Archive for Leah

A New Era

The nerve center for Team Wonderful. Calendars, lists, schedules, oh my!

We are entering uncharted waters over here at the Ranchero. Dan is going to school. College. It has been over a decade since he has been in a classroom not containing miniature chairs and crayons. So tomorrow, we both start class. This should be interesting.

He is already annoyed at the school’s website, miffed at the bureaucracy, resentful of the cost of books, confused as to why the instructor of one of his classes was named “Staff” on the online schedule until this evening, and distrustful that the Financial Aid Office will actually get it right. Thank God Metro doesn’t require a parking pass – that would have sent him over the edge.

He claims to be excited, though. His backpack is all packed and sitting by the door, which is pretty cute. He is going to rock this – I know he will. He is so smart. I am so glad that he decided to go.

A mere $700 in books for the two of us. We got off cheap this semester!

For me, the summer flew by – six weeks of in intense study for the PCAT, six weeks of hell waiting for the results, a day or two of elation when they arrived (for those of you who don’t Facebook or talk to us regularly, I made the 92nd percentile, which is good), then three weeks of waiting for school to start again. We had some adventures that we haven’t posted about yet (Elizabeth came for the week) and some misadventures (community garden=fail). Everyone except Xavier made it to Target field one way or another, we purchased a total of three be-wheeled items for kids to ride, and managed to grill about two dozen blocks of tofu on our tiny grill.

Schedules, completely full. The schedule for Chloë weeks requires two full sheets of paper to print it out.

The current plan is as follows: Dan and I go to school with our schedules offset so as to avoid daycare. Chloë goes to third grade in a couple of weeks, and Rex-Goliath will go to preschool (!). Xavier will continue to pull laundry out of baskets and drag around the rice cooker at home.

Mama Leah at work, fueled by Diet Coke, coffee, Franzia, and Skinnygirl margaritas.

I am almost finished with my initial application to pharmacy school, and if the professor that I beg for a letter of recommendation tomorrow says “yes,” then I will hit submit tomorrow night. I’ll have to fill out a supplemental application for each school, then hopefully someone will invite me for an interview. With any luck, I’ll have an answer by next spring.

Our inboxes, already jammed full. I probably should have tackled that before school. Plenty of room left, though!

For those of you that are interested in trivia, our classes are as follows:

Mr. Wonderful – Precalculus, Writing II, General Psychology

Mrs. Wonderful – Biochemistry, Genetics, Cultural Anthropology

My planner for the year, titled Entropy. Bonus points if you get the joke.

By now, we are fairly adept at tag-team parenting, but this will be a whole new ball game as far as that goes. Dan and I will probably seldom see each other. It will be good, though. We’re moving forward, one semester at a time.

–Mrs. Wonderful


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Terrible day. Also, the worst. Also, very bad.

Most days around the Ranchero are pretty good. Passable, at least. Yesterday, had I checked my horoscope (if I were the type of person that did that sort of thing), I can about guarantee that I would have been given a one-star day.

We had big plans (waterpark!). Dan was delayed for hours while working on a project, so those plans were scrapped. I probably don’t have to detail the response of the children. Let’s just say that certain members of the family were very disappointed. Best part of that is that said family member a) doesn’t really know what a waterpark is, and b) has no concept of time, so explaining that we would go next week did not appease him. I should have just taken the kids around the block and told him that the fire hydrant was the waterpark.

I made the mistake that most people do at one time or another – I believed something that I read on the internet. I belong to a forum for pre-health students, and there has been a fair amount of speculation as to when we will be receiving our PCAT scores. Any other test date, the damn things would have been here by now. They usually arrive around the five-week mark (because it takes five weeks to feed a scantron sheet through machine).

The PCAT people have somewhat of a scam going where they post scores online right after sending the score reports. Sometimes the score reports take a few days, and I just don’t trust our post office. The lady behind the counter is quite mean, and she might have pulled mine out just to spite me. She is probably laughing about it right now. But I digress. The online scores are available for a $20 fee. A large number of desperate exam takers willingly fork over what seems like a nominal fee compared to the outrageous fees we are already paying for the test itself, the PharmCAS fees, and supplemental application fees. Twenty bucks is nothing when you are already dropping a grand on all of this stress and paperwork.

