September 2008

School Daze

The kids are a few weeks into their new school and Paul and I are finally getting adjusted.  The kids figured things out pretty quickly, but us?  We have new kids, new teachers, AND new parents to get to know with only a few minutes each day to sort it out.  It’s a big step for us.

So last week, we attended the first parent-group meeting for the kids school.  We got there early, so that Paul could hang huge curtains on the massive windows upstairs while I navigated the waters of a strange new parent group below.  A few minutes into the meeting, the 10 foot ladder that Paul was on the Very Top Of collapsed on it’s bottom rung.  Consider first, the danger: the damage of a 10 foot fall, coupled with the collapse of a huge metal ladder, and school tables and shelving lining the floor beneath.   Then picture the amazing response: a teacher happened to walk by the room at the very instant the ladder buckled, bearing shocking witness to Paul RIDING THE LADDER TO THE GROUND AS IT COLLAPSED UNDER HIM.  Yep.  He walked away just fine.  I’m placing a bet that Paul’s next job is with Cirque di Soleil.

Despite Paul’s near-death experience at our first official school volunteerism event, we are now officially volunteers with committees and such.  We have met a lot of very nice, down to earth, unpretentious parents… and a few who have given us well-intended lectures about the importance of parental involvement in school, how rewarding it is, and how we really should find a way to get involved.  It gives us a good laugh.

Will is picking up French like a sponge, randomly throwing out French words in conversation.  The best is the word “bleu” pronounced by Will as “BLEGH” and taking the place of where he would normally say the word “blue”.  Like, for example, “Mommy, when I wear my Superman sunglasses, they make everything look BLEGH.”  Kate’s French comes from repeating whatever Will says.  This means that the most commonly heard phrase in the house is “BLEGH.”

What is most definitely NOT BLEGH is the school hot lunch program.  We signed up both kids for a song, considering that now I know that school hot lunch is The Most Amazing Thing in the World, and that I would rip my kidney out with a spoon, eat ramen for a year, and even say something nice about Sarah Palin if it meant keeping my kids in the program.  And it’s not just that I no longer have to worry about going to the store for lunch supplies, or packing lunches, or making sure containers are clean, or juice is made, or freezer packs are frozen… I also don’t have to stress over whether or not they eat dinner.  I know that they are getting a good lunch at school (or, at least, I make myself believe this by dutifully ignoring the school lunch menu) and therefore, have officially stopped having to panic over whether or not dinner is something they choose to eat.  Or, more aptly put, my desire to stuff food down those ungrateful whiny throats encourage them to eat is greatly diminished.

This Thursday, while Paul and I board a direct flight to Boston, Will is going on a field trip to the New Orleans Museum of Art.  I’ve made it a point to be at every school event before, and I am pretty disappointed to miss the trip — where Will is going on his first ever school bus (not counting the school buses he rode as an infant in Honduras) and his first ever Art Museum.  But once Paul and I are on that quiet airplane, deciding whether or not to read novels, gaze into each other’s eyes, take in a few moments of restful sleep, or basque in the comfort of hearing someone else’s kid howl through the flight… I don’t think I’ll be as bothered by it.


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When parents are geeks.

Will is on a roll, yammering on and on in the backseat about swimming in the “Nindianic Ocean,” (I’m told it’s in the Arctic), which is filled with whales that eat all people (“both boys AND girls”), has dangerous seals that bite, and also(!) many, MANY penguins.

Kate tries to periodically chime in with key words, but even she is forced silent in the face of Will’s unending monologue.

I turn to Paul with a glance of surrender.  There is no other choice but to let the words pour from the boy while we sit defenseless.  Meanwhile, Will has begun to run a new tangent about “injas” who live in the country of “Chinese”.  In case you were wondering, they were trained by knights in the 1870s.  I stifle a laugh and sigh.

Me: “And here we are, without the voice recorder, unable to capture all of this.”

Paul: “It wouldn’t help.  Our son is Quantum Mechanical.”

