Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just when you think it's safe to go back in the garden

I woke up to this little ditty on the radio this morning, something that took place unnervingly close to my own home.

Verizon Solicitor Arrested For Indecent Exposure
Police in New Castle County arrested a Verizon solicitor for lewdness after witnesses reported seeing him masturbating while sitting on a street in North Wilmington.

Authorities say Daniel Chelland, 18, of a Garfield Avenue in Wilmington, was arrested Tuesday and charged with counts of lewdness after witnesses reported the indecent exposure to police. Police say Chellend was allegedly going door-to-door on Monday soliciting Verizon services in the North Graylyn Crest community when he was observed taking a break on the curb and masturbating while watching a woman working in her garden.

Neighbors told police Chelland then got up and went to a home on Knowles Road where he attempted to sell Verizon services.

By the time police arrived, Chelland had left the area. Authorities say on Tuesday they received a call about a suspicious man going door-to-door soliciting for Verizon. After a short foot chase, Chelland was arrested and linked to the lewd act on Monday.


The radio report also mentioned that Verizon "outsources solicitation" to marketing companies in the area. Which means they give Verizon uniforms and pamphlets to people hired through temp agencies. Which means there's probably not a whole lot of background checking going on before these folks are walking through our neighborhoods, knocking on our doors, seeing our children playing in the yard...and masturbating while watching us in the garden. Is anyone else disturbed and outraged about this?

Reminds me of the home security system dude who approached me a couple months ago, while my son and I were playing on the front lawn (I was doing a little gardening, too!). He came over, flashed his little Honeywell Security badge, then pulled out a clipboard and started asking all sorts of questions about our security system. He also asked if my husband was home. But my radar really started beeping when he called my son by name and "buddy." Apparently he had overheard me calling to Sweet Boy while he was knocking on the neighbor's door. The mama grizzly in me reared up and said, "You are not his buddy, so please do not call him by his name. Good bye." And we went inside and locked the door.

I saw this guy walking around the neighborhood for at least another 2 hours. And he had the balls to knock on our door again after my husband got home, so he could speak to both of us about his fancy new security system. Once again mama grizzly roared, but this time she was a raging feminist grizzly: "I do not need my husband to help me keep my family safe. And frankly, you're setting off every one of my internal security alerts, so please leave."

(OK, no, I didn't really say that out loud, but that's what was screaming inside my head, and I did forcefully ask him to go away and not return.)

Lately we've had a new solicitor knocking every day. I think most of them are political party folks, but I don't know for sure because every time someone knocks on the door, Sweet Boy and I play the "see how quiet we can be" game. Me no likey no solicitors! And this news tidbit today just reaffirms that we should perhaps start a movement to keep these folks out of our (tidy, middle class suburban) neighborhoods. Mama grizzlies unite!


*there is actually a Book Mender on staff at the library. And it's a big deal position...the children's librarian can't just slap some Scotch tape on there.

* it’s not smart to hang up your swimsuit without rinsing it first because the crazy-chlorine from the YMCA pool will eat a hole right through the lycra…which is embarrassing the next time you put the suit on.


the way Sweet Boy's entire face jiggles when he runs around the playground.

Welcome to the adventure

It's recently occurred to me that I've spent too much time editing other people's words and not enough time writing my own. So, I've jumped on the blogwagon to get me back into the writing lifestyle -- and I present to you Tall Girl's Adventures in a Tiny World.

The idea
Even day-to-day life is an adventure for this very tall 30-something suburban working mama-wife-daughter-sister-friend. Here you'll find my musings (ramblings?) on current events, trends, entertainment, and social goings-on. Whew…how’s that for a broad canvas?

Basically, when it pops into my head, I’ll write about it. And I hope you’ll respond. I’m new to blogging, but I’m pretty sure the whole point is to have a truly interactive writing experience, so please interact! You can subscribe to the adventures, too, which will tell you whenever I've posted something new. (Oh, and read more about me, if you’re curious, by clicking the link to the bottom of the page.)

