Friday, December 22, 2006

Give me an A. This Quarter. Please!

You know right away when a couple of your usual suspects come up to your desk before the bell rings to confess that they’re really sorry, but their prescriptions ran out, and they haven’t taken their meds in a couple of days, that you’re going to have a heck of a Friday. When the Friday is also the last day before a two-week break, you know you better summon some hard-core PMA. I could tell everyone was as ready for the break as I was because:

  • When I stepped into the hallway this morning, en route to purchase coffee, I got hit by football. Apparently I got in the middle of “going long.”
  • I couldn't start my movie about mining companies in Kentucky because the hockey players in fourth hour (there are eight) would not stop yelling, “He farted on me! He farted on me!”
  • One of my fourth-hour cherubs tried to go to an English class next door instead of mine, and my pal Rachel had to walk him back over.
  • When she walked in with him in tow, the class was busy yelling about the farting.
  • When the mining protest songs started in the movie, the kids warbled along. They also yelled at the screen about how the women who were singing actually looked like men.
  • My Christmas card from Maddie read, “Have a pimpin’ HOLIDAYZ, Ms. W. You are my fav-o-rite teacher evurrr.”
  • The thesis statement in essay test I graded during the mining songs began, “Ok. First of all, this question is retarded.”

No sooner had I finally breathed a sigh of relief and packed up my load of papers at the end of the day, when a girl came in and said, “Um? Ms. W? There’s a huge fight going on outside.” I called the office, and then hurried outside just in time to see one of the fighters remove her belt and begin to whip her opponent.

If you think I was going to get in the middle of that one, you have another thing coming.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Gifts

When thoughtful soph Allison gave me this tricked-out gingerbread house for Christmas, I was totally psyched.

I devoted a bit of each class to admiring it. The other sophs wondered whether Allison would be receiving an A for her stellar efforts at buttering-up the teacher.

I told them that if Allison weren’t already earning herself a resounding A, you better believe I would consider it. Some looked aghast at this news, but I told them, Don’t wor-ry! It’s only Tuesday! I’m accepting holiday gifts all the way through the end of this week!

I do hope they consider it.

Monday, December 18, 2006


I just wrote a long post about how, when I took Shef to a public bathroom after school today, he managed to peek under the stall at other people AND announce loudly to the group the details of the contents of our toilet.

Then, I realized that people don’t like to read about other people’s kids’ bathroom habits, so I decided to cut it short.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It Was Really a Mixed Bag

First, I had book club with a bunch of kids who show up early to school to discuss a book they’ve all read for fun in their free time.

Then, a cute girl for whom I wrote a college recommendation gave me a present and a card that said I was a good role model for her.

I mean, really. It was too good to be true.

So, during first hour, I told one of my stubborns that he absolutely HAD to have his ethical-issue research paper topic chosen by 9:15. At 9:15 on the nose, I said, “Luke, do you have a topic?”

“Yes,” he proclaimed, “I want to write about obesity.”

“Oh-kay!” I exclaimed, supportive. “Why are you interested in that?”

“Because I hate fat people,” he explained matter-of-factly.

Yeah. The sad thing is I'm completely willing to capitalize on that if it means he'll complete the project.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Goodnight, Balls

Dan is leaving tomorrow for a two-week stint in Des Moines, so I’ll be the only one around to hear Shef say goodnight to the Christmas tree and to the ornaments for awhile.

Lucky for me, Santa came early to deliver a new bike and a trainer that lets me ride it in the living room in front of my tv. Yet another way to avoid grading papers, which seems to really be the thing I’m best at.

I had to ask a couple of kids in my fourth hour class how to use my trainer, but they hooked me up, and now I'm spoked. I mean stoked.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Say You Can But You Don't Know

We’re having a toy drive at school, and the deal is that until we reach our goal of collecting 1700 toys, the student council will blast Mmm Bop during passing times.

Mmm Bop!

By Hanson, you know? It's a 90's pop classic. Or something.

So, for the past four school days, I’ve been listening to Mmm Bop for a total of 35 minutes per day. 35 minutes! That’s longer than a Wiggles episode.

I Mmm Bop in the bathroom. I Mmm Bop in the lunch line. I shout over Mmm Bop when some kid deigns to ask me a question after class. Yes, I come home singing Mmm Bop, if you want to know the truth. And, indeed, Mmm Bop runs itself through my head while I’m trying to fall asleep.

Mmm Bop came out in the summer of 1997 when I was an idealistic, unshowered, 19-year-old camp counselor. The song makes me remember those days of tromping around in my swimsuit and shorts from dawn till dusk. In fact, the teenaged memories flood back so completely that sometimes when the bell rings, I half-expect the whole wet-suit clad staff of Camp Foley to burst lip sync’ing through my classroom door.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Who Needs Ethan When It Turns Out I'm a Violent Person?

Yesterday, as we were driving in the car, Dan was doing his darndest to get my ire up by making questionable comments about the women of the Food Network.

Finally, I couldn’t take anymore Rachael-bashing, and I gave his right arm a good whack, which was when all my good parenting and discipline techniques came back to bite me in the ass.

“DON’T HIT!” Shef admonished from the back seat.

Oh, shoot.

“That hurts Daddy. It makes Daddy feel sad.”

“That’s right, Shef,” Dan said, deeply satisfied. “It DOES hurt. Hitting is not nice.”

I stifled my laughter for long enough to say a deeply sincere, “I’m sorry,” and then the giggles took over.

“It’s not funny, KC,” Dan scolded, and then to Shef: “I think Mommy needs a time out.”


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Adios Ethan

Shef is in the midst of moving classes at school, which I think is pretty swell, partly because he’ll get a little break from Ethan, the biting, swearing, fake gun-wielding classmate, who won’t be moving up until February.

The other day when I dropped Shef off in his room, we both thought that Ethan wanted to play hide-and-seek, seeing as he ran giggling behind a bookshelf in the “home area” and crouched down to avoid being seen.

But then, after we made a big show of looking for him unsuccessfully in various other toddler departments, and then finally peeked cheerfully around his home-area bookshelf, we discovered that maybe we’d misunderstood the cues.

Ethan scrunched up his face, yelled, “NOOOOO,” four or five times, and began shooting us with fast-alternating index fingers while chanting "Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!"

At conferences the previous week, I told Teacher Sheila that whenever Shef gets hurt at school and we ask who did it, he tells us it was Ethan.

“Is that true?” I asked, even though I know from being on the other side of the conferencing table that it’s a real pain when parents bring up crap like that.

“Well,” said Teacher Sheila carefully, “he is one of the most aggressive in the room right now, but he doesn’t do everything.”

I'm not so sure.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Long Weekend, Long Gone

Thanksgiving here was a trip – good food, good company, and a super Shrek screening on Dan’s parents’ new tv-sound system.

Now, there’s school to think about – I’ll be starting new units in both classes, and I’m not quite ready to go on those.

Also, I methodically ignored all of the papers I was supposed to grade this weekend, and now, despite my most fervent wishes, they’ll have to be attended to sometime soon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Parent-Teacher Conferences

The first of the conferences with the sophs’ parents were pretty fun, except for the one where the mom questioned my qualifications, my assignments, my judgment, my choice of reading material, and my ability to connect with kids, all the while pounding on the table and chanting, “HE. DOES. NOT. GET. B. PLUSSES.”

It's true, I could have lived without that one.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Kid Likes Words

So, the latest targets of Shef’s knowledge-bender are state capitals and various words. His favorites of the capitals are Sacramento, Tallahassee, and Oklahoma City. It’s tough to say which are the favorite words – I suppose any of the ones he recognizes are right up there.

“That says ‘up,’” he said to me as we cruised past the Super America the other day. Sure, it took me a moment to find the “up” in Super, but no flies on the kid.

On Sunday, we had an exciting afternoon planned – emptying all of the toy and book receptacles in the house, and then taking a half-hour reprieve to rip apart the local Barnes and Noble.

“What book do you want to read next?” I asked him, after we’d finished a couple of the old stand-bys.

Bear Once More,” he said definitively.

“Hmmm, we don’t have that one,” I said, “but should we look it up so we can find it at the book store?”

“Sure,” he agreed.

I typed the title into Amazon, but I couldn’t find it. “Are you sure that’s what it’s called?” I asked. “What are the other words in the book?”

“Mom, it’s Bear. Once. More. by Karma Wilson.”

I thought it was pretty nice of him to give me the author, and I found Bear WANTS More in no time flat.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

When I'm Overwhelmed, My Coping Strategy is Simple: Take On More Work

I had a tough week on a few levels, so I was behind at work and on My Stupid Master’s Degree™. Long story short, I failed to meet the Wednesday 4:00pm deadline for submitting my quarter grades for upload by the technology guy. I didn’t think this was such a big deal because I like to enter my grades into the web-based program myself, which I was frantically doing during my prep period on Thursday morning, when I got an email from my assistant principal asking me to please get my act together and enter the grades pronto.

This email triggered my Automatic Guilt Reflex, so later that day when a request for attendance committee members appeared in my inbox, I volunteered immediately. Even more alarming, when one of my cutest sophs asked if I would please, pretty please, chaperone just a little bit of the Sadie Hawkins dance, I found myself agreeing.

