10 Facts about Me

I probably should have written a slice like this at the beginning of the month, but it has taken this long to think about ten interesting facts about me. Here are 10 crazily random facts about me.

  1. I love fast race cars. Dad took me to my first Formula 1 race when I was three months old, and plenty more races and car shows after that while I was growing up.  In my preschool years, I knew every driver by name, number, and car, and could tell which car was passing at 170 mph by the whine of the engine. I also wanted to own a hot pink Lamborghini when I grew up.
  2. I am disastrously accident prone. If it can be tripped on, fallen over, or run into- or even if it can’t- I will hurt myself. I’ve had injuries that my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist have said are not actually possible to get, and they couldn’t even figure out how I had managed to do what I did. My classroom students used to take bets about whether or not I would get injured that year, or how long it would take before I was injured. They thought I did not know this. 😀
  3. I’m a storyteller. Nothing so awful has happened that I cannot make an interesting story out of it.
  4. I have a photographic memory. This is less useful than people think.
  5. My younger sister and I are both teachers, much to the surprise of our parents, because there were never any teachers in our family. We are also the only two lefties in a family of right handed people, but I don’t think there is a connection.
  6. I have one child, a seven year old son, all energy and imagination, whom I love dearly. I became a mom older than I had planned, mainly due to all those years of near continuous injuries and crutches and surgeries. At the same time I got pregnant, a colleague with whom I shared a classroom also got pregnant, after years of trying and heartbreak. The other teachers in our department thought they should probably stay away from our classroom, lest pregnancy was catching! Her son is six days younger than mine, and they are still friends.
  7. My husband is an architect. He got there by wanting to be an architect, but being told by his father that he would be disowned, then wanting to be a marine biologist, then living abroad for a year, then majoring in physics, then not getting into graduate school, then thinking hard for two years about what he wanted to do instead if he did not get into graduate school when he reapplied and realizing both that he wanted to be an architect and that he was 25 and not beholden to his father anyway and going for it. He is an excellent and successful architect and his dad has come around.
  8. I used to be organized. (“Files for class notes, original documents, and daily copies labeled and divided out for every day of the school year, color coded by course, and cross-referenced with a list of who was absent on what day so I could get them materials when they returned” kind of organized.) Then I became a mom. You’d think, working from home as an online teacher, that I could spend a few minutes here or there to keep things organized, but no. A child is entropy in its sheerest form, and once you have picked up the clutter and actual hazards to human health and barriers to navigation, there is no time or energy left over to do small tasks like dust or sweep on any sort of regular basis. This drives me around the bend, but that does not change anything.
  9. I love to read. I can (but only barely) leave a bookstore without buying anything if I truly cannot afford books right then, but I cannot leave a bookstore without finding something new that I want to read. I have about 1500 books on shelves around my home, but now have to cull some when the shelves get full because my husband is worried that the floors will collapse if I put any more shelves on them. This is like ripping out chunks of my soul. My biggest vice is checking out too many library books at once and making towers on the bedside table. I have panic attacks if I think I might run out of reading material, and my plan for eternal life is to never die with something left to read, because that would be horrible.
  10. I also love to knit and to quilt, though I have not done much quilting since my son was born, because knitting is easier to stop and start and can be carried around with me. Since I am planning to live forever, though, I have lots of yarn and patterns to tackle, and lots of quilt kits to make and stray fabric to figure out how to use. I am easily seduced by bright and vivid colors and pattern and texture, but I also know I have more enthusiasm and imagination than time to create. My husband says that my real hobby is collecting projects. He may have a point.


I am spending my Saturday sick in bed, but trying to find the small lovely moments in the day instead of feeling sorry for myself. So here are some vignettes for today.

Soft warm weight of an old cat sleeping on my feet, while the young one stands on my pillow and sniffs my ear.

Steam off the hot tea rises in the breeze from the cracked window as I snuggle into the cozy flannel sheets.

The distinctive schooossss, snap, schooossss snap sound of a happy child digging in the LEGO bins to set his imagination free, followed by my own private show: “Look, Mom! A crash site tree and a truck! Oh no! It crashed! The nuclear waste flew out! And there’s a bomb! What could be worse? Oh no! The bomb’s on fire!”

Delicate white petals unfurling in the watery kitchen window light, as the apple bough in my grandmother’s vase opens itself to spring.

