Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gettin' out of town....

I have a concert this weekend, two hours away. My normal routine is to drive there and back on Thurs. for rehearsal. Drive there on Fri. for rehearsal and stay for rehearsal and concert on Sat., drive home Sat. night. The orchestra is pretty good, so the musical experience is worth all the driving. The conductor is a tad annoying, but aren't they all? Still, I sometimes wonder about my sanity driving from 10-12 p.m. twice in three days. I don't have class this Friday morning, I've been a bit sick and not sleeping well, and I'm generally needing a bit of a mental health break, so I talked to Dave this morning and we decided that it made no sense for me to come home Thursday night just to help get the boys to school on Friday... What a great guy he is! (Of course, we've hired a sitter for Thursday night and Saturday night, so he won't be alone all weekend, so he isn't THAT great.) There is also a slim chance for a storm on Thursday evening that would make it hard to drive...

Bottom line--I'm leaving Thursday afternoon, and won't be home till midnight on Sat. Bliss!

I'll stay with the same couple I always stay with on concert weekends. They have become dear, dear friends. I don't care that they don't heat the upstairs of the 1875 farmhouse they live in and it is supposed to be cold this weekend. It is my bed and breakfast--my getaway--my sanity home. I'll take some work, but I should also have time to sleep in on Friday, and maybe even hit K-Mart for some Christmas shopping! Again, I say, Bliss!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Advent Calendar

I’m working on treats for the boys advent calendar. Grandma Helen bought them one of these cute houses from LLBean a few years back. It is fun to open one door or window each day, although Joseph figures out that there might be candy in some of them and starts to open them early. I think I’ll put the treats in each day this year so he doesn’t find anything in the future days places—but I’ll have to remember. I may leave work early today to shop for special little toys to put in instead of candy. Last year we had candy one day, and a toy the next.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime" by Mark Haddon

I'm getting ready to lead the discussion for my book club on this novel. Jannie suggested I read it several years ago, but warned me that it "might hit too close to home." I loved it, and Christopher (the novel's narrator) is really not very much like my Joseph so, although some of it was uncomfortable, none was too "close to home" for me to enjoy the novel. I suggested my book club read Curious Incident because last year we read another novel that featured a minor character who was autistic and I thought the author had done a terrible job portraying life with an autistic family member. After several people in the book club said how 'realistic" they thought the portrayal of autism was in the other novel I nearly leapt from my chair to say "no, no, no..." While it is hard to say Christopher is typical of Asperger's--'cause in my opinion, there is no typical anything when it comes to the spectrum-- I think the portrayal of the neighbors , family, and the reaction of the strangers that encounter Christopher are all pretty believable.

Anyway, I’ve had fun researching Mark Haddon. I recommend his web site to anyone who has read the novel. He has written many children’s book, illustrated most of them, in a quirky style, he has made some very cool abstract paintings, and in general he is an interesting fellow. Click on the question marks below to see some examples:

The fact that I’m ready for book club almost a week early is a testament to how little I want to sit down and grade papers this afternoon!

Friday, November 24, 2006


I'm heading out with Macy's coupons. $10 off $25 purchase. I'm planning to buy a wedding present for Trish and undies for myself. Maybe socks or stockings for presents or for myself. If the crowds are not too large, I'll look at clothes and shoes for myself. All this in just a few hours. I'll update you when I return. Probably the crowds will be too big to get much done.

Oh, and I should add, our Thanksgiving dinner was very nice. Everyone seemed relaxed and the food was great. I wasn't responsible for all of it, but I didn't feel like a domestic disaster at all yesterday. I made up a sweet potato recipe combining two different recipes from the newspaper--butter, brown sugar, oj concentrate, and ginger over just barely cooked sweet potato chunks, baked iin the oven for an hour or so.

I tried something different yesterday. I love crock pots, because you can get stuff done early and leave it. So, I used the regular oven like a crock pot. Instead of 350, I set it at 275, and left the stuffing, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese in the oven for almost 2 hours... I had to take the mac and cheese out early, but I didn't care if it cooled off, 'cause it was really for the kids. That way I could put everything in the oven and then clean the kitchen and take a shower before guests arrived. I was much more relaxed than usual for a big meal. (It helped that others were bringing the rest of the meal...

