock
OK, I'll admit I sometimes lose track of what day it is. I have weeks where I'm lulled into a false sense of Thursday-ness, only to remember it's only Tuesday. But, I think I'd feel more than slightly ridiculous having a day of the week clock hanging on my wall.

Laser Scissors

OK, I like a nice straight, even line as much as the next elementary school teacher. But this seems like a rather extreme way to accomplish a fairly straightforward (get it?) task.

Ergonomic Infant Pillow

While I can sort of see the point of a nestly, cuddly-shaped pillow to position and comfort your precious bundle, the "lifelike" hands are totally creeping me out. It looks like the poor baby is about to be crushed by a malevolent Muppet. I wonder if it's available in different fabric colors for various ethnicities.

Phrasebook T-Shirt
I can't imagine the comments one would receive actually using this T-shirt in a foreign land. Probably something along the lines of "Regarde l'idiot dans le t-shirt ridicule. Il pense que nous sommes des imbéciles!" Or even "посмотрите идиота в смешоной тенниске. он думает мы будет дурачками!" Or, considering the tact and awareness of many Americans traveling overseas, "Bloody Yank, we speak English here! We invented it! Wanker. Find your own bloody loo."



Dead (or not) Celebrities

Today on NPR I heard a bit about Evel Knievel's funeral* and I thought, "Huh. I guess I thought he was already dead. Who knew?"

When we lived in Pittsburgh, one of the morning radio shows (probably 3WS, we listened to them a lot) used to have a call-in contest where they'd name ten celebrities in thirty seconds and the caller had to identify them as living or dead. This quiz always made us feel really stupid and clueless.

And I'm not a dumb or unaware person, really. But I swear, every year when I watch the Oscars** and they do that retrospective montage of actors (directors, etc) who'd died in the past year, there are always a few who make me think, "Huh. Really? Thought s/he was already dead. Who knew?"

Just wiki-ed a bunch of folks and here are some I think I thought were already dead.*** Who aren't! Bully for them! Richard Dawson, Jack LaLanne, Ernest Borgnine, Phyllis Diller, Arthur C. Clarke, Betty Ford, Edmund Hillary, Joseph Wapner, Carol Channing

Way to go, guys!


*He died on November 30 of lung disease.

** Yes, I know ... you never took me for the Award Show type.

***Dead or Alive? Check whether your favorite celebs are still with us.


Red States v. Blue States

I have not fact-checked this, but found it interesting. Reprinted here for your convenience.* Some nifty cartograms on red states and blue states can be found here.

Dear Red States: We're ticked off at the way you've treated California, and we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.
In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and the entire Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss. We get 85 percent of America’s venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue; you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms. Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners)
90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals than we lefties.

* Mostly. I don't know anything about pot, so I left that part out.



Geography Quiz

OK, an actually very cool online quiz. Test your geography knowledge (or lack thereof). I made it to the "hard" levels, level 10 I think, but don't remember my exact score. I wish the map were larger.




Potential Changes

Prayers requested for some potential changes (for the good) at my job. Things are uncertain right now. Mr principal and I had a very promising conversation yesterday, and I'm hoping things come to fruition.




I sent $150 in late pledges received just after I returned from the 2007 Breast Cancer 3-Day. I mailed them in toward my 2008 $2,200 objective. That was .... hmmm .... back in early November sometime. They still haven't posted to my account.

Stupidly, I didn't make copies of the checks before sending them. And they're from people I don't know. I think someone must have heard from someone else, or seen it in the paper or church newsletter or something.

So, basically, two generous and wonderful people are unable to balance their checkbooks because of their outstanding donations. And, I have absolutely no way of telling them or letting the 3-Day know about the currently-missing donations.

Hopefully they will still turn up.


ps. This post should IN NO WAY discourage you from donating generously to me, yourselves! Hee.

Too Bad, So Sad

Guess all my blogging was just for the "good" of the "world." I didn't win any NaBloPoMo prizes.





I did it! Posted every day for November. Yay!

Plus ... it's December 1 ... Christmas party day! Busy and fun (so why am I still up?).

And there's a (slight) chance of snow in the forecast this weekend (yeah, but it'll never materialize).



Mommy Brag

Just got back from the ice cream party at school celebrating Emily being on the Honor Roll for the first quarter of school. Third grade is the first year they do ABC grades in Millville. Specials are still ESN, and grades below third are ESN for everything.

Yay, Em!



A Fine Line

I've already said, "Merry Christmas" to half a dozen store employees, startling some of them, getting a (generic) "Happy Holidays" in reply from a few. I just love this time of year. I revel in the revelry. I get giddy in anticipation of the kids' delight. My toes curl up in childlike glee at finding the perfect gifts for everyone, especially Joe.

