She Blinded Me with Science


Wilifred glumly realized that her capacity for retaining scientific facts now approximated Swiss cheese.

Winifred glumly realized that her capacity for retaining scientific facts now approximated Swiss cheese.


Please indulge me while I go back in time and have a talk with the me from last week.

Hi, it’s me. I mean you. Or whatever. Just listen up for a sec. You’re about to get an e-mail asking for volunteers for a school event. Don’t be so quick to reply “yes”. You need to know what you’re getting into first. Because here’s the thing: it involves science. Not only does it involve science, it will require you to get up at the stinkin’ crack of dawn (“Stinkin’ crack”. Hehehe.) Where was I?

Right.  Science. Do you remember 7th grade science? No? That’s because you have blocked it out, my friend. Let me jog your memory just a bit: It involved a very mean hulking science teacher man who yelled, yelled, at little tiny 80 pound seventh grade girls because they couldn’t memorize the freaking periodic table.

You suck at science.

Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to arrive at an ungodly hour (it will still be dark out) clutching a cup of coffee and stand there in a freezing cold gymnasium (hoping that someone will please shut the goddam double doors thankyouverymuch) with the other hapless volunteer parents.

You will expect that the science museum will have provided a knowledgeable staff to interact with the children, and to answer the children’s questions. Science-y questions. Because why?

I’ll say it again. You suck at science.

But you will assemble in front of  the one staff member that the science museum has sent, hereafter known as Perky Science Museum Lady, and she will begin leading you all around to the various displays.  She will explain in great detail how they work, the goal of the activity, and the scientific concepts the children are supposed to learn, along with Very Thoughtful Questions to ask the children as they are up to their little elbows in building a wind turbine or calculating gas mileage.  Unfortunately, all you will hear is this: Waah wah wah wah kinetic energy wah wah wah electrical current wah wah wah wah wah wah non-renewable resource blah blah blah etc.

It will begin to dawn on you that you may be in over your head. Because your mom brain is incapable of retaining any information of greater import than the name of Holly Madison’s new baby. (It’s Rainbow. Duh. No, you read that wrong. It’s not Rainbowduh. There was a period. But that would be hilarious, right?)

See what I mean? Your brain isn’t geared for science. Anyway, you will begin to panic a bit and consider faking a tiny stroke so you can leave.

You will be assigned a station. Then? You will be handed a binder, which contains all of the scientific information relevant to that station. Your station, complete with hand-cranked generator, will be geared toward espousing the virtues of those squiggly light bulbs that you hate because they give  your house a dim glow  more reminiscent of   “Cold War Soviet Union” than “House Beautiful”.  (Can I get an Amen for proper lighting please? Thank you.)

The children will file in and will beeline for your station, and you will gamely try to talk about “why this light bulb uses less energy than the other one” but then you will think, “Oh, wait, maybe it’s the same energy, but not as much power? Or the same power, but less energy? Or same power and energy, but more efficient?” and you will try to subtly check the binder because you remember seeing a formula in there somewhere.

And as you’re checking the binder and trying to make sure the kids take turns turning the crank to make the light bulb go on, you will sense a presence over your shoulder. It will be Perky Science Museum Lady, and she will be helpfully telling the children all sorts of smart-sounding information that was in the binder which you should have told them but which you have forgotten already. She is Science-Shaming you.  Because obviously you cannot be trusted with these young minds. And you will feel like you have disappointed Perky Science Museum Lady greatly.

Did I forget to mention that you will sign up to be a full-day volunteer? Rookie mistake.  Sign up for the half day, fool! You’ll be home by lunchtime!

All day the children will keep coming like pilgrims to Mecca, and by the way approximately 38% of them will be picking their noses. Like some sort of gross tic. And you will be praying that an errant booger doesn’t find its way onto anything you have to touch.

