Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Composting out the window

I am sad to say that my composting efforts, while admirable at the time, went out the window since we moved to Rochester. Unlike our Winthrop property, where there was a wooded, secluded section to the back yard, there are no good spots here on our lot. Funny to think there's so much more yard but fewer "hiding" spots. Speaking of "hiding," I got to speak with the new owner of our home in Columbus, whose name is Amy, recently. She had a question about how to operate something and it dawned on my in the conversation that I ought to let her know about the compost. Imagine that explanation: "Uh, Amy. I just want you to be aware that there is a pile of rotting produce remains and yard waste in the corner of your new lot. Enjoy!"

Her response indicated to me that she may not be the environmental enthusiast that I was/am.

Since I am feeling so guilty every time I throw a banana peel in the trash (once a trained composter, always a composter at heart), I have decided to place my efforts elsewhere: water.
I realized right away that the shower in my bathroom (and I use "MY" very selfishly because Scott and I decided we operate better in separate bathrooms. His grows fungus, mine doesn't. Simple as that) leaks water through the faucet while the shower is spraying. At first, I thought it was just a trickle. But when I put my hand down there to feel, it was quite a rush of water. I went through 3 showers trying to block out the sound of perfectly good water being wasted by re-entering the drain. (Bare in mind, as well, that since my couple months in Africa and in particular my stay with my host family there, I have had major water issues. The Routh Family (my host famiyl) had water conservation down to a science, to the point where the ratio between pasta and water used to boil it in was carefully formulated so that by the time the pasta was soft, there was no water remaining. I loved that!). But then I had had enough. Not prepared to actually hire a plumber to fix the problem, every subsequent shower has been prefaced by snatching our garden watering pitcher and placing it under the faucet. My goal is to finish the shower before it begins overflowing... not QUITE met that goal yet (But I suppose I should be made to feel better about the lengths of my showers in comparison to Scott's, who claims he has permission to take extra-long showers at home since most of his week-day showers take place at the gym. Should I explain to him that water is still water and my consciousness about it is environment-motivated, not finance-motivated? Oh, my dear husband. I love every little inch of his unresourceful self!)

So then, as I'm sure you've concluded, I use the water for flowers or anything outside that looks thirsty.

Now really, there's nothing noble about the pursuit to save that water- expecially considering I'm just balancing out a negative against Mother Earth, not technically adding anything - but I'll continue to find ways for She and us to have more harmony.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bison Feeding

There's this WAY cool website,, which I have been using as my road map for navigating summer fun in this city. Typically, I find fun Mom-and-Jackson things to do during the week, but today I visited the site... wondering if the whole fam might enjoy a neat activity. And that's when I discovered an advertisement for Bison Feeding at a cool county park, one itsy bitsy town away from ours.

When I called to ask about the event, I learned not only that we would be instructed by an expert on the nature of bison in the wild, but that it would also be free to the public, along with entry to the mini zoo there as well. All I needed to hear was FREE. SIGN ME UP!

Jackson was stoked about the whole thing. He is finally getting to the age where appreciation of zoos, animals, and general kid-fun (just not art) is beginning to happen. It was awesome.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My sacred spot and alternative sexual choices

Last weekend, when I mentioned to Scott my little mini dream about a place in the backyard for MY hammock and MY peace and MY shade and MY tranquility, action happened. We've not been real great yard-people in our previous two homes... just making do, but not "creating" much. So when I mentioned I'd really like to be proactive about it this time, Scott went to work.

The involved area is in our side yard and there are two GORGEOUS pine trees that have a soft, welcoming bed of needles under them. I had this vision of a hammock going there and maybe later some other really great bird feeders, a fountain, etc, etc. Again, the key words here are MY SACRED SPACE. But in order for the dream to even begin, some lower hanging branches needed to be removed. With our handy dandy hand saw thingy I got for my birthday (THANKS DAD!), he went to town without me knowing. When I discovered the progress, I was so thrilled that I busted out the hammock that very night and I have since had many a diet coke and phone conversation in that very space. Not to mention, book readings and post-bed-time conversations with Scott. It's fantastic. I'll try to post a pic soon.

