The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Potluck and also some bad luck

We had a lab potluck this weekend. We had kind of a theme: Election 2008. There was Senate three-bean salad, No-emissions chili, McCain-aroni salad, and an Uncle Sam mashed potato head made by Sam and Joseph. I made a white Sangria, and people brought plenty of beer, wine and cider. For dessert we had red-white-and-blue layer cake and cheesecake. It was quite a spread!

Afterwards we played Cranium. Joseph had a minor meltdown when he didn't get the playing piece that he wanted, but he recovered and actually helped our team win a point. Also, Sam was having some sportsmanship issues. Due to the aforementioned problems, and also the dog's squirrellyness, Danny and I were distracted and did not play so well as we usually do.

I neglect to mention:
Why is the dog squirrely? Friday afternoon Argos busted into the garden and chewed on Penny the box turtle. He gnawed on the edge of her shell and caused some minor breakage and bleeding. Danny took Penny to the vet ($80) where she got an antibiotic injection (it took many vet techs to wrestle her out of her shell). She has to go back Tuesday for a follow-up injection. Also, the dog is on everyone's shit list.
Why is Danny distracted? He has been having cluster headaches all week. He has 1-2 per night, so he is not getting enough sleep. He takes Imitrex, which works well but is hard to find in stock in local pharmacies.
Why am I distracted? Check out previous blog entries.

Apples apples apples!

Danny drove Joseph's class went on their yearly field trip to the apple orchard. Joseph had a great time. The picked apples and saw how apples were processed into cider. There was also a pumpkin patch and a playground. The kids got to sample apples, apple juice and apple donuts.

On a related note: I just drove the kids on a different field trip (we saw a play of James and the Giant Peach). I have to say that as much as I worry about Joseph's "spicy" personality, it takes interacting with other kids his age to realize what a great kid he is. I worry that Joseph's temper will get him into trouble, but his teachers have always reassured me that he does just fine in school. When I spend time with other kids, I see what they are talking about. Although Joseph is occasionally spicy, the rest of the time he is self-sufficient and competent at doing things for himself, he pays attention to the rules and is conscientious about obeying them. Joseph is also a great conversationalist: he has a lot to say about a wide range of topics and he is charming with a surprisingly entertaining sense of humor for a kid his age.

Kid blogs

Check out Sam and Joseph's blogs! Both kids took pictures at the 3rd Sunday Market and posted them on their blogs. Also new this school year: rather than dictating, Joseph has started doing his own blogging!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I am decently happy most of the time, but today I was ALL-THE-WAY MAD for most of the day.

My team-teaching colleague is doing a crappy job. He needs to be reminded multiple times to do what he is supposed to do and creates stress by missing every TA meeting and deadline. And tomorrow he is going out of town for a vacation. I just realized that he was on the schedule to supervise lab next week and he is leaving without making any arrangements for his absence. Our TA is very anxious about this, and I don't want her to suffer, but I am infuriated that I will likely have to cover for him against my will.

My TA and I had little enough confidence that he would show up for lab today that I reassured her that I would help her out if he didn't show up. I had a dentist appointment for my cracked filling, and I actually had to put off having it repaired to be back in time for lab. My colleague showed up at the last minute for lab, acting as if everything was fabulous, and now I am stuck with a cracked filling until Tuesday.
He also finally brought in the data that he said that he would do. He is two weeks late on this data set, as well as two weeks late on the previous one, so I have processed all of the remaining data while waiting for him to finish. He (perhaps intentionally) takes so long to do anything that I am forced to do his work to stay on schedule.

So today he swans in and drops off the data, expecting that he will get a hero's welcome for his effort. But at this point, it is just too little too late. And then he starts making helpful suggestions/criticisms about the data processing--WHICH I HAVE ALREADY FINISHED minus the small set of data that he has finally returned to me. He professes interest in dividing up the effort on getting the papers written, which is when I went from being somewhat irritable to ALL-THE-WAY MAD. He and I have already been two cycles of this crap. First, he is enthusiastic about the project and we make plans, dividing up the work, etc. Then, he disappears, and I am stuck--unable to finish the work without knowing what he has done or will do. Somehow, when I am so pissed off that I am about to take desperate measures, he returns, full of enthusiasm and promises. This has already happened two times, and I am not going to participate in a third round.

So, all day I was just beside myself trying to deal with the ALL-THE-WAY MAD thing. I was so mad that I was making stupid distracted mistakes at work. So, I swam laps (I went so fast that I finished 5 min early). I commiserated with someone. I listened to attitude-adjusting music. I worked on fun busywork. I went for a run. But clearly, I am still mad, sitting here with the metallic taste of my broken filling.

