Monday, December 21, 2009

Thyrogen trial, 2009

I managed to schedule my Thyrogen administration just before Christmas -- having already met my health insurance deductible this year, it was rather important to do it now rather than in January.

First shot (right arm) was on Thursday, second shot (left arm) was on Friday. Fortunately this time I have only a tiny bit of soreness around the injection site. The preliminary bloodwork drawn on Thursday was taken from my hand, and that hurts a lot worse than where they stuck me with the shots. The problem I had a before, with a numb, painful arm, are nowhere in evidence.

I go for my second blood draw tomorrow, and that's the important one, the one that will tell what my stimulated Thyroglobulin (Tg) production is. They'll be sending it out to Carole Spencer's lab, so it will take a while for the results to come in.

That's a source of frustration, sure, but there's no reason to expect much of an uptick. Last time it went up to 1.1, I think, scarcely worth mentioning. Here's hoping for the same or lower. I've rather gotten into the habit, these last few years, of being relatively healthy. I'd like to stay that way.

brief moment of clarity

I have a problem with staying up too late when I know the next day won't be too demanding, and that describes most of my days lately. I fall asleep in front of the tv (or computer) and then wake up and stay up, instead of hauling myself off to bed.

How late? Late enough to not want to admit how late, because it's embarrassing.

Even more embarrassing is why I stay up late. If I were doing something productive, it would be one thing. But lately, I'm watching either Food Network (not that embarrassing) or Nick at Nite, and there's something about watching The Nanny at 2:30AM that so pathetic I finally realized how stupid it is to stay up so late.

Yes, I'm up late today but that's because (see, I have a real reason) I was posting a video of the kids' piano recital over on my Facebook page, and that took a while, and now that's done and so am I.

I hope this lasts -- if I'm going to be up, I damn well better be doing something useful.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Nobody cries at a TSO concert

We saw the Trans Siberian Orchestra with the kids this afternoon. The first part of the concert was an extended song/story, interspersed with Christmas classics and original pieces, that told the story of an angel, a lonely man, and his daughter far from home on Christmas Eve. Through the intervention of the angel and the kindness of strangers, she's able to go home on Christmas Day.

TSO is really an orchestra, but it's an orchestra with rock-and-roll trappings, including smoke, flames, lasers, and lots of head-banging from the two lead violinists. They play classical pieces with hard rock beats and arrangements, and they shamelessly rewrote or supplied lyrics to a good half-dozen of the carols they played in nicely chosen mash-ups. ("The Holly and the Ivy" was particularly well done. Here's Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, a reworking of "Carol of the Bells" that is probably their most well-recognized piece.)

I liked the long set, with its prog-rock pretentious narration, even though the strutting and posing made me want to laugh, and parts of it were just exhausting. But the end of the sequence -- the payoff of the daughter coming home -- killed me. I wondered if the tightness in my throat would let up before I broke down sobbing. I thought about going to get a drink to help me compose myself.

The kids weren't paying attention to me, though, and eventually I got a grip. I wondered why I had such a strong reaction. Yes, I am a sap for Christmas music, but this was more than that. It took me a while to realize what it was.

As much as I love Advent and the coming of Christmas, I always have trouble around this day.


Thanksgiving was perfect, except I made too many pies.

Since then, we have been inordinately busy. It is much easier for me to be in school when the children are not, and trying to put in even a couple of hours of day at my job proved difficult to impossible for most of November.

I have to go fold laundry or else no one will have socks for tomorrow, but I did want to put up a post to remind me to go into the details later. Thanksgiving really was extraordinary, and it would be nice to be able to be as successful in the future.

This weekend, I spent great swaths of time working with DD on her homework project, and did none of my own. Saturday I spent great swaths of time cooking something I've never made before, lamb shanks. Delicious, but an unexpected time sink. So, we still don't have our Christmas tree up, or our Christmas cards ordered. I have a dozen things pending this week and somehow will manage it all, but I'm not exactly sure how.

First, that laundry --

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


School work and paying work have been sadly neglected this month. It's not that nothing is getting done, it's just that all sorts of things -- more interesting things -- keep interrupting, like dates with my husband and outings with the kids. And moving DS2 into his own room, which necessitated cleaning out the playroom and purging 5 years worth of toys the children never even look at.

It's delightful, but still I have assignments pending and it's making me antsy. Yet here I am posting on the blog. Like I'm going to be meaningfully productive at this hour? Ha!

Shopping for Thanksgiving is finished, at least I accomplished that today.

The other stuff? Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

bday + weekend recap

Chocolate peppermint birthday cake, with chocolate mint buttercream frosting, mint (green) glaze, and chocolate chips.

DD turned eleven last week, and it feels as if we've been celebrating her birthday for a month now. It started with the purchase of the netbook last Sunday at the Microsoft store, and it continued on her actual birthday straight through to the weekend.

The bday itself was full of all kinds of hectic, as the kids all had a half-day of school so I rescheduled their piano lessons for earlier in the day. We just had time for a quick lunch, then it was off to their lessons. Then home, when I frosted and "decorated" the cake -- I should remember to snip very, very small holes in the corners of the ziploc bags I'm using as impromptu pastry tubes, especially since glaze is much more runny than decorator frosting.

Then to the Y for our class, then home for her favorite dinner: tortellini and sausage, with red sauce. After dinner DS1 played "Happy Birthday" on the piano while we sang, so we actually sounded pretty good for once. DD was pleased with her day.

Friday, five of her friends (from both old and new schools) came over for a sleepover. I don't believe they slept at all. It necessitated me cleaning pretty much the whole house, with special attention paid to the playroom where the girls camped out. They had pizza and ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins (chocolate chip cookie dough with white cake):
The second cake, gone before the first

They drank about a gallon of lemonade, ate lots of pizza, and made a small dent in DD's Halloween candy. In the morning, they had pancakes and bacon and were all gone promptly at 9:30AM so DD wouldn't miss her karate.

The boys stayed up as late as the girls (well, till 12:30 at least) and so all three kids were somewhat cranky and exhausted on Saturday.

