Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Down on the farm

boy milking cow

boy with calf

boy feeding goats

The kittens that D. decided we should adopt....stay tuned....

Yes, it was the annual "field trip to a Wisconsin farm" at preschool yesterday. great fun, as usual.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Sometime late on Friday, I realized that I had signed up to run a half-marathon on Sunday. I put that thought away, to be dealt with later. I'd signed up before the whole 11 day single parenting stint. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Then, on Saturday, I realized that yes, I was going to run it and I'd better go find out when it started and where I needed to be. I picked up my race packet at the last possible minute and even bought a new pair of shorts at the race expo.

Sunday morning, I rolled out of bed at the last possible minute, threw on my new shorts, drove to the race parking, got on the shuttle bus at the last possible minute, and arrived at the race start minutes before they said, "GO!" Luckily, with these chips it doesn't matter if you start late. I didn't have my number pinned on yet, I did that as I shuffled along. I had attached my chip to my shoe on the bus ride over.

I ran into a good friend at mile 2 and we proceeded to chat the rest of the way. Between mile 7 and 8, we dissected the Republican presidential nominees. Between 9 and 10, we did the same for the Democrats. By mile 11, we had come up with a comprehensive solution to get the US out of Iraq.

It was a beautiful day and a delightful run and completely uncharacteristic of me. Normally, I plan everything out in advance and leave nothing to chance. Yesterday - yesterday was all chance. I planned nothing. I wore shorts I'd never worn before to do a race. I brought a new sports "food" I'd never tried before to eat during the race. Unbelievable. Very out of character. But it was all good and fun.

Chance is good, sometimes.

But waking up with pink eye this morning? Not so good. I didn't plan that, either.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Almost made it...

Husband D. gets home tonight from a whirlwind 11 day tour of Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Every time he goes away on a long trip, something goes wrong. An appliance breaks. A kid gets sick. One time, my car died and I had to buy a new car, solo. (Test drives with two kids and two car seats - more fun than you could ever imagine!) Another time, in our old house, the entire basement flooded after a huge storm - up to your ankles in water kind of flooding.

So, this morning, I should NOT have said to a friend, "Well, we did it. We made it through this trip without anything bad happening."

The phone rang 14 minutes later. School nurse. Pink Eye.

In the grand scheme of things, pink eye is no disaster. But it's another day missed of work, another 2 hours spent at pharmacies and trying to reach doctors. After 11 days of single-parenting, you'd be surprised how little it takes to push one over the edge.

But only 5 more hours. I can make it.

You just never do realize what an amazingly wonderful and helpful spouse you have until he disappears for 11 days.

I've been matched with my new "little sister" for almost 3 months now. At first, I noticed myself getting a bit self-congratulatory in comparing myself to her mother. "I don't let my kids watch that much TV." or "I wouldn't let my kids drink that much juice" and so on, and so on.

But by this weekend, I was begging her mother for single-parenting tips. (She is the single parent of 5 kids under the age of 9.) She showed me some of their systems for getting everyone in bed on time and out the door in the morning. She is so organized, she puts me to shame. She is kind with her kids. She is patient with the kids. She's amazing. A little too much TV? Who cares!

Funny how you sometimes learn the most from those whom you misunderstand.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Girl in a Boy's World

I've read all the blogger reviews of that terribly dangerous book being marketed to Boys instead of Girls.

I keep asking myself, why do I care? It's a silly thing, isn't it? It's probably a good book. And surely we can all agree that boys are different from girls, no?

But I do care.

I care because my daughter has started to notice that every time they pull her out for advanced math testing, she is the only girl. They spoke to us about putting her in a special class next year with some academic peers in math...all of whom are boys.

I care because I cannot forget the day when I went to meet with my Economics professor back in college. Evidently, I knew that someday I'd be a blogger who used only initials because I signed all my tests "K. Harrald" (with an unusual last name , one doesn't need to use the full first name and I was lazy.)

The first thing he said to me was "YOU'RE K. Harrald?" He had an incredulous look on his face. Then he followed it with, "But you're a girl!" Evidently he'd never had a girl who was good at economics before.

That was 20 years ago. I still haven't forgotten it.

I care because I work at a technology consulting firm that is 90% male. I care because husband D. is an engineer who has worked in departments that are 100% male.

I fully realize that my daughter is going into a world that even today, even in 2007, still thinks males are better at math and science than females are.

But I want to climb on top of the tallest building in Madison and yell, "No, it's wrong! Males aren't better! Girls are good at math and science too! Look at my sister! Look at my mother! Look at my daughter!"

But there really aren't any tall buildings here in Madison, so I won't do that.

