Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Teenagers started arriving at our house around dinner time. I guess Robbie had planned a party . . . I didn't need to feed them all, luckily. They went out wandering in the neighborhood.

Eli and his buddy Chris were out, too, after Eli set out his pumpkin. Sorry if the black humor offends . . . it IS Halloween!
Robbie and his buds came back and had a fire. Bruce and I kept handing out candy, sitting right by the door so we could keep up with the crowds!
Over 150 trick-or-treaters came to the house (it's a popular neighborhood).

At that point, we turned off the lights and came inside. Don't want to miss "Sherlock" on PBS!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bashing things with Hammers

"Hey Robbie," I called out this evening. "Want to come bash things with hammers?"

He joined me in cracking black walnuts in the basement. I scavenged these from the Ballet Academy parking lot earlier this fall.

I remember cracking black walnuts in my Grandmother's basement (Grandma C.), but I don't really remember how we did it. With a hammer? The shells kind of fly everywhere when you whack the nuts--you have to really hit them hard! And it has to be a focused, bouncing kind of hit, or you end up squishing the nut inside.

Robbie spent most of the time getting great ideas for Better Walnut Cracking. The vise worked particularly well. The jigsaw made a pretty half-walnut, but didn't get the nuts out very well. He also contemplated some kind of drill thing and "acid that would dissolve the shell."

I'll make some of those cookies with them like I did last year. Their flavor is really nostalgic for me--Grandma C. made cookies with them; that's probably what I remember.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Home Improvements

Robbie took on an electrical task this weekend--replacing an electrical switch at the top of the stairs.

Little did he know that 3-way switches (these two lights can be turned off from upstairs OR downstairs) are a bit tricky! Add to that old wires . . . and it was a bit of a project for an apprentice electrician . . . with no mentor. But he figured it out.

Eli worked on cleaning bugs out of the light fixtures--also tricky as our light fixtures have a weird set-up with tiny, fancy nuts that have to be unscrewed from long posts. . . We lost one of those fancy nuts during cleaning, but were able to substitute a simple hex nut.

As for me, I cleaned out a shower drain. I thought it was kind of penance, as I assumed the slow drain was due to a build-up of long, blonde hair. But the clog was a build up of mineral deposits from our hard, Iowa water. So after some fun with vinegar and a little plastic tool called a "Zip it," the drain is draining again!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Purple Day Post

I think everyone knew people who were "different" in their junior high or high school. You know--the geeky kids, the physically awkward kids. The ones whose clothes were always really out of style. The super-smart-but-nerdy kids. The gay kids.

When I was growing up, those kids got teased, and they got bullied. I'm not talking about good-natured teasing from friends; I'm talking about people ganging up on them, calling them losers, pushing them into lockers in the hall, beating them up. I'm saying "they," but verbal bullying occasionally happened to me (I was a nerdy, shy type who eventually learned how to be as invisible as possible in my desire to avoid bullies).

It probably happened to lots of us.

Once I became a mom, I started to say to my kids, "You guys are lucky. At your school, everyone learns not to bully, and not to be bullied. There were lots of bullies when I was in junior high. But your generation is more emotionally intelligent and tolerant."

I'm not so sure now.

So many news stories can attest that bullying is still going on and still hurts people: recently, we've heard of a rash of suicides among gay or gay-identified teens who have been bullied.

Where is this coming from if our students are coached and taught about emotional intelligence and tolerance from grade school on up? It could be the proliferation of social media which makes anonymous rude comments easier and privacy harder. It could be a decline of general civility. It probably has something to do with anti-gay sentiments among adults that trickles down to our children.

I think lots of people get tired of thinking about and talking to the bullies, though. In a video that's gone viral, Joel Burns, a city council member in Ft. Worth, Texas, decided to think about and talk to the kids who get bullied.

His message: It gets better as you get older. "You'll get out of high school and you'll never have to deal with those jerks again," he says. "You will make friends and they will understand you and accept you."

He speaks especially to young kids who are gay, but his message can bring hope to any "different" kid who is suffering now.

Let's make sure that Joel Burns is right when he assures these kids that mature adults don't act like junior high bullies. Let's prove that we don't use cruel words and physical violence to threaten those we we just think are "ikky" or "different." Let's use our words and our presence to show tolerance and understanding and leave a place for hope in our world--for those kids and for every kid.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Crochet or Smokes? And other musings . . .

Of recent times, medical authorities have declared that crochet work,undertaken in moderation, is one of the most beneficial of home hobbies, as it not only occupies the fingers, but the mind, and is soothing to the nerves. One eminent physician has gone so far as to recommend the pastime to men as well as to women, and to suggest that it might be regarded as a sedative and a substitute for a smoke.
--c. 1916, quoted in Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina

Ellen and I both enjoyed reading parts of Crocheting Adventures when she was here this weekend. I liked the little "tidbits from the history of crochet" and she thought the author explained advanced mathematical concepts very well--using crocheted objects like the one on her book cover.

Yes, we read books while she was here! Someone should have gotten a photo of us, the two teachers, sitting at the picnic table with our laptops--she was doing some grading and I was writing a story.

We did get some photos of more vacation-like moments:
eating dinner outside on a lovely evening and visiting Palisades-Kepler State Park.
Our next rendezvous will be in Cleveland the first weekend of November!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homecoming, etc.

Those of you who are on facebook know that it's been a busy week for the Nesmiths with the Washington High School homecoming. The weather was beautiful for the parade,
the football game (football team got their pumps cleaned, but the band was nice!),

and dance.
Eli was not impressed by the dance festivities

Actually, Robbie wasn't crazy about it either.

Bruce heard this exchange about a week before the dance:
Madalyn: We don't really need corsages.
Robbie: I don't need this homecoming dance.
Madalyn: YOU'RE GOING.

So that's the story.I guess 15-year-old boys don't really like getting dressed up and going out on formal dates. Who'd have known? I wish someone had told me that when I was 15 . . . of course, one solution is to date older boys . . . but Madalyn is very patient! I think Robbie would rather play video games with her or put his arm around her on the couch while they watch a DVD than go out!

This week: lots of writing for me--I have 6 stories for magazines due this month. Two are done. Two more interviews are done. Getting through them! The weather is beautiful--great opportunities to ride my bike to work. And it will be nice--even warm--through the weekend when Ellen visits. yay!