But while I'm on the topic of my outdoor industriousness, let me tell you who else has been industrious outside: a pair of deer... gorgeous, majestic deer, who just happen to take a liking to my plants.... and the plants that produce the most beautiful blooms (like Hydranga - sp? - inparticular) are the ones I have yet to see a bloom ON as a result. I'm working on some options to keep them away from the flowers, but the most intriguing thing is that the pair both have antlers. I asked around to find out if females grow antlers at any point in their development, and everyone seems to say no. So then I thought maybe it was "guy" night the one time I saw them together. Since, I've seen them repeatedly together. So the question remains, do I have a pair of homosexual deer in my yard?

I welcome them, if so. I welcome them, if not. I've just not seen such a thing.

I will keep you posted about any more developments I observe about their sexual choice. I'm sure you'll be holding your breath.

Young Picasso

There's much evidence, after today's finger painting session, to suggest that my child will have little to no appreciation for the arts. Engineering, maybe but... Fine arts? No dice.

We busted out the crayola water proof finger paints today. And we both had a good time, I think. On went one of Scott's worn-out undershirts, clearly oversized as you can see in the pics, and out on the driveway we went. As I was saying, Jackson seemed more interested in the nearby STICK (see pic) than the really cool, bright primary colored paints. I thought he'd be WAY into the texture and the permission to get messy (after all, that's what he loves doing at meal time). And he did get into it, but mildly.

Instead of the actual PAINT and its creative potential on paper being interesting (and after the novelty of the stick wore off), he spent a good ten minutes just playing with the lids of the paint containers. Screwing and unscrewing them, with assistance... On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On... then, you guessed it, Off again. Engineer? Jackson is always interested in the technical FUNCTION of things. We'll see. I thought I'd put my math major to use this summer and start teaching him calculus next week. Pushing it?

AND THE FINALE... so his diaper got a little art too

Monday, July 21, 2008

All about Jackson

I've been so self-absorbed in my past couple "quest to find friend" entries, that I may have disillusioned you into believing that our lives may not be "all about Jackson."

But truth be told, he still is the center of our universe. So back to pictures of our little guy.

The first few are all of Sunday night's Concert by the River. We took our picnic blanket and chairs and enjoyed bubbles and music. It was nice. Jackson has yet to realize that although he is the center of OUR attention, he may not be center stage of EVERYONE'S picnic (he spent much time on other family's territory, just walking over, plopping on THEIR blanket and looking up with a smile as if to say, "Ain't I cute, watcha got for me?") Pretty social, the little dude. I think he's all about human interaction. Hmmm. Must've got that from Scott.

And now... drum roll: Jackson's 1 year gift... HIS RED WAGON!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The ole "drop the books" trick may have worked for teeny-boppers to attract attention from their high school crush (before backpacks were invented, of course). How else was an actual exhange supposed to happen, what with the crowded school halls, quick pace, and distractions all around?

I know likening my friend quest to high school crushes is slightly strange.

But that's how I felt Wednesday at the library. I had arrived early again, discussing my new Rochester Public Library card and its offerings with the VERY librarian-looking librarian - when in came Miss Corinne. We got eye contact, and made a quick nod, recognizing each other. I thought... gotta follow through with my promise to myself... gonna find her as soon as I finish up here. The crowd was even BIGGER than last week for the afternoon children's entertainment. There were kids, parents, and strollers EVERYWHERE. I got in line. Couldn't find her again anywhere. Ugh.

In we went. And managing a spot near her, much less FINDING her was an impossibility. Jackson and I managed to entertain each other through the ENTIRE 30 minute performance (Kuddos to me - he's SO underaged for it... at one point I wondered if I had a sign on my face reading, "I know, I know - my son is way not ready for this kind of activity and, excuse him for the occasional high pitched screaming interruptions, but I'm here for other, more selfish reasons. Friends? Friends? Anyone?), enduring it in full length JUST to get the chance to find Corinne again afterwards.

