Monthly Archives: August 2008

I’ve died and gone to meat heaven

Tonight I ate meat. Now, this won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. I am not a vegetarian or anything, although generally I don’t consume huge slabs of meat. I love fruits and veggies and many of my meals consist of some sort of pasta and veggie combination.

But it was my night to pick the restaurant and I wanted something different. So I decided on the Brazilian Grill. I’ve never been to Brazil, nor have I visited any of their steakhouses. I knew they were a very meat heavy society because I once had a foreign exchange student from Brazil, and although he was in pretty darn good shape, he was astounded at how little meat we ate every day (yes, someone was surprised Americans didn’t eat more meat). The Brazilians are a bit odd though. After all, he also brought us gifts of chocolate in the shape of butts, which according to the guest speaker from his program who talked to my class, is a normal shape chocolate comes in there.

But as usual, I digress.

Anyway, if you’ve never visited a Brazilian grill/steakhouse, it’s quite impressive. The food is served Rodizio style, which is a Brazilian style of barbecue. There is an all-you-can-eat buffet that has a selection of cold veggies and salads (including cold asparagus, which is not nearly as good as the hot stuff I was expecting, and cold dilled potatoes) as well as a selection of side dishes (with broccoli in a not so creamy cheese sauce, two kinds of rice and what looked a bit like kielbasa and sauerkraut). You fill your plate with salads and sides, head back to your table, and turn the little red card at the end of your table over so it shows green.

I come from a long line of fatties, and so I’ve been to a LOT of buffets. This one, though, has a unique twist, that seems entirely American, but apparently is a tradition in Brazil (at least our waitress with the Brazilian accent claimed). Although you get your sides and salads at the buffet, the rest of the food comes to you. You don’t have to leave your table at all to enjoy the majority of your food. When the servers see the green card up, they come around with giant skewers of meat. They cut it for you right at the table and you grab what you want with little tongs. Every few minutes they bring out another round of meat. The place we went to claimed to have 13 different types of meat. Thirteen types of meat? Does that seem excessive to anyone else?

I didn’t try all 13, but the ones I had were pretty darn good. I got to try pork ribs, pork tenderloin, skirt steak, lamb, bottom sirloin, spicy sirloin, a house specialty that I’m pretty sure was beef, and two different meats wrapped in other meats: chicken wrapped in bacon and steak wrapped in bacon. The bacon was so tasty it almost gave the other meat a buttery flavor. They also brought around chicken hearts, sausages, fillet and chicken wings. Although it seems like a lot of food, I didn’t stuff myself. The portions they cut aren’t huge. Still, the foursome at the table behind us were really packing it away. They arrived before us. The waiter never once passed their table by and they were still shoveling it in after we left.

I can understand why. Every type of meat was roasted and spiced excellently. The lamb had garlic and rosemary. The house specialty had garlic and a special blend of “Brazilian seasonings.” I’m not sure what was on the bacon wrapped chicken, but it was amazing. Plus, it’s a bit pricey at $26.50 per person (I didn’t know the price before we went in), so I’m guessing they all wanted to get their monies worth. I think that is what prompted me to try that last piece of steak wrapped in bacon. 

All in all, it was a good dinner. Definitely a carnivore’s dream. I have a feeling I won’t go very often though. It’s a bit pricey, and most of my friends are vegetarians…at least to some degree. Probably for the best. Buffets and my family may have a long standing tradition, but it’s also one that keeps us sitting on our butts far too much.

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I think my classroom is poisoning me

I think my job is killing me. I don’t mean this in a metaphorical, “pity me because my job is so hard” kind of way. I’m pretty sure that the toxic fumes being pumped into my classroom through the ventilation system (from the giant vat of tar below) are actually filling my lungs with enough carcinogens to cause me any number of deadly and painful cancers. I’m pretty sure I’m breathing in the equivalent of two pack of unfiltered cigarettes a day, and considering how much I detest smoking, this really, really sucks.

