Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I was walking up to the cafeteria today when a woman stopped me at the front steps. She made a motion like she was holding a phone up to her ear. I shook my head because I wasn't sure what she meant, then slowly it occurred to me that she was asking if I had a cell phone. "Oh, a cell?" I asked, as I pulled it out. She started nodding vigorously and started moving her hand like she was writing. Slowly, it occurred to me that she was deaf and was asking for a pen. I found one in my purse, and a scrap a paper, and she wrote "Please call 711, then 864-xxxx." My first (stupid) thought was, "Is this a scam?", and then I realized that someone pulling a scam would probably not be a deaf woman on the steps of a NASA cafeteria. She wrote down "Bill - husband - deaf". So I called, AND TRIED TO HAND HER THE PHONE. Dork. She was pointing to her ears and shaking her head while my brain was shouting, "DORK - she CAN'T HEAR!"

Anyway, the 711 number was a service for the hearing impaired...I was instructed to dial the number I wished to call, then a woman came on line who read what Bill was typing and typed what I said back to Bill. (His wife was telling him to come meet her at the cafeteria). Is that not cool? You learn something new every few days or so. Like, don't hand a telephone to a deaf woman.

assorted news

What good is a blog if you can't occasionally whine in it, right?

I stayed home yesterday since I'd been up um ...vomiting... for most of the early morning. I felt progressively worse until I was lapsing in and out of sleep on the couch around noon (which is not something I do easily during the day). I finally took my temperature and it was a whopping: 100.4. So I spent the day feeling like a total wimp for letting a mere 100 degree temperature completely suck the life out of me. Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling much better. I stuck the thermometer in my mouth and got a reading of: 96.4. Did it again and got the same reading. Huh. So now I'm feeling sorry for myself because I probably had a much higher temperature yesterday than I thought. If I had known that, I would have let myself have TWO bowls of ice cream. Dang.

I think I would love to stretch my wimpiness out to cover two days off from the world, but I'm not allowed. I've got work to get done at the office, and the kid-juggling olympics starts up after school. I somehow need to have E at a baseball field near our house at 5:00 and Q at a baseball field about 15 miles from our house...at 5:00. I haven't figured out exactly how to manage that one, but stay tuned.

In other news:

* Our church has new ministers!! It's been a looong three years searching for them, and we need them desperately.

* E's chess club (Elementary school) won first place in their tournament on Saturday, beating out a private school and a group of homeschoolers. Go public education! E herself did pretty well, with a win, a loss and a draw. She wrote down her moves and we recreated the game that was a draw. I nearly threw the chessboard at her head. She asked the little boy she was playing for a draw because she was "tired of playing". At the point she asked him for a draw, she had him in check three different ways and was one or two moves away from a checkmate. I imagine it wasn't a difficult decision for him to accept the draw. Grrr. I don't want her to be overly competitive, but don't you think that's a bit ridiculous?

* Global warming seems to be all over the news lately. Good because perhaps the public epiphany is coming. Bad because, well, it sucks. It's depressing. I've never been overly fond of change, and well, this is a pretty damned big change. Folks - there *is* a consensus among scientists that the world is warming and that it is caused by human emissions. Don't let anyone make you think otherwise.

* I was once again overlooked for People Magazine's Sexiest Woman. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

picking your fruit punches

Q's teacher called me tonight - is that ever a completely good thing? :-)
And may I interject here that once again he ended up with an angel of
a teacher? We've had a long line of these angels. Karma is being good to us.

Anyway, I just had to share this because I was LOL (between all my worry and angst of course). Q had some trouble today with his SOL group (and for those of you not in the know in our home state, SOL is not the more common (base) meaning, but Standards of Learning). They have standardized tests coming up in May so they were spilt into groups of 13 kids per team to work together and have some fun contests, etc to help get ready for the tests. Lisa Hill (teacher) told me their first task was to come up with a team name. Apparently, Q was all about Patriot Rebels or something like that, but was out voted. He had an "episode" and lost control for a bit, but pulled it back together. Lisa was just letting me know what happened, and that she was very proud of him for coming to her afterwards (on his own) to talk it over with her. She said he came up, all earnest and troubled and told her he just didn't know what to do about it. He was very concerned about the team name that the group had voted to have - Tropical Stars. "Mrs. Hill!!!! It's just that it... it doesn't make sense. It makes us sound like, like a fruit punch." Lisa told me she burst out laughing despite trying not to. She agreed with him that yes, it did sound like fruit punch. Then she had a talk with him about picking your battles and responsibilities of leaders to stay calm and objective.

