Friday, July 29, 2011

Ending the Week on a High Note

Luke's growth was benign. :-) It was a cyst. it may grow back in the same place, but it's nothing to worry about. Both he and Nyssa go back for their post-surgical rechecks on Monday.

Also, if you were worried about it, my TB test for work came back negative. :-)

Tomorrow the boys and I are making our annual trip to Clinton Lake to swim with the radioactive, 3-eyed fish with LL and her family. It's our practice beach time before we get on a plain to St. John, USVI next Wednesday.

MacTroll wants to work on his "base tan."

A Sense of Self

If you read my blog enough, you recognize that from time to time I feel like absolute shit about myself. I'm not getting enough crap done. I haven't hung pictures in my house that have sat on the floor for four years. I can't keep crap food out of my mouth. I use up all my patience with the outside world and sometimes have none left for my family. I'm a slow runner, etc., etc., etc.

Usually these cracks in my self confidence show the most when I start comparing my life to how others appear to be doing. I see their successes and wonder why I'm so defective. But I don't utter these things out loud, usually, unless I look distressed and a friend asks me what's up. Instead, I save them for written spaces.

This week has been a hard week in the parenting sector. Yes, my child has been doing a lot of whining. Yes, he's been waking up grumpy as all hell. But he's comparing himself to other kids a lot this week at swimming and at Lego Camp, and he's been falling apart at the seams not only when we get in the car to go home, but also during lessons and when he's at camp.

X-man asked about a friend in swim lessons and at what level this friend was at. X-man is a 2. He's been a 2 since last November in Urbana (they call it Sunfish over there). I checked the list and it said that his friend was in a level higher than his, but his friend is also younger. I pointed out that they had more lessons than he had. But the damage was done. "Let's leave," he said. "Why?" "Because I want to leave." Then he erupted in tears. I got him to sit down and calm down, and explained that the more he swims the better he'll be. Plus, water is a lot of fun to play in on a hot day. He seemed to accept this and then went into his lesson.

I wrote the other day about how X-man doesn't like the pressure of timed events. Well, he also has issues building in a group. A group build requires a plan and follow through, and X-man has some issues not just going with his own mental flow about building. Zen Lego Design is usually his method. Yes, he his five, and he's one of the youngest in the group, so he and the other five year old are often paired to work on their own projects with a counselor working next to them for when they get stuck or need help. But in group work, they shuffle the kids. And big kids who know how to work in a cooperative group environment do well. My child isn't used to building the same project with other people. He is used to playing with what he's built with other people via pretend play.

He also notices that he can't build structures as detailed as the bigger kids, and so when he looks at his work, he says he feels like his creations aren't any good, because they're not as "special" (I'm going to assume he means complex.) I have a feeling this kind of comparison also sprouted up in the All Star II class over reading skills, but he just couldn't use his words enough then to describe how he felt.

As an adult, I look at the crisis of confidence and wonder how to turn the tide. And I feel like the kettle calling the pot -- you know? Are self-esteem issues genetic? As far as I know, I'm usually pretty open about when I make mistakes and then I correct them. Sometimes I do utter a curse word or two when I foul things up out of frustration, but I never call myself stupid or talk to X-man about how I wish I could do something as well as someone else... I try to model self-acceptance. But maybe what I should have been modeling was a solid sense of self-confidence, because my son doesn't appear to have any.

It's also hard because when he sees others getting trophies or Max the Cat reading certificates or even camper of the day certificates, the first thing he does is get in the car and ask when he'll get one. I point out that his turn will come, but the reality seems to him that his turn is far, far away, because he knows he has trouble controlling himself.

I know that some people are all for everyone getting a trophy, and I know that some like the idea that only exemplary behavior or performance should be rewarded -- because if everyone is special that means no one is. I like the balance of both. For example, the winners get the bigger recognition, but just for having the courage to try something new, everyone gets a little something. No one goes home empty handed.

X-man keeps wanting to try new things to find something he's good at. But he's had self-confidence set backs even at things that are supposed to teach self-confidence. I've had to coach him through doubts in Tae Kwon Do, swimming and reading. He has a hard time when it looks like kids that are younger than he his or who started something after he did are excelling where he just feels like he's standing still. I talk to him about how he has to put the time and practice into something to get better, and then he does it, but  sometimes, someone might just be naturally more inclined to one talent than another. For example, he rocks at T-ball, is a supportive teammate and follows the coach's directions to the letter (even sometimes to the point of trying to boss the other kids when they don't follow his directions, sigh).

But if you heard the loud crack of my heart breaking yesterday around 4:55 p.m., it was when I buckled my son into his seat and he asked, "Mommy? Why don't people think I'm awesome?"

Without hesitating, I told him he was the most awesome person in my world. But in my head, I was wondering how if I haven't learned to navigate those waters successfully all the time at 35, how in the world was I going to help him navigate them?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Little annoyances

1. I went looking for Imaginext toys at Toys R Us and they're all covered in dust at the Champaign store from their renovation.
2. My dog needs to grow too big to fit through the cat door because she keeps retrieving "treats." And that's disgusting.
3. I got blood pulled at Carle on Thursday. They called an hour later to say they did it wrong and I had to get it drawn again. I'm apparently made of free time.
4. I made an appointment six weeks ago to get a work physical and a TB test done through the Nurse Practitioner at my doc's office. The scheduler set it up for a Thursday... apparently there's a 48-hour waiting  period before they can exam it the TB result. So, she could complete the physical part, but not the TB test. I guess I should have found that out sooner so that I could have told the scheduler. Or maybe they should put a note in the computer for certain tests so that they can schedule them appropriately. So today, I went and got that done. (Someone remind me to go get it read after lunch on Friday, so that can be out of the way.) Again, Carle must think I'm made of free time.
5. Schnuck's was out of bananas, and I wanted bananas, so I bought some green ones. It's a week later and they're still green. And that freaks me out. And my banana lust has yet to be fulfilled.
6. I've called Disney twice to solidify my flight plans and to make a final payment (deadline is August 16) for the Wine and Dine half marathon that at this point is a pipe dream. Anyway, at the bottom of my reservation e-mail it says to call until 10 p.m. eastern. But that's only for the regular reservation staff. The Sports folks are gone by 6 p.m. So I called back today, and the woman couldn't get me transferred over to the Sports Desk, nor could she find me a number so I could call directly, and then I got disconnected.
7. I had an issue with my IUD. I called Planned Parenthood, but they're short a nurse practitioner, so they couldn't get me into Champaign. So I have to drive to Decatur on Tuesday to get checked.
8. We have a crack in the deck. We've called Concrete Evolutions three times in the last three weeks, and the manager still hasn't made it out to look at the crack.
9. My child won't stop whining.
10. The good news is that my plantar fasciitis is gone. The bad news is I'm suffering from Sural Nerve Entrapment. No cast or surgery needed, but no running allowed either. Just time and hoping.

Preparing for My School

On August 8th, I should be able to get in to MMO to start setting up my classroom for the fall. I'm very excited about this. I'd like to make the room cozier for my little people than I remember it being. But I also need to get an idea of the bulletin boards in the space, the toys that are available, etc.

I'm teaching 2 1/2-3 year olds this year five mornings a week, and I have between 8 and 12 students every day from the list I was given. I want to make sure to chart their growth and development from the time they enter my room until the time they're ready to progress to the next level. Today,  I purchased some binders and some fun foam letters to design progress books for them that I will hand back to the parents at the end of the year of everything their child explored, learned and discovered while in my care.

I ran into a parent the other day who started to talk about how parents trust teachers with their most precious cargo, and that it's a big thing for parents to let go. As a parent, I totally understand this. As a teacher, I feel honored and I do not take that responsibility lightly.

But what I really like about my job is that I get to provide an environment that is different from home. Kids aren't force fed anything at my school and they don't just sit in front of a TV all day. They're introduced to different concepts through exploration and what they get out of it is a secure sense of who they are, the community they're a part of and how the world works. In short, they get a sense of wonder that goes along with the desire to want to learn.

