Thursday, February 28, 2008

The last busy day

February has been a rotten month. We've had horrible weather. We've been sick. There were extra holidays (several birthdays including Mr. Incredible's, Groundhog Day, Valentines Day - all big deals when you are 8). And we've had more activities than we like.

Today is our last day with stuff to do. At noon-ish (I've triple checked the time this time around) we have our last theater performance of the month (we had 4 in one month!). Then around 5 we're going to drop off a cookie order at a nearby homeschool family's house. I offered to take Violet out to the community college for ice cream from the vending machine (I know, but she LOVES to do that) after the theater. She opted to come home instead and do it another day.

March has to be better. We've only got 3 activities all month. Cookies will be delivered. The weather has to be getting better. Spring must be around the corner.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Homeschooling an Only Child

I've started up a new Yahoo Group this week for parents who homeschool (or are considering homeschooling) their only child. I've been so pleased with the response! Guess I'm not the only one who's been wanting to discuss things with other parents of onlies. If you have only one and want to join us, we'd love to have you:

In other news, cookie deliveries are going smoothly. We're about to head out to my office to deliver there. Once that is done we're home free!

We got another 5 inches of snow Monday night, but I think we're all getting used to it, we barely blinked. They say we might get more Thursday. I can't wait for March to get here!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back to class

Today is the first day back at class for NIU students. Getting back to their routines will be good. Last night they had a huge memorial service on campus. Mr. Incredible and I had talked about going. But such huge crowds were expected and it seemed like it would be a very long and boring night for Violet, we didn't go. We figured we could watch it through the streaming feed on the internet. Guess what? Our internet went out. It rarely goes out. So no memorial service feed. I haven't gone to their website yet to see if it is archived. I'm sure it is.

Some quick thoughts.

Banning the sale of guns to people who've sought help for mental and emotional problems is not the answer. It will keep too many from seeking help. And it is those who don't seek help we need to worry most about.

Allowing everyone to carry weapons is not the answer. There is no way you will ever in a million years convince me that there would have been anything but more bloodshed and loss of life in that auditorium if the students and instructors had all been armed too. Don't even try. Post about that in your own blog.

So what is the answer? I wish I knew.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The cookies are here!

I picked up Violet's Girl Scout cookies today. I was relieved that the cookie chair had decided to keep the extra boxes herself, rather than make me take them as the Juliette Coordinator. (For those of you who have not been sucked into the black hole that is Girl Scout Volunteerism, cookies come in cases of 12 boxes. Troops must round their orders up to the nearest 12 and figure out what to do with the extras. Since Violet is a Juliette not with a troop, there was some talk that I would have to take the extras from all the Juliette orders. Turns out Violet's was the only Juliette order.)

One rather nerve-wracking thing happened while picking them up. The cookie chair had me get Violet's last and had gone back to her house with the cookies. When I drove up she made me back into her driveway, then move the car carefully into place for easy moving of the boxes. And get this, cookie chair's day job: she owns a driving school! I'm not that good of a driver (or at least not a confident driver) and here I am backing into her driveway praying I'm not going to back over one of her trees or into her family room! She just laughed at me when I got out of the car told her!

I'm hoping Violet and I can make the neighborhood deliveries tomorrow. It is supposed to be nice out. We took the ones for my dad's breakfast buddies to him this afternoon. Mr. Incredible will have to handle his office ones. We'll go into my office on Wednesday. I'll be glad when this is done.

So here are a couple of photos of just what 201 boxes of cookies look like:

The cats helped inspect the cookies.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Summer camp application time already

This has been a nice way to day dream about things warmer than the 10 degree weather outside: I've been completing our Girl Scout Resident Camp applications for next summer.

Violet has decided not to go back to our council's home camp in Northern Wisconsin next summer (boo hoo, I'll miss it there!). But instead to try out two of the neighboring councils' camps closer to home. After next October our realignment will begin and these other councils will be joined with us anyway, so by next summer they will be our home camps too.

Actually, she made a great decision. She knows our home camp so well, this is a great way for her to get to see two other camps she might want to return to in a summer or two on her own. We'll be gone the same number of nights (a total of 3) and we can just drive on our own to both of these camps. One of them is the camp I used to go to as a Girl Scout.

In other Girl Scout news, we get our cookies this weekend. And I am resisting the really strong urge to join the volunteer committee that works with residents camps. I so want to join. I'm just spread too thin right now. Maybe if some of my other commitments end. It isn't like the need for volunteers is ever going to go away.