I'll just play "Anything you can do, I can do better" over and over again and refuse to buy any book that assumes that my brilliant daughter isn't suited for "boy" things.

Tonight, she asked if I would buy her the Playmobil hospital. It's a bit out of our budget and more than her allowance, so alas, I said no. We agreed that it might make a good birthday present. At bedtime, I asked why she wanted it so badly and she said that she wanted to start playing with things that she might want to be when she grows up.

What if Playmobil put their hospitals and trucks in a section marked "Boys?" What if they put their princesses and babies in a catalog marked "Girls?"

(And, should I worry if the one Playmobil item that little brother D. wants is the beach patrol boat? Is it possible to have one child dreaming of a career in the ER and the other dreaming of weekends as a life guard?)

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Too tired for any words today...

Here are some pictures:

login name is "my first name"
password is "my last name"

no caps, I think.

If you can't get in, email me. kpnelson @


Saturday, May 19, 2007


There are plenty of things that bug me about our neighborhood: It's 99.9% white. We live around the corner from a country club and all the necessary pesticides to keep the space "green." There are way too many Ugg Boots and North Face jackets and designer jeans with long names I can't pronounce that cost $200. (I often get this overwhelming urge to pull out my circa 1984 Guess Jeans with the zippers at the ankles just to show that at one point I, too, cared about name-brand fashion trends!)

In my ideal neighborhood, I'd prefer a bit more diversity - both economically and racially. Especially since the local elementary school's demographics are 66% low income and very racially diverse. We're like this little enclave of white, upper/middle class families nestled in the middle of the real world.

But there are a lot of really great things about our neighborhood too. People look out for each other here. Last week, husband D. was in Asia and we had neighbors coming out of the woodwork to help me. They'd make us dinner...take the kids for an to check on us.

I love living near the lake. I love that we have 7 great parks in walking distance. I love that we can get most of life's necessities from neighborhood stores without getting in a car. (yes, mostly, I do get in the car...but I *sometimes* walk or bike...and we're trying to do more of that as the kids get older.)

I love that there are a ton of kids. And kids roam free in our neighborhood. From what I've read, that doesn't happen much in many parts of the country any more. Last night, we had an impromptu neighborhood dinner at the park. The kids played in the sand at the beach. The adults sipped wine in plastic cups. Someone biked around the corner to pick up a pizza. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a Hallmark commercial. It really is like that, sometimes.

Ironically, one of the biggest perceived strikes against our neighborhood is the local public school. Evidently, people who choose to live in a neighborhood like this don't want to send their kid to a public school filled with poverty. Well over half the neighborhood goes to private schools.

For me, the public school has been hands-down, the best thing about living in our neighborhood. It's my reminder that life isn't always a Hallmark commercial. I do still believe that life is richer when we have the opportunity to create a community with many different types of people.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Proof that Larry Summers is an Idiot

The esteemed former (thankfully) president of Harvard insinuated that females, well, we just aren't genetically cut out for those *hard* subjects like science.

I'd like to introduce him to my 7 year old daughter.

On Saturday, she woke up and asked if we could do a science experiment. "Sure," I replied, "What did you have in mind?" She'd read something about the effects of salt in water in one of her Discovery Kids magazines and wanted to test it for herself.

So, she directed me to fill two ice cube trays with water. She got out all of the measuring spoons and painstakingly measured different amounts of salt into each cube. Then she diagrammed it all on a sheet of paper, taking careful notes as to which tray had which amount of salt.

Finally, she set a timer. Every single hour, for the entire day, we took it out and wrote down her observations.

The salty ice cubes are still in the freezer, 5 days later, because some of the damn cubes haven't frozen yet. Me, I'm ready to reclaim the ice cube trays for real ice...but she wants to continue the experiment.

We talked to my parents tonight and I had to wrestle the phone away from her ear. She wanted to tell them about every detail of every cube. I knew I needed to intervene when she told them, "The one with one pinch froze right away on May 13 at 11 am. The one with two pinches took a little longer." I guess if anyone wants to hear that level of detail, it would be a grandparent...but still....

I've got a girl who loves math and science and thinks that the best fun in the world is a science project.

I've got a boy who has a huge imagination and makes up story after story about imaginary friends.

Anecdotal, yes. But my experience has taught me that although gender may affect behavior patterns and physical preferences, it doesn't really affect intellect.

Someone out there - please enjoy an iced tea for me. It's going to be a while before that ice cube with two tablespoons of salt freezes and I can reclaim my ice tray. Until then, I'll just revel in the fact that I can help prove Mr. Summers wrong.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Beautiful Game

Son D. is on his first real soccer team. It's a U-4 team (kids 4-years-old and under, for you non-soccer-moms out there.) His particular team is mostly 3-year-old girls.

