Monday, August 29, 2016

Back to normal, bit by bit

The foot is healed enough to not freak out anyone, so a pedicure happened today.  So did a manicure and a hair cut.

School starts back up tomorrow for  me.  Rob started his class last week.  The kids start next week: Tuesday (boys), Wednesday (Katie) and Thursday (Maryna). Eventually this circus will be corralled back to the routine in which we aren't all ready to duct tape each other's mouths shut by mid-afternoon.

Not that it has actually happened.  Usually we manage to delay drastic things like that until at least dinner time.

Kidding.  Kidding.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pain and suffering

Ok, I'll admit that might be a bit dramatic.

Things here have been a little off for a while.

My neck and shoulder have been a source of nearly constant pain.  I saw two massage therapists in a week last winter and then a chiropractor for several months.  Overall diagnosis was that my muscles in my left shoulder were super tight for some reason and were pulling my spine to the left.  My spine was distinctly off center and it was causing a lot of muscles to have to work in strange ways to compensate. So we did massage to loosen the muscle, then chiro to push the spine back toward the right spot, then more massage to keep the muscles from pulling on it and repeat. Despite looking at everything I do--how I sleep, drive, carry my bag, sit, teach--we never did figure out clear cause. Eventually it got better, but earlier this summer it flared back up.  Several rounds into the massage and she's now thinking I have "frozen shoulder." Super.  So, another long round of stretching, massaging, and trying to un-crunk this thing.

In other wayyyy-too-much-information news, I have had a wart on my right foot for (not even kidding) 14 years. I've had it frozen off at the doctor, tried every off-the-shelf treatment (alone and combined), tried every at-home trick...nothing. It doesn't get any worse, but it never gets better. It's just always always there.  Two weeks ago I decided I was going to give it a focused-super-effort. I combined several at-home tricks and went full-offensive on it.  Every second of the day and night something was on that thing--mostly a cotton ball soaked in apple cider vinegar held in place by a band-aid or duct tape, but occasionally an aspirin.  It cause intense horrible pain.  I woke up in the night with my foot feeling like someone was twisting a screw right through and into the bones, keeping me awake for hours. I have not been able to walk on it for several days now, and instead I hobble around on the side of my foot. It swelled up, turned black, seemed to swell more each day. It's nearly all I can think about--this burning, stinging, sharp spot in the ball of my foot. But today--today my friends--was my victory.  Today it fell out. (as I was changing the band-aid; have no fear, it's appropriately disposed of with gagging included and is not lurking around somewhere unknown) It's gone.  It's so extremely gross I'm horrified by it, but I. AM. VICTORIOUS.  My foot still burns like a branding iron is jammed into it and there's a literal hole in my foot big enough to fit a pencil eraser in (ewwwww) but it's GONE.

There have been a few other achey miseries this week, too, which has led to restless nights, constant Advil, pharmaceuticals, and occasional tears.  But recovery will be mine.

Whine whine whine.

As soon as this hole in my foot clears up, I'm getting a pedicure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

To Auggie, on turning six.

My darling Auggie,

Never have I known a child so completely soaked, drenched, and dripping with love.  You simply must tell me twenty times each day that you love me.  You snuggle into bed with me and daddy every morning (sometimes at a respectable 6 or 7, often at a painful 3 or 4) and roll like a magnet to be attached to one of us. You rub our backs or hair, comment on how wonderful we are, and say things like "I'm so so glad I get to love you."  You seek us out all day long to give a hug or kiss.  You ask me how my day was and remember little details and ask about those, too. "How was your meeting this morning?  How is your project today?"

You're kind and compassionate. If I'm in pain or sad you ask thoughtful questions, you recite encouraging statements back to me that sound vaguely familiar, or you nod sympathetically and say things like "I'm so sorry that's happening" without trying to fix it.  You're one of the best emotional listeners I know, and you're just turning six.

But let's not get too swept up in the songs of praise.  You are easily the worst listener I know in almost every other respect.  If I ask you to do just about anything--move something to a different location, put on your shoes, sit down, get buckled, finish your breakfast, eat your lunch, put away your dishes, eat your dinner, go to sleep, stay asleep, sleep --- you usually completely and totally ignore me.  It's like you can't even hear the sounds I'm making.  Sometimes you calmly answer that you don't want to right now, like it was a mere suggestion. And occasionally you fall to pieces in total despair that you just can' You're so amazingly sweet and considerate most of the time and so we let it slide more than we should.

You love math.  Glorious numbers and operations and squares and square-roots and sequences and patterns.  No matter the question, you answer the same:

"Augs, what's 6 times 5?"  "What? 6 times 5?  oh, 6 times 5. EASY. 6 times 5 is...30"
"Augs, what's square root of 49?"  "What? Square root of 49?  Oh, square root of 49. EASY. Square root of 49 is 7"


We've spent the majority of this year working our way through the entire L Frank Baum collection of 13 books about the Land of Oz. We're 2 chapters away from done with the last book. These are absolutely the most motivating currency ever.  You get two chapters each night, an extra if you shower, then 2 in the morning only if you stay in your own bed until at least 6 AM, and one more if you go to sleep in your own bed without a fuss after stories.  You bank these up and calculate them out.  Heaven forbid I miss a night for working late.  "Mom, don't forget, tonight we read 9 chapters...2+1+1+2+2+1?  Right?  Eeeeeasy.  9.  9 chapters."

