Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Serenity 08-30-09

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker 8-27-09

The 9th Grade Literature lesson on Tuesday was about astronomer Galileo Galilei. As I was introducing the subject, I said, “Doesn’t this topic make you want to start singing a song?” I looked expectantly at the students, only to have blank stares returned.

“You know, ‘Galileo, Galileo’…” I offered.

Continued blank stares.

“Galileo, Galileo, Figaro, Magnifico-o-o-o…” I sang.

One student smiled and said “Oh” in recognition. The other seven gave me looks that said, “Clearly, our new literature teacher is a blockhead.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody?” I prompted.


“So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye-i-i…So you think you can love me and leave me to die-i-i…” I sang while doing my best head-banger imitation in unison with the one student who had heard of the song. (It was a bonding moment--49-year-old teacher and 16-year-old Frodo-haired teen both nodding their heads violently to the tune the teacher was singing.)

It was almost as bad as watching the inauguration last year and having eight fifth graders have no idea who Aretha Franklin was.

One of the thoughts that went through my Twitterless head today was the importance of family.

Now I’ve always known family is important, but a couple of recent events have impressed upon me how vital these relationships are.

No matter how bizarre, demented or drug-addicted you think Michael Jackson was, the overwhelming truth is that his little children loved him. All footage of his children I have seen clearly shows the mutual adoration. To them, he was their world. They didn’t love him because he could dance well or because he was a musical iconoclast. They loved him because he was dad.

No matter how much of a drunken womanizer you or I think Teddy Kennedy was, his family, especially his children, nieces and nephews, are not shy about singing his praises. Even in video footage from years ago, his siblings’ children describe him as a warm, loving, parental surrogate who was always there for them, whether for weddings, graduations, baptisms or special accomplishments. His family doesn’t revere him because of his political stances or his place in Massachusetts society. They honored him because he cared for them.

Why spend so much time trying to please the world, our bosses or strangers, when it is these intimate family relationships that matter the most?

My fifth grade son had 3 ½ hours of homework today. The only reason it wasn’t 4 hours was because I told him that after 3 ½ hours of homework and 2 hours away at kyuki-do, that he was not about to do the additional 30 minutes of required reading. Added to 6 ½ hours of school, he spent more time on schoolwork than Computer Geek spent at work. I’m hoping this is not indicative of the rest of the school year.

Happy Birthday on the 28th to You-Know-Who from You-Know-Where who wishes to remain anonymous! Make sure you all wish her a happy day! (It’s not me.)

The principal of our high school has a unique way of punishing irresponsibility. She buys a box full of small neon super balls, with smiley faces on them. If a student comes unprepared (no paper, no book, no pencil, no homework) she writes their name on the “goofball,” and puts it into a large clear flower vase. At the end of the year, whoever has the most goofballs in the vase, has to take her out to lunch at the restaurant of her choice. “And I always pick the most expensive thing on the menu!” she says. On the first day of school Monday, she pointed out last year’s “winner” and said, “How much did it cost you to be a goofball last year?” He slunk down in his seat and said, “$36.” He’s determined not to be the winner again this year.

Here’s a fun way to help your kids with division. When I make a treat, like peanut butter balls for example, I have my son count how many I made. Then I have him divide the number by how many people will be partaking of the treat. If he correctly divides the number, he gets to keep the remainder. If he calculates incorrectly, the remainder goes to the cook—me! He was excited once when I made 29 peanut butter balls and there were five of us eating them. He correctly divided out that each of us got 5, with a remainder of 4, meaning he got 9. Oh happy day!

I was heart-broken last year when I discovered I wouldn’t be teaching the same group of kids this year that I had for 4th and 5th grade. Instead I would be teaching high school literature. (So I luckily get my 6th graders for at least one hour a day.) I was nervous at first. Teenagers scared me. I used to have two of them so I know.