M: “Quantum Mechanical?  How is one Quantum Mechanical, exactly?”

P: “He runs by the rules of Quantum Mechanics.”

M: (not following) “He’s a cat in a box?”

P: “Meaning that you can only know his velocity or his position.”

M: “So, we could record his position…”

P: “But would then loose the ability to see where he is going.”

M: “In other words…”

P: “It is impossible to understand what he is currently going on about and see where it is going at the same time.”

M: “Yup.  That pretty much sums it up.”

Then, I think, I said something about the total hotness of a science geek.  Because nothing speaks to a woman like knowledge of quantam mechanics.


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Graphic Brilliance.

Trying to grasp the scope of the bailout?  Here it is, plain and simple.  There’s even a black and white if you want it clarified on that level.

With a hat tip to Liprap, who made my day by posting this.


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Coming soon to a pretentious gallery near you…

Baby Bite Art.

Kate’s attempts at apple-eating.

Is it Art: playing with the positive and negative space of ordinary objects, testing our comfort with smooth edges and defined space?  Or, a Political Statement: exploring waste and the ease with which we throw away perfectly good, nutritional, and wholesome parts that sit right in front of us?

The Artist’s Collection of Bite Art currently includes 2 apples and 1 pear (not photographed).  The banana did not last.

Arts & Photography

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About 10 years ago, my cousin Ellen found this little dog, named her Honey, and took her home to love forever.  Like she has many times before, Honey obediently traveled to Pennsylvania while her Mommy got married.  But unlike past trips, this one meant facing Kate.  For four days straight.

Kate was head-over-heals in love with Honey from the moment she saw her.  Every few minutes, one of us would have to restrain Kate to give Honey enough of a head start to hide from her admirer.

Even from the car, Kate let her intent of being with Honey be known.  Kate quickly recognized the winding road to my Uncle’s house (a charming drive that includes passage on a one-lane bridge) — and from a 1/2 mile range of my Uncle’s house would begin to call HOOOONNNNNNEYYYYYY!!!!!! loud enough to blast the eardrums of anyone else sitting in the car.

The anticipation of seeing Honey! was too much for Kate to hold in.

Kate loved Honey SO MUCH that she even shared her blanket.  She doesn’t even let Elmo share her blanket.

Special Family Moments

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Things I should look in the mirror and say to myself each morning, for inspiration.

1. The only person who cares about my dissertation is me.

2. The only person who will read all of my dissertation is me.

3. The only person who the dissertation will have any impact on is me.

4. The only good dissertation is a FINISHED dissertation.

5. I would do well to keep all of the above in mind and just find something to wrap this thing up.


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Let them eat wedding cake

Despite Kate’s foray into the realm of “THAT KID” on Thursday’s flight, we arrived in Pennsylvania to perfect fall weather (73 degrees with 50% humidity?!) and have been having a busy, fun time since.  TODAY, Ellen and Blake got married.  I officiated and photographed.  (Paul took photos during the ceremony.)

Here are a few random ones I pulled while the cards downloaded.  Just so that I can show my face at lunch tomorrow and tell my family members that, yes, in fact, there really was something happening in that camera I kept torturing them with.

Have I mentioned how beautiful central Pennsylvania is?  Uncanny.

Kate also had her wedding debut.

More pictures when we get back Monday!

Art & Photography
Special Family Moments

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Heard y’all loud and clear!

Just in case my words weren’t convincing, take a look at the women who know her best.  This little conceived ‘over coffee’ rally drew a state record for turnout.


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Battle not with the monster, lest ye become the monster.

Aye, Nietzsche.  What other choice do we have?

Finally, I heard back from Tulane’s health insurance system… in a mass email, but hey, at least it was something.  What before was “I don’t think you qualify, but I need to check,” is actually I *DO* qualify to enroll in the Tulane plan even though I am considered a ‘part-time’ dissertation student without course credits.  In fact, I can enroll all four of us on the plan… AND even get dental.  The price?  About $12,000 annually, (only $10,200 without dental.)  Plus 20% for Every Damn Thing, a $750 deductible to meet, and a low lifetime maximum (don’t get hit by a bus)!

