October 8, 2013

The apple doesn't fall far

The adults in this house have been like ships passing in the night for the last two weeks. Damn jobs. No worries, though. It's like Mark is home as long as his mini-me is in the house. One worships at the computer and the other at Disney Channel, but otherwise there's a lot of similarity!

September 3, 2013

Is this thing on?

So. I guess I took the summer off from blogging. That was unintentional, but some math whiz could probably work up a chart that would track the inverse relationship between the amount of blogging I did and the amount of time the boys were at home and the amount of time I've spent trying to figure out how in the world to write coherently and intelligently about insurance. My summer was awesome and humbling all at once. Now it’s September and the fun of the swimming pool, long bike rides, a California vacation, a South Carolina vacation and a couple of birthdays around here are distant memories. 

Labor Day weekend marks not only the end of summer but also our wedding anniversary. My parents generously offered to stay with the boys last night so we could go eat sushi to celebrate. Anyone who is my Facebook friend already knows that during dinner Mark also needed to participate in an online Fantasy Football draft, so there's that, but we had a nice meal. (In all honesty, it's a father/son league that some friends and their kids organize and Andrew probably enjoys it more than Mark does so it was difficult to be upset with him for having to frantically scroll through available running backs between bites.) We had a great evening but by the time we got home, got the boys in bed and prepared for the beginning of another week, we didn't end up opening our anniversary cards.

I came home this afternoon and decided to go ahead and open this beauty from the love of my life. Isn’t that a nice sentiment?

card outside

Then I opened it.

card inside

Under some circumstances, on some days, in some moods, I would have been offended. Except, guess what?


That’s right. We bought each other the same card. We purchased them at different stores and I have the receipt to prove I chose it first, but still. Next thing you know we’ll start looking alike and sharing reading glasses. This summer may have been an uphill blur, but at least I’m crawling uphill with someone with the same sense of humor.

June 23, 2013

A good girl gone

“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.”

-Charles M. Schulz

For all the times that I cursed her endless fur and her general Pigpen tendencies, our dog, Madeline, was as good as they get. She had enough hair for two dogs her size -  that seemed to gather mulch and dirt and grass - and she was generally a little stinky. She was the sloppiest water drinker ever, and I often thought she was barely domesticated because she would eat anything not pinned down; we had the vet bills to prove it. In her day she was a stellar rabbit hunter, and even in old age she could sleuth out a piece of trash or dead animal with amazing speed. She had a sensitive stomach, which is a poor match for a dog that eats like a goat, and she spent more than a few nights of her 15 years on probation sleeping in the garage or a bathroom. And, yet...

Andrew 20030914 (28)

She was loyal in a way that only a dog knows. She only went upstairs to the boys’ rooms a handful of times in her 12 years in this house. They were all when Mark was out-of-town and I was putting the kids to bed. She clearly felt like it was her job, in his absence, to help me keep watch.

dog with tinsel

She also had the patience of a saint. Sometimes two boys provide love in a way that’s less than gentle and she never once complained. Occasionally the look on her face divulged that she wasn’t totally digging her situation, but she sat and took it every single time.

dog in hat

Mark’s first dog, Cody, was her first love, but in the end she loved Mark best of all. That’s partly because he usually fed her and walked her, but it’s also no doubt because she had some doggy gratitude for being rescued oh, so many years ago.

Dogs 1999 c (11)

She was an old girl whose chassis was pretty long for her wheels, and the back two had been slowly failing her for months. Stairs were increasingly difficult and some days just getting up off the floor proved to be a struggle. When she fell last night and couldn’t get up I knew that we were likely at a crossroads. I was home alone with all 80 pounds of her and I couldn’t do much to help. Twelve hours later she still couldn’t move and was visibly, and audibly, in pain. This morning we made the heartbreaking decision to free her of her arthritic back and hips and put her down.


We loved her so very much and she loved us too, without doubt. She was gentle beyond words and was a constant companion in a quiet way that I'm certain no other dog could rival for this family. I hope that in her heaven she and Cody are rollicking and she’ll be eating freshly-caught rabbit by dinner.

We’ll miss her terribly.

May 13, 2013

Ten things I’ve learned in the last ten months

1. College students’ fashion choices verge on ridiculous; some things never change. It’s awesome fun to watch.

2. Uyghur is an obscure language spoken in Western China. The University of Kansas is home to one of a handful of Uyghur language programs in the country.

3. College campuses are dysfunctional bureaucracies that somehow perk along despite themselves. This is also awesome fun to watch.

4. I would enjoy being a lady who lunches.

5. Having any job, even a part-time one on a college campus, takes mindshare and commitment and hours out of your home and officially makes you NOT a lady who lunches.

6. If I can’t be a lady who lunches then it’s good to work in a setting that challenges me and makes me feel like I have an expertise I’m utilizing and offers flexibility and also that pays you not in Monopoly money.

