Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Just Call Me "Flo"

My kids have been sick. They’ve had nasty fevers, coughs, and aches. So I tried to be Florence Nightingale. I dosed medications, took temperatures, and even short order chef-ed, all the while reminding myself that I won’t be able to do this much longer. Soon they’ll be gone.

But I’m sure my kids think I’m a poor copy of Ms. Nightingale. I brought Kid One a bowl of steaming ramen. KO sipped a spoonful.
“Mom,” KO croaked, “did you make spicy chicken?”
Me: “Uh, yeah. I thought you like spicy chicken.”
KO: “This burns my sore throat.”
Me: “Sorry. What do you want me to do?”
KO: “I guess I could just eat the noodles.”
Me: “Sounds great.”

Kid Two: “Can you take my temperature?”
Me: “Sure. Put this under your tongue. And remember it takes a while.”
Some time later KT is groaning. I return. KT mumbles around the thermometer, asking if it’s been in his mouth long enough. I check the clock, swallow guiltily, and say, “Yep. Fifteen minutes will give a really accurate temperature.” Sorry, Kid Two.

Kid Three is older and less sick. And would prefer being left alone (not inundated with “drink this tea” and “take this Aleve”) and really would prefer not being mentioned on my Facebook updates. Sorry, Kid Three. Now all of my friends and our relatives know you’re sick.

Yep, I’m more like Flo than Florence Nightingale. But when they’re on their own and get sick, I’m betting they’ll miss Flo. 

(Scroll past the photo of Florence for information on a Blog Blitz)
File:Florence Nightingale.png
This public domain image of Florence Nightingale is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
One more thing.

DL Hammons of Cruising Altitude 2.0 blog is hosting a Blog Blitz. Here's how it works. Sign up on the linky list below, making sure to record your email address, and you'll be instantly included as a member of the Blog Blitz team. Then from time to time, he'll select a blog (belonging to a blog blitz team member) and a specific date. He'll email all the team members the information and on the date blitz team member will visit the blog and leave an encouraging comment. Imagine having 100+ comments in one day!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Party On, Girl!

Luke and Ariel are both going to grad school in the fall. This past weekend, they both visited schools. Luke visited Texas A&M. He called once. I picked up the phone. I settled in to hear all about his visit—his impressions, the people he met, the swag they gave him, etc. Instead, I got two one word answers from him and then he said, “Can I talk to Dad?” He spent twenty plus minutes on the phone with Calvin, discussing the basketball game that was on television. After they said good-bye, I asked Cal, “What did Luke say about his grad school visit?” Cal replied, “Nothing. But his bracket’s being trashed.”  Right. Because that’s so important.

Ariel’s visit was different. She texted, phoned, and emailed me. I know about the professors, the graduate students, why Emory has a fantastic math PhD program, what she ate (not as good as food at home), why she didn’t sleep well (loud heater), etc. In fact, I got an email early Saturday morning about the math grad school party she went to on Friday night. “…no one can party like math nerds. We played Carcasonne, made fun of Fermat, and figured out how many Tetris pieces there would be if the pieces were made up of five blocks.”  Okay, then…party on, babe!

File:Absurd triangle.svg
I'm know this has nothing to do with the proofs that my daughter and her math nerd friends do, but  it's a cool math-ish diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Be Careful What You Read

The other day my son Jacob asked me to proofread a paper before he went to class. I said, “Sure.” After I read it, I said, “Uh, Jake, what’s this all about?”

Turns out, Jake had to read an essay in his rhetoric textbook and write a paper on it. As he read, he became increasingly skeptical—it seemed to him that in spite of the author’s inflammatory rhetoric, the author’s quotes were weak and he made several logical fallacies. So, Jake decided to google the author….wow!

Subsequent to the publication of the textbook, the essay’s author was stripped of his journalism awards. Turns out the author not only plagiarized, he invented quotes. Then, when the truth came out, he attacked his critics, etc. Jake mentioned this in the conclusion of his paper.