Finally, in NIU news. Virginia Tech held a candlelight vigil for the NIU students. Reading about it made me cry again. I chatted this afternoon with my friend who still works on campus. He said he's heard from more old friends in the past few days than he has in years. I assured him that even when we don't call and write that often doesn't mean we've forgotten. (He laughed when I mentioned the hot dog stand "The Weenie Guy" he said, "I haven't been by there in years!")

And I asked the HR manager at my company if we could post the NIU black ribbon on our company's website through the memorial next weekend (classes resume on Monday). She loved the idea and made it happen. That felt good.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The slinky black dress and the frozen burrito

Since Bunny and Simply April have said it was alright for me to go on and on, I've decided to tell two more stories I remember from Northern. On the plus side, they both have a celebrity in them. I'll start with the slinky black dress since it is poignant and end with the burrito because it is just a stupid story that can (and I'm sure has) happen on any campus anywhere.

The Slinky Black Dress

In grad school I worked in an office on campus and became friends with several of the secretaries who worked there. I had more in common with them than the other grad students. I was older (26) and married and had worked full time in an office as a secretary too. The grad students were all really nice, but they were only 22 or 23, just out of their undergrad programs and hadn't really lived on their own.

One of the girls, I'll call her Tia, was a townie and had lived most of her life in DeKalb. Her 10th high school reunion was coming up. Now it just so happened that she was in the same graduating class as Cindy Crawford. Did you know that? Cindy Crawford is originally from DeKalb. Barbed wire was invented there too by Joseph Glidden. I like barbed wire better than Cindy, you'll learn why shortly.

Tia, and most everyone in her class, was so excited when they learned that Cindy was coming home for the reunion. It was the talk everywhere, Cindy was coming home! Tia really wanted to go to the reunion. First she had to talk her husband into it. Dinners and dances weren't his thing. But he agreed since they had a lot of friends who'd be there (he was local also, but from the next town over).

Next Tia needed something to wear. She went shopping and found the slinky black dress. She looked drop dead gorgeous in it. But it was more expensive than she was comfortable spending, especially with the price of the reunion tickets. But she looked drop dead gorgeous in that slinky black dress and eventually, against her better judgment, she bought it.

The Student Center was abuzz with the reunion (our office was in the Student Center we knew everyone who worked there) since the event was being held in the Ballroom. Security and production were stepped up when it was learned that not only was Cindy coming, she was bringing her film crew from her MTV show "House of Style".

The night finally came and Tia, looking drop dead gorgeous in her slinky black dress, and her husband left the baby with Tia's mother-in-law and went to the reunion. Sometime during the night Tia called to check in. Something was wrong. Her mother-in-law said something Tia couldn't understand then dropped the phone. Tia and her husband raced home to find the mother-in-law had had a stroke. Now before I scare you more, the mother-in-law had a full recovery. Slow, but full. And the baby was just fine, fast asleep unaware anything was going on.

The slinky black dress in which she looked drop dead gorgeous and cost more than she could really afford got hung in the closet. That should be the end of it. Tia went back to work on Monday, took care of her baby and now cared for her mother-in-law as well.

Then the "House of Style" episode came out. The classmates all found out that Cindy used her show to make fun of their hometown, her classmates and their clothing. How classy is that? The classmates, Tia included, were hurt, disappointed and angry. How could someone with all the fame, the money and the power hurt her classmates like that? I haven't forgiven her. I saw the disappointment in Tia's face. I'll never forgive Cindy, even if Tia and the others do.

Another former classmate of theirs once told me that Cindy was quite the party girl in high school and had a reputation. He wouldn't tell me any details, probably because he knew I had a big mouth and would blab as soon as I got a chance. But he did say that he always thought Cindy's younger sister was the pretty one. If she wouldn't turn on her classmates on national cable television, then I agree the sister is the pretty one.

Or Tia, and all the Tia's out there in the world (you know one too). Taking care of her family. Moving her mother-in-law into her home when she needed it. Working hard. Dreaming of the slinky black dress that she looked drop dead gorgeous in. Treating her classmates with respect. Those are the beautiful people.

Barbed wire will stab you, but you expect it to.

The Frozen Burrito

Okay, this is just a stupid story. It is the only other time I know of that NIU has ever been mentioned on national network television.

One night a guy was arrested for leaving 7-11 with a stolen frozen burrito stuffed down his pants. The story "guy arrested with frozen burrito stuffed down pants" makes the blotter in the campus paper. Someone sends the article in to David Letterman. Letterman reads it on late night television.

Funny, we always thought that would be NIU's legacy.

