Sunday, December 29, 2013

Departure, arrival

As we drove to the airport on Boxing day, the sun was out, glinting off the snow and into the backs of our eyeballs. Jonathan said he was getting a headache.  We, of course, expressed sympathy. It wasn't until about four hours later, on the bumpy, noisy plane taking us to California that the headache became nausea, and then he was sick.  Meaning he threw up into his airsick bag.  Gross. 

Another two hours later, out of security, past the multiple lanes of cars parked in the pick-up area of the LA airport, and then back through security again, well past dinner, Jonathan picked at his quesadilla, then gave up and ate a few fries.  We were off to an auspicious start.

But things got better.  There was no motion sickness on the large plane flying in a straight line over the ocean all day.  We all slept for about six of the sixteen hours.  We left snow and cold on the 26th, and arrived to wind shaking out the green tops of the eucalyptus trees on the 28th.  Green grass.  Blue sky.  Shorts and t-shirts and Merry Christmas d├ęcor still all over town. 

We were too early to check into our hotel, so we dropped off all nine of our bags (nine!) and ate an exotic meal of fried chicken at the chain restaurant two doors down.  After checking in, we walked a few blocks to buy a phone that would work on this side of the world.  We realized just after arrival at the phone store that we needed passports to actually purchase the phone, and the passports were back in the hotel.  So then we walked the few blocks back to the hotel.  And back to the phone shop again.  Then back to the hotel again.  We do own a phone now.  And sore feet.

And that was really the end.  It was early evening at that point.  We succumbed to jet-laggery and stayed inside, went to bed at 8pm. 

This morning we made our way to church, in a neighborhood we are contemplating living in.  The people were friendly.  The neighborhood seemed pleasant.  The commute was actually only 40 minutes, one tram, not 60.  A 40 minute commute is not unreasonable.  Is it?

Tomorrow we hope to inspect several apartments, and submit an application to live ... somewhere.  We are all dreading the day.  But Tuesday and Wednesday, agencies are shut down for New Year's Eve.  So we will relax and be tourists then.  Hopefully we will be tourists with an idea of where we can live for the next six months.  Insert frowny face.

For today, jet-laggery may be winning out again ... at 9pm.  If I can make it to 10pm tomorrow, then Tuesday I just have to endure two more hours to meet the New Year at midnight -- 18 hours before most of my friends. 

Anyway, I will close this post with those two important goals:  first, find a way to avoid sleeping on the streets after our hotel stay is up, and second, overcome jet lag enough to meet midnight on December 31. 

The end.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On packing

It really isn't hard to pack for a six month trip.  You pack one week of summer clothes, and one week of winter clothes.  Add toothbrush and other toiletries, a few electronics, and you're done.  The end.

The tricky part comes when you realize that one week of clothes fills a whole suitcase, and there are three of you, and you were hoping to check most of the luggage, but the airline permits just one checked bag each. 

Then you start thinking that maybe you don't need a whole week of summer clothes.  If you bring a long-sleeved button-up shirt, you can roll up the sleeves to 3/4 length and wear that in the summer.  Roll them down for winter.

So you take out two short sleeved shirts.  And then you look at the pile of luggage, unchanged except for the removal of two short sleeved shirts, and you realize that those two shirts really don't make a difference.  So you put one back and keep the other. 

And then Tim suggests taking another bag anyway.  Because you technically can add another carry on, even if you count the giant stuffed bunny as a carry on.  Or is the backpack the carry on and the stuffed bunny the personal item?  It is immaterial.  One person can drag another suitcase through LAX.  So why not?

Then you remind Tim that there is always more stuff coming back.  If you have already maxed out your luggage, how will you possibly deal with the stuff you've acquired when you pack to come home?  And then you answer your own question. 

I know.  I'll just leave a couple of shirts there in six months.

Because you have already ascertained that two short sleeved shirts make such a vast amount of difference in packing space. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Applesauce

Sometimes, I have misplaced priorities.  I inherited that from my mother.

This morning, for example, I spent a couple of hours making applesauce.  The apples were picked in October, and they have been awaiting their fate in the garage, and in the lower right bin in the refrigerator.  I needed to clean the fridge anyway.  And it was my last chance to make applesauce and date the jars 2013.  Our next chance for applesauce will be 2014.  So I made applesauce.

As I made applesauce, I watched the snow fall out the window, and wondered if we should drive 50 miles through the snow to a family party, or not.

And then, while waiting for the apples to soften, I cleaned the fridge, one shelf at a time, sorting through condiments and throwing away the last of the pomegranate seeds from thanksgiving.

Stacked on my dresser are two suitcases worth of summer clothes, for next week, when we will be far away from applesauce, snow, and family.  A large bucket of water is warming in the living room.  Tomorrow, we will put Mr Fish in there, while we disassemble his tank, reassemble it at my aunt's house down the street, and then move him to his new home.  Tim keeps checking items off our packing list, even as I write.  We need to make sure we take appropriate devices, cables, headsets, chargers, plug adapters.  Do we pack sandals, or buy them there?  Sunscreen.  How many winter clothes do I need to make it through Christmas?  And still we have no home lined up.

So I made applesauce.  We gave up on the snow ever stopping, and decided not to brave the drive to the family party.  When the applesauce was finished, quart jars cooling on a rack, I mopped the floor.  Tim folded laundry.  We played video games -- the ones we can't take with us.

Yesterday we said goodbye to friends we won't see until 6th grade.  Tomorrow we will pack in earnest.

 Today, I made applesauce.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Flute

In fifth grade here in P city, the kids get to pick an instrument and join band, or orchestra.  Jonathan's first choice was flute.  Enough kids were interested in flute this year that the teacher had to ship most of them off to clarinet.  Somehow, Jonathan still ended up playing the flute.  


Last night, he had his first fifth grade band performance.  He can play "Jingle Bells" like a pro.  Well, maybe not like a pro.  But he looks good.


And let me just conclude by saying that there is very little in this world more culturally uplifting than the band concert put on by a group of kids who have all been playing their instruments for about three months.  

Except maybe the orchestra concert that happened a half hour later.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Goodbye, old friend

We sold our car today.

We actually wanted to sell it next week.  But we had the great idea of posting it for sale early and asking for more than we thought we would get.  Turns out the car was sold in three minutes.


This car we owned for nearly 10 years.  Two states and two countries (though we didn't actually take it to the second country).

Rear facing infant seat.  Front facing infant seat.  Toddler seat.  Booster seat.  It's the only car Jonathan has known.

Two tickets.  Speeding (Tim), and running a red light (Tim).

Heat waves (Texas).  Hail damage (Texas).  Snow tires (Utah).  Bison traffic jams (Wyoming).

It was a good car, and reliable.  Now a good, reliable car for someone else.

But it kind of feels like we lost an old friend.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Skirts

My parents got called on a mission, because they had grown a foot or two.

My parents, with four feet between them.
Back in August, before they left, I said I'd help my mother find appropriate clothing.  There were several things to bring on her list, but the hardest things to find were skirts.  She needed several conservative skirts: skirts that hung below the knee, but above the ankles.  Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be many available.  After spending a few hours in the outlet mall, finding short skirts and artsy long skirts and ridiculous maroon skirts cut diagonally that wouldn't match anything else, we ended up buying only a couple of blouses.

Then we took our search online.  

