Sunday, November 30, 2014

Matzoh ball soup

The Tyrolean cousin to matzoh balls: canederli. Instead of matzoh meal, they use stale bread for the starch. Also they usually flavor with speck, akin to bacon Not found in traditional matzoh balls

Thanksgiving means a leftover carcass. What  to do with it? Boil it in water several hours to make stock. With this stock, I make a big pot of matzoh ball soup. Jewish grandmothers take great pride in their fluffy matzoh balls. Yesterday I would have been the loser in that category because mine turned out particularly dense. Maybe I didn't beat the eggs long enough. I never use schmaltz, chicken fat, either sometimes using butter ( a strict no-no in Jewish cooking mixing dairy with meat), other times oil. But even if they were like lead balloons, they tasted good. A friend had her first bowl of matzoh ball soup here and liked it.
Other Jewish delights I have made over the years: latkes, noodle kugel, matzoh farfel, challah, hamantaschen and the most difficult, rugelach. (the cream cheese dough needs to be handled carefully). Steve likes gefilte fish too (and chopped liver) but I won't make them. He buys the former in glass jars and it looks so gross to me.
It was 50 degrees when I awoke this morning so I was able to bicycle in comfort. I feel so good when I am out there. Then Josh came over for lunch. Otherwise, a very low key day.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ram rampage

It broke the storm door and the lock to the main door. Then tried to get in by butting the garage..

Then as it was heading to butt the large picture window, they had to shoot it
As one of my Facebook friends and family were finishing up their Thanksgiving dinner, they heard a loud crash followed by repeated banging against their door. The ram already broke the lock so two grown men had to press against the door so the ram couldn't get into the house. Then the ram gave up and started butting the garage. As it was about to charge their picture window, my friend's husband had to shoot it. This happened about 15 miles from here. We worked for years with my friend's father.

The ram had broken through the fence down the road. It was hellbent on entering their house. Was it mating season? It is for deer. So much for sweet sheep.

I guess this is just another hazard of living in the country, sheep attacks.

We took a drive yesterday to check out the feasibility of the surrounding roads of the potential home as running and biking paths. The biking should be good as it is near one of the paths I took last summer, near the nursery where they are so excited , they wet their plants. About 3-4 miles away, the yak farm. Another 3 miles away, the apple orchard that I took Tessa to almost 2 months ago. If there would be no snow or ice, running should be especially good. The Scenic Beauty Road will now be south of us rather than north and much closer.. I hadn't been on the section near the house before. Very pretty, lots of trees and partially hidden behind those trees, enormous mansions. There also is a large park with trails nearby that I hadn't heard of before.

But there will be no walking to stores. It will be a considerable drive to any businesses aside from nurseries (plenty of those). Is this what we want?

Still pondering.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving aftermath

I thought these were cute. Served at one of my niece's dinners

Allie in an antique chair at the house we looked at

Naomi, Maya and Tess

Shanna and Allie

Tess looks angry

Trying for a smile

Trying too hard to smile
We are missing photos of my handsome grandson Daniel and some of the grownups. Too tired to supervise photos more carefully. No photos of all the food I made either. Yeah, I made too much.  Fortunately the weather is co-operating by letting me use the garage as a back-up refrigerator.

I do not vary the menu too much as I get lots of negative feedback when I do. The kids were to bring a dish a piece to cut down on my cooking responsibilities. Naomi actually brought two, ambrosia and candied yams but as I had to clean up after her and supervise the preparations, this was not really time saving for me. Baby steps. Shanna brought pecan pie and Julie brought a salad.

 I did serve Aperol spritzi to the grown-ups (except Steve and Naomi) instead of wine. They matched my orange and blue color scheme. Yep my 1970s house has orange and blue wallpaper, which makes many cringe but I like it. We did get rid of the orange shag carpet, which was everywhere. Fortunately very nice red oak floors were underneath. I have blue plates and blue glassware. Inherited from my pink-loving grandmother is a whole set of pink flowered porcelain plates with pink stemware to match. (also a whole set of ruby glassware) I'm not much of a color expert but these clearly clash.

