Saturday, October 24, 2009

Strep throat

The title says it all.

Or at least it says a lot.

But I don't want the title to have all the fun, so I'm going to say a lot too.

Jonathan woke up a couple of times last night with a sore throat, so I kept him home today -- in spite of the fact that he was nearly his happy normal self this morning. I say I kept him home, because Tim was willing to let him go if he felt ok after breakfast. But I am the paranoid professor with lots of students with swine flu. Sore throat = home.

Incidentally, it is much much easier to keep a 5 year old home sick than to keep a 2 year old home. Tim and I could both work remotely pretty well while he "played quietly" in his room, which is what we kept sending him off to do. Because he's sick, right? Well, the quietly thing didn't really happen. I do kind of hope he was a little bit bored, because school is way better than home.

Anyway, back to the story.

I got to work as late as possible, since I had a sick child at home. Bumped into the department chair as I walked in and mentioned that Jonathan was ill. He said one of his daughters was also home sick today, with a sore throat, and that the next door neighbors, the Wiggeloo family (names changed to protect the guilty) had strep.

Alarms! Said daughter is in Jonathan's class in school. Said neighbor includes one of Jonathan's best friends, Kimball Wiggeloo (who appeared in a previous post).

Dang. I knew at that moment that Jonathan would have to go in for a throat culture.

So after teaching, I came home, called the doctor's office, and set up an appointment.

Meanwhile, my own throat is feeling a little scratchy....

Maybe I need a throat culture?

Nah. Surely just a cold. Probably what Jonathan has.

After I return home, I find that the boy is marching around the house, designing treasure maps, playing games, and flinging marbles around the family room. I go back to writing grant proposals in the basement, Tim is still working in the office. Occasionally we remind him to "play quietly" in his room, as he is supposed to be sick here.

Doctor appointment is just before 5pm. Jonathan runs in all smiles. No, I tell the nurse, no fever. No headache. No cough. Doesn't hurt to eat. I'm feeling kind of stupid here for even bringing him in. She swabs his throat. He hates that. Leaves. Doctor comes in and shines a light on it. Leaves. Comes back immediately.

Test was positive.

Jonathan suddenly goes quiet.

My throat starts feeling scratchy.

"Um," I ask, "How likely is it that the rest of the family will get strep?"

"Very likely."

"Even the adults? Cause, uh, my throat is hurting a little. Should I get that checked?"

"Yes, you should."

"You couldn't maybe just do it now?"

"Um no."

Anyway, fast forward to 9pm. Jonathan and I are now both on antibiotics. I bought Tim some disinfecting wipes so he can walk around the house disinfecting as he goes. So far, Tim is symptom free.

But wait! You say. What about the wedding tomorrow! Your brother!

Well, around 11pm Tuesday or Wednesday night I had to excuse myself from planning the luncheon anyway. I had been up late writing a grant proposal for the last three nights in a row, and didn't even think about planning until way too late to call around for help. And the grant proposal wasn't nearing the finished stage. And then I remembered I was in charge of grading 900 exams by Monday. And my alarm was set for 5:30 am to get up and do more writing.... I broke down. I couldn't do it. But I think my mother picked up the pieces, so the luncheon will happen after all.

But back to the strep throat story:

My mother is heartbroken, but I don't think we can make it to the wedding with strep. She called my uncle who is a doctor, and he said after a couple of doses of antibiotics, I wouldn't be contagious, so I could make it to the 9am ceremony. But if not, then at least the luncheon. Or the reception?

I don't know, oh readers. I love my brother. But I have strep throat. Jonathan has strep throat. And the wedding stuff is all happening an hour's drive away. Where Jonathan's little cousins are visiting in their Sunday best, all happy and eager to swap Jonathan's germs. I am a loving sister. But I also have to be a responsible parent.

I just don't think I can do a wedding with strep throat.

I can, however, continue to write that miserable grant proposal with strep throat. In fact, here we go again....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wedding luncheon


(Posts that start with "So" are always the worst.)

My brother is getting married on Saturday. Congratulations to my brother.

Yesterday I was asked to please organize a wedding luncheon for Saturday afternoon.

This Saturday.

