Thursday, January 31, 2008

January Book List

Dai Sijie Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables
L.M. Montgomery Anne of Avonlea
Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go
Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck The Dressmaker
L.M. Montgomery Anne of the Island
Laura Ingalls Wilder The Long Winter
Jon Krakauer Into the Wild

Toward the end of December, I wrote a posting listing every book that I had read in 2007. This year, I've decided to post a books-read list on a monthly basis. In the next few weeks, I'll post a review of one of these books. I want to give them time to sit in my mind and then I'll write about the one that left the greatest mark on my thoughts. As you can see, there have been a handful of children's books on my table this month, quick reads that charm because they remind me of the first time I read them and how much I enjoyed them. A good book is still good, more than 25 years later.

I always feel productive when I see a long list of books that I've read in the month, though I fear that I've set the bar high for 2008.

What have you been reading this month?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some Thoughts on Fiscal Stimulus and Healthcare Reform, part II

In my January 27th post, I explained the definition of a recession and I wrote about the last time the U.S. faced one (back in 2001). Seven years later, the nation is once again worried about a recession, prompting Congress to propose some quick spending in the form of rebate checks to tax payers. The House proposal would send $600 rebates to most taxpayers; more for those with kids in the house. The Senate has yet to debate the proposal, but the safe money says that some sort of rebate will be coming our way on the next few months.

I am not convinced that a rebate is what we need. I would argue that our problem right now is more complicated than a recession. Instead, it looks to me like a combination of slow economic growth and inflationary pressures, a problem that is known is stagflation. I've already explained slow economic growth, and the sources of that problem are varied. Inflation (when prices increase without a change in the amount or quality of the good being purchased) is a normal part of the American economy. As long as income rises to cover it, inflation isn't a problem per se. But the average American in the last year has seen prices for certain non-negotiable goods rise sharply, while their incomes have not risen to cover those costs. Those non-negotiables are fuel (in the form of gasoline and home heating costs) and food (the short explanation is that the increase in gasoline costs added to an increase in the price of corn translates to higher food costs.. At the same time that we are suddenly spending more for food and fuel, a greater portion of our monthly income is also being spent on increased healthcare costs. Healthcare spending, (which you will recall was the second most popular way to spend the 2001 Bush rebate) isn't always considered when economists talk about increases in the CPI (the consumer price index). But it should be.

In 2001, Americans spent approximately 7% of their income on healthcare costs (the employee's share of the premium for insurance provided by employers; prescription co-pays; doctor's visit co-pays, and the like). In 2007, we spent 17% of our take-home pay on healthcare. That's a much greater portion of our income, and gives you some feel for how quickly healthcare costs are spiraling upward. In the process, healthcare spending consumes more of our income, and leads to reduced spending on other consumer goods. In combination with the increases in fuel and food, I think that healthcare spending is a major factor in the economic slow-down that we are calling a recession right now.

A rebate check may temporarily cover some of those healthcare costs, but it won't fix the problem for good. 2008 is a presidential election year and, by the looks of it, a lot of people are interested in the election. Healthcare is frequently identified as an issue that American are worried about. 47 million of us don't have insurance at all and many of us who do have insurance are paying thousands of dollars a year for that insurance. Our employers are paying more.
Our healthcare dollars largely support a system of healthcare insurance that has a profit motive. Universal care, using a single payer model, in which we all participate would save us billions of dollars and provide healthcare to all of us.

Is my idea radical? Absolutely. But the problem has reached epic proportions and for the billions of dollars we are spending, we could provide healthcare to all of us, every single person in this nation, and probably for less money. That we do not do so is morally shameful. And, in my view, it's one of the biggest economic problems we face.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mama Nirvana

Each night, I read to JT when I tuck him into bed. I've been doing that for nearly 8 years now and it's often the best part of my day. Since JT learned to read, he's also had the chance to read books to himself. But he hasn't yet tired of having me read to him......the feeling is mutual.

Lately, we've been reading The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald. The books tell the stories of the Fitzgerald brothers, who grew up in southwestern Utah in the late 1800s. JT has enjoyed every book in the series, but Me and My Little Brain, the volume we are reading now, has really caught his fancy. Tonight, as we read about escaped outlaw Cal Roberts, JT was enthralled. After 20 minutes, when I told him I was done reading for the night, he didn't complain and picked up the book he is reading to himself (Stuart Little).