And there she was! I wanted to drop some books or something to draw attention to ME, as she was in a dialogue with two other moms, introducing them to each other as it were. I dangled in the background with Jackson for a good few minutes. She saw me and gave a quick wave. I waved back, thinking HOW MUCH MORE DESPERATE LOOKING COULD I GET? (answer: dropping books). And when I saw no opportunity for her conversation to include one more Mom (and Jackson was at the end of his own rope), I retreated. Like a sorry, disappointed little girl. Who didn't have the guts to ask for an iced coffee date. Or at least to drop her books.

I'm really doing just fine, despite how depressing this blog may read... actually, I'm hoping you snicker from time to time as I have! I remain confident that a network of people who love me and whom I love will slowly come to be here in Rochester. For me, it's just the patience part I'm finding hard. When school gears up this Fall, I have high hopes that lots of opportunities present themselves.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Meeting friends 101

OK. SO I've found my million dollar idea: Online friend dating. After all, isn't finding a platonic kindred spirit as challenging a task as finding a romantic kindred spirit?

Well I say it is. And then there's the tricky strategy of going about transforming a very casual encounter with a potential kindred spirit into a more meaningful "relationship." I have been in three different situations where the potential was GREAT to connect, and I let it pass me by because I didn't want to appear creepy and weird.

#1) Rewind to last Wed. The Rochester Library was advertising this neat-o kid singer to perform LIVE in their auditorium. After mapquesting, I toted Jackson and myself to the library a touch early (rare). We ended up getting good spots in the line to enter the auditorium (let me tell you, this singer was WELL LOVED by this community - there must've been 100 kids there). Behind me stood a woman with a baby on her back and 4 little ones scurrying around her. I started the conversation by finding out if ALL THOSE KIDS were hers (pretty sure I knew the answer - she is dark complected with dark eyes and two of them were blonde haired blue eyed kiddos!). Nope, she was watching two of them for her friend. A few exchanges later, I just KNEW it. She was my new BFF! So we're standing in line and it starts to move. I'm PANICING thinking, "Good God, what if she sits someplace different and I lose my chance to be her friend FOREVER?" But, alas, I strategized my sitting RIGHT next to her and her crew. THEN, I find out the baby on her back, Holden, is 13 months - JACKSON'S AGE! The chances are just getting better that this woman is destined to be my bossom buddy. The music starts, and Jackson is CLEARLY too young to appreciate it, more interested in the girls' hair sitting in front of us. I keep waiting for the right moment before we bolt to get her cell phone, her email, her IM, her facebook account, her home address - ANY way to reconnect. But I reconsidered, thinking that would be too creepy so soon. So I reasoned with myself, "Jackson is about to terrorize this place B4 this guitar guy finishes his last song. Corinne will likely be present at a future library event (she told me every Wed they have fun things for kids). NEXT time I'll hunt her down and have the courage to pounce! For now, I gotta find an exit strategy to keep Jackson from pulling EVERY last hair out of that kids' head!" So off we went.

#2) Last Thursday, after the enormous thunderstorm, Jackson and I hightailed it for our first Rochester Mall visit. We navigated our way to the kiddie play area. What a BALL! He was a hoot just mesmorized by all those bigger kids! One kid, Jessica, is not bigger. She is about his same size and when I spoke with her mom, I found out they were both 13 months. Mom was about miy heights. A bit shy, but definitely friend material. We talked lightly about baby stuff. And we laughed at our little ones poking and playing with each other. But when it was time to go, I still felt strange about fessing up to this woman, "HEY, I have no friends here. Would you be interested in trying me out? I'm fun. I promise!" Geez, what's the proper ettiquette for predicament? So Jackson and I said the appropriate, technically-we're-strangers WAVE, when what i really wanted to give was a this-may-seem-weird-but-i-kind-of-think-you're-cool-let's-hang-out HUG.