I know that in my short time doing observations in other schools and in-home care centers that folks often have issues implementing the Creative Curriculum. It takes the old idea of lesson planning for kindergarten prep and turns it on its head. But on the other hand, research in early childhood education has shown time and time again that a child-centered method where they explore the world through play helps develop inquisitiveness and social skills needed to be successful in elementary classrooms. At the same time, personally, I think the success regarding all curriculums really depends on the responsiveness of the teacher. If I have a child that excels at verbals and word skills, I want to hep develop experiences for them to help them get to the next level. If I have a child that can climb a mountain, I make sure we get enough gross motor. It's a giant balancing act to make sure that everyone gets chances at not only using their strengths but being able to get the confidence to try and work on things they might not excel at. X-man has been a wonderful example of how to encourage the willingness to try -- and not be good at something.

This week he is at Lego camp. My child loves to build, but he likes to play with his creations in an imaginary based Lego City kind of world. The stories he comes up with are highly detailed and the characters develop over time. Some bad guys become good guys. Some get married. Some always fight -- "because they're brothers." He's working out things in his head.(And he's very sad that some of the Lego people at the Rec Center are missing faces because they've been played with so much.)

But at Lego camp they've introduced something new to him that hasn't been part of his early childhood experience -- "timed events." You now have 20 minutes to build "insert building idea here."

X-man doesn't just dig into Legos and start building. He wants to talk about it. He wants to come up with a story line that would require an idea. And I can see that the idea of a timed build is a good introduction for what is likely to come in the next few years -- timed test taking.

But he started crying about it when he got in the car today, when I asked him how his day was. He said he tried not to get upset about it, but often times he feels nervous about the timed build challenges. When we got home, we played the Carnival Games Wii game that we got from the library for a bit. And every time there was a timed "practice" he'd ask me to play a different carnival game.

I said no, and kept playing. And there were a few games that I was terrible at, a few I was excellent at and a ton that I was mediocre at and needed practice. "It's okay that you lost?"

"Yes, because I had fun trying, and I want to try again and get better. If I practice I will likely improve, but I still may never be the best, and that's okay. I feel good about myself for trying."

I'm hoping it sinks in. Just like I'm hoping that I'm able to help all my students be able to navigate that change from playing side by side to interactive play this year. It's a big development, and some will come to the idea of group play much better than others. I guess I'm just more sensitive to it after watching X-man.

At bedtime last night we read, "A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever" about two friends who stay at one boy's grandparents house to go to nature camp. The grandpa is a huge fan of Antarctica and tries to get the boys to go to a museum with him to see the penguin exhibit before camp, but they refuse -- instead playing with the air mattress they sleep on, rough housing, playing video games, watching TV and eating banana waffles whenever they're not in camp (which they refer to a lot as "stand around camp"). It's a very cute book, especially the ending, where all of the ideas of Antarctica that the grandfather would try to introduce to them, but that they wouldn't actually play with are suddenly of interest their last night. And as the grandparents snooze on the couch, the boys create a model of Antarctica using materials around them -- and you should see the grandfather's face in the morning when he realizes how smart these boys were using driftwood, rocks and seashells. :-)

X-man and I agreed that it's a very awesome book and it made us both want to go to the beach. Lucky for him a week from today, that's exactly where we'll be headed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Benefits of Browsing

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, you used to be able to shop by wandering. That is, you could go into these cute little independent stores with shopkeepers who sold items you'd peruse until you found just the right something whether it was a gift or a book or a toy. The number of places you can do this that aren't corporate owned is always dwindling nowadays. There are very few places that sell non-boutique items where you can shop that aren't a big box store.

Today, however, I had the odd experience of visiting Border's, a national book chain, as it goes through liquidation before finally becoming no more. I got through it without a tear being shed, and although the parking lot was full, it wasn't the same mayhem as it was when Pages for All Ages went out of business. I took one look at the line and didn't even bother going into that store clearance.

Everyone knows I'm big on libraries, but really, I'm big on books. I like them in my hand, although I have recently downloaded my first two books using the Kindle App for my iPad 2. But today, I was looking for my child, my classroom, myself. I could have spent hours and hundreds of dollars putting books in my basket. It was hard to put some items back. It was hard to stop looking.

When I go into a box store, it's not a comfortable shopping environment for me. There's too much. Too many points of my life coming together in one giant, poorly lit place. I know it's a matter of convenience. I mean, that's what our culture has boiled down to, right? Convenience. We eat fast because it's convenient. We want our kids to go to neighborhood schools because it's convenient. We do everything to make life a little easier, because lots of times, life is really pretty hard. So why not make the easier stuff -- easier.

But in a big way, I think it's also made us terribly impatient while at the same time, I think it's making us more efficient.

And patience is something everyone in my house seems to be short of lately. So I wonder, if we did things the long way for a while, if maybe we'd get some of it back? Because lately, we all sound like a bunch of whiners, and well, I know how unattractive that characteristic can be.

Monday, July 25, 2011

When 5 pounds becomes 15

Part of this whole healthy living journey has been a blessing. Every body likes to watch someone transform and accomplish something good for themselves. Some people use other people's successes as motivation, some people use it to beat themselves up. I guess it's part of the human condition. Joy, celebration, envy, jealousy, relief, stress... but at the same time, I'm feeling rather disappointed in myself because it's not like I don't know what to do, but putting my head in the game and getting on top of the issue feels a lot like being in the garbage compacter in Star Wars. The walls are closing in, there's a monster ready to suck me under down below and damn it, I'm wearing a long white dress and no bra. I guess it's good that at least my hair is up, right?

I've never been very comfortable with the idea of being a role model about anything in my life. And for a while, I'd tell my story, but people like weight loss stories to have a beginning and end, hence the success of The Biggest Loser. They like to watch someone literally transform into someone else. And then there are those folks, the Eeyore's of the crowd, that tune into the after articles or interviews with the folks who started gaining it back the minute they walked off the farm or ranch or whatever the hell they call it. So they can point and say, "See, it doesn't matter."

For some people, weight is nothing big. They like how they are. Me, I like fitting into my pants. And I haven't for a while. And I'm starting to look absurd in my stretchy clothes. I've also been avoiding going to my meetings out of shame. Nice, right? How can the thing designed to help you stay on track help you if you don't attend. Clearly, what I know is the right thing to do and what I'm actually doing do not line up.

And as sad as it is, my motivation to keep on top of things came from something in the Uncommon Goods catalog I got in the mail today.

"Fall seven times. Stand up eight." -- Japanese Proverb

Food plan is taped to the refrigerator door. Weighted vest is out for my walk after I drop off X-man at Lego Camp at the Savoy Recreation Center. Day 1 at 11 a.m. -- and so far so good. But I might need to check in on here with folks to keep myself going. Because lately, I'm fine through Thursday, and then I fall off the wagon. Let's see if I can fit back in my pants by the time the weather cools in October. Nice and easy -- five lbs at a time.

But I could use a lot of hugs of positivity...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pink Frankenstein

Our cat Luke got a growth removed from his left shoulder on Friday. He came home with a 3-4" long,  bright, hot pink suture wound. He's resting okay, but he's started to lick the wound. They gave us an Elizabethan collar for him, so he doesn't agitate it, but it's too small. :-( So tomorrow I'm running out to find another one. We won't know what the growth was for a few days.

He appears to be resting comfortably with Nyssa (our cat who had dental surgery on Thursday) in our room and bathroom (His movement is to be restricted for 10 days). She had a broken canine extracted, but she's currently lying next to me purring away. She's on antibiotics, but things in her mouth look pretty good.

I'm keeping her with him mostly so that I can check her tooth hole so that I can see it's not infected and keep an eye on him at the same time. I think Luke likes knowing it's not just him shut up, and Nyssa never complains as long as there's a litterbox, food, a soft place to sleep and ample pets at night. Whomever said cats are clean, never met Luke. He's throwing the litter out of the extra box onto the floor of the bathroom. He pushes wet food off of the plates and onto the floor. He drinks by dipping his paw into the water, licking it and then shaking water everywhere. I think he's just trying to piss me off.

