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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Happy Birthday Princess

Originally uploaded by JayMonster.
You forever changed the course of my life when you decided to make your world debut 6 years ago.

Six Years Ago? Really? It just doesn't seem right.

In some ways, I can't believe it is six years ago ALREADY. Time has seemed to fly by so fast. Wasn't I just getting up for your 3 AM feedings last week? Weren't you just learning to walk yesterday? Can it really be three years since you donned that Cinderella outfit for Halloween?

In other ways, it is hard to believe that you are ONLY six years old. Your maturity and kindness to friends and others make you far wiser than your years. The insight you have, and your reasoning and logic tell me that you are far more mature than six. You have already started to blossom so much as a person I am some times scared.

But six years old you are today, and I guess I had better not blink, because who knows how old you will be when my eyes open again.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Taking on the School Board

I admit it, I am a bit nervous, but will not deter me from fighting against a school board that has already show the level of silly decisions they will make.

The new battle that I am going to undertake is the Board of Educations attempt to put uniforms in our public schools. Now it is easy enough for me to point to the fact that there is Supreme Court precedent in Tinker et al. v. Des MoinesIndependent Community School District et al. that the Board of Education can not impede on a students freedom of expression. But I do not have the kind of money that afford to make a (literally) Federal case out of this and challenge it to the Supreme Court. Besides, if I can not get an immediate injunction pending the outcome of the case, my daughter will probably be long out of the school system by the time this case is completed.

I am appreciative that Kathy Howe, gave me a starting point for my arguements with an excellent list of reasons that school uniforms are a bad idea. This is very helpful, because I am so steamed about this. Not just about the school uniforms themselves (though that would be bad enough), but the way the school is trying to just shove this program down our throats.

It is obvious that they have been working on this idea for a while, because they have already budgeted $40,000 of taxpayer money so they can "provide" the first shirt for each kid "free" to "ease" the bugetary strain on parents. Pause a momment and re-read that sentence. Let the irony of it settle in and have a good laugh. (For the dense among us, which includes apparently my hometown school board: TAXING us so that we you can "give" us a shirt, does not make it FREE!)

Now any time while they were considering this assinine move, they could have solicited feedback from parents. But in an attempt to ensure there is little to no time for people that do not like the idea to band together (or give people enough time to actually THINK about it before redering an opinion), they opt to wait until JUNE to spring this on parents for this fall. The school year is almost over. Most if not all PTA meeting at local schools are done for the year, leaving precious little time and ability for parents to congregate and together discuss the pros and cons of proposal. No they wait until June to have an informational meeting on the subject to "get parental feedback." What feedback are they looking for? They have already budgeted this program into the next years plans. This is nothing but a Cover Your Ass meeting, so that when people finally look at this program and complain, they can say, "well you had an opportunity to speak up."

Next, they release the information aboout the program to the local papers. In an attempt to garner support for the program in advance, the primary reasons provided are the "picking on kids" who "can not afford" designer clothers, and... wait... get ready for this... "safety" and, the most laughable of all, "being able to ID the kids"

Let's start with the easiest (and silliest) reason, "being able to ID the kids." They would be THE SMALL PEOPLE that are in the school. Are adults (presumably ones short enough to fit in grammar school seats), sneaking into school for an afternoon of Social Studies?

When you look out over the schoolyard, are you not able to identify the pedophile offering the kid candy from students playing together, unless you can identify them by the shirt they are wearing? Perhaps then your problems go beyond what a uniform can solve. But this also brings us to the issue of "safety". What does a single colored shirt and pair of khaki pants keep our children safe from? Abduction? Will the child wearing a uniform make it easier to spot an abductor? Every study that uses the words "safety" and "uniforms" together discuss one thing. SECONDARY SCHOOL. Using excuses like "Columbine" as an example where children were selected "for the clothes they wore" they try and argue that somehow the tragedy at Columbine High School wouldn't have happened if they where wearing uniforms. First of all does that really make sense to anybody? If they didn't pick out the students they were targeting "by their clothes" (which of course is impossible to prove in the first place) they would have picked them out by some other factor. The "reasons" these kids when on this spree (as published an publicized) was that they were outsiders that were not well liked by other groups. A uniform would not have lead them to suddenly NOT be outsiders. Cliques still form whether or not a uniform is worn in the school. But before I wander too far off here, "safety" is also associated with the removal of "gang colors" from schools, again something far more prevalent in High Schools than in Grammar schools.

