Sunday, February 12, 2017


You guys, I am so over Valentines. I'm not talking about having a romantic date with my spouse, because that was never a thing for me and Stuart, whose favorite alternative name for the holiday is "Jerk Appreciation Day."

No, I'm talking about the kid part, where you have to buy or make Valentines for everyone in your kid's class. It was cute in preschool, and sweet in kindergarten. After that we got over it pretty quick.  Handmade Valentines are just a total pain in the ass. Am I right?

I remember when I was a kid, it was all about the candy. We just ripped into every card or tiny box, tearing right by the generic notes and terrible Valentine puns and went right for the candy. Whoever gave you the Valentine stuffed with the most message hearts was your best friend for the day. Bonus points for chocolates, but those were very rare. We, on the other hand, were always the stingy ones who didn't even give candy, but handed out Disney knock-off Valentines from the grocery store, names hastily scrawled on each envelope. One year we may have put stickers on them, but I can't be sure.

Anymore, classroom Valentines parties irk me more deeply than this surface-level annoyance. Some families at my kids' school don't have stable homes to go to or enough food to eat, much less the time and resources to come up with Valentines for everyone in the class, so if they want to hand out cards they have to go to the office and get a package of whatever was donated by the social workers or is leftover from the year before. Aside from that, there's all the plastic junk and sugary food that inevitably is incorporated into these classroom parties...but you can't really complain about it or you end up being THAT HIPPIE MOM who ruins all the fun and hands out organic carrot sticks for prizes. No thank you. I'll just bitch about it on my blog instead.

Part of the reason I can't get enthusiastic about Valentine's Day is that by this point in February, we have serious celebration fatigue. November through early March is one long marathon of holidays and birthdays for all four of us in my house plus a few in the extended family. By Valentine's Day, I've had it with presents and treats and baking cakes and I need to save what little energy I have left for Stuart's birthday in March so he doesn't feel cheated.

Anya is in 3rd grade and we totally recycled last year's lame idea for Valentines for her class. We found a bunch of corny jokes and printed them on red paper, which she cut apart to distribute to her classmates. If she's feeling frisky she'll draw hearts on them, but that's optional. Today, as she was getting everything ready in the Word document, she noticed a distinct gender bias. "Why is it always the boy asking the girl the question?" she wondered. I told her she was welcome to change the wording. Instead of What did the boy bat/bee/ghost say to the girl bat/bee/ghost on Valentine's Day? it could read instead, What did one bat/bee/ghost say to the other bat/bee/ghost? In the end, she decided it wasn't worth the trouble, so all of her Valentine's cards are sexist and assume heteronormality. Yes, it's annoying, but it's just a bunch of Valentine's cards, and in the end we don't really care enough to fix it.

I don't even know if 5th graders pass out cards but if Daniel wants to do that, he's got about 24 hours to get that together.

So what do you think? Am I a Valentine's Day Grinch? A lazy mom? Or am I just smarter and saner than everyone on Pinterest?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Snapshot: Women's march in Madison

We stood 100,000 strong in the streets of downtown Madison this afternoon. 

We are stronger together, so don't give up.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Just now on my way home from a meeting, I passed a young woman on the side of the road with two dogs. One was lying on the ground convulsing, the other standing protectively to the side. She was sobbing. I stopped the car and asked if I could help her. "No it's ok," she said. "My dad's coming." So I left and by the time I drove past the dog had stopped moving altogether. 

I don't know what had happened, except that the dog didn't appear to have been struck by a vehicle. Maybe the dog was old and already in ill health, or maybe he had a sudden seizure. In any case, it's a terrible thing to see someone cry while her animal suffers in a cold puddle in the street. As if I weren't sad enough about today, this filled me with sadness. And what an awful thing for her to experience. Maybe I should have stayed and tried to comfort her while we waited. Maybe that would have made her feel worse. I don't know. 

But it's already a gray, gloomy drizzly day, literally and metaphorically. I couldn't stomach listening to the entire inaugural speech of the newly installed POTUS, but I have heard clips on the news. He stands for authority more than rights. We have reason to be angry, we have reason to be terrified, and we have reason to protest. 

We'll be downtown in our home city tomorrow, the four of us, in the gloom and drizzle, marching for the rights and safety and democracy of all. Wearing pink hats and yelling in the street won't change anything, but it's still important as a gesture. 

We won't take this sitting down. No, sir.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


What is happening to the ACA is horrifying. If the GOP wants to take health care away from people, they should be forced to go without it, too. 

I called my senators this morning. I kept my message polite and to the point. If you care about preserving the Affordable Care Act, in particular the provisions for covering people with pre-existing conditions, I encourage you to do the same. In Wisconsin, our senators are Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who is fairly progressive, and Republican Ron Johnson, who is as conservative as they come.

