Good to know.

by mayberry on May 9, 2012

ME: I like this castle you drew.

HIM: It’s a prison.

10-year review

by mayberry on May 2, 2012

Dear Employee #1:

Congratulations on your 10-year anniversary with the Company. We are very pleased with your progress this year. If we were in a position to give raises (if, in fact, you received any salary at all) we would certainly give you a nice big one. Instead, we will continue providing technical support and upgrades to existing equipment, such as figure skates and other footwear.

We wish to call attention to several indicators of progress in the most recent year:

  • Seamless transition to new work team (Grade 4)
  • Excellent protection of newly issued equipment: after braces were removed and retainer installed, no Dumpster diving was required
  • Vision upgrade led to significant improvement in reading interest and performance
  • Continued mentoring of Employee #2 with a great deal of patience and good humor
  • Tested ability to compete in individual as well as team events with excellent results

In short, Employee #1: Way to go. Keep up the good work. (We must note that the mustache is not in compliance with our personnel policies, but we trust that is a temporary aberration.)

Love Best wishes,

The Management

Food. On a stick.

by mayberry on March 28, 2012

In case you haven’t had it marked on your calendar since last March, today is Food on a Stick Day! We hosted a skewer-filled dinner party (for 16 people, omg) on Saturday to observe this important occasion. We supplied the main course, beverages, tables and most of the chairs, and the guests brought everything else. Here’s the menu (sorry about my poor food styling and photography skills):

Appetizers (aka the toothpick course)

Moroccan-spiced lamb meatballs (delicious dipping sauce not shown)

Goat cheese-jalapeno hush puppies (and that dipping sauce meant for the meatballs)

Curry-crab hush puppies and toothpick-ready shrimp

Salad (aka the prettiest course)

Stack o' skewered salads

Single skewered salad

Main dishes (aka the kebab course)

Pork with peanut sauce and honey-glazed chicken

Spicy Asian steak with portabellas and cherry tomatoes

Side dishes (aka the use-your-imagination course)
No pictures, but we had red potato chunks stacked on a skewer and asparagus (no stick required). Each spear was individually wrapped in pastry in a lattice pattern with a bit of prosciutto. Beautiful and delicious.

Dessert (aka the cake-pop-free course)

Strawberries and brownies on a stick, served with whipped cream and a candied hazelnut

Also for dessert, fondue complete with marshmallows and crushed graham crackers for MYO-s’mores-on-a-stick.

We still ended up with quite a few forks to wash, but it was totally worth it.

Hey George, can you babysit?

by mayberry on March 21, 2012

“‘Tis better to be alone, than in bad company.” – George Washington

That’s this week’s Wise Words prompt from Kirsetin Morello. Immediately, it reminded me of something I’d written here back in 2010, about how much alone time I require even though I still consider myself a social person (although maybe not a full-blown extrovert).

So yes, I agree with George (look at me, going out on a limb!). ‘Tis certainly better, for me and I’d guess for most of us, to fly solo than to seek out the company of others strictly so we won’t be alone. One of my children is slowly learning this lesson. It’s my kid who always, always, always wants someone to play with; 95% of the time, parents and siblings will not do. But two back-to-back, lackluster playdates made an impression, I think. Not that these friends were “bad,” but that sometimes you don’t need company to enjoy yourself.

I think all of us would prefer to avoid bad company, whether it leaves us alone or not. The tougher question may be when to withdraw from company for company’s sake, or even “good” company at a bad time. Too often, the choice is alone time or time with friends, but not both. And I don’t know about you, but I need both! What would George say about that?

The splinter* that ate last Wednesday

by mayberry on March 19, 2012

(…and most of Thursday.)

Luckily, I had already written off Wednesday afternoon as non-work time, since it was a half-day of school.

Luckily, our family physician’s office is always able to get us in when we need a same-day appointment.

Luckily, Jo wheedled her way into going to a friend’s house during said appointment.

Luckily, O. did most of his remaining weekly homework in the waiting room.

Luckily, the family doctor decided to take an x-ray of O.’s hand before tweezing out the splinter in his palm.

Luckily, the orthopedic surgeon on call happened to be a hand specialist.

Luckily, Jo’s friend’s mom immediately responded with “How can I help?” when I told her that we were being sent to the hospital and that Jeff was out of town (the second thing was “Of course he is”).

Luckily, I had a toiletry bag packed so it didn’t take me long to throw together everything I needed for an overnight stay in the hospital (O. and me) and at her friend’s house (Jo).

Luckily, I had a stash of Larabars in the car, since O. wouldn’t be allowed to eat anything for the rest of the evening and therefore neither would I.

Luckily, we have a beautiful children’s hospital 5 minutes from home (where I happened to have spent some time).

Gown, bracelets, cheetah. Check, check, check.

Luckily, the boy was entirely cheerful throughout the long wait for his stomach to be empty enough for him to be sedated (this is a kid who generally turns into a raving lunatic if he doesn’t eat every 20 minutes).

Luckily, the nurses supplied a top-notch post-IV-placement “bravery prize.”

Not just a Lego set ... a Lego AIRPLANE set.

Luckily, everything went so smoothly that as soon as he opened his eyes in recovery, O. insisted that he had actually just been “fake sleeping.”

Portrait with wrapped hand and capped cheetah

Luckily, the hospital stocks parental snacks, so I got a sandwich while he enjoyed some post-op graham crackers. And luckily, the graham crackers stayed down the hatch.

Luckily, I’d grabbed an iPod when I packed our bags, so I could play his favorite bedtime music. And luckily, it did the trick in less than two songs.

Luckily, I was able to dash home the next morning to let the dog out, and she had not panicked or trashed the house while we were gone.

