Friday, February 29, 2008

For all the haters

Here is a list of things I ate at the International Students Club luncheon yesterday:

1. Two small veggie eggrolls and one with meat. They even had the spicey sauce that I won't eat at Stacey's because it looks sweet (it has the viscosity of sugar syrup, but with crushed red pepper in it) drizzled over them.

2. Lamb with Greek rice.

3. Something that reminded me of a small, triangular empenada, filled with ground meat and a tasty green herb I couldn't identify. The triangular shape and phyllo wrapper make me think this was also Greek.

4. Penne pasta with chicken and carrots in a cream-based sauce that was slightly pink, possibly from small bits of sun-dried tomato.

5. A small chicken enchilada with green tomatillo sauce.

6. Some other kind of rice.

Only thing I didn't eat: a bowl of Asian soup that looked like egg drop but had some various seafood in it. I tasted it and it would have been good if it hadn't been lukewarm. Seafood+tepid+last lunch of four=bad idea, right? So that wasn't a pickiness issue. And I noticed that some people had some Indian food, like green rice with peas and a vegetable samosa (pakora? I get them confused. Not the fritter one but the wrapped and fried one) that I wanted and didn't get!

Let the record show that the Spanish teacher on my hall refused to go, saying "I don't eat horse meat," and a teacher sitting next to me left 3/4 of the food on her plate untouched. Last year, we went through a buffet-style line, with each student serving the food he or she had brought and telling us what it was. This year they had us come in and sit down, and they brought us a plate. This was nice and much faster (we only get 27 minutes for lunch), but I'm going to suggest they print a little menu next year so we'll know more about what we're eating. It was all really good, though!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

All This and an International Students' Club Luncheon Too

We have had quite the theme of brotherly love here at The high school today. This morning was the program-formerly-known-as the Black History Program, now called The Brotherhood Program. My biological kids were calling theirs the same thing, so this must have been handed down from on high. Anyway, it was actually really good. And since most of you don't get the privilege of spending your days inside a MCS high school, I'm going to describe it for you. I know you're excited!

As we came into the auditorium, images from a Discovery Learning civil rights documentary were being shown on the giant screen on stage, to the accompaniment of our jazz band's alto sax and another instrument I don't know how to identify because, like, I totally was not a band geek in high school! Once all 1700 students were seated by homeroom and settled, the montage was stopped and a student gave some introductory remarks, followed by presentation of the colors and pledge of allegiance by the ROTC (I don't participate in this but I always stand respectfully). Then we all sang the first stanza of "the black national anthem," Lift Every Voice and Sing. I know this song now because it has been sung in so many programs at schools where I've taught, but it was probably the first time in too many years to count that I have had the experience of singing along with a large group of people. I can't sing, in case you were wondering. But it's always touching to me, the way the kids are so familiar with each unusual inflection, exaggerating with the rising and lowering voices as they build to the ending. It was nice.

Next a group of about seven students of multicultural variety came out with candles and performed a...skit, sort of, called "Unity Circle." This consisted of a girl I had in my class briefly at the start of the year blowing me away by singing a song called "Soul Has No Color" that she helped write and perform a few years ago as part of the Echoes of Truth Choir. She sang in an incredible voice, a cappella, with remarkable spunk and confidence, and meanwhile the other students on stage lit each others' candles and repeated the words "I am you, you are me" to each other and the audience as they did so. That part was a little cheesey, but the song was great.

Next, a group of six refugees from Barundi who have been in this country and at school for about two months came out. One of them played an African drum and they all sang a song in their native language in loud, clear, un-self-conscious voices. Based on their easy familiarity with the song and the different parts that each girl took, I would guess it was a song from their childhoods. I was really worried about how all the other kids would respond to their performance, but once they started, you could have heard a pin drop. They finished to an explosion of sincere applause. (Later, someone in a class was talking about how those girls smelled, but a boy countered by saying "That joint was bumping, though." Which is obviously high praise for their song.)

