Archive for April, 2011
Some pictures

Because I’ve been dominating the conversation over here lately, I’ve neglected to document our lives in pictures.  Here’s to making up for lost time.  Enjoy!

Dying Easter eggs the day before Easter (also, enjoying some cashews):

Inspecting his work:

Looking pleased:

The Easter Bunny did not bring chocolate.  But she *did* bring SpongeBob pajamas:

Looking for eggs on Easter:

He has quite the collection:

Fast forward a weekend, and our grass is a whole lot greener—AND we are building raised beds for our first garden at our house!  The wood for our raised beds was “re-claimed” from hideous bookshelves that were mounted on our family room walls by the previous owners.  We took the shelves down along with their associated hardware, and screwed the planks together.  The result is a perfect raised bed for veggies:

If only the sod were easier to remove:

Note the blue plastic shovel in both pictures above.  Holden *really* wanted to help.  Tomorrow is a whole additional day of weekend, free from the onerous chore of preparing for Class on Monday.  Which means folks, I will be building the rest of our raised beds, turning in some rich compost, and letting those little worms do their thing for the next few weeks until it’s warm enough to finally plant.  Ahhh–life is good!

New Beginnings

Last night I gave my last final of the semester.  And yesterday was H’s last day at his school, as they closed their doors forever.  His teachers had decorated the classroom with streamers and balloons, and they had lots of fun things planned for their last day.  They had created individual t-shirts for each of the kids, with personalized messages from all of the teachers.  There was a mural hanging on the wall.  It read “We will miss you all!!!!” All of the children’s handprints adorned the mural, along with pictures of the kids smiling and playing with each other.  When I went to pick him up in the evening, the children’s individual bins had been emptied of their contents.  Their coat hooks were bare, aside from the decorative name labels above each hook.  I gave my hugs and thank-yous to the teachers, and then lost it completely. I’m not a public cryer, but for some reason, the little dry erase board with the list of the children’s last naps, really made my heart catch.  There is no other place I would have left H at.  He was only 14 months old when he started at that school.  He went there for the majority of the past year and a half, aside from last summer and any other days when I would decide I needed a day at home with him.  It was hard to leave him there on the very first day—and the second and third.  But I think that leaving his daycare altogether was harder. He loved going there, and his teachers loved him so much.  I wish them all the best as they move on with the next chapter of their lives.  Holden knew the end was coming for his school, but I still don’t think he realizes what that means.  He made so many friends there, and I still don’t think he understands he won’t be seeing his beloved Keeley anymore, who he claims to love “very much.”

After picking H up from school, we drove into town to pick R up from work (my car is still undriveable, long story), then we went to  my school to administer a final exam at 6PM.  On a Friday.  Luckily, the students were in and out in 20 minutes—I had them do a mock interview exercise as their final!  Holden got to meet some of my students, and that was really fun.  I got lots of thanks and appreciative comments from my students, which was unexpected, but SO NICE to hear.  I felt like this last week was a great way to end a very tough year—the students really DID appreciate what I did for them.  It was such a nice feeling—but I also felt a little sad that I’ll be losing all of my advisees.  I told them to keep in touch with me since I will be an adjunct faculty member next year, and I’ll be on the college e-mail system.  I like keeping up with where my favorite students go.

Once the final was wrapped up, our little family headed to the waterfront in Burlington.  We’ve had MASSIVE flooding throughout the state.  With 125 inches of snow this winter, plus heavy rains this spring, the lakes and rivers are inundated with water.  The waterfront area is underwater:

After assessing the flooding damage at the waterfront, we headed to Church Street and sat outside (it was cold!) and had burgers and beer.  Holden had chips and guacamole for dinner.  Nutritious.  He was happy and smiling, and it was a good end to an emotional day, and it was a solid beginning for all of the wonderful new things to come.


I am a bad teacher.  I cancelled class today even though my car crisis was averted, and I could have very easily gone into work.

