Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ask Hobo Siren

I was looking through old posts and found this one that I forgot about and I'm re-posting it because it cracks me up.  Since this post was written, I have learned to embed video too, so BONUS, the video is at the end! Enjoy!  (Thanks again, Summer!)

I wrote in to get some advice from Hobo Siren recently.  Today she answered my question with an amazing video blog that you can see here. (or at the end) Here's a screenshot of her:

Wait, that's not the best shot.  This is better:

Like how straight her teeth are?  Anyway, my question was:
Dear Hobo Siren,

There is a woman I see occasionally because she is a substitute teacher like I am.  I have known her for years but I don't remember her name.  In my head I call her "Wet Head" because her hair is dripping wet when she comes to school in the morning.  Seriously, it's like she stuck her head in a bucket right before she walked in the doors.  Is there any way I can tactfully ask her her name after all this time without it coming across as totally insulting?

She gave me some great advice.  First of all this:
Coming to Hobo Siren with my query was half the battle.  She had a few different options for me to solve my problem, and she reassured me that not remembering Wet Head's name is not my fault.  I can't be expected to remember the stupid name of every person I work with for five years, now can I?

No.  I can't.

Like I said, she gave me a few different methods, and was helpful enough to tell me which methods probably wouldn't work.  That's a real time-saver.

She was even kind enough to act out the scenarios I might use to tactfully find out Wet Head's actual name using real names so as to make the scenarios even more realistic.

Fool proof!  Now I don't have to hide behind doors and sneak through hallways when I see the tell-tale trail of drips indicating that Wet-Head is in the building!  I have options!*  Thanks, Hobo Siren!

*(I'm just going to call her Jessica)

(Follow up:  Wet Head got married and got a real job so I never had to learn her name.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pocket Man

I got an email from my dad this morning.  As you know, he likes a shirt with a lot of pockets.  I knew that, but I didn't know how much. Here's his email to me...
I just read an ad in my latest Guns and Ammo magazine by Scottevest.  They have the "Revolution Jacket" 26 pockets... 

 and the Explorer shirt, 19 pockets!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Can you imagine how much stuff I could travel with if I wore this jacket and shirt with my new Blackhawk pants (8 pockets)? I could go on a two week vacation and not have to carry any luggage! Could life GET and better?

Wow, my dad really likes pockets.  And he's not the only one.  I looked at the Scottevest blog and there is a post that asks the readers "What do you carry?"  and then people commented with mile long lists of things they like to carry with them.  Seriously, to read just one of the lists I had to scroll and scroll and scroll.  Not only do they carry a lot around with them every day in their millions of pockets, but they are actually pocket aficionados who seem to be carrying things for the sake of carrying things and sharing it on the internet.  This is one guy's list:

In Fleece:
Shure e2c headset
HP hx4700 iPaq
Sony Walkman 850i mobile phone
32Gb iPod Touch
6 pack credit card holder
SureFire G2 LED flashlight
2 spare lithium batteries for G2
LeatherMan mini toolkit
SureFire Sonic Defender ear plugs
Pack of 6 cleansing wipes
Pack of 2 Self heating hand warmers
Pack of 2 travel sickness wrist straps
1 disposable sick bag
Pack 6 plasters
Nokia 6120 mobile phone
Driving Licence
Nokia N810 Internet Tablet
Serengetti Drivers Glasses
Car Keys with £20 and headache tablets on ring
Pack 3 tooth picks
6 sticks of instant coffee
Laser pointer
£20 in canister
headache tablets in canister
Gloob-Toob waterproof LED light

In Jacket
RoyalTec BlueTooth GPS Receiver Logger
Office ID Badge
Olympus mju725SW Camera
USB Cable
Invisio BlueTooth Headset
BlackHawk Gloves
Sealskin inner gloves
WaterProof Notepaper Pad
Notepad holder
Fisher Q4 Space Pen
BlackHawk Fleece Cap
Garmin Colorado 300 GPS receiver with topo and street maps
2 AA Lithium batteries
Oatmeal bar
O'Reilly computer book
40gb usb harddrive

In Cap
Oyster Transport Card

In T-Shirt
Shure e4c headset

When traveling I also carry an eee PC with power supply

That guy is ready for anything.  If he went out in the morning and found himself:

1. in pitch darkness (flashlight and extra batteries), 
2. underwater and needing to take notes (waterproof notepaper and sealskin gloves AND waterproof LED light),
3. nauseous (travel sickness wrist straps and sick bag for when the wrist straps don't work, which they won't), 
4. with a headache (headache pills in TWO different pockets), 
5. eating corn on the cob (three toothpicks), 
6. needing to point at a person's crotch across a room (laser pointer),  
7. in space (space pen), 
8. bleeding profusely and/or refreshing a wall (6 pack of plasters), 
9. craving a stick of coffee (6 coffee sticks), 
10. coaching a sporting event and/or deterring a rapist (whistle), 
11. at his own office (office ID badge), 
12. taking some selfies (camera), 
13. wanting to play Angry Birds while listening to Ballroom Blitz (iPod), 
14. driving across the Serengeti (Serengeti driving glasses),
15. needing to repair an O'Reilly computer (O'Reilly computer book),
16. dropping a cell phone in the toilet and needing to call someone to them them he dropped his phone in the toilet (2 cell phones), 
17. and transporting oysters (Oyster Transport Card)... 


Dad, what do you carry in your outfit with 53 pockets?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Beating Up Animals

Remember this conversation I had with Mitch?

Mitch:  What is the biggest primate you think I could beat up?

Me:  .....???? .... what?

Mitch:  (sigh) What is the biggest primate you think I could beat up?

Me:  Like, win in a fist fight?

Mitch:  Yeah.

Me:  A spider monkey?  Lemur maybe?

Mitch: (clearly insulted)  No way!  I could at least take on a baboon!

Me:  No, you couldn't.  They are vicious.

Mitch:  Yeah, but they're not that big.  Just a minute, I'll google it...

And so on...

Well this conversation isn't over, apparently.  Yesterday Mitch asked me if I think he could beat up a chicken, specifically a rooster.  I think he is just fishing for compliments.  This is how that conversation went:

Mitch:  Do you think I could take on a rooster?

Me:   No.

Mitch:  Yes I could!  You know I could.  But what if it was the size of Foghorn Leghorn?  Do you think I could then?

Not a chance, Mitch.  Especially if he had that board.

Me:  I already told you, I don't think you could beat up a real rooster, not to mention a man-sized cartoon rooster with hands.

Mitch:  Yes I could!  It's a bird.  They are like, three pounds.  But anyway, what if it was man-sized?  Do you think I could then?

Me:  No.  Roosters are meaner than you think.  If it could get you down, any rooster could kill you.  What they lack in bone density, they make up for in rage and evil savageness.

Mitch:  How would they get me down???

Me:  I don't know.  I just know that a smart person wouldn't lay down in front of a mean rooster.  Or they're dead.

Mitch:  THAT's ridiculous.

"Bring it, Bitch."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

When Did I Get So Embarrassing?

Sam is an unusual kid.  He's always been so good and helpful and sweet.  Yesterday his bed wasn't made and I said, jokingly, "I see that summer vacation for you means a vacation from bed-making," and without missing a beat he turned around with candy in his hand and said, "What do I have to do to make this problem go away?"  He knows me so well.

He went through the briefest phase where he was a little embarrassed when I would drop him off at the bus stop wearing my pajamas, but he didn't show it until I started doing the cabbage patch dance and then he asked me firmly but politely to "PLEASE STOP DOING THAT!"  And one time when he had a choir concert at his middle school he walked ahead of Kira and me instead of next to us.  I attributed this to him being annoyed with Kira and didn't think it had anything to do with me. Maybe I was wrong.  I got him back by taking a bunch of pictures of how cute he was in his skin-tight black pants that were too tight around his adorable frog-body.