Now again, using "examples" like Columbine, they try to tell people that kids get picked on because their parents can not afford to buy them the latest trendy clothes. First of all, I live in a completely middle class town. There is nobody wearing Prada to school here. For the most part clothes are very similar in quality, whether from The Children's Store, Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart or other similar type of store, there is very little different except the tastes of the children and parents that buy the clothes. Second, some kids admittedly can be cruel and enjoy picking on other kids. But the problem is, these same kids will pick on whatever they can find. If it isn't the clothes, then it is the shoes, the haircut, the backpack, how fat a kid is, how skinny a kid is, and so on. Teaching people to get along goes much further to solving that situation than a uniform does.

But of course, the school board is trying to use parents fears to justify this Draconian practice of turning our children into little matching drones, that all look and act alike in a very Gattaca kind of setting.

I this saying I am nervous. The reason I am nervous, is first of all that I am afraid that I am the only one that is seeing through this farce, or at least seeing it in time to make a difference. I am also afraid of failing my daughter if I can not get them to see the error of their ways. (Sometimes I wish I could just close my eyes and be ignorant and/or complacent, but I am just not wired that way.)

Advise, suggestions and opinions are greatly appreciated. Just don't bother to try and sell me the "benefits" of uniforms.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Birthday Party

Smiling Birthday Girl
Originally uploaded by JayMonster.
What can I say, the birthday party was a grand success. All the kids had a great time, nobody wanted to go home, and I didn't have to clean up after them.

It wound up being 12 girls and not 16 as originally anticipated, which saved me a few dollars, which I am always grateful for, and there were more than enough happy smiling faces to keep LatteGirl entertained the whole time.

It was interesting watching her in this setting, as it required some balance on her part. First she had her friends from school, then she had friends that date back to her Pre-K, and her cousin (who also happened to go to the Pre-K but was a year ahead). She was forced to try and balance her time between the groups, and make conversation as well as ensure she played with everybody. I did not interfere in any way (nor did the wife), and we just watched as she masterfully may her way back and forth between everybody. We were both quite impressed with her apparent social skills that we admittedly did not think she had quite mastered yet. Proved us wrong.

She is growing up so fast. I spend as much time with her as I can, and still I feel like sometimes I am missing so much. Am I not watching close enough? Where is my little baby girl and who is this maturing young lady that seems to have replaced her?

More photos are up on my Flickr Account.

Dance Recital

Dance Recital
Originally uploaded by JayMonster.
What can I say, but wow was I really impressed and surprised by the events of the evening.

When LatteGirl was in Pre-K she took a little dance class that was an extra activity (meaning $$$) at the school. Twice a year they had a little recital. It was cute, but the kids didn't learn a heck of a lot, and while it was great in the "aww how cute" factor, other than seeing you child perform, there was not much to see.

So naturally, for her first dance recital, I was not expecting too much more. First of all, LatteGirl was staring to show some indications of stage fright earlier in the day (but she seemed to calm herself as the day went along), and second, the school had had a recital for other classes the previous evening, so I thought a quick hour in and out, take some photos and home. This was not the case.

Each class had to numbers to perform, once ballet and one tap. There were about 8 different classes, from 3 year olds to high school seniors that all performed some pretty impressive numbers, and the show was a solid 2-1/2 hours long, and completely enjoyable. The only real drawback was that the show started at 7:30 PM and by 10PM when the show was ending, the little ones (including LatteGirl) were pretty wiped out. They probably could and should have started this a bit earlier.