I left the room and ran a bath for myself and when I peeked into JT's room, I saw that he had picked up Me and My Little Brain and was reading it to himself. A few minutes later, as I was settling into the bubble bath with my book he rushed into the bathroom ------ he just had to tell me what happened. Then, as I sipped my cup of tea, he read the book to me so that I could get caught up.

I think that it is now safe to say that I have successfully passed on my love of books.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Civics Lesson from My Seven Year Old

I considered live-blogging tonight's State of the Union address but, honestly, I plan on raising a rueful toast's President Bush's last State of the Union and, frankly, it's been a long 8 years. So I say good riddance to bad rubbish and will instead turn my attention to the contest to see who gets to give next year's State of the Union, a much more promising prospect than tonight's dog and pony show.

One of the big reasons that I have been exposing JT to politics this year is so that he will have memories of the 2008 presidential race. I want him to begin to view citizenship as both a privilege and a right. He knows the major candidates; he knows what they believe. He knows how I plan to cast my ballot(and why I feel the way that I do) when New Jersey participates in the Super Tuesday primary on February 5th.

He also knows that we have to wait another year to send President Bush packing. I have explained the primary election process to him and we have discussed the primaries as they have unfolded. The other day, he asked why the primaries are now and why George Bush won't be going away for several more months.

This question gave me pause. I know the answer, but how do I explain the front-loaded, costly, drawn-out American electoral landscape in terms that a 7 year old can understand?

I took a breath and prepared to wade in. But before I could offer an explanation, JT said, "Well, I guess that there are a lot of people in 50 states and if you want to be president, you should go to every one of them."

And, you know, that's a pretty good answer. My 7 year old was reminding me that elections are important and are worthy of our attention, perhaps even our drawn-out attention. American democracy is sometimes a spectacle, but it's still the greatest show on earth. I'm proud to share it with my son, just a my parents (and grandparents) shared it with me. I'm still not convinced that long, drawn-out and untidy primaries are a good thing. But I know that the alternative to our messy but free election is surely not an option.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Some Thoughts on Fiscal Stimulus and Healthcare Reform, part I

Bear with me here, as I know that the title of the post has put you right to sleep. But please pour a fresh cup of coffee and stick with me....I promise that I'll at least get you thinking. My motivation has been some thinking I've been doing on the issue of healthcare reform; specifically what sort of political change is necessary to get the nation truly interested in a major restructuring of the American healthcare system.

First, a tiny serving of the dismal science in the form of some (very basic) economics. The current Congressional debate about a fiscal stimulus plan is driven by the concern that the economy is in a recession. Technically, the economy is in a recession when it does not grow for two quarters in a row. In simple terms, economic growth is defined as an increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the economy. Economic theory tells us that spending will get us out of a recession. The last recession was in 2001 and it prompted a fiscal stimulus in the form of rebate checks to American taxpayers. Most economists agree that the 2001 quick-fix did help to spur economic growth. But the spending did not spur increases in productivity, the real ticket to long-term economic growth. So 7 years later, and with problems like inflationary pressures and the popping of the housing bubble in the news, we've got trouble again. The dreaded r-word.

In 2001, when the Bush Administration paid out checks for a fiscal stimulus program, Americans spent the money as directed. The idea was that a quick infusion of spending would get the economy back up to speed. Most Americans, with our abysmal savings rates, needed little urging to spend extra cash and so we complied, spending the better part of the money paid out (which averaged $300 per taxpayer, more for people with a kid on hand). Our top three spending priorities in 2001: clothes, healthcare spending, and shoes (in that order). Clothes and shoes don't jump start the economy much because most of those items are made overseas, but they must be shipped and distributed and so that sort of spending did help the economy, at least marginally. Healthcare spending was mostly domestic . And no matter how you slice it, the 2001 tax rebate did put money into circulation in greater amounts. And spending ----- of nearly any kind ---- is the cure for a recession. So the 2001 tax rebates helped get us out of recession.