There were more options online.  Online, you can find cotton conservative skirts from Walmarty-like places for under twenty bucks, or fine and fancy wool conservative skirts from Italy for three hundred dollars.  For a couple of days, I left several websites open so I could show my mom what was available, and so she could pick out the conservative skirts of her dreams.  I clicked on lots of skirt ads in those days.  And then, after a long and thorough search, I had a couple of skirts shipped directly to her home in time for the Big Adventure.

And they lived happily ever after.

Except somehow, three months later, I'm still getting a lot of skirt ads in my web browser.  They're in the margins of my news sites, listed in the corner of my email inbox, and plastered across the top of a few other websites I check out occasionally.  They show quite lovely conservative skirts, if you happen to be shopping for a future missionary.  But I'm not.  My missionary is many thousand miles away. 

It's great that my websites know me, and know exactly what I am searching for.  

But how do you let the algorithms know that mother is already happy ever after, and that I don't need any more conservative skirts?  

Come on.  I want the car ads back.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shopping for apartments

I haven't written about it in a while, but our trip to Melbourne, Australia, is still on.  Lately, we've been looking for places to stay, via internet. 

There are two French immersion primary schools in Melbourne -- or at least in the suburbs.  One of them wrote me instantly and said no way, we won't take short term enrollments.  The other wrote and sent application materials.  They would take our son, and he could keep up his French language skills. 

Unfortunately, the French school is located an hour away from the University by train. 

We could live near the French school, and I could commute by train every day.  The school is near a lovely park, not far from a public library in one direction, shopping in another direction.  A tram would take us three miles down the road to great beaches.  And perhaps during my two hour daily commute, I could get work done on the train.  Some people do it.  But the last time I commuted by public transportation for an hour each way, I fell asleep just a few minutes into the journey.  In retrospect, I think the sleep was my body's way of dealing with motion sickness. 

In any case, as we looked at housing near the French school, we found options, but all unfurnished.  We'll only be in Melbourne for six or seven months.  We'd rather not purchase furniture and then dump it again in that time.

So then we started looking elsewhere.

On one website, we found a house for rent, complete with furniture, piano, game room, several bedrooms, and right on the beach!  But it was an hour's drive away by car, nowhere near public transportation.  Since we were hoping to avoid getting a car, that doesn't sound like a possibility.  (Tim:  But it's right on the beach!)

With further searching, we found a pretty spacious 3 bedroom apartment near two parks and just two miles from the university -- furnished, and within our budget.  The best part of this place was that it had a separate study on the opposite side of the building from the bedrooms, where Tim could work in peace at 3am when he had his meetings with California.  We wrote the landlord, discussed rent, internet, etc, and I emailed a colleague and asked about the area.

When the colleague wrote back that the area was great, we were ready to go.  Except 20 minutes later the colleague wrote back again.  The nearest primary school was not in a good neighborhood, he said, and there was no guarantee that our son could go to a better school closer to the university.  I looked up the nearest primary school.  Indeed, on their FAQ page, they stated that the school was located right next to the "projects" -- but don't let that bother you, they assured parents like me.  And I don't want that to bother me.  It does look like a good school, with lots of international students, and special opportunities.  But I would be walking my child there and then back by myself each day.  Which would probably be fine.  But in the wrong direction from work.  And not recommended by my colleague.  Is it worth the risk? 

My colleague knew of a guy who lived very close to the university, who would be moving out in early January.  We contacted the guy, and found out his house was suitably sized, near good schools, an easy walk to work, even cheaper than our budget -- but unfurnished.  Again.  But he would be willing to sell us some of his furniture if we were interested.  (Assorted mattresses, bookcases, and a refrigerator.)  So that's an option, but his landlord hasn't written back to us. 

Lately, we've been looking in the Central Business District.  There seem to be many furnished apartments available there, within a reasonable walk of the university, within the boundaries of the one guy's school (where his kids have been attending, and which they liked).  But the properties are nearly all available NOW.  I emailed a couple of them, and they told me to stop by to view the place at the next open house, at the end of the week.  Which is of course impossible.  And then no further info after that.

So we have booked a hotel for a couple of weeks.  Our current plan is to wait, to set up some appointments to view apartments just after we arrive, and to snatch something available in those first two weeks -- probably in the Central Business District, because that seems to have the largest number of furnished places.  The area near the beach also has several furnished options.  But the commute....

Anyway, I have spent a lot of time studying the primary schools and neighborhoods of Melbourne, and public transportation routes.  It will be interesting to actually arrive in the city and start putting visuals with the maps.  And fingers crossed that there will be a suitable furnished apartment waiting for us somewhere in early January.  If not, we'll just have to move to the beach. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Disrupted train travel

Sunday evening, I hopped on the Amtrak from New Haven to Philadelphia.  The total journey was supposed to take less than three hours, and I was supposed to arrive just after 9pm.  There would be plenty of time to take a taxi to my hotel, unpack, prepare mentally for the final stop on my Fabulous Working Journey of October 2013. 

The train stopped on the tracks about twenty minutes outside of New York Penn station.  A draw bridge was up.  And broken.  And mechanics were going to fix it, any time now, so we were just going to wait until that happened.  My neighbor asked the conductor if there was a plan B, and she said that plans A through Z were all the same: wait until the draw bridge was fixed. 

Around 10:30 pm, now running about three hours late, Amtrak implemented plan AA (you know, the one that comes after Z).  The train reversed back to the previous station, we all got out, crossed over the tracks, and hopped on a regional train to Grand Central Station. 

Turns out that Amtrak only goes into Penn Station, not Grand Central Station.  As an outsider, I didn't know this.  I think I heard the conductor of the regional train trying to explain how we stranded Amtrak riders could get to Penn station, but as there were hundreds of people packed into the cars at this point, it was difficult to hear what the conductor was saying.  Realizing that I would never make it out of New York City unassisted, I turned to the couple next to me and asked if they had been on Amtrak, and if they knew where to go to continue an interrupted journey south?

The couple I asked just happened to live in Philadelphia, and indeed, they had been on their way home before the draw bridge broke.  They were also very familiar with New York City.  I followed them down the long hall to the exit, into a waiting taxi, through Times Square, lit up like New Year's Eve at 11:30pm on a Sunday in October, and around the corner to Penn Station.  We hurried down the long hall, to find that a Keystone train was leaving for Philadelphia at 11:58, in just twenty minutes. 

The line to the ticket counter was long.  The broken draw bridge had stranded people on both sides of New York City.  But a woman waived me to a counter near the line's exit, and eight minutes before the train departed to Philadelphia, I had a ticket. 

My train arrived at 1:20 am at the Philadelphia 30th Street Station.  There were not quite enough taxis to meet the 1:20 am train, so I waited in the taxi queue for about fifteen minutes.  And then fifteen minutes later I was finally in my hotel. 

Reflecting on this experience, I feel lucky.  I feel lucky to have found a couple who knew exactly how to handle an Amtrak incident between New York and Pennsylvania.  I feel lucky to have screwed up the courage to ask someone for help.  If I had waited in silence, assuming I would find someone from Amtrak to assist me, I probably would have spent an extra ten or fifteen minutes in Grand Central Station before I figured out where to go next.  And then I probably would have missed the Keystone train to Philadelphia.  And then perhaps I would have had to spend the night huddled against my luggage in a train station. 

Everything worked out.  And it would have worked out even if I had spent a few extra hours in New York City awaiting the next train.  But while I am here, and writing, and reflecting, I think I ought to send a Thank You drifting out into the internet, just for the simple gift of a few more hours of sleep, and the peace of mind of having arrived safely. 

