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The Heart of Life

The Heart of Life: October 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Great Rivalry

Today I was pushing some kids on the tire swing when one of the kids began to chant, "Cou-gars! Cou-gars! Cou-gars!"

The two other kids on the swing looked a little uncomfortable, then chanted in reply, "Utah Utes!  Utah Utes!  Utah Utes!"

The little BYU fan very cordially joined in on their Utah chanting, thinking they were going to take turns chanting for both teams.  When they were through, the BYU boy said, "Ok, now Cougars.  Cougars!  Cougars!  Cougars!"

The little Ute fans didn't join in.  Instead, they glanced at each other and loudly began chanting over the BYU chant, "Utah Utes!  Utah Utes!  Utah Utes!"

Once the chants had died down I chimed in, "But what about the Aggies?"

They all gave me a quizzical look and pretended not to hear me.

Such is the life of an Aggie.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekend Reading Binge

So I have this thing where I start books and never finish them.  And if I do finish them it takes me years.  It's not that I'm not into the book--I'm a quick judge of books and will jump ship within the first couple of pages if I'm not feeling it--it sometimes just takes me a while to digest books, particularly classic literature.  Les Miserables literally took me two years to finish.  In my defense, it was the unabridged version and Mr. Hugo has a thing for random tangents (which is why an abridged version exists, I learned). 

Anyway, earlier this month I finished Anna Karenina (which only took me less than a year to finish!) and thus gave myself the opportunity to start another book.  I could and would read several books at the same time, but then I would finish none of them, so I have to use a little self-discipline and limit myself to one at a time.  When considering what to read next, I was in the mood for something a little spooky, so I selected a Gothic classic I'd never read before:  Dracula!
P.S. How creepy is the cover of my version?  Looking at that face gave me a creepy feeling every time I opened it.

My goal was to finish it before Halloween, and I succeeded with four days to spare.  I will admit, however, that checking the following book out from the library hastened my reading a lot.
I finished Dracula today, so I got to start Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  That book had my name all over it.  It's slightly different than I expected, but I still got shamelessly sucked into it.

I should also mention that my self-discipline in avoiding reading multiple books at the same time has been stronger.  I'm also working on A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I read most of them back in high school, but never got to the last few books.  It's been so long that I can't even remember which book I left off on, so naturally I started on book the third.  Mostly because that was the most easily accessible via my library's online audiobooks.  However, my progress was slower than expected via audiobook, so once I got to book the fourth I went with an ebook on my ipod.  I finished book the fourth yesterday and began book the fifth today.  Yes, I started two books today.  But I also finished two books in the past two days, so I'm letting this one slide.
Favorite quote thus far from book the fifth:  "Cakesniffing orphans in the Orphan Shack!  Cakesniffing orphans in the Orphan Shack!"


Thursday, October 25, 2012


The other day I was thinking about Poland.  Especially a little city in eastern Poland called Wlodawa.  Running along the east side of this delightful little city is a river that serves as the border between Poland and Belarus.  Nothing terribly exciting happened to me along the banks of this river, but for some reason an experience I had there has always really stood out to me.

My friends and I had been wandering the streets of Wlodawa looking for an adventure when one of my friends recognized where we were and wanted to show us a place she had gone the day before.  She led us down a road to the edge of the city and along a path through a meadow.  Behind us stood the city, with two of its most recognizable buildings--the Russian Orthodox church to the left and the St. Ludwik Catholic church to the right--peeping out from the trees.
Once we reached the banks of the river, she pointed to the opposite bank and told us we were looking at Belarus. She then told us when she'd come to this place earlier, the guide had told them that should they attempt to cross the river into Belarus, they would be immediately shot down. A member of the group commented that he saw no watch towers. The guide retorted, "Yes, but you would hear the shots."
Upon hearing this I gazed across the narrow river to Belarus. Surely enough, I didn't see watch towers either. It appeared to be a quiet, unthreatening countryside. The only thing that looked out of place was a red post. Perhaps it was a camera keeping watch over the lazy river, or perhaps it was simply used to mark the border.

By all accounts everything appeared safe across the river in the Belarus farmlands. However, we did no more than dip our toes into the water from our Polish shore before making our way back through the meadow to town.
I've reflected back on that experience often. I've wondered if maybe the guide just didn't want to deal with a bunch of wet Americans galavanting through Belarus, so he exaggerated the consequences a bit. I've found the exact spot we stood with the satellite setting of Google Maps and explored (with my cursor) the parts of Belarus I saw but never touched. I saw nothing but uninhabited, beautiful land for a few miles.