She is currently looking forward to taking dance classes again in the fall, but this much I have learned, what is true in the spring may not be true in the fall, and I will have to wait to see if she is really still interested. But if the smiles and sheer joy she exhibited at this recital is any indication, I think she will be back. And I look forward to seeing her dance again.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Start Of Something New

No, this is not a post about the release of High School Musical. (Since the release date is tomorrow... I will get back to that later. :)

No this something new, is my renewed effort to lost weight, get healthy and ensure I am around when LatteGirl gets married someday... way off in the future. After reading some information about it, and some interesting reviews (a couple of them can be found here and here) , I decided that I am going to give The Shangri-La Diet a shot, and give not only a review but a lowdown of what I think of it as I go along.

A lot to recap from weekends events but not enough time at present to do it justice, so I will have to wait until later for that. Suffice it to say for the momment that everything went as well or better than planned.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Don't pray for me, just pass the coffee please

It never fails, whenever you have one thing going on during a particular weekend, somehow the powers that be seem to need to clutter that particular weekend with multiple events, just to test your resolve. Actually, I think my weekends are actually booked non-stop through the first weekend in June, just to make sure that if one weekend doesn't kill me, there will be a few more chances to take me out.

Tomorrow is the "school fair" at LatteGirl's School. It is not a BIG production like many schools do, it is a one day up and down thing for the kids. That will have TheWife up and out of the house at 8 AM, as she has apparently agreed to become an underling to the PTAnal Moms. They have called three times this week to make sure their minion would be there to help with the setup. Why am I not going? Because apparently TheWife thinks that PTA work is a woman's thing, so that is HER "thing" and I am to keep my nose out of it unless specifically instructed to do otherwise.

So once TheWife returns, I am to have LatteGirl dressed and ready for the event. We will then spend a good chunk of the afternoon at the fair. From there we return home to get LatteGirl dressed and ready for her dance recital this evening.

Allow me here to get sidetracked for a momment for a little shameless bragging and backstory. Back in the fall when LatteGirl began Kindergarten, she decided that she needed to "concentrate just on getting to know the school." (her term.. not mine) She wanted no part in any sort of extracurricular activities. Well, during Winter break, she decided that she no longer needed to stay on the sidelines, and she was ready to start expanding her horizons. So, her and TheWife began checking out dancing schools. They came across one, which actually had a class with some of her friends from Pre-K, they had room for her in the class, but the class had started way back in September. So although she could join the class, it was anticipated that she may not be taking part in the Spring recital.

Fast forward just shy of 5 months of dance class, and she has caught up with the rest of the class, and WILL be in the spring recital. Not only has she learned all her own steps for the recital, we caught her a couple of times (when she thinks nobody is looking), practing the steps she watched the older kids learning for the finale.

OK, bragging daddy phase is done. Let's move on shall we.

So, if that is not enough for a weekend, Friday is the banquet for my bowling league. Although it is fun, this could be skipped, except for one thing. My team placed third this year, and their is CASH involved, so I need to make an appearance.

Upon returning home from that I start baking since you cannot (so I am told) invite Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents to a recital without having them back to the house for Coffee and Cake afterwards.

Now of couse we did not know we had all these events falling on this weekend when we booked Funtime Junction for LatteGirl's birthday party. Of course it could be worse. We could have actually been silly enough to believe that we could have a party for 16 Kindergarten age girls in our house. But as it turns out, TheWife and I are apparently not as insane as we sometime believe ourselves to be. (Although we are trying to find a slot in that schedule to attempt to get to Toys R Us, in search of a new bike for LatteGirl in time for her actual birthday, and that just may qualify us for "crazy")

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why must everything be taken to silly extremes

It seems to me, that in this country, everything is polarized. Everything must always be taken to extremes. For a moderate person like me, it drives me absolutely nuts.

And no, I am not talking about politics (per se). It takes no insight to see that polar extremes are the ones making the most noise. No, I am talking about simple things. Things that should be painfully obvious.

Well, by now I guess you want me to get to my point so here it is. Unless you have had your head in the sand, or do not have school age children, you know that initiatives have been passed to ban soda from schools. Not the panacea, I do not believe, that the pundits do in reducing childhood obesity, but a reasonable thing to do.

Apparently new nutritional guidelines have been drawn up that need to be met. Also, a great idea. If children are going to be eating meals at school, we should ensure they are getting good nutritious food.

