My Convertible Life

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

We took Junius to preschool for the first time when he was 11 months old. It was just a morning program for the summer -- I think it was four days a week while I worked part-time at the office.

He's always been an early riser, but especially so in those days -- he was regularly up and ready to play by 5:30 a.m., which meant that he sometimes needed a power nap by mid-morning. So on that very first day, he fell asleep just before we were ready to get in the car and go to the preschool. That's him, sacked out on his Daddy, while we took pictures and marveled at the notion of taking our baby boy to school for the first time. It seemed crazy then -- he was so little -- but he loved it.

Tonight, four years later, he graduated from preschool. I realize that sounds hokey -- graduation should be for people who have studied hard, passed exams, written thesis papers, conquered the challenges of academia. But holy moley, when I think about how much Junius has learned, changed, grown in the past four years -- well, I'd say he's earned his moment in a cap and gown. And by "gown," I mean one of Daddy's dress shirts on backwards (see photo of him processing in).

During the ceremony, our preschool director called the graduates up by name to present them with a children's Bible (it is a Baptist preschool, after all) -- and she read out what the children wanted to be when they grew up and how much money they thought they'd make in that profession. Not surprisingly, there were lots of mermaids, fire fighters, ballerinas, police officers and veterinarians. Incomes ranged from "No money, but I'll get by with some help from my friends" to "infinity dollars," although $20 was a popular salary.

Junius? He wants to be a hockey player -- he thinks he'll make $21,000, which (according to him) is how much he has in his piggy bank at home.

And me? Surprisingly, no tears yet -- I think I was laughing too hard at the sight of my son hopping around in his father's shirt and a mortar board, his little arm covered in Toy Story silly bandz, believing that his Winnie-the-Pooh bank contains thousands of dollars. In a way, I guess he's right -- he's got a rich life and a future packed with a wealth of opportunity. I can't wait to see how it all turns out -- but I really hope it doesn't go by as fast as the past four years.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Recipe: Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Given that I'm clearly not going to get rich writing this blog, I mostly do it because it's something I enjoy -- a way to clear my head, chronicle parts of my life and hopefully entertain some friends (and a few strangers) along the way. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't absolutely adore getting comments on my blog -- I realize that may sound a little pitiful and needy, but I know I'm not alone.

So today's recipe is dedicated to one of my favorite new readers/commenters -- he not only made one of the recipes I posted, he also CAME BACK to the post and left a review. And it cracks me up a little to explain that (bear with me now) he's my cousin's wife's cousin's husband. So we're, like, totally not really related.

Anyway, here's a new twist on an old favorite that my husband and I used to make when we were newlyweds. I stole this recipe from The New York Times, but have added notes below about how I actually prepared it. Great for lunch or dinner in the summertime, and keeps well in the fridge for at least a few days. Rob -- let us know if your family likes it!

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, or a combination of parsley and other herbs, such as chives, tarragon, marjoram, basil, or mint (I used dried tarragon, basil and crazy salt, all of which happened to be in my spice drawer)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped (I didn't have one, so I skipped it -- but would probably taste good)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (I used a bunch of grape tomatoes, halved)
  • 4 scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced (optional -- I didn't have any, so I skipped it)
  • 6 kalamata olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise (I used about 2/3 of a can of medium black olives, halved)
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled (I probably used a generous ounce -- love love love the feta)
To make the dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I never have lemons in the fridge, so I used the bottled stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar (I used red)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or put through a press
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed or coarsely ground (Not sure what the difference would be, but I just used the powdered cumin spice I had in the house)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  1. Toss together the salad ingredients. 
  2. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, cumin seeds, salt, pepper, olive oil and yogurt. 
  3. Toss dressing with the chickpeas, etc.
  4. I added chopped cucumber.
Notes: The salad can be assembled several hours before you wish to serve it. Keep in the refrigerator. Serves four as a main dish, six as a side.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday's Five: TiVo'ed Television

As I was flipping through the Life section of the paper to read the funnies yesterday (I make a point to read them every day in order to balance out all the bad news in the paper), I noticed the prime-time ratings list for the previous week. Turns out, I don't watch any of the shows in the official Top 10 list, which includes two versions of "American Idol," two versions of "NCIS," "Dancing with the Stars," "The Mentalist," "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory," "Survivor: Heroes and Villains Finale," and "CSI." Who knew I was so far out of the mainstream?