It just tickled me. Poor Q. I definitely see his point. They're going to have t-shirts made so he'll have to wear it once a week in the morning. My first instinct is to be glad I'm not in 4th grade anymore, but this kind of stuff never really goes away does it? It just comes back again and again in various disguises. Tropical Stars indeed. :-)

spring has sprung a leak

After I woke up this morning, I grabbed a Dr. Pepper from the garage rather than make coffee, and trudged down the hall to the office so I could read email (again with the monotony, see...but I did go for a Dr. Pepper rather than coffee). Anyway, as I was walking through the kitchen and playroom, something caught my eye out of the windows. This!!!

Pretty! Finally, I see my house in snow this winter. Wait. It's March 22. It's spring now. Huh.
Doesn't matter - it's still pretty and nothing stuck to the roads so school and work are all still on (this is a good thing), and we just get to enjoy a pretty winter wonderland for a few hours until it melts. During spring.

There's some variety for you.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I've had an epiphany today... which is that it is, in fact, consistency that is the spice of life. Yep, consistency, even to the point of monotony. Variety is overrated. Here's what I mean: These things happen to me every day (or at least multiple times every week).

1) Morning is peaceful for me because I am always the first one up in my house. I make coffee, get the paper, read email, and relax in the bliss of a house so quiet I can hear the birds chattering outside. I breathe in the heavy smell of coffee, wrap myself up in the fuzzy green bathrobe that my wonderful husband bought for me, and then I walk into the bathroom, whereupon I promptly step out of my hazy state of bliss and onto the soft bathmat. More to the point, I step directly onto the area upon which my cat has carefully selected to pee. At this point, I generally shout out g*d-d*mmit or any other chosen curse word (huh, I suppose there IS some variety here), hop about on my one unsoiled foot, grab the blasted bathmat and hobble down the hall to the washing machine, trying to walk on the heel of the soiled foot so as not to track cat pee down the hallway. After tossing the mat into the wash for the 2 millionth time this year, I notice Sammy (cat) curled up on the chair I bought for myself, which he has claimed for himself by depositing mounds of cat hair all over it, and I glare at him, repeating said cursewords, usually in a hushed voice since my husband is still snoring in the bed, and tell him in a dozen different languages that this is not okay. Then consistently, he looks at me out of one eye (since he's so relaxed in my chair that he cannot even mutter a full meow...he just kind of opens his mouth and leaks air...much less open both eyes). And, I must add, there is never a morning that I expect any of this to happen. The element of this surprise jolt out of my blissful little itty brain's happy morning is crucial.

2) I have also come to realize that following the cat pee incident in the morning, and no matter how carefully I plan, or no matter how early I or the kids get up, no matter which eye I squint or which star I wish upon, there SHALT be one task that must be done in the morning which I SHALT forget about until we arest walking outest of the door to rush to the bus stop. This happens invariably...(which means consistently) again. And again. But once again, I admit that a small taste of variety inserts itself here because the exact task that I forget varies from day to day. The one forgotten task may be, oh, the medicine that one of the kids needs to take, or Q's Nasonex, or perhaps their vitamins. Today, for instance, it was lunch for E. I just totally forgot to make her lunch so I was scrambling for enough change to buy her lunch - I had to resort to making the foray into DH's bathroom, where he dumps pockets of change amongst the ... (clutter is too civil and kind of a word) ... carnage that is his bathroom. Maybe it's that I forgot to sign one of their planners, or forgot that they needed permission slips for chess club. The consistency is that EVERY MORNING there shalt be a forgotten task. Amen.

3) Again, with the morning. After the children have been safely deposited into the yellow school bus, and after I have hurried back up the street and jumped into the minivan and am well on my way down the interstate to work, I realize that really, it would have been a good idea, given the 5 or 35 cups of coffee I had that morning, to have visited the restroom before beginning my commute. But since the van goes on autopilot as soon as I point it in the direction of work, I always drive all the way down to work, perhaps faster than legal out of necessity, after which I end up having to park at the far end of the parking lot, all crooked and out of kilter because liquid is leaking out of my eyes at this point, and after which I race into the office and fall into the bathroom, thanking the spirits of the universe that I work in a male dominated field because I would DIE if the stalls were full.

Those of you with claims to sanity may be wondering why I don't 1) keep the bathroom door shut, 2) make a list of tasks that must be completed in the morning, or 3) go to the bathroom before I drive to work. Some of you may even be muttering "dork" as you click on past this epiphanous post. Well. You must look beyond the simple solution. Beyond, see? I would explain further, but the monotony of my evening dictates to me that it is time to stumble down the hall in a near-drunken stupor, pretend to be interested in the basketball game DH is watching on TV, pretend to read whatever book is most convenient to me on my shelf, and then fall asleep. Busy night...monotonous...but spicy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006



I feared that this day would come. I hoped it wouldn't, but it has indeed come.
We are in the midst of a family crisis.