But Kira, who is 13 now, is mortified by my very existence.  Unless I am blending into the woodwork like I'm invisible, she is totally embarrassed.  I dropped her off at hockey the other day and said, "Bye," and later when she got home she told me that I didn't need to say bye to her.  I said, "Why not?  I just wanted you to know I was leaving!"  and she said, "Mom, please."  I think this new mom-phobia she has can be cured with immersion therapy.  I need to start truly being embarrassing.  Here is a list of things I am considering doing when I'm out in public with her, please add your ideas in the comments:

1.  Black out a tooth.

2.  Wear shorts and a bikini top with long socks and sneakers.

3.  Wear bandaids on my face.

4.  Communicate with her only through interpretive robot dancing.

5.  Stop bathing.

6.  Wear an "I'm with Stupid" t-shirt.

7.  Start talking in a cockneyed British accent.

8.  Ask where they keep the bras at every store, gas station, and restaurant we go in.

9.  Do a dance mob routine without the accompanying mob.

10.  Introduce myself to people by saying, "Hello, I'm Kira's mother, nice to meet you." 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kira's Dreams

Kira's friend texted her and told her that she (the friend) was going to church camp and they were supposed to make a poster with the theme "Follow Your Dreams."  Kira's friend said she didn't have any ideas about how to start or what to put so she asked Kira for some input.  Kira told me about it and she started drawing.  I was interested in seeing what she was making for her Dreams poster because she is 13 and doesn't really talk to me all that much about what is going on in her head.  She's too cool.  She suddenly has a private life that she doesn't want me to know about.  I thought this poster would be a good tool of communication for the two of us.  I could see what her hopes and dreams are and maybe even help her achieve those dreams.

She was busy drawing but wouldn't let me see what was on her paper.  I thought maybe she wouldn't let me in to see her dreams and I was a little sad.  As she was drawing, she seemed pretty happy with her work and thought her friend would really like it.

Finally she said, "Well, do you want to see it?"  I had to act all casual, like I didn't care whether she let me see it or not.  I said, "Sure, I guess," and sauntered over and saw this:

It's an otter sitting on a table, wearing a cape, in front of a fan which is blowing on him making the cape flap.  I said, "How does this fit with the theme 'Follow Your Dreams'?"  She said, "Well,... it's not my dream, but I bet it's the otter's dream."  

And then she laughed.

She sent it to her friend and the friend said, "Funny, but not really the point," which Kira thought was really funny.

So what insights have I learned about my teenager?  She's incredible strange, likes to entertain her friends, and has overwhelming empathy for otters who wish they could fly.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Every year when the weather finally gets warm enough to walk around without a jacket, the kids and I take a trip to Canal Park in Downtown Duluth and walk along the Lakewalk.  And every year when we go past the beach Kira says, "I want to go in," and every year I think to myself, "God, she's nuts.  There was ice out there just a few weeks ago!"  and at first I argue and tell her no, it's too cold, she'll get hypothermia, the water is only 45 degrees blah blah blah...  And then eventually I relent and say, "Go ahead," in a I'm-calling-your-bluff kind of way.  And every year she does it.  It honestly surprises me every single time.  (What does that say about me?)  To illustrate how much of a surprise it is to me every year: ever since she was a toddler and ran in with her diaper on, I have not once thought to bring a change of clothes along.  Not. Once.

This year she went in wearing shorts and a fleece pullover.  After the initial shock she got used to it and swam around for about 20 minutes.  When she got out I felt her leg and she was FREEZING.  I made her roller-blade up the Lakewalk to dry off.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Last month my friend Shelly and I started going to classes with a personal trainer.  It is at a gym that specializes in training teams and elite athletes so naturally it's the obvious place for middle-aged mom-types.  Our trainer's name is Jeff and he's been hiding his true self behind a facade of niceness and smiles and friendliness but his inner Jillian Michaels comes out sometimes.  One day he told us to do waiter walks (you hold a gigantic weight with a straight arm above your head and walk) to the end of the gym and back three times.  Then he decided that it would be better to do it outside because it was nice out.  So he showed us a spot about twice as far from our starting point as the length of the gym.  Shelly and I did it two times instead of three times because the distance was so much further.  The other ladies did it three times and asked how we got done so fast.  We told them our thoughts about the difference in distance and Jeff blurted out, "Nobody told you to think about it, just do it!"  Then he smiled like he was joking.

