Literal Power

Old Advice for a New AgeThere are few things in life that can truly give a person power. Learning to speak multiple languages is one of those things. Becoming comfortable with mathematics is another, and learning to read is another. And one more: being able to read. There is incredible power in being able to read. In this era of technology, screen media, and audio and visual stimuli, we often overlook the power of simple literacy.

However, ask the parents of the four-year-old who can suddenly read the signs on the vendor carts at the State Fair—how hard is it to redirect the little blossoming literary critic to the parents’ agenda now that she can read “ice cream”? Just that little bit of knowledge has given that child new power and her parents new headaches. Continue reading “Literal Power”

An Apple a Day

Gala ApplesThis past weekend our family made our annual trek to a local apple orchard for hot apple cider, apple cider donuts, pony rides, and of course, apple picking.

It was so nice to be out, and even though the weather was overcast and a little “sprinklely” at times, we still had a lovely day. We saw a couple of tiny Copes Gray tree frogs braving the crowds on the farm, and we marveled at the huge workhorses pulling some of the wagons. Butterflies—monarchs, and skippers in whites and yellows—flitted in and out, over and under the branches of the apple trees as we walked the rows and picked apples. The pumpkin field across the way was adorned with huge yellow blossoms and large orange baubles, as the flowers reluctantly relinquished their territory to the ripening fruits.

A band with fiddle and harmonica added to the ambiance of red barns, goats, pigs, corn and pumpkins. The clippety clop of horses was punctuated by the random ringing of the large dinner bell outside one of the barns. All of the sights and sounds of the farm were accompanied by the background hum of people out enjoying the day, children laughing and expressing wonder, couples walking hand in hand.

The orchard was picking two varieties the day we visited, Gala or “party” apples, a family favorite for us, and Jonamac, a variety created by marrying the more well known Jonathan and MacIntosh apples. I had never before tasted a Jonamac apple, but this apple gives the popular Honey Crisp competition. The flesh of the apple is white and incredibly juicy. It is a sweet apple that has just a hint of some other flavor—the slightest sense of a tart berry, perhaps.

We make this journey every year. This year when we arrived, our daughter said, “I thought it was bigger last year.”

“No, it’s the same as it always has been. Perhaps you were just smaller.”

And, I think that was some of it. Because when she ran to the playground and I saw her surrounded by younger children, I suddenly realized that I am the mother of a “big girl” now. She’s growing up, and things that seemed larger than life to her only last year are already beginning to feel smaller.

But they needn’t lose their wonder.

Because even at my age, I learned something new on this year’s trip to the apple orchard. I discovered an apple I had never before tasted, and I loved it.

That there can always be new tastes in a fruit as old and “standard” as the apple is an amazing and glorious thing. That there can always be new things to see and experience in the world around us, if we will but look and allow ourselves to be awed, is glorious too.

So yes, sometimes when we look back, life may have seemed bigger, but maybe that is because we aren’t big enough yet to understand.

© 2014 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

On-the-Job Parenting

It’s amazing the on-the-fly skills that I have developed since becoming a Mom. Just today my daughter was rooting through a bag of craft papers and stickers and such when she came up gleefully from her search holding a tube of glitter glue.

“Mom, look what I found. Glitter glue.”

“Oh joy.” I thought.

“Let’s make something!” And she began pulling papers, fun foam, glue sticks, scissors and other assorted crafty items from the bag.

“Whoa there. Don’t you think we should decide what we are going to make?”

“Oh, yes.” She paused. “A fairy princess.”

“What kind of fairy princess, a big one or a little one?”

“A medium one with a wand and a crown.”

So I found myself sitting at children’s card table across from my daughter with construction paper, fun foam glitter glue and assorted other crafty items having a go at creating a fairy princess. Continue reading “On-the-Job Parenting”


Ever since I learned that J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter novel in a café, I have longed for the perfect place to go to write my great American novel. I think I may have found it, a tranquil haven of WiFi access, caffeine, and calories wrapped in delectably tempting fresh-baked pastries, all topped with friendly smiles and conversation: Charming B’s Coffee Shop. The décor is beautiful; beautiful woodwork lighted by morning sunshine streaming in through the stained-glass windows. The leather sofas inviting me to sink down into their lucious depths. And, surely among all this olfactory and palatine stimulation, my muse has found santuary and is waiting to inspire me.

I was fortunate; instead of spending the 6:30-7:30 am hour on my commute to work, I was able to spend that early hour at Charming B’s during my work-from-home day last week. Although my obligations to my employer meant that I was writing about buffer systems for biochemical reactions and preparing an undergraduate laboratory about the basics of buffers instead of living in an imaginary world of marauder’s maps and invisibility cloaks, I like to think that my derivation of the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation was inspired. Continue reading “Charmed”