We received a phone call last night from Q's spring baseball coach.
He was drafted by: I can't say it.

Q thinks it's great fun. He's already planning to wear his Red Sox uniform from last year to practices. DH, on the other hand, is not finding much humor in the situation. This is the man who told me that if he hadn't met and married me, and if he was still living in the Boston area (a lot of ifs there), he would BE Ben Wrightman from Fever Pitch.

So, poor guy, this is excruciating for him. I'm hoping the coach will ask him to assist. (snort) I do know that he would never ever EVER wear a Yankees (oops I said it) shirt or hat.

E, on the other hand, is on the innocuous Rockies.

And thus it begins. We have 4 practices in the next 6 days, one of which directly conflicts with piano lessons. Ah, the smell of spring.

Monday, March 13, 2006

feeling fiesty and maybe a bit grumpy and very liberal

...but it's friend K's fault. She gave me a copy of the Northern Sun catalogue. If these bumper stickers offend you, then blame her. They made me laugh. I don't have the guts to put them on my mini-van, though.
Dad - I bought you a coffee mug. I'm going to expect you to carry it everywhere with you in Texas. Not gonna tell you what it is until it gets here :-)

My personal favorite:

...and assorted other favorites:

Saturday, March 11, 2006


What to write??!!

I've recently had several very, very kind people tell me how much they enjoy my blog, which 1) made my head swell to an unbearable size and 2) has caused me to panic every time I try to add a new post. I fear that if I keep writing, then the truth will be exposed; that even an infinite number of monkeys can come up with Hamlet, given enough tries.

In any case, life has been blissfully uneventful, compared to the last few months, so it's a little harder to think of topics to write about. What a nice thing.

I did a Lunchtime Learning seminar for some 5th graders this week, which was a huge success. Apparently, I made a big impact on some 5th grade girls who are interested in science, and who were thrilled to see a woman scientist that was a real person, too. My friend Kim told me her daughter Beth, who was at my talk, is now convinced that a woman can have an interesting career and have a family and enjoy life and, well, she can "have it all". I add here that in theory I really don't like that phrase very much since it's clear that every choice we make consists of gains and losses (cake, eating it, all that). But I appreciate the sentiment - that women aren't required to choose between career and life/family. In any case, I nearly wept with joy when Kim told me that. Personally, I think the kids just simply loved making the model of a satellite from candy. Mom, I did go ahead and use the sticks of gum for the solar panels. I haven't had any teachers give me the evil eye for that yet, so I'll keep it in my act until they do. Anyway, the praise I got for my talk just absolutely made me glow. I figure that did more for the future of humankind than any of my research actually does. :-)

...and this has lead me into thinking about the opportunities for women that are out there in this country now, and what feminism is (funny how these blog posts kind of write themselves once you just start typing. Infinite monkeys, you see...). I am a woman in a field that is still dominated by men, but that is changing incredibly rapidly. When I was in grad school, I was one of maybe 5 women in a department with 40 or 50 men. The numbers were about the same, or perhaps even worse when I started my job at NASA 17 years ago. I never felt like I was singled out because I was a woman - well, not blatently, and not enough so that I felt like it was ever a hinderance. The coursework and research requirements were infinitely more difficult for me than the fact that I was a woman.

I'm not saying that being a woman in a male dominated world wasn't noticed by me. I once made an appointment with a professor to go over some stuff for my qualifiers, only to have him ask me to shut the door and ask where the wine was when I showed up. (feigning stupidity worked in that case. I simply chuckled like an idiot and then just asked him my question and left.) This same professor asked me to quit sleeping with one of his students so he'd get more work done. Ironically, the other student in question was gay. We were fantastic friends but the idea that we were sleeping together was absurd. You see though, the professor confronted *me* and not his male student.

There was also an incident at work one time, where I got pretty aggressive (shouting, pissed off aggressive) at a visiting student. He happened to be black and went straight to my supervisor after the fact with cries of racial discrimination. I was called into the hotseat and asked about the "incident", at which point I looked my supervisor in the eye and told him I was pissed off at this guy because he had been treating me poorly because I was a woman (he really was, not just a line). I watched my poor supervisor nearly pass out from the stress, and subsequently, it all blew over with little other impact, other than undue stress and anxiety on my part, no matter how packed inside I tried to keep it. I mention this incident because I am convinced that if I were a man, this never would have happened. You see, men are allowed to be loud and assertive in the workplace (to a point, of course). Women are not. Plus, this student, was from Kenya, obviously a place with an entirely foreign culture to ours, and he really did see me as subservient. I ignored it for as long as I could, but finally blew.