Thank You.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

After speaking

Over the weekend, I was at a conference located somewhere in the central time zone.  A grad student, after giving her first research talk at a conference ever, asked if it becomes easier?  If you lose some of that nervousness when presenting your research as you age? 

I have lumped all my travel this semester into two painful weeks of hotel rooms and airports and train stations.  During these two weeks, I've been scheduled to give four completely different talks.  The first one was on Saturday in the central time zone, at a conference sponsored by a professional society.  A friend of mine was receiving an honor from that society, and I was happy to go and see her, and give a shorter talk. 

The second talk took place this morning, in Rhode Island, at a rather major conference with funding from the National Science Foundation.  It's great to be invited to speak at an important, interesting conference like this one.  I know and like a lot of the participants.  I admire their work.  I'm learning a lot, and possibly developing new collaborations.  I will return home armed with lots of new ideas.

But no, dear grad student.  Presenting research doesn't get easier as I age. 

This morning, I was nervous.  Nervous.  What if I say something stupid in front of all the smart people out there?  What if they ask the details of that particular argument -- wait, how did that argument go?  Oh no!  I don't even remember!  Quick, look it up!  Stick it just under the talk outline -- just in case.  Take a few deep breaths.  Try not to shake. 

During the talk, the nervousness affected me by making me go slower, and be more meticulous.  Consequently, I only got through the first 2/3 of my talk, and had to completely drop the last bit, which I thought was most interesting. 

Then after the talk, I was exhausted.  I slumped in my chair, depressed.  Why didn't I think to ask that question that Professor Famous asked, earlier?  So it wouldn't have caught me off guard?  Why didn't I skip that one part that everyone knew?  So I could have at least mentioned the applications?  Why do people ask me to give these talks?  And midway into the next talk, I realized that what I really needed was a hug from Tim.  Where was Tim?  Oh yeah.  Two time zones away. 

Then someone else gave a talk.  We took a break.  Lunch.  Several people came to ask me questions.  Several people commented on how they appreciated the clarity of my talk.  (Not slow.  Clear.)  A few offered ghosts of ideas for continuing research.  This might be interesting -- have you thought of it?  I think an argument along these lines will give part of what you need, won't it?  Indeed. 

And slowly the heavy, slumpy feeling left, and I remembered why I come to these conferences and speak, even when it is hard and I am nervous. 

Because even though the nervousness doesn't really leave, and no, it doesn't get much easier, still -- you gain a lot from doing hard things. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Clown and Owl

While cleaning out an older home in September, we discovered a clown and an owl costume from about the 1950s.  There is a reason, friends, that children everywhere are told not to wear masks with their Halloween costumes anymore.  It is because they may look as scary as these two guys, the Clown, and the Owl.



With the help of Mr Clown and Mr Owl, as well as their respective wives and others, we were able to get the house emptied and very clean.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Writing

Sometimes, I write too much.

Papers, letters of recommendation, politely worded emails requesting assistance, grant proposals.

I use writing to teach myself something new.  To fix a problem in a paper.  To sway someone to my point of view.  To figure out what my point of view is, and why.  To tell the people who care about my family what is happening to us.

My to do list is full of things I need to write.  Email a colleague.  Update a letter.  Request enrollment. Review a paper.  Write a paper.  And other such things that are hard to do.

In high school, they ask if you like words or logic?  Narratives or equations?  As if you could walk through life focusing on just the math without the writing.  Without persuading the world that what you do is Important.  Without showing the world that you are actually doing Something.  You need words for that.

But at the end of a long day writing, I find myself less inclined to write to you, dear Blog.

I will try to do better.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Shoes

Today when it was time to leave to walk Jonathan to school, I went out to the garage and grabbed a pair of shoes and slipped them on in the dark.

After we had walked half a mile down T-view drive, I looked at my feet and noticed I was wearing one brown shoe and one black one.  And that the black shoe had a thicker sole than the brown one, so that I was limping.  And I had been limping without even realizing it for half a mile.

The family thought my mismatched shoes were hilarious.  Actually, I laughed the hardest of everyone.  By the time we got to school, I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.  And then I had to walk all the way back home with one black shoe, one brown shoe, limping.

I remember introducing myself once at a college meeting.  As I said who I was, a woman across the table called out, "Oh, we all know who you are.  We see you walking up and down T-view drive all the time!"

Next time you see me on T-view drive, check out my shoes.  And if they don't happen to match, maybe pretend you didn't notice.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Free

Tim and I have been away from home a lot in the last four months.  First, I was gone most of June.  Then Tim was gone most of July.  And then I was gone again for much of August.  At church, I found a substitute for my job playing piano, but I think everyone grew tired of trying to remember when I would be around and when I would not.  One of the ladies currently in charge of organizing the class asked me upon my return if I would be around for a while now, and I said yes.  My next major travel wasn't until October.  She raised her eyebrows.

By the next week, they had found someone else for the piano playing job.  I should add here, for those less familiar, that our jobs in church are all volunteer. Typically, people rotate through church jobs, switching in and out every year or two.  Before I was pianist, I was a teacher for the adult Sunday school class.  Before I was an adult teacher, I was a kids' teacher.  The difference with switching out this time is that I'm not switching back in.  I am officially out, with no plans for anything new until a year from now.

It's kind of a relief.  I can now travel without the added hassle of finding substitutes.  And that's lucky for me, because I forgot that my next time away was actually in September.  I missed last week again, because I was saying farewell to these people:


Good luck, above people.  You will need it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Three new year's resolutions

It's a whole new year at work!  And because I'm spending the year on a research leave, I have a little more time to do something new and different.  

These are the new and different things I plan to do:

1.  Learn something.  A student suggested a reading course on a book I've always wanted to read.  Since I have the time, I agreed to sponsor the course.  Another group will be reading a different book on a related topic.  Since I have the time, I plan to attend.

2.  Be a better mentor.  I've got six students working for me, which is kind of a lot.  My goal is to figure out how to get them to mentor each other, actually, with more senior ones taking the junior ones under their wings.  Sounds great, eh?  In real life, one of my undergraduates, who came highly recommended, stopped by my office today and said she wanted out.  She didn't think she would have the time for my research project after all.  Reader, she has been on the job for less than two days.  I told her to give it another week.  

3.  Finish the three papers I have in draft form.  Might I possibly get them submitted by December?  One of them yes.  Two of them maybe.  Three of them?  Seems unlikely.  But it would be really great....

That's all.  I only want to do those three things.  


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Report on August

My parents leave in just over a week to spend 18 months as church missionaries in Croatia.  

Yup.  What do you do with your retirement?

There is a language training center here near G.O.D. University, and my parents signed up to take Croatian lessons, all day every day, throughout August.  We welcomed them into our guest bedroom for the first part and the last part of the month.  In the middle of the month, they had to stay with my aunt down the street, because we had a pre-planned family reunion with Tim's family at his cabin.  

The most exciting feature this year at the cabin was the bats!  There was an indoor bat problem.  Bats flew in the chimney every night, and had to be carefully caught and released.  We used the top of a plastic salad container to trap a bat against the wall, then we slid paper under them, and then we tossed them outside.  


The real bat man (TM) came by each morning to try to plug up the bat holes, so that they could live their lives happily away from where we were living our lives.  And each evening he came back at dusk to see if they were still flying out from under the roof of the cabin (they were), and if so, where they were coming from.  The real bat man (TM) drives a white pickup truck (the bat-mobile) and lives in Idaho (Gotham city?).  He has white hair and a bald spot, but he is rather fit for a guy whose grandkids (boy wonder) are old enough to climb the ladders for him to spray foam under the eaves of the house.  

