Friday, April 30, 2010


For two days, we've enjoyed sunny, warm weather. Iain's become a park addict, especially on the slide and the swings. That's about to change. Tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday are forecast to bring torrential rain plus thunder, lightning, and possibly flash flooding. Yay! And just in time for Derby!

But I'm focused on other things. Like lunch. At his new school, Iain will need me to pack a lunch. So I'm looking at lunch boxes (bento, like this one) and thinking about what I'll give him. Bento blogs (such as this one) are full of smart and creative ideas, too. For example, folding a wet wipe, wrapping it in a little foil, and closing the package with a cute sticker. Yes, I could just chuck in a wet wipe package, but where's the aesthetic pleasure in that?? Nowhere.

Tomorrow will be a big day. It's Dr. K's birthday, so we're all gathering at Callie's house for a little soiree. I'm bringing a salad and cannoli. We'll watch the horses do their thing, we'll drink mint juleps (in the rain), and we'll bid a fond farewell to this most charming of Kentucky rituals.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Awesome with Awesome Sauce

Lady Gaga's "Telephone" as interpreted by a group of soldiers in Afghanistan:

Worth watching all the way through, and (dare I say it?) better than the original.

Stay safe, gents.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And That's That

Today, my minions helped me wrap up the semester.

Here's the deal: my syllabus specifies that if a student's cell phone rings s/he loses that day's attendance point. But I'm a big believer in reciprocity. So if my cell phone rings, everyone gets extra credit. All semester, students beg for my number, wish for the phone to ring, etc.

So, naturally, I arrange to have it ring at the end of the term. It's a little gift from me to them.

And today was the day. Charles called during the 11 o'clock class, and I put him on speaker-phone. "Do they deserve extra credit?" I asked. "Well, it's in your syllabus, right?" he said. "Yeah, but I was just saying that if a law goes unenforced it's not really the law, is it?" "So you're going to break your word? You're mean!" They loved him.

At 2:30, it was Mother's turn. On speaker, when asked if they deserved extra credit, she said: "Well, they had to put up with you all term, right?" They roared. I took that as a 'yes.'


Thanks, A.S., a mental health break, indeed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Daycare Report: Talking Trash

Today at daycare Iain defamed the family.

1. When he first arrived, he apparently made an indelicate noise. Donna said, "Iain, ewww!" and Iain said, "Daddy did it."

2. At this 10am diaper change, Donna said, "Iain! Ewww! You have a stinky diaper!" and Iain replied, "Grammer has a stinky diaper!"

Nice. Genetics in action, y'all.

Just How Boring Can It Get?

I work in a dull field. I like it. But let's be real: it's dull.

Last summer, I joined a group of wonderful people for a month of study about immigration history. It was intense, and at times I think we all overheated. Too much humidity (Washington, D.C. in July!), too much running around, too much to read/think about, too many days of listening, discussing, and researching.

Proof? My notes from a brief trip to New York (discovered while packing my office). The main notes track the analysis of our speaker. But in the margins you can see how fatigued I was. I noted, for one thing, how many of our little crew fell asleep (9, out of about 25, including one of the conveners). I noted the incidence of the word "uh" in a 5 minute period (65 times!).

So it turns out that I have the manners of an undergraduate. When I get tired, I get cranky. And my cranky self takes some very naughty notes.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Bacon is one of the few meat products Iain will consume. He likes to munch on the crunchiest bits, marveling aloud at the fact that he's eating "Baaaaycon." "Uh, huh!"

But he's also entered the Dictatorial Stage. This is completely normal. I know it is because Wikipedia told me so:
"Bossy" with parents and caregivers; orders them around, makes demands, expects immediate compliance from adults.

Yup, that's him! For example, eating bacon the other night, he picked up a piece, sampled it, decided to eat half and then held out the other half to me. "EAT IT!" he demanded.

What could I do?


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Check That Off the List

We finally bought a new washer/dryer set for the Salt Lake City house. It's our first such purchase in a long time (12 years, to be exact), so it took a little thinking, looking, and considering.