The slippery sweet-tart slurp of orange-lemon jello with mandarin oranges, like my mom always made when I was sick. My husband and son do not know why I like it, but they make it for me anyway.

A warm bowl of soup brought to me in bed is love and nourishment in a bowl.

A quiet and peaceful house as I rest and the fluttering of pages in my book.

I don’t watch reality shows, but…

Sometimes, students assume that teachers, or at least English teachers, do not watch TV. They figure it is too plebeian or something. But, I do watch TV, and, since I am an English teacher, yes, I do match Masterpiece Theater. (Heck, the very first grown-up show that my mom let me secretly stay up late to watch was Masterpiece Theater. Every 8 year old girl is dying to stay up late to watch shows about Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson, right?) I am also hopelessly hooked on British mysteries, whether cozy or gruesome,  because it cheers me up to no end when the bad guys are always caught. And, as a devoted fantasy and sci fi reader, my attention is usually caught by most of the really odd and quirky sic fi or fantasy shows. The odder and quirkier, the better. Since I can knit while I watch TV (unless there are subtitles), I don’t usually feel guilty about it. One thing that does not grab my attention, though, is reality shows. I am not that interested in competitions, and definitely do not care for the manufactured tension and drama.


Except for MasterChef Junior.

In my house, we are all obsessed with MasterChef Junior and wait for new seasons anxiously. We hold our breaths when the kids’ food is judged. We all predict which ones will win each challenge and go forward. We have kids we like and kids we do not. We root for underdogs. We are sad when kids are sent home. I always want to hug them when they cry. Ultimately, though, it is uplifting. The kids are kind. The kids are supportive. The kids help each other out when something goes wrong, and they cheer each other on- always, even when they are fiercely in competition. They are cheerful and optimistic, creative and confident – and their cooking skills are INCREDIBLE. Plus, the teeny tiny chefs, many barely older than my son, are adorable, and they steal our hearts.

So we don’t watch reality or competition shows, but we all curl up together every week to watch MasterChef Junior.

Another 6 word memoir

Today, I have been fighting a fever and traffic jams, got lost in the rain between my son’s school and the doctor’s office (not that hard, really, since I can- and have been- also get lost in a straight hallway and an elevator), finally arrived for an endless doctor’s appointment, home for an all too brief and feverish rest, back to the school again for the big Learning Celebration (probably more on that tomorrow), out to dinner, home again, then enduring a hailstorm that frightened the young cat and a thunderstorm that terrified my son. At last, I have 10 minutes to write, which is also how long I have left until midnight Eastern time. Time for a six word memoir (after a paragraph of introduction)!

End of trimester; spring break time!


Things I Learned on My Commute

I have a seven year old son, and he loves science. He does not have a very solid grasp of the realities of the world and is still firmly entrenched in the realm of What if? questions (What if a squirrel fell in wet cement and got stuck there?), but he loves nature, science, and machines. He is a boy, after all. He has also recently discovered podcasts and the joy of learning weird science facts right in his very own backseat! I don’t know, maybe it is actually the joy of Mom not being able to quiz him about his day, but either way, we have been spending a lot of time listening to the “Wow in the World” podcast. (If I forget to turn it on, I am accosted with an ear-splitting “Mom! Podcast! PODCAST!!!!”)

Here are some interesting facts that I have learned during the school runs this week:

There is a sea snail that is the size of a housecat.

This same sea snail (the giant Triton snail) is so big that it eats starfish. (Gulp!) But that is okay, because it only eats crown-of-thorns starfish, and they eat coral reefs.

Starfish can lay 65,000.000 eggs at once.

That’s a lot of starfish.

There is apparently something called a coralivore. Take that carnivores and herbivores and omnivores.

Not everything I learned was about starfish though…

Some baby rats will laugh if you tickle them.

Bald eagles use their poop to hold their nests together. (“Hmmm, then it smells like them and the baby eagles would know to stay in the nest,” says my son.)

Horse hooves are really one big toe.

Flatworms cut in half and taken to space sometimes grow two heads. No one knows why.

Squirrels sort their nuts by categories.

Many human beings have trace Neanderthal DNA. (My dad is one of them.) This is an endlessly fascinating fact for my son.

Nothing seems to excite my son more than jumping out of the car at school and running inside to tell everyone he sees a new random science fact.