Sunday we went to the zoo to see the komodo dragons. They're huge! The viewing area is very well designed.
Male, basking

This is his good side.

The animals were rather accomodating; both the lion and the tiger were napping where we could see them easily. Most fun is a toss-up between the otters, who were adorable but of some concern because some nimrod was letting his kid feed them kettle corn, and the monkeys in the monkey village, because they were playing very close to the path.
Idiots in the monkey village were trying to hand-feed these guys, too.

Please don't feed the otters.

From the zoo we went to Borders where I read a few more chapters of the next Ember book. It's a young adult post-apocalyptic tale but nowhere near as good as Lois Lowry's trilogy.

I haven't worked in days, and now schoolwork is waiting, too. I keep saying I've been busy (there has been other stuff going on, too, I couldn't possibly blog it all) but I still find time to dawdle on the computer and before I know it, entire days are gone. I continually fail to live up to my own expectations, but since no one else seems to care, I'm starting to wonder if I should, either?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Mammogram came back normal. *whew*

adventures in technology

Sunday we all trooped up to Scottsdale Fashion Center to go to the first ever anywhere Microsoft Store. We wanted to talk to them about Windows 7 and see what they were offering.

We ended up buying DD's birthday-Christmas computer, an Asus Eee. It's pink! And it came with Windows 7 Starter as its OS. Win7 Starter doesn't let you customize the desktop or change colors, but that wasn't important for DD. We chose this Asus because for $30 more it has a substantially better battery (6- vs 3-cell, giving 8.5 hours vs 3.5), and it has a bigger hard drive.

Our main concern with getting a Windows 7 netbook was that Win7 doesn't have web browser parental controls included. That functionality is included in Windows Live, which is free and seemed well-integrated, so we decided to go for it.

Oy. I was up until 1AM last night trying to install the parental controls from Windows Live Family Safety. Whenever I tried to add the account in Family Safety, it kept telling me "an error has occurred," and then some nonsense about logging into the account again and trying again, which of course never worked.

I did some websearching and found various forum postings indicating that this may have been caused by a corrupt installation of Windows Live, so I removed it, downloaded it again, and re-installed it. Still no dice.

Then I found another post somewhere that hinted that the accounts created with the bad version of Windows Live around were also corrupted somehow, so I had to delete those accounts (including the administrator account, which involved creating another admin account to delete the first one --) and then recreate them.

Once I did that, it all worked fine. I did have to jump through some unfortunate hoops because I had (foolishly) named the new admin account "Admin," and Family Safety does not like that. After at least 3 hours of creating and removing accounts and trying to set the restrictions, I finally got it to work.

Here, I think, are the actual steps to success:
1. Remove Windows Live immediately.
2. Download Windows Live and re-install it. Reboot.
3. Now create your Administrator account.
4. Important: use the Family Safety Filter (from the Start menu, choose All Programs, then Choose Windows Live, then choose Family Safety) to create the new (kid's) user account. If you use Control Panel Account functionality, it won't work.
5. Now add Windows Live Family Safety Parental Controls to the new account.
And now you can go in and customize the new user account via the Control Panel, also. I'm pretty sure this is correct. I was going around in circles for a while, but I still tried to keep track of what was working and what wasn't. This should work.

About the Microsoft Store: there were a ton of staff people there who were all uniformly friendly, but I had the feeling I knew more than many of them about OSs and all the issues with parental controls. It focuses on computers and software, although they do have an XBox section towards the back. It's not like the Apple Store which devotes as much real estate to the iPod family as any of the computers (at least that's my impression, I haven't spent too much time in one); they have dozens of computers all around the store perimeter with gorgeous screens, some showing live TV (on Sunday: NFL), and others showing videos or just available for surfing on. It has a very minimal, clean design that gets out of the way of the technology they're showing off. I was amused by the staff "uniform": long-sleeved t-shirts in one of the four "Windows" colors: red, green, blue, or yellow. Those colors were bright.

If I had thought about this beforehand, I would have brought my camera.

The netbook? Fantastic. DD loves it, she's doing her homework on it already. Windows 7 is quite zippy. It's funny how the tiniest computer in the house has the best performance (for now).


Patience is not my strong point.

I'm waiting for mammogram results. I don't have any particular reason to suspect that something will be wrong, other than my general, persistent belief that I will get breast cancer someday. I have many risk factors (family history, left-handedness, thyroid cancer, melanoma) but also some protective factors: my three children, all of whom nursed for about a year. I don't think the protective factors outweigh the risks, though, so every year I just wait.

I'm also waiting for Wednesday. I have an interview at the school where I would very much like to do my practicums (and student teaching when the time comes). I called to ask about it, and they called me back to schedule the appointment. I'm hoping this works, because if not I will be well and truly crushed.

Wednesday will be very busy. It's DD's birthday, but I'll start the day by hauling DS1 off to the orthodontist at 7AM to have a bracket re-glued. Then my interview at 10, then the kids get out at noon, piano lessons from 1-2:30, circuit class at 4:45. DD has already requested tortellini and sausage for dinner; sometime before then I'll be making her a chocolate peppermint cake. (Using a chocolate cake mix and peppermint extract - 1+1/2 tsp for the cake, and 1 tsp for the chocolate frosting.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The tail end of the cold I picked up in Tucson is still hanging on, and I often feel as if my brain has turned to oatmeal. The cold has dwindled into nothing more than an annoying post-nasal drip, and eventually that will be gone, too. Patience is required.

I finally got my blood work back from USC and it shows my Tg, my tumor marker, has further decreased to 0.21 from 0.23 last time. One of these days it will come back "undetectable" and then I can really relax. When I last spoke with my doctor she wanted me to do a Thyrogen protocol for bloodwork only, which wouldn't be too bad as it doesn't require going on the Low Iodine Diet. I'll call the office next month to see if I need to schedule something.

I finished the two little one-credit courses I was taking, and registered for the next two in my program, starting next Monday. I'm finally getting into the "methods" courses and am looking forward to learning more about managing lesson plans and curricula.