But in the end, as with so many things, the deciding factor was customer service at the point of sale. I tried to deal with Sears, but their people could not explain to me why a washer listed as $608 on one screen was actually $730. Bye!

Lowe's was better, except that their online rating numbers didn't match the ferocity of the online comments. They claimed high numerical ratings, but the comments contained one horrible nightmare after another. Worse, they told consistent stories, so it appeared that the machine would break in completely predictable ways. Ouch!

Charles said, "Try Home Depot." Ok. What's this? A nice, well-informed, professional young man who can answer my questions? Reasonable prices? Free delivery? No problem to deliver in 2 weeks to a completely different address from my billing address?


On the long list of Stuff To Do, we can check off: buy washer and dryer, arrange delivery.

Clear Skies

No damage from the storms. It looks as if the bad, bad weather tracked south of us. What we got, instead, was a ton of rain and lots of wind.

The rain will hasten a process already thoroughly underway: the garden's regeneration. The herbs planted last year overwintered, and above you can see the sage and one of the thymes. They've come back amazingly strong.

Below, the chard, which I expected to be an annual. But it's growing leaves, so the buyers of our house should enjoy a lovely summer of ruby chard. Those little sprouts all around it are tomatoes. I guess a tomato fell into the dirt last fall and I missed it. Just ignore that little dandelion sprouting in the lower left. I'll kill that today.

And last, but not least, the groundcover I planted last year is abloom. It's the purple spikey plant below:

It's a "chocolate" form of a common ground cover (can't remember its name), and I bought it partly because the brown and green leaves are so shiny and appealing. But who knew it would do this? The flowers remind me of tiny lupins, or very vigorous rosemary. Either way, very nice. And the plants overwintered without any trouble, spread and are providing a nice low-growing counterpoint to the juniper and bulbs.

Next: the peonies. They're all up (including the one I transplanted from the side of the house. I really thought I'd mangled that, but apparently peonies are tough.), and I see flower buds on a few.

Iain's newest discovery is "Nope!" He says it a lot. As in, "Do you want a clean diaper?" "Nope!" and "Do you want a Nutri-Grain Bar with snack?" He said, "Nope!" but when I put the box away he was all, "Heyyyyyy! Noocha Gain Bah!!"

"But you said, 'nope'. Do you want a Nutri-Grain Bar?"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hold On To Your Hats...

We're the crossroads you see to the right of Louisville. The one with red bits over it.

Yeah. Tornado watch. Large hail. Yippee!

Excellent, Daddy, Excellent.

We spent much of today packing. I packed glasses. I packed clothes. I packed pictures, books, and toys. Charles packed, too, and we both spent a happy hour shredding.

Ah, shredding. How do I love thee?

So we disposed of a lot of old stuff, and Iain was very intrigued (of course). The sound, the bits of confetti, the Mom and the Dad sorting through things and then destroying them. It was all appealing to a little boy person.

He walked over and asked "Mommy, what you doing?" That was a first. Then, after we explained, he said, "Excellent, Daddy. Excellent."

This has got to stop. Pretty soon he'll be asking us for ontological references. And since I don't know what "ontological" means, that'll be awkward.

P.S. No post last night because I was stricken with a sick headache. I retired to my room at 5pm and emerged at...3:30am. Yay! But I am all better, so no worries.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Cliche in the Middle of the Night

2 nights ago: Iain woke up, screaming, and needed half an hour of cuddling and storytelling ("when you were just a baby you were born at 3 in the morning! And Callie came to see you in the hospital! She put her hands on your head, and we were all a little nervous, but it was fine." etc.)

When I finally put him back to bed, he spent 5 minutes demanding "rocking chair!!" before finally going back to sleep.

Last night, he awoke at 2:10, screaming. I waited 2 minutes to see if he'd calm down. No. So at 2:12 I went in, picked him up, sat in the rocking chair, and told him (in minute detail) about our impending flight to Salt Lake City. When we'd leave, what we'd take, each flight, who'd be there when we arrived, when he'd see his new house, the mountains, etc.

He went back to bed willingly, at 2:30. Then he woke again at 3:04. Grrr.

