The Texture Of Things

There is an “F” in Plagiarism

November 30th, 2006

Tonight, I had to fail a student, and it sucked. I like this student, though most of the time I’m not sure why. He’s quiet and I hardly know him, especially compared to his compatriot, an outgoing instigator and fun-poker-atter. Still, when I read his essay the other night, I knew it wasn’t his. I found the original essay on Google in about three seconds flat. I seethed, I lamented. I knew I had to fail him, under my and under the college’s policies on integrity and plagiarism. I ached at the thought of doing it.

For more than a day, I was really mad at him. How could he? Why would he? How stupid does he think I am? How many other students are doing it and getting away with it? Those right bastards, but I’ll never catch them all. And they don’t matter because I don’t know who they are, and he does matter because he did do it and I caught him.

So tonight I met him at the door, I handed him his essay with a cover letter informing him I have failed him in the course. He can’t withdraw since the deadline for student withdrawal has passed, so he has to take the F and take the course over.

When he read the subject line of the letter (“RE: Plagiarism”), he said aloud, “Plagiarized. I did it.” His hands were shaking a little. He didn’t look up right away. Then he added, “I was just so confused with the essay and I didn’t know what to write.”

I told him, “That’s when you call me, not do this.”

I don’t know what I expected from him. I had prepared myself for his plea for mercy yet didn’t get one.

He said he’d leave, and he turned to go. I returned to the classroom and for the remainder of the night I could feel his absence from the table he typically shared with his buddy. Never this whole semester were he and his pal separated. When one was absent, so was the other; when one was present, so was the other. But not tonight. Not for the next two weeks and not next semester when he’s repeating Comp I and his outgoing buddy is in my Comp II course.

Before I got to school tonight, I thought I’d feel all vindicated and righteous after I delivered the news, but I don’t. I feel a little sad. I feel like both of us had a hard lesson tonight in what it means to be a grown up.

Revisiting the WHOYCBE Questionnaire

November 29th, 2006

To the person who got stuck with my name in this drawing: Hey. How are you. If you’re doing what I’ve done at my Spoilee’s blog, you have read through the archive but are not commenting. That’s hard to do, I’m finding. And you – you’re stuck with blog entries only since there’s no conversation going on in the comments, so there’s really a limit to how much you can learn about me. Um, yeah. Sorry about that. That’s kind of the downside of a private weblog, I suppose. No audience. To alleviate my guilt about that, I have updated and amended a large chunk of the WHOYCBE Questionnaire.

My invention
I would still invent the Time-Freezer Machine, but instead of using it for petty, selfish reasons like showering in peace, I’d use it to hold the tot still while I administer fever-reducing meds. I’d dose her and then tilt her back while rubbing her throat to get the meds down. Then I’d rinse her mouth and unfreeze her. She’d never be the wiser that she’s been given medicine and I wouldn’t have to clean up medicine-anxiety-sensitive-gag-reflex-and-taste-buds vomit.

My unlike-me purchase is still clothes-related, but more specifically it’s cute, cheap shoes. My feet have been a mess since I was pregnant, and being overweight is hard on my back, so the truth is I will sacrifice fashion for quality shoes. And I’m not afraid of spending money on them.

My overprotective nature is still hard to rile, but please don’t pick up my cats or my beverage. Once someone else (other than husband – but only because he’s proven he’s trustworthy, mostly) has drunk from my beverage, I’m done with it. Period. End of story. And I hate it when people take food from my plate or hand without asking. Please ask. I will gladly share if you ask first.

As I’ve been trying to secure a holiday dress for the tot, I’ve come to realize that on the whole I prefer darker colors and muted tones. Burgundy or cranberry over red, for instance. Pastels are generally out, but I do often find myself in pink because I’m told I look good in it. Jewel tones are okay. Pretty much any form of blue or green is good, though. The most important thing, though, is that the colors look good together.

Gaggable offenses need to be amended to include all instances of Barney, K-Fed, bad lip-synching or overdubbing (kung fu movies not included), and daytime soap operas.

Phobias include baby dolls that look eerily lifelike.

Willies-inducers should include speaking in public (for some reason teaching doesn’t count) and seeing doctors and dentists.

Textures that are happily approved in this house are generally soft and fuzzy. At Kohls the other day, I discovered a micro-fleece blanket that felt exactly how I hope the clouds in heaven will feel like. Smooth is also good, but when you live in or around the Great Lakes, winter lasts a long time and requires much snuggling in with warm beverages. (Also, my cat sees fleece as his long lost mother and it’s a quick way to get him into my lap for a snooze.)

