Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Work It!

Okay, so I know that running on an elliptical is not like running on a path. I get it -- low impact. But I get all the calorie burning cardio benefit without all the knee issues or IT band pain.

Yesterday on the recumbent bike I did 11 miles in 55 minutes on level 3 (I was editing at the time). 

Today on the elliptical, I did 5 miles in 30 minutes on level 6. I followed it up with some ball work on my lower abdomen and inner thighs. 

Then I went for a two-mile walk with Libbygirl and her boys this afternoon. In between the elliptical and the walk, I painted my fence in my yard for 3 hours lugging around a 5-gallon paint can. 

So, I've had quite the physical work out today. Tomorrow, I go back to the gym for some more elliptical time.

What I love is that I'm not really sore, but I'm sweating a lot. But mostly what I love is that I'm actually doing it, at my own pace, and I'm enjoying it. This is, of course, no small feat. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Beholden to Money

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I held a full-time job. I worked 10-12 hour days. I dressed in pantyhose and Jones New York suits. I took mass transit to work for as long as I could. I had bosses that I both adored and got annoyed with. All of my friends were my co-workers. We spent more time together than we ever did with our spouses. We enjoyed our work, but at the end of the day we were there not just for job satisfaction, we were there for money and benefits.

Since moving to Illinois I have had several part-time jobs. The ones that fit my life best are the ones that are not only part-time but are also temporary. I worked for a year at the Douglass Branch Library when someone got sent to Iraq with the military. I filled in for a summer doing fundraising work at A Woman's Fund while they did a search for a full-time fundraising person. I taught for 2 years at Millikin in Decatur while a professor did research for her Fellowship. 

I did these things not because I needed to "stay busy." Christ, do I hate it when people use those words. Life is not about staying freaking busy. Life is about living. And boy, am I living.

Periodically, I know a lot of my working friends wish they could stay home with their kids. And periodically, I know a lot of my stay-at-home friends wish they could return to the work force. 

From my perspective, it's going to be really hard for me to go back full-time, unless it's something I completely love and see good in its value to our community. 

What makes it worse is that I love being my own boss at home. Even though I have a tough time as it is dealing with the full-on responsibilities regarding X-man and MacTroll and our pets. I make the schedule. I control the flow. Until life decides to have some fun and slap me around with the stomach flu or an ill pet or weeks of rain.

For a person who is able to make one income work and monitor a tight household budget, money isn't an incentive for employment any more. Would more money be nice? Hell yes. Would it be worth putting up with someone else's crappy, infant-like demands of my precious time taking me away from my family -- not so much. If I had to, to send X-man to school or to put food in his belly or keep our house, would I return? In an instant. 

But Parenthood so jacked me up for the workforce. Because I don't see a "hoorah" in a multi-billion dollar corporation making even more mega bucks because of my hard work. All I see is the "boo" for not being with the people that matter more... but that's because at this point, the household budget is working. If the economy collapses and we're all standing in lines for our cans of beans again and in line at the unemployment office, clearly things will be way different.

But one things if for sure, when I'm dead, I'll have done a lot more than 'stay busy.'   

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nicholas Sparks' Truth (SPOILER)

If the hurricane doesn't get you, the mudslide or the galloping ponies will. I'm pretty sure he flipped a coin as to what would happen when he wrote the book.

Such is life. But whatever you do, never make decorative boxes to put stuff in to remember things... I mean really, how is that not tempting fate?

I think he and Anita Shreve have the writers' version of a dance off -- just with depressing novels. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Coyotes in chase of something out my window... it's enough to get Riley upset. 

They'll quiet down as soon as they've got whatever they're hunting. 

Friend in Need

After my 2nd full week of single parenting in a row... I could really use a chick flick. 

If anyone's up for going to see Women or Nights of Rodanthe at the Savoy 16 on Saturday at 9 or 9:15 p.m. let me know. 


So, I have been a recipient of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission e-mail on all the kid-related stuff the government and independent businesses recall.

I get more messages than I'd like to admit. But when I read the one today, a question injected into my subconscious.

Do I feel that a kid might get lead poisoning from paints on toys is less of a problem or  more of a problem than the possibility that a toy might lacerate a child?

I hate that word: lacerate. It's up there with other gross words like: zit, slacks, anniversary, (and the worst word in the world) cummerbund. 

I didn't answer my own question (I'm too busy trying to think of a way to redesign my laundry room for efficiency to think about stuff my subconscious worries about). 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Day of Random Meetups

The day started as any other. I was bribing my kid into the car to go to school with fruit snacks. He loves school, but he hates to be rushed. And his class starts at 8:30 a.m. (with counting the calendar which he lives) and then has snack... another favorite. Plus, I like to get to the gym by 9 a.m. so I can get in and out and get on with my day. 

I was sleep deprived, so when I got to the gym I headed to the locker room, put my hair up in a ponytail and -- snap -- the rubber band broke. Then I realized I left my iPod in the car, and I'd much rather work out to my music than the television. I love Jon Stewart but he doesn't exactly keep my heart rate up.

I entered in all the numbers into my elliptical and decided to be daring: 35 minutes! As soon as I start I hear my name and look up and behind me (trying hard not to lose my balance and fall off). Quigs and Cyberchick were waving hi as they dropped their little ones off. The next thing I know, Quigs has a rubberband for me (she always takes such good care of me) and Cyberchick and I are gabbing about work and last week's class and our friend Rogers' birthday (Happy Birthday Rogers!). 

Then Make_up girl waves hi as she goes to work out on the treadmill. Cyberchick runs off to join in on a step class and I almost fall off the machine a couple more times. I'm never good at things that require balance, but when I'm sleep deprived my friends will tell you my ability to stand upright is in question.

Afterward, I had some errands to run. Then I remembered I forgot to give Quigs her thank you for taking care of our cats when we were in Wisconsin. I also had Rogers' birthday gift in my car. So I played Santa. I ran to Quigs' first. She and Make_up girl were in the middle of a playdate. I chatted a bit and then ran over to Rogers' and played with Curious J while I chatted with her and her parents. Then I headed home, only to get a call that Rogers' birthday lunch with Mr. Rogers fell through, so they were picking me up to go to Culver's.