This morning he was telling us these arm exercises he wanted us to do and Shelly said, "So we'll use about 5 pound weights?"  and Jeff said, "five pounds??? What, are we 'toning'?"  And I really wish I had a sarcasm font because the disgust he had in his voice when he said that was absolutely hilarious.  Shelly and I were flabbergasted.  We said, "Um... yes, we are toning, aren't we?"  And he laughed and said, "No you're not.  You're adding mass."  Oh Jeff, the only reason I'm in your class is because of all the "mass" I've packed on in the last year.

Another thing we had to do this morning was some work with the yoga ball.  If the object of the yoga ball work was to see how far we can make a yoga ball shoot out from under us while we fall on the ground in a heap, we would have been world class, but that wasn't the object.  First we had to squeeze it between our legs and then do leg lifts with the ball.

We didn't look like this.
For us this was mostly throwing a huge ball in our own faces over and over again and then chasing it when it rolled away.  Then we were supposed to do planks with our elbows on the ball for what seemed like hours at a time.  Jeff came over and told me I was doing it wrong.  He took my ball and said, "This is what you're doing," and he draped himself over the ball like he was sleeping.  (I wasn't doing that) He said, "This is easy, I could do this all day."  Then he showed me that I was supposed to be planked up like a board, with only my elbows touching the ball.  Way harder.

He really works the shoulders a lot and I have been having a hard time even lifting my arms lately.  I got a new sports bra the other day and the first time I wore it I thought I was going to have to call 911 for help getting it off.  I'd hate to have to quit training because I ripped both rotator cuffs in a sports bra injury.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: Rogue Patriot

You know, I guess I should have known when I read the title, Rogue Patriot, that this book was going to be bad. If that didn't tip me off the three dollar price should have.  But I thought I was just getting a good deal!  Amazon is giving it four and a half stars!  And it's summer!  I wanted to read something dumb and fun.  This had plenty of dumb and NO FUN.

I don't usually like to write bad reviews of books because it's hard to write a book and I don't want to discourage someone just because I don't like it.  Who cares what I think?  But Gerald Meunier wrote a real stinker.

It started off promising with the protagonist, FBI Agent Clay Holt, and his wife in bed.  She wakes up and makes him promise that if anything ever happens to her, he would take their children and move out of Washington D.C. "Hmmm.....," I thought, "iiiiinteeeerrreessttiiinnnggggggg...." I thought.  Of course the mom dies but not from covert spy stuff, she dies in a car accident.  The other driver was an illegal Mexican and that is when I learned why the guy wrote the book.  He hates immigrants.  Especially Mexicans but also anyone else who isn't white with an American accent.  What better place to pop off about your racist values than in a novel?

So the mom dies and Clay makes plans to keep his promise and move his kids out of Washington.  He gets a job offer in Colorado, where his parents live and he goes out to visit.  While he is there he happens upon a human trafficking ring that had the sour luck to also traffic a couple of Muslim terrorists as well.  Those rascally terrorists kill all the other illegals and the local sheriff, and eventually Clay's parents.

The problem I had with the book, besides the overt jingoist racism, was the fact that the Clay character was so unbelievable.  I can easily suspend my disbelief when it comes to book characters not following police procedure, but the basic human stuff has to be better.  At one point Clay's children are kidnapped and he is looking for them and the terrorist that took them, and he is at a Redskin's game because he thinks there is going to be a bomb there.  He finds the bomb, disarms it himself, and then thinks how nice it would be to sit down and watch the game, but he can't because he has to go look for his kidnapped kids.  STUPID KIDS!  What parent would ever even contemplate watching a football game over looking for their kidnapped kids???

After his parents are brutally murdered by the terrorist, not a lot more is said about it.  It doesn't seem to affect Clay that much.  Puh-lease!  That would change a person at the very core.

I kept reading it because one of the reviewers on Amazon (Mr. Meunier's mom) said there was a great twist at the end.  There was no twist! NO TWIST!  Just a dumb, regular, predictable ending.

