Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Losing Quarterback Anderson Dares to Laugh During Game

***Disclaimer: This post was researched for all of two minutes on the internet by my research assistant (i.e., me) who only cares about professional football if Brad Johnson is playing (and he's not anymore); therefore, the opinions expressed in this post are unenlightened, for all intents and purposes unresearched, and may be offensive to anyone who actually cares about profesional football.***

In case you haven't heard (which I find hard to believe, since it is such really really big news, on the order of health care reform and nuclear attacks), Arizona Cardinals quarterback, Derek Anderson, actually laughed while talking with a teammate on the sidelines last night during Monday Night Football while his team was getting beaten by the San Francisco 49ers and is being excoriated by sportscasters and other professional sporting types.

The absolute unmitigated nerve of that guy to actually set an example for your kids (mine have never heard of Monday Night Football) and show them that playing sports is fun even when your team is losing.

Seriously, who does that guy think he is? A guy who plays a game for living?


(The sad part is that instead of consulting me prior to the post-game press conference, where he could have been counseled along the above lines, he blew his cool and stormed off. I'm hoping all those impressionable young children were in bed by then and only saw him laughing.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving -- Do You Know Where the Cheez Whiz is?

Today is Thanksgiving, so I have to run get my last minute items from the grocery store -- silver polish and brown sugar. It took me all day Monday and Tuesday to make a long shopping list for everything I would need for today. I intended to go to the store only once. When I got to the store yesterday afternoon, I exited my vehicle with my detailed shopping list in hand, but by the time I was standing in front of the cucumbers I had lost it. I nearly broke down right there in the store. I retraced my steps all the way back out to the car and couldn't find the list, but I only had one hour to get the shopping done, so I tried to remember everything on the list. I walked up and down each aisle scanning both sides of the aisle to make sure I didn't miss anything. I must have looked deranged because at least two Publix employees asked me if they could help me find something. Both times, I sobbed out, "I lost my LIST, can you help me find my LIST?? It took me two days to make it!! I can't find it!!" They both mumbled apologies and left me alone.

When I got home, I pulled out my menu for today and cross-referenced the ingredients to the items I purchased and realized I had done pretty well. The only things I forgot from the original list were Cheez Whiz and silver polish. As the day progressed yesterday, the menu changed slightly – Flamingo Joe wants sweet potatoes, so I had to find a recipe for that and then had to find time to get back to the store.

Dez went with us to dinner last night and she had to pick up something for her family’s Thanksgiving meal (only lettuce -- she’s such a bad cook, they don’t even trust her to make the entire salad), so after we ate, we stopped by Target to pick up what we needed. I told Dez I needed Cheez Whiz and she insisted it was in the cracker aisle. As I am from the South, I have eaten plenty of things with Cheez Whiz in them, but I haven’t actually cooked with it myself for several years, so I had no clue where to find it in Target. But Dez was apparently a Cheez Whiz connoisseur and could lead me right to it. I was, quite frankly, a little taken aback by her confidence. She told me to follow her, so I did – right up to the bottles of squirt cheese.

“Dez,” I said, “this isn’t Cheez Whiz.”

“Yes it is” she said.

“No. It isn’t” I said. “Cheez Whiz comes in a jar. That’s squirt cheese. You can't cook with squirt cheese. I'm pretty sure it's not even food.”

“Well then, I don’t know where the Cheez Whiz is.”

Just in case you need to know where the Cheez Whiz is for your cooking today, it’s in the cheese case where the cream cheese and shredded cheese is. I think that proves that it’s a legitimate food item – a whole different class of food than squirt cheese.

Squirt cheese, honestly. You can’t make mac n’ cheese with squirt cheese!

I was so upset by this insult to Cheez Whiz that I forgot to get silver polish and brown sugar.

So I'll see you at Wal-Mart in a few minutes!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flamingo Day at Disney

Last weekend we met one of my best friends, Durema, and almost her entire extended family at Disney. Durema and I actually met at camp when we were young and then happened to end up at the same small college in North Carolina many years later. I was sitting in my first day of Finite Math (the math class English majors took because there were no actual numbers involved) and the professor, who was calling the role, called out "Durema R--!" A voice from two or three chairs back called out "Here!" I whipped my head around to see if it could possibly be the same Durema I knew from camp (how many Duremas do you know?) and there she was. Durema will probably not appreciate receiving even this much attention in my blog, so I definitely won't get into our college days.