And me? Torn, of course. Iain is not cuddly. So the idea of holding him in the rocking chair, telling him stories and enjoying his warm little self - it's seductive. On the other hand, it's 2:30 IN THE MORNING.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Ha!

One, count 'em, ONE parrot tulip has gotten through the Rabbit Attack. One. I'm a little bitter.

Paint is fun. That is all.

Check out Patty D's granddaughter. She's painting up a storm. Scroll down for the clean-up. ZOMG.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Did I Mention the Tulips?

Um...yeah. They're nice. I'm definitely doing that again. Maybe not next year, because (you know) I've got some fish to fry. But maybe the year after that.

And when I plant more, I'll be tossing them into a pot and walking away. Because the ones I put in the ground are great. But what a royal pain in the hiney that was. Wow.

By contrast, the whole Pot-O-Tulips thing works like this: you have a pot, see? Then you toss your bulbs in the pot. Then you cover them up with dirt. Then you walk away for...5 months or so. Then you have a tulip freakout.

And you just never know who you're going to meet peeking through the flowers:

Iain story: tonight he watched Thomas the Tank Engine on our bed while I tried to finish a novel. Yes, I was reading fiction. And yet the world did not end.

Anyway, he picked up the phone and pretended to talk. He said, "Exactly. Exactly. Exactly." He said it very firmly.


Miriam! You're Old!

Happy birthday to Miriam, who today turns...something. I think we all recognize that I can't remember dates. (ha! historian who can't remember dates!) All I know is: she's got fabulous shoes. And that's timeless.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2 Year Old Update

Iain visited Dr. Warner today for a 2 year check in. The results were:

29 pounds, a gain of 3 lbs over his 18-month check in.
? inches, a gain of 1.5 inches since the 18-month visit. (37.5? I wasn't paying close enough attention, obviously.)

Those measurements put him in the 55th percentile for height (so long, Sasquatch!) and the 50th for weight. So he's exactly, perfectly normal. Or normative. Or average. Or something.

In other news, Dr. Warner was impressed by his verbal abilities, Iain was fascinated with Nurse Charlene's stethoscope, and she was interested in his knowledge of trucks, bulldozers, cement mixers, backhoes, freight trucks, tanker trucks, tractors, excavators...

New Tricks

Charles and I read at the table. We read so often, in fact, that when we clear the table for guests we always have to move our books (with special leather book holder-openers) into the living room.

I guess Iain noticed. He's taken to "reading" something when he sits at the bar to have a snack. Above, it was a toy catalog. After that "disappeared" (it was covered in mango bits!), he has been reading his birthday card (Elmo!).

Mimicry: it's what's for dinner.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Three years ago, in England, I endured a certain amount of mockery for my fear of the swans.

Turns out that I was right! They're dangerous. At least one swan needs an ASBO. Check it out.

More 'Colm

Baby Malcolm, at two weeks old (above) and hanging with his big brother (below). This morning I was sort of ruminating on the size of that family over time.

Today, it's a party of five. But in a few years, there'll be friends over for dinner/slumber parties/play dates/dating (!). A few years after that there'll be spouses and maybe children and before you know it: 20 people for Thanksgiving.

Bjork, Cut It Out!

Comment from a friend in Utah:
"Who knew that in the end times it would be Iceland (ICELAND?!?) that would destroy the global economy with its banks and volcanoes? And that’s not even including Bjork! The Vikings smite Europe (and the rest of us) once more. "
Meanwhile, apparently some British folk tried to re-enact Dunkirk. The French replied: "Non."

Update: Now the Royal Navy is going to fetch British citizens stranded in Y'urp.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Successes and Failures

Parrot tulips: failure. Above, the red and yellow ones. They were all eaten by rabbits. And here's the insult-to-injury part: the rabbits ate only the flowers, leaving the stalks to taunt me.

Below, the green, white and (a tiny bit of) pink variety. These were a gamble, since green flowers are iffy. I love hellebore, whose flowers are often shades of green. Still, I thought this tulip might be interesting and might be a disaster.

It's not great. See below. Not awful, but more weird than lovely. It kind of reminds me of Little Shop of Horrors.

Boris's Digestion: failure. He threw up in the sunroom today. That's enough about that.

