March 2009

Cinnamon Chili

Some days, things just don’t go quite as expected.

Yesterday was supposed to be one of those pretty good days where the schedule was mostly clear — the ORYSO parent meeting, then a quiet afternoon at home getting ready for the week to come.

After church, we stopped at Home Depot to buy some grape vines, but instead came home with a new lawnmower.  Kind of an interesting twist, but our old one is pretty much a goner, and they had a great sale.

Then, midway through the day, we got a call from friends in Michigan that they were passing through, and wanted to stop in and see us for a bit.  This spurred pure panic, as our house was in no condition for company.  Delta and I cleaned like fiends (Gamma was still at ORYSO practice) for an hour or so until they arrived, but there was much that couldn’t be corrected on short notice.

Like needing a new kitchen floor, or new carpets throughout the house.  Or even the assortment of stuff that has accumulated on the kitchen table, that doesn’t seem to have a good place to go.

After the visit, I settled in to make the pot of chili as planned, given the cold and blustery day.  As I ate my bowl (atop crumbled cornbread) it seemed a little odd somehow, but it wasn’t until Delta and HWTFM insisted that it tasted like cinnamon that I checked for what might have gone wrong.

The spice jar in the space where I keep cumin looked like cumin… but the label said "cinnamon."  The jar of cumin — an identical jar — was sitting on my cutting board, as I’d failed to put it away properly at some point.

It won’t win any prizes, but I doctored up the leftovers sufficiently to cover the hint of cinnamon.  A little celery salt probably would have done the trick, but I’m out.

Cinnamon chili — when nothing is quite as expected.

Parenting, anyone?

Hunger: stop fighting it:
In Knoxville, the schools are taking pretty serious measures to deal with the growing problem of childhood obesity.  Students are being led through calisthenics in academic classes and offered "healthy choices" in the lunchroom (were there any other choices to begin with?  If so, why?).

The problem, as I see it, is this: the problem didn’t originate at school, and it’s not likely to be fixed at school.  Parents getting off the couch and setting decent dietary and lifestyle examples tends to work much better.

A new take on the "crack tax":
In Nashville, the Legislature is moving on a law that would impose a $1,000 fine for baggy pants… and of course, some idiot has already written in the comments that " for something like this, it’s better to impose disciplinary action in schools…" because naturally, if the schools are in charge of making sure your child isn’t obese, they should also be in charge of making sure they’re properly dressed.

And teaching them about the birds and the bees.  And "character education."  And on, and on, and on.  Who needs to be able to read, write, or calculate anyway?  They say that those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it, but with the current state of affairs, I’m wondering if that’s such a bad thing.

I don’t know that I’d want to live through the black plague or anything, but maybe living through the 1950s wouldn’t be so bad.  Maybe I’ll get to, because I’m young enough to have not lived through it, but old enough that it was not considered history yet  when I was in school.

With all these responsibilities heaped upon the schools, wouldn’t it be better if the schools just took them at birth?  But if we’re going to go that far, shouldn’t the schools be able to decide whose DNA gets contributed?  Seems fair.

*  *  *
Schools are very good at teaching children math, English, science, and to some degree, social studies.  They’re pretty good at providing exposure to music, art, and the basics of lifelong fitness.  In the upper grades, studies can be specialized or expanded.

But schools are not your children’s parents.  If you want them to be healthy, teach them healthy eating and exercise habits at home.  If you want them to appear neat and respectable, do not buy them (or allow them to wear) clothes that represent the worst of MTV.  Come to think of it, don’t let them watch MTV — have you seen the garbage on there??

Let the schools do what they were designed to do, but remember, they’re your kids.  Do your part.

Spring Break 09


Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina is amazingly beautiful, unbelievably affordable, and just a day’s drive from home.

Spring Break didn’t quite go as originally planned, with Beta bailing out on us due to a nebulous rugby schedule (they’re playing in the southeast quarterfinals tomorrow, as it turns out), then Alpha electing to stay home because she fell ill the day before we left… but we still had a fabulous trip with the younger two and the dog.

The campsites are large — at least double the size of those found in most state park campgrounds, and probably four times the size of commercial campsites.  Nestled behind the dunes in a forest of palmetto and live oak trees, we went to sleep each night listening to the ocean.  There was no internet, no tv, no newspaper or radio.  There were books, and lots of family time.  We rode bicycles on the beach, walked on the boardwalk through the salt marsh,  and laughed at the antics of the raccoons that invaded every night.

We bought fresh seafood, and grilled it on the fire.

Never has one week passed so quickly.

Schools and Kid Fitness

This week, two more bills related to physical education and activity requirements will be heard in the House Education K-12 Subcommittee.  From TSBA’s TLN Notes:

HB 0836 by Rep. Gary Moore (D-Joelton) rewrites the present requirement of 90 minutes of physical activity per week to one that mandates 30 minutes per day. HB 1441 by Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) requires every public school student in grades K-8 to participate in physical education each day during the school year – 150 minutes per week for elementary students and 225 minutes per week for middle school students.

There’s no disputing that obesity is on the rise, not only amongst children, but the population in general.  And therein lies the problem: kids aren’t getting fat and sedentary at school, but like so many other things, school is expected to provide the solution.

Schools have our children for about seven hours a day, 183 days per year.  If we expect public schools to fulfill their mission of actually educating students in the core subjects, providing exposure to a little bit of art and music (helping to develop different parts of the brain), and all of the other things that are already required, we cannot add more unrelated responsibilities.

At some point, legislators are going to have to realize that parents do have an actual role in rearing these children, and that schools cannot both parent and educate in 183 partial days per year.