The constant topic of conversation between DH and me is the kids' schooling. We are going to try to move them into a different, very challenging, charter school in the fall. It's a K-12 school (or will be, next year), and working there while my children attended there would be a dream job. I called and spoke to the head of the middle school to ask about doing my practicums there, and I was straightforward about my desire to get the kids in there and my longer term career goals. I was pleased when he called me back to set up the interview, because they don't usually do that kind of thing. We'll see how it goes.

Also school-related, I am working on an enrichment curriculum for DS1 so that he will keep up his writing and math skills in the interim.

The holiday-birthday season gets underway shortly with Halloween followed by DD's birthday. We'll scarcely go three weeks without some kind of celebration in this house from now till Easter -- it's fun but exhausting. We've decided to stay home this Christmas and not go to DisneyLand; being away from home for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just didn't sit right with us.

My first paycheck arrived from LeapForce on October 22, three weeks after I submitted it. There were no issues whatsoever, and LeapForce emailed me to acknowledge receipt of the invoice, to tell me it had been approved, and to tell me it had been paid. Tasks have been scarce the past few days I've logged in to work, but timing is an important issue: weekends and Monday mornings are the worst times to get tasks, everybody's working then. It's going pretty well overall.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

touring around Tucson

We left Wednesday after piano lessons, arriving at the Casa Grande National Monument just about a half hour before it closed at 5PM. The ride to Case Grande was easy, and the monument itself is very cool, and the little museum accompanying it is charming as well.

The Big House, a 4-story building made entirely of caliche, about 600-700 years old.

Leaving Case Grande, I realized that somehow the directions I had printed out included only the directions and not the mileage in between each step. Lacking the mileage markers and contending with road construction left me with an exercise in frustration. We wandered through Coolidge and serendipitously came upon this gorgeous courthouse in Florence:

1891 Pinal County Courthouse, the oldest public building continuously in use in Arizona.

I gave up trying to find the way to I-10 and on the spur of the moment decided to follow the sign that said "Tucson" and nothing else. It turned out to be Route 79, which was a long, gorgeous drive through a cactus forest all the way down to the foothills. Rte 79 merges into Rte 77 which is Oracle Parkway in Tucson, and our hotel was just off that street.

We stayed at the Comfort Suites, which was inexpensive, clean, and conveniently located. Breakfast was included, as was free wifi which worked very well. I took advantage of the wifi to put in some work hours each night after the kids were in bed -- and to get the mileage figures for all of our directions.

On Thursday morning we headed out to San Xavier del Bac. It was beautiful and I wish we could have spent more time there, but the kids were not in a contemplative mood at all.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Lion figure flanking the altar

The back courtyard

From San Xavier, we headed to Colossal Cave Mountain Park where we took the cave tour. It was really splendid. DS1 was a little nervous about going down the stairs and falling into bottomless crevices, but there was never any danger. Our tour guide Bill was knowledgeable and interesting, and I was cracking up because all three of the kids made a point to stick close to him so they could hear him and ask (and answer) questions. Photographing the interior of the cave was difficult with my little point-and-shoot.

On the path to the cave entrance

The silent waterfall.

Bill, by the way, confirmed my good judgment in choosing Colossal Cave over Kartchner Caverns; "It's not a kid-friendly environment," he said. The only disappointment at the Colossal Cave park was lunch: I was very low on cash and the little eatery (it reminded me of a clam shack, but of course there were no fried clams) didn't take credit cards. We headed out and got some lunch in town, and then went back to the hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon at the pool. Sure, we could have gone somewhere else, but I really didn't want to over-extend anyone.

We even played chicken, and my neck is still paying for it.

The kids slept well both nights but I did not, and Friday morning I was so miserable I got up to take some ibuprofen at 5:30 in the hope that I could get at least an hour or two of decent sleep. It helped a little. After breakfast we packed up the room and checked out, and then headed out to The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. I mis-transcribed the mileage on the directions and we ended up taking a round-about route that cost us about 20 minutes or so, but it wasn't a disaster. It was very hot for this time of year: 100 degrees. We all had water bottles and stopped frequently at the excellent (cold) water fountains to drink and refill our bottles. We somehow managed to walk all the trails at the museum and eat lunch and still got out of there just before 1PM. I think if it had been cooler we would have lingered more, but it was exhausting. The museum is like a combination zoo and garden, and we saw a lot native animals, plus exhibits on minerals, archeology, living underground and many others I'm forgetting.

Gorgeous landscape

A very accomodating coyote, resting in the shade of a bush quite near the fence of his enclosure.


Evidence they weren't completely miserable.

We wandered through a bit of Saguaro National Monument but only for a few minutes; we'd seen more stunning cactus forests on the trip down Rte 79, where the chollas were as tall as trees, giving the saguaro some competition for tallest cacti in the area. We drove home up I-10 which must be one of the most boring drives ever; unlike Rte 79, there was nary a cactus to be seen, just miles of flat plain with the occasional tumbleweed or other shrub. We stopped at Borders for our usual Friday afternoon snack, and got DS1 to his doctor's appointment right on time at 4PM.

By the time we got home I knew I was sick: DS2 had a bit of something last week and ran a mild fever a couple of days. It seems to be a cold with a little bit of a kick, but I don't think it's the flu. I'm taking ibuprofen and Mucinex religiously and it's helping, but I think I just have to wait it out. Would I have gotten sick if we had stayed home? Probably not. The trip was still worth it, though.

Friday, October 09, 2009

fall break

© 1970 Mark A. Dimmitt / ASDM Sonoran Desert Digital Library

Growing up on the East Coast, I never had a fall break, because school didn't start until the Wednesday after Labor Day. Sure, we had a long weekend in October for Columbus Day, and an extra-long weekend in November for Thanksgiving, but our first vacation was over Christmas.

This year, the kids started school on August 10, and it's a very long haul from August 10 to Christmas. They have next week off, and I'm hoping we'll actually do something. The idea is to spend a few days in Tucson visiting interesting things down there, but we have appointments Monday and Friday and piano lessons on Wednesday, plus karate both Saturdays. We'll have to fit a trip in somewhere. We had such a great time at the Grand Canyon, etc last year that we are looking forward to doing something equally fun this year.