Update 9/26: I felt more calm in the morning, but new developments have gotten me maximally MAD again. Re my colleague skipping town without finding a teaching lab replacement: I found out that my TA (probably under duress) told my colleague that I had offered to help her out with the lab. Thus, although my colleague never spoke to me, offered to trade labs or compensate me in any way, he can feel free to not show up knowing that the lab is covered.
Re my research project: I was processing his belated files and realized that he actually did all of the data processing yesterday and the day before. So, on Friday when he said that the left the data at home, he was lying. And on Monday when he gave me his thumb drive and told me that the data was on it, he was also lying!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sorry and falling

Tonight when Danny and Sam went to TaeKwonDo, Joseph and I played Sorry with teams of action figures. He is becoming such a good reader! I took video of Joseph reading the cards.

When Sam came home he showed us the proper way to fall.

Sleepless and homeless?

This was not a good weekend for sleeping. Our landlord told us that he would be coming to the house Saturday at 9 am to do some repair work, so we had to be up early. Some much-needed repairs were made, as well as much random puttering and arbitrary tree-trimming.

Our landlord also told us that he would be coming to the house Sunday at 9 am to do some clean-up because a realtor was coming at 10 am. He said that the realtor would give advice about repairs that needed to be done to sell the house in the future. We woke up bright and early Sunday, started cleaning the house, and waited. Our landlord showed up at 9:45 with the realtor (45 minutes late or 15 early?) After a tour of the house, they retreated to the driveway where I heard them discussing asking price. Our landlord is a pretty shrewd guy, and I would guess that if he can find a buyer, he will break our contract and evict us. However, I bet that he won't try to sell the house until he finishes repairs because he knows that he will get more money if it is move-in ready. So, hopefully we have a place to live until the beginning of the summer.

Finding a new house may be hard because we don't want to move out of our neighborhood and switch Sam's school. Consequently, Sunday night I didn't sleep well, and today we have started looking for a new place to live.

The landlord

Update Tues 9/23: Our landlord called us to tell us that he may not be selling the house--he said that he would tell us in January. I figure that we will continue the house hunting. If we find something good and are in a position to sign a lease, perhaps he will be motivated to decide sooner.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Flea boy

I think that I may have won some sort of a bad parent prize. Joseph's kindergarten class is studying insects this week and I sent him to school with a live flea in a ziplock snack bag. I don't know--I was petting the dog as I was getting Joseph ready for school and one thing led to another.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More vandalism and swimming

So we have these chairs on our porch. They were rejects from my dorm at Johns Hopkins and were already quite elderly in 1992 when I got them. I have been hanging on to them because they have vintage appeal, although they really need to be recovered in a less industrial fabric. We used to have the chairs in our house, but after an incident with a hungry roof rat, the chairs have been relegated to the outdoors. As you may have inferred from past posts, our house is in a high-traffic area. We are near the uptown bars and student off-campus houses, so drunk students constantly casually vandalize our yard/car/etc.

Last weekend, someone stole one of the chairs. After confirming that the chair wasn't used to smash some other part of our property, I did a sweep of the neighborhood and found it thrown in a tree-lawn a block away.
This weekend, I came out in the morning to find the chairs piled up in front of our door, blocking the way out of the house. There were torrential storms in the night, so I conclude that drunk students were hanging out on the porch to avoid the rain and then decided to prank us. So random!

Also, there was another faculty/staff family swim day at the ISU pool. We all had an excellent time. Sam is an even stronger swimmer than last summer, which is surprising given that we weren't quick enough to get him into swim classes this summer. Joseph is still resisting swimming, although he was willing to tiptoe around without getting his face wet. The last three times we swam at this pool, Joseph ended up with an ear infection, so let's hope that he will be OK this time.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Today was my birthday. I am a little unclear about what one is supposed to do when they are old and have a birthday. The kids were frenetically excited about it the night before, but I was unable to convey to them that nothing much was going to happen. In the morning, Danny gave me flowers and had put up some decorations. I got some lovely presents: a necklace with a cricket on it and a book from Danny (Creepy Cute Crochet), two books from my sister Michelle (Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet and Nigella Express), and my mom and parents-in-law were very thoughtful and sent gift money.

Nuclear daisies

Joseph gave me a box of babies for my birthday. Yikes!