But we don't need to digress that far back to provide any background for our day at Disney. Suffice it to say that it was great to spend that much time with my friend. Flamingo Joe, on the other hand, was not as thrilled to be at Disney -- I had promised him we would go to Hollywood Studios this time since we've been to Disney with Casey several times. He's got a bum knee and if he's going to be walking around all day, he would at least like it to be in a new place so the pain will be worth it. But he was a good sport when I changed my mind at the very last second to join Durema and her family at the happiest place on earth. He only took out his frustration by taking blurry and unflattering pictures of me.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

(Though that's not so much unflattering as it is doofy.)

Mace, as usual, adopted another family as soon as we stepped off the monorail. The good news is that the new family was at least people we knew this time.

This was Mace's first trip to Disney, so it was fun to watch him experience it fresh. He drove the race cars with Daddy:

(Grandma has the same trouble with visibility when she's driving, too.)

He climbed the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse so Joe could get some ideas about what to do with all the bamboo he's growing.

And he went shooting:

After we pushed the boys aside (who really couldn't hit the broad side of a barn), I outshot Flamingo Joe by several points -- ok, no one was keeping score, but I'm sure if they were, I totally won. Winning a marksmanship award during basic training 28 years ago doesn't guarantee that you can beat your wife in a shoot-off at Disney.

On Sunday morning we went shopping in Downtown Disney. It was miserable for Joe, who had to combine two things he hates: shopping with children in toy stores and pointlessly walking around.

So he amused himself by annoying Casey:

Mace found the Handy Manny chainsaw, "Rip," in one of the toy stores and latched onto it like a dog with a bone. I kept trying to get him to go look at other toys, but I could only pull him away for about 30 seconds to go see the build-your-own lightsaber display. When he pulled me back to the chainsaw, he took the box off the shelf, flipped it over and pretended to read it.

After a few seconds he looked up at me and said, "It not a hunnert dollars."

I said, "No, but it is twenty dollars" in my most disapproving, we-aren't-getting-this-toy voice.

Unfazed, he smiled, batted his eyelashes and said, "We can buy it 'den!!"

So you can guess what happened (please don't tell Dave Ramsey):

Rip is, of course, a talking chainsaw and talked to us all the way home from Disney and has asked us to "cut some wood" with him all week. He also has a pronounced southern accent. Every time I hear him say something, I think one of my high school boyfriends has come to visit. It's making me a little jumpy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Mile Long Post About A Milepost

I'm not sure whether you've noticed, but I tend to tell stories like my mother does -- first, I have to give you the "back story" (with accompanying parenthetical digressions such as this one), then I have to bring you up to the point of the current story by providing you with all the marginally relevant asides that will help you truly appreciate the context of the current story once I finally get around to telling it to you because I would hate for you to miss every single nuance. And then I finally get around to telling you the actual current story.

I'm not sure what that style of writing is actually called -- "stream of consciousness" comes to mind -- but when I was an English major back in the day, I always interpreted "stream of consciousness" as "too lazy to edit out the irrelevant boring drivel" and surely that's not me.


Perhaps I should close the comments for this post.

I do know that Flamingo Joe cannot tolerate my style of story telling when I'm verbally telling him, for example, how it came to be that one of my blog posts (Hypnosis and Babies, Part II) was linked from the Enjoy Birth blog over the weekend and created an avalanche of hits on my blog the likes of which this poor blog has never seen. He would zone out as soon as I got to the part about how I was trying to filter the types of ads that appeared on the blog and noticed that something was amiss in the numbers -- because he would realize that if I had to start that far back in the story, there would be no getting to the point for 15 more minutes and that exceeds his attention span for my stories by about 13 minutes. But for the most part, he does appear to tolerate my story telling style when it appears in print and he can peruse it at his leisure. If I had discovered this earlier in our marriage, I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and written up my lengthier narratives in notebooks and left them by the toilet.

But, as usual, I digress.