After that, a small group of seniors took turns at the lectern recounting milestones from the Civil Rights movement, each one beginning and ending by saying "Dream, Believe, Achieve." Next, our excellent mixed choir came out and sang "Thank You Jesus." I can pretty well imagine the image most of you will have when you think of a predominantly black teenage choir singing a gospel song, but the reality was probably about as far from what you'd imagine as it could be. Our choir travels this country kicking the ass of every other high school choir they meet--rich and poor, public and private; we beat them out in every competition there is. Imagine a group of African-American teenagers, two white guys, and maybe one or two white girls, wearing tuxes and black floor-length gowns, backs perfectly erect, heads straining forward, faces contorting in the way of the classically-trained singer without a trace of self-consciousness. They sing with no musical accompaniment about 95% of the time, and at one point today the sopranos sustained a single background note for at least three straight minutes. And yes, this is public school, and yes, I said "Thank You Jesus." I've taught at schools where there was prayer at every meeting, basketball game, program, and assembly, and my current school is probably the least offender against the separation of church and state of any school where I've taught. But you are just not going to have a black history program with no Jesus. I've accepted it and moved on. Later the smaller and more highly-competitive concert choir came back out and sang "In My Father's House There Are Many Mansions."

There were also a few solo performances, including the obligatory recitation of "Phenomenal Woman" and an interpretive dance by a brave girl who mostly left me thinking "Damn, I wish my arms looked like that!" And once again, she made it without being laughed at, which made me proud. Because really, it was kind of something you would expect that many teenagers packed into an auditorium to laugh at.

In the end, the principal decided to make a few remarks, which made me think "Oh Crap" and wish that I prayed, so I could pray for him to please god not say anything stupid. He did OK. He chose to use the moment to appeal to the collected student body to curb the recent and unusual outbreak of fights we've had this week. This was a continuation on the theme of Taking Back This Building that started with the bitching out we got in faculty meeting yesterday. He sort of uncomfortably tried to chide the kids for possibly forgetting the struggles and sacrifices that were made to get them here, but mostly redeemed himself by saying he knows he's a white male and can't really understand those struggles. But mostly, I wished he'd just praised the kids for being so well-behaved and sent them back to class.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I secretly believe

That the universe won't let me win the lottery because it knows I would use some of the money to hire nannies and eventually send my kids to boarding school. I try to balance this by mentally promising to give a lot to charity.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How I Spent My Weekend, by Sassy Molassy

I kicked off the weekend by finishing off my March Lamplighter column about five minutes before leaving work on Friday, because it was due that day and I knew if I didn't finish it then, it would be late. Again. Speaking of which, I don't think I ever linked to my February column. February was the Cooper-Young businesses issue, so of course I wrote about my own former business, Mothersville, and all the fabulous things that Andria and Melissa are doing over there these days. And...apparently I'm not going to link you to it now, because their PDF just locked up Firefox three times in a row. Maybe later.

Friday night we were invited to take cocktail hour on the road to the Chez Click, where we enjoyed some delicious appetizers and wine, some sparkling conversation, mainly harmonious playing among the many children, and only a mostly-ignored little bit of "Across the Universe," which was only made more fun by Stacey's constant asking "Is there supposed to be a story line?"

Saturday morning I made breakfast for our family and then some before Big Daddy headed off to work. When will I stop making so many home fries, knowing I'm just going to eat them all? Damn you Chahula! The kids and I played outside for a while, since that is Genevieve's favorite place to be. When Somerset got out her bike, Genevieve started chanting "My bike! My bike!" until I brought out her tiny tricycle. When she got frustrated with that and I asked if she wanted me to push her in her little pink car, she replied adorably "Yes, please." This is how she answers all questions now. Except when her answer is "NO!" We sat on a quilt with Mr. Baby for a bit until Genevieve decided that he, too, wanted to drive the pink car. We strapped him in and set off down the street, to his great delight. He held onto the steering wheel like an old pro, at one point even resting his arm on the back of the seat. Smooth, Mr. Baby. Very smooth. Eventually I took the kids out to my folks' house, where they swapped their usual activity of watching "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody" until my eyeballs bleed for playing board games on Bud's computer. (Yes, they call my dad Bud, and yes, it was my idea that they do so.) Calvin is a natural at Mah Jong, as it turns out.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling like I needed to find the truck that hit me and throw myself under its wheels. Yes, it was time for round two of the dreaded stomach bug that has been making its way through our circle of friends and Genevieve's Montessori school. This time the, uh, "output" (thanks Stacey!) wasn't as violent, but I felt so, so much worse. Fortunately, our very good friend SAM was nice enough to come help BD corral the kids, and I slept until 2:00 p.m. Occasionally I'd drift toward consciousness, roll over, and think about turning on the TV or trying to read, but I never managed to do more than open my eyes for a few seconds before I was under again. Toward the end, Genevieve came in and went to sleep with me, and when we woke up, I was feeling a little better. By dinner time I was just a little shaky and weak, but my attempts to eat dinner weren't very fruitful. I really didn't get my appetite back until today, but unfortunately it's back with a vengeance. If I'm going to get the same evil bug twice, is it too much to ask that it put me under the 140 mark? Sheesh!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Last List

I think I'll go back to my non-list posts for awhile, but I couldn't resist one last list. This one is for Uncle Toby.

