Sunday, April 26, 2009

Writing my novel


I've decided to write my novel.

I've picked a topic. I've introduced myself to the main characters. They, in turn, are beginning to share the details of their story with me. We're having trouble figuring out their names, but other than that and the fact that the hero's identity has shifted four times already, we're on pretty good terms.

Now, I know you, skimming this post, are suddenly filled with hundreds of burning questions. Like:

1. Where will you hang your Pulitzer prize? After all, it would be tacky to hang it in the front room, but technically, the office is Tim's.

Answer: Pulitzer prizes are for adult literature. My book will target children and/or young adults, because those are the books I like to read. So no Pulitzer in my future. Maybe I'll get a Newberry medal, though. Can you hang those in the living room?

2. Did you just say you like to read childrens' literature? You admit that in public? I would never admit that. When I read Harry Potter 7, I covered the outside with the cover for The Brothers Karamazov so the weirdos on the bus would think I was reading real literature. And although I stayed up until 4 am finishing it, I only gave it 3 stars on Goodreads so my friends wouldn't think I actually liked it.

Answer: Wow. Sorry you didn't like Harry Potter. I would have recommended it for your next international flight. Was that a question?

3. Won't the act of writing a novel get in the way of your day job? And how is this going to affect your quest for Tenure?

Answer: I can write evenings. And shhh. Don't tell the tenure committee.

4. But when your book becomes a wild success, won't they find out? Have you considered using a pen name?

Answer: Well, the thought has admittedly crossed my mind, but then I realize that I don't even know the names of my main characters. Therefore, perhaps I'll cross that bridge with my agent. Someday. When I have an agent. After I have a draft.

5. Huh. Do you have a title?

Answer: Um. No.

6. So no title, no draft, and you're already writing speeches for book signings?

Answer: I like to be prepared.

7. Huh. Well, tell me when you're finished. Meanwhile, I think I'll go back to reading The Brothers Karamazov.

Answer: ....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recent events

1. Jonathan lost his first tooth today.

2. I am currently coveting a fern green curio cabinet. I found this cabinet hiding in a furniture store last Saturday, while we were buying a more practical bookcase. It's very classy looking, but painted bright green. It's a personality piece. It would match my living room, with the bright green painting over the fireplace and the bright modern rug on the floor. Actually, I haven't found the rug yet. But when I do, it will be a bright modern rug on the floor. Anyway, after several minutes of watching me drool, the saleslady offered to put the cabinet on hold for me over the weekend. But the weekend is well over, and I didn't buy it. It's too impractical. And we're in a recession. And I don't have a wall for it to stand against in my living room. But I loved it.

3. Graduation day. A very good day for wearing striped socks. Especially since I have to walk as a faculty member. I found these online at Sock Dreams, which I've never heard of, but I do like these socks. They're cheaper than the curio cabinet. But I can wait until my birthday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Little lady around the corner

Today I called a tile guy asking for references, and he mentioned that he had done work for a lady who lives around the corner from me.

I didn't know the lady, but she was in the neighborhood directory, so I called and asked her how she liked her tile. She invited me over to see it for myself, so I stopped at her address on the way home from work. Turns out she lives in the house with the stunning garden. A little 80 year old lady named Norma.

I had a few minutes, so we sat on the patio and chatted. We chatted about tile and gardening and England and my work. I mentioned how my students often didn't appreciate mathematics, and she commented that she really struggled through her required statistics course when earning her doctorate.


Did this 80 year old lady just say she had a doctorate? Inside, my eyebrows rise about 3 inches. Outside, I try to pretend I meet 80 year old ladies with doctorates all the time, especially here in the ultra-conservative town of P-o-o. I casually ask her what her field was and where she earned her degrees.

We should pause here to give Artax a hearty scolding. A year and a half ago, I wrote in a post that I get annoyed when people ask me what my husband is studying. We are a young family near a large university (though a different university this year than last). People assume Tim is a graduate student, and I am following him around the world. It is very easy and completely understandable to assume that all women are the same person, in the same situation in life, and to file them into the young-family-grad-student-husband box, and not bother to look deeper. (This is true even of the young-family-grad-student-husband crowd, actually, which is a box full of completely different individuals.) I never have been one of those women, though, who fits in one of those boxes. And although I try not to, I sometimes get annoyed when people assume that I am and that I do.