Round and round we go

This week is spiraling out of my control. I had close to 100 assignments to grade on a very strict timeline (the penalty of teaching online from home), a virtual field trip to finish organizing and then lead tomorrow, a new employee that I need to meet with and mentor through the process of becoming comfortable as an online teacher, a new data project that needs daily monitoring and documentation, a rapidly approaching deadline for documentation of all goal related activities for my annual review (and completion of the goals and objectives that I am documenting), a mandatory team meeting, a mandatory Advanced Placement teacher training meeting, ongoing software problems with Microsoft Office, without which I cannot do my job, a doctor appointment for my asthma, helping my son (who is 7 and has no concept of deadlines) finish all his school projects before the end of the trimester on Thursday and the school’s big learning celebration (which happens in the middle of my work day) and the onset on Friday of a prolonged 2 weeks of spring break which I, as an online teacher, do not get off of work. Oh, yes, and I also have a cold and all the normal household things to take care of (who keeps wearing all these clothes and using all these dishes anyway?). This is not a month’s worth of work, or even a week. This is what I have to accomplish between now (Wednesday night) and Friday afternoon. So, to say that I am a bit busy and a bit stressed out is a massive understatement. And, of course, we all know that in these situations, everything always goes smoothly and turns out to be easy to accomplish, right?


That is my trumpet fanfare, as I present to you, summing up my entire day so far, my 6 word memoir…

“So much work…NO! NOT PINK EYE!”

And my rebuttal, “Oh, @#*&”. 😡


A cold lament

Today I have a cold. Springtime is very annoying, because I am allergic to practically everything, and despite a stack of allergy and asthma medicine, I can walk around for weeks feeling like I am coming down with something, except without the happy thought that I will eventually get well again. However, yesterday, despite largely goofing off and doing not much all weekend, I felt really crummy and finally realized that I ought to take my temperature. Presto! I had a fever! That explained a whole lot.

Today, I have that weird scooped out feeling where your head is some sort of escaping helium balloon that is very far away from your body and trying to work is utterly pointless because all the words in front of you are just wiggling squiggles and you cannot tell if the student writing genuinely makes no sense, or if it is just you. (If you are still expecting my slice to be somewhat coherent today: you have been warned!)

Today, I think of the spring cold as another manifestation of the last gasp of winter. Reading slices from all over the country and talking to my online colleagues, who are also all over the country, I know that even with spring springing to life tomorrow, people are still being hit with late snow, and deep snow, and unseasonable snow, etc., etc. I always consider the first week of warm sunny days in spring as the unofficial end of cold and flu season, and heave a sigh of relief (the depths of which can only be achieved by teachers and parents who are sneezed and sniffled on all winter) that finally the germs will be gone and we might get through a few months of pink-cheeked health – instead of green-tinged, red-cheeked feverish ill health.

Today, though, like winter, the germs are having one last gasp.

A Currently… Post for Sunday

Earlier in the week, I wrote a Before that… post, so when I stumbled across another Currently post… today, I thought I would try that format.

Currently, I am: 

Reading: The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley. Plus, lots of slices! I am really enjoying this commenting challenge.

Drinking: a nice cold glass of lemonade.

Planning: a virtual field trip to MoMA on Wednesday, for a group of 6-12 graders nationwide in our online education program. I have so many ideas, and so little time to formalize all the details.

Thinking: that I wish I had more weekend, because I am coming down with something, and I need some more rest before tackling the work week.

Feeling: anxious. Online teachers do not get spring break, and small boys do, so I have to try to juggle the two. This is not easy. I am also preparing to try to re-enter the world of classroom teacher now that my son is 7 1/2 and that is a whole can of anxiety worms all to itself. Also, a fire engine just went flying down my street and that is just alarming.

Listening to: “Twilight Zone.” I’ve loved to watch “Twilight Zone” since I was a little girl, and it is sometimes soothing to have on in the background while I do some work.

Loving: having had a quiet weekend to just hang out. Too often, we try to do much too much.

Looking forward to: curling up in bed tonight with a novel and maybe some hot herbal tea with honey.

Hooray for Playdates!

A couple of weeks ago, we had our son’s best friend over for a marathon playdate. It was not a big deal, because the boys have been friends since preschool and get along really well together, but the parents felt very bad about asking us. The dad had to be out of town, and the mom had a ticket to the final performance of a six hour play. We all had tons of fun, and both picky eaters ate dinner, and today, the other family reciprocated, and we had “the massive playdate, part 2.”