Apparently, no one should have to watch me eat chocolate chip cookie dough either because it seems I can’t quit once I get started. Of course, I am PMSing right now, so how I can be blamed for eating the last of the break-and-bake cookie dough, I don’t know.

It turns out that although I am a grown up and no longer have to eat things like black olives or almonds, I might actually like them more than I thought. The other day I ate a burrito (mmm, burritos) with black olives and it was nice. I’m still not eating seafood, though.

On the olfactory front, Glade is my new hero. I’ve always liked their holiday apple-cinnamon candle (not the one available all year long – that one is too much apple, not enough spice) and now I found a new smell I like in their scented oil holder. It’s called Glistening Snow, and it smells like a spicy pine tree. Bayberry maybe? I’m not sure, but it smells like Christmas to me and it makes me happy. Also, kudos to Glade on the scented oil thing. Once the pregnancy forgetfulness struck me back in 2004, it never left. I used to love to burn candles, but I don’t think I can be trusted with them anymore. The Glade thing will burn itself out and the holder remains cool. Cool.

Like everyone else, I like holiday music, but not until after Turkey Day. Please. I also like tortilla chips with salsa and a cold beer in the summertime.

Like no one else I know, I prefer mittens to gloves in the wintertime, and my favorite lunch IN THE WORLD is creamy peanut butter and strawberry or raspberry jam on fresh wheat bread with a side of incredibly fresh white corn tortilla chips. I don’t really like potato chips, but I do like the crunch, so I substitute tortilla. HG says I’m weird but I don’t see what’s so odd.

Seriously, what’s so odd about that?

A Letter of Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2006

S., our Food Friend, works in a sub-group of our county’s family services office. Every month there is a support group for the parents of these “fussy babies.” Because it is the holiday season, the November and December meetings are combined and this meeting’s theme is thanksgiving. The “homework” was to write a letter to my child, a letter of thanksgiving, to be saved for her to open at some later date. Because I can’t seem to get all my paper grading, house cleaning, sick-baby tending (is it asthma? is it a cold? is it teething? who can say?), blog updating, and letter writing done this week, I am combining my letter writing and blog updating tasks.

Here is the draft of the letter I will have to read out loud on Friday this week:

Dear tot,

I could start this letter of thanksgiving with a bullet list, but I am trying to resist it. It’s hard to resist because there are a million things I want to thank you for. Thank you for coming along so easily, thank you for all your tumbly gymnastics in my belly starting exactly at 7:40 every night, and thank you for cooperating with chance by lying on your umbilical cord at just the right moment so the doctor could see the trouble you were in at our check up and get you out of my belly before tragedy happened. Thank you for surviving and thank god you never were in serious danger, not even once you were out.

But that is a bullet list, almost, and I didn’t want to write one. I want to write about the things you have brought to my life that has made it, in a word, awesome. Okay, yeah, sure, we use this word all the time, you use this word all the time, and it does mean “something great,” but it is much more than that.

When I was in college, I spent a summer working as an advisor in a Japanese Student Exchange program. For five weeks, I lived on campus with Japanese students, worked with them on their school projects, entertained them, and helped teach them about Americans. I don’t know how much of it I actually accomplished with any value, but I still vividly remember driving along the roads of west Michigan. I’m not sure where it happened, but my eyes opened to my own surroundings. I began to see familiar things from an outsider’s perspective. I saw trees and electrical lines and traffic signs and seat belts and storefronts and houses and fences and cattle and land and plants and sky, but mostly I saw how I had never really seen these things before. At the time I marveled in it, but I never imagined I would repeat it, and then you came along and this heady experience is a daily one now.

How does the world look to you? I don’t know. I can’t begin to imagine, but it must be big. There must be a lot of it because when we do something we’ve never done or haven’t done in a while, I watch the wheels turn in your mind, sorting, measuring, guessing, imagining, and deciding what to be curious about first. Sometimes you look to me, not as much now as before, but when you do, you already know what your first move will be. Would it be my first move as well? You are excited to discover “oh, how it works” or “what is it, oh, I know.”

But that is not specific enough. This letter needs to be more specific if it is going to mean much a decade or more from now.

Okay, how about this. Thank you for all of the singing. You are a child who loves music, so we sing. A lot. And you sing a lot too, sometimes mimicking my musical narration. “I am making a sandwich, I am getting the jelly, it is gonna be yummy, yummy in my tummy.” And when you join in, sometimes even hitting harmonies, I can hear your dad’s heart singing along from across the room.

