Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Elephant and Piggie

I'm going to claim Mo Willems as my favorite children's author right now. Not just because I find the Knuffle Bunny stories sweet or the Pigeon stories HILARIOUS, but because Elephant and Piggie are totally our favorite stories to read around here. Usually, I have to do some mild tap dancing to get X-man to read to me at night.

But with Elephant and Piggie -- I read Elephant's part and X-man reads Piggie's parts. And we go through the books. All of the books. And he loves them. He particularly likes when Pigeon ends up as drawings on the end sheets.

He's reading words I didn't know he could read like "crazy" and "happening" and "broke." And the stories make him laugh.

So, if you're trying to check out Elephant and Piggie books from the Heartland System or from Carrie Busey Elementary School, we have about 7 at our house right now. I promise to return them as soon as possible.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wishes

There are many, many fine fitness centers in the area. I've done group classes and massages at Mettler. I've been a member at the Fitness Center where I took classes, used their cardio and weight machines, had a Bodyworks Massage, sat in their sauna and received some personal pilates training. I've visited the Refinery and did their Body Attack and Body Pump classes but was too embarrassed to ever go downstairs and make use of their machinery. I've been a Family Member at the Savoy Recreation Center for the last year and a half. I've taken some of their classes, run a lot on their track, made use of all of their machines and child room, done personal training through iPower there and signed up my child for a lot of their programming. I've done personal training through Synergistic Effects as well as her circuit classes. I took exercises classes in the Urbana Park District and the Champaign Park District. I've had a membership to both Sholem and the Urbana Aquatic Center and I've taken semi private pilates instruction through the pilates center downtown. For a semester, I was even a member at the ARC, until I broke my foot and couldn't swim.

In other words, I've gotten around. Today, I toured the new YMCA, and I'm sure it's going to do well. It's new and it's gotten a lot of community support (everyone's name is pretty much on EVERYTHING from wall plaques to banners to charter memberships). When we first walked in X-man was very excited because he could see the pool right away with the water slide and the alligator in it. I liked the large family bathroom that I could use with him. He was curious about the rock wall. And I was overwhelmed by the number of weight and cardio machines. I don't know if I have enough concentration left to be able to decide what I'd want to do and to find where it was. But then I walked into the group exercise area. The first thing I saw was a very fit blonde on a cellphone... from the back. I sighed. I like that body, I thought. Then I walked into the next room and saw a giant Les Mills BodyVive poster. Oooh... Les Mills and I remembered my favorite Les Mills class at the Refinery and the Fitness Center and my favorite teacher who taught it. "I really need to reconnect with Melissa. She's just the summer time chipper I'm going to need when I get my life back at the end of the school year."

We roamed around the rest of the building and ended up going through the locker room to the pool area. And boom, "Loosey?"

I turn around and there is the hot blond, but this time I can see her face. It's Melissa, and she's wearing make up and her hair isn't in a ponytail and she's not in her vibrant hot pink Nikes. OMG. I was so happy. So she and I talked for 15 minutes. Turns out she's the new director of wellness at the YMCA. I think that's awesome because she's perfect for it between her fitness experience and being a social worker in a past life. I did josh her a little about the fact that the "wellness room" was sponsored by Jimmy John's (no lie, I took a photo of it because it made me laugh). Nothing like a fast food chain sponsoring a wellness room.

Anyway, what I was hoping the Y would have was six month memberships, so that in the fall, I could sign up with X-man and have some place to swim and have childcare when the weather gets cold. They don't. MacTroll had already said as we hit Church and Mattis that we were driving too far. :-) (He's a total townie for someone whose never actually in town.) But I don't need a pool until I have time to go, which means September. Because let's face it, I can swim outside this summer at Sholem.

The other ugly part was the price tag. Since you can't purchase just a partial membership to only use some services or a partial year, for a family membership would be $978 a year.

