Saturday, November 27, 2010

Balancing blessings

This year we are working on a theme of holiday traditions one day late, and so I begin with a list of expected and some unexpected things I am thankful for.

  1. A little boy whose hair is a bit too long, which makes him look extremely cuddly.
  2. Mario.
  3. Magical migraine medicine, because otherwise I would have spent the day huddled on the tile in the bathroom. Bouncing off walls is so much more enjoyable.
  4. Dance Dance Revolution. Even though it is no longer a fad, it still helps drain that extra bounciness.
  5. Health.
  6. True Love.
  7. Leftovers.
  8. Two more days to procrastinate grading those exams.
  9. Clear vinyl tablecloths. Otherwise, my white tablecloth and decorative runner would not be able to see the light of day.
  10. Apples.
  11. Internet.
  12. Five hours of ice skating Wednesday: the boy's first time. He didn't want to leave.
  13. Words.
  14. Fairy godmothers and dreams coming true.


Do you ever look at the richness in your life and wish good times could be packed in plastic and saved in the refrigerator? There is surely enough for leftovers. And when the house is warm and the bills are paid and the family is tucked in safe and full of health, and childhood dreams have aged and flowered and now bear fruit, do you sometimes wonder how long it will last? Does happiness come with expiration dates?

Is there a balance somewhere? Somewhere in the cosmos, does someone watch the scale and notice that life is weighted far too heavily toward happiness in the Artax household, and it is time to add a little pain and suffering?

Please not yet.

How about we please wait until I have finished my novel.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So where is it??

Starting about a week and a half ago, we have been expecting SNOW! Snow overnight. Snow in the afternoon. Just wait -- the snow is coming! Two to four inches. Four to six inches. Up to an inch. But only above 6300 feet. Or above 5200 feet. Or above 4500 feet! That's us! It is coming. Get ready!

From Sunday onward, expect the worst. Tomorrow! It's coming! Until Monday morning: well maybe not today. But Tonight! And then by the evening: On Tuesday! A Blizzard! Just like in Seattle! Blowing snow. Six to eight inches.

By Tuesday morning: 100% chance of snow overnight. One hundred percent! Two to four inches this afternoon.

By midmorning: well, no snow today, but still 100% chance of snow overnight! Three to five inches! A storm as hasn't been seen in years, with snow and wind and chill.

And so the University Police sent out warning messages which bounced around my email and off my cell phone. Students skipped afternoon class, eager to be on the road out of town before the Blizzard! And then the entire University shut down.

Wandering home just after 3pm, to a gray sky but no sign of snow, the cynic that I have become thought it was a nice excuse to quit a few hours early just before a long holiday.

But the National Weather Service persisted. Still 100% chance of snow!

So we hit the grocery store with the rest of the world, deciding we'd better buy our foods for Thanksgiving before the Blizzard! trapped us inside for three days without power.

At 7:00 pm Tuesday evening, Jonathan peeked out into the darkness. Had it started yet? No.

By 8:00 pm. No sign of it. Bedtime for little boys.

By 11:00 pm. Still no storm. Bedtime for me.

At 7:00 this morning, I awoke with visions. Snow! Sledding! Holidays and snow! And so I peeked outside to see our marshmallow winter wonderland, with three to five inches guaranteed by the National Weather Service.


A skiff of snow lies over the grass, where it is cool enough not to melt on contact. Nothing on roads and sidewalks. So thin that the individual grass blades poke out of its shell, mocking.

Today's weather report: Slight chance of snow. Maybe half an inch? Maybe? Then sunny all week -- but Cold! It will be Cooold!

At least a few university employees got to go home early for their holiday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Size B

In August, I did some shopping for some unmentionables. After trying on every small sized bra in the store, from AA to A to almost B, I found two that fit quite well. One was a size A as usual, but one was actually a size B. I have never been a size B before. I've always been much smaller, except for a few months when nursing an infant during which I skipped over B entirely and was quite pleased to be a C. It didn't last. Anyway, now in one particular brand in one particular bra style I am a B.