Over a year ago we decided it was high time Casey learned how to ride his bike, or barring that, stopped screaming like a girl every time we forced him to sit on the bike (yes, the training wheels were still attached). The training wheels obviously weren't helping Casey feel more confident on the bike, so Flamingo Joe went in search of another teaching method. He found an online pamphlet that detailed a foolproof method for teaching your child to ride a bike. The instructions assured us that we would not need to run alongside Casey while trying to keep him upright, shouting encouragement and instruction, only to let go and watch in dismay and horror as he teetered over and slammed his sweet little face into the pavement. The pamphlet described an ingenius plan where the child essentially taught himself from beginning to end of the process -- all the parent had to do was 1) remove the training wheels; 2) lower the bike seat all the way down; 3) remove the pedals; and 4) encourage the child to push himself around until he could glide several feet by pushing himself into motion and then raising his feet.

It was a beautiful plan.

We removed the training wheels and the pedals, lowered the seat, and encouraged Casey to push himself around and try to glide. Casey sat on the bike, pushed himself about three inches at a time for a grand total of 4 minutes and then went inside to play Lego Star Wars on the Playstation.

And . . . a year passed.

A week or so ago Casey was willing to try the bike again at his father's insistence. Flamingo Joe has acclimated Mace to the kiddie tandem bike, so if Casey will learn to ride, we could all ride together. Casey tried gliding around for a while and really was doing a little better than his attempts a year ago. But he stopped after about 10 minutes because he said the seat was giving him a "wedgie." I sat on the bike and quickly realized that the seat that came standard on the bike was not meant for anyone weighing over 100 pounds. Ouch. So we went to Wal-Mart and bought another bike seat (and just in case you're wondering . . . while there is no Dave Ramsey envelope for "bike accessories," there is an envelope for "children" -- but don't actually tell the children they are a line item in our budget or they will insist on having a say in how the money is spent and I will spend more time than I already do answering the question, "When are we ever going to get to go to McDonald's again?").

So on Sunday, Casey was suddenly dying to go to the bike trail with Flamingo Joe, who was getting ready to take Mace out for a long ride on the tandem bike. Casey was not going to make it very far just by pushing and gliding and I knew he would not be able to keep up. So I told Casey that if he would let me finish the quilt block I was working on (no, really, that's what I was doing -- aren't you glad I don't blog about quilting? (yet)), I would go with him to the trail and we could meet up with Joe and Mace when they were on their way back.

At the trail, I had Casey glide down some small hills so he could really balance on the bike. He caught on to that very quickly and pretty soon I was wishing we had put the pedals back on the bike before we came to the trail. Once Casey was balancing himself on the bike and gliding 25 feet or so at a time, he knew he was ready to be really riding. When we met up with Joe and Mace, he started pestering Joe to put the pedals back on his bike, but it was already late in the afternoon and it would be dark after dinner. So we had to wait one more day (during which, Casey told his friends at school that he was going to learn to ride his bike after school -- that's confidence).

Monday afternoon I took Casey and his bike, complete with pedals, back to the trail, where he rode down a hill, put his feet on the pedals and off he went. He was riding his bike. He did not fall down once. I did not run alongside him with my hand on the back of the seat. He rode and rode and rode until it was time to get to swim team practice. Over and over again, he kept saying, "This is fun! This is so much fun!"

When we arrived at the Y for swimming, he hopped out of the car and started looking at himself in the car's side mirror.

I asked him why he was looking at himself and he said, "I just wanted to see what I looked like."

I said, "You mean because you're all proud and self-confident?"

He said, "No, I've never been this happy before and I just wanted to see what I looked like!"

I've forgotten how fun it was the day I learned how to ride my bike -- I don't remember that day at all. I can't remember how old I was. I can't remember who was with me when I learned. I distinctly remember flying over my handlebars and chipping a tooth on the pavement on my way to the Schaibles house one day, but I'm pretty sure I'd been riding my bike for a good while by then.

I feel it necessary to point out that because of my long-winded story telling, my son will remember the day he learned to ride his bike.

And so will Flamingo Joe.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Swap

Casey and I ran out of books to read this week. Every night before bed, Casey and I read nice fat books like Mysterious Benedict Society or Harry Potter . I try to pick books that have long story lines and characters that become the reader's friend by the end -- mainly because if I'm having to read, too, I need something more riveting than Hank the Cowdog. That's a selfish approach to nighttime reading, I know, but I think it explains why my second grader reads on a sixth grade level and throws around words like "improbable". And don't start feeling like poor little Mace is being forced to suffer through 300 page novels just yet -- we'll wait until he's four to start The Odyssey.

