Saturday, March 27, 2010

Since I have Strep Throat...

It's a good time to post some helpful information about the new healthcare plan! emailed me these highlights to begin to clarify what's been approved.

* * *

What are some healthcare highlights for children and families?

This Year - The following is a short list of key, important changes that will happen this year due to the passage of healthcare reform: [1]*

  • Insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse to pay for treatment of children's pre-existing conditions.
  • Health care plans will allow young people to remain on their parents' insurance policy up until their 26th birthday.
  • Insurance companies will be banned from dropping people from coverage when they get sick, and they will be banned from implementing lifetime caps on coverage.
  • People who are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions will have access to affordable insurance through a temporary subsidized high-risk pool.
  • Small businesses that choose to offer coverage will begin to receive tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums to help make employee coverage more affordable.

2014 - The following is a short list of key, important changes that will happen in 2014 due to the passage of healthcare reform: [2]*

  • Insurance companies will be banned from denying health insurance coverage to people of all ages because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Families and children with moderate incomes (up to about $88,000 for a family of four) will be able to get help paying for health insurance coverage.
  • State insurance exchanges will enforce minimum benefit standards for health insurance coverage.
*Want more detailed information? Go here:

Thursday, March 25, 2010


How did I fail to anticipate a student would get queasy on Bizarre Human Feat Day?

It started with the hairiest family, got worse with the 12mm bulging eyeballs, and sealed the deal with the woman with the most piercings - specifically, the photo where she put her finger through her tongue hole! Poor little chap... he just said, "Um, I'm not gonna look anymore" and put his head in his hands.

In case you're concerned, he recovered. And I'm thinking there was no permanent damage.

Tomorrow is Dream and Scheme Day.

There will be foam tubing and duct tape to make humongous looping marble chutes, and newspapers and tape to make humongous twisting marble chutes; there'll be a huge box of dominoes to make a giant design to topple; there will be Dane's record-high number of Legos to build with; and an abundance of yarn for cat's cradle.

So many kids were fully engaged in learning cat's cradle today! It blew my mind. The World Record is 21,200 cat's cradles made by 3 women in 21 hours. Six kids who'd never picked up a loop of yarn learned today. It was really exciting to see how fully engaged they were, and how many "attempts" they were willing to make. "Attempt" is an awesome word at World Record Camp. It was also exciting to see children teaching each other. It even kept some of the more wound up kids mellower.

Dream and Scheme Day will include lots of kids trying to do their favorite activites, World Record Style; it will also include them brainstorming with me, so we can give ScienceWorks a list of records we think ScienceWorks should host to try to break a world record!

That's all for now. I'm actually feeling some sickness coming on -- I wish I could say it was just because the finger through the tongue grossed me out, but I happen to like that kind of stuff. It's more like a sore throat and earache. Just gotta make it through tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


But it's fun.

Field Day was perfect - for energetic boys, and as a break from a jam-packed museum on Spring Break. Tag was great, as were hula hoop, jump rope and head stand record attempts. Wore the kids out a little. They LOVED the Mentos and Soda group fountain record experiment. (Of course, anything with sugar or caffeine makes camp about the awesomest experience ever.)

Tomorrow is Bizarre Human Feat Day. It's been fun to define FEAT vs. FEET for them.

We'll cover stuff like the World's Most Tattooed Body, World's Hairiest Family, Furthest Popping Eyeballs, Longest Ear Hair, and, yes, possibly, Loudest Burp. (If I dare. Parents might boycott my classes after this, so I have to figure out if I'm prepared to go down in the name of Science!)

With scientific explanations for all of them, of course, if there's one to be had.

For one of our projects, I think I'll have students make clay representations of this:

Or this:

Should be spectacular.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Taught at ScienceWorks again today, but had to go without one of my kids. That's right, Dane is sick. Turns out he's got Strep Throat.

Mick took him to the doctor on his lunch break, we both kept tabs on him via the phone, and he watched movies with Sharkles the Dog for a few hours. Not your ideal setup, but thank goodness I'm just a part-time worker and generally a full-time mom.

Tomorrow's camp lesson plan got switched to World Record Field Day instead of Bizarre Human Feats, because the weather's supposed to turn on Thursday (of course!) -- so we'll be trying to break records for hula hooping, jump roping, playing tag (no, I haven't found a record on that one yet, but with 13 boys in the class, I'm aiming to set one) and the Mentos and Diet Coke soda fountain.

I'm tired - and I've gotta squeeze in a midnight antibiotic dosage -- so good night. But, bless his heart, Mick's making the run to Albertson's as I type this to pick up my fountain supplies. I love that guy.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I know it's controversial, but I've believed in the possibility of health care for all for a while now. Here is an essay I wrote that aired in San Francisco in 2008. I'm so glad such daring progress was made this weekend - and that we're taking the leap.

