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Archive for December, 2006

by Evelina West
Once upon time, Uncle Cale and Aunt Melissa wanted to take me to the church that they go to. I was so excited to go. I got on all my dress stuff, and Dominick got on all his church clothes too. We got in the car and rode. Uncle Cale started to drive and it wasn’t very long until we got there. We standed up and blessded God. Then we went back to Mamaw and Papaw’s house and ate some lunch and went to bed.
The End. Bless God. Amen. Love Evelina.
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Ok, so I didn’t manage to pull off the roasted chestnuts or the wassail or whatever the hell else I thought – oh, the figgy pudding; that was a bad turn of fate, I think. Evidently, I walked out of the grocery store without my bread crumbs. I purchased them, but I guess they ran off. By the time I realized the escape, it was much too late to make some at home; figgy pudding takes at least three hours to cook. But we did have rum balls, barely. Dad swigged most of the rum and enjoyed White Christmas and the wrapping and baking antics of the rest of us a little too much. I’m making figgy pudding in spite of the holiday being over. I have the bread crumbs now and I am not a slave to the calendar, speaking of which, I’ll be mailing out my Lazy Christmas Cards after the New Year.
So, oh well. There’s always next year to fill in the missing parts of my Traditional Christmas. And next year, I think we’ll go a-wassailing and then come home and drink some wassail and eat our figgy pudding. It’ll be great!

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Hat and iPod purse

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Yay for Knitting!

I just finished my first and second knitting projects – a man’s hat and an iPod/cell phone case. Photos to follow.
Knitting is great. I just get a cramp in my left hand, and I’m still much faster crocheting, obviously. I discovered that I’m knitting a little weird. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I think I’m Combined Knitting, which, from what I understand, is a cross between Continental and English Methods. So I guess I hold the working yarn in my left hand as for Continental, but I wrap it around the needle the direction for English. It’s no big deal, except that I purl standard Continental Method. The mixture of the two creates stitches that are disoriented on the needle and things can look twisted. So either I’m going to make myself knit standardly, or I’m going to learn to purl the combined way.

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Praise for a Promise

Last week I heard on the radio the announcement of a new program called the Pittsburgh Promise that’s set to begin in 2008. It’s a sort of scholarship proposal that guarantees college tuition to qualifying students who graduate from Pittsburgh city schools. There are no financial requisites, and the only other criteria that have been set so far are general ones that confirm a kind of common sense attitude toward proper attendence, appropriate behavior, and good grades. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Mark Roosevelt (Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools) are still hashing out all the details.
So the basic idea is that by guaranteeing college money to students early on in their education, they will work harder to obtain the grades and that might translate into fewer kids and teenagers getting into trouble thereby possibly reducing crime. Mayor Ravenstahl’s other goal is that doing this will also draw families into the city and encourage the ones there to stay and this will have some economic effect, possibly creating more jobs and boosting the real estate market (as if it needed it in the city).
That last snide comment aside, I think it’s a great idea. I know some people think it’s nuts or too drastic to be successful, but I think it’s just the thing that might set the city down a more profitable path.
When I was listening to the talk radio guy on KDKA (sorry, don’t remember who) discuss it with his callers I remembered a book I read called The Tipping Point. Its focus is on why and how certain trends become trends. It’s sort of a socioeconomic science book for the general public. It contains information from which you learn something new without sounding like a textbook. Its bottom line, and indeed its subtitle, is “how little things can make a big difference.” In other words, what is the point at which something will tip and result in a change? There are lots of anecdotes illustrating the phenomena of word of mouth advertising and what the author calls “stickiness.” It’s quite intriguing and now that my intest is piqued, I think I’ll read it again.
Anyway, the reason I thought of it during this radio discussion was because of all the emphasis put on the possibility of the Pittsburgh Promise eventually trickling down into economic change. I think it’s good future planning and shows insight into social workings. It’s a somewhat small change relative to the distress and decline of the city, and the idea of giving away money seems contrary to the want of improving the place. Or, if not contrary, at least unrelated. But there’s a story in The Tipping Point about how New York City officials and police wanted to reduce the crime in the subways. They did it starting by cleaning graffiti off all the cars. Every night when the cars came in, a team of people would clean graffiti and repaint cars if necessary. This went on for a length of time that I can’t recall and partnered with a few other seemingly small adjustments, (such as cracking down on people trying to dodge paying their fare) crime was significantly reduced in the subways. At the first mention of the idea, people balked because who would think that graffiti or the absense of it would have any relation to crime? Turns out, that was the tipping point.
Who is to say that giving away some money to educate young people who probably don’t otherwise have a chance at pursuing a good education much less at earning a decent living might not be the tipping point for the city of Pittsburgh?
Below are some links to initial media reports of the plan and the last link is a kind of funny parody of it by some Pittsburgh bloggers.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
KDKA
Pittsburgh Tribune
Pittsburgh Bloggers

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Yay!

Yay for digital cameras! (Christmas came early for me.)

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Chastity and Jessica

Jessica’s the fairy and I’m the squinty one.