He wants out of the bedroom, but he's happy when I'm in the room lying on the bed. At night we close off the bathroom, and the two cats and Lily are on the bed curled up with me.

Meanwhile, Maya and Clawdio have the run of the downstairs.

As for me, I'm doing okay. I'm walking tomorrow with a neighbor that I've been dying to spend time with, but at the same time, I totally miss running.

On Wednesday, I'll know what's up with my foot (knock on wood) after the X-ray and sports medicine appointment. Mostly, I'm just tired of going to Carle and seeing medical people. Does that make sense?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stupid Fear

Five weeks after I had X-man, I found myself in the bowels of Carle getting a breast ultrasound. I had found a lump, and while we were pretty sure it was a blocked milk duct, we had to be sure. Of course, the place you get sent was into the prior breast cancer department, where a collection of a half dozen women waited for their ultrasounds all looking ferociously somber in a lavender painted room.

The ultrasound was inconclusive, so the only thing I could do was wait to see if it changed size after I stopped attempting to breastfeed three weeks later. It reduced in size gradually and then went away. But I never forgot the feeling in that room. The idea that after having a really unhappy pregnancy, an even worse birthing experience and a rough time balancing medical issue after medical issue between myself and the baby that getting the news that I had cancer was probably going to give me a mental break down.

I was lucky.

Today, I get to report back to Carle. I'm visiting a hematologist in the Mills Cancer Institute to go over my blood issues. I'm happy to go because I'm hoping to find answers as to why after a year of supplements my body still won't absorb iron, why my platelet numbers are on the low side and why it appears as if my body is destroying healthy platelets. On the other hand, I'm also scared.  There's this thing about cancer -- it's like poverty in that it harms everyone. No one is exempt. You can live your life exercising with an excellent lipid panel and no history while eating your all organic diet -- and you could still end up with cancer. On the same note, you could smoke a pack a day and not get cancer.

I know several cancer survivors and some who died fighting the disease. Some of the survivors pray every day that the beast doesn't come back. Some keep battling it as it comes back years later. One survivor has become a spokesperson in her urban environment about the type of cancer she beat at 33. Family of these people run, walk, raise money, volunteer and do whatever they can in the fight to find a cure. I've watched it destroy families. I've watched it bring them together.

There's a certain amount of discomfort I have about walking through an institute so well versed about the intricacies and diversity of such a disease. It humbles me, but still I have to go. But inside, I really wished hematology had their own offices in some other building... because let's face it. I'm a big sentimental wuss.

Update: I saw Dr. David Graham, who apparently lives on my street. He was very nice. He did a consult with me and then ordered a bunch of labs. He mentioned that there might even be something in the way the other lab takes blood and tries to preserve it to transport to Indiana to process that could be affecting my platelets in their numbers. But Carle took 7 vials of blood -- one they apparently messed up, so I have to go back in tomorrow and give some more. He's having me increase my iron supplements to two -- and hopefully up to three a day, versus the one I was doing each day and the two a day I take during my period. He also took a urine sample because I have history of protein in my urine, which can, apparently, lead us down a whole different path. He did say that I shouldn't worry about not being able to clot. :-) I apparently have more than enough platelets for that.

I do the supplements and then go back to get tested again in six weeks. He's hoping to have new baseline numbers from blood that doesn't have to travel 300 miles to get examined. Yes, it's going to cost me a mint in lab work, but I'd rather know for sure, ya know?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

AFTER the heat wave...

Who wants to come hang out on my new patio? The new furniture came and is almost all put together. The fire pit has been tested and works... MacTroll got a new, better insulated top for the hot tub delivered today, so as soon as we get that set up, we can fill the tub (maybe with cold water since it's 110 stupid degrees out).

I know some folks are starting back to school, so it's count down time for the rest of us who aren't on a balanced schedule.

I'll supply the s'mores and some bannock with various jams. You bring your own drinks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review of Magic Waters

My 'rents live in Rockford, and every time we've driven by Magic Waters on the way to my mother's house, X-man has always asked to go there. This summer, I made a point of scheduling a three-day trip to Nana's so that we could spend some time at the water park and get some quality time in with Nana.

When I was younger, like before I could drive, I had a season pass to Magic Waters. I'd get off work at the library and my best friend KAP's mom (and my boss) would drive us over there to spend the rest of our afternoon together in the summer. Just two 15 year old girls hanging in the sun and body surfing in the wave pool. It's also the last time I was ever there. It's changed considerably since then, and holy cow do they have some things that I think Sholem (and maybe the new place in Urbana) would totally benefit from.

First of all, Magic Waters is run by the Rockford Park District. It has a massive wave pool with waves that are up to 6' deep. It also has a series of raft rides (two regular raft slides, a roller coaster like raft slide and then a massive raft ride where you get sucked down a tornado-like funnel). There are free rafts, but if it's a busy day and they run out, you have the option of renting tubes (either single or double riders) that you can keep all day. You can also purchase fast passes to specific slides.

In addition, there's a baby area perfect for kids 3 and under. Three body slides (which are original to the park from my years) and a lazy river that goes around a new spray park that is perfect for kids through age 12 and the adults that bring them. The benefit of renting your tube comes in at the lazy river. If you have a free tube, after one lap of the lazy river, you must abandon your tube to someone else who is waiting to get in and get out and then get back in line to go around again at the entrance. If you rent your own tube, you can go around and around and around without exiting. Also, unlike other parks I've been to that don't let kids go down big kid slides due to height restrictions and then don't let adults go down little kid slides due to height restrictions, everyone gets to go down the 4 slides at the spray park area called Tiki Island, but kids have to be over a certain height to go down the grown up body slides.

We put our stuff at Tiki Island, and it was a good call. It had the most shade available, so we got two chairs under some trees to dump our stuff. If you've got some bucks and are arriving later than opening, you can also rent cabanas for $75 that are on the south side of the park beyond the splash park and lazy river. They have wicker furniture with cushions and chaise lounges, what looked to be around 10x10' of covered space/shade and electrical outlets with giant fans that could be used.

Usually the cost of the park ticket is $22.95 for an adult, non-Rockford resident and $16.95 for a child, non-Rockford resident, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone gets in for $10. Yes, for a dollar more than it costs to get into Sholem for a non-resident. When I thought about it that way, the $10 seemed like an insanely good deal.  We went on Tuesday when the temps were between 92 when we got there just before 10 a.m. and 100 degrees when we went home at 1 p.m. I had to prohibit X-man from going down any of the slides that weren't on Tiki Island for one simple reason -- we watched two of the six people who collapsed of heatstroke waiting in line for the slides that morning get hauled away on a gurney to the hospital on a backboard and another who sat in a wheelchair getting fed Gatorade while they located her parents. As it was, by 11:30's lunch, X-man was looking pretty pooped.

So, we did Tiki Island, the lazy river and the wave pool over the 3 hours we were there. And I still had to drag X-man out to the parking whining like mad that he wanted to come back there when it was time to leave.

Another thing that I liked besides the rental tube option was that Magic Waters permits every family to bring in one cooler of food and drinks (as long as they're non-alcoholic and there are no glass containers) for free. After that, you're permitted to bring in more coolers (there were several large families there) but you had to pay $10 per cooler. These die hard season pass holders were there before we got there at 9:40 a.m. (the park opened at 10 a.m.). They were waiting inside the park at the holding tape and then when the park folks released them when the park opened, the children were sent flying as fast as their feet could carry them to the closest, covered picnic table area -- to squat -- all day, while the adults heaved their heavy coolers.

When we paid for our tickets, I said good morning and told the attendant it was our first time. He acknowledged that Tuesday was a great day to come for the cheaper tickets and then when I said we didn't have a cooler he smiled a giant smile and said that employees liked people like me. We were easy, and weren't going to squabble over cooler issues. After we paid, we stood in line to get my bag checked. I saw one employee having to go through three duffle bags and three coolers for one family, so the other attendant called me over to look through my one bag quickly, marked it with an orange tie and then sent us in. X-man and I walked a normal pace from the north end of the park all the way to the south end of the park where Tiki Island spray park was and had our choice of a zillion shady lounge chairs.