My school is undergoing a massive construction project. We are going to expand to almost double our size over the next two years. I knew construction was going to cause problems. I just didn’t realize they would be so hazardous to my health. Or that I’d have so damn many. From the pool of stagnant water filling my trashcan (from the leak in my ceiling that no one has either fixed or explained to me) to the puddles left in my classroom from said leak (and the half a dozen times I’ve almost slipped in them) to this latest fume issue, I think I have the most dangerous room in the building.

For the last three days I have had a constant headache, which only goes away about thirty minutes after I leave the building. Yesterday I started getting dizzy at unexplainable moments. I was putting my attendance into the computer and couldn’t focus on the keyboard because things were spinning. Today it happened while I was standing in front of the classroom talking to my students and then again when I was trying to pull up the website for our scavenger hunt. I’ve also felt slightly sick to my stomach for the past two days. On top of all this, yesterday around third period, my lungs started hurting. It feels a bit like someone is either sitting on my chest or like I’ve been punched in the lungs. I’m not sure how that’d be possible exactly, but that’s what it feels like. It goes away after awhile, but if I have to go back in my room, even for a few minutes, my lungs start aching all over again.

At first I didn’t want to mention it. I figured everyone’s room smelled. Plus, I’d already complained about the leak in my ceiling. Our administrators have been stressing to us that we have to deal with the construction and that their are generally bigger concerns than ours. I try to be a team player, so I let it go the first day. The second day was much worse, but I didn’t want to be a whiner, so I kept quite. It wasn’t until a vetran teacher (who uses my room for a short study period) complained, that I voiced my concerns as well. By the end of the day yesterday, I realized I couldn’t teach in my room. I was having trouble focussing, confusing my words and just generally wanted to go home and cry.

Today I spent less than two hours in my room (one of them during open house) and I thought I might have to go to the hospital. I’ve found other classrooms I can use to teach it, which is great for my lungs but sucky for my teaching as I’ll have to find a way to cart all my materials around the building (I’ll be in a different room each period). I know I’m going to forget my materials and not be prepared and I really, really hate that!

Construction really sucks!

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My life on the treadmill

Tomorrow I am going to join a gym. I don’t mean that in that sort of vague way that I have often said “tomorrow I am going to start a diet,” or “tomorrow I’m going to get some grading done.” This is not some comment on my need to lose weight. I actually have a specific gym picked out. I’ve visited and worked out there with a free pass. Tomorrow, I’m going to dive in and officially sign up.

I’ve only had one gym membership in my life, and it was not by choice. A well-meaning loved one of mine heard me say I wanted a spa treatment one year for Christmas. Not really understanding what I meant, he went to the phone book and found a “health spa.” He dropped in and signed me right up. When he gave me the gift my feelings were a little hurt. I immediately jumped to the conclusion he was trying to tell me I was fat (and granted, I was). A few days later I realized he was legitimately mistaken and felt really bad about the mix-up. It was too late though. The membership had been paid for, and I felt I had to go.

It was a nice enough place. One of those women only places where you don’t feel quite as bad just letting it all hang out. They had a few treadmills, some weight machines, free weights and even offered classes. The first time I went one of the employees spent a good half an hour with me going over a good workout and suggesting some dietary changes. It seems the membership not only got me unlimited use of the machines and classes, but also a dietician to talk to.

For awhile I was pretty consistent. I went several times a week. I kept track of my workout on a little card and once I’d been through my routine for a week, I stared slowly increasing my number of reps. I felt pretty good about myself and I was losing some weight.

But it was all the way across town and they closed at 9pm. The classes were all done by 7 and to be quite honest, I had a full teaching load and less motivation then I thought. I let the last few months of my membership expire with no action on my part. I didn’t feel too badly since it had been a gift. Nothing out of my pocket.

