Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Merry and Bright

We have been going to the same adorable tree farm since 2010, and we even got our family pictures taken there this year (and as I type that sentence, it occurs to me that my holiday cards are NOT in fact going to mail themselves and maybe I should walk to the post office next time my watch tells me to stand up and get some holiday stamps??)

Usually we cut one down, but with Minnie, we decided we were probably pre-cut people this year.

Cooper surveys our options:
Minnie shrieked the WHOLE TIME. She is really bothered by Christmas trees, especially when they are in her house.
Can you spot Ben?
My view on the way home:
A friend and I shopped small business Saturday, and I got this adorable nativity set, mostly because Minnie can't play with the one we have from Ben's childhood
Snarky teen picked out a snarky ornament
So jolly, you guys
Candy cane, light necklace, delighting at all of the ornaments:
Leftover break
My favorite ornament:

This picture is notable because we all dressed for the football game, and Minnie yelled/growled "BUCKY" when asked who was on her shirt
(Before we got the tree, these two go their second shot!!!!! YAY!!!! Also, Cooper played in a hockey game immediately following his vaccine, hence the hockey clothes.

Ben and Minnie watched the guys put trees on our roof while I took the other kids inside the farm store for ornaments, as per tradition
Still waiting for the trees to be secure
This is my favorite shot of the day


Monday, November 29, 2021

Gobble freaking gobble


I have finally stopped eating peanut butter blossom cookies when I get up in the middle of the night with Minnie, so I feel like that's a win? I have big plans tonight to make turkey frame soup (worked on the broth yesterday and need to add in the rest) and a couple of turkey pot pies. Then I will use nap time tomorrow for some tetrazzini magic.

Jack is still working on the stuffing, gravy and sweet potatoes, and we demolished the cheesy potatoes and fluffy jello yesterday. We pitched the green beans and cranberries and made Rotel and Velveeta dip to use up the rest of the veggie tray while watching the Badgers lose. I made french toast with our leftover pumpkin brioche. We have been eating delicious ham sandwiches and making ham  and eggs for breakfast, but, even so, we had pizza last night because eventually the leftovers lose their charm, you know?

Thanksgiving, in pictures:

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Covid-influenced pedagogy

 Teaching college students in the middle of a global pandemic has been a delightful challenge, if I am being honest. It is a sign of the unrelentingly privileged bubble that surrounds me that I can think this way, of course. But really, having 2 kids while writing a dissertation and then a bunch more while working full time made the pivot to WAH not terrible at all. In fact, I liked not having to go out in the freezing cold, find maternity clothes to fit my giant body, and pay a million dollars to park downtown. Sure, sure, Zoom is the worst, and true distance learning is not synchronous, but I enjoyed having the opportunity to rethink my teaching practices and redefine what it means to have an accessible classroom.    I know that this was a luxury and that so many people were in survival mode as they balanced the competing demands of work and kids and marriage. 

Amount of work:

The first thing I am changing about my teaching practice is the amount of work I assign. I stopped introducing new content on weeks when students had a high-stakes assignment or an exam due. Now, when part of a paper comes in, for example, we do not have lecture or discussion section, and my TA and I instead lay out a ton of office hours to be available.


Speaking of exams and papers! From now on, my exams are take-home, open-note exams that ask students to synthesize a bunch of material as opposed to in-class exams that stress recall. I am leaving them open for a week, and students can work at their leisure.  We also do not have formal class meetings on exam weeks, so I know that no matter what else they have going on in their lives, students can devote the time they would have been sitting in lecture to their exams. This does mean that I expect more from their answers, and I think they might ultimately spend more time than they would have with a traditional test, but the way the time is organized seems more humane.


I used to assign at least 2 shorter term papers overt the course of a semester, but now, I only assign one big final paper, and I scaffold it into three or 4 chunks. Not only does this make students get started early on what will eventually be their end-of-semester paper (which, in turn, cuts down on plagiarism, since plagiarism is usually a last resort), but it also privileges revision. If students take each part of the paper seriously, they will only need to make some edits and assemble all the pieces into their final paper at the end of the term. Scaffolding a paper has the benefit of letting students master the format of a term paper as well since they deal with sections as discrete pieces. And, most importantly, scaffolded papers are easier for busy graduate students to provide feedback on. By the time they see the final paper-- due at the busiest time of the semester for both undergrads and grads--they have responded to 2 or 3 earlier versions, and grading while also writing good comments is much, much simpler and more efficient.