So yesterday, when people on the internet said that they called Pearson (the testing company) and that scores had been mailed, I believed them. It should be only a matter of time before the online scores came up. In the past, the website has gone down for a thirty minute period between 8:30 and 9:00 PM, then scores were up. Or maybe that happened once. Either way, the internet people were pretty sure that this was the plan. I wish some of these people would have informed Pearson of the plan.

Later, some other internet person called and Pearson told this person that online scores would not be up until Friday, but that the scores had been mailed a day earlier than the previous internet person. So I got all excited for nothing, and now have two or three more days to wait.

This is not good.

I am all twitchy. I have bitten all of my fingernails (Probably would have done the toenails, too, but I just had a pedicure. Plus, at my advanced age, I might not be flexible enough.). I have not been sleeping well, and I feel hungover (but without the fun of partying the night before). I have a rash, which I could not stop scratching due to nerves. At this point, it is more like a spread-out wound than a rash. And it is in my armpits. Who does that? Who scratches an already bleeding rash in their armpit? I need help.

Since I needed immediate help, I decided to go to one of those MinuteClinics that are in some CVS pharmacies, since I wasn’t really in the mood to make an appointment and wait. I like instant gratification. Unfortunately, instant gratification was not on the menu.

Apparently, the city of Woodbury necessitates two CVSs. It is without question that I went to the wrong one first. In order to confirm this, I had to wait in line behind an elderly lady standing at the counter, arguing about how many rewards points she would be receiving for her purchase. The manager had to be called over, etc.

A u-turn or two later, I was at the correct CVS. There was a decent-sized line of fellow invalids, so I opted to purchase a few magazines to entertain myself. I had to wait in line after an elderly lady standing at the counter, arguing about how many rewards points she would be receiving for her purchase.

I have to be honest, I just don’t get the concept of doing the bulk of your shopping at the pharmacy. This is Woodbury, not midtown Manhattan. It takes just as much effort to go to Target, and the selection is so much broader. You can make impulse clothing buys at Target! Diapers don’t cost an arm and a leg (merely and arm)! Target’s house brand of medications and personal products have markedly more attractive packaging! Get this – they even have a pharmacy. And a clinic, but their stupid clinic doesn’t take my insurance. So I am at CVS and in the minority because my hair is not blue.

After an interminable wait, the nurse practitioner takes one look at my rash, writes me two prescriptions, and spends twenty minutes trying to find the name of my condition in the computer so she can properly document it. She sends my script to Target because that is where normal people go. And I need portobello mushrooms for dinner and CVS does not appear to carry produce.

Woodbury is one giant construction zone, and after following various detours, I wind up on the jam-packed freeway going in the opposite direction of Target. Forty-five minutes later, I arrive at my destination.

Return home. Frantically check website. Disappointment. Pour large glass of Franzia with ice.

Really, the only thing I have at this point to give me pleasure is a greeting card with a dancing hamster in a cowboy hat that plays a remix of The Hampster Dance. And Rex-Goliath threw it in a puddle earlier in the afternoon, so the thing only works sporadically. I have hit a new low.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Family Fun ‘n’ Run

I had two goals this summer: take the PCAT and run a 5K. I signed up for the Torchlight 5K this spring to force myself back into running. I knew that I wouldn’t want to waste the $23 entrance fee, so I was going to run that sucker come hell or high water.

Once the PCAT was done, I had a month to get myself able to run three miles. I ran a little pre-PCAT, but come June, I felt the need to really focus on the exam. To get started, I used some podcasts based on the Couch-to-5K program, a regimen designed to take you from watching Law & Order with Fritos stuck to your bum to an elite runner. Or at least someone able to hack and stumble their way through 3.2 miles. The program is nine weeks. I wound up using the early weeks of podcasts, but once the race loomed closer, I switched to just running as much as I could, which was not as often as I should. If one were to have the full nine weeks, the program is pretty sweet. The music is electronic-y and changes tempo to tell you when to walk and when to run, taking willpower out of the equation. This is helpful for me, because my idea of a good interval involves forty-five seconds of running, followed by ten minutes of walking. DJ Steveboy (no, I don’t know if that is the name on his drivers’ license) keeps me honest.