What I made: Roast turkey with celery, onion dressing. Glazed Brussels sprouts with bacon. Green bean casserole. Crescent rolls which were mainly consumed by the grandkids. Gravy. Supplemented by the kids' contributions. I did not serve cranberry sauce as no one eats it though there were cranberries in the salad. Nor mashed potatoes. If they wanted starch, there were the rolls and sweet potatoes. I had bought butternut squash to make some sort of a curry dish out of it but decided that it would be too much like the sweet potatoes.

The main problem was trying to shoehorn the adults into the tiny space that is our dining room. We try to save some of the patio plants. I took many downstairs leaving a trail of dried up flowers. I will have to do some further rearranging to fit in a Xmas tree though Steve really wants me to skip that (he thinks we could be moving).

I was busy from sun-up to well past sun down (clean-up is even more time consuming) after very little sleep (fretting over decisions to be made soon and now my coughing keeps me awake). After dinner, all I could do is sit back and watch the granddaughters interact (the boys went downstairs to watch cable offerings they don't have). They are so precious.

It is Black Friday now. (a newscaster confused this with Good Friday saying that all the snow left in the East Coast storm should be gone by Good Friday, a safe bet). I have zero interest in joining the crowds. Much of my shopping, for the adults at least, I've done over the year. Steve is out there though. He loves shopping surprisingly. I did take a break yesterday when the turkey was in the oven and before it would need a second basting to run. Snow comes this afternoon so if I want a dry surface to run on, I need to get out there soon. Meanwhile, more clean-up needs to be done.

And things to think about.

Dante pondering in Verona. Is he thinking about the little man up near his shoulder?
Rick Steves says he is pondering why more people visit the Juliet statue than his

Thursday, November 27, 2014

When turkeys attack back

Where would you find turkeys AND lobster traps? Not in Michigan

He is very mad and is charging me
I watched My Life as a Turkey last night. A man in the Florida wilds raises 16 turkeys from eggs to adulthood. He clucks to the eggs and they respond. I did not know that unborn birds, at least turkeys, make noises. When they hatch, they know the man by sound to be their mother and they follow him around. He stays with them from dawn to sunset learning their behaviors for 16 months. Then they left him except for Turkey Boy, who for a while keeps him company but one day views him as a threat and viciously turns on him. He mentions that wild turkeys are very different than their domesticated cousins whose clever behaviors are bred out of them.

I do love wild turkeys. Just look at a close up of their iridescent feathers below, so beautiful. Also note the sizeable back spurs that they aren't afraid to impale you with. I rarely saw them in southern Michigan until the last ten years or so. (instead I saw pheasants, haven't seen one in a long time)There was a flock on my running route near the scenic road I would see regularly until this summer when the developers came and destroyed their habitat (one of the main reasons I want to move). The flocks around here are small, 6 to 10 birds but the above turkeys, came from a massive flock, 50-100 birds, just outside of Rockport, Massachusetts.

We were staying in Massachusetts 3 years ago for a month awaiting Tessa's birth (we came early due to a false alarm). We'd take day trips never venturing much more than 2 hours from Boston. When I saw the massive flock, Oliver (then 4) and I got out of the car with me trying to take photos. But they kept running away. Finally 3 toms turned around and charged us. The one above puffed up his feathers and his head turned bright red (sign of an angry bird) and faced us. My reaction? op. Oliver just laughed. Later we trolled the internet (the boys loved train crashes) for turkey attacks. Lots of them. One turkey decided a lady's front yard was his territory and would  attack her every time she left the house during daylight. She had to carry a broom. When the local news showed up for the story, they were attacked. Turkzilla they called him. I guess I put Oliver in danger though I seemed to be the tom's main target.

I've read that the first Thanksgiving that took place not far from the huge Massachusetts flock consisted mainly of lobster as turkeys weren't so plentiful.  Hmmm..if a 100 turkey flock could survive in 2012, I bet there were even more turkeys (though I guess there were many more predators). in the 1600s.