 I know there is no pool, but for the Savoy Recreation Center, which is 3/4 of a mile from my house, with the Feb. 1-March 31 Family Membership Special, I pay $245 for a year. Non Savoy Residents can get family memberships for $400 a year. And then, if I can figure out my lap swimming schedule, I can go over to the Urbana Aquatic Center and swim for a $45 punch card.

But here's the deal, the new Y is exciting, particularly for those in SW Champaign. X-man looked at the climber in the kids room and got excited, but I'm not sure how many days that excitement is going to last. I could join in the fall for $810 just for X-man and myself, and have the extra bonus of hitting Melissa's Les Mills classes, but I guess I have to prove to myself that I'm really getting back into my 60-90 minutes of exercise a day. I got 90 minutes in yesterday and 75 in today, that's a start, right?... Now if I can just keep going when MacTroll is gone and I have two weeks of Parent/Teacher conferences eating up my days.

I stopped scheduling my "Me" time much too long ago. And now I'm struggling to get it back and figuring out the best fit with my work schedule and energy level. I am happy to have so many good options, but at the same time, I'm frustrated that I can't get what I want custom made to what I need all in one place, particularly since there are so many fitness places in town.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Looking Forward

So here's the deal. Should I sell my house, I'm going to have a mess of housewares and furniture to unload, because I know -- right now -- that I'll never have a house in California as big as mine. Plus, um, some of the things in my house I got when I got married 12 years ago... and in all honesty, there's no sense paying thousands of dollars to move old stuff across country. That just seems -- well, stupid.

So, from time to time I'll post things that I'm planning to unload before we go. If you like them, and you live nearby let me know. I'll post what I think I want for them, you tell me if that's a deal, or if you have a counter offer. If no one takes them, then off to Goodwill or the Restore it will go.

Now, if you're a friend of mine and you know you have something of mine you think you might like... let me know. We'll see if we can come to an agreement about the exchange, and I will literally go put a sticker with your name on it for after we sell our house.

Seriously... this summer/fall will be all about cleaning house to make it look less stuffy. And the Tolono Public Library is probably about to get a gigantic bunch of DVDs from us.

Red Shirt Guy

So when I started running with Special K at the Armory in the winter of 2009, there was this guy. He looked to be in his early 60's who was starting to run, too. He and I ran and walked and worked up our endurance together, then the warm weather hit and I stopped going to the Armory, but I'd see him over at Meadowbrook Park on occasion. And every time he runs, red shirt and black shorts.

In winter 2010 when I started training for the half marathon, he was there, too. We were both noticeably slimmer and we ran the exact same pace. I know most 30-something runners would be appalled to know they were keeping pace with someone old enough to be their father, but hell, we were both improving. No walking and we'd keep it up. We must have been on the same training regimen.

When I ran the half marathon, I was so excited to see him. Now, keep in mind, Red Shirt Guy and I have never spoken. We've never smiled at each other. I wonder if he even notices me, the way I know him. He ended up finishing 10 minutes faster than me (I remembered his race number), since my foot was giving out.

Flash forward to February 2012. It's the first time I've been on the track all winter due to my broken foot, an unseasonably warm winter and random stuff that keeps taking place at the Armory (like the RC airplane fest) on weekends when I can run. I walk in at 9:15 a.m. An hour later than I used to. And guess who's there. Red Shirt Guy. He's noticeably trimmer. And he's gone from running a 11:45-minute mile pace for distances to a 10-minute mile pace. Want to know how I know?

I got behind him, like 10 feet behind him. At the first mile mark I was at a 9:45. What? I haven't run that fast since March 2010. Mmmm. Why is he getting off the track?

I hate running without people in front of me. I'd like to say this is my "strategy" when I run races, but really, running for me is 98 percent mental. If I get bored, it's a lousy run. And, well, even just noticing other runners gaits is enough brain capacity to keep me NOT noticing what I'm doing.