Tomorrow though, it will be a year long commitment and my money. I’m a little hesitant. Especially since my arms ache from my workout on Saturday. I’m hoping I’ll be able to stick with it this time. It’s one thing to waste someone else’s money, but another to waste my own. I think this gym has promise. For starters my best friend has also joined, so I’ll have a workout buddy. We’ve already figured out good days to workout and we are going to help each other stick to it. For another, they are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so I actually have no excuse (other than sheer laziness) not to workout.

Right now I’ve been trying to use my treadmill, but I can only do it once my husband and I are both home from work and before my son goes to bed. If I want to eat dinner as well, this leaves me about 30 minutes and while I know that’s enough time, it’s either before dinner when I am starving or after it when I’m really full. With the hours of this new gym, I’m planning an 8-9pm workout which will mean I’ve eaten, but am not overly full and my son is already in bed so I have nothing to stress over. Plus, I’ll still have at least an hour to come home and work on grading if I need to.

I know there will be days I won’t want to do it. I’m hoping since the gym is less than three minutes away and my best friend will be with me that I can stick to it. My diet hasn’t been going great. I’ve been maintaining, but that’s about it. I want to lose this extra weight before I even consider having another baby.

Plus they have eliptical machines. I LOVE those things!

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The Wonderful Wizard of What?

I stopped by Blockbuster on the way home from work to rent a copy of The Wizard of Oz. Considering how much I loved this movie as a kid, I was actually surprised I didn’t own it. I seem to have every other movie from my past. It’s not like I’m dying to watch it; I just wanted to show a short clip of it to my film lit class to show symbolic uses of color in movies. It’s an easy one, I know, but I figure I’ve gotta start easy and work my way up.

I haven’t even been inside a Blockbuster in at least two years. I actually had to do a quick check to make sure I still had a rental card. When we got Netflix a few years ago, I got so used to the convienance of never having to go farther than the end of my driveway for movies, that it made the one block drive to Blockbuster seem unfathomable. Not to mention that Netflix’s selection blows anything sitting on one of Blockbuster’s shelves away. But I didn’t realize The Wizard of Oz wasn’t in my collection in time to Netflix it and get it for class. Hence the detour.

They have completely rearranged the store. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except that nothing is in a logical spot. I finally found the children’s movies and started looking, then realized it was divided into two sections: children’s and family. I’m not really sure how they distinguish between the two. Apparently episodes of SpongeBob are children’s, but episodes of the X-Men cartoon are family. I see no rhyme or reason to it. I figured the family section would probably be the best place to find my video, and when I finally found the end of it (it goes around a corner in sort of a backward U shape), there was no Wizard of Oz.

There was a janky looking copy of something called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and despite the lack of cover, I had an odd feeling it was a cartoon. I scanned the children’s section and it wasn’t there either. Rather than pick my way through the rest of the store, I asked an employee.

No dice. Apparently they have a dozen different Barbie movies and more episodes of Dora the Explorer than I could count, but they don’t have a single copy of The Wizard of Oz. WTF? How can a video store not have The Wizard of Oz? It’s a freakin’ classic. And not in that wierd black and white, only my grandma loves it way. Every single one of my students has heard of it and most have watched it. This is mainstream classic. And I know I rented it less than five years ago from a Blockbuster less than an hour away. How can a video store not have a single copy of The Wizard of Oz and have an entire shelf devoted to Big Mama’s House I and II?

No wonder their damn movies rent for 99 cents and their parking lot was empty.

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The woes of construction

My ceiling is leaking. I’m not sure how it started exactly. All I know is that it left a dirty, nasty mess on my floor. I don’t know exactly when it happened. I’d been away for quite some time and when I came back, my floor had these odd brown stains on it and there were a few standing puddles of water. Luckily this was my classroom and not my living room.

I tried not to freak out too much. I will admit though that when a friend told me she thought the water build up was due to a broken toilet in the men’s bathroom next to my classroom, I did, in fact, let out a huge, “what the hell?” and go running up to my room. Thankfully there was no stench. The water did look gross, but not human bodily waste gross. More like rusty water gross. Which is, of course, still yucky, especially when it’s gathered in little pools around my room, but easier to take than pools of pooh filled water.