Eventually you will give up on trying to teach the children anything science related when you realize they aren’t actually listening to a single word you say. Because like you, most of them have the attention span of a sand flea and once they have turned the crank to see the light bulb go on, their eyes glaze over and they hear waah wah wah waah energy efficient waah wah wah. All they want to do is hightail it to the next activity.

So you will turn it into a game of “Let’s pretend the power is out all over the world and it’s up to you to turn this crank to keep the power on and unless you do everyone on the planet will perish!” Which the kids will love, but which will cause Perky Science Museum Lady to sidle by and give you the stink-eye.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know what you’re getting into before you say yes and hit “send”. You’ll survive, and at the very least, in the end you’ll have a general understanding of how light bulbs work.

I’m pretty sure the quadratic equation is involved somehow.



My Latest DIY: A Cautionary Tale

It’s possible that winter is getting to me. Or maybe I’ve been reading too much Young House Love.

We have this bay window and a  large window seat underneat it, and the people that lived here before us left us this big piece of foam already handily cut out into the odd shape of the seat… so I  thought that it needed a pretty cover. I dreamily pictured wiling away a rainy afternoon, nestled on the window seat with a cup of tea and a good book. My kids becoming enamored of classic children’s literature right in this very spot. (Note to self: Find some classic childrens literature, quick!)

Had I ever done anything like this before? Uh, no. My jackassery with a sewing machine is legendary.

As you may recall  from this post  I’m not any kind of a sewing expert, I’m more of a “let’s see if this works” kind of a sewer. Basically, I have no skills, just  determination and stubbornness. And a tendency to bite off more than I can chew.  Anyone else picturing a bulldog with a sirloin firmly clenched in his jaws, growling a little bit? Yeah, that’s me when it comes to anything DIY, except without so much drool. (Also I don’t look like a bulldog. I’m much cuter. Just thought I’d mention that.)

So I winged it. Wung it.  Whatever. With visions of my future reading nook and super-literate children in my head, I hit the fabric store. I got some discounted fabric, I got some piping, and jumped right in. My dining room was turned into a makeshift sewing room. There was swearing. And blood because I kept jabbing my fingers with needles. And then the accidental sewing of things to the wrong things. Then some more swearing.

Unwisely, VP kept asking when it was going to be done. Last thing I remember is getting all shouty and then everything went black. Poor guy. He’s due to be moved out of the ICU any day now. The doctors said they’ve never seen that many pins stuck in one human being before. (Love you Honey. Stay away from the light.)

But in the end, it kind of turned out okay. Because, you guys, I made this:

Whatever you do don't turn it over. Just. Don't. Mm-kay?

Whatever you do don’t turn it over. Just. Don’t. Mm-kay?


And then? This happened:

"I need my rest. Those squirrels aren't gonna chase themselves out of the yard."

“I need my rest. Those squirrels aren’t gonna chase themselves out of the yard.”


Doesn’t he look comfy? Instead of the cozy reading nook I envisioned, I’ve basically made a fancy dog bed.  Maybe I can convince him to share.


About a Dog

Though I didn’t know it then, 4 years ago today somewhere in Alabama my future dog was born.

Though I didn’t know it then, 4 years ago today we were just  weeks away from the sudden, heartbreaking loss of our Shepard mix, Annie.

She was getting older. That fact couldn’t be denied. She groaned a bit when she stood up, and took longer to get up off of the floor than she used to. But overall, her health was good.  I thought we could look forward to a couple of more years with her. It wasn’t to be. One February morning, she lay down in her favorite spot at the bottom of the stairs and slipped away. As I said, it was heartbreaking. Devastating. I won’t go into the details here, just… if you have ever lost a pet, you know. You know.

I know, they say not to go out and get another pet right away. You have to allow yourself time to grieve. But the thing is, I had already begun the search for another dog a couple of months before that. I  had wanted to add another dog to the household, a companion for Annie.