My hope was that this essay assignment was a “trick” from his professor, that the prof used this as an exercise in always being vigilant—just because something is in a textbook doesn’t mean it’s right.

So Jake took the paper to class for peer review. As the students in his group read his paper, they pulled out their phones and googled the author. Jake said, “They started muttering and swearing.”

Then, during the class discussion after peer review, no one from Jake’s group said anything. The other groups talked about how great the article and author were. Jake felt increasingly awkward. Finally, he raised his hand, shared his opinion, and explained what he found out about the author.

When Jake got home, I said, “So was it a set-up by your professor?” Jake said, “I don’t know, Mom. When, I talked about the article and the author, the professor looked surprised—I don’t think she knew.”

Hmm…I wonder how she’s going to grade this paper.

Update: Jake just had a meeting with his professor--she did know all about it. I guess she was just surprised that any of the students caught it. :)

File:Stack of Library Books on Piano.JPG
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pods for Turkey

It’s spring again. It means the sun is shining, the wind is cool, and the temperatures are in the 50s. Perfect gardening weather.

So I’ve been assessing. And come to some decisions.

 First, an enemy who feels great hatred towards me has obviously spread seeds of unknown origin everywhere. My “lawn” is now a weed patch. I’m not even sure it’s salvageable. But this is March, so I’m feeling positive and taking dominion over my gardening kingdom. I’ve proclaimed “Death to Weeds.” No doubt,this will last until the end of May. Then, I’ll wave the white flag and have a glass of iced tea.

Second, all my roses have to go. This breaks my heart. Our house is a 1920s cottage, so I planted a hedge of knockout roses around it. It was bliss for six years. On the seven year, stealth mites infected my roses with rose rosette virus. And there is no cure. My husband Cal removed one side of the rose bushes and we planted grape vines. Cal has another 12 or 13 bushes to dig out and then we’ll plant reblooming weigela. I’ve warned the weigela that it better bloom beautifully and resist all manner of pests.

Third, I really hate our massive magnolia tree. It’s huge and ancient. Two things that should make me like it. But it’s also a Southern magnolia, which means I spend a large portion of my gardening time cleaning up after it. In the spring, I have to clean up all the dead leaves—they’re thick and leathery, so they don’t mulch. In fact, I have no doubt they’d survive the Apocalypse (along with cockroaches). In summer, the tree drops its flowers—also huge, gooey, and non-mulchable. And in the fall, it drops massive prickly pods that have to be picked up by hand. When Luke and Ariel move to grad school this summer, I suspect that they’ll do the happy dance because they’ll  no longer have to hear me say, “Slave labor time—we’re picking up pods.”

On the other hand, I sure there will be a lot of pods that need picking up over Thanksgiving holidays. It’ll be a pods-for-turkey kind of thing.
File:Magnolia hypoleuca 5.JPG
Magnolia pod courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Own March Madness

This morning I printed up the official thingie. Okay, I do know its name—the Official March Madness bracket. This is not because I care about basketball the big dance, or the National Championship. I do this because I love my husband and sons. And, of course, there’s the chance that I can beat my husband’s bracket. Yeah, my uber-competitive nature comes out.

Then, once the games begin, I read, edit, or embroider until the last five minutes of the game when my husband nudges me. At that point, I put down what I’m working on and root for whoever’s on my bracket. If my bracket is already ruined, then I root for whoever is not on my husband’s bracket. And if both our brackets are ruined, then I root for the underdog. Or if I’m feeling particularly puckish, I root for the team whose uniform I like best. (Not that I really care about them, but I love telling the guys that’s what I’m doing.) Yes, I’m that kind of mom.

So, I know some of my blog friends are basketball buffs. And I’d loved to have a killer bracket this year. Or, at the very least, beat my husband’s bracket. Could you give me some hints?