But now, the Board of Education in my little town (and apparently some others are doing the same around the country), have decided to take this initiative and bring it to incredibly stupid extremes. First they have banned cupcakes from the schools. BANNED.

Go back and read that again. Yes, you got it right. THEY BANNED CUPCAKES!

I am sorry, but Little Johnny is not getting obese because he has a cupcake that I bring to school for LatteGirl's birthday party.

Next they have banned candy sales as fundraisers. It is time to get real here. The Candy Sales (at least around here) are marketed TO parents (usually BY parents since you can no longer safely send a kid out selling), to co-workers and other family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.). The are boxes of chocolates, nuts, etc. It is not like they are selling individual candy bars door to door (and buying and eating a few as they go along). When a reporter asked one parent about it, her brilliant reply was, "I think this is brilliant. Kids have enough candy and junk. Let them sell notebooks and pencils for fund raisers."

Does anybody actually believe that youo can sell notebooks and pencils in great enough quantity to raise money for anything? Certainly not enough to help fund school trips, functions etc. It is nothing short of blind stupidity.

But that is the way things seem to go in this country. There is almost always somebody that thinks it is necessary to push things to illogical conclusions.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Review: Boca Java's Late Night Login

Their Description: 'Bloggers Fuel.' Blog on with a very bold, dark roasted blend of South African and Island Coffees. This coffee is rich with flavor and has a smooth finish.

What I thought: Finding a gem like this is why I am always willing to try new things. This is far and away the best Boca Java blend I have tried. I knew this was going to be good from the momment I opened the bag. You could just smell the richness of the blend as the aroma wafted from the bag, and it took great restraint on my part to wait for the full pot to complete brewing before grabbing a cup. The flavors are rich and pleasant, but not harsh or intense. Again, sticking to their goals, Boca Java has created a rich dark blend that has literally no bitterness to it at all. It is almost the perfect combination, rich and strong enough to for my picky taste, yet balanced enough and smooth enough that I would not hesitate to serve it to dinner guests who may not desire an over-the-top blend.

Who would like this coffee: Virtually anybody that drinks coffee, with the exception of those that prefer a watered down taste (think Starbuck's LiteNote Blend, Boca Java's New Media Maverick Blend) will emjoy this blend. The taste is rich but not smokey like some over-roasted coffees are.

Overall: I rated this a 4 stars (out of 5) . This is a coffee blend I feel comfortable recommending to anyone, and consider keeping around on a regular basis (that is far more of a compliment that it sounds, very few coffees rank as a "usually have around").

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Perfect Storm

No, I am not talking about the storm battering the Northeast (though from the looks outside right now I could be). No I am talking about the clash to two equally stubborn minds. It is something that is troubling me, and as I try to navigate my way through, I need help. So I turn to you my dear friends.

Background Information you probably need: My B-I-L and his wife divorced a couple of years back. The collateral damage was so bad that it damn near took out my marriage in its wake. There are still plenty of deep wounds and battered egos from the whole thing.

The situation: My neice is a sweet girl, and despite being the product of the aforementioned terminated relationship is generally a happy child. She can be called a ... uh ... spirited child. She is always on the go, and almost always getting into something or doing something she shouldn't be. The type of child that if you said, "Do not touch that," the first thing she would do would be to go touch "that." She also exhibits all the classic symptoms of ADHD (figitity, never completes anything, can't sit still, notes home from school saying she is bright BUT has a problem focusing and paying attention, etc).

Her father has his own problems (I'm being polite here), so he is in no position to say anything, let alone dictate what should be done. Her mother is in denial. "Not my child," "She is just dealing with the divorce," "It is because her father always disappoints her." yada, yada, yada. Excuses. Pawning it off. Choosing to put the blinders on. Denial.