You love GI Joe, Legos, talking, Ninjago, diamond mining, riding your bike, the Beatles, being handsome, arm-knitting, creating things, swimming, your cousin Baby Jack and his cousin Baby Jude,

You run into stuff, you climb walls, you talk constantly and get frustrated when we aren't listening.  "Yes or no, mom?  Yes or no??"  Oh, sorry dude.  Tuned out 4 minutes ago.  Were you still talking?  Yet you are the most sunshine-filled boy ever.  You find joy in everything.  You respond to stress with love.  You answer hurt hearts with a gentle pat on the arm. You hate seeing anyone hurt or sad.

For your birthday you asked for either a fish or for a dog.  When I pointed out we already have a dog you gladly said you would like to just get our current dog for a week. You were thrilled as you explained it: you would get her for the whole week so that week you would be responsible for feeding, walking, and otherwise caring for the dog that easily weighs twice as much as you. This would be your ideal gift.  Your other three siblings obviously understand you all too well, as the immediate response from Jorge was "just dig Daphne's grave, then."  Well-intentioned but hard-to-herd.  That's you.

You are my dreamer, my cuddler, my boy that dances to his own drum when everyone else is marching...and you compliment that marching and call it beautiful.  You feel huge emotions and want better for the world. You see patterns and opportunities that others don't, and that will change the world. You are joy and love and smiles disguised as a sticky-handed little boy with his glasses hanging off his nose and probably some food in his hair.

You are my puppy.

Congratulations on six.  I know five was magical, but six is sure to impress.


Monday, June 13, 2016


Random OMG cookies. August I just made this up and they're SO GOOD.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
Mix those up. Then add:
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
a few Tablespoons of hershey syrup
Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes. Chewy chocolately nutty YUMMMMMMMM..

Friday, June 10, 2016

Dear Katie, on turning 11

Sweetest Katie May,

Can I indulge yet again in some mopey-mommy feelings about how fast this has gone?  The mixture of pictures here is exactly how I see you.  The same sweet girl-- always quiet and thoughtful, happy and excited, observant, supportive, encouraging, brave, and persistent--but just a blur of ages.  You are all of these at once, from a sacked out baby in my arms to a wall-climbing ballerina to this beautiful, tall, scientific artist at eleven.


You've grown and matured so much in the past few years and you are now in that perfect age of "big kid."  You are old enough to do lots of cool stuff but young enough to still get away with playing on playgrounds or giggling like a maniac for no clear reason. You are so comfortable with who you are, what you want, and making it happen.  You care deeply about other people's feelings, but not too much about their opinions. You would give your right arm to help someone in need, but wouldn't change a hair on your head to make someone like you for anything other than who you are. You fight for justice and equal opportunity and understanding.  You are so sensitive to the hurts in this world.  Your heart breaks for the broken and weeps for the hurting. You are a selfless crusader.

You are a bookworm, a math-nerd, a scientist of every stripe, an artist, a talker, a philosopher, a dreamer, a crafter, a nature-lover, an animal advocate, a perfectionist, a helper, an observer, a student of all things, a friend to all, a kind sister, a loving and appreciative daughter, a hilarious niece and cousin, and and a beloved grandaughter.  Happy 11th birthday, my darling Katie.  May you continue to grow in your confident wonderful self!


Monday, June 06, 2016


Auggie started school about 15 minutes ago, and yet he graduated last weekend.

Being our 3rd round of this, we were prepared for the tear-filled slideshow with pictures showing him from a fluffy-headed three year old to a still fluffy-headed five year old.

He has been a challenging student to these two wonderful teachers.  He marches to his own drum and occasionally also sings along. He's crazy bright at the academics, but a bit of a mess with self-control and focus.  We are so grateful to his teachers who reached out to us everytime he had a fall-apart day (um, several times each week) and tried 100 new things per month to keep him focused and engaged. When they called his name at graduation, both teachers teared up as Auggie stood and shook their hands and then gave them his famous Auggie-kissuggles.

He's pure love, this one, and we're so glad that they could see and celebrate that truth buried inside the chattery and distractable fluffy-headed opinionated dreamer.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

No tenure

So..... it was a no.

No tenure.  No pay raise.  No stability.  And no job after May 14, 2017.

I'm looking into the appeal process and some quiet conversations are also happening between key leaders.  In the meantime, I got a huge publication success: my work with two friends was published in the top journal in our field.  The PR team in my school drafted up a summary document and sent it out to "the wires" (what is that?  Is it tubes like the internet? I don't know) and it was picked up by one of the most prestigious scientific magazines in the US and tomorrow I'm doing an interview about the work.  I'll link it up if it moves to a real story.

So there.  Not a single one of the people that voted against me has ever been cited in this magazine.  Bite it.

Also, I was invited by another colleague to speak on a 4-person panel about the challenges of work-life balance as a woman in academics (where we are routinely pounded into the ground and then left for teaching slots). I wrote back that I'd be happy to share my experience but that, since I was just denied tenure, I may not be the most successful example.  They asked if I'd still do it, since it's a real situation faced by the majority of women (not men, just women) that go up for tenure.  So, there's that.

The same day that I was told no tenure, I had to attend a special awards dinner for a student I've mentored the last 3 years.  She was allowed to invite one faculty member to attend this dinner along with her parents, and she chose me.  I arrived to her anxious face scanning me for news.  I shook my head slightly, burst into tears, and excused myself.  But I pulled myself back together and spent the next 2 hours celebrating her success.  She left me with a beautiful bracelet noting my impact on my world; a nice reminder that my success is not defined by the administration.