The title
I have been 6’2” since about age 13, and my height has presented me with, well, let’s say challenges – as well as some excellent opportunities. I have often been asked “How’s the air up there?” by shorter, less witty folks. And my answer always has been, “Much, much clearer.” I hope to share some of that clear air with you, dear reader.

The "tiny world" portion of the title reflects the tidbits I'm learning from the little boy who's shaping me each day (and by shaping, I don't mean the actual shape of my body, though I could blame some of that on him, too). In the three years that I've been a mom, my world has gotten much smaller -- in more ways than one -- and I'm a better person for it. Life is simpler and sweeter when seen through the eyes of a child, and I'll try to share some of that with you. (I’ll try to keep the potty training entries to a minimum, but I make no promises.)

And let’s face it, the world is tiny these days, is it not?

This is a work in progress, so please stick with me as I fine tune my purpose and content. And let me know if there's anything you'd be interested in reading about, or if there are ways I could make this blog more engaging, exciting, entertaining…purple.

I can't call myself a writer, after all, if I'm not actually here goes.

Happy reading!


PS -- I've shown you mine, now you show me yours – send me your URL so I can read up. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fare ye well, Monte Cristo

There are few things in this world that I love more than a Monte Cristo sandwich from Bennigans (chased with a Death By Chocolate dessert...oh, how my stomach rumbles as I write these words). Due to constant calorie counting over the past 10 years, however, it's been a long time since I surrendered to such decadence. Maybe too long, since I read this morning that all company-owned Bennigans and Steak & Ale restaurants have closed.

WHAT? Can you just close a restaurant chain without warning? (The article does state that franchisee-owned restaurants are remaining in operation, so I will be driving by my local Bennigans later today to check it out.)

Take heart, greasy-gooey sandwich lovers. There are a number of recipes online for the Monte Cristo sandwich, and the one below got good ratings on (Interestingly, if you click this link and go to "print this" the nutrition information appears. It's not health food, but it's not as bad as I'd imagined -- what my friends at KidsHealth would call "Whoa" food.)

If you're like me, making it yourself is never as enjoyable as having it served to you by a perky teenager in suspenders, but this will have to do. I'm thinking that substituting beer for the water might make this even yummier, but however you alter this recipe, don't forget the crucial powdered sugar on top and raspberry jam for dipping!

Because I have to shimmy into a lovely little silk birdesmaid dress in less than two months, I will most likely not be making this delicacy for myself any time soon. So please let me know if you try it, and how it compares to the real thing.

Bennigan's Monte Cristo Sandwich

Makes 3 sandwiches


9 slices whole wheat bread
3 slices cooked turkey
3 slices cooked ham
3 slices American cheese
3 slices swiss cheese

1 egg
1-1 1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
vegetable oil (for deep frying)

1. Place turkey and Swiss cheese on one slice of bread and ham and American cheese on another slice of bread.
2. Place third slice in-between and secure the triple-decker sandwich in the corners with tooth picks.
3. Place egg in mixing bowl, add water and beat together.
4. Add salt, sugar, flour, and baking powder. Beat batter until smooth.
5. Dip sandwich in batter and carefully cover all the sides and surface.
6. Carefully place in hot oil and fry until golden.
7. When sandwich has turned a warm gold color remove from hot oil and place on paper towel.
8. Let cool for a few minutes before removing the toothpicks.
9. Before serving slice into fourths and sprinkle with powder sugar.
10. Serve with Raspberry jam.

* a day in the office surrounded by grown-ups. Who talk about really smart topics, like who's a better dancer, Turbo or Ozone, in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

* Big Daddy's sales meeting is finally over -- so we're a happy threesome once more.

* that I shouldn't be alarmed, really, when my child tells me he wants to give me a tongue kiss. Cuz it's really just a lick. Which is gross, but infinitely less gross than it could have been.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One and done?