The Problem: I have mentioned this to my neice's mother before (which is where I got the above "answers" from her). She is choosing not to believe it. On the one hand, I want to wash my hands of the situation. This family's problems caused enough issue's for me and my wife when I was trying to help in the past, and worst of all, nobody seemed to give a damn that I was trying to help. So why shouldn't I just concern myself with my own family and the hell with them? On the other hand, I love my neice. Her and my daughter were the best of friends as well as just "cousins," and I don't feel it is fair to my neice to just let this go on unattended because her mother doesn't want to admit there could be a problem. (Hell, she lived in denial with her husband for 22 years). Like I said, her mother and I have discussed this before. Like me, her mother is a bit stubborn (my father would call it "thick headed"). The more I try to get her to take a serious introspection and honestly look at the situation, she gets angry. I get angry when she starts acting indignant, like nobody in the world knows anything but her.

I bounce back and forth (as you can see), and don't know what to do? Leave it alone, and wait for my neice to start failing in school, and have a school counselor tell her to go get the child tested? Then say, "I told you so," as if it really matters at that point. Or do I just continue to try and get through, hoping that after one of these discussions, she wakes up before it gets to a point where the child is failing? They say that the definition of insane, is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. By that definition I am already insane, but the alternative just doesn't seem like the "right" thing to do.

What would you do?

Friday, May 12, 2006

I hope she knows

Chillin' w/ Grandma
Originally uploaded by JayMonster.
I come from what I can only describe as a good family background. The only thing that prevented my parents from celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary was the passing of my father. Husband, Wife, son and daughter living in a nice little home, in a middle-class neighborhood in Anytown USA.

It was a congenial household, but not one that was overtly big on the showing of emotions. In that regard it was rather stoic. TheDad kissing Mom on the cheek before heading off to work, a kiss or a pat on the head for me and my sister, and off he went. But I never saw anything wrong with that.

The only thing really different was that my sister and I were adopted. We were raised with the knowledge from very early on, and were OK with it, except for having to once and a while deal with kids who saw that as something to make fun of, or a visit to the doctor and being unable to answer questions like, "Do you have any family history of ?"

Regardless of what happens in life, I have always been safe with the knowledge that my mother loves me. She may not have given birth to me, but I really don't feel like that makes any difference to me. This is the woman, that had to go out of her way and fight through the red tape in order to get me. She was the one there for every scrape and scratch, to cheer me on at my baseball games, to stand there so proudly when I graduated from school. To be my cheerleader when I was doing well, and a source of prayers for me when I went off the path in the wrong directions.

I have been asked many times if I ever wanted to find my real mother. It is a question that makes no sense to me, because I already know where she is. She is still in that same house where I grew up. Sometimes, I wonder because our home has been one more of cool respect rather than one of warm embraces, she knows EXACTLY how much she means to me. I always make sure I tell her, but I am never sure I am able to convey it clear enough. I sure hope she knows.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I do so hope I am wrong

A little more than a week or so ago, a child in the LatteGirl's school collapsed at a birthday party (no, LatteGirl was not in attendance) and died. According to a story in a local paper, he was described by his mother as, "lively, loving, compassionate and energetic boy."

My initial thoughts on this were quite cynical and dark. A 'healthy' seven year old boy doesn't "just die." Something is very wrong here. As I await to hear what comes out in the autopsy report, I feel so horrible.

No matter what the reason, the sudden death of a 7 year old child is a tragedy. Period. But I can't get rid of this nagging feeling that neglect played a part in this somehow. While I will rule NOBODY out (my cynical side), I am not necessarily blaming the parents. The child participated in youth soccer, wrestling programs, and was on a baseball team as well as a student of Jujitsu. Within that massive schedule of a 7 year old (I assume that not all these events overlapped, at least I hope they didn't), is the potential for a lot of things. Getting hit in the chest with a baseball has on more than one occasion killed a child by causing heart problems. A fall or other blow to the head could have caused a problem that did not completely manifest itself until later. But if that is indeed the case. Didn't somebody somewhere miss something? Shouldn't an accident that is ultimately bad enough to rob a child of his life, be worth a trip to the doctor's to check? "Just to be safe?"