We were back from the cabin on August 8.  On August 9th, Jonathan and I flew to Hartford, Connecticut.  And on August 10, my sister Deb and her two youngest came to pick us up near the airport.  We spent a fun weekend with Deb and her family, and then I took a train to New York City to attend a conference.  Jonathan spent his days at the Eli Whitney museum in a science day camp, and he spent his afternoons and evenings with Deb and her kids, while I was at my conference.  

Oh, and Tim was home in Provo doing boring work.  

The conference ended on August 16, and then Jonathan and I spent another fun weekend in Connecticut.  We went to the beach -- here's my sister and her youngest at the beach:  


And to church, to the local school playground, and just hung out and had a lot of fun.  Here is a picture of Jonathan and his cousins just having fun.


And for future reference, Jonathan really loved the Eli Whitney camp.  It was his favorite camp of the summer.  He built all sorts of cool science toys, which we had to somehow cram into our suitcases to take home.  

On August 19, we flew back home and took the train from the airport to our city.  New feature!  You can now take light rail and train all the way from the airport to my town, and it only takes two hours and $5.50.

But anyway, on August 20, my parents came back to stay at our house to learn Croatian.  

And on August 21, Jonathan started 5th grade.

On August 26, my parents came back to our house to learn even more Croatian, and this time my youngest brother followed them down and also spent the week.  And good times were had by all.  I got to meet my brother's girlfriend Miranda.  We played Settlers of Catan.  And due to lack of a single wheat card, my brother won the game.  I was robbed.  Literally.  

Anyway, it has been a lovely August, and it has been nice seeing so many relations.  And the next time I write, it will be September.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carrots

We do gardening in bursts here.  Mostly, we neglect things.  But weekly or bi-weekly we try to pull something up or hack something down that shouldn't be growing.  This gardening strategy has worked extremely well for our yard.  When we find a plant that we like, a plant that seems to be growing well where it has been planted, we leave it alone, and occasionally cut down the competition.  If we leave it alone long enough, it will go to seed, and then the next year we have even more of that type of happy plant.  And soon the happy plants take over the entire garden in an impressive way, and the neighbors compliment us and ask us what our gardening secrets are.

 
This is how we came to have a front garden full of hollyhocks.  And an expanding raspberry patch in the back yard.  And a vegetable garden overrun with green onions, red chard, leaf and butter lettuce, and this year, carrots.  

Last year we planted a few carrot seeds, but only a handful grew into carrot plants.  The carrots were difficult to dig up, and once dug up, they tasted like... well... carrots.  Which means that somewhere in the heat of mid-summer the carrots weren't worth digging anymore.  So we neglected the remnants.  And then one of the carrot plants did something interesting.  It grew huge stalks, and big clusters of little white flowers.  And the bees loved the flowers, so I wasn't going to cut them down at that point.  And before we knew it, we had carrot seeds scattered all across the vegetable garden.  

This spring, to our happy surprise, there were many little carrot plants growing up around the red chard, lettuce, and green onions.  I thinned a little in one of my gardening bursts, and then abandoned all gardening during the months of June and August, and spent my gardening time in July picking fruit instead of worrying about the vegetable garden.  

But last week, I realized the vegetable garden was overgrown, and it was time to pick the carrots.  

So I spent two hours today digging them up, and after pulling about 2/3 of them, the carrot harvest covered my kitchen counter. 


Carrots!  Who knew?  How fun!  Except they still taste like... well... carrots.  

What are we going to do with all these carrots?

Dancing carrots from my garden.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Somehow autumn

Today was Jonathan's first day of fifth grade.  If all goes as planned, and we actually get visas and paperwork and housing and flights and transportation and furniture and school and all those things you need to move to another country for eight months, then Jonathan will have two first days of fifth grade.  The second one will be at the beginning of February.  But this was Jonathan's first first day of fifth grade.

I thought it was a pretty good deal, having Jonathan go back to school here -- today -- in the middle of the summer.  It's great to have him back with the friends he loves and learning again so early in the year.  In the middle of the summer.

In fact, I was happily walking around with this idea that we are in the middle of summer all the way to and from school this morning.  And then I was happily driving around with this idea that we are in the middle of summer after that, as I headed up over the mountain to the local conference on the other side.  I was happily thinking it was the middle of summer right up until I looked into the mountain and saw...

... orange.

The green hills are covered with spots of orange.  As in autumn orange.  As in mid-summer is gone, and autumn has already touched the trees in mountains.  During the next few weeks, while we are peacefully sleeping in our beds with the windows open, appreciating summer, that sneaky autumn will creep down out of the mountains and start touching the trees in the valley as well.  Which means summer is over.

School started, and in the mountains, it is autumn.

How did that happen again?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

After tenure

Now that I have tenure, I do crazy things. Like wear purple sparkly glasses with hearts on them. It is true. I have worn them all week. I am wearing them now.

 
My new purple sparkly glasses make a statement to the world. They say, "World, I am wearing purple sparkly glasses." Apparently from the photo above, they also say, "World, I have a large red nose. But ignore that for the moment and check out these awesome glasses.

People who don't have tenure can wear whatever glasses they want, but typically they will want to wear more boring, conservative glasses, that say, "World, I can conform. I am reliable and diligent and I wear respectable glasses." But people who have tenure can wear glasses that say, "World, I am a big nerdy nerd with thick glasses. But wait! Also with a hint of sparkle. And purple hearts? That totally indicates some mental instability and wow! You just may want to back away now. Slowly." I scare the world with my purple sparkly glasses. I make them realize that I am unpredictable.

In other unpredictable behavior, I also wore a skirt today to a conference I am attending. This may be a first for me. Or possibly a second. I think I wore a skirt to a conference once about six years ago. And a pink flowery shirt. I am totally off the wall crazy. I know it. Now that I have tenure, I can be crazy in crazy unpredictable ways.


Ha!  Bet you didn't expect another photo here at the end.  See what I mean?
 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I haven't been on Facebook

Facebook has made me angry, and I don't have to put up with stuff that makes me angry.  So I'm putting it in Time Out for an indeterminate amount of time.

I was already becoming less happy with their website.  The ads were becoming more and more intrusive and ... blinky.  I found out that some of my friends' status updates weren't showing up in my news feed, in spite of the fact that I had never told Facebook to filter those friends' updates.

Then I went away from the internet for a week.  When I came back, there were about five messages in a row in my inbox from Facebook, telling me that I sure was missing out by not logging in.  Five in a row.  They were mailing me the same spam message every single day.  So I immediately logged in and changed my settings to never get that kind of message again.

And then I posted a cute little comment on Facebook, while I was there.  We were returning from a road trip, and I joked that somewhere outside of a small town in Idaho, we put away the ipad and traveled like the pioneers did:  playing the alphabet game with billboards on the side of the road.

And then I posted the comment and nothing happened.  Nothing.  So I tried to post it again, and I was asked, "Do you really want to post this twice?"  So I asked Tim if he had seen my comment.  And he hadn't.  So I went to my profile page and looked up the comment, and sure enough, there it was hidden on my personal space.  But Facebook had decided not to put it on anyone's news feed.  Not even my own.

"Want to change this?" asked Facebook.  "You can flag this post as important."

But it wasn't important.  It was just cute.  And I was annoyed that Facebook had arbitrarily decided that the first thing I had posted in about a month was just not really worth sharing with my friends.  Then I asked the screen, What Is The Point?  I thought Facebook was a way for me and my friends to share stuff, like cute little status updates.

