Friday, June 29, 2012

College Tour Guides: A Brief Sociological Study

OK.  I only have an N of 5.
But we just finished our 2nd round of college tours, this time in Philadelphia with friends.  Our crowd included my 2 girls, a rising junior and freshman, my friend Mona, and her 2 daughters, a rising sophomore and freshman who are also my girls’ oldest friends.  We visited University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore and Villanova.
After visiting Northwestern and University of Chicago last trip sans friends—let me tell you it’s a lot more fun with friends—for kids and moms.
Having attended 5 tours with 5 different tour guides, my inner sociologist can’t help noticing some tour guide trends.  Here are some random stats:
  • 3 women, 2 men
  • 3 engineers
  • 3 future Resident Assistants (RAs)
  • 4 out of 5 walked backwards and talked at the same time—3 asked us to make sure they didn’t bump into people/statues/buildings.
  • 1 out of 5 didn’t talk loud enough
  • 3 Greeks out of the 4 schools with Greek systems
  • 4 out of 4 said the exact same sentence, “Some of my friends are, some of my friends aren’t, you can do it or you don’t have to, it doesn’t make much of a difference.”  when I asked, “What’s the role of the Greek system here?”
  • 4 out of 4 were therefore clearly coached on the “right” answer to parents asking about the Greek system.
  • 5 out of 5 were trained marketers, to the degree that one wouldn’t answer “What other schools did you apply to and why did you choose your school?” directly.  They were good at their jobs, but left me thinking I’d better call my InterVarsity campus ministry colleagues to find out the real scoop at each school.
Clearly the most effective tour guide was our last one, at Villanova, because after his tour,  during our college debrief as we drove away, 3 out of the 4 girls said it was their favorite school.
“How much of Villanova’s allure is because the tour guide was good looking?” I asked.
“Oh my gosh,” Squeal, squeal, “He was SO hot!”
Mona and I then listened in to all the characteristics that made him an excellent tour guide:
  • His just so tousled hair gelled so it tufted up at the top to the side
  • His day old stubble
  • His name-brand pink long sleeve button down shirt rolled up at the sleeves with one shirttail tucked in and the other shirttail hanging out
  • His name-brand long shorts that ended at the knee—not too long, not too short
  • His name-brand loafers
“I just wanted to reach on over there and tuck in that shirt during the whole tour,” said Mona.  Me too.
We pontificated how shirts should either be completely un-tucked or tucked but not half tucked while our girls rolled their eyes and said “Oh mom,” like we were complete losers who just don’t appreciate young male fashion.  Guilty.
3/4s of our crowd (who also corresponded with the 3 who liked Villanova the best and were the youngest) were saddened when they realized hot college tour guide wasn’t even going to be at Villanova by the time they reached college.
So if you’re doing the college tours anytime soon, keep an eye out for which tour guide you get—he or she may influence your child’s decision more than you ever would hope.
And watch out for that half-tucked in shirt. . .
You may also enjoy:
This was first posted on What She Said

Friday, June 22, 2012

All Nighter

My 12 year old pulled an all-nighter this week.  Not because he’s working desperately on a school project, but because with summer vacation his sleep schedule’s gone completely wacky.

Of course, I feel somewhat to blame.  Because school ended about 2 weeks earlier than normal due to no snow days and an earlier start to the year, I somehow blissfully went along planning my normal work life without seriously thinking about what to do with my youngest child.  After all, he’s 12.  He’s legally able to stay at home alone and take care of himself without getting me reported to DSS for being a negligent parent.

Apparently being at home and taking care of himself meant sleeping until noon.  That’s when I found him still snoozing on Monday after my morning appointments. 

Tuesday morning he made the grand effort and arose at 11 a.m.

By Tuesday night, he just couldn’t fall asleep.  And had to come tell us at 10:30, and 11:30, and 2:30, and 4:30.  

I vaguely remember Scott saying, “You can’t go bike riding alone at 4 in the morning, it’s not safe.”