Holly, if you are reading, the new napkins made the table look beautiful. I've lost my camera or I would post a picture. We are missing all of you very much this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bargain Shopping

Yes, Thanksgiving isn't even here, and I'm already thinking about shopping! I'm a big bargain-shopping addict. I have a friend who clips coupons and scours grocery store sale ads for bargains. On a double dollar coupon day she can buy 80 or 90 dollars worth of groceries for under $20. She donates the things she doesn’t want to food pantries or homeless shelters. She gets free toiletries, free food, etc. etc. I will take advantage of similar offers whenever I can, but I’m not nearly as dedicated to bargain shopping. However, I continue to be very impressed by her shopping prowess, and strive to emulate her whenever I can.

Several years ago I decided to try shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Before that year, I’d always wanted to avoid the big crowds, and thought it was more fun to sleep in and spend the day with family. After that year I want to avoid the big crowds, sleep in, and spend the day with family. I was astonished and humbled at 6 am that morning. There were many more people out than I expected, much longer lines, and none of the bargains I hoped to find were still available. So, Friday morning, after all that turkey, you will find me snoozing or drinking coffee in my PJs… No more shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving for me. Bargains, smargains! Okay, maybe a little online browsing...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving Plans

We are staying home and entertaining Dave's family for Thanksgiving this year. We should be 16 for dinner. Luckily others are helping with the food-- I'm making Turkey, gravy, meatballs, Mac and Cheese (maybe), sweet potatoes, dressing, maybe fruit salad and maybe cookies. Others are bringing jello, bread, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and pies. What a FEAST! We could do without all my maybe dishes, but I think the children attending would be happy for mac and cheese. I'll probably skip the fruit salad and cookies. I do the meatballs in the crock pot. I do the turkey on Wed., slice it off the bone cold and reheat it in broth. That makes it easier to be sure meat is cooked, it stays juicier when it is sliced cold, and then I can have the mess out of the house before any guests arrive. It means there isn't a beautiful bird for the table, but mine never looks that nice anyway.

My goal for the day is to relax and not worry if everything is perfect or not. My goal for the weekend is to RELAX!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I promise I'll quit blogging about football

Just wanted to show you the photo Alex took of us before we left for THE GAME. Sarah, I believe the hat, hideous as it is, is my favorite fall accessory bargain! I bought it for $1 several years ago at the Eddie Bauer warehouse. It seemed like just the thing to complete my ensemble yesterday, and it is now my new Lucky Buckeye hat... Also, I'm smiling but Dave looks like he is heading out to have an unpleasant medical procedure. What is that all about???

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Life with Joseph

I baked yesterday as planned. Peanut butter bars with melted chocolate on top, and Sarah's pumpkin brownies. Wow. Sarah's Pumpkin Brownies are great. You don't miss the fat content at all. (I put 1 cup chocolate chips in them...) Check her blog for recipe.

The point of this blog is to vent, yet again, about life with Joseph. His latest obsession is the kitchen timer. The ticking sound must bother him, or he is attracted to the bell, or ??? With J-Bear, who knows. Bottom line, he finds the timer and turns it off. That is not a big deal, except I have a hard enough time getting baked goods out of the oven without burning them--I often forget to set the timer--so when Joseph HELPS me by turning the timer off.... Well, let's just say it is a miricle I had decent baked goods to take to book club last night...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Totally Unmotivated Friday

Here I sit on Friday at noon. I promised students I'd stay in the office until 2:00. All I really want to do is go home, put on sweats, bake cookies for "book club" tonight, and veg. I have some brainless work to do at the office that I'll start as soon as I finish blogging and eating lunch...

I played Bunco last night for the first time. (See Sarah's blog a few weeks back.) I enjoyed it, and I won!!!! ($20 gift certificate to the movies...) Beginner’s luck I guess. I had a few flashes to my future life in the "home." I think I'll be a better Bunco player than Bingo player. I like the fact that we had to get up and move around the room. You stay too stationary playing Bingo! At least I hope when I hit the "home" I'm still mobile enough to want to get up and move around the room while playing Bunco...

We went to teacher conferences at Alex's school last night. I adore his tutor. She clearly sees his potential, knows him well, knows all his tricks, and works her backside off to get him to do the best work he can. I can't say the same for his reading teacher. The first nine weeks of school are over, and it appears Alex has put forth no effort in reading class. As frustrating as that is, I'm even more upset by the fact that the teacher has put forth no effort in the first nine weeks to teach Alex. No indication that he knows anything at all about him. No indication that he has tried. My rule for Alex in all he does is that he must try his best. I don't expect right answers all the time. I expect effort. I expect the same from the teachers. They don't have to be successful, 'cause I know both my kids are difficult. But they have to try... We gave the teacher some suggestions, and we will see how it goes. We may end up moving him back to an easier reading class just to get a teacher that cares about him, and cares about teaching. So "Bravo," A+, to both Mrs. W's and "Boo, Hiss," F, for Mr. G. There is my report card... and I feel better for venting. (I can give the teacher a tiny bit of credit in that he spoke to Dave briefly a few weeks ago to tell him that Alex wasn't doing very well, but... Dave certainly didn't get the impression that Mr. G was alarmed!)