We have a big ol' Christmas tree, lights all over the house (way before all the neighbors, many of whom never even bother hanging lights ... Scrooges!), a giant church-sized Nativity on top of the piano (that no one's allowed to touch but me). The kids even have decorations in their rooms. We have tickets to the Philly Holidays Pops concert, Emily is performing in no less than five concerts between now and December 21st, we'll go to the college's concert this Sunday. We usually drive up into Philly to see the Macy's (used to be Lord & Taylor, but before that (and everyone still thinks of it as) it was Wanamaker's) light show . We'll pop over to nearby Dutch Neck Village for their live Nativity (including sheep, but no camels), and a visit with Santa. We host a Christmas Cookie Exchange party every year for friends and family. And, this year, we're getting into the spirit of an Old-Fashioned Christmas by making many of our gifts, which we'll exchange while visiting Colonial Williamsburg for a week. We cuddle on the couch watching old Christmas classics (and new ones, Elf is a big favorite), drinking egg nog, eating baklava, beefstick, cheese and crackers.

We do it up.

And the kids are already acknowledging and looking forward to some of our particular Dugan-family traditions. They know we always get our tree and decorate on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. They know they'll get special new Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve. They know about the baklava, beefstick and cheese. They ask about the Light Show and Pops concert in Philly (even though we just did those last year for the first time).

But ... where is the birth of Christ in all this? I like to think (am I deluding myself?) that God would approve of the wholesome family closeness we're nurturing. That He's smiling down on my kids' glee and our coziness. We do go to church, and sing the hymns, and pray before meals, and I explain the Nativity scenes as they are all set up all over the house (we have five of them), we read the Christmas story at least half a dozen times in half a dozen different ways. But ... is it enough? Generally speaking my kids look forward to much about this season that has nothing to do with getting presents (although that's usually Matthew's first answer ... when prompted, he does quickly come up with a bunch more things he loves). And they honestly seem to enjoy giving almost as much as receiving.

But ... is it enough?

Would it be right to cut back on all the other stuff and focus solely on the Biblical? Would that be squandering the family-memory-building potential that this season has in spades over the whole rest of the year?

I'm not sure. What we're doing doesn't seem all that dissimilar to our own childhood experiences (except we generally lack the candlelight Christmas Eve service ... we're almost always traveling that night ... I do definitely intend to rectify that soon, but maybe not this year ... the kids don't do that well staying up late). And we both turned out all right, church-going, God-fearing.

Still, it worries me. Parenting "correctly" so the kids turn out for the best worries me more than any other part of my life. I guess it's because pretty much everything else isn't truly all that important.

I'd love anyone else's thoughts on this balancing act at this time of year.



Curses, Foiled Again!

I just went through my cupboards, pulling out two jelly pans, my two-ton KitchenAid mixer, giant flour and sugar canisters. I went to the pantry for a can of pumpkin and had climbed on a chair to get the baking soda down from the elusive top-of-the-fridge cabinet.

When I noticed the next ingredient on the list.

3 eggs

I have in my house exactly 0 eggs. Let alone 3, let alone the 6 I needed for my annual doubled batch of Granny Kat's Pumpkin Roll.

And I was all motivated to bake tonight, too. So I stacked everything up and left it on the counter for baking to commence tomorrow after work (after a quick detour on the way home for eggs).



No Time to Blog

No time to blog anything lengthy (though I'm currently mentally dealing with maintaining Christmas traditions, building Christmas memories, planning the "perfect" Christmas experience for the kids while still trying to remember what Christmas is all about and keeping spirituality in focus), because I'm reading The Golden Compass.

Fabulous book ... glad it's a trilogy which means I have two more books to look forward to after this. I highly recommend reading it before seeing the movie (which isn't quite out yet, I think). There's a lot going on in the main character's head and I'm not sure how they're going to portray that effectively.

Anyway, back to my book (on my lunch break).



Shop 'Til Ya Drop

Today is Shop-a-Rama day for me. Woooo! (actually, there are better ways I can think of to spend my afternoon and evening, but I'm trying to stay upbeat)

Right after I get out of work (2 p.m.), I'm flying low to BJs and Acme for food for our Christmas Party this weekend. I have to be home by not-quite 4 to meet the schoolbus.

After dinner, I'm jetting off to Deptford (the nearest mall of size), about 45 minutes away. I'm shopping for holiday clothes. I have a cute black cocktail-type dress (that has never fit before!) for the Philly Pops concert. But, I need something little less sparkly-glam, definitely longer, but still wonderful to wear to the big Yule Feast at Williamsburg and to a family wedding on December 29.

I'm thinking lots and lots of velvet. One can only hope. Joe has pretty much let me loose. Wish me luck! Trying on dresses can be so rewarding, but also so frustrating.



Online Quiz

This is quite possibly the Weirdest Online Quiz Ever. I only got 4 out of 10, by the way.


Medical Updates

Matthew's tick bite has pretty much vanished. A tiny little pinprick scab. Few more days of amoxicillin.

I'm now on Nasonex spray and a "Leva-pak" which is 5 once-a-day levofloxacin tablets.

Hope this finally fixes me.


Movie Review

Last night after we finished decorating the house and gorging ourselves on meatball sandwiches, we took the kids to see Enchanted. And, enchanting it was.