Because about 60 people have already been invited, and my mother feels too overwhelmed with her quilt making to plan lunch. After all, it wouldn't be a wedding without a new quilt. And the bride's mother is organizing the reception, of course.

Can you believe the organizational skills of my family? How did I ever make it through grad school with those genes in every cell in my body?

By moving out, that's how.

OK, relatives. We have already delegated rolls, turkey for sandwiches, and a couple pots of potato salad. Who wants to bring a few bags of chips? Anyone want to take on the condiments (mayo, mustard)? Fruit? I'm thinking I'll bring a box of apples. That's all that's really needed for a complete meal, right? We are good to go.

Yes, Nathan. You get what you pay for.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On French and Math

Tim's cousin Lisa asked how Jonathan's school was going, with the French immersion and all. I guess I haven't posted much about it since the sad first day story.

The answer is, we think it is a wild success. Within a few weeks, Jonathan was yelling at all of us in French. "Stand up!" "Sit down!" "Come to the carpet!" "Line up!" "Push in your chair!"

He counts to thirty in French -- four times -- as he brushes his teeth at night. He knows colors and a few songs, and runs around the house singing stuff about houses on fire and firemen in French. He loves school.

In fact, there are only two things about his school that make Tim and me a little nervous. The first is the fact that Jonathan is learning all his math in French class. This is fine in theory. He knows numbers and patterns and counting all in French now. What worries us is that there is no splitting of the children into math groups based on ability. On the one hand, we don't want him to get behind in the French. But on the other hand, Jonathan is good at math and enjoys it. In fact, right now he is upstairs counting out numbers by threes and fours and writing them all down, just for fun, completely on his own. As a math geek myself, married to a math geek, I would really really like to encourage this in school as well as outside school.

The other thing that bothers us is his Tuesday-Thursday after school program. Because Tim and I both work full time, we need Jonathan to attend that extra one hour after school program each day (except Friday, when it isn't offered). But Tuesday and Thursday they just put all the kids in a room and tell them to do their homework for an hour. Jonathan is in first grade. He has about 10 minutes of homework total, much of which is of the form read aloud to your parents. So this 1 hour after school is a waste of his time. (Monday-Wednesday, on the other hand, he goes to cooking class, which is really great.)

Anyway, what would be coolest in my opinion, is if we could somehow combine the advanced math and the after school program into a Tuesday-Thursday math club. Wouldn't that be perfect? The kids who went could learn cool math they aren't learning in school, like fun geometry facts, or counting patterns, or tilings, or fractals, or whatever! Just so long as it's fun and they're learning. Perfect perfect solution to both problems.

Now, how in the world would you get such a program going? I think you'd have to have a parent volunteer. Which parent would that have to be? Well, it was my idea -- only there's that serious problem about me working full time. Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon would be really hard -- even just for an hour. What if I roped in a few students from the math education department to do it? They aspire to teach kids math for a living. So doing an after school math program would be perfect for them. And maybe a few regular math majors, too. But how would we compensate the students for their time? Do you think they would just volunteer? They're busy too. I don't think it would happen.

Also, what about teaching small children? That's got to be hard. Motivating six year olds and keeping their attention would be very different from motivating college students. And if the elementary school is worth anything, it would make us all go through serious background checks and several hoops before we could get the program got off the ground. And if college students are running it, then since they come and go with the ebb and flow of graduation dates, the background checks would be a continual issue.

Anyway, this is a nice idea of mine, but is there really any chance of making it work? Have any of my (very small) group of readers ever heard of anything like this happening? How would you get an after school math club going in an elementary school?

There is a guy in my department who runs a Saturday club for older children. Probably the right place to start would be to talk to him about it. And my department chair actually has three girls in Jonathan's class (triplets), so I bet he would be interested in such a thing as well. So he would be the next place to go.

Meanwhile, I don't think I want more projects.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall break

It has been fall break.

-- Not mine. I don't get a break.

Jonathan's. He has been staying at Grandma's house.

The first night, it was so quiet. We went to the library, Tim and I. Right in the middle of bedtime. Then we played video games. And then I worked for a while. And when I was done? It was barely past 9:00 pm. And we tromped upstairs, and the boy's door was open, and we both cringed for a second at all the noise we were making. Until we remembered. No Jonathan. The house was so empty.