Back to my domesticated turkey. I have until 10 to make the dressing and put this thing in the oven. The turkey isn't as big as I think we need for 12 people, 5 being children. But for some of them, this won't be their first dinner of the day. It will be Shanna's family's third and Maya's second. Josh spent last night with Julie's father and tomorrow with the mom. Divorce causes scheduling issues. The kids will have to eat in a separate room than the grown-ups due to our tiny dining room, not a problem in the huge house we revisited yesterday with Josh. (he loved it..he sees buying it from us when we become infirm...).

But I am thankful, for being able to see my kids and their kids so often and our good health.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Crazy homophobia

Grossly underexposed but I do like this lamp in Bologna
While we were driving from our restaurant last night, Josh put one of his favorite Radio Lab shows on speakers entitled Oops. Some of the Oops were tragic, some just funny.

During the last Olympics, a conservative news source reported the progress of one of the best contenders for the gold medal in sprinting with headlines such as Homosexual wins initial heat!Homosexual misjudges finishline in final heats! and the like.

WTF? It turns out they were reporting the progress of sprinter Tyson Gay whose sexual preference is unknown to me. The newspaper's credo is that the word gay puts too much of a positive spin on a condition that they feel is an abomination. So their computer blindly substitutes 'homosexual' every time the word 'gay' comes from press services.

A more benign example was the headline coming from a California paper (Fresno Bee?)

Due to massive restructuring, the Massachusetts budget will finally be in the African-American.

Their computer was trained to substitute African-American for Black.

Early in my stay in Cancerland, I sought out others with TNBC. I found a woman my age, from Michigan who seemed intelligent and friendly. Then I read her blog. OMG. She was outraged that her city's schools were protecting 'sodomites'. It turns out that safe havens for teenage and pre-teenage victims of gay-bashing would be marked  so kids (kids!!!) could seek safety and some understanding. She apparently thought they deserved to be stoned as in the Bible. She also professed to being a Christian Woman. Apparently her bible didn't have that stuff about Judge not lest you be judged and Love thy neighbor. I toyed with leaving a comment about her not being a Christian at all but decided that you can't change a hater's mind.

I always assumed homophobia was a symptom of an  uneducated, ignorant person but I was surprised to find it in the workplace full of people with doctorates (in science so they must have some critical thinking skills). A co-worker was incensed that a gay teen was allowed to speak at the local high school's 'diversity day' (he thought diversity should be limited to different skin colors). He firmly believed homosexuality was spread through 'recruitment' and that this speaker would some how, horrors of horrors, convince his son to be gay. Meanwhile this kid's message was, I'm a person too. Please don't torture me. Not much of a recruiting tool. (sadly he was not alone in his thinking..there were many similarlyoutraged so the newspaper had a story on it). I tried to reason with him to no avail. He certainly didn't want to hear that it is something people are born with and gasp! probably genetic. I suspected he had a gay brother and what would that mean? No changing this one's mind.

And racism. My former son-in-law crashed our car 2 years ago (minor fender bender) into a neighbor. I spoke to the victim's husband.
Of course my wife was afraid of your son-in-law...
Yep he is big and muscular. And a young black man. (make that African-American).
but he was driving a nice car and was polite...
Surprising? What she should feel scared about was his driving skills or lack thereof, he ended up totaling this car.

I am still voiceless though I don't feel sick. Steve refuses to put on hearing aids so that he can hear me whisper. My friend Soulmate has a medical condition that has eroded his voicebox. For a while, he had to switch jobs to preserve his voice (hard to be a silent psychiatrist). Furthermore, he is a talker so his condition is very frustrating to him. Surgery has made him much better but it still pains him to speak hours at a time or to speak louder than usual. He has a good friend with hearing loss but who hates his hearing aids. He is always asking Soulmate to repeat himself or speak louder. This infuriates Soulmate who thinks it is profoundly selfish for him not to wear the hearing aids in his presence. I am understanding Soulmate's pain. Also I must leave him a message that I will return his phone calls once I am able to do more than croak in a whisper.

What's on today's schedule? I will run. Taking a day off did not help for voice (plus it was nasty out yesterday). I should start cooking for tomorrow. Also a possible relook of the fancy house as Josh wants to see it. I am very torn about this. In some ways, the house has a lot going for it but it just does not excite me.
I do like the kitchen

It has lots of gardens

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shorts weather

She is so wiggly, it is hard to take a photo

She came back from her weekend with her father's family with braids. She is holding a 'Real Baby' purchased for Shanna 30 years ago. Its face looks like Chuckie from some scary movie. Naomi was terrified of the doll and now refuses to let Maya take it home. Maya loves it however.