It was far more than just an along-for-the-ride-at-a-kids'-movie experience. It was a full-fledged delightful romantic comedy in its own right.

Milking heavily from classic (particularly the Disneyfied versions) fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty -- the movie follows the trials and tribulations of Giselle as she is thrust by her jealous soon-to-be stepmother-in-law from the animated kingdom of Adalasia to the gritty reality of New York City.

The casting was delightful. Amy Adams and James Marsden are faced with the probably more difficult than it looks prospect of playing Giselle and her beloved Prince Edward. That they do so without the slightest bit of self-consciousness or irony makes the movie at all watchable. That they do so with the completely convincing naivete and innocence that fairy tale folk always posses -- pure magic (and very funny!).

There's plenty of slapstick for the kids, plenty of Menken/Schwartz tunes for the musically inclined (the production number in Central Park is rich and wonderful), and sappy romance enough for everyone.

Hope you enjoy it. We sure did. The kids are already asking when we can buy it. :)



It's Here!

Christmas Tree Day!

Setting: Christmas tree farm less than a mile from our house. Cold, clear day.
Props: Heavy coats, work gloves for dad, crosscut saw, yards and yards of clothesline rope, dusty old green Army blanket, one-handled wagon

Mom (gesturing): How about this one?
Dad (raises arm above his head, reaching nowhere near the top of indicated tree): Too tall.
Mom: This one?
Dad (again measuring with his arm): No way. (Gesturing nearby) How about this one?
Mom: (ignores Dad) Oh, I see one over there. (takes off at a brisk walk)
Dad (hefts wagon over bumpy lanes): Oh-kay...
Kids (running amuck, pointing to wildly inappropriately-sized trees): Wheeeeeeeee! This one! This one! No, this one!
Mom (now next to the "perfect" tree roughly seventeen acres from the last one): This one?
Dad: Maybe. (measures) Yeah, this one's good. (begins to get saw off wagon)
Mom (walking around the tree): Oh, no. Never mind. There's a big hole on the back.
Dad: We'll put that side in the corner.
Mom: No, there's a much better one over there (points back to where they'd started).
Kids (running at full-tilt back toward the original area): Wheeeeeeeee! This one! This one!
Mom (indicating Dad's original tree): I like this one.
Dad: Good work, honey. (gets saw)
Kids (dancing around the tree Maypole-style): Wheeeeeeeee! This one! This one!

Lights. Curtain.

Christmas Tree 2006



I'm No Emily Post

But, what happened to Good Old-Fashioned Manners???

In early September I sent out save-the-date cards for our 5th annual Christmas (cookie exchange) party. About ten days ago I sent out the actual invitations with an RSVP date of today.

Responses to date:
Yes: 2
No: 6
No response at all: 9

At this point I kind of want to cancel the whole thing. But I've already invested almost an hour calling and leaving messages along the lines of, "Just checking to see if you'll be coming to my party next week. I haven't heard back from you, and as you know ... it's a cookie exchange, so I need to know ahead of time how many people are participating. Of course, if you'd like to come without baking cookies, that's OK, too. Well, anyway call me back."

It sure would save me a lot of work this week if I cancel. But, it makes me sad that w got such lackluster response. Don't I have any real friends?


Nick of Time

Does being up too late technically qualify me for having posted on the 24th? I sure think so.

My best friend and her family are leaving for Disney World early in the morning. When I last talked to her, she was still running around getting everything ready. Disney World is that kind of trip. I'm not sure you ever feel adequately prepared, particularly when it's your kids' first time there (and her husband's first time, too).

In any case, I'm wishing them well and hoping they have safe travel and a truly magical experience. It's a great family vacation. I can only imagine how much better it is with all of the Christmas decorations and music going on, as well.



"Vacation" Day

But it'll be even busier than a regular day. And we don't even "Black Friday."

Planning to blow the leaves out of the yard, buy some plywood and start making some ornamental Christmas lawn deer (I bought the plans about 6 years ago), finish hanging the outdoor Christmas lights. And that's all before 4pm. Then it's Matthew's football practice from 4-6, the kids are in the 1-mile Holly Jolly Fun Run at 6:30, and the annual Millville Christmas Parade (Woooo! I love a parade!) is at 7pm.

And there will be much wearing-of-layers today since the high (windchill) will be around 35* and as soon as the sun goes down, it's dropping to around 26*.


Update: Well, we bought the plywood, got way-overdue haircuts for the guys, picked up supplies for three separate Craft Nights throughout the season, and blew the leaves in the yard. Then it was time for football practice, the Fun Run (Em's time was 10 minutes and Matthew came in at 11:45 for the 1-mile run). We came home and made the first craft. We whipped up a couple dozen of them in no time, and they're cute! Tomorrow Matthew has a playoff football game at 11 a.m. and then hopefully we'll finish hanging the outside lights. Sunday is the big decorating day! Woo!



Happy Thanksgiving!

It's the calm before the storm, and lest I break my NaBloPoMo streak, I thought I should post as early as possible.