Here’s another jewel: This past Saturday morning, you stunned your dad and me by repeating something I had said and using it in perfect context. Fortunately, it was not a swear word. (That was the week before last.) No, this morning your dad refused to leave on errands until I added up the ATM deposit for him. It was only two checks, so why he couldn’t do it at the machine, I have no idea, so I said, “You, mister, are ON MY LIST.” He replied, “Yay! I’m on Mommy’s list!” Without looking up, I said, “It is not a ‘Yay’ list.”

My love, we haven’t used language like “on my list” much since before you were born, and I’ve never said “not a ‘Yay’ list” before in my life, so you can imagine my delight at what followed that dialogue. Ten minutes later your dad asked you if you wanted to be on Mommy’s list, and you looked him in the face and very seriously replied, “It is not a ‘Yay’.” Oh, you totally made my day.

Tot, every single day is like this. Okay, maybe not every single one, but very close to it. You talk, you learn, you do, you don’t, you grow every single day. And it amazes me. It amazes me that in spite of every choice I make in a day, good or poor, you improve. Lately, it’s been your body awareness and coordination and self-esteem I see blossoming and it’s all you, baby. Sunday, you tumbled off your trike in the driveway and only hesitated long enough for me to say “Wow, you sure were going fast” before getting back on and bulleting off. When I read the note the babysitter sent home in your bag last week, asking me if you insist on sitting on top of the coffee table at home too, I laughed at first. Then I wondered if I had the wrong bag. Then I realized that I had the right bag; it was my child that was changing. Wow. You’re doing it, tot. You’re instigating and innovating and insisting. You have power and you are taking it, and it is awesome.

Of course I will miss my littlest girl the way I often miss my baby girl, but I love all my girls, all my tots. It is a cliche Mom thing to say, but I have to say it: I can’t say that I knew how to love any thing or any one before you, and this is the greatest lesson you’ve given me, the one I am most thankful for. Thank you for teaching me what a mother’s love can be. Thank you for throwing your whole body into mine when you hug me and for gently patting my shoulder to tell me to pat your back while I hug you. Thank you for squealing and running to greet me or your dad when we come home from work and thank you for shoehorning yourself into every hug your dad and I ever have in your sight, saying with us, “Everyone gets a hug.” Thank you for showing me without words what a child’s love looks like.

Every person’s life should have at least one love story. Thank you, tot, for being my best one.

What Color is My Brain?

November 25th, 2006

Saw this meme/quiz elsewhere and promptly did it wrong. The first two questions had more than one possible answer for me, and the result came back off. I read the spiel on how I view the world and it didn’t fit. So, I went back and swapped out the initial answers for alternates, and this was the result. This result fits much better, I think.

What Color is Your Brain?


At work or in school: I like set routines and organized ways of doing things; rules and directions are a great help to me. I prefer to stay on one topic at a time. I need to know what is expected of me, and I always want to know if I am on the right track. I like subjects that are useful and traditional, such as business, accounting, history and government.
With friends: I prefer people who are careful with their money and who make plans ahead of time. I like my friends to be loyal, dependable and on time. I am serious about love and show it in many practical ways.
With family: I like stability and security and enjoy traditions and frequent celebrations. I like to spend holidays with family members, and I plan ahead for such gatherings.
Take this quiz!

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I’m All Animated and Stuff

November 18th, 2006

There are a lot of people in this world who limit their television viewing or decline to watch it entirely. I am not one of those people. I know I watch too much television, the tot watches too much television, and really, it’s okay. It is what it is. We have good days and we have bad days (usually when I need to grade papers). I do try to turn it off or to put music on for a while instead everyday, but I also know the tv’s on more than it should be, often tuned to a cooking show just for background noise.

And then there are the shows that I find myself scurrying to the sofa for. South Park is one of them.

This link for a flash game has been going around (again) recently, so I finally took the bait and created myself as a SP character.

Here is me, making what Husband calls “the amy face.” I think it means I don’t like what is being said, often in the form of not believing what I just said (fully).


Here is me, after I’ve enjoyed the beer/Diet Pepsi I’m holding.


Here is the tot. She is not this tall.


Go make some South Park characters. It’s fun.

“But That’s Not Important Right Now”

November 17th, 2006

Today, the tot went to L’s house (L = babysitter) and while there, the tot provided all the proof anyone could ever need that she is in fact her father’s child.

Shortly after lunch, another toddler came to L’s house for the afternoon. He ran straight to the television and turned it on. An older kid’s cartoon came on, one the boy didn’t recognize.

He pointed to the screen and asked, “What’s this, L?”

The tot responded matter of factly, “It’s a TV, kid.”

L said they both then looked at her quizzically, wondering why she was laughing hard enough to pee her pants.