School hadn’t even started yet and despite all the construction going on in our building (which is what caused the lovely flood in the first place), I was sure someone would find the time to clean up my floor.

When I returned for the mandatory teachers’ meetings before the first day of school and the floor was not only still stained, but the hole in the ceiling obviously re-opened and streaming into a trash can strategically placed underneath it, I got a bit more concerned. Especially since there was already another trash can full of water sitting in my room that no one had bothered to dump. Plus the air wasn’t back on yet, so it was about 100 degrees in my room.

Despite my worry I realized there was nothing I could do, so I went home, just hoping it would be fixed the next day. While I could deal with a dirty floor (I said deal, not like), even a little harmless change like a stained floor can distract kids for hours. And since they’d already be distracted with the start of school, I kept my fingers crossed.

Amazingly my floor was spotless when I showed up for the first day of classes. I hurried over to glance up at the missing ceiling tile and it appeared all had been fixed. No drips. God bless the custodians and construction workers. I rushed to arrange my desks and get the rest of my room in order.

All was good until about half way through first period. I went to grab something out of my cabinet and felt something wet plop on top of my head. My pipe had sprung a leak again. As the day wore on the water started dripping faster. I tried to place a trash can under it, but the water seemed to be coming from a couple of places, so my floor got wet. And so did I. For some reason I kept forgetting my ceiling was dripping. When I walked over to my cabinet, I got wet. A few drops even went right down the back of my shirt. Yuck!

I went in today not knowing what I’d find. The water had been dried, however, no one bothered to take a mop to it, so I have dried light brown stains on my floor. Not the end of the world, but considering how dirty the place is with construction residue, it probably won’t get cleaned until next summer. The leak, however, appeared to be plugged up. First period went by with no water. Second period was progressing nicely. A repairman came in to check on my leak and when confronted by a class of 22 kids sitting in a circle all looking at him, he got a bit nervous. When I told him the leak was better, he seemed relieved and scurried off, promising to come back at the end of the day. I doubted I’d ever see him again.

He was true to his word though. As soon as the kids were gone, he came back. He poked around up in my ceiling and managed to find the source of the leak (and got himself quite wet in the process). Next think I knew I had a trash can in the middle of my floor soaking up water again. He brought in a plumber who poked around for a bit and then went up on the roof to “check things out.”

I’m not sure what he found. He never came back. I just hope tomorrow I’ll have a dry floor and be able to use my trash can. I’m not getting my hopes up though.

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My last hurrah

So today my life of decadence and leisure comes to an end. No longer will my days be spent reading a novel in the shade of my patio while my son runs in circles around the patio table, chasing a cat, or kicking a ball or, well, just running. My tri-weekly (or frequenter) visits to the coffee shop for chai and the occasional toffee cookie are a thing of the past. So much for trips to the children’s museum minutes after it opens and being the only people in the comic book room.

In less than twelve hours, summer, as I know it, is over. Yes, that’s right. Even though the leaves on the trees have not even begun to hint that they’ll be changing color, fall has arrived for me. It doesn’t matter that the temperatures are supposed to creep back up into the mid-to high 80’s next week, by this time tomorrow, I’ll have sat through eight hours of back to school meetings, made about a zillion photo copies and organized my classroom so that when the kids report back on Tuesday morning, I’ll be ready.

As a teacher I am always sad for the end of summer, but this year it seems especially bitter to me. For the last three months (well, just shy of), my best friend and I have been fairly unencumbered, and have met almost daily to hang out, have lunch, go shopping, or walk around the neighborhood. When she was busy taking classes for her PhD or in yoga, I got to spend lots of one on one time with my son. This meant weekly trips to the zoo, children’s museum and even a few trips to story time. We got to snuggle up on the couch and watch Wonder Pets once a day. We sat on the patio and read Dr. Seuss books together. He learned something like 30 new words. And how to walk and hold my hand instead of making a bee line right for the street. He learned the tunes to about half a dozen songs, and although the words aren’t clear, the tunes really are and he can sing them all the way through. He can identify his nose, my nose, ears, teeth, and belly buttons (and likes to show mine off while we are out). He’s learned to eat fairly consistently with a spoon and fork. We ate Indian food. We ate Mexican food. We ate fair food.

