Friday, July 12, 2013

Gardens, New and Old

Inspired by Laura's musings.

We moved in May to a new house just 1/2 miles away. It's a little bigger than our old house, and we needed some more space.

Over the past 3 years, I've installed and worked on a garden at the old house. Here are some pics of it near its summer peak (the rudbeckia aren't blooming yet):

The new house has a different palette:

I call that tree in the second photo my truffala tree. I put in a few lantanas here and there, but they don't bloom big, and I feel like I need some big. But I hate impatiens and petunias. I bought some pentas for the containers and some platycodon plants to put ... somewhere. Platycodons look like this:

The light purple ones, not the reddish ones. I have only two of them. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


We've been racking up points on our Southwest credit card but have run out of places we're dying to go as a family, so I decided to use some of our miles to take my mom to Florida for a few days. This works out well. The schedule where I work is a bit off kilter, and I am generally giving final exams while all the public schools are on February vacation, then sitting around the house the last week in February. Sometimes I try to plan a vacation for us from Thursday to Monday, but this year I decided it was time my mom got away and had a vacation. She spent most of 2006 taking care of my terminally ill grandmother and then most of 2007-2011 caring for my bedridden terminally ill father. And now she is on a fixed income, with half my dad's pension and no social security because she never worked. This is her first real vacation in about 6 years, but don't cry too hard for her because she and my dad went to Hawaii three times from 2000-2005.

Anyway, we are here:

Seeing some of these:

and some of these:

It's been lovely, but we have to go back tomorrow. I've left my husband in charge. Last night we Facetimed and I asked him what he did all day, and he said "I got the kids off to school, then I went to work from 9:30-3, then I came home when the kids came home, then I took S to dance, then I walked the dog, then I made dinner. And now I'm *exhausted*." And after I stopped laughing, I pointed out that that is what I do every single day--and then, after dinner, I often prep class or grade.

So, he misses me. :)

Tonight he has his German-class friend over for dinner and German conversation. His German-class friend happens to be the husband of my colleague/good friend, who also happens to be in Sweden this term teaching, and their college-aged daughter is with her. So he's on his own till May, so it's good that we have him over sometimes.

Friday, February 08, 2013

From One Natural Disaster To Another

I've been reminded that the last time I posted was during Hurricane Sandy. And today we have Winter Storm Nemo. I live in Ground Zero for Nemo (southeast Massachusetts), and we expect over 2 feet of snow. Wheee. The kids just got into their first fight while playing Wii. Wiiiiii!

What's news here?

Gerbils - I have them. I got them in early December via a friend of a friend. My friend volunteers with FOAF at the Bronx Zoo, and as you can surmise, they are animal lovers. When FOAF inherited some gerbils, my friend adopted some of them. Then they were revealed to be of the same sex, and a boy was split off from the girls, and I said I'd take the boy and a new boy my friend would obtain. That went swimmingly, but my friend got attached to the boys, so I ended up taking a totally separate batch of 4 boys. One was white, and so I had to name him Walter (White). I decided to name them all after morally ambiguous characters, so the other three were named Brody (after the Homeland character), Loki (after the Avengers character) and Bowser (who is a bad guy in the Super Mario world of Nintendo). Have some pics:

Brody and Bowser

Brody and Walter

I am smitten with these little rats (as my husband calls them). They love me, too, but I think that's only because I bring them nuts to munch on.

German - my husband has been taking German two nights a week at my university. He is having a blast and likes to coo to our dog in German. "Ich liebe meiner hund," he tells her. I don't believe I have ever heard "I love you" in German from him, but whatever. :)

Children - My daughter is going through a Beatles phase that is kind of obsessive, but she does have the obsessive gene, so I shouldn't be surprised. She just started a new Beatles Tumblr to post and reblog all things Beatles. School is going fine. Math is proving to be her biggest challenge in keeping above a 90, but she claims she understands it well and just makes stupid mistakes. The big challenge of the past month was that she had to build a cathedral. She and two other kids in her class were assigned a cathedral and had to build it out of cardboard or foam board or something like that. Here is hers:

Durham Cathedral

Special Education - Apparently, we are not part of this system any more. The team met this past week, and the school has declined to recommend any accommodations/services for him because he is doing so well, and they took him off the IEP. We haven't told our private psychologist yet, but she is going to go ballistic. It's hard though--she sees him once a week for an hour, alone. They see him for 6 hours a day with other kids. They work with kids who are struggling far more than he does. He is doing terrific. After starting off September with a serious video game obsession, we've managed to broaden his interests a bit and he now cares about 1. video games, 2. Mythbusters, 3. saxophone and 4. hockey. His grades are superb, if a bit underachieving, but this is a kid who is capable of getting the highest marks in every subject. 