And despite my doubts that a country would actually shoot at people crossing such a discreet border, if I were to go back I still would not have waded across. For although I did not see the watch towers, I certainly wouldn't want to hear the sound of guns being fired at me.

After all, there are other ways to get to Belarus.  A thirty minute drive northward along the border gets you to the nearest Poland/Belarus customs.  And here's a fun fact:  The Poland/Ukraine border is just south of Wlodawa, and a fifty minute drive southward from Wlodawa takes you to the Poland/Ukraine customs.

When I think about standing on the banks of the river with Belarus almost within reach, I also consider less tangible borders.  There are legal borders in the form of laws and spiritual borders in the form of commandments.  Sometimes with these borders, it looks completely innocent to metaphorically wade across the border.  There are no watch towers in sight and it's only this one time.  But if you know it's wrong to cross the border, why does it matter if there are watch towers?  Wrong is always wrong--it doesn't matter if someone is watching.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Roll-Ups

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I was immediately intrigued.  It's super easy, but I'd never made anything like this before.  Thus, I knew I must try.  I made it a second time last night with a few adaptations, and loved it even more.

Here's what you'll need:

Chicken (cooked and shredded)
Frank's RedHot Original Sauce (or Buffalo Sauce)
Brown Sugar
Egg Roll Wrappers
Bagged Cole Slaw Mix (dry!)
Cheese of Preference
Cooking Spray
Olive Oil (optional)
Glass of Water
Blue Cheese Dressing (or Ranch)

First of all, whenever I have a recipe that calls for shredded chicken, I prefer to cook the chicken in the crockpot.  It's just easier for me that way.  No babysitting it as it boils or fries.  I just put it in the crockpot and ignore it for 3-4 hours on high (depending on the amount of chicken).  It makes for super tender, perfectly cooked chicken that shreds like a dream.

As for how much chicken, cook up as much as you think you'll need.  For feeding the two of us I cooked up 4 chicken tenderloins, and we had enough leftover to probably feed one more person.

After your chicken is shredded, add the hot sauce and brown sugar to taste.  You want at least enough hot sauce to make the chicken moist (that chicken will slurp it right up), and then add some brown sugar to temper the spiciness a little.  Taste as you go and stop when you think it tastes good.  The original Frank's sauce is pretty spicy (although the spiciness thermometer on the bottle puts it only in the middle), so if you're feeding kids I'd probably go with Frank's buffalo sauce--according to the thermometer on the bottle, it's less spicy.

Oh yes, and you should probably preheat your oven.  Look at the baking instructions on your egg roll wrappers and preheat to that temperature.  Mine was 400 degrees, so yours are probably fairly similar.  Also note the baking time on your wrappers.  You'll need that for later.  Also spray down a cookie sheet with some cooking spray.

Here's the fun part.  Lay out an egg roll wrapper on a plate.  By the way, these can be found in the produce refrigerated section by the tofu. 
Arrange your chicken, cheese, and shredded cabbage like so on your egg roll wrapper:
As a side note, the original recipe calls for blue cheese crumbles, which sounds really good.  However, I've never tried it with the blue cheese and have instead used shredded pepper jack cheese.  Cheese as you wish.

Now fold your wrapper up like so:

Now dip your finger in the glass of water and run it along the edges of the remaining unfolded corner.  This tiny bit of water will seal your roll up when you do the next step.

Next, carefully roll the body of the roll toward the final corner.  You should be left with a beautiful egg roll.  Ok, maybe it won't be beautiful.  It took me a while to get the hang of it.  But beautiful or not, it will taste delicious.
Repeat until you have as many rolls as you desire and arrange them on your greased cookie sheet.  We eat somewhere between 3 or 4 rolls each, so you can use that to gauge how many to make. 

Now, this next step is important!  This is what will make your rolls crispy.  You can either spray the tops of your rolls with some cooking spray--this is the quick way.  Or you can brush the tops of the rolls with olive oil.  I'll admit I've only done the quick way, but I'd imagine using olive oil would probably be even better.  Choose what you will.

Now bake your rolls according to your wrapper package directions.  The original recipe said 13-15 minutes, but my wrappers said only 10-12 and it ended up that they needed only about 11 minutes.  Your rolls should come out slightly browned and crispy.