I know you are sitting there, Reader, thinking, that is more information than I needed, thank you very much. But that's not true. You need that information, as It is relevant to this post. I promise. Be patient.

Last Thursday, in a span of less than 24 hours, I was mistaken for a student three times.

The first time was at a banquet to honor our best students. I had invited five of mine -- excellent students, all. I was sitting at their table, chit-chatting, when a student employee wandered by and offered me a chance at the door prize.

"I don't think I'm eligible," I told the student helper.

"Oh no," he insisted, "Everyone is eligible."

"Are you sure? That seems strange...."

And then he paused. "Unless... you're not faculty, are you?"

I am, actually, faculty. So I wasn't eligible.

After the banquet, I went to introduce myself to the guest speaker. His research had been in an area related to my own, and I wanted to thank him for his words and chat a bit about research. We had a lively conversation; he answered a couple of my questions, and I described my interest. He concluded by asking, "Are you a grad student then?"

Nope. Faculty.

And then I had an appointment for undergraduate advising, and after a chat about classes to take and things to try and places to go, the student asked, "So are you a student, or grad student?"

No. Not either.

In all three situations, I smiled politely and let the persons involved know that, in fact, I was faculty. And they smiled and stated that I looked so young it was hard to tell....

Which is odd. I'm not really very young anymore, and I think I look my age. Mid 30s now. Definitely older than a student.

Anyway, I was pondering over these three events, wondering why they should all happen within the same 24 hours, when nothing like this had happened for a long time. What did these three events have in common? What made me appear so youthful so suddenly?

You know what it was, don't you, oh Reader?

For the first time in a couple of months, I was wearing the size B bra.

Young and attractive. That was me. Ten years removed from my appearance by the increased cup size.

Dude. In ten more years, I may be ready to consider implants.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yogurt again

Let's talk about our food again. Specifically, I'd like to follow up on my yogurt post from last March.

Back in July-ish, Tim and I bought a serious food dehydrator, to handle the bushels and bushels of apricots we were picking off our tree, as well as apples and raspberries and currants and whatever else we were harvesting.

The food dehydrator has a temperature control. It is able to maintain low, warm temperatures consistently.

Which is perfect for yogurt.

It also came with its own yogurt recipe: Milk. Some powdered milk to thicken it. Yogurt start. Keep at 115 degrees for 3 hours. Voila. Perfect yogurt.

We have made yogurt three times now, to rave reviews. It has been thick, smooth, creamy. Not at all lumpy or sour. Especially good when made with whole milk.

Tim, who is a bit of a yogurt snob, compared it to Landliebe yogurt. Natural. Creamy. In a jar. As a family, we spontaneously broke out into singing all the German songs we know at the first spoonful. Luckily,we don't know any German songs as a family, and so instead we could concentrate on eating.


Good stuff.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Subtitle: On giving up.

In March, Tim donated his long hair to charity. What a cool idea. What a handsome husband. I decided to do the same thing. Only I didn't want to cut my hair quite as short as he cut his. So I decided I would let mine grow a little longer.

Fast forward to late last Saturday night. I had just come out of the shower, and was trying to straighten the tangled, dry, scraggly mass that was my hair, and it was not cooperating. Looking at the wadded hairballs in the mirror, I realized that even a poor diseased child would not want this hair. No one would want this hair. Especially not me.

So, egged on by my six year old, I pulled out the scissors and cut off the messy tangled split ended bottom four inches. Then spent 15 minutes trying to cut it straight to hide the damage. It's still a little jagged along the edge -- probably should go to a professional hair cutting place to get that fixed -- but meanwhile I really like the slightly shorter hair. I don't sit on it anymore, for example. It doesn't tangle as much. I have gone two days without wearing just a ponytail. Life on the edge.

But part of me is still sad that I didn't donate to charity. It would have been such a good cause. Such a lovely idea.