The second day, I went to work early, and came home late. And I did it again the third day. I read a 400 page novel in the evening. And day four, my morning writing time extended past 7am. Past 8am. No one came to collect me. I finished the item I was working on. And still made it to work for my 9am appointment.

It was very boring.

Tim and I went out to dinner. And then a long movie. We were gone five hours. But back before 10. This is amazing stuff we haven't done in years. Or at least it feels that way. And yet --

We are so incomplete without the chaos that is Jonathan. Is this what empty nesters feel like?


And you know? Being working parents is hard. The tighter schedules, the crazy juggling, the uncompromising school hours, the missed sleep. The worrying. These things are hard. But you know? They are worth it, for that gap-toothed good morning and the dimples in the afternoon. And the cuddles, and talking at night about the best and worst thing of the whole day. I really miss that guy.

Next week: back to normal.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My life history, 12 words

Born. I don't remember much about my birth. There are pictures of me swaddled and lying in a banana box, because my parents were too poor to purchase a baby bassinet. Later they inherited a bassinet from a neighbor, and so I did not grow up in a banana box.

School. By the time I was two, we had moved to the house I grew up in. Its back yard was adjacent to the elementary school yard, and my parents installed a gate directly into the soccer field. By age five, I was commuting by foot daily to school. Over seven years, my best friends were Julie, Kelli, Tiffany, and Abby, in that order. I did not like Krystal, and was bullied by another Julie. I was also very jealous of Brittney, in spite of the Nutcracker incident and the gold teddy bear pin.

Junior high.In seventh grade, I moved on to a daily commute on foot up to the junior high school. Mairi and I walked together. What has become of Mairi? I bet Facebook knows.

High school. I think Mairi and I shared a locker when we were sophomores. I had a crush on a boy whose name I forget, in my AP history class. He had longish blond hair, and was older than I. Perhaps if I could remember his name, Tim would be jealous. The next year I loved Nate from a distance. I danced on my toes and it hurt, and wrote for the school newspaper. I also liked John, who also wrote for the school newspaper. But nothing came of any of that. While I thought all my brother's friends were cute, it annoyed me that my friends thought my brother was cute. They did, Bryan. At least two of them wrote something to that effect in my yearbook. And I am only just now confessing. Just think -- you might have had a different story if I had told.

College. I learned after my first quarter in college that there was even more math to be learned than calculus. Imagine that! Even more! I picked up mentors named Anne and Ellen, brilliant women with PhD's, among the very few in their respective departments. I was disgustingly naive, and my memories of myself annoy me. But both mentors put up with me, and helped me find my interests and talents, and develop them. And to find fabulous summer experiences in New York and Berkeley. And last I found my own summer in Neuchatel, because I wanted to speak French.

Love. As a sophomore in college, I kissed a boy with a funny name. A year later, I kissed a boy with a very common name -- you know, the kind that is completely un-google-able. A year later, I kissed Tim, and it was magic. It was actually quite cold. Our first kiss was out of doors, in the month of February. We spent a cold year apart, him in California, me at Northern Wasteland University. It was too cold. I told him in November that he would be marrying me that spring. He complied.

Marriage. I was 22, but not too young. It was nice to be married. I especially liked the part where I didn't have to go to a separate home late at night after an evening together. Also, the pooled rent was cheaper than two single apartments.

California. Remember that summer I spent at Berkeley? I loved it. But Berkeley was not located in a nice neighborhood. However, we took a bus to visit Stanford, which was, in fact, in a very nice neighborhood, and I decided that Stanford would be a very nice place to go to graduate school. Then I chose Northern Wasteland U. But marriage to Tim changed all that, and we both ended up in California, at Stanford. Imagine that! Stanford, however, turned out to be quite expensive. That whole nice neighborhood thing? Drove housing prices out the roof. But I loved it. I loved commuting by foot and smelling fresh cut grass in February. I loved watching palm trees sway in the rain. We biked to church. Loved that, too.