But as I kept hitting reload, trying to see my own status update, and as I kept getting flashing new ads instead, I remembered the real point.

Selling stuff.  Selling me stuff.  And selling me to other stuff.  And when the selling becomes more visible than me, I'm out.

And I haven't been back.

I decided I was not going to delete my account.  I was just going to let it sit there and maybe glance at it every now and then after a month or so -- long enough for my web browser to forget that I ever used to go there.  

But today, I received two new messages in my email inbox from Facebook.  Even though I told it never to send me messages reminding me to log in, it has decided to send me selected items from my news feed anyway.  Like the fact that Tim has uploaded photos, and the fact that a professor friend of mine recommends an article.  Grrr....

This may be the real end.  The final end.  The sad, bitter end.

Alas.  This means if you want to tell me about the cute stuff happening in your life from now on, you may just have to do it the way the pioneers did: send me an email.  Sorry guys.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In one week

This week, I have picked 22 cups of black raspberries.  I have picked five buckets of summer apples, and fourteen buckets of apricots.  I have also picked four cups of currants.

I have made five trays of apricot fruit leather, canned seven quarts of apricots, and made fifteen trays of dried apples.  I have washed and taken stems off of eight cups of currants, and cleaned and frozen 20 cups of raspberries.

I have vacuumed twice, run four loads of laundry, cleaned five bathrooms, made eight beds, run three loads of dishes, and cleaned about forty pots.

I have driven hundreds of miles, applied four layers of sunscreen, enforced reading time, math time, piano practice time, cleaning time.  Bed time.  Running practice time.

I have played four board games.  I have endured many episodes of Johnny Test.  I have cooked ten meals, and assembled the cold ingredients for the others that I did not cook.

I have given two haircuts, and then fixed one of those haircuts the next day.  I have cleaned out a clogged drain, with green goo, a plunger, and an old toothbrush.

I have weeded enough mint and bindweed to fill a giant green bin.  I thinned the pink apples.  I cleared the brambles out from around the beehive.

I wrote 41 pages of research writing, and crafted dozens of fine figures.  I met with three students and four faculty.  I sent out exam scores.  I found an error in my paper.  I could not fix it, but I found a way around it.  I became depressed as my collaborator read his reviews, explaining why his grant was not funded (they don't think we'll make progress using our current methods).

I have fallen into bed exhausted, and then lain in bed with my heart beating fast, my mind skimming over all the tasks that needed to be completed, the chores and obligations.  I have looked up at the ceiling in fear and asked, what am I forgetting that is keeping me from sleeping?

I have been driving down the road from swimming lessons, wet boy in the back seat with pink lines around his eyes from goggles, my research results collapsing in the back of my head, thinking, this is what the rest of my life will be like.  And then I contemplated changing jobs.  Made a list in my head of the people I should network with in case I decide to make that happen.  Weighed pros and cons.  All between State Street and 800 East.

I have walked in the early morning beside my boy, while he tells me things that make me laugh and laugh.  I have taken hugs and forehead kisses.  I have shared stories of Sampson (haircuts) and friendship (Jonathan).  We have stared at the ants, crawling all over each other before the sun rises.  He has told of water fights, of choosing souvenirs at camp, of the difficulties of trying to work with a partner when both boys are nine years old.

I have listened to the sprinklers at 4am.  Turned off the fruit dehydrator at 5:30.  Gone running at 6:20.

I have lived.  I have worked.  And overall, it was a good week. And I would do it again.  I could do it again. If I had to.

But wow, I can't believe how much I'm looking forward to Tim coming home in a few days.

Monday, July 15, 2013

July

July is one of my favorite months, because I love the way it smells.  It smells like a summer thunderstorm -- heavy drops scattering the dust on the hot pavement.  A fresh breeze blowing the smell of cool green out of the canyons.  Chlorine on skin.  Cut grass and garden mint.  Raspberry.  I love the way it feels.  Warm bare feet on the carpet, in the grass.  A trickle of sweat at the hairline.  Sun on elbows and knees.  I love the way it looks.  Deep blue and bright white and dark green.  Purple stained fingers.  The colors are vivid in July.  Here is what our hollyhocks look like in July.


My only problem with July is the amount of yard work we have to do.  Because of all the travel in June, the garden is overgrown and needs serious weeding and trimming.  The black raspberries have been ripening.  We have picked several buckets this year, but many more have dried on the bushes, and many more still lie pale or red, waiting for a few more hot days to turn dark juicy purple.  The currants needed picking, too.  I gave about 8 cups of currants to my brother and his family.  I have at least that many left.  This year I'm going to make jam.  Must it be done in July?  And then there are the sour cherries, which we picked a little too late this year, and the apricots -- six have fallen off the tree, and the summer apples. 

Jonathan was at a robotics camp last week, held at the northern tip of the city five cities north of here.  He loved the camp.  He built a robot that could run around obstacles.  But the commute was a pain.  After two days of driving 40 minutes each way, I found the fifth city's public library, and spent four and a half hours writing research papers there while Jonathan built robots.  I was actually quite productive.  This week Jonathan will be in morning swimming lessons, which aren't long enough for me to accomplish much, but afternoon adventure camps.  I've been shuffling my grad student meetings around, trying to fit them in with Jonathan's schedule.  Apologizing.  Tim is out of town, so timing gets complicated.  Luckily my job is flexible.  I'm trying to write two research paper drafts by August, and although each amounts to hours and hours or work, they can be written in the library, or late at night, or early in the morning.  Only the student meetings, the exam writing, the administrative work needs to be done on campus. 

My dad's birthday is in July.  Jonathan and I drove about 10 cities north to wish him happy birthday yesterday.  Can you figure out how old he is?   (Hint:  the candles are read correctly from his direction, not from the direction of the camera.)


And that's about it.  Sunshine, sprinklers, canyon breezes, raspberries, and commuting around the two-county metropolitan area.  July is wonderful.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Laramie

This blog has become something of a travel log lately.  That is ok.  It is my blog, it can be whatever it wants to be when I let it.

Over the long weekend that was the 4th of July holiday in this country, we visited my brother at his home in Laramie, Wyoming.  Craig has lived in Wyoming for almost five years, which is as long as we have lived in our own mountain home.  However, it takes about seven hours to drive from our house to his, and that drive ought not to be made in the winter time, or spring or fall when there might be winter weather, which pretty much rules out driving there any time except July and August for us wimps.  Ah, you ask, but why drive when you could fly?  Because when my brother has to travel by plane, he first drives 2.5 hours to Denver, and then leaves from the airport there.  And so if we flew, we would first have to drive one hour to our own airport, fly to Denver, and then drive 2.5 hours to Laramie.  By the time we arrived, we might as well have driven in the first place.  And so we did.

Driving across Wyoming on the interstate highway is a unique experience.  The state of Wyoming is truly lovely, but it is truly empty.  I found that I could only stand looking at the lovely emptiness for so long, and then I became very bored.  And Tim, who was driving, also was bored, and so he wouldn't let me read my book, but wanted to converse.  And there isn't much to converse about, miles and miles and miles across Wyoming.