I started this semester with grandiose plans. My two classes were going to be better than ever before. By revamping the entire homework system in one, and by building up a course never offered before at G.O.D. University for the other, I would develop smarter and stronger and better students than ever before.

Sometime in the last week or two I have had to stand back. The students don't realize how much better the homework is -- it's still homework to them. Many skip assignments regularly (*gasp*)! Or are inattentive when they try it. In spite of my great ideas, in practice my students are still just students, and ultimately make their own choices on whether or not to learn. And the other class? While they sympathize with the need for the whole new course, I don't know that they care much whether I'm two weeks ahead or I just finish planning the day's class with 20 minutes to spare.

Needless to say, while the ideas for the courses were beautiful at the beginning of the semester, in practice the ideas have turn into tangled wadded masses of split ends. And this past week, I have been cutting myself away from the beautiful ideas, at least emotionally, and turning back to other important tasks that need to be done.

You know, faculty who are able to step away from their teaching, keeping a healthy emotional distance, have been proven to be more successful in all areas of their career. Including their teaching. That means faculty do better if they spend less time worrying and planning and revamping homework and resuscitating ideas, and just relax and enjoy the journey. With my new scissors, I feel like I've been able to take a step back and enjoy myself more.

And it's so nice not to sit on my hair anymore.

Of course, the edges are still a little jaggy -- probably should go plan tomorrow's graduate course rather than write this. And honestly, analogies really only go so far....

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Carving pumpkins

November 1st. We carved pumpkins tonight.

I know, you are saying, aren't we a little late on the pumpkin carving thing? That was supposed to happen in October.

Walking Jonathan home today, I reminded him: "Monday night. What do you want to do for FHE?"

"Carve pumpkins!"

"...Why not?"

So we hauled in the two pumpkins we bought on sale last week, and cut them open, emptied their guts, and carved them.

When I say we carved them, what I mean is that when I turned my back to dispose of pumpkin guts, Jonathan picked up the knife and declared he was going to cut out an eyeball. Thus followed the most frightening event of all of October and November so far: a six year old wielding a knife.

"Jonathan don't hold the knife like that! Watch your finger! Don't jam it in with your head there! Be careful!"

"Mom, would you stop saying that?"

"No! Are you sure you don't need my help?"

He did an excellent job. No blood. No severed fingers. After carving the little pumpkin, he decided it would make a nice head for the big pumpkin, which would serve as a body. Then he carved four arms in the big one, pulled out the carved pieces and stuck each back in sideways, along with a foot and a belly button.

I was floored. Where did he get the idea for carving such a pumpkin? Sure, the technique was not that great, for a kid who is not allowed near a carving knife on a typical day. But the vision was amazing.

Perhaps we will make an artist out of this boy after all.

After carving the pumpkin, Jonathan declared he wanted to put candles inside. So we found the candles and took them outside. Jonathan also wanted candles next to the pumpkins, like in a "spooky haunted house." So we lit candles and put them next to the pumpkin. Then the boy stood on the porch and in his spookiest voice, welcomed the backyard world to our haunted house.

Me, I stood on the patio watching the show, partly proud at my little monster, but especially relieved that he still had all his fingers and eyes. Thank goodness Halloween is over.

Next Monday he's going to ask to make pumpkin pies, I know it.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween timing

Wednesday night, 7 pm, we drop off Tim at the tip of the mountain, at a corn field maze. Tim was going to New York City for his cousin's wedding (congrats AdamAndAmanda), and his early morning airport ride would be at the corn maze Wednesday night.

Jonathan was most excited about the corn maze -- which made the late hour on a school night particularly problematic. We promised we'd come back Saturday, and headed home to bed. Kind of. Except for that quick stop to pick up a birthday present. 8:30pm, half an hour after bedtime, we were back and in pajamas. Late.

Thursday, with Daddy away, at 3:30 pm sharp I got a message on my phone. "Don't forget McKay's party," said a little voice, near tears.