So here's the Convertible Girl's TV Top 5, according to which shows are at the top of my TiVo season pass list -- compare it to what you're watching and let me know where I'm missing out:

  1. Modern Family: Between the ukulele clip, parenting mishaps with gay dads Cameron and Mitchell, and the funny stuff that Phil doesn't realize he's saying ("WTF? Why the face?"), this show about three branches of a family is the best on TV.
  2. 30 Rock: Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey are perfect together. With a great cast and so many repeatable lines, this show is fantastically clever.
  3. Community: The pilot for this series about a quirky group of community college students didn't win me over, but I tuned in again later in the year and now I'm hooked. The episode where Jeff refuses to play pool in shorts for his P.E. class (but winds up naked) was the one that brought me back.
  4. The Office: This season is fading for me, but it does crack me up that Kathy Bates is on the show now. The show was so good for so long, I'm still hanging in there.
  5. Psych: Technically, I sort of watch "The Mentalist" because I watch "Psych," but it still doesn't count (and if you don't watch "Psych," which you should, then you didn't get that joke.) Between the 80s references and the witty banter between Gus and Shawn, this psychic detective show is high quality fun.
Image credit from Psych

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Comments to the Wake County Board of Education

I spoke at our school board meeting again yesterday. I spent two hours writing, re-writing and editing my speech, 30 minutes waiting in line for a ticket to the meeting, two hours at the meeting -- all so that I could speak for two minutes to nine people whose minds would not be changed by anything I said. But at least I said it -- and now you can read it:

Fifteen years ago, I took my first teaching job at West Charlotte High School. This historically black high school was once a successful national model for integration, one that brought together students who otherwise might never have crossed paths. West Charlotte’s students succeeded not because of diversity, but diversity was an important part of what made the school work.

Since Charlotte’s community-based choice plan was put in place in 2002, West Charlotte has become mostly black and mostly poor. The school has struggled academically, enduring painful turn-over among teachers and administrators.

Meanwhile, parents across that district are abandoning the public schools. Even though the Charlotte plan promises “community assignment” and “parent choice,” many families have few good choices available. When denied through the magnet lottery or denied transportation to a magnet school, they are left with an under-performing, under-enrolled base school – hardly the choice that any parent wants for their children.

Geographically-defined school communities – like those you propose – will create high-wealth schools and high-poverty schools. The changes you made to this year’s magnet lottery have already started that process, as more affluent families are leaving lower-income schools. Research shows definitively that high-poverty schools are extremely expensive to run and nearly impossible to maintain at a healthy level of academic success. Like Charlotte, your path will create a system with some good choices and lots of bad choices – and bad school choices are not viable options for any child.

This is indeed a community issue. But my community is Wake County, not just my neighborhood. We must move beyond geography to define our school communities as great places for teaching and learning so that every school is a good choice for any family.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eye of the Tiger

If you're not watching Modern Family on Wednesday nights on ABC, you are seriously missing out. It has fantastic characters -- including the dad from Married with Children and Carol Vessey from Ed (who also played a skanky role in one season of Weeds) -- but more importantly, it is Hilarious. Yes, with a capital "H."

Anyway, the final punchline in last week's episode had me teary-eyed and cracking up at the same time -- and given my love of quirky cover songs used during closing scenes in TV shows, I just had share.

Here's a little something to enjoy on your Monday:

Who knew there was an acoustic ukulele version of "Eye of the Tiger"? (To really get the joke, you'll have to watch the whole episode, but the song is genius either way.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday's Five: Donate for Super Dylan

The Great Strides Walk is tomorrow -- we'll be joining with the Super Dylan Team to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

A very BIG thank you to those who have already donated to our team -- we appreciate your help! For those of you who are still interested in a making a gift, here's a pitch to help motivate you to sign up now. (I suddenly feel like I'm hosting the pledge drive on NPR. Ick.)

Here are five reasons why you should make a gift to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Super Dylan Team:
  1. Super Dylan rocks: I mean, just look at him there, groovin' with Junius. The kid is smart, spunky and full of energy. If his smile doesn't motivate you to find a cure, I don't know what will.
  2. CFF uses your money well: Your gift will be used efficiently and effectively, as nearly 90 cents of every dollar of revenue raised is available for investment in vital CF programs to support research, care and education.
  3. Charitable giving is good for everyone: Your donation helps CFF do their good work and it helps your accountant tap into those tax deductions. That's called a win-win.
  4. Research means help now: CFF has built a pipeline for the development of more CF therapies that are coming to market now to help target problems in the airways and the digestive system. They haven't found a cure yet, but they're improving the lives of CF patients every day.
  5. Find a cure: The ultimate goal is that CF will stand for "Cure Found." This disease isn't something that happens to "other people." It happens to our people, and it's our responsibility to help.
Okay, pledge drive over. I can't offer you a coffee mug or promise to enter you into a drawing for a trip to London or Paris -- but I can send you my thanks and prayers that your gift will make a difference for Dylan. Click here to make a gift.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's in a Shoe

My daughter loves these shoes. LOVES them. They were a gift from my mother-in-law at Christmas -- Nonna picked them out specifically because she thought the ankle straps would make them easier to wear. It might be a little hard to see, but in addition to the high heels and ankle straps, the shoes also have satin ruffles with rhinestones down the front.
I've resisted the urge to write this post because I didn't want to offend Nonna. Pippi LOVES the shoes -- and I would have, too, when I was her age. And to be honest, I'm probably just jealous that Pip can walk, run (yes, run) and climb stairs in them way better than I can in heels that actually fit me.