One can converse about the weather.  Or the indications for potential weather in Wyoming.  About every 50 miles, there is a huge striped gate and a sign informing motorists that when the gate is closed, the interstate is closed.  The end.  Go home.  Apparently, these gates are closed often in the winter during storms, when the snow blows across the emptiness of Wyoming in raging blizzards.  Several of these gates are on the outskirts of towns.  In the event of a blizzard, one returns one's car to town and checks into a hotel room until the highway opens again.  However, there are towns only every 100 miles in Wyoming.  That means that several of these gates are in the middle of nowhere.  We had to ask ourselves what we would do if the road was closed 50 miles out from the nearest town?  Drive back?  Hunker down? Sometimes there was a lonely gas station out there.  Spend the night?

In July, the gates were wide open, allowing three truckers to pass through for every automobile.  But the very existence of the gates makes you wonder about life in Wyoming in February.

Anyway, after driving seven hours across the emptiness that is Wyoming, we finally finally reached Laramie.  Finally.  And to my surprise, after driving past the many trailer parks that pass for settlements in Wyoming, we found that Laramie is a very nice town.  It has a population of about 30,000, which makes the whole city about as big as my university.  It is also a university town.  The University of Wyoming has a very pretty campus, with many buildings constructed out of local stone, and tall pines growing between grassy areas around the buildings.  But the whole city is also nice, and seemed like a pleasant place to live in July.

It was fun to be in a small city on the 4th of July.  Laramie held a kind of town fair in one of the parks.  Many local businesses, churches, and other groups set up booths, and lots of them gave out free stuff.  We got free sandwiches, free water, free snow cones, free ice cream.  Free balloons from the local fire department.  Free crazy hair coloring from a local salon.  The kids stood in line to jump in a bounce house.  We all tried walking on stilts, and listening to local music.  The weather was perfect.  It was sunny and warm, but the temperature was no higher than 80 degrees.  Of course, the city lies at an elevation of over 7000 feet above sea level.  That altitude leads to raging blizzards and closed interstates in the winter.  But apparently it also leads to mild summers, with tall pines and green grass and seeds from the cottonwood trees blowing in the wind in July.

Thursday night we parked our lawn chairs at a nearby school and watched fireworks.  The kids ran around the darkened field while we waited.  The adults watched them until they faded into the darkness, but without any worries -- there were only a handful of families at the school field, and Craig seemed to know most of them.

On Friday we visited a couple of museums, showcasing dinosaur bones found in Wyoming, and native peoples and bison.  That evening, we took my brother's family to dinner at a restaurant that had been the Bucket of Blood Saloon back in Laramie's lawless days.  It is now a very lovely vegetarian restaurant (with a high rating on Trip Advisor).  Just outside, we watched freight trains rumble past.

On Saturday, we spent a couple of hours at the county fair grounds, watching a children's rodeo / horse show, right up until the time that the kids were bored and Tim started sneezing his nose off.  He is allergic to horses, but survived two whole hours before losing his nose.  Later that day, we drove 15 minutes east on the interstate and exited at a place called Vedauwoo.  This place, inside a national forest, consists of massive piles of granite, stacked into the sky.  (Photo from Wikipedia.)

You can hike around the granite and / or climb it.  The climbing was pure joy for the four kids, ages 5 through 10.  We scaled a tall lump of granite and looked out across all of Wyoming and saw ... grass and cows and mountains.  And that is about all there is in Wyoming, apparently.

In any case, we had a very nice time.  I have decided that I really like Laramie.  We will have to try to visit my brother again -- hopefully sometime before the next five years pass.  Hopefully in July or August again.  Because I don't want to know what the interstate looks like when those gates go down.

Monday, July 1, 2013

June

Since I last wrote, my little brother got married.

Here is a picture of the three of us all dressed up fancy for the event.

Don't we all look old?  I mean, I know I'm getting old.  And you can count Tim's age by skimming back through his photos and counting the ones with short and long hair.  And there are a lot of those interleaved hair lengths, so you know Tim is old.  But Jonathan.  How did he get that old?  He is as tall as my shoulder now.  

After my brother got married, we other siblings celebrated family togetherness by going camping.  No electricity, no plumbing.  Camping.  Yay.  

We were at Flaming Gorge in the top north corner of Utah, bordering Wyoming.  On Friday morning, we went rafting down the river below the dam.  And on Saturday we went on a dam tour.  Did you know you can still go on a dam tour?  We had to go through a metal detector first, and stay right with our guide.  But still, it was a pretty cool tour.  One of the coolest dam tours I have ever taken.  

After that, we ditched the extended family togetherness-with-pit-toilets thing and drove through the corner of Wyoming up to Tim's family's cabin in eastern Idaho.  Our drive took us through mountain passes and canyons and then over potato fields through the amazing spectacularness that is the western United States.  And I was happy.  I was happy partly because the drive did not exceed my daily road trip tolerance level of six hours.  And I was happy because Tim was driving and I could doze off.  And I was happy to be with my little family, just the three of us.  And also happy because I had been in Europe at the first of the month, and I would be in Europe at the end of the month, but we had consciously decided not to take our family vacation in Europe this year between the conferences, but instead to spend it in the western United States again.  And to those of us who live in the western United States, spending a week in Wyoming sounds so boring compared to spending that week in Italy.  But to drive through the Tetons again is to remember how exotic Wyoming can be.  Even if it is lacking somewhat in museums with nude statues.

Once we were at Tim's cabin, we read a lot of books, played a lot of games, and slept a lot until the jet lag finally seeped out of my bones.  We also went into Yellowstone a couple of times.  


And then home.  And then I packed.  And then caught a plane to Paris, then Toulouse, alone again heading to another conference.

The conference was lovely.  And Toulouse was lovely.   Really.  Everyone going to France says they will see Paris, of course, but few people say they will see Toulouse.  But they should.  It really is lovely.  Plus, it's only 40 minutes by train from THE Carcassonne.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to take that train because of the conference.  But next time, I will take Tim with me, and we will start in Spain with the Alhambra, then travel through all our favorite board-game-related towns and places, just because we can, and we will see them all.  

Meanwhile, now I am home, and June is over.  And in yard work news, the green sheds from our backyard are both gone, and we have the skeleton of a lovely patio instead, constructed while I was away by our lovely contractors.  The patio will be very nice, but will not be finished by the 4th of July.  After all.  But when it is finished, I will post pictures here.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adventures in Tuscany

My conference this week was held at Il Palazzone, a 16th century villa in Cortona, Italy, constructed by Cardinal Passerini "as evidence of the power obtained by his family" [from the brochure].

I was on the organizing committee of the conference.  As evidence of the power obtained as an organizer, I was one of twelve participants invited to stay in the Palazzone itself.  My room was on the 2nd floor, overlooking the valley. 

 
 
To get to Cortona, one takes a train from Rome or from Florence.  I took the train from Rome.  As we passed mile after mile of olive and cypress trees, yellow stone houses and red roofed villages, I peeked at my English regency romance novel to help me stay awake.  Arriving at the Palazzone, and unpacking my things in a bit of a jet-lagged stupor, I thought I must be one of the fine ladies in the novel, and in any minute my abigail would come help me dress for dinner. 
 
I went to bed around 8pm the first night.  I woke around 11pm with a terrible migraine.  Somewhere, loud music was playing.  From my 2nd floor Palazzone room, still feeling like a grand countess, I wondered to myself if the common people always played their music so loud.  I downed a couple of migraine pills, and listened as the music became fireworks -- it turns out that June 2 is an Italian holiday.  And then I slept again.
 
I awoke to a thunderstorm at 4am, and then lay in bed thinking that it was far too early to get up, and I must stay there until a more reasonable hour.  But the roosters gave up on sleep at 5am.  They must also have been jet lagged.  If they could get up, so could I.  I finished the regency romance novel before breakfast. 
 