I didn't have high hopes of running long today. I have a lot of things to get done and, well, I didn't make it to the gym pretty much all week. I also missed Kari's circuit class on Saturday because I woke up with the worst sinus headache.  But I figured I'd squeeze a 5k in and go home. Nothing big, but I signed up to run one on the morning of March 10th, so I might as well make sure I can actually run the whole stupid thing.

After Red Shirt Guy left the track, I continued around and I remembered I left my leaky water bottle on the coat rack horizontal after I hung it up. I swung by the racks, grabbed it and put it upright on a garbage can. I noticed he must have gotten off the track, taken a drink of gatorade (he's obviously doing the half marathon again, if not the full) and gotten right back on. So, I waited for him to pass me and then I fell in line behind him. Next half mile we were at a 9:48. And I have to admit, I wasn't feeling winded. I was actually quite pleased. Then he got off the track again. Wow, I used to fuel ever 4 miles when I did the half, so roughly every 45 minutes. Doing it every half mile seemed odd. And then I had a thought. Maybe I was the jackass "pushing" him. So I took off on my own and naturally, I got bored and I slowed down. 9:53... 9:55. My total 5k was just under 10-minute miles(9:58 per mile). 31 minutes has always been my average 5k. My PB which expires this March is 29:25. I hope to one day break that 30-minute mark again.

As for Red Shirt Guy, I'm guessing he can keep it up for the whole half marathon, since he didn't have a giant injury/defective body breakdown. He got back on the track half a lap behind me and he stayed there, without me charging up his heels or breathing hard from behind. I'm proud of him, and I'm sorry if I annoyed him today. And I hope that I'm able to get my shit together so I can run a half at a 10-minute pace. Things to work toward.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dinner Bell

I made a curry tonight from Vegetarian Times. I was supposed to use yellow curry, but I went to three different stores and could only find red or green... and I had red at home, so I decided to just suck it up and use it. Plus, it was very good on a warm night. If you want, you can cook some rice and add it to the soup to make it more dense, but I just used the vegetables, figuring there was enough starch in the potatoes.

1 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed (2.5 cups)
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch thick half moons (1.5 cups)
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbs. coconut oil
1 med onion, chopped (1.25 cups)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)
2.5 tbs. yellow curry paste (again, I used red)
1 tbs. cashew butter (you can get this at the Coop in the self serve containers so you don't have to pay a mint for a whole freaking jar), especially, since you only need such a small amount. But it's not peanuts!
1 13.5 oz can of light coconut milk
1 tsp sugar
1 red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
2 tbs. thinly sliced basil leaves
1 tbs. lime juice

Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook potatoes for 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water. Put in carrots and boil them for 10 minutes. Repeat removal with slotted spoon. Add green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Remove them with slotted spoon.

In a large pot heat coconut oil. Add onion and cook for 7 minutes (or until starting to brown). Stir in garlic, curry paste and cashew butter and cook for 1 minute. Pour in coconut milk, 1/2 cup of water and sugar. Simmer.

Add potatoes, carrots and bell pepper and simmer for 10 minutes until bell peppers soften. Add green beans and basil and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in lime juice and serve.

1-cup serving is 240 calories, 4 grams of protein, 13 grams of total fat, 5 grams of fiber, no cholesterol and 316 mg of sodium.

And it tasted good to MacTroll and I, but X-man isn't into soups, so he just ate grapes and crescent rolls. Nice, right?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prairie Fields Playground

One of the hard conversations I have with myself over a potential move to California is the anxiety that X-man will feel about the relocation. He already has some issues with transitions at school -- and, well, this is a major life transition. So, we talk about it as a family from time to time, but we don't talk about it as if it's a foregone conclusion, because let's face it. If we don't sell our house, we could be here for years... It's just the way it is, and just because it takes me years to be comfortable with a subject doesn't not mean that everyone needs that much time to warm up to a concept and organize their lives for it.