As for the food, it was kind of nice. It was usual pool grub of hot dogs and hamburgers, but since you could take in coolers the lines weren't extraordinarily long and the table areas near the snack bars were reserved for paying customers to keep away the squatters. There was an actual grill set up (like Sholem used to do), and we had hot dogs and french fries within 5 minutes ordering. The combo meal was $7.50 each. But I was totally okay with paying that. It was good stuff. The one thing that sucked was that there really weren't any healthy options at all. (So another benefit of the cooler rule, if you want to use it.)

The other interesting food item was that Culver's had two ice cream stands inside the park. They did concretes and had ice cream cookie treats and shakes. And I wondered how they came to that kind of partnership. It was a really good idea, whomever brokered it.

Next year, the new attraction will be giant fast slides, where you can race your friend. Basically, you do a straight drop at some kind of terrifying speed. The body slides required users to be over 48 inches tall, so X-man was 1 inch too small for them this year. I think if we went back as a family next year, he and MacTroll could do all those things (on a non-100 degree day) and I'll just rent a tube and float around the lazy river. :-)

All in all though, I would totally go back up and do it again. We have a free place to stay over night, and we could have stayed a couple hours longer on just those three areas, if it wasn't getting ridiculously hot out there in the shade. I kept spraying X-man down in sunblock and looking at his face. When he gets enough of the pool, he gets sunburn just underneath his eyes from the sun glare off of the pool water. He kept drinking everything I put in front of him that day, but I was still worried. But 3 hours at the water park with some indoor play time and some Lego TV watching at Nana's house was pretty much his perfect day. He was asleep at 9:30 p.m. that night and he slept until 9 a.m. this morning.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How We Roll

For almost the entire 20 years MacTroll and I have been together, we haven't spent a lot of the same time living together in the same place. For the first six years we were long distance Rockford to Peoria, Rockford to Champaign, Decatur to Champaign, Decatur to Saginaw, Decatur to Lansing and then boom -- we moved in together when we moved to Falls Church, Va. These were back in the days pre-e-mail for the most part and when long-distance calls were cheap at 20 cents a minute.

When we lived in D.C., we thought we'd see more of each other, and for a while that was true on the weekends. I'd get up and head to the metro at 7 a.m. and three nights a week, I'd be home by 6 p.m. The other two nights though, I'd be at school until somewhere between 8:30 p.m. or 11 p.m., when MacTroll would pick me up. I, on the other hand, was usually home all weekend unless I had to cover a weekend event at the Newseum, where as his job as a free-lance photographer in Washington, D.C. woke him up at all hours and sent him on assignment.

By the time I was working for Arlington County Government and he had moved on from photography and started his own computer company, we rarely saw each other at all. He was traveling M-F three weeks a month and I was working 50+ hour work weeks. So, we decided to move to Champaign. His business was mostly travel and it made good money. It made better money when he started working for the fruit. And I became the woman who could do anything as long as it was part-time. Then we had a baby, and I threw myself into that for a while. There was a very steep learning curve. Even though MacTroll was promoted and cut back on his travel schedule from 3 weeks of travel a month to 2 weeks, I still felt alone a great deal of the time, so I took over my parent group and was doing a bang up job at it. I thought maybe I'd do well working somewhere doing children's programming, and I started taking classes at Parkland in Early Childhood. I also started at weight management.

Three years later, and I'm about to start the most permanent position I've had since I moved here. I'm getting to be an Early Childhood Educator at MMO in the Clownfish room. I'm excited about it. I've loved floating and subbing there the last two years. But I'm worried about how this is going to go in terms of my family life. Because when I work, I tend to throw myself into things and put the work before home life, and let's face it, MacTroll and I always tend to put parenthood before marriage, which feels natural (and easy when your spouse flies in and out and you haven't really spent any time alone together in at least 30-day increments). I've scheduled my day so that I drop X-man off at 7:50 a.m. and report to work by 8:10 a.m. Then I get off at 12:30 p.m., eat lunch and then go to the gym or do the grocery shopping or run errands from 1:15-2:15 p.m. X-man's day ends at 2:15 p.m., and he'll get on the bus to come home. I'm estimating he'll be home by 2:45-3 p.m., which gives me time to shower or do some light housework.

I don't have him signed up for anything in the fall, but he said he does want to go to the Savoy Rec Center on Tuesdays afternoons from 3:45-5 p.m. So, we'll bike over there for as long as the weather will allow us after an after-school snack and he can attend the rotating after-school drop-in Lego Club and the  Rec Zone program, while I do a work out.

It sounds perfect. But what if I show up at the Sports Medicine doctor and he puts me in a cast? Or worse what happens if I have to have surgery on the tendons in my foot or something like that? Now that the fascia is better, I still have issues in the back part of my heel toward the lateral side. I do nothing but walk on it at this point. So it's me mowing the yard or walking around the neighborhood or excavating the Rotary Park site with a shovel. All do my foot in after a short time, and I'm icing and stretching and elevating it for pretty much the rest of the day.

And the worst part is that it's my right foot... If it gets casted... no driving. And how am I going to work with a room full of 2.5 year olds? Or hop up and down the steps at MMO? X-man will have to take the bus to school, too, if that happens.

It's days like today, when I totally hate Dr. Google. All I can do is sit back, relax, and wait to see the Sports Medicine doc next week.

So, see, it doesn't matter if you're a cat or a human over at our house, we're all kind of medically nutso this week.

The saddest part is, I know that my spouse has to keep traveling... so I have the mindset that when he's around to help, it's an exception rather than the norm.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kindergarten Clean Up

Last Friday, I took X-man to his future kindergarten school at Carrie Busey Elementary. They held free breakfast there for all children under age 18 from mid-June to mid-July. Quigs had mentioned that another parent had taken her son there to see what it was like to eat in the cafeteria at school. And I have to admit, it was a really great idea. They served breakfast and lunch, but we were busy at lunch... so 8 a.m. breakfast it was. And you should have seen X-man's blue eyes get as wide as saucers when he realized he was going to get freaking Trix and animal crackers and orange juice for breakfast. I had to help him carry the two packages, the milk and the juice container to the table because there weren't any trays.

But we sat down with the summer school students who were namely there in the continuing special education program, and I showed X-man how to open his milk carton, peel open his cereal and how to open his juice just enough so it wouldn't spill. He managed to open the animal crackers all by himself. I am suddenly realizing how challenged he is with food packaging. He's fine with pull-apart string cheese, but I'll have to practice the milk cartons with him over the next few weeks.

After breakfast, we walked down to the kindergarten wing and peeked in the classrooms. They were busy waxing the floors and getting the building ready for the fall. We walked down to the opposite hall, exited by the parking lot and then walked around to the playground.

The equipment is a combination of 1998 new and 1960 new. That is there are a number of metal climbers in the area with monkey bars and such. We found out that last week some jackass had decided to set fire to one of the plastic crawl through tubes on the playground. It had a large hole in it, so the school had boarded up that section and put caution tape around it. There was also a metal climbing section of the park that really needs to be replaced. It's rusty and most of the stepping areas are broken... and if they aren't broken now, they will be when some person is trying to climb them.

But mostly, what X-man and I noticed was how dirty the park was. There were no trash cans out there, so there was litter everywhere. Next Friday, while Luke is in for his surgery, he and I are planning on heading back to the park with some garden gloves and trash bags to do a pick up after breakfast. If anyone wants to meet us there around 9:30 a.m., you're certainly welcome to join us. I put a call into the school about whether or not the tunnel and climber would be replaced before the start of the school year. I told them I'd be happy to make a donation toward the purchase if they got an estimate. The school secretary took down my contact information and was to pass it on to the PTA.

I know the new school will have all kinds of bells and whistles, most of which I will find unnecessary, but nice. I already know that the Prairie Fields playground is nice, although lately, I've been picking up a lot of garbage over there, too. I think it's not as bad because the Savoy Parks Department puts out garbage cans and collects them.

