Monday, February 28, 2011

Nope, This Could Not Get Any More Self-Centered

(Boys, this is one you probably will want to skip.)

So I've mentioned before my continuing fascination with what the aging process is doing to my eyebrows. For the most part of my life, they were right there, one above each eye, and I didn't worry much about them.

Oh, I hoped they would not do what Andy Rooney's eyebrows had done to him (see illustration above). Andy Rooney's eyebrows have come to dominate his face so thoroughly that they render him mute. Or at least I assume he's mute; if I see him talking on television all I can think is "Oh, my, gosh, why doesn't he trim those eyebrows?" and I don't hear a word he's saying.

Larry Hagman has the same problem. I couldn't find a picture that adequately captures the horror that are the Hagman brows, but people, there is a FACEBOOK PAGE dedicated to Larry Hagman's eyebrows. Check it out yourself; they are just that bad.

As I moved into, and through, middle age, I realized my face apparently had been absorbing my horror of of the over-browed, and it was taking action. My eyebrows were committing suicide. They began disappearing from the outer edge toward the inner edge, leaving me looking like a Japanese cartoon:
Fortunately, Wikipedia, that source of all things truthful and absolute, explains that eyebrows "prevent debris such as dandruff and other small objects from falling into the eyes, as well as providing a more sensitive sense for detecting objects being near the eye, like small insects." Since I don't anticipate either dandruff or small insects will be falling into my eyes any time soon, I'll stop stressing about my disappearing eyebrows and go back to worrying about which of Anne Hathaway's dresses I liked best on the Oscars.

But if I see a MomQueenBee's (Lack of) Eyebrows page on Facebook, you can bet I'll start to worry again.

(Side note: Does anyone know what a single eyebrow hair is called? Wikipedia says it's a browy. However, this is not confirmed anywhere else on the Internet and I am not likely to do any research that requires more than two clicks.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Duck What?

Every once in a while I begin to delude myself into thinking that I'm pretty cool. (Cool in the sense of hip, with-it, groovy, not in the sense of low body temperature. This train left the station some time ago.)

Anyway, I read blogs. I text (sometimes with more than one finger). I spell Justin Bieber correctly. I have seen FOUR of the movies nominated for Best Picture this year. I am totally cool.

But then I went to worship team practice and the guitar players were goofing around.

"Hey, you ought to duck-walk!" I told them, only to see their faces turn blanker than Charlie Sheen's work calendar. "You know--duck-walk! Like Chuck Berry!" More blankness.

People, they had never heard of Chuck Berry. I was mortified for their ignorance.

This morning I recounted this story in the office, where my fellow employees joined me in tsk-tsking at the cultural shallowness of young'uns these days. I turned to our student assistant, who is bright and educated.

"A, you know who Chuck Berry is, right?"

She looked up from her computer screen sheepishly.

"Give me a second. I knew you were going to ask and Google's kind of slow right now."

I'm oooooooold. Now get off my lawn.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


In the world of blogging, there may be no one more famous than The Pioneer Woman.

She was one of the early adapters of this new medium, and I stumbled onto her blog not long after she began writing in 2006. Then the entire world stumbled onto her blog. I could make up a lot of numbers about how many page views she gets every day (Gabillions! Contradillions!) but suffice it to say that in the blogging world she's a rock star--and yesterday I met her!.

My friend R and I are long-time P-Dub groupies. (We call her P-Dub, like that, because we're not only fans, we're cool.) When we found out she was doing a book signing just 45 miles from home, we were all Oooooh! Pioneer Woman! Squeeee! We have to go!

Or maybe that was just me and R was rolling her eyes a little bit, but R is not only smart and beautiful, she's the kindest woman I know and she refrained from slapping me in the face and telling me to snap out of it. 

So we both took an afternoon off work (What? It was like the Beatles were coming to supper!) and were at the bookstore a full hour before the signing was to start, only to find that tickets had been available since 9 a.m. We were 116 and 117 in line.

