Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Today is my birthday! I'm 31, another year older and presumably another year wiser since this time last year. I've had some nice presents, but honestly, the best part is that I got to sleep in, I haven't cooked a meal or washed a dish all day, AND Stuart and I went to see a movie this afternoon in a theater, something we haven't done in so long I don't even remember the last time. And now I'm going to go have a beer. It's been a good day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I may have a husband, a house, two kids, and an 11:00 bedtime. I may listen to NPR and have hobbies that are very stereotypically domestic and feminine (knitting, sewing, baking - the trifecta!). I may allegedly be a grown-up. But here I am, nearly 31 years old, and I have yet to write a Christmas letter or send out a single bona fide Christmas card. I like getting other people's cards, mind you, and seeing the pictures of their adorable children and reading about their lives, especially those friends who live far away and are rarely in touch. But I just can't bring myself to do it, and I don't know if I ever will.

I do, however, blog! So anyone who wants to see our pictures and keep up with our comings and goings can read it. That counts for something, right?

Anyway, the end of the year makes many of us reflect on events of the past 12 months, and since my birthday is the 29th and I'll officially be another year older, it's always a double whammy for me. New Year, new age, new goals. Rather than a Christmas letter, I'm doing this post on the eve of the Solstice. I hope it's not too boring.

The past year for me as an individual has been stunningly uneventful. I made absolutely no moves toward furthering a professional career of any kind. None. I had thought I might take accounting and try to acquire new skills, but I didn't. I didn't even play many gigs, just a few low-stress auditions (low-stress for me, not the kids auditioning) and a couple choir concerts. Some days I am okay with this, and some days I am not.

As far as parenthood goes, though, it's been a really good year. Around the end of June, Daniel finally decided to use the toilet all the time, and that had been coming for a good long while. He learned to write his name and spell a few dozen words. Sometime in the spring, perhaps a little later than average, Anya left babyhood behind and became quite the delightful toddler. She finally started to talk around Halloween, and since then I think her vocabulary has doubled every day. They both enjoy and absorb the world around them with the kind of excitement, wonder and enthusiasm that is present only in the very, very young. Whatever direction my professional life takes, I'm glad to experience this time with my children.

Stuart's big news is that he is finally finished taking Computer Science classes at the UW, which he has been doing the past 2 years on top of working full-time. Yesterday afternoon was his final final exam. We celebrated with our friend J, who works with Stu and toiled alongside him all four semesters of those classes; J spent many an evening here on pair programming projects while I cleaned up the kitchen and got the kids to bed myself so they could work. They're a little smarter for it and I'm a little tougher, so we all celebrated with fancy beer and a feast of falafel, pita, hummus, salad, roasted vegetables and cupcakes, all made from scratch. Well, not the beer. J bought the beer. And you know what? Next semester will be the first time EVER in our adult lives that neither Stuart nor I has been enrolled in an institute of higher education for some reason or other (except those few months after Daniel was born, but that doesn't really count, since I wasn't finished). Stu is glad he'll have some leisure time in the evenings to do what he likes and spend better time with the family.

It's been a year of truly distressing medical news for many of our family and friends. Two cancer diagnoses and a broken leg eventually led to recovery and healing, thankfully. But there are other things causing concern. Stuart's cousin had a very premature baby this week, and of course we all hope for the best, but she still has a long way to go. And one of my family members, an aunt, may have a rare and untreatable degenerative brain disease; supposedly we will have a definitive diagnosis by Christmas. As much frustration and anxiety I experience with day-to-day life, I am constantly trying to remind myself to be grateful for the big picture, to live in the moment more, to love the good moments, to breathe steadily through the bad ones, and every once in a while send a little something - you might call it a prayer, I might call it something else like a hope or a wish of good intention - out there for those who need it more than I.

And so, Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice to all of you! I hope you are finished with your holiday shopping and got your flu shots and finished your final exams and donated to a worthy cause or two and all those things that seem so hurried this time of year.

We are traveling to Kentucky for Christmas this year. Hopefully we can leave Wednesday night, but the weather forecast is looking dicey. I expect I'll post again before too long, but in case I don't, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

realities of winter

1. Bubbles don't last long in the cold.

2. If it's 12 degrees (F) outside and you're blowing bubbles, the droplets freeze on their way to the ground after the bubbles pop.

3. If it's 12 degrees (F) outside, you spend 10-15 minutes bundling up to go out, and come in after 5.

4. You don't get much daylight less than a week before the Solstice.

5. You allow more TV watching than you should (or normally would). Thank goodness for Curious George...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Anya!

My baby girl turns 2 tomorrow. Because I'm a lazy mom I don't have a party planned or a cake baked or the presents wrapped. (The party can wait until we're in Kentucky for Christmas, the cake might wait until the weekend and as for the presents...I'll wrap them tomorrow afternoon IF SHE NAPS).