I read that Mr. Meunier is planning a second Clay Holt thriller to which I say,  "PASS!" 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

I don't know if you know this, but my dad, like most dads, is really into the latest fashions.  On a recent visit he was wearing a new shirt that he got that he was VERY happy with.  It is a neutral green color (goes with ALL his shorts),  is semi-waterproof (so you can wipe off spills before they stain) and has pockets hidden all over it.  AND it has a little loop for him to hang his glasses.  He had been shopping that day so I thought he just bought it.  I asked him where he got it and he said, "Amazon," so this is something he computer shopped for.  I then got to thinking, "What does one type into the search bar when looking for a shirt like that?" and then I imagined all the ways that he had to refine his search parameters to get just what he wanted.  Like this:

"men's shirts"
"men's button down shirts"
"men's button down shirts, short sleeves"
"men's button down shirts, short sleeves, goes with everything"
"men's button down shirts, short sleeves, goes with everything, stain proof"
"men's button down shirts, short sleeves, goes with everything, stain proof,  pockets"
"men's button down shirts, short sleeves, goes with everything, stain proof, LOTS of pockets"
"men's button down shirts, short sleeves, goes with everything, stain proof, 15 pocket minimum"
"men's button down shirts, short sleeves, goes with everything, stain proof, 15 pocket minimum, glasses loop"

and VIOLA!  The perfect shirt!

(You can't tell from the picture, but this shirt has 20,000 pockets.)  

Happy Father's Day Dad!  I love you!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recurring Themes

Last night while Mitch and I were watching TV, he started a conversation with me.  This has been an ongoing topic that he apparently hasn't gotten a satisfactory conclusion to because it is something we have discussed in the past.  This is how it started the first time we had this particular conversation:

Mitch:  What is the biggest primate you think I could beat up?

Me:  .....???? .... what?

Mitch:  (sigh) What is the biggest primate you think I could beat up?

Me:  Like, win in a fist fight?

Mitch:  Yeah.

Me:  A spider monkey?  Lemur maybe?

Mitch: (clearly insulted)  No way!  I could at least take on a baboon!

Me:  No, you couldn't.  They are vicious.

Mitch:  Yeah, but they're not that big.  Just a minute, I'll google it...

I thought he was Googling baboons to see how big and tough they are.  It's what any smart opponent would do, learn what you can about your foe, right?  But he wasn't Googling baboons.  He typed "Biggest primate I could beat up" into Google Images.  Here is the result he got:

It was the Google equivalent of saying, "IN YOUR FACE!"  I will say that I agree with Google that Mitch could beat up the monkey pictured above, but only because I think her beads would get in her way.

So last night, completely out of the blue, like always, Mitch said to me:

"I could easily beat up a sun bear, but not a black bear."

Me:  You could not beat up a sun bear.  They are BEARS.

Mitch:  Sure I could.  They're small.

Me:   They're not that small.

Mitch:  They range from 40 to 160 pounds.

Me:  That's oddly specific.  I still don't think you could beat one up.  Even the 40 pound ones are 40 pounds of teeth and claws.

Mitch:  I could beat any one of them up.

Me:  Even the big 160 pounders?

Mitch:  Yes.

Me:... (letting the conversation die.)



Mitch:  I still think I could beat up a baboon.  Especially if he tried to take my chips.

Me:  .... what...??????????????

Mitch:  Why are you looking at me like that?  What's the biggest animal you could beat up?  A bird?

This weird conversation is starting to get contentious.  If I really have to think about it, I think I could easily take on a smallish dog or a declawed cat.  At least I have the common sense to stick with domesticated animals.

Does anyone know where I could set up a relatively safe fight with a baboon or a large sun bear so Mitch can prove his theories?  I think we would all like to know how this shakes out.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Things Mitch says to me when he's procrastinating on the internet

"Did you know that a nude painting of Bea Arthur sold for over a million dollars?"

"Ha ha, this guy says Bea Arthur has 'heavy hangers.'"

"Look, Bea Arthur has a mug shot!  ... Oh wait, she was in the marines.  She was in the MARINES!"

"I wonder if any of the other Golden Girls posed nude..."

"Wow, Betty White was naked a LOT."

"Is it R-e-w, or R-u-e?"

"Rue McLanahan played it loose, but she wasn't in real life, apparently. No nudes.  Now that's an actress."

"I should get back to work."

"How do you spell 'Estelle Geddy?'"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Let Summer Begin!