I am where I am today because I have stood on the shoulders generations of women before me - women who have been braver than I'll ever be, and women who have cared about the future of girls like me. Despite my personal relatively uneventful path into the world of science, I know that women still have a long way to go. And maybe what we still have to accomplish is the most difficult part of it. While the legal obstacles are essentially gone, young women today still face cultural obstacles, which are infinitely more difficult to change. I was naive enough to not realize or think that there were any limits to what I could do, so I forged ahead oblivious to what the world may have been trying to tell me. This was not a result of any bravery on my part, but just my tendency to be unobservant. Until that mindset is present in all women for the right reasons (i.e., amongst the non-naive) we will still have a need for the feminist movement to be active.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

my son the surgeon

Q will be wearing a bloody shirt to school today, and bringing a couple of saws and some scissors for amputataions (though mom has required that a couple of combs be substituted for the saws lest he ends up on the front page as the latest kid expelled for bringing weapons to school). He's an army surgeon for the confederacy and will be presenting the story of his life to his classroom. And doncha know he latched RIGHT ON to the whole gory description of how civil war-era amputations took place and is all excited about explaining that in detail. He's got bottles of ether and whiskey in his doctor's bag, too. Oh, and he threw in a sidestory about being captured by the union forces but he escaped with a bagful of their messages and returned home in glory...only to lose the war of course. Boys.

Obviously, the 4th grade is in the middle of their civil war unit and I tell you, I feel so inadequate. "Mommy, where is 'The Wilderness'?" Me: Hmmm, what honey? You mean the woods? Silence. "Mom. The important civil war battle." Me: Oh. Yeah. Well....civil war battle? More silence. "Where's dad?"

I am fast losing ground as a smart mom. The other day, Q was lamenting how NO ONE at school likes him and he has no friends and he just wants to be home schooled. Then he said (my son the martyr) "But knowing my luck I'd end up with a horrible teacher." I looked at him oddly. I asked if he were joking, then asked if he knew who his teacher would be if he were homeschooled. He had no idea. When I told him it would be me, he looked absolutely incredulous. Then he laughed. "Mom!! You couldn't teach me! You don't know that stuff!"

Hmph. At least that's removed the silly idea of wanting to be homeschooled from his head.

And baseball. He was in a clinic last week and came home all excited about what he learned about being a catcher. He started telling me how to frame pitches and how to turn his glove and my eyes glazed over and he (again) asked where his dad was. Oh well. I still cook the best cheeseburgers in the world for him. Seriously. He likes mine even more than Burger King's or Sonic's. So there.

Friday, March 03, 2006

big bro's coming!

Every spring, in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, the younger kids at Q & E's school dress up as their favorite character in children's literature and march around the school in a parade for the older kids and for all the parents and community representatives that show up (last year, the governor's wife came. Maybe she'll be first lady one day. Friend K got a picture of her with her kids, just in case). Afterwards, each classroom has a special guest come in and read a book to the kids. It's great fun, and I went to watch it today. I stopped by E's room afterwards to listen to the story.

The book was "Watch Out! Big Bro's Coming!" - I wasn't familiar with it. It starts with a mouse, who is running around afraid because "Big Bro" is coming, and he's scary and BIIIG. Thus he tells the frog, who tells the parrot, who tells the chimpanzee, and on and on up to an elephant. By the time the elephant finds out, the story is that Big Bro is ENORMOUS (big as an elephant's stretch) and horrifying. Predictably, it ends up that Big Bro is actually another mouse, only slightly bigger than the initial one.

So, you ask, why am I recounting this rivoting tale? I realized a little while ago that Big Bro is a recurrent visitor in my life. In fact, he rendered me nearly incapable of functioning for the last several days. As you know, we just watched Gerald die of pancreatic cancer. It was really, truly horrible. Because DH's grandfather also died of that disease, and because it is generally accepted that the tendency for P.C. can be inherited, DH went to his doc to talk it over with him. The doc used DH's recent weight loss coupled with the possibility of inherited tendencies as reason enough to schedule him for a CT scan, which took place last week. The report written by the radiologist was passed on to the general practitioner, who talked to the nurse, who talked to DH, who told me (via cell phone, by the way, as I was driving down the interstate), that he had an "enlarged head of his pancreas." Don't do an internet search on that symptom. It's horrifying... and, of course, that is what I have spent the last few days doing. Big Bro was coming! He was huge and scary and I cried and cowered and worried and lived in fear of how scary he is.