I worked a bit this morning to get some loose ends from the week tied up while my husband ran errands, and then, after lunch, off our boy went, to explore the world with his friend. We had a unexpected 7 hours to ourselves. Like all good parents, we were completely flummoxed by the idea of free time, and no idea what to do or where to go. Having dodged the bullet of wasting childfree time running errands, we decided that it was perfectly acceptable to eat snacks and watch grown-up TV all afternoon, followed by eating something for dinner that was not customized for a 7 year old’s palate, or, alternately, complained about throughout the meal. It was heavenly. The house was quiet, the cats were un-chased and calm, and we could just chat and do not much of anything. I knit. My husband folded some laundry. (He’s a better grown-up than I am.) We read some news. We countered the news with silly TV. I put green stripes in my hair for St. Patrick’s Day. He put homemade stew in the oven. It was heavenly!

When we were childless, we were busy, busy people. I taught full time, more than an hour from home, and worked that standard teacher 60-80 hour a week schedule. My husband is an architect and also incredibly hard-working, and travelled for work and had late meetings and 10 hour work days. Still, we found time to places and do things – garden, movies, plays, the zoo, museums, hiking, events, concerts, restaurants – normal grown-up stuff. The only times we ever stayed inside and did nothing much were during the rare snowstorms that shut down the city. (During an interesting week and a half in December 2008, I made two baby blankets for a new nephew and a new niece and we watched every single thing on our DVR). And we had the option of doing that today. In fact, the playdate was extended through dinner time specifically so we could go out and do grown-up things. We talked about it. But frankly, what had the most appeal was just some time to hang out together, without being interrupted, or having to watch the John Deere video for the thousandth time, or building things with Legos, or being asked five million questions. Sometimes, just the time to be quiet and think through to the end of a thought and watch a TV show all the way through without stopping is all you need.

At 7:30, we picked up our tired boy. He and his friend had tons of fun and were not even sick of each other yet. He told us tales of his playdate adventures, and we told him about ours. We all were happy and relaxed, so I say hooray for playdates. Sometimes, doing nothing is a Saturday well spent.


Today I…just completed the tax organizer for the accountant

Before that…I went out to dinner because I was too busy doing taxes to worry about cooking.

Before that…I worked on taxes in my husband’s office.

Before that…I got an email that I need to make into a creative announcement for all the other parents in my son’s class.

Before that…I got a panicked call from my new teacher mentee, who finally had classes assigned to her and could not remember anything from her training in the fall.

Before that…I told my husband that HE got to be in charge of picking our son up from the after school playdate because I was too busy doing taxes.

Before that…I took some antacid.

Before that…I gave up on working on the taxes from home and texting my husband questions about the business records and just drove to his office.

Before that…I worked on the taxes at home- not for the first time this year, or even week.

Before that…I had a quick lunch and put my feet up to watch “The X Files.” (Working from home has perks.) But I decided that I had better make it a really quick lunch and – you guessed it – work on the taxes.

Before that…I worked on paperwork.

Before that…I had office hours for my students and worked on lessons and student engagement.

Before that…I answered email, and more email, and more email, but helped a lot of students in the process.

Before that…I finally sat down and finished my breakfast.

Before that…I got home from the school run much later than expected and fed the very hungry cats and the fish.

Before that…I looked at the beautiful view out the school window and encouraged a cranky child to work on writing out his clean copy of his informational essay, reminding him that writing was not the end of the universe, and he could do this.

Before that…I set a timer to get that kid moving.

Before that…I looked at my watch three times and sighed. Helping my son get his work done in his before school studio time was not going well.

Before that…we had to take two detours to get to school.

Before that…I scrambled around making breakfast and lunch and trying to herd a wandering child with no sense of time in the right direction.

Before that…I made a cup of tea. I didn’t drink it, mind you, but I made one.

Before that…I ate a few bites of breakfast while answering random questions from my groggy, just dragged out of bed boy. Who would win in a fight between a beaver and a cougar? Why is that book called The Death of Bees? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BEES? How do you scare a ghost? How do you kill a zombie? Who wakes up at a quarter past six and wants to know these things?

Before that…I read two days worth of daily comics sleepily on my iPad while wondering why the house was so cold. (Answer: the programmable thermostat did not know it was daylight savings time.

Before that…I woke up in the cold before dawn, not even any birdsong yet, and wondered what I would do today.