And because we're like THIS with P-Dub, even though she doesn't know it, we knew what could get us a better spot in line: A baby. The Pioneer Women loves babies, and the store was awash in teeny-tiny jeans-wearing infants. And toddlers. And a few babies not even old enough to wear jeans.
Awwww. Okay, I can live with this cutie getting some preferential treatment. But babies, R and I decided, would be known by a new name: CHEATERS. As would the women who brought their husbands wearing white cowboy hats, or pulled out their adorable purses, because who wouldn't move up a few places in line by having her keys tucked away in this:

So we waited, and giggled, and waited some more, and giggled some more, and had the best time I could imagine, and after four hours, were standing in front of THE PIONEER WOMAN. She was beautiful and poised and warm, and I had a million questions I wanted to ask (What would she have done differently when she started blogging? Are her children ever embarrassed by what she writes? Does she care if they are?) so I said the first thing that popped into my mind:

"Gosh, I feel like I'm meeting Justin Bieber."

To her credit, she didn't call security. Instead, she looked up, laughed, and said, in her soft Oklahoma accent, "My daughter would not agree with you."

The Pioneer Woman and me!
Then she signed my book, and added the page numbers of the recipes I've used most (for mashed potatoes, cinnamon rolls, and guacamole, if that explains anything about my life) and was on to the next book.
The Pioneer Woman and R

We waited four hours, and the actual signing was over in two minutes. It was kind of like giving birth, except with a delicious smell of fresh-brewed coffee in the background.

Of course, if one of us had just given birth we would have had our own cheater baby, but...naw. This was perfect.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pride, Fall, How Did That Go?

Last night's meeting was with some of my oldest and dearest friends, women I respect and admire. They were my first support group when we moved to Small Town, and they led the casserole brigade when Boy#3 was born needing medical attention.

Now I know full well parents actually have very little to do with the successes and failures of their offspring. Their job, as I have repeated often through the past 24 years, is to get their children vaccinated and to hold their hands when crossing streets. The rest is up to God and the kids.

Still, I rationalized, these women LOOOOVE my Boys! They want to hear how WOOOONDERFUL they are, and by extension, they will think that I am a FAAAABULOUS mother!

So when it came time to catch up on what was happening in our lives, I stood to rhapsodize about the wonderful-ness that was Three's recital, and oh, by the way, had I mentioned the graduate schools are falling over themselves to recruit Boy#2?

I was so full of maternal pride that I was overheating a little as I sat down, so I pulled my collar out just a smidge to let in some ventilation.

And realized I had my shirt on backwards.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Joyful Noise

This may be my favorite picture of Boy#3.

I don't know exactly how old he was, but I'm guessing he hadn't turned two yet. Old enough to be mobile, but young enough that his harried mother had dressed him in the first things she grabbed out of the drawer.

I love the chubby hands "playing" a hymn. I love the feet dangling above the ground. I love the cooking pot on his head. And oh, I so love the grin on his face.

Last night I found myself thinking of that kid with the pot on his head, banging on the piano and singing at the top of his lungs: Last night we watched this same kid walk out on the stage and present a junior recital.

Three's now a poised 21-year-old, handsome in his gray suit. He's been worried about whether he was ready for this moment on the stage, but he looked calm. He nodded at his accompanist, took a deep breath, and begin to play.

Within moments my face hurt from smiling. He would tell us later that he'd bumbled a few measures in the first piece, but none of us noticed. The music soared and whispered and tickled and blasted. It was demanding and rewarding, and he nailed it.

As they grew up, I watched the Boys perform and marveled at the potential. "Some day," I'd think, "some day this kid is really going to be good."

This was the day that fulfilled the prophecy, and this kid is good. This is a Boy who loves music, doing what he loves, and the results were purely joyful.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Default Dessert

Despite being someone who has spent most of her adult life putting food on the table, I am not a particularly good cook. Oh, I can follow a recipe, and most of what gets to the table is edible, but it's not particularly inspiring.

The exception to this is my chocolate sheetcake. Chocolate sheetcake is my go-to contribution for any occasion. Potluck? Check. Birthday at the office? Check. Ladies club hostess? Check.

This dependable delicacy fits my requirements for speed (45 minutes from turning on the oven to ready to transport), simplicity (it's the one food I can make without referring to a recipe card) and, well, chocolate. Fortunately, Husband and Boys are brainwashed into thinking this concoction, which was a staple in every cook's repertoire during the 1970s, is haute cuisine.