We're at Joe's mom's house, got in last night around 10:30. Joe's still asleep. So is Pete. Mom is out...an early mass, I think. The kids just got up and are watching Sesame Street and eating bananas. I seem to still be running a fever (that's 48+ hours at 100-101 degrees, now). My head's a bit congested, but otherwise, frankly, I feel completely fine.


The Turkey Bowl gang are likely all stil at Mal's Diner (except for Joe). They'll be here, soon. And with a goodly amount of rain in the past 24 hours ... it's going to be an especially muddy year. They'll stay until roughly noon.

By which time the dinner prep will be in full swing. I'm making green bean casserole. Yum! I'm not sure who all is eating dinner here. I know at some point in the day we'll see Theresa and Miranda, Mom's friend Peggy; John, Jen & Kaitlyn. That might be it.

Here's a picture from Turkey Bowl 2005. I was intending to get some last-minute prints made and uploaded the whole album to Wal-Mart, rather than Picasa as I usually do. Otherwise, I'd have a small slideshow of muddy pictures for you.



Website Live

The Stow Creek School website that I created (using Google tools and some of my own minor html) is now published and live. Woo! The school's been "working on" having a website for years now. It feels good to help finally make it a reality. It's nothing fancy, but it's a nice web presence.



Christmas Meme

Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hmmm, overall going with egg nog for the holidays, hot chocolate for the rest of the winter.

Does Santa wrap presents or just put them out under the tree? Wraps them in paper and tags different from the rest of the presents.

Colored lights or white on the house? White on the house, colored on bushes and stuff.

Who do you wish you could see at Christmas? My Grandpas, Joe's Grandmom whom I've never met.

What's your favorite non-dessert holiday dish? Mmmmm .... stuffing or maybe ham.

When do you put up your Christmas decorations? The Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Favorite holiday memory as a child? I remember one year I got everything I asked for (though it was weird stuff), like an atlas and a pea coat. I was in high school, so I don't know if it counts for "as a child." Otherwise, the time that the radio radar was tracking Santa as we drove home from Grandma and Granpa Christoph's house. We were meandering around looking at lights some and Chris (and I) were getting nervous that we wouldn't be home in time and Santa would skip us.

When and how did you learn about Santa? I remember noticing that Santa's handwriting was the same as my mom's. That's why I'm SOOO careful with all that stuff -- different paper, tags, pen, etc.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We used to do all of the Christoph side on Christmas Eve, and the Schierer side on Christmas. But, Joe is very anti-Christmas Eve gifts, so we haven't really done that since we've been married. Oh, I take that back. Since we've stopped spending Christmas morning with Joe's side of the family, the kids usually open one gift at Mom Dugan's Christmas Eve open house for her to see.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? A big gold bow and ribbons, white lights (Joe always tries to sneak on some colored ones.), tons and tons and tons of homemade and store-bought ornaments -- many with so many stories and memories. No tinsel or garland. Quilted tree skirt my mom made.

Snow ... love it or hate it? LOVE it. Love it, love it, miss it, love it.

Can you ice skate? Well enough to stay on my feet and get a little bit of speed, and not fall down when the kid holding my hand wobbles. Not backward, unless Chris is helping me out.

What is the most important thing about the holidays for you? Providing good memories for the kids, maintaining traditions, getting it all right and done in the early part of the season in order to have some time relaxing and enjoying later on.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? Pecan pie, chocolate meltaways bar cookies, Zimsterne!

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Driving around to see lights, cuddling with Joe with beefstick/cheese/crackers with only the tree lights on, matching pajamas on Christmas morning.

What tops your tree? An angel ... brunette with her eyes open. This was a big deal for me to find for our first tree back in 1993.

Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Overall, giving. But I love getting just one perfect unexpected gift that makes me cry a little.

What is your favorite Christmas song? A tie between Sleigh Ride and the Boston Pops (or other pops) Leroy Anderson classic Christmas Festival.

One thing that upsets you about Christmas time? Not having time to notice it as it flies by, and the feeling that less isn't more ... more is more.



Christmas Prep (again)

This week my pre-Christmas goals include getting the Christmas cards ready to mail, and decorating the house (including the outside lights and the tree). Also, the Thanksgiving activities will obviously factor in.

But each of those is a multi-step process.

Cards -- I have the fronts of the cards made, but now they have to be glued to the blank cards, themselves. Next I'll divide the addressees into categories, those receiving school pictures of the kids, those receiving the family Christmas letter, etc. Then I have to print out the address list and address the envelopes. Then I'll actually start writing in the cards and stuffing the envelopes. Looks like my next several nights of TV watching will be multitasking events.

Decorating -- I started this morning by taking down all the Halloween/fall decorations. After school I'll pack them all up. Tonight Joe and I are making trips up and down from the attic, putting the fall stuff away and staging all the Christmas stuff in the garage. Joe's hoping to hang the outdoor lights tomorrow morning, but I don't think the weather is expected to cooperate. This Saturday or Sunday we'll get the tree and do the inside of the house. Our tradition is to do all that the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but we know Matthew has a playoff football game this weekend, we just don't know which day.