But now that I've got my Sunshine Pills we're putting "sunny" in the plus category not as an "extra bonus" but as a "health care" positive about moving. :-)

When we lived in Prairie Fields, a friend of mine worked for the village and built the Prairie Fields Playground. He's a very nice man. And he did a stellar job. I didn't know him then, but in our house, we celebrate that park and the people who built it every day. I always said that I saw no point in putting a jungle gym in the yard when we can just walk to a giant park.

X-man has grown up at that park. He learned to cruise in the toddler area at that park. It was his first slide and his first outdoor swing. These are the memories I'll always have of Savoy.



A couple weeks ago when we had a day of nice weather, X-man and I walked over to the park for our first visit in 2012. We played our usual "fireman" pretend play game. We climbed the climbing wall and looked out over the construction that will be Carrie Busey in the fall. We watched kite flyers in the soccer field and visited with some neighbors. And I wonder if it'll be this way in California. I wonder if it'll feel so comfortable, so much like home. 

I hope so. 





Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Body Breakdown

So in December and January, I noticed that I was feeling fatigue again. On top of the wanting to roll over and sleep from 2 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day every morning, I realized I was carb loading. I thought it was to stay awake from the fatigue. So, my doc ordered some bloodwork.

My ferritin level is still holding in the low end of the "normal," but I popped up moderately vitamin D deficient. Like enough so that the over the counter supplement won't help and I have to pick up a prescription to consume 50,000 units of vitamin D for the next 8 weeks. They call it the "sunshine" pill.

So here's hoping that in 2 months... I'll be back up to norm. But the side effects include feelings of fatigue, high feelings of anxiety, depression and often carb-based overeating. Shock!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Me and My Boy






Sunday, February 19, 2012

Family Fun

Saturday was a special Carrie Busey/Westview School event at Parkland Community College. The Men and Women's Basketball Teams were playing and the children were invited to attend for free and to take part in a variety of activities. X-man passed on entering into the chance to pull the rope in the school tug-a-war competition. There was also an obstacle course at the end of the game that the principals competed in. Although X-man did like the flurry of activity and seeing a lot of his buddies from both schools in the same place, most of all -- he loved spending time with his Dad.

And really, I'm all for that. Cause he's a pretty awesome Dad to have.

The night before X-man spent the night at a friend's house. He'd spent the night at Quigs' and Awesome Idaho's houses before, but he's known them since he was a toddler, so they're kind of like extensions of our house... but this was a child he's mostly gotten to know in kindergarten (even though they were in the same pre-school class). 

On the way over, X-man ate a soft pretzel bagel, which can only mean one thing: 


He lost his second tooth -- eating a soft pretzel -- just like the first. The tooth fairy delivered him his $2 that night during the sleepover. And apparently, his friend's Mom makes AWESOME pancakes. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Emotional Attachment

I had to say goodbye to my first student today at her birthday party. It was hard enough on Friday putting all of her classroom items into a bag to send home with Mom. Even though I know the reason why she's leaving the school has nothing to do with me, I'm sad that she's not in my class any more.

I'll still see her and her family when they bring her baby sister to our nursery. And I know at her new school she'll get all the services she needs to grow successfully, but it doesn't make the separation any easier.

She had a wonderful third birthday party and I was so happy to get to enjoy it with her and a few of my other Clownfish friends.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Admittances

So I have to tell you a series of things I've been thinking about lately. Some are good. Some are lousy. It's just the way life is.

1) My son is really stealing my heart these days. We celebrated Valentine's Day yesterday before MacTroll left to go to D.C., but today I picked him up a special balloon from Schnuck's before I picked him up from his play date with Power Ranger. The two of them have been hitting it off really well, and it looks like X-man has an invitation to spend the night with them this Friday. I'm thinking it's going to go pretty okay. But at night, I lay with him in his bed and he tells me about his day. He asks questions about my day. We read stories and talk about the stories. He laughs. He snuggles. He tells me he wishes he could marry me, because he can't imagine loving anyone as much as he loves me. It's all very sweet. He told me tonight he wanted to grow up to be a toy engineer. I told him he needed to take classes in science, math and art. He thought he could do that...