I was on my bike, heading to pick up Jonathan to take him to McKay's party. For the record, I had not forgotten, nor was I anywhere near late. I picked up the boy, wiped away the tears, and we headed up to the birthday party. We were the first ones there. Happy birthday, McKay. 3:58 pm. Two minutes early.

6:00 pm sharp I was back at McKay's house, waiting for Jonathan to finish his ice cream. We hurried home, ate a quick dinner, then headed back to school for the Lights on After School program. Jonathan was displaying artwork. After a bit of song and dance by the six to twelve year olds, starting at 7pm, we got to wander and see the artwork, eat a cookie, drink blue punch, and head home to bed. 7:45 pm back at our house, into pajamas. Almost on time to bed.

Friday, 11:38 am. Two students walk into my office, asking for help on one problem. I glance at my watch. I have seven minutes before I need to leave for home if I'm going to make it to the Halloween parade on time. OK. We go through the problem. I pack the students out the door. 11:49 am. I can still make it. I have to pee really badly. 11:55 am. I can still make it. On my bike, cruising up the hill, I pass my mother about half a mile from my house, walking and running on her way to the same Halloween parade. She'll never make it. I get home, pull out the car, swing back to pick her up. 12:08 pm. Parade starts at 12:15. Will we make it?

12:13 pm. We park near the playground on the back side of the school, and dash to the gymnasium. All the seats are taken, but there is plenty of space standing in the back. We made it!

12:24 pm. No sign of the kids. Are they coming? The woman standing next to us teaches at the high school across the street. Her lunch ends at 12:44 pm. She hopes her kids will parade through soon. 12:35 pm. Here they are! Each class marches past. I hardly see my boy as I'm fumbling with the camera. And then he's gone, before I get a chance at the photo. Oh well. He saw me, which I suppose is most important.

12:55 pm. I leave my mother the house keys and drive back over to the university, arriving by 1:10 pm. I teach at 2.

4:00 pm. I pack up and head home. Jonathan and Grandma are painting in the kitchen. 5:00 pm we head out for an early dinner, so Grandma can make it to a funeral at 6:00 pm.

Saturday morning, 8:00 am. Jonathan is up! Can we go to the corn maze? Um... do you want to watch TV for a while? 9:30 am. I stumble out of bed. Drag the boy away from Johnny Test, and we eat breakfast. 10:10 am, head toward the corn maze. 10:30 am. At the corn maze. As well as a corn maze, there are hay rides, pig races, bouncing pillows, inflated dinosaurs and a haunted house. I do not believe it was worth the $18 entrance fee (we got $5 off with a coupon), but as I start to get annoyed I remind myself that we are out running and doing things. Playground. Jumping. Walking through corn fields. This is a lot better than TV all morning. We stay until 1pm.

5:30 pm. Rain is coming down in torrents. We were supposed to go trick-or-treating. Jonathan can't wait until 6:00 pm.

6:00 pm. Still raining hard. No kids on the block anywhere. Maybe they decided not to come out on Saturday after all? We put on raincoats and pack umbrellas. The Jedi robe goes over the rain coat. 6:25 pm. We head out into the storm toward the quiet neighborhood streets. If we don't see any other kids, we'll head home. Meanwhile, it's time to be out.

6:48 pm. Rain stops.

7:20 pm. Streets are packed with neighborhood kids collecting candy door to door. We pass several neighbors and friends. Note to self: next year, see if we can't join Jonathan to one of their groups.

7:45 pm. Back at our house, bucket full. Jonathan gets to answer the door and give candy to two people total. 8:00 pm. We turn off all our lights and head downstairs to watch Scooby Doo and Zombie Island. Perfect Halloween movie.

10:00 pm. In sleeping bags in the basement. I tell Jonathan he'd better go to bed now or we're never having another late night Halloween party. I wonder if I will laugh at those words in 10 years?

Sunday morning, 7:30 am. Jonathan bounces my air mattress. Mommy, can I watch TV? Yes, please, just go away!

Happy Halloween. I would like to do Thanksgiving without the clock. Is that possible?