Luckily, this kid enjoys Tylenol about as much as his sister hates it.

Luckily, he’s going to be absolutely fine.


*”Splinter” vs. “sliver.” Discuss. I think it is the former, but everyone here seems to call it the latter.

Going on 14

by mayberry on March 1, 2012

“I don’t want to wear jeans today. I want sports pants. I have gym.”

“On Thursday? I thought it was on Friday.”



He’s not even seven years old yet.

Don’t call me Shirley!

by mayberry on February 16, 2012

One of my favorite pictures from recent ice skating adventures (this is the “Good Ship Lollipop” costume). (Yes, really. “Good Ship Lollipop.”) Jo was disappointed to have to do another year on the beginner level synchro team, but it has worked out for the best. She gets to be a leader among the other girls on the team, and the commitments for practices and competitions–not to mention costs!–are lower. She still has the time and the passion to pursue individual skating goals, and she wants to keep skating synchro next year too.

Although I confess we both hope she’ll jump up a notch to the next level–and leave Shirley Temple behind for good.

In the stars

by mayberry on February 6, 2012

Like so many others, I started reading Susan’s blog around the time she was diagnosed with cancer. Like so many others, I commented on her posts, trying to lend a bit of support. I was one of hundreds, if not more; and yet the few times I saw Susan in person, she knew me and greeted me warmly. As a friend.

From my friend, I learned about inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) for the first time. I learned about how to support a friend with cancer (and then I did it, when a local friend was diagnosed with breast cancer too).

Today Susan died, after living with IBC and its aftermath for five years. During that time she contributed to research on women in planetary science, founded a website for mothers with cancer, and raised funds and awareness and support for other women with breast cancer.

Her connection to me was slight, but her impact was not. (Below is the photo I contributed to the @whymommy love fest, a digital card that was too big and beautiful to be contained in just one file, and grew to three lovely videos.)

If you are moved to honor Susan’s memory, consider a donation to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Or, join the Army of Women, another cause Susan supported; it doesn’t cost a dime. Or, send up a prayer. In recent years, Susan converted to Catholicism, and I know she found great comfort in it. Here is a prayer to St. Dominic, the patron saint of astronomers and science. He is often pictured with a dog, which is again fitting since Susan also loved dogs and opened her home to many foster pups.

Wonderful Saintly Founder of the eloquent Order of Preachers and friend of Saint Francis of Assisi, you were a fiery defender of the Faith and a fighter against the darkness of heresy. You resembled a great star that shone close to the world and pointed to the Light which was Christ. Help astronomers to study the stars and admire their wonderful Maker, proclaiming: “Give glory to God in the highest.” Amen.

Susan Niebur was a great star that shone close to the world. We will miss her here on earth.



by mayberry on February 1, 2012


  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Kite Runner
  • The Girls from Ames
  • Anything by Jodi Picoult
  • The Secret Life of Bees


  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Little Heathens
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Brooklyn
  • Without a Map
  • The House at Sugar Beach
  • The Secret Scripture

Properly rated:

  • The Hunger Games series
  • Cutting for Stone
  • My Life in France
  • Room
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


Hot glass adventure

by mayberry on January 26, 2012

Last month, Jeff and I took a day off of working and parenting, and spent it pretending to be glass artists. Along with four friends, we spent the day at an artist’s studio and he very patiently taught us how to work with glass–the kind of glass that is molten and hanging off the end of a steel rod. Here is a hugely simplified explanation of the process (you’ll notice I use technical terms. Like “blob”).

The first task is to gather a blob of glass on the end of the rod, being careful not to put your thumb over the hole (the one you’ll be blowing into later); otherwise, you’ll trap steam inside and burn yourself. Then, carefully carry the blob over to a steel-topped table called a marver and roll it back and forth to shape it (so this is called marvering). Keep twisting the steel rod continuously. Repeat the gathering process until the blob is a suitable size.

Then, blow! But don’t forget to keep twisting the whole time. Blow hard enough, but not too hard. Once the bubble is the right size, reheat the glass (the furnace used for this purpose is called the glory hole). Then shape the glass using tongs, damp wooden molds or several thicknesses of newspaper, also damp. Side note: I have heard from more than one glass artist that the Wall Street Journal is best suited for this job. Once the shape is satisfactory, the finished product is snapped off the end of the rod and goes into an annealer to cool (depending on the size of the piece this can take days or weeks).

It took me at least 30 minutes of this process, with constant supervision and assistance from the artist and his team, to make a sad, deformed little cup, the type of thing you could buy at IKEA for 99 cents. Still, I MADE IT with MY OWN HANDS from MOLTEN GLASS how cool is that!

Next we tackled paperweights. For this we used bits and pieces of colored glass and canes. These are like long straws made of glass, which may have colors or designs embedded within them; you can snap or cut them into pieces and stand them vertically to reveal what’s inside.

Arrange these pieces onto a stone tile. Place this into a small warming oven to bring it closer in temperature to the clear, hot glass that will be added. That glass is again gathered  from the pot and then gently pressed against the pieces on the tile (the artist had to do this part for us). Once they have adhered, the entire blob is reheated in the glory hole and then shaped with the molds or damp newspaper. Once you are happy with the shape, the paperweight goes into the annealer to cool. After a few days or a week it is ready for polishing.

I am pretty happy with my finished paperweight. It’s very hard to predict what you’ll get after the colored glass pieces are picked up and melted into your clear glass. I chose based on color and didn’t try to plan a finished arrangement or design for how they’d look, so I wasn’t disappointed.

More photos on Flickr.


Over on the Reviews tab, I have a giveaway for you: kids’ winter boots. Go see.