You could probably eat these plain, but it's really good to dip them in dressing.  The original recipe calls for blue cheese dressing, which is what I used.  I figured if I used blue cheese dressing with chunks of blue cheese in the dressing, it wouldn't really matter that I didn't put blue cheese in the rolls.  I think I was right, because they really are delicious.  Blue cheese and buffalo make a good pair.  However, I think dipping them in ranch dressing would be good as well.

I'm not sure if leftover rolls heat up well--my husband took the leftovers to work today for lunch, so I'll have to ask.  I don't think they'd stay very crispy, though.  I'd say the safest bet is to bake only as many rolls as you'll eat and save leftover ingredients to bake at a later time.


Friday, October 12, 2012

The Little Stuff

The other day I was welcoming kids into class when I saw {Little Miss Sweetie} come into the building.

As a side note, I think I can say her name, but after years of having client confidentiality pounded into my head, I can't stop now.  So I will still use nicknames.  They're usually a little easier to keep track of, anyway.  Plus, Chicken Nugget Boy, Probation Kid, and The Fake Crier are way more interesting than regular names.

Back to the story.  Little Miss Sweetie is probably one of my favorite four-year-olds.  She's a little introverted and shy, but oh so sweet.  That day she made her way to her hook, hung up her bag, and then suddenly froze, staring at a small object she was holding in her hand.  Within a matter of seconds she came completely unglued.  She hadn't seen me yet, so she ran sobbing to a nearby teacher.

I hurried over to investigate and heard her say with utmost anguish, "I.. (sob) forgot... (sob, gasp) to leave... (gasp, sob) it at... (shudder, sob, gasp) home!"  In her hand she held a marble.  Yes, a marble.  It's a rule at our school that kids aren't supposed to bring toys to school.  I've seen Little Miss Sweetie get a bit upset when other kids weren't following the rules, so I'm guessing it just broke her sweet little heart that she'd accidentally broken a rule.

The other teacher took her aside to help her calm down while I went back to my class to keep things under control.  A few minutes later the other teacher brought Little Miss Sweetie to me and told me, "Ok, Miss Lindsey, we figured out what to do.  I am going to get a baggie for {Little Miss Sweetie} to put her marble in."  She then spoke to Little Miss Sweetie, "We can even write a note on the baggie that says 'For Daddy.'  How does that sound?"  Little Miss Sweetie nodded, so the other teacher said, "Ok, well we will go get a baggie, and then Miss Lindsey can help you write a note."

They returned, so Little Miss Sweetie and I wrote a note on a sandwich bag, dropped the marble into the bag, and then safely tucked the marble baggie away into her bag.  Tragedy averted.
I saw this quote a while ago on Pinterest, and I think it's a good thing to keep in mind regardless of whether or not you have kids.  Because even if you don't have kids or don't work with kids, you see kids everywhere.  If you don't, maybe you don't go grocery shopping.  Anyway, Little Miss Sweetie isn't my child and accidentally bringing a marble to school isn't really a big deal, but it was a big deal to her.  By taking her seriously and treating it like a big deal, I'm showing her that there are adults out there who will listen to her concerns, big or small, and help her.


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Silent Sufferer

Here's a preschool story for you:

For whatever reason, kids have to "go potty" at the most inopportune times.  And for reasons that I really can't comprehend, they tend to wait until they HAVE to go to tell you.  There's no, "Miss Lindsey, I'll probably need to use the restroom within the next ten minutes, so please incorporate that into our schedule accordingly."  I only wish.  Somehow they are suddenly and unpredictably stricken with the need to pee and begin to dance and hold their nether regions and waiting isn't an option.  I could go on, but I think I'll refer you to this story from Grasping for Objectivity because it's a hilariously accurate depiction of this "sudden pee" syndrome children are afflicted with.  Her blog is immensely entertaining to begin with, but this story is probably my favorite.  Anyway, the funny thing about a class of 3-year-olds is that if one asks to go to the bathroom, at least five others hear the request and realize, "Hey, I have to go potty too!"  It's seriously contagious.

One 3-year-old girl who was in my class (she has since moved) was typical in the sudden pee realm, but instead of just telling me she had to go, she preferred to suffer in silence.  Well, relative silence.  I'm not sure how she began her silent suffering (because obviously I'd have sent her to the bathroom right away), but by the time I noticed, she was in tears and softly moaning while the other children were nervously murmuring, "She has to go potty...  She has to go potty..."