Friday, February 15, 2008


As you might expect from my prior two posts, I've been thinking a lot about my college days since yesterday afternoon. I thought I'd share some of my memories of NIU and campus with you all. I know you may be getting tired of me going on about it and might be thinking, "get over it, you weren't there, your friends are safe, move on." I apologize. But I'm not done working through it yet. If you want you can skip this post. But I promise, it should be happier than my other two. I have a lot of happy memories of DeKalb.

Mystery Train

Have you ever seen the movie Mystery Train? It is a great flick. I saw it one night in the Cole Hall auditorium where yesterday's shooting took place. The Cine Club used to show independent and artsy films there each week. One night my roommate asked me if I wanted to go with her to see Mystery Train. She was a music major and had a lot of artsy friends (although she herself wasn't really "artsy fartsy" as she put it). I said sure, it beat staying in the dorm studying. We walked there together and watch the film and walked home. It was one of the best films ever. You gotta see it sometime. It isn't for the kiddos though.

Hot Dog Stand

You could always mark the beginning of spring when PJ Red Hots rolled out the red and yellow umbrella and brought the hot dog cart to the Commons. We'd get hot dogs, chips and sodas and sit in the Commons in the grass eating them. That was a favorite lunch of ours when I worked for the programming office in grad school. Quick, cheap, filling. I'd always get mine with ketchup and sweet pickle relish. The hot dog guy would always give me dirty looks. (Note: Chicago hot dogs are ALWAYS served with mustard and a kosher dill spear. Absolutely never do you get ketchup on one. Some places won't even serve it with ketchup. I hate mustard. I love ketchup. Hence the evil looks.)

The Crows

When Mr. Incredible and I were first married we lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment just off campus. We were there 6 years. It had a balcony, off street parking, an inside entrance, and a laundry room on the grounds. We thought we were living like royalty.

Anyway, to get from our apartment to campus we'd walk through the apartment complex, through the stadium parking lot and the campus TV station lot, then cut through a small grove of trees. The small wooded area was really out of place with all the paved lots and buildings, but they had built around the trees and there was a small house on that patch of land that no one ever knew what it was used for. It was owned by the University though and the path through the trees was widely used. Except by people who were afraid of birds.

For in those trees lived several hundred HUGE black crows. Every night towards dusk they would take to the sky and fly around, one big black cloud, cawing very loudly. Sometimes they would fly low towards your head. Mr. Incredible and I loved walking through there and seeing the crows. We thought they were really cool.

Then one day we were back on campus driving Violet around on yet ANOTHER of our BORING tours of campus (and why can't we just go get frozen custard at Ollie's NOW) and we saw that the trees had been cut down. We never found out what happened to the crows.

The Carpeting

The library on campus, second and fourth floors in particular, had the most ugly carpeting ever seen by human eyes. Bright yellow, red and orange in a plaid pattern. The joke was it was there to keep students from falling asleep.

It was clearly the ugliest thing on campus, at least until they reupholstered the furniture in the Student Center in that lovely color "80's teal", in the early 90's.


On the East side of campus is a wonderful lagoon. In the summer everyone hangs out there studying, napping, eating lunch, or just visiting. But beware the geese. They are mean. They bite. The ducks don't bite, but they do get aggressive if you have bread or food. In the winter we would ice skate on it. I don't have many photos of my undergrad years, but I have a bunch I took one day ice skating with good friends from my Freshman dorm floor.

The Gargoyles

No discussion of NIU would be complete without mentioning the gargoyles. A brief history. In the late 1800s NIU first opened as a teacher's college. Everything was in one building, Altgeld. Altgeld is still very much the center of campus, even though its functions are now mostly filled by other buildings. It is the heart and soul of the campus. It has a very old, castle style (I so wish right now I knew anything about architecture so I could give it its due). On the top, guarding the campus, are stone gargoyles. One dark and stormy night, so the story goes, one gargoyle was struck by lightning and fell off the building. They put it back, but it was struck by lightning two more times. It was eventually determined that the gargoyle didn't want to stay on top of the building. So they mounted it on the ground and built a garden around it.

The gargoyle has a goofy smile on his face (or had, as you'll see when I finish this sad tale). The story further goes on that the gargoyle only frowns when a virgin graduates. This is the part of the story you don't want told in front of your parents when you are a 16 year old touring campus!

For generations we have loved our gargoyle. Photos would be taken with him, much to the chagrin of the groundskeepers. He'd be dressed up for homecoming and other holidays. Signs would be left in his hands. One day Mr. Incredible and I were back in town to go out to dinner and walk around the lagoon. We went to show Violet the gargoyle. To our horror we discovered his head had been broken off. We left dismayed and later Mr. Incredible looked up back issues of the Northern Star (the award winning student newspapers - was I in for a shock when I discovered that not all campus papers are as great as it is). Hooligans broke the gargoyle's head off and it is missing. Students reportedly now replace the head with various objects, like pumpkins at Halloween.