That brings us to this month's debate about what's up with the economy. There is the well-known bursting of the housing bubble, of course. There is also the fact that consumer confidence has fallen in the last few months, a factor that resulted in less consumer spending, as people hold on to their spare cash in case of a future (economic) rainy day. Many people argue that all of this spells the dreaded recession. And as you now know (are you still reading?): the solution to a recession is.............spending.

You've been very patient to read this far. Later on in the upcoming week, in our next economic lesson, I will explain how healthcare reform may be the answer to our economic woes.

Update: I've corrected my definition of economic growth per the advice of my sister, an actual dismal scientist and lurker extraordinaire who pointed out that " could produce the
same # of goods & services this year as last...and if the dollar inflates the total
dollar value will be more. but did your economy grow? Nope. You made the
same quantity as before."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cabin Girl

Thursday was crazy hat day in the lower school and after much debate, JT settled on a fancy pirate hat. All that velvet and gold could only signal one thing: he is the captain of the SS Sassafras. And that means that I am the Cabin Girl, as he promptly announced when he put on the hat.

"Hop to it, Cabin Girl," he ordered me, "and get me my breakfast."

I complied with the orders and then another job was thrown my way. "My ship is moving around too much and I had a bad aim in the bathroom," the Captain announced, "you'll need to swab the deck in here."

"Cook the breakfast and swab the decks?" I complained, "I don't want to be the cabin girl anymore."

"At least you have a job," the Captain responded.

Geez, now that I think about it, the Captain must be a Republican.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Over It

It's midterm week here at my school and that means lots of grading.


Teachers all have their own way of getting things done. Mine is to place the exams in one pile, and then place the answer key just to the left of the pile. I'm right-handed and that facilitates fast movement with the pen of wisdom.

Or whatever it is.

So this morning, I'm having a difficult time and can't quite figure out why I'm having to reach across the answer key to make comments (thus covering up the things I've written on the key). I'm annoyed.......and for several more minutes than I care to admit in this public forum.

Then I realize: I've got my grading pile disorganized. Key on the right; pile on the left. Improper formatting.


So glad that it's me in charge of this situation and not some incompetent teacher.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Tough Crowd

The other night, JT got out a bunch of little guys and played school with them. It's an odd assortment of students, featuring some pirates, a few knights, and some of the settlers from Jamestown (those who survived the starvation, disease, and malnutrition). Many of the students attended class with weaponry in hand.

Clearly, it's an unusual school.

If that wasn't already clear, the following conversation showed me that JT's Prep School is a special place.

JT (as the teacher): I like the way Bill is being so quiet.

Pirate student (also the voice of JT): Yeah, well Bill is so quiet because he's dead.

And when I looked carefully, Bill was a skeleton lying by a barrel of rum (he's on the left in the front row.....the bones are bleached out). I guess that would explain why he's so quiet.

Someone better call the Department of Education.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Real Life Conversations with JT: Faux Pas edition

The backstory: Today, I joined JT's class and several other 2nd grade parents for a baby shower for Mrs. Q (who expects to deliver a baby any minute now). When I left the party, I went over to the table where JT was sitting with several of his buddies. In an unguarded moment, I committed a parental sin: I kissed him on the head in front of his pals. To his credit, JT flinched only a little. I quickly covered up my inappropriate actions by then kissing every boy within reach. M and D couldn't escape me and got a kiss. A few others hopped out of reach while shouting "cooties." Tonight, as I was tucking him in bed, I kissed JT on the head and he looked at me askance.

Mama: Sorry about that kiss in front of your buddies today. I didn't mean to embarrass you.

JT: It was okay, but don't do it again.

Mama: Even if I kiss all the little boys in your class?

JT: Do that, and you'll have an angry mob on your tail.

I've been warned.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Taming the Beast

When JT was a baby, my friend Janet made him two beautiful afghans. By the time he was a year old, these blankets were the top of the heap. We carried them everywhere; all of the time. Known as Blanky and Softy, they were his most favorite lovies. Even today, at the ancient age of 7, he still sleeps with them.

As part of the cleaning frenzy that occupied my day today, I washed Blanky and Softy. When JT spied me folding laundry and realized that Blanky and Softy were sweet-smelling and warm from the dryer, he cuddled right up with them.