I tend to only enjoy running only in perfect conditions: minimal sun, cool, no humidity, light to no wind, flat land or downhill the entire way. Running in South Saint Paul during July offers none of this. The whole run is torture and I want to die. Although I came close, I did not actually run a full 5K prior to the race. So I was a little nervous.

The Torchlight 5K takes place in downtown Minneapolis as part of the Aquatennial celebration. The Torchlight Parade follows the run. The atmosphere is festive, and there is a large crowd (mostly people staking their claim on prime parade-watching territory with those no-sew fringed polar fleece blankets that are ubiquitous over the holidays in the midwest – people were camping out hours before the parade with pizza and board games). Family Fun Night (read: glorified school carnival) was occurring in Loring Park, so we decided to bring the boys for a little pre-race “fun.”

Rex-Goliath, suspicious of the concept of Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, not even really in the mood for Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, participating in Family Fun despite serious reservations as Daddy bought $10 in tickets and we were going to have at least $4 worth of fun, dammit

Xavier is down with Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, not so sure that fishing for ducks so sad that they are laying sideways in the pool is going to be good Family Fun. Carnie Dude in the background is not exactly enthusiastically promoting his booth.

Rex-Goliath was most impressed by the one attraction not requiring tickets.

Cute baby with a cute butterfly on his shoulder.

Ah, finally a bit of Family Fun.

Some of the runners take these races seriously. These are the weirdos running around before the race to warm up while I am wiping noses at Family Fun. Then there are people like me – I try to limit my walking prior to the race. Overexerting myself might bring my time up from the Granny category to the Invalid category. The race ends with drinking in the park, and I am pretty sure that some of my race cohorts had already partaken in a few beverages. There were girls in tutus and argyle kneesocks. There were the dudes in super-short jorts and trucker hats, one of whom had speakers duct taped to his shorts playing such hits as “Vogue” and “Dancing Queen.”

The large number of racers definitely helped my performance because the pack was huge, slow-moving, and took a good mile to thin out even a bit. We ran down Hennepin, around the Mill City Museum, and over the Stone Arch Bridge. I was able to run the entire way , which was my goal. I passed the finish line triumphantly, with plenty of people behind me. All week I had been having visions of being dead last, the float carrying Miss Aquatennial about to run me over, clowns pointing and laughing. 5K run? Check.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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I’m Back

After being on hiatus during the previous semester, I am back in rotation on the blog. This semester was a tough one, but, as you are already aware, a success. Here is a snapshot of the numbers:

Credits: 17
Total cost of said credits:$3122.26 (a heckuva deal)
Classes: 4
Labs: 3
Labs where I actually learned something while attending: 1
Number of people in my anatomy and physiology lab that graduated from my high school: 2
Number of people in my anatomy and physiology lab that graduated from high school in my father’s class and remembered that was a purveyor of the ganje: 1
Notecards purchased: 1200
Notecards torn up due to errors and my own perfectionism: 30
Notecards saved from the aforementioned fate when I discovered Wite-Out: 42
Minutes spent thinking about why they dropped the h from “wite”: 3.6
Soy lattes consumed: 109
Times chastized by Mr. Wonderful for spending too much money on lattes: 3
Money management computer programs installed by Mr. Wonderful specifically to send him real-time updates on Mrs. Wonderful’s Caribou expenditures: 1
Hours spent in class, at the library, or at a coffee shop studying: 692
Hours spent at home, effectively studying: 0
Number of attempts at studying at home with children screaming like banshees, climbing in my lap, demanding snacks and bridges constructed of wooden train tracks, etc. before realizing that studying at home would never happen: 7
Number of attempts made at studying during naptime, only to have a child wake up ten minutes into said attempt:6
Hours spent sleeping: 630
Hours spent watching The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars: 30
Number of times was annoyed by the Bachelor when he was on Dancing with the Stars: 53
Books purchased:14
Books purchased with the word “Dummies” in the title to enhance classroom understanding: 4
Books purchased that cost over $150 a piece: 3
Sharpie pens purchased: 20
Number of times shook head in disgust over cost of Sharpie pens: 17
Number of times shook head in disgust over fact that Sharpie pens do not come in pink: 38
Number of pink water bottles purchases made in an attempt to drink more water: 3
Ounces of water consumed:2600
Ounces of Diet Coke consumed: 6300
Number of obscenities yelled in frustration due to lethal combination of children and school: 756
Number of times smiled to myself as I walked into school, grateful for the opportunity: every damn day.

