Thursday, September 30, 2010

What MacTroll Misses When He's Gone

Tonight my son decided to roll up the living room carpet. I didn't notice because I had my head in my file drawer slowly working on getting my inbox under control. Then suddenly I hear, "Mom! What's this?"

And he throws onto my desk a very flat (think roadkill) dead mouse. No lie. I cannot make this shit up.

I scream like a little girl in disgust.

His face freaks out. "Mom, I'm scared. I'm scared. What is that?"

"Dead mouse."

"Why is there a dead mouse in our house?"

Because apparently it managed to use its last bit of mouse strength escaping from our two mouser cats (Maya and Luke) to get under the carpet.

And then it was walked on, played on, vacuumed, etc., for god knows how long.

I sent X-man to the bathroom, where he double washed his hands and then used antibacterial gel. I got a paper towel and tossed mouse pancake into the garbage and hauled it out to the can. Then I came back and sprayed down my desk with Lysol.

I called MacTroll to inform him of the kind of shit he misses never being at home. The joy of effing motherhood.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mother of a Big Kid

I think the traditional "big kid" status is usually confirmed when a child enters elementary school, but I'm letting mine claim it early. I spent today at Mother's Morning Out working with 2 year olds. I had five kids entirely to myself for four hours, and it was lovely. But it made me realize how little I have to do for my big kid any more.

It turns out I've worked for the last 4 1/2 years to get him to the point where besides the constant questions and perpetual 4 year old whine, he's actually very self-sufficient. No diapers. No feeding. No preparing basic meals or snacks. He can do all of that on his own. He can get into his car seat, pick out library books, wipe his butt, wash his hands, pick out and put on his clothes and shoes, write his name, read basic signs, bowl a bowling ball, hit a baseball from a tee, make friends, etc.

I forget sometimes, as I get caught up in the 4 year old challenges to remember what it was like to have a little person who wants to do everything by himself (even things he really can't) and says "No!" all the time. As a teacher, I completely respect the need for independence and allow it, until it interferes with safety. As a mother, I'm pretty sure that although I understood the necessity of it, it still drove me mad when it was time to go inside at night and he'd run away screaming and crying to stay outside (or at a train table).

So, as I sat at Marble Slab with my child tonight, watching him consume a child-sized cotton candy ice cream with marshmallows in it for an hour, because he was too excited that a friend who is formerly from the All Stars II showed up at the ice cream place and he could see Mr. Giles from Little Gym getting into his minivan in front of Schnuck's he couldn't concentrate, I smiled.

It never occurred to me that I'd continue having these "ah ha" moments. Rather than being first words or first steps, they're more like moments of awe at how we've grown together as a child and a mom. Of course, in the car before ice cream, X-man said, "I want you to marry me, Mom." It was a sweet proposal. I had to explain that it was way better for me to be his Mom -- because that was forever. Marriage, not always so much. But it was an earnest declaration of appreciation and love, and it wasn't just because I was buying him ice cream.

In every classroom I've been in at NG, the teachers have all said something to me about how X-man and I do a lot together during the week. We have playdates and events to go to. We visit the library all the time. We go to parks and take Tae Kwon Do together. I'm just -- so grateful for that time. It's moments like tonight when I realize exactly how close we are, and how much we both love, respect and appreciate each other.

And I swear he gets such gross little kid ice cream, because he knows neither MacTroll or I will steal it. :-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reality Check

In the middle of August, Carle Weight Management had us fill out a Risk Factor Profile questionnaire. Somehow, in all of my class jumping last year due to school, I missed that a bunch of people had filled this out before. It's like a benchmark of where you are now versus where you were. Even though I didn't take the test previously, I am able to chart where I was on most items. The assessment takes into account my cholesterol levels, triglycerides, blood pressure, fasting glucose level, %over ideal body weight, how much I drink alcohol, how much I smoke, my physical activity history (calories burned on average per week), my body fat percentage, my servings of fruits and vegetables, my stress level, if I wear my seat belt and "other."

There was also some family history on the sheet.

We got the results today. And the one elevated risk factor I had was my body weight, which I find interesting. It's no secret that even at my goal weight I road the line between "normal" and "obese" on the BMI scale. At goal (157) I was a 24.6 (normal), right now, I'm a 25.8 (overweight) because I have been maintaining an 8lb. increase over that "goal" area. That is, I thought 157 was good, but I'm maintaining a 165. It seems to be where my body always goes. I dipped into the 150s for about 6 weeks post surgery, and then went right up to being 164 again when I did the triathlon and the marathon relay last spring and have been fighting all summer to try to see 160 again. 161 was the closest I came.

