Monthly Archives: July 2011

Fun At Work

I never knew it was possible to have fun at work.  In my old job – a billion years ago when I used to be a programmer – work was a chore.  It was somewhere I had to go, and I had to stay all day, and keep an eye on the clock, and eventually they’d let me go home.  I did it to get paid.

So here I am, 10 years later, after 5 years of school, back to working.  And guess what?  It’s fun.  I go to work, I’m busy all day, and I come home exhausted but happy.  How is that possible?  Well, it has a lot to do with what I’m doing.  What I’m doing is audiology.  When people ask me what I do, and I say (as I now get to say), “I’m an audiologist,” most people say, “What?”  It’s like they don’t hear me, which I always laugh about (because it’s funny!) but they don’t get it.  So then I have to explain what an audiologist is.

Anyway, my job is also fun because of the people.  Not just the people that I’m helping every day (and there have been some great, fun people), but also because of my co-workers.  We laugh a lot at work, which is a nice thing.  For example, the other day I was testing a kid with autism.  I was the second tester, meaning my co-worker was working the audiometer, and my job was to be in the soundbooth with the kid, trying to keep him sitting and paying attention to the tones.  With most kids, this is easy.  You sit and play with them, and they get to put the block in the bucket when they hear the noise.  But a kid with severe autism won’t sit still at all, let alone follow directions about when to put the block in the bucket.  So I’m just trying to keep him seated and quiet while my co-worker presents tones looking for some reaction.

Afterward, I had to run directly on to my next patient, so I didn’t get to check in with my co-worker until lunch.

Me: “Did you get what you needed out of that kid this morning?”

Co-worker #1 (thinking for a second): “Which one?”

Me: “The autistic one who kept shrieking at me.”

Co-worker #1: “Oh, that one.”

Co-worker #2: “Is that the one you said Sarah was completely useless with?”

She was joking, of course.  And we all laughed uproariously.  They kid.  They kid because they love.  My drawer in the lab is labeled “Peon” and they razz me quite a bit, but it’s fun, and I love it.




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Love Letter Part 2

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Memory Monday

In April of 2001, Nate and I decided to go to Hawaii, kind of as a last hurrah before Jake was born.  I was seven months pregnant, and Maui seemed perfect.  And for the most part, it was.  We laid around by the pool, drank (virgin, in my case) mai tais, and drove around to see the sites.  But then we decided to take a day-trip snorkeling.

We were supposed to go out to Molokini, which is a partially submerged volcanic crater off the coast of Maui.  I had been there before, and the snorkeling is really amazing.  However, the water was exceptionally rough that day, so the ride out was really choppy, and once we got there, they decided it wasn’t safe to snorkel, and we would go to a different location that was shielded from the wind.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I get seasick.  Easily.  Like I’m feeling queasy right now just thinking about being on a boat.  I usually take medication if I’m going to be on a boat, but because I was pregnant, I was unwilling to medicate, and so I purchased some seabands at the drugstore and hoped for the best.  Wishful thinking.  By the time we turned around to go to the other location, I was standing at the side of the boat praying that if I threw up it would make it all the way to the water without splashing anyone on the way down.

So we finally got there, and I hadn’t thrown up.  I was the first person into the water, and quickly swam away from the boat so that I could hurl in private.  And hurl I did.  Copiously.  Luckily, when you’re pregnant you have your own built-in floatation device, because otherwise I hurled so much I might have drowned.

Here’s the dirty little secret about vomiting while you’re snorkeling.  Best snorkeling ever.  The fish swarmed around me and couldn’t get enough.  I saw more fish on this snorkeling trip than in all my previous snorkeling trips combined.  It was really amazing, and as much fun as you can have while you’re puking your guts out.

Eventually my stomach calmed down, and I swam over to Nate and we paddled around for awhile, saw some sea turtles, laughed about the puke.  My goal was to be the very last person back on the boat.  Boat bad.  Water good.  So we’re swimming around while everyone else is climbing back onto the boat.  Suddenly, Nate looks at me with a look of absolute horror on his face.  My first thought was, “SHARK!”  But no, he was frantically pointing to his hand and trying to shout something at me through his snorkel gear.

I finally realize that he’s pointing to where his wedding ring should be.  He sees that I understand what he’s getting at, and he points down to the floor of the ocean.  It’s crystal clear, but the bottom is 20 feet away.  We swim around searching the bottom, but see no glint of gold winking back up at us, and the boat is issuing its last call, and it’s time to go.  So we say goodbye to Nate’s wedding band, and swim back to the boat.

We’ve never replaced Nate’s band.  The fact is, he had lost about 30 pounds in the year leading up to this moment, and it was bound to happen at some point.  And if you’re going to lose your wedding band, shouldn’t it be in the beautiful, puke-filled waters off the coast of Maui?

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Adventures in Nature

The weather was picture-perfect today, so we decided to load up our bikes and head for the Quabbin Reservoir.  We thought we’d be extra-adventurous and try a new gate.  There are only a few gates that allow bicycle traffic, so we pulled out the map and chose one a little to the east and south of our regular gate.  It turned out to be a fantastic choice.  The trail goes right along the water for several miles.

On the other side of the trail were the woods, in which there were many stone walls left over from the days when the Quabbin Reservoir wasn’t a reservoir at all, but the Swift River Valley, full of towns and farms.

It was absolutely beautiful.  We found a little spot where we could get to a beach and had our picnic lunch there.  We spent just as much time goofing around as we did eating:

After our picnic and bike ride, we decided to swing by one of our favorite haunts, Bear’s Den, in New Salem.  We hiked around on the rocks, and then waded in the stream.  The kids had a great time with Nate building a rock bridge over the stream.

