Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thursday morning miscellany

The weather is turning, finally. It's not hot when I walk out the door at 7 a.m. A walk around the lake at 9 doesn't end in a sweaty demand for iced coffee. I put on a jacket this morning.

The turning weather seems to have brought out my inner hibernator. I'm sleepy all the time. So are my students. It's odd; I find the weather energizing, theoretically, but I'm just too tired to take advantage. I hope this changes soon.

Over dinner last night there was much hysteria over noble gases and golgi bodies. Mariah's science classes have so far surpassed me that all I can do is make infantile jokes. I did, actually, take biology in high school, but golgi bodies are foreign objects to me. And the periodic table sounds like a place where you eat dinner, sometimes.

Mark and I have failed to watch three movies in the last month or so. We turned off In Good Company after about half an hour, a few weeks back. We could pretty much predict every move, and it didn't seem worth it to work through it all, though I liked the cast. We returned The Upside of Anger without even putting it into the player. (I do regret this, but somehow every night we were free to watch it, it wasn't what we wanted to see.) And then last night, we started to watch Rat Race. We gave it twenty minutes, maybe longer, and we were just so bored we had to give up. Why is this? John Cleese! Whoopie Goldberg! Rowan Atkinson! Have we totally lost our sense of humor, or was it really a stinker?

We'll never know.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

lost you at the bakery

I am just listening to the obituary for Don Adams. I can hardly believe he was 82 years old. The music from "Get Smart" feels encoded in my deep brain structure, somehow. If you'd asked me to sing it a minute ago I probably couldn't have, but now it's on an endless loop.

My favorite repeating "bit" from "Get Smart" was how Max would drive the Chief crazy. Often it was direction: the Chief would go into detailed directions, Max nodding throughout. At the end, the Chief would say "OK?" and Max would say, "well, Chief, I lost you at the bakery"--or whatever the first thing in the directions had been. That used to break me up, every time.

Now that I'm the parent of one, I realize that Max was really a very bright eight-year-old (ok, with hormones). He was eager, and bright, and thrilled by gadgets, and totally convinced of his own cool, even when he was being an utter dork. And very distractable. They'll drive you nuts, those boys, but they generate infinite reserves of forgiveness, too. Luckily for all of us.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yes, he really said that #1

A friend asked Nick how school was. The first week had just ended.

"Oh, well," he said, "it's a little enslaving."

We just looked at each other in amazed disbelief.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back to School Night

There were letters to the parents on the desks in the third grade classroom. Here's the letter that was on Nick's desk.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Third grade is okay, but it does make me tired. I can't tell you much because I tell you what's going on after school. So I geuss all there is to say is nothing.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

yes, she really said that #1

As I just posted in comments, I've decided to write down one thing one of my kids says every couple of days. I want to see if I can develop an ear for dialogue.

So here's this morning's entry, a bonus entry!

Mariah has been babysitting a lot lately. We were listening to NPR this morning, to a report on shift work, and it reminded her of a babysitting job she'd done recently for a medical resident who's working crazy hours.

"I'm so glad I babysat for them." Pause, just long enough for me to remember that the baby cried for the entire two hours, and she spent the whole time walking him up and down their narrow, dark hallway. But before I could say "why?" she continued. "They really needed it."

Another pause. "I love to see smart people with babies," she went on. "I mean, you and Daddy... the PhDs just go out the window! And with K and her husband, too; it's all 'ba-ba-ba-ba' and [very high voice] 'hi, sweetie!' It's hilarious! I mean, do babies think grown ups are really dumb?"

Um, thanks, hon.

The Morning Routine

An alarm goes off. It's not right by my head; that one is set to go off in five minutes, but so far this fall I've never heard it. I hear the one buzzing insistently in Mariah's room, and almost before I'm aware I'm out of bed, padding down the hall to peer into the darkness. "Wake up, honey!"

"I'll be up in--" she fumbles with the clock and her glasses-- "six minutes."

It's six o'clock.

I leave, go into the bathroom, turn on the water for the shower. Sometimes while I'm under water I hear the buzzing again, and eventually Mariah appears.

I turn on the hall light so I can get a little visibility in the bedroom. I don't want to wake Mark. Nick will sleep through everything, including his own alarm an hour (two?) later. I paw through clothes, hoping that what I find is clean, and fits, and matches. Sometimes it works. I keep thinking I should plan outfits the night before, but so far I haven't managed. Only once did I have to stop at Target after dropping Mariah and rework things, though.

Coffee, breakfast, prepare a lunch. It's usually 6:40 before I see Mariah; I'm already starting to worry about getting out the door by 7. She forces down some food, some vitamins I've gotten out for her. More coffee goes into the travel cup. Teeth brushed, hair, makeup, and we're out the door by 7, just as the sun is starting to rise. It's quiet out, not much traffic.