After four days of school, I am happy to announce---I love teenagers! They are funny, insightful, caring, funny, smart, observant, studious, attentive, and funny! And they’re funny! They get most of my jokes. What’s not to love? Also, I've gotten two presents and a hug already this week. I'm lovin' it.

Teaching literature is a hoot. I get to read for about six hours a day. What a job. Is there anything better than doing what you love all day long? I guess the only thing better would be a job where I got to read all day, while scrapbooking with a bowl of Farr’s E.L. Fudge chocolate ice cream, during Dancing With the Stars. And then blogging about it the next day! Heck, yes.

I’ve mentioned Farr’s E.L. Fudge ice cream three times now. Helloooooo….where are my free coupons?

Today [Thursday] marked the two-year anniversary of the day my big (4’11”) sister had a stroke. She was depressed, feeling like two years of her life were spent living in a reduced manner. I, on the other hand was happy, thinking how grateful I was that her life was spared and we’ve had two more years with her and many more to come. Two perspectives of the same event. Both valid.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Effective Parenting Advice--Link Love

If you are a parent or grandparent I highly recommend that you go to Writer Dad's site today and read 7 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child.

Then, when you are done reading it, download it from the site in e-book form (which was designed by Writer Dad's colleague, Blogger Dad,) and put it somewhere easily accessible for reference. I promise, you will refer to it again and again.

Writer Dad (Sean) and his wife (Cindy) have done a great job of applying this advice to their own lives. Frequent visitors to his site are blessed with photos and videos of their children, Max and Mia, whose little faces shine with happiness. Sean and Cindy exemplify effective parenting.

Combined, they have twenty-some years in the education field. While you're checking them out, be sure to look on my sidebar for their Potty Training program. They have years of experience as previous day-care owners in helping small children (and exasperated parents!) with their potty training problems. They've been lifesavers to many a parent who had lost all hope of ever being diaper-free. Their program would not be on my sidebar if I did not feel confident in their abilities and experience (and their email support system with 24 hours or less response time!)

Go read 7 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child, then give your child a big hug!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker--Friday Edition

Yeah, I'm reaaaaaly, reaaaaaly late getting out my Thursday Thoughts. But I swear to you by the power of Greyskull (don't know why I remember that after all these years) that I thought every single one of these thoughts on Thursday. Also, remember to check out Dolls Remembered by clicking on the Amazon link in my right sidebar. There are entries in the book by Foreign Quang's own Auntie M., Jill, Janice, Juliah, and moi.

------------------------------------> This way to the cool doll book! --------------->

I accomplished five more end of summer goals in the past week or so. Number 9, slathering butter on hot corn on the cob, took place during last night’s dinner. Now I must take this opportunity to tell you that in no way does Utah corn even remotely compare to Iowa corn. Iowa is not famous for corn in vain, no siree. When I was an Iowan child, my siblings and I called the individual kernels of corn “teeth.” Iowa corn has sunflower yellow meaty juicy large “teeth.” Utah corn has pale butter yellow miniscule teeth. It takes about 1/3 of the entire cob to make one mouthful of corn. I don’t know if Utahns in their ignorance just don’t plant the same type of corn as Iowans or if the difference is in the dirt, something like “god soil” versus “pagan soil.” (Anyone who has lived in Utah knows that soil must be “enhanced” in order to be productive.)

On my recent trip to Wyoming, we accomplishe
d #10—splashing in a pool. This pool in Sheridan, Wyoming deserves recognition. Not only did it cost a mere $1.75 to get in (my town=$3.00!) and observers got in free (my town= “I don’t care if you’re only here to watch your children, it’s still three bucks!”) but they also had a water slide! (My town= no water slide. *sniff*) Yeah, Sheridan, your pool rocks!

The other day we were able to pick a juicy red tomato from our garden, thereby snagging us goal # 12. We had it i
n our salad last night and it was divine—a juicy combination of sweet and tart. Other than Farr’s E.L. Fudge ice cream, I might say that tomato was the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

Last Saturday, we listened to a local band perform some exquisite Celtic folk music. If not for the fact that the last time I tried it I ripped a ligament in my knee, I would have pulled out some Irish clicky shoes and danced along. Not only were we treated to free music, but also free hamburgers and ice cream. The Frugal Family is all about free, don’t ya know! Goal # 20—Check!