NO ATTENDANCE POLICIES. These have been exclusionary forever and assume all sorts of ableist myths about students, but in the middle of a pandemic? They're downright dangerous. I have created a couple of recurring weekly assignment--one for lecture and one for discussion-- that hold students accountable for reading and synthesizing the material and reward their effort with some nominal points. The points are not punishing if a student misses an assignment here or there, but they also add up to quite a bit over the course of a semester, encouraging students to interact regularly with course materials. It is easier to do well on these assignments when students come to class, but they can absolutely succeed working from home, and I can be sure they have read and understood everything they're supposed to.


I make all of my lectures available online as well as all of the reading for the class and all of the Power Point slides. This helps students understand that I am serious about not coming to class sick, and it allows them to access course materials as they are able if the traditional structure of the course doesn't work for them at one point or another during the semester. This semester, I have done the same thing with the discussion materials. Yes, they should attend section, but if they cannot, they will know exactly what the class did and discussed.

Anyone have other things to add? Has the pandemic made a positive change on the way you structure your own work?

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Intuitive Eating: How It's Going

 I stopped logging into My Fitness Pal and embraced intuitive eating this summer, although I started thinking deeply about the concept way back in March of this year. In March of this year, though, I had lots of baby and holiday 2020 weight to lose, so I tracked the heck out my calories for a few months and got to a healthier weight for my body. Then, I decided to stop obsessing and just eat what made me feel good in the quantities that made me feel good.

And, surprisingly, it's been going... pretty well.

Since Halloween, though, I have been feeling heavier, my clothes a bit tighter. I have also been sliding into old eating habits that just don't serve me as well. And then almost before I knew it, I was posting on Instagram that I hated to wear sweaters, and it was all a bit... I don't know-- derivative.

Like here I am not satisfied with my weight and talking shit about my body while also gulping down raw cookie dough like I am dying of thirst in the middle of the desert and WHAT A SNOOZE ALREADY WHY CAN'T I GET IT TOGETHER?

I need to drink more water. Eater fewer snacks. Exercise more, blah blah blah. BUT WILL I? 

And for real though. Sweaters make me feel gross.

So, like, I want to eat the things that sound delicious, but I also want healthier foods to sound delicious-er than crap. How many times do I have to overindulge on garbage and then feel like garbage before I stop doing that and know that healthier foods will make me feel better even if I might miss the taste of trash? Apparently very many times.

The first concrete step I am taking is to stop drinking chocolate milk in my coffee. I KNOW RIGHT.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Hygge Life

 Sometimes, I start dreaming about my first cup of coffee of the following day while I am still in the middle of the current day. Does anyone else do this? I love the day's first cup of coffee like no other thing. First of all, I am old and haul my decrepit bones out of bed many times in the middle of the night with a wakeful baby, so I really do need my magic beans. But more than that, a first cup of coffee is like drinking the promise of a new day. So much potential! No possibilities are foreclosed! A cup of optimism! I used to feel the same way about the morning's first cigarette (LOLz for days).

Now, though, I frequently find myself fantasizing about putting on my favorite PJ's and collapsing on the couch at the end of the day, too. I love a good cozy morning to start things off and a slow cozy night to end them.

Sometimes I don't even want to take my PJ's off, even. In fact, here I am taking Jack to school in my jammies. We even stopped at Starbucks on the way (but he ran inside, obvi).

Hygge. It's a whole lifestyle.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Fat Kid in a Little Suit

I originally posted this in 2009, and it's still my favorite Thanksgiving story of all time.  Happy Thanksgiving-- I hope it's the best one yet.

Thanksgiving, circa 1985-ish

My brothers and me-- I was 7; Ben was 3, and Jon was 2.