Gearing Up For Day 2!

Today was great. LOTS of energy in that lab with 14 boys and 3 girls. Fortunately, they were all happy to spend their free time with Twister, Jenga blocks, stacking cards, Guinness picture books, and dissembling and assembling the organs of the human body -- and reading or learning World Record facts pertaining to each of those.

Lab lessons today included measuring everybody's waist and then seeing how they each compared to the woman with the smallest waist (15"!) and the world's fattest twin's waist (84"!). Of course, there was lots of fun and interesting talk as to how they got that way (corsets for the first, and a messed up pituitary gland after German measles at age 4 for the second).

The kids learned a lot about the pituitary gland today -- especially because the world's tallest people were/are so tall because of an out of control gland, or a tumor on it. We did a really cool project on those tall folks, too, drawing the world's tallest man on butcher paper and hanging him up to stand next to. He also has the world's largest hands and feet, so we measured those out too.

He Pingping's not the shortest man because of his pituitary gland, but because of primordial dwarfism, and we drew him on butcher paper as well - to stand next to the tallest man.

Tomorrow is Amazing Animal Day, which will start with charades and amazing animal facts. It'll move then into watercoloring the world's largest butterfly, which has an 11" wing span and is poisonous to predators. Kids'll be able to choose whether they want to paint the largest male or female butterfly (different colors, of course) or moth.

I'm still choosing my afternoon activity, but it should be fun. Natch.

The next day gets even juicier with Bizarre Human Feats. Kids'll learn a lot of wonderful and useless information -- and you'd better believe I'm going to let them see how much work and skill it would take to be the record-holder of the world's loudest burp!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Camp starts this week! Following is the note I'll send home with parents the first day; above is a photo of He Pingping, the World's Shortest Man, holding the hand of the World's Tallest Man. He Pingping died last weekend at age 21. RIP, Pingping.

* * *

Welcome to Spring Break Camp!

This week at ScienceWorks we'll focus on measurable extremes in the world: shortest/tallest, fastest/slowest, most/least, biggest/smallest... From the natural (world's largest mammal) to the cultivated (world's longest fingernails) to the man-made (world's smallest bicycle) -- and all sorts of categories in between -- we'll be curious about and amazed by World Records.

Daily Themes:
Monday - How High? How Heavy?
Tuesday - Amazing Animal Records
Wednesday - Bizarre Human Feats
Thursday - World Record Field Day (Dress for any weather!)
Friday - Dream and Scheme

At home, might be fun to check out with your kid. And, if you've ever been part of a world record -- or if you've had a memorable experience to share about a record-holder -- tell your kid so they can share the news with the class!

One last note: Your child will learn at camp that any world record making or breaking she or he might come up with will need to be cleared with you first!

Looking forward to this,

* * *

If you've read this far, dear Reader, do YOU have a favorite world record???

Friday, March 19, 2010


Check out this inspiring story Uncle Rod sent us about a father/daughter reading routine. It will astound you - and probably make you want to crack a book with a kid right this instant.

Click here for the NYT article.

I can't read The Giving Tree to my kids without getting a big old lump in my throat. And I love reading Small Brown Dog's Bad Remembering Day in as many different voices or accents as possible. And reading the Ramona books or the Anne of Green Gables series to my mom as she cooked up dinner are some of my favorite reading moments ever.

So tell me: What book have you loved reading to another - as a kid or as an adult?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Publishing Problem Solved

Underwired accepted my essay, "Cop A Feel!"

(That's their October 09 magazine cover to the left.)

It was accepted on the 13th, just two days before The Mom Egg needed a response from me regarding that essay - so I was able to decline with The Mom Egg, withdraw from Skirt, and give Underwired the go-ahead, all in good time and good conscience.

In an earlier post, I'd written that I liked The Mom Egg and its reputation (which is linked to Mamapalooza, an organization that empowers women and girls) and was excited my essay was accepted there - but The Mom Egg is not a paying market, like Skirt and Underwired. And not only do the other two pay, but they have snazzier presentation, for those of us who appreciate visual inspiration.

When The Mom Egg originally accepted, my friend Jennifer Margulis had suggested that if the other publications don't have a problem with multiple submissions (and they don't) then I could try emailing them and telling them my piece had been accepted elsewhere but I preferred their publication if they wanted my essay.

I did that with Underwired, which I felt strongest about, and got a sort of business-y response that said they just had their submission deadline a couple days earlier and wouldn't even read them all until the 18th, so I could withdraw my submission if I wanted.

I decided to let it lie.