7. I thought I wanted to clean my own toilets. I was wrong about that, but it is possible to train your children to pee IN the toilet after you teach them how to clean the floor.

8. Salsa dancing has become increasingly popular in China during the last decade and you can build a career of researching the how and why of that as it relates to China’s relations with the U.S. and Latin America.

9. Resigning from a job over a sketchy Skype connection to Great Britain is awkward no matter how gracious and understanding the person on the other end of the line is.

10. Change is hard. It’s possibly harder for me than it should be because, well, I’m just not very adaptable.

Last August I quit my job and took a part-time position at KU. Change for the sake of change is rarely recommended, but in this case it was right. While working at the Center for East Asian Studies was definitely a stretch for me in some ways, in others it was pretty safe. I’ve blended in with the woodwork for ten months and basically punched a clock with a firm limit on the amount of time I could work. I have mostly executed relatively simple tasks assigned by someone other than me. I have also, however, learned that if I’m going to have a job to which I devote any brain power, I maybe might as well do something that stretches me a bit in ways beyond learning how to pronounce difficult names and remembering where it is that Uyghur is spoken.

I took this picture walking to my KU office on my last day of work because it was a beautiful
 morning. It now appears to me that two paths are diverging...or maybe they're converging.
Hmmm. Points to ponder.

I have some pretty great people in my life and one of them has recently helped put an opportunity in front of me to change course…again. Next week I will return to working in marketing and communications, for an organization that should also be commended for its willingness to try something new.  These people are willing to take a chance on letting me work primarily from home in an industry about which I know exactly nothing. No pressure, right? I better get this one right. Only time will tell if living through change that you’ve brought on yourself makes you better at adapting, and while I’m pretty terrified I’m also pretty excited about this one. You’ll have to stay tuned for future updates on how I handle cleaning the toilets when I work so close to them!

April 30, 2013

Quote of the Day

As he watched me put on a cardigan sweater over a tank top...

Andrew: Mom, you look nice.

Me: Thanks!

Andrew: Have you ever noticed there's a lot of layering with women's clothes? I mean, boys just don't really put on as many layers as girls do to look nice. You should think about it. It's pretty interesting.

April 5, 2013

Consider yourself warned

If you are a billionaire or "quatrillionaire" you should guard your wallet. Thomas is looking for someone to fund his private jet to Wisconsin.

March 26, 2013

Bitten by the bug(s)

We Kansans can be divided into two camps; you’re either a winter person or a summer person. Neither season is perfect here, but most of us have a less friendly relationship with one or the other. In this house, we’re summer peeps. That probably explains why our vacations have ALWAYS been to destinations warmer than the one from which we hail. We broke with tradition last week when we decided to snow ski in Colorado for spring break. We’re so glad we did. We were invited to stay with friends in their family condo in Silverthorne and we skied at Keystone for three days; it was an awesome trip.

I’ll break from another tradition and try to post more pictures than words. Here goes:

DAY 2: (Day 1 was our drive to Denver. It deserves no documentation!) This is Andrew on the ride from Denver to the mountains. We spent a night in Denver on the way out to try and help him acclimate because he has a long history of not doing that very well. This year was no exception. He’s holding the Walmart bag because he woke up barfing at midnight in our hotel room and we weren’t sure if he would blow again. We’re so compassionate. Also, I would recommend against staying in room 410 of the Hyatt Place at the Denver Airport if you’re ever in the area.

andrew car

DAY 3: We had so. much. fun with our friends that we stayed and skied with for the week. They have a son in Andrew’s class and a daughter who is 10. Thomas loves her. Like, he really might love her. She’s so kind to him and she’s fun and thoughtful and he loves her. Did I mention he loves her? Here they are on the way to lunch after our first half-day of lessons. (I took lessons with the four kids. I have no pride.) He’s pulling her on her skis, using my ski pole while I carry his skis, because he’s a helper like that.


DAY 4: This is the day that it clicked for Andrew. We all skied together this day, until Andrew and his friend figured out that they could go faster than I could and way faster than their siblings. These pictures were taken at lunch and from this point on Andrew and J were leading the pack.

andrew lodgethomas lodge

We learned this day that Thomas’ balance is stellar. He can point those skis downhill and lock-and-load for the bottom. However, we also learned that his stopping and turning skills weren’t so good. Hence, this:

dad helping
Mark spent most of this day skiing with Thomas at his side, holding onto his ski poles, patiently directing, “Turn left, turn right, pizza!, pizza!, I said, pizza!” Thomas is a kamikaze skier and we will strongly consider more lessons the next time he heads west.