Not that it will bring him back, or make the tragedy any less severe, but I would like to be wrong. That this was a freak thing that could not have been prevented. I am cynical enough. I want so desperately to be wrong. But in the meantime, the cynical me just sits back and waits to hear the coroner's report. Coroner's Report. Something that has no place in a story about a 7 year old child.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Outside Influences

Much is often made about the nature vs. nurture debate. To be honest, some of it I find not only a stretch but downright amusing. I have head and read from people that if their daughter was to get a Barbie doll, well then they had to also give her a Tonka truck or some other overtly "boy" toy to "balance things out." TheWife, while not quite as obsessed as many with this idea, still flirts with the general concept. Two years ago, LatteGirl showed the slightest (and I mean a passing, "What's that?" SLIGHTEST) interest in a Home Depot toy workset. TheWife couldn't get that present home, wrapped and under the tree quick enough. It was played with, for about a 1/2 hour on Xmas morning, and never saw the light of day again.

Now I am not claiming that nature dictates everything, nurture certainly plays a role. If you don't allow your daughter the opportunity to delve into things that are "for boys," or not allow your son to do things that are "too girly" you certainly will have an effect, and not necessarily a good one.

The one thing that I did not however expect was the amount of nurture, the outside world would have. I mean of course, there is going to be SOME influence. Commercials are always there to try to influence what the next "must have" toy will be, fashion is a concern for little people because nobody wants to wear the outfit that everybody is laughing at in the schoolyard, and other such things. What I didn't expect was... I don't want to call it peer pressure (but it is certainly bordering on that), the influence that her friends have on LatteGirl.

Now, I have mentioned before how LatteGirl is definitely a girly-girl. She would prefer to wear a dress or a skirt to pants or jeans, which is in complete contrast to TheWife, so it is clearly her "nature." However, this never prevented her from playing and running around the playground (and the ensuing bruising), nor did it deter her from things that were of interest that weren't necessarily girly things.

It started out with what she would watch on television, or more specifically what videos she would choose from our DVD collection. She refused to watch certain movies any longer, movies that she had previously loved, such as Finding Nemo, The Lion King and Ice Age. When I finally quizzed her as to a reason why she would no longer watch these films, the answer came back, "because those are 'boy' movies."

Recently I took her on a tour of the toy aisles at Target, to start getting some ideas of what would interest her for her birthday. She had some new things she was interested in, but also started pointing out some toys she already has. When I reminded her that she already had those toys, she informed me, "Yeeeaaaah, but they are not PINK!" "So what is the difference?" I inquired after she pointed out the Barbie MagnaDoodle (pink of course). "Well so-and-so says that only boys use the other MagnaDoodle." "That's not true," I attempted at reasoning with her. "Yes it is, so-and-so says so."

So not only is nurture starting to take a role. And not only is the source from outside our home. Apparently, now her friend so-and-so is a more trusted source of information than either me or TheWife. Any attempt to explain otherwise to her, only seems to "prove" to her that we do not know what we are talking about, and that if she wants to know what is "right or wrong" (which in this case is girl vs boy), then she needs to rely on so-and-so because she is seemingly 5 going on 13, and already I have become the parent that doesn't know "anything."

Note: I used "so-and-so" as to not nail this down as the influence of a single person. So-and-so can be one of several friends... or day I say a member of her "clique".

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wanna buy a pool? Cheap?

Almost two years ago, the pool we had in our yard collapsed. Not wanting to buy another "cheap" pool, we decided we would wait a couple of years. In the mean time we purchased an Aqua-Leisure Simple Set Pool.

Now, I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt and figured there was just something wrong with ME last year when I spent the better part of 4 days working on setting this thing going. After all, when you read the box, it couldn't be any easier. Spread out the pool, inflate the ring, fill with water, ENJOY! I did eventually get it up and running but it was a hassle.

I made notes of every problem I had last year and decided I would be better prepared this year. Only I'm not. After spending the weekend re-leveling the area where I want to put this pool (Oh, did I mention... this thing needs to be on a PERFECTLY LEVEL area?). Rolled out the pool. Only to discover it has holes in in? From where? I have no idea. I put it away last year without holes, this year holes. So I patch the holes on the bottom, and am thankful that I found them before filling the pool. Only now the RING seems to have a leak as well.