Anyway, even though my body weight has increased, my last measured body fat was 23 percent in May. But the point of the survey wasn't supposed to dwell on weight. It was supposed to show you how you were doing in many other health-related areas that can change your chances of cancer risk and cardiovascular disease risk (i.e. life is more important than scale). At this time, deep breath, I am at low risk for either given my profile.

Total Cholesterol: 163
Total Triglycerides: 51
Blood Pressure: 96/62
Fasting blood glucose: 94

I apparently need to work on the fact that I "sometimes" feel stressed too. But then I don't think I'd be alive.

Overall, the average American is found to be a +23 (female) or +25 (male) on this chart. A "healthy" American is at 0. My risk profile has me at -22. I think I'll call that "hooray."

I've got two meetings with the nurse in my program over the next two weeks. One is my 6-month follow up impedance test. The next is a pre-blitz assessment meeting. Every 3-4 months, the clinic runs a "blitz." It can be used to jump start weight loss. But truthfully, I use them to get back into good habits. There's been a development lately of doing more convenience eating rather than what I call investment eating. My vegetable consumption needs to increase, particularly since my fruit intake has been way high with all the bounty summer brought us.

I also need to work on the sleep. Unfortunately that "sometimes" stress, seems to occur most late at night when I'm supposed to be winding down from my day. My brain doesn't like to shut down. Some things really help. MacTroll is probably going nuts by the number of times I've had to ask him to rub my back at night. It's not a massage thing. It's definitely a comfort of touch thing. Fifty percent of the time it puts me right to sleep, if it goes on long enough (five minutes or so).

Last night, I fell asleep and thought I heard water. I thought one of the cats got trapped in our bathroom and was peeing in the shower, so I got up and ran into the bathroom. Only to find out it was just my husband. Yeah, the cats probably don't pee loud enough that I can hear them through the door. But it also tells you how light of a sleeper I've been lately.

On Oct. 14th, I'm heading back up to Montreal, for my Loosey-only break from reality. Here's to hoping I get some solid snoozes there. I could use them. It feels like it's been months since I've gotten a restful sleep.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Death to the Power Rangers

Last week, the family and I went to the library. I had some items on hold I needed to pick up and X-man and MacTroll came along for the ride. I was checking out with a couple Wii games and some books X-man picked out (Sigh, he put a Dr. Laura kids book in the bag. So happy when he actually got it home, he didn't want to read it because it wasn't his beloved Ms. Frizzle.), when X-man came running up with a DVD.

Power Rangers DinoThunder.

Ugh. Just ugh.

But if I was allowing him access to explore Dr. Laura... I guess why not make it a complete crap week and take home DinoThunder? Just because I don't agree with Dr. Laura, doesn't mean that X-man isn't going to grow up believing the same thing. And just because the Power Rangers makes me want to vomit doesn't mean he's not going to like them. I mean, I made it through the Monster Trucks at the county fair, right?

I'm telling you. The stuff we sacrifice as parents. :-)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A 50 Percent Failure Rate is Successful?!?!

This article came up in my facebook updates today and I really adored it. It's about how fear of failure is what keeps people from doing and trying new things. 

I had more inspirational things to say and life connections to make, but in the middle of the day I fell asleep writing this blog (see how motivated I was?)... and then one of my cats slept on me. And when I woke up I had apparently, somehow, reposted only half of it... and the rest of it was gone. And I had to jump up and go make 2 dozen cakeballs to unleash on the HMD Tae Kwon Do folks.

So, here's the highlight of the Runner's World article so that you, too, can feel a bit better about your life goals and achievements (hopefully), or if you're like me, you begin to realize, that it's okay to strive for things and not quite reach them all the time. It teaches you more about yourself and your goal when you fail. And each time I try, I can honestly say that I'm glad I gave it a shot. 

"This reminded me of some time I spent recently doing some goals and vision work, (try goaltender at–it's great) imagining my life 10 years out, five years out, and one year out. It was a real mind-opener for me. The site explains that failing to reach your goals 50 percent of the time is a good indication that you are motivated and challenged. That was a "huh?" moment for me. Failing 50 percent of the time to me sounds like I'm not working hard enough. Or perhaps I'm not putting myself out there far enough to risk that 50 percent failure rate. Oh. Maybe I'm more willing to write down goals that sound achievable or are at least in the zip code of my comfort zone.
These thoughts collided at Bible Study and I wrote in all caps across the top of my journal "THE VULNERABILITY OF THE TRY." We all do it in some way, we hold back because to try would expose us, make us vulnerable. When we try something new, make our thoughts or goals known, take on a new project or a position of leadership, we become vulnerable. Suddenly, it is stated, for the record, that (fill in your name) is trying (fill in the thing)."
Sound familiar? It does to me...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bra measuring is wacky

I've gotten measured for bras several times in the last few years. Twice at Nordstrom's (once after giving birth and once again after losing weight) and twice at Confidentially Yours, a lingerie boutique shop in Champaign, (once when I first moved here and then twice while I was losing weight). Each time the Nordstrom's folks and the Champaign folks are usually spot on in agreeing with one another. I just had to adjust if the bra was padded or not. But the cup and the bandwidth were always the same. The last time I measured was June. I was a 32D. And 32D in Wacoal B.Tempted, DKNY, Natori, etc., fit great.

