Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My own private archive

The other day in the shower I started FREAKING out about the class I am teaching this fall. The class that has been prepped and ready to go since June.

I asked Ben if he thought I was going to be okay teaching it and he was all, "Dude, that's what your PhD is in. Chill out."

So I did. Sort of. I decided I'd feel even more okay if I could find my old class notes on the subject, so I scoured my desk. I only found one notebook tucked away in a drawer that I must have moved from my old grad student office to my new office. It was from my last semester of coursework when I took a really cool history of sexuality class and read a bunch of fantastic books. I found some short papers I wrote for the course in the pocket of the notebook, and I read them in amazement. I used to be so smart. Wha' happened?

Today, this guy

Helped me go downstairs and clean off our entire rickety shelving unit in the laundry room so I cold access my precious, precious files and FIND THOSE NOTES.
But first, he needed to wear his bat boots.

After I got all the crap off of my shelves and found my giant stack of files, I realized they contained no notes or syllabi, just a thousand journal articles.

Then my helper, who noticed the Tupperware of snacks I keep on the shelves so I can grab something quickly if the kids are hungry as we head out, said he was too tired from looking at things and needed to eat some Teddy Grahams in front of the tube.

Even though I lost my helper I found some great memories

Including my prelims answers, which represent the time in my life when I was the smartest I could ever possibly be. Seriously, when a PhD candidate finishes coursework and sits for their qualifying exams, that's it-- the pinnacle of smartness. Sure, as an academic career progresses, you might become a renowned expert in your field, but you will NEVER be as smart as you were when you took your qualifying exams-- the breadth of knowledge alone is incredible.

Also, my shelves looked better when I was done.

At this point, I started to freak out AGAIN because I thought I tossed my grad school notes. I have grown up on the cusp of the internet-- not quite young enough to have had it always in my life, but not old enough to be a total luddite. I took my notes on PAPER with a PEN, for goodness sake. Who does that?? Seriously, our wedding pictures were not even digital, but everyone I know who got married after us had digital pics-- we are at the very edge of relevant.

Lucky for me, I checked our storage area and found more file boxes

And these boxes had the goods-- notebooks, syllabi, old Sims games

Even the box from my VERY FIRST iPOD!

Good thing it was not the norm to bring laptops to class in 2003. I would have Facebooked my way through school.

I also found my very first folder of Planned Parenthood pamphlets, the papers that started my obsession

In the end, I left the downstairs armed with notes, syllabi, old exams, and old response papers-- in other words, I am golden.

I was surprised how orderly all the boxes were, especially my notes and essays. It's like I am preserving my papers for future archiving, which Margaret Sanger totally did YEARS before she died-- I always liked that about her.

Harry and Jack and I went to campus so I could have my picture taken for the department website, which I have been putting off for YEARS (and rightly so--in the picture from today I have 3,000 chins and am very shiny), and we took a rainy walk.

They're totally worth the lost brain cells, by the way.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Where the heck are all the 2T jeans? Also, the Z-O-O!

One final note about the great Purge of Fall 2010. We cleaned out the kids' closet which entails not only stacking up all the games and puzzles and finding stray Cootie heads and dice but also making sure each boy has clothes in his size for the upcoming season.

This is quite the freaking process. First I go through all jack's clothes on the top bar and decide what's too small (these clothes are packed away in to huge bags in our storage room or into the Tupperware box on the very top shelf of their closet) and what's too stained (these clothes are either tossed or donated, depending on the location and severity of the stain. Next, I shove all of Harry' clothes to the back and reach the hidden bar behind his clothes, which has all of his recently outgrown clothes that can be worn again (the unwearables are either tossed or donated). I move the ones in Jack's size up to Jack's top bar. Finally, I sort Harry's clothes and move the too-small stuff to the back, to wait for Jack's next season.

As a "special treat," I got to hang up a few shopping bags of new clothes on each boy's bar, too. Mainly Harry's. I have been buying them stuff here and there for the upcoming school year, and I needed to unpack it and make a list of items needed to fill in any holes in their wardrobes, which I was sure would be a short list. Ha!

(On a side note: we went to a giant shoe store in a town near us and the boys picked out new Crocs, Pumas, and wellies. THE SAME ones. So if these shoes last, Jack will be wearing Buzz and Woody Crocs, yellow and blue Pumas, and Batman boots for the next 2 or 3 years. But seriously, this store was amazing-- every brand of kid shoes you could possibly want, from Birkenstocks to Uggs to Stride Rite to New Balance to Merrel, all in the same spot-- a dream store. Like Zappos in real life. And because it's Wisconsin, they were grilling brats out back for $1).

