Monday, July 30, 2007

Pre-School Jitters

(first, let me clarify right off the bat that by 'pre-school' I mean the time before school begins in the calendar year, not the year before kindergarten...)

It's almost August and today, as I lazed around, having difficulty motivating myself to be productive, I started thinking about September and how much of a struggle it's going to be to develop a school routine again for me and the boys. We are so enjoying getting up whenever we want to, going to sleep whenever we want to, eating whenever we want to ... and yes, some might say that with homeschooling we can continue that life of leisure, but it's not quite the same when there are lessons to do and co-op gatherings to attend.

But before I get too far down this road, thankfully Scarlett saves me and I'm off to have another bon-bon ...

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Well, I have been visiting the library again after gorging myself on HP7. This week I read three very different books (well, one I'm not done with yet, so I guess technically using the past tense is not accurate. Forgive me?)

The Ever Running Man is the latest in the series by Marcia Muller about P.I. Sharon McCone, who lives in California, and whose life is getting increasingly more bizarre (guess Ms. Muller is running out of 'normal' ideas.) There are unknown relatives popping up, and now in this book there are rumors her husband was an arms dealer in the middle east. As usual, Sharon figures everything out and it all ends pretty much OK. I do like the McCone series, and have been reading it for years, so it's like a visit to old friends when a new book comes out.

Last night I read Bringing Down the House in one sitting - it's a fascinating true story of a group of MIT students who develop a system to beat the blackjack tables in Vegas. First off, the minds of these kids are astounding - the way they are able to count cards - when the dealer uses 6 decks - and keep it all straight. Secondly, the creativity they showed in their systems and characters was incredibly entertaining. Third, although they take great pains to explain - several times - that card counting is not illegal in Vegas and that they broke not a single law, you know the gambling world is going to discover what they are doing and take action to prevent it - so there's no small amount of fearful anticipation as you read.

Finally, I am reading Leap! What Will We Do With The Rest Of Our Lives? This is the one I'm not done with yet, and while it doesn't look like it will have any great answers to any great questions, it's always interesting to read about women who redefine their lives midway through, and to learn from their examples, thoughts, and ideas.

Also on my book shelf to read in coming weeks are several guidebooks to Chicago, as the boys & I are heading down there in August to do the touristy stuff, and several books on Minnesota history as we are joining a homeschool co-op this fall that is going to spend the first 3 months of the school year focused on our lovely state.

Monday, July 23, 2007

This just in: Dine with Boring People!

On my favorite radio station this morning they interviewed a researcher who studies eating habits. Recently they measured how much people ate when watching an engaging TV show vs watching nothing or a non-engaging show. Turns out you eat 40% more when you are watching an engaging show! This pattern also appeared when they measured how much was eaten when dining with people vs alone.

Seems when you are interested in a TV show or engaged in conversation you tend to eat more because you aren't as aware of what is going in your mouth, or when you are starting to feel full.

So their recommendation was (if you are trying to lose weight) don't watch TV and only sit with boring people when you are eating.

New Author

I have found a new author to read ... Elin Hilderbrand. I have been devouring all she has written. She reminds me slightly of Rosamund Pilcher or Maeve Binchy - she writes about life, with characters you develop feelings for, and miss when you turn the last page.

All of her books take place on Nantucket Island, and all deal with "summer people" who vacation there. Often there is a character named Alcott (so I assume that's a favorite author!) and nearly every book has someone making a significant change in their life - deciding which way to go at a crossroad or deciding to trust their dreams.

There is a lot about relationships - often big parent-child issues, usually some love issues, and friendship and siblings don't get left out. Occasionally I think she is missing the boat entirely, but more often I like the way she presents the character development.

Nothing heavy or truly thought-provoking, but nice to read.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Windmill in Malawi

Somehow I found my way to a very interesting blog this evening. It is the blog of a young man in Malawi (a small African country south of Tanzania) who built a windmill for his family's land. Not that exciting until you realize he left school at 14 (no money for fees) and figured out - completely on his own - how to construct the windmill and use it to power electrical equipment. I don't even know the correct terminology to describe what he did - and he figured out how to DO it. Oh, and he had never seen (used?) the internet.

That is changed now, after he was invited to a conference in Arusha earlier this year, and he now has a blog. You can read the
whole story here (start at the bottom for the best overview of the story.)

Someone in the media referred to this young man as part of the "
cheetah generation" a new generation of Africans who are not sitting around waiting for the government or other organizations to do things for them, but are instead figuring out how to do things for themselves and their families and villages. The term Cheetah generation was coined by Ghanaian George Ayittey, in his book Africa Unchained. I just reserved it from the library - looks very interesting.

This is what
PHF is trying to do - identify cheetahs, and then help them run.

#8 on my list

Ok, the other day I tried to come up with a Top Ten list and only found 7 items ... now I have #8.