I tell you, sometimes I’m really sorry I was raised Catholic.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Fostering Reasonable Expectations

Shef: I want to play soccer, Mama.

Me: Okay, great! You can play soccer.

Shef: No,actually I want to play baseball with the Twins.

Me: Oh, yeah? How about playing t-ball next summer with Drew? That would be fun.

Shef: No. The Twins, Mama.

Me: Ok-ay…

Shef [brightening]: Do you wanna come watch me play with the Twins?

Me: Yes. Absolutely.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Peer Group

Ethan is the kid Shef learned the f-word from last spring. Ethan also says “shut up,” and, as a bonus, he’s the class biter. So, you know, we’re thrilled to have him in Shef’s room at school.

Of course, I’m not the mother of a model preschooler, but I did check with Teacher Jeanne last week and verified that Shef has not sunk his teeth into a single compatriot, even though he has bruising puncture wounds on his shoulder and his wrist, all courtesy of Ethan.

I guess mostly I’m relieved that I’m not Ethan’s mom because I was really humiliated for those two weeks when Shef was yelling “fuck” on the playground last spring. If he had continued in this vein, I think we would probably have had to move out of state.

So, today when I came to pick Shef up, he was sitting next to Ethan at snack time. I sighed internally and then decided the right thing to do would be to reach out. Ethan is, after all, supremely cute and only two years-old.

“Hi, Ethan,” I said, smiling.

“Fuck them,” Ethan said enthusiastically, raising his arms in the air.


Wednesday, November 1, 2006

It Was A Play On Words

Proving once and for all that even people who give their kids country club names have a sense of humor??

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Most Toddlers Have Weird Hobbies, Right?

Shef has been on a knowledge bender of late.

His favorite activity is putting together his United States puzzle, which he works on while humming sweetly to himself.

Because he and Dan completed the puzzle about a hundred times before the kid started doing it on his own (it's the first thing he's ever consented to do on his own), Shef now has the states memorized by shape and location. Sometimes, when doing something else, like lying in bed in the wee hours or walking through the mall, he’ll point out something that has the same shape as one of the states.

“That look likes N-vada,” he said as he pulled back the tent over his bed to reveal a little Nevada-shaped section of his ceiling.

“It does,” I agreed sleepily.

“Who lives in N-vada?” he asked.

“Um, Celine Dion?” I offered, which satisfied him for a moment.

“Who lives in Utah?” he asked thoughtfully, a few seconds later.

Dooce does,” I said, which he well knows.

“Who lives in California?”

“Jamie does!”

“I want to get up.”

“No kidding.”

Thursday, October 19, 2006

He Wants to Call It "Project Danway"

This is a picture of Dan gloating over his Project Runway contest victory.

“What can I say? I know fashion,” he bragged. "Outfits like this don't just happen," he gestured extravagantly at his ProSpirit workout pants.

His knowing fashion is especially ironic because I actually considered not dating him when we first met because he wore these shoes 24/7, refusing even to replace them when the soles separated from the uppers and slapped the sidewalk with each step:

“I just don’t know if I can get over those shoes,” I confessed to Jordan sheepishly. He still wears them today, and now, after years and years of seeing them every day, I can honestly say I find them endearing.

Anyway, the prize for winning the Runway contest is a Tim Gunn bobblehead doll.

“I’m taking Tim to work where you can’t see him,” he announced obnoxiously, after I tallied the scores last night. “I earned it, and you don’t get to enjoy it.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'm Sorry, You're Out

Today at our staff development workshop, we watched a perfectly nice video about, you know, optimism. And stuff.

It featured a National Geographic photographer named Dewitt Jones who earnestly encouraged me to “see the possibilities” and “give it my all” and “be open to the unexpected.”

I think I might have a black heart because instead of feeling inspired, I just felt really embarrassed for Dewitt. I felt so sorry for him that I simply couldn’t make contact with his touchy-feely eyes.

He just looked so lame while expounding on the merits of dandelion puffs. And when he started with that faux Scottish accent, I felt like crawling under the table on the "laddie's" behalf.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

I Found The PR Reunion Show To Be Completely Uninspiring

Even though the paper grind has me kind of beaten down (32 of 130 papers evaluated, another 50 coming in next week, and a five-pager to knock out for My Stupid Master’s Degree™), I’m happy to report that I’ve kicked the vertigo-inducing virus that had me sidelined from athletic endeavors last week.

As you know, regardless of what life throws at me, I’m taking a firm stand against atrophy.

To this end, I took a break from the Foer analyses and This I Believe essays to I stride the River Road this afternoon. While I was doing it, I thought about my plan to demolish my half-marathon PR in February.

You should know that I set that PR when I was 13. Sheila and I ran the race together in matching outfits and although I can’t exactly remember, it’s entirely possible we crossed the finish line holding hands. Then I know we made ourselves a cake with the numbers 13.1 on it.

God, it's tough to recover from such profound dorkiness, but I want you to know I give it 110% every day.

Monday, October 2, 2006

I've Been Makin' Beautiful Music All Along

I’m experiencing my usual fall problem of having too many television shows to watch.

Luckily, Project Runway is almost over, and I’m forgoing America’s Next Top Model this cycle.

But there are still the old stand-bys: Prison Break, Gilmore Girls, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy.

And the new contenders like Heroes and of course Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60, featuring Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry, who just happen to be two guys I would watch in anything.

It’s at times like these when I realize that perhaps if I put as much time and energy into my damn Master's degree as I do into my viewing schedule, I’d have finished a couple of semesters ago.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

You Step On Them Once, And They Keep Crawling Around

Every year I’ve taught, I’ve gotten hopelessly out of shape. We’re talking thigh-dimple, arm-waggle, and tire-tummy. This year, I vowed it wasn’t going to happen. I mean, one of the three, I can deal with; but total atrophy is just too depressing.

Alas, my fitness plan hit a snag on Thursday when I had a little tangle with a treadmill. I swear there are bruises to show for my accident, but Dan says they’re too small to be seen by his human eye.

After the crash, the trainer at the Y wanted me to push me out of the fitness center in a wheelchair, but something like, you know, dignity mandated that I walk.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

So Modern, So Hip, So Hip

Yesterday, Shef’s uncle-to-be introduced him to the art of making pillow forts. Needless to say, this activity was a big hit, and he’s expressed interest in further building:

“I wanna make a phallus, Daddy,” he said, hopping up on our bed and stacking pillows in a triangle.

“You mean you want to make a palace,” Dan corrected him as I choked back my guffaws.

“Yeah,” Shef said enthusiastically, “I wanna make a small phallus.”

Good lord. It seems to me that Freud would have a field day with this.

And probably also with this:

Indeed, that’s Shef wearing my lycra suit, which served me well yesterday, except when I swam what seemed like miles off course. Dan took a couple more pictures of my ass in the suit, which are obviously not suitable for blog posting.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bankin' on Jesus At This Point

So, I’m almost done with the second week of school. In a nutshell, the scholars have been agreeable and the lessons have been planned. The only glitch is that I basically slip into a coma after 8pm, so grading is problematic.

Despite the fatigue, I have been sticking to my early-morning fitness plan, which is fortunate because I’m registered for a triathlon on Saturday.

I’ll be donning my lycra suit once again to enjoy the pure spirit of sport. Because, you know, sport just isn’t sport if it’s not form-fitting.

At the end of last week, the sophs gave speeches about their past, present, and future interests; and one kid mentioned that he has completed several triathlons. After class, I told him that I too am a budding triathlete. “I’m doing my second race next weekend,” I said proudly.

“Cool,” he said. "Is it the one at Lake Minnetonka?"

"Um hmm," I nodded.

"Yeah," he said, "I’m doing that one, too.”

I think I managed to maintain a smile at this point, but inside I was a little panicky because what are the chances that photos of me in my skin-tight zip-up top will not circulating the school on Monday morning?

Thursday, September 7, 2006

She's Sort of an Artsy-Craftsy Macaroni-Gluer

I’ve set a goal for myself of being more fashion-forward at work. This means wearing my hair down in fun new style and having higher standards for outfits. “Relatively stain-free” and “only kind of wrinkled” will no longer cut it, I’ve decided.

So, today, I wore my first pair of pointy shoes. I know the pointy shoes trend has been going on for a couple of years and is probably on the way out by now, but I’ll admit, I’ve never been an early-adopter when it comes to fashion.

Anyway, first thing this morning, I started second-guessing the shoes, pretty much as soon as I headed across the parking lot toward the building. First, I could barely look up from my feet, the points were so mesmerizing. And second, I must say, I didn’t feel chic. Instead, I felt like the Wicked Witch of the West had melted beneath my pants.

After tromping around for the whole day, however; and after making just one little idiotic comment to my neighbor, a cool new teacher who obviously doesn’t have the same issues around image that I’m experiencing, about changing my life one shoe at a time, I’m ready to pronounce the shoes One Small Step for Woman and One Giant Step for Career Womankind.

Or something.

