November 2009


Let’s be clear. My family is a city family. I am the least “citified” of all of us, but we are pretty much city folks.

When we visit Missouri, I revel in being in the country and having space. My girls love it, too, and this time they were so lucky to visit two farms during the trip. I have pictures of only one visit (I was not along for the other one), and here are a few that you  might like, too.

This is a really blurry picture (it was nearly dark, actually), but Chicklet was going for a little tractor ride, and in the background, one of her farm friends was playing on the choicest playground of all: "The Poo Pile." (My girls may be city girls, but they're not sissies. They were climbing on the pile with everyone else. Prince Charming was more concerned than anyone else about it.)

This was the reason for our farm invitation--a 1-week-old minature donkey. He is standing next to Chicklet who MIGHT be 3-1/2 feet tall.

This baby was so small, he was a little lap donkey. I think I want a lap donkey! (I heard from the person holidng him yesterday, a week later, and he barely fits in a lap now.)

Really, how many things are cuter than this? If they didn't grow up, I'd housebreak one and keep it myself!

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

Some of you will think I do nothing but travel. It is not true, but I know it seems that way. (Some of my friends think I travel ALL the time.) The past two years have had a little more than usual, I will admit.

Anyway, we are heading out for Thanksgiving. And at our destination, internet access is quite limited. I can see my e-mail periodically, but no blog visiting unless I go someplace that has wireless, which I usually do not have time for. We will be visiting Grandpa M and Grandma D. A year ago Grandma D was very sick, and she has not fully recovered. I will be cooking and such while we are there.

Chic and Chicklet are excited beyond belief. They LOVE visiting there. Grandpa M’s yard is 3 acres. That’s just the part he mows. They are not used to so much space and revel in it. (So do I.) They also get to see friends they love more than anyone. It will be a nice time.

I am slowly working through all the very heartfelt and nice comments from my two “tolerance” posts. But if I do not reply to your comment right away, know that I appreciate it. I was hoping to have more on this series by now, but life is busy, and the story has many facets. I do want to say that those posts were more of a background. The tolerance issue has bothered me for a long time, but how it applies to our family is the background for the much bigger story. I promise to get to it; it consumes my mind a lot these days.

So I will not be here for My World Tuesday or SkyWatch Friday, so I’ll leave you a couple of pictures and a recipe.

What I saw when feeding the birds a couple of chilly mornings ago.

A new bread I tried last week. I think it was called Armenian Peda bread. I have no idea if it is authentic, but it was really good, and actually quicker than most yeast breads I make.

I apologize I do not have a picture of the following recipe. I only make it on Thanksgiving, and last year I got sick that day so did not care much about taking pictures. It is my very favorite Thanksgiving food. (I turned it into Thanksgiving food.) Prince Charming does not like it (he has a few vegetable hang-ups), so I triple the recipe and eat the leftovers for a few days.

Company Brussels Sprouts

4 bacon strips, diced (I use soy “bacon”)
1 dozen Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons snipped, fresh chives,
1 carrot, thinly sliced
10 stuffed green olives, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt

In a skillet fry bacon until just cooked. Drain, reserving 2 tablesppons of drippings. Add remaining ingredients; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender. Yield: 4 servings.

That’s the official version. Since I do not use “real” bacon, and I try to be healthy when it does not impair flavor, I do the soy bacon in the microwave, then saute everything in the wine for a while (leaving out the olive oil), then add the bacon at the end.  I LOVE this stuff!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving if you live where it is celebrated. If not, just have a wonderful two weekends and a terrific week in between!

Last Sunday we had our second snow of the year. Granted, it was not much, but still… I am hoping that instead of meaning a long winter, it will mean that winter has worn itself out by January. Only time will tell.

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

This week I am taking you to Merrill Cemetery in Maanchesta, New Haampsha (Manchester, New Hampshire) for My World Tuesday. I was there about a month ago and found a letterbox . As I said in an earlier post, I decided to find letterboxes all I could so I would not be tempted to miss out on adventure.

This was at the very end of my New England trip. I had awakened that morning in Portland, Maine, then driven to Vermont (finding myself in heavy-at-times snow), then back to Manchester where I spent the night to fly out early the next morning. I was sooooo tired, and it was cold and rainy. But the letterbox called. Just one more. And I found it!

And as always, I am so glad I looked. This was the most charming cemetery in the middle of town. I hopped the stone fence from a Lowe’s parking lot on one side. The other sides were all city streets. But inside it was a completely different place. I was transported back in time and place.

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This is what I saw upon entering the quiet place. Lovely.

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Most of the tombstones were quite old. Many had the same last names on them.

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Someday I really need to show you a typical cemetery from here (New Mexico) which is so unlike this one.