It made such a sweet picture. And the quiet? That was pretty sweet as well.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Daydream Drought

This year I've decided to re-read the L.M. Montgomery books about Anne of Green Gables. There are 6 all together in the series and as an adolescent I loved those books for several reasons. I loved them for the hopeful story ---- about a young orphan girl who finds a home and family with an aging brother and sister, the Cuthberts ---- and for the beautiful descriptions of Prince Edward Island.

But mostly I loved them because of Anne's rich inner life. Anne has a dramatic, expansive imagination and she uses it to imagine herself right into a very happy life. As a girl, I was an inveterate daydreamer myself, imagining a future life well-different from my suburban California existence. I dreamt of new places and new experiences. Like Anne, I believed that in dreaming and imagining, I could make my deepest desires come true. I thought of Anne as my secret soul mate. Finally, someone who felt just like me, even if she was just a character in a book. I daydreamed myself right into adulthood and beyond, with myriad plans for my future.

That's a secret I've never told anyone.

19 months ago the daydreaming suddenly halted. I thought that it would be temporary but the daydream drought continues. I think it's one of the reasons I have had such a difficult time adjusting to the change in my world. For the first time in my life, I can't daydream; I cannot picture my future. My imagination fails me so much these days that I have trouble picturing the end of the month, let alone some point in the future when I will feel whole again. My imagination is no longer up to the challenge of picturing my future and I hadn't realized how much I would miss it. So it's been nice to make Anne's acquaintance again, to realize that it will be well worth my time to work a little harder to re-acquaint myself with the part of me who isn't afraid to dream of the future.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tiger is the Boss of Me

Tiger likes to sit in my lap and be petted. That's fine, but lately he wants to sit on my lap while I am at the table, working on my computer. There's plenty of room, though Tiger is inconvenienced when I use my hands to type, periodically huffing loudly and then re-arranging himself on my lap.

It's as if my lap is there for his convenience and me, using my own body, IS NOT PERMITTED.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Well Mannered

As my boy approaches the ripe old age of 8, he's been engaged in steady self-improvement. He uses please and thank you almost all the time; he often remembers to hold the door when my hands are full; he's an ace at grocery cart returns (the same cannot be said for anyone else in New Jersey). I'm proud to see how kind and well-mannered he is.

At school, he's been practicing using good table manners. Today, the second grade took a trip to a local restaurant to demonstrate their freshly minted table manners. He got a haircut and pulled out his best duds for the trip. He was very excited as he headed off to school this morning. Then, JT and his dressed-up classmates headed off to politely order lunch, keep their elbows off the table, and remember to sit in their chairs while they eat.
He came home and reported that he liked Caesar salad (or at least would be willing to try it again). And he's a big fan of tiramisu. He reports that the waiters were very kind and he hopes they got a big tip. "It's hard work looking after second graders," he announced.

But honestly, a kid like him (mostly) makes the job easy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Old Man Jammies

The boy received three pairs of pajamas for Christmas ----- a very good thing as his old jammies had grown too small, leaving wrists and ankles exposed to the chill in his mama's house. This pair is his favorite because they are his "old man jammies"......apparently, the elderly wear flannel pajamas with pockets.

I think that he looks incredibly cute in these pajamas, though he rejects that description as he feels that cute doesn't adequately describe the rugged manliness that these pajamas bring to his appearance.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Filling the Gap

JT has a mouth prone to cavities and so for the last year he's been going to the dentist every 4 months instead of every 6 months. He's had to have a filling at the last two visits and this has generally made him cranky.

It also means that he dreads going to the dentist.

His 4 month check-up was last week and when he was saying goodbye to his other mom last Sunday, she wished him good luck at the dentist and asked me to let her know how the check-up goes.

Why? I asked myself.

When she was a part of our daily life, we would have phoned her on our way home from the dentist. We used to talk about her all of the time. But she's not a daily presence in our life anymore, a choice that she made. It's a choice that I fundamentally do not understand. I do understand that for JT's behalf, I have to pretend that she cares about his well-being. I don't want him to feel the pain of her departure any more than he does, so I pretend, reminding JT that she loves him when the topic of Lisa comes up.