Ren said, “But it’s light out already.”

Later in the day, Kai-Kai said, “I heard Ren unloading the dishwasher at 2:30 in the morning.”

I said, “In my dreams—I think he was making popsicles.”

So Wednesday’s task was keeping him awake so he could reset his sleep schedule.  I told him he wouldn’t be able to go to bed until 7 p.m. 

As long as he had friends over to swim and play he was fine.  But by 3 p.m. when he drove with me to pick up his sister, he slumped over in the back seat and I had to yank his leg to pull him out of the car.  Luckily, more friends came to swim which kept him awake for another hour and a half.

At 4:45, I made him take a shower.  At 5 he announced he was going to read and within 2 minutes was snoring on the couch.  More yanking.  At 5:15 I made him eat some dinner—which he ate with his cheek resting on the counter. 

Every time I let him out of my sight, he’d sneak into my bedroom to snooze on our bed.  At 5:50 I made him brush his teeth, and at 6 I finally capitulated and let him go to bed.  At 6:05, I pulled him out of my bed yet again and sent him to his room.  There’s no way I wanted to move him and potentially wake him up for the night.

I woke him at 8:30 a.m., wanting him to wake early enough that he can fall asleep at night, and it was challenging.  But of course, by last night he claimed he couldn't fall asleep again.

So I'm off to his bedroom right now, at 8:07 a.m. to wake him again.

Parents of babies and younger kids think your sleep troubles are over?  

Think again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Boys' Work and Dead Chipmunks

I’m a hypocrite.
As a Biblical feminist who writes, speaks and teaches about women’s equal call to follow Jesus and build the Kingdom of God, I must confess my practical theology breaks down in certain arenas.
Like dead things.
All my life I’ve had a pathological fear of dead things, probably stemming from my pathological fear of death developed while very young.
Unfortunately for me, animals love to drown in our swimming pool.  Mice, birds, toads, and even a squirrel, have ended their lives in our waters.  Before thunderstorms, animals especially go suicidal.  Once, as the clouds gathered and the air grew thick, 2 chipmunks seemed determined to drown themselves. I saw them swimming in circles from my kitchen window and rushed out to rescue them, only to have them race back in the pool afterwards.
Yesterday, alas, I wasn’t around to rescue another hapless chipmunk found floating dead in the deep end.
Eew. . .
So much cuter when not drowned
At that moment, I decided removing dead animals was a man’s job and because there were still many hours before Scott came home, my son was going to have that duty.

“What???  Why is it a boy’s job?” said Ren, who, growing up with 2 older sisters, immediately saw the sexist nature of my orders.
“It just is.”
“Not fair!”
I shrugged.
In my defense, I had reasons for choosing him—I wanted to call him out, to ask him to stand up and be a man.  After all, he’s going to have a hard road ahead of him if he’s as squeamish as me about dead things.  Especially in boy culture that exalts in weapons and war.
Even more, I want him to step up for manly work—dirty work for strong muscles that serves the larger community.  Someday I hope he’ll be the sort of man who at minimum puts in air conditioners for widows, shovels the walk for the aged, and moves heavy furniture for friends.  I’m not saying my girls shouldn’t step up for those jobs, just like he’s also expected to learn how to cook.  But as God gives him a larger physique and stronger muscles than his sisters, I want him to develop and steward his strength for God’s glory.
Until then, he can scoop out dead chipmunks so everyone can swim.
So he corralled his friend James to help, and between the two, with pool net, a plastic bag and a lot of shouting, they fished out that chipmunk carcass, wrapped him up and threw him in the garbage can.
This morning as I drove to work, Ren called and said there was another dead chipmunk, this time in the pool skimmer—a bigger deal because the large net won’t fit in that small space.
“Are you getting rid of it?” I asked.
“James is in the shower, but when he’s done we’ll deal with it.”
Ah, male competence in a 12 year old—now that’s what I’m going for!
You might also enjoy some of my other thoughts on gender and/or work:

Annie, Shoot your Gun Already!