View from the vaporetto coming back from Burano

Murano is in the background

Not a cloud in the sky: San Michele on the island entirely devoted to a cemetery.
Yesterday it was 55 degrees when I went out to run. Radar indicated a storm coming so I ran in a hurry never venturing too far from my house. The storm still hadn't come so I had my last bike ride maybe for the year. The winds picked up to 40-60 mph gusts and the temperatures dropped 20 degrees just like that. Numerous power outages from the high winds but fortunately not here.

I've had a low grade cold  for a week that is mainly irritating at night when I am trying to sleep. I still have plenty of energy to run etc but yesterday I had no voice and could only whisper. I haven't tried to talk today yet.

I heard on the news that Venice is going to outlaw tourists from using rollerbags claiming noise pollution and the ruining of bridges. Fine for using one? $620. They do have plenty of porters offering to carry your bags but it would be impossible to figure out which ones are scam artists and which ones are not. In Bologna, I had to wrestle with these porters trying to grab my bag (and then probably holding them for ransom). It put me on edge as they were so insistent and in my face. So I guess we went to Venice just in time though we probably used the rollerbags  for only 100 feet in the main islands as our hotel was close to the vaporetto stop.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How many amaretti will it take to kill you?

What does this photo have to do with amaretti? Well she is sweet...
Also she has been a victim of 'natural' healing. More later.
From our lunch yesterday. How will she look with a head of hair? I can't imagine.
From the Italian market, among many other goodies, we bought amaretti which Naomi quickly proceeded to down at an alarming rate. I told her she might want to limit herself as these contain cyanide. Is there a label warning of this? Well they do warn of possible traces of gluten and hazelnuts, nothing about the cyanide.

Many fruit seeds contain a bound form of cyanide that can be released during digestion. Amaretti are usually made from apricot kernels (inside the apricot pit). Apricots (albacotte) are much more prevalent in Italy than in the US. Apricot nectar is routinely served (and tastes much better than the American version). Steve was distressed to find that the croissants served, more often than not, contained apricot jelly (he wants plain). Croissants were called brioche in the north and cornetti in the south. What to do with the by-product, the kernel? Waste not, want not. Convert them to cookies and liquor (amaretto, amaro, etc). Apricot kernels are close cousins to almonds and taste almondy. I do like almonds and anything that tastes like them. I also wanted Naomi to leave some of these for me.

According to the Merck Index (Steve insists on having this on our book shelf), a lethal dose of cyanide is 50-60 mg. (for size comparison, a baby aspirin is 81 mg).  An apricot kernel that weighs 600 mg contains 0.3 mg to 1.8 mg cyanide depending on its variety (sweet or bitter..bitter has more flavor and is used for Amaro). My 200 g package (amaretti are light weight as they contain little water) is 20% apricot kernels so the whole package contains 40 g (or 40,000 mg) of kernels. Doing a bit of math, assuming they used 'sweet' kernels, the entire package contains 2.1 mg of cyanide so she will need to eat 20 to 30 packages, much less if they use the more potent (6 times as much) bitter apricots. Aren't you glad you have a nerdy blogging friend?

This assumes that none of the cyanide is released in the cooking process, which it probably is. It is lost entirely preparing the amaretto, so you are safe there. Not sure about the Amaro but it is so bitter, that should limit your consumption.

So has anyone died from apricot kernel consumption? The internet says yes. A particularly potent variety of Turkish kernels poisoned some people. They were recalled. But no deaths from amaretti.
So I do have a reliable source to make 'pesche ripiene' which I've made for the moms in the past. Peach halves are stuffed with a mix of amaretti and chocolate, baked and then served with sweetened marscapone cheese. I have had problems finding the amaretti and having to substitute Trader Joe's Brutti ma Bellissimo ( ugly but beautiful) which are made from a mix of whole and crushed hazelnuts.

