Wednesday, March 26, 2014

For Morgan Kids

I'm sharing a link to an important blog post addressing public education concerns in Morgan County and throughout the state of Utah:
Funding Education is More Pressing Than Opposing Utah Core Standards 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Uncrackable iPad Codes

The two youngest occupants of our household are obsessed with MineCraft. On most evenings, I walk through the door from work to be greeted by one of the girls requesting my iPhone while the other one is on the couch deeply concentrating on MineCraft with the iPad. 

I realize that MineCraft is a relatively harmless game and they most certainly could be getting into trouble doing something else. But they should be using that time tackling homework, reading a good book, playing outside, practicing the piano, and so on. 

Ryan and I devised a brilliant plan to hinder their MineCraft time...we would simply change the passcode on the iPhone and iPad. The 4-digit passcode was our house number. (Genius, I know.) We decided to come up with a new 4-digit passcode that would not only confound the girls but also, and more importantly, we could remember. 

"Hey, I know...let's just use the same four digits, but only backwards," I said to Ryan late one night after the girls had gone to bed.

"Do you think they'll figure it out?" he questioned.

"Never!" I said with grand confidence as I changed the codes.


The next day I returned home from work to be greeted by my smirking 8 year-old.

" thought you could change the code on the iPad?" she asked accusingly.

"What are you talking about?" I replied innocently.

"You changed the code, Mom, so we couldn't get on the iPad," Jenna continued. "But I figured it's the house number, but backwards."

Oh, the look of satisfaction on her face was priceless. I should have snapped a photo of her right then and there. She was triumphant!

I should mention that the 12 year-old also tried to crack the code, and gave up after a few attempts. But the 8 year-old was determined...she was not going to be out-smarted by her mom and dad. I found out later that it took her less than 30 minutes to figure it out.

I've always known Jenna is a tenacious child. I just didn't realize I was such a naive parent. Lesson learned.

We are now in search of a new 4-digit code that the adults in the house can remember and the minors won't figure out. Your recommendations for "uncrackable codes" that are easy to remember are most welcome.

My neighbor suggested I do what she does...and use the 4-digit produce code of a favorite fruit. (I should mention my neighbor is super healthy and memorizes produce codes for fun so she can outsmart the checkers at the grocery store. I'm not that clever.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: The Racketeer

I read my first John Grisham novel, The Firm, during college. Immediately I was hooked and devoured everything he wrote for several years thereafter. My favorite Grisham story remains A Time To Kill...both the book and the movie (and thank you for introducing us to Texas-hottie Matthew McConaughey in that film...whoa!). 

But as time marched on, I realized that Grisham's legal-thriller novels followed the same recipe. An aspiring/young/disbarred lawyer has found himself/herself involved in crime/case/trial that encased concealment of government-related corruptness. Typically in a southern setting, the story lines often include racism and/or environmental-hazard issues related to big business.

Another complaint I have with Grisham's books is with the endings. He can write intense plot lines but the final chapters can be underwhelming and weak.

All that being said, I truly enjoyed reading The Racketeer. The story is about a jailhouse lawyer, Mal Bannister, who is half-way through a 10-year sentence for racketeering...charges for which he professes his innocence. A federal judge and his girlfriend have been murdered while Mal is on the inside, and there are no solid leads in the case. That is, until Mal offers credible information on the crime in exchange for his freedom. 

Mal's deposition about the murder is convincing, and he's set free from prison while the feds get their guy...or so they think. The ensuing story follows Mal and his conning "sticking it to the feds" plan as revenge in losing five years of his life (and his wife and son) for false racketeering charges.

This book is pure entertainment. Nothing about it will provoke deep thought or launch a career in public policy...although it may make you more leery of anyone involved in the government. And let's face it, you don't need to read fiction to be suspicious of politicians and their appointees.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Quote of the Day

"Simplifying is not necessarily getting rid of everything we've worked so hard for. It's deciding what's important to us, and gracefully letting go of things that aren't." -Elaine St. James

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: The Night Circus

I was sucked into The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern rather quickly.  It’s an intriguing tale about a magical circus that is closed during the day, and opens at nightfall. The author gives exquisite detail of the enchanted black-and-white circus set in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The eccentric supporting cast of characters is guided by the mysterious powers of Le Cirque de Reves (The Circus of Dreams).

The two main characters, Marco and Celia, are illusionists who have been groomed since childhood for a contest of sorts, with the circus as the venue for their competition. They are supposed to be at odds with each other, but as fate would have it they fall in love…a sort of Romeo and Juliet forbidden romance.

The plot has all of the makings for an incredible novel. However, I found myself thinking the story was good but not great...and rather disjointed at times. Many of the characters are underdeveloped, with little purpose other than being a distraction. The competition between the two main characters was weak, and the love story was disappointingly flat.