Oh, and let me add the icing to this cake. My neighbor's Tree seems to know when I am starting to put this pool up, because for the second year in a row, it starts raining down with those... stupid little spinning things that hold seeds. I guess it is important to not that the filter that works with this pool is a completely underpowered peace of garbage, and that all of these spinning things need to be taken out by hand skimming!!!

If LatteGirl wasn't as big into swimming as she is, I would have simply thrown this thing in the trash yesterday, and lived without a pool for this year. But she is... and she is excited. She even got into the inch or so of freezing cold water in the pool to help scoop out those seed things as I looked for the leak. This turned out to be a. fun for her, and b. beneficial to both of us as after spending hours looking for this new leak that for some reason I could not locate, as she was scooping out the seeds, she says, "This isn't the hole you are looking for is it?"

So while LatteGirl doesn't realize it... she has saved the pool... at least for now. What happens tonight after I test the patches remains to be seen.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Review: Boca Java's Boot Up Blend

Their Description - 'Blogging Rocks.' Log on to an amazing medium blend of African, Central and South American Coffees. Rich taste and smooth finish for the perfect breakfast blend.

What I thought - This may be the most difficult to describe, yet easiest coffee to define I have ever tasted. To define it, I only need two words oddly eclectic. You can taste what I can only assume is Columbian coffee quite distinctly in this blend. That is what is good about this coffee, and yet at the same time, what is off in this blend. Not as strong as "Blogs of Bravery", but considerbly more so than the "New Media Mavericks," but that assesment is based soley on the odd punch the flavor has. It is not as smooth as the other blends, it has a definite "bite" to it, but not actually bitter. I went beyond my promise of trying this coffee two times and added a third, but can still not honestly say whether or not I like it. I certainly didn't hate it, and would drink it if offered, but I am not sure whether or not I would buy it again.

Who would like this coffee - If you are a HUGE fan of Columbian coffee (I am not, I do not mind it added to blends, but 100% Columbian is not among my favorites), than you will probably like this blend.

Overall Rating - 3 out of 5 stars. The coffee is definitely drinkable, and not bitter. Juan Valdez fans may rate this higher, but its lack of complexity and overpowering Columbian taste left me on the fence with this blend.

For more information on this or other Boca Java blends, visit their website at, or

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Reading is FUNdamental

Working with LatteGirl on her reading skills has proven to be more of a task than I thought it would be. She loves BOOKS, and since she was very little, TheWife and I have read to her. She memorizes the stories we read. She makes up her own stories to pictures in book, even coloring books. She likes doing math, and writing her letters, as well as words, provided we spell them for her.

So, as she progressed, I naturally never thought getting her to start reading would be a big issue. We have stocked her room with books of every reading level, as well as collections of books that are "phonics" books designed for an easy starting point.

But efforts to get her to read have met with far more resistance than I (or TheWife) ever dreamed we would get from her. I remember this post not that long along over at Woulda Coulda Shoulda where Mir talked about her daughter resisted reading "until she could do flawlessly." It seems that LatteGirl decided that this was the way to go as well. She is quick to point out when she sees a word she knows. I'm gathering because she considers that FUN. But having to struggle and "sound out" a word she doesn't know brings on frustration and self-deprecation. "I'm not ready." And, "I can't do it!"

Yes, I do have a point, and I am getting to it. On a typical morning, I am awake before the rest of the house, and get ready for the day, before rousing TheWife and LatteGirl from their slumber. When I got upstairs however, the light was already on in LatteGirl's room. I peeked in to find her sitting in the middle of the floor in her room, with her phonics books surrounding her, reading the stories to her "babies" (dolls). Reading it seems, has finally become fun.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

See this first

Before you get into my (rather long) post , if you have not seen it, go watch the newly released, The Meatrix II: Revolting. And if you didn't head my advise (or or new to this blog) and didn't see the original release, you can watch The Meatrix here.