Okay, now I'm ready to spend a few hours entering data into an excel file...

Go Bucks

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mozart and Football

Football insanity is upon us, Go Bucks!!!

The tension has been building all autumn—and now the game is here. #1 Ohio State vs. #2 Michigan. Dave and I will be there. I’m hoping there are no terrible riots on campus afterwards.

After the national championship game a few years ago, when Ohio State beat Miami in three overtimes, I spent about fifteen minutes in class the next morning discussing the similarities between sports and music. I’m led to ramble on about the topic yet again. I told my class that that game was as close to Mozart as football ever gets.

Some of the similarities concern the vocabulary we use to talk about the activities. What do we practice? At least two things: sports, and music. Medical doctors are also practicing—but that makes me nervous—so I prefer to think of the medical doctor as a practitioner. There are team sports and individual sports. There are musical ensembles and solos. Sports teams have coaches. Musical ensembles have conductors.

Some of the similarities are deeper. There is a tension in the air during Michigan week that is palpable. The entire football season, from the beginning of practice during the summer to the game this week, has been building and leading up to this game, and the next game. It’s a multi-movement symphony, or maybe an opera, being played by a very talented group of college athletes/musicians. Read the morning paper, walk across campus and see the student activity group tables set up to promote Michigan week activities. It feels like what a music theorist calls “dominant prolongation.” We go about our daily business, but the underlying tension is there.

Music sets up clear expectations in the listener. The pattern of expectation and fulfillment or consequence, the delay of the consequence, or the substitution of an unexpected consequence, creates an emotional response in the musical listener. (See Leonard B. Meyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956) a book as old as I am!) In the same way a football game (or baseball game, or soccer game) sets up expectations. When the other team has the ball for a first and goal on the 1-yard line, you expect to be disappointed. When your team picks up a fumble and runs 99 yards for a touchdown, you are even more elated because that consequence is so unexpected, unlikely, improbable.

How does music set up these expectations? Each note, and each chord has a particular job to do. The notes or the chords work together to define a key. Particular patterns of notes and chords are common, and thus set up expectations. Almost every time I hear a particular sequence of chords, the next chord is predictable. So I expect the chord I usually hear completing the pattern. The composer can delay the expected chord, or might write a different chord, and my ears will prick up… What is going on now??? Why don’t I hear the chord I expect? Why did I hear this unexpected, unpredicted chord? And the music continues until all the tensions are resolved.

How does football set up these expectations? Troy Smith throws a long pass. We expect Ted Ginn to catch it. What? Who was that? Oh, Anthony Gonzalez caught the pass. That wasn’t what I expected, but it is great, and I cheer. Or, Ginn catches the pass, but he was out of bounds, and we must try again. The emotions are closer to the surface during a football game, and the fans react—loudly—during the game. The performers on stage during a symphony concert would probably be distracted if the audience burst into spontaneous cheers or boos or groans after every cadence, but the audience is feeling the same things, just not reacting in quite the same way.

Musical compositions have standard forms. For example, a simple rounded binary movement uses a predictable pattern of harmony and melody, but each rounded binary composition is unique. The patterns are predictable, but the particular execution is not. Likewise football plays have a predictable pattern, and football games contain many predictable patterns put together in a unique and often unexpected way. That is why we listen to different compositions, all in the same form, over and over again without being bored. We watch football games every autumn, even every week, without becoming bored.

I could go on and on…

Friday, November 10, 2006

Neighborhood Card Night/Kids Book Club

Four families from our neighborhood, all with children about the same ages, have been gathering about once a month for a potluck dinner, kids book club and adult card night. We let the kids run wild and the adults play cards. It has been great fun. We are very lucky to have neighbors that we enjoy. We have been playing a game called contract rummy. The game mostly involves luck, but Dave seems very lucky most nights, so he may be paying better attention than the rest of us!