Early this morning, I was having more car trouble, so I made arrangements to have my neighbor meet me at the mechanic to give me a ride home after dropping off my car.  By the time I got to the mechanic, my car was behaving normally again, and the check engine light had turned itself off.  The mechanic hooked my car up to the computer, and there weren’t any codes popping up, so I was instructed to come back (again) the next time the check engine light comes on.  I was free at that point to drive into work, but I decided to stick to my original plan of canceling class.  My whole morning was consumed with the car business anyway, so I effectively lost my prep time.  Plus, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to the last class of the term—a 3-hour class during which I fight to maintain the students’ attention, and constantly parade around the room reminding them to get off Facebook.  If they don’t care, why should I?  That’s where I’m at with this teaching thing.  Really, who in the hell would want this job?

On a positive note, only 4 more days of daycare, 4 more days of final exams, and then only a few all-day meetings in May.  I’ve been networking to get my usability business off the ground, and it’s working!  I have a meeting tomorrow about a potential lead with the Institute for Sustainable Communities.  And perhaps the greatest surprise was over the weekend—I contacted a high-profile blogger based in NYC who is active in the user experience community and travels the world giving talks about her work.  When I contacted her, I mostly just wanted to share my story, thank her for providing inspiration to me, and ask her about a couple of things that I was wondering about.  I was blown away when she mentioned that she was talking to a company in Burlington, VT and would consider using my services.  Um, woah.  I wrote her back immediately to tell her I can’t wait to learn more about this opportunity.

So in the span of a few months, I have 3 leads on possible jobs, and I haven’t even left my full-time job yet.  And everyone seems excited to work with me.  It’s so different from academia—where you just feel worthless no matter what you do.  I really feel like I’ve made a good decision for myself and my family, and I feel like I can use my skills in really important and exciting ways.

In other news, Holden is up on the waiting list at his new preschool!  They have an opening for the fall, so all we need to do is get him potty trained, and we’ll be set!  I’m hoping that he’ll do it this summer, like he promises he will.  We’ll see.

So much on the horizon—I’ll update more later!

Pace Yourself

I don’t have anything in particular to write about today, but I feel compelled to write anyway—it’s all of that nervous, end-of-the-semester energy that is contributing, in all likelihood.

A couple of weeks ago, I got serious about re-committing myself to my every-other-day running routine.  I run for 30 minutes in the morning before I shower or do anything else.  I don’t run fast—just enough to get my heart rate up and make me sweat.  I always run on the treadmill in our guest bedroom.  This is because, as much as I would like to, I can’t run outside.  I don’t know how to pace myself and I end up starting off way too fast, only to fatigue quickly and give up running after only a few minutes.  I’ve come to see that this is a metaphor of sorts for how I live the rest of my life.  I jump head first into something without much of a plan (but lots of enthusiasm), I overcommit, overexert, and then I throw my hands up in the air.  I need to be sure that I don’t repeat this pattern over the summer with all of our new pursuits.  Here’s what is in the works:

1.  A small garden.  Three vegetables.  That’s it.  For anyone that gardens, you know how much work it takes to maintain even a modest garden.  We’re trying to keep it simple this year—and this will be the first year we have gardened since H was a newborn!

2.  One structured activity for H.  We signed him up for 2 weeks of daily swim lessons in the hottest part of the summer.  He’ll go each morning for about 45 minutes over a two week period starting July 25th.  I think summers were meant for deviating from schedules and doing whatever the heck you feel like, so I can’t bring myself to structure any more activities for H than this one.

3.  Exercise!  Every other day.  I have to do SOMETHING—either run on the treadmill, take a hike with H, go kayaking.  I can’t permit myself to get lazy, but I also refuse to have anything more structured than committing to something every other day.

4.  In July, I will have my first meeting with my first-ever usability client, who happens to also be my current employer.  They are doing a website re-design, and I offered my services to them.  Yikes.  I am not really ready for this, but if I waited until I was ready, I’d never take the plunge.