And the fact that this is such an old recipe is starting to work in my favor. This week I took a sheetcake to the office for a staff birthday. One of the whippersnappers was duly impressed.

"Wow, this is almost as good as my grandma used to make," he said.

Thanks, I think?

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Heart, Walking Around

There are all kinds of good descriptions of what it's like to be a mother, but this week I'm remembering what a friend told me when my first child was born. 

For the rest of your life, she said, your heart walks around outside your body.

February has been a stressful month for my Boys. Life is good, but moments are hard, and when I heard one of the Boys on the phone a few days ago I immediately knew he was struggling.

"Can I do something, or do you just need a sympathetic ear?" I asked him. He needed the ear, he told me.

So for the next half hour or so, I tried to not give advice. The pressure he's feeling comes from the high expectations he puts on himself and the high expectations others justifiably have of him, but it's pressure nonetheless and too much pressure hurts.

I want to fix it. I want my child to be happy, and I know there's a part of me that won't be happy again until I know he is as well.

Oddly, I find myself reverting to the instinctive ways I comforted my new babies. "It'll be okay," I told him, my fingers unconsciously patting the arm of the chair as if it were his back. "You can do this."

"Don't think ahead until next week--finish today, then work on tomorrow."

And I give the ultimate mom advice. "Go get a good meal, with protein and something green.You'll feel better if you're eating right."

By the time we finish talking he's laughing at his father's latest shenanigans, and ready to forge on through this rough week.

I mentally rub his back one last time, and remind him, "God's in control."

Then I hang up realizing that if I didn't truly believe that last word I left with him, I would not be able to get through each day, with my heart exposed as it is, out there walking around.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another Thing I Love About Working Here

Working at Small College, as I do, means there's plenty of opportunity to support student fundraisers. This is a good thing, as opposed to elementary school fundraisers which tend to consist solely of opportunities to buy overpriced name brand stuff I would ordinarily buy in their generic versions. Wrapping paper. Cookie dough. Greeting cards.

I'm right, aren't I, parents?

By the time they're in college, kids are actually useful. Who knew? So fundraisers at Small College actually are worth supporting. Besides the warm glow of helping student go-on-trips/buy-new-warm-ups/attend-a-conference, there's an actual something-I-want attached. House cleaning, say. Or leaf raking, or bicycle maintenance.

A couple of years ago at an auction to help students go on a mission trip, I bid on an authentic Asian dinner. Then I forgot I had won the bid. (Chalk this one up for the win side of memory loss.)

Yesterday a lovely young Malaysian girl came in my office. "Do you remember when you bid on the Asian meal? Well, J and I put that up for auction, but J is going home this weekend. Could we bring you dinner tonight?"

Oh, the joy of those words. Let me repeat them once more just so you can savor their loveliness with me: "Could we bring you dinner tonight?" If Mr. Rochester had said this to Jane Eyre in chapter two, that book could have been a lot shorter.

Anyway, A and J showed up with a smorgasbord of Asian food, to mix a geographic metaphor. We had Beef Rendang. Stir-fry Cabbage. Papadam. Steamed Egg. Perfectly sticky Asian rice.

This was so the opposite of  the usual Wednesday night pre-meeting  fare in the MomQueenBee house (which is to say, "What kind of cereal do you want, Honey? You'll need to get it yourself.") that it felt as if we'd won the lottery.

The yummy, yummy lottery.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New 'Do

Not me, but strikingly similar to what I looked like 24 hours ago
I've been overdue for a new 'do.

With the arctic weather and some work deadlines and a compulsion to wait as long as possible before calling my hairdresser in a panic, my hair had gotten just a little...bad. 

This, by the way, is the way I approach a cut and color every single time.

"Oh, I can wait just a day or two more, because I really want to get my money's worth out of that last cut, and seriously it doesn't look that...EEEEK!"

One of the reasons I am so averse to making hair appointments on a timely basis is because I know that with every cut I will have to reintroduce myself to my hair. Each cut has its own personality: One is aggressive, the next one innocuous and lank, the one after that just what I was hoping for, followed by "when did I get so gray?" and so on and so forth.