I felt my essay was strong and didn't want to be annoying to them - so I made up my mind to just see what happened when they actually read it. I was going to wait until the last minute on the 15th and go with The Mom Egg if it came down to that. Needless to say, I was thrilled then when, on Saturday morning, the 13th!, Underwired emailed to let me know it had been accepted there.

Now I'm $100 richer, have another publication to check off my goal list for the year, have a little more publishing savvy, and am being published in a Kentucky market, which is exciting in light of my novel setting.

My essay will appear in the April issue of Underwired, which has the theme "Backside."

I'll post when it's out!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tomato, Feta and Barley Salad
Monday's Rockin' Recipe Share

My in-laws are here and I planned BBQ ribs for our first night's dinner. (Ribs were half-price at Safeway, so I picked up three packs and used one and a half for tonight.)

I knew I wanted to accompany it with a good whole grain, something with a nice, low-glycemic index for the diabetics in my life -- and I LOVE the chewiness of barley -- so I found this amazing recipe at

It's so good I only ate one rib and filled up with this salad. Go ahead, try it!




Friday, March 12, 2010


You know your housekeeping commitment is minimal when you're cleaning your bathtub tiles and your 8-year-old comes in and says "What are you DOing???" like she's never seen anything like it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I sent my application packet off today to the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) for the Work-In-Progress Grant. The application required a complete Application Form, my Career Background, a list of How I'd Spend The Money, the First 2500 Words of my Young Adult novel, and a Synopsis.

The total packet could only be 15 pages -- mine was 13 -- and I had to submit 7 perfect packets. The deadline is Monday, so I over-nighted it via UPS this morning.

The winners will be announced in September, so I can forget about the contest for now, but keep working on the project.

There are 4 prize categories:
-General (a catch-all)
-Contemporary (takes place in last 10 years)
-Multi-cultural/Minority (tells story from that perspective)

I submitted under that last one.

There will be a $2k grant winner for each of those categories, as well as $500 runners-up awards. After those have been selected, an additional "Unpublished Writer" category will open up, and the remaining applications will be considered under that category to win those same awards.

It was a long haul to manage the odds and ends, but I'm glad I did it. I feel more committed now than ever to the project, and like I have some serious work behind me -- and plenty in front of me, too, of course.

This fulfills one of my goals for this year: to apply for a grant. I think I'll apply for another one through the Oregon Humanities, which is due June 26. The writing sample then is the first 25 pages.

Note: I was reminded again how much I value my community of writers. Jennie emailed/phoned/came over to brainstorm and advise on various sections, Karen offered her understanding as a fellow artist, Maya from my Marin writing group helped me keep my head on straight by weighing in on which 2500 words to send, and my friend Ellen (Notbohm) gave feedback at various stages along the way. This sounds like an acceptance speech. It's not -- at least not in the sense that I've won anything, but maybe it is -- in the sense that I've accepted much-needed help from these smart friends.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

(Dane made the Minor Leagues!)

Dane tried out last weekend for the Ashland Little League.

He didn't catch any fly balls in the outfield and didn't hit a single ball he was pitched - but the little fella played first base okay and evidently showed he's got alotta heart. He was drafted this week onto the "Yankees" Baseball team!

His coach called to tell him last night. Dane was grinning and saying "okay" and "yes" a lot, pacing the hallway.

His practices start tomorrow - and he'll have two a week, plus some weekend batting practice at the cages. The first game is April 3rd. The cool thing is that the fields and batting cage are just a few blocks away from our house, so Dane can easily ride his bike there.

I spoke with Coach Mark after he finished talking to Dane and learned he's been coaching all ages for years - and he's excited to coach yet again. Mark says he laid awake until midnight after the draft thinking about practices and drills. He says he does a lot of work with kids in small groups, and individually, which sounds perfect for a kid like Dane who says he wants to work hard and LOVES BASEBALL!

As usual, Dane has a sense of himself that Mick and I admire. Dane came home from tryouts and assessed his own skills. He said there were kids at tryouts who really knew what they were doing, and that he sees he's "got a lot of practicing to do." He says, "I need to get back into the groove. I want to be a pitcher. And I love batting."

And here's the thing about Dane: he'll do it, and he'll be excited about any progress he makes.

(To his credit, he hasn't picked up a baseball since last season. That's already changed. He carries his glove and a tennis ball around the house and throws grounders down the hallway to bounce back at him. He and Aubrey have also headed to our little fields next door to play catch -- Mick and I will do the same with him.)

One last note: It was perfect that he'd just seen Dennis Quaid in The Rookie. If you haven't seen it, check out the inspiring story of a middle age guy who followed his dream to play in the pros.