Suddenly, sitting on Norma's patio chairs, breathing the smell of cherry blossoms and hyacinths, I find that I am one of those annoying people. I was about to put this 80 year old woman into the local widow box, assuming she had the same story as the other single 80 year olds I have met in this town. And she does not.

Norma entered the state university to the north at age 16, just as the second world war was ending. She was featured in the newspaper the year she graduated, as one of two university graduates who were too young to vote (at age 20). She worked in nearby towns for several years, then headed to Columbia University to earn a master's degree in educational psychology. Although she intended to get a PhD at Stanford, she was offered complete funding by our local university to complete a PhD here, and she couldn't resist.

She never left P-o-o, moving straight from PhD to faculty position.

We didn't chat much about personal life and family, except that her parents had lived nearby and because of the local job she was able to nurse them through their ailing years.

I wanted to ask more. Did she have a husband or children? If so, how did she manage childcare in the 50's? Did any women manage childcare in P-o-o in the 50's? How was the climate towards women at the local university all those years? Did she have female colleagues? And was she going to the faculty women's conference tomorrow morning?

But I didn't ask any of those questions. Maybe I will wander by again when I walk home Thursday. After all, I now find that I need to appropriately size my Norma-box.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The photos on my camera

Here are some of the pictures we've been taking lately. And by lately, I mean since mid-February when I last bothered to look to see what was on there.

1. Jonathan in his homemade shackles. He linked bits of wire to his wrists and ankles, and then connected them all in the middle. Because this is the sort of thing that is fun. He only tripped himself a few times before they were removed.

2. I don't remember the setting here, but we have several pictures of this iron-ninja-wizard-jedi from March 14. I thought this one was the scariest.

3. Moving on to more family memories, here's a shot from the Easter egg hunt we held with Jonathan's grandparents the Friday before Easter. I post this particular picture for two reasons. Number one, it helps me remember why we remodeled our basement. This is a shot of the laundry room, which we didn't redo. We decided to leave the yellow paint on wood paneling on brown tile for memory's sake. Pretty much the rest of the basement -- at least the finished parts -- looked like this last June. It's much better now. Number two, I like the plaid shirt and turquoise striped socks on that man, who may or may not be related to me depending on who is asking.

4. A classic shot of Grandma and Jonathan. This, by the way, was taken in the remodeled part of the basement. You cannot see much, but contrasting with the previous picture, you understand.

5. Real Easter (i.e. Sunday), up at the other Grandma's house. And I suppose it's Grandpa's house, too. These two have moved to the edge of suburbia, right there where it butts against rural living. They are the last house in the subdivision, and their next door neighbor is a horse. This picture, with its attending glare, was taken from inside the house looking out the window.

6. This one was taken just outside their house.

7. Although we did hunt for Easter eggs on Sunday as well, I have no pictures of that. Instead, we have gardening Jonathan.

8. Ah, and back to our house. You have probably been wondering where all the remodel posts have gone. There were so many back in the early days of the Clown and Poker. Did we finish? you ask. Is the silence due to the fact that the house is now perfect? No, we just gave up. At least for a long time. Well, the day after classes ended, I headed to a tile store, picked up some samples, and finally designed a backsplash after eight months of bare wallboard in the kitchen. This is the design I settled upon, done in paper cutout tiles. Diamond tiles behind the sink, meeting smaller square tiles around the rest of the kitchen. Nice, eh? (I realize you can't really see much from this photo, but the proper thing to say is yes, very nice. I love it.)

9. And some more diamonds over the stove for continuity. We're going with all white tiles to brighten things up a bit, and because the cream-colored ones made my backsplash look dirty against the white sink and appliances. Also, we decided on a plain white backsplash because our hickory cabinets are beautiful, and they yell at you when you enter the kitchen, saying "look at me I'm gorgeous!" I don't want the backsplash yelling as well. That would be too much noise.

10. Oh here's a fun photo. This is what we awoke to on April 16. Six inches of snow. Jonathan packed up in snow gear and went sledding again.

11. Two days later, we were all out gardening in our back yard and I took this photo. This is typical spring weather here, apparently. At least the tulips didn't seem to mind the six inches of snow. One fun thing about our first spring in a new house is we get to discover where all the plants live. We have tons of daffodils along the grass border in the back yard. This fall, I'm digging up some of those bulbs and moving them to the front, where we just have boring evergreen bushes. I'm going to guess here that the previous owners rarely went out front, but spent most of the summer in the back.