The People

It is a large campus. If you've read any of the articles you've seen enrollment figures over 25,000. That was the size of it all my years too. But it never felt that big. You'd see the same people every day or week or even semester. Sure some faces would change, but you recognized lots of people. Majors would be smaller and you'd know your classmates and professors. You'd know people through dorms or clubs or student government or favorite activities. You typically caught the same bus at the same time each day and the same people would always be on it.

Even now we go back and visit campus a few times a year and see staff and faculty we know. The more the campus changes the more it stays the same. Even with this tragedy it will be the same.

So sad

I wore one of my NIU sweatshirts today. I'll wear another one tomorrow. And another one the next day most likely. I have a lot of them. I have an NIU Huskie on my keychain. He's been there since Freshman year in 1984. He's actually the second Huskie, the first one wore through and fell off. I made a trip to campus just to replace him. I love my University. I grew up there. It means so much to me.

They say 6 people are dead including the gunman. The university is closed until further notice. There are no answers. I doubt there ever will be.

Mr. Incredible and I always refer to DeKalb and campus as home. If we were to lose everything, jobs, the house, the plan has always been to move back to DeKalb and start over.

I was reading the links from the NIU website to all the other colleges and universities expressing their concern, support and sympathy. The one from Virginia Tech made me cry.

I wish more than anything that this could be the last campus shooting ever. No students or faculty or staff should ever have to go through that.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Today's campus shooting took place at my college, Northern Illinois University. I spent 11 years on that campus, as an undergrad, a grad student, and living just off campus and working in town. I walked through Cole Hall a million times. The buildings in that part of campus are all interconnected, you can cross half the campus without going more than a few feet outside. A very good path to know on those rainy, snowy, icy cold winter days in Illinois.

I've had several classes in the auditoriums in Cole Hall. Most students take a few gen ed classes in there. Remember a few weeks ago when I said I'd turned in a girl for cheating on a Statistics exam? It was in that same auditorium that she'd had the guy take her exam for her.

I've exchanged IMs with one of the best friends I've ever had and he's okay. He works on campus still. We worked together for a few years while I was in grad school. I couldn't picture a scenario that would have taken him to Cole Hall in the afternoon, unless of course he was walking across campus escaping the weather or meeting a friend. He wasn't there, he's safe.

I saw the mom of our day camp director from last summer at tonight's Girl Scout service unit meeting. Our camp director is a student there. She is fine. I gave the mom a hug to give to her when she gets home, hopefully she came on home tonight. Her mom was a wreck.

I know a lot of others who are on campus too, but those are the two I'm currently closest to.

I know this sort of thing can happen absolutely anywhere, anytime. And it does. But wow, when it hits your back yard it is scary. I always thought of NIU's campus as a safe place. Sure there are places you don't want to be alone at night. It isn't a good idea to walk to any parking lot or dorm alone after a night class, on any campus. But 3 o'clock on a Thursday afternoon in a classroom building? I'd never have felt any qualms about that.

When we lived off campus (Mr. Incredible and I met there, fell in love and lived there after we were married) we'd sometimes hear gun shots late at night. There's always been a lot of gang activity on campus. The proximity to the interstate out of Chicago was attractive for drug trafficking. Gang activity was Mr. Incredible's first thought when we heard the news about an hour after it happened. That isn't what happened though.

Will anyone ever know what happened? Or why? Why so many shootings at schools, malls, government offices? What is wrong with our society?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fever's down

Violet's fever is gone after 2 days of being over 100. That wasn't too bad. By yesterday afternoon I knew she was feeling better because she was bored. But like Mental has predicted, she does still have the cough.

I may be coming down with it or I may just have cabin fever and a bad case of the grumpies. People are annoying me more than usual. I have a slight headache and I'm really tired. I didn't argue with her when she asked if we could postpone the errands until tomorrow.

I'm wondering if other homeschool moms have the same gripe I do. Or if it is just me. I get so irritated with people who come up with all these wonderful projects and ideas to add to our homeschool curriculum. Not other homeschool moms, you guys know exactly how much effort anything new would take. I'm talking about extended family members who think this would just be great for us to do. Like we have nothing already planned. Like we have all the free time in the world. And yet none of them are willing to do any of it with her. No, I'm supposed to take their grand idea and make it happen. Pushing all my other plans aside. Pushing all Violet's plans aside.