And lastly, we vegged out in our yard swing, accomplishing goal # 27. We had gone on a family walk and when we got back, the stars were magnificent and there was a sensually delightful cool summer breeze blowing through our backyard. We plopped down in the cushioned swing and briefly contemplated sleeping there. It folds down into a bed-type swing, but the thought of neighbors walking by and watching us sleep was
too freaky for words. Plus, one of us, namely the small child, probably would have gotten pushed off in the middle of the night. Instead, we sat on the swing, idly watching the next-door neighbor trying to get his 4-wheeler started. Without offering to help. The goal said to “be lazy.”

I have triumphed over the Feedburner gods! Regular readers of the Quang will remember this problem that I’ve had where one day it shows 3 readers, the next day 2. Then 3. Then 2. Then 3. Then 2. Ad Nauseum. The other day I saw that it said 4! And the next day it said 4! And the day after that it said 4! It still says 4! Never has a person been so excited over having 4 readers. I love you all!

Boy Scouting has been good for my son. It’s been a trial though, for me! While in Cub Scouts he wanted me to come along on every camp out and even called me once, begging me to come take him home.

Scouts has changed him. He now attends meetings with 11-18 year olds and is attempting to prove his manliness by wanting me to butt out. I think this feeling has been exacerbated by Scoutmaster who doesn’t allow moms to come to anything because we “ruin their fun.”

I can see his point. Wednesday night Computer Geek and I were helping Jere load his backpack. The list said to bring one pair of jeans, those being the ones they were wearing. I rebelled. “I’m not going to have my son wearing the same jeans for three days!” Computer Geek and Jere both looked at me incredulously. CG finally said, “This is a camp out. Whatever he packs, he has to carry for 2 miles.” Well that kinda made sense. Jeans are kind of heavy. “What about pajama pants?” They learned to ignore me by that point.

Yesterday, he wouldn’t even let me take him to Scoutmaster’s house. “I need to get used to carrying this pack,” he said. I nearly cried as he walked down the street to Scoutmaster’s house a block and a half away. Without Mom. What if he can’t carry that pack for three days? What if he runs out of water? How is he supposed to wash his hair when they wouldn’t let him bring shampoo? What if he gets eaten by a bear? (You think I’m being over-protective?)

I understand, though. A successful mom is someone who can train her son to live without her. Success just hurts sometimes.

Are you ready to die for what you believe? On our way back from Sheridan, we came across a historic site called Martin’s Cove. Jeremiah and I stopped there for about an hour.

The visitor’s center tells the story, via wall pictures and captions, of the ill-fated Martin handcart company. These Mormon pioneers trekked westward, hoping to reach Salt Lake City in 1856. A variety of factors caused them to come across Wyoming, pulling handcarts and walking. Of the original 576 who began the trek, 145 died en
route, from sickness and exposure.

Rescue parties came from Salt Lake, bringing food and supplies. Rescuers helped the survivors cross the ice-clogged Sweetwater River near where we stopped. Many had to be carried across the frigid water because they had no shoes.

Needless to say, it was a very touching visit for both Jeremiah and me. He was given a small booklet on our arrival and he was instructed to find all the answers somewhere on the grounds. He discovered that the Martin company stayed 5 days in the cove, now called Martin’s Cove. He learned that each person was only allowed to pack 17 pounds into the handcart. When the load grew too heavy, the pioneers had to discard valuable blankets and clothing along the side of the trail. Also left along the side of the trail were the buried bodies of family members who died during the cold nights. When we left, Jere was given a small wooden n
ecklace to commemorate his visit to the cove.

To these pioneers, suffering through their long journey was better than being persecuted for their beliefs.