Sweet Boy and I just came from an awesomely fun birthday party at our local Moonbounce Adventures. He ran around like a spring-footed maniac, and I watched with a big goony smile on my face, thinking, wow, what a grown-up boy he is...and how easy and wonderful this is to just stand here and watch him have fun. (Sidenote: I really wish I'd remembered to wear socks because I really would have been in there bouncing with him!)

Then I looked around at my mom-friends, all of whom have more than one child. They were really working! These mamas are amazing. Do they give out the secret hidden arms and extra pairs of ears and eyes when you check out of the hospital with your second child? They're keeping track of more than one kid in more than one location at all times, attending to every child's needs without once yelling "Mommy just wants to sit down!" I found myself staring dumb, feeling like I should be helping, but how in the world could I give a hand without totally throwing off the flow, systems, and momentum they've developed? I would just get in the way.

At one point the kids were all seated at the table while the hostess doled out the pizza. My son got his slice, I poured him juice and gave him a handful of pretzels, then sat down. He sat there chomping away, I sat there watching him. Easy-peasy. Meanwhile, the other moms were pouring juice, wiping spills, taking care of infants, deciphering toddler-speak, dishing out potato chips, cutting up pizza, and taking photos...simultaneously. I was awed.

A well-meaning but insensitive coworker once said to me, during one of the horribly intrusive and obnoxious when-are-you-going-to-have-#2 conversations (I'll save that rant for another day), "You know, you're not truly a parent until you have two or more children." That offended me, of course, but today it's ringing in my ears, and I wonder, is it true? Am I a slacker mom? Am I just coasting through parenthood?

We haven't yet decided if Sweet Boy is going to be an only child. (And how arrogant to believe that it's truly our decision to make.) If we're going to have another baby, we should probably do it soon before we are too spoiled by our grown-up boy's independence and easy going nature. My slacker side says, stop while you're ahead, one is perfect: you'll never be outnumbered, you'll eventually not have to wipe any more poopy butts, and soon you'll be able to sleep past 7 am on a Saturday. Heaven! But my restless side says, what are you waiting for? If those women can do it, you certainly can! That boy needs a playmate! And sleeping in is overrated!

Tough call. Today was perfect with just one...but those other moms seemed to be having fun too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Throwing tea in the harbor

For months now, I have been ranting to anyone who will listen (and really that's only my husband, who has to share my bed, and my coworkers, who have to sit in an adjoining cubicle for 8 hours a day) that our forefathers would never have allowed what's happening in our country these days. We're all sitting around griping -- myself included -- about gas prices and grocery prices and wars and idiot leaders...but who's going to start the revolution? Who's going to throw the tea in the harbor?

I was delighted to learn today that we've rediscovered a little bit of our revolutionary roots. Tonight ABC News reported that Americans drove almost 10 billion fewer miles in May 2008 than in May 2007. And guess what? The average price of gasoline has dropped 11 cents in the last week. YES! (Did you ever think you'd see the day that I danced over $3.87 a gallon?)

Keep up the good work, my fellow gas guzzlers. And if the price of gas keeps falling, please don't forget what it feels like to drop $75 in a single trip to the pump. Continue to conserve. It's good for us all.

Mommies, if this doesn't make you want to smash your televisions...

I just made me run for the Verizon FIOS hook-up in my garage...then I realized I don't own a sledgehammer, and who knows what that thing is actually hooked to and whether its destruction would lead to some kind of space-time alteration.

Anyway, here's a snippet of the article that just caused my minor embolism:
TV Really Might Cause Autism

Today, Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3. The researchers studied autism incidence in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They found that as cable television became common in California and Pennsylvania beginning around 1980, childhood autism rose more in the counties that had cable than in the counties that did not. They further found that in all the Western states, the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders.

The Cornell study represents a potential bombshell in the autism debate. "We are not saying we have found the cause of autism, we're saying we have found a critical piece of evidence," Cornell researcher Michael Waldman told me. Because autism rates are increasing broadly across the country and across income and ethnic groups, it seems logical that the trigger is something to which children are broadly exposed. Vaccines were a leading suspect, but numerous studies have
failed to show any definitive link between autism and vaccines, while the autism rise has continued since worrisome compounds in vaccines were banned. What if the malefactor is not a chemical? Studies suggest that American children now watch about four hours of television daily. Before 1980—the first kids-oriented channel, Nickelodeon, dates to 1979—the figure is believed to have been much lower.