It's hot, I'm tired, I have a to-do list a mile long, and I am stressed! So ... what I am appreciating right this very minute is Corona Light.
Yeah, a nice, cold beer. Nothing better! (and Calandria ... what does 'vas a quererla' mean?)

Many Point

Ben just got home from Boy Scout camp yesterday - he was there for a week, and absolutely loved it! Here are two pictures one of the adult volunteers just emailed us from the experience.
In addition to climbing and basket-making, he did leather-work, went canoeing, kayaking and sailing, swam daily, hiked, learned more camping skills, tried rifle marksmanship and archery, and probably more that I haven't even heard about yet! I think this will go down as the highlight of the summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Legally Blonde

Just watched Legally Blonde on TV. And I am in the best mood now! Is it shallow to be so thoroughly entertained by this movie? To admire Reese Witherspoon's character, Elle Woods, because she is kind, generous, optimistic, true to herself, and just plain nice?

Naah! I like the message, even if the show is a bit hokey. Believe in others, believe in yourself, and you can tackle whatever you put your mind to.

Yeah, I am inspired by a chick-flick. Not a bad way to go through life.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Aquatennial Fun

Ty & I went to the Milk Carton Boat Race and Sand Castle Competition on Sunday. Had a good time walking around and seeing all the festivities!
Here's a winning pirate ship:
As soon as a race was over, each losing ship was immediatly sent to the garbage truck ... as much fun as the race itself, it seemed!
The sand creations were impressive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Top Ten

Top Ten. Tagged by Jessica, here are the top-ten things in my life today (not including humans). Except I can only come up with 7 at the moment. So that will have to do.

7. My adorable dogs. I have appreciated them so much since returning home. They follow me around and gaze adoringly at me at all times of the day. What’s not to love?

6. Apple-Cranberry Juice. Actually I mix my own to get the perfect, refreshing-est combination (approximately 2/3 AJ and 1/3 CJ, with a lot of ice and a splash of cold water.)

5. Oscillating fans. It’s really hot and sticky here and even with the AC on, there is nothing as relaxing and hearing and feeling the fleeting breeze as the fan goes by one direction ..... and then the other.

4. Hearty petunias. I really don’t even care for petunias that much, as flowers go, but have some in some pots on my deck. While I was gone, no one watered anything at my house, and it was really hot ... but the petunias survived. Now I admire them.

3. Pretty toe nails. I got a pedicure yesterday and just gazing down at my “Who do Voodoo” colored toes makes me smile.

2. Quilted toilet paper. After being sick all week ... ‘nuff said.

1. Harry Potter Anticipation! It’s filling my empty hours and minutes this week ... I cannot wait!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


It's 1:30 AM and I just finished re-reading Harry Potter 6 in preparation for HP7 on Saturday.

I had forgotten so much of what happens in 6.

I don't know how I will wait 5 more days. 4 & 1/2, really. 4 if I go buy it at midnight (I have already ordered it to come from Amazon but it is only guaranteed to show up by 7PM on Saturday ... I could have read it twice by 7PM.)
So many questions, so many answers to come.

I'm not a fanatic but tonight I feel like one.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mama Safari

mama , pl mama { English: ma'am , pl ma'ams }noun, - [note: term of polite address used by younger men or women to older women, or by older men in positions of authority to younger women who are their subordinates (in and office, etc).]

safari , pl safari { English: trip , pl trips; journey; expedition } [derived: Arabic]

While in Tanzania, one of our drivers started calling me Mama Safari, and the name stuck. I kind of like it. Mama is not a direct translation for mother in Swahili, it is actually simply a polite way to address a woman, and safari means journey or travel ... so I take it as a name meaning something along the lines of "Woman on a Journey" or "Woman who Travels" .. either of which is nice, and appropriate for me at this stage in my life. (note I am deliberatly ignoring that part about it being used by younger men and women to an older woman ....)


Funny how things go in cycles. One of the teachers on my Africa trip, turns out, was an AFS student, to Norway. When I went to church with Carla in Arusha I was looking at the bulletin board of name tags for church members, and was surprised to see a pair of names I know from AFS volunteering here in MN. Turns out they live every-other-year in Arusha now, volunteering at Selian Hospital. Then, one of my nurses at the emergency room was an AFS student to South Africa. And yesterday I started reading a new blog (one I linked to via Calandria's - who is also another AFSer, but I have known that for a long time) only to find out that this writer, too, is an AFS returnee.

My AFS year was truly a turning point in my life. I spent it in what was then Yugoslavia - I was there a few years before the country split apart into several smaller nations. I never put a lot of thought into applying; my family had hosted several international students and it was just assumed that I would be one, too. It was rather competitive back then - around 15 students from my school applied for the 3 spots we were allotted, and then we had to go through regional interviews to be selected to represent Minnesota - but I always knew I would be going.