"Ok, run to the bathroom," I said calmly.  She said she needed help and began to wail.  I quickly led her out of class and to the bathroom.  Since she'd pulled a similar--though less dramatic--stunt before, I knew she was completely capable of taking care of business by herself, so I led her to a stall and respectfully stepped away from the stall to give her a little privacy.  Wrong move.  The whiny wailing turned into an agonizing shriek.  I looked back into the stall and saw that she was standing with her pants down in front of the toilet.  "I NEED HELP!" she screamed.  Not sure exactly what she was expecting me to do, I quickly picked her up and plopped her down on the toilet seat.

She was instantly quieted and calmly began to pee.  And that was it!  Problem solved.  Lucky for me, the world didn't end and she didn't have an accident.  I'm really not sure how I got out of that unscathed. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life Lately

The time has come to give a life update.

The last day of August we packed up all our stuff from our adorable first apartment and moved a few hours southward to the big city.  We had originally planned to move sometime in the first week of September, but the couple that was taking our place in the apartment needed to be out of their apartment the last day of the month, so we agreed to move up our move-out date.  We thought it would be do-able, but it ended up being pretty ridiculous, especially since we both finished up our last day of work the day before we moved.  Somehow we got it done and made it to the big city in one piece and with our marriage still intact.

For the most part we like our new apartment.  We used to live in the main floor of a house, and just our landlord (an elderly southern lady) lived below us in the basement, so we were a little spoiled with general quietness.  Our current apartment is in a pretty big complex and there are apartments above, below, and on two sides of us, so things are a little bit louder.  It's not too bad most of the time, but kind of awkward when we overhear other people yelling at each other.  Our apartment faces a little pond, which gives our windows a little more privacy (which is lucky--a lot of apartments you can see right in), and the pond happens to be the dwelling place of a bunch of ducks.  I'd have to guess there are at least twenty.  The ducks are kind of fun, but they never stop quacking.  Never!  I don't think they sleep.  Or maybe they take turns sleeping so someone can always be awake quacking.  I worried it would drive me crazy, but I've gotten used to it and hardly even notice it anymore.

While we lost a lot of the quaintness that made our old apartment so fun, our new apartment has some bonus features our old apartment lacked.  For one, a garbage disposal.  I don't use it very often because I've become so well trained to scrape every scrap of food into the garbage before putting it in the sink, but it's nice to have around anyway.  Secondly, we now have a dishwasher.  Greatest invention ever!  Our dishwasher was a little nastastic when we moved in--there was a delightful curry-esque film around the drain.  Gross.  There was no way I was putting my dishes in there.  Not that I have very nice dishes, but I happen to eat off my dishes and didn't want the curry monster to lick them.  Thanks to Pinterest, some vinegar, and baking soda, the dishwasher looks clean now.  Anyway, another bonus feature is that we have quite a bit more storage space, which makes things look far less cluttered than in our old apartment.

My husband didn't start his new job until Sept. 10th, so those first nine days of our new apartment were like a really bizarre, disorganized extended vacation.  Once he started his job it started to feel a lot more like home, but we're still getting used to it.  When we watch the news, they'll be talking about breaking news in our city, but it still doesn't occur to us that it's happening in our city.

My husband has an unusual work schedule called a 9-80. So in the space of two weeks he works 9 nine-hour days instead of the normal 10 eight-hour days. Thus, he gets every other Friday off, and the Fridays he does work he gets off an hour early (9x9=81, so that's why that extra hour gets cut off). Three-day weekends have become commonplace around here, which is awesome. Another weird thing about his schedule is that he works 6 am to 3:30 pm. It's super early for him to get up, but it's also nice having him home so early.

In other news, I got a job teaching preschool last week. After we moved I looked for social work jobs and found none that I felt excited to apply for, so I was beginning to get a little discouraged. But then I saw this job on a job board and it was smooth sailing from there. School started about a month ago, but one of the teachers had some family obligations come up and had to quit, so I was super lucky that this job even opened up.

A few years ago I ran into my preschool teacher and told her I was studying social work. She told me she'd graduated in social work, so now I weirdly feel like I've come full circle. I once was a preschooler taught by a social worker, and now I'm a social worker teaching preschool. Life is complete!

Anyway, this new job is crazy but so far it's fun. I co-teach one class of 22 three-year-olds and two classes of 23ish four-year-olds. It's definitely been trial by fire, seeing as school has been going on for a month without me, but I'm ok with figuring things out as I go. The other teachers have been super nice and patient with me.  I've been on the job for only a week, and I already have funny stories to tell.  However, I'm going to save them for a later post.