We pulled into the Culver's lot and parked... next to a blue car that belongs to Rachel. She and her husband and little Eli were having a lunch date. So we all walked in together. We ordered our food and then Rogers announced, "Look it's the Freak Family!" 

And indeed, it was them. 

After all that togetherness, I headed home and finally grabbed a shower, picked up some toys, did some laundry, cleaned X-man's bath toys and cleaned up the kitchen while planning dinner. I admit I needed a 45-minute nap before picking up the nipper. 

He and I have been hanging out all night. 

It just goes to show you how small the world really is...

X-man has two favorite words: Octagon and Subtraction. And his new favorite book is: No Biting, Louise!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Parlez-vous Français?

I read this online and it put me in stitches. So I thought I would share. 

It's as funny as it is depressing: just a warning. 

Sure, everyone likes to get their 4th pick

Last year around this time, I was in the middle of planning the garden area around our new home. We didn't have a lot of money because we were putting a lot of our savings left over after purchasing the house into building our fence in the backyard. So, I used a gift card at an internet nursery and got a bunch of bulbs to plant in November. In addition, I put a few things here and there (most items went in the back yard). 

I also really wanted trees. I spent $32 each on two male gingko trees because the description in the catalog said they were good in high wind situations (and anyone who lives in Savoy knows why that's a good idea). I planted them west of the house in the parkway a little more than 40' apart per the Village's rules. In a year they've grown from being 12" tall to being about 2.5' tall. That's not too terrible. But they're baby trees. As it turns out, I missed the part in the "neighborhood bylaws," which really aren't very stringent, but I'm a rule follower, that wants us to put in a street tree that is a certain height (like taller than me).

I've been drooling over our neighbors' (Jeff and Wendy's) trees since they started planting theirs last fall and just keep adding more and more to their yards. Well, tall trees aren't cheap. So, I'm glad we have 20 years to pay this place off, because it's going to take me at least the next five to get all the trees I want planted.

Today we took a trip to Country Arbors. They were already sold out of red buds, tulips and most of the approved oaks on the Savoy arborist's list. So, we started reading the species left on the list to see what he thought might work okay in our crappy claylike soil (or at least if they helped by amending the soil for us). We settled on a Kentucky CoffeeTree. Sure, it's non-native, but I promise that we also purchased a GIGANTIC maple to go in my backyard for shade. 

Next spring we're going to focus on two ornamental trees and a conifer. But for right now, we'll deal with our favorite Somerset maple out back and our "we need something off this list and you don't seem to have any of our top three" pick.

Either way, it gives us some vertical height until all my baby items from the online nursery grow into full form. 

I also spent 2 hours out in the sun today mowing the grass. Tomorrow after the gym, I'm so coming home and painting some fence. I think I'm almost done with our 2nd 5 gallon container. So I'll have to run to Lowe's for some more.

Lactic Acid, How I Love Thee

On Saturday morning, I went to a strength training class at a local gym. My friend Cyberchick was filling in for the usual teacher and invited me along. I love strength training group classes. Love them. Mostly because there is a LOT of variety. And usually because, it takes less balance and coordination than a Step class. 

I had a lot of fun and enjoyed myself. I kept up on most exercises without much trouble except when we were incorporating the stability ball. The stability ball does require balance. If you have one you probably know the few exercises that make you feel all wobbly. I use my ball at home to do push ups. I lower the ball back to my hips and then do the push ups. Cyberchick took it further and when we were in the push up had us pike our butts into the air using our legs which were on the ball. I tried that position once, laughed a little and then just kept doing push ups throughout the routine while those at a higher level did the killer pike position. I kept moving and that was the point, right? 

I'm not too much of a slouch in the hand weight category either. I move between 8 lb weights and 5 lb weights. 

But when I woke up yesterday morning, and even worse this morning, what I noticed is that there are two particular parts of my body that I apparently don't load with enough weight in my day-to-day life, because good golly are they sore. My hamstrings are pretty achy, but the thing that's taking the worst hit -- my pectoral (chest) muscles.

Seriously. I did a lot of push ups. I did a lot of flies and lawnmowers and all that good stuff that involves the chest. I used my lighter weights for all of them. But how random is it that the rest of me is doing fine, but those two muscle groups are sore to the point that I don't want to raise my hands to put my shirt over my head or sit on the toilet?

I'm old. But I thank Cyberchick for inviting me over to help me in my quest to improve my fitness level. She was a great teacher. I look forward to trying the class again once I can commit to the whole body sitcho. Until then, I think I'm cardio/ab work out girl for a few days. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Holy shit" Moments

X-man is full of surprises. Just when you think you know him and his abilities, he suddenly does something you never expected.

Like when my mom was in for surgery, we were walking down the hall of the hospital and he was upset by his surroundings. We stopped at a bulletin board that had cars on it and counted them. I knew he could count to ten. But when we got there, out came, "11, 12, 13, 14..." he went all the way to 20. 

He started at Next Generation when he was 15 months. At the time, we'd go to the park and I would stand over him and chase him around, even on the toddler playset. Then one day I went and picked him up during outdoor time. And there were 15 kids and three teachers... and every one of them ages 15-24 months, could climb the stairs and go down the slide by themselves. No one was hovering over them freaking out at every opportunity. They each had little safety points, one near the slide to make sure no pushing happened, one keeping an eye on the kids on the push cars in the area and another watching activity on the playstructure and its stairs. 

It was safe, but it was also independent play. I watched X-man walk up the stairs, wait in line and go down the slide by himself. He'd give a high five to his teacher (Ms. Sunny) and off he'd go to do it again. I had no idea he was capable of all that. 

So, you'd think that this morning, as I'm ordering him snow boots for the winter and listening to MacTroll and X-man watch Dora downstairs, that I wouldn't be surprised when Dora starts counting in Spanish -- and so does X-man. Loud and proud. Seriously, he knows more Spanish now than I know French. And I had 4 years of it, but I had never heard him use it outside of Spanish class before. Well, except when he says Hola and Adios to the wait staff when we go to El Toro II.

He's an uber smart, independent and fearless kid. And even though his father and I often have those qualities, too. He is definitely his own person. 

Friday, September 19, 2008


I had a full, full day today. 