I have bought Jack only one pair of jeans (gray skinny jeans-- ha!) because I assumed he would have a ton of 2T hand me downs in the back of Harry's half of the closet. Um, not so much. 2 pairs of jeans and some khakis from Gap with little bulldogs on them. WTH? 2 sweaters and a few button downs. THAT'S IT. Everything else back there is 3T, which is waaaaaaay too big. Did Harry skip that size or ruin it all?

Meanwhile, I apparently stocked up on the 4T at the very end of last season, which is the size jeans Harry still wears and the size I have been blithely buying for weeks. So he has 11 pairs. And a half dozen pairs of khakis. Oops.

SO. Fall shopping. It's on my list.

Something that has been on our list for awhile now is a trip to the Milwaukee Zoo, which is way better than our little free zoo and has hippos and elephants. Also wolves, which both kids were inexplicably excited about. Jack even got a stuffed wolf in the gift shop that he carries under his arm along with Pooh Bear and calls Pooh Wolf.

Not sure what we were all looking at here, but I bet it was a person. There were some serious fashion FAILS walking around (but I am wearing my camera bag across my body like an effed up purse, so who am I to talk?)

Okay, so there is this animatronic dinosaur exhibit at the zoo right now, and it was...odd.

BTW, Ben fell asleep watching some screwy survivor show on Discovery, and I was just about to change the channel when The Last Day of the Dinosaurs came on, and I could not look away. It was horrifying, especially for someone prone to catastrophic thinking and panic attacks. And now I can't stop thinking about 2012 and I never knew that triceratops could CRY.

I am cool with endangered animals at the zoo (even at our tiny zoo which can look a little grim and where animals might be better off taking their chances in their wild), but robotic (and probably wildly inaccurate) extinct animals? More like museum territory, huh?

The highlight of Harry's day might have been the Sponge Bob popsicle with the gumball eyes.

Or drinking milk and slushy simultaneously to replicate the Dannon yogurt concoction he sees on TV that his mean hippy yuppy parents won't buy him because it is not organic and has red dye and HFCS (which he calls high franklin corn cream) (all nutritional bets are off at the zoo cafe, in case you couldn't tell).

I love that peafowl roam free at this zoo.


Jack was wiped out. This is him before we left the parking lot.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


The other night after the kids went to sleep, I ran to the mall to look for fall clothes. In the 40-ish minutes I had before the place closed, all I could find was a pair of leopard-print stilettos, a filmy black blouse with a ruffled collar, and a black and white pinstripe blazer.

I liked plenty of other things, but for some reason, I couldn't imagine them living in my closet.

This morning, I almost cried reading the real estate section-- and not just because houses in our complex are about $50k less than they were when we bought ours. I was just so JEALOUS of all the houses with spare bedrooms and unfinished basements and you know-- room for STUFF. We have run out of stuff room.

After breakfast, Ben and I both cleaned out the covered baskets of crap that sit on our dressers. Inspired, I also cleaned out the two baskets that sit on my bookshelf/desk combo. On a whim, I opened the cabinet under my desk, the dusty place where my copies of Planned Parenthood's archive from 1942-1973 lives along with boxes and boxes of Walgreens photo orders that I place and pick up every week but can;t put in albums because I don't have any ROOM for albums.

Until the moment I opened the cabinet door, we planned to throw on some clothes and head out for some grocery shopping, maybe a walk by the lake and some lunch before cleaning the house from top to bottom, like we always do on Sundays. Instead, I started making piles of is-this-trash-or-treasure? and Ben swore under his breath, went downstairs to retrieve a box of garbage bags, and flung open the boys' super hero toybox.

We can never plan a whole-house purge because if we did, we'd never, ever do it because it sucks and is awful.

Harry and Jack were super good, milling around piles, watching TV, and finally going swimming with my brother for a few hours in the late afternoon.

Ben and I? Were AMAZING! Like, 3 carloads of donations amazing and a whole carload of trash that Ben took to my brother's apartment complex dumpster.

Look! You can actually walk in our closet again:

And I hung up all my scarves, which made me notice that they are all pink and purple. Now I have a specific item on my fall shopping list-- NOT pink or purple scarves

There's room again in the suer hero toy box AND in the stuffed animal toy box, which means we are finally able to build! more! bears!

Ben hung drywall hangers to reinforce the hooks in the kids' toy closet, and now we can hang their heavy stuff again

And he cleaned out and sorted all the tiny toys in the basket organizer thingy

We even have an empty toy shelf! We NEVER have empty toy shelves

We were so inspired by our upstairs success that we did the unthinkable and purged our garage and storage room, too.