Thanksgiving -- Wednesday night after Joe's last class (roughly 9pm), we'll drive up to Joe's mom's. Thanksgiving morning we'll rise bright and early for Joe to participate in the last-ever Turkey Bowl football game (his mom is selling her house before next fall). I'll watch the Macy's parade and help with food and table-setting, etc. We may or may not staty over on Thursday night, as well. I've coordinated two different friends to let Sasha in and out at home. Friday morning we're going to get some household stuff done that we never got to this fall, like completing a section of stockade fence, and building some Christmas yard decorations. Friday afternoon is a football practice, Friday evening, the kids are participating in the 1-mile Holly Jolly Fun Run. And then there's the annual Millville holiday parade that night. Em's supposed to be in it with the Brownies, but Matthew will just sit and watch with us.

Joe and I got out an old whiteboard last night to scribble down notes for everything that's going on for this week and next. *whew!*



Football Sunday

Matthew's last regular season game is today at 1pm and the Eagles play at 1, too. Unfortunately, both are expected to be washouts.

Update later.

. . . . . . .

Matthew's team lost 31-0. Ouch. (the other team was undefeated, so no big surprise) We're recording the Eagles game to watch later, but I peeked and Philly is winning in the 4th quarter. (surprise!) Matthew's team made the playoffs. We play again Thanksgiving weekend.

In other news, we made an ER run this morning. Matthew was complaining that his back hurt. When I looked, he had a dime-sized dark, dark bruise surrounded by red inflamed swelling area. In the middle, a tiny tick. *sigh* The pediatrician on call at our clinic was noncommittal and seemed not to understand that the bruise was present before we removed the tick. And the area was super-sensitive to the touch. We saved the tick in a baggie.

So the ER doc said it's at least cellulitis, and that the tick is a shade too big to be a deer tick. "A shade"??? In any case, the treatment would be pretty much the same. He's on amoxycillin for 10 days. Our discharge paperwork says to watch for fever, chills, soreness, etc. Both for the cellulitis and for Lyme's disease.

Never a dull moment.




Christmas prep mode is in full swing here. Really the ready-to-get-ready stage.

The Christmas cards are all (mostly) made. Except for the ones that are supposed to have a photo in them. Mostly because we haven't decided if we are going to get everyone gathered and try to take a family portrait (Joe really needs a haircut before we could do that).

Starting to at least think about the Christmas letter. Like, I found the paper I bought post-season last year and have thought, "I guess I should write a Christmas letter."

I bought 100 Christmas stamps.

Sent out the invitations to our December 1 Cookie Exchange Party and have started thinking about the menu for it (as in I got out last year's menu and tried to remember what we had lots of leftovers of).

Pretty much done Christmas shopping, except for stocking stuffers.

Next weekend we decorate the house (though I'm hoping to get the lights up this weekend, since the weather is clear).

We've been playing Christmas music on my iPod for two weeks now.


ps. Yes, I know I'm a freak.


Feeling a Bit Run-down

Not overly sick. Not lie in bed and moan. Not run over by a truck. Not enough to actually cancel activities and stay in bed until I'm well.

But definitely run-down. Stuffy head, reddish/soreish throat. Thick, cloggy head and throat. I've even had a few bouts of fever over the past few weeks and as they keep going away on their own in less than 24 hours, and as I'm not generally feeling worse than the day before, I haven't yet called the doctor. I'm loathe to get an antibiotic without giving my body a fighting chance to kill off the bugs on their own (but I'm not sure when enough is enough).

I'm a bit freaked out by too many (misused) antibiotics creating super-germs. We've had quite a few MRSA scares in South Jersey, already. My position (as an elementary teacher and as a mom) puts me in contact with WAY more viruses and bacteria than I even care to think about. It's not-quite-but-almost enough to make me germophobic.

For the record, I do flush public toilets with my foot, and use a paper towel to open bathroom doors, and our own bathroom at home has anti-bacterial soap. But I don't have anti-bacterial products in my kitchen, or in my hand lotion, etc. And I always cough or sneeze into my elbow, not onto my hand (and I've taught my kiddos to do the same).

I have had friends who Purell their children within an inch of their lives. Kind of freaks me out. I'm all about clean. But seriously oversanitizing everything is a bad idea. Soap is great at getting us clean. Antibacterials (according to some sources) need 2 minutes to effectively sanitize. I don't know anyone who uses enough for long enough.

If the CDC thinks it's a bad idea, I think it's a bad idea. Not just the resistant bug strains thing, but also the kids-need-to-be-exposed-to-germs thing. Germs that don't kill us (or even that don't make us truly sick), make us stronger.

So ... here I continue down my let-my-body-give-it-a-shot path. I'm treating symptoms (Sudafed, cough drops, on particularly bad days -- Dayquil), but unless things take a definite downward turn, I'll just keep muddling on feeling moderately poorly until my body figures out the best way to kill whatever's ailing me.