It’s All About Meme

November 16th, 2006

So my “I’ve never” meme has instigated quite a bit of conversation here at Ye Olde Tot House. My “Casino Windsor is not the same as Canada” comment first drew HG out of hiding (at home, not in the comments), leading him to call the statement “rude” and to imply that I’m prejudiced. I think. I wasn’t quite clear on what he wanted to call me, just that I ought to address that and correct myself. I did, I think. I’m not sure that what I edited the entry to say was any better, though. I’m trying, is all I can say, to be specific and of course not to offend, but the harder I try, the worse it gets. Such is my life. Welcome to it.

The very next day, HG approached me in disbelief. “Do you want to drive a foreign car? How have you never driven a foreign car?” (Or something like that. Frankly, I’m surprised he’s even reading this blog.) No, it’s not that, it’s just that I haven’t. I have ridden in them, but I’ve never driven one. No biggie. It is what it is.

It led me to think about cars, where I live, how I was raised, who I married, etc.

My whole life up until I went to college, the cars in my family were all F*ords. My grandfather was the local dealer, and even when he retired he maintained ownership of the dealership and leased it out. Part of the lease agreement was that all his kids and their immediate families would get killer deals on new F*ords from that dealer. So, it follows only logically that we all drove F*ords. They were cheap, and because my aunts and uncles all grew up working in the dealership, they knew all the people in the service department. For the only time in history, repairs done at a dealership were done quickly and cheaply.

Slowly, though, Grandpa’s reign of F*ord-ness lifted, and my uncle bought an Oldsm*obile. My mom and my aunt each got a P*ontiac. They all came back to F*ord for their next cars, but it was a start of an end. In the last few years of my Grandpa’s life, my mom temporarily drove a D*odge, my uncle bought his wife a Sub*aru (she liked the ads), my other uncle has a Ch*evy and his kids have owned an Oldsm*obile and a Ch*evy. None of these were to the exclusion of F*ords, merely in addition to them.

Looking at it now, I wonder what kind of power my Grandpa had over us all that the most adventurous we got was to buy GM. (The D*odge was a used Colt that my mom only had for a few months, until my Grandma told her they were worried about her in “that little car,” so instead of selling their T*aurus, they gave it to her, just to get her out of the D*odge.) For me, I married into a GM-loyal family and have had to withstand no end of hassling about my F*ords.

But where am I now? Before the tot was born, I was determined to get a H*onda Ci-vic Hy*brid. I didn’t care that it was Japanese, or maybe I did. I wanted a hybrid, and I knew that Japanese had the best hybrid technology, circa 2002-4. I am still determined that my next car will be a hybrid or will utilize alternative fuel in one way or another, but the acquisition of that car is a long way off. For now, I’m driving domestic. Old school fuel.

Maybe it wasn’t just my Grandpa’s influence, though. Maybe his iron fist merged with our regional influence to create an all-domestic-all-the-time approach to vehicle purchases.

Bloggers who live in other areas of the country and the world see Detroit with differently biased eyes**, particularly when it comes to transportation. We in Michigan depend on our cars, our cars are a part of us and an expression of us, our cities and land are sculpted by the roads we have built for our cars. And we love them. And we thirty-somethings have had it drilled into us our whole lives that we are supposed to support our state, support our people, support the businesses that keep them working, even if it’s just an entry level job at a nearby plant.

So every time I have gotten ready to buy a car (which has only been two so far in my adult life), I have ended up with domestic at or near the top of my list, and eventually in my driveway. I haven’t meant to, but I have done it. But it has, lately anyways, been accompanied by talk of disintigrating boundaries. So many “domestic” cars are built in other countries that it’s about time to consider buying foreign in order to support people in our neighborhoods, those working for “foreign” companies but making cars “domestically.” Assuming that’s still my primary goal, of course.

This is my moment in time. I wonder what we will think about manufacturing, transportation, industry, and geography in twenty years. I wonder what the future holds for Detroit, for Michigan.

**I think people who live in cities with mass transit are less likely to understand our relationship with our cars, here in the Motor City. That’s okay, but I hope that when people make suggestions about getting people here out of cars and into mass transit, they realize how difficult a change it would be for us. For pete’s sake, we don’t even have carpool lanes. (At least not any that reach all the way out to the ‘burbs.)

Dear Tot,

November 16th, 2006

Before you were born, even while I was pregnant with you, I didn’t understand why parents of small children were always sick. I mean, I wasn’t going to get sick with everything you ever caught because I had already had a bunch of colds in my life, so I should have some immunities, and I was going to wash my hands a lot. Didn’t these other parents think to wash their hands a lot when their child was sick? Um, ew. Clearly, I needed to rethink having dinner at their houses, right?