Our laundry room is still a mess of discarded baby gear and shelves, but we can actually WALK INTO our storage room, and if we need to seek shelter in the event of a storm, we don't have to throw a bunch of shit into the laundry room first (which is good because all that flying debris would not be safe, probably)

I do feel guilty for wasting a gorgeous day inside when I could have been at the pool, but my closets are so clean I almost don't regret it. And now maybe I can binge on some fall clothes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dude! You guys! We found our tribe!

Our douche bag hippy, yuppy tribe!

At preschool orientation for the kids' new school, where all of the moms appeared to have come from work, everyone was our age, all the dads came, too, and everyone's child is the most special snowflake ever to grace the whole world. The school serves milk and water at lunch, and one dad wanted to know if the milk was organic. Upon hearing that is wasn't (which? BULLSHIT! Tuition is about the same as Bradley-- the milk should be organic), he asked for instructions for bringing and labeling his own milk. One of the moms wanted to know what BRAND of sunscreen the school puts on kids before outside time (because she was worried it was Coppertone-- she might be my Skin Deep soul sister) and she needed to know the DEET content of the bug spray. I love her already. (The sunscreen is Blue Lizard. It's no Badger, but what are you going to do?) (You are going to bring the Badger and put it in your kids' cubbyholes, that's what.) (Kidding.) (Maybe.)

Then a loudspeaker announcement came on and told all the classrooms to meet the yoga instructor on the back hill.

COULD THIS PLACE BE MORE PERFECT? (did I mention the chef?)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wonder what I did this weekend?



Well, let me tell you anyway.

BOTH OF MY KIDS ARE SICK. Puking sick. Multiple-loads-of-puke-laundry-sick.

So, use your imagination.

Also, their timing is im-freaking-pecable because SCHOOL STARTED TODAY for me. They still have 2 more weeks. OF PUKING. (hopefully not).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Fiction Meme: Description

It's my favorite time of week, time to link up to The Red Dress Club's Red Writing Hood.

Here's today's prompt: "This week? It's all about description. Your assignment: write a first-person piece about either eating your favorite food or taking a shower - without using a personal pronoun."

Rotten Diets

Tipped back in the blue pleather chair, light shining
in eyes covered by oversized gray plastic glasses--
not the cool kind.
Whir of the dentist's drill, its torque making teeth tingle,
numb gums giggle.

A year ago, in a race to lose
those last 12 baby pounds, food swapped for
Nerds gumballs.
The kind that come in a pack of five
red, orange, yellow, green purple.
Roy G.P., the rainbow's sweet cousin.

Still hungry after a lunch of carrots and salsa, string cheese,
nonfat yogurt, and guilt,
5 packs of five gnashed against pearly whites.
Tongue holding a chunk of chewed bubble against wise
teeth in the mouth's farthest corners,
sucking the sweet crystals--
Nerds, the best part--
from the center of the cheek-bulging ball
and cradling them there between cheek and gum,
between tooth and tooth,
trapping the sugar where it can't be forgotten.

At least 25 gumballs a day.
A $5 habit.
Like cigarettes without the chachet.
Looking like a Big Leaguer who needs to spit.
Chewing gumballs so fast that teeth clip lips,
devour skin inside mouth,
until air bubbles rise in gullet and gums itch.
Sugar high.
Empty but full.
Spoiled on the inside.

Dentist drills to uncover decay,
chisels rot from molars and wisdom teeth,
presses dark softened silver into the smooth white holes.
Every smile from here on out
shows teeth that appear to be full
of the Oreos
the Nerds
were supposed to banish.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taking the Plunge

All summer, Harry has spent his days hurling himself off the edge of the pool, climbing out of the water, and hurling himself off the edge again. He does this for about 2.5 hours a day, 6-ish days a week (and? He is NOT TAN, thanks to W.S Badger SPF 30 all-natural sunscreen and sometimes Coppertone Pure and Simple SPF 50 when we hit the pool before 3).

Until last week, though, the diving boards were way out of his league. The 13-feet-deep water in the diving well scared him a little bit, so he'd yell "NO" when anyone suggested he might like the board-- his swim lesson friends, their parents, us, my brother-- all met with a resounding NO.

One afternoon, my brother casually referred to the board as the Bat board, and Harry nonchalantly said he'd like to jump off of it. At bedtime that night, he told me that it made his tummy feel funny-- like it was going up and down-- the first time he walked the plank, but he figured what the heck.

