Monday, December 28, 2009


After waiting over a whole year, which makes up 20% of the little guy's life so far, Jonathan finally received his very own bicycle for Christmas!

After waiting over 11 years, which makes up about 33% of my life so far, I finally received my very own (digital) piano for Christmas!

Tim got socks.

Much rejoicing

Sometime soon here, I will upload some photos. And then I can tell you about our fabulous winter visit to the home of Chickadeedee and Hans Juergen and their wonderful children. In which we filled our days with amazing adventures, such as mornings in T-shirts at the park around the corner. And an afternoon on the couch with a book (for me). (Yes, I just abandoned my child to play with Legos that whole time.) (And yes, when the kids got rowdy I didn't even hear -- you know, engrossed and all that.) (And yes, I do feel very guilty about that.) But how amazing is a holiday in which you can read novels and absorb vitamin D?

(Sorry about abandoning my wild child, HJ and C. If you let us come back in a few years, I will promise to be a real parent in spite of all the interesting books lining your shelves.)

Tim and I had long serious discussions about how we could spend all our winters in the warmth, while keeping our current jobs. Honestly, I bet with some work and a little bit of pixie dust I could rearrange my schedule such that January to April, I worked remotely from Arizona on research. The only real problem would be switching Jonathan's schools twice each year, requiring him to meet standards of two different states. But come on, how disruptive could that really be? Really? I'm kind of willing to live with a scarred child for a little more sunshine in the winter.

But since I have not yet uploaded photos, this is instead a post about ch-ch-ch-changes.

Remember how I've been working as a primary teacher? That is, each Sunday at church I have been teaching the five year olds for several months now? With the new year, that will go away. Next year I will only teach adults. And only every other week. And if any of them sneak up and shout into the microphone during singing time, so help me I will send them out into the hall for the rest of the meeting.

I can't wait.

(Yes, Chickadeedee -- your job! Send me pointers!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What is up with us

Dear Family, Friends, and Lurkers,

I have not written one of those fancy newsletters in a few years. But after receiving a few newsletters from others, and having kind (extended) family members (through marriage) point out that I didn't need to write a newsletter -- I wrote a blog -- the guilt finally hit and I've decided to write the kind of a post that will update all my family and friends and lurkers on our secret lives in a pseudonymous way.

So here you have it, dear Reader. What is up with us.

Tim and I have been living in our current home for about 15 months, having moved to this town in the mountain west for my job. I am employed at the local university, which we affectionately call Good Old Dude's University. Last year at this time I was feeling much anxiety and work-related pressure. I took out my stresses upon a poor fictitious bald guy I named Bob. My long term readers may have noticed that Bob the Enemy has not appeared in my more recent posts. I believe that is because I feel more settled in my position and more content with life. I have reached the point where I can take out my frustrations on real people.

Tim, my husband, still works for the company in California. He has been lucky to work remotely for a few years now, including that year we lived in England for my job and he worked from 2pm until 12am, with a break for dinner each evening. As far as I can tell, Tim is a combination rock star and workaholic. He is still very hot, and I am still glad he married me and not somebody else. Because that might have made our current living arrangements awkward.

In terms of real news about Tim, I should mention that he has not cut his hair now since August 4, 2008, although he has trimmed his beard about monthly. It's a couple of inches below his shoulders by now.

We have one child named Jonathan. He is learning to speak French this year. Or more appropriately, he is learning to sing French this year. He wanders around the house singing various French songs. We cannot hold a French conversation, except to discuss colors of various objects we point to, and what day of the week it is, but we can sing about firemen and green mice and divine children. I suppose these skills will be useful when we actually visit Paris. Especially the green mice, I hear.

My favorite color is orange. Jonathan's favorite color is blue. I don't know Tim's favorite color off the top of my head, but he uses a green toothbrush. I'm having a hard time thinking of other interesting things to put into this newsletter, so I will stop.