Nothing had worked out though. The dogs we found in the shelters were so emotionally damaged, I couldn’t risk bringing one into a house with small children. We were “next on the list” for several dogs through pet rescue organizations, but the families who were first on the list always ended up adopting the dogs. One breeder had us out to her house a couple of times to look at a dog she had available, before she called us back and said, “Sorry, the dog just wasn’t that into you guys.” I swear to Jesus I am not making that up.

So when Annie died, we were suddenly dogless. And it felt… weird. No clicking toenails, no barking at noises in the night, no one to greet me over-enthusiastically when I came home even though I had only been gone 10 minutes. To quote Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents, “You need that, do you? You need the assurance of an emotionally shallow animal?” Yes.  Yes I do.

We agreed that we wanted an adult dog. Full grown. Housebroken. For goodness sake, we had a toddler in the house. Only a raving lunatic would have a two year old and a puppy at the same time.  That’s just crazy! Out of the question! I pictured a Lab:  an older, slow,  fat one. The kind of dog that would tolerate the kids’ nonsense during the day, romp with them in the yard, and lay contentedly at my feet at night. In front of a roaring fire, blah blah blah.

And then? One day this appeared in my inbox:

No mortal can resist my powers.

“No mortal can resist my powers.”

My aunt had forwarded an e-mail from a friend of a friend. The pup needed a new home, quickly, or the owner was going to have to take him to a shelter.  Though an experienced dog owner, the guy underestimated what it would be like to have a high energy puppy in a townhouse while working full time. The dog needed a yard. The dog needed a family. The dog needed attention.

The question became, were we ready to take on a 12 week old Weimaraner puppy?

It was the ears that got me.

It was the ears that got me.

The answer was no, we weren’t ready. Did we take him anyway? Yes. Of course we did. Surprising exactly no one who knows me. All 13 pounds of  stumpy-tail-wagging, un-housebroken, separation anxiety riddled, sharp-toothed destruction was delivered to us by Delta Airlines exactly one week later. VP named him Blaise, after the saint. Trust me, if you knew the dog, you’d fully understand the irony.

And then? Our lives were turned upside down, inside out, and sideways. Then they were chewed on and barfed up on the carpet. But we stuck it out, and today we have… what do we have? Um, an 85 pound stumpy-tail-wagging dog. Yes, he steals food. He eats pillows, shoelaces, and bra straps. He runs out the door once in a while, chasing cars, bicycles, and people walking down the street. He gets into the trash on a regular basis, and has taught himself to open the garage door. Romping in the backyard with the kids? Not so much. He prefers to push the kids over and steal their shoes. A vet once questioned whether he had ADHD. I didn’t even know dogs could have that.

But… he is my constant companion. He’s loyal, protective, and sweet. He’ll chase a tennis ball for hours. He hates rain, loves to swim, and prefers to sleep under a blanket (What? He gets cold. Don’t judge, Judgey McJudgeypants.)  He’s great with the kids, except for the shoe stealing bit. And my favorite time of the day is in the evening when he curls up on the couch next to me and puts his head in my lap. (If he could talk, he’d say his favorite time of day is in the morning, when he jumps into the warm spot in the bed that I’ve just left. I know, blecchh.)

It’s like we went out car shopping with a station wagon in mind, and came home with a Ferrari. We  got a dog that is beautiful, sleek, fast, and sometimes hard to handle. I have to say, though, I’m loving the ride. I adore this dog. Except, of course, when he steals my sandwich… but that’s another matter.

Happy 4th birthday, ya crazy hound. And stay away from my food.




Oh My God We Almost Killed Dad

Note: This particular inauguration wasn't the same one. This was Warren G. Hardings, and I didn't even vote for him. Duh!

Note: This particular inauguration wasn’t the same one. This was Warren G. Harding’s, and I didn’t even vote for him. Duh!

Everyone should try to attend a presidential inauguration at some point in their lives. I highly recommend it. What I don’t recommend is almost accidentally killing your dad in the process. That really does put a damper on the inaugural festivities, it turns out.