But every time I look at these shoes, all I can think is Do they come in a gift set with a pole and some nipple tassels? I mean, seriously, they look like stripper shoes.

I'm not even going to try to write about all the frighteningly sexy stuff marketed for toddlers -- that's well-traveled territory among mommy-bloggers. But I admit that my first reaction to the shoes had me all worked up about how inappropriate it is for a two-year-old to look like an exotic dancer -- a reaction that wasn't helped by Pippi's penchant for wearing the shoes and her diaper and nothing else.

Once I talked myself off the ledge, I remembered that Pippi doesn't have that context for the shoes -- all she sees is sparkly, pretty, pink fun. She gets to enjoy the shoes without worrying about what anyone else thinks, without any baggage or hidden meaning at all.

So Nonna, thanks for giving my baby girl some shoes to match her sassy personality. And thanks for reminding me that sometimes girls just want to have fun.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Super Dylan's Mom

Three years ago this summer, I spent a couple of days with Junius at Duke Children's Hospital. Fortunately for both of us, Junius wasn't sick -- we were there visiting our buddy, Super Dylan.

If you'd seen Junius and Super D during those visits, you wouldn't have guessed that either one of them was sick. They looked like any other pair of almost two-year-olds as they took turns pulling each other through the lobby in a wagon and chased each other around the fountain and the hospital playground -- this picture shows them playing on the floor in D's hospital room. But the truth is that Super D's powerful, feisty exterior hides the cystic fibrosis that threatens his life and keeps his lungs and digestive system from working properly.

At the time, we didn't even know Dylan and his family very well -- we were neighbors who were just becoming friends. But I'll never forget those visits and what I learned from watching Dylan's mom. During that 2-week stay at Duke three years ago, she never left the hospital. Two weeks. Never left, not even when friends or family were there with Dylan. Although I don't know what I would do if I were in her shoes, I do know that that much time in a hospital would make me crazy.

Yet she never complained (at least not out loud), never looked flustered, never seemed to resent being stuck. She just advocated for her son, loved him, helped him in every way that she could -- just as she does every day of the year.

So on this Mother's Day, I invite you to make a gift to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and our Super Dylan team. We're walking on Saturday to raise money to help Dylan -- but I'm sure that finding a cure would be the best Mother's Day gift for his mom and thousands of other moms around the world.

P.S. Dylan's mom is probably going to be annoyed with me for writing this post. She doesn't like attention and doesn't seem to think that she's anything extraordinary (which she is). So please make a gift, however small, so that she'll be a little less irritated with me. To learn more about CF and the Foundation, visit

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday Strategery: When You Need to Put Down Your Baby

Before I had my own kids, I jumped at any chance to hold a baby. Particularly if said baby was new and fresh, I could hold that baby for hours on end and love every minute. Then I gave birth to a beautiful boy who wanted to be held ALL THE TIME and would only sleep when he was in my arms and I got very, very, very tired.

Now that my little ones are too big to sit and snuggle for very long, I'm back to sneaking up on friends' babies to hold them whenever I can. But I haven't forgotten how hard it is to have a baby who doesn't want to be put down. And that's where this Saturday's strategery comes in.

If you've got one of those babies who loves to spend hours in the swing or dozes off all alone in the crib, then just stop reading -- and remember to never ever ever brag about the fact that your baby does that (karma is a bitch). But if your baby gives you the stink eye and bursts into tears every time you attempt to place the little angel somewhere other than your own body, read on for a trick.

I learned this technique from another much wiser mom (thanks, L!) and have shared it with others who say it was the saving grace for a child who really wants to believe he's big enough to play like the older kids but can only just hold up his own head.

  • Step 1:  Make sure your baby is actually strong enough to hold up his/her own head. This is key -- otherwise, you'll need to wait (and in the meantime, call a neighbor with baby lust and make her hold the baby for awhile).
  • Step 2: Get out your exersaucer, even though your baby isn't really old enough yet.
  • Step 3: Wrap your baby in a big, fluffy beach towel(s).
  • Step 4: Insert wrapped baby into the exersaucer so that the towel(s) hold him/her upright in the exersaucer.
  • Step 5: Hold your breath, cross your fingers and say a little prayer.
With any luck, your baby will be so delighted by imagining that he/she is standing up all alone like a big kid that he/she will not notice the absence of your arms wrapped around him/her. Now go do something quickly that requires two free hands -- you never know how long your luck will hold out.

For more Saturday Strategery, check out what to do when your toddler poops in the bath.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Love It When a Movie Comes Together

I'm a sucker for a good ol' fashioned summer action flick. But when I saw this preview at the movies recently, I was beyond excited.

A-team Official Trailer

I'm not exactly sure why I loved this show so much as a kid, although I know part of it was the huge crush I had on "Face" (along with MacGuyver, Lee Stetson and Bo Duke). And I do love it when a plan comes together.

Anyone want to join me on June 11?