And yeah, I know that fluids and extra rest would help. The fluids are a go, but extra rest is awfully hard to come by.


ps. Should also mention that I'm allergic to penicillin, and knowing that whole class of options is unavailable to me just makes the whole thing a bit more nerve-wracking.


My New Word

After hearing this news story on NPR this morning, my brain coined the term "virtuality."

As in virtual realities online.

But, apparently the term already exists. And not in the way I meant it.

Guess I'm not quick enough in the clever new words game.



Party Pooper

I'm ruining my kids' social life. Five or six neighborhood children all just descended upon our house and everyone started pulling things out of the garage. They were swinging hula hoops around in the garage and fiddling with stuff that isn't even a toy.

So, I shooed them all out and told them to go play in the yard and on the swing set. They all looked horrified and sullen.

I always wanted to be the house where all the kids hang out. I'm fully prepared to stock a minifridge with sodas, etc and let the preteens and teens hang out all over the place. But for various reasons I'm having trouble breaking into that with this particular group of neighborhood kids.

They leave out everything they bring out. They talk my kids into stuff my kids know they aren't supposed to do (I know this is also my kids' fault, but I've more than once heard Em or Mackie say, "We're not allowed to x-y-z" to which the Other Kid responds "If you don't, you're " or "Well, then, I'm leaving." etc. They've actually come over to play and asked if they can play with a certain thing (like the sprinkler in the summer) and if I say no, they all turn around and leave again without a backward glance. They try to form clubs ("Girl Club" or "Older Than 1st Grade Club") that exclude only Matthew. They tell the kids scary stories about dead bodies in the woods behind our house. They never wear bike helmets. The youngest is Emily's age and the oldest is frankly too old to be playing with a 1st and 3rd grader.

Basically, I don't like these kids. I've never invited them inside the house. I've never encouraged the kids to play with them. I don't let my kids go over to their houses. I don't like these kids and I don't like how my kids are when they're all together.


Not the childhood I'd pictured for them, so far. When two houses in our development recently sold, I'd so hoped the new neighbors would add to a more positive playmate pool. But no luck, there.



ps. I think they're all leaving now. I'm not that bummed.

$45 Weekly Menu

Feed a family of 4 (up to 6 servings) on only $45 per week, with no additional pantry ingredients required. Seriously.

This site provides a seven-day menu, shopping list, prep-in-advance instructions, nutrition information and even recipes. Granted the prices quoted are from 2006, so it may be up a bit from there. But still ... darn cheap ... especially considering even a basic stock of food in your house will likely contribute some of the basic ingredients for these menus.

And (Lisa will love this), the menus are very low on meat (meat is expensive), but still high on protein.

For example, this is Monday's menu:

Breakfast: Pancakes, syrup, orange juice, milk, hot tea
Lunch: Lentil & Vegetable soup with dumplings, milk
Dinner: Pinto beans, onions, hoecakes, collard greens, iced tea
Snacks: Cinnamon toast, milk for children, tea for adults
Nutrition: 1656 Calories; 33g Fat (17.5% calories from fat); 71g Protein; 275g Carbohydrate; 42g Dietary Fiber; 54mg Cholesterol; 3312mg Sodium

Not too shabby. Now, I'm not convinced my kids (or my husband) will be all that thrilled with pinto beans, onions and collard greens for dinner. But, it would likely be filling and certainly nutritious.




As of the current total, FreeRice has donated 1,519,627,180 grains of rice. According to WikiAnswers, there are approximately 29,000 grains of rice in a pound. So, that's over 52,400 pounds of rice. Wooo!


ps. Tomorrow ... feed your family for one week on $45, from scratch.

Resemblance Results

Well, Joe wins by a considerable margin (which, honestly, we kind of already knew). Matthew is practically the spitting image of young Joe.

One last picture, though ... regardless of who my kids most resemble, parent-wise (Joe), no one can deny how very much they look like each other. I present, my "twins."



Now, Matthew

Again, Joe on the left, Matthew in the middle, Heidi on the right.



Also, a Funny

This is for anyone who has ever owned a cat.


Emily, First

Compare Emily's features to ours. What do you think? Who does she resemble more? I can't find an easy poll feature and don't have time to find the code this morning. So start with this. Joe is first, then Emily, then Heidi. What do you think?


ps. The formatting limitations of using a standard Blog site are never more clear than when I try to work with photos.



Family resemblance quiz (thanks for the idea, Chris & Kristin).


Free Rice

Better your own life by strengthening your vocabulary.

Better someone else's by providing them with a meal of free rice.

For each word you correctly define, this group will donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations food relief efforts.

I maxed out at Vocab level 47, There are apparently 50 levels. You move up a level whenever you get 3 correct in-a-row.

Enjoy. Become obsessed with Free Rice.




free rice


My Links, II

Two related links ... Design Town and Woot. Each sells only one item per day, usually at a significantly discounted price.

The distinction? Design Town is all about funky and innovative design. Form doesn't follow function. It's all about form, itself, baby. One item per day until it's gone. I've never purchased from them, but love the neat stuff they carry.