At 8:30 a.m. we dropped X-man off at school. He was happy to be with the Turtles, we're always thrilled with how much he has always loved his teachers. I can't tell you how exciting it is for me to see him learning and enjoying and behaving, even though his behaviors have fallen off track at home this week. 

After the drop off, MacTroll dropped me at the Fitness Center. I didn't get there as early as I would have liked, but I did get 15 minutes in on the elliptical and then I did a 30-minute stretch class. And truthfully, after you do the stretch class, with the lights dimmed and your body all happy, you don't want to do more. So I'll have to work on getting there by 8:30 so I can get in some cardio and then do stretch MWF. 

Afterward, Quigs made me laugh so hard, I shot water through my nose. To make up for it, she drove me to the CARE garden, where we met Freak, Libbygirl and MacTroll and disassembled our garden as it has nothing left to harvest. 

I sent a message to the Urbana Park District letting them know that we were done. I got three replies. The first two were "great thanks!" The third was a reminder that I had to keep everything weeded. Fat chance. I'm never going back. They can keep my deposit and try to use it to fund Crystal Lake pool now that they have declared it's going down the tubes.

Afterward, I headed home with MacTroll and ate a little sandwich and then I went out to paint the fence (yes, I'm still doing that project -- hush). We have these huge flocks of blackbirds, I think they're cowbirds that are just going between our houses sitting on the rooftops and hiding in the fields. Well, I heard them all take off from my house in a whoosh, but what I didn't expect to see was two of them over my right shoulder about 5' in the air in a full dive. Two pulled up, but one of the two got it's head smashed to the ground by a Cooper's Hawk -- Four feet from where I was sitting.

The little bird went with the momentum of the slap, and tried to escape on the other side of the fence. The hawk anticipated this, so he was there to scoop the wounded bird up and take it away. In other words, Mother nature got her freak on in my backyard and I had rock star seating. Sweet.

I finished 3.5 panels in 2 hours. And it was hot, so I took a nap. 

Most of the paint is scrubbed off of me after a quick shower. We picked up X-man and took him to "Family Dinner For Pirates Only" at Long John Silvers. I had never eaten there before, but it's "Talk like a Pirate Day," so we thought it would be fun to make the kids dress up and go out to eat, but X-man didn't want to wear a hat. Nor did he want his friends to wear hats. See him here with Bubba. -- 

He also kept telling us he wasn't hungry on our way there. And then when he got in the restaurant and saw the French Fries, he went crazy with tears until he had his own kids meal (not with french fries -- he shared mom's) but with a granola bar and goldfish. 

Afterward, we ran some errands and then took X-man to Jarling's for some frozen custard. Two little boys from Kankakee had come down with their parents to go to the Apple Orchard and were spending the night in town. X-man liked them immediately, when the little boy Nolan said, "Hello!" X-man hugged him. Then we had to sit with them while we ate, and X-man kept passing his Sheriff car between the two of them sharing like a champ.

After that we took him over to a Central football game to see our friend The Boy cheer on the team after attending a cheerleading camp. 

It was really crowded and stuffy. Before the halftime performance. X-man was playing with some other little cheerleaders, who were jumping up and down on some old bleachers and then jumping off. 

They were also standing on the seats with one leg on the seat in front of them, and X-man would run underneath their skirts. MacTroll and I were laughing in hysterics. Then MacTroll went to the bathroom, and I got hit on. Boy, it's been a long time since that's happened. But hey, he seemed like a decent guy in our 30-second discussion. 

And really, after that I just want to collapse. Cause tomorrow, I have tree purchasing, a strength training class, a neighborhood cookout and a Mom's Night Out at the piano bar. On Sunday, the load is a little lighter and more home focused until 3 p.m. when we have a huge CARE carnival at in St. Joseph. 

And then it's Monday, back to the grind. :-P

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Google Challenges

When I lived in Virginia I had five managers in five years. People kept getting moved around on me, and such. I had three managers while I was there that were -- weird to me. I always had the approach that you should try on your own to figure something out and then if you can't you go to them for help.

Well, um, technology was an issue early on for them. But instead of trying to figure it out on their own, they'd come to me for help. And I didn't mind the first few times, but it got to be a repetitive situation. Like walking into my work area to ask me to find a number... and I'm thinking, "You have google too, it's not like the movie 9 to 5 where I am keeper of your mega rolodex."

But I'd google them, and e-mail it to them and four minutes later, they'd call me on the phone. "Don't you have that number yet?"

"Check your e-mail."

So when I got an e-mail from MacTroll yesterday asking for help finding the dentist's phone number because -- shocker -- they don't have a website. I furrowed my brow. I put in "Dr. Nicholas Sabbia, Savoy, IL" into Google and pushed search. Sure they don't have a website, but there are like 12 dental listings with a number.

I could have been a nice person and cut and paste the info into an e-mail. But I thought of those bosses and what I always wanted to tell them: 

"You know, you have Google, too. Spend more than 5 seconds on it, and you'll have saved us both a bunch of time. Better yet, I won't resent you for eternity and blog about it almost a decade later."

So I told my spouse to try it again.

The big problem for Joel... He doesn't know our dentist's first name, even though he's seen the same one every six months for the past five years.

And that's a whole different problem.

Run Rudy Run

So on Monday, I ended my membership at Curves. Earlier that morning, I visited Quigs' gym and really liked it. It's more of a full-service gym with child care, if I need it, free classes all day long and lots of machines. I went on Monday and spent some time on the elliptical and then did some upper body work on the weight machines, followed by some abdominal and lower back work on the ball in the stretch room. I was leaving as Quigs was coming in.

On Tuesday, I went back. I was a little sleep deprived, but I made it down there and managed not to fall off the elliptical. I did 20 minutes and finished as Quigs got done with her workout (she started way before me because she's like the Energizer bunny), then I did mostly lower body work on the weight machines. I love that I see her there, but I have to remember we're not there to chat. We're there to get our crap done and get on with our day.

Today was a day off. I spent it cleaning and organizing the garage, doing laundry and dishes and all the rest of that house hold stuff. We're having a kids stuff swap at my house in October, so Freak dropped off a lot of cool toddler toys and I wanted a clean place to store them.