Ok. That's the end. In four more months maybe I'll post some more pictures.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Final exam season

I've been dealing with final exams for many years now. Many meaning 15. In those 15 years, I've either been taking or giving final exams, two or three times per year. For a couple of painful quarters in grad school I actually was taking and giving final exams in the same week. Not fun.

Everyone who has been through some college can share painful experiences with taking finals. Fewer people can share the painful experience of giving a final. For those of you who have not yet experienced giving a final, I thought I would explain some of the pain.

1. Creating a good final takes a huge amount of time. I spend a lot more time writing a final than I used to spend studying for a final. I spent several hours a day for two weeks designing just the first draft of the final for my 800+ person class. I spent pretty much a whole week and some change designing the final for my graduate class. And this designing was all happening while I was still teaching and grading and holding office hours during the middle of the semester. Contrast that to my student experience. As a student, I usually didn't start studying for finals until after classes were completely over (wish I could wait that long as the instructor), and then I only got a day or so to prepare before the exam. And it was almost always enough, if I had kept up on the homework. Not so for writing the final.

2. I spend a *lot* more time grading the exam than students spend taking the exam. For example, this Monday I'll spend the entire day grading one single problem on that 800+ person class. And it is b.o.r.i.n.g. Boring! Soooo Tedious! The worst problems to grade are the ones where the student has no clue, but they fill the entire space with pseudo-relevant trivia, so I have to look over it carefully several times in all different orders to see if there is anything there that could possibly deserve even a single point. That, my friends, is one reason why so many people are against the idea of giving partial credit.

3. Proctoring the exam is also mind-numbingly boring. While the students get that thrill of adrenaline, and can write the answers and leave when they feel like it, I have to arrive early and stay late. I spend those three hours patrolling the aisles, watching eyeballs to ensure they don't stray, checking for loose papers, and answering the same questions repeatedly. While the students can get up and leave anytime, I have to hang around until the bitter end, waiting for those two students who are done, but just hoping against hope that the final-exam-fairy will appear and magically give them the last few answers. In 15 years, the final-exam-fairy has yet to appear in any of my finals. But still they wait.

4. And yet, I know dear reader that you have no sympathy for me and the eternal boredom that faces me while proctoring, or the misery of grading on Monday. All your sympathies lie with my poor students. And honestly, I think I agree with you. In spite of all the time it takes to create, grade, and proctor those miserable finals, at this time of year I am SO THANKFUL! that I am giving the finals and not taking them. Thank goodness I have finished taking finals forever!

Happy finals week to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A high school phone call

Soul-Fusion recently posted an email from her brother, in which he describes asking a girl out over the phone, and she "pretends" she doesn't know him. He laughed at the experience in the post, but he never tried to ask her out again -- or even spoke to her again. This caused me some guilt, as it reminded me of a similar story from my own experience, but from the other side of the phone line.

When I was in high school, I was pretty much completely absent from the social scene. I was painfully shy, awkward, and terrified of boys -- at least in one-on-one settings. Some of you knew me in high school. I hope you don't remember the shyness, because I tried hard to hide it, but nevertheless it was there. I went on exactly two dates in my high school career. The first was to a dance with the friend of my cousin, because the cousin took pity on me. The second was with a friend of a friend, because he was a really nice guy and I wanted to go to senior prom. Anyway, these nice high school boys are totally irrelevant to the story -- I just got a little sidetracked trying to set the mood. For the story, you are supposed to think of me, the high school social outcast.

One evening in high school, I got a call from a boy. I had been asleep, and was a little groggy, so he talked for a while, trying to get me to guess who it might be on the phone. I had no idea. After several minutes of asking me to guess, he announced himself.

"It's Brady!" he said.

Silence. Who was Brady? I didn't know any Bradys. There were no Bradys in my classes. There were no Bradys in my after school activities (such as ballet -- no Bradys in ballet).

"Brady who?"

Poor Brady. He hung up much less enthusiastic than he began. I really didn't know him. Really. I didn't. I asked some friends about him the next day. Maybe they knew him? Not really.

I think, and I thought then, that he had the wrong Artax. There were several Artax's at my high school, which shouldn't be a surprise in a school of about 2100, seeing how Artax is such a popular name. Several of the other Artaxes were cute and talkative and social creatures, and it is highly likely that they would have done crazy things like actually have spoken to boys. Me, not so likely. Pretty much my whole high school career, my only boy phone call was that one from Brady. And the wrong Artax.