Despite the fact that the topic of Lisa comes up less and less often, it's getting harder and harder to keep up the fa├žade that the Mommy who walked out of his daily life actually matters to his daily life.

I believe that it is in the daily living that a child is raised and learns the values that will shape his world. It is in the daily life that a family is made. The routines, the patterns, the commonplace moments, and the inside jokes....these are the daily life that JT and I have.

And Lisa is no longer a part of it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Year's Resolution

I have had enough therapy so that while I am still certifiable, I do know better than to make any new year's resolutions. Therefore, this is not a post about my new year's resolutions, which I don't need to make because I'm already perfect.


But the second graders are still under construction and when I was in their class last week to read a book to the boy and his classmates, I noticed that all of the second graders have made a new year's resolution.

My son resolved to read more books. Yes, that's right: TO READ MORE BOOKS.

My work here is done.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

January 12, 1971

One of my very first memories is from the day she was born. I'm three years old, standing in the kitchen in the house on Pico Street, holding the phone to my ear. My father tells me that my mom had the baby and it's a girl. I'm very excited. And when he also reports that she has curly hair, I'm instantly envious.

The day that the new baby came home from the hospital, family lore has it that I'm so excited to see her that I throw up. It's hardly a good welcome to the world. And it doesn't nearly express how I've felt about my little sister, whom I loved and admired instantly.

As long as I can remember, she's been my buddy and companion. Although I'm the older sister, she's the one who always has looked after me. When I wanted to play school all weekend long, she was a willing student. When I was afraid to ask for something that I wanted, she would boldly take charge. When a bully picked on me in the fifth grade, she defended me. We're grown ups now, no longer "the girls." But she's as firmly in my corner as she ever was, perhaps more so.

When things go badly for me, I turn to her and I know that she'll have the answers. She makes me laugh more than any other person I know. As a fellow parent and teacher, I admire the sensibility she brings to both of those worlds. She's my realist-at-large and I admire her so much that I've forgiven her for her impressive height, the effortless way she looks good in anything she wears, her curly hair, and her knack for being the most photogenic person on the planet.

She's turning 37 today and I want her to know that I'm as proud to be her sister today as I was that day not so long ago when she was born.

Happy Birthday KO.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cat Haiku

My good friend S is a haiku writer and I admire what she has written (check her out at

Poetry is not in my skill set ------ I am a failed English major after all ------ but the other day, as Tiger was engaged in biting the hand that feeds him, JT composed the following haiku-esque poem.....

He scratches and bites
and yet
we still pet him

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Granite State Predictions

For today's New Hampshire primary predictions, AP Government decided to take a shot at predicting vote percentages for the candidates. So, in addition to ranking the final showings, we're giving out numbers.

Live by the numbers or die by the numbers, we'll put ourselves out there.

For the Democrats:
Obama: 36 – 37%
Clinton: 28 – 32%
Edwards: 18 – 20%
Richardson: 4%

For the Republicans:
McCain: 33 – 37%
Romney: 24 – 26%
Huckabee: 10 – 12%
Paul: 8 – 10%

Obviously, the 35% of Granite State voters who identify as Independents will be the big story today. Will they go for McCain or Obama? But we also wonder if Hillary's unexpectedly emotional appearance yesterday will help or hurt her prospects going forward. By a narrow margin, we decided it will help.

If we are right about the Democrats, then the big news out of the Granite State is that Obama is looking good to go. Inevitability is no longer the Clinton claim. And Edwards must now deliver the goods in either Nevada or South Carolina if he is to hold on until February 5th.

And on the GOP side of the fence, McCain has clearly benefited from history (he won this state in 2000) and the abundance of editorial endorsements that he received. Romney will be under pressure to deliver in South Carolina, where he can expect Huckabee to show strong. And Giuliani, who was actually organized in New Hampshire, is looking weaker by the day.

Morning After Update: Wea Culpa
Okay, then. Let's start with the obvious: we missed the impending Clinton surge. We take some comfort in the fact that we weren't alone.