Shortly after this picture was taken, I pushed past a houseful of guests to be first in line for the Thanksgiving buffet and heaped my plate high with turkey, chopped liver, stuffing, cranberry orange relish, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole-- you get the idea. I marched into the library where the folding kids' table was set up, delighted that I didn't have to waste time talking to my brothers or any guests, plopped both my plate and my fat little self down on the bench, shot my cuffs, picked up my fork, opened my mouth, and raised a heavy, quivering bite of buttered roll and gravy-drenched meat to my eager lips. And then the table collapsed under the weight of me and my leaning tower of flesh and carbs.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you eat like no one's watching.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Giving Thanks

 The other night, Minnie was like 90 minutes off her schedule which means she threw in an extra! bonus! fun! wake up. Instead of getting up just once between 3-4am, she woke up at 1:30am and then again at 4:45. When I heard her at 6:01, I just sort of groaned, and Ben dragged himself out of bed like a bear and stumbled into the kitchen to mash the brew button on the coffee pot before lumbering down the hall to her room to collect her, wild-haired and red-cheeked in her sleep sack. He handed her to me and burrowed back under his covers, tossing a diaper on my bed in case I wanted to un-bag her. I nestled her under my arm, and the two of us snuggled up together. She didn't even want to nurse, just to sleep with a hand on my face. I woke up at 6:48 when she stretched and hit me in the nose and stared at her pouty open mouth and all her sharp white teeth and her pin cushion cheeks, and I was just so overwhelmingly grateful. For her, sure, but also for all of the kids and Ben and my warm bed, and these 20 months of togetherness that reminded me how it was to be a mom to little kids even though most of mine are big, for our stinky dog and a job that still brings me joy. And that the coffee was still fresh in its carafe (because it turns off after an hours). What a wonderful life.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

A couple quick recipes

How to describe Minnie's love of pasta dishes? I think her above smile (and the orange stain on her white high chair tray says it all).

(Do you love this polite let-me-eat-breakfast smile? I do)

I am sure you have all already thought about this because you are much smarter than I am, BUT. When you are making a batch of something ahead of time to freeze for later, don't choose STUFFED SHELLS or anything that you have to, like, stuff or touch in some way. Making 2 casseroles? Easy peasy. Making twice as much soup as normal? Sure thing. Making 70 teeny lasagnas instead of 35? STOOPID.

(But also delicious.)

(I made these with a whole whole whole bunch of chopped up spinach-- I also pureed a can of san marzano tomatoes and threw like 1/3 of them in the filling)

THESE cookies-- delish!


Monday, November 22, 2021

OMG I cleaned the oven

 I never clean the oven.

I read this BHG article which promised me that if I let baking soda and water sit on every surface overnight, it would only take me 5 minutes to clean the darn thing. LOLOLOLOLOL. More like 2 HOURS of intense scrubbing. But still! MY OVEN IS CLEAN, and I only used baking soda, water, and vinegar.

BEFORE: (shameful, I know)

DURING: (momentary panic when I couldn't shut the door and thought it was broken but really the baking soda was just all hard and crusty in the hinges)


I did not clean the racks, but I DID clean the gross oven drawer:

Remind me to do it again in 10 years.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Very Sporty Weekend

Can you believe this tiny baby is eating BIG KID LUNCHES?!
She's pretty proud
Cooper played hockey this weekend, and we had so much fun watching
Especially Minnie, who really likes going Anyplace.
We are having a Very Sporty Weekend, and I know I will change my tune eventually, but we loooooooved it. Cooper has been so much happier since he started playing hockey again. I think the exercise is part of it, but he really loves playing. He gets lots of exercise swimming, too, and he likes swimming, but hockey is his true love. I am so glad he can play again.

Our county mask mandate expires on 11/27, and -- despite rising cases-- public health officials have said they will not renew it. So, we figured we'd take Minnie to the rink while the taking is good. If I can get all my house work done, I plan to spend the afternoon at dive with Jack and Cooper where I have big plans to read 2 books in 2 hours. CAN IT BE DONE?

What about masks in schools? Our district has said they'll be in place until 1/21 and then they'll reevaluate. Neighboring districts have said they are going to mask optional in January, and I don't know if ours-- the biggest and most economically stratified-- will follow suit. I hope not, but I think it will be OK because all 4 school-going kids will be vaccinated AND wearing masks.

How are you feeling about loosening restrictions/rising cases? Vaccinated kids without masks in school?