When I was there, I felt this incredible freedom to be anyone - I was so far away from anyone who knew anything about me, and this was back in the days before email or cheap phone calls. I talked to my parents only about 3 times, my best friend twice (once on my birthday, once on hers), and otherwise waited 2 weeks for letters to make it across the ocean. It's not that I was radically different from the person I had been in high school, it was that I could have been.

For a long time after I returned from living abroad, I volunteered with AFS. AFS people have such a special way of looking at the world - it becomes more about relationships than borders, and there is always the shared love of travel and adventure. I have been apart from the AFS world for many years now, but am thinking that perhaps I need to reconnect.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back among the living

Well, this morning (Saturday) I awoke feeling close to normal. This is very good news as I have been horribly sick since returning from Africa. I just sent an email to Carla saying that one way I understood how sick I was, was by noting that I had absolutely no desire to be online and checking email. Pretty serious stuff!

I am still very weak but definitely on the rebound now. I did hear from one person that she got really sick after a trip to Africa once and it took 9 months to get totally back to normal. Hopefully I'm not signed up for that plan.

Now I have to go take a nap as this is about as much exertion as I can handle at one time, but it's an improvement!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cell phones at the airport

When my plane landed yesterday, I whipped out my little pink phone and called for my ride. What an incredible convenience that was. Then I called my mom just to say I was safely back in MN, since I had time. What fun that was.

But - when I got my luggage and cleared customs, I went to the area where arriving passengers are met, and I was so saddened by the sight of people talking on their cell phones and NOT jumping up and hugging whoever it was they were meeting. It happened often enough that I really noticed - and it made me really sad.

I used to get tears in my eyes nearly every time I went to the airport - for whatever reason. I would watch the anticipation on faces, see the joy burst through when initial eye-contact was made, and then see the love presented with hugs and smiles and kisses. It was very reassuring to me, seeing all that love everywhere I looked. Seeing all that joy brought tears to my eyes as I imagined how wonderful the reunited friends and family members felt.

Yesterday I saw a lot of busy people. Many, once they hung up the phones, had hugs to share, but it was really different. People were not solely focused on closing the distance between themselves and their loved ones. People were still caught up in the outside world, and the outside world was winning in the competition for attention.

Obviously some of those people had significant and important reasons to be on the phone. But I didn't cry at the airport yesterday, and that made me want to cry.

3:20 AM

Well, I went to bed at 9, here I am at 3, wide awake. Took my malarone and ate something, let the dogs out, and checked my email .....

Now to try for more sleep.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Africa Photos

I am starting to post pictures on the Teacher Trip blog ... check over there to see! I will put some here, too, eventually.

Dorothy was right

Well, I made it back in one piece. I got on the plane to leave Tanzania about 24 hours ago, and am feeling quite proud that I am still sitting up and typing fairly decently with only about 1.5 hours' sleep.

The first leg of the trip the entire plane was entertained (?) by a screaming toddler. The first two hours I felt so bad for this poor child. The second two hours I felt so bad for the screaming child's parents, who surely knew that they were absolutely the least popular passengers on the plane. The third two hours I was amazed at this child's stamina. Why hadn't she fallen asleep mid-scream yet? And the seventh hour (yes, she kept it up for 7 hours) I just wanted to get up and strangle her.

Thankfully we landed and they did NOT continue on to Minneapolis with me. I seriously had already made plans to switch flights if I saw them in my line.

I am tired but it feels really good to be home. It feels odd not to be talking to Carla face-to-face, but the dogs are never more than a foot away from me, and the boys keep giving me hugs, and there really is no place like home.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thank you all!!!

OK, here it is a week later and I am so pleased to have read your notes. I leave Arusha the day after tomorrow to return home and while it will be really hard to leave Carla, it will be so wonderful to see the boys, dogs, famiy and friends waiting for me.

I went on a 3 day safari with the teacher group and it was amazing - saw so many different animals, and loved seeing the different African landscapes of 3 different national parks. Two of the teachers are avid bird watchers and they got the rest of us in the Land Rover really in to looking for and identifying birds. I can't wait to get all the pictures - mine, and the others' (we are all trading pictures) to be reminded of all the beauty.

Tonight Carla & I went to a movie - we saw "Fracture" with Anthony Hopkins. It was great until the very end when I feel they took a bit of a cop-out to tie up all the loose ends. But when we were watching the credits, we noted "Russian Man" and "Russian Woman" and neither of us have any memory of anyone Russian at all in the entire movie and for some reason that struck us as so funny that we giggled all the way home. We are pretty sure not many people walk out of that movie giggling. It made it feel like we were just out on a regular Friday night at the Eden Prairie or Southdale movie theater. Really, really fun. I will miss this woman (again) when I leave.

I get back to town on Monday - will contact you all then!