Baldwin's Washington number is: (202) 224 - 5653

Johnson's Washington number is: (202) 224 - 5323

Keep it polite, and keep it true. In my message, said I was deeply concerned that without coverage people will actually die. I said I hope my senator has enough respect for life and dignity that he/she will do the right thing and preserve health coverage rather than take it away.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

snapshot: from back in november

We took an 11-day road trip over the holidays (I was stressed about it, but it turned out really fun) so I'm still adjusting to being back and trying to catch up. I've missed the obligatory end-of-year/new-year post, so I'll just sum it up like this: 2016 obviously sucked big time in the news but wasn't a bad year for our little family. The best part was welcoming this little nugget. Enjoy a photo of her and her cousin Daniel from Thanksgiving:

Happy new year, my friends in Madtown and elsewhere. Stay strong.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Winter came in kicking and screaming a full week before the solstice. We've had two snowstorms in as many weeks and another one coming. And it's cold. It's REALLY cold. Like, wind-chill-advisory-is-coming cold. (This means it will feel like -15 to -25F tonight and all day tomorrow. Will the district cancel school, even though kids could get frostbite waiting for the bus? NOPE. They said they changed their policy, but apparently it's a lie.) Today, when it was 12 degrees but felt like 0, I waffled between biking and not biking to campus, then opted to bike after all because tomorrow it really will be too cold (see above re: wind chill advisory) and we're maybe getting 10" of snow on Friday, so today was my last chance to get outside and move. 

Phone screen shot of the weather forecast.
Getting to campus was okay. It was still daylight and the wind was at my back. Oddly, though the bike paths were more or less clear, the bike lanes in the regular street were thick with ice and snow pack so I had to be careful.

Getting home, though? Getting home was brutal. It was dark and the snow was blowing across the road, and the wind was blowing me around. My fingers were in agony despite being encased in thick gloves under bulky alpaca mittens. I could feel the droplets from my breath freezing on my double-looped alpaca cowl (note to readers who are not knitters: wool is warm, but alpaca is actually quite a bit warmer! something about how the fibers trap more air because alpacas are indigenous to the mountains of South America where it benefits them to have extra-warm fleece). I thought I was bundled up and sealed tight, but I could feel the wind cutting through the zipper teeth of my coat and snaking through my cowl and down the back of my neck. It was easily the most miserable bike ride I have had in 16 years of living and biking in this town. It's a toss-up, actually, between today and two years ago when I wiped out on black ice on my first day of teaching in the spring (ha) semester and had to limp/ride the rest of the way with a bent wheel and bloody knee. 

When Stuart complained that it was cold outside because he had to go all the way from his car to the house, I gave him the stink eye.

The big news at our house today is that Anya turned 9. 9!! She's amazing: a kind, thoughtful, caring, smart-as-blazes, sweet, delight of a human being, the kind of person who brightens your mood with her mere presence. This is all true AND I'm biased of course.

The birthday festivities were just right. Last Friday (between snowstorms) she invited a couple friends  to go see Moana (it's really good, go see it) and then we came home for homemade pizza and cupcakes. It was a small party, very low-key, and very much our style. Today, for Anya's actual birthday Daniel made scrambled eggs for breakfast and promised her a whole day of not annoying her (not today, apparently, but some day in the future). She got to pass out chocolates at school. We braved the bitter cold and went out to dinner at a brand new restaurant called Morris Ramen and everything was quite delicious and the service was excellent and gracious (full disclosure: I know the owners and their family so again I'm biased, but it really was good). Birthday girl got to ride shotgun in the car, and got dessert comped. 

Once I thawed out, it was a good day.

Monday, December 05, 2016

first snow

We had our first snow of the year in Madison yesterday. We awoke to about 1" on the ground, and by the end of the day around 4" had accumulated, which is more than I expected. Since no one had any work obligations or outside commitments, we treated the day rather like a Snow Day, and it was wonderful. I can't remember the last time I was able to forget about work-related responsibilities for almost a whole day (I say "almost" because I did sit down to do some editing work late in the afternoon). It was the perfect kind of snowfall: beautiful and gentle like in a snow globe, enough for a snowball fight and impromptu game of snow baseball in the front yard in the morning, and then in the afternoon we headed to our favorite park to break in the sledding hill. In between we indulged in card games, popcorn and cocoa. We shoveled snow off the porch and patio and part of the driveway. The kids watched old episodes of Star Trek. Stuart made dinner, so after all that family fun I even got about an hour to putz around by myself without feeling guilty about it.

I'd say we were indulging in a snow day, but we really needed it, so I'm not going to call it an indulgence because that implies we were doing something we shouldn't have. We had fun. We were happy. By the end of the day we were worn out.

Today was a regular old Monday. No one really wanted to get up and go to school. It was wet and cold and dreary (though the snow is still pretty). But I do think our snow day yesterday made it just a little easier to get through.