Motherhood. Fifth year of grad school, planned pregnancy. Defended thesis eight weeks before my due date. Gave birth one week after my due date. Child was massive, and remains so to this day. I accepted a job in Texas. Texas? While still pregnant. With the birth, I had three months to recover. And move. And buy a house. And furnish it. Tim had defended his thesis in December, and started a job in February. By May he worked 10 hour days and commuted two. By August we thought we would die. We didn't die. Otherwise, this post would have been shorter.

Texas. We found a newer home in a quiet culdesac. Tim and I could both take the bus to work, him north, me south. The weather in Texas was warm all summer long, and into the spring and fall. My toes were warm from March to November. Just think of that! To the displeasure of visiting grandmas, we kept the thermostat set at 83 degrees in July. Winters were harder, with ice storms and freak thunderstorms and torrential rain. We bought a weather radio, to wake us up in the event of an approaching tornado, so that we could hide out in the bathroom. ? Alas, our tub was made of fiberglass. Good thing the tornado never came through. We would not have survived. And again this post would have been shorter.

England. We spent just one year in England, but a defining year. I cycled on the left to work in the mornings. It did in fact rain a lot. It never did, in fact, warm up. Not to 83 degrees. Never to Austin standards. Tim worked from 2pm to 12am, with a dinner break in the middle, and spent his mornings in the local shops sampling the local cuisine. Jonathan's school became progressively worse, although he started out learning French and cooking. He was Joseph in the nativity production at Christmas time.

G.O.D.U. So here we are now in the Mountain West, me happily employed at Good Old Dude's University. I am married to Tim, and we are parents to Jonathan. Jonathan is learning French and cooking at school again. Our tub is made of steel, but chances are extremely low that we would need to use it in the event of a tornado. There are no palm trees or orange groves, which I deeply regret. And my toes are cold from October through May. But our house is perfect, our neighborhood reminds us of Mr Rogers, and food falls out of trees onto our heads regularly. Jonathan has never slept in a banana box.

And so now you know everything about me. Because I copied Tiffany. Although it was Oma's project first.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


In a previous post, I mentioned that we had four loaded apple trees. And one that's taking a break this year.

The official scientific names of our apples are as follows:

Green apples

Red apples

Yellow apples

Pink apples.

What do you do with all those apples?

You invite friends and family to come pick them.

You give away huge boxes.

You make applesauce.

So far, we have made about 20 quarts of applesauce, and tried canning 14 quarts. Twelve of them sealed. We have also dried apples and made apple leather. So far, the fresh apples are the best. We will store them in boxes in the garage until they are wrinkly and rotten.

If you are interested, the green and the red trees still need to be picked.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stupid post

I've decided that toes are about the stupidest body part out there. Not because their *function* is stupid. It's just that they live so far from other important body parts, like the brain or the heart, that they're just ... stupid. Ignorant, uneducated, vulgar.

Almost three years ago I mildly injured a toe under the toenail. (By wearing cute shoes that didn't quite fit for a sequence of 2-day job interviews.) (Why doesn't the shoe industry make cute shoes for really long feet?)

And that problem toenail still hasn't completely grown out. And now it seems to be growing out wrong.

Stupid, stupid toe. Why can't you get it right? The blueprints for the fix are their in your genes, just like in everyone else's. Fingernails don't have a problem with this.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


At the large university where I work, I am currently teaching two large sections of a popular course. We have 902 exams to grade by noon this morning.

Last night, six of us instructors were holed up in the commons room, grading stack after stack of the exams.

Occasionally, someone would laugh and show us a student's amusing way to get zero points. (Yup, after about exam 478 we find that stuff amusing.)

The woman grading kitty-corner from me is a high school teacher, visiting my university for a couple of years to train future teachers.

After one good laugh at an exam by a student who obviously hadn't been attending, and who had clearly blown off the exam, she commented: "That's the difference between high school and university right there."

"What's that?" We all wondered.

"In high school, if that student gets a zero, it's MY fault. Our test scores go way down. Our school is labeled as struggling. It's published in the paper. We lose money. They track it back to my class. My student. My fault. At the university, we can laugh, because it's THEIR fault," and she grinned broadly.

"Their fault," I heard her muttering and smiling, all evening long. "Their fault."

I love my job.