Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Ohio Department of Transportation,

I am not a resident of your great state, but having spent almost 8 hours on your roads today, I feel that I am qualified to make some suggestions that might improve the Ohio driving experience. I hope you find these helpful.

The road that first brought me into Ohio today was I-90. I was driving along, enjoying my cruise control and the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme music blaring from the DVD player when suddenly the car jolted. It was then that I saw the "Welcome to Ohio" sign. The next two hours were like a very long ride on a very old wooden roller coaster. There was a seam in the road every 20 feet and I was able to reach a top speed of 55 mph.

Now, I understand that economic times are hard and Ohio can't just go around fixing all of its roads because some crazy woman from Kentucky had an unpleasant experience. But, I do have an alternative. At theme parks, such as your very own Cedar Point, there are signs posted warning certain people that they may not enjoy certain rides or that they may even be hazardous to their health. Maybe, at the state line, you could just put out a big sign that says, "This road is not for people who have back problems or a heart condition."

Enough said about that. My second issue is with a certain construction project that you have going on on I-271. I do applaud your attempt to fix some of your roads. This shows real initiative. But, the idea of merging everyone into two lanes just as I-76 merges with the main interstate was probably not a very good one. You should maybe look into firing the guy who came up with that one. Either that, or make him drive through it during rush hour as a penance.

I have one other suggestion that I hope you will consider. I believe that Ohio is not appealing to their driver's sense of psychology with some of the signs they have posted. Along I-90 in New York, there are signs requesting that drivers only use the left lane for passing. I found that most drivers actually did this. Once I arrived in Ohio, the sign changed. Instead of requesting that the left lane be used for passing, it asks that slower traffic please use the right lane. Now, nobody wants to believe that they are actually "slower traffic". Who wants to be slow? It has been associated through the years with a lack of intelligence or stamina - nothing that anyone wants to admit to. So, as soon as I passed the state line, everyone moved into the left lane, except for the semi trucks that have all come to terms with their label of "slower traffic" on account of their size. This meant that both lanes were traveling a good 5 miles beneath the speed limit and there was no way to legally pass anyone - though the shoulder looked awfully tempting at times. I believe a simple sign change would remedy this problem.

Thank you for your consideration in these matters. I appreciate your time.



Friday, November 28, 2008

Orange Rolls and Eye Drops

For Thanksgiving this year, we are at my sister's house. She lives in upstate New York. For the record, it is colder here than it is in Kentucky. They also get snow and it sticks to the ground and apparently I haven't even really seen anything because it gets much worse in January which is why I have never made the trek to Manlius in January. See, even us Math people have a little common sense.

My sister and I enjoy each other and we usually even vacation together in the summers. But, somehow we manage to forget between visits that together we have six kids and that all of our kids are loud and that at least one of them will get sick anytime we get together. Usually the person who is several states away from home is the one who gets the sick kid (or sometimes husband). This trip has been especially fortunate because I have two sick kids. And, of course, neither of them showed a single symptom until we entered the great state of New York.

It started when we came in on Wednesday night and I noticed that Michael's eye was gucking up. By Friday morning, Spencer had the conjunctivitis look as well and since Spencer really only has one eye that works well and it happened to be the pink one, we decided that a trip to the local Urgent care center was appropriate. Three hours later, we came out with the diagnosis of two eye infections (one for each), a double ear infection for Michael and a sinus infection for Spencer. We also had 5 prescriptions to fill. At least I got to spend some quality time with my sister in the waiting room making fun of the parenting magazines.

But, the trip is only half over and with antibiotics and eye drops and ear drops we should have some functional kids by tomorrow. The plan is to take them all to Chuck-E-Cheese for lunch and spread their germs so that other parents will feel our misery and there will be balance in the world. And, also there are orange rolls coming out of the oven in a few minutes, and of course, orange rolls make everything better. So, overall, I believe the trip will be a success.

The other reason this is all good is a pretty selfish one. You see, our next vacation with them will be in Disneyworld in 2009 and it will be my sister's turn to have sick kids.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Girl Date

In my early college days, before my Brig-in-shining-armor came along and rescued me, I used to live in an apartment with 5 other girls. Though I am still close friends with some of those girls, I have to admit that the situation did not suit me well and I'm afraid that many of my ex-roommates would agree. Being a left-brained, logical, rational person didn't bode well in the emotionally-laden, PMS-prone environment. So, when the weekend came around and I had a date - which didn't happen every weekend, but often enough - I celebrated my time away from my female world with great pleasure. Well, except for that one night where my date wore too much cologne and left me with a migraine by the end of the night. But, that's another story.

