Posted in Mama, Writer

Domestic Days

Saturdays are my overcompensation days.

During the week, I tend to be all business. I only get to be with my family when I’m resting, so I’m not exactly giving them my all.

On Friday, I even make a list of all the work stuff I need to get done over the weekend. There’s a long list of things I should accomplish on Saturday, specifically, which would free up Sunday for class planning.

Then, on Saturday morning- Poof.


(That is not really me- I found this on Pinterest, and it had no publishing info that I could distinguish.) 

I am the wife-mama machine here to represent all things Pinterest while giving cuddles and trying to pay attention to everyone at once.

This weekend, it even started early- Friday night.

After a grading frenzy, I just had to have an extended family-time activity. Unfortunately, with little planning, our impromptu gingerbread house building didn’t have enough time to dry.

I did get a really cool action shot as it was collapsing, though.


And it still tasted pretty good in pieces.


Today, Saturday, I was in full-on Pinterest mommy mode.

If someone had said “Ms. T.,” I wouldn’t have looked up.

I am “Mama” on Saturdays.

There was a one-pot mac and cheese recipe with the most enthusiastic helper there is. She wants in on the action so badly that It’s all I can do to keep her from climbing in the pot.

Then, we went to the Christmas Tree Shop, where I was literally in decorative holiday plate paradise.



After dinner, both kids helped me make cookie dough, 4 colors of royal icing, and (eventually) 3 dozen perfect cookie cutouts.

The super messy decorating finale was one for the history books.

And, the grand cherry on top for my domestic Saturday marathon- I cleaned it all up.

The after shots:

Tomorrow, I will remember all of the things I had scheduled myself to do today, and I will go back into 50/50 teacher/parent mode. The 7 hour football marathon, when Husband has the kids and I can work in relative peace, usually gets enough done.

I’ll keep that work momentum going until the next weekend rolls around- then I’ll probably try to embroider something while singing the ABCs and baking a cake.


Posted in Professor, Writer

End of Semester Teacher Thoughts

This is a joke. I embellished. And I laughed.

I wish students knew-

Student: Oh, so you mean it’s like (says something that shows she totally gets it).

Teacher thought: OHMYGOSH this teaching thing works!

Student: I did all the work in the group project. They did NOTHING.

Teacher thought: that’s most likely because you bossed the other group members around and didn’t let them make any decisions.

Student: Would it be okay if I just used the History channel as my source?

Teacher thought: No, but that would’ve been awesome.

Student: I’m really disappointed in the way you graded my paper.

Teacher thought: Really? ‘Cause the memory of that paper’s been keeping me up at night.

Student: I can’t read that because of my beliefs.

Teacher thought: How do you know…?

Student: I did everything you said to do on my rough draft. Why is my grade so low?

Teacher thought: I told you to start over. You changed paragraph 2.

Student: I’m in a tight spot- can I bring my dog to class?

Teacher thought: Against school policy, BUT I HOPE YOU DO IT ANYWAY.

Student (whispering to classmate): We never do anything in here.

Teacher thought (also whispered): Which would make the fact that you’re failing that much more spectacular.

Student: I bet you wish you could give US end of year evaluations like we give you.

Teacher thought: I have a blog.




Posted in Writer

Why I Just Can’t Even Right Now

I was sitting here, feeling sorry for myself, thinking about all of the reasons why I just can’t blog tonight. So, I’m gonna blog those reasons.


1.) I am very tired.

2.) I am a cranky person in general after 9 p.m.

3.) There were so many things today, and I now feel scattered and forgetful.

4.) I didn’t make my deadline for something else and am already feeling that tense stomach churning thing.

5.) I turned off all other parts of my brain in order to grade papers, and I would really like to just let my brain run free and frolic for a while.

6.) I could be baking cookies. We have holiday color m&ms. 

7.) Maybe I’ll enjoy this blogging challenge more during a different time, when I can devote a little more attention to what I write. 

8.) Since I’m feeling all these things, I don’t want to blog and make the poor reader fall into my current negativity.

9.) I’ll probably be a brighter human in the morning.

10.) I’ve been thinking too much and psyching myself out.

Thank goodness the blogging community has been so positive. I am so surprised to occasionally feel this way and still be blogging.

The picture is of one of my favorite parts of Peter Elbow’s book Everyone Can Write. Blogging and writing groups have a lot in common- a community that you write alongside, along with feedback/encouragement. We should all get tea and cookies.

Posted in Writer

In Five Years…

Someone asked me where I think I’ll be in 5 years, and I don’t feel too fettered by reality today.

In 5 years, I will be:

-accepting my Master’s Degree in a scientific field (which one? Surprise me)

-publishing my third novel… that year. Boom.

-writing books about teaching scientists to write.

-teaching the bestest stuff at the bestest places.