Also not me, but I empathize with the hair
The one thing all of my haircuts have in common is my instructions to my fabulous barber: "Just like last time." And just like every time, I always leave her shop looking something like the photo at left, except without the drug use and early death and bright red lipstick and wearing a shirt under my jacket. Oh, and the hair is shorter.

But it feels JUST LIKE THIS. Too blond, and too froufrou, and too much look. If you are your hairstyle, I'm one hit away from being in the Country Music Top 100.

So usually I leave the beauty shop* and immediately go home to brush brush brush brush until my head is my own again. Last night I had to go straight from the whatever-you-call-it-place-where-there's-a-sink-and-a-hairdryer to a meeting. To my amazement, the other women there were complimentary.

"Oh! Your hair looks so cuuuute!"

"I've never seen your hair like this, and I love it!"

And so on.

Huh. Either those lovely ladies were lying, or you can hand me a guitar--I think my destiny is calling.

*(Does anyone still call it a beauty shop? What's the right word for a chair in a friend's back room? Salon? Barbershop? Gossip aggregator?)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Aaaaahhhh, Kansas!

All but one of the Boys chose colleges outside our home state. One of the indispensable items they require when leaving home, though, is a flag. The three expatriates have taken state flags with them to remind fellow students that you don't mess with Kansas, either.

I know just how they feel. When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to move somewhere interesting. Interesting, of course, was defined as having mountains or oceans or mass transit. Even though I had grown up in Kansas, this place just wasn't happening enough for my 20-year-old self.

Then I ended up in the Peace Corps. I had oceans and mountains and mass transit, and sometimes all three at once. As an added bonus I had gorgeous sunsets, cartoonish-looking birds, earthquakes, and tropical fruit straight off the tree.

But at the risk of sounding like the most-despised movie in Kansas history, there's no place like home.

That strikes me again today as I look out my office window. Six days ago the temperature was -20 degrees when I rolled out of bed. The Snow Joe and I were clearing off sidewalks and we were cancelling classes because it was just too darned cold. Today, at this moment, it's 55 degrees, with highs tomorrow expected to be in the upper 60s.

How fun is that? We can complain about the cold and the heat all in the space of less than a week, and not many places with mass transit can do that.

As Boy#1's Facebook group proclaims as it celebrates the sesquicentennial, Ad Astra Per Awesome! Because every day should be Kansas Day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

So Romantic

Someone asked Husband and me at church if we were going to the Valentine Day dinner last night. We looked at each other and grinned.

"Naw," he said, "we're not too romantic."

And we aren't, by some standards. According to Dr. Google, "the single most romantic thing in the universe can be calculated scientifically. It is, simply, a small red candle made out of chocolate and shaped like a teddy bear holding a heart with scribbles all over it that plays a tune when you wind it up."

Well, alrighty then. And if you wanted to scientifically calculate the single item in the universe most likely to make me roll my eyes and gag, that would be it.

I have my own list of what is truly romantic:

Romantic is balancing my checkbook and not wincing when I haven't totaled expenditures for...a while.

Romantic is being a good dad.

Romantic is not rolling his eyes when I write about him here even though he does love his privacy.

Romantic is knowing who sang every single song recorded during the '70s.

Romantic is modeling how to treat an aging mother, so that Boys will know how to treat me in the not-so-distant future (i.e.buying cat food so she can feed the strays around her retirement apartment, even though he is so not a cat person. Nor am I, Boys, so don't bother buying cat food, but you get the point.).

Romantic is eating everything I cook, including lentils, because I love them even though he doesn't.

Romantic is starting my car when it's cold outside.

Romantic is valuing my opinion, and letting me know he thinks I'm smart and capable.

Huh. I guess he's romantic after all.

Happy Valentine's Day, Husband!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birth Story

Husband and Boy#2,  Feb. 12, 1988
 (Warning: This post contains bodily fluids. There. You've been warned.)

The most shocking moment of my life occurred 23 years and seven hours ago as I sit here at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning. That was the moment when I "rolled over" in bed, gasped, and poked Husband in the side.

"Honey! Honey! Wake up! My water just broke!"

Honey was at that time on faculty at Small College and had been up late grading tests. To to his everlasting chagrin (because I don't plan to ever let him forget this), he opened one eye and mumbled, "It can't. I just got to bed."

