Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scenes from Houston

Matt had a conference in Houston recently, and we turned it into a family road trip.  The boys love staying in a hotel, especially one that has both a pool and a continental breakfast with waffle maker.

We stopped at a Chili's for dinner, and they had these tabletop tablets.  The boys were thrilled; I was offended.  I huffed to Matt, "Nice.  They put screens in front of every kid.  Why on earth would you want to sit at a table with your FAMILY and enjoy actual CONVERSATION during your meal?"  We got rid of them when the food came.

Then we got the bill, and it turns out Chili's is not conducting an assault on family conversation; they are just trying to squeeze a little more money out of you.  The receipt had a $.99 charge for "table entertainment" or some such nonsense.  When I asked the waitress about it, she said, "Oh, you didn't know about the charge?  No problem; I can waive it."  I think that's kind of a dirty trick anyway.
When we checked out the hotel pool, Alec looked at this sign and said, "Diving?  That should really say 'no belly flops'".
We were staying in the Galleria area of Houston, and one day when we drove down the road a bit to get lunch, we passed this school that reminded us of Rushmore.  Turns out, it was Rushmore, or St. John's School as it's known in real life.

Then on the very next block, we saw a public school that had to be Grover Cleveland High School.  It's really called Lamar High School, and you can see it in the scene where Mr. Blume steals Max's bike, runs it over, and returns it to the bike rack.
It's really one of the best scenes in one of my favorite movies of all time.

Pete Townshend: You are forgiiiii--

Mr. Blume: ...about five foot three, 112 pounds, black hair, glasses, oval face.


Max: Thanks for bailing me out, Dad.  Can you drop me off at Rushmore?  I've gotta go get a teacher fired.

Back at our hotel, CNN was wondering if they were talking about ebola too much.  Well, CNN, in the twenty-five minutes that I've been here feeding my kids some breakfast, you've talked of nothing else.  Why don't you squeeze in another four or five panels of experts before I finish this waffle, and then I'll decide if I think you are showing excessive coverage.
After the conference ended, we stayed one night with some friends who used to live in Austin.  When we passed a splash pad during a walk around the neighborhood, the boys couldn't resist and jumped in with their clothes on.  That's October in Texas, y'all.
Victor and Natalie had someone in their neighborhood who went all out with their Halloween decor.  Do you see the people wrapped up in spider webs, hanging from the trees?
This is from the drive back, that moment when we were still about an hour away from home and getting kind of crabby, and I was like, "Hey, look at that beautiful sunset!  Isn't it wonderful?  Doesn't it make you feel peaceful and calm, and---never mind.  Here's another sleeve of Ritz crackers.  Please don't kill each other back there."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dumb bunny pumpkin

Do your kids like to read the works of Dav Pilkey?  He's the author of the Captain Underpants series, among many others.  I have a serious love/hate with that guy.  I'd say a solid 40-50% of what my big boys read right now is his work, so hooray for getting kids to read!  However, his subject matter is usually the lowest common denominator of grade school toilet humor, and I find his books so stupid and irritating.  We are currently enjoying a gem from the Super Diaper Baby collection in which an evil liquid villain named Rip Van Tinkle sends a drop of pee down each chimney in order to steal all the toilets in town.  That's right, it's a sentient puddle of urine in a parody of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Mason was given an assignment to do a book report that included a pumpkin decorated as a main character.  He chose one of Pilkey's Dumb Bunnies books, and yes, we did know about it three weeks ago, and yes, it was due this morning, and yes, we did the whole thing last night.  I'm so glad that I can pass along my rich legacy of procrastination to my children.  At 9:00 P.M., he practiced the oral presentation one more time, looked at the completed pumpkin, and beamed with pride.

Mason: Wow, I didn't think I could do the whole book report in one night.

Sarah: Just don't mention that part to your teacher.

I had never heard of a pumpkin book report before, so when we first got the assignment, I went to Pinterest to get some ideas.  As we were driving to school this morning, we talked about how great his report was going to be.

Mason: Did you pin it?

Sarah: What?

Mason: Did you pin it?  On Pinterest.  You have an account, right?  You should put it on there.

Sheesh.  Even my eight-year-old knows that nothing is real unless it's splashed all over social media.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Type A or Type B

When I was a sophomore in high school, I took a class called Psychology & Sociology.  It felt like very grown-up subject matter, more like a college class than the Math, English, or Social Studies that I had taken in previous grades.  Plus, since it was an elective, there was a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors.  Grown-up, indeed!

It was in Mrs. Raglin's Psych & Soc class that I first learned about the two personality types, type A and type B.  I don't remember exactly how they were explained, but the gist of it was this:

Type A=motivated, high achiever, organized, sets goals, gets lots of stuff done
Type B=laid back, creative, go-with-the-flow (and maybe kind of lazy?)

We quite likely talked about the link between personality type, stress level, and physical health, but I don't remember any of that.  What I do know is that I came away with an understanding of which one I wanted to be, which one was clearly superior.  I was college-bound, heavily involved in activities, getting good grades...type A all the way.

This is me trying to look the part in a high-powered business suit, circa 1993.

In the past few years, I've realized that I am absolutely NOT a type A person.  I am messy, creative, and reflective.  I am highly disorganized, and though I set lots of goals, I often achieve them in a winding, roundabout way.  When I learned about the two types in high school, I started identifying with the one that seemed like the "good" one, the one that described successful people.  But many years later, I've figured out more about myself and about the world, and I am content with my core personality.  I know I have a lot to offer, even if it doesn't look like I thought it would when I was sixteen.

So, ready to embrace my type B personality, and having read nothing about the two types since the early 1990s, I did a little googling.  You can take a test on the Psychology Today website to find out if you possess the hallmark traits of a type A person, which they describe as "hostility, impatience, difficulty expressing emotions, competitiveness, drive, perfectionism and an unhealthy dependence on external rewards such as wealth, status, or power."

Blech.  Reading that list just reconfirmed my type B-ness.

Then I read the wikipedia entry on the subject.  Whoa!  It turns out that the original research was pretty flawed, and then the tobacco companies dove in and started funding further research to make it look like personality type, rather than smoking, was causing coronary heart disease and cancer.  (I realize that wikipedia is not, like, a scientific journal, but it's enough to get me to re-think my previous ideas.)

I still hear people using the phrase "type A" to describe themselves or others all the time.    I think that for most of us, we are referring to focus, ambition, and competitiveness rather than hostility and impatience.  We often claim it like a badge of honor.  "Oh, I'm totally type A.  I get stuff done."  But it seems that the original purpose of making the distinction was not good vs. bad or high achievers vs. lazy people, but a way to categorize people who have a higher vs. lower risk of heart disease.

I feel like this deserves an entry in Lies My Teacher Told Me, right up there with the horrible Columbus (who was probably a type A in the truest sense of the word).

Monday, October 6, 2014

HOPE outdoor gallery

I've been wanting to check out this Austin graffiti spot for a long time, and I finally went with my sister-in-law Kelly on Friday.
 This was my favorite, obviously.  "Color makes the world.  Go make color."

 There was a ton more to explore on the upper levels, but we were both wearing flip flops.  Wear sturdy shoes if you go!

You can read more about it here.