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Most of you have probably been wondering where I have been. Okay, some of you have probably been wondering where I have been. One or two of you… Ah, nevermind.

This semester has hit me like a ton of scandalously expensive, back-wrenchingly heavy, brimming full of possibly interesting information textbooks. I don’t even know where to begin.

Bear in mind, it has been ten years since my last science course. I decided to just jump right in this semester. Microbiology, Anatomy & Physiology, Calculus, Chemistry Society and the Environment. Not a humanity or social science in the bunch. Let me break it down.

Calc has been okay – I pretty much get it. I don’t have a lot of time to devote to it. Thursdays are calc days – I do nearly all of my calc homework and attend a 3.5 hour class. Dude does not give exams. Quiz every week, no exams except the cumulative final. This works out in my favor.

Chemistry, Society and the Environment is my throwaway class. It is one of those classes where being present is just about enough. It is an interesting class, but for non-science people. So the chemistry is at a lower level than high school. We have done labs that I am going to convert for my second-grade Brownie troop (I feel that it is important to expose these little women to math and science). We have an exam (actually, I think she calls it a “quiz”) on Saturday (biggest problemo with this class – it takes place at 8:00 AM) and if I study twenty minutes for that sucker, that will be good).

Anatomy and Physiology. It is a lot of work, a lot of memorization, but I am doing well. A & P is one of those classes that just requires time. There is a lot of testing – lecture exams, mostly on the physiology piece, and lab practicals, with things like bones or microscopes with slides of tissue carefully placed about the lab for our identification. Yeesh. The tissues all look the same, I can’t tell one bone from another (they are all that same weird shade of white). And determining whether a bone is right or left? Good lord.

Microbiology. When I signed up for micro, someone that I knew told me it was “fun.” I have to be honest, I really would not call it that. I have a precise system for this class – read the chapter, read again and make notecards with a Sharpie pen, diagram the really important concepts on giant notecards and color them in with colored pencil, then retype and clarify all notes in Microsoft OneNote. These notes, once typed, are a bit of a wake-up call. I am a reasonably intelligent lady. I was a reasonably intelligent lady four months ago. If I were to try to read these notes four months ago, I might have mistaken them for a foreign language. The sheer number of terms I have had to learn for this class is staggering. Things like the lac operon, the poly-A tail, Rho-dependent termination, transvection, beta galactosidase. Apparently the term “mutant” does not refer to abnormally leggy turtles brandishing weapons – it is a bacteria different from its parent.

Notice that when explaining how this class works, I did not actually mention going to class. I do go to class. Every. Single. One. My professor is teaching out of his field. He is a biochemist, is not crazy about microbes, and has a fair amount of stuff going on in his personal life (understandable – heck, if my relatives had been gunned down in their place of business, I might be a little distracted, too). I don’t actually learn anything in class – the prof has Powerpoint slides, reads them to us, gestures a bit. Okay, kids, you are on your own. Lab is even more ridiculous – it is like all Keystone Kops, all the time. Nothing works, the results are ambiguous, my lab group constantly drops things, melts things, fries bacteria, even once nearly bleached bacteria by mistaking bleach solution for water whilst trying to examine how bacteria move on a slide. Our class has tried to make the stuff that you put in petri plates and streak bacteria on twice. Both times, it went awry.