It wasn't as if we didn't know we were having a baby sometime in the not-too-distant future. You know those women who gestate their unborn children as tidily and efficiently as kangaroos? I was not one of them. I didn't carry high or low; I carried all over. "Rolling over" is in quote marks in the first paragraph because that maneuver at that point looked more like the breach of a particularly clumsy orca.

Anyhow, we knew Boy#1 was getting a sibling sometime in the future, but the due date wasn't for another month. The sure and certain indication at 2 a.m. that whoops! The due date is today! was perhaps the most shocking moment of my life. No birthing bag was packed, the friends with whom we were going to leave One during the birth had a flu bug going through their house, and the hospital was an hour away. 

But Husband and I are nothing if not a well-oiled team. We immediately dropped into the roles that have worked well for us for 27 years now: I washed my hair and he handled everything else. (What? No way was I going through labor with dirty hair.)

This is where the squeamish might want to close their eyes and scroll down a bit. Boys, I'm looking at  you again.

As everyone who has gone through or witnessed a birth knows, sit-coms are not a reliable source of education as to what actually happens during that miraculous process. The Friends actresses sit up in bed in their pristine hospital gowns, make funny but charming faces, pant a few times, and voila! Twins!

They don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies. Birthin' babies, it turns out, involves an impressive amount of fluid, and this amount is not exhausted on the initial "Hey! My water broke!" moment. I realized as I stood at the sink washing my hair that bath towels would be my friends during the trip to the hospital. I folded several into diapers of appropriate orca size and stuffed them into place under my maternity jumper.

Husband called other friends who could wrangle One for a few hours, dumped One's top drawer of clothes into a suitcase for the subsequent days he would spend at Grandma's house, plopped our beloved first-born into the carseat for the one-hour trip to nearby Big City, and we were off. (I could write an entire post about the puzzled delight One had at going bye-bye in the middle of the night, but I'll save that.)

Fast forward one hour. By this time it was 3 a.m., and we had deposited One with friends and were pulling into the hospital emergency parking lot. Signs on every lightpost screamed that parking in this lot was for EMERGENCIES ONLY!, but labor was starting in earnest and I didn't want to wait for us to find a different lot.  Husband opened my car door and I ponderously swung my legs out. The orca diapers, lacking any kind of fasteners, dropped to my knees.

"Oh, dang!" I wailed at poor Husband, who was beginning to show some signs of nervousness that I was going to give birth right there on the frozen asphalt. I tried to make modest readjustments, but it was no use. Finally I thought "It's 3 a.m., we are the only people moving for blocks around, the heck with it." I turned my back to the ER entrance, hiked up my skirt to approximately shoulder level, and refolded the towels. Husband was scandalized at the level of exposure I was displaying but I was unconcerned. "It's okay--no one saw that," I reassured my prince.

Fast forward again six hours or so. By now labor was well-advanced, the epidural was in place, and we knew we would have a baby in the next few hours, but there was a lull in urgency.

"Do you suppose I ought to move the car out of the emergency parking lot?" Husband asked the labor nurse.

"Naw," dear Audrey replied. "They have high-powered video cameras on those lots and they're watching every time anyone comes in or out. They know you're in labor."
Grandpa and Boy#2

I looked at Husband. He looked at me. Without saying a word, we were reliving the moment when I mooned the security staff, and realized that this moment was probably being immortalized in the Wesley Christmas party blooper reel.

Now, as I look back over the 23 years I've been Two's mother, I think of the beautiful blue eyes that we saw for the first time that day, and remember how my father happened to be in the area and held his hour-old grandson right there in the delivery room. The shock of that morning, and the chaos of the preceding hours, and the...exposure? Oh, so worth it.

Happy birthday, Two. I'm glad I'm your mom.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This Made Me Cry

You know that I don't very often embed video, and I've never embedded one this long before, but folks, this made me cry.

It wasn't James Franco, although he seems like a lovely man and may be my new favorite actor. His comment about self-centeredness is right on target.

