Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Truths from High School Open House

I went to Open House at Younger Daughter’s high school on Tuesday.  This is an event where we parents walk through our child’s schedule, and spend about ten minutes listening to each teacher.  It’s not a lot of time, but it helps immensely to put a name with a face, and to get a glimpse of what the kids will be learning. 

I greatly admire all her teachers.  Here’s a bit of what I learned from them.

AP English teacher:  “The Ukelele Club meets on Fridays after school.”

[posted on the wall]
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. 
- Voltaire

American History teacher: “We're going to kill Kennedy on Monday. Get ready for the conspiracy theories!”

Band teacher:  “You have to work really hard in this class to not get an A.”

AP Chemistry teacher:  “The school district has sold its soul to Blackboard.”

[posted on the wall]
TRIUMPH:  Umph added to try.

Economics teacher:  “Here’s how the class stock market game is going to work.  I say to the students, ‘Imagine you have your parent’s retirement fund to invest.’”

Latin teacher:  “Pliny the Younger’s life was saved because of Latin homework.”

[posted on the wall]
Study: the act of texting, eating, and watching TV with an open textbook nearby.

Pre-calculus teacher: “If the students aren’t making any mistakes, they are not learning.”

I do love all these teachers.  They love teaching and it shows.  If it weren't for all the angst of the teenage years, I might want a high school do-over.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

In Which The Husband Reads the Newspaper

Tomorrow morning I will be taking Younger Daughter to school at O-dark-ungodly-hour-thirty.  That means, sadly, that I will miss my husband reading the newspaper to me.  Here is how it went last week:

* * * * * * * *

I stumbled out of the bedroom, half asleep, and into the kitchen, where my husband was having breakfast.  I said, bewildered, “I just heard Steve Inskeep say that Iceland has the same population as the city of Pittsburgh.”

He responded, “Well, they can’t have the same population as Pittsburgh because we’re here, not in Iceland.”  I was comforted.

As I sat down to eat my breakfast, he proceeded to read the newspaper to me, as he often does.  I suppose ours is the only household in America where this occurs, because we are the only ones left who receive an actual newspaper.

Me:  But I ordered an icebreaker, not a tank hauler.

Husband:  You’d better check your receipt.     It says here that they are going to change the ten dollar bill.

Me:  Yeah, they have to put a woman on there.  But I don’t know why they aren’t taking Jackson off, instead of Hamilton.

Husband:  Michael Jackson is coming off the five dollar bill?
(He continues to read, about the county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses.)

Husband:  Why isn’t this person fired?

Me:  Yeah, that’s like a pharmacist that refuses to pass out medicines.

Husband:  Oh, she’s an elected official.  The person who hands out marriage licenses is an elected official!  That’s like having the Walmart clerk being an elected position…. She’s on her fourth husband.  She knows more about marriage than a lot of people.

Husband:    There are three billion trees on the planet. 

Me (thinking of mahogany, the American chestnut, and other threatened trees): But are they the right kind of trees? 

Husband:    Exactly.  Are they liberal or conservative trees?  Some of them might be gay trees.  Are any of them illegal alien trees?

* * * * * * * *

 So, folks, I'm curious.  How do you get your news?  Does your spouse read the news to you from an archaic, quaint, printed document? Or are you like my children, who don't bother about news?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Signs of learning

I've been trying to re-teach myself how to use our point-and-shoot camera.  This is because I have to buy a better camera (in order to Fulfill my Destiny as a photographer for the marching band) but I am a dunce when it comes to knowing what specifications to look for in a new camera.  

My main photographic technique for the past ten years has been to take a cajillion photos and hope one or two will turn out.  This drives the family nuts.

I accepted the photographic assignment on the "Written, Inc" blog as a prod to force myself to get out there and experiment with the camera I have.   The main thing I learned is that I have a lot to learn, and that I shouldn't rely on my cell phone for photo notes.  I accidentally erased half of my notes, so I don't know if photo X was taken with f-stop 3.2 or 8.0.  I mostly just pressed a lot of buttons.

The theme was "Signs".  

Traditional sign in the park.
Walkers tend to ignore this sign and
regularly take over the bike lane, often walking
three abreast for conversation purposes.  

Sign of a tantrum?  or of a toddler in a rush?

This sign amuses me.  I have no idea where the marker
with "0" is, or what the units are.
This sign is 1 1/4 units from somewhere.

The "No fishing" sign.  Shouldn't it say
"Dammit, Keep Off!" ?

This is not a sign.  I was going to sit on this bench
to take photos, but then thought better of it.  Who knows
how many Lyme-disease carrying ticks, wasps, snakes,
and ogres are hiding out in that grass?

A sign that it is harvest time:  loads of pears on this tree
in the park.  But no one is harvesting them!

A sign that fall is coming.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Picnicking with Einstein and Dancing with God

Einstein inspects and stands on top of the s'mores ingredients

I have some friends who enjoy it when I bring my ScientistSqueeze Toy Pal* Einstein to events with me.  These friends organized a picnic together last weekend, and I brought Einstein along.  

Still life with Einstein, chips, giant ant sculpture, and diet lemonade

Einstein outside the playhouse.  Put three teenaged girls in there
and there's no room for Einstein.