Okay. That’s all I have time for at this moment. The exhaustion of my academic trek is wearing on me (that and all of the recent family drama – most of it too classified for the blog), but it is nice that the faculty and most of the students accept evolution and climate change as facts. Very refreshing.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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And So It Begins

Last semester, 9:20 on a Wednesday night, I stood in the Great Hall of Metro State’s New Main building. The hall goes up several stories, all windows. A terrace wraps around the building (it really is a decadent structure). It was still warm and there was a light breeze. The air had that end-of-summer feeling. I felt an undeniable urge to go out there and look over the city. I did, and a feeling of overwhelming gratitude swept over me. I am so thankful to have this second chance at something that I should have accomplished nearly a decade ago. I have felt it hanging over my head all of these years.

I have moments like that. I am trying to savor every minute of this experience. To enjoy it for what it is. Obviously, there is a bigger goal out there. But I want to enjoy the journey. I am so lucky to have this opportunity.

I know that people are dying to know how my first week back at school went. I’d be happy to share.

On Monday, I start the day bright and early with Anatomy and Physiology at 8:30 AM. In a classroom that we are not allowed to bring coffee into. Why, you ask? I have no idea. I can understand prohibiting beverages in the lab – no one wants a dash of formaldehyde with their latte. But the lecture hall? Come on, man. My kids get me up at 5:30. I need every bit of 1,3,7-trimethyl- 1H-purine- 2,6(3H,7H)-dione that I can cram into my bloodstream.

Aside from that, A & P seems like it will be just fine. The professor has been teaching for nearly thirty years and is not shy about telling us what you need to do to earn that A. I am taking notes. A dirty little secret that I have is that I once took a fair amount of A & P 1 in a different life but withdrew before the end of the semester. I have almost a personal beef with the class, and I will beat it into submission this time around. It pains me to admit that the slides of human tissue are not any more clear ten years later.

I am taking A & P at Saint Paul College because it is not offered at Metro State. So after class, I drive across downtown, park the Taurus in the back row, and do what all nursing mothers must do: pump breastmilk. If you have never been the mother of an infant, you might not realize that while nursing, you just cannot go that long without feeding your baby. Unfortunately, Xavier just isn’t all that into microbiology right now, so he stays home and I pump milk for him. After this, I eat, then trek over to the library to cram in some homework.

Microbiology is in the afternoon. Class got off to a slow start as the professor was a relative of the Somali men who were murdered in the Seward neighborhood, and he was understandably a bit preoccupied on the first day of class. I have a good feeling about the class, though. He seems to want his students to succeed and to genuinely enjoy teaching. At this point, I figured I was two for two.

Tuesday is just A & P lab and studying. Wednesday is a copy of Monday, except Microbiology includes a lab portion (the class is three hours long on both days). Micro lab should be fun, provided I don’t inadvertently infect myself with the ebola virus.

Thursday is Calculus. People ask me what Calculus is, and I am still not entirely sure. “Math for smart people” might be the best answer (not that I am saying that I am smart – anyone can register for Calculus provided you have taken the prereqs, but not everyone can earn a decent grade. We’ll see what happens). It is something about comparing rates of change, but in reality, it is like a different language that I can understand and speak but not translate.

Friday is a study day. Saturday brings Chemistry, Society and the Environment. It should be an interesting class and fairly easy, but quite annoying. In my group of four, not a one thought that climate change was one of the most pressing environmental issues – they had “litter” ranked above it. Really? Really? Litter? People who ignore science really stick in my craw.