Wrong. They are certainly washing their hands and their children’s hands, because I am, and I have still caught your pestilence.

But the pre-baby me is screaming in my head: “How?! How could this happen?!” Exclamation point!

I have some hypotheses.

1. Tot, you like to play in my bed, “the big bed,” and I think you wiped your germy face on my pillow. So, washing hands isn’t enough – I’ve also got to limit your access to certain areas of the house when you’re sick.

2. Tot, I know we are all overwhelmed by a sneeze or two in our lifetimes, but did you need to ah-choo it into my face the day before yesterday? So, clearly I need to teach you more about living a kind and thoughtful life even while sick. Here’s a pointer – although I routinely encourage you to share or take turns, this does not apply to illnesses. I wipe your nose because it’s my job, not because I actually want someone else’s snot on or near my own hands. I do it because I love you.

Also, the next time you suddenly find yourself sneezing unexpectedly, please point it down toward the ground. Do not look up for help. The bogies don’t run down your face for at least a minute after you sneeze. We’ll wipe them up then.

But, tot, I don’t want you to feel like this letter is all negativity aimed at you. You are, after all, only 2.5. It’s my job to teach you, so I should expect these things.

Today, however, I learned something from you, and that is that you are one tough kid. Seriously, I’m impressed. Throughout this cold, you’ve been pretty good natured. You’re not your usual bubbly Tot-ness, but you have energy, you are mostly happy, and you are still climbing over everything you encounter, including my body. The cold has not slowed you down much, but I am only several hours into it and I can see that it is probably going to stop me in my tracks. Full stop.

It’s an especially timely lesson too, as I was just complaining inwardly about my students. I actually thought, “Now I know why people say ‘Youth is wasted on the young.'” It might be wasted on college punks, but my dear tot, you are not wasting it. You are using it to plow ahead through your day, paying little heed to the pounding pressure of snot in your head.

You are amazing, little girl. Truly amazing.

Holy Wow!

November 14th, 2006

A new banner, thanks in part to HG, who figured out the code. I added the MS Paint lettering all by myself.


Maybe Someday, but Maybe Not **Updated, Sheesh

November 13th, 2006

Some of these I’d really like to do, but I’m okay with never having eaten sushi or committed a crime.

I’ve never:

*eaten sushi
*watched professional basketball (in spite of living through two eras of Detroit Piston greatness)
*ridden a motorcycle
*driven a stick shift
*traveled to a foreign country (**Edited to address what HG thought was anti-Canada statement.)
*liked almonds, mushrooms, or eggplant
*owned a game system (other than my computer, which I don’t use for gaming)
*liked my hair
*been honest-to-goodness homeless (I did live in a pop-up camper one fall)
*really gotten the appeal to John Grisham novels
*held down a fulltime paying job
*stuck a needle into myself
*used AOL
*used a food processor
*found a pair of really cheap shoes that I deeply loved (though I’ve owned many cheap shoes)
*owned a brand-new, not refurbished or rebuilt computer
*had to, with my own hands, kill an animal (paying for euthanasia by a veterinarian not counted)
*owned or used inline skates, ice skates, or downhill skis
*figured out how the hands-free headset for my cell phone is supposed to fit my miniscule ears
*committed a crime or been arrested
*lived in any state other than Michigan
*fired a gun
*operated a power saw
*learned how to french-braid
*smoked cigarettes
*voted for a Presidential candidate from one of America’s two major parties
*skipped an opportunity to vote in state and federal elections, since becoming of age
*been audited, for tax purposes
*played golf
*taken a bath in my bathtub with the jet things
*had any hair removed by waxing
*driven an SUV
*driven a vehicle not made by Ford or GM
*lived anywhere with an honest-to-goodness guest room (meaning: one without a combined purpose, like “office/guest room”)
*had my entire house clean at the same time
*voluntarily performed on stage
*understood what all the fuss is about

** I meant no offense with my original statement that I didn’t think Casino Windsor counted as visiting Canada. I have been to Casino Windsor one time, but I’ve only been inside the casino – NOT in bountiful, beautiful Canada proper. I was a passenger in a car that drove directly to the casino parking garage, whereupon I exited the vehicle and proceeded in to gamble. This was before 9/11, so I didn’t even have to show paperwork on either side of the tunnel. I can’t think that this casino experience counts as visiting Canada. I mean, everyone there was rude, so it felt just like being in Michigan. I thought they were all like my companions and me – suburbanites who (at the time) hated Detroit so much that we’d cross through it – that we’d pass Detroit casinos – to blow our money.

Egad, fine, I can take this one off the list. I have been to a foreign country, but I’ve never been overseas.

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