Monday, September 4, 2006

A Jet-Setter Would Definitely Be Interested in Packing Things That Don't Wrinkle

The nights are getting darker, The Fair is over (my corn dogs, mini donuts, cheese curds, malt, fries, and Sweet Martha’s cookies are digested)…and of course, my two-year-old continues to grow his attitude:

Me: Why don’t you wear your sneakers?
Shef: Actually, I’ll wear my crocs.

All of which means, it’s time to go back to work. I have my outfit picked, my lessons planned, and I’m really quite excited to meet my students. I think this is the best mindset I’ve ever adopted on the last day of the summer.

Of course it helps that we’re discussing a great book right off the bat. I decided I love summer reading. Things could definitely be worse.

Friday, September 1, 2006

We Don't Really Have Time to Dick Around With Everyone's Personal Problems

I’ve been a denizen of Web 2.0 lately, and as such I’ve been participating in an online forum for triathletes. It’s called, but there are all sorts of crazy-fit veterans hanging out there, as well.

I started a thread this week asking if there were any other teachers on the boards and if so, how they planned to keep up with their fitness once work got crazy.

Several committed educators/exercisers wrote supportive messages with good tips, such as:

Set reasonable goals!

Work out on both weekend days!

Get up really early a couple of times a week!


Take a couple of weeks off until you get into the swing of things!

Some other triathlon snark-keteers took the opportunity to remind me that their lives as 12-month employees were already immeasurably more difficult than mine, and despite not having the summers off (although they would surely love to), they manage to accomplish goals much more lofty than my measely aims.

Humph. Sorry I asked.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

It's Comfortable, It's Basic, But I Don't See Any Attitude

Shef’s latest thing is to be very opinionated, especially when we're in the car:

Me: I’m just really annoyed at these slow drivers.
Shef: Don’t say “slow drivers,” Mama.

Shef: I see a rainbow.
Me: Where?
Shef: Right THERE. [pointing at the windshield]
Me: What does it look like, Shef?
Shef: I don’t want to tell you about it.

Me: How was your day at school?
Shef: I don’t want to talk about it.

He's probably good practice for dealing with all those fifteen-year-olds who'll be walking in to my classroom next week.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'll Just Put It On The Pile With The Others

Shef has been a classic two-year-old mix of hilarious and hideous again lately.

“That’s enough crying,” I told him this morning after about he'd engaged in about thirty-five minutes of wailing and moaning over his choice of breakfast foods.

“Noooo,” he whined, falling out of his chair. “Moooore crying.”

Tonight, after another interminable whining jag, during which I counted to fifty and nearly bit through the sides of my cheeks in an attempt to maintain a calm demeanor, I finally shouted, “STOP! IT!” This caused his face to crumple and my guilt-meter to read at dangerous levels. Ten minutes later when he was still a sniveling mess, I said, “Do you remember why you’re crying?”

He nodded pathetically, bottom lip protruding about two inches. “Because you yelled at me,” he whimpered.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

I Love the Fact That It Has the Joke on the Ass

Here's a tasteful, waist-up picture taken after the finish of the triathlon.

The whole thing was way fun, and I encourage you all to give the multi-sport experience a tri.

I Hate Hot Pants, But They're Really Now

On Friday night, we went to check out Dan’s celebrity crush, Natalie Maines, and her band The Dixie Chicks. Objectively speaking, Natalie is H.O.T.T. Also, what self-respecting democrat wouldn’t be thrilled to see her in person to support her dislike of GWB, as well as to admire the thickness of her eyeliner which makes her look so totally rock ‘n roll?

During a particularly hyped-up version of “Ready to Run,” I leaned over to Dan and said, “I know you love it when Natalie stomps around the stage like that.”

“Don’t worry,” he crooned, “you know you’re my number two girl.”

Friday, August 18, 2006

Would I rather look look like fat minnie mouse, or would I rather look slim and long?

Today I went shopping for my triathlon outfit, which I will need on Sunday when I make my multi-sport debut. You might not know that when you do a triathlon you wear the same thing for all three stages of the event -- the swim, the bike, and the run.

If you’re not getting a clear picture of what kind of garment most easily takes you from water to pavement, I’ll spell it out for you:

Lycra. From neck to knee.

There won’t be photos, just in case you were wondering.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

First of All, Twiggy Is Still Alive

Dr. Jay poked around between my teeth and took a deep breath.

“Well,” he said gravely, removing his mask, “Here’s the thing: do you think you could be a better flosser?”

There’s only one answer to that question, right? Yes, Dr. Jay, yes of course I can be better. And I will! I will! I swear I will.

“Let this be your motivation:” he continued, “if you can’t be a better flosser, I’ll be drilling four teeth at this time next year.”

Gulp. That’s pressure.

To add to my stress, I’m on my way to chaperone Shef’s class fieldtrip to the ice cream shoppe. Photos later.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Marilyn Monroe Meets Gwen Stefani - Their Love Child

August 9th was a big day for us.

First, I got my first speeding ticket. I was completely humiliated and blubbered apologetically to the cop while furiously wiping away tears and snot. This display was actually not an attempt to get out of the ticket -- it turns out weeping and self-flagellation are automatic, physiological responses to getting pulled over.

Then, Shef performed in his first concert. He was too nervous to sing “Slippery Fish” without me by his side, so I accompanied him to the front and watched adoringly.

He looks good, right? I mean, so what if I was the only mother on stage.

Finally, on the eve of our fourth wedding anniversary, Dan and I sat down to spend some quality time in front of Project Runway. Heidi waltzed out in front of the designers wearing what appeared to be space-age go-go boots paired with a cleavage-revealing neo-German tunic.

“What is she wearing?” I exclaimed.

“It’s tasteful,” said Dan.

“It’s like … you can’t help staring at her boobs,” I continued, squinting at the shirt and tilting my head to the side, trying to make sense of it.

“I know, and I appreciate that,” Dan answered.


“What?” he said innocently. “She has huge cans.”

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

A Full-Tilt-Boogie-Quilted Extravaganza of Puff

My sister called me from a car the other day begging me to Tivo something called “Flavor of Love” for her, which was scheduled to air on VH1 and stars Flavor Flav, former member of Public Enemy and all-around weirdo. Mary claimed that she doesn't ordinarily watch the show, but she'd read that something over-the-top and never-seen-before was going to happen during elimination.

I was a little nervous when I saw that the title of the episode was “Somethin’s Stinkin’ in the House of Flav,” but whatever. Not only has sister racked up innumerable favors, as she is our #1 babysitter; but I figured that with my considerable experience with reality tv -- Making the Band, The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, Elimidate, and most recently and embarrassingly, The Girls Next Door – I’ve alredy seen the worst television has to offer.

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

On Flavor of Love, ho’s and bitches from around the country who claim to be devoted to Flav gather at his mansion, dress in skanky outfits, and try to prove that they are “really there for” the deranged has-been rapper.

And oh my god, it is so much worse than it sounds.

On last night’s episode, one contestant was so focused on Flav that she neglected her personal needs and unfortunately took a shit on the floor. I mean, as my sister pointed out, presumably she took a shit in her thong, and then it leaked out.

I really feel dirty just thinking about it.

“I’m gonna be honest,” the woman explained to Flav when he forced her to peek out from behind the bathroom door, “I just couldn’t hold it anymore. It could have happened to anyone.”

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Maybe Bonnie Doesn't Like My Beard

I woke up in a funk this morning and cranked around for awhile.

I know what you’re thinking: how can I be cranky when I have a child who looks like this?

I know! But, nevertheless, even as I took that cherub to Cupcake and to the park, I felt a little underlying crankiness poking through our idyllic urban Sunday morning. Later, I decided a run might crack the crank. Sure enough, it mostly did, even though it was hot as balls out there on the River Parkway.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Also Project Runway is Keeping Me Afloat

“It’s August,” Shef announced yesterday.

And sure enough, it is. That means the following things are lurking: school (I already had one preparatory dream), grad school (good lord, when will it end?), and my triathlon racing debut.

My friend Molly has strong opinions about the triathlon. When I told her I was up to 2400 yards in the pool, she told me that was “gross.”

“Hey, you should be happy for me!” I insisted.

“You’re right,” she sighed. “After all, your training is the only part of your summer that hasn’t completely fallen apart.”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This Is How He Rolls

If the Right One Doesn't Get You

This summer has not gone quite as planned. For one thing, I was supposed to be well on my way to finishing my master’s thesis, which is about a million light years from actually happening. My advisor says not to be hard on myself and to realize that May is a nice month in which to graduate. So, fine.

Also, we had hoped to go on a little vacation, but then decided the money is better spent elsewhere. Probably wise.

And of course Shef was supposed to not get sick as much, but still, I’ve missed about one day per week of work due to his various ailments, which have included roseola, some kind of stomach echovirus, overheating, and Extreme Desire to Be With Me.

The events of today are a good example the weirdness that is this summer.

We began the day with Shef running around the second floor naked but for his new lime-green Crocs sandals, which mean as much to him as my Girbaud jeans meant to me in 1989.