(Right now, I’m tempted to let Memphis go pretty deep—my niece attends UM.)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Met vs. Yale

The other day, the news reported that a group of people had filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for deceiving people—the museum is actually free, but they lead people to believe that entrance costs $25 per adult with varying rates for other ages. Part of me was grieved because it’s such a wonderful museum and I hate for them to be distracted by the lawsuit. But another part of me was frustrated--I wondered how many poor families didn't visit because they thought they couldn't afford to. I took my children there twice when we lived in Connecticut. Honestly, I would have taken them many more times, but the price tag gets pretty expensive when you have a family of six and you have to pay for gas, parking, lunch and admission fees.

In all fairness, the admission fee is listed as a “donation.” And on the other hand, the museum staff points out the cute button you get to wear when after you pay, which allows you full day access to the museum even if you go out for lunch. So, I absolutely felt that the cost of the museum was $25 per adult. And, the price was worth it to see the art, Henry VIII’s suit of armor, the Impressionist paintings, and the Greek artifacts—when you see an actual libation bowl, Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers becomes real.

But I can’t help but compare their sense of donation to Yale University’s Museum of Musical Instruments (which is free) and their joy at sharing their treasures. I took my children there one Tuesday afternoon. When we arrived, the front door was locked. I knocked. A woman answered and said, “Yes?” I said, “This is the Museum of Musical Instruments, right?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “This is the right day and time to visit, right?” The woman nearly squealed and said, “You want to see the collection? Come in, come in.”

Then, we went on the best museum tour we have ever experienced. She doted on the children. She gave them archival gloves and let them touch some of the instruments. She told us the stories of the virginal, the viola d’amour, the bass horn, etc. She took a harpsichord apart so we could see how all the mechanisms worked. When she found out the children were musical, she let them play on one of the harpsichords. And Bach played by childish hands sounded through a gallery crowded with one of a kind instruments.

Ten years later, my kids vaguely remember the Met, but they vividly remember the Yale University Museum of Musical Instruments.  If I were in the Northeast again, I’d be knocking on the door of YUMMI and praying that a woman would answer and say, “Yes?”

File:Single-Manual Harpsichord Carl Conrad Fleischer 1716.JPG
Harpsichord. Photo by Hinnerk11, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Looks and Taste

My youngest son Matthew has a lot of dietary restrictions. He can’t properly digest gluten or casein, and he’s allergic to nuts. It means I have to cook everything from scratch (which I’m secretly grateful for because I think we eat a lot healthier than we would otherwise). But it also means we can't eat anything with wheat, oats, rye, barley, etc. And no milk, cheese, etc. And no nuts.

So Matthew and I are always on the lookout for good recipes. We recently bought The Gluten Free Bible, a collection of GF recipes. We made the first recipe, Summer Rolls. The ingredients were rice wrappers, beef, shrimp, cilantro, and noodles. It was a lot of work--thankfully, Matt always helps--and they turned out beautiful. Sadly, they were very bland, even with the spicy dipping sauce. 

Another recipe bites the dust.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chemistry, Black Holes, and Taxes for Writers

At least once a week, I wish that I wrote scifi or thrillers. Those are the days when my son comes home from lab with a story to tell. Yesterday, it was “Hey, in lab I separated mirror molecules and used them to bend light.” Or, “Did you know that all you have to do is mix X with Y and you’ll get the most amazing explosion?”

It seems to me that there ought to be websites that authors can peruse like Explosive Chemistry for Writers wherein a chemist lists all the household chemicals that can be mixed together to provide explosions—a la MacGyver or Burn Notice (though I’m told that those writers could use such a website too). Or what about Theoretical Physics for SciFi Writers. And there could be discussions of black hole firewalls (yes, this is a real thing), event horizons, and paradoxes. Of course, I think theoretical physics is mostly math and I can’t think of many writers who’d want Math for Writers. Unless it’s Tax Math for Writers. Doesn’t that sound great? All you have to do is plug in expenses and remittance information and voila Tax Math for Writers would print out proper tax paperwork.