So, time has passed and my world has changed. Now I live in an all-male environment. My basement is full of camping gear and my garage is full of power tools. Even most of my students are male. So, it was with great anticipation that I embarked on my "girl date" this weekend. My friend, Hiroe (who also lives in an all-male home), and I left our kids with our husbands and hit the town on Saturday night. Our wild night included prime rib and Barnes and Noble, which is about as wild as I get these days.

I don't get a girl's night out very often. This is mainly my own fault. You see, we have moved close to every three years (or less) since we have been married. I am an introvert (understatement) and tend to lack some basic social skills, so it takes at least this long for me to find a female friend. Then comes the hard part - keeping the friend. Between my innocent comments that sometimes come across as offensive and my woman cave, which can be interpreted as the silent treatment, I tend to lose friends quickly and with great skill.

Lucky for me, there are a few unique people in this world who can handle the idiosyncrasies that are me. This is a good thing, because I am somewhat stubborn and set in my ways and I'm just not willing to change who I am at this point in life to accommodate friends. But, and it is hard for me to admit this, I still need them. And I still need girl dates. And since I have been unable to convince any of my sisters to move to Kentucky, I am grateful to Hiroe and all of her predecessors for chipping through my granite shell and finding out that underneath it all, I'm just as human and needy as everyone else.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Imparting Wisdom

It has been a good long time since I have shared the joys of teaching with my faithful blog readers. Since I gave a final last night and another this morning and I won't see the eyes of another college Algebra student for at least two weeks, I feel that I am in an appropriate state of mind to conquer this very task.

Last night, after completing his final, one of my students was joyfully exclaiming that he had miraculously passed the class. Since we were practically alone in the classroom, I commented that had he attended class a little more often, it may not have been such a miraculous feat. He then proceeded to tell me about his life that quarter. Now, being a Math teacher, I would not think that, by nature, I would inspire people to share their deepest life issues with me. But apparently, there is something in my demeanor that screams "tell me all of your problems." Yeah, I've got to work on that.

So, his girlfriend had broken up with him. His car broke down for a few days mid-quarter. At the first of the quarter, he didn't have enough gas in his car to make it to class one night. I've heard it all before. Life can be very traumatic when you are 23. If I seem cynical, it may be because I am. I looked at him straight in the eyes and told him that not one of us had a life free of disruptions and problems and that sometimes you just needed to keep going and figure out how to still keep the important parts of your life running while you sort out the crap on the sidelines.

He sort of shrugged his shoulders and went off to celebrate his D in the class, but I really wished he would have taken a second and listened to what I was trying to tell him since I believe it was much more important than the unit on matrices or maybe even the trigonometry unit. Okay, not the trigonometry unit, but still, many of my younger students believe that in order to have a successful life, you must have a life free of "bad things happening to you". And, when bad things do happen, you are then given a free ticket to fail in whatever way is most convenient at the time, you know, as a recompense.

I don't know how to help these students. In fact, I don't know a lot of things. Maybe, I should just stick to Math.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I lied.

I am not a liar by nature, but a few posts back, when I said I had overcome the "ewwww" factor to parenting, I now believe I may have lied.

Lately, sweet Michael has been going through the water fascination stage that all kids go through at one point or another. Luckily, the manufacturers of refrigerators know this is an issue and have installed a lock button on their water dispensers. But, if someone forgets to press the lock button for the full three seconds after filling their cup with freshly filtered fridge water, we pay for it shortly. Michael fills up whatever cup or container he can get a hold of and dumps it on the carpet, or the wood floors, or sometimes, if we are lucky, just in a plant or on the cat. Then he runs to fill up his cup again. Usually we catch him in action pretty quickly and the consequence are just an unexpected load of laundry or a very angry cat.

This morning, I started my day with a cool, clean glass of filtered water and then diligently locked the dispenser. A while later, I saw Michael running around with a cup, but I felt confident. I knew he had no access to water - not on the main floor anyway. He can't reach the sinks without a boost and doing that gives the rumbling warning of a chair being pushed across the floor along with two year old grunting. No, all was safe. I could lay back and relax.