“These are my Cwocs!” he shrieked happily and repeatedly. A side-effect of his glee seemed to be an intense desire to dig his hands far between his butt cheeks.

“Too deep! Too deep!” Dan exclaimed upon witnessing this behavior.

Shef correctly interpreted this observation as a rebuke, and commenced crying and wailing, “I want to touch my bum! I want to touch my buuuummm!!”

I patiently explained that he could indeed touch his bum in the bathroom or the bedroom, and then, as quickly as possible hustled him off to school so I could make it to the U in time for my Responsible Conduct of Research Seminar, Part 2.

And thank God I did because otherwise I never would have known about my financial and ethical responsibilities should I make a major discovery in the field of missile technology.

When the instructor mentioned the scenario about selling 50 grams of a sought-after chemical compound to the private company that supplied my grant, I burst out laughing and attracted a few dirty looks; but whatever.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Annals of Potty Training

Thanks to our bathroom remodel, the three of us can all hang out in the john together while Shef sits on his potty. Generally we read various Berenstain Bears offerings and discuss his incentives: a sticker for his chart for trying, and if he actually produces, one solo M&M.

While he’s got the system pretty well down, he sometimes needs reminders about how to handle things -- "Take the tabs off your diaper;" "Wash your hands after flushing;" and my favorite suggestion from Dan last week: “Shef, make sure your junk is pointed downtown.”

Friday, July 21, 2006

I'm Experiencing Blog-xiety

This morning I attended a fascinating workshop about responsible research. I learned all about the complicated ins-and-outs of doing studies. For instance, did you know that you’re not supposed to plagiarize stuff you submit for publication? Thank GOD they clarified that for me. Also, I learned you shouldn’t fabricate your data or throw your data away.

Later, I collapsed on the couch and experienced writer’s block, as I have most days of the summer. Hoping for inspiration, my friend Molly and I watched a scintillating show on E! about what really happens behind the scenes at the Miss USA pageant. Did you know Donald Trump owns the pageant? I think that’s a little slimy. I asked Molly if she wanted to do a bike/run workout, but she said doing triathlon training was "dumb."

In good news, Shef has been much less of a pill lately, except at night. I tried to talk to him this morning about staying by himself in bed, but he wasn’t hearing it. “Mama, I’m a prince,” he said. I guess princes don’t sleep alone.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Shef the Lovely Free-Boating Child

Last Thursday, I kept Shef home from school for some quality “mommy and me” time. Keeping my kid at home can either be an idyllic advertisement for the lovely life of the stay-at-home-mother, or a warning for all womankind: unless you want your child pinching your nipple and kicking you in the shins for all the world to see, for God’s sake, leave him at daycare.

Thursday was, thank goodness, the latter, so I complimented my toddler on his evolved behavior:

“Shef!” I exclaimed, as I drove home after a day of fun that included music class, the park, a restaurant, and the Y. “You did such a nice job today! There was no hitting, or pushing, or pinching…”
“Or spitting!” he interjected.

This weekend, we went to the cabin, and he continued to behave like a peach. Although there was very little sleeping, there was lots of happy frolicking in the water. We all did water sports to escape the heat, and I decided to let Shef, age 27 months, kayak on his own:

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On the plus side, he’s happily working on potty-training and does, most days, say and or do at least one cute thing

It’s been hard to write sweet little stories about Shef lately because, well, here’s an example of an all-too-typical interaction:

Shef: Sing the bear song, Mama.
Me: Ok. [begin singing the first few lines…]

His current phase has led me to feel just a tad more empathy for child abusers because, my God, when your kid spits in your face and bites your shoulder in front of the fancy-schmancy music class moms, you can’t deny that part of you wants to leave him on a street corner downtown and go home and have an iced tea and a xanax and forget about ever bringing a child into the world.

It’s a good thing that the other part of me, the majority of me, for the record, feels the right thing to do is grit my teeth, summon my inner zen, and calmly administer time-out after time-out.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Another Ho-Hum Entry

I saw two movies I have greatly anticipated today: The Devil Wears Prada and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Devil, in my opinion, was the superior offering. I enjoyed the book, a light and fluffy sort of read, this spring, and I think the screenplay really improved upon it, so that was good. Ever since seeing Meryl in person, I feel a sort of bond with her. Depp was charming and quirky in Pirates, but I didn’t really go for his squid-faced nemesis. It seemed a bit of a reach, actually.

It’s not like me to sit in a movie theater all day, so I’m feeling out of sorts. Fortunately, the cinematic adventures did not interfere with my triathlon training, as I’ve just returned from today’s jaunt. I’ve found the triathlon business is kind of all-consuming, if you want to know the truth.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

My Brain is Busy

Being on summer vacation gives my obsessive-compulsive tendencies plenty of time to rear their minutiae-driven heads. This four-day weekend, when I wasn’t rushing to the park or the pool, digging in toy chests, or counting the minutes until daycare re-opened, I fixated on triathlon training (indeed, I have become multi-sport athlete), painting my office (off to get a new quart of the lovely color “gauze” in a moment), and the elephant in the room: my master’s papers. My progress on these behemoths has been delayed for many reasons, most beyond my control. They should know, however, that I continue to obsess about them: they are not being ignored.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

At The Game

On Thursday, I took Shef to a baseball game.

“I go to the gaaaame,” he beseeched me repeatedly from my left hip, as I tromped across the parking lot from the tailgating party to the big show. He’s 32 pounds now, you know, and as it happens, he likes being carried more than ever. I wake up sore each morning from the hours of hefting him hither and yon.

“Do you want to ride on my shoulders?” I’ll ask hopefully, longing to give my biceps a break. Sometimes he acquiesces, and other times he shouts, “DON’T SAY THAT!” and shakes his finger in my face.

Two. It’s a really great age.

Anyway, when we were in stands, I gave him a bite of my cotton candy, which we all know is pretty much like feeding a toddler several grams of premium crack cocaine. In Shef’s case, the sugar high fueled his intense desire to see the pig. The Saint Paul Saints have a real live pig mascot that comes out between innings dressed up in different costumes, and after he saw it one time, he yelled:

“WHERE’S THE PIG!?!?” every five seconds, much to the delight of our section-mates.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Summers Off"

You may remember when Jessie wrote what she called her Big Ass Paper. I certainly do. While she was at it, I sat across coffee shop tables from her and studied her every move. I'm glad now that I was privy to her process because Today was The Day I Began My Very Own Master's Thesis.

The work wasn’t too terrible, as all I had to do was read a book about incorporating all kinds of cool web-based stuff into classroom teaching. One thing Will Richardson turned me onto is a site called 43 Things where you can type in your objective and interact with people who are plugging away on the very same task.

I find this fascinating and addictive, and if I could find a site called “43 Books,” I just might take up permanent residence inside the internet.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Effective Discipline

“I’m done with my chime out.”

“Why were you on time out?”

“I spit.”

“Right. And what else?”

“I hit Mommy.”

“Well, no -- not this time.”

“I kick Mommy.”

“No, you didn’t do that today.”

“I spit.”

Monday, June 26, 2006

Back in the Saddle

This summer has been far too hectic thus far. I find myself overwhelmed by the aforementioned to-do list. Today I didn’t feel like working on my master’s paper, so I began transforming the front porch into my new office. (I can’t possibly begin the work until I have a sanctuary in which to do it, right?) I am not a very keen do-it-yourselfer, so removing some shelves from the wall ate up the hours between 1 and 3pm. In the end, I was stymied by a couple of stripped screws, so I'll be back at that task tomorrow.

Then there’s the trouble of desiring a decent level of fitness. Just the time required for obsession about fitness deserves a few spots on the to-do list.

And finally, we’re in the midst of a learning to cook via Food Network. Since Slow Joe took all our cash, going out to eat isn’t really in the summer budget. Tonight I made a Rachael Ray 30-minute meal in 48 minutes. I think I should make it a to-do to get closer and closer to the 30-minute mark as the summer wears on.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day

For Father’s Day, Shef and I scoped out several local bike shops in hopes of finding an ideal model for Dan.

Shef was really excited about the project: “I go to the bike shop. I get Daddy a bicycle. I get me a seat.” See? It always comes back around to the toddler.

While we did find some good options, and Dan is excited about making the final selection, the highlight of the shopping trips for the kiddo was a stop at Penn Cycle, where Shef absolutely had to sit on this bike:

“I ride this bike!” he yelled, as he hyper-extended his knees in hopes of reaching the pedals. We’ve told him he can’t have a bike until he’s four, and until then, he will languish on his tricycle. This is probably for the best, as he’s even tippy on the trike.

“When can you have a bike?” I asked him, as he twitched with glee atop the pink-mobile.

“When I’m FOUR!” he proclaimed.

“Right. And how old are you now?”

“Twoooo,” he said mournfully.

I feel for him, but I’m holding firm.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Change is Tricky for Toddlers

Poor Shef’s life is in flux – he’s moving classrooms at school, I’m in charge of him in the mornings now, and I’ve started mixing up Sesame Street with some offerings on Playhouse Disney.