Anyway, Casey and I have also read the Series of Unfortunate Events series (all 13 or 14 books), which I despised -- I really think that if an entire series of books for young readers is based on the mystery surrounding parents who were allegedly killed in a fire and a rumor that at least one of the parents actually survived the fire, then the kids should find at least that one parent by the end of the series. I don't need Pollyanna, but the end of that series was, well, unfortunate. It's extremely difficult to find books that are appropriate for Casey's reading level, but not inappropriate for his age.

But I digress.

We ran out of interesting nighttime books to read this week and I promised Casey that today we would buy more books. Well, the Dave Ramsey envelope system does not have an envelope for books, which meant that I was going to have to get a little creative if I was going to buy books today. And yes, the library is always a good option for people who do not have such large outstanding fines that their privileges are currently suspended.

At first, I thought we might check the new big Goodwill store down the road from us. And then I remembered that I could probably trade in some of our old books for credit toward new ones at a used bookstore. I located one not too far from us and commenced gathering up all the books I was willing to relinquish, which is not as straightforward as it sounds. I've spent the last 25 years of my life hoarding books. One year (when I was still single and carefree), I decided to write down the title of each book I read that year because I knew I read a lot, I just wanted to know how much. I stopped writing titles down when I reached 100 books for the year by June. I have a book problem the size of which only a Kindle could solve. Because of my aging brain, I have even bought a book or two in the last year that I had already read, but didn't realize it until I got two or three pages into the story. In fact, book hoarding is one of the things Flamingo Joe loves least about me. When I told him I was heading to the book swap, he asked if I wanted him to bring up the 10 (or 20) Rubbermaid bins full of my books from downstairs. "Heavens no! Those are ones I want to keep!" I said. I only intended to tackle the upstairs bookshelves and closet where the books were double-stacked to maximize storage space.

After I'd gone through the stacks and shelves, my "swap" pile looked like this:

That's nine very full bags of books, separated by genre. This only skims a layer off the surface of the book collection in our house -- I didn't want to take more than that because I was going to have to rely on child labor (Casey) to help me get them into the store unless I could convince Dez to come with us (which I did).

When we got to the book swap, I went in first and asked if there were any particular books the store was not currently accepting. I didn't want to haul 9 bags of books into the store, only to have to haul 8 away in shame. The clerk started listing criteria, but several items on her list concerned the age of the books and whether they had or had not come out in paperback. I had separated my books by genre, thinking that the book swap might not want 150 Christian romance fiction paperbacks (my mom kept passing them down to me and I never passed them on to anyone else -- most of them were so bad I didn't want anyone else to know I had actually read them). I had not considered that the age of the book might matter. The clerk told me to just bring all the books in and she would go through them and give me store credit for the ones she wanted to keep and I could take the rest back. She encouraged us to look around while she went through the books.

Casey and I went to the juvenile fiction room and started browsing. It was difficult, but we found a few things. We were there for at least half an hour trying to find appropriate books for him. I don't really want my second grader reading about sixth and seventh graders experiencing their first kiss. You would be surprised just how many books there are in the juvenile fiction room where first kisses are indeed the pivotal plot element.

Eventually, the clerk told us that we had a store credit of $21. We could use the store credit to apply towards the purchase of books (up to 50% of the price, the other half we had to pay for). So we bought four or five books and only spent about $10.

You may be thinking that $21 is not a lot of money for all the books in those bags and you'd be right. The clerk only kept about 1/4 of the books we took in, so I took the walk of shame back to the car with six bags. I had to decide what I was going to do with the rejected books. I knew I couldn't go home with them or Flamingo Joe would make me sleep under the house in a Rubbermaid bin with them. So I stopped at Goodwill and dropped them off before heading home.

When I got home, I picked up the only book I had bought for myself at the book swap.