Whereas, Woot is all about tech stuff (well, except on the days they're selling wine). TVs, blender, Roombas, mp3 players, computers, etc. They intro a new item each day and when they sell out, they're done for the day. If you happen to stumble about a Woot-off, they'll have a bunch of stuff for sale, one item at a time. When they run out of the first, they introduce another, for a day or two. Watch for the yellow blinking lights. I've gotten deals on cordless phones, RAM, and harddrives, myself.



A Little Longer

On Tuesday my mom and I very spontaneously (especially for her) booked her a flight to come visit us for the weekend. The kids and I are off school today and tomorrow, and I have Monday off as well.

The kids don't know she's here. Joe picked mom up late last night at the Philly airport. They're still both asleep. The kids are watching Ratatouille*, oblivious to their upcoming surprise.

Pretty soon, mom will wake up. She's not the late-sleeping type. Can't wait until the kids find out she's here. :)


* Wonderful movie. If you haven't seen it, get it. It's out on DVD now.


Thank a Vet

My school just finished its annual Veterans Day commeration assembly. Local area vets are invited to attend. The students sing songs, the band performs, and there are readings about the creation of Veterans Day, Arlington National Cemetary, etc.

The veterans themselves speak about their remembrances. At the very end they have a moment of silence and Taps is played.

I choked up a bit. I miss my Grandpas. Veteran-y stuff makes me think of my Grandpa Schierer, in particular. Anytime I'm at a funeral where Taps is played, I pretty much fall apart, thinking of him and his funeral.

The year before and after Grandpa dying was a really rough period for me. Much of which was completely unrelated to him, but it didn't help me deal with losing him and/or losing him didn't help with me dealing with the rest of my life at the time.

But that's a whole 'nother blog post. Not necessarily something to share.



Scientists Were Wrong

Think back to elementary school health class. Aside from learning about good-touch/bad-touch and basic hygiene, you probably learned about the Five Senses. (sight, hearing, touch, smell and the pertinent sense for today ... taste)

Taste -- broken down since the times of Ancient Greece into salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Accepted for literally thousands of years, those four simple tastes combine with aromas into every flavor we've ever tasted.

Except not.

There's a Fifth Taste.

In the late 1800s Chef Auguste Escoffier invented veal stock. It took over 24 hours to properly prepare and set the cuisine world on its ear with its amazing taste. A taste that was not salty, sour, sweet or bitter. So how could we be tasting it?

At roughly the same time on the other side of the planet, Kikunae Ikeda (a chemist, incidentally) loved him some soup. Specifically, dashi, a basic seaweed soup used in a bunch of dishes (much the same way a French chef might use veal stock as a basis of everything else on the menu). Being a chemist, Ikeda went to his lab for the answers and discovered glutamic acid, which he named "Umami." Or "Yummy."

Yup, the Fifth Taste is "yummy."

And, it turns out it's legit (well, its existence, anyway, the name is another issue). We have glutamate receptors on our tongues. These help with tasting meats, cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, Worcestershire sauce, olives (the salt is added), wine (now we know why the sommeliers have such trouble describing the wines they're sampling ... they're not sweet, bitter, sour or salty. Not truly any of those.), vinegar, corn (in its grain form).

So, next time you think something is delicious in a non-salty, non-sweet, non-bitter, non-sour kind of way. Well, the word you're looking for is "yummy."

ps. Heard this all on NPR yesterday and found it fascinating (obviously, or I wouldn't be blogging it).



Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Ever should be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys,
Let the bells ring!
Holloa boys, holloa boys,
God save the King!
A penny loaf to feed the Pope,
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him,
A pint o’ beer to rinse it down,
A faggot o’ sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we’ll say the Pope is dead.


ps. Along those lines, go out and watch this movie tonight.

Stranger Than Fiction

If I wrote this up as a short story, people would dismiss it as completely implausible.

One of the odder news stories I've ever Stumbled Upon.


Tomorrow: Scientists have been wrong for centuries (heard on NPR this morning)


My Links, I

Over on the right bar of the blog are a bunch of links, "Where Do I Go?" Most days I run right down that list, opening each link in its own tab. Some visits are very, very brief (Design Town and Woot), some are much longer (Television Without Pity). Some I don't visit every day due to the nature of the site updates (Foxtrot, Pibgorn) and some I visit more than once a day to check for updates (Futility Closet, The Daily Journal).

The first on the list, Comics Curmudgeon is a very funny site. Some guy named Josh reads the extensive set of comics from the Houston Chronicles online comics page. He then selects the best-or-the-worst and makes frequently hilarious, generally snarky comments about them. The serial comics (i.e. Mary Worth and Judge Parker) naturally lend themselves to this sort of treatment.

There are some ongoing gag lines that may seem confusing to a new reader, but there are some FAQ type helps for some of the inside jokes.

Anyway, good site for those who like funny and those who always grab the "Educational Section" of the Sunday newspaper first.



Joe's Turn

Seems Joe has disturbing dreams, too. Last night he dreamed (dreamt?) about the Linear Algebra exam he took yesterday. "I could vividly see the entire exam in front of me, and all the correct answers. But the solution to one problem wasn't the one I had. Hope he gives me partial credit for it."