#3) Yesterday (Sunday), we tried out a Presbyterian church in the area. They were having their annual outdoor worship service and it was a beautiful day. We sat in the back since the nursery wasn't open for this special event and Jackson would be buzzing around. Back in that same area was a family with two little girls and a set of NEWBORN twins! Adorable. And guess what the Mom was wearing? Multicolored (marbelized, kinda) Birkenstocks. Scott leans over and says, "Those are Tricia shoes!" This was my kind of gal, I could tell. I'll spare the details, because ALREADY this blog is way too long, but I let cool-shoes-mother-of-twins girl get away too.

So, there you have it. I need to take a meeting friends 101 class. I suck.

But, here's the CRAZIEST thing. Back to potential friend #1: Over the weekend I went to the post office (mapquested, of course) and on my way back I was stopped at a light. GUESS WHO I SAW CROSSING THE STREET RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY EYES? Corinne. BFF Hopefuly Number One! How crazy is that? I thought it would have been WAY over the top if I had left my car running, hopped out, and tackled her for her phone number at that point. So I just mumbled to myself, "That is too weird," and went on my merry way. But really, isn't that crazy? I'll report more after my Wed Library time. Maybe the third time seeing her will be a charm...

Would anyone like to invest my idea?

Positive energy and prayers appreciated!

Well, I'm not sure who's on our team in contact with God - but the communication is paying off!

Scott and I had grown nervous after I accepted the position at Kellogg MS working half-days about how Jackson would be cared for during that time. Initially, it seemed like a relatively simple search: Decent-priced child-care for a darling 13 month old from 7 - 11 am M-F. But decent-priced and part-time do not always go hand in hand, as I discovered early on in our search. The child care "centers" wanted to be paid full days despite the number of hours the child was left there. And individual "nannies" who do in-home care seemed to charge an arm and a leg. SO there Scott and I were, middle of last week, thinking WE'RE GOING TO BREAK EVEN with my part time pay. Yall know I have a servant's heart, but COME ON!

Then, we found our gal. Cassie is her name. I got into contact with the local Child Care Referral Center (who knew there was such a thing??), who offers free services to help connect providers with clients. So I was able to search online, and found a few in-home child care/preschools willing to do half days. I called 8 places, left 7 messages, and spoke with one: Cassie. When I googled her address, it said she was .2 minutes away. WHAT? That's right, she lives five houses down. FIVE HOUSES DOWN (what confused me initially and the reason for my mapquesting is that our street turns into another, hers is the other)!

So we met with her the day I found her. Contacted her references that evening. Called her later that evening and said, "WE'LL TAKE THE SPOT!" ( She said "You bet.") She is very reasonable in pay and has three other little tikes each day, one of which is her own daughter, Johanna, who is 19 mos. Cassie is warm and hard-working. I think Jackson will dig her (and maybe her daughter even more!).

How blessed we are. I think about the trials people face with buying and selling homes and, separately, finding child care. I cannot believe how smoothly all of these transactions have gone for us. I am very grateful to God for blessing our adventure. And to all of you who were sending positive waves of energy out to Him for us.

Correction and Addition

Correction: I have referred to Mayo as the #1 Hospital in the US... I am mistaken. John Hopkins, in Baltimore, takes the cake in rankings. Mayo is #2. Just want to clarify. Maybe I got carried away. Being here is so strange in that EVERYTHING revolves around Mayo. EVERYTHING. It is what keeps this town alive. I can think of worst things keeping towns alive!! You can tell everyone speaks about it with such respect and appreciation, like: "Yeah, we owe our economic welfare to Mayo" or "Mayo is the heart of this city. It's an amazing place." It's hard to explain just how BIG it is.

Addition to the list of Things Different in Minnesota:

#4) Everyone here has water softeners. When I was viewing homes in the area the first time with our real estate agent, I felt stupid asking, "Are those helium tanks, or what?" In the basement of each home is this vertical tubular thing that serves to soften the water. It's SO soft in our home... still haven't gotten used to washing my hands. I keep rubbing and rubbing them together trying to get the "soap" off, when really the suds are gone. All that's left is REALLY REALLY soft water. And I've been in enough church camp lakes to know what a gal's hair feels like saturated in pond scum. That's about what my hair feels like when showering too. Ha! Slimy, yet satisfying.