DAY 5: This was our last day on the slopes and it started out beautifully. We all headed up the mountain together after me starting with Thomas on smaller slopes. If you look closely you’ll see that our little family is the cluster of black dots in that lift chair. 

 family on lift
We eventually parted ways so Andrew and friend could ski more aggressively than Thomas was up for and agreed to meet up for lunch. When our friend brought the boys to the lodge at lunch she told me she didn’t think Andrew was feeling well.  He had definitely been struggling with the mountain air the entire trip but was suddenly really feeling badly. He was complaining of lightheadedness, nausea and the works. We gave him a Dramamine and sat him in the sun with a Gatorade, hoping for him to rally. The rally never came. He ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with our friend Grant, resting in the back of his car. As a fellow altitude sickness patient, he insisted he was willing. I’m not sure how you thank someone for hanging with a child who isn’t his, but is threatening to puke…in his car!

DAY 6: We had reservations to go tubing this day but it was apparent that Andrew wasn’t going to make it. He was very lightheaded and running a low-grade fever by morning so Mark took him to Urgent Care. There he was told that his lungs sounded fine, he did indeed have a fever, his strep quick screen was negative and that we should have him rest and take him to lower ground sooner rather than later.

The rest of us headed back to Keystone to the tubing hill. We rode the gondola up to the peak of the mountain in what was becoming a full-on snowstorm. It was a blast. I think this was Thomas’ favorite activity because no one was telling him to turn, or to go slower or to flat out stop. Plus, he looked like a bank robber which he liked. After tubing we went into Keystone for a pizza lunch. We had planned to ice skate but at this point it was snowing an inch an hour and the three adults on duty decided we weren’t up for it so we changed course and shopped for souvenirs.

thomas tubing use

In addition to all this mountain activity we had nightly swimming at the condo, sledding in the parking lot and more basketball played in a garage than you can believe. This trip just might have changed my opinion of what a spring break should be and I can honestly say, for the first time, that I enjoyed skiing and can totally see how people get bitten by the ski bug. We hated to go back to work and school yesterday but it was, for Andrew, a short-lived return. The Urgent Care clinic in Frisco called Mark yesterday afternoon to tell him that Andrew’s full-blown strep test came back positive. We toted a kid with strep throat all over creation for a week in the snow. We’re waiting for our Parent of the Year awards to roll in any minute.

He’s home from school today and we’ve got the antibiotics started. He’s actually feeling pretty great and is already talking about the next time he skis. I’m glad he’s forgiven us. In the meantime we're holding out for spring here, which is a little slow in coming, and being thankful for our family and for great friends.

February 23, 2013

Overheard today...

(Today, while watching me do some cleaning...)

Thomas: Mom, why are you always polishing handprints off the walls?

Me: Good question.

(Tonight, while out to dinner because Mom needed to get out of the house...)

Andrew (while raising his glass) : We should all toast.

Me: Good idea. To what are we toasting?

Andrew: To my awesomeness.

February 17, 2013

Our big little boy

If you’re a six-year-old or nine-year-old boy (or the father of one) tonight’s television offerings were the best they get. Our DVR worked up a sweat this evening as the boys (and their father) jumped back and forth between watching the NBA All-Star Game and the Millrose Games, which I now know is an indoor track meet that features the best high school, college and even some professional tracksters out there. (For the record, it appears to this untrained eye that the NBA All-Star Game is just that, a game, where big men practice fancy dunking basically unguarded, but whatever.) We watched these two events for the better part of two hours. When I first called it time for bed I got convinced that it would be alright to skip reading for tonight to watch a little longer. The second time I called for bed I meant it and we headed upstairs.

Thomas went right up because a birthday party he attended this afternoon wiped him out and he was ready. Andrew came up grousing and harrumphing and snarling. He marched into his bathroom, where Thomas was brushing teeth and I was tidying their sty, and said, “Mom. It is totally unfair that I can’t watch the rest of the All-Star Game and I want you to know that I think you’re just wrong, wrong, wrong to keep me from watching such an important event. I am WAY old enough to stay up later than Thomas.” Before I could even think of responding, he continued. “I also want you to know that someday when I move out of this house I am going to stay up as late as I want and I’m going to watch whatever I want on television because I will be at college. I kind of think I’m ready right now and I know for sure that the day I move out and go to college will probably be one of the best days of my life. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings but that’s just true.”

I had an infrequent attack of maturity at this point and quietly went downstairs to get a drink of water. My usual response would be to debate him or something but I knew that he was being ridiculous and also honest and also that he was probably right so I left the room for a few minutes. I had been in the kitchen for about 90 seconds when I heard, “Mom, mom, MOM. Where are you? I need to tell you something.” Assuming that he wanted to tell me one more time how happy it would make him to flee the nest I said, “'I’ll be back up in a minute to tuck you in after you’ve brushed teeth.”

“But, MOM. I need you right now. I need to tell you that I can’t open the toothpaste and need you to help me.”