By the time they were done, our bug spray was starting to wear off, we were in need of snacks, and we were all getting a little cranky.  Time to load ’em back up and head home.  Tired, of course, but already planning next weekend’s adventure.

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Bathtub Moment

Washing the children’s hair has always been Nate’s job.  I’m not sure how it worked out that way – I just got lucky, I guess.  So Nate piles into the big shower with all the kids, and they spend about twenty minutes washing hair and squirting each other with spray bottles and just generally having fun.

Until recently, when Aaron decided that having his hair washed is just one step above having his toe-nails ripped off one by one.  I have no idea what happened, but suddenly hair washing is off the table for him.  No way, no how.  Much screaming.  Much sobbing.  Shower time went from fun house to horror show for everyone involved.  Except for me, who relishes shower time as 20 minutes where I can sit uninterrupted in front of the TV or the computer and just be.

So after three or hour horrible showers, we decided that Aaron would just have to wash his hair in the bath for awhile until he gets over this period.  That means me.  Great.  So last night, amid much crying and screaming, I plopped Aaron into the bathtub.  I got him to lean back onto my arm, put a wrung-out washcloth over his eyes, and started dumping cups of water over his hair as he was lying back.  All of a sudden, he stopped crying and struggling, sighed, and a huge grin broke out on his face.

“Aaaaaahhhhhhh.  This is so relaaaaaxing.  This feels sooooo gooooood.”

Well, there go the showers.  Looks like I’m on bath duty for the duration.

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The Windy City

Chicago is an incredible city.  On Day 2 of our blissful weekend away, we took one of those “hop on hop off” tours where you can take an open-top bus around the city and get on and off wherever you like.  The buses seemed to run really frequently, so we never had to wait.  We started off my traveling north up Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan.  I was very surprised by how clean and not-smelly the water was.

Our first stop was Navy Pier, which we thankfully hit pretty early.  When we drove by later in the day it looked like a mob scene.  Anyway, it’s a long pier that the navy used during WWII to train pilots to land on aircraft carriers.  Now, it’s a long amusement park.  We walked down the length and enjoyed the fantastic views, and then rode the 15 story ferris wheel.  It’s huge, and it’s SLOW.  We had plenty of time for pictures.This is how high up we were:

Back aboard the bus, we next went to the John Hancock Building.  It’s the fourth tallest building (I think).  Well, I’m sure it’s not the tallest (that’s the Sears Tower, which they now call the Willis Tower, which just seems wrong).  Anyway, the view seemed like it would be better from the John Hancock, so we went up to the Observation Deck on the 94th floor.  Spooky.  Here’s the view of the skyline:

And looking north up the lake:

All those little dots are beach umbrellas!!

Chicago also has some fabulous architecture.  I think next time we’re there we’ll take an architecture tour.  This was my favorite building, and the only one designed by a female architect.  The closer we got, the more amazing it became:

We ate a lot of good food, including stuffed pizza at Giordano’s, traditional Chicago hot dogs at Portillo’s, and the best steak I’ve ever had at Gibson’s Steakhouse.  We also took in some live music.  We made it to a jazz bar and a blues bar.  Can you believe we did all of that in one day??

Monday morning we spent walking around Grant Park and visiting with my friend Jane who is lucky enough to live in this beautiful city.  We were sad to say goodbye, and wished we had a few more days to explore, but we were also looking forward to home and the kids.  Going away is nice, but it always seems that coming home is better.

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15 Years

Nate and I just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.  On June 29th, 1996, we got hitched.  We decided to celebrate this year by going out of town without the kids.  We had two free Southwest tickets that were about to expire, so we pulled up the Southwest map, and tried to find somewhere that would be feasible for a long weekend.

We decided on Chicago.  We had each been there in the past for conferences, but had felt we didn’t have the time to see the city properly.  So, despite much stress the few days before (boiler explosion, no hot water, kid with weird skin rash), we packed in a flurry on Friday night and left at the crack of dawn Saturday morning.  It was so easy – a short plane ride, a short L ride, and we were dropping off our suitcase and heading for the Chicago Art Institute.

I cannot remember the last time I was free to wander around an art museum for as long as I wanted without having to take anyone to the bathroom, change a diaper, chase a toddler, or watch wandering grubby hands lest they deface something priceless.  I also cannot remember the last time I visited a museum of the caliber of the Chicago Art Institute.  You know Grant Wood’s American Gothic?  It’s there.  The original one.  Right there.  Hanging on the wall.

You know that guy Picasso?  He of all the weird cubist paintings?  They have a lot of Picasso’s, ranging throughout his life.  It was fascinating to see how his style progressed over the years.  He started out doing realistic portraits and stills and ended up here:

It was fascinating to look at the various self-portraits there are in the museum.  I was thinking about this as I was looking at the different expressions the artists wore in their self-portraits.  If you are painting a picture of someone else, I am assuming that you look at the person’s face, and you paint the expression that you see on it.  But when you’re painting a self-portrait, you kind of get to choose the expression you put on your own face.  It was so funny to see the different expressions chosen by the different artists.  Some of them looked so open and friendly, some looked aggressive and angry, and then there was this guy:

Good old Vincent Van Gogh.  Doesn’t he look confused?  He suffered from mental illness, cutting off his own ear.  There were several of Van Gogh’s paintings in the Art Institute’s collection, including an 1888 painting of his bedroom, in which this self-portrait can be seen hanging above his bed.  Fantastic.

There is also this very famous Seraut, immortalized in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which I suddenly flashed upon as I was standing in front of it:

The photo doesn’t do it justice (none of them do!).  Seeing them in person was breathtaking.  And this was just a small portion of the museum.  We spent five hours there, attempting to see the entire museum.  It was a lovely way to start our anniversary celebration – more to come in the next post.

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