Look at the face of the junior high boy doing the interview, though, especially at about the three minute mark. That face, right there, is as familiar to me as the back of my hand. Even though this California kid looks nothing like any of the Boys, I've watched my Boys in difficult situations that nevertheless delighted them. They knew they were mastering the task at hand (usually not interviewing James Franco, but maybe nailing a difficult piano solo, or answering a geography bee question, or working a complicated math problem) and the joy burst through on their faces.They simply could not stop smiling.

The memory of that joy, even as tears slide down my face, is making me smile as well.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Joe, My New Best Friend

Is there anything lovelier than undisturbed snow?

Yes, yes there is. Even more lovely than undisturbed snow is snow that has been disturbed to the extent that I can walk to the car without sinking over the top of my Danskos in fresh powder. When the Boys were home, this wasn't so much of a problem. Boy#3 was reliably willing to shovel the front walks, and Boy#4 would finish cleaning our corner by clearing the side street.

But when the boys left for their own snow days far away, the clearing of the sidewalks was left to Husband. I've read way too many stories about middle-aged men who suffer heart attacks after shoveling snow, so enter my Christmas gift to him.

How cute it that? It's a Snow Joe. And this morning when tax season meant Husband had to be in the office even though it was a snow day for the rest of us, I decided to take it out for a spin.

First, I bundled appropriately for the near-zero temperatures. Two pairs of socks. Husband's bulky gloves. Stocking cap. A Webster Magnet School scarf. I was a pretty, pretty girl.

Then I plugged in Joe and started through the drifts.

People, may I just say that I love Joe almost as much as I love my heavy-duty mixer. Instead of the bend and scoop, bend and scoop, repeat, repeat, repeat of shoveling, Joe chews through the snow and sends a plume of sparkly fairy dust into the air.

It was like this, with fewer trees and on a slightly smaller scale. (Yes, I took pictures of Joe in action, but it was so bright I didn't realize I had the camera set on "view only." Shoot.)

I spent the next hour pushing Joe up and down the sidewalks and through the driveway, grinning the whole time.

Last week when Husband took Joe out following the Blizzard of Oz he, too, came back in the house grinning. "You know the best part about it?" my accountant spouse asked "Look at those straight lines!"

It's good to have a friend both of us love.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Take It Away

This is another installment in the series of Wow, How Things Have Changed.

The MomQueenBee house is the first Tuesday morning stop on the trash collector's route. I'm quite sure the route was arranged this way because in the olden days, the truck was full after it left our house. Two adults and four Boys generate a LOT of trash. We started with two trash cans, then had auxiliary trash storage in the garage for the second half of the week.

The blurry, underlit photo above documents the trash that I put out at the break o' dawn this morning, and people, this is trash for two weeks! Seriously. Snowmageddon last Tuesday meant that we didn't scurry out in our jammies to make sure the trasn can was on the curb, so we just accumulated for a week.

Two weeks. One trash can and one box.

It boggles the mind.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ich Bin Ein Cheesehead

Many, many years ago Husband went on a business trip to Green Bay, Wisc. At that time Son#1 was a rabid sports fan, so Husband packed him in a carry-on and off they went. (I'm kidding. This was in the day of unlimited baggage; One was checked in a full-sized suitcase.)

As the kind and thoughtful men they are, Husband and One wanted to make sure they properly showed their appreciation for my sacrifice in staying at home with three extremely attention-intensive younger Boys so they brought me a gift.

Cheesehead earrings. And you can see by the relative size of the earrings to my desk lamp in the picture, these were not small, indiscreet cheesehead earrings. These were honkin' wedges of cheddar.

My guys giggled and snorted as they watched me unwrap the gift, and assumed that would be the end of their manly hijinks. They had underestimated me, though.

May I just say that when you wear cheesehead earrings to the office, no one knows where to look or what to say. Visible thought bubbles hovered above heads in every meeting I attended. "Is she serious?" "What are those things?" and most often, "Should I say something or not?"

Apparently people either think I'm crazy, or that my fashion sense really is that bad. Not one single person mentioned the earrings.

I mark that as the day my slide into eccentricity began.

Friday, February 4, 2011

'Tis a Gift to be Simple

The renovation project in my office building has reached the stage John Steinbeck famously referred to as "progress looking much like destruction." Next week the contractors will bar my work group from our office suite (Hello, asbestos abatement! Come on in, demolition!) and we'll be living in the conference room for the next month or so.