Turns out I had already read it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Post Stinks

On Monday, while Casey and I were at swim team practice, Grandma was at the house alone with Mace when an alarm started going off. A really loud alarm. The alarm was sounding from her side of the house, so at first she assumed her alarm clock had taken steroids and was alarming for no good reason. She went into her bedroom, pushed the button on the alarm clock that would normally stop the infernal beeping, but to no avail. Still convinced that the clock had to be the source of the gazillion decibel honking, she unplugged the clock. Nada.

While she was in her room, covering her ears with her hands, she decided that the alarm was coming from outside, but definitely on her side of the house. She tried calling me, but I'd left my cell phone in the car. She tried calling Joe, but he didn't answer either. So she decided to head outside and find the alarm. When she got outside and walked around the house she saw a silver box with a red flashing light stuck to the side of the house. She had no idea what the alarm was for and was immediately panicked by the thought that the HVAC units were about to blow up -- obviously there was imminent danger to life and property at hand and the alarm must be warning her to remove children and pets from the home before the whole place blew. It is a really really loud alarm. The box has a hand print on it, inside of which is written: "Push here once to stop Alarm. Push twice to test alarm." But Grandma did not want to "push here" because she was afraid she might get electrocuted (which is proof that Grandma has lived with us long enough to know that danger lurks everywhere at Casa Flamingo -- to date, she has severely injured her shoulder after slipping on non-stick cooking spray that Casey sprayed on the floor by the front door, broken her hip by tripping in her garage, and knocked herself unconscious on a boat trailer hitch -- you can't blame her if she's a little skittish about touching flashing alarm boxes).

So she went back inside and found our contractor, Jamie's, phone number, assuming that since he remodeled our entire house, he would know what the alarm was. He happened to be passing close by on his way home and because he is also a great friend of ours, stopped by our house to help Grandma. He found the alarm box, touched the hand print to stop the alarm, assured Grandma she was not going to be electrocuted and/or blown up, and left.

When I got home shortly after Jamie left, the red light was still blinking on the box, but otherwise, everything was quiet. I called the company that installed our septic system and drain field and was informed that in all likelihood our pump had stopped working. He said he could send someone out that night, but I didn't want to pay the premium price for middle of the night service, so I asked the guy on the phone if he thought we'd be okay until morning. He said so long as we didn't flush, take showers, or wash clothes or dishes, we'd be fine.

I don't know about you, but as soon as someone tells me I'm not allowed to flush, or limits my access to the bathroom in any way, I need to go immediately. And for as long as my access to the toilet is limited, I will need to go every time I think about how my access is limited. This explains why a two hour car trip can turn into a three and a half hour car trip with me along and also why I have to sit in the aisle seat on the airplane. So I went, but didn't flush, probably 10 times between the time we had to stop using water last night until the guys came and fixed our problem early this morning. Grandma and the boys apparently had the same problem. By the time the truck appeared yesterday morning, all the toilets in the house were a little, um, over ripe.

>Mace had a great time watching the septic technicians (seriously, I think that's what they're called and you should know that I am mightily resisting the temptation to launch into a lengthy list of potential occupational titles for people who suck poop out of tanks for a living). As soon as the truck drove up, he stood by the porch rail watching the whole process --

-- from the digging to the sucking to the work stoppage that occurred when the head septic technician came to tell me that it was going to cost $1000 to empty the tank (turns out you should pump out your septic every 3 to 4 years, not every 5 to 6 years), replace the pump and install a new power outlet. The technician grew tired of me standing in front of him with my mouth open and a blank stare on my face, so he left to get some parts he was missing and empty his truck (our tanks were really really full), but did make sure he installed the new pump first so that we could use the water again.

It is painful to spend $1000 on septic system maintenance and repairs because all you have to show for it are toilets that you can flush. And while flushing toilets are a wonderful thing indeed, I still feel a little bit robbed until I consider that if I had to get splattered all day every day with other people's poo, I would charge a heck of a lot too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Random Fodder

I've been saving up some blog fodder for you that, on its own, is not really enough for a full blog post. So tonight I have decided to just stop holding the fodder back and unleash it all in one post.

Hold on to your Twinkies, people, here we go.

First -- on Friday last week, Mace was supposed to go dressed as a farmer to preschool and this was the best we could do:

I couldn't talk the boy into wearing blue jeans and that's a jungle hat from Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. It was a pathetic showing for agricultural attire. His teachers apparently agreed with me -- when I picked him up, one of them had taken the brim of his jungle hat and flipped it up so that his hat looked more like a cowboy hat.