There's a lot to choose from, and here's our list of most-likely destinations: Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Casa Grande ruins, The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tombstone, and San Xavier del Bac Mission.

We thought about Kartchner Caverns but decided against it for three reasons: 1) you need to make reservations in advance; we'd rather be flexible 2) the interior of the cave is warm (72 degrees) with 99% (not a typo) humidity all the time and 3) the rules and restrictions are not exactly kid-friendly; you can't even bring bottled water with you on the 90-minute tour. (If my salivary glands are acting up, I would have a hard time making it 90 minutes without having something to drink.) I understand they're trying to preserve the caverns, but I have no desire to take my kids to what is essentially an underground fishbowl where we'll be policed by fanatics lest we brush up against a wall and contaminate the environment. Colossal Cave is dry. That, I can deal with.

Now I get to play travel agent and find a hotel, plan an itinerary,and print out maps, if I can figure out when and where to go.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

in a bit of a bad way, here

One of the reasons I wanted that job was to provide an external motivator to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Of course, napping for an hour after dinner isn't exactly conducive to going to bed early.

Friday, October 02, 2009

accustomed to disappointment

I didn't get the job I interviewed for on Monday.

On balance, this is probably a good thing. It would have been very stressful, working a full school day and then having to dash to pick up the kids at their schools. In truth, I think my schedule requirements counted against me, which is not unreasonable.

I will continue to plug away at my at-home job, which isn't much but it is something, and above all it offers flexibility.

If I get really itchy to get in the classroom, I'll put my application in to substitute... Chandler's taking applications now, and Gilbert may be, too. In the meantime, my next classes have practicums that will require some classroom time -- that's better than nothing.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

the invoice is in the ether

I just sent off my first invoice to my employers, LeapForce At Home.

As a contractor (they have a 1099 form on file for me, along with a signed contract), I send them a monthly invoice using the invoice creation system they have implemented. It's not the slickest user interface, but it works, allowing me to enter my daily hours -- to the minute -- as required by the agreement.

Their payment terms are net 30; I wonder how long it will take for the check to get here? They don't do direct deposit. I can live with that.

The Holy Rosary for children

I wrote a book last weekend.

The Holy Rosary: A coloring book with illustrations, explanations, and scripture passages for each mystery. I've always wanted a book for children that had illustrations for each mystery, and I've also always wanted a simple scriptural rosary that gave the basic texts aligning with them, also. The illustrations I found at St. John the Baptist's RE Page, and the scriptures are taken from the USCCB New Advent Bible.

What part did I write? A simple explanation of the events surrounding each mystery, followed by one or two lines intended to lead the reader to contemplation or meditation. Here's an example:

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

Annunciation is another way of saying announcement.

In this mystery, the angel announces to Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of God's Son. The words he said to greet her became the beginning of the Hail Mary prayer: "Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women."

God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to ask her if she would become Jesus' mother. Mary did not understand how this could happen, and she knew it would not be easy, but she had faith. Mary said, "Yes."

What is God asking us to do? How can we say "yes" to God?

Here is the pdf file.

This work may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial educational purposes only.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

not dead, just busy

A brief recounting:

- Working online, which is pretty much OK, except when there's no work when I want to work, when it's frustrating. The way it works is, I log in and "acquire a task." Sometimes there are no tasks to acquire. Sometimes after I've been logged in for a few minutes, tasks will start popping up, but it's pretty random. I'll have stretches where I can work for 3 or 4 hours (rare, for me), and then others when I work for 5 minutes and there are no more tasks forthcoming. Fortunately I am not dependent on this income for anything other than covering the kids' piano lessons, otherwise it would be stressful.

- Speaking of piano lessons, did I mention the barter arrangement I made with their teacher? We're trading cooking lessons for (part of) the piano lessons with some success. She would like to quit eating out pretty much all the time, but that's a huge transition to make. We're working on her cooking repertoire. I think she thinks that's an indulgent way to talk about it, but there it is: you have a repertoire of meals you rely on to get you through the days or weeks when you're lacking time, money, inspiration, or all three. So far she has liked what she has made, and that's good.

- Schoolwork -- finally knocked out the lesson plans and got good feedback on them, and attended my second seminar. Officially I have only 3 more assignments total and then I will be done with these two classes, and we'll see when I register for the next class or classes, because --

- I interviewed for a job on Monday. Last week I got a call, "Would you like to interview for the paraprofessional position?" I had to ask, "Which one?" because I had applied to so many different schools in different districts. It's not in the kids' school district but the calendar differences are manageable, so I said yes. The interview went really well, I think, and I think I would like the job -- Title I Paraprofessional, basically a floating instructional aide. I think. I should hear back on Friday. It's 6 hours per day so life would be much busier than it is now, but I think it would be really good for me to be working in a school again. I'm always so happy when I am teaching.

- I wrote a book last weekend, posted separately, for my RE (religious education) class, which started a couple of weeks ago. I'm teaching the same content as last year, and I'm sure we (me and the kids) will benefit from my having done it before. It's a smaller class and that helps, too.

- My own cooking, cleaning, shopping, working out; driving children everywhere; supervising kids' homework, reading, chores, piano & clarinet practice; wondering why the burners on the stove wouldn't light after I cleaned it (mismatched burner covers), cleaning up a quart of maple syrup that got all over the floor when the bottle was dropped and cracked... You know, that sort of thing. Oh, and laundry. Laundry is an afterthought now. I'm doing three loads a week instead of 5 or 6, and the drier is fast. I love those new machines. It is true that the clothes are a bit more wrinkled than with the old machines if I put the drier on "high heat" setting, but I really don't need to do that. The clothes look great. The whites really are whiter. Yes, I sound like an ad. I don't care.

- Watching, when I can, Top Chef, Project Runway, House, and Glee, and I almost forgot The Office. DH and I also are renting season one of Breaking Bad which is incredible. We're five episodes in and I'm thoroughly engrossed. The main character is such an odd dichotomy of normal good guy and amoral snake, but a terminal cancer diagnosis can have an odd effect on a person.