The pool has been fabulous. Not only has it totally saved my sanity, but Jack has gotten over his reluctance to go in the water, and Harry is a swimming little fishy. I have also had a place to play with the kids for hours at a time where I don't get bored or worry about looking silly. Best summer decision of the year, that's for sure.

I have noticed a weird phenomenon among the other moms. First of all, none of the moms of young kids wears bikinis at the pool, even the ones who have the bodies for them. Not wanting to look like the flabby town whore, I bought a few tankinis and a one-piece to wear.

Lately, though, some of the modest-suit moms have busted out their skimpier 2-pieces. I don't know if they bought them n clearance, egged on by their nice tans or what, but tons of women are sporting white tummies and tan appendages these last couple of weeks. I even tried on a couple of my old bikinis, but, um, they must have shrunk or something while they languished in my dresser drawer. Yes. Shrunk. That's definitely it.

I think we might have visited the pool for the last time, but we have 12 more days to try to squeeze in a couple more visits, a couple more plunges.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Now I totally get why Ben hates children's museums.

We used to have a cute old children's museum in our town that we took our kids to a couple of times (a few times, really). It was cute. Old. Small. Kind of dirty if you looked too closely at the play food in the farmer's market exhibit. Not the place you'd want to be during swine flu season. But still, a relatively cheap way to spend a cool and cloudy afternoon.

Last year the museum went on hiatus while a new facility was rapidly constructed and stuffed with learning toys. Last weekend, the doors opened and douchey parents poured in by the minivanload. I may be getting a little ahead of myself here, but holy hell the parents at the children's museum were so freaking obnoxious. Worse even than the screaming children and the huge crashes made by the wood blocks with the rough splintery edges on the second floor (which? wtf was up with those splintery freaking blocks?) Everyone's child was a total SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE, which meant they didn't need to wait in line, take turns, or wear their freaking SHOES (like the handy rules brochure at the front desk asked-- but these SSes didn't need no stinking RULES brochures). Also, there were signs posted all over the place that told parents to remember the value of play and suggested we not look at our PDAs. How was I going to bitch about my discontent on Facebook without my iPhone?

The place was PACKED even though we went on a random Tuesday afternoon, which means weekends there are bound to be hell on earth, at least until the aforementioned swine flu season. Every time I turned around, I lost one of kids for a second and had a mini heart attack.

Also, we have a ton of the SAME effing toys as the museum, but those toys just aren't as fun at home. Which is clean. And the only kid knocking Jack down to take his shit is Harry.

But still. The kids liked it (damn them), and it did fill our after-lunch but before-Ben-comes-home fighty time almost as well as the pool (it was too cold for the pool, which makes me sad because I had hoped to enjoy every single second of pool time between now and 9-1 (the end of the season.)) They were also shockingly well-behaved.

I think because I (yep-- their good behavior is all me-- their bad behavior is THE WORK OF THEIR FATHER) have been implementing tactics from Playful Parenting (the book-- I didn't know there was even a website until just now when I googled the name of the book). While I kid of want to punch the author and scream "But sometimes I am pissed at my whiney kids and don't keel like jollying them out of anything!" I have to admit his tactics work really well and make us all happier.

Harry and Jack totally dug the museum's cooking nook where they made yarn pies and pizzas.

Especially Jack who would give anything to be allowed to reach inside our oven

After a nasty pushing incident at the cooking nook, which I charitably interpreted to be a sign of low blood sugar, we headed to the atrium to enjoy a frozen yogurt parfait at the hippy healthy kids cafe (that was featured on Good Morning America and has a parent location where H used to take cooking classes back in the day)

Note the little hut behind the donkey cart. It's where Jack left Pooh Bear his most loved lovey in the whole lovey world. Thank god for the docent who found him after our mad 20-minute search through the museum (slowed down by Harry, who kept stopping at all the cool science exhibits)

Harry and Jack blithely built a pen around themselves, and I would have let them live in it happily ever after, but the museum was closing.

They played for the longest and most agreeable time with this model of our town done in blocks-- it was at the old museum and was a favorite there, too.

This old half a plane is a supply cabinet, too, and Jack spent a while trying to unlock it with a Tinker Toy he found. "Key!" he screamed joyfully. He carries a random fistful of Tinker Toys in his purse at home and calls them keys, too. Weird.

Jack wants to go to there

Okay, this was actually really cool--it's a huge hamster wheel suspended over the open staircase.

And even cooler-- here they are holding hands in line for it

Hmmm. It looks like we had fun after all.