It’s been quite the adventure.

Mostly though, I’ve really gotten to see my son’s personality develop. Last summer he was still so young. I was just thrilled he was sleeping 6-8 hours straight at night and I wasn’t exhausted. He’d barely rolled over and aside from smiles, mostly wanted to be held. This summer I’ve gotten to watch my baby turn into a toddler. He wants to explore and learn. And yet, when he falls or turns around and doesn’t see me, he also comes running to me, arms open, tears forming. We’ve become practically joined at the hip (and some days almost literally as I carry him on my hip and when he doesn’t want down, man can his little legs grip).

I don’t want to take him to the sitter’s tomorrow. I know he’ll be fine, at least after I’m out of sight and the other little girl shows up to play. I know he’ll be thrilled to see me when I pick him up. I even know that I’m about to be really busy for the next nine months straight, and I won’t actually be able to think about the fact that I don’t have my little monkey man with me at all moments. 

Tomorrow is a sad day for me. Not just because I have to get up at 5:30 and start commuting again. Not because I will have 75 new kids to get to know and never be able to teach them all I want to. Not even because working for my pittance of a salary will actually remind me just how much of a pittance it is. It’s going to be hard because it means seeing my son for only 4 1/2 hours each day. It means throwing dinner together so I lose even less of that time, doing the dishes after he’s in bed and trying to cram six hours worth of grading into two so that I can spend all my waking time with him.

I hate the idea that I’ll miss new words, no feats of daring and new foods he tries.

Is it too late to be a stay at home mom?

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The birds and the beasts were there

And so were more vendors dishing up delicious fatty foods then I could have hoped for. Actually, I guess it was really about the number of purveyors of deep fried junk that I expected. And to be completely honest, there was actually one bit of food I wasn’t able to find at this fair, or any in the last three years: frozen key lime pie on a stick. I’ve only ever seen it once, ironically in Florida, where almost nothing else good happens, yet every year I look for it, hoping that this will be the year. But it wasn’t. Instead I had to make a bite of frozen chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick suffice. Don’t get me wrong, it was good; it just wasn’t super tarty limey good. Sigh….

This was, however, the first year we took my son to the fair. We waited until things cooled down a bit and met friends in front of the DNR pavilion. As a kid I used to delight in the fair rides, nearly making myself sick riding the Himalaya, or in really good years, the Flying Bobs*, so many times in a row that I’d lose track. Every year I made sure to climb the insane number of steps that led to the top of the super slide. I silently prayed going around the Ferris wheel that we wouldn’t get stopped too near the top, and then cursed my luck when we always did**. One year, before I lost my taste for all fair rides, I was even persuaded to ride a horrible contraption that was a double Ferris wheel with cages instead of gondolas because they also spun, leaving me upside down for far too long. I did a lot of cursing, which probably wasn’t great since the carnival was at a private Jesuit school.

The fair has been a tradition for me for as long as I can remember. Every summer when I’d visit my dad, he’d take me to the local county fair. My grandfather would spend the whole year collecting aluminum cans and as soon as I arrived, we’d take them to the recycling center. After watching the cans get loaded into the big aluminum crusher thingy, we’d get our slip of paper and head to the cashier. Each year I stood in eager anticipation as the cashier counted the bills into my grandfather’s hand. I knew that as soon as she’d handed over the last penny, he’d hand the money over to me. It was my “fair fund” and I got to spend every bit of it on whatever I wanted at the fair. Oddly, my grandfather never went with us to the fair. He just liked showing me how many bags he’d collected and spending time with me gathering them up, taking them in and watching my face light up when the money was turned over. Man, he was an awesome guy.