Friday, July 11, 2008

First Scary Storm

We had been told that in Minnesota we would see skies we'd not seen before and that in one hour's time the weather could go from bright, beautiful, and pleasant to dark, ominous, and scary (and that's only describing SUMMER storms - we already all know about the white stuff in the WINTER!). Yesterday I experienced this quick transformation for the first time.

It started with loud neighborhood sirens (which, in my limited storm experience, have always only meant there's a tornado watch/warning out!), at which point I flipped... TORNADO??? I just got everything where it's supposed to go in this house, we can't be blown away NOW! I immediately flipped to the weather station, which broadcasted that there were severe thunderstorm warnings out for our county among others. No tornadoes, yey.

I looked outside - GORGEOUS!!! Sunny, birds are chirping, air is warm. But when if I peeked along the horizon, I saw the monster of a storm coming. I checked to see if Lilly was going bezerk (isn't it true that animals can sense bad weather before humans can?). She was lazily lounging on the screened in porch (what's new?), without a care in the world... great watch cat she is.

The house was open, so I hurriedly closed every window and door, brought in some outdoor toys and the stroller to prevent them getting tossled around our lawn, and hunkered down with my son. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. The way they were talking on the news, MAJOR wind damage was potential. Then, as if a huge space ship had interfered with the sun casting its light, our whole neighborhood turned creepily dark. The wind picked up and it got BAD. And after about 30 minutes of this, the hail came. The temp had dropped like 25 degrees in a matter of minutes. WAY weird. I tried to catch the sight with my camera, but below is the best I got.

Then, within the hour the storm passed and the temp rose again. ALL was beautiful again! It was quite an experience. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

I'm sure this list will be ongoing, but I thought I would go ahead and start the "What's different about Minnesota" Hot List.

What's Different about Minnesota

1) Instead of "no problem" or "no sweat" - ALL Minnesotans use "You Bet." I love it! It makes me think of they should say it while sticking their thumb up with the innocense and perfectness of Pleasantville. It's great

2) This town at least, and maybe all of Minnesota, omit one very important grocery list item from their stores: SOS pads. I LOVE SOS pads. And I cannot find them anywhere. Either I'm missing the aisle where they're located (in the 5 stores I've checked) or this place doesn't believe in steel wool.

3) Maybe I'm over-generalizing, but so far three people have said, "Just give me a jingle" when referring to a phone call. That's a cute little fun phrase too. (And no, they weren't actual friends I've met who want to actually have phone conversations with me... mainly they have been child care inquiries. I'm working on the friend thing. I'll save a couple stories there for my next post!).


For now, here're a couple shots of Jackson. The first is him playing at the playground at the top of our neighborhood hill (and BOY is it a hill... pheeewwee!). Please check out the cool sneakers in this photo. Up until a couple days ago, Jackson was all Huckleberry-Fin-like, CONSTANTLY barefooted. I decided it was high time to get some shoes on this fella! Also note the OSU jersy provided by Grandma and Grandpa Arthur. The second is a common scene in our household these days: playing catch with Lilly. She's found elevation is her only secret.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Virtual Tour of our fun home

The first couple are of our formal living room. When you enter the home, there is a small set of stairs and to the left you see the first shot. The dining room is off of the formal living.

The above two shots show the "family room." The first of the two is taken from the kitchen (kind of in the center of the house). The second of the two (directly above) is taken from the eat-in kitchen area.
Different angle of Family RoomClearly, Lilly is having a ball with the screened in porch

Standing in the screened in porch, you can see our **badly in need of sanding and resealing*** deck

Below is a taste of our new bedding... I know it sounds silly, but I have never really figured out how to "do" bedding. Scott and I have always had a haphazardly thrown together set of sheets, comforter, and pillows... I'm excited to say that this set is pieced together with a bit of intentionality!!! Yey.

And finally, the front of the house. I save this for last, because it's not my favorite feature. We fell in love with the home because of its awesome living space inside. I have some ideas about how to jazz up the exterior. But for now it's alright by us!