- Today, just to make things interesting, I went to school with DS1 for "shadow a student" day. There's nothing like being back in junior high. It was only a half day, thank God, and it went very quickly, but I can see why he chafes so about this new school. It is just not academically challenging at all. DH & I had thought this would be OK since he had so many other adjustments to make, but I'm wondering what the overall impact will be.

So you see nothing earth shattering, just a lot of things going on, the business of life. It's good.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Even in an Eden such as this, wrongs do occur"

The quote is not applicable to anything happening in my life -- I was watching Deadwood on DirecTV's 101 Channel this evening, and the quote leaped out at me. What a great show, once your ear gets tuned to ignore the profanity.

In my life, the most recent "wrong" was the death of the 14-year-old dryer, long anticipated. DH and I spent a good deal of time this week discussing the options and figuring out what we wanted, and I ran around to all sorts of stores to see what was to be had. We bought Sears' HE3t washer & dryer, which was on sale for a ridiculously low price for the pair ($1378). We debated a Maytag 5000 Series pair for a moment or two, but decided the upcharge for the steam feature was too much for something that was basically a boondoggle (at least according to Consumer Reports.)

The new machines were installed this morning and I did what would have been 5 loads of laundry (having had no machines all week) in somewhere between 4 and 5 hours. I'm impressed. Next up, no doubt: the equally ancient refrigerator, and the move to HDTV. What's the typical lifetime of a gas range, or a microwave? I really like them and would rather not replace them any time soon -- the others, I know their time is coming.

In other news: I have a job! It's a work-at-home, search engine evaluator contractor gig. We'll see how it goes. The test was fun and easy for me. SEE's are expected to evaluate URLs at a rate of 2 minutes per, and most took much less than that for me. But that was in the test environment, and I haven't started the real work yet as I have to update the virus protection software on my laptop before I begin.

In other, other news, the kids are all doing great at school, karate started this weekend, and RE classes start tomorrow. I therefore have something scheduled for every day this week, so it will fly by.

And that may be the most significant wrong occurring in this Eden, after all: that great rush always sweeping forward, leaving scant opportunity to fathom the accumulation of events that is Life while it's happening.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

that stings a bit

I had my audition for Kaplan last night, and just got my rejection via email.

Yesterday I settled on the topic, "How to Look for a Job," and practiced several times during the day, making sure I could cover the material in 5 minutes.

I arrived at Kaplan and was directed to a small classroom where there were 5 or 6 guys seated conspicuously at the back of the room. I was immediately sensitive to being the only woman there, not to mention being old enough to be mother to all but one of them. I made a teasing comment about them all sitting in the back and they laughed nervously. I put my things in the second row (the first row was too close to the board) and noticed the white board markers in the tray.

I have enough classroom experience to know that it's frustrating to grab a marker only to find that it doesn't write, so I took the opportunity to try them out and see which ones actually worked. I think the guys appreciated it.

The Kaplan guy came in and gave his spiel: the courses are very scripted, they only take the top, your timing has to be spot on. Nothing surprising there if you know anything about how these test prep places work.

Then he asked for a volunteer to go first and everyone froze, so I took a deep breath and went for it. I paced myself well although I may have been a little rushed, and my handwriting on the board was lousy -- I am out of practice and the board was higher than the ones I am used to, she said, making a couple of lame excuses. I finished within my five minutes, but I failed to include any interaction with the "class," which may be why they rejected me. Five minutes is a short time, and given my topic, I had a complete failure of imagination on how to integrate feedback and still include everything I wanted to say. Clearly I should have cut some material to give myself time for interaction, but as I said -- failure of imagination.

The guys did their presentations, at least one of them didn't finish in time. Here are their audition topics:

- How to do the Time Warp from Rocky Horror

- How to Clean Your Pool - now I know that you have to plug, vacuum, and then backwash for best results

- How to Survive a Zombie Attack

- How to Pick a Lock (we voted for that over "How to Build a Nuclear Bomb")

- How to Calculate the Odds of Winning Powerball

I won't comment on their auditions except to say that I liked the Powerball one the best.

I will say that from the moment that the Kaplan rep walked into the room I got the impression that he thought none of us were good enough. There was a definite "we are the best and you should be grateful we're giving you this chance to even be considered" vibe there -- it reminded me a lot of how some people were about MIT. There were many, many nice people at MIT when I was there, but there were also some arrogant idiots, and this guy had that demeanor. There's a way to talk about a position that requires very specific qualifications without implying that if you don't have those qualifications you're somehow a lesser individual, and this guy did not practice it.

I think it would have been great to get some class time with high school kids, and the money is not bad considering everything else out there (which is not much, at this point.) However, the hours would be all weekends and evenings, and frankly I would much prefer to spend those particular hours with my family. Maybe my ambivalence manifested as insufficient enthusiasm; even as I was driving to Tempe I was thinking, "Why am I even bothering with this?"

Even so, it's never fun getting rejected. My ego is slightly bruised, but I'll get over it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

a minor obsession

I'm spending far more time looking for a job than I am doing anything else, including all the stuff around the house that needs doing. I think I need to get a job simply to get myself off this hamster wheel.

On that positive note, I've decided what to do for my "how to" presentation: how to look for a job online! Hey, I can boil it down to 5 minutes and just hit the high points.

We appear to have stopped hemorrhaging money, so that's good, but we don't have a handle on what our new baseline monthly expenses are, either. DH is not in the least bit concerned (at least he does not appear to be) and so I suppose I should not be, either.

Tomorrow: my own school work first, then putting together and practicing my Kaplan audition for delivery in the evening. Should be fun, although the idea of taking an SAT-like qualifying test does not fill me with joy. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

crushed anyway

Turns out I wasn't passed over for that "ideal" job -- I had an interview today that went spectacularly well. There were four of them and they tag-teamed their questions, but it was completely stress-free. This was stuff I knew inside and out, and I didn't even feel nervous.

There are two problems: the distance, and the pay. It's at least a 30-minute drive away. I drive a 2000 Honda Odyssey, which gets decent gas mileage (20 mpg, usually) for a minivan, but putting 225 miles on that car every week is not a good idea.