5.  Reading—although I’d like to read more than this, I think I’ll have to stick to the modest goal of one professionally-oriented book per month.  I know how long it takes me to read stuff, and I think I have to be realistic and plan for only one book per month.  I try to do this during the semester, but I fail even at that.  This is mostly because I spend so much time reading/grading papers, reading articles and textbooks, etc., that I typically don’t have time (or energy) left for other reading.  Summers are usually better for this, but I’ll still stick to my one book/month rule.

6.  Potty training!  I think H is finally ready to embrace this new challenge head-on.  He insists that he will want to do it when he is 3, and I am confident that he will stick to his word.  We haven’t pressed the potty training issue whatsoever, but we do offer him the chance to use the potty from time to time.  He never wants to do it.  He says he wants to be 3 first.  This past weekend, we were desperate to get H’s hair cut (we had aborted several previous haircut missions because of massive tears and temper tantrums), but we were finally able to coerce him by promising Thomas the Train underwear if he was good for his haircut.  Luckily for us, the underwear proved to be a powerful incentive, and he tolerated his haircut like we’d never seen before.  We took him to the store, where he picked out his underwear and insisted on wearing them once we got home.  We knew he would wet himself, but we also knew that this would be a good learning opportunity (and sensory experience!)  He got through his lunch without wetting himself, but seconds after leaving the table to grab books from his bedroom, he yelled for me to change him.  He had soaked through his underwear and pants, and expressed surprise at what it felt like.  Yay!  I considered this a successful experience because he was able to make the connection between wearing underwear and needing to control his bladder.  The next morning upon getting out of bed (he was in a diaper), he paused for a second and said that he had to pee.  I changed his diaper immediately, and he did, in fact, pee!  So, I think he is getting a sense of the antecedent sensations that predict having to pee.  He definitely knows what it feels like before he poops, because he will yell “Don’t disturb me, I’m pooping!!!”  He’s been doing this for months now, and will sometimes go into the bathroom and shut the door for privacy (and then poop in his diaper).  He just hasn’t been ready for the potty part of it yet, but I think he is very, very close to attempting that part of the potty training experience.  I suspect that he’ll decide he’s ready this summer, and that he’ll just do it without too much fanfare.  Another motivating factor is that his new preschool requires that all kids are fully potty-trained before they start at the school.  H really wants to go to that school, so he feels especially motivated to jump on the potty-training bandwagon.

7.  In July, we celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.  We’ve booked 3 nights at a bed and breakfast along the coast of Maine.  We haven’t had a childless night together since H was born, so this is going to be very, very relaxing!!!  Neither of us can wait!

8.  House projects.  They never end.  I need to pick one or two.  And that’s it.  I haven’t decided which ones, yet.

Now that I am looking at this list, it seems like I have a lot on the table for this summer.  Hopefully I won’t overcommit, and hopefully I will have a relaxing summer while also enjoying the dual satisfaction of having gotten things accomplished.  I must remember to pace myself, so I don’t run out of stamina.

The home stretch

After this week, only one full week of classes left.  Then finals.  Then 3 weeks of collaborative meetings.  Of those 3 weeks of meetings, I have found childcare coverage for 6 days.  It will have to do.

I understand how students could be having difficulty keeping up the momentum during the final weeks of the semester.  I know I am certainly ready to wind down.  H is also gearing up for the end of his school days at his first school.  We’re all ready to be done…we’re just marking days off the calendar at this point.

Today I am stuck at home.  My car is in the shop for some undefined problem it started having this week.  Crossing my fingers that it’s not going to be too expensive.  I’ve spent my day replying to e-mails, reserving rooms for student experiments, doing the reading for my class, previewing videos for my class, prepping for class, etc.  Also, doing laundry and tidying up.  Soon, I will set out with the stroller and walk to H’s school to pick him up.  Not a bad day, I guess.

But it will be nice to finally have summer days with H again.  I simply cannot wait!