Here are the rules: (With eight players we use 3 decks)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Happy Birthday Mary Ann

I don't have the right day, but I'm thinking of you sister!

When writing about birthdays, I liked the way Sarah asked "when else is there a day to celebrate you, how special you are and what a gift your individual life is to your family?" We try to make our children feel that--so let's make our sisters feel it, too.

I know you read my blog at least once, so now I'm checking to see if you are still reading! I hope you had a fun birthday dinner with Mom and Steve. Where did you go? I wish you could come over for a cup of coffee to celebrate.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

In Memorium

Our dear sweet Fannie-Kitty didn't make it. She seemed worse and worse on Thursday, and after my last blog I took her to the vet. She was having trouble breathing, and the vet took x-rays to confirm pnemonia. She made it through the first night at the kitty hospital, but after I talked with the vet in the morning, she died. Dave called me during my meeting on Friday afternoon to tell me. I had trouble concentrating the rest of the day. I went to Gallipolis for a concert weekend, and just returned late last night. I told Alex this morning. He seemed ok about it, but Alex holds everything inside and it is always hard to tell what he is feeling. We will get Fanny's ashes back, and I'll probably have Alex help me spread them in the bushes outside the screened porch that Fanny loved.

The vet doesn't know why she contracted pnemonia. He said it was not my sips of water, or if it was, it could just as easily have been the antibiotics we were giving her for the surgery. He thinks she may have had an undetected heart defect that made it hard for her during and after the surgery... and the pnemonia found her when she was weak. I was full of a lot of tough farm girl talk on Thursday, but now I'm having a hard time. If we had known she had a weak heart would we have skipped the surgery? Well, I don't want a cat in heat in the house... But??? Anyway, the vet feels terrible, I feel terrible, and she is gone.

The vet has a cat up for adoption. An 11-month old male. A BIG cat. Already neutered. Black and while like Fanny, but with lots more white than Fanny. White boots rather than white toes. White on his face. His name is "Toes" or "Dedos" in Spanish. Dedos Dobos? Felix and Dedos? Dedos and Felix? The name seems to have good Karma. Fanny had many names in her short six months. Her birth family named her "Frenchy" because she had white toes like a French manicure. Alex and his freind Owen called the cats White Paws and Black Paws. So if I bring Dedos home he will be another White Paws, which may simplify it for the little boys... We also called Fanny "Star" "Moonbeam" and "Inky" at various times before we settled on Fanny. But back to Dedos... Do I really want to live with a house full of boys??? Fanny was my Fanny girl, my sister kitty, the other female in this house of males... But some folks tell me male cats are friendlier than females... And then again, neutered males have a tendency to have urinary tract problems... So, what's a domestic disaster to do???

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Update on Fanny

Well, Felix has bounced back from his surgery and seems almost back to normal. However, Fanny is struggling. I talked to the vet this morning and he said I could bring her in for him to look at if I wanted... no charge. He said as long as she is eating and drinking, she will be okay. Now I'm torn. She hasn't been drinking or eating. I'm pretty sure taking her in will be free, but I'm also pretty sure the vet will suggest I leave her with them for IV fluids and nutrition. I've just spent too much money on the surgery. I can't justify spending more money on a cat when there are human beings in distress all over the world... So, I'm giving fanny sips of water from a syringe every hour or so all day. Luckily, I'm working from home today. I sure hope this works. I hope you all don't think I'm cruel. I guess I have a bit too much farm mentality about animals.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sad Kittens

Amid a hectic Halloween, I took our kittens Felix and Fanny to the vet to be spayed and neutered. They are not happy. Fanny had trouble with the anesthesia and had to have an IV and a shot of epinephrine. I guess she almost died on the table. She was very lethargic all evening, and it took me about a half hour to find her this morning. I was very worried that she crawled away in the night and died in some corner remote corner. I found her, and she is doing much better. Now I am trying to figure out how to give them oral medicines without spilling half of it. I've read all about it online, and I'm doing okay, but I can't wait 'till I don't have to do that twice a day. The vet gave us plastic head collars to put on the kittens so they couldn't mess with the incisions... Now, it has been 15 or 20 years since I last had a cat go through this, but I don't remember the plastic collars. I felt so sorry for the kittens this morning I took them off. They couldn’t easily get to the food bowl, they couldn’t clean themselves up after using the box, and they couldn’t get into all the favorite hiding places. I hope I don’t go home and find that one or both have torn open the surgery site. I guess this is one reason to adopt an older cat! But we have sure had fun with the kittens.