Clearly the historical pride that Granite State voters take in being independent-minded is not mis-placed. Suffice it to say that New Hampshire has been good to the Clinton family. Hillary Clinton's victory in New Hampshire was not a big margin, but given that nearly every poll in the state had her down by 10 points going into the vote on Tuesday, it is suitably impressive. And she has spent the last few days of her campaign speaking more informally, taking impromptu questions from both the press and the public. She's good at that and should have been doing it more often; last night it paid off. We expect more of that in the coming weeks.

The final Democratic numbers from New Hampshire:
Clinton: 39%
Obama: 37%
Edwards: 17%
Richardson: 5%

Our analysis of the GOP vote last night was more accurate. McCain came in at 37%, which was our upper estimate. We figured Romney in the 20s and he came in at 32%; clearly we didn't give him enough credit. At 11%, Huckabee was just where we expected him to be. Giuliani edged out Paul with 9%.......but that won't be enough to keep Rudy's campaign alive.

Democrat John Edwards is in a tricky spot and has a huge uphill battle ahead of him, but he said something last night that resonates this morning: 99% of the nation has yet to vote in a primary contest. A good portion of those folks (more than 50%) will have an opportunity in the coming weeks, especially on February 5th. And it would seem that in both parties we have a real contest on our hands.

It isn't over yet.

Update II: JBro has a nice description of the polling process in the comments section here ..... worth your time. And I share his view of as reliable source of polling info; I use it nearly every week in class. Short answer: polling is typically impressively reliable. Except when it's not.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Longest Minute EVER

Last fall when my old elliptical trainer died (sigh), a new elliptical trainer was procured (praise be! tragedy averted). It is a most noble machine, designed for a woman (e.g., no more hyper-extended elbow pain), and it's amazing.

I'm pretty serious about my workouts, running on the elliptical for nearly an hour most days of the week, proceeded and followed by ample stretching (because those two years I spent with a heel spur sucked......not to put too fine a point on it). With the advent of the new machine, I decided to be more systematic (read: anal retentive) about my workouts, following a set regime and switching things up every two months.

The workout I started at the first of the year calls for sprints of 1 minute at regular intervals throughout the workout; a total of 5 sprints in the 35 minute period of the workout when I'm neither warming up nor cooling down. It seemed eminently manageable.

But sweet Jesus, that is the longest minute ever. When my thighs start to burn and I'm convinced that the minute must be over, I'll check the clock only to see that I have 30 seconds yet to go. It's not pretty.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Since I first learned to read, I have been a bookish girl. I can still remember the thrill I would feel when I discovered a new series of stories. Some of my best memories are of immersing myself in a story. I can picture the libraries of my childhood as clearly as if I was just there yesterday. I was late to arrive at the hospital on the day I was scheduled to have my labor induced. The reason? I had stopped at the bookstore. I nearly always carry a book with me, just in case I have a moment to read.

My friend E keeps a list of every book she's read on her electronic planner. The first time I learned of the list, I was impressed. So in 2007 I decided to make a list for myself. Below is the list of every book I read in last year. As you'll see, summer is my most productive season (!). For those of you who are troubled by the (relative) lack of history and politics books, please know that my professional reading tends to be articles in academic journals. I try not to waste my time on crummy books, so nearly all of these books are good reads.

Without further ado, here is my 2007 life in books.

Jane Austen Mansfield Park
Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking
E.M. Forster Howards End

E.M. Forster A Room with a View
Nicole Krauss The History of Love
Paul Gordon Lauren The Evolution of International Human Rights
Laura Moriarty The Center of Everything
Mary Ann Glendon A World Made New
Sue Monk Kidd The Secret Life of Bees

Elizabeth von Arnim The Enchanted April
Eireann Corrigan Ordinary Ghosts
Bill Bryson A Walk in the Woods
Tim Cockey Murder in the Hearse Degree

Dave King The Ha Ha
Tanuja Desai Hidier born confused

Miss Read At Home in Thrush Green
Alan Brennert Moloka'i
Miss Read Affairs at Thrush Green

Miss Read Friends at Thrush Green
Angela Thirkell Peace Breaks Out
Elizabeth George With No One as Witness
Joyce Carol Oates Missing Mom
Bailey White Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of
Southern Living
Miss Read Village School
Jerrold M. Packard Victoria's Daughters