I've been thinking a lot about when Anya was born, so I'll share some of that here. I remember December 13 two years ago. My due date was over two weeks away and I was already starting to lose my mind. I had finished my dissertation, defended it, revised it, and that Thursday, December 13, my committee finally finally signed my paperwork to turn into the graduate office so I could become Dr. Susan for good and forever. I woke up having sporadic contractions, though, and wasn't sure I was physically able to go anywhere, so I called my advisor and called the graduate office to reschedule my final appointment with the dean for the next day because I assumed that this was the same false labor I'd experienced the week before and that I would be all fine and dandy for turning in my stuff and signing this and that a mere 24 hours later. And if not, I fully intended to send Stuart in by proxy because December 14 was the deadline for graduating that semester and by God I wanted the deal sealed and done with.

Uh, not so much. The contractions went on and off all day, my doula came over in the afternoon, and by 6:00 that evening, it was clear that this was The Real Thing and that we were going to the hospital to Have The Baby. First we ordered Thai food, though, because we were all hungry and I knew I was in for a few days of hospital food. I remember eating spicy pad thai in between contractions and thinking to myself "I hope I don't regret eating this." (I didn't regret it at all.)

When Daniel was born, I was in labor for 30 hours and ended up getting a shot of narcotics, then later an epidural with lots of pitocin and who knows what else. When Anya was born, I didn't have so much as an aspirin, not a drop of painkiller. Frankly, I preferred the latter, but it's not something I care to do again. Natural birth is physical pain beyond what you think you can bear, but you do because you have to. Imagine taking the biggest crap of the century while simultaneously being split in half while a bunch of people stand around watching your privates and you might have an inkling as to what it's like. I remember screaming. I remember that the hormones made my muscles cramp and shake and it took 5 people to hold me down. I remember the enormous, consuming sense of relief when it was finally over, and that Stuart was so shell-shocked (bless his heart) that he forgot to tell me whether we had a boy or a girl and the doctor was waiting for him to tell me and I had to say "Well? What do we have here?"

I also remember that she was the most beautiful little girl I'd ever seen. She still is. (Sorry. It's her birthday and I'm her mama, so I'm allowed to say it this once.)

In all the excitement, of course, my paperwork didn't get turned in until after the New Year, so I didn't officially graduate until May. She was worth it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

winter update

After a record 19" of snowfall yesterday, which shut down our whole city, including the schools, the Uni, and even the bus system, it got really cold. Really cold. When we got up this morning the thermometer read -6 and the windchill is something like -25. Poor Daniel doesn't understand why he's not allowed to go outside and help Stuart shovel more snow off the deck. A few minutes ago, Stuart went outside to scrape ice off the car and came right back in to inform me that the ice scraper snapped in half when he tried to use it!

Honestly, yesterday was rough. The kids got up at 4:30 and except for an hour in the late morning when Anya fell asleep to catch up on her short night, no one napped all day. The snow is pretty, but way too deep to play in safely, so we spent the entire day inside staving off boredom with only moderate success. We have good friends across the street, but everyone was too tired and crabby to invite them over even for a little while.

I am determined to make today better. This morning we got up at 5:00, not 4:30. It's bitterly cold, but the streets are cleared off enough that once the temps are above zero, we'll venture out somewhere, like maybe the library. Not to be trite, but after yesterday I'm trying to improve my attitude and count my blessings. We are warm. We are safe. Thousands of people in southern Wisconsin lost power because of the blizzard and we were not among them.

And now both of my kiddies are running stark naked around the house, and only one of them is fully potty-trained, so I better wrap this up!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I'll say this about Wisconsin: there's no half-assing winter around here.

Last night we had a blizzard. I'm not sure how many inches of snow have fallen, but it's enough that we can't open the back door.

The entire state is in a snow emergency. Snow emergency! Garrison Keillor once did a bit about how the men of Lake Wobegon love snow emergencies because it makes them feel so manly and important. I admit there is something a little exciting and awe-inspiring about the sheer volume of snow that has fallen in the last few hours.

Schools all over the state are closed. Even the UW is closed, the first time that's happened since I moved here over nine years ago!

But Stuart will be going to work. I wish he wouldn't. I wish he would use the weather as an excuse to stay home with us today and play in the snow and help me entertain the kids (who, by the way, got up at 4:30 this morning and refused to go back to bed even after we begged with them to.) I mean, the University is closed, for goodness sake! But Stuart can walk to work, so as soon as he and Daniel have shoveled a path through the heaps and mountains of snow off the back deck and front porch, he'll trudge to work like a good employee.