Grandma and I have also been experimenting with some Thanksgiving recipes. Grandma tried out this mashed potato pie:

It was good, but she forgot to put in a certain spice and I think it would have been better with the spice included. Or gravy. Anything is better with gravy. So this dish may or may not make an appearance on our table at Thanksgiving, but if it does, it will most certainly be with gravy.

I also made pumpkin cream cheese pastry thingamabobs. Grandma brought home pumpkin turnovers a few weeks ago and after we polished the four of those off in half a day, I thought I might try to make some myself. So I bought the ingredients and didn't get around to making them until last week. Lately I only show you my cooking failures, but today we have an exception:

These turned out fine. Grandma and I ate them. The end.

In other news, my 7 year old decided to make a random list in the car last week, not at all related to anything I happened to be doing in the car; really, I have no idea where he gets his material, no idea at all.

It's really dangerous for 7 year old passengers to write in the car, so there's a new rule in our family: no 7 year olds are allowed to write in the car. It would be tragic if we went over a bump and the pencil flew out of his hand and poked him in the eye. Better to be safe than sorry.

And now, allow me to introduce you to Origami Yoda:

(Please ignore the chemical process represented by the green and black spots on that nearly-new bathroom fixture -- the Flamingo water is evil and eats metal) Casey bought Origami Yoda, the book, at the school book fair last week. He thought it was hilarious -- when he wasn't making random lists in the car, he was reading his new book and falling over laughing. On Tuesday of this week, he asked me to help him make an origami Yoda (the instructions are in the back of the book) and I said I would have to do it later, I was too busy, couldn't he see I was texting and driving? So after the kids had gone to bed and I was watching the election returns come in, I decided to try making the origami Yoda. It took me a couple of attempts to get Yoda's ears to stick out to the side like that, but once I got it, I was on a roll and made several. Then I hid them around the house so Casey would find them the next morning. I put one on his alarm clock, the stairs, his toothbrush, in the flower arrangement, on the TV remote, in his lunchbox, and in his school communication folder. And although there were three sitting in plain view on his way downstairs from his room to the couch on Wednesday morning, he didn't see any of them until he put his hand on the remote and crushed the Jedi master. But that's okay, because I can now make an origami Yoda in 15 seconds flat, so I can just make another.

Last but not least, YaYa and PopPop came for a visit today and brought a new toy with them for the boys:

The kids played with it all afternoon and then argued over who was going to sleep with the engine and cars. The next time you see me, you can tell me how impressed you are with my Mega Blocks rendering of London Bridge.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Believe That Children Are Our Future

I believe it's important that our children are raised with a heightened sense of their civic duties. If we want to preserve freedom, and I most definitely do, we must not take it for granted. So whenever it's election time, no matter how small the election, I talk about it a little bit with Casey and make sure he understands that we think it is very important to vote in America, every chance we get. If you struggle with how to teach your children about democracy, perhaps I can help you -- serve as a model for civic-minded parents everywhere, if you will.

Children, I believe, are more inclined to join the ranks of the Socialists ("Hey!! That's not FAIR!! He has more candy than me!! Make him share!!") and not the Capitalists (sometimes it doesn't matter how much money you offer them, they aren't going to clean up the dog vomit), so the virtues of democracy must be taught from an early age. As you know, I am a stellar parent and I really want nothing more than to help you along this parenting journey. So I offer you this sample dialogue that actually occurred between Casey and myself about a week ago after I voted early -- you should feel free to adopt this dialogue to assist you in opening up the conversation with your own children.

Me: Casey, I voted today.

Casey: Are you going to win?

Me: Huh?

Casey: Did you vote for yourself? Are you going to win?

Me: Uh . . . no. I'm not running for anything.

Casey: Oh. Well, I want to be President!!

Me: No you don't. That's the absolute worst job in the whole world.

Casey: No it's not. Being King of Spain would be the worst job in the whole world.

Me: Why would being King of Spain be the worst job in the whole world?

Casey: Because you wouldn't know the language.

So you see, with carefully guided dialogue, your children can learn so much about our democratic society. Just watch for teachable moments.