2) I totally adore my MMO children. Seriously. I haven't completely decided what I'm going to do next year given that we may have to put our house up for sale, and I'll need to stay on top of things and spend the time X-man is in school to keep the place pristine. I'm terrible at such things. But I've been wondering, am I really good in a 2-3 year old room, or is it just these amazing little people I get to see every day. If I did choose to teach again, would I want to stay in that room, or would I request to move up so I could have the same students? 

3) I'm getting excited about the summer. Mostly about having free time. I want to sign up X-man for 1/2 day camp most of the summer, so I can get some time to myself to work out. I'm hoping since I'm currently uninjured (knock on wood) that I'll be able to get through the summer getting back to my pre-work/pre-injury workout schedule 75-90 minutes six days a week. Because, apparently, that's what it's going to take, since the hormones in my body seem to be conquering my will power about eating. 

4) Walking Lily is a good time, but today, I got to walk her for 60 minutes around Prairie Fields. We saw seven school buses dropping off kids while we walked (including X-man's bus -- but he was on his play date with Power Ranger). At every sign a bus was stopping near us, Lily would sit (still wiggling) and watch the door open and look for her boy. And darn if she didn't confused every single time as to why NONE of those kids were her kid.

5) I gave all of the candy I got for Valentine's Day/Birthday to my son. Well, after I dove nose first into a box of chocolates that came and ate them in one sitting. This is what happens when you have trigger foods. You think -- I'll just have one. And then boom -- they're all gone. It was my birthday, so I'm trying not to beat myself up for it. But I know I'll see the damage at weigh in on Thursday, and my winter coat, it feels snug in the hips. Sigh. Why do I self sabotage?

6) This weekend is a 3-day weekend, which is good because it's a grand slam bunch of events on Saturday and Sunday. It's all good (hair cut, birthday party, Center for Children's Book Pre-sale, etc.) So I'm glad that we'll have Monday to sort it all out and get some rest. 

7) I think I adopted a dog that's going to have to have her anal glands squeezed just like Riley... 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ahhh, Monday

You know you've gone off the deep end when you have the world's best and most productive Monday-- only to wake up at 3 a.m. to discover that it was all a dream. I got up, I peed. I went back to bed and there I lay tossing and turning with my eyes shut until 3:45 a.m.

At 4 a.m. I said fuck it and got up. At 4:15 a.m., I left my house and went out for a 40-minute interval run. Of all of my friends whose homes I ran by the only one that had its lights on was the Lilleygirl.

I got home, wrote valentine's for my students, did some laundry and then MacTroll stomped down the stairs with Lily in tow at 5:45 a.m.

I showered and got dressed and took out the garbage. Now I just have to stay awake through work, volunteering at X-man's school and cooking the lasagna tonight. Then I can pass out nice and early.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tomorrow Better be Friday

This week could not have been any more full. First, I missed my friend's Superbowl Party on Sunday because I was just exhausted. I felt terrible. So while the boys were out enjoying the game and the food festivities, I sat at home and did laundry, the dishes and chilled out on the couch watching Forks Over Knives.

On Monday, we had the MMO Open House. So I spent all day pretty much at work cleaning up my room and making it look like 19 two year olds didn't tear it apart every day. 

Then on Tuesday, my free hours were eaten up by a 75-minute trip to the DMV to renew my license. I got to finally update my weight to something beginning with a 1 and I got to take the sight restriction off of my license thanks to passing the eye test (Go Eye Surgical Associates and your phenomenal Lasek job!) Later that night, I had to run out the door to the Library for my monthly board meeting.  