-in denial that I have a middle schooler.

-on the other side of a lot of nachos.

-10 pounds lighter.

-starting to complain that my house is getting too quiet.

-apparently the owner of a house.

-going to my virtual reality job, making my virtual money.

-using my treadmill for a clothes rack (note- buy a treadmill).

I can’t wait.


Posted in Mama, Professor, Writer

Passing Down the Good Kind of Busy

My dear babies,

There’s a lot I don’t know (see previous blog posts for a good start), and I will continue trying to improve here and there.

But there is one thing I’m good at.

I don’t do “busy” without wonderful reasons.

I don’t say “yes” to all of the favors, invitations, and extra work. I look for ways to be more efficient instead of just more “there.”

And when I am busy, really and truly busy, it’s because I friggin’ love what I’m doing. I give my time to what I’m doing- like a present.

You will hear me grumble about grading papers. I will seem to disappear for days at a time to take care of the seemingly endless task.

It is this hard part that shows me how much I love teaching, though. Papers may crumple me, but never crush- and I usually emerge from the pile fresh, full of analysis, and ready to start swinging at new syllabus policies and future assignment sheets.

Then, there’s the writing, the planning, the collaborating. Mama will again seem to disappear for almost whole days at a time, as the projects try to swallow her up.

I will miss you. I will be tired. It will often be overwhelming.

And I wish the same for you, one day.

I dearly love my projects. I love losing myself in a subject.

I will always endeavor to make enough time for us. I will also try not to regret being really and truly passionate about something that isn’t always kid-related.  

My kind of busy means I spend my time with you, and I spend my time doing what I love. Everything else is elevator music and call waiting.

Your mama hopes you will spend your time wisely. Make yourselves not just busy but so, so happy. 

Love you always,


Posted in Mama, Writer

Your Mission: Come and Go Without Making the 4-Year-Old Cry

How to come home for only 5 minutes when you have a 4-year-old.

She will be ecstatic to see you and so sad when you leave. It is too hard.

So, here’s what you do:

  • Park down the street. Turn your engine off and ghost to a stop.
  • Super-speed from car, to behind a tree, to crouched under the open window frame.
  • Sneak towards the front door silently cursing Spouse for leaving the glass door uncovered.
  • Take an agonizing minute to slowly and silently pick the lock, since the key literally squeaks, and you’d rather have youtubed how to conduct a criminal activity than alert the preschooler to your brief presence.
  • Press yourself flat to the floor as you hear little running feet cross in front of the entrance way.
  • Stay still for 30 seconds after the last of the footsteps fade.
  • Open the door at the exact speed that renders it quiet.
  • Tip toe through the kitchen and grab the lunch bag you forgot this morning.
  • From the other room, overhear your daughter ask for a snack.
  • Panic.
  • Stuff yourself in a cabinet.
  • In your panic, you chose the cabinet with the snacks. Dead eye and hold a finger to your lips when your spouse opens the cabinet to retrieve the granola bars.
  • Hand him/her one while he/she obligingly blocks you from view and shuns the preschooler back to cartoons.
  • Unfold yourself.
  • You don’t have time for feeling to come back to your legs, so hop/limp back to the door.
  • You hear Spouse turn the cartoon volume up.
  • You decide to get Spouse the GOOD Christmas present.
  • You quickly open the door, run tree to tree, and land back in the car.
  • Try not to let the tires squeal as you make your escape.
  • Realize you left the lunch bag back in the snack cabinet.
Posted in Professor, Writer

Grading Papers a la Star Trek’s “Trouble with Tribbles”

The teacher settles down to grade her stack of papers with as much preparation as possible.

She has played on the internet for approximately 30 minutes, made tea, decided she couldn’t have tea without cookies, so she’d better bake some, made some more tea, and, having finally given up trying to dodge the unavoidable, settled in front of her computer with a plate of cookies and more tea.

She counts the number of files awaiting grading on the learning system.


She’s momentarily relieved.

That doesn’t sound so bad.

She starts the initial read through.

After a particularly difficult paper, she decides she deserves a break, any kind of break, and speedily clicks over into her email.

Where she finds 7 more paper files.

Three claim the learning system shut them out.

Two appear to have forgotten the existence of the learning system.

Two come with private messages about why these papers deserve this or that consideration when it comes to their low quality.

42 papers.

The teacher takes a deep breath, and reasons that by grading a dozen a day, she can still get them done in plenty of time.

Still, she gets up to restock the cookie plate.

When she settles back down, her laptop screen is flashing that she has new, incoming mail.

Six more files are waiting patiently in a row.

So, one third of an entire class saved their only promised 24-hour extension for this final research paper.

“Wise of them, really,” the teacher mutters as she takes a splashy sip from her shaking tea cup.

48 papers.