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I wanted to take home some pretty leaves, but this was the best I could do.

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This is the little open space where I went over the stone fence to get in and out. It is almost as if the place is a secret, a little gem tucked into the city, and I had to find just the right place to get in.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

For Part 1, go here.

These pictures are from three years ago when we were at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Since we do not have piles of leaves in our immediate area, it was like an amusement park for my girls.

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A short story about the half-Hispanic/half-Iranian boys from the last post. The girls were more rude to them than the other boys in class. The boys were not actually rude to them, but just avoided them. One day for their art class, most of their class was late except for the two boys I liked so much. As people trickled in, the seats filled up, and of course the last seats available were the ones by the two. The most obnoxious girl of all came in last, and there was no place for her to sit except beside one of the twins. She made a HUGE scene. Not being a “real teacher” and having little “teeth” last year to effectively manage problem behavior, I told her to sit down or go back to her class. But those nice boys got someone to trade with them so they were next to another more unpopular student so the mean girl could sit with her friends. I do not know if she thought about that, but I hope someday the memory is at least a small wake-up call.

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Chic is the top of her class. Last year she was in 1st grade and was in a classroom with 1st and 2nd graders. She was ahead of everyone in reading, spelling and math. We knew long before Chic ever went to school she would be a star scholastically, so we have worked with her since before Kindergarten to help her understand that although she understands school subjects better than a lot of people and is ahead, she is not better than anyone. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and just  because she can do some things  better than most kids does not mean they cannot do some things better than her. She understands this. We have made every effort to assure her humility, and it seems to have been successful. But this does not mean other parents have done the same. Chic is mocked severely for being ahead of her class. This happened a little last year, but to a greater degree this year.

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Although Chic easily overheats, she does not like wearing shorts to school because they show her muscular legs. She has not a bit of fat on her body, but her legs are bigger than all of the rest of the girls, and they make fun of her because she is different than they are.  Yes, she can run faster and jump higher than any of them, and she is chosen for teams right away, but because she looks different, she is fodder for derision. (And seeing other behavior in the children, I sometimes wonder if part of it also has to do with her pale skin and red hair.)

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Forgive me for being irritated that I am doing all I can to raise well-behaved, good-mannered, kind and caring children who do their best to excel at whatever they attempt (at least the first one–the jury is way out on whether the second one will even care about excelling) when it seems like the parents of my daughters’ peers are not bothering to raise them much at all and are apparently modeling inappropriate behavior. As parents I feel like Prince Charming and I might have failed Chic because we taught her humility, not how to face the bullies. We wanted to make sure she would not be a bully. We never dreamed one so successful in everything she does would be treated with such disrespect. (We are diligently working on this now.  Should we tell her when people make fun of her legs to say, “At least I don’t have skinny bird legs like you!” No, that is not how we believe anyone should be treated. But it is difficult to teach a child  humility without putting them in a position of getting squashed in school.)

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When I was in elementary school, I remember my parents talking about a relative who married an African-American. (Let’s go back more than 30 years to near the very center of the United States.) During the discussion these words came out of my mom’s mouth: “It doesn’t bother me what they do, but it’s the kids who will suffer.” That caught my attention. I said, “Why does it hurt the kids?” Both of my parents explained that they would be neither “white” nor “black,” so neither family or race would fully accept them. I asked why. They explained how people do not accept people not like themselves. I said, “But your making the statement in the first place shows that you think they are different.” I loved my parents, and I truly think there were not much better ones put anywhere in the world, but potentially a filter in what they said in front of my brother and I would have been wise at such a time. Statements like that in front of children would likely encourage children treat the “unfortunate” children differently in most cases. It is no different today.

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My belief is that most parents — if they even think about it — want their children to be replicas of themselves; they want them to have the same opinions and beliefs. (Maybe deep down I want that, too, but if it happens, I want them to arrive there on their own, not because I told them to or showed them no other options.) Most parents in my realm (I can only speak for my small corner of the world) have not been educating their children to accept all people as I attempt to educate mine. Maybe in more cosmopolitan areas there is more tolerance for people not like oneself, but I have not seen much in the places I have lived.

But I am going to say that from my experience in Blogland, there might be tolerance for people who are different in ethnicity, but not a lot of tolerance for differences of opinion. No, not everyone is like that, but I really am amazed at the statements I see coming out of blogs with abject criticism of people with differing opinions–not just criticism of these opinions, but also of the people who have them. (And if you are reading this, you are likely not the writer of one of the blogs to which I refer.)

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I am much too cynical realistic to think the lack of tolerance in the world is ever going to dramatically change. But I can assure you, it will not even budge if people cannot handle a viewpoint that is not their own without attacking (even mentally) the person who holds it. And if people cannot refrain from attacking people not like them, no matter in what way, I do not see a better future for anyone.