But I do have to say that I like that X-man's first instinct was that we should come back and pick up the park to make it nice for everyone when they got to school. And I like that usually he's disruptive and needy when I'm on the phone, but since he wanted the tunnel and climber replaced, he didn't bother me once during the 10 minutes I was on the phone.

I like that he wants to build that sense of community and that he understands that he plays a role in making his school a nice place to be.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Geriatric Pets

On Friday, KTDID came over and watched X-man so that MacTroll and I could take the black and white mafia in for their annual vaccination and physicals. You have never seen three cats aged 11-13 look so absolutely miserable in all their lives. I'm not sure if it was just the trip to the vet's that caused it, or the fact that they now have to go with -- The Puppy. :-) And as usual, Dr. Mary had the entire back crew fire up every piece of lab equipment to get ready for our crew.

First off, I expected the puppy to go crazy since she wasn't thrilled about being there the last two times. But she managed to get through her second distemper, rabies and physical examination just fine. Her fecal sample was clear of worms, so that was nice, too. She just has one more set of shots and she's clear to play. We also typed her while we were there. In 2 weeks or so, we'll receive a breed analysis that will tell us what kind of adorable, cute, fuzzy, black, medium dog Lily is. This helps in a couple of ways. It helps us with her medical future in that if she starts to show any signs of illnesses that are specific to some part of her genetic make up, we'll have a better chance of treating it because we'll know what she is. The test also screens her for certain disorders she might have right now based on her type, so we'll know about that as well, and her blood gets used in future medical studies for mixed breed dogs.

Secondly, Clawdio was the healthiest cat there. That's going to tell you a lot about the rest of the visit. Our oldest cat, who is on his last life, was a healthy 9.5 lbs. His coat is shiny and beautiful. His elderly teeth are somewhat discolored but in okay shape. His heart murmur is still there but hasn't gotten any worse.

Thirdly, in all the crap that's been going on lately, I've been watching Nyssa but I haven't actually been checking out Nyssa. I noticed she was getting thinner and that she was licking on her front left paw in the last few weeks. A few months ago we had her in and she tested borderline for liver issues and had some other issues that we figured was pre-hyperthyroidism. So the wanting to eat more of Clawdio's left over wet food (and the diarrhea that comes from it) made sense. But had I checked my cat out, I would have noticed that at some point, she broke one of her canine teeth and the reason she was lining up for the wet food was because it was painful to bite into the dry food. And the fact that she was getting thin, according to her bloodwork, was because of the pain she was in. The good news is that her bloodwork is fine, so next Thursday, I'll be dropping her off for a dental with Dr. Mary. And well, at that point, she's got a while of eating anything she wants to eat to bring her back up to around 8.5 lbs. She's currently at 7.8 lbs.

And last but not least, Luke. A few years ago, Luke's microchip migrated away from between his shoulder blades, I know this because I thought it was a hard mass and took him in panicked. The vet waved her wand over his chest and boom -- the microchip wand went off.

Well, in the last few months, I noticed that his chip seemed to be getting bigger. That is, there was something hard around it. I wondered why it would bother him now. Mary stuck a needle in on Friday and examined what she was able to draw. She did not get any cancer cells out to diagnose, but I could tell she was really hoping it was just an abscess. Now we have to take him in to have the growth removed and analyzed. It's about the size of a dime, but in case it is a skin cancer, she'll be removing as much of the growth and the surrounding area as she can. He has the surgery next Friday and will need to be restricted in his movement. The incision is likely to be 3 inches wide. And he'll need some decent recovery time. And then, we'll get the labs back and know if it is benign or malignant.

So, next Thursday and Friday are going to be very interesting times for my family. As such, I'm going to end up canceling my plans to go to the spray park in Bloomington on Friday. I'll have to try again some other day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review of Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort

Monday afternoon through Thursday morning, the boys and I were in Utica, Illinois, at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort with MacTroll's parents and his three brothers and their families. The reunion was planned and financed by his parents. So, 10 adults and nine children came from way out east and way out west, and way up north and, um, an hour and a half away to stay together just outside of Starved Rock State Park.

I'd asked about Grizzly Jack's before, and I know some of you have given me your thoughts on the resort via Facebook. Whether the adults loved it or hated it, everyone came back with the same response of -- "The kids really enjoyed it." And our kid was no different. He woke up demanding to know why we were leaving a day earlier than everyone else. I didn't have the heart to tell him it was because his father had given me the dates incorrectly, and that, unlike most people he'll meet in his life, his lame mother had scheduled meetings and doctors appointments that would take weeks to reschedule on that Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. We both bombed on this one. But then again, you do what you can, you know?

As a resort, MacTroll and I were not overly excited about Grizzly Jack's. And here's the deal, that my brother-in-law from California brought up once MacTroll found out that the resort is $10 million in the hole and filed for bankruptcy in January. "You don't build a giant resort in the middle of nowhere cornfields." Apparently, the Kevin Costner "Build it and they will come" philosophy doesn't apply to indoor water parks in Central Illinois.

Our in-laws thoughtfully provided large housing accommodations in a villa and a townhouse for the whole group. As it turns out, when GJ opened, it sold these villas and townhomes to folks as vacation homes that they could then rent back to other families like ours to make money off in rent when they weren't using them. Each place is decorated pretty much the same: think bears meet fake antlers meet moose paraphernalia. The owners then provide things like silverware and cups and dishes. The issue is if you stay at a place that sleeps 12, you'd expect there to be 12 forks instead of 5. See what I'm saying? When GJ originally opened purchasing a Townhouse was like $250,000 for 2800 square feet. Now, you can buy them for $50,000.

On the wall of the villa was also a sign indicating you could purchase their fancy towels and washclothes, but I guess there must have been a run on those, because all we could come up with was that the ones they provided us were so old and washed that they were -- very exfoliating.

We went to the waterpark twice, each for two-hour play dates. Inside are two water slides, one body slide and one raft slide. You need to be at least 48 inches to go down them, so X-man was an inch too short, which was okay. There was a splash park that we made the best of, but it was in complete disrepair. The two spray guns had tubes that were completely broken. MacTroll just reached over the side grabbed the dislodged hose and sprayed family members that way. Above the spray area was supposed to be one of those giant buckets of water that dumps over onto people, but the door to the "ranger station" wouldn't open, so the water dumped inside the house and just kind of drained down rather than pouring. It looked like there was some kind of musical warning system to tell you when it was time to dump (like a clanging on metal as it got full) but it didn't work. The bucket system with pulley to dump water on someone's head below was broken. They had at least put a new rope climbing apparatus in over a broken one, but they left the broken one attached, so it looked dumpy. X-man did okay on the two slides for kids under 48 inches. They had soft landings at the bottom. He also enjoyed going around in the rafts on the lazy river.

The lodge is located just down the street from a quarry blast sight, so the water is very hard. My friend M warned me that their water tasted kind of funny and to take some bottled water along. It was similar to the water at my Mom's in Loves Park, so it wasn't as disconcerting to me. But I was grateful for her advice. The issue is that there was mineral and mold build up all over the place in the water park. You'd float around the lazy river and see it on the walls. The wood on all the steps was turning green and rotting. The underside of the Ranger Station was building up with white mineral deposits from the inappropriate dumping.

The lazy river was supposed to be only for rafters, but everyone was in it. They were swimming around it. They were diving under the rafts to get around people. There was also a small wave pool, but there was no indicator in the room any longer as to when the pool would be starting, so you missed it, or you sat around waiting a long time for it -- a lot. The water was warm and they did have some fun water falls to swim through, which also became the "safety zone" for X-man when the "crazy waves" came on. The waves from the wave pool either came out "traditional" like you were on a surf at a beach or "crazy" like you were in water between docks and it was going sideways. The crazy ones were a bit too rough for X-man, so he'd go into the safety area until they stopped.