His last game was on Mother's Day, and he was the only boy and the only 4 year old playing that day. Just him and the 3 year old girls.

*Every* time he got the ball on Sunday, he passed it to one of the girls. Every single time. Now, these girls are adorable and lovely...but they are not really into the soccer part yet. They'd much rather count clovers or wave to their moms than kick the ball. They are 3, after all. (D is 4 1/2 - almost 5.)

D. would get the ball. He'd pass to the girls. They'd smile a glorious smile at him as the opposing team swooped down to steal the ball. Every time.

Luckily, they don't keep an official score at this level. The opposing team was all older boys. And they took the ball and ran right for the goal at every opportunity they got. They didn't pass. They didn't even look around. They just scored. I think the score must have been 30 - 0 or something like that by half time. (I could ask D. - he keeps score in his head. Every game, he knows EXACTLY how many goals each team scored.)

It was getting a bit embarrassing - this lopsided score. So, at one of the breaks, I whispered to him: "D, you can run with the ball, you know. You don't have to pass it every time."

He looked at me in horror. "But Mama - the girls are my TEAM. You have to play with your TEAM! We all have to play together, Mama."

I hugged him tightly to my chest and told him that he was exactly right.

In a few years, I suspect he may very well be one of those aggressive boys who want to score a goal at all costs. But I'll always remember my Mother's Day gift of 2007: a sweet son who reminded me that winning isn't everything.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On a happier note..

The bird has definitely taken up residence in our mailbox. When we come home in the afternoon, s/he is almost always snuggled in there. (I assume it must be a she? Do male birds make nests, maybe?)

It's very cute.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Back from Chicago...

I just got back from a work conference/meeting of all of the marketing people across the country. The good news: there is new management and they are reorganizing our entire department with a new plan. The bad news: All of our jobs go up on and Career Builder tomorrow. We all get to re-apply for our jobs complete with resumes and interviews and everything. Let's just say that the level of anxiety at the conference was a bit high. Especially for those of us with part time positions.

Everything will work out. Always does. And if not, I'll start practicing my very best "You want fries with that?"


Sunday, May 6, 2007

You've got Mail

A bird decided to make a nest in our mailbox. Normal people would just relocate the nest to one of the hundreds of thousands of trees in the neighborhood. But normal people do not have a seven year old daughter who feels that destroying any habitat is an evil act. was a new mailbox for us.

And a deluxe habitat for our friend the chickadee. He greets us each morning as we go out to wait for the bus.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Letter to the Decider

Hey Mr. President:

I was reading "Geeky Mom's" blog today:

and it occurred to me that you and I, we have something in common.

We both value human life.

We disagree a bit on the definition of life. Me, I think life begins about 7-8 weeks after conception. Don't ask me how I came up with that random designation. I just did. To me, things like birth control or the morning-after pill or stem-cell research...those don't harm life. And you: you think life begins at conception. Me, I think death row criminals are a "life." You think they should be executed.

But I'm wondering. Can we compromise a bit here?

Can we agree that ALL life is precious? That the lives of civilian Iraqi children are precious? That the lives killed in this poorly executed, destructive war are precious? That war should only be used as a last-resort, "absolutely-nothing-else-has-worked" kind of diplomatic tool?

Maybe we could both soften our political views in order to embrace life of all kinds? Maybe you could admit that hundreds of thousands of innocent victims have died because of a mistaken war. Maybe my side could realize that at *some* point, an embryo has a soul and and a heartbeat and we should do everything possible to make sure that it has every chance to have a full life.

I think we need a new political party. We'll get the pro-lifers from the right and the peace movement from the left. We'll stop arguing about marginal issues like parental consent and surges and the exact length of the waiting period for gun purchases.

We'll march for peace. We'll oppose the death penalty. And we'll work to find ways to make abortions rare and unnecessary.

I'll compromise if you will.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Evening Stroll

The other night, Daughter D. announced that she would like the family to take an "evening stroll" after dinner.

"A what?" I asked. ('Evening Stroll' not being in my daily vocabulary.)

"An evening stroll," she replied. "That's when the whole family goes out after dinner and takes a walk around the neighborhood."

And so we did. And we did it the next night, and again the night after that.

3 nights later, and it's my favorite part of the day. She's got some good ideas, that daughter D.

The highlight of tonight's stroll was son D. pretending to be a GPS device. Using the same exact voice on his Dad's Garmin Nuvi, he instructed us at each corner to "turn left in 200 feet onto xyz road." When we got back home he announced, "Arriving at destination."

I'd like to think that there is a slight chance our children won't grow up to be techie geeks. But looking at who their parents are, that is unlikely.