Tomorrow I'm going back to the Fitness Center, and I'm remembering my earphones. I'm going to do 25 minutes on the elliptical. I know I can do more, but it feels more tiring than walking for an hour outside. I have an iPod and a personal TV on my machine, but I'm still not into the groove, yet. Give it a couple of weeks and it'll come back to me. Tomorrow should be good because I'll have a new playlist of music that Misc so sweetly sent me in the mail today on CD. 

And if you have no idea where the title of my blog comes from, I linked it to the movie on YouTube. It's one of my favorites.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Girl Who Thinks Too Much

My whole life I've been told that people have trouble relating to me because I think too much or that I have a thick air of righteous indignation about me. Every boy I ever dated, my father, my mother, my husband, my best friends, everyone. I'm not an instant hit (except maybe with my nephew Nathan). I am, I guess, an acquired taste. 

So in the middle of running around doing what I hate the most (putting my house in order --an order that never looks clean or orderly), I got an e-mail from my friend Loretta passing onto me this blogger award (you can check out her blog to read what wonderful things she says about me). 

Seriously. Wow. I've known Loretta for a while, but we've only just recently been able to hang out (even when I'm freaking 30 minutes late). But she and I share academic and philosophic interests that I haven't thought about much since I got my master's degree 8 years ago. I talk to Loretta and all this rhetoric fills my head. It's like when an old friend introduces you to someone else in their life and you hit it off. 

Loretta rocks, and I'm going to be wicked sad when she and her husband end up moving elsewhere when Dave is done with his work. Because her family is a lot of fun. 

Anyway, to accept this award, I also have to agree to pass it on. And I have many, many favorite bloggers in town. But there is one blogger that I read a lot, who has taken a sabbatical lately and I miss her. She appreciates the buzz of a good martini and getting riled up with good friends. She has four children and still enjoys the physical company of her husband, which is no small miracle. And let's face it, her brain is wired funny, which makes me feel like I'm not alone in the world. I've never met her, but I love her work and miss her witty entries something fierce. 

So Jen at "Get in the Car." This blog award is for you.

Should you want to pass on the good karma, you just need to link to the creator of the award. I know it's sappy. But as a complete stranger, it's the only way I know to share my fondness for your endless sarcasm and knock me over zingers at the world. The world needs more of you. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cats and Canadian Geese

Yes, I know I just fell asleep 4 hours ago. So, why the hell am I up? Well at 4 a.m. I heard a cat barfing a different barf than a hairball. I got up to find Clawdio scampering out of the bathroom leaving a white foamy vomit on the tile. This is a sign that his belly is empty, and he needs some food to help keep from trying to digest his own pancreas. 

I run down and serve him up an extra half can of Prescription ID food as a snack. This brings out Looseyfur, who starts whining because heaven forbid one of my two geriatric cats gets something the other doesn't. So she got a 1/4 can of Friskies. 

Clawdio was diagnosed with pancreatitis in 2005 on top of his feline herpes. Yes, that's right, I said herpes, which he has had since we adopted him in November 1998. He has not had a flare up of either condition, since 2005. I'd like to keep it that way. But as we just got back from a week away, he likes to remind me that the only person he likes is me by being high maintenance and really needy for a few days. Clawdio will turn 11 in October.

Looseyfur, our oldest cat (estimation has her turning somewhere between 19 and 23 this January), has been on fluid therapy (she gets 100cc of an IV solution drained into her shoulder area each day) for over a year now to help her kidneys, which were in renal kidney failure last year, but improved to being "borderline" within 2 months of starting the therapy. In addition to the fluids, she receives a pill and a half of tapazole for her hyperthyroidism a day and the supplement azodyl. We know we don't have much time left to spend with her, so we humor her. She gets anything she wants at this stage, as she slinks around the house in her tiny 6 lb body that is made up mostly of bone and fur. 

While we were on vacation, we put the cats in our bedroom/bathroom, to make it easier for Quigs, who so graciously pet sat for us for a week (really, I mean, that's friendship, her thank you gift is on the way, even though she says it's unnecessary), to wrangle them. She had to utilize her pet care training from her own cat ownership experience of a cat with pancreatitis (the lovely Cheeto) and her years working in a vet clinic. She reported that they hated being kept in here and not able to roam the rest of the house, even though they have a king-sized bed to lie on and a cat tree to sleep in. Plus, this is where both of them normally sleep all night long. But it's safer for them to be quarantined, since they need to be watched and monitored on a daily basis, particularly for folks that aren't me and don't know their strange habits. 

Anyway, now the little bastards who have full run of the house again think that there should forever be a bowl of food in my bathroom and they sit in there and WHINE LOUDLY. I picked up the litterbox that we used and washed it out when we got home. I put away the dinner bowl. But apparently, they liked having a second service station on the top floor versus eating in the kitchen and using the bathroom facilities in the basement. 

Lord help them if they decide they're too lazy to go to the basement to use the boxes. Cause the secret to this is, when they get old and crazy, they're going to spend their days stuck in here with me, so I can watch them and care for them. No more lying on the kitchen floor in the southern exposure. No more thundering around in circles around the first floor. No more trips out into the backyard to pretend like they're tigers as they stomp on giant crickets, maim them and move on. (Well, okay Clawdio isn't really allowed out there because he's afraid of his own shadow.) They'll be stuck in here with the cranky old lady who pills them and pokes them dutifully because she loves her cats and has had both of them for over a decade and isn't about to just give up on them. 

So what the hell do Canadian Geese have to do with this? We have two "lakes" (i.e. retention ponds) behind our house and it's migratory season. Apparently a gaggle of geese have decided to slumber 20 feet behind my backyard fence in the open field that will in the next year be more houses. And man are they seriously freaking noisy ALL NIGHT LONG. Honk. Honk. Honk.

Recap, elderly cats woke me up for food by vomiting and shouting. And now 60 minutes later, I can't sleep because I can hear the constant honking outside my window. Seriously, thank goodness X-man was so easy tonight cause the rest of the world is obviously a nuisance.

Monday, September 15, 2008

National Economic Failings: Driving Me to Drink

Apparently, I'm not the only one.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cute X-man moments

Never mind the nose picking and the screeching... he's using his words! He even sings. 