I went to work for 9 hours. No one in the lab remembered that it was my birthday (despite the birthday list posted next to the lab contact info), and it would be weird to mention it. I bake cake for people in the lab on their birthdays, so I would guess that it co-dependently makes it so that other people are not in the habit of remembering birthdays. I had a decent but uneventful day. My lecture on learning and bird song went well. Also, I discovered that the ISU library has started subscribing to Web of Science--my favorite research tool! And I finally got a bike! Danny answered an ad in the Pantagraph, and we bought two ancient his and hers (a matching set!) fixed gear Sears and Roebuck Free Spirit bikes for $40. I left work early and went home to bake a cake with the kids. We went out to dinner at Medici's. The food was excellent--I had the best burger and the best slow-cooked chicken that I have tasted in ages! We came home and decorated (and ate) the cake.

You can never add too many non-pareils!

Vanilla cake with chocolate frosting with pomegranate jelly filling and raspberries and blueberries (and plenty of non-pareils and a monkey on top).

Update Monday 5/8: I got a nice card and treats from my labmates, which was really great. At this age, I can't say that I care that much if people forget my birthday, but it's like an extra bonus if they remember.
Also, here's a picture of our dorktastic new bikes:

Monday, September 1, 2008

City Museum

This weekend we went to the City Museum in St. Louis. It was even better than all the hype!! The City Museum is not strictly a children's museum--there were many tweens and teens as well as tour groups and unaccompanied adults. And there are no glass cases or interpretive signs. The City Museum is like a hybrid between an art museum and a jungle gym. There was all sorts of unnecessary beauty that you are supposed to interact with as participatory art.
At the entrance of the museum is an amazing outdoor climbing area. It is four stories high, and incredibly convoluted--there is really no way to know what leads to what unless you clamber around and try everything out. There are tunnels, bridges, stairs, ramps and slides made out of different kinds of metals and wood as well as a jumbo-sized ball pit, a castle and two recycled airplanes.

I nearly had a heart attack when I saw some of the tunnels through the air. They are about 3 feet in diameter, at least 50 feet long, 3-4 stories above the ground and made of an airy spiderweb of metal wire. When you crawl into them, you get a virtually unobstructed view of the ground many stories below and they undulate slightly, too.

The first thing that happened is that Joseph got away from us. He was leading us, and whenever he got to a fork in the tunnel, he enthusiastically plowed on ahead without telling us where he was going. Just as we started panicking and looking for help from the staff, I hear a wee little voice from above (way above) squeaking "Hey Mommy, look where I am!" and I see Joseph up at the highest peak of the structure. Because the structure was so convoluted, I had no choice but to follow him before he got away again. (Seriously, that child is part monkey--I have no idea where he gets his agility from.) So off I went, scrambling dizzying heights through the swaying chickenwire tunnels and squeezing around hairpin turns until I caught up with him. So that is how minutes after swearing that I would NOT go up there, I ended up there.
The view from only halfway up.

Sam crosses the water.

Joseph goes slowly down an enormous slide.

Sam and I wait our turn to go down the four-story spiral slide.

There was a huge system of man-made underground caves for exploring. It was very dark, so no pictures. The kids loved it! Each of us took turns being the navigator and leading (while making sure that the others could follow) which prevented anyone from getting lost.
We took a break in the "Hall of Shameless Hucksterism," which was the beatnik-themed incredibly reasonably priced snack bar (a real bar--it sold beer!) We has popcorn and cookies and enjoyed the kitsch. There was a section devoted to the corn dog, including religious iconography, historical corn dog fun and the world's oldest corn dog, preserved under glass.

The boys enjoyed the World's Largest Underwear.

Fear the clown!

Secret hidden robot.

The first floor was devoted to an amazing undersea structure, which had giant sea creatures, and concrete and wooden tunnels to navigate.

The mosaics were exceptional! Every nook and cranny had some kind of handmade artistic detail.

There was also a small museum within the museum devoted to architectural design. It was basically a warehouse of amazing little details preserved from old buildings, including a gallery of gargoyles and doorknobs.

Sam and Joseph make their best gargoyle faces.

Also, I must add that the city of St. Louis is really fantastic! Although Danny and I have driven through several times on road trips, we have never really visited. The architecture is amazing--like the few parts of Chicago that weren't burned in the fire. We will be back, I'm sure.
The arch!

The city center--complete with disaffected goth teens.

Also, after all of that clambering around, my knees and elbows look like hamburger and I have random bruises everywhere. I took this picture on the way home from the museum. You should see what my knees look like now! And I have to wear a skirt and lecture like this!