School starts Monday! Our four month summer vacation (I know, waaah!) seemed far too short. I will be in a different school from Jeremiah this year. He will be in 5th grade at the elementary and I will be teaching 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade literature at the high school. On the bright side I get to read and read and read and read. On the downside, I’ll be teaching…gulp…teenagers. People who have developed a sense of sarcasm and know how to use it. Most of them will be taller than I. If I survive, and I pray I will, I am confident I will be a better person for having conquered. May the force be with me.

I’m assuming almost everyone goes to Walmart on occasion, right? Have you noticed how the Walestial Kingdom’s store brand for food and grocery items, Great Value, is now sporting packaging that looks very…white? Is anyone old enough to remember the old black and white generic packaging from years ago? Well, that’s what Great Value is starting to look like.

We’ve come up with three theories:

1. Great Value has taken a cue from bloggers and is now going with the c
leaner “white space” look.
2. Great Value is going broke and is trying to save money on ink.
3. Great Value is trying to prepare us for when the recession hits, martial law goes into effect, and Walmart becomes the government’s rationed food distribution center. (Computer Geek’s theory.)

So, what do you think of the new down-scaled look?

My nomination for cool website of the week goes to The Idea Room. Check it out for all kinds of frugal decorating tips, recipes and craft ideas.

No wonder I can’t Twitter. Have I ever been able to keep a thought to 140 characters?

Devil's Gate, WY
Cut through by the Sweetwater River

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dolls Remembered

Below is a guest post by Madonna Dries Christensen, compiler of the stories that make up the new book Dolls Remembered. Several of the 60 contributors to this book are frequent guests of Foreign Quang, including Janice, Jill, Auntie M., The Queen of Quang herself (that would be me) and the lovely 6-year old Juliah whose photo frequently graces my sidebar. If you've ever had a treasured doll, this book is sure to bring back long-forgotten memories. Don't be surprised if you find yourself smiling in recognition of some of the dolls remembered, or maybe even shedding a tear or two!

The book can be purchased at, or by following the amazon link to the right.------------> GO TO TOP OF PAGE ON RIGHT SIDEBAR

Dolls Remembered


As touchstones to the past, dolls validate childhood, a span of years that often seem like a fragmented moments in time. With their life-like faces, blemished complexions, and snarled hair, childhood dolls hold sway with a magical power that rarely wanes, and often grows.

From this charming anthology featuring more than 60 reminiscences, readers will learn that dolls can make––or break––friendships. Dolls are enjoyed alone or with a friend; they fuel creativity and imagination. Dolls teach sharing, nurturing, and loyalty; they assuage loneliness and hurt feelings; they calm fears and keep secrets. Dolls teach values and lessons––to adults as well as children. Dolls share adventures with their owners, and without them. When one girl outgrew her favorite doll but kept it on her bed, her friends repeatedly “dollnapped” it. For years, the doll showed up at unlikely events.

Separately, two girls brought a treasured doll with them to America when they fled Nazi Europe with their family. Another girl lost her doll to that war. One girl disowned the doll she received for Christmas, while the same type doll was yearned for by others. More than one doll met an untimely fate. A childhood doll softened a poignant reunion between two sisters after a rift had kept them apart for several years. One woman became reunited with a childhood doll through a serendipitous circumstance.

It’s not surprising that a doll representing the world’s sweetheart, Shirley Temple, was highly desired by several girls. Even people who have no knowledge of dolls can identify a Shirley Temple by her dimpled cheeks and perfect blonde ringlets. Oddly, no one offered memories about Barbie Millicent Roberts, the buxom blonde who turned 50 this year and is still as nubile as Lolita. Priced at three dollars in 1959, the doll world had not seen anything like the fashionable Barbie.

In the vignettes revealed here, not all dolls are pretty––except in the eyes of the beholder. Not all dolls were wanted; some were disappointing; not all became favorites, but each is memorable.

All royalties go to Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Serenity 8-16-09

"We cannot hold a torch to light another's path
without brightening our own."