And there have been indirect deaths. Back in the 70s, 'natural' healers touted Laetrile as the 'cure' for cancer. This stuff came from ground up apricot pits so it is natural. Unfortunately, it did not cure cancer. So some people did not have traditional chemotherapy and died.

The premise that 'natural' healing is completely devoid of wanting to make a profit is false and drives me crazy.

Allie has been having a series of ear infections. The other grandmother's advice is to take Allie to the chiropractor to have her back aligned so her sinuses will be aligned (a non sequitur if there ever was one). Julie's sister too had lots of ear infections that happened to stop after a visit. Of course, she also happened to age out of the time that ear infections happen. And there is never just one visit is there. Things need to be' aligned' regularly. Josh just sighed. You need to pick your battles.

A friend goes to an acupuncturist weekly if not twice weekly to treat her neuropathic pain. This guy also touts lots of natural remedies. He has a supply of natural estrogen which he insists will make her feel better. Yeah, it probably would as the oncologist has given her antiestrogen pills that make her feel crappy. But then his natural remedy will feed her possible cancer. Pick your poison.

The weekend was fairly quiet. Yesterday I ran in the warm (relative to the week before) mist and came home to find Josh and Allie (and Naomi). We all went for lunch. Later a friend came and watched the second half of Olive Kitteridge ( I can watch it several times, it is so good). She too worries how much Olive is in her but I suspect much less than is in me.

Next up: Thanksgiving planning. Everyone is coming here. More grumbling from Steve about our too small dining room (which doubles as his den) and reminders that the nice expensive house would have plenty of room.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Breasts of St. Agatha

the Martyrdom of St. Agatha, Palazzo di Pitti

Minni di Virgini or minni di sant'agata
Agatha's breasts, a treat served in Catania, Sicily during her feast day
Amadeus fans (the movie) may remember them being served as Agatha's nipples
St. Agatha is considered the patron saint of breast cancer, among many other roles. She grew up in the third century Catania , Sicily and refused to give up her virginity and her Christianity to the Romans who tortured her by ripping off her breasts and then making her carry them on a platter (there are paintings of this). As they tied her to a stake to burn her to death, nearby Mt. Etna blew causing an earthquake saving her. She was imprisoned instead where St. Peter came back from heaven to restore her breasts.

There are many churches built in her honor especially the elaborate Duomo in Catania. This city looks like a fun one to visit. I  recently learned one could take a train to Sicily despite it being an island. They put the whole train on a ferry and then it continues on in Sicily. Something to consider.Presumably many of the icons we saw in the Ravenna churches featured her though we don't have any close-ups of hers.

I was watching a travel show last night where they feasted on her 'breasts'. They looked yummy: a layer of green marzipan, sponge cake, ricotta filling covered by a sugary glaze and topped by the cherry. Recipes call for the ricotta to be made from sheep's milk. I assume the green is to represent the olive tree that sprung up as they tried to light the fire. Marzipan olive leaves are served during this feast too. (I am a big fan of marzipan). I haven't seen these in the Brooklyn Italian bakery but then, I haven't looked.

I read recently that more and more patients with early stage breast cancer (mine was considered advanced early stage) are opting for a double mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy even though the physicians insist that the survival rate is the same. I could never get a straight answer whether this study that was quoted to me several times, looked at the subset of TNBC patients. Is this true for them too? Meanwhile patients with BRAC gene deletions are given a mastectomy as their cancers likely will return. I think the biggest factor is peace of mind even if the researchers find it ill-founded. Also now there is a law that insurance companies have to cover breast reconstruction for cancer patients. Did they tell me that? I am thinking of my upcoming mammogram and the expensive anxiety filling false alarm of last year which would not had happened if I had opted for the mastectomy in the first place. And I wouldn't have needed the two surgeries (the first one resulted in bad margins).