And, um, the carseat movie is about him listing all of the characters he can remember from the movie Cars. We had to listen to songs from the movie every time we got in the car in Wisconsin. (So you'll hear him say: Doc, Sheriff, Ramone, Flo, Lightning, Sally, Mac, Mater, Stanley, etc... not necessarily in that order. He looks tired when he's done, so I think it used all of his brain power.) :-P

My Addiction to Christmas

So, I think I might have told you guys that I have an addiction for paper. I love smart ass stationery, well-designed book covers and wine bottle labels, and I have an excessive fondness for gift wrap. And nothing gets my paper obsession going more than the holidays. I start buying gifts months in advance and have them all wrapped and ready to go by Nov. 15. 

(For the record, I have 7 family members' gifts done, wrapped and waiting to be shipped right now. Yes, I know, to many this is a sickness.)

I like to get done early not only because I love the process and enjoy finding gifts for people, but because I hate people (that aren't my people) and I refuse to set foot in a store that's not for groceries or toilet paper after Nov. 15. I have made only a few exceptions to help other folks do their shopping. 

I don't throw old ladies to the ground to get into a store first to find a Wii. In short, I am a wuss. I like my capitalist Christmas, but I like to start dealing with it in August rather than the day after Thanksgiving. 

I've made it my mission to take the crap and stress out of the holidays. Because, let's face it... any holiday that requires getting together in large groups is gonna cause some stress. But what MacTroll and I found out first by moving 1,000 miles away from family and then by moving back here and building a house and having a kid, is that we really, really enjoy the family Christmas morning in our own home. We have no big meal or loud boisterous party. We sit around in our pajamas playing with our kid and taking it easy ALL DAY. 

And in essence, that's why we love Christmas. Sure, I enjoy giving the gifts more than the getting. But more importantly, I enjoy watching X-man see Christmas as a magical time when hope and kindness come together (hopefully) with some beautiful snow and some enjoyable music and a tree with nice lights while we sit in our home and enjoy our time with one another.

Really, holidays are just staging, right? But it's something different than a normal day. It has special foods and new toys and new clothes. It has new books waiting to be read and cuddly pajamas. It's an easier time. 

But Santa, if you're up and cruisin' the blogs looking for some miracles to bestow, I've been very good this year. But my Christmas list is very selfish, so get to everyone else's important ones (curing cancer, ending poverty, world peace, etc.) first... 

But my one Christmas (and Birthday) wish is this:

Please don't regift any gifts to my family that we might have given your family. Especially don't wrap them up and pretend like they're new. Instead, regift us stuff other people gave you -- stuff that doesn't look like it's been through high usage. But please don't do it with stuff I purchased myself. And it's not just me (the anti-Miss Manners) that says so... I mean, even the Motley Fools guys agree. They even made a do's and don'ts list for regifting!

If you want to be ecological and recycle old stuff your family loved, great, just e-mail me to see if I'd like them and then put them in a box and send them on any old day of the year. It's what I do. And if folks get the box and love them, great. If they don't, they can donate them. 

But regifting a gift someone has purchased you... is like putting the coal into the stocking, taking it out to show me, mocking me and then pelting me in the head with it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Betty Brinn Children's Museum Review (Milwaukee, WI)

While we were on vacation, we visited the Betty Brinn Children's Museum in Milwaukee. The museum is right on the lakefront near two museums we'll have to go back and check out when X-man is older. One called Discovery World (which offers a science experience working cruise from Milwaukee to Montreal -- ahem.) and the other is the art museum. I took loads of photos that I'll put on on X-man's web site sooner or later, but for right now here are the highlights. 

1.) Admission is $6 per child/adult over the age of 1. 
2.) This is the first children's museum I've been in that had yuck bags AND hand sanitizer stations bolted on the walls. Since I was a mother who had a kid sticking everything in his mouth to until he was almost 2, having yuck bags would have made me feel like I wasn't some kind of crazy parent with a weird slobbery kid -- because clearly if there are bags, it's not just my kid.
3.) For the older set, they had a working TV studio, where kids could be newscasters, camera operators, play with green screens and be the news director of the broadcast. No, this isn't X-man, he was too young to give a crap about it. But I thought it was cool... 
4.) They had a "Backyard" world for kids 0-3. Near the front was a playhouse that had the usual household activities. But then when you stepped out on the porch you got a whole backyard, with a sandbox, a "water slide," a soft building area, a really cool constructed tree that the kids could climb into and more. Mostly X-man liked mowing the lawn.

5.) Like other children's museums, this one had a café and a grocery store. But it also had a florist, a bank, a garage and a post office. And as a letter carrier kids could deliver and pick up mail all around the "town." There were also phones that linked from one to the other, so you could call over to the post office and say, "I have a letter for you to pick up at the store." And some kid would come running over.  Or you could call the florist from work at the garage and pick up flowers on your way home...You can see X-man getting some milk out of the cooler to put in his cart in the back right of the photo.
6.) A section for the Arts. I loved this section, but it's definitely geared toward the 5 and up crowd. In addition to regular tables of arts and crafts (offered next to the inside of the GIANT glass clock that shows out into the downtown area so the kids can see the inner workings of the clock while they paint or draw), is a section where you can direct the Milwaukee Symphony, play with different instruments (film of MacTroll conducting is at the bottom of this post), put on a puppet show, put on a play, or in this exhibit, the Milwaukee Ballet leads kids through a warm up on a dance floor, and then teaches them different dance steps. X-man just wanted to push the buttons. 

7.) X-man's favorite exhibit was in the "town" area. And it's no surprise that it had to do with cars. Here he is working on changing the filter, adding coolant and window washer. Daddy helped him change the tires and Mommy helped with putting in a new exhaust system. We spent most of our time here saying, "Can we fix it? Yes, we can!"

8.) Outside on the terrace overlooking the waterfront, was a giant brio play train with a xylophone on the front. X-man loved driving the train. 

All in all, I'd gotten so used to Rockford/Bloomington/Champaign and Decatur's children's museums that it was nice to go to a new museum and see some familiar exhibits, but also find brand new ones. All of the exhibits were funded by community businesses/corporate sponsorships, which made me wish that our larger businesses would care enough about the Orpheum to put some money into it for exhibits that were as clean and well maintained as what we found at Betty Brinn.