She goes to the kitchen for a paper towel to sop up sticky spilled tea. When she opens the cabinet, 8 more papers fall out.

The teacher swallows hard, scoops up the towels and papers, and heads out to check the mail-

Finding 12 more papers stuffed in the mailbox.

She gathers them up with her coupons and returns to the house.

As she puts her shoes away in the closet, she hears a disturbing sound, and looks up over the top shelf of baseball caps- as an avalanche of papers crashes around her head, spilling onto the floor around her feet.

The teacher frantically kneels to scoop them up, grumbling that they could have at least been stapled, when the doorbell rings.

She opens the front door to see a stack of papers from floor to the top of the doorframe.

She gapes.

It teeters.

Too late, the teacher tries to close the door, but the papers invade like a crashing wave, enveloping her as she’s swamped to the floor in layer after layer of crisp white copy covered in black type.

The teacher’s overwhelmed murmur floats up from below the mountain of essays.

“It’s not s’bad,” she slurs in a dizzy sort of voice. “A little every day. Just a little every day. That’ll get it done…”

The papers don’t answer.  

Posted in Cooking Irresponsibly, Writer

Ramen to the Rescue

Today just slipped away. I suspect black holes.

One second, it was Saturday morning, full of potential, and the next second, we were wandering around Walmart because “What do you wanna do?” “I don’t know- what do you wanna do?”


We got home a little later than our usual dinnertime, which automatically nominated Husband to cook. He’s our ramen guy.

It was a little hard to wait.


They just had to be in the kitchen. “Is it time to eat yet?” “How about now?”

Husband got to work and whipped up Neoguri: a spicy ramen with a bright red color meant to frighten away the weak.


It’s Husband’s and our daughter’s absolute favorite dinner.

Bonus: unlike a lot of the other foods Husband craves, this one didn’t come from the Asian market. You can buy Neoguri at most Walmarts now.

Husband started by boiling chicken broth with some water. Then, since spicy ramen is our “throw it all in” recipe, he looked through the fridge to see what we had lying around- a couple of mushrooms, some green onions, and a handful of spinach. If we’re in the mood, this is also when he would add a can of tuna, but tonight was not a tuna night. 

He added the spice and veggie packets from the ramen. After letting everything boil together for a minute, he cracked a couple of eggs into the roiling water. Another minute, then he added the noodles.


Husband doesn’t believe in the timer dictating ramen. He watches the time, but won’t stop cooking until it tastes right.




The finished product.  


Isn’t the egg pretty?

There was a surprising addition at the table; waffles. My son is too picky for spicy ramen. He was super happy with some frozen waffles instead.


There’s one in every family.

When we first got married, I thought Husband’s ramen was SO spicy. I could hardly eat any before I had to guzzle milk.

Now, I kind of wish we had some kimchi to go with it- and Husband has started cooking an extra package, since I can finish mine without his help. 

Marriage changes a person(‘s taste buds).

Thanks, honey. 


Posted in Professor, Writer

The Wonderful Student- Who Did Nothing

It’s December 1st, and the semester is winding down. Wednesday will be the last day of regular classes before exams begin.

Around this time of year, we faculty members tend to huddle in little groups around our doors, in our offices, near the lounge and copier to talk for a quick minute (no one has longer to spare). We talk about our semester, finals, plans for the holidays. We occasionally share a little about a particular class.

There’s variety, mainly, but a strange phenomenon repeats itself.

Every year, from different teachers, in different subjects, I hear about yet another student who was bright, engaged, and wonderful in class- who is absolutely going to fail.

“They just never turned anything in,” the teachers say.

I’ve experienced it more than once, myself.

In the beginning:

A bright student comes to class having both read and understood the homework reading. He or she contributes actively to the class discussion, and is treated with respect by his/her classmates.

The other students want this student in their group for projects. Conversation droops during his or her rare absence.

A little later:

Me: I didn’t get your assignment. What could be the matter?

Student: (laughing) Oh, I must have forgot to turn that in. I’ll get it to you right away.

(Nothing ever comes.)

A little later:

Me: Since I’ve never received any of these assignments from you, even if your next assignments are perfect, you will be lucky to pass.

Student: Of course. So sorry about that. There will be nothing but perfection from now on.

And finally:

Me: (sends official notice that there’s no longer hope of passing the class.)

Student: (still shows up and does a wonderful job supporting his or her group members for the final presentation.)


I don’t know why it happens, but every teacher I know has experienced this student phenomenon in some form or another.

Some students linger in a teacher’s memory; They’re easy to remember, for this or that reason, but the wonderful students who did nothing have left a particular weight on my shoulders.

Maybe they were scared to show their written work.

Maybe they had something going on that deterred them.

Who knows?

They were like ghosts in the room- we perceived them, but they left no trace.