SO, the doc wanted DH to have an MRI to have another look at his pancreas. That was today. While DH was carrying his paperwork to the radiology department, he read the report and the actual wording was more like "pancreatic head is mildly elongated." Well. Now. That's a COMPLETELY different take on things. In fact, we heard from the doctor just a while ago that the MRI results, already back in, were perfectly normal. No mass. No cancer. Just a long pancreas, not even "enlarged."

You know how if you are swimming and you go under water and hold your breath for just as long as you can...even longer than you thought you could, then you pop up and take in a huge gasp of air? Yeah.

So once again, I am left with an overwhelming sense of relief, a fresh perspective on what's really important (from past experience, it'll stay around for a while but will eventually be overcome by minor everyday worries like whether the redistricting will affect my kids, and whether we've remembered to change the oil in the cars). I am also left chagrined. This is not the first time Big Bro has terrorized me, and darn it, but I fall for it every time. He's scared me into believing I had lymphoma (turned out to be a hernia) and multiple sclerosis (actually only a pinched nerve).

I don't know. Maybe he's not completely bad. He does help me to remember things like how completely and unabashedly I love my husband and how much I need him around, like how good it feels to have a working body, and how much I love spending every minute that I do with my children. So if you hear whispers that Big Bro is Coming, it's OK to listen, but just a little.

lost opportunities

My claim has always been that all I need in order to organize my life (my house, really) is a week at home. Really. That's all. Note something though. I have not stated (uh, that I can recall) that IF I have a week at home THEN I will organize my life. Big difference.

I've been home most of the week. E's three week long cough suddenly got worse over the weekend, accompanied by a most impressive amount of...um...mucous. So Monday consisted of keeping her home from school and a trip to the doc and the pharmacy. Sinus Infection. Tuesday, she was packed off to school with her lunch and a raw upper lip, whereby promptly at 11 am I received a call from the school nurse. Being the nice kind mom that I am, I waffled on whether to make her suck it up and let me finish my work, or to rescue her, but ended up doing the latter. Repeat that for Wednesday - except that rather than me being at called work, I was already up at the school to watch Q in his Battle of the Books competition. In any case, the POINT in all this was that I haven't gotten a darned thing done at home. I can't for the life of me figure out what I *did*, but it probably has something to do with the computer and surfing. Or maybe it has more to do with that darned Nintendo Mario racing game that John bought us. (Aside -> The four of us have been playing that every night for a week. It's a blast except that Q wins EVERY time).

So I effectively blew that opportunity to get my life organization back on track. Errr, did I say back on track? On track for the first time is more accurate.

Here's a funny bit of trivia about me. I own probably a dozen books all titled something like "How to organize your xxxxxx". I have bought dozens of empty baskets and containers which are currently collecting dust. I have dozens of blank notebooks sitting on my shelf, probably alongside the self-help organization books. Let me loose in a Staples or the closet organization aisle of Lowes or a (gasp) Container Store, and I will wander the aisles bright eyed and full of hope for hours, in complete ecstacy. See, I am all about the idea of organization. Flylady is my hero, and I have joined her group a dozen times but unsubscribed because I could just not move beyond having the dream of an organized life.

So here I sit, in my office which currently contains, for example:

- Four stacks of books with titles ranging from Kids, Parents and Power Struggles (LOL!) to War and Peace, to Carl Sagan's The Dragons of Eden to What to Expect When you're Expecting (nope, no, NO...that's an old copy).
- a telescope, this is a BIG-*ssed telescope
- a Harry Potter sorting hat atop a side table that was originally meant to hold games but now is stuffed with oh, artwork, tax information, telescope lenses, PTA junk, Religious education committee stuff, some wires, some boxes, etc...
- two rolling cabinets full of old toys that the kids won't let me throw away, and note these are in the MIDDLE of the floor.
- an entire CORNER full of PTA treasurer junk, in a cardboard box, noless. Don't advertise this part...they'll audit me.
- excess holiday cards

Oh, I'll stop. I haven't even gotten to the stuff that was supposed to be in here in the first place and you get the idea.

I should probably make peace with the fact that I am a juggler rather than Martha Stewart, but then I'd lose out on all the fun I get haunting the aisles of Lowes. We all need goals, yes, but if we actually attain them, then what do we have left to inspire us? It's all in the journey, right?