Sadly, the way he manifests the stress he must be feeling over these changes is to hit. Yesterday he hit me in the face after music class. He hit me again as I was putting him in the car to go to school, and then again when I picked him up. Later, he hit me because he didn’t want to leave a store we visited, because he didn’t want to stop playing baseball (“I like to play baseball all the time,” he explained), and finally because he was disappointed his friends weren’t home when we happened to stop by.

The silver lining of this problem is that he doesn’t hit anyone else. Plus, he only said the f-word twice all day. Also, he alternates his psychotic behavior with incredibly sweet and loving behavior.

For example, just minutes before the final beating of the day, he was hugging my head and rubbing my check soothingly while riding on my shoulders and lamenting his lack of sibling:

“I want a baby in my house,” he said mournfully. Caroline, a pal at music, has a baby sister, you see. “I want to hold the baby all the time.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Kids are Gone

The grades are entered, the in-box is empty, and I’m finally officially on summer vacation, as of one o’clock this afternoon.

The to-do list for this vacation is lengthy and quite ambitious, if I do say so myself. Already, I’ve organized my closet, dropped three bags of clothes at Goodwill, attended to the dry-cleaning, and purchased a new kitchen garbage can.

Plus, Shef and I played with sidewalk chalk, went out to dinner, and discussed at length my brilliant plan to eliminate the f-word from his vocabulary. It involves a sticker chart and Matchbox cars. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The Magic Number is Two

My assistant principal notified me this afternoon that my room is needed for immediate storage of large instruments and other musical supplies, so I’ll be giving my finals tomorrow and Friday “in the math hallway.” I can only hope that I might have access to a computer there. And, I also hope that that particular hallway is one of the air-conditioned ones in the building. It seems some kind of critical piece is broken on the air-conditioner, which makes it necessary for a custodian to spend his day seated by the unit with a hose, manually regulating the water level. I feel bad for that guy, but God, the building really needs to be air-conditioned.

The key message here, though, is that I’m actually giving finals. You know what that means. The end is near. And now I can look forward to a long weekend of grading essays and outside reading projects. Luckily, I’ll be doing this while sitting by the lake and watching Shef frolic in his stylish spandex suit.

Monday, June 5, 2006

You're Never Too Young For a Little Spandex

My friends, especially Renee, like to laugh at my gross whiteness. Of course, Renee, as you may have noticed, is an Italian goddess with olivey skin that deepens into an easy and enviable tan every summer.

Although I am proud of my Irish and Scandinavian heritage, I am incapable of spending any amount time in the sun without inadvertently summoning my inner oompa-loompa. Once, when I was trying to even out my tan lines in preparation for my strapless wedding dress, I went to a tanning booth for two minutes. Within hours, I burned and peeled. Two minutes! That’s all it took to get a few steps closer to melanoma.

Naturally, with our genes (Dan is a red-headed Norseman), Shef has skin that is pretty much translucent. Last summer I barely let him out of the house during the daylight hours. This summer, I’ve discovered something that will let him splash in the wading pool to his heart’s content:

Yes, it’s a full-body swimsuit with built in SPF 50. I borrowed this one from my cousin, who invited us over for an afternoon of outdoor fun.

Because we’d like Shef to maintain a shred of masculine toddler dignity, I’ve purchased him one in blue and yellow:

He insisted on wearing it for hours this afternoon despite no promise of a pool.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Cupcake Cometh, Thank Goodness

On my agenda today was grading as many research papers as possible, including Sarah’s (see below), whose mother and grandmother might be disappointed in my estimation of their work. I made it to twenty-seven, which is a pretty kick-ass number, if I do say so myself.

In order to accomplish this, I sent Shef out for the day with “Cupcake,” one of his grandmothers, who picked him up at 10 am. She came armed with an itinerary of F-U-N, which included his third hot dog in as many days, basketball, baseball, tennis, and a cone and a half at DQ. Needless to say, he wasn’t sorry to drive away without me. In fact, he practically buckled himself into his car seat and yelled “have fun” repeatedly at me as he squealed in delight upon our impending separation.

Tomorrow, I’ll pawn him off on his Aunt Sarah and finish the lot. There are five days to go at school, and I’ve got to get this set of papers graded before I turn my attention to the final exams.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Litte Sucking Up Goes a Long Way

Anna, a benevolent lazy sort who’s barely pulling a D in my class, looked up from her literature circle discussion on Friday and said, “Hey, Ms. W.? Have you ever seen Gilmore Girls.”

“Um, ye-ah,” I said, smiling. “I’ve never missed an episode. I love that show.”

“Me too!” she squealed. “So, did you know you look exactly like Rory? Ever since I’ve had you, I can’t watch her without thinking about it.”

“Ok, Anna?” I said, stunned with happiness. “Wait right here while I grab my grade book and assign you the A+ you so clearly deserve.”

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Growing Problem

On Leaving the Children’s Museum:

Shef: Fuck you
Me: Shef, we don’t say that. If you say that again, you’ll have a time out.
Shef: I have a chime out.
Me: Right. You’ll have a time out.
Shef: Vacuum.
Me: Sure. You can say that.
Shef: Fa. Fa. Fa. Fa. [looks at me sheepishly]
Me: You can say ‘fa.’
Shef: I say ‘fa;’ I don’t say ‘fuck you.’

Several hours and another 'fuck you' later:

Me: Now, why did you have a time out?
Shef: [smirking silence]
Me: Shef? Why did you have a time out?
Shef: [refusing eye contact]
Me: Did you say a bad word?
Shef: [whispering] I said ‘fuck you.’


Monday, May 22, 2006

An Embarrassing Story

Ever since Shef was born, I guess I knew deep in my heart that this day was coming: the day I arrived at daycare to retrieve my cherub, only to be waylaid by the teacher in this fashion:

“Um,” whispered Teacher Dawn apologetically, as I scooped him up, “I just think you should knnnooowww…”

I held my breath a little.

“Shef said ‘fuck you’ today.”

Oh God.

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Immediately, I felt my cheeks catch fire. “Uhhhh,” I stammered.

“Yep!” Dawn continued, smiling now. “He yelled it out across the playground. Twice!”

Oh, sweet Jesus.

“So, um, I had him come and sit down right here,” she gestured at a chair set up adjacent to the playground for express time outs.

“Oh no,” I mumbled, thoroughly embarrassed. “Um, we, um … we don’t…”

And blessedly, before I could confess that of course we’d exposed our little angel to such vocabulary and I was so, so sorry, Dawn interrupted my mumbling: “Now we know it’s coming from another child, who’s also been saying ‘Shut up,’ and we’re trying to nip it right in the bud.”

Oh, thank you, thank you, God.

“But, I just thought you should know.”

“Um, okay! Thanks, Dawn!” I said, earnestly. “We’ll work on it at home, too.”

Yep. I really think we should get on this immediately.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Construction Report: Mini Edition

In case you’re wondering, Slow Joe is still in our lives. “Just GET OUT, Joe,” I long to say, but alas, I actually do want the linen closet, tin ceiling, and working pendant lights he’s promised.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Nineteen Days Left of School

This has been an unreasonably harried year, in my opinion. I’m working a great part-time job, which I love, but which is decidedly not part-time. I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the grad-school tunnel, but at the end of the tunnel is a big fat thesis paper that I’ll have to, you know, write. And of course, my brilliant and wonderful child is two years old, so he’s on his fourth time-out of the day as I write this.

Because of all of that, I feel I deserve a little slack, frankly. Slack for dressing a little less nice, for taking a little longer to grade papers, for not cooking dinner multiple times per week. And slack for things like this:

As we were driving to Dan’s parents’ for a little mother’s day lunch, we heard a bumpy rolling sound in the vicinity of trunk of the station wagon.

“What did you leave back there?” I asked Dan in an accusatory tone. He didn’t know, but we assumed it was something left over from his trip to the grocery store that morning. Whatever it was, it bumped and flipped every now and then, as we traveled at sixty or seventy miles per hour down the highway. I peered into the hatch, but I couldn’t see anything. “God,” I said, exasperated, “What is that?” I’m sure I rolled my eyes a couple of times. I mean, really, couldn’t he be more careful about unloading?

Finally, as we exited the highway, I saw something fly off the top of the car and land on the windshield wiper.

“Oh my gosh!” I shrieked. “Pull over! It’s my phone! Pull over!” I lept from the passenger seat to recover my cell phone, which I’d apparently left on top of the car, as I put Shef into his carseat.

It wasn’t the first time something like this happened – I’ve also left my wallet, sippy cups, and other little things up there on occasion. And for this spacey behavior, I certainly deserve some slack.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I Wrote This on Tuesday, but Blogger has Been In My Shit

Today was the day I handed in a big paper for my graduate school class, which means one-third of my plate has been cleared. I’m relieved, yes, but it hasn’t quite sunk in that I’ve actually handed over the paper. It might take until next week when I don’t actually have to go to class that I realize I’m one step closer to getting my damn degree.

Meanwhile, the sophs are giving impromptu speeches and then a formal demonstration speech. Today, one of the cherubs delivered this line during his impromptu: “The worst thing about our school is the shitty building.”

“Um, language?” I suggested helpfully, rolling my eyes.