Brady, if you are out there, I hope you called the real Artax soon after. I hope you sorted the phone call out with her the next day, and then laughed at yourself and at me. I sincerely hope that you didn't hide away in a shell, embarrassed, devastated, convinced that the Artax of your dreams, with whom you had shared so much already, had forgotten you. Rejected you. Acted as though she didn't even know you. I hope you didn't decide that your sweet Artax must not love you after all, because this Artax, the wrong Artax, turned you down that evening many years ago. You two were meant to be, and I did not mean to come between you.

Brady, where ever you are, I hope you have found love.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shopping for swimsuits

Summer is coming (maybe), which is a good thing in all respects except one. That is, I need a new swimsuit. This means I have to go shopping for a new swimsuit. And I need to go shopping soon.

I have the perfect swimsuit in mind. It's a two piece suit. The top piece is a tank top, with full belly coverage, and the bottom is a pair of swim shorts. I've actually been seeing swimsuits like this all over this year, which is very good news! Imagine, cute swimsuits that I would actually wear, and can actually purchase! At least in theory....

Over the weekend, I was looking through catalogs at swimsuits and found one at Penneys that I liked a lot. Tim, who had the misfortune of sitting next to me on the couch, got to hear about it.

"Look at this swimsuit, Tim, doesn't it look great? I think I'm going to get something like it."

Tim looked at the fully covered model, in tank top and swim shorts, and frowned.

"I can find a better looking swimsuit," he said, and started flipping through the catalog looking for string bikinis.

"No," I argued, "those are not better looking swimsuits."

Such swimsuits, I pointed out, only look good on the 18 year old models wearing them in the catalog, and even those have been airbrushed to look better. On real people, string bikinis look like bulging bellies and cottage cheese bums.

"Trust me, Tim. Cottage cheese bums do not look better than bums and bellies covered in swim shorts. You do not want to see those skimpy suits on real people because the cottage cheese bums are scary!"

From across the room, Grandma piped up, "Who are you calling cottage cheese bum?"


Bum Smoothy, or Jessica's (er, Artax's) fail safe way to eliminate cottage cheese bum.

Day 1. Find a piece of springy carpet in your basement. Perform 15 slow squats. Without a rest, follow with 24 lunges forward, each lunge from straight standing to a position with one thigh parallel to the floor, the other vertical from the floor, alternating legs. Without a rest, follow with 24 lunges backward, sending one leg out behind far enough to touch the floor with both hands. Stand up and repeat on the other leg, 24 times.

After the 15 squats, 24 front lunges, and 24 back lunges, repeat -- without a rest. And then repeat again. And then you can rest, sprawled on the floor moaning at the ceiling. That's a total of 45 slow squats, 72 front lunges, and 72 back lunges. Your legs will be really wobbly, and you will have to scream for assistance in mounting the basement stairs. Oh, I forgot to say that you'll need a partner -- someone to drag your limp, twitching body up the stairs and off to the hospital after completing the squats and lunges the first day.

Day 2. After a rough night, in which trying to roll over sent your legs into spasms of pain, you awake to find you can no longer walk. Your legs are too sore. You roll out of bed, ease your way gingerly onto the toilet, and shuffle your way to work. Rest day.

Day 3. You still can't walk or bend over, but it's time to do the 45 squats, 72 front lunges, and 72 back lunges again. This time they go much more slowly and stiffly. You are too sore to collapse onto the floor when finished. You break the stair rail off as you climb back out of the basement.

Day 4. Awake and ask yourself, will I ever walk again?

Day 5. Probably not. Time to do 45 squats, 72 front lunges, 72 back lunges again.

Day 6. Sitting on the toilet still hurts, although it isn't polite to use the word toilet in the USA. You may want to install one of those old lady toilet rails in the bathroom before Day 1, actually, because you will look and act like an old lady for a while.

Day 7. Soreness is very slowly starting to wear away. However, by now you should be ravenously hungry. Plan on having seconds or thirds of everything. And multiple snacks between meals. Your body is on overdrive trying to build muscles you never ever had before, and it takes some serious calories. You try to limit the extra eating to healthy fats and proteins, but sometimes sneak in a chocolate cake or two, here and there.

Day 8. 45 squats, 72 front lunges, 72 back lunges.

Day 9. First good night's sleep in nine days. Not quite yet actually walking again. Where's that chocolate cake?

Day 10. 45 squats, 72 front lunges, 72 back lunges.


