Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The most delightful summer preview

 The pool opened over the weekend, and we had 3 days of perfectly sunny 80+ degree weather. Even though the kids still have this week and some of next week left school-wise, I feel like summer has arrived, and I am LOVING IT.

Jack is also a lifeguard this summer, and Harry is doing a good job sharing his workspace with his brother— he shares EVERYTHING with his brother. The boys DID compete over who could be a better big brother to Minnie in the water, but that means we all win, as far as I am concerned.

Ben and I started the weekend with a lunch beer (for me, this beer was literally my lunch which is a poor nutritional choice but can be a really fun buzz).

Minnie kicked things off with a garbage snack at the snack bar. My snack motto so far is progress not perfection. We bought a bunch of Costco snacks and pout them in the laundry room so the kids can literally grab them on the way out the door, and I put $3 each for Coop and Dorothy in the pool bag (EACH VISIT, plus they can take unlimited snacks from home), but we have still charged A BUNCH at the pool, and Harry and Jack have both charged dinner. WE ARE WORKING ON IT.
I embarrassed both older boys taking pics of them at work

We are making it through adult swim (THE LONGEST 15 MINUTES OF EVERY HOUR) with a cup of water and paint brushes— Minnie ADORES drawing on the concrete and watching it disappear

Dorothy and Cooper are playing a rowdy game of wiffle ball that appears to be ongoing every swim break, and they have joyfully reunited with old pool friends.

Minnie LOVES the water feature, playing with Jack and Harry in the pool, and going down the slide

Basically, you can find us here all the time between now and September.

Ben took her home mid afternoon Sunday, and she was asleep before they pulled out of the parking lot
When it’s crowded during the day, we like to come back at night when it’s cool, and we’re the only ones there

I even showered Minnie and brought her home in her pajamas (an old trick from when Dorothy and Cooper were tiny), and we used the extra bedtime time to hang out with all 4 bog kids and make s’mores— we are never all home together anymore, and it was wonderful.

Summer is always such a perfect reward for making through the long dark winter and the cold wet spring. WE ARE HERE FOR IT.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Dance Momming

 Dorothy had her final dance competition of the regular season— just nationals left to go.

We were running late, but we stopped at Starbucks anyway because that’s who I am. I ran inside to pick up our mobile order, but as we were pulling away from Starbucks, Dorothy said “Who’s Jeff?” Because I grabbed THE WRONG BAKERY ORDER. Listen. We didn’t have time to go back, so Dorothy ate Jeff’s breakfast brownie and left him her chocolate croissant, and I called her Jeff the rest of the day. Such bad karma, huh?


Coop was play8ng baseball at this adorable Little League stadium in the parking lot of the Milwaukee Brewer’s stadium (and Ben coaches his team), so Minnie came with us. SHE LOVED IT SO MUCH.
Jeff did, too.
Minnie danced THE WHOLE TIME.
Except when she played Lego.

Have I talked about how much I hate to fly? Like, so much that we surprised the kids at the airport with a Chrismukkah trip to Disney World and then surprised them again by DRIVING THERE. From the airport. Well, since nationals is in Orlando, Ben is taking Dorothy. They are staying at Disney and can’t wait. Except for  picture week, dress rehearsal, and the recital, my 2022-2023 dance mom days are behind me.


(Sometimes you dance too much)

(And need to cool off)
All three dances scored platinum and won awards

Here’s Dorothy onstage

And Minnie spectating

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The privilege of enjoying summer

 A friend and I were talking while our toddlers played in the park this week, and we both mentioned how we are the only people we know counting down to summer because we just can’t wait for everyone to be home all day. The more I thought about the conversation, though, the more I realized our enormous privilege. I would be singing a different tune if I had to scramble for childcare over the summer. As it is, I can smile at the camp sign-up rate race without engaging.

 I am signing Minnie up for one day of dance camp (IT IS GOING TO BE SO CUTE), and the big boys are going away to camp for a week in July. But we don’t need childcare, which is a whole different camp stress level.

Dorothy and Coop will have swim team every morning. Cooper has dive on campus 5 days a week and dive at the pool too. He’s got 3 baseball teams going, and Dorothy is playing softball. She will also have dance team try outs (which are 8 weeks long and involve multiple classes a day/week). Besides camp, Jack and Harry are both working at the pool. Minnie will stay in gym class because when she turns 3, it’s not a parent-child class anymore and I cannot even handle it. Not sure about swim for her— she can’t do lessons at the pool until next summer, but we may take a pause on indoor lessons. Plus tennis! 3/5 of the kids will take lessons, but when? Not sure.

So, I mean, it’s not all popsicles and screen time and drinking out of the hose, but, it’s a lot those things.

Coop has had a rough end of the school year, and I am just SO READY for everyone to get a break, you know?

