Friday, March 6, 2015

Glass Gems + Nail Polish = Kid-Friendly Refrigerator Magnets

If I were to chronicle this winter season in a journal, this would be today's brief entry: Day 75 of winter. I forget what grass looks like.

We're worn thin with indoor activities; my girls have colored, painted, Play-Dohed, puzzled, and board-gamed themselves into the ground.  Still, winter hasn't let up, and we need fresh activities to keep ourselves occupied during the long hours indoors.  If you're in a similar situation, let me share a craft that should occupy your kids for an hour.

First, buy a pack of mosaic glass gems at a craft store.

Second, sort through your old nail polishes.  Consider this a fabulous opportunity to purge any polish that's on the verge of clumping.

Third, lay down paper to protect your work surface and let your children paint the flat side of the gems.  Be creative with your approaches -- layer sparkly shades underneath opaque colors.  Use a Sharpie marker to draw designs before covering the gems with paint.

Finally, let your gems dry and then glue a magnet to the back.  (As you can see, we've made just a few recently.)

My children call them "dragon eyes."  I use them to hang copious amounts of kid's artwork on our refrigerator because, as I've mentioned, this winter hasn't released us from its clutches yet.  These kids of mine have cranked out coloring pages like it's their job.

If you're feeling stuck inside, give these kid-friendly refrigerator magnets a shot.  Enjoy!

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Seasonal Contrast

Title: Seasonal Contrast

Subtitle: When desire and actuality collide.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's Not So Urgent Anymore

I'm already dressed and ready to leave the house this morning when I notice a text message on my phone.  After an overnight ice storm, the university has issued a two-hour delay.  This isn't common.  Our local school system doles out delays and snow cancellations with frustrating  frequency, but the university is known for being hardcore.  It's like Wal-Mart.  It's always open.

But for two hours this morning, it's closed.  I email my two classes and propose a new schedule for the rest of the week.  Suddenly, all the morning's plans that had seemed important, like returning exams and moving ahead with the new assignments, don't seem as important.

I've already downgraded to yoga pants.  I have no intentions of facing icy sidewalks today.  It's a forced slow-down, and I'm accepting it.  That schedule in my head?  It's not so urgent anymore.
Image compliments of Seth Anderson (

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On Running a Timed Mile for Purposes Other Than Gym Class

I'm relatively positive that every American, if they're not personally doing so, knows somebody in their 30's or 40's who is training for some sort of race.  Whether the distance ranges from a 5K to a full marathon, running seems to be a new version of the early-to-mid life crisis, just healthier.

Races are common.  Races are normal.

But at the start of each indoor track meet at the university where I teach, there's an opportunity for members of the local running club -- people who appear otherwise perfectly rational -- to run a timed mile.  This isn't exactly a race.  It's a track meet.  It's filled with college athletes in their university-sanctioned uniforms who resemble gazelles as they run casual warm-up laps at paces faster than some people can sprint.

A few weeks ago I joined this scene and put myself on the line quite literally.  Yes, as an almost 37-year-old mother of three, I stepped up to the starting line to run my first ever timed mile at a college track meet.

When you're poised at the starting line there's not much time to think before the gun sounds.  This is good because it doesn't allow you to question how you reached this strange place in life.  I  remember venturing a slight wave to my daughters as they sat on the front row of the bleachers, then steeling my gaze ahead as the race official called the runners to our marks.

In retrospect, there's not much time to think after the gun sounds, either, because you're too occupied trying not to die.

As soon as I started to run, I lost track of peripheral sights and sounds besides the stampeding pound of racers' feet on the track.  I only recall fragments, like noticing my acute thirst by the third of eight laps, as if I had instantaneously dehydrated.  I vaguely heard one of my daughters calling Go Mommy!  My last fully-formed thought was that I probably should have given more consideration as to how to pace myself.  I was met with more numbness than relief when I crossed the finish line.

It wasn't particularly pretty.  I didn't run exceptionally fast.  But here's the deal: I did it.  I ran at a track meet in an indoor Big 10 facility in front of my daughters.

I'm starting to realize that life is enriched by cobbling together these odd experiences -- these experiences that push me, that stretch me, that eventually make for a good story, no matter how they turn out.

When in doubt, run the race.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Five Minutes Sitting on a Bench

Yesterday I observed a colleague's teaching.  She remained inside the classroom to talk with a student after class, so I waited outside until her conversation was finished.  For five minutes, I sat on this bench.

Perhaps it seems unremarkable, this simple act of idling time while sitting on a bench, but it struck me as significant for one reason:

For five minutes, I sat.  That's it.  I didn't use the time to check my email.  I didn't try to squeeze in the grading of one additional assignment.  I didn't open my wallet to organize my receipts. 

I just sat on a bench.

During that time, I noticed a pattern of door holding and thank you's as students exited an adjacent classroom.  I noticed the dried residue from weeks of winter's slush and salt on the tiled floor.  I noticed how the student sitting beside me drew his hood over his face and leaned against the wall to grab a few minutes of restless sleep before his next class.

For whatever reason, this five minutes of quiet observation was cathartic, a purposeful choice to slow down in the midst of a schedule where I'm perpetually on duty with something to do, someone to care for, or somewhere to be.

We need more time to sit on benches. 

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