The pay is the typical pittance, but even that wouldn't be so bad if the shifts were longer than three hours. So I'd be driving for an hour (round trip) to work for three, and using nearly an entire extra tank of gas every week, not to mention wear and tear on the old (and I do mean old) van. After taxes, it might work out to be a wash, or a very small net positive.

When I discussed all this with DH, he was perfect; he said he didn't think it was worth it, but he wasn't (he said) factoring in what a great job it would be and a terrific place to work and all that. So he didn't scoff, but he did point out that the cash flow situation wouldn't be helped much if at all by this particular job. I could tell he would worry about me doing all that highway driving in the old van every day, too.

The whole point of me getting job is, of course, to help out with the cash flow, what with three kids taking piano lessons, two new cell phones just added to our plan, and our health insurance premiums going up by another $150+ a month.

I saw yet another job a couple of days ago and discussed it with DH, and after supper I sent in my application online. We'll see if anything comes of it. I think that's the worst part of the whole job search process; you throw your resume out there, and all you can do is wait and see if you get a response. I'm not a patient person.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I saw my endocrinologist today, and was looking forward to getting my numbers -- the blood test results that would tell me if my cancer was acting up or, possibly, had finally gone away.

The lab screwed up and did not send it out to USC to Carole Spencer's lab as they were supposed to, so I don't know.

I'll go back into my endo's office if a few weeks and they'll do another draw and this time, they'll send it to USC and I'll find out.

This isn't that big of an issue, really, except I inevitably work myself into kind of a state whenever I'm going to get lab results on my tumor marker. It doesn't matter that nothing has been going on for nearly four years now, I still worry. Maybe after a few more years (and if the tumor marker ever becomes undetectable) I'll relax about it. But today's worry was wasted, and I don't even get to feel relieved now.

I rallied and did some schoolwork when I got home, but it was a tedious and unsettled day anyway. Here's to tomorrow, a day in which no medical issues need be considered.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

another week, another Brontë

Heathcliff, tormented
If you're feeling flush, you can buy a copy with the original Eichenberg engravings for a measly $1,895.

Wuthering Heights, finished today. Grim and tumultuous, and affecting.
(Sorry, reading seven or eight hundred pages of Brontë has influenced my thinking, and my writing.)

In the meantime, looking for a job. I stopped at a school this week to put in an application, and it turned into an interview on the spot: I had what they needed, namely, the DPS fingerprint card and the county food service workers' card. Unfortunately, it was far too many hours (we won't even talk about the meager -- but market-standard -- pay); I can't manage full-time hours with the kids' school schedule, my volunteer commitments, and my own school.

Yes, I'm back in, too. I've registered for the first two classes of the next level of my program; they're both one credit and won't be difficult. I just have to do the work.

I've applied for a couple of other part-time jobs, too, either of which would be ideal, but one particularly. That's all I'll say about that so as not to be too crushed if I am passed over. Any job I apply for these days will likely have hundreds of other applicants; there's only so far a well-written cover letter and a reasonably applicable resume will get you. I'm simultaneously over- and under-qualified for nearly everything out there, except substitute teaching, and that I can't do since I must retrieve my own children from their schools promptly at the end of each day.

Our kids' school and my work situation the past few years was ideal, and I knew it then, just as I knew it over the course of the summer as we decided to leave the old school. I wouldn't do anything differently, but I'm still sorry we had to.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Made it through the first week of school, with piano lessons and work-outs at the Y, plus a support group meeting on Thursday.

I also finished Jane Eyre, slept from 8:30am to 1pm one day, and fretted about the curriculums at the kids' new schools.

I was notified today that I won't get an interview at the junior high, and so am coming to terms with applying to substitute in the various school systems, although there is an infinitesimal but non-zero chance I could get an interview at the elementary school.

Is it so bad that I prefer to do what would be easier?

Monday, August 10, 2009

busy day

It was the first day of school. This required getting the kids up much earlier than ever -- 6:30AM! -- making breakfasts and lunches and getting them out the door. It all went rather well, but I'm not making any assumptions about the future based on this, the first day.

I made them all get out of the car so I could take this picture. They were rather good-natured about it. They indulge me.

While they were at school I went to a late-morning show of Julie & Julia, which I enjoyed but at the same time, I understand Julia Child's attitude towards Julie Powell: she is not a serious cook, and she's not a particularly likable person, either. La Streep was superb and really made the movie, although I did envy the film's food stylist his job -- what a blast it must have been to cook all that stuff!

The rest of the day? School paperwork, cooking (stir fry, mmmmm), piano lessons, and the intriguing prospect of giving cooking lessons(!).

I'm waiting rather impatiently to hear if I will be called for an interview at either school to which I've applied, but realistically I don't hold out much hope; I've been scanning the online job ads for part-time positions, considering what I'm qualified for and what I could actually do during "mother's hours" that's not school-related, and I keep coming back to the sticking point: why would I?

I sent off an application to Kaplan, they're looking for test-prep teachers, and I have some idea what would be involved there, but that's often a weekend commitment. We'll see.

Friday, August 07, 2009

one more day

It's officially the last day of summer vacation: the weekend doesn't count.

We've spent this week lounging, mostly -- other than the baking and birthday activities I've already described, we haven't really done much of anything --

Except school visits to meet teachers, and returning to piano lessons.

After a lovely three years with all three children in the same school, we're back again to two schools, with DS1 in junior high and DD and DS2 at elementary. Both schools are physically enormous compared to their old school, but with the larger size comes more resources and opportunities. I can honestly say I did not get a bad vibe from a single one of the kids' teachers, although there was a PE coach at the jr. high that seemed very tough -- but he's not DS1's teacher this year.

As for me, substitute teaching jobs this year are expected to be in short supply, since many teachers were RIF'ed at the end of the school year in June due to state budget cuts. I made up a new resume and put in applications for paraprofessional positions at the kids' schools. I highlighted all the tests I've passed and the certifications I have, but still I think it will take some luck to get an interview. We shall see. I really just want a part-time job to cover the expense of the aforementioned piano lessons, and perhaps financing an upgrade to HDTV.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I had a wonderful birthday.