This arrangement above is my new workspace: An eight-foot table, and a rolling television cart. Plus my  philodendron. We decided to take only what we needed to work for a few weeks, and as soon as my computer and telephone are installed on that table, I'm all set.

I'm not a big fan of change, and an even un-bigger fan of moving. I've told the Boys that I plan to kick the bucket in the House at the Corner of Drainage Street and Halfway Down the Hill. At that point my progeny are to carry me out and set the place on fire.

Now that I'm seeing the Hoarders-esque accumulation that surrounds me after 16 years in my current office, and how little of it I actually use in my day-to-day operations,  I'm thinking my co-workers need the same post-mortem instructions.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset...

Sky Trek
Today is the first day of the final year that I will have a teen-aged child. (How's that for making this all about me?)

Today Boy#4 is 19.

There is something different in the parenting of the child you know will be the last one. With the other Boys, the first birthday had to be special; the second birthday was always covered in a cloud of Hey!-Here's-Your-New-Brother! With Four, though, I was able to completely enjoy every stage of babyhood. There was no need to begin the separation process from my youngest child in anticipation of the demands of the next infant.

And Four, as each of his brothers had done before him, turned out to be his own individual brand of delight. We called him our Under-the-Radar Child, for his ability to let others take the spotlight. But he also was unafraid--one of my favorite pictures of Four shows him rigged up for our Costa Rica zipline adventure. He's surrounded by older, bigger guys, not saying anything but showing no fear. It was a good metaphor for his personality.

Happy birthday, Four. I'm glad I'm your mom.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2011

From my office at the top of The Hill
You'll see by the accompanying photo that today my superpower went unused. This is the downside of being the person who calls the snow days--when snow days remain uncalled, those people who loved you so much yesterday melt away as quickly as we wish these piles of snow would.

This morning at about the time I should have been getting responses attesting to my awesomeness, people were being reminded that campus is open today. They were Not Happy.

"Really? Every single other school in the state is closed," one professor responded.

You may, as I'm sure the writer did, add the unwritten " evil idiot" at the end of that sentence.

But truly, it was the right decision, despite the sub-zero wind chills, to get our students and staff back to work today. Under-busy students are prone to mischief, especially when the sky is bright blue and the sun is shining on the campus hill.

The hill is beautiful, with shaggy arborvitae trees snuggling up to maples, and boulders chiseled with the achievements of past athletic teams and debate squads scattered hither and thither. It was only in the past couple of years (as liability insurance rates shot into the stratosphere) that sledding has been prohibited there.

Our home at the Corner of Drainage Street and Halfway Down the Hill is tantalizingly close to this hill (hello, house in the upper left hand corner of the picture) and new snow sang like a siren when the Boys were of sledding age. One day, when the public schools had closed but Small College was open, I looked out my office window to see a sled flying downhill, missing trees and boulders by inches.

"What kind of idiot parents are letting their kids risk their brains for seven seconds of adrenaline rush?" I thought, just before I saw the rider wipe out spectacularly in a drift. He crawled out of the snow and stood up, and I realized that Boy#4 had answered my questions.

I have met the idiots, and they are me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Superpower

Superman flies.

Spiderman swings.

The Invisible Man, well, invisibles.

But I? I have the greatest superpower of all

I call the snow days.

It's the only time I'm glad to hear the phone ring at 5:15 a.m. because I  know it's probably the snow day decision-maker on the other end.

"Let's call it. We don't want people out in white-out conditions."

So I send out an e-mail to all of our students and to the grown-ups who work with those students.

"Our Small College will be closed today. Stay safe and warm."

I call the local radio station, and let our buddy the newsguy spread the word. I call the television stations, give them the super-secret passwords and know several hundred people have just smiled happily and snuggled back under their blankets. Then I snuggle back under my own blankets.

Later, much later, after I've brewed my first cappuccino of the day and settled down (still in my robe) to check my e-mail, I open a response to that 5:32 a.m. message I'd sent out. It's from a casual acquaintance on campus.

"I love you a lot today.  More than usual."

Greatest. Superpower. Ever.