“YOU SAID to speak as if we were speaking to friends,” he snarked.

“Well,” I clarified calmly, “I meant speaking to friends without swearing.”

He laughed, as did most of the audience. “Well that would never happen.” Pause. “Duh.”

I considered this moment a reminder that the other two thirds of my plate are still decidedly full.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Yeah, Baby

My friends Jessie and Lee are both adorable, and I think you’ll agree that neither of them looks particularly like Elizabeth Hurley or Mike Meyers.

Shef, however, has my two pals linked with the Austin Powers video box, which I’ve been letting him play with since last July, when it was really hot and I couldn’t be held responsible for letting him run around in a diaper and a muscle shirt. Or for not entertaining him beyond throwing him a big pile of VHS tapes.

“This is Jessie and Lee,” he told me yesterday, pointing at the box.

“Really?” I said, surprised. “Which one is Jessie?”

“This one is Jessie,” he explained patiently, pointing at Liz Hurley; “and this one is Lee.”

It must be the glasses and the short hair, because otherwise, I don’t see the resemblance.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Stars Came Out in St. Paul, and I was Inexplicably Invited

“Ok,” said Charlie seriously. He’s an earnest young man in my American Literature class, who was especially excited about my trip to the Prairie Home Companion movie premiere last night. This opportunity, which required a haircut, eye make-up, and shopping trips in other people's closets, was courtesy of great pal, Erin,a power player who was in charge of this soiree.

“When you see Lindsay,” Charlie continued, as he pointed authoritatively at me, “what I want you to do is this:
“First, you get her picture; then, you get an autograph; and finally – now this is most important -- you give her my phone number.”

In fact, I was kind of too shy to talk to the big shots, really. I mean, what was I to say? “Hi, Lindsay. Um, some of my students like you, and I thought Mean Girls was good”? Instead I played it cool and sipped cosmos while surreptitiously ogling them, especially these two:

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ringing His Celly

Now that Shef is two, he does some really cute things and also some really horrifying things.

Beacause it's good to focus on the positive, I'll tell one of the cute things: He’s started making fake phone calls on his real, but nonfunctioning cell phone. Usually he calls my friends -- people he knows very well. Other times, he calls folks that are important to him, although we’ve never actually spoken with them in real life.

For example, yesterday, he dialed up the guy who wears scuba gear into the fish tank at the Minnesota Zoo. This guy then gives a breathy presentation on fish behavior and feeding that's broadcast into a little viewing area via some kind of underwater speaking technology. He wears a full-coverage face mask, so it’s possible that “the guy” is actually several different men; but he’s just “Guy” to us.

“Hi, Guy,” Shef said into his phone, as we were walking around on our deck.
“You feed the fish?
“You see the dolphins?
“That’s great!
“You’re in the tank now?
“Ok. Bye-bye Guy, I love you.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Yesterday, we postponed moving into our new house until tomorrow for various reasons.

But then, I woke up this morning, stumbled half-dead up the stairs, and I smelt it. It turns out someone hadn’t stayed up late enough to let the stupid dog out one last time. I knew then, without a doubt, that we had to move out. Today. If only because I hate that damn dog.

So, after work, I picked up Shef and my sister, took us all to the mall to buy new sheets for Shef’s big-boy bed, sent Shef and Mary on a few indoor amusement rides, drove to Toys-R-Us to get a guardrail for the big-boy bed (left Shef and Mary in the car, so as not to be delayed by toy lust), arrived at our house, cleaned a bit, listened to Shef make several phone-calls on his broken cell phone (“Hi, Jessie. How are you today?”), and then put him down to sleep in his new digs (“Just like Elmo, Mommy,” he said, referring to the monster's adventures in bibliotherapeutic board-book my mom purchased for us: Big Enough For a Bed).

And now, after all that, we live here. Hallelujah.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lament for Renee, Part 3 or 4

Every time I do any work-related anything with Whoa-Nay, I find myself just wanting very badly to teach with her again. This photo of us was taken after we ran our service day project for the first time in 2003.

As you can see, we were really tired, sweaty, and completely satisfied with our jobs. If you had a colleague that made you feel that way and you had a blog, wouldn’t you write about how much you missed her on a quarterly basis, too?

Today, Whoa-Nay and I gave a talk about our citizenship stuff to a couple hundred Rotarians. Turns out Rotarians are a very supportive audience. We are totally crashing the Rotary Conference again next year.

Also, I enjoyed telling any Rotarians who asked why the heck we were no longer working together, that my former school district wouldn’t accommodate my desire for a part-time job. I didn’t mention that even if I had taken my full-time job back, they weren’t going to let me work with Whoa-Nay. When I think about that, I’m reminded that I had a really good reason for leaving. I think you’ll agree that a good job just isn’t a really good job unless you have a buddy.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sam's Name is Not Really Sam

One of my typically-disruptive juniors tromped in and announced that he planned on being my best student today. “Great,” I said, surprised but completely supportive. “I’m really looking forward to this, Sam.”

Mid-way through the lesson, I couldn’t help but notice that this charming chap wasn’t really living up to best-student status.

“Hey, Sam,” I said to him, while making the group-work rounds, “I thought you were going to be my best student today.”

He looked a little sheepish and mumbled something about trying.

“Look, Sam,” I said, “I’d like you to put yourself in my shoes." He laughed a little, but he didn't refuse. "Imagine for just a moment that you are me.” I looked at him meaningfully. “And now imagine you are trying to teach the class with you in it.”

Sam smiled. I could tell he understood that my situation was a difficult one, to be sure. “But, Ms. W.,” he said, sucking up as best as he could, “you do such a nice job teaching us despite the adversity of having me in class.”

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Coming Out of the Dark

My fever broke last Saturday and some pretty spectacular geometric pieces of disease shot out of my nose, never to return. Once my status returned to “marginally functional,” I focused my attention on Shef’s latest day care plague: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Do you know it? It turns out it’s easily recognizable by the open sores that appear on the hands, feet, and mouth.

Dan and I resigned ourselves to missing some more work to take care of the sores and, of course, the accompanying diarrhea and fever.

Overall, I can tell it hasn’t really been the healthiest winter because I’ve taken seven sick days during it. That’s more than I’ve ever even dreamed of taking.
My eighth will be Monday for the trip to the ear, nose, and throat specialist. I know I shouldn't, but I confess I'm daring to dream that Dr. B. will be curing the sleeplessness that's plagued our family for two years and twenty-seven days now. Not that I'm counting.

Despite all of these obstacles, we’re determined to adopt our best positive mental attitudes because of this exciting news:

Our house is done.

Well, pretty much.

Sunday, April 9, 2006


As I’ve mentioned, I have been sick for the entire spring break. Last night, exactly one week since the onset of the plague that has preventing me from shopping, grading, and writing a paper using critical discourse analysis, the disease staged a new and ingenious front: nausea and vomiting.

Yes. On top of the sinus pressure, the green mucus, the on-again-off-again fever, and the general exhaustion and misery, I now spend my nights sprawled on the bathroom floor praying for mercy and my days sipping water and staving off dizzy spells.

I discussed my deterioration with a sympathetic doctor today, and she suggested antibiotics and no more ibuprofen. If the vertigo continues, she says, I’ll need to be seen.

Friday, April 7, 2006

I Know What You're Thinking

You're probably thinking you're looking at the set of a Pottery Barn catalog shoot, but you're mistaken.

In fact, this is my bathroom! Isn't that wainscoting to die for! Thank you, Frank from Trading Spaces, for teaching me about the wonders of wainscot. Without you, I wouldn't have known what to call this stuff, although I still would have liked it.

Sadly, I've discovered that the shower head has about fifty times as much fashion sense as I do. It will be hard to keep up with the shower head, given the current state of my wardrobe, but I'm going to give it my best effort. The very next thing I'm going to do while pretending not to be sick (an endeavor that's had mixed results, to be sure) is take a shopping trip.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Construction Report

As I haven't had to report to work this week, I've thinking about our house quite a bit. Today, I ran into John, Slow Joe's cousin, as he was cutting some trim for the wainscoting in the bathroom. He was using the huge table saw that's discreetly taking up half of the family room.

"John," I said, feeling positive, "the bathroom looks awesome. I love it. And also the paint outside is all done!"

"Yep," he nodded, "I think it turned out great."

"Soooo," I said, looking around at the kitchen cabinets, which are installed, and the sink, which is clearly awesome, "I don't know if you've lived with your mother recently, but..."

John laughed a little and shook his head, but I didn't notice any sudden increase in the pace of cutting or anything.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006


My hatred for dogs has developed relatively recently. I surely liked Juno, the dog I grew up with. I used to let her sit on my lap, and even, God forbid, sleep in my bed.

But lately, dogs seem to me to be the most worthless, most annoying, most insidiously needy things people could possibly waste time on.

“We’re never getting a pet,” I say to Dan several times per month.

Certainly the dog bite I got last year might have contributed to my aversion to the canine, but mostly it has intensified because I’ve been living with Amber, my mom’s damn dog, for four months.