Because my child is worth it

That is the answer. The question? Why would I pay darn near twice the price for milk, just for milk that is organic? As I have previously established, I am not what a true "Green" person would consider "Green" but, neither do I ingore the facts that many large corporations would like me to in order to improve their profits. And Monsanto has done a lot to get consumers to forget (or even not be aware) of the issues when it comes to Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Their product Posilac, is the only remaining rBGH product on the market, making it a profitable drug for them to sell, with the added bonus that the fact that despite the rather long and ominous warning sheet that is included with the product, they do not have to worry about the cows forming a class action lawsuit.

It doesn't take much for me to choose to err of the side of safety when it comes to my daughter, and just one report stating, Researcher Warns of Cancer Risk From rBGH (non-organic) Dairy Foods , would be enough. But it is not "just one." Take a look at, Monsanto's Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer, Besides Other Cancers, Warns Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, which was published 8 years ago. It is also noted that because the rBGH causes other problems in cows, according to this article by The Center for Food Safety, "dairy farmers tend to use more antibiotics to combat the infections, the residues of which also may end up in milk and dairy products. These residues can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and contribute to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria, further undermining the efficacy of some antibiotics in fighting human infections." (emphasis added by me).

When you take those two factors into consideration, it is not surprising that the European Union, Austrialia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada all banned rBGH. So why is it still allowed here. The short and simple answer is, Monsanto would lose Billions of Dollars if rBGH were banned in the United States. They have gone so far as to sue dairies that have put rBGH-Free labels on their milk [see stories here and a more recent attempt here]. The Wall Street Journal also reported on the issue, you can read the article for free from the Organic Consumers website [reprint].

The most blatently pathetic example of trying to shill, and demean those demanding better products, is the Milk is Milk "Blog". I will not like to it, and please allow me to explain why I put blog in quotes. Simply put, it is called a blog, because it uses Blogger as it's platform, and even uses nothing more than one of their standard templates (no disrespect intended to the Blogger Templates), to make it appear like a "grass-roots" movement supporting rBGH milk.

I will not speculate on how or why the FDA seems to be "pro-BGH" as I do not wish to take this topic to speculation, but you can see an interesting read on the topic here.

If your eyes have glazed over by now, and you skipped over parts of this, fine. Come back and read it another time. Follow the Links. Let it sink it. I think my child is worth it, and armed with the facts, I am sure you do to.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Not funny any longer

Any thought of making jokes about having Bird Flu, are now officially gone as, Mild form of avian flu found in New Jersey. Fine it may not be the deadly strain, and just because the milder strain was detected doesn't mean that the Deadly version is "on the way," but since chicken (usually in some sort of nugget form) constitutes 33% of LatteGirl's diet, it has certainly perked my ears up.

Review: Boca Java's Blogs of Bravery

Their Description - 'The Real Story in Real Time.' Front line fuel from a blend of South American dark and medium roasts to create a well balanced smooth taste.

What I thought - I admit that I tried this blend with much trepidation. It is a blend of dark and medium roasts. That sounds good, but they went directly to "well balanced smooth" in the description not bothering with words like "rich" or "robust" anywhere, and considering how the New Media Maverick was lacking in body and was described as "robust", I was not expecting a much from this blend. Well, I am glad to say how wrong I was. It is not harsh, or overpoweringly strong. But it is a rich flavor. Again, a remarkably smooth taste (which seems to be the trademark they are going after and to that end they are doing an amazingly good job), but unlike the New Media Maverick Blend, this was a taste that could be enjoyed. It is a blend that can work any time of day from a breakfast eye opener, to a perfect compliment with dessert in the evening.

Who would like this coffee - If you like rich taste, would like Starbuck's House Blend, or perhaps their Gold Coast Blend, without the bitter aftertaste, then this is a coffee you can sit back and enjoy. Even people who generally trend towards milder coffee may enjoy this as it does not have the smokey undertones or residual bitterness often associated with stronger blends. The truly meek LiteNote types of drinkers may however still find this a bit too much for their tastebuds, but otherwise this is coffee like it is supposed to be enjoyed.

Overall rating - I give this one 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely a cut above the ordinary. This is why people like micro-batch roasted coffee. Roasted for taste not strength, it provides all the taste you want without the bitter side-effect of mass over roasting.

For more information on this or other blends, visit their website at, or

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