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Unlikely Angels

A day of shopping with children is worse than a bullet to the head. (I don’t actually know this. I’ve never been shot in the head, but I wish I had been on Thursday.) The wind blew, the snow fell, and roads were icy, and for reasons still unclear, I ventured into the storm in search of ballet shoes with three kids – none of whom are independent enough to get themselves into or out of the car without my undivided assistance.
“Ok guys, get in the car.” Pause.
“Come on. Actually lift up your leg and place your foot in the car, then hoist the rest of your body up and sit in the seat.” Pause.
“Let’s go! It’s cold, and I have two more of you to get in.” Pause.
Grab child by scruff of coat and jam into booster seat. Balance baby on hip, half-hearted yell at other child to get out of traffic, battle with petrified hermit seatbelt, dodge grey slushy spray from car parking in next spot.
Repeat.
I hate that wet ring you get on the bottom of your pantlegs during winter. The longer you’re out the higher it creeps up the back of your legs. And jeans get so cold and stiff when you’re getting gas in sideways snow. I try to stand so still that my pants won’t touch my legs at all.
Anyway, in and out of the car, in and out of the store, back in the car and out again, in another store, back out, in the car, out at home, then unload. Shopping is redundant bliss.
We always visit the bathroom first thing upon entering any new store. We bring the shopping cart and all because the baby has to sit somewhere while I unbuckle and buckle belts and wipe off nasty seats and give lifts to reach the soap and water. Fortunately, Wal-Mart has made their bathrooms nearly big enough to accomodate this.
Thursday a saint of a woman offered to stand with my kids while I relieved myself. I always end up holding it, when I’m out with the kids.
“Evelina, are you done? Wash your hands and stand by the cart with David while I go.”
“. . .”
“No, Evelina once is enough. Come stand with him, I really need to go.”
“. . .”
“I’m sure your hands are dry. Come over here, please. Don’t climb the shopping cart. Just stand. NO. Don’t pull David out by his legs! Just stand by him.”
“Casey tell me when you’re done and I’ll do your belt.”
“I do it by myself.”
“Ok.”
“EEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEAAAAA”
“What is your problem?”
“I have to pee.”
“Then go.”
“I can’t.”
“Why?” – coming back out of stall next to him –
“MY BELT”
“Casey, all you have to do is say, ‘Mommy, I need help,’ and I’ll help you.”
“Pease you help me?”
“Evelina! Quit hanging off David’s legs!”
“Alright, Casey, lets wash your hands. Don’t rub the soap all over me.”
“Can you two just stand next to David without hanging on him or climbing the cart while I pee?”
Then an Angel of Mercy appeared in the bathroom:
“Do you want me to stand with them while you go? You look like you could use a break.”
“Yes! Thank you!”
She was perfect. They talked to her and David’s poor stretched legs were left alone. She was so natural with them and not condescending the way some people are to kids. I never wanted to leave that stall. It was spacious and somewhat clean. But most importantly, I was alone! Oh blissful solitude! I could have set up a nice little apartment and never come out again. “One is the Lonliest Number” carries absolutely no credibility with me.
At the end of the trip, we stopped at the bakery to get cookies before checking out. I only asked for three cookies, one for each kid, but she gave me five, which was enough to keep the kids occupied for the duration of the line.
I stopped at the doors before walking out so that I could zip up all the coats and grab onto all lose children so they wouldn’t be carried off on an gigantic snowflake. The greeter lady just walked right up and started zipping coats and pulling on hoods. Then she even let the kids climb into the little motorized ride that’s always at the front and put money into it. I was busy bundling the baby, so it was a welcome distraction for the kids.
Later at gymnastics, I had to leave before Casey was done to drive Evelina to ballet on time. I slid all the way back as fast as I could but he was already out of class when I arrived. One of the other moms went ahead and put on his socks and shoes and coat and waited with him till I got there.
I don’t know the names of any of these ladies who were kind to my kids and me that day, but they must have been angels because I was surely in need.
Thank you!

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“Really Mommy. I’m serious; I saw her sing on the movie.”
My daughter is convinced that Mary sang to get the baby Jesus out of her belly. This is why I can’t stand children’s movies that depict events in history. They can’t actually be true to fact and have a screaming writhing terrified 13-year-old giving birth on a stack of hay! So instead it’s smart to have her croon for the child to emerge because that won’t obscure children’s understanding of life at all. Good Lord! What is wrong with people? And naturally, to a four-year-old, when it’s my word against the television there is no contest. There’s really nothing more to say about it as far as I can tell.

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‘Tis the Season

“Faith is believing in something even when common sense tells you not to.”
Watching Miracle on 34th Street – old Christmas movies are the best.
“Tell me Tommy, why are you so sure there’s a Santa Claus?”
“Because my daddy told me so. Isn’t that right daddy?”
“Your daddy’s a very honest man?”
“Course he is.”
“And you believe your daddy, don’t you?”
“Course I do. My daddy wouldn’t tell me something that wasn’t so, would you daddy?”
This year I’m doing a totally old-fashioned Christmas. I’m trying as much as possible to make gifts for people (don’t worry, I won’t give you anything cheesy or lame). I’m going to bake all the goodies we sing about in all our favorite carols – figgy pudding, sugar plums, roasted chestnuts – I can’t think of any more than that right now. If you remember any of the classic Christmas delights, let me know. Aha! Turkish delight. I tried it last year, but was not very successful. I’ll work on it again.
I’m going to tell the Nativity story to my kids and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to them.
We’re going to ooze Christmas cheer. Mmmm the smell of the pine tree and candy canes! I love it! Spiked eggnog and cookies!

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