We get to the bus stop and sit for a minute or two waiting for the bus. She tells me stories about the kids she sees waiting: "It makes me sad, Mom, those freshman girls and those guys hang out with them because only the new girls will look up to them. They're such losers." Or, "those kids are fine on their own, but get them in a group…" She notices that the kids walking into the public high school where her bus stops are all black; the kids waiting for her bus, to a selective public arts school, are mixed. Integration hasn't made it very far here.

Some mornings it's NPR but usually I let her choose the music for the few minutes while we wait. Then the bus arrives and she's out the door, shouldering her bag and joining her people. And I drive off to work where I am the first one in the office, working in the quiet of the early morning. At home, Nick isn't even awake yet; Mark will do what I did last year,: cajole him out of bed, put together a quick breakfast and an even quicker lunch, and hustle out the door hoping to make it to school, only a mile away, before the tardy bell at 9:05. By then I'll have had a walk around the lake and be settled into the day.

I always thought I hated mornings, really. But there are some advantages to the new routine.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

writing to assignment

I write best to assignment. I was always a good student in writing classes: give me a topic and I can give you a coherent, sometimes better than coherent, take on it. This worked for me in undergrad and even, to some extent, in grad school. Later in grad school, of course, I was supposed to come up with my own topics. When I did, I did fine. When I had trouble defining a topic, I got help. And even then I had deadlines and consequences and my writing, mostly, was good and on time.

Blogging is different. There are no set topics, no deadlines. And no pay, which is of course a profound (though rare) motivator.

This is, of course, why the best blogs are focused and frequent. Writing begets writing, for one thing, and a rich topic (kids works fine, so does politics, the academy, technology, etc.) generates sub-topics all the time.

I've had some set topics here and elsewhere, of course: motherhood, writing, kids, faith--but I have not yet found the edge, the focus that keeps things going. And it's been a rough couple of months for writing, too. Being away from home, then back but in flux, is not conducive to a regular posting schedule. So things have slipped. Not blogging is like not calling a friend--first you don't do it because you're busy, then because you didn't when you should have, then finally because you can't remember why you were going to anyway. But if you do (call, write) -- the words are there.

So I'm going to start setting some topics and some deadlines. Twice a week, at first, and daily (non-work) life topics. Simple ones. Ones I can handle. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Center for Environmental Health: Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes

As if we didn't have enough to worry about! Center for Environmental Health: Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes

Nick rotates among several lunch boxes. One is a hard plastic one that looks like a miniature cooler. It's too big to fit comfortably in his backpack but he likes it, and carries it some days. The other three are all soft vinyl, like the ones listed here, though only one (I think) is really intended for kids. Still, I assume adult vinyl lunch boxes (I'm thinking of one I got as a freebie the last time I joined our local NPR affiliate) are just as bad.

Sigh. Paper bags are looking better and better.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

first day of school

As usual the Yarn Harlot says it best: "it is a high holy day in the practice of parenting. It is, in the City of Toronto, in the province of Ontario, in this country we are proud to call Canada.....

The first day of school."

It's a high holy day here, too, though since I went back to school a week ago the sacredness seems somewhat diminished. Still, I think everyone's glad: the school supply runs are over, the back-to-school clothes are bought, and everyone has something to do in the morning. I had Mariah at her bus stop by 7 a.m. By the time I came home (after stopping at the grocery store for half-price stuff, a key benefit to being up early) Mark had already eaten the breakfast I hadn't had time to finish. But he'd made fresh coffee, so all was forgiven. Nick was all ready for school, though he didn't need to be there for an hour and a half.

And now I've got the school calendars for the year entered into my own calendar (no, the kids are not off school on the same teacher work days, thank you very much, nor is their spring break--ever--the same as mine. But we can still hope). And we've written the checks (school fees, soccer fees, PTSA fees) and signed the syllabi and filled out the emergency cards...when did school start to involve so much paperwork?

Tomorrow, we breathe. Deeply.

Monday, September 05, 2005

what's with blogroll?

I can't remember all the blogs I read or check in on periodically, so I use blogroll. Only for the last couple of days my blogroll only appears randomly on this page. And when I go to their site to check it I seem not to have any entries--except when, later, I do. So if I can't procrastinate by reading blogs, I guess I'm doing it by complaining about it instead. Back to work...

update: today they know about the problem. So that's a step forward.

Friday, September 02, 2005


...was, I figure, about $8/gallon in England this summer while we were there, unless my math is worse than I think. It was about 1GBP per litre, and a litre is about a quart, right? So, four litres (or so) to a gallon, means 4GBP, at $1.80 (or so) per GBP, means, well, about $7.20/gallon. Plenty. More than twice what it is in my neighborhood right now. Part of me doesn't mind at all--I think we should think twice about driving, after all, and if this is what pushes us to use public transportation (to make public transportation better!), to carpool, to ride our bikes, then that's a good thing. We spent all summer without a car in Oxford, and I was glad of it. But we don't live in Oxford now, our lives don't quite work the same way here.

And so I'm glad one of our cars runs on diesel ($2.87/gallon today), and that we might be able to convert it to run on grease soon. We even have a supplier lined up!