On Wednesday, the boys and I had our first night together this week. I don't know what I was thinking, but I wanted something warm and cheesy so I had pizza... the night before weigh in. I'd been pretty good all week, outside of the fact that I hadn't gotten any physical activity in since my weekly Sunday walk with a friend. 

Today, I got up at 5 a.m. and went to the C-U Sunrise Rotary that meets at the Hawthorne Suites. Everyone there was really crazy chipper way too early in the morning. They must be heavy coffee users. No one bought pancake and sausage breakfast tickets from me. :-( I've only sold four, and I have six more to go. Then after work, I had to go to my regular Rotary Meeting. Then I went to the U of I because tomorrow I start taking part in a week-long study for the Department of Kinesiology. Today, I filled out some forms and answered some questions. Tomorrow, I put a monitor on my waist and wear it every waking moment except when I'm in the shower or sleeping. For my efforts I get $15. Woot! But it's a study on the activity of Moms... Afterwards, I came home and went to the gym and lifted weights for 45 minutes and did a 10-minute walk. Then I rushed and made the boys dinner: Chicken and Goat Cheese Strudel from Clean Eating. MacTroll said he loved it. Just as a side, I didn't have any ground chicken so I just used chicken breast cut into strips. Then I ran out the door to my weight management meeting, where I apparently lost 2 lbs since last week, no thanks to that pizza. When I got home, we took X-man back to campus so he could start swim lessons. Unfortunately, he had to switch teachers do to scheduling, so now he has Ms. Casey.

That means tomorrow is Friday, right? After school I get to have lunch with Quigs, which is awesome, because we haven't lunched forever. Then I'm picking up X-man (he's happy to be a car rider). I drop him off at home and I scurry over to the University where I'm taking part in a psych study on weight loss and maintenance with the Psychology Department. Then I get to come home and make something for the Fat Ass Potluck and then go to the movies with Rogers. 

So, you know, my life is being lived... while I go from place to place to place... Thank goodness MacTroll just took my car in for a check up, oil change and new tires.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Damn Animals!

So, I think I wrote a few weeks ago that Lily, our dog, has learned how to open doors that open inward. That means if you shut a bedroom door with her in the hall, she knows how to jump up and hit the handle so the door opens.

Turns out, our almost 12 year old cat, Luke, has also learned this trick.

We had been shutting our bedroom door (with Lily on the inside) but Luke on the outside because Luke has decided (since we used to get up at 4:30 a.m. to take Lily out when she was a smaller puppy) that 4:30 a.m. should be wake up time. So, every morning at 4:30 he comes in and wakes up the dog by doing full body dive rolls on her head and purring like a truck. Lily wakes up and starts whining and pawing at the bed to go out. Without the interruption, she sleeps peacefully until 6 or 6:30 a.m.

We thought we solved this problem by just shutting the door. But now Luke is opening the door and coming in to wake her up -- and the problem continues. Now we're going downstairs, filling the food bowl with the cats' breakfast, letting Lily out and then bringing her back upstairs, closing the door again, and giving her a toy to play with, which she chews and then goes back to sleep.

Next house is so totally going to have doorknobs and I don't want to lock the door in case X-man needs something in the middle of the night.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Teacher on Deck

Tonight was the Open House at MMO. It went fairly well. I think we had 10-12 families come through for the tour. I took four of them on their tours of the pre-school. The old public relations skills just kind of kicked in. :-)

Anyway, one of the things I like about MMO is the drop in program. I knew about MMO when X-man was a baby, but I didn't use it because in the old program before we started using the Creative Curriculum, we were a church program that did things like -- pray before snack. And that isn't inclusive to me, and it's not what I wanted for my child. So I never went.

When I started to sub there, I was only a sub, so I just ignored the Christian-based kids books in the hall and the fact that the toddler room was also the church's toddler room so it had a giant ark painted on the wall.