Yeah, just stayed up way too late playing the new-ish Neverwinter Nights expansion with Joe. And tomorrow (today) is a way busy day. So, I'm hoping it counts to post now, since it's already technically today (tomorrow).



Here We Go

I think this was all a series of scenes dreamed between 6am and 7am. It was one of those situations where there's just a disjointed scene or three with a few moments each, but somehow in my mind as a participant in the dream, I knew all the backstory and complex issues involved in each scene.

And in all of them I had a broken clavicle. My left one. And I had one of those bulky neck/chest/shoulder casts on that side. Which I don't even think they do for that particular injury. I don't know how I broke it, but I recently had a conversation with someone about my somewhat serious June 2006 car accident, and they marveled that I hadn't broken anything ... so there you go, maybe my subconscious broke my clavicle in a car accident.

I don't really remember all the scenes in order or great detail, there were at least six or seven. But here are a few I do remember.

One scene -- I was in my old high school, walking down the hall between classes, past Mr. Milligan's room. I saw a few of my high school friends, but they all appeared roughly as they are now, not as they were then. Several of my college friends were there in the hall, too. And we were all in college together. I peeked into Mr. Milligan's room and Joe* was there, wearing a somewhat odd-looking suit (like the way the future clothes in Back to the Future looked, not specifically "wrong", but different somehow from our normal clothes). I asked him about his exam (true part, he has his first exam in his math Ph.D. courses at Drexel today). He shrugged and said he thought he'd done all right.

Another scene -- I was trying to catch up with Tony (those who don't know Tony, I can't possibly explain here the complicated subconscious ramifications of his presence in my dreams, and for those who do (or did) know him, well, you already understand how loaded that topic is likely to be, psychologically). We were still in the same school situation, but it was a different day, I think. Still with the cast on my shoulder/neck. I kept seeing him just a few people in front of me, and called out to him, but he either didn't hear me or ignored me (not going to go there). For some reason it was important that I talk to him and not just that I wanted to talk to him.

Another (definitely the most inexplicable) scene -- I was visiting a Chinese whorehouse** (not as a customer, but more as a cultural curiosity thing). They were sort of like slightly sleazy geisha (yes, I know geisha are Japanese, but I "knew" I was in China). The proprietor (not quite a pimp, more like a manager) was totally ripping them off, lying about the take each night, etc. I sort of preached a somewhat liberating feminist lesson to them, and they kind of unionized and kicked out the management. I remember in the dream being a bit worried that there would be reprisals toward me or the women, but that was all brushed aside and then I was just as convinced that everything was going to be OK.

So, there you go, more than you wanted of my subconscious mind. Your analysis is welcome.


* I rarely if ever dream about Joe (or recall them anyway) when he's around. I dream about him quite a bit when we're in separate states or something, but very infrequently when we're together.

** Imagine the Google hits that phrase is going to get me.

Coming Soon

After I get all my errands done this afternoon, the blog topic will be the BIZARRE dreams I had last night. Sort of one long dream that jumped around horribly, or many separate dreams with one or two common elements.

Stay tuned for -- a broken clavicle, a Chinese whorehouse, my high school, appearances by Tony, Joe, Mr. Milligan. I know -- BIZARRE!



It's NaBloPoMo

Yeah, what's that? It's National Blog Posting Month. So, I've signed up. Meaning I "have to" post at least a little something every day this month to "count."

Not sure what it counts toward or what it's worth, but as I believe in writing for writing's sake. And, as I believe that writing is a habit worth fostering, well ... here goes.

A whole month of posts (daily!) from yours truly starts now.



Bobcat Badge

Matthew received his Bobcat Badge last night in Cub Scouts. Yay!

I lead the Tiger Cub Den of our Pack. Colby, Dylan, Matthew, Matthew and Matthew (I wish I were kidding). All but Colby completed the badge requirements, and I think he'll be getting it at the November Pack Meeting.

Cub Scouts works a bit differently than it did when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can start in 1st grade into a Tiger Cub den, in 2nd grade into a Wolf Den, 3rd grade a Bear Den, and 4th and 5th grades are in Webelos. But, all new Cub Scouts, regardless of age, must first earn their Bobcat Badge before earning their own Den badge requirements. And, if you start in a Wolf Den (etc), you may not go back and complete the lower level badges. You start with Bobcat and then go on to complete your current year badge.

For those keeping score at home, the current Bobcat Badge requirements are to be able to recite the Cub Scout Promise, Law of the Pack, and motto and demonstrate the Cub Scout sign, handshake, and salute. There's also a discussion on preventing child abuse, etc that's outlined in the guidebook that the scout must have with his Adult Partner.




Well, the Great Candy Haul is complete for this year. And the kids did pretty well. See?

Emily was a robot (built it myself, I'm so proud!).

And Matthew was a prince (a costume he picked based on being allowed to carry a sword).

More pictures here.

And -- look -- videos! Two of them, even!