The List of My Food Strangeness

1. I can not stand the sight, smell, or taste of mayonnaise. And that includes things that are allegedly not mayonnaise but really are the same nasty thing, like Miracle Whip.

2. I really would rather be punched in the face than take even the tiniest bite of most mayo-based foods, like tuna salad, cole slaw, chicken salad, etc. I consider this to be an actual phobia.

3. I dislike anything sweet and savory together. That means I don't like foods with the words "sweet and sour," "glazed," or "chutney" in the title. No fruit or sugar on meat. I cut the outside part off of honey baked ham. This rules about about 98% of most Chinese takeout, too. The only exception I can think of is cranberry sauce with turkey and dressing. I don't even like sweet-ish barbecue sauces. Sugar is for dessert only.

4. Eating fruit on an empty stomach makes me feel queasy. I need protein at every meal.

5. I do not snack, really. I have no interest in most portable foods. My house can be packed with chips and cookies for the kids' lunch boxes and I won't have the slightest urge to eat them. I want a full, cooked meal that is served hot and requires utensils every time I eat. I do like a good Italian sub, but preferably for lunch, not dinner.

6. If I never ate another piece of bread for as long as I lived, I'd barely miss it. If I eat something on bread or any kind of bun, I won't eat the end parts of the bread that are plain. I will not eat sliced white bread at all. It's too soft.

7. I have no interest in eating any candy that is not chocolate.

8. I have to have a bite of ice cream with each bite of cake. If I run out of ice cream, I just stop eating.

9. There is almost nothing you can do with a tomato or a pepper that I will not like (unless it involves mayonnaise).

10. I crave vinegary foods and have eaten entire jars of pickles and pepperoncini peppers in one sitting. In high school I had uncontrollable urges to drink vinegar on a regular basis. Twice I've correctly suspected I was pregnant after I craved and ate a big bowl of sliced pickles soaked in straight white vinegar that I added.

11. I consider scrambled eggs and hash browns as just vehicles for hot sauce, preferably Chahula.

12. I prefer for all my food to be wet, juicy, and saucy. Thus the bread thing.

13. I think the white meat of chicken is so dry as to almost be inedible, unless it is shredded and in broth or some type of soup or sauce. I like the thighs best.

14. I can't taste avocados.

15. I can't for the life of me understand the appeal of bagels and cream cheese. That is one thing that should be sweet, but isn't. I don't get it.

16. I don't like to bite into anything crunchy that has water coming out of it. This includes raw or noticeable onions in any food, celery, etc. Water chestnuts are like my worst nightmare! Coconut falls into this nasty texture category, although it also tastes like suntan oil. In a bad way.

17. I don't have any problem with "slimy" food textures, like mushrooms (although I don't like them raw). I do have a problem with things that are mushy but strangely dry, like lima beans and boiled egg yolks.

18. I like steak cooked just long enough to be brown on both sides and warm all the way through.

19. I was slow to warm up to sushi not because the raw fish thing bothered me, but because most of it just didn't taste like anything to me. A lot of it is way too bland.

20. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would either be cheesecake or my own spaghetti, I think.

Monday, February 04, 2008

List of things I've had to learn the hard way in life

1. No matter how high I can get the swing going before I jump out, I will not be able to fly.
2. When the childhood belief in magic becomes the informed quest for information, the magic disappears.
3. "We must, we must, we must increase our bust" does not work.
4. Gaining forty pounds as an adult and having four children does, but somehow the victory is bitter-sweet.
5. Cantankerous hippie feminist though I may be, I love me some epidural.
6. I should never drink gin.
7. Red wine is like razorblades coming back up, and it still stains.
8. I can't be trusted to toast garlic bread under the broiler without burning it beyond all remedy.
9. I will probably never enjoy a British novel written before the 1990s.
10. The road to Hell really is paved with good intentions.