He struggles most with writing, mainly because he dislikes it, but when he does write, he is hilarious. The class had to write a letter to the president about the national debt. They looked up the national debt clock and saw what the debt was, then they checked it again and it was still high, though it had decreased a little. Well, my kid, instead of writing a letter to the president suggesting he cut spending or raise taxes, was intrigued that the debt had decreased over the course of a week or two and figured out that if the debt decreased at that rate consistently, the debt would be eliminated in about 14 or 15 years, so that is what he told Obama--keep doing the same thing. Everyone was incredibly impressed by him. 

He is also going to play the Star Spangled Banner at the 5th grade concert (an honor, and one also shared by his sister, who played it at her 5th grade concert). He is also trying to decide which song/s to do for his solo. I think he will be allowed two. He apparently can play the Super Mario Bros. theme song perfectly. But he's also thinking of a Beatles song, like Yesterday or Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Here he is practicing Paperback Writer.


Excuse the boring visuals. I was sitting in bed reading and wanted to capture some of his practicing without his knowledge. 

Travel - I'm taking my mom to Florida for a few days later this month. She needs to get out of the house more. I'm also looking into a little trip for her and my uncle. I offered New Orleans, but thanks to a nasty genetic blood clotting disorder (Factor V Leiden, if you are a fan of genetic blood clotting disorders), my uncle has given up flying. So we might arrange something closer to New England, somewhere my uncle can take a train or drive to.

I'm also trying to focus on a family trip. On one hand, I'd like to get back to Europe. My husband and I of course want to return to Germany, which we loved last summer, but if we bring the kids, I feel as though we should try something else. My idea this time is a trip to Liverpool (home of the Beatles), Durham (home of the Durham Cathedral), maybe York (which my husband and I have been to and LOVED) and Edinburgh. In fact, my idea is to fly into Dublin, ferry to Liverpool, train to Durham and Edinburgh, then train (I guess) to a ferry that would take us to Belfast. Then we would go from Belfast back to Dublin and fly back out. 

The other idea is a more modest trip somewhere in the US. My daughter (whose turn it is to "pick"), suggested Chicago. My husband and I lean to Niagara Falls/upstate NY. #firstworldproblems, huh. 

I could also go on about various tv shows, but maybe I'll leave that for another post. :)

Monday, October 29, 2012


I know I'm not the only one humming "Oh Sandy bay-beeee, can't you see? I'm in misery!"

Moved the cars across the street:

That's the view from my bedroom window. There is a tree all the way to the left, plus pines overhanging the driveway (also on the left).

We've all showered. I made food from the freezer last night for dinner. The bathtub's full of water.

Enjoy some Joss Whedon endorsing Romney:

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Benefits of Private Education

A friend of the family lives 1.8 miles from the Catholic school where she sends her 7 year old son. The bus company just notified her that her son will be picked up at 6:33 am for an 8:05 start time.

No. Fucking. Way.

She's going to go medieval on the people who invented going medieval. Karma....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Liberal Arts and the Workforce

I'm often at odds with people at 11D over the role of some academic majors in helping people find jobs. I teach at a very career-oriented university, and I see a lot of practical career-focused teaching go on all the time. Over the past week, I found out that the higher-ups think that majors in liberal arts are actually a growth area, too, with strong hiring potential, which was kind of shocking to me. We're never going to have a History major or a Philosophy major, but there are ways that the university sees liberal arts contributing to the growth of the university.

But this just blew me away.

Charles Kennedy, a senior VP for research within the TV division, is going across the conglom to share some unusual theories regarding how the most popular entertainment of yesteryear provides clues to what could work today.

If Kennedy is correct, not only is there a predictable pattern behind why ABC series "Once Upon a Time" and "Revenge" struck a chord in recession-era America, but it's for some of the same reasons classics like "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Public Enemy" touched the same strings during the 1930s....

What Kennedy does might be best explained in terms of reverse-engineering: He studies the kinds of stories that succeeded in comparable historical eras in order to suggest how new programming can be tailored to resonate in the current marketplace.

I've always believed this about entertainment, but it's nice to see that a big business sees it the same way.

Slight tangent: In the thread I linked above, there was a discussion about the relevance of German. Two things:

1. In my week in Germany, I was never condescended to, and 
2. As a result of our Germany trip, my husband has decided to take a German class at my university, and it has 24 students enrolled in it. (I'd take the class, but I have child transportation issues at that time, plus I learn languages more easily than my husband, who needs more structure.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

East-West Extremes

My husband has a geotagger attached to his camera, so he can pretty well document where we traveled in Berlin. As you can see, we were in East Berlin almost exclusively. One day we went to Spandau to see the Zitadelle Spandau, and we had to change trains in Charlottenberg (hence the one hit there).

This is basically what I see whenever I travel:

(Photo of the Julius Tower at the Zitadelle Spandau.)