Keep it up, every other day for ten weeks. At the end of ten weeks, if you make it that far, you will no longer have cottage cheese bum. I guarantee it. Complete satisfaction or double your money back. Also, although you will be in agony for a week or so, you should be able to walk again after a couple of weeks on the program, though the hunger won't go away for at least three weeks, if ever. Oh, and if you sleep in and slack off for a week, then you'll start all over sore the next time, and the soreness will last pretty much exactly one week. Yes, I am speaking from experience here. On the other hand, the soreness is supposed to be a good thing. It means the exercises are really nailing that soggy bum of yours.

Anyway, that's my recipe for smooth bum, or bum smoothy. I've tried it, and it works every time. No, it definitely isn't worth the pain -- why do you think I'm buying swim shorts this year? But anyhow I thought I'd share in case any of my readers are masochists or can't find swim shorts in their local stores. (Suckers!)

So that's my recipe. What's yours? Anybody out there know how to make chocolate cake?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Apricots and apples

There are blossoms on our apricot tree.

The calendar says it has been spring for about three weeks, and I believe the apricot tree began blooming pretty much exactly three weeks ago. Jonathan and I noticed the blossoms one morning in March as we watched the snow fall out his window. The blossoms obviously weren't there because we had reached some warmth threshhold. I suspect the apricot tree got antsy. It could tell by the position of the sun that we had passed the spring equinox, and therefore it was high time to start popping out flowers.

"Forget this snow," it said. "It's spring. I've waited all winter, and dang it, I'm going to bloom."

The apple trees, on the other hand, are much more cautious. There are signs of new leaves on the apple trees, and hard brown buds that must enclose white blossoms. But so far, none of those buds has burst. The apple trees have decided to wait until it is good and warm before flowering.

"Forget spring," they say, "It's COLD!"

Am I an apricot or an apple?

Classes end on Tuesday, and I've been planning for months what I'm going to do with more flexible time. These four months without teaching are the only months all year I can actually finally take a vacation, and I have two weeks of vacation planned. They are also chock full of conferences and research activities. These four months are the months in which I need to make significant progress on my research, before my time is chained to classes again in the fall. I'll be writing and reading and working hard all summer. You see, I have it all planned like the apple tree. Just waiting until it's a little warmer to start to accomplish.

[And I feel like I have to explain the research thing because people keep asking me why I'll be getting paid if I'm not teaching over the summer. The reason, oh relatives, is because I was hired to do at least as much research as teaching, and I'll be fired if I don't publish strong research papers. However, it's a lot harder to get the research done while classes are in session. So I cram as much of it as possible into the summer months. And they pay me for it.]

On the other hand, I still have two days of teaching, and I still need to write one final exam. Instead, I have been up at Tim's mom's house with the family, enjoying Easter and a bit of pre-vacation. I am an apricot tree, blooming before the winter is really over.

I hope I can still enjoy the fruit in the fall.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


We have had visitors.

First, a good friend and relation came to visit, for fun and exciting reasons. This distant relative, let's call him Albert, in spite of being a decent, educated, intelligent male, has remained single these many years. It has been a sore trial to his mother. Well anyway, recently Al met a girl over the internet. And they liked each other. And things were going well enough via chat that they decided to meet in person. And she lives pretty close to us. So Al stayed in our spare bedroom nights, and hung out with her days, for three days. Or at least that's the report. We didn't actually meet this girl. Or see much of Al. But he told us that the meeting went well and he still likes her. Woo woo! Go Al!

Now Al is back home and he has some serious thinking to do. But if his mom is reading this and she hasn't heard the story from him, I just want her to know that it is Al's story. And Al's mom, if Al didn't want to share this much info with you then I respect that. Anyway, it's not really your Al I'm talking about. I'm talking about some other distant relative who met a girl over the internet. And stayed in our other spare bedroom this weekend.

After Al packed up, we dumped his sheets in the washing machine and started over. A work colleague came to stay with us while she was in town, to give an invited talk at my department. It was a nice visit. We ate vegetarian food with her for dinners, and shared family routines. During the day, she took breaks to escape campus and find coffee. And yes, at least one coffee shop does exist in my town. She was highly intrigued by religious life around Good Old Dude's university, and we had many long talks about health and divorce rates and women and all sorts of religious topics like that.

Actually, since taking the job here at G.O.D. U, I've had many long talks about religion with colleagues. It's kind of interesting, and I've thought of posting something along those lines before. Now that I'm openly affiliated with G.O.D., people want to know why, and how that changes my life, and what kind of a weirdo I really am.