Love and hugs,


Sunday, December 20, 2009


Jonathan wants to believe in Santa, but now that he goes to a large public school, it becomes more difficult. Yesterday he asked again if Santa were real? I turned the question back to him. Why did he ask? Because the other children sang a song about finding Santa is a fake.

The other children. They were the ones who told him about the Tooth Fairy too. And now, with his fourth tooth wiggling freely in his gums, he tells the gushing grown ups that he can no longer be deceived in that respect.

Fine. I don't feel strongly about the Tooth Fairy. I do, however, enjoy the magic of Santa.

We read The Polar Express, and at the end when the little boy hears the bell ring, when it is silent for all others, Jonathan looked at me earnestly and said that he would believe. No matter what. Because he wanted to hear the bell.

I'm guessing, however, that this will be Santa's last year.

And that last sentence makes me feel sad. The boy is only five. Even if I keep thinking he is six.

When I was seven, I was in the same position as my little boy. Aaron M told us in primary that there was no Santa. His father had told him so. I refused to believe him. There had to be a Santa. He was my only hope.

You see, the year I was seven was the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids. I wanted one. I hadn't really wanted a doll or toy like I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. They were all unique, with different clothes and hair. They came with a name and a birthday and adoption papers to mail in. The Cabbage Patch company would mail you a birthday card on your doll's birthday.

That year, we heard of Cabbage Patch thefts and Cabbage Patch violence, as parents across the United States did whatever they could to find their child one of these popular dolls. I wanted one, too, but at least I didn't have to rely on my parents. Santa would be there for me.

Indeed, early Christmas morning, next to my stocking was a pink clad Cabbage Patch doll. Her name was Rachel. She had brown hair in pig tails and dimples. She was perfect, and her birthday was in September, just like mine. All the pictures of that morning include me with my doll hugged tight against my side. I remember the first day back at school, Mrs. Hansen let us each bring one special new toy. There were gasps and whispers when the other girls saw that I had a coveted Cabbage Patch Kid.

I was so lucky, and so proud. That doll stayed by my side until I finally grew out of dolls. I loved her and her big plastic head so much. She was perfect.

My parents couldn't have found a toy so perfect. My parents couldn't have afforded a toy so popular, as I was one of the oldest of six small children at the time. No, my perfect doll Rachel was proof of the existence of Santa.

But even for me, that was my last year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tis the season

Last night, I was out until after 11:30 pm grading problem number 10 about 850 times. Where were your TAs? asked a friend. They were grading problems 9, 17, and 20. And the other instructors and their TAs were grading the rest.

Two nights ago, I was out until about 10:30 pm proctoring. Three hours wandering around a room of about 150 of those 850 students, seated every other one, with different exam versions every other row. Checking eyeballs. Making sure backpacks stayed zipped. Loose papers tucked away. Watching the clock. Whispering hushed instructions to questions. Pacing. Sitting. Pacing again. Put the bubble sheet on the left in the stack matching your exam version. Exams go on the right, sorted by TA and section number. Recycle the scratch paper. Double check that your name is on the front. Pacing. Checking eyeballs. Put the bubble sheet on the left.

Tonight, I will sit in my living room with my laptop, sorting grades from 80 homework assignments, quizzes, pretests, exams, corrections, special cases. Tracking down section numbers. Weighting totals, sorting columns, trying out different break points.

And you thought this was a post about Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Talk about the weather

I wanted to say a word about the weather here. Even though technically winter doesn't start for another week, we started into winter weather way back in early November. Maybe sooner.

And then a couple of weeks ago, the temperature dropped suddenly and drastically. It went crashing down under the freezing mark. It stayed way down there for a long time, probably a little dazed from the fall -- you know, shaking itself off, wondering if it would be worth the climb back up, seeing that it's nearly winter anyway and all.

Just over one week ago we got our first real snowstorm.

See? We even had to shovel.

It continued snowing Monday, Tuesday. I stopped biking to work and walked instead, past all the cars skidding on the ice and all the cars stuck in the snowdrifts and all the people chiseling their windshields out of the arctic cold. I love love LOVE living close enough to work to walk.