Told you I was grumpy.

The latest one is that I'm supposed to get Violet and her out of state cousin exchanging e-mails. While I love the idea of the two of them being closer, I don't understand why my SIL isn't being asked to initiate it. Actually, I do know. It is because she works you know. I apparently do nothing. Well, I'm not doing anything this time. If the cousin e-mails Violet, I think Violet would love to e-mail back. But they can take the lead this time. And yes, I know it isn't that big of a deal and wouldn't take that all that long to do. It is just the latest in a long line of stuff these particular grandparents want me to make happen.

What is grumpier than grumpy? Super grumpy? Grumpiest? Grumpa-a-dumpa? I'm whatever it is.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sore throat

Saturday night Violet started complaining of a sore throat. We'd been out snowshoeing in the cold dry air, so I figured it was probably from that. Sunday morning it was better. We had her stay in though (our high was never over 0, so she didn't need to be out in that cold). But by bedtime she had spiraled downhill. She had a low fever, nothing to be too concerned about. Tucked her into bed.

This morning she got up looking and feeling miserable. Fever of 101.5. Sore throat. Her eyes were so dark, it looked like she had heavy eye makeup on. She's not going to book club. She was pretty disappointed until I reminded her that she wouldn't really enjoy it feeling so lousy. And all the things the boys do that annoy her when she's feeling good, would be a thousand times worse feeling bad. That did it. She tucked herself into bed with a book.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I shouldn't complain...but I'm going to anyway

I know my last post was rather whiny. This one is going to be too.

I know a lot of areas got hit with a lot worse weather than we did last week. The severe storms people got were nasty. I'm not trying to compete with them. I'm just complaining.

Our street never got cleaned of the snow. The last 2 inches turned into solid ice. I was starting to think someone on our block really ticked off public works and that was why we never got properly plowed. But driving through town yesterday it looks like public works never got around to quite a few residential streets. All the towns in the area have already used up their winter allotment of road salt. There are no more supplies to be had in the region so they pay top dollar to have it shipped in. That will be reflected in our tax bills.

Most of the major streets are clear. But parking lots are hit or miss. Some have half the available parking spaces available because there is snow and ice in them. Others have clear spaces but 10 foot plus snow drifts that you can't see around making them dangerous to drive or walk in. Forget street parking. Even if you can park on the street many of the sidewalks weren't cleared so you can't walk to where you are going.

We got out for a little bit yesterday on the snowshoes. We were only able to be out for about 45 minutes before the wind got too cold. The temperatures dropped through the night and today it is too bitterly cold to even consider going out in it. The air temp is -8 with wind chills of -30. And that's after the sun has been up for several hours. Our high today is supposed to be 1.

I know you Southerns are saying, "but you live in the North, what do you expect?" Yes, we do get nasty weather, but never this much. Winter began early this year, in early November, and we've been hit with more snow storms, ice storms and freezing cold snaps than we usually get in 2 years. And it is still the first half of February. We can't expect to see Spring until April. We aren't even close to thinking it is over.

I cringe every time I have to open the natural gas bill, our heating costs are way up. And we're using more gas since the 4-wheel drive eats fuel like there's no tomorrow. If Mr. Incredible hadn't traded in the Mustang for a Jeep at the beginning of the year Violet and I would have been stranded at home most of the last 2 weeks. The Mustang wouldn't have been able to handle the roads or the parking lots and he would have needed the Trailblazer to get to the train station.

Time to get back to work. I have more to get done for the office and I still have to plan next week's school lessons. Send Violet good thoughts tomorrow. She has her first book club meeting since she had the horrible meltdown at the one before Christmas. I'm not dropping her off this time. I'm hoping to help hold off any breakdowns until we leave.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I'm not going to make it

Seriously, there is no way I'm going to survive the rest of this winter. We have had the worst weather that I can remember in a long time. We always get some sort of storm or two. This winter has been one storm after another since November.

In the last week we've had 2 feet of snow. TWO FEET! For us a big snowstorm is 6 to 8 inches. We've had two major storms of 12 inches of snow in less than in week.

Since last Tuesday I've driven in an ice storm, deep snow, heavy fog and another deep snow.

Work is always crazy this time of year, but they won't leave me alone.

Violet is tired of school and even when I try to find fun projects manages to complain.

My jeans are all too tight from eating too much candy over the holidays and it will be months before I can switch back to capris. I've been trying to eat less but with ice and 2 feet of snow on the ground and low wind chills exercising is harder to do than skip.

Whine, whine, whine. The list goes on. I need spring to get here soon!