But then they changed curriculums to one that is inclusive of ALL religions. We don't pray in our classrooms but if a child brings up his or her beliefs (or the beliefs of her family) that is totally cool. At holiday time we talk about ALL the holidays. And it's interesting to see the kids learn about how different people are and what makes us unique.

But I digress.

So the cool thing about the drop in is that you pay a monthly fee to be a part of the program, but then you only pay for the hours you use, and you don't have set days. So if you need to drop your child off on Monday and Thursday one week, and only Friday the next and maybe the entire week the week after... that's okay! There's a lot of flexibility in it. I gained three new students this semester who were enrolled in drop-in, but they were attending pretty consistently so my director talked to them about switching over to pre-school two or three days a week, since they were coming all the time any way. It's cheaper for families to enroll in pre-school overall, and on the days they're not in school -- they're automatically enrolled in drop in. So if you child comes to my room MWF, but you need care on Tuesday, you can take them to drop in on the day, no problem. The drop in program is available for children ages 6 weeks to pre-K. But pre-school starts roughly at 2-2.5 and goes through Pre-K.

I have really enjoyed working there this year. And after the last set of families filtered out, the teachers went out to El Toro. Those of us who have kids have kid stuff to go to, some of us are in school and working, some of us have two other jobs that we do to make ends meet, so it's often very hard for us to get together socially. But tonight, we had nine people at a table at El Toro, and it was lovely to sit down and have a margarita with them.

I really do love my job. And I had to think tonight, is it the age group that I love or am I really just excited about the children that I'm teaching?

Either way, I'm very happy at MMO, and if I'd had this job and a smaller child, X-man would totally have enjoyed going to school there.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Cooking in the -- Spring?

Yes, I know that Mother Nature has been, um, asleep at the wheel this winter after dishing out last winter's craziness. There hasn't been any sledding or building snowmen or shoveling. Don't tell my cooking magazines that because they've still been dutifully sending me winter-focused recipes including soups and chili. And this week I've made two that are actually worth a damn, so I'm sharing them with you. Yes, they're both vegetarian, but they're filling. So, you know, if you're freezing while it's 56 degrees and sunny on February whatever this week... give one of these a try.

Both are dump and stirs into big pots. They take 25 minutes to prep and around 40 minutes to cook.

Quinoa and Roasted Pepper Chili 

White Bean and Hominy Chili (If you're looking for the Fields Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage, I know they carry it at the Coop. And yes, this one has some spice to it!).

Gender Bullshit

My child is driving me apeshit these days with girl v. boy things. It started a few months ago when a friend of his decided she only wanted girls at her birthday party. And I totally understand this, but X-man was kind of -- shocked. He would have no trouble being the only boy or being surrounded by girls (he takes after his father). But he started taking note of things and apparently the social situation at school has taught him this whole gender thing that has driven me nuts.

For example, he has a poster that he got from another birthday party last year that has the Disney Princesses on it. We hung it up in his room so he'd look at it and think of his friend. Then we had a friend over who saw it and made fun of him for it. And the first word out of my kid's mouth wasn't, "It makes me think of my friend." It was, "I'm going to tear that up."

Sigh.

Then I was at Meijer in the clearance aisle and I found some clearance Tag reader books. Those things retail for $15 each, so the fact that they had a selection for $3.50 was a big deal. I took home a Tiana and the Frog book and a Diego Undersea Adventures book. He totally gave me grief about Tiana. I offered to read it with him, and then it was okay. But at Skate night at school, we ran into another one of his friends who saw that they were having a princess night and he was disgusted. Again, I totally get that princesses aren't my kid's favorite things. I'm totally okay with that. But here again, he joined the boy bandwagon and began dissing on the princesses with his friend. It was a cultural norm. Big shock, that for the next 5 years girls will be some kind of enemy. Sigh.