Until the snow plow drives by and dumps heaps of brown slush all over the sidewalk.

Wednesday the temperature plummeted even further, cracking through the zero degree Fahrenheit mark overnight. Hovering just above 0F in the mornings, stretching just into the teens during the day.


We bundled Jonathan in layer upon layer upon layer, and showed him how to tuck his face into his scarf when he felt threatened by frost bite, how to pull it out occasionally for air. Walking to school became painful, with the boy stopping regularly to ask if his nose had fallen off yet.

Friday night it snowed again, so Saturday morning we bundled up to shovel, preparing for the worst. But suddenly somehow it was warm! Sweating-in-the-overcoat warm. Buy-a-new-bikini warm. Well, ok. Not exactly bikini warm. But definitely above freezing. Maybe even 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Writing that sentence makes me want to cry. I have suffered such torture that 38F is warm.

So in the new warmth, Saturday morning we hiked up the hill and went sledding.

Yes, that hill. Isn't that picture amazing? It took us 17 minutes to walk to the park in the shadow of those mountains.

We live here! I took lots of pictures, my fingers actually warm enough to hit the button. My body was warm enough that I could be in awe of these beautiful mountains, this spectacular place where we live -- for the first time in days and weeks and months! (Rather than cursing out the miserable winter).

Here are some pictures of my men.

Not even very crowded at the sledding hill. Perfect Saturday morning.

Because it was so warm (balmy 38F), the snow was a nice, wet packing consistency. So then my men built a snowman.

And then kept building....
Until we had a lovely snow thing.

Isn't that nice? See, I should blog with pictures more often.

Anyway, this would be a good place to stop, with me warm and happy on the beautiful hill. But unfortunately, not all posts have happy endings.

A new storm moved in Saturday afternoon, but the weather never really cooled down to meet it. So all that afternoon and all day Sunday, slush fell out of the sky and coated the sidewalks with 3 inches of mush. Sloppy, slippery mush.

And then Sunday night, the temperature dropped below freezing again.

And all that mush turned to 3 inches of ice on everything.

And I've had it. Winter sucks. Time to move.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chinese Christmas tree

We put our Christmas tree up last weekend. It's a huge, heavy fake tree made of fabric and wire. It's actually quite nice looking. On the box, it says it was made in China. Every year I wonder about those Chinese workers who assembled my Christmas tree and what they were thinking as they carefully wrapped all that wire. There is a brown wrap followed by the green wrap followed by the imitation needles. All that work. They must think we are really bizarre.

They are right.

For the first year ever, Jonathan was excited about decorating -- from the beginning to the end. His interest held through two big boxes of ornaments.

We found an ornament he had made when he was three, with a scary looking picture of his face cut from a photograph and glued onto a tile. Since that one was heavy, he hung it down low under the tree.

Then we found a teddy bear ornament. Jonathan thought the disembodied head would like a teddy bear to cuddle, so he hung it next to the face down there on the bottom.

A little while later, we encountered a sled. The disembodied head, apparently, might have fun sledding. So the sled ornament ended up down there on the bottom.

And then eventually we found a glittery carrot ornament. The disembodied head might like a carrot to munch on, so as not to get too hungry down there under the tree.

After an hour or so of decorating, we had a somewhat lopsided tree with a shrine to the disembodied head down at the bottom.

I would offer a picture, but then I'd have to kill 1000 words, and since they're already written....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Impulse house painting

We have no window coverings in the front room. This is because of our most recent impulse buy: a paint job for the upstairs.

Most impulse buys involve food. I bet I am unique among my readers in having purchased a paint job as an impulse buy. Technically, we had been wanting to paint and thinking about painting for a while. Then a trusted painter called Tim about a week ago and said he was available -- did we want him to start painting the next day? Um. OK.

So we've gone nearly a week without window coverings in the front room.

Nothing much goes on in the front room requiring window coverings, except we do have a nice picture window looking straight into the dining area. That means if you stand outside in the cold, you can see what we're having for dinner. (Ramen tonight.)