Then, I saw him walk by casually. He was drinking water. From his previously empty cup. And I saw what room he had come from - which I'm sure you've guessed by now. And the lid was up. And...ewwwwwwww, yuck, double yuck. My gag reflex went into overdrive. I grabbed the cup and threw it in the sink. Then I washed his hands and face. No, I have not overcome the "ewwww" factor. Not at all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Rainy Day in Kentucky

So, this is not going to be a happy, fun post, because it is raining outside and I feel that every once in a while I am entitled to feel a little rainy inside too. I'll be better once Brig gets back from travel today and I can take the nap I've been craving all week, but for now, I am going to be a little down and you, my lucky blog readers, are going to get to hear all about it.

This morning was Spencer's eye appointment in Nicholasville, a good half hour drive from our home. Spencer has Strabismus and is seen by a specialist about once every six months. With the help of bifocals and some real diligence on our part, he has managed to avoid the more unpleasant therapies related with his eye disorder. We haven't had to patch. There hasn't been any mention of surgery. We just get a new prescription every six months, sign our weekly salary over to the glasses store and come out with a shiny new pair of bifocals that will be completely destroyed in 3 days flat. Hooray for the insurance plans on kid's glasses.

Anyway, the eye doctor informed us today that we were going to need to take further steps. He has started by covering his "good eye" lense with contact paper in hopes of strengthening his bad eye. We are also back to appointments every other month. I don't know where this is going to lead eventually, but I am an ace-number-one worrier and my imagination has already taken over. Spencer is being a good sport about the whole thing and did inform me that he felt his right eye "already getting stronger" on the car ride home.

It was at the end of this appointment that I felt like the universe was playing a little unfair. I was already feeling pretty down when I went out to make Spencer's next appointment and the receptionist looked up and said, "Is January 7th a good day for you? That'll be a Wednesday." I just about lost it right there and then. January 7th would have been my sister's 36th birthday. She was always funny about her birthday because she felt that it was never celebrated enough since everyone was always celebrated-out by the time January 7th came along. I suddenlty felt a terrible wave of guilt, because I've just been going on with life and I've been shutting out reality, because if I think about things too much, it hurts too bad and I'm so tired.

So, this morning, after dropping off Spencer at school and putting Michael down for a nap, I allowed myself an indulgence and I let my tears flow. I cried because she is gone and I couldn't stop it and I don't think I ever really understood her and I'm so sorry. I cried because I can't help anything now. I had grandiose ideas at one point of how helpful I was going to be to her grieving husband and young son and, really, I'm just not. I'm barely holding myself together. I cried because it all still seems so wrong. I'm not so sure that I will ever completely come to terms with the fact that my sister took her own life. And in a way, that makes me feel broken...and I don't want to be broken. But, I don't know if just pretending it isn't what it is is even worse.

So, that's where I'm at. I'll cry a little longer and then I'll go pick up my kids from school and I'll work on lesson plans and get everything ready for the primary brunch tomorrow and I'll just keep on going and living because that's the only thing I know how to do. And, I hope, that with time, these rainy days won't be so hard.

Monday, November 3, 2008

...and candy bars for breakfast.

I have three kids, three boys that is. My oldest will soon be nine years old, which including pregnancy gives me almost a full decade of parenting experience. I have cleaned vomit out of carpet at 3:00 a.m. I've changed diapers that would have left some veteran parents weak in the knees. I have dealt with and conquered almost every dreaded parenting situation imaginable.

But, and you knew a but was coming, I am starting to get tired. While I have overcome the "ewwww" factor to parenting, I have yet to learn to deal with the exhaustion which only seems to multiply with each child. I think I now understand why oldest children are classified as the most ambitious of the bunch. By the time their parents have given into a more relaxed parenting, they have safely made it through their formative years.

So, poor little Michael is my third. I am trying to raise him with as much diligence as the rest. I'll confide though, that it just isn't going to happen. I love my sweet Michael as much as any mother could love a baby. This has nothing to do with favoritism. I just don't have it in me to fight his two year old ways like I did with my other boys. At this point in family life, keeping the peace seems so much more important than making sure he wears what I want him to wear or eats every last green bean on his plate. This means that sometimes he still has his pajamas on during afternoon carpool and more often than not, the vegetables are thrown on the floor (and stay there until the cat finds them).

So, this morning, I get the older boys off to school, change Michael's diaper and then begin the search for breakfast food. I knew I should have made it to the grocery store on Saturday, but between Brigham's obligations and my own, the day got away from me and it didn't happen. We did have some yummy bread that Brigham made yesterday, but yummy as it is, Michael isn't a fan. Not only was the breakfast cereal long since depleted, but even the canister of oatmeal was gone. Then Michael brought me a miniature candy bar scavenged from some unsuspecting Halloween stash and I opened it and I gave it to him. My parenting has reached a new low.