The small, striped, pink and white tulips in the deck container? Success!

They started out mostly white, with pink streaks. Over time, though, they've deepened in color, becoming an interesting mixture of pinks and rose shades.

Also a success: Iain's birthday. We started out rough (nightmares, sick Daddy), survived lunch for a good, long nap, then soldiered through a truly spectacular afternoon tantrum. How bad?

I was on the phone with Miriam while Charles tried to put Iain in a Time Out. Just as I got off because the screaming was reaching a crisis level, Charles rushed into Iain's room. Turns out that our little mountain climber decided that Time Out could suck it.

He'd climbed up, pitched over, and fallen on his face. Ouch. But, none the worse for wear, he was still determined to scream the house down in anger (ie, no tears, just a red-faced rage worthy of Winston Churchill). It took a concerted effort, many books about trucks, promises of stickers and threats to tell Miss Donna before we restored equilibrium.

But we did. And his dinner, bath, and bedtime rituals were fine. Good, even. So we're a success because we lived through it. He's 2. 364 days from now, things should get better.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Well That Was Fun

Above, for 899, a picture of Iain checking out his fish.

Now on to a pity party. Last night was bad, people. Bad. First, Iain had a nightmare around 1:30. That's not so terrible. But at 3:30 or so the power went out (windstorm). We woke when the house sort of sighed and shut down. No problem. Nothing to do about it, just go back to sleep.

Oh, no. No, no, no. Sleep? The security system would like you to re-think that plan. At 3:45, it went off, loudly. At first, I tried to turn it off by pressing buttons on my alarm clock. Not effective.

Then I got up, peered at the thing in the darkness, and tried to wake up. I switched on the light. No light. No power! Right. Ok, I flipped open the faceplate, and found (yay!) that the system has its own battery-powered lights. I pressed "Off." Blessed silence.

But then I began to wonder: what set it off? Is there someone in the house? Is it the power outage? What effect on the system does pressing "Off" have? What if there's an axe murderer lurking outside? Waiting for me to turn off the alarm? What if???

So I lay there, petrified, for about an hour. That's 4 to 5, if you're keeping track. Then I slept until 6:45, when Iain awoke, refreshed, and demanded some oatmeal.

On the plus side, the orange and pink tulips you see above are blooming in my tulip pot, and they're beautiful. Silky-smooth, fuzzy like a peachy cheek, bright orange stained with a center stripe of pale pink, they make me want to plant a million tulips.

But first I need a nap.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More Lips (and some Bluberries)

Those bits above might become blueberries, someday.

Last spring I planted 4 teensy blueberry bushes. Two died. Wah. But two survived, and happily the two were of different strains. So they can pollinate one another. I won't get to enjoy them, but our buyer might one day pop out of the kitchen and pick some fresh blueberries for his morning cereal.

In other news, the tulip parade just keeps on coming. Above and below, Queen of the Night. She's almost black, the deepest, darkest purple, with cobalt blue streaks inside (you can sort of see that above, but it really struck me tonight). The bulbs bloomed nicely, they're a good size, and the color is striking in the garden.

Another of the recent arrivals is this baby. I'm not sure which one she is, but she's tall, y'all. Like 24 inches or more. And she's got some serious striping.

Iain's latest phrase is "Right NOW!" But it's not as bad as it sounds. He'll sit in the carseat, talking to himself and you can hear him saying, "Right NOW, Iain!" I expect this is something he hears at home and school.

He was scheduled to transition from Miss Donna's class into the 2-year-old group on Monday. However, the powers that be decided he should just stay with Donna since he's only there for another 2 weeks. Why upset the apple cart, right? I only wish he could spend 2 weeks with Callie. Otherwise, I'm delighted to keep him with Miss Donna. The less disruption the better.

More tulips tomorrow. Stay tuned...


It's lovely and warm here, so Iain broke out his spring wardrobe. Check out those preppy shorts! Yes, with socks. What?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bye Bye Grammer

Grandma made this bouquet with lilacs from our bush, plus pink dogwoods.

Tomorrow, Grandma departs. At bedtime she said to Iain, "Goodnight darling, Grandma has to go home. I'll see you soon," and Iain replied, "Maybe not."