Monday, March 08, 2010


A few years ago I wrote "To Cop A Feel," an essay about how Aubrey's curious and admiring gropes reminded me to embrace my own body-- and my destiny.

I got an email today that The Mom Egg, a New York-based literary magazine, wants to publish it in their upcoming annual issue, which will have the theme "Lessons."

Yay! I'm super excited about this.

I'm super excited about this, and I have to let them know by the 15th if my piece is still available, but now I have the dilemma of what to do about Skirt and Underwired.

See, I sent it to Skirt as a possibility for the "X" issue, with the title "Exemplary Behavior," and I sent it to Underwired as a possibility for their "Backside" issue.

Unlike The Mom Egg, both of those markets pay (and I think their websites are snazzier, although the literary content is probably similar). Additionally, they should be deciding soon whether they want it, because the deadlines were this week and the issues both publish in April.

That said, I have a call in to my local writing etiquette expert, Jennifer Margulis, asking her if I should email Skirt and Underwired separately to let them know this piece has been accepted elsewhere, unless one of them wants to grab it first.

We'll see if she says that's acceptable.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 07, 2010


(as told to Anjie)

The Science Fair was very fun. My science fair project was "Why is it colder at Mt. Ashland than it is down here, when it's closer to the sun?" My brother's was "What makes a catapult work?" They were both very interesting. I thought mine was harder than Dane's because I had to figure out my answer with things that I couldn't make or do. I figured it out with my mom and dad's help.

Here's what I learned (wait, let me go get my board):

A mountain might seem big on earth, but it is a small part of the earth. The earth is very very very very far from the sun.

I also learned about pressure:
The earth is a big mass and its gravity sucks the air to the earth.
The air closest to the earth is thick and higher pressure which makes it warm.
The air further from the earth is thin and the pressure is low, which makes it cold!

Here's a picture of a judge asking me to explain my project. I got a green pretty ribbon. It says PARTICIPANT: SCIENCE FAIR .

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

a brief photo journal and note

I like Science Fairs, really, I do. I love taking a question my kid has been curious about and turning it into a learning opportunity. An 0pportunity that happens to take at least TEN HOURS of preparation over the course of a few weeks per kid. I like that. Really, I do.

I like how the living room and kitchen turn into a work zone - and even the dog knows it. Glue and scissors and rulers and spoons and legos show up on any available surface; the computer has files up all the time -- like YouTube's "Catapults: Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction" and googled responses for "Catapult history" and "How come mountains are cold when they're close to the sun?"; and spiral notebooks flop open to pages that list "Questions," "Best Guess Answers," sketches of air pressure on the earth, and all kinds of doodles.

I like how I get to practice my multi-tasking skills as a talking dictionary, penmanship coach, cookie baker, dinner maker, phone operator, Word tutor, research guide, diagrammer, and mom-trying-to-be-nice.

And I like that my kids, who usually have zero or minimal homework, have to roll up their sleeves and get committed. I really like that. I do.

But sometimes it's overwhelming.

And sometimes it makes complete sense to me that Wise Uncle Rod once toyed with recommending that his kids' school solicit money from parents rather than Science Fair Projects.

I like that, really, I do!

In the end, though, I know the Science Fair projects will give my kids a healthy approach to science, homework, curiosity, and presentations. And it will give them a good sense of accomplishment -- already, last year's displays on "Baking Powder to the Rescue!" and "COB: The Magnificent Mixture" are meeting rave reviews from their creators.

Perhaps some years it just won't work for our family to commit to the Science Fair, but for now it's coming together.

I might be crabby and shaking my soup ladel and stepping on legos and tape dispensers and pencils - but I'm also laughing and smiling and hugging for the other times. The times when someone says, "Oh, I get it!", asks another interesting question, admires their own penmanship, or jumps for joy when they've laid out their display and pasted it.

See? I like Science Fair Projects. Really, I do.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


The kids dressed Seuss-ish today to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday with their classmates. Dr. Seuss was born back in 1904, so he's... um, you know, like a hundred and something.

In honor of Dr. Seuss

We've got Thing 1 or Thing 2
Who forgooo the blue do:

And Cindy Lou Who
With her little pink boo:

Now, think quick and think fast
'Cause I just have to ask:
Who would you be
If you could be all Seuss-y?

Would you don Hop on Pop
As a fat yellow mop?
Or go green and mean grin
Like a Grinch, long and thin?

Would you Cat in the Hat
With stripes all like that?
Or go Sam I Am septic
Like a Ham and Egg skeptic?

Would you Horton A Who
With ears that could flew?
Or One Fish and Two Fish
Your Red Fish and Blue Fish?

Whatever you'd do
Don't keep it to you.
Write it down in my box
Like a good Fox in Socks.

(I'm serious! Tell me who! Who?)