Personal growth

X-man went out into the garage today, got on his Thomas tricycle and biked down the sidewalk for the first time.

 We made such a big deal out of it that he immediately stopped and started treating it like a push car rather than a bike. Serves us right.

Oh, and in the last week, I've gone from being Mama to being Mommy -- full time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Putting the T in Toddler Time

Today was an awesome ending to our vacation. Tomorrow we'll get in the car and travel back home. But today, we drove down to the Mayfair Shopping Mall in the suburbs of Milwaukee and bought X-man some new tennis shoes. Because Champaign has no children's shoe store to speak of any more. Last April he was an 8.5 XW. Now he's a 9.5XW. He didn't want to go buy the shoes until I made him a deal.

"Xander, if you help Mommy get you new shoes, we'll go down and BUILD-A-BEAR." He didn't know what one was until today. I'm not joking when the kid ran into Stride Rite, played with the toys waiting for his turn. He tried on two pairs of shoes, ran around in them, let the guy check them out and then CHOSE the shoes he wanted. He picked out a special bear and had a great time helping put in the fluff and giving it a bath before we made a "birth certificate" for it. 

Afterward we ate Subway in the foodcourt. X-man loved that they had a live piano player to listen to. Then we left and drove downtown to the Betty Brinn Children's Museum. We used our reciprocal museum membership from the Orpheum, so we got in "free" and saved $18. Plus they gave us a $2 discount off parking, so technically the whole thing cost $3 for parking. X-man had a blast. We were there for 2.5 hours, and X-man was wiped when we left. 

Then we picked up some dinner and frozen custard from the Drive Thru at the Harley Davidson store in Sheboygan before coming home to watch some movies. 

I'll have photos and a review of the children's museum a bit later. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blah happens even on vacation

The wind has been going crazy and the waves that were cresting 30 yards out are now doing it 100 yards out. They're also 4 feet tall and are eating the walkable area of the beach. 

To compensate, we watched some TV, played in the sand and then took a trip into town to eat at a restaurant called from Field to Fork. It's an all local food market and café. It was insanely good and we followed it up with a trip to Target for more diapers and some Lincoln Logs so we can build more effective parking garages for X-man's cars than the summer cottage's Jenga blocks allow. 

Unfortunately, while I was constructing the barn for the cars, X-man decided to sit on my back, which is fine... until he repeatedly struck me with an extra long Lincoln Log in the head. I've got a couple lumps on the head. 

We were supposed to leave 30 minutes later to tour the Sprecher Brewery, but I really needed a time out. I talked to MacTroll about it, but he looked really down. So I gave in and went. And it was me dealing with the 2 year old who wanted to tickle my face, but really just scratched my cheeks. He didn't want Daddy to hold him, so I did 90 percent of the holding. Then in the testing area, when he got his drink, he spilled it all over himself because he wouldn't sit still. Then he fell off of the bench. Then he fought me over a clothing and diaper change which left us both in a meltdown. We left and Mommy was ready to tear her hair out. 

I tried to point out how to get to the mall, but MacTroll wasn't listening. Then instead of going backwards I suggested that we stop at a town between the cottage and Milwaukee. MacTroll took the first exit rather than waiting for the exit with the Noodles & Co. sign. Then we drove into downtown Port Washington (bigger than Sarah Palin's hometown) and headed back out to the main high way completely missing the one exit where the restaurant was. 

So, it came down to us eating at Pizza Ranch, the only restaurant in Oostburg. We walked in and X-man did a 180 degree turn around. "Uh-uh. No! No! No!"

So here we are eating the left over cheese and bread back at the cottage. I guess it means no leftovers. But I'm uber frustrated. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Charlie and Lola

When X-man turned 1, my sister gave him his first Charlie and Lola DVD. I knew them only through reading my niece Lauren Child's book, "I will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato."

It's this cute story about how little sister Lola refuses to eat a LOT of different kinds of food and how her very, very nice and thoughtful brother Charlie uses his imagination to help Lola consider looking at the boring concept of eating vegetables in a whole new light.

Yeah, I never knew a big brother that was as nice as Charlie. But Lola's independence and craziness is very appealing to me, and also to X-man. Because no matter what new cartoon he gets introduced to, he still always likes to go back and visit with Charlie and Lola.

Now, if only all their good gear wasn't only sold in UK stores or on ebay UK.

Milwaukee County Zoo Review

This morning we drove down to Milwaukee from Oostburg (about a 35-minute drive) and took X-man to the Milwaukee Zoo. The wind has kicked up something fierce on Lake Michigan after a couple days of the water being serene. And now the waves are breaking about 30 yards out and they're about 3 feet tall, which is pretty impressive. Not ocean impressive, sure, but definitely lake impressive.

Anyway, I am two ways about zoos. I think that as people we suck for plucking wild animals out of their natural habitats and putting them in a zoo. However, I do have to say that as a kid (and even now as an adult), I loved going to the zoo because it taught me a lot about appreciating animals, ecology, evolution and science. 

The cost of the zoos are getting steeper too. We were at Brookfield near Chicago in June and past the regular zoo admission there were LOTS of add ons like dolphin shows or zoo rides. Milwaukee is a bit cheaper, but it's also half the size. It's $11.25 during peak season per adult, but kids 2 and under are free. It does have its own add ons (skip the sky ride, so not worth it, but if you have a train fanatic, the little train looks fun. Unfortunately, we melted down before we could go on it). 

We arrived around 11 a.m. and left around 2 p.m. when X-man refused to walk and refused to ride in the stroller. And well, we made it clear that we refused to carry him. So, we were at an impasse and took him home (i.e. carried him out to the car screaming "More animals, more animals!").

However, before the post-lunch, pre-nap meltdown (he's been asleep now for 2 hours, and survived the move to the house from the car), we had a good time wandering around. 

His favorite animals this trip were the Prairie Dogs. Prior to this he's been in love with Meerkats, so it's not hard to see how he made the jump.

They also have an impressive Ape house and a family farm that you can visit to see how a farm operates. 

But my favorite part of this zoo, was that it was food friendly. I ordered a veggie burger on whole wheat combo for my lunch and shared the fries with X-man. In return, he shared his mega fruit salad and yogurt dip with me. MacTroll had his 3rd brat in as many days with his fries and coke. X-man also drank apple juice out of a big boy cup (we neglected to bring his cup in from the car with us in all of the "Hooray! Zoo!" excitement).