Ann Patchett Bel Canto
Zadie Smith On Beauty
Hazel Holt Mrs. Malory and a Death in the Family
Miss Read Village Centenary
Lucy Grealy Autobiography of a Face
Ann Patchett Truth and Beauty
Janet Evanovich Twelve Sharp
Alexander McCall Smith In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Miss Read Summer at Fairacre
JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Bailey White Sleeping at the Starlight Motel

Lisa See Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Miss Read Village Diary
Miss Read Storm in the Village
Jhumpa Lahiri Interpreter of Maladies
Miss Read Over the Gate
Diane Mott Davidson Dark Tort
Miss Read Fairacre Festival
Miss Read Village Centenary
Michael Malone Time's Witness
Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns

Al Gore The Assault on Reason
Miss Read Mrs. Pringle of Fairacre
Michael Malone Uncivil Seasons
Miss Read Changes at Fairacre

Michael Malone Handling Sin
Elizabeth Gilbert eat, pray, love
Cynthia Voigt Homecoming
Isabel Miller Patience & Sarah

Ferrol Sams Run With the Horseman
Amy Tan The Bonesetter's Daughter
William Anderson Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography
Sarah Vowell Assassination Vacation
Ferrol Sams The Whisper of the River

Willa Cather My Antonia
Alice Taylor An Irish Country Christmas
Laura Ingalls Wilder A Little House Christmas: Holiday Stories
from the Little House Books
Ferrol Sams When all the World was Young
Ian McEwan Atonement

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Last month, the second graders in JT's class wrote a persuasive letter to their parents. Grateful that JT wasn't seeking to persuade me to buy him a motorcycle or a pet snake, I quickly agreed to his request: a family night of games and/or movies.

Obviously, I agreed because it would give me yet another opportunity to play Set.

We agreed to designate Friday night as our family night. So last night was our inaugural family night, featuring grilled cheese sandwiches and an Indiana Jones movie. And as you can see, JT and the cats were very satisfied with the arrangement.

And I'm just glad that we don't have a pet iguana in our future.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

And the Winner(s) Will Be.........

The Iowa caucus is this evening, starting around 7 pm central time. By the end of the night, each party will have some winners and losers, though the power and meaning of the caucus may not be clear until a few months from now.

My government classes and I have been talking, watching the polls, and tracking the process. Setting aside our sense that the Iowa caucus may very well be an albatross around the neck of the political process (that's a post for a later date), today we made our predictions for the top three vote-getters in the Hawkeye state.

For the Democrats, we see close margins.....29, 27, 25...or something like that. For the Republicans, we see Huckabee and Romney close, with McCain in the doubles.

We agree that an Edwards victory in the Democratic camp means that this race is a real contest between the big three (Obama, Clinton, and Edwards). Edwards looks to have the most to gain tonight and, if she comes in third, Clinton will have the most to lose.

For the GOP, we see Rudy Giuliani coming in nearly at the end of the pack, predictable since he hasn't really campaigned in Iowa, but a hard narrative to combat with New Hampshire and South Carolina so close on the heels of the caucus. Huckabee needs to be in the top two. For Romney, a distant second to Huckabee could hurt. McCain seems to have little to lose in Iowa (he didn't work that hard in the state), but much to gain if he places in the top three.

Let the voting begin.

Update: We were pretty accurate in our estimates and, in the day-after analysis we are impressed with both the breadth and the depth of the Obama victory. He's got 5 days to capitalize on the victory. As for Huckabee, he's got the advantage of low expectations in New Hampshire. But after that, he and his campaign must be ready for a big national contest.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


This afternoon, my son spelled out his name in Revolutionary War army men.

Enough said.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

January 1

It's the 1st of the month and so my backyard tree is back. We've had some windy days in the last month and my big tree has lost some branches......a normal development but one that finds me with a sizable pile of dead wood in my backyard (astute observers will note that a good number of leaves remain to be raked.....but that's a problem for another day). JT and I collected the branches the other day and we'll set the pile aside for a summer fire in the backyard firepit.

It's nice to look forward to summer on a cold day like this.