Speaking of Tax Math, April is coming. Eleven months out of the year, I hope and pray for great sales. And then there’s one month where I hope my sales aren’t amazing. Tax time. I guess there is a time and season for everything.

File:750px Blackhole.jpg
Illustration by 420Ainsley, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sticking It to the Man

Now that my children are adults, I admit that I take perverse pleasure in seeing them deal with the craziness of the grown up world.

I’ve heard them rail at the ridiculousness of the tax code. My response, “Yes, my dear child, it’s convoluted mumbo jumbo. The government doesn’t want you to understand the IRS forms—it supports a whole industry known as H&R Block.”

I’ve heard them deal with telemarketers. “No, we really don’t need ADT. We have a dog.” After hanging up, I’ve heard a particular child mumble, “That person claimed that you could incapacitate a dog with hairspray—how stupid is that? Don’t they know that (chemicals A, B, and C) won’t bother a dog?!” Yes, dear, telemarketers lie.

I’ve had to have them sitting next to me so I could talk to the financial aid department about my tax returns—they have to get on the phone and give permission at every step so the financial department doesn’t violate their right to privacy even though it’s about my tax return. Yes, dear, this is a waste of your time. Sorry. Cope.

One of my college seniors thinks the exit exams are ridiculous. I pointed out that the exams are just another hoop to jump through in the bureaucracy of life. This particular senior contemplated marking all the answers “C.” My husband said, “So, would that be your way of sticking it to the man?” I burst into peals of laughter. “Sticking it to the man? Seriously?” My husband and I fist bumped and laughed until tears nearly streamed down our faces.

Our kids are now convinced that Cal and I are insane. I suspect that they’re wheeling and dealing to see who gets stuck with the crazed parents. Poor Ariel, I’m afraid she’s going to get the short straw.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Read An E-book Week

This week, Smashwords is celebrating "Read An E-book Week." Lots of books are discounted or are available at reduced prices. So check it out. And if you'd like to read Screwing Up Time, it's one of the books being offered for FREE! Just use the coupon code RW100 when you check out.

Today, I'll be helping my parents move. So, starting Wednesday I should be back to my normal blogging schedule.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Goodwill, Grad School, and Vampires

It’s been a whole week since I’ve blogged. I don’t know if that’s ever happened before. Even when we go on vacation, I usually post pictures.

The good thing is that nothing bad has happened to me. Things have just gotten even busier than before (didn’t know that was possible). Here’s what’s been going on.

1. My parents are moving, so I’ve been helping them pack and thinking how grateful I am that it’s not me who’s moving. Though I’m jealous of the opportunity to cull:

My mom: Do you think I need to keep this?

Me: Have you used it in the last year?

My mom: No.

Me: It gets packed in the going-to-Goodwill box.

2. Luke and Ariel are preparing to visit graduate schools. Next weekend, Luke’s visiting University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Ariel’s visiting Emory. Now I have to explain to people what my kids are going to study.

Me: Luke, are you studying those cage things that tie things together?

Luke: You mean ligands?

Me: Yeah.

Luke: No.

Me: Oh…

Luke: I’m studying organo-metallic catalysts.

I turn to Ariel.

Me: Ariel, so when people ask what you’re studying…

Ar: Math.

Me: Right. So I can say complex analysis.

Ar nods.

Me: Are there any practical applications?

Ar: I hope not.

3. I’ve been editing my third novel in Screwing Up Time series. Why is it that even though I know it’s the first edit after the first draft, I still hope that nothing needs to be changed? I find myself muttering and blaming my characters. Hmm...When my kids go to grad school and people ask what their mom does, will they say, “She grumbles and talks to herself”?

4. And last of all, I’ve been reading The Historian for my writers’ reading group. Normally, I’d never choose to read a vampire book. In fact, I’d usually view it as a literary punishment akin to reading James Joyce, but I’m loving this one.