Years ago, before kids, my husband and I were living in our snug little row house on Capitol Hill. We loved the city, loved having visitors.  Now, my dad isn’t a fan of big cities, or airplane travel. He prefers small towns, and likes to drive to his destination if he can. So though my mom had been to Washington DC numerous times to visit us, he hadn’t made it yet.

But one year we were able to get tickets to the inauguration, and that did it.  My parents booked their airplane tickets, and we cleaned and fixed up the guest room. Since this was my dad’s first visit, I wanted everything to be perfect. I chuckle now at my naiveté.

A bit of not so subtle foreshadowing there. See how I did that? Oh yeah, stick with me.

When we picked them up at the airport, I knew something was wrong right away. My father was ashen, and very, very quiet. It turned out that just prior to the trip he had come down with a very painful, albeit temporary, medical condition that made walking and standing difficult. Determined, he boarded the plane anyway. Because he’s tough as nails. Anyone else would have bailed out under those circumstances. Not my dad. 

So here was my  dad, having  gotten on an airplane and come to a large bustling city which he had always thought of as crime ridden (okay, it did have a reputation for a while there as the Murder Capital of the U.S.A., but, really wasn’t that bad any more! No, really!)  and in terrible pain despite being on some very strong medication, of the sort that you hear about people robbing their sweet old grandmothers to get.

So not only was he in pain but he was, to put it mildly, zonked out of his mind.


The morning of the inauguration, we awoke to freezing temperatures and sleet. Keeping score at home? Good.  Raise your hand if you think this sounds like fun! Right.  Didn’t think so.

Despite living within walking distance of the Capitol, we decided to drive there because of the pain my dad was in. So we got as close as possible, but due to tight security we were still a couple of blocks away. And then, we noticed our tickets were for “Mall Standing Area”. To the uninitiated, basically this means we were in the nosebleed section for the inauguration, and needed binoculars or maybe satellite to locate the President when he finally came out. I mean, we were practically watching the inauguration from Virginia. That’s how far back we were.

So I had to see the disappointment on my dad’s face when, after painfully hobbling for what seemed like forever, he saw where we actually had to stand. He was a big campaign supporter, and understandably felt like he should have at least been able to sit down. And maybe, you know, see something.

My dad stood there for a while in the freezing rain, practically in another zip code from the Capitol, looking more and more bummed out as he took in the circumstances. He was mostly just really, really quiet and I felt really, really awful. Awful for the pain he was in; awful that I couldn’t have gotten him a better ticket do he could sit down, awful about the weather which certainly wasn’t helping.

At some point, my dad asked my husband for the car keys. He said that he was going to start walking back toward the car, because he really couldn’t stand up any more due to the pain. Since the walk would take him past the Capitol Building, and thus closer to the action of the inauguration, my husband handed him the keys.

That’s right, in a  crowd of approximately a gajillion people (rough estimate), we handed a set of car keys to my pain medication addled father, pointed him eastward on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, where one wrong turn can land you in a world of trouble, and bid him adieu. In hindsight, it wasn’t the brightest thing we’ve ever done.

After the inauguration concluded about 45 minutes later, the rest of us started wading through the crowd, heading toward the car. And of course we arrived at the car to find… no one. The car was empty. My father was nowhere in sight.

With panic rising, we concluded that he must have somehow changed his mind, and walked home. Remember, we had given my dad the keys to the car, so we had no choice but to walk back to the house. And of course we got back to the house, to find him NOT THERE EITHER.

We had literally lost my father on Capitol Hill.

Did I mention the house keys were with the car keys? Yep, we were locked out of the house.  Thankfully, the neighbors were home, and we were able to borrow a coat hanger from them, which we then used to reach through the mail slot and unlock the deadbolt.

Still hanging on to a shred of optimism, we thought maybe he was upstairs asleep. Alas, he was not.