What about you— can’t wait for summer or happy with the school routine?

Monday, May 22, 2023


 Oh my goodness.

Minnie, you guys.

SHE IS SO VERY TWO all of the sudden. Or maybe she is super advanced and getting a head start on her three-nage year. Either way YIKES.

She stopped napping (HOLD ME WHILE I SOB ON YOUR SHOULDER), but her body has not stopped NEEDING A NAP MY GOODNESS DOES SHE NEED IT.

(Harry and I walked her to sleep around 5 pm today, but she woke up EVEN MADDER)

Okay, on the plus side, she is sleeping a solid 11 hours overnight. BUT THAT IS ALL SHE IS SLEEPING. I am so happy she made it to the end of my academic year before dropping her nap because my productivity has TANKED, and I am confident that by fall, we will all find our new rhythm. 

She is happy and delightful all morning, through about 3:30pm, and then the shit its the fan and stays there swirling around all over our freaking faces until she goes to bed at 8:30. 8:30 is lights out in her crib, etc, and really? It should be 7:30, but that’s not possible with everyone else’s schedule and that asshole THE SUN.

Today, she also did that thing where her hunger didn’t line up to meal and snack times so she snacked more and then was not hungry for lunch or dinner and then snacked off schedule and was not hungry, etc etc etc. And! Because she was SUCH a pill in the afternoon, I was NOT going to pick some kind of menu or schedule battle with her, so she mainly ate Pirate’s Booty and homemade chocolate chip cookies today.

(Tried to feed her the dinner she rejected at home at Dorothy’s dance team practice. Still not into it, but back to being her delightful self in front of others).

(New cookie recipe I made that is a Frankenstein’s monster (BUT A DELICIOUS MONSTER) of many other recipes I like: start with 4 sticks of butter, 1.5 cup brown sugar, 1.5 cup white sugar. Cream. Add 4 eggs, 1 TBSP vanilla, 1/2 tsp almond extract. Mix. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 TBSP corn starch, 2 tsp baking soda, 4.5 C flour. Mix. Then put in 2 BAGS of semi sweet chocolate chips and one BAG of milk chocolate chips. Chill dough 30 mins And bake for 8-9 mins at 350. Makes about 6 dozen. GOINE IN 2 DAYS.)

I have other things to talk about, but I AM SPENT. Off to drink a glass of rose and split a frozen cauliflower crust pizza with Ben. Hope your days are WAY LESS WHINY than mine.

Tell me though— what’s your go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe and what weird little tweaks do you always make? I am always trying to make my excellent cookies EVEN BETTER. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Work talk

 I have spent the last 3 days attending a course design workshop where a bunch of faculty and staff from across campus came together with instructional design experts and various campus resource reps to build new courses. We learned a ton about designing transparent and equitable assignments, aligning our course to program learning outcomes, developing multiple kinds of assessments, creating participatory environments, etc.

 If you are an educator, all of these things might seem like second nature to you, but I work at a research institution where most people in the classroom with students are subject matter experts, not trained teachers. For us, this stuff is cutting edge.

I LOVE programs like this and have done a couple other ones over the years (usually when I need to create a new course or redesign one I have inherited), so I had heard of these ideas before, but it was fascinating to imagine how I could apply design principles to a brand new class I am developing. It is always fun to hear how other people in other disciplines think about their students and their course design, and I met lots of news, brilliant people from so many different departments.

My favorite part about the institute, though, was how much it shored up my life choices and reminded me that I am doing work I really love. First, it showed me what I DO NOT WANT, namely to work in an office space all the time all day long. Even though this office space was a gorgeous conference center with SO MANY SNACKS and also views of the lake. (Seriously— we had breakfast and a buffet lunch and then the room next door to us was FULL of snacks, everything from fresh fruit and veggies to chafing dishes with chicken drumsticks, egg rolls, and meatballs. There were cookies, brownies, all manner of granola bars and salty snacks, hard boiled eggs, cheese, yogurt, coffee, tea, soda, water, sparkling water, a freezer full of ice cream treats, etc. AND the snacks changed throughout the day every day. SO PERFECT. Like, no wonder we all had so much fun and worked so hard). 

The course design workshop also reminded me what I love about my job— a huge, dedicated community of practice, teaching undergraduates, teaching classes about subjects I could study forever, making connections with people who have completely different disciplinary homes that I do. It is always so rewarding and refreshing to find pockets of people on this research-focused campus who are as passionate about undergraduate education as I am.