I'm not sure what we'll do today. We'll stomp around in the snow some, because it's not actually that cold out there yet, though we can't be out there for too long because the snow pants I ordered for Daniel haven't arrived yet. I have bread to bake, and maybe we'll make cookies, too. I'll try and come up with some crafty projects for the kids; we may even get out the glitter glue and poster paints. And I'm sure I'll resort to letting the kids watch the Curious George DVD a little too early and for a little too long. But that's okay. It's a snow day.

ETA: Here are a few more pictures! Also, all the city buses have stopped running for the day. That's never happened since I moved here!

Monday, December 07, 2009

10 ways to remove a skunk from your lunchbag or cafeteria

My parents were here for Thanksgiving this year, which was quite lovely, and before they left - right before they left, in fact - they deposited a(nother) box of stuff from my old room at home for me to peruse and dispose of as I like. This one contained the following: a little bit of junk, a good-sized stack of flute music that I doubt I'll ever play again, a framed certificate for being a good speller in 1987 (it went downhill after that, I'm afraid), a couple recital programs from college, and a folder full of my original creative writing from elementary and middle school. Some of it I tossed, but some I just had to keep. And tonight, I'm sharing just a little bit with you.

The following was hand written on lined notebook paper. There is no date but it's cursive and legible, so it had to have been late 4th grade or 5th grade. I'm preserving all the original grammar and spelling. (Yeah, I know. Slow day here in blogland.)

10 Ways to Remove a Skunk from Your Lunchbag or Cafeteria
By: Susan

#1: Make sure that the lunch monitor doesn't scream when you show her. Then, call the vet. As he performs surgery on the lunchbag, tell everyone to be very quiet and exit the cafeteria.

#2: Have a trankurlizer gun ready in case the skunk wakes up. If he/she wakes up, shoot him with the gun, and when he goes to sleep, put him/her in your little brother's bed. Ask your "brother" how the skunk got into the bag.

#3: First, get a very quiet pair of scissors and cut him out of lunchbag. Then, carefully put him in a waterproof sack. Put a clothespin on your nose, and give him to the Hummane Society. Steralize your lunch, and EAT!!

#4: Tranqualize skunk to make sure he doesn't wake up. Put him outside and give him plenty of beetles so that he is not mad when he wakes up.



That's as far I got, evidently. What should I have added to the list? Anyone?

Friday, December 04, 2009

oh, parenthood

At some point in parenthood, you completely relinquish your dignity. I think for me, the moment was before Daniel was born, after I'd been in labor for 20+ hours, when I was naked, sweaty, panting, whimpering in anguish, begging for the epidural, and I recognized the anesthesiologist as the recently divorced father of one of my piano students. I thought it prudent not to mention that to him, and whether he knew who I was or not, he was professional enough to keep it to himself.

I've had lots of those moments over the last not-quite-four years. There was the time I was 12 weeks pregnant with Anya and I was supposed to play in a masterclass for a Very Important Pianist and Daniel fell into a big fountain of water and I had to approach the teacher, who was (is) both famous and infamous for his teaching and temperament and ask to go last so I could comfort my whimpering toddler and change our soaking wet clothes. There was the time, not so long ago, when Anya decided to stuff her mouth so full of goldfish crackers in the checkout lane of a grocery store that she gagged and spit everything out, and I had to ask the kind-yet-freaked-out cashier for a paper towel to clean her up. And there was this afternoon in the Target parking lot when the early Christmas present I bought for the kids - a basketball hoop with adjustable height - wouldn't fit in the car until I took it out of the box and shoved it piece by piece into the front seat. That was after ripping the assembly instructions off the side of the box using a pen knife and my bare hands.

Why the basketball hoop? Why the early Christmas present? Because the other reality of parenthood, at least parenthood of children under 5 who are not yet spending most of their time in public school, is TEDIUM. Daniel is doing a little bit of preschool, but most of the time he hangs out with me and Anya, and truth be told, he's getting a little bored. I guess I'm a sucky mom for not keeping him more entertained, but here's the scoop: Anya's naptime is sporratic and unpredictable, there is precious little daylight, it's cold outside and folks, there just isn't a lot to DO around here. I mean, there is, but not when you have a cranky toddler who gets up at 5 and doesn't nap until 3, which puts a huge cramp on afternoon activities that involve leaving the house. So, basketball hoop it is.

Gosh do I miss summer.

I used to think I was a smart person with a lot of potential. Now I'm just trying to make it to 4:30 in the afternoon when Curious George comes on PBS and I can start dinner without anyone hanging off my leg (literally). I can blame the long, cold Wisconsin winters and tight job market all I want, but those are just excuses. Sometimes I just don't try hard enough, I guess. Sometimes, the best I can come up with is buying big plastic toys at a big big store three weeks before Christmas because that is the only way I can get through another day.