Pop quiz: What do we have both cars parked on the driveway outside the garage?

Answer: Because all of our sh*! is on the inside of the garage!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Found it!

Camera recovered. New batteries installed. Here are a couple of our VERY beginning in Rochester. More to come of the house furnished and **sort of** clean.

I'd go with movers 10 times out of 10

So we're here! Yey. Rochester, MN that is.

The past week has been a whirlwind, as you can imagine. I'm calling today my first "normal" day, although you can hardly consider getting lost on the way to the neighborhood Target, running through HEAVY rain because your umbrella is God-knows-where, and tripping three times over the ridiculously sized stack in the hallway marked "Goodwill" NORMAL. But, for being in a new place, today was as normal as it gets.

Scott has his first day of work well underway and Jackson is sticking to his typical nap schedule. Normal it is! I was glad to get a little time today to think and construct my own to-do lists.

Lynette arrived here in Rochester the same evening we did (last Sunday). We drove with Lilly the kitty. She flew with Jackson the toddler. Not a bad deal, the way I see it. What a gift to be offered the opportunity to NOT travel 12 hours with a 1 year old! Scott and I had to drive separately in order to transport both our cars here. So it woulda been a test of patience to keep Jackson happy the whole way. We all hotel-ed it the first night since closing and possession of the house wasn't until the following day, Monday. 5 beings in a hotel room doesn't provide much sleep, just fyi.

Tuesday our worldly possessions arrived. And Wednesday through Saturday was a haze. Lynette was our savior - the woman who as a Methodist pastor never planted her feet in one Ohio town longer than a couple years knew far better than I how to navigate the process. She was charged with the kitchen. I never knew a kitchen could be so organized! It doesn't hurt that the previous owner redid her kitchen a few years back and planned it very cleverly (it's not big, just SMART). EVERYTHING has a place! Yey! No more running up and down the basement stairs for the mixer. Or that salad bowl. Or the special glasses. My mom would be very proud for me.

Anyway, we're close to having everything where it belongs. A couple trips to dump trash/boxes and to the Goodwill will pretty much end the cluttered period. And enter us into pretty-darn-put-together house mode. By week's end, I'm anticipating great things.

Our digital camera is MIA. Not to fret, it WILL be recovered. But until then, you curious souls won't get a sneak peak into our home.

Scott is both excited and nervous about work. He feels the intensity of Mayo and the commitment to excellence which makes it the leading medical institution in the country (and arguably WORLD) carries over the the development world, for sure. My beloved husband works very well when high standards are expected of him. He absolutely NEEDS to have a working environment that appreciates drive, ambition, excellence and efficiency. Purpose is a requirement to make his work meaningful. And Mayo offers all that and more. So, although it feels intense and likely is a bit intimidating and nerve-racking, I have NO worries about the match. I think Mayo will fit him like a glove.

As for me, I'm soon-to-be an employee of Rochester Public Schools! Yey. I had been surfing the web while still in Columbus for positions... not seriously, just curiousity got the best of me and I was poking around. A couple half-time math positions surfaced. And I passively checked almost daily to discover whether they were still posted. Then it suddenly dawned on me, I will never get a teaching position unless I actually applied for it. Novel thought.

So I did, taking on the "let's just throw some spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks" philosophy (which, by the way, is how we landed here in MINNESOTA! Damn philosophy!). Anyway, I applied, had a phone interview on the day we closed on our house in Ohio. Then a second face-to-face interview on the day after we moved into our house here. And the rest is history! As long as I can obtain my Minnesota Teaching License - which requires essentially 80 bucks, college records, and a copy of my Ohio license - I'm in. So, I'd be teaching one 6th grade class and one 8th grade class this Fall at Kellogg Middle School here in town. I'm pumped, but a bit concerned about Jackson-care. Pray the RIGHT child care situation just LANDS in our laps. We're doing our homework, but I'd like to just KNOW which route to go.

More info to come. For now the thunderstorm has now awoken my babe. Need to rescue him from his crib, where he is frightened!!!!