The last hour of the last day was a presentation situation where we all got 2 minutes to explain our course, talk about a big takeaway from the week, and outline the work we still have to do, and I loved hearing what everyone was working on. My table had an ed policy person teaching grad students, a mass comm person teaching magazine writing for grads and undergrads, a human ecology person working on a capstone course where seniors compile a portfolio of their work, and me, developing a rhetoric of reproductive justice course for communication arts majors. We had already talked to each other a lot about our courses, but we didn’t know as much about the other projects in the room. We all spent time making course posters to hang up around the room, and then we went in poster order talking about our classes. SO MANY CLASSES! Service learning, music education, business theory, bio mechanical engineering, Slavic pop culture, large and small animal anatomy, genetic counseling, international relations, etc. We had people designing grad classes, professional masters program classes, undergrad seminars, large undergrad classes, upper level, intro level— all of it!  My class is asynchronous online (even though I hope to teach it in person or in a hybrid mode as well— if you want to ever teach a class online or in a flexible modality, you need to propose it as a fully online courses but then you can change the modality later. If you have a course that’s been approved to be F2F, it is harder to get online approval), but most were in-person. 

One huge thing I am changing about my teaching is in the area of transparency. I am going to have a stated weekly learning objective that relates back to the course learning outcomes that’s really visible in each module, and I am going out of my way to state the purpose of each assignment as well as really clear criteria for success. I will be doing TONS of grading because the course is probably not going to be large enough for a TA or a grader its first time out, so I think streamlining expectations will really help me when I provide feedback, something I am pretty rusty at since I usually have grad students teaching with me. The learning objective/outcome thing is not a must in my area because it’s not something our accrediting body asks for . . . YET, but why not incorporate it now when I have all the time in the world (well, until January 2024) to make it work, you know?

I still need to scan a bunch of primary texts (and some scholarly articles) and put them in my course shell on Canvas. I also need to record 10 weeks of lecture content, meaning I have to write and design 10 lectures first, and I am going to record some short videos where I talk through all of the major course assignments and explain them, etc. I also need to write exam questions for the class’s 4 short exams— but this also means I need to immerse myself in the course reading first, so I will work on this a little bit at a time. But! I have built the course on Canvas, designed all of the assignments and rubrics, and got a TON of content creation done in just 3 days. (And I reached out to a designer to help me with the media production and have studio dates on the books for early September, meaning I need to write lectures between now and then).

So, spring 2024 course boot camp was a raging success, and now? IT’S SUMMER!

Monday, May 15, 2023

A 45th birthday for the books

Thursday night at the golf course bar:

 Friday (my true birthday eve)

Ben took Dorothy Cooper and Jack to an outdoor amusement park in the Dells for reasons I will explain later.

Meanwhile I made myself the best cake ever:

Cooper requested The Shining, and I immediately bought it on amazon. He was hooked on our way to have dinner with friends at the Elks club

Where I had ANOTHER old fashioned because BIRTHDAY EVE

Dorothy was not there because she went to a slumber party, and it was HER FIRST ONE EVER, which I only realized because of her Extreme Excitement. Damn that global pandemic. This was her page-a-day calendar from SLUMBER PARTY DAY

Ben picked lilacs, definitely my love language
On a Friday side note: I am usually really chill about play doh and kinetic sand. Like, it’s easy to clean up and good for fine motor skills, so I just let them play with it wherever, any time. BUT MINNIE ON FRIDAY. GOOD LORD. I AM STILL CLEANING UP SAND. EFF. (Seriously, I found some on my a shelf today, and we had people over this weekend, and I have dusted the living room WHAT THE HELL).

Saturday, my actual bday

Minnie asked for a necklace and a bracelet for my birthday, and I am no fool

Ben got my very favorite donuts

I slept in, worked out, and took a walk

When I got home, there were decorations and 45 balloons. Note: 45 balloons is  A LOT OF BALLOONS.

Also Dorothy was back! And so crabby!  Also THERE WERE PRESENTS

Can you get someone my age something that says it’s RETRO? I think maybe not.
Let me do a retro eye. Or as I call it, an eye.
Jack got me really sweet photos he printed from his phone in frames he painted. SO SWEET.
Ben took Coop and Dorothy to baseball. Harry went to tennis, and Minnie, Jack and I decorated my cake and went to Starbucks (BIRTHDAY REWARDS) on our way to watch the baseball game.

Cooper’s team got TROUNCED, but every single kid wished me happy birthday

I stopped by the tennis tourney on my way home

And saw the best truck ever at a stoplight
My mom and her boyfriend came to town, and we got manicures and pedicures for Mother’s Day and ate a lovely dinner (delicious Italian beef sandwiches that Steve brought, plus a ton of sides, plus my dream cake and also a Costco chocolate cake because Snickers cheesecake is not for everyone) with the chaos of all the kids (MOAR old fashioneds)

Sunday— still about me, really.

More presents, a movie with a majority of the kids, and a sushi and champagne pajama party. PERFECT.