Today, I got measured at Victoria's Secret, because it always feels like none of their bras ever fit me right using the other stores' measurements. So I figured I'd suck it up and get it done. Where they put the tape was completely different than where Nordstrom's and Confidentially Yours put the tape. VS measured me for their bras as a 36B. She also commented that I had big ribs. (Why thank you?)

And, yes, the bra fit fine. And I weigh the same I have since May.

Can someone explain to me how this makes any sense? I mean, is it just like women's jeans. Who the hell knows? You might be a 2, you  might be a 10, it just depends on who made it and what style they are?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ode to Roger Murtaugh

They posted the 5k results from Orchard Days last weekend. I placed 70th with a time of 31:51, which is pretty much exactly where I was when I ran the Tuscola 5k 11 1/2 months ago. Normally, I'd be thrilled. Sure it's not my PB, but I had a good time...

But today, on a run around campus with a friend, I managed to strain my right calf. It started cramping, so I figured I'd slow down and stretch. We identified a place in the shade and as I slowed down, my calf clenched, I winced and then it let go. Ouch. I limped for a while, and then got my normal walking gate back.

I iced when I got home, wrapped it and elevated it and stayed off of it until dinner time. When I got up to go get X-man, it was tight as all get out.

I'm too old for this shit.

So, chances are I won't be doing the women's fitness 5k this weekend. We'll see if X-man still wants to go and do his dash. Gotta be back on my feet for Tae Kwon Do on Monday afternoon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


For once my blog isn't going to be about me as a parent, my fitness achievements/setbacks or my worries.

It's about acceptance.

A few months ago, I was having lots of concerns and worries about being loved and appreciated. I felt taken for granted. And then suddenly over the weekend, I kind of just stopped worrying about it. Instead, I drew in a deep breath. Told myself I had no control over that hot mess, exhaled and moved on.

There are so many things in my life I think I ought to do. Things I need to do. Things I want to do well. Finally at 34, I'm starting to understand how to pace myself. How not to take so many things personally. How I can focus on necessity versus optional.

I'm not sure what took so long to get here, or how long this state of contentment will last. But I'm starting to realize that I'm coming into my own about a lot of things. I know who I am. I know what's mine. I know what's important and that, ultimately, the only person I can control and improve is me.

Internal and external issues be damned.

I'm no rock star. I know.

But in this moment, I'm patting myself on the back, and moving forward.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Getting Back on the Horse

I got up this morning and put on my running shorts and top. I had checked out the gravel on the pathway going to the Savoy Orchard Days 5k last night and thought it was too rough for my feet to run in my new barefoot running Vibram Five Finger shoes. So, this a.m., I headed out in my old running shoes. They felt funny on my feet. I could feel how my heels sunk into them. Where the balls on my feet were felt elevated versus where my 4th and 5th metatarsals were. I had been mildly supinating when I'd been running in them to alleviate some of my back issues. I didn't know this, of course, at the time.

They felt heavy. "I don't know if I can do this." I thought.

Then I saw a guy run by me on his way to the 5k in his Vibrams.

"Eff this! I am not a wuss."

I went home. I got into the Vibrams and I went to the race check in. People stared at my shoes. A couple of college students from the apartments talked about them. I heard phrases like, "Barefoot is supposed to be your truest running form," and "They can't possibly have any arch support." But no one asked me point blank about them until after the race. We lined up. I was in my usual place well behind the real runners (who warm up for 30 minutes before a 5k -- which takes them 18 minutes to run?) and in front of the obvious walkers.

The siren goes off and I start to run. I used my eyes to avoid any giant rocks. Once we got onto the pavement, I felt my left calf tighten a little bit. "You're just warming up; it'll be okay."

And I ran. The volunteers in the Prairie Fields neighborhood weren't actually Prairie Fields neighbors. I found that strange, and kind of unneighborly. (They weren't Prairie Meadows folks either, by the way.) Instead they were Lincoln Challenge Academy kids. I thanked each and every one of them as I jogged by. There were a few folks out cheering on family members. I saw my friend Susan and her son, which was nice. At mile one, I checked my watch: 10 minutes even. Not bad. At mile 2: 20:28. Still Happy. There was no walking. No cramping. I passed a woman around mile 2.5 while greeting some of the volunteers. Her response, "You are far too chipper." And then I smiled. I was back. I was me. Nothing hurt and I was happy.

At the end, we had to haul ass up the giant sledding hill behind us. I loved that part. It made my left calf unhappy for about an hour after the race, but when I saw the clock at the top of the hill when I started my ascent it said 31:14. So my guess is I finished in just over 32 minutes. I didn't glance at my watch until after I finished and got a water bottle and started to visit with another mother I knew running the race.

For my first race since running the relay in the marathon last May, I was pretty pleased. I was also pretty happy with my Vibrams. Anything that has no pain makes me pretty happy these days. Well, that and running 5ks in my own freaking backyard. How convenient is that?

Next week, I'm running the women's fitness race. X-man is going to do the 100-yard dash beforehand. Anyone else going to be out there?

After that I'm scheduled for a 10k in Montreal in mid-October. I'm hoping to have worked up to at least 5 miles in the Vibrams by then. And I'm looking into the new fall/winter models that are supposedly lined with smartwool. :-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reacquainting Myself with my House

This week Davis Flooring is staining my stairs. "But Loosey, you got your floors installed two months ago, why wait so long?"

Because they were so busy -- they had a wait list. I got on the schedule ASAP. (They were recommended by my favorite painters.) And there's something completely die hard attractive about a contractor who 1) returns your call, 2) shows up on time, 3) explains the process to you up front, 4) gives a you a bid while he's there, 5) calls you when he gets your deposit check and gets you on the schedule 6) calls you before  the job to tell you what time he'll be there, 7) shows up on time...

You see where this is going. I like giving my money to responsible people.

But during the process of hand sanding, varnishing, etc. We really can't be going up and down the stairs. So, we're camping out in the basement. Thank goodness we built the full bathroom down there. X-man is in his tent on his crib mattress, with his Sula, the elephant, pillow, blue blankie and favorite bedding. I'm on the couch, with a comforter and my pillow. The cats are not enjoying being shut down here (no sunbeams). And the dog hates it even more, but I'm at least sending him to doggie daycare at Doggie Days on the Farm in Urbana.

But by Friday night, there will be 4 dry coats of varnish on the stairs, making them as shiny as the floor that Flooring Surfaces put in.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Boredom, with a capital B

I'm playing the role of cheater this week. I'm visiting another gym in the area that is not the gym where I belong. Why? Mmmm. I'm not sure.

For two years, I've been a member of the Fitness Center. I like it there. I enjoy the people, instructors and atmosphere. I like that childcare is included in membership, as are the classes. And they offer a lot of classes -- except, this time around, the schedule is pretty dull around the time I usually work out. Most of that has to do with the fact that Body Blast, my most favorite class no longer exists. I still really enjoy the cycling classes and the Absolute Body Conditioning class, but the way the schedule is this fall, I can really only make two classes a week regularly. Plus, I wish they had a track. But the schedule is full of Zumba, Step and Kickboxing, none of which I'm a big fan of.

So, I decided to follow the instructor of the Body Blast class to the other gym where she teaches, The Refinery. I received a 14-day visit. I toured it once before, but never got the free pass. It helps that I know other people at that gym, and really like them. Four or five other folks I know go there. But let's face it. I'm not a usual gym user. I don't get on a treadmill for 60 minutes or an elliptical. I use it to do some cycling in the winter and some weight training, but I'm primarily there for group fitness. My favorite instructor teaches two days a week. That's two classes. I looked at the schedule, and I'm not really interested in going to Body Pump (a weight training class) three days a week. The membership there does not include childcare (not that I've used the free childcare at the Fitness Center more than once in two years, since I go when X-man is in pre-school).  I was going to go check out the rest of the equipment this a.m., but on my way there, my stomach felt yucky, either from anxiety about going to a new place or about guilt. I ended up driving home and walking with the dog. I LOVE that instructor, but I don't know if I want to pay more for my gym membership, just to see her twice a week. If only the Refinery sold class passes like Mettler does to non-members. Geographically, it's also out of my way. With the Fitness Center, it's right across the street from X-man's school.

Part of me is leaning toward just joining the Savoy Recreation Center. They have all the same equipment, a couple classes I'd be interested in trying that are new to me and the gerbil wheel indoor track. I'd get a discount off of personal training, free child care for even evening classes, that maybe I'd use if I got daring enough to try boot camp, and it's within walking distance from my house. The staff know me there since I ran 2-3 times a week on the track all last winter. And it's a lot more intimate than the Refinery. On the other hand, if I'm unable to run for whatever reason this winter, I'll feel lame being there and seeing a track every day.

In a lot of ways, I wish I wasn't such a lone exerciser. That might make the choice to change easier.

Mostly, I want more cardio dammit.  But I want it to be like cardio class for a 3 year old. I want fun music that I learn to sing with choreography that changes every 3-6 minutes for an hour. I want to bounce around and burn 600-700 calories in an hour. Fun and efficient. I'm getting bored with my current scene, and if I'm bored, I won't go. And I have to keep going.

Want to know what my biggest motivator is today to keep myself in line? It's not willpower, not health -- but a new friend who introduced herself to me in my weight management class. Ms. M. -- thanks for letting me know that you're out there reading. It makes me want to regain my focus on what's really important to me, and what's not. See you next Monday!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I've been with MacTroll since I was 16, and I only had two boyfriends before that.

One relationship was a mutual break up. The other I was dumped and left to rot in a pile of flaming poo. Okay, not literally, but it was bad. Terrible. Even worse, it was my first boyfriend. So I'm pretty sure my second relationship suffered a lot because complete trust really wasn't on my list of things I was willing to ever give anyone ever again. Why put that much power in someone's hands to hurt you? I mean, you can only be sure of death, taxes and free library usage, right?

Last week when I was on vacation, I got an e-mail from my library. Living in Savoy, we're part of the Tolono Library District. I'm not sure why, since we're part of the Champaign School District. The story I got from a neighbor when we moved here was that we had asked Champaign to be part of both the schools and the library, but that the library wasn't interested in us. I've always wondered if that was true, but now it doesn't matter.

For those of you who don't know, I worked in a library for 5 years in high school and college. I also worked at the Champaign Douglass Branch for 10 months while one of their employees was overseas with the military. I LOVE libraries. I LOVE librarians. Seriously, they're my heroes. I like people that have degrees in information management. I love the idea that they are gatekeepers and keymasters to an ultimate power: knowledge. I can watch them do their magic. I can hear them. If I know them well enough, they'll even let me hug them (right LL?). As a parent and as a teacher, librarians are infinitely helpful and kind. Hell, they even found me a Roy Dupuis movie from New York state for heaven's sake. It was a terrible film with Judd Nelson, but still -- I was holding Roy Dupuis in my hand -- which made me totally in awe of the interlibrary loan system.

So it was a giant surprise when I read the e-mail to find out that my entire library district and that of Mahomet were the two "rural" areas that were getting dumped from having any kind of access to the Champaign Library materials. As of Nov. 1, 2010, we can neither show up and check out materials nor can we request them through the library loan system. What happened was that Savoy and Mahomet residents are taking out too many Champaign materials. For every 10 books a typical Tolono resident takes out from the Tolono library, she checks out 17 from Champaign. It's a money issue. And I get it. We're in a recession. Things suck for everyone -- except Apple, who must have a pact with the devil, right?

Here’s what I know being a mother with a young child, who lives in Savoy, went to school in Champaign and has friends with young children from every big and little town around central Illinois.

Tolono is my home library. It’s the only library where my son has been part of the reading program for the last three summers, even when wholeheartedly invited by the very friendly children’s services staff at the Champaign Public Library (CPL) to take part in theirs. I volunteered doing story hour at Tolono when I was pregnant with X-man. I took him to the U of I Extension programs there when he was a toddler. I take him to their family movie nights. 

Tolono is the library I prefer to attend, because I like that it’s quiet and small. And from the moment I got my card there, they stressed that I should check out most of my materials through them.

But I also run a local family meet up group, and it’s nice, particularly in the winter, to meet in different places, closer to other people’s homes and not to have ever had to tell my son “No,” when he asked to check out books. (Hugs, books, fruits and vegetables are supposed to be universal yeses when it comes to parenting, right?) 

I attended Parkland College for two years taking Early Education classes. It's convenient to stop at CPL, in the middle of town, on my way home to Savoy from Parkland to do research for a paper or pick up books for a class assignment. Last fall, my instructor took us on a field trip to CPL, where the librarians welcomed us to use the library as a resource for our classes and personal growth as educators. Now, I guess that option is open to all teachers who have cards issued to them by their schools/daycares -- or use their personal cards not from Savoy or Mahomet, unless on their $9/hour daycare jobs they can foot the $200 bill to buy a Champaign card, in addition to whatever tax money they're already paying their home libraries. 

My son starts kindergarten next year and could be a student at Carrie Busey, our proximity A Champaign School. Our business is a frequent contributor to local school projects at My husband is a U of I graduate. I graduated and worked at Millikin in Decatur. Our ties to and appreciation for the entire educational system in the central Illinois region run deep. 

My husband and I moved to Savoy from Northern Virginia seven years ago, not because it had lower taxes than Champaign or Urbana. We moved to Savoy because we liked the neighborhood. People came out of their houses. They waved at each other. They smiled at you and said hello. It agreed with us each time we visited, even though I wasn't such a big fan of the newness of the subdivision (i.e. I wanted trees).

Lately, at the News-Gazette web site in the stories about CPL’s decision to cut off Mahomet and Tolono libraries from using their materials, I’ve been reading a lot about how I’m some kind of cheap, freeloading Savoy resident, and it hurts. Because I didn't set my tax rate. I didn't even know it was lower than Champaign's when I moved here, and as far as I know there hasn't been any big referendum for the Tolono library that I could have voted for to increase its funding.

But I love that my son shares my library fandom for what we call the Big, Medium and Little libraries. I appreciate the flexibility having a library card that you can use anywhere gives our family. Explaining this change in library freedoms to my 4 year old has not been easy to do. Money issues are understood at this age, but definitely aren’t fully appreciated. 

There wasn’t any other action that could have been taken before cutting the communities off entirely? Maybe part of me is just too idealistic. I guess, with my work experience, librarians always communicated to me that the point of libraries was that they worked together to get books in people’s hands as a way to help continue diversity of thought and ideas and encourage literacy -- regardless of that person's reading level, geographic location, race, gender, age, etc. 

If I used CPL enough to justify the $200, I’d get a card. But I don’t think I do. I’ll find out in a few months, apparently.

I also fear Urbana will follow suit. As it is, I had to "unlike" CPL on Facebook. To see their updates is like having the locker within eyeshot of my first ex-boyfriend, kissing his new girlfriend, the day after he told me he'd met someone else while I was on spring break. I already lived through that torturous rejection once. 

Want to know something funny? My boyfriend's biggest complaint during the "Maybe we can be friends" speech—

"You think too much."

It's funny, because apparently CPL thinks I read too much for a girl who lives on the other side of the tracks.

This is Clawdio

We adopted Clawdio in November 1998 from Fancy Cats Rescue Team. He was our second adoption there and was around 1 year old when we brought him home. He has always been my cat. He's afraid of men, not fond of dogs or children, but is fine with others of his own kind. He hides from most pet sitters until he's sure they're there to feed him. He's been diagnosed with feline herpes (at his first vet visit in 1998), pancreatitis (in 2005) and a heart murmur (2010). He's awfully cute. 

Why am I blogging about my cat today? Because I realize that in the last few months (since his heart murmur diagnosis) he's been sleeping pretty much solely in my place on the bed. Every morning I get up and go do my morning thing, he's immediately in my warm spot and will stay there all day. (He's our most nocturnal cat.) Anyway, when I come back to bed, he's been standing up, moving a couple feet away, waiting for me to get comfortable and then curling up with me. It's nice, the cuddling. But now, all of his brothers and sisters are following suit. This morning I woke up with a cat on my head, one on my right hip, one curled into the crook of my left arm and one by my feet with his head resting on my left ankle. (And let's not forget the 45 lb, itchy dog who was on his back snoring with a giant elizabethan collar on his head -- he has allergies-- leaned up against my right side. It must be because it's getting colder, and I have no intention of turning the heat on for 50 degree nights. :-)

I was pinned there, by softness. And the looks I got when I insisted on getting up -- It's how I imagine X-man's going to look at me when he's 10. Annoyed, embarrassed and put out... 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

X-man = Iron Man

As promised the new Iron Man Big Boy Bike... 

How Desperate Can the CW be?

I had intended on sharing with you a photo of X-man on his new bike... but I'll do that tomorrow. Instead, I'm sitting here absolutely horrified by the last 3 minutes and 25 seconds I just spent watching a "sneak preview" of Nikita a "new" show on the CW.

For those of you who don't know, I was a big fan of the original French movie La Femme Nikita. The original is based on the concept that a street rat gets arrested and then ends up being trained to be an assassin for a secret government office. Then they did a bad American Remake "Point of No Return" which made her pretty lame and starred Bridget Fonda.

In 1997, while I was living in Washington, D.C., over the summer, I was up late one night and caught part of a campier TV version of the movie on the USA Network. The Nikita in the show had gone from a tiny, French woman to a tall, leggy blonde. Weird and wrong, at first. But there was nothing else on TV, so I continued to watch. She was more innocent (the original Nikita ran with a bit of a bad crowd) and as the series continued, I got a giant crush on Michael, her mentor... and on her. Seriously, I love watching good people walk the line of good and evil, only to come out still shiny while surviving the crappy underworld. It gives me all kinds of hope. Plus, um, I really liked when she kicked Michael's ass. And she wore some damn fine Roberto Cavalli during the series, too. (This is when I began my appreciation of asymmetrical necklines.

Anyway, I saw that the CW (formerly WB, which owned the 1997-2002 Nikita Series) was coming out with a new revamped Nikita. From what I read, it was basically combining two different elements of the Nikita series that she escaped between season 1 and season 2 (thanks to Michael) and that she was somehow going to take control of the secret government agency and work with new recruits (an episode in Season 4 called Time to be Heroes.)

I scoffed. For those of you who don't know... the creators and writers of Nikita from the 1990's went on to use the character Michael in creating Jack Bauer in their next series 24. They took everything they did (as well as several of the actors) and pushed a bit harder (hooray for having a larger production budget).

Tonight, while watching the sneak preview, I gagged. The WB even recycled the names of the characters. Michael and Birkoff (the tech geek) still freaking exist. They even gave Birkoff the same stupid glasses.

Is the TV genre really so dead that they're just going to recycle this crap again? It's like making Robin Hood movies -- I think we should have stopped at the summer when Men in Tights was released as the same time as the Kevin Costner movie (let's face it the best part of that film was Alan Rickman).

But Ug! Seriously! Ug!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

We Have a Winner

Okay, thanks to Kingsley Pines, I am now a HUGE family camp fan. I loved it. I spent 4 hours away from my child a day... where he was off with children his own age for 3 hours (not consecutively) and one hour with all the big kids. And every other minute of the day we had choices to do together as a family OR we could just choose to do things together on our own.

Each day had 3 - 1 hour long sessions. The grown ups got to pick activities (there were usually 3 or 4 listed) while the kids had designated ones. Day 1 for X-man was space science camp. He spent the day using science to blow things up (think vinegar and baking soda, mentos and diet coke, etc.), including a paper rocket he made himself. As he's become quite the little Ms. Frizzle fan lately, he thought this was pretty much the best way to spend the day ever.

Until Day 2 came along... and he spent it playing water games, making sandcastles and jumping on the Blob (a water trampoline) in the middle of the lake. 4 kids... 2 counselors. I could hear him screaming, "Announcement! Cannonball!" As he leapt into the water.

Day 3 was pretty cool too. The kids made their own popsicles, maracas, went frog hunting and got to get suited up in their life preservers again -- this time to go on the super fast ski boat, where they each got to take turns pretending to be captain and telling the driver where to go.

Day 4 was, sadly, our last day. X-man was ready to go play some more water games, make ice cream (which is so a CARE meet up I'm going to have to do) and go down the slip and slide.

Each day for parents included activity choices like volleyball, rock climbing (on a wall), chipping and putting, basketball, tennis, water skiing/wake boarding, jewelry making, yoga, swing dancing, high ropes course, low ropes course, ceramics, archery, circus skill practice, art, mountain biking, tubing, rope swinging into the lake, hiking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, water polo, etc.

I tried a couple things I'd never done before including water skiing and rock climbing. I loved the rock climbing, but didn't really appreciate getting dragged behind a boat. I finally stood up while on a "boom" (a metal bar that sticks out the side of the boat) that they use to help the kids get started, but after spending 3-5 minutes doing that, I decided, it really wasn't all that much fun. Tubing, however, was another story. The last time I went I was 14. I was on an old time tube that was doughnut shaped. I fell through and my lifejacket got caught. It was scary... but this time, it was like the lazy boy of tubes. All I had to do was hold onto the handles. I laughed and screamed and giggled through the whole thing. It was awesome. I also scheduled one session on Days 2, 3 and 4 for Loosey-only quiet time. Some days I napped for an hour. Other days, I just sat in my room reading or on Facebook.

I also played volleyball three mornings while I was there. I hadn't played really since high school. But it was fun. My team won 2/3 games each day. Day 2, we played 4 on 4, but on Day 3 and 4, Counselor David from Florida and I whooped ass as a 2 on 2 team. If you see me, I'm covered in bruises all up and down my legs and arms. I have two skinned knees and I'm pretty sure I pulled my right tricep, so I'm a little slow when putting my hair in a ponytail... But it felt great. Now I want to find a volleyball league. Too bad it's too late to find a sand one around here. :-) What was most amazing was that I had NO BACK PAIN through any of these activities. None. Not a bit. Other stuff hurt... but not my back. And it was the good kind of hurt.

The food was really pretty good, too. At breakfast you could pretty much guarantee that you'd have eggs of some kind with potatoes and some kind of breakfast meat each day. But you could also get custom eggs made for you in the kitchen (MacTroll is a sucker for omelet bars!), a yogurt parfait bar with four different kinds of yogurt, lots of fruit and some pretty good granola; a steel cuts oatmeal bar with lots of fixings; a row of different cereals to choose from and a bunch of variety of breads and bagels to toast with different jellies, butters, etc. to top them with. Sometimes there were cinnamon rolls or pastries, too. There were also at least five different kinds of non-soda beverages at each meal. X-man was particularly fond of following in the big kid footsteps and mixing the grape with the lemonade at every meal.

Lunch was usual lunch fair... hamburger and french fries day, make your own sandwich, hard or soft shell tacos and pizza days.

Dinner went all over the place. Usually there was a chicken and a fish option with some kind of roasted or grilled vegetables. There was always a salad bar that kicked ass. Seriously, there was all kinds of fresh veggies and fruits at every meal. Lots of vegetarian options, too. Tofu and soy milk were available for those with special needs. And he'd cook special side dishes for families with allergy issues.

The last night was a giant cookout with Maine Lobsters, steak, ratatouille, hot dogs and hamburgers. Lots of corn on the cob, rolls, etc.

Every day there was a snack at 3. It was usually frozen grapes or popsicles of some kind. Then every night there was a special dessert like strawberry cobbler or this cookie and chocolate bread thing that came off a bit like a brownie got loose in a Nilla wafer factory.

We didn't starve -- and I'm kind of sure that even though my pants fit, I'll have some work to do getting back to my goal weight area. :-)

Our cabin was in the "little girls'" camp. The youngest children who attend the camp during the kids-only part of the summer start at 8 years. So, they stay in groups of 10 with one or two counselors living with them. They have two toilets in their cabin, two sinks, a small shower and electricity. That means, X-man got to sleep in the top bunk of one of the five bunk beds in the room. It was handmade, so they had put 12" sides on it to prevent kids from falling out of the bed. MacTroll and I ended up pushing the two counselor beds together. :-)

But he had somewhere to charge his iPad. And we didn't have to make any mad dashes through the woods to get X-man to a bathroom in the middle of the night (which I really didn't want to do). And, unlike all the times we tried to camp in the backyard, X-man knew there was no other sleeping option, so the kid just dragged himself up into his bunk, put his head on his pillow and was out every night by 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. That's 7:30 at home. He was up every day at 8 a.m. excited and ready to go. But there were nights after dinner when I wondered if he was going to make it to the evening activity. He always managed to find a second wind.

The other nice part about the cabins were that they were strangely bug free. I didn't see a spider or a mosquito the whole time I was in there. They also came with two big box fans, so we could cool down, since the weather was unseasonably warm (91 and sunny each day and 75 at night).

Outside the cabin was a community fire pit, so on Wednesday night, we brought out our s'mores supplies and shared with the other families in our neighborhood. The other common area bathrooms were complete with automatic flush toilets (no lie), brand new sinks and faucets, plenty of soap and antibacterial gel dispensers and automatic paper towel dispensers. They also gave us a list of wireless passwords so you could get online, no matter where your cabin was. Sans blague.

And this brings us to the people -- the people, were mostly east coasters outside of the two families from Utah. Lots of folks from New York and New Jersey, a few from the D.C. area, a couple from Maine. Most of the Coughlan family that owns the camp comes in and uses the second week of family camp as a kind of informal family reunion at the camps the family patriarchs bought in 1984. Now various cousins share ownership of it. They were all very nice people.

On the last night of camp, the kids were running around from carnival attraction to carnival attraction. I couldn't STOP X-man from putting whipped cream pies in counselor Conor's face. I figured as long as counselor "Danimal" kept handing them to him, I'd let him go a while. Anyway, I stood in the field and looked up at the big trees and wondered how many groups of people they'd seen participate in the last night Carnival and how it might have changed since the 1960s.

The best thing about family camp is that you pay for everything up front. Once you step on the property, you don't pull out your wallet for anything. Unlike a Disney vacation, where you would pay for airfare and hotel and a meal package... and then pull it out for stuffed animals and toys and special excursions. Everything was covered in your payment. The price for the Sunday night through Friday a.m. was $695 per adult and $340 per child (over the age 4 and up). It included food and lodging.

On our way out, they gave us a list of the families with e-mail addresses, so we could stay in touch and send pictures. Plus, they gave us a pre-registration for next year. The only problem -- X-man's kindergarten start and my school start are the same week as the first week of their family camp. Another family there had pulled their child out of first grade for the week. Maybe for first grade, but definitely not for kindergarten, with us. And, well, if I'm at Eastern working on a second master's degree, I'm less likely to want to take off, too. I was disappointed, but I know if it ever works out in the future, we'll be back there in a flash. I wonder if some day X-man will want to return there just to go to summer camp for a couple weeks.

It also has me looking at other family camps in places closer to home like Wisconsin. I'm having some difficulty finding some that aren't basically family bible camps. That doesn't really jive with our family, but I did find a Y one outside of Milwaukee, which does have some possibilities. :-) If anyone's interested there's a 4-day weekend one Memorial Day and a 4-day weekend one Labor Day 2011.