I kept waiting for the big moment…the final showdown to learn if one of them would choose victory and glory over love. But alas, what should have been a grand finale of spectacular fireworks across the sky was actually a disappointing display of fizzling driveway bottle rockets. 

I was left wanting more.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Walking The Halls of Homework Shame

So there I was, standing in the hallway watching my third grader with her back to me chatting with her friends before school started. My daughter knew I was there, but she was trying to pretend I was anywhere but standing a few feet behind her.

I nicknamed Jenna “the negotiator” from the time she was three years old. She never takes your first offer, and she’s always trying to work a better deal. She had somewhat succeeded in this instance, but she didn’t get exactly what she had hoped. If Jenna had her way, I would have dropped her off at the school’s front door…or even let her get on the bus as usual (or, as “usualer” as she likes to say).

My visit to school was the result of Jenna forgetting to turn in her homework…AGAIN. This had been a topic of discussion both at home and during a recent parent-teacher conference. We always do homework and make sure it’s securely placed in her backpack. But somehow, my 8 year-old failed to turn in her homework about once a week. I was painfully aware that her third grade class had 33 students (see previous posts about the voted local levy), and I certainly didn’t expect her teacher to follow-up with her every single day about turning in homework. A third grader should remember the arrive-at-school morning routine includes returning homework to its proper place.

On previous forgotten homework infractions, Ryan and I removed TV and video game privileges. When those tactics no longer became effective, we devised Plan B. We informed Jenna that I would be walking her to class and watch her turn in her homework. She pleaded for a reduced sentence, so we agreed that rather than me walking into the classroom with her that I would stand in the hallway a few feet away. I emailed her teacher and let her know our plan.

The next morning I pulled into the parking lot next to the busses.

Jenna said, “Mom…NO! You can’t walk in with me where all of the kids are getting off the bus. Please go to the parking lot next to the office at the front of the school.”

So, I went to the front parking lot. We got out of the car, and walked to the door.

“Mom, this is good…I won’t forget…promise,” stated Jenna.

“Nope, I’m going in,” I responded. The negotiations had ended.

Jenna fell behind me about 10 feet, staring at the floor as she walked.

I found this somewhat amusing…it the first time Jenna didn’t want to be seen with her mother. I’m sure if I had cupcakes or something, she’d be right there with me. But not that morning…there wasn’t anything to celebrate.

As I walked into the third grade hallway, Jenna ran past me to a group of friends in front of her classroom. As promised, I stood a few feet away from her. But it didn’t matter…her friends recognized me.  Jenna turned around once, shooing me away with her hands…pleading with her eyes. I slowly shook my head “No,” with which she responded with an eye roll and turned her back to me again.

Her teacher acknowledged me with a smile and a nod as she walked towards the students standing outside the door to tell them they could go inside the classroom. At the same time, a different teacher asked what I was doing. When I explained what was going on, she smiled and responded, “She’ll never forget her homework again.”

Then I drew closer to Jenna’s classroom door. I watched her take out her homework folder, and walk over to the homework box…which was conveniently located near the door. She refused to look over at me as she turned it in…still too embarrassed that Mom was there. I smiled, then turned and walked down the hall.

Mission accomplished.

It’s been two weeks since that fateful day, and she has remembered to turn in her homework every school day since.  Let’s hope we never have to walk the halls of homework shame again

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: Inferno

As the days become shorter and cooler, I return to reading for stress relief and relaxation. I'd much rather read than watch TV.

I started reading Inferno by Dan Brown on our way to Washington DC about three weeks ago. As we visited the monuments and sites, I kept thinking of another Dan Brown book The Lost Symbol which was set in DC.

Inferno takes place mostly in Italy...first in Florence and then in Venice. If I could pick just one country in Europe to visit, it would be Italy. Reading this book intensified my desire to tour Italia.

Inferno is the fourth thriller-mystery I've read by Dan addition to aforementioned The Lost Symbol, I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons (my favorite). Whenever I read Dan Brown, I remember years ago when I was sitting in Relief Society and a sister mentioned "minds were being corrupted" with a best-selling novel titled The Da Vinci Code...the very book sitting on my nightstand at the time. If that's true, I'm a lost cause.

The story in Inferno followed a familiar Brown pattern...someone dies, and certainly more people are going down (perhaps all civilization as we know it) if Robert Langdon (aka Tom Hanks) can't piece together a chain of clues found in art, architecture, literature and historical relics. It's entertainment and heart-pounding tension all rolled into one. Brown got me again with a plot twist I didn't see coming...a turn of events so bizarre this time around I wasn't sure if I was buying what Brown was selling.

All the same, it was a good read with a historical-Italian backdrop. In typical Brown fashion, there are ancient religious symbols and themes throughout the book...some of them interesting and others disturbing. In Inferno, the concepts of population control and genetic engineering were troubling and thought-provoking at the same time.

While not my favorite Brown novel, Inferno is a good read on many accounts.