We came home with a monkey shirt for him to sleep in. (The whole way through the zoo, all he wanted to see were the monkeys, and, lucky us, we got to see a few of them mating.) Now the family is resting (Riley and X-man are still sleeping) and MacTroll and I are working on arrangements for X-man and I to potentially go to San Francisco for MacWorld this year. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fine Living Network

It rained all day yesterday, and X-man was a huge handful. So we had the TV on for a break from having to build and rebuild little garages for his cars out of Jenga blocks. What I learned from being in a house with Dish is this: if X-man's favorite cartoons (Bob, Thomas, George, Blues Clues, etc.) aren't available, X-man would rather watch Iron Chef or Anthony Bourdain or Bizarre Food on the Fine Living Network than family friendly sitcoms (he booed The Cosby Show and Full House). 

This is all new to me:

A) Before vacation, I didn't know there was a Fine Living Network.
B) What am I going to do if he grows up and asks for Shanghai crab brains or Spanish Bull Balls for dinner? I mean, seriously. 


I grew up in a family with two sets of grandparents who had summer cottages. My mom's parents had one in Canada in Rondeau Provincial Park. My dad's parents had one in southern Wisconsin. So, I spent all summer long bobbing between cottages for most of my tiny person childhood. 

This vacation reminds me a lot of those days. You have to rinse the sand off your feet with the hose by the door before you go in. Attached to it, of course, is some ancient metal sprayer. Much to Rogers' and Quigs' dismay, sand is pretty much on everything, but you stop noticing at some point. 

You cook your meals at home rather than eat out. And you have bonfires with s'mores when company comes to visit.

Here are some other summer cottages experiences that bring back childhood flashbacks:

1.) Bathing in the kitchen sink because cottages usually only have a tiny shower that a toddler suddenly becomes claustrophobic in when he realizes he is expected to just stand there and get clean and not play in the water... 
2.) Sandy and wet but VERY happy dogs.
3.) Special time with Papa.
4.) Digging holes with Dad in the sand.
5.) Jumping into the hole and hugging Dad because you're so excited about building a hole!
6.) Being so tired that you really should take a nap, but you can't bring yourself to walk to the cottage, so instead you just lie down and watch the clouds for 20 minutes until your next wave of energy hits you.
7.) Grilling out!
8.) Hanging out with family.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Oostburg Rental House

My husband talked with a family member before we left for vacation. He said they kept asking how many blocks our house was from the beach. He wasn't clear if they didn't believe we were on the beach or just couldn't comprehend it.

So, I guess, I'm not sure how many blocks this is...

Yes, these are my boys, dig, dig, digging.

Breaker Bay Indoor Water Park Review

We took X-man to Breaker Bay Indoor Water Park today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. If Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington is a key first zoo experience, this was a great first waterpark experience for our toddler. Professional water park visitors might be willing to stop by for an afternoon, but it's probably not a weekend destination, unless you happen to be in Sheboygan in Wisconsin in January. In which case it might be fun to watch snow fall over Lake Michigan while you ride around the lazy river in your bathing suit.

MacTroll and I both went down one of the two water slides, so X-man could see us come out the bottom. We also watched MacTroll come down one of the two tube slides. There was a very tiny lazy river, which worked out great because X-man has a short attention span. 

In addition. there's a huge tower of water toys that connects to the line areas for the body and tube slides (No one was there on a Sunday in September so there were no lines to speak of). The water tower has water guns, showers, buckets and all kinds of fun stuff to pull, turn and pull, even if you don't plan on going down the slides, you can have fun running around this water world. 

X-man's attention though was caught every 10 minutes when a bell at the top of the water tower started clanging warning that a GIANT bucket of water contained in a bow of a ship was going to tip and pour an obscene number of gallons of water (1,000) on top of folks below. (Movie of this will come later when I get home, the satellite internet link up is a little testy.)

X-man didn't take part (even though he likes to watch, the pressure's a bit too much for someone his size, in the movie at the bottom of this post you'll see the dad send his pre-schooler out of the way and the Mom almost lose her bathing suit bottoms) in the big boat dumping. But X-man did take part in a little people version at the S.S. Minnow which contained a lot of wheels for toddlers to turn to control turning on and off water on the little shipwreck. X-man would pull on a lever and a large tub of water would dump on top of his head (photo below). Most of the kids seem to enjoy pulling the lever and running a way while giggling and hearing the water crash behind them. Then the parents would fill up the pan and it would go on and on and on. Until one of the kids would figure out how to pull the rope to fill the pan for the others. 
One of my favorite parts of this water park were the slides for toddlers/pre-schoolers. There were three slides that gave X-man the sense that he too could be a big kid because they weren't contained in any "kiddie pool" area like at home, but it was forbidden for anyone taller than 42 inches to go down them. X-man started out on the beginner slide (the red one) and then advanced to the super fast blue ones. 

Unfortunately, in order to go on them, he had mommy at the top of the slide and daddy at the bottom to catch him. So we we didn't get a photo of him on it. But he was really cute. It was slippery up there, so X-man slipped a couple of times when he got really excited and didn't follow the "No running" rule. 

There's also a 3-4 ft deep pool to swim in with two water basketball courts and some floaties that are tied to the bottom of the pool that kids can climb on and jump off. The floaties look like rays, turtles and snakes. There's also a water obstacle course for older kids and adults.

In addition to the water park, there's a small arcade upstairs, but you've got to be dressed to go in. 

We ate at the snack bar around noon. All outdoor food was forbidden, so no bringing your own lunch. Our combo meals were $5 each, which is pricey in comparison to McDonald's. 

After lunch, we changed and got into the car and drove around the lake front. X-man fell asleep in 15 minutes. So if that's a measure of a good time for a toddler, he really enjoyed it. It also reinforces my plan to stay at a water park in Rockford when we go up there for Christmas. 

Putting the "Great" in the Lakes

MacTroll, X-man and I are on vacation in Wisconsin. We are currently at a cottage in Oostburg, Wisconsin 15 miles south of Sheboygan and 45 miles north of Milwaukee. I was worried about the weather, but, um, apparently there's something in my genes that I forgot about.