The next issue was -- the lifeguards. At Sholem, you get a sense that they're not messing around. Everyone has their crazy scanning headbobs, and they've got their whistles in hand. They've got new suits and sun protection and life saving equipment on hand. At Grizzly Jack's, I watched one lifeguard literally chew her finger nails for her entire shift. Everywhere she moved she had her fingers in her mouth. And she looked everywhere except at the water. One lifeguard was taking his float on a walk. It was crumbling apart. I didn't notice it until I thought it was a chunk of apple floating by. I felt better it wasn't food -- and then I didn't. The guards didn't watch the water. They looked bored. So they gave no sense of reassurance and I didn't let X-man out of my sight.

The indoor Amusement Park named the "Enchanted Forest" was okay, as were the sea of bounce houses outside of it for children ages 3-12. X-man loved running around and pretend playing the arcade games. He also went on all the rides. MacTroll was with him most of the time because during a morning walk/run on the Canal, I managed to jack up my foot (yes, I have an appointment for an X-ray with sports medicine this month) and had trouble walking. The only issue here was that you could tell that because of the poor economic issues, they only had two people running all of the rides. So, you'd wait in line behind the gate of the one you wanted to ride -- and wait -- and hope that enough people lined up behind you so that you could go on it. Then you'd go on that ride as many, many times as possible before the employee moved on to the next ride.

But the biggest difficulty was that everything local was kind of closed in the area. The first night MacTroll and I tried to do a pizza night. We found some places with good reviews online at the nearby Oglesby. We figured we'd pick stuff up. Yeah, one was closed and the other was at the other end of a road that was closed that would require a long detour back to I-39. So, we ventured into Lasalle-Peru and found the Jewel and a Papa John's. This was a theme. We tried to go to an independent bookstore and candy shop in Utica -- both were closed at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday. We tried to canoe at Starved Rock, but the boat shop didn't open until 11:30 a.m. (nice and hot then, right?) When we returned at 11:30 a.m., the shop was open to take our money, but no one with a key was there to unlock the canoes. MacTroll, X-man and I gave up and went back to the moldy water park, while the others sat around waiting for the guy with the key to show up. MacTroll also reported that my MIL tried to stop by the Starved Rock Stables, which were empty of horses and abandoned of people.

But again, despite our reservations as adults, X-man liked it -- because it had bounce houses and rides and water slides and a bunch of kids to play with. So if you focus on younger kid happiness, you'll do fine. Unfortunately, I'm afraid if you enjoyed the park before, you might find it lacking due to the fact that the place hasn't been kept up. So if you return, it's probably not going to be exactly as you remembered it.

I can recommend, if you're in Peru, to get breakfast or lunch at the Fourth Street Bakery. They don't have a lot of breads (but they do have a lot of bagels). X-man and MacTroll both enjoyed a mid-morning snack there. It had a great atmosphere and the owners were very welcoming.

I would not necessarily recommend running on the canal. I entered it at Lock 14. It's a decent path, but it smells of dead fish. And the Illinois River spill over areas around are flooded with beautiful egrets, who walk on their tall, graceful legs. It's amazing to see, until you realize they're walking around the dozens of tires floating in the water. Sigh. The whole area needs a giant environmental clean up.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Suck it Sylvan

I've been driving around town lately noticing a lot of signs up on the corners of intersections advertising various learning centers. The signs ask a question that insights fear in the heart of parents. It asks if parents are worried about summertime learning loss.

You know, when I was a wee, new parent, shit like this would completely throw me. I'd break down in a cold sweat wondering if my child would be the last to walk, talk, potty train, etc. Would he be adequate? Was I doing enough to make him extraordinary? The whole thing made me batshit. Now that I work in early childhood education and I see a variety of children from birth to age 5 all making their own ways, I've mellowed out -- a lot. Each child progresses in his or her own time. Some will be brilliant at math and science. Some will be extraordinary in music or sports. None of them will be stone cold awesome in everything. And a parent that loves her child and cares for him or her and is able to provide basic needs like food, shelter and clothing is 150,000 steps ahead of a child who doesn't know where her next meal is coming from, or if they'll be evicted from their home.

So, you know, I try not to dwell on the idea that keeping my son out of his very expensive pre-school for the summer before kindergarten might put him on a backwards roll when it comes to learning, want to know why? Because either through genetic destiny, having two information hounds as parents or because of wonderful teachers, X-man is a freaking learning sponge. Since the end of school I've had a loose lesson plan made up every day of things we were going to do and items we'd review and learn. A lot of times the planning would give me focus for the day so neither of us got bored. But when I see those signs, I think, "Yeah, so maybe X-man isn't sitting on a space on a carpet or in a chair at a table doing traditional school work... but I think what we've been doing is better than that."

The other day, we had play date in the park with one of his school friends. His friend brought X-man a tag reader Bakugan book to share. Then they sat down and played with it and listened to the story before they played on all the gym equipment making up Bakugan stories, which often involved input from the moms that were present. Then they raced around and one of them asked how far across the park was. I told him to take steps and to count them. So the two of them set off and both got 40 steps across Noel park. "Hey, Mom! It measures 40!" Fabulous. Look at that measuring through counting and gross body work. Wonderful. Not to mention the reading comprehension that was going on with the Bakugan obsession, and the socialization that was occurring as they interacted.

We did some sparklers the other night. MacTroll told X-man all about the chemical reactions happening on the metal wand to make the sparkler sparkle. Science... We made that crazy watermelon cake.

I got him a nature card series for his tag reader from National Geographic on sea life and birds. He flipped through them, memorizing a lot of them and then asked his Aunt Melissa and I all kinds of questions regarding the life around the beach in Chicago. We sequence numbers in chalk in the front yard. We create chalk superhero and "bad guy" homes and create and interact with stories. We garden. We watch construction. We do simple addition and subtraction using fish crackers or berries as counters during snack time.

Kids free bowling has been keeping ups doing simple subtraction from the number 10. The summer reading club at the Tolono Public Library has me reading to him and him reading to me from the Dick and Jane series and a million other books.

He's working on writing his full name for school as well as his phone number, but he finally has down our address. We take nature walks and collect items and then sit back to back and try to describe an item so that the other person can look in his or her bag for the matching item and guess which thing the other is looking at. We periodically take trips through Sonic for soft drinks, where X-man likes to see what colors are made when he blends a blue Powerade slush with  colored shots of various flavors. (So far orange and blue slush look the least appetizing, FYI).

We investigate, explore, observe and try new things -- and we talk about how important it is to make mistakes and figure things out. It's okay that people aren't perfect, what's important is that you know better for next time. It's also okay for people to be different. You don't have to like what others do. You might not even like spending time with a person at all -- but you do have to figure out a way to work together and be respectful and civil.

What I'm saying here is that he's not sitting in a dark room letting summer (or time away from school) rot his brain. Like a lot of other kids, I would assume, he's having all kinds of summer adventures. He's learning new things all the time, and I resent any education-based company that takes a statistic from studies about kids "losing knowledge" during the summer and using it to market their materials using a campaign based on parental fear. It also always occurs to me that those studies may never include things that kids are learning out of school that they would never learn in a traditional school setting -- like how to swim or ride a bike or how fire cooks a s'more or how to play t-ball or how big the Grand Canyon really is or what the Mona Lisa really looks like or what a toad feels like when it pees in your hands. :-) School, particularly where we live, would never take a field trip to a beach or to larger urban areas for museums. At least not at this age. In the summer time, a lot of kids -- get around: museums, water parks, national parks, lessons from grandparents, cousins, nature, camp, etc.

Tonight, we read a book from the library called, "The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians." If you get a chance check it out. It's an extraordinarily sweet story about a boy and his very special relationship with three librarians at his local library. And no, he doesn't actually live with them at the library... :-)

It's a story about a child's intellectual curiosity and how three librarians respond to his thirst for knowledge and how his interest in life helped him to become a life-long learner. In the end, as a parent, when it comes to education, that's what I'm shooting for. I want X-man to go to school and work hard and be respectful, but truthfully, if he's wild about learning about the world around him and about making good and kind choices to help that world succeed -- I could care less about traditional knowledge summer learning loss. We're all about curiosity around here, and I'm insulted that the signs seem to implicate that parents are not otherwise able to provide summer time learning opportunities for their children through spending time with them, family adventures, vacations and summer camp experiences. So rather than leech onto the whole fear issue of having what kids might be forgetting for 6-12 weeks without sitting in a school desk, maybe the company could have instead offer parents a course on more creatively inspired curriculums that they might integrate into their summer vacations for parents that aren't as whacked out and overly planned as I am, but would like to focus more on the intention of education in the every day, awesome learning experience that is summer?