Ben Sweetland

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Can't Stop Myself

I admit it. I laugh over the stupidest things. But since the world is full of stupidity, I laugh quite a bit. Here's a screen shot of what happened yesterday when I tried to sign my son up for Facebook so he could play the farming games.

Still laughing...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker 8-13-09

Greetings, denizens of the Quang! It’s time for the unleashing of all that foreign quang that wended its way through my mind on Thursday. Fasten your seat belts…

Yay! My Feedburner subscribers are up to 3! I will spend the day relishing it because I know that tomorrow the Feedburner gods will taketh away and I will be down to 2 again. Don’t believe me? On Friday scroll waaaaay down to the bottom of my page to see a big fat 2 listed. If it still says 3 on Friday, I’ll eat an onion. (That’s a huge wager.)

I accomplished two more summer goals. On Wednesday I had a magnificent migraine (truly, it rocked) so I turned on the air conditioning, cozied up in a recliner with my favorite white fuzzy blankie, and snoozed for about three hours. Goal #30 accomplished.

Also on Wednesday, Computer Geek and I drove up a lonely country road to…you know…we were by ourselves…Jere was at a sleepover at a friend’s house…so we took advantage of the alone time…to…you know…WATCH THE PERSEIDS!

It was the best meteor shower show I have ever seen. Usually I go outside during supposedly peak hours---yeah, 1:00-2:00 a.m.--- and see maybe three or four shooting stars in two hours. Every year I say, “Is this worth all the fuss?” Yet every year, I go back for more neck muscle punishment, with very little reward.

This year though, was different. We watched for about 45 minutes, between 11:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. and saw at least twenty-five highly visible streaks across the night sky. A cool breeze enhanced the sense of wonder. Goal number 3 accomplished.

School starts in a week for us, and may have started for some of you already. If your child needs a times tables refresher course, I highly recommend this website. It is full of a wide variety of multiplication games. My son willingly spent about an hour yesterday, playing the various games. Learning. On purpose.

I had occasion this past week to reflect on my gratitude for a certain unsung group of heroes---Search and Rescue Divers.

My brother in law went fishing last week in Wyoming. When he got to his favored spot, he was kindly asked to go fish elsewhere. He complied. It seems that the day before, a nine-foot wave rushed across the lake, capsizing a pontoon boat. Five people were rescued that day, but now divers were looking for the body of the sixth person.

This week we also had a local tragedy. A seventeen-year-old boy was swimming with friends at a small local lake. He had swum out to a floating dock, not too far from the shore, when his friends say he panicked. They tried to get him onto the dock or back to shore, with no success. They finally swam back to shore and called 911. By the time the Search and Rescue divers found his body under the floating dock, he had been submerged for about thirty minutes. Revival attempts failed.

Many years ago I worked with a woman who was a diver. As we lived on the Missouri River and had a few local watering holes, she was occasionally called out to search for drowning victims. I asked her once how she could do such a gruesome job. To the best of my recollection, here is her response.

“I love to dive. I decided once, when I heard a call for divers to help in a drowning, that I might as well use my talent to help others. I put myself in the place of the family. How would I feel if I knew my mother or brother or child was underwater somewhere? I would hope that someone would find the body, someone who knew how to dive. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

“What is it like when you find the body?” I asked her.

“I never discuss that with anyone. The family does not need to know those details, so true professional divers only discuss that between themselves, to further their knowledge, and to aid in future recoveries.”

I was amazed then, as I am now, that there are people who put their own lives in danger, not to rescue a living soul, but to go in after the fact and recover a body. They are rarely hailed as heroes because there are no happy endings.

In my book, they deserve recognition and a huge hero’s “Thank You!”

I just tasted what is quite possibly the best chocolate ice cream ever. For a tasty treat, check out Farr’s E.L. Fudge. They are not paying me to say that, but if someone from Farr’s checks out this site, a year’s supply would be appreciated.

Now for people I don’t appreciate. Mean people.

Do mean people know that they are mean? What prompts them to be mean? What if we found a place where all the mean people could go to live? Would they go voluntarily?