And all the years I spent explaining that there are no girl toys and boy toys there are just toys went right out the window. Then this morning as Bubba and X-man were eating their breakfast, I brought home special donuts. Bubba asked for chocolate donut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. X-man asked for a vanilla donut with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Well, Schnuck's was out of vanilla donuts except for the Long John's. So I grabbed one of the colored frosting -- you know it's vanilla but with food coloring in it. The choices, because it's near Valentine's Day were pink and purple. I grabbed the purple one.

My child refused to eat it. Bubba could have cared less that his donut had little pink sprinkles and red hearts on it. Maybe it's because he was happy it was a donut. Maybe it's because he has a little sister. Maybe it's because Bubba has really liked the color pink over time. But my child was throwing a fit -- over deep purple. He finally just got up and went to get a yogurt out of his drawer. When I pointed out that his favorite ice cream (strawberry) was pink and that his favorite yogurt (cherry) was pink was he going to stop eating those -- he sighed and asked if we could just put the donut away for later.

Fast forward four months to now -- when he only wants boys at his party. I limited him to a total of 10 kids this year. Last year was at the Little Gym so we could invite lots of children. But this year is more intimate. I tried to keep it to 8, but he struggled a lot between old friends who he felt should be there and that he loves like family with new friends from school.

He has Lego Club at the Orpheum today. They have it the first Sunday of every month. About two weeks ago I got a call from someone from the Orpheum. Apparently, she was calling because there were two kids in Lego Club bullying X-man. They wouldn't let him talk when he was explaining his project. They made fun of what he created at show and tell time, and they were what MacTroll described as being rather "disruptive" to everyone. The Orpheum woman was very concerned that X-man wasn't going to come back because the college kids that were working the Club said that the kids made X-man cry. I asked if X-man had done anything to provoke the words. Was he keeping his hands to himself? Was he acting crazy because he was so excited? The woman said, "No." But my child was the only one that cried. Since this was what was happening at school and related to some of his anxieties, I took a deep breath and thanked her for letting me know. MacTroll hasn't told me he'd been crying at pick up. Apparently, the kids were still picking on him at the end of club to the point where X-man didn't even want to pick the few free Legos they get to pick out at the end of the class. He just put on his coat and wanted to go. MacTroll played with him in the museum for an extra half hour.

This morning when X-man and I were playing Legos in his room, he asked if those boys would be back today. I said, probably. The Orpheum lady had also called their parents to tell them if the bullying happened again they would not be welcome back to Lego Club. I told him they were on their last chance. So that if they picked on him again, he should use his words and tell them to stop because it's rude. And if they don't stop after asking to go tell the instructor.

I was at Target the other day looking at the new "Friends" Legos that were made supposedly for girls. The fact that the series has people who look like Polly Pockets wasn't lost on me. But over all they looked very babyish. More like toddler toys with tiny pieces. I mean, if it were me, I'd make a giant castle, a sports car, a treehouse, a science lab, a doctor's office, a school building, etc., and I would have left the regular Lego figures. I'm getting schooled in my classroom about the importance of pink to this generation of little people. So, you could make all those ideas in pink colors, since that will apparently sell like hot cakes. But really -- most of the sets I saw were -- stores for shopping.

I know that boys and girls don't often like the same thing, but how much of this is really innate and how much is just watching how other kids react because that's how they've been socialized? And why does it just take four months to undo all my good work?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lazy Rainy Day

So, I have to admit I've been pretty useless today. I got up and went to Kari's circuit class at 7:30 a.m. Then I ran some errands at the Coop and Schnuck's. I returned put away the groceries, scooped the cats, did the dishes and did some laundry and then I showered. It was 10 a.m.

Then I pretty much stayed in my robe reading Carrie Fisher's new book Shockaholic and playing with my phone or iPad until 3:30 p.m. when I got up, did some more dishes and laundry and did some work for school.

That's 5.5 hours of just lying about.

Right now Bubba is over for a sleepover. He and X-man have been doing quite well. I think it took