While this is still cheaper than the $1800/month COBRA option, it’s still pretty high.  But it buys us some time to find out what will happen in a year.

Another option we’re trying to explore: getting the Tulane insurance (which is, all in all, a pretty crappy,  expensive plan but maybe better than nothing?) for just me and seeing if Blue Cross Blue Shield will insure just Paul and the kids.  BCBS has not been happy with my paperwork thus far, since I know have ‘ulcerative colitis’ on my ‘history’ but have had no treatment for this diagnosis for almost 7 years.  I tracked down my old doctor from Michigan (now in Irvine, California) who called me at 11:55pm local time last Thursday.  That’s how hard insurance companies make doctors work… that they are at the office at 10pm calling patients a few time zones away.  *sigh*

We had a great conversation despite the late time and she relayed to me a dozen insurance horror stories which included things like a triathlete who happened to have a sinus infection the year before applying for coverage and was offered a policy which included a waiver that anything related to sinus infection would not be covered for 6 years.  And one about a patient who was treated for a cold and mentioned having some diarrhea at the time of treatment — he was denied health insurance and although Dr. Song wrote several letters attesting to the man’s health and the fact that diarrhea is just a normal part of having a cold, the policy was refused.  In other words, she was pretty convinced that because of my colitis history… even though she agrees it was very likely self-limiting (meaning I’ll probably never have any issues again)… that I will never be able to get insurance.

So the game continues.


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If it worked, it would be worth life in a shoe.

Our children are good at many things.  But going to sleep at night is not one of them.

Well, maybe that isn’t quite true.  Somewhere around age 2, Will became an award-winning, champion sleeper.  Even now, he’s still pretty good about going to bed when told.  Yeah, he politics and rationalizes all the reasons why he shouldn’t go to bed, but when we are firm he typically listens.  This is particularly when Kate isn’t around.

Kate does not like to sleep.  In truth, she’s never liked to sleep.  When she was a baby, I would lay nursing  her on our bed with a leg thrown over her legs and an arms thrown over her body — holding her down as delicately as we could — until she stopped moving long enough to nurse and fall asleep.  This is when she was 4 months old.  It’s only gotten worse since then.

Looking back at some of the milestone posts I wrote about Kate, each one I’ve found says something about her inability to get to sleep and stay asleep.

At some point this past summer, Paul and I took on the near-death experience of teaching Kate to go to bed.  We used this Supernanny-inspired hint of wisdom with Will and found it to be a stroke of genius, without the psychologically damaging side effects of other methods.  The idea is you stay in the room and each time the child gets out of bed, you put them back in.  The trick is that you must do this, without stopping, for about 5 hours.  You don’t eat, sleep, talk, use the bathroom, and after awhile, you don’t even think… you just desperately wish for someone to remove you from your misery.

Somewhere in the second week, we found that Kate was able to actually go to sleep after our bedtime routine.  Granted, she wakes up a few hours into her sleep each night with night terrors — but as this has been a constant in our lives for nearly a year, we were okay with it.  I do plan on asking her pediatrician about it when we can figure out how to actually see a doctor again… best guesses on this timeline is when I have enough time to wait outside the free children’s health van for the uninsured.  It’ll take all day for the 10 minute consult, but that’s okay; it will give me plenty of time to think of some really good fake names.

Regardless of how many times she woke up, we were completely blissed out over having successfully conquered a Bedtime Routine that lasted under 2 hours.

We must have been high on life, because we quickly destroyed it all by going on vacation.  And then spending a week in Mobile, evacuated from our home due to Gustav.  We kissed all that hard-earned work right out the window.

And now, even though we know what is Right and what is Wrong, and even though we really know what we have to do next… what we really want to do is whip them both soundly and send them to bed.


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