Yesterday, dear son came home from playing with his friends, in tears. It seems that a few of them were mocking his football throwing skills, saying things like, “You throw like a woman!” and “My two year old brother throws better than you!” Computer Geek said, “Why are kids so mean to each other?”

“Why are adults?” I responded.

This week we were somewhat involved in an incident involving mean adults. Our friend wrote an article for a group forum that our circle of friends read.

He began receiving inflammatory emails criticizing his opinion. Not only did the two authors of these emails send the criticisms to the writer, but to our entire email group of about a hundred people.

I’m ok with people having a difference of opinion and discussing it. I am not ok when people criticize by saying the opinion is “stupid” and a “waste of paper and ink.” Or when thoughts are sent out saying, “I’m embarrassed that this type of opinion is expressed when all of us should know better by now.”

The article writer was more than a little stung by the response. He felt shamed. So did the rest of us who were witnesses to the public humiliation. If they felt so strongly, why not send him a private email? Why embarrass him in front of a hundred?

That being said, I am so grateful that Foreign Quang has never had any mean visitors. I’ve been to many different blogs and some of the visitors and their comments are downright scary! Thanks to all of you who visit here with a spirit of love and brotherhood (and sistah-hood!) and humor. You are greatly appreciated. You are nice people.

Song I cannot get out of my head: Poker Face by Lady Gaga. Would someone please start singing The Song that Never Ends from Barney?

Last thought of the day, before heading to bed Thursday: Man, Barry Gibb used to have the coolest hair.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Signs of the Times

There's one thing you must know about Computer Geek and me.

We love finding visible evidence of the dumbing down of America. The only reason we do this is so that we can feel superior and have a good laugh at the expense of others. We guffaw about it over and over, saying "HA! At least we ain't THAT stupid!" It's a real self esteem booster.

Two of our favorites were seen on local business signs.

On a sign for a local bank: "Bank X welcomes back student's ! "

Now does that mean Bank X welcomes back student is? Or does that mean Bank X welcomes back something belonging to a student? But which student? And what? Oh, the confusion.

On a sign at a local kingdom starting with a "W" and ending with "Mart": "Preparation items for You and Your's."

You and Your Is? Come on, this is "W Mart!" Certainly they could afford to hire a sign maker who knows English. Or maybe they are purposely trying to dumb us down so that when they start selling Soylent Green, we won't notice.

It was with this spirit of mocking, laughing and pointing that I went to another state last week. Ok, so I didn't GO there with that in mind, but my already mocking heart was blackened once I got there.

I was walking downtown in one of the cutest, busiest, small town downtowns that I have ever seen. And as it is late summer, I noticed a sign on a sidewalk that said "Sumer Sale! 50% off!"

It took all my self control to avoid walking in the store and saying, "I noticed you are having a Sumerian sale. Do you have any tunics with a Mesopotamian flair? Maybe something from the Second Dynasty of Lagesh perhaps?" But no. I held myself back.

It wasn't until I saw the second sign, that I decided to take pictures.

Not only did the signmaker not know how to spell "bargain" but he or she appeared to have dotted the "a." Or did he initially have an "i" there and thought it just didn't look right? (Ooh, there's just enough room to squeeze an "a" right between that "g" and "i." If this sign looks familiar to your hometown, please go correct it for me. And yes, I am that OCD.)

By the time I saw the third sign that day, I was convinced that it is not only Utah that can't spell. This sign was posted in honor of all the motorcyclists coming through town, headed to Sturgis.

Now I can understand using a backward 3 when you don't have an "E" handy. But to misspell "biker?" Didn't we all learn to spell "biker" back in first grade? See Dick. Dick has a bike. Dick is a biker. See Jane. Jane has a trike. Jane is a triker. See Dick and Jane rev their motors and head to Sturgis.

Computer Geek and I are convinced that you will never find a sign with a misspelling in either Iowa or Washington. If you do, it was obviously written by someone who moved there from another state.
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