This is the end of my “tolerance” post. It was originally one, but it ended up way too long, so I cut it in half. There will soon be more on things that I believe relate to this topic and society in general and how all of that relates to our family.

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After I published yesterday’s post, I was looking at the last picture and realized I should have saved it for SkyWatch Friday today.

It was too late for that, so I just picked another picture from the same sunset, somewhat inferior in my opinion, but still pretty.

Today’s skies are grey here, and my life has been a little crazy so no time for taking pictures of the skies when they are not grey. (And unlike my New England pictures, the barren desert does not provide much to look at beneath a grey sky!) So this is a picture from about three years ago returning from a funeral in North Dakota. It is likely not a great distance north of Denver on I-25. If you want to see the better one, go to the end of yesterday’s post.

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To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

Note: I have no pictures for this post, so found some old ones of South Dakota and Colorado.

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Much of what I think I will say in this post has been in my head for months, really for at least a year. It started to gel into something I wanted to write about last October and November near the elections. Chic’s school held their own elections, and it was not a pretty thing in my opinion. I mentioned this last year, but as a reminder… they voted on the actual presidential candidates. My personal opinion is they should have thought of another way to teach about the election process because all the kids did was ask their parents for whom to vote. When Chic (age 6 at the time) asked Prince Charming and I, we did not tell her. We instead told her as much as we thought she could understand about the positions of the two main candidates and let her decide. We believe it is our job to shape the values and principles of our children, but not necessarily their opinions. Yes, values and principles will affect opinions, but we do not believe in telling our children what to think about every little thing. Long story short, Chic got her voting preferences from her best friends at the time which happened to be for the losing candidate. Being a volunteer at the school, I knew she would be very much in the minority, so I told her to keep her “opinions” to herself. She did, but the other “party” was pretty belligerent about getting others to tell their preferences. Ridicule was rampant for those with whom they did not agree. Chic kept quiet, but it still bothered her that being a supporter of “her” candidate would cause so much ridicule. After the election it was even worse. Because she was quiet about what she did, it should not have been as bad, but the bullies (which was pretty much everyone who voted differently than she–from 1st grade through 8th grade) assumed that people were quiet because they were the losers, so she was harassed anyway. (Had her candidate won, I do not believe the tables would have been turned for those children are among the very. few. well-behaved ones in art classes.)

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That attitude lasted ALL YEAR LAST YEAR.  Students continually asked me for whom I voted. I would not tell them for many reasons, not the least of which I do not think it is the responsibility of teachers to try to form political opinions in their students. So because I would not tell them, they attempted to ridicule me. Of course I did not put up with this, but it just made me wonder what in the world goes on in their homes that they have nothing better to do than disparage people they perceive to be not like themselves. And it did not end there; it continued into the first six weeks of this school year. Intolerance clearly starts at young ages.

Chic goes to a school that is affiliated with my church. About 30 minutes from my house is another similar school sponsored by another church of the same religion. Many members of my church who believe in Christian education send their children to the “other school.” When we first moved here, Chic was nine months old, and we almost immediately started getting hit by the people who sent their kids to the other school telling us why we should do the same. There were so many reasons why it was a “better” school than the one actually sponsored by my church. But I have to tell you the biggest reason. People actually said OUT LOUD to me, “The new school is sort of known as the ’white school,’ — the one sponsored by the church is the ‘Hispanic school.'” Seriously????

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Now if these people knew me at all, they would have known those were the wrong words. If I had no other reason whatsoever (which I had plenty), I would never send my kids to school where the parents of the students (which would show in the students of themselves) thought they were better and elite because they were “white.” OK, I am white. I am pale, lily white. As far as I know, I have little else besides Irish blood running through my veins. My daughters are paler than me and have strawberry blonde and red hair. But I would NEVER go to a school because there was more of “my kind” there; I would prefer to have diversity. Last year in Chic’s classroom, there were 16 students, and she was one of the two who did not have beautiful, smooth, dark skin (were not Hispanic.) Did that bother me? Not in the least. I never even thought about it,  unless I remembered those idiotic words people said to me and sat and looked at the kids. Then I smiled.

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During last school year, two new students entered in the fall. They were twin boys in 8th grade. I loved them because they were so polite and well-behaved (as opposed to the other 8th graders.) But they were outcasts to their class. Why?  Because they were not fully Hispanic. The 7th and 8th graders were in one classroom.  There were 17 of them, and all but those boys were Hispanic. They were half-Hispanic and half-Iranian.  Sometimes I wonder why I can still be so shocked by people, but I can, and this was one of those extremely shocking things.

To be continued… (Friday?)

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