It's the last day of school (only for teachers) and my room is packed up and cleaned, I've filled out my check-out sheet, I got my last paycheck and I'm ready to go.  It's only 12:20.  We are here until at least 2:00.  I am ending the year by being SUPER EFFICIENT!  Now comes the three month unraveling at the end of which I will be proud if I shower, get dressed, and do two or three chores all in the same day.

Just kidding.  I hope I won't get that bad.  I'm sad that the school year is over.  I've been laid off because of cutbacks, but have a few other prospects for next year.  I will miss being in this building with this staff.  They are so much fun.  We had a breakfast this morning and I was laughing until tears were streaming from my eyes.  The FACS teacher (home ec.) is retiring and she brought out the text book from her first year teaching in the 70s.  It was for a class on teaching boys how to dress and behave like young gentlemen and it is called Call Me Mister!  Hilarious.

My summer job is to get in shape and I have actually started going to see a personal trainer.  I go with one of my teacher buddies to a sports training facility that specializes in training talented young athletes.  Being teachers, we know many of the kids that go there, but for some reason they don't acknowledge us when we are there.  One eighth grader was in my room first hour all year and is very friendly to me in school, but when he sees me at the gym in my shorts, straddling a yoga ball and sweating like a pig, he pretends he doesn't know me.  Weird. 

The workouts are really hard but after 6 or 7 sessions with him, I am already seeing results.  Yesterday I squatted down in front of my bookshelf, organizing books for about 20 minutes, duck walking back and forth; and I DID NOT cramp up or feel like passing out even once!  Progess!  One of my friends is hosting a half-marathon at the end of the summer and I'm hoping to do (half of) that.  Yeah, that's right, running.  But mostly I'm signing up for the homemade pies she is serving at the end. 


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Team Uruzgan

My sister and her team in Afghanistan are AWESOME.  The kids in my class had a big project to do this quarter called the Duluth Project.  They had to read about our city, choose a landmark that inspired them, research it, and then make a postcard and a brochure about it.  I sent their postcards to my sister and her team in Afghanistan because they like getting mail and I thought I could tie in a little real-life teaching about what's happening in the world.

Amy and her team finally got the postcards and Amy took the above picture of them holding them up.  I showed it to the kids yesterday on the Smartboard and they all gathered up at the front and looked for their card.

Amy also wrote them a really nice email commenting on several of the cards and telling the kids that she and her team learned a lot about Duluth that they didn't know before. (Some of them have never heard of Duluth before, can you believe it?)  Then at the end of her email she said:

Anyway....if you guys have any questions, let your WONDERFUL teacher know and I'll be sure to get right back to you!!  I hope you all have a great summer!!!
So I asked the kids if they had any questions for her and then proceeded to write down a question from just about every kid in both my classes.  They wanted to know everything from what time she goes to bed to do they serve chicken to do the soldiers ever get scared.

Amy addressed the kids by name and answered their questions.  She told them that her team does not have to fight because they are on a reconstruction mission, but sometimes they get scared.  She said:
D., I'm sure the soldiers do get scared from time to time.  I was scared the other day when I saw a spider in the bathroom.  :)  But the soldiers are also trained really, really even if they are scared, they know what to do and how to get the job done.
That made me laugh because Amy would get scared of a spider in the bathroom.  Who wouldn't?  I bet she screamed a blood-curdling scream (known in our family as the "spider scream") and then immediately felt stupid for screaming over a spider, but also got out of the bathroom as soon as humanly possible.  Screw brushing the teeth!  Right Amy?

At the end of her long email answering all the questions she left the door open again by saying:

I hope I answered everyone's questions!!  I know you only have 2 days of school left but if you have anything else, ask away!!  It was fun to hear from you....  :)
Take care and have a great summer!!

I love how she ends each email by telling them to have a great summer.  That's the email equivalent of the high, sing-songy goodbye voice you use on the phone when you are trying to hang up.  Sorry, Amy, they are not ready to hang up yet.  I'm sure you will get a ton more questions today.  Get ready.

Thank you so much to Amy and her wonderful team in Afghanistan.  I am SO GLAD you guys get to come home this month!  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brilliant Parenting Idea

Oh how I wish I would have thought of this when my kids were smaller. 

I LOVE the pure misery on both of their faces.  I might get one of these for me and Mitch.