Although we never made it to the state fair, I had so much fun at the county ones, that I am determined my son should have the same traditions and the same fond memories.

Since my son isn’t quite a year and a half, he wasn’t too interested in the rides. It probably helped that we didn’t walk down the rows and rows of rides. He was far more interested in the people around him. The only one that even kind of caught his eyes was the carousel, which makes sense since we ride the one at the local children’s museum every visit. He reached out for it and made a few noises, but when we passed by it was soon forgotten.

He was less forgetful when it came to the food though. Our first taste of the fair was offered up by friends who had heaping plates of deep fried potatoes. Despite my love of French Fries, I’m not quite as much of a fan of the deep fried spiral cut ones. My son, however, LOVED them. He’s never had any chips and only one French Fry, and this was salty fried heaven for him. He kept reaching his little hands out, begging for more. I felt kind of bad giving them to him, since sugar, salt and anything fried are not part of his diet (he doesn’t even get juice yet), but I figured this once wouldn’t hurt him. I also applied this logic to the deep fried cheese sticks my husband bought. I pulled eewy-gooey stringy cheese out of the breading and handed it over to my greedy little boy’s hands. When he had a bit, I tried to nibble a stick. As soon as he saw the stick go near my mouth, he wanted more. I think he may have eaten more cheese than I did. Luckily he doesn’t like pickles, so I got my deep fried ones all to myself.

I also made the mistake of letting him see my cherry lime slushy. One taste and he was hooked. It didn’t help that after I had one (and let everyone taste it), two others bought one, so he was surrounded by them. He kept reaching out for another drink. He had red ice running down his face and outfit, but he loved it.

In one of the buildings my son saw a girl with a balloon. There is very little my son loves in this world more than balloons. Every time we go into the grocery store and he sees them in that damn card/flower section, he clamors for one. I feel bad every time we leave without one because he obviously loves them, but paying $3.50 for a stupid balloon each shopping trip seems ridiculous. As I was telling him we’d find him a balloon, the mother stopped me and offered her daughter’s. It’s not cruel like it sounds. The girl was probably nine and was going to let it go outside the pavilion. I gladly took it, tied it to his stroller and made him instantly happy. I felt a little bad when I saw what my son was advertising: it said “Smile, your mom chose life.” Granted, I obviously did, but there is something about groups pandering to children and their love of balloons to get their message across that really bothers me. I don’t like the idea of my son’s balloon espousing a very heated political/moral stand. Especially since it’s one I have problems with. I couldn’t take the balloon away though. See, that’s how they get ya.

My son wasn’t nearly as excited about the animal barns as I thought he’d be. He’s going through a real animal phase. He’s learning what they say and can actually give his versions of their sounds (the cat’s meow sounds a bit like a squeak, which is funny since it is kind of what one of his cats sounds like). He really wanted to touch them, but at the same time was a bit afraid when the donkeys turned to look at him. He really seemed to like the piglets, but wasn’t quite sure what to make of the sheep. I’m sure it didn’t help that they were all shaved and the ones in his books are the cute and fluffy kind. Still, I was hoping he’d like the animals a bit more. Granted, his lack of interest could have stemmed from the fact that it was pushing 8:00 and even on a late day, he’s in bed by then.

We decided to wrap it up and head home. We said goodbye to our friends and turned the stroller to the parking lot. We were home and the baby was in bed by 9. Amazingly, despite only taking a 30 minute nap at the sitter’s, he was in a great mood the entire evening. He threw no fits and seemed pretty content.

Hopefully next year when he can talk and maybe even walk a little of the fair, he’ll like it even more.

*The Flying Bobs, in case you’ve never seen them are like the Himalaya. They go around in circles, really fast, but they aren’t attached at the bottom, so they also swing. If you move your body just right, they swing out pretty darn far.

**I’m slightly scared of heights and yet always got dragged on the Ferris wheel.

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