The house is quiet now, finally -- inspiring me to goof around with the camera for a birthday self-portrait:
Not much different from last year.
(From this angle, you can't see all my new gray hairs.)

I spent a good part of the day cooking, although I did manage to get us all out to the Y for our circuit class.

Before lunch, I made the lady fingers and brewed the espresso for the tiramisu. I couldn't find my notes from the last time I made it, so I winged it... again.
Somehow, these ingredients combine to produce...

... these lady fingers. Since they're going straight into the tiramisu, I form them with a spoon. It's quick and easy.

The espresso smelled divine, but we resisted the urge to drink it.
My Krups Il Primo, older than my children, still working perfectly.

We had lunch at Rubio's, since they emailed me a free lunch coupon for my birthday. How could I resist a free mahi-mahi burrito? DH joined us and we had a great time.

After lunch (and a few errands), I put together the filling (more separating and beating eggs: the first stage is to make a zabiglione), into which you fold the marscapone. Then you whip the egg whites separately and fold them into the marscapone mixture.

Once that was done (and fussing with the double boiler is such a pain!), assembly was a snap.
Trader Joe's Bittersweet Belgian Chocolate, grated with a small cheese grater, was the perfect accent.

For dinner, we had some quick-sauteed shrimp and then pasta puttanesca. Well, DH and I had the puttanesca; the kids had their usual Ragu.

A fine mess -- the prep for the puttanesca: olives, capers, anchovies, tomatoes; recipe from The New Basics Cookbook.

DD arranged the candles.
Yes, it says "4" in pink and "6" in green.

There wasn't much left.

Calls and messages from family and friends really made the day. If all birthdays could be like this -- I did what I wanted to do! -- no one would ever mind having one.

Monday, August 03, 2009

weekend baking q&a

DD, restless, has taken to leafing through The Fannie Farmer Baking Book looking for inspiration. Since we got home from our vacation she returned again and again to the Classic Angel Food Cake with White Mountain Icing "basic master recipe."

Last weekend, I finally yielded.

Q: Is it possible to bake an angel food cake in a bundt pan?
A: Yes. Don't grease the pan.

The cake rose above the top of the pan, but it did not cook over

Q: But how do you hang it?
A: If you can't find a bottle with a narrow enough neck, perch it on a juice glass.
We left the cake to cool overnight.

Q: How do you get it out?
A: With patience, gently working the cake free of the surface of the pan around the edges, and then along the bottom. It doesn't do to grease the pan to make it easier to come out, because the foamy cake needs to grip the sides of the pan to rise.
Yeah, one side did get a little squished.

Q: What do you frost it with?
A: White Mountain icing: sugar syrup brought to the soft-ball stage, beaten into whipped egg whites. Marshmallow fluff, but not as sticky or as sweet -- as delicious as it looks.

If you overheat the sugar, the icing will be rather sticky, as we discovered. No matter, it's still delightful.

Q: How many egg whites total did you say?
A: A dozen and a half. (DD did most of the separating, but making this cake was her idea.)

Q: Do you need any special equipment?
A: Yes. You really should use a tube pan with a removable bottom if you plan to do this often -- the bundt pan was more proof of concept than anything. And you need a candy thermometer to bring the sugar to the correct temperature for the icing. Other than that, the only gadget needed is an electric mixer.

Q: Well?
A: Totally worth the effort. The cake is light and moist, the icing light, smooth, and not too sweet. Miles better than store-bought angel food.

Q: Was it a good learning experience?
A: DD wanted to do it herself, but she has never made anything more complicated than cookies before. Cakes are not necessarily difficult but there are more steps, and the steps are more fussy, what with the sifted dry ingredients, the beaten egg whites, the folding, etc. I don't think she minded being the sous-chef this time, once she saw what was involved. (I don't think 10-year-olds should be drizzling 240-degree sugar syrup into beaten egg whites while simultaneously running an electric mixer, regardless of her wishes.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

always this way --

We come home from vacation and I feel odd for a while, usually until the kids start back at school. We're in a holding pattern, and nothing seems quite real. Sure, there's laundry and grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning, not to mention occupying the offspring somewhat productively from time to time, but none of it feels real.


One thing, this year: much more true vacation time at home. Usually we get back and it's a big rush to the first day of school, but this year we've plenty of time. We had a two-day Monopoly game that must have spanned 6 hours at least, with DD emerging victorious in spite of the fact that DS2 owned three-quarters of the board. She just never landed on him. Remarkable.

In other news, I saw my spine doc today and reported to him that my neuro symptoms (numbness, tingling, hot ears) had gone away completely. Of course my ear has been acting up all evening, but I'm pretty sure that's because of my bad posture and failure to be as consistent with my exercises, not to mention not having taken any ibuprofen today. The doctor says my sore neck is due to muscle weakness and it should improve over time with careful exercise. Here's hoping. I don't have to go back unless things take a drastic turn for the worse; I was very happy to hear I don't have to go for another MRI to make sure things are OK.

I don't go back to my endo until the end of August but I've already sent out my bloodwork. I'm dreading getting back into the annual test regime, on top of everything else that's going on with the kids' new schools. With any luck by then we will have established a routine. I'm looking forward to those days. I find these structureless days oddly wearying, or maybe it's just the 110+ degree weather we're having.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

catching up

Thank God I took pictures most days, otherwise I wouldn't remember what we did.

Sunday, we went to the New England Air Museum, which is enormous and requires multiple visits to really appreciate. The history of aviation amazes me, people willing to throw themselves up into the atmosphere in the flimsiest contraptions. The vast majority of the collection is war-related. It's frankly overwhelming, but I loved catching details like this:

Not all of the collection is planes,though. I loved this hood ornament.

1935 Ford Roadster

Monday we went to the Peabody Museum at Yale, which is such a manageable little museum. I took almost this exact photo of the kids last year. Excuse the cliche, but it's amazing to see how much bigger they are this year.

Wednesday we saw Michael Cavanaugh's "Billy Joel and More" show at the Talcott Mountain Music Festival. It was awesome. The kids really got into it.