 
The conference talks were held all week in the above room, painted in the 1500s with all sorts of gory scenes from Roman history.  Apparently it was the Cardinal's drawing room back in the day.  When conversation became dull in the drawing room, one could stare at the walls and imagine how much worse life could be.  Murder, death, rape, battle.  Staring at the walls worked for conference talks, too.  The talks this week were never dull. 
 
I love European conferences.  At dinner this evening, I shared antipasti with six people, from England, Greece, Ukraine, France, the Netherlands, and Russia, respectively.  All but two of them now live in the U.S.  All but one of them I knew before this trip, and I consider them to be friends.  We laughed and spoke in English.  No one spoke any respectable Italian.  Terrible tourists. 
 
Now, back in my room on the 2nd floor of the Palazzone, I am packing up, preparing for an early morning train back to Rome.  And I feel sad.  Disappointed, even.  Tomorrow I will no longer be a fine lady living in a Renaissance villa.  Tomorrow I will be just another traveler. 
 
 


Friday, May 31, 2013

May news

Our most important news from May is that we added a new member to our family.

His name is Mr Fish.  Or Fishy.  Or Mr Fishy.  He answers to all three. 


 
 
Jonathan won Mr Fish at his school carnival.  Luckily, it was the weekend just before Jonathan's birthday, so as a birthday present from Mom and Dad, Mr Fish got his own home.  Lucky lucky Mr Fish.
 
Last week we heard some other big news.  On Thursday, I found out that my large five year grant has been funded.  The grant will help support my research and teaching until... wait for it ... wait for it ... 2018!  Which means no more grant applications for me until 2017!  Which is awesome.  And maybe the apocalypse will happen before then, which means I'll be charred by nuclear weapons and then die a painful death by starvation because my food storage is not in order.  But in any case, in the event of the apocalypse in the next five years, I will not have to write another grant application in this lifetime!  Go apocalypse, go!
 
On Friday, I was called into the office of the Department Chair.  The chair's office actually has five chairs, I counted them all.  When the chair is in his office, there are six chairs.  On Friday, in the chair's office, there were six chairs, two deans, and me.  One of the deans was actually an associate dean which extra adjective means he is not as exciting as the dean.  But he gets to associate with the exciting dean.  And the dean, by the way, is the boss of the chair.  So he's like an extra layer of middle management, up above the chair.  Higher than the dean are the vague vice presidential people, and then the president at the top.  Only I've met the president a few times, and he doesn't really have an office at the top of the university.  I think the top is at the top of the old K. Building, which houses the nursing department.  So perhaps the nursing faculty are really at the top of the top.
 
In any case, I have digressed.  In the chair's office were six chairs and two deans and me.  And the dean dean, the one with no extra adjective attached to his title, sat down and read me a letter from the president, because while I have met the president, I doubt he remembers my name.  (His name is Cecil.)  He thought it would be a better use of his time to just write a letter, which I appreciate, and he wrote to congratulate me on having achieved Continuing Faculty Status at G.O.D. University, which is essentially Tenure here. 
 
So there!  I finally earned tenure. 
 
And meanwhile, there are a few house projects that Tim has been wanting to do, but that I have kept suggesting we hold off on doing until after I hear about tenure.  It has been less than a week since I heard about tenure, and Tim has already hired a contractor.  The contractor will tear out our two sheds and put in an Olympic Swimming Pool! 
 
No, he will not. He'll put in a covered patio.  Won't that be nice?  We can sit outside under our covered patio and sip mint juleps.  Virgin style.  Because the difference between Continuing Faculty Status and Tenure is that at G.O.D. University, they reserve the right to fire you for turning against G.O.D's mission.  I mean God's mission.  And sipping alcoholic beverages is somehow involved in that.  But it's ok.  I'm a teetotaler.  Even with a covered patio. 
 
So anyway, this means we get to celebrate tenure by having the back yard ripped up!  But don't worry.  Tim made the contractor promise -- cross pinkies and stick a needle in his eye -- that he would be finished in July.  And since we all know how well that kind of promising works with contractors, we can breath easy now knowing that we'll be able to enjoy our covered patio from July until the apocalypse.  Because the patio will be covered, we won't actually get a good view of the apocalypse from the patio itself.  But that is a price we are willing to pay. 
 
That is almost almost all of our news from May.  The very last piece of news is that Jonathan attended his last day of fourth grade today.  That means tomorrow is the very first day of summer vacation.  We had a talk, and we agreed that it would be really super awesome if he spent his days cleaning the house and cooking meals and delivering them to me and Tim in bed.  By "agreed" I mean we had a talk, and I made the suggestion, and he rolled his eyes and ran away, but didn't actually refuse!  He didn't!  Of course, if I wake up tomorrow to a clean house and breakfast in bed, then I'll be pretty sure that I already missed the apocalypse. 
 
And what, you are asking, does all of this have to do with Mr Fish?  Here.  Ask him yourself. 
 
 
 
 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week away

I was at a conference in Montreal last week, and it was a Truly Excellent conference.  Often I attend conferences that are pseudo related to my field, and I try to keep my brain in focus and learn something new, but it doesn't always happen.  This last week, most of the talks were directly relevant to stuff I'm interested in and thinking about now.  I also met up with a couple of collaborators, and during time off from talks we worked on projects, making real progress on a couple.  In all, it was a very nice conference and I'm glad I attended.

The Montreal airport, however, is a disaster.  I do not recommend flying in and out of Montreal.  If you can avoid it.  I suppose if you have a conference in Montreal, you have limited options.  Just know you have been warned.

While I was waiting in eternal customs lines in Canada, Tim and Jonathan were waking up from a neighborhood overnight father-son camping trip.  That's right.  Tim and Jonathan went camping Friday night.  In the rain.  They reported that they were having fun with friends and neighbors up until it started hailing, and then they decided to climb into the tent and go to bed.  Notice that they went into the tent in the storm, and not into the car and back down the mountain.  Apparently our tent is sufficiently high quality to keep two guys dry and warm overnight in the mountains in the rain.  I am a little surprised and impressed.  Camping in the rain is something that my parents would do, and something that my brothers would do, but not something I expected from my husband and son.  The world is full of surprises.

And the one week I was away, all the plants in the garden seem to have doubled in size.  In the kitchen garden, the lettuce and carrots are ready to eat.  The tulips are completely gone, but the irises are very pretty in full bloom.  If you stand back on the porch and look out over the garden, it looks very lovely and green.  If you start walking around the garden, you spot lots of dandelions, nightshade, and bindweed, all of which needs to be pulled out.  I am contemplating hiring a gardener....

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Summer for kids

Summer is coming again, and I've been thinking a lot about what Jonathan should do with his summer.

He should definitely learn more foreign language.  He should keep up with his French so that he can ... um ... watch French movies or something.  And someday, travel to Africa and converse with the natives in their native French.  But not this summer.  This summer he should just learn French.

And this summer he should learn to play the piano.  This should be his summer of piano learning.  He should become excited and enthused about the piano, so much so that he spends an hour every day progressing first through the level 1 lesson book, then level 2, then level 3.  And by the end of August, at a rate of one level per month, he'll be a maestro.

Oh!  And he should do complicated math problems daily, too.  I know how to get copies of competition math problems going back for years and years.  If he only solves all of them, in a couple of different ways, he should be so prepared for the next kids' math competition in November that he'll blow everyone away with his awesome math-ness!