Now in full panic mode, we pondered what to do. The obvious conclusion was to start calling the police and local hospitals. That’s right, on the day of the inauguration when you can’t wipe your nose in Washington DC because security is so tight and all law enforcement and emergency personnel  are on Presidential standby, we were calling them asking the whereabouts of a “guy, in his 60s,about 5’11”, L.L. Bean coat? Snappy dresser? No? Haven’t picked him up? Okay, thanks. Can I leave my number just in case you… Hello? Hello? ”

While my mother and I were calling hospitals and law enforcement and getting nowhere, picturing all sorts of bad things (okay, mostly mugging),  my husband was walking back to the car with his extra set of keys, and a hunch.  And lo and behold, what did he find?

My father, sitting in the car, safe and sound.  With the air conditioner running.

Not his fault.  He was trying to turn the heat on, and he didn’t realize the heat in my husband’s car wasn’t working at the time. It turns out that when he left us, he didn’t go back to the car right away after all. We still aren’t sure where he was all that time, but the end result was we beat him back to the car, and so by the time he actually arrived at the car we were long gone. When my husband finally found him, he was sitting in the passenger seat, freezing, trying in vain to warm up the car, and looking glum.

My dad’s  conclusion? It wasn’t him who was misplaced, it was us. And he couldn’t understand why we were worried, because he was JUST FINE.

And maybe he was. Or maybe the muggers who like a nice of a pair of loafers or a tweed cap stayed home with hot cocoa that day. Or maybe my dad’s stern “Tommy Lee Jones at the Golden Globes” persona which he can turn on at will scared them all off.

So my husband brought him back to the house, and we thawed him out. Needless to say, we skipped the Inaugural parade. Dad was none the worse for wear, and he was actually feeling fine by the evening so we were able to go out to dinner. Despite pain, disappointment, near hypothermia, and possible aimless incoherent wandering through iffy areas which we were never able to prove, he managed to have a good time. And I think by the time he left he wasn’t thinking that DC was such an awful place.

Maybe. Or maybe he was just glad that he lived through it.

Paint It Black

Paint It Black

My ode to fine children’s literature. Ahem. Here we go.

If You Give a Five Year Old Unsupervised Play Time…

If you give a five year old unsupervised play time at the end of a two week Christmas break because you are losing your mind and just need a few minutes of peace and quiet for God’s sake, he is going to find the art kit his older sister got from Santa.

If he finds the art kit his sister got from Santa, he will want to open it.

If he opens it, he will find shiny new tubes of paint.

If he finds shiny new tubes of paint, he will try to read the labels.

If he tries to read the labels, he will fail to recognize the word “oil paint” because he can’t read yet. He will, however, recognize the word “black”.

If he recognizes the word “black”, he will get the idea to put the black paint under his eyes just like the football players. Because football players are the coolest.

If he puts the black paint under his eyes like the football players, he will like the effect so much that he will want to paint his entire face just like the army guys. Because army guys are the coolest.

If he paints his entire face just like the army guys, his hands will be covered in paint too.

If his hands and face are covered in paint, he will run upstairs and hide when his grandfather arrives for a visit. Because looking like a pint-sized Al Jolson is not the coolest.

If he runs upstairs to hide, he will try to wash the oil paint off of his face and hands using white towels and washcloths. Because what else would you use?

If he tries to wash the oil paint off of his face and hands, it will create a smeary greasy mess, but it won’t come off.

If it doesn’t come off, he will begin to howl for help until his parents discover him in the bathroom looking like a chimney sweep.

If his parents discover him in the bathroom looking like a chimney sweep, he will try to tell them he “fell into a large pile of dust”.

If he tells his parents he fell into a large pile of dust, they inexplicably won’t believe him, because even though no one has ever accused his mother of being a great housekeeper, they are pretty sure she hasn’t gotten to the point of leaving piles of dust around that are large enough to cause her children to look like they should burst into a chorus of “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. They will ask him to tell the truth.

If his parents ask him to tell the truth, he will tell them with all sincerity that he “actually walked into a really big spider web”.

If he tells his parents he walked into a really big (and apparently soot-covered) spider web, they will give up and put him in the bathtub.