Much dancing and lip-syncing

DH's brother and his family came in from Ohio Thursday, and we had a huge family dinner at Maine Fish Market Restaurant. Friday was family portrait day, which was much less painful than anyone expected. It was lovely spending time with the family. The girls had some fun hair-styling:

College-bound (and extremely patient) cousin J returns the favor

Saturday, we packed up and flew home. We had a long layover in the Saint Paul/Minneapolis Airport. When the kids started bickering, I made them read. I'm evil like that.

"How did you do that?" A guy across from them asked. A mom knows what levers to apply, when.

In the days we've been home, we've unpacked, done laundry, shopped for food and school supplies, and otherwise generally vegged. School doesn't start until August 10, but there will be a separate post about all that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

here in CT

Computer access is limited, and I have no way to upload photos, yet. I should work on this for next year. For now, I'm making do with random access to my in-laws PC.

It's Friday evening now, and the past days have been very busy.

Tree Climbing 101

Sunday, we hiked Beebe Woods out to the Punch Bowl. We didn't see any frogs but we did see a bird in its nest, and had a nice lunch at the 99 Restaurant.

Main Street, Woods Hole

Monday, our last real day on the Cape, was sunny but too cool to swim, I thought. We went to Woods Hole and had to deal with the parking situation (always difficult). We went to the WHOI Museum and had lunch, and pie, at Pie in the Sky, the scene of last year's infamous melt-down (mine, not one of the kids). Lunch was great, and the pies -- chocolate mousse and apple -- were fantastic. On the way back we stopped at Good Will Park because DD wanted to go on the swings.

Goodwill Park

It was quite warm by that time so I demanded that we have a quick swim before dinner, which took some doing -- once we got back to Mom's, the kids had to be pried out again. We headed for one last swim and the water wasn't even (that) cold. Monday evening my older sister came down to see us before we took off, and the two of us were up past 1AM... typical.

Tuesday was spent packing up, doing laundry, and cleaning Mom's house before we finally got out about 4:30PM, heading for CT in a huge thunderstorm. The rain was kind, though, letting up when we stopped to eat, and again when we arrived and were unpacking the car.

Wednesday morning DH arrived about 10AM, having flown in on the red eye, and I picked him up at the airport. He was surprisingly energetic for someone who had been up all night, so we ended up climbing Talcott Mountain in the cool sunshine.
At the base of the Heublein Tower

We failed to get new bug repellent for the hike, but the mosquitoes did not eat us alive. It was a great day for a hike, but clouds rolled in overnight and it poured later.

The view from the porch at the Mermaid Inn

Thursday morning DH and I headed to Mystic, for our annual overnight at the charming b&b, the Mermaid Inn of Mystic. We stopped for tastings (and gelato) at Heritage Trail Vineyard and then at Johnathon Edwards Winery. We had our usual incredible dinner at the S&P Oyster Company, discussing once again why we always go there when there are so many other restaurants around... but the S&P is reliably good and the views are unparalleled. After dinner we had coffee & dessert at the b&b, the fresh-baked cookies are divine.

This morning after our delectable 4-course breakfast we strolled through Mystic and enjoyed the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts 98th Annual Juried Exhibition at the Mystic Arts Center. Then we headed out, picking up some fudge at Mystic Seaport's bake shop, before stopping at Maugle Sierra Vineyard for another tasting.

The Grounds at Maugle Sierra

This evening we took the kids to hear ABBAMania, a Hartford Symphony Orchestra summer pops concert out in Simsbury. The performers were terrific. It was fun, although the kids are a little too old to be uninhibited about dancing and enjoying themselves. They were thoroughly exhausted by the time we got them all into bed around 11PM.

And now here I am trying to remember all these details, hoping to be able to upload photos eventually.

Photos added 7/23.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

it's (mostly) all a blur

Wednesday the weather was lousy again, and I thought we'd go up to Boston, but nobody was up for it. At 11:30AM it was as dark as 8PM, and the rain poured down. It's just as well we stayed home. We did go out for Chinese food for lunch, though, to my Mom's favorite buffet, so it's not as if we didn't do anything all day.

Thursday was another one of those days that starts dreary and ends up surprisingly OK. Unfortunately, by the time the weather broke it was about 3 in the afternoon, and the kids didn't want to do anything. I chased them out of the house for a walk on their own, and they delighted in exploring the path to the marsh. I haven't let them go down there on their own before, and they were surprised by the freedom, I think. They're growing up, and I have to learn to let them go.

For me, Thursday was a cooking day -- blueberry cake and pizza. Normally pizza would be for Friday, but since Friday was the day off for the July 4 holiday, we pushed it back to Thursday. Since I was cooking in the late afternoon, it limited what I could do with the kids, which was another reason I pushed them to go out on their own.

The annual blueberry cake

Friday? One of those beautiful days where it's much too cool to swim, but you really should be outside. Still, no one wanted to go to Beebe Woods or any other kind of hike; my brother and his wife brought down their Wii Fit game and the kids enjoyed getting back into it. (Our disc at home has been missing for some time now.) I swept up a bit outside, but nothing to strenuous. I sat and chatted with my sister-in-law in the backyard while my brother power-washed the patio and the outdoor furniture.

In the evening, my oldest brother came down with his wife and youngest son, who will be a senior in high school this year and is way, way taller than I am. We had a great dinner and sang an early Happy Birthday to my brother. Here's how you do a birthday cake when you have neither cake nor frosting:

A pan of brownies, a few candles, and birthday greetings from a color printer

Today, finally, was a beach day! It was a bit cool, only in the 70s, and that proved to be too cold to counteract the wind that was whipping. I draw the line at blowing sand, and we were almost there -- if no one was walking nearby, you'd be OK, but any movement at all and you'd be attacked by hundreds of sand pellets. The waves were awesome, though, and we all enjoyed jumping in them. The two younger kids got chilled quickly, and we ended up coming home after only a couple of hours because it just wasn't warm enough to stay, at least for me and the younger kids. DS1 could have stayed for hours, he was having so much fun.

My brother and his wife treated us to a lobster feast for dinner, and then we played Apples to Apples and hung out and I finally got the kids to bed after 10. All in all, a Happy 4th of July.

A whole lotta lobsters