And that is it. I am already tired. The sheer amount of crap that I must remember to bring with me each day is ridiculous. On a Wednesday, for example:
Books:A & P, Microbiology, Calculus. Each of these are huge. I can only fit two in the backpack, max.
Solutions manual for Calc
Notebooks: 1.5 inch three-ring binder for A & P, 1 inch binder plus lab notebook for Micro, flexible 1 inch binder for Calculus
Notecards for various classes
Calculator: Pink TI-84 Silver Edition
Sexy Visorgogs
Bag containing breast pump and pump parts (several), breast milk freezer bags, sharpie for labeling said bags, special wipes for cleaning pump
Receiving blanket to function as a hooter hider while pumping
Assorted writing instruments
Bag containing personal items (lipstick, ibuprofen, etc)
Diet Coke

The next fifteen weeks will be an experience. My poor husband and children are just along for the ride.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Dan is Now Officially The Man

Many of you know of my not-so-secret obsession with Martha Stewart. Love her. Love her. She is so organized, always cooks the right thing or has the right craft for the occasion, probably made in her special crafting room, wrapped at her special wrapping station, then scrapbooked about at her special scrapbooking station. Or at least profiled in her magazine. Or possibly made on TV with Jennifer Garner in front of a live studio audience.

Over the years, I have amassed a sizable Martha Stewart Living collection, including somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years’ worth of issues. In addition, I have a few of the special issues of Martha Stewart Kids and Martha Stewart Baby. Of course, I have many years of Martha Stewart Weddings (now useless to me… I’m waiting for some nice person that I know to get engaged so I can pass them on). Lastly, I have every issue ever made of Blueprint, Martha’s attempt to be hip and current – I am so pissed that it never caught on. It was like Martha for my generation. The holiday issue one year had a blond woman in a sparkly dress on the cover, pink Christmas tree in the background, fat pug at her feet. Someday, when I have my own bathroom, I am going to have the thing framed. You just can’t get any more “Leah” than that picture.

I kept my collection, organized by season, in the bottom four cubbies of our IKEA Expedit shelving unit. As a housewife, I needed access to the things. At the beginning of each season, I would page through my issues, getting ideas for recipes and such. It was great fun.

We rearranged the living room this week. Partially due to the embarrassing addition of a very uncouth and much-too-large electronic item, but also partially in preparation for a baby that will be crawling and getting to know the world at the expense of his parents that must clean up the mess. When Rex-Goliath was a little thing, he loved to push over those stacks of magazines. It was great fun. I moved them up a level, but then he started pulling himself up, and the game continued. The Expedit shelf now has toys on the bottom shelf (and a bunch of unsightly wires – must get Martha on this). Why fight nature? Every day, the living room looks like a toy bomb went off. Why not make clean-up easier?

So the vast Martha collection has been relocated to the closet in the kids’ room. This was difficult for me – it is somewhat symbolic of the changing of the guard around here. Dan will be running the house and looking after the kids; I will be learning about integrals and microbes, which may or may not be great fun.

I have to give up some control – this is tough. I have ways that I do things. Systems in place, household routines. Is the world going to come to an end if the laundry isn’t done just the right way? Depends on whose it is – if it is mine or the kids, quite possibly. There are only certain things that get put in the dryer. There are certain ways to hang up wet clothing so that it dries with the fewest wrinkles. I use only the Downy Orchid Allure fabric softener in the Downy ball. I sent Dan to the store last week to buy some “Downy” and he came back with dryer sheets. Dryer sheets. The point of the fabric softener is to keep the things that don’t go in the dryer from being all crispy. He was just proud of himself for remembering to buy the “Orchid Surprise flavor.”

The man wants me to give him the file which contains my grocery list (usually printed and posted on the fridge, highlight things as we run low, list is in order of things as they appear in the supermarket that I prefer to shop at) so he can modify it to suit his shopping habits (purchasing weird food at dirty grocery stores). He buys things that I would not buy, brands that I am unfamiliar with, and does not take into account all of the things that I do when shopping. I tried to explain to Dan my thought process during a shopping trip. We realized that our brains function in completely different ways when pushing a cart under fluorescent lights:

Leah Shopping

Dan Shopping

This will be a great experiment in role reversal. I must remember to teach Dan that when faced with a household dilemma, the first thing to ask himself is, “What would Martha do?” It probably would not involve dryer sheets or Doritos – I can guarantee that.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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