Uh, ok.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Shoes

Did I mention that the pink dogwood is in bloom? It is. I lovelovelove pink dogwood. Love it. Above, the buds. Below, the glorious profusion of blooms. Two years ago I insisted that we not tear this tree out when we planted a bunch of junipers for privacy. I consider this year's display my reward:

In other news, Iain went shopping with Grandma yesterday. He tried on a pair of sandals that made his feet look hilariously clown-like. But the pair that suited us best turned out to be these:
They're brown suede, with actual laces (tied and re-tied at least 5 times today). But you'd never know that Iain got "newshoes."

In fact, at school he told Miss Donna, and I quote, "Mommy, Grammer, Iain go shopping. Grammer no buy Iain shoes. Iain mad." Uh, dude. You're wearing the new shoes Grandma bought you.

He also came up to Donna as she was making the beds for naptime, patted her on the back, and said "Good job, Donna. Perfect, Perfect."


One of my students characterized our classroom as: "hotter than two mice making love in a wool sock."

I had to laugh is.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's For Real Now...

2 one-way tickets to Salt Lake City.

2 rooms reserved (for us and for Iain's Nana) for the night before the moving truck arrives.


I think we're actually moving.


Pizza for dinner? Homemade pizza, baked to order, hot and fresh? You must be joking. How dare you, Madam!?!!

I reject your pizza. I demand banana! I demand ice! I refuse your yucky dinner! I AM A TODDLER!!

Two Lips

Ooo, lovely! This one is a winner, for sure. Among the tulips I planted, some have been dud-like, while others have outperformed my expectations.

This is a prize pig, if you ask me.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Finally, at last and after a long, tense wait: Grammer is here! Iain is, naturally, thrilled. I'm just rubbing my paws together in anticipation of the Bake-a-palooza.

But for now, Iain and Grandma are playing with blocks. These are blocks she bought Iain when he was born. And he's still playing with them. Only these days he likes to pile them up then knock them down:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Redbuds in Bloom

Last week, above. Now, below.

Delicious. I love the redbuds. They're like a lavender "welcome to spring!" message.

Callie's in fine fettle, too. She says, "Hi! Wanna play?" and all the exuberance of spring comes flying at you.

Who can resist her?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Callie Visits, Much is Accomplished

Callie came by for a visit and lunch. We had grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots with ranch dressing, and a combination dried apricot/red bell pepper bowl. I didn't tip my waitress, because she repeatedly asked me not to double dip. It's my lunch, lady!

In other news, Callie and her mom helped pack a ton of boxes. They packed all kinds of annoying things that The Mom and The Dad hate to pack (crystal, sculpture, other annoyingly fragile and oddly shaped stuff). We love her.

Did you wonder whether Callie was growing ordinary as she ages? Have no fear. She remains utterly enchanting. See above.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Neil Gaiman reads his Instructions

Charles Vess is the illustrator.
Read more at Gaiman's blog.

More Conversations with The Dad

From Maddie's Daddy:

So, dude, Our Tiny Beautiful Lady asks for food items, and has a standard response when we don't have them available:

OTBL: I want grapes!

The Dad: I'm sorry, we don't have any grapes.

OTBL: Buy some more!

So then over the last month, we lost both of our very old cats to cancer -- brother and sister, same age and same genes, died two weeks apart, very hard to see. And we walked to the store last week, and as we were walking back, OTBL said we were going home to feed the cats. And The Dad said, "My love, we don't have cats anymore."

And so she said? "Buy some more!"

Unrelated: The Dad took OTBL on a road trip, and we ended up at an ostrich farm near Solvang, where OTBL watched The Dad feed an ostrich. (Ostriches are big angry f[#^%]s, and they eat by slamming their faces into the food bowl -- it's like watching a tetchy oil rig. With teeth. The Dad was not gonna let OTBL feed them.)

But so anyway, OTBL is watching an ostrich slam its hideous face into a bowl of nasty pellets, and The Dad was all, like, "Whaddya think?"

And OTBL said, pointing, "Wanna ride it!"