Yet another example of the media latching on to a Big Bad Scary Thing and blowing a single study out of proportion? Or is TV really the root of all things bad?

Maybe I should consider becoming Amish. Th
e simple life has always appealed to me, and I'm sure I could eventually get used to making my own butter. This article ends with one more item to add to my pro-Amish list:
"Autism is rare in Amish society, and the standing assumption has been that this is because most Amish refuse to vaccinate children. The Amish also do not watch television."

(Note: Read some of the comments, too, at the end of the Slate posting... interesting input.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Are girls smarter than boys? The age-old debate lands on my desk

My current project is editing a book about how to teach boys to read and write. Yes, you got it: The premise is that boys and girls are biologically wired to learn differently -- and, get this -- boys develop literacy skills more slowly than girls. So we need to go easy on them, which in teacher-speak is called "differentiate instruction." And K-3 teachers need to teach them how to be good men by using picture books that contain positive male characters and positive messages about masculinity.


This project is a challenge on many levels. First of all, it's written like ass. That's right, I said it: ass. But that's what I get paid to do, un-assify it. So I'll do my best.

However, I have such a problem with the fundamental argument here, that it's all I can do to remain professional and not write queries like "Are you freaking kidding me?!" in the margins. OK, so I think we all can agree that girls are more verbally inclined than boys (which is a much nicer way to say what my husband would put it, I know), but I'm wondering is slowing down your speech, talking more loudly, and catering to boys' more active lifestyles is the way to go in most classrooms...or does this just perpetuate the "bring everyone to the middle" style of teaching that's been the norm in American classrooms for the last 10 years (thank you, GWB, and your ridiculous NCLB)?

On a personal level, though, as the mommy of a precocious, energetic 3yo boy, this book alarms me. The second part of the authors' premise states that boys have shorter attention spans and more violent interests because of TV and video games. I've read the research studies, people, so I know this is true---we're ALL developing attention troubles because of our sound-bite-infested world. But even more troubling than their ranting about the evils of cable television, the authors make these sweeping claims that seem to perpetuate the stereotypes they're trying to debunk.

Despite the flaws, though, I'm happy to have someone suggest that the way to reach boys is through good picture books. I think books are crucial to a fulfilling life, period. But I'm slightly unnerved by the authors' claims of moral education based on picture book characters. Of course all parents want to instill virtues in our children, but isn't moral education somewhat subjective? How much of it should be tackled in an elementary school classroom? I don't know that it should be totally left to the teacher, especially when the teacher is 9 times out of 10 a woman, and what does a woman know, really, about being a good man?

Perhaps this is the rub: In an ideal world the teaching of morals and how to be a good man wouldn't be left to the teacher. But we all know we don't live in an ideal world. So maybe my job here is much bigger than just editing a book.

I'm afraid to love him

...but it might be too late.

Have you seen this Barack Obama speech from Berlin?

Damn, the man can orate.

Since he announced his candidacy, I've been resisting the Obamamania. I really, really wanted to see Hillary in the White House, for many reasons, but mostly because the thought of a woman President just gives me chills. But, alas, we will have to wait for that.

I still am not convinced that Obama is ready for this big job. But wouldn't it be nice if he could deliver the change and hope of which he speaks so eloquently? Every time I stand in line at Shoprite and marvel at the expense of milk and every time I drive by Gulf and vomit at the expense of gas, I think, maybe...maybe in just a few short months this knot in my stomach will dissipate.

But I'm afraid to get my hopes too high. I'm afraid to love him. I'm afraid that this time around, if I'm too invested in this candidate, the disappointment on November 5 would be much more than I can handle. (Oh, Lord, remember that Day After in 2004? What pain!)

I should probably stay away from speeches like this one, or the hope will start to rise again.