So far, I have not yet noticed a crowd forming to watch us eat dinner. But how would I know? When it gets dark, I can't see out. I get really nervous during meal times thinking about all the people watching in. I cannot eat in my pajamas -- they would see. I need to dress and comb my hair properly before emerging from my bedroom. No more fuzzy warm robes in the house -- I don't want any of that splashed around the tabloids. I must speak politely to husband. I must speak politely to son. I must ensure son speaks politely to husband. I must keep table cleared and tastefully decorated. I must make sure to serve a vegetable with every meal, and only healthy snacks. And any projects that happen at the table should include art and math tutoring. The lack of window coverings has very seriously improved our life style.

A public blog is like living without window coverings in the front room. I don't hang out much in the Clown and Poker in my pajamas. I must ensure I speak politely to my husband and son. Husband commented (verbally, not on the actual post) that he didn't like having snot icicles as the main focus of my previous blog post, because apparently, every time husband appears in a blog post he becomes the major Focus of the entire thing.

(In fact, by bringing up this comment, I have just changed the focus of this post from painting and window coverings to husband. Now that I think about it, this blog is really pretty Tim centric.)

See? Husband doesn't want to appear in pajamas in my public blog, either.

But for some reason, husband doesn't care about the lack of window coverings in the front room. He suggests we keep them down for another day, just in case the painter needs to touch up the trim. Fine. I agree. But I can't wait to go back to private meal times. I'm tired of dining as though we lived in the 1950s, just for the sake of keeping my neighbors properly deceived.

In related news, our bedroom was painted today. It's a pretty pale green.

Upcoming posts: Chinese Christmas trees, snow, and some third topic not yet determined.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Cold

I have been trying to figure out why anyone would build a city in a place that has bitter cold winters. My little city was founded sometime in the 1800s by pioneers with wagons and handcarts and that sort of thing. It has bitter cold winters. I sometimes sit huddled in my fleece robe with the furnace cranked up and think about those early pioneer settlers. I betcha anything -- anything -- that they kept asking themselves over and over and over "Why didn't I finish the trek to California?" "Why didn't I just keep walking to California?" "Why oh why oh why didn't I finish the dang trek and make it to California?"

Do you know when they were thinking this the hardest? Wishing it the most? I bet it was when they were out their in their little outhouses doing their thing with temperatures well below freezing. I know this is pretty crass, but I can't think of anything worse than an outhouse in winter. I guess at least there's no smell, because all the, er, stuff would be frozen.

Oh Pioneers, why didn't you keep going to California? And why didn't you found my university there? So when I took my current job, I would have moved to California?

These days, the sun doesn't rise until about 9:00 am here. We leave our house, on foot, to walk Jonathan to school at about 8:15 am. Over my underwear, I wear long pants. An undershirt. A regular shirt. A sweater. A down coat over that. A pair of lined windbreaker pants over my regular pants. Socks. Another pair of knee high socks. Shoes. Scarf. Lined mittens. A hat. Ear muffs.

Jonathan's school is only 3/4 of a mile away. But by the time we get there my face is frozen solid red. Tim's beard is covered in attractive snot icicles. We wave goodbye to Jonathan, then Tim and I turn around and walk back. At home, Tim wants to kiss me goodbye with his snot icicle face. (I'm taking goodbye kisses from now on before we go out in the cold.) Then I get on my bike and ride 1.5 miles to work. In all, I'm only outside for an hour or so. Those pioneers may have spent that much time in those outhouses of theirs, depending, I guess, on how much fiber they had in their diets. But it's painful. The cold, I mean, and not just the fiber.

In related news, a guy came and fixed our fireplace fan this morning. We've been using the fireplace in the basement, and it has been amazing. The fan blows the heat out of the chimney into the family room. Walking into the family room is like walking into a wall of cozy and warm, the likes of which you haven't felt since August. Wow.

You know, pioneers didn't have fireplace fans. Their heat went straight up the chimney. And then slowly drifted west to California. They were insane to build a city here.