Health Care Heartburn

This morning’s video of Zach Wamp’s appearance on MSNBC regarding the President’s plans for universal health care was a little jarring — even though I’m a long-time fan of Congressman Wamp.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m very leery of universal health care.  I think quality would suffer and costs would soar — and the people causing the increased costs wouldn’t be the ones paying for it.  My problem with Zach’s sound bite is just that I don’t think health care is a privilege — it IS a right, but a right that you have to pay for.  One could say the same about food and shelter.  Everyone has a right to food, shelter and medical care, but that doesn’t mean everyone has a right to get those things free.

What you can pay for, decides what level of quality you are entitled to.  Lots of people live in much larger, more luxurious houses than I do; some people spend much more on food.  That’s okay, and I don’t have a problem with it.  Some people live in government-subsidized housing that isn’t quite as spacious as my own, and some people receive food stamps.  That’s okay too.

Actually, I had a little taste of what government-managed health care might be like, just this morning.  Gamma is sick with mono, and has picked up a secondary virus (I can neither pronounce nor spell it, so I won’t try) that has caused her lips and mouth to blister horribly.  So, in addition to being nearly unconscious all the time, it’s very painful for her to eat or drink — so, she doesn’t.  She’s lost eight pounds in seven days.

I should have this disease for her… except I’ve already had my turn.

This morning, her doctor prescribed a combination of substances that, mixed together, may bring some relief and healing for the blisters.  Hopefully, that will enable her to eat properly, which would speed her recovery.  But here’s the catch: there’s only one drugstore in town that actually does "compounding" anymore, and they’re not on our insurance company’s list of "preferred" drug stores.

In a phone call to the insurance company this morning, I got a heavy sales pitch to let them fill the prescription by mail-order, rather than submitting paperwork for reimbursement later.  Even after I explained to the call-center chickadee that this isn’t one of those things that works well for mail order (like meds you take all the time, knowing weeks in advance when you’ll need them); my child is in pain, and cannot eat.

They’re going to spend more on paperwork justifying the reimbursement, than the medicine costs to begin with.  The truth is, it’s not going to do me in to pay for the medicine — it’s not a big deal.  Really.  But given that we pay for insurance (and pay for much more than we use), I think it’s asinine for them to expect me to jump through hoops to have a $30 scrip covered, no matter where I choose to get it filled.

Especially if their "preferred" pharmacies can’t handle the mixing of three fairly common ingredients.

* * * * *
Kudos to Jefferson Compounding Center, whose pharmacist made a special trip in today to fix up Gamma’s meds so that she gets some relief.  I don’t begrudge them the cost of the prescription, and highly commend them for their sympathy in this situation.

More kudos to her pediatrician, who seems to have an excellent grip on the situation, and is very calming to a nervous mom.

Even more kudos to the teachers and staff at ORHS, who’ve been e-mailing me assignments and such.  IF she is ever awake for more than five minutes, she can start catching up on all the work she’s missed.  And thank goodness Spring Break is just around the corner — that’s one week that she won’t fall further behind.

Recall Fiasco

Several years ago, I replaced my old, decrepit, avocado-green dishwasher (GE, I think) with a Bosch.  I’ve been very happy with it — the stainless steel tub doesn’t stain or stink; it cleans the dishes spotlessly, without a lot of pre-scrubbing.

When teenagers are in charge of dishwashing, one needs a somewhat forgiving appliance.   Loading and unloading the dishwasher (one chore for Gamma, one for Delta) seems like an appropriate exchange for my feeding them on a daily basis.  I probably should make them take out the trash and mow the lawn too, but I’m sort of a softie like that. 

A couple of weeks ago,  we got a recall notice — something about a control panel that can overheat and pose a fire hazard.  The letter, of course, recommended in the strongest terms that we cease using the appliance until the repair was completed; I consented to only run the dishwasher when I was at home and awake, as a sort of compromise.

After all, it worked beautifully, and I do keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.  Just in case.

So last Wednesday (concurrent with a viola lesson in the living room, trying to work, and numerous phone calls), this guy shows up from Sears to replace the offending part, shipped directly to me from Bosch.  The planned half-hour fix seemed to take an hour and a half, but he did finish up in time for us to make our evening dinner at church (with me leaving early for a school board meeting).

On Thursday, we had a lot going on — supper was sort of a snack-as-you-go thing.  Friday night, Alpha came home from UT specifically so that we could take her to dinner at Magic Wok, so there were no supper dishes.  On Saturday I did actually cook for everyone (and collect what seemed like a month’s worth of glasses, spoons and bowls from Gamma’s sickroom), so I fired up the Bosch with it’s newly-repaired controller.

At the end of the cycle, the dishes weren’t clean.  The dog does a better job.

I ran it a second time, paying closer attention: it’s broken.   Really broken.  Like, no soap is ever released to the wash cycle, the "time remaining" display doesn’t come on at all through the whole cycle, and it doesn’t dry the dishes at all.

My formerly-perfect dishwasher is really broken, thanks to the goober that Sears sent out to "fix" it.

Naturally, I’ve called and scheduled a do-over, and requested that they send someone other than the guy who broke it to start with.  At this point, the best they can do is Wednesday… even though they broke it.  I’m not happy.

I love the dishwasher, but have lost confidence in Sears’ repair service at this point.  They broke an appliance that wasn’t broken to begin with.

I lived with a broken HVAC system for nearly a year; that’s not so bad.  Utility bills tend to get attractively cheap when you’re not bothering with expensive luxuries like whole-house heating and cooling.  But what I can’t live without are my washer, refrigerator, and dishwasher, and hot water heaters.

Clothes dryer and sewing machine run a close second, but I can survive without them (briefly) if necessary.

I can’t believe that the Sears dude broke a working dishwasher — especially given his obsessive attention to detial in ensuring that he had everything he needed (dual signatures, maintenance authorization number, etc.) to get paid for the job.

Here’s hoping they send someone competent next time.