The correct answer is, I am a tall weirdo.

Also, said colleague really likes my local grocery store and the produce prices, and is considering converting so she can get a job at G.O.D. University and shop at my market. Of course, we currently have a hiring freeze, so it will be at least a year before that option is available. So she's in no rush.

Al's mom, on the other hand, is in a rush. But maybe this time, Al's mom, this will be the one for Al. Maybe. I bet we'll know one way or the other within the year. And if you come to visit, you can shop at our market.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My mistakes of this week

1. I waited to eat the avocado. I thought it would be good for one more day. And then one more day. And then one more day. It wasn't.

2. I was overzealous in my trimming of the ivy on the front of the house. There were a lot of dead leaves there at the bottom, so I grabbed the end of the vine and yanked.

"Uh," said Tim, "that's looking a little sparse there. ... Maybe it will grow back?"

And the biggest mistake by far:

3. I checked out the wrong book from the library. With a whole weekend in front of me, I thought I would read a trilogy. But I didn't realize until I was 20 pages from the end of book 2 that I didn't actually have book 3, but instead some anthology of stories. Panic ensued, followed by a quick trip to the library again, only to discover that all five copies of book 3 were now checked out.

Oh woe is me. I will have to wait until next weekend to finish the story.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

First grade

Jonathan is going to be turning five in not very long. Here in the U.S., in particular in the town of P-o-o, that means he is eligible to start kindergarten in the fall. This Friday is kindergarten registration.

But I don't want to send my little boy to kindergarten. I think he needs to go to first grade.

Ah, you say. You are one of those mothers. One of those pushy ones who thinks their child is too good for kindergarten and needs to skip ahead. And we all know what happens to the children of those types of parents. They are whiny and tiny and never fit in with their peers. By the time they are eight years old they are burned out and/ or rebellious, and come home with multiple piercings and tattoos. Those children.

But like one of those mothers, I still think I'm right. In fact, Tim and I think that we actually have a six year old living in a four year old body. Somehow his body is on superdrive. It doesn't work with the typical calendar. He has aged beyond his four years. In fact, now I'm worried that he'll keep aging in hyperspeed, and be old and decrepit 20 years earlier than most. Under those circumstances, shouldn't we move him up in school to match his body? Pack in all the living we can while we can?

Here is my evidence that he is six in disguise.

1. Jonathan is taller than all four year olds, most five year olds, and many six year olds.

2. We purchased lots of size 7 clothing for him in December. He hit another growth spurt in the last two months, and now the size 7 clothing is getting too small.

3. He reads at about a 2nd grade level. I'm actually making that up because I don't know how a second grader really reads, or what 2nd grade level would be. But it sounds impressive when I write it assertively.

4. He likes school. Traditional school. He likes to get 100% on spelling tests. He likes filling out worksheets. He is proud of his worksheets and likes to show me all the cool things he does in school. Like fill in blanks and add and subtract.

5. He is currently in kindergarten, and his teacher tells me often that she forgets he is a year younger than the others. He fits in mentally, socially, and physically.

6. His six year molars have grown in already. And his front tooth is loose. I, however, lost my first tooth when I was six.

This became a blog post today because I took Jonathan to the dentist this morning. First the hygienist and then the dentist looked in his mouth, looked up surprised, and asked him again just how old he was? His permanent teeth are coming in a year early.

So even his dental work indicates that he is ready for first grade. Who is going to argue with a dentist? I have never argued with a dentist. I have argued with lawyers and teachers and mathematicians and policemen and politicians. But I have never argued with a dentist. At least not while in that dental chair with his hands stuck in my mouth and that sucking thing hanging onto my lip. Nope. No possible way to argue with a dentist.

Therefore, Jonathan needs to go into first grade next year.

Now the trick is getting him into first grade.

I called a private school and told them he would be starting first grade, and did they have an opening? We're going to tour the school, particularly the first grade, Monday morning. Maybe I should bring up the birthday discrepancy during our visit. Or should I?

I called the public school and told them that by some problem with the calendar, my son was scheduled to be held back in kindergarten next year. The woman I spoke with was friendly enough and said that they could test him in August to see if he is ready for first grade. Can I risk not knowing where he's going until August?

I would like to pull the school administrators all together, set them into comfortable reclining chairs, put some pointy metal scraping thingies in their mouths, maybe throw in a drool sucker for good measure, and then tell them that Jonathan is going into first grade next year. I betcha they wouldn't argue.