Alrighty then. We won’t start packing his bags just yet.

January 28, 2013

What George said


“Youth is wasted on the young.”

-George Bernard Shaw


If I turn my computer off promptly at 2:59 p.m. and walk out my office door, making sure to turn off lights and lock the doors, exactly at 3 p.m., I can be in my car by 3:08 p.m. That means, assuming I don’t hit every single red light and only have to stop once for a school crossing guard on the way, that I can be at our mailbox at 3:22 and queued up in the school pickup line in a good spot by 3:25, give or take a minute. If I’ve hit the mailbox before I get to the boys’ school I can read the mail and check facebook while I wait for them to come outside at 3:39 p.m. On Mondays it’s important for me to be close to the front of the line because we need to run by home, grab snacks and be at piano at 4 p.m. It only takes about seven minutes to get to piano so we should, in theory, have about nine minutes to spare at home. Welcome to the inside of my head and the thoughts that dominate the majority of my days. This is even after giving up my big girl job for this one that’s supposed to be stress-free. Pretty sad, huh?

I had a meeting today and didn’t get to my car until about 3:12, which meant that I skipped the mailbox and went straight to school, leaving me with about 14 minutes of time to fill. When I arrived in the pickup line I saw a class of kids on the playground, which is somewhat out of the norm. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was Thomas’ class. It was a sunny, windy 75 degrees today and they were like ants swarming an anthill. They were up, they were down, they were all around. They were carefree, for sure. Eventually the teacher blew her whistle and I found myself thinking she should be nominated for teacher of the year for knowing to take these kids outside on this day instead of trying to teach them more math. There’s a lifetime for math. Look at me, knowing I have nine spare minutes between school pickup and piano. They’ll get all the practice they need.

After they went inside I found myself with six minutes of free time. I scanned MSN on my phone and made the mistake of reading a story about a new Australian strain of the norovirus that apparently we’re all going to contract and will make us all very sick and it will laugh at Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. Damn Australians. Then I read that the US Postal Office is on the brink of collapse and that no matter how much they raise postal rates, the USPS has completely tapped out its line of credit with the US Treasury. I’m not really good at math but I think that’s difficult to do and it’s a sad state of affairs and a sad commentary on all of us. I closed out the “news” at that point, because if the entertainment news is that depressing, imagine the real, hard news.

And then it was 3:39. I looked up and saw the school doors open and kids stream out in orderly lines to their designated pickup locations. I watched Thomas walk out with his backpack weighing him down, stuffed with the winter coat he didn’t need on this warm afternoon. He went dutifully to the front of the building to wait for me to pull through the line and for his brother to join him. Just then I looked up and saw him. Andrew leaves the building from a back door near his classroom and walks around to the front to meet his brother. I often wish he was walking a bit faster so he would beat me to the front of the line and we wouldn’t hold up traffic.

Not today. Today he was a sight.  He was racing down the sidewalk apparently just high on this summer day that came to visit in the deep of winter. His backpack was in his left hand, and his coat in his right as he SPRINTED around the building. Both were flying out behind him, kind of like capes, and his shoes were a blur of neon green and silver. He was laughing, as if he was sharing a joke with someone, but he was running all by himself. I would have noticed him even if he didn’t belong to me. He came screeching around the corner on the proverbial two wheels and then he saw me watching him. He stopped short and gave me a big wave. It was the kind of wave that I know he’ll eventually become too self-conscious to offer up on public property so I made sure to wave back. He flashed a million watt smile in return and then ran to meet his brother.

He left me feeling pleased beyond measure that he was feeling so buoyant and wishing that I could, if even for just six minutes, remember how to feel that way too.

January 14, 2013

Compliment, backhanded

Last night at the dinner table, this compliment was issued - with qualifier - as Thomas asked to be excused.

"Mom, may I be excused? I do not want to eat any more and I don't care if I don't get dessert. I mean, the dinner was good, thank you for fixing it for us, it was really very good but I definitely don't want seconds and I'm finished. But, thanks for trying."

That's high praise from the pickiest kid at the table.

January 7, 2013

Sweet Child O’ Mine

This kid? Wow. This kid is everything I ever hoped my son would be at nine-years-old and is simultaneously everything that drives me bonkers.

andrew jamming


He’s smart. He’s smart-mouthed.

He’s funny. He’s a class clown.

He’s confident. He demands the center of attention.

He’s coordinated. He’s quite busy.

He’s curious. He’s relentless.

He loves to have fun. He sometimes likes to have fun at others’ expense.

He knows his own mind. He also knows mine.

The kids have recently discovered dad’s electric guitar. This one’s got just enough of his dad in him that he’s completely obsessed with it…for this week. I walked downstairs last night and found him playing it. Wearing my sunglasses.

This kid. He makes me smile, when I’m not cringing. I just love him.