And he should clean his room.  And his bathroom, now that I think of it.  Summers are times for keeping rooms clean.  And even closets.

He should take swimming lessons.  It's not truly summer until kids are being shuttled to swimming lessons, and the moms are sitting on those hard plastic bleachers in the echo-y swimming pool chamber listening to shouts and whistles and watching their kids being dragged around on foam kickboards.  Nothing says summer like a foam kickboard.

If we're heading into lessons, you know he could really learn from taking that week of drama lessons at the local theater.  Not only would he have to learn to project himself in front of people, which would be healthy, but he would also have tons of fun.  Tons!  Because he's already such a drama king at home.  He would totally be a natural.  I would have to start turning down invitations for him to act in local theater productions, and then on Broadway, and then Hollywood.  Sign the boy up for drama camp.

And we will travel.  We will visit far flung family and friends.  And while we are within an 8 hour drive of Mount Rushmore, we might as well go see it.  That would be Educational.  We will have a real Road Trip!  The kind where we all keep asking "Are we there yet?" and we only stop to pee every three hours and someone gets carsick and someone else has bad gas in the car.  We will hate it while we are doing it, but it will make for tons of Memories.  Summer is all about building memories.

We will plant a garden.  And this year, we will weed the garden even when it gets hot in July.  We will not slack off on the weeding like we have done every other year, because this year we are Motivated!  We will eat our own tomatoes in September.

And we will learn to make friends and play with friends and get along.  These are important skills to learn.  Why not learn them in the summer, when there is nothing else to do?

Ah.  What a wonderful summer this will be.

I can't wait until September.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekends are not for the weak

This weekend, I made two batches of granola, hoping to make it through two weeks without worrying about breakfast.

I weeded the garden path, digging out raspberry bushes that want to make the path their new home.

I cleared the ground around several strawberry plants and two rosebushes, and Tim and I heavily mulched around several rosebushes, hoping to deter weed growth.

Tim mowed and trimmed the lawn, and got the sprinklers running again.

He ran four loads of laundry, and we all went grocery shopping for a week's supplies.

I worked out.

Prepared and taught a Sunday School lesson.

Practiced and then played the piano for the Relief Society.

Ran the dishwasher.

Tim vacuumed the whole house.

Jonathan cleaned the bathroom.

And we read books.

You see?  I was legitimately busy.  Too busy to respond to your email.  Sorry.  Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stuff I have done

Sometimes, I focus too much on the things I want to do, the things I would like to see, and the way I would like things to be.  I forget the things I have accomplished already.  I decided for this post to list 100 noteworthy things I have already accomplished in my life.

  1. I have danced on my toes in pink satin slippers.  It looked lovely, but yes, it did hurt.
  2. I have flossed daily for about 15 years.  I can't even remember the last time I forgot to floss. 
  3. I have lived in a house with five bedrooms, two baths, and 11 people.  
  4. I cooked and cleaned for those 11 people, when it was my turn.  (I don't miss those days.) 
  5. I learned to sew.  I sewed a few dresses that vanished long ago, and one skirt that is still my favorite (since 1998) that I wear more than any other skirt.  
  6. I have climbed to the tops of several mountains. 
  7. I have hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. 
  8. I have given up hiking, realizing that it gives me a migraine.  
  9. I have driven miles and miles and hours and hours across the Nevada deserts.  
  10. I have written programs in C, C++, and Java.  
  11. I have forgotten how to program, but I will learn again.
  12. I have painted with oils, watercolors, and acrylics.  I like oil paints the best, but they are the most expensive (it figures).  
  13. I have planted tulips, tomatoes, and onions.  
  14. I've grown the bushes, picked the berries, and made my own jam.  Although really the bushes grew themselves.  
  15. I have vacuumed.
  16. I have also laundered, often.
  17. I have read hundreds of books, if not thousands.
  18. I have scrap-booked.  But not recently.  
  19. I have learned to knit, and forgotten, and learned again, and forgotten again.
  20. I have carried on a conversation in a language that is not my native tongue.  
  21. I have played the first movement of a piano concerto from memory.  
  22. I have touched my toes with my knees unbent.
  23. I have learned to whistle.  
  24. I can tell time on an analog clock.
  25. I have run a 5K.  Do not inquire as to my timing.
  26. I have fixed a flat tire on my bicycle.  
  27. I have driven a stick shift.
  28. I have purchased stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.  
  29. I have lived a year as an adult without a car.
  30. I can fill in a map with 50 states.  
  31. I have taught children, weekly.
  32. I have taught adults, daily.
  33. I have sung alto in a choir.  
  34. I have also sung tenor.  But never soprano or bass.
  35. I have given haircuts.
  36. And twisted hair into French braids.  
  37. I have written grant proposals.
  38. And have been awarded grant money.
  39. I have paid taxes in four states and two countries.  
  40. I have done the splits.  Several years ago.  
  41. I have written two novels, though I have published zero. 
  42. I have recited poetry from memory.  
  43. I have had braces.
  44. And glasses.
  45. I have darned socks.  But you know it makes much more sense to just buy new ones.  (What a wasteful society we live in!)
  46. I have cleaned a refrigerator.
  47. And baked a cake.
  48. I touched my tongue to my nose.
  49. I learned to dance the Charleston, and wore a flapper dress.  (What became of my flapper dress?)
  50. I have integrated, differentiated, and taken limits.
  51. I have written essays, and discussed literature.
  52. I have had my wisdom teeth pulled.  
  53. I have discovered all the heart pieces in Majora's Mask.
  54. I have read the entire Bible, and many of the works of Shakespeare.  (But not all the histories.)
  55. I have designed and created a web page.
  56. I have tied a quilt.
  57. And patched the knees of jeans.
  58. I have learned to swim.  
  59. And I swam in the Great Salt Lake.
  60. I hold the family high score on Tony Hawk's skate boarding game.  
  61. And I beat Mike Tyson's Punch Out.
  62. I have held my breath for 60 seconds.  
  63. I have canned fruit.
  64. I have sealed grout.  
  65. And eaten clotted cream with scones in Cornwall.  
  66. I have been in a canoe, a sailboat, and a motor boat.  
  67. I have taken an overnight train.
  68. I learned to type.  
  69. I spoke at ninth grade promotion. 
  70. I attended prom.
  71. And I have kissed a boy.
  72. I have hung pictures. 
  73. And curtains.  And curtain rods.  
  74. I have graduated.  Four times.  
  75. And I have attended graduation more times.  
  76. I have counted by sevens to 1400.  
  77. I have added fractions.  
  78. And written online quizzes.
  79. I have mowed and weeded and mulched.  
  80. I have slept through my alarm.  
  81. I have published research.  
  82. I have eaten escargot.
  83. And sushi, in Japan.
  84. And pasta in Italy.
  85. I have seen a bear, a coyote, and many many bison in Yellowstone. 
  86. I have parallel parked.
  87. I have donated food and clothing and money.
  88. I have sewn patches.  
  89. I have asked for and given directions.  
  90. I have supervised student theses.  
  91. I have attended group meetings.  
  92. I have boogie boarded in Oregon, California, and Hawaii.
  93. I have built a sandcastle.  And a sand turtle.  And other sand things.  
  94. I have had my picture on the front of a flyer.  
  95. And my name on the back of a program. 
  96. I have curled my tongue.  
  97. And cleaned my teeth.
  98. And captured the flag.
  99. I have overcome failure.
  100. And today, I won an award from the faculty women's association.
Life is pretty complete.