Einstein enjoyed all the requisite wonderful picnicky foods: chips, burgers, fixings, watermelon, dirt pudding, apple pie nachos, s’mores.  We played badminton, cards, and Pictionary Telephone and had an all-around great time.  

Einstein tells the guys how to put the grill together

Testing to see if the grill is level

Oooh!  Lots of fire! But no nuclear fusion.  Fission?  I never
can remember which is which.

Mmmm!  Lots of burgers!

Einstein also got to supervise the guys putting together the grill and starting the fire.    Einstein is smart about that kind of stuff, although we used conventional charcoal for fuel, not nuclear reactions.

I only wish Einstein were smart enough to figure out how to solve the problems of the world, which seem overwhelming at the moment.  I guess that’s a little much to expect from a toy, even if it is Einstein.  Every night this week, when I prayed thanks for all God has given, I also prayed for a solution for all the people running away from or taking a stand against terror, war, poverty, racism, injustice, senseless violence.  And then the anniversary of Sep 11, 2001 on Friday: the still-raw tragedy of that day got smacked upside the head by the glee of attending a football game with the marching band.

It seems jarring to write about the deep sadness of the world in the midst of our own happiness and fun.  I don’t often write about these things, but I am nearly always thinking and praying about them.  It’s just that there are plenty of other people out there writing about them.  Besides, I have had the uncanny feeling that God is speaking to me through pop music this week.  You say “What?!”  and “Oy! Really?”  I think God is speaking specifically through the song Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon.

God is the woman in the song and the "I" is me. God says,

"Oh don't you dare look back.
Just keep your eyes on me."
I said, "You're holding back, "
She (God) says, "Shut up and dance with me!"
This woman (God) is my destiny
She says, "Ooh-ooh-hoo,
Shut up and dance with me."

I have to believe that The Divine weeps with us at the troubles of the world.  But at the very heart of things, if God’s creation is good, sometimes it’s right to just shut up and dance**, to have fun in the marching band, to go to a picnic with friends.  Near the end of that picnic, my two older children showed up unexpectedly from out of town.  (I was expecting them, but didn’t expect them at the picnic.)  My friends, despite not knowing my kids were coming, welcomed them with open arms. That was a blessing beyond measure.  My heart danced.

*Does that sound sleazy?  Well, it’s not like that.  My husband is my main and only squeeze.

** But before I danced, I made a donation in an attempt to help refugees.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Professorial Enthusiasm During Breakfast

The scene:  breakfast in the kitchen of the Common Household, on a day not long ago...

Husband:  Okay!  Today I’m attending the Anatomy and Physiology class!  Do you think that the students will be able to guess that I’m not a student?

Me (lying):  Sure.  You’re not wearing a tie, so they’ll never guess.

Husband:   (with mounting enthusiasm):  What are the eleven systems that allow the human body to work?

Me:  The Parkway North, the Parkway East, the Parkway West, the Red Belt, Orange Belt, Yellow Belt…

Husband:   I bet there is one that you won’t be able to think of!

Me (thinking of what is the most obscure one, with the biggest medical-sounding term):  Okay, I’ve got one.  The endocrine system.

Husband (unimpressed by my ability to come up with that three-syllable word):    Yes…. And?

Me:    The ethical system?


Me (testing my own human body to see what’s working at the moment):  Let’s see.  Breathing.

Husband: Yes, the respiratory system.

Me (taking another spoonful of cereal):  Eating.

Husband: Yes, the digestive system.

Me (having drunk a giant mug of tea, thinking of a system that is very important to me):   I know!  The bladder!

Husband: Isn’t that part of the digestive system?   (We found out later that it isn’t.  Husband is a neurobiologist, and isn’t a post-menopausal woman, so he doesn’t think about the bladderly part of the body very often.)

Me:  Hmmm.  Ah, the nerves.

Husband:  The nervous system.

Me (beginning to notice that he is turning my perfectly acceptable words into more impressive sounding anatomical vocabulary.  Because that's the job of a professor.): The muscles?  The bones?

Husband:   Yes, the muscular system and the skeletal system.  That’s six.

Me:  You mean there are seven more I haven’t thought of?! (Hey, it was too early for arithmetic.  Grasping at straws, I say this:) Okay, the fingernail system.

Husband:   Well… That’s part of one of the systems.

Me:  Hair?  No, I know, the skin!

Husband:   Yes.  The skin, fingernails, and hair are all part of the integumentary system.

Me (ignoring his use of a word I have never heard):  How about the brain?  No that’s part of the neural system.  I give up. I can’t think of the rest.

Husband: There’s the cardiovascular system.

Me (looking down at my cereal with shame at not having thought of that first):  Well, that’s important.

Husband: The lymphatic system.  (looking online) Oh, you were right.  The urinary system is separate from the digestive system.  Look, here’s a diagram of the lymphatic system!

Me (noticing an undesirable resemblance between my bowl of cereal and the photo on the screen):  Hey, I am trying to eat my breakfast here.

Husband: The last one is the reproductive system!

Me (hoping he will not show me pictures): I’m sorry.  That system has shut down.  It is no longer functioning.

* * * * * * *

I guess it’s good to have an enthusiastic professor, even if he’s just attending class, not teaching it.  But really, during my breakfast?  I thought that with no kids around, I wouldn't have to endure talking about icky topics while eating.

A likeness of the human body that has none of the 11 systems.