If they put him in the bathtub, they will cover him with every substance short of WD-40 to remove the oil paint.

If they have finally removed the oil paint, he will get out of the tub, put on clean clothes, and comb his hair.

And if he has put on clean clothes and combed his hair, he will ask if he can paint a picture. And he will ask to use his sister’s paints…

Paint it Black

Worst idea ever.

Cancel My Order for Buffalo

Coming soon to a suburb near you!

Coming soon to a suburb near you!

Dear Livestock Supplier,

I am writing to ask you to please cancel my order for the herd of buffalo I recently placed while in a jet-lagged stupor.

Allow me to explain. I just returned from a trip to Italy, and it seems Italy does funny things to your psyche. Probably something to do with a lack of pasteurization, but I digress. While in Italy, I had the most amazing buffalo milk mozzarella, the kind of thing that, once you eat it, you just know that once you go back to the United States all of the food is just going to suck. Life changing, this stuff.

So of course, me being me, I started to think, “Hey! How can I get this stuff into the U.S.?” but of course I never even considered smuggling it back in my suitcase packed in dry ice and wrapped in many layers of sweaters so the customs agents wouldn’t find it. Because that would be wrong. (Whoo hoo! Shout out to the USDA! I love you crazy guys!) I mean, we have buffalo mozzarella here, but trust me when I say it’s not even in the same league as the stuff in Italy.

Again, me being me, I started to think, “Hey! I can learn to make it myself! That’s it! I will become an artisan cheesemaker, specializing in fresh buffalo mozzarella!” This was possibly after having an espresso. Like drinking paint thinner, but really gets the thought process jumpin’, ya know? Oh, it was going to be fantastic! We would of course have our own small farm, and I’ve always wanted a farm.

And of course, to learn to make the cheese, we would have to move to Italy for a few months, where we would rent a small farmhouse somewhere near Campania, and where a local cheesemaker named Luigi would take us under his wing and teach us his traditional, secret, cheesemaking ways, but only after we cracked his irascible exterior, which is a result of his beloved wife Carmela being killed in a bizarre cheese-making sort of accident, and he blames himself, but we help him see that it IT WASN’T HIS FAULT and then there is a heartwarming scene with hugs and tears and then he teaches my kids some Italian. (Aaaand scene.)

Or something like that. Where was I?

Oh yes, I had it all worked out. Until I realized that in order to make buffalo mozzarella, you need buffalo milk. From an actual buffalo. Which would involve milking buffalos. Buffali. Anyhoo. That’s where you came in. After I placed my order for said buffalo, I read the fine print. I find it necessary to reverse my decision, and here’s why.

Aside from the obvious size issue (buffalo aren’t exactly space-savers, amiright?) It turns out they’re not docile at all. Buffalo (buffali?) are incredibly cranky animals, and being milked pretty much makes them want to kill people. I saw the pictures – there’s hate in those eyes, people. (Cut to scene of my children fleeing to the house in a panic with an angry, snorting buffalo on their heels.) I’m not envisioning many people lining up for the job, is all I’m saying.

Also, we don’t have an actual farm yet, and these animals need to be surrounded by a 6-7 foot fence. Therefore our attractive split rail fence which contains the dog so nicely might not work out so well. I can just imagine the calls from the neighbors: “Um, hi, it’s Brenda, from down the street? Yeah, I just wanted to let you know your buffalo herd is out again. They’re heading toward Mrs. Miller’s… Whoops! They just trampled Mrs. Miller. Oh, that’s a shame. Anyhow, see you at the block party! Toodles!”

Lastly, according to your website, it only takes 3 to 4 generations of calving to make them docile enough to milk. And that involves lots of blecchhy artificial insemination, of which I am certain I want no part. Of. I just wanted some cheese!

In closing, please cancel my order. I may be interested in some goats, however. Everyone loves goat cheese, right? See, I have this idea, that involves a small farmhouse in the French countryside, and an irascible goat cheese maker named Pierre…

All the best,