Although it is much warmer than the last few days, still cold to be sitting watching UM lose again.
Why do young people insist on that kissy face?
 Naomi had her 10 seconds of fame last night as she was sitting right behind the goal post and the camera zoomed in on her and put her on the big monitor. Strangers came up to her afterwards to say they saw her. She was embarrassed as the 50 foot version of her showed acne. She is currently reviewing the taped game to see if it made the TV although she can see tiny versions of herself every time a goal is scored.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ice, ice,

Niagara Falls last December.  Who visits it in the winter? Um..we did. We  (I) went for ice wine tastings. A month later, no liquid water could be found. Thanks Polar Vortex
Charlevoix, late April 2014. Lots of ice

Does this have anything to do with ice? Alliums last spring
The airport has been shut down for several hours due to everything being coated with ice. As soon as one layer is cleared, another layer forms. Lots of accidents but as it is a Saturday, no one I know needs to go out though Naomi is going to the UM football game later. By then, all should be melted to be followed by a week of relative warmth. Maybe I can ride my bike again?

I found an ice free path (not in my neighborhood!) to run yesterday. I don't mind the cold as long as I have a dry surface to run on.

I did go out for Happy Hour yesterday with my friend slogging through traffic and construction sites. Usually winter is at least free of projects but not this year. Tasty calamari and winter ale, yum. And nice to have company that is not Steve though Naomi chose to spend last evening with us.

Silliest commercial ever: One for a hepatitis C medication which implies that once treated, one will not have to hide ones razor again lest some guest be tempted to use it and catch your disease. And there is even a disclaimer about the chances of getting hep C from an infected person's razor is remote. What's even more remote? Someone borrowing a razor.

Update: every once in a while, google takes one of my photos to enhance. This is what they did to my Charlevoix ice photo. Most of the time they make them look better but not this time.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter birds

I wish the above photo were mine but it isn't. It belongs to a friend of Josh's mother-in-law.

How I miss my hummingbirds! We do have cardinals, at one point two pair but I haven't seen them lately. I have a finch feeder but no finches have found it. I need to get a squirrel proof bird feeder. I do have some impressively obese fox squirrels.The other day we had a flock of juncos..very cute fuzzy birds.

In the winter at the park near Josh's house, they encourage feeding the songbirds (versus the feeding them). The winter flock includes chickadees, downy woodpeckers, titmice and
nuthatches. They prefer walnuts to birdseed. They will literally eat out of your hands.

We did not see any unusual bird life on our Italian vacation except for the common mergansers on Lake Garda (which are NOT common in the US, the much prettier red breasted merganser is). Steve would slowly try to focus on one and then they would disappear in a  dive. He needs to shoot fast for wildlife and children. Fortunately cathedrals didn't move. Lots of swans though. One walked along the lido begging for food. They look so much bigger out of water.

For very pretty birdlife look to my friend Elephant Child in Canberra Australia. Amazing what visits her feeder.

I didn't run yesterday as it looked too slippery. I will go out today even though it's colder or I will go crazy. Then Happy Hour.

the best photo of the merganser though now I think it may be a grebe.
the merganser from Charlevoix

this guy would come right up to you

his friends stayed in the water

my friend hand feeding chickadees

turkeys wanted a hand out too but only songbirds can be fed
 As for the cold, I leave you with this quote:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Editing on an iPhone

I have been having fun playing with the editing feature of my new phone. The top 2 photos are of Burano and the bottom I took on my bike ride up North. It is a lawn ornament store in Sutton's Bay.

Italy in Michigan

Sirmione castle: many of the photos I have posted have been taken with Steve's fancy camera. Sometimes I would ask him to take specific shots or I would borrow his camera. He doesn't see things the way I do. For instance, he impatiently waited for this boat to pass whereas I liked the contrast in color.A few photos I have posted are from my iPhone but even fewer from my 'regular' camera. These are all from my camera. Its light sensor was acting up. Now that I have my new iPhone with its much better camera, this camera will be retired

town of Garda

Garda again


Rich people used to see how big they could build towers in Bologna without much consideration to whether they were on stable soil. Many had to be taken down or have the tops lopped off

Colorful student graffiti in Bologna
I had been fretting that once my Aperol bottle was gone, no more spritzi for me. A large liquor store in Ann Arbor had a couple bottles, which we bought. My fellow traveler from my cooking class, who is Italian-American told me about this huge Italian grocery in Plymouth which Steve and I went to the other day. It has its own bakery, pasta factory, and gelateria along with any Italian grocery item one could imagine plus a restaurant and a take-out food place. So we bought rainbow cookies (the first I ever saw in Michigan)cannoli, sfogliatelle, good parmesan, good meats, blood orange juice and a few other items. I had some fig gelato: good though it cost quite a bit more than in Italy (though much less than the North End of Boston). I did taste some very ripe cow's cheese from Alto Adige that smelled like a gynecological infection. Yuck.