I’m almost embarrassed to say that I really, really, very strongly dislike her. I dislike her so much that Dan and I joked about having her euthanized while my mom was out of town. I know this sounds heartless and cruel, but remember that we didn’t actually do it. Instead, we fed her, gave her water, and even pet her multiple times per day. Plus, Amber herself provoked our ire by peeing all over the kitchen floor no fewer five times during the week my mom was in Arizona.

Becuase of this lack of bladder control, Shef frequently now says, “Amber peed,” when we come home from Paul’s, whether she has or hasn't.

Luckily, despite feeling so angry at the dog, who barks incessantly and refuses to obey any commands, that I flung open the door and screamed, "Amber, I hate your damn guts!" wildly into the backyard, I’m feeling a little better. Thank you for all of your well-wishes. I haven’t given up on my spring break, after all.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

I'm Feeling Bitter

Every year for the last ten, except last year when there was that shortage, I’ve dutifully lined up to get my flu shot. I hardly ever get sick, so it seemed like kind of an unnecessary precaution; but in the name of not counting chickens and knocking on wood and stuff like that I have procured the controversial vaccine each and every non-shortage year.

Every year, that is, except this year. You see, they cancelled the shot clinic at my school, and who has time to line up at Cub Foods when there are papers to grade, papers to write, lessons to plan, and a brilliant child to raise?

So, spring break started on Friday afternoon. We lived it up by going out to dinner with friends and staying up all the way until 9:30. On Saturday morning, I woke with a tickle in my throat. And today? Today I am lying flat on my back, ensconced on my couch, suffering mightily from fever, chills, muscle aches, and bright red tonsils.

I’d like to stage a protest, but my hacking cough has inhibited my vocal capacity.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Another Milestone

Shef is really a delightful child. He’s a great companion, he makes funny jokes, and of course, there’s that shake your booty stuff that’s pretty much completely irresistible.

All of this makes it that much more shocking to me that, beginning precisely on his second birthday, he significantly upped his frequency of oppositional behavior. This morning, for example, as I tried in vain to uncurl him from the fetal position he’d assumed in protest when I’d rudely suggested it was time to get dressed, I sighed loudly and said, “Shef, you just have to cooperate.”

“No coperate,” he said simply, rubbing his face into the carpet. This felt like a critical moment – a preview, if you will, of what will be typical behavior for many years to come.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Let There Be Break

The presentations the sophs are giving are seriously crabbing me out. While they have rubbed fake boobs and picked their noses on camera, they haven’t really done any deep thinking about their books. We’re all kind of pissed at each other about it, and we all yearn for the upcoming spring break.

The dingleberry on this shitty day was the email I got from my grad school program. Seems they’ve decided to add an additional requirement: a course I’ll need to take next fall. A course that’s only offered on Tuesdays at one pm, smack dab in the middle of fifth hour. Needless to say, I’ll need to do some serious finagling in order to see a diploma any time in the near future.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Today, I had two good potential blog topics: this one, and also that my grandparents have met and conversed at length with Snoop Dog

As you can imagine, this cake, expertly designed and executed by Dan's mom, was a huge hit.

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"It's Elmo! Elmo!" Shef squealed happily all the way until it came time to dish up, at which point his enthusiasm faded markedly.

"Daddy's cutting Elmo," he noticed skeptically, which was our cue to make a quick exit.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Go Shorty

The week of birthdays is underway. I was pretty psyched that my third-hour class brought donut holes to celebrate my 28th yesterday, and Shef was ecstatic about the load of balloons he got from adoring friends, parents, and grandparents this afternoon. Of course, if he’d have been agreeable enough to cause a labor of 16 hours or less, we would have shared a birthday; but I guess we each prefer our own days in the sun.

Sadly, Mr. Two has been acting his age up a storm of late, and has gotten a couple of less-than-stellar reports from daycare. He hasn’t been listening, they tell me. For example, Dawn asked him to go into the dramatic play room yesterday, and instead of doing that, he went into the hallway, covered his eyes, and pretended not to see or hear her.

We’re hoping this stage will pass, or at least that it will fade in and out at a sort of reasonable interval.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Construction Report

Okay, if this doesn't look like progress to you, you are clearly the most glass-half-emptiest person in the world:

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Slow Joe was busy this afternoon installing that kick-ass floor. And I'm diggin' the yellowy green color.

Dan, the man who, when I put his child on time-out this afternoon for throwing plastic food willy-nilly around the living room, sheepishly admitted that he actually encourages this kind of behavior, is partial to the cheerful blue color in the new powder room:

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So, Slow Joe says April 15th.

Let's say it all together now:

April. Fifteenth.

Monday, March 20, 2006

It Turns Out That Having Kids More-Than Doubles the Number of Sick Days You Need to Take

Just to make things interesting, Shef spiked a fever this morning, and I had to leave a curriculum-planning meeting at the school district office to rescue him from daycare, where he was languishing half-conscious in his teacher’s lap.

“He’s been this way since Dad dropped him off,” Teacher Tina informed me. I could tell she suspected us of knowingly sending him to school in this condition, but I swear we didn’t.

Lucky for me, Dan was able to come home in time for me to speed back across town in order to catch the after-lunch portion of the scintillating discussion of the placement of world lit titles in the tenth grade English course, and then I scooted over to the high school to leave lesson plans for the sub I’ll need tomorrow.

“You know he can’t come back until he’s been fever-free for 24 hours,” Tina said pointedly. “So, hopefully we’ll see him on Wednesday.”

Sure enough, he was lounging pathetically all afternoon and evening, and we felt really sorry for him until he suddenly felt better around dinner time, scarfed three waffles, and mustered enough energy to do the “jump, shake your booty” dance that my sister taught him last week. He knows how to sing the song and wiggle his tail feather, so it’s truly a sight to behold.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

F for Fan, that is, Fan of Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman enjoys wide appeal in our household. For one thing, she does a great sketch on Sesame Street called “The Princess and the Elephant,” which co-stars Elmo; and Dan and I heartily enjoyed Natalie’s rockin’ new movie, V for Vendetta, last night.

Of course, when getting your movie reviews from me, it’s important to remember that I enjoyed Million Dollar Baby and The 40-year-old Virgin equally. My definition of “quality” encompasses pretty much all cinematic offerings, possibly excepting Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, and even there, you have to give them credit for a couple of good fish scenes.

Still, V totally kicks ass. We sat on the edges of our seats, and when it was done, we had a fun imagining republicans choking on their popcorn over it.

I read the NYT review today, and I see they didn’t like is as much as we did, but I don’t care since the message of V is power to the people.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Unexpected Boon

Although I was bummed that my superintendent failed to call a snow day, I was happy to come home to this cherub.

After thrity minutes or so of tromping around in the yard, I decided it was time to go inside.

"No," Shef said definitively. "I'll just play in the snow awhile."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Bears

This is a picture of Shef getting ready to dance with the Berenstein Bears, who appear at the Children's Museum every Friday afternoon at four.

Shef fears the bears, and yet, he loves them, too. He loves to hokey-pokey with them, to shake around to "The Bare Necessities" with them, and to participate in their "Bear Cha Cha Cha."

We've seen the bears three times now, and I know he would really like to start giving them high-fives.

"I give Papa Bear a high five," he tells me, each time we see them.

"Great," I say, encouragingly, as a horde of excited kids mobs the bears. "Let's wait our turn, and then when we get up there, you can go ahead and give him a high five."

Then, when I've successfully fended off the over-zealous bear fans in order to secure a turn, informed the bear that this one wants to do a high-five, and the bear holds up his hand, ready for the big moment...

Shef suddenly whimpers "No," and buries his head deep in my shoulder.

"Okay, that's okay," I tell him, smiling apologetically at the bear's handlers. "You don't have to do a high five."

"I'll just wave," he says, peeking up at the bear, as we walk away.

And then he waves, and then we discuss it for the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Two Things

First, my ultra-hip younger brother made a guest appearance in my classroom yesterday, much to the delight of the sophs. He read and discussed a sonnet he’d written (which was decidedly better than the crap I’d composed as a model this fall) and expounded on the purpose of poetry.

“I really believe it’s important to get in touch with the emotional side of the human experience,” he told the kids earnestly. “Poetry helps us do that.”

They nodded solemnly. I mean there was none of the usual eye-rolling that follows my impassioned defenses of literature.

Second, Shef’s on a mega-dose of antibiotics for the cough that hasn't really quit since December. Dr. G. decided this time it’s a sinus infection and the cough is the result of a post-nasal drip. She said ears look “dull and kind of thick,” which I guess isn’t too good; but she decided to hold off on x-raying the adenoids until we see if the twenty-day course nips this crud in the bud.

On the way to the doctor’s office Shef, ever cheerful in the face of chronic illness, said:

“I like to go to the zoo. I like the tapirs. I like the guy feeding the fish, too. I like muffins. I like bananas. I like pancakes. I like yogurt. I like to play toys.”