Toilet Paper Distribution, or how Equality and Justice aren’t the Same Thing

Boy Parts vs. Girl Parts–More on Gender and Justice

This was first posted on What She Said

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kids' Cooking Class

As someone who likes to start things (but not always finish them) each summer I create grand goals for family life (last year it was Family Rehab), only to see them wither within weeks, if not days.  Some failures include:

  • Bible Study every morning
  • Kids cleaning up every night
  • One beach towel/kid/week
  • An hour of reading/kid every day
  • Kids learning how to cook
This summer, I'm renewing my last goal.  I feel the need to pass on my best skill to my kids.  To live healthy adult lives in our fast food/everything processed world, they MUST learn to cook healthy food!  And frankly, I'd like to share cooking responsibilities.

At this point, I have one kid who loves to cook and bake, one kid who hates to cook, and one kid who's interested but has no skill.  Sunday night, I declared that each one needs to cook one day/week this summer--with the caveat that their food has to be healthy and something I (in my pre-diabetic state) and Scott (in his mid-life state) can eat.

Yesterday was the first day of the experiment.  Ren, after finding 11 recipes from some diabetic website and scheduling out his whole summer menu, wanted to make Rachel Ray's Baked Samosas.  (I'm pretty sure those didn't come from any diabetic website)  

He was so enthusiastic, we started around 3 p.m.  Good thing because it took the rest of the afternoon to teach him how to chop onions and potatoes, measure out spices, grate ginger, saute everything.  The eew moment came when we lifted the flour lid to find lots of little tiny bugs crawling madly away in our white flour.

I realized that my grand goals usually fail because I need to manage and train the kids throughout the process and I lose steam.  Those little bugs made me lose a lot of steam.

But the samosas came out great!  Ren was so enthusiastic that he invited our friends across the street for dinner, and although the samosas were about 1/4 of the final meal, they were the most popular part and sure took the longest to prepare. 

As I write, the kid who doesn't like to cook is making vichyssoise--cold leek and potato soup.  I've had to re-teach her how to chop an onion, how to clean and chop leeks, and the most efficient way to dice potatoes.  She's grumpy because I'm making her cook today rather than tomorrow so the soup has time to cool.  But if you choose to cook a cold soup, you've got to plan ahead so the soup is actually cold when you want to serve it.  Also, tomorrow's supposed to be 95 degrees and there's no way anyone's going to want to slave over a hot stove in the upcoming heat wave.  

Least of all me.

Rachel Ray's Oven-Baked Samosas with Mint-Cilantro Dipping Sauce


  • 1 large potato (about 1/2 a pound, use 2 if needed), peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeds and stem removed, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (about a half-inch piece), grated
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock, a little more or a little less to loosen filling
  • 2 tablespoons (about a palmful) fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 package (2 9-inch rounds) store-bought, raw pie dough
  • 1 egg, beaten with a splash of water
  • For the Mint-Cilantro Dipping Sauce:
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 one-inch piece of ginger
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, leaves removed from stems
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves removed from stems
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Yields: 4 servings of 4 samosas each


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and reserve in the same pot you cooked them in.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add EVOO. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes, then add jalapeño, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, curry powder, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, and salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the drained potatoes, tomato, peas, and cilantro and cook another minute. If the filling seems too thick, add a splash or two of vegetable stock. Remove from the heat and let cool.
On a lightly floured surface, unroll both doughs. Cut each dough round into 8 equal wedges, like a pizza so you have 16 long wedges.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of the potato filling onto the middle of each wedge. Brush the edges of the dough with egg wash and fold up, bringing the three points up to each other, then pinching at the seams to form a small pyramid. Brush the outside of each samosa with egg wash and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
While the samosas are in the oven, prepare the dipping sauce: Place garlic and ginger in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the mint, cilantro, jalapeño, sugar, salt and lime juice, and puree until ground. Add water and EVOO, pulse to combine.
Serve up the samosas with the dipping sauce alongside.