Ann Arbor has many ethnic communities within, mainly Chinese, Korean, Greek and Arabic but hardly any Italians. The closest Italian community is in Windsor Ontario (who some of its members were on my Summer Abroad program 6 years ago. We Americans would be welcomed and the Canadians would remind the hosts that Canadians and Americans are not the same). There is actually a large community of Italians in the UP in Negaunee who immigrated there to become miners along with the Finns and the Cornish people (who gave us pasties..lots of pasty stands up north and the charming yooper dialect that substitutes 'd's for 'th's). The Italians blended into the population in the suburbs but still have Italian clubs. I was a guest of my former roommate at one. It was a fundraiser for the victims of the April 2009 earthquake in the province of L'Aquila (where we were staying..our monastery was severely damaged).

And as long as that grocery exists (it is very popular), I will never run out of Aperol. I did notice they had bottles of orangicello..sounds good?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Young Fives

Maya's hair is finally growing. She does have an engaging smile

Should she be a red-shirted kindergartener?

Tessa's official preschool photo. Ms Tess, despite her tender age, possesses most of skills needed to start kindergarten already.
Many school districts, including Ann Arbor and the one that Shanna's kids go to, have a program for kids whose birthdays fall in the summer and thus they might not be as mature as kids born earlier in the year called Young Fives. The kids spend a year in this program and then they are ready for the full day rigors of kindergarten. The days of parents sneaking their kids into school early are long gone. (Steve started school when he was four, skipped a grade later, and ended up being a freshman in college when he was 16). What parents are more likely to take advantage of this program? Wealthy ones, ones who have time to drive their kid to and from school in the middle of the day. Poor parents don't have that luxury. Parents who need their children for financial reasons to be in school all day have no incentive to put their children in a half day program that doesn't provide transportation. And so the gap between rich and poor increases...

I just got back from a parent/teacher conference at Maya's school. Due to her late birthday, immaturity, and significant developmental lags, they are recommending her next year for Young Fives which is housed in a school just as close as her regular kindergarten would be in. Hmmm..  would this mean  an extra year in which Naomi remain financially dependent on us? Fortunately unlike Shanna's district, it is an all day program and transportation is probably provided. Perhaps they realized the kids that needed this the most weren't being served. Still she has to apply to get accepted into the program.

When kids get special services through the school district, they have an IEP, Individualized Education Plan. She has speech therapy and occupational therapy which works with her deficient fine motor skills. In many aspects, she is age appropriate, socially and physically. Her speech has come a long way though multi-syllable words trip her up. We met 6 people who work with her. All are impressed with how happy, friendly and sweet she is. Her speech therapist is one of my former brownies. Even though all the main players were there, this was not an official IEP meeting where goals are set, just a progress update.

I am no stranger to IEPs as Naomi had one though it took 2 years of me insisting on one. Her disability did not fit the usual criteria. They finally came up with language processing disorder. She could not summarize what she just read or what she just heard. Very frustrating. She claims she was just too bored to pay attention. Unfortunately, the experts had no idea on how to help her.

When people ask Oliver his name, he writes it down as usually they can't understand his answer. He replaces most 'r's and 'l's with 'w's. The speech therapist is not concerned with the 'r's but thinks that a 6 year old should be able to say an 'l'. Let's see what tricks they have to have him say it.

There is a character on the The Big Bang Theory that despite his genius IQ, has Oliver's issues.

I have a weal pwobwem with Siwi's voice wegcontion pwogwam......It weally sucks....

Yesterday, a possible cold and windchills below zero made skipping a day of running seem best. Back out there today as it was calm. Snow was just starting to make things slippery when I finished though I felt fine on the run. We fishtailed several times on our way to the school. Hate winter.


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