As if that weren’t funny enough, his Aunt Mary taught him a joke yesterday. If you ask him, “What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?” He’ll wrinkle up his nose and snarl, “Arrrgh!” We did the joke for Dr. G., but she didn’t think it was too, too hilarious.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Construction Report

Living with my mom has been totally fine. She’s gracious, she babysits, and she doesn’t even seem to mind that her family room has been flooded, top-to-bottom and front-to-back, with Shef’s toys.

“Go to playroom,” he says, pointing into the area which used to be a comfortable, uncluttered space for watching television and lounging in front of the fireplace. “Play wif barn,” he says, eyeing his Little People (and his train tracks and letter puzzle and easel and music set and vacuum cleaner, among other things).

Despite this hospitality, we find ourselves increasingly anxious to move back into our space. Contractor Joe seems to be plugging away, but still our move-in date creeps ever insidiously toward the Summer Solstice.

Here’s a view from the outside, with new siding between our bathroom and kitchen windows:

And here’s a view from just inside the front door. Joe and his henchmen insulated on Friday, which indicates progress, for which I'm very grateful.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'm Feeling Guilty

Since I've returned from the conference, Shef has been calling me "Mama Chicago." It's cute, but it also makes my insides hurt a little. The Chicago absence was compounded because I had a paper due in my class tonight, so I needed babysitters yesterday and today.

When I got home tonight, Shef clung to Dan and looked at me warily. I guess he had a little meltdown at school today during which he cried hysterically and asked for me repeatedly.

Obviously I'm wracked with guilt.

It's especially hard to be away from him because he's gotten especially cute. He has likes to draw on his white board. "That's a V," he'll say, pointing at some scribble. "I'm drawing a dolphin!" He's also really into Little People. My mom gave him the pirate ship last week, so he says, "Mommy play with this present," and we make the pirates jump the plank and "eat the fish dinner." Of course we don't do any of this lately since I've practically abandoned him.

Lee sent some toy sea animals and dolphin stickers home with me for Shef. He's highly attached to them. This is the second night that he's had the stickers in his posession, and this is the second night he's sleeping with them in his crib. "Cuddle with the dolphin book," he told me, and I couldn't see any reason to argue.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Mao

The Chicago conference was a blast, although I must admit it was unfortunately punctuated by my idiotic dialogue.

The purpose of the study group, I explained to my esteemed professor, who also attended the conference, is so we can “discuss the readings first, and then discuss the readings again. You know. In class!” I even used my hands to show her what I meant, pantomiming a box on the left, followed by a box on the right to symbolize the study group and the class, respectively.

Luckily, my fearless pals led me away before complete humiliation set in. “She won’t even remember this,” Jessie generously reassured me, as I hastily procured another glass of wine.

When we weren’t conferencing, we stuffed ourselves at fancy restaurants and toured the art institute. I’m partial to the Thorne Miniature Room, even though it seems like the hoity-toity art critic people think it’s kind of the armpit of the place.

I’m hoping I can visit Chicago again soon, maybe with Shef and Dan, who would find lots of enjoyment in The Windy City for sure.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Caffeinated Teacher is a Happy Teacher

A couple of students have taken to bringing me Diet Coke after lunch. It’s just every once in awhile, and I view it as an apple for the teacher for the teacher who has a crippling caffeine addiction.

God, I love those kids.

I’m not teaching tomorrow because I’m going to learn about social justice and literacy education in Chicago, and as I left school this afternoon, I knew I would miss my students. I kind of wished I could teach them tomorrow. I called Dan to share this feeling I was having, and he brought me back to reality with his special brand of straight-talk:

“That’s ridiculous,” he spat.

And although that was kind of true, it still made me feel good about my job change.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"One Art"

Sometimes the fact that my life is held together by the most tenuous of threads weighs on me like a double layer of those x-ray-proof vests.

Today it was the podiatrist running and hour late and my mom forgetting to leave the door open for the babysitter that weighed me down; last week, it was the freezing rain and my accidental abscondsion of Dan’s car keys. In between there was a little of Shef’s ear pain and a pile of vanishing photocopies.

It’s days like this that Elizabeth Bishop echoes in my head: “Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.” None of those small things spell disaster.

“I don’t know how you do it,” a colleague of mine said last week, referring to my myriad identities and obligations.

“Oh,” I said, feeling a little uncomfortable, “the truth is I don’t, really.”

That truth was especially heavy today.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The First and Last Time Renee and Mike Spent a Weekend With Us

This weekend, we spent a couple of days at the cabin with Mike and Whoa-Nay, as Shef calls her.

Shef is so in love with Whoa-Nay that it’s a little scary. Upon waking at five each morning, he looked into my eyes and beseeched me to find Whoa-Nay and let him plaster her with kisses. Because I too have affection for Whoa-Nay, I kept him out of her bedroom until eight a.m., but precisely as the second-hand marked the arrival of that decent hour, I sicced him upon her.

“HI, WHOA-NAY!” he shrieked about a hundred and fifty times per day. For a full hour on Saturday afternoon, she engaged him in a frenzied game of peek-a-boo from behind the couch. He was so gleeful, he couldn’t really function.

After he went to bed, the rest of us grown-ups went about cabinly business: triple-fisting at dinner, trying desperately and vainly to finish a game of Trivial Pursuit Nineties Edition, and losing control of bodily functions.

Well, to be fair, the bodily function problem was really mine alone. It started innocently enough when I sipped some water just as Whoa-Nay was relating the punchline of a hilarious story. As a result of the laughing, I choked on the water and kind of spat up in my napkin.

“She’s totally throwing up,” Mike narrated calmly, as I tried my darndest to be discreet.

Then I had to excuse myself to the bathroom because I was in danger of wetting my pants from laughing so hard about vomitting at the table.

Even removed from the group, I couldn't stop the laughter. When I got back, the sheer force of my guffaws caused a third, truly unfortunate incident: a gaseous emission that packed just a few too many decibels.

"Are you sure you don't need to go back to the bathroom?" Mike inquired as I doubled over in a fit of laughter and humiliation.

Whoa-Nay howled and pointed. "I'll never forget this!" she yelled. "You hit the TRIPLE!"

It was really kind of the highlight of the weekend, humor-wise, and even so you might be wondering why I'd confess this to the internet. The reason is simply that it will make Whoa-Nay very happy, and after spending thirty-six hours with Shef attached to her leg, I'm willing to grant her just this much.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Rare Foray into Crafts

The sophs made masks, devising symbols for the Much Ado characters’ dreams, fears, and intentions, and conflicts. The idea was that the masks would fit right into the dance scene in Act II, scene I, the one where Kate Beckinsale gets wooed by Denzel.

I was more or less pleased with the products, despite certain limitations. For instance, one snarky fellow had this to say during his presentation:

“This is the mask that I think Don John would wear… I mean, if he were forced to wear a paper plate to a masquerade ball.”

Indeed. Just one more reminder that this is tenth grade English and not Project Runway.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Difficult Day

Last night, I went to bed before nine because I couldn’t see the book I was trying to read. Shef, never a good sleeper, has been in full-effect lately with then night-wakings and the wailing, and it seems that sleep-deprivation has finally begun to affect my vision.

“You’re going to have to sleep in your crib,” I tell him.
“Sleep with Mommy,” he relplies, breathing sweetly into my neck and holding on tight.
No flies on him, I suppose.

Anyway, I decided it would be best to simply go to sleep, get up early, and do the reading before my curriculum planning meeting this morning. Sadly, several circumstances made this plan unfeasible:

1. Dan was up with Shef from 10-12, and I was up with him from 2-5.
2. There was freezing rain, so my 15-minute commute was doubled.
3. When I arrived at school, I reached into my pocket and discovered I was in possession of Dan’s car keys.

I made it home and back to work with five minutes to spare before the bell, but I never recovered from the discombobulation, really.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Vacuum Diaries

Shef will be two in a month. I think he has kind of a long attention span for a two-year-old because throughout his life, his obsession with the vacuum cleaner has not waned.

Here he is with the vacuum cleaner a year ago:

And here he is last week:

There is a little stick at my mom’s house that he pretends is also a vacuum cleaner. In fact, his pretending has gotten quite good – we pretend to eat plastic food, we pretend with finger puppets, and he pretends that he wants to use the toilet.

He knows that if he pretends this last thing, there’s a good chance I’ll let him flush, which is totally worth the trouble of getting naked and pretending to push.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Wart, The Sequel

Today, I finally made the call to Dr. L., famed podiatrist. On Tuesday, the 21st, he will begin the process of bringing me to a wart-free existence. This professional help is something my friend Molly, who has had warty feet herself, has been urging for months. I was reluctant because of the nightmare which was my first wart treatment. You might not remember, but I do – it was ghastly and black and oozy, and really quite painful.

“I’m tryiiing the Dr. Scholl’s treatment,” I explain defensively, over and over again, trying not to think about the pedicures and public swimming pools I might be missing out on.

Molly purses her lips and shakes her head. “If you’re going to do anything on your own with this mess, you’re going to need to get in there with something sharp and just dig it out.” Then she squints her eyes and pantomimes a series of short, violent stabs.

Sadly, experience tells me that self-surgery is easier said than done, so I'm surrendering myself to Dr. L. Let's hope he can eradicate the colony because I'm really tired of those damn warts.