I have no fear of cold water and refuse to let less than 85 degree weather ruin my beach experience whether it's in the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Halifax or Oostburg, Wisconsin.

Yesterday X-man, Riley and I all got up to at least our knees in the water (X-man actually dove in like a true kid with no blood). Then we dug a BIG hole in the sand and then we cooked out on the grill.

It was a 4.5 hour drive up here yesterday. It took us right through the Chicago burbs on 294. We passed Oakbrook (and thoughts of stopping to go shopping for comfy sweaters for winter crossed my mind), then we passed by Six Flags Great America at the Gurnee Outlet malls (and more shopping crossed my mind) and then we passed through downtown Milwaukee and I remembered the giant shopping mall where I spent my 9th and 15th birthday parties (well, okay, there was also a lunch with a dolphin performer at age 9 at a nearby restaurant that I wanted to go to... the mall was just a timekiller that worked out well -- can anyone say Hello Kitty store?)

This morning I've taken Riley for a walk. He chased some sea gulls, took a big poop and rolled on a dead fish. So, um, he's happy.

Today we're hoping to go visit the Blue Harbor Resort indoor water park in the a.m. and then come back here and relax and read during naptime. 

Right now I'm getting the crap creeped out of me by something called, "Lazy Town."

This is not a show for a woman who hates puppets. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Sprite I don't drink

Three times in the last 24 hours, I've brought a can of cold Sprite upstairs to drink. It's ended up getting left unopened on the side table of my bed. And each time, I've figured it's gone warm, I take it back downstairs and put it in the fridge again.

I'm a terrible drinker. Terrible. I drink maybe 40 ounces of anything all day long. MacTroll and Rogers go to Sonic periodically to partake in the Route 44s, and I can't finish them. I have trouble finishing a can of soda. I hate drinking water: HATE it, particularly when it's for "healthy reform" reasons. I get gas from drinking straight milk. I have to ice/water down juices. I'm just not a good drinker unless I'm really thirsty like after a work out or a long walk. 

I am also terrible at drinking in a figurative sense. That is, I suck at drinking the Kool-aid. I don't do things just to belong to any social circle. And if the good reason someone gives me to do something is, "Because that's the way it's always been done," I gag. Give me a better reason; show me something good. Give me something with substance that I can sink my teeth into.

MacTroll isn't a Kool-aid drinker either. I think this is why we work together so well. We're okay with the fact that we'll never probably be privy to life's answers. We're okay on our own, with each other, with our friends. We deal with major life changes as they come, even when they knock us on our asses over and over and over. We work hard to keep things low maintenance, but high quality, while recognizing that we're only human. 

This is an attribute I watch in X-man as takes in the world around him. We have so many bad traits between us. I'm glad that he's picked up this good one. I'm thrilled that he's not afraid to speak his mind, try something new, break away from the group, or take the bigger risk by loving those he shares his life with completely even knowing that if something is loved, it can be lost. 

I try not to obsess over that fact when I watch my kid do something cool. Like last night he slam dunked his suction cup toothbrush in the basketball net in the tub, it fell through and landed upright completely suction cupped to the side of the tub. His response was to make a fist and move it in the air and to exclaim, "Awesome."

Cause in that moment, how can you ever think that one day you won't be a parent any more. One day, hopefully, you'll pass on many days after seeing your child grow up and order off the senior citizen menu, too. It's just the way life is, right? A roller coaster that you keep getting on, hopefully with your best friend or other family members and ride over and over and over... until you puke and sit on the bench getting perspective for a bit by watching other riders. But ultimately, you need to get back in line and get on again. Not because that's how it's always been done, but because it's impossible to feel the full joy of life without also experiencing the deepest sorrow.

Looseyfur's Favorite Fictional Presidents

Matthew Santos, The West Wing

If you listen closely to his speech, it's very Obama-esque. Or maybe Obama is just Santos-esque.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Looseyfur's Favorite Fictional Presidents

#6 Thomas J. Whitmore -- Independence Day

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My Super Hugger

I know I've told you all about X-man's crazy 2-year traits. Our issue with the evil B word seems to have gone to the wayside with our new verbal skills.

And a nice side effect of that is a big hugger. The video below is of us at the Urbana Labor Day Parade with our friends. The photo is from CARE's "Meet the Illini Dance Team" event on Tuesday. 

I like that he gets so happy, he just has to hug someone. And I like that it's also usually me... but that he feels safe in his community to do it with his teachers and friends' parents.

Looseyfur's Favorite Fictional Presidents

#5 -- MacKenzie Allen, Commander in Chief

Back to the grind

We had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend, which included getting X-man to nap 2 out of 3 days with MacTroll being home, a vegetarian picnic, a Labor Day Parade, two Savoy parks, a visit from MacTroll's friend Ian and a really clean house on Monday. **And I had TWO martinis and a chocolate Lava cake with my fab group of girls and CatMiller40! (I suck for having such a fun fam weekend, that I forgot to say THANK YOU to Quigs for inviting my ass out for adult time.)**

I am currently taking a break from my never-ending summer project (only like 20 more days until it extends into a fall project, so I best be getting a move on). I'm covered in paint again, but I'm one panel of fence shy of finishing the long part across the south end of the house. When I make that turn, I'll feel a sense of release. That long part is always in the sun, where as on the turns, you can be in the shade for up to 2 hours in the a.m.

X-man's development has shot through the roof recently. He looks like a BOY not a toddler, particularly when he plays with The Boy Freak

He's using full sentences and phrases to tell me what he wants. He's a little bossy ("This way, Mommy!") But he's also a lot of fun. He's also using Mommy and Daddy more than Mama and Dada.

This week on my to do list includes packing for our vacation to Wisconsin next week and taking my car in for an oil change and tire rotation. 

Oh, and if I haven't said it enough. I'm going to publicly fess up to my fandom for the Freak Family. Seriously, I love hanging out with them. They do fun, kid-friendly things at all times. They understand when schedules suck and they're Culver lovers... Plus, they don't hold my Savoyness against me. :-) 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Looseyfur's Favorite Fictional Presidents

This is how I imagine McCain's selection process worked out.
#4 -- Mike Brady