P.S. I am all for using services like Sylvan, Enopi and Kumon when kids are interested or parents find that school-aged kids need extra help or some kick butt challenge to keep their super smart brains working. I really am, but I'm hopelessly tired of people feeding me fear -- of every kind -- but mostly the parent-based, school-related kind. And in motherhood, it's like there's this whole magnifying glass that the success of your parenting depends on the "success" and "happiness" of your child. How can those things possibly be measured against each other? Are they measured by Ivy league status? How much money the kid makes? How many times a day they smile? If they're in therapy complaining about their parents? If they find a significant other? Fame? They're human. Their experience is supposed to be filled with great moments and extraordinarily sucky ones.

Who made this parenting thing some kind of competition and evaluation of self-worth? I'm not a violent person by nature, but I'd like to kick their asses.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grizzly Jack's

Tomorrow the family and I leave for Grizzly Jack's in Utica, IL for MacTroll's family reunion. There are no kids on my side of the family, so this is X-man's shot at playing with all of his cousins. We're particularly close to the cousins from Baltimore, and we missed our Memorial Day trip to see them this year. But we're also seeing cousins from Michigan and California that X-man has only met once or twice before. Reviews for the lodge have been very mixed on the adult side, but most of the kids we know who have been thought it was fine, and for four days, that's pretty much what's important. We have two rental house-like places for 18 of us to stay. There's an indoor amusement park and an indoor water park. Starved Rock State Park is across the street, so we're investigating some walks.

I've been on a mission to reel in the eating since Monday. It's working out okay, but most of my physical activity has been household labor like tree digging and mulching in crazy hot weather. But Utica isn't exactly filled with non-fast food places or with chains that have met the calorie printing provision, so I'm packing in my own food -- just to be safe. It helps that there are kitchens, so I can take along my little blender and my popcorn maker. I decided rather than look like an ass and cook my own dinners separately from the pizza and grill out that is bound to happen, that I'll just take my meals in the box from HMR.

I'm also taking walking shoes, so I can head out and about. The hardest part of all of this is going to be leaving Lily for four days. We have an overnight petsitter coming to the house, and Super Shanna is going to drop by twice on Tuesday and twice on Wednesday. But I still feel guilty. But since she doesn't get her second booster until the 15th, it's really safer for her to stay home than go with us into the land of nature.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes. We roll out of town Monday in the afternoon and will return Thursday by 11 a.m. I've got Rotary at noon and then on Friday, we're taking X-man to Carrie Busey to eat in the cafeteria for breakfast at 8 a.m. as part of the free food for kids  summer program. Then at 10 a.m., MacTroll and I are taking everyone in the Black and White Mafia (and their newest canine member) to the vet for annual check ups. Just imagine us with three geriatric cats and a puppy... while X-man plays with KTDID.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chew on the MONKEY!

We have entered the chewing/biting phase of puppydom over here. Our dog has a bitey stage around 6 a.m. and one around dinner time.

She's lost at least 4 puppy teeth, so we keep giving her different toys and bones to chew on. But when she goes NUTS she goes nuts. My favorite when she gets chewy and MacTroll gives her commands she doesn't know yet. She understands sit. Now I'm working on down. And she's getting the idea of come -- when she wants to... But Drop and Leave it... aren't quite there yet. :-)

But she'll try to nip at anything: the fatty part of your underarm, your breast, toes. Oh, and she's one of those dogs like on TV cartoons that wants to take her bones out in the yard and bury them. Seriously.

It's hilarious. I saw her do it in the sandbox, before I retrieved the bone and decided we'd only give them to her when she's crated.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thing 1 and Thing 2

I go to physical therapy for my plantar fasciitis issue. They're the same therapists I saw when I found out I had Degenerative Disk Disease. As far as physical therapists go, they're thorough, enjoyable to work with, knowledgeable and really go above and beyond in following up and chasing down physicians for me and contacting my insurance company so that I don't have to deal with that and my depressingly stupid pain. I like them. Plus, it doesn't hurt that according to United HealthCare they're the only approved, in-network PT provider for 40 miles. But perhaps they're the approved provider because they are a tiny little clinic in town, but they are part of a giant corporation of physical therapy clinics. So I'm going to call that giant -- Thing 1.

As it turns out the same time I started therapy for my back last fall, I got a new neighbor. She is the manager of another large corporation for physical therapy that has an office less than a mile from Thing 1. I've only chatted with her a few times, but she is a very nice woman. She, therefore, runs Thing 2. 

Last week, I ran into her out and about on the town. She asked how I was doing, and I mentioned that I was well and some things that were going on in my life, which included that I have plantar fasciitis. And something strange happened. My nice conversation with my neighbor suddenly felt like it was becoming her trying to sell me her skills and practice, which made me horribly uncomfortable. I'm sure she's a fine physical therapist. But really, the hard sell stuff totally turned me the wrong way. 

And now I'm scared to glance in the general direction of her house in case she wants to pop outside to offer me freebies on my foot with her Thing 2 tools and recruit me away from Thing 1. 

I know PTs aren't doctors, but they are medical practitioners. And I get scared when there are corporations like Thing 1 and Thing 2 competing down the road for patients. Rather than focusing on the patient's issue and respecting a patient's decision about choosing a practitioner, it suddenly becomes about grabbing patients from one another, and I hate it more if I suddenly feel like some kind of pawn in the stretching game, where everyone claims my foot comes first, but really it's all about them and their competition. And I will have to admit, PTs are some of the most competitive people I've ever met no matter where I've met them from (Rockford, Champaign, Alexandria, etc.)

The killer part was that when I injured my foot, I rechecked the UHC web site to see if Thing 2 was available. I thought maybe it would be a chance to get to know my urban-shy neighbor better. (Urban-shy is the name I give to folks who move here from big cities and don't wave at their neighbors or come out of their houses because they're not sure how to deal with people -- or don't want to deal with people.) Thing 2 wasn't listed as being in-network, so I called Thing 1.  

That night she kept insisting she is approved and had UHC clients and I should call the insurance agency and check and come on in to have her do her magic... But at Thing 1 -- they do that for me, don't use a hard sell and get the job done. 

So I guess I'm happy. It could be worse, right? I could have gone for the totally unapproved and super expensive Cat in the Hat (i.e. Carle). :-) That would have been way more than my $30 copay. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

School of Fishies

I've been throwing around ideas for my classroom at home left and right. I am going to be teaching the 2.5-3 year old classroom (Clownfish) at MMO in the fall. I've got a lot of work to do and things to prepare. Thankfully, we came up with the themes for the fall with our director at our first meeting, so I've got something to go on. I just need to get to the Idea store to make some of them come true... and then there's my classroom.

They've given me the second biggest space, which is great. It means we'll have room for a lot of things, but it also means I'll need to figure out a way to set it up to not have the kids running through the room. I get to go in and see what's there in August, so I'm excited. I'll get to clean and decorate and work on room design and structure.

I love this kind of work. The organization, the implementation, the adaption. It hits all of my strengths. But right now, I'm exhausted. Apparently shopping at the garden center, planting a tree, going to the pool, doing house crap and then going to t-ball exhausts an old lady.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You're Guess is as Good as Mine

On Oct. 1 at 10:30 p.m. I should be lining up in a gated corral with a couple thousand random people to do the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. But I'm a little nervous. You see, I should be officially starting to train this weekend, but instead, I'm still gimping along.

The fascia pain has moved from the lower arch of my foot to the back of the heel and (yikes) a bit into the achilles and the calf muscle. I've stayed off of it running for the last week. And I've been barely breaking 5 miles in walk/run per week. Therefore, I made an appointment with the Sports Medicine big wig over at Carle for 11 a.m. on July 26. He'll do an X-ray and tell me what's up.

I have to tell you. I'm a bit scared. But we'll see. Maybe I'm just a big impatient whiner... but if he cancels my half marathon, I'm still freaking going to Disney for the weekend with my friends. I have a plane ticket and a hotel room... so, um, I'm there.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Pink, Pink, Pink Day

Enjoy your reds, whites and blues you lucky yous. 

I have pink eye. 

So, I'll be hanging out at home while MacTroll celebrates this Independence Day with the munchkin. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

To Chicago and Back

Yesterday, X-man and I drove up to my sister's place in Chicago in Rogers Park. She lives six blocks from the beach, so we walked over there and stood around in Lake Michigan (brrrr!) while X-man swam and then we all built some sand castles and watched the planes fly over us advertising the new Smurfs movie.

After the beach, we walked back to her place where we got cleaned up and headed over to dinner at Leona's. They are veggie friendly and have a kid's room with TVs playing, some toys and a seating area. X-man played in there until dinner came, ate and then went back in while we waited for the check. I looked up and saw him pick up wooden blocks and start throwing them at three children watching the movie. And, of course, one of them hit some poor little girl in the chest. I was up and in the room in three seconds, but I still got the look of death from the girl's mother.

WTF, child? I mean really? I took him back to the table and read him the riot act. And the thing that drives me insane is that when I ask him why he did it, the only answer I get is "I don't know."


After we dropped my sister off, we headed down Lake Shore Drive to our hotel. I booked a double bed tiny room through at the Chicago Hilton near Grant Park, completely thinking that the Taste of Chicago was last week (It's this week). But it turns out that it was perfect placement. The deal also had parking included (normally $55 a night, I got it for $25). But when we got up to the registration desk, we'd been upgraded to a junior executive suite, which overlooked the Shedd and the Field Museum. X-man had a fold out couch, which was nice, but he got too scared to sleep in it by himself, so he cuddled up with me. He was so tired that he ended up wetting the bed -- my bed. So I moved him to the fold out bed. I ended up staying awake at 4:30 a.m. when this happened. I got into the shower at 6 a.m., only to realize the only towels in my room were hand towels. Oops.

After the shower, I started to get an aura in my vision, so I laid down and fell asleep until X-man woke up at 7:30 a.m. The aura was gone, but I still had some pain and cloudiness behind the left eye. I managed to get us up and out the door and on the road by 8:15 a.m. Much to X-man's dismay. He wanted to stay in the city longer. We stopped in Kankakee for breakfast at the IHOP. I find it funny that they only have calories for their "lower calorie" items on the menu. If you get a full breakfast, it's like you understand you're sealing you're own fate. The interesting part was that when I told X-man I had good news and that we'd be stopping for breakfast, he asked what the bad news was. I told him I didn't have any. He said, "I do. I hit a girl with a block. I won't do that ever again." Okay, well, at least something sunk in.

Then we pulled up at our house at 11:15 a.m. Lily apparently missed us, because we got mauled. And it looks like MacTroll spent his night alone consuming cocktails and preparing his smoked meat for our family Canada day today.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lily's First Vet Trip

As it turns out there is something Lily hates more than cars... going to the vet. :-) We knew there had to be some issues in there, right?

She was not happy about having to show her teeth or get her ears checked. She didn't get mean or anything, she just got scared and struggled a bit.

I'm running a poop sample up there today, because I forgot one yesterday. But Dr. Mary looked at her sutures from her spay and decided she needed to keep them for another week. She also asked me to keep her way from unknown dogs that may not have their vaccinations until she gets her next set of boosters. This makes sense to me. :-) So we set up appointments on July 7 for suture removal with a tech, and Lily will go into the vet with the black and white mafia of cats on July 15, which is fitting, since she's now a de facto part of them. Luke was the first one to give in, which I kind of figured. Nyssa finally gave her approval yesterday when Lily walked up to her. Instead of hissing, they touched noses and went on their way. The only hold out is from The Don -- Clawdio. He's still annoyed by her mere presence, and the puppy is not allowed to gaze in his general direction without the whole, "Are you lookin' at me?" monologue going on...

Dr. Mary was also able to say that she thinks the rescue group was probably right on her age within 3 weeks. Her teeth aren't loose, which usually happens around four months, but we'll know more if they're loose or starting to fall out on the 15th. She also said something that made my husband very excited -- that for her husband's birthday, she did a breed type test on her dog. :-) Her partner, Dr. Sandra ran the test on her family dog for her husband for Christmas. MacTroll had been talking about the one he saw in the Sky Mall catalog, which made me snort. But I do understand his intellectual curiosity.

Besides the answering the obvious question that we'll get asked from now until Lily's end of days about what kind of dog she is, there are some actual medical benefits to knowing that information for both our dog and others. First of all, it is possible for mixed breeds to suffer from illnesses known to be predominate in specific breeds, even if they're only 25 percent of that breed. Mary said she ran the test on a dog that came back a quarter doberman. When the dog got sick, she was able to figure out a diagnosis for the animal very quickly regarding an illness that has a high frequency within the doberman population. She said she never would have though the dog was doberman at all, so it was very helpful. The company that our vet uses also uses the blood in some kind of experimental blood bank to do research on certain blood diseases based on the breed analysis.

When the rescuers looked at Lily they thought retriever/poodle mix. The vet sees maybe sheltie/border collie because her ears aren't flat they perk up -- and something else. Similar to X-man's two year peds appointment where Dr. See guesstimated X-man's grown size (around 5'11 to 6'1), there's a similar weight estimation for puppies -- to multiply her  body weight at 4 months by 2 (I think I remembered that right). Yesterday, Lily weighed in at 18 lbs. So that 40-65 lb estimate from the rescue looks to hold true.

I mentioned my morning experience with the door smacking to go out at 3 months. Dr. Mary smiled. And said that house training can happen early with really smart dogs. She reiterated the border collie sentiment regarding the ears.

I decided to run a little test this a.m. on the whole experience to see if Lily is really coming up with a schedule and if she's getting to the point where I can call her housetrained.

For the last two nights she's fallen asleep at 9:45 p.m. It's all she can do to stay awake long enough for me to put X-man to bed, run the dishes and turn off the lights. She follows me into the bedroom, jumps up on the bed and passes out. She's so asleep that Clawdio and Nyssa will come up and lie within a foot of her  (on me, of course) for rubs while she's there without acting upset.

She wakes up at 4:15 a.m. and crawls over to my chest to lick my face. I get up and take her outside. She pees and comes back inside. Yesterday, I just stayed up. This morning, I put food in her dish and went back upstairs. I laid in bed for 30 more minutes, when Lily comes bounding into my room, stands at the end of the bed and whines. There's that whole idea that when you give a kid a bottle, you'll have to change his diaper within 10 minutes because if stuff goes in, stuff has to go out... well, it's the same with Lily. In goes the food, so out must come the poop.

So, I got up and followed her around the yard for 4 minutes, and boom, she poops.

She came, found me, signaled her need and got rewarded for her behavior with praise. And I got a primo poop sample for the vet. :-) So, that's two days in a row. We'll see if it happens tomorrow like this, too.

But on the same note, she's also figured out she can fit through the "cat door" on the gate to the laundry room, and has been trying to help herself to extra "snacks" in the litter boxes when she's bored. She's also, right now, trying to get Luke to play with her. And he's not very excited about that idea. I have been trying to use her brain a bit. I taught her to sit yesterday. She doesn't get it on the first command (it takes a bit to channel the word from her brain to her wiggly puppy butt). But she does totally get it.

So that's all the excitement from puppy land. MacTroll gets a night alone with her on Saturday, while X-man and I run up to Chicago to spend some time with my sister (hopefully at the beach). And yes, someone can smack me for thinking the taste was going to be over by July 4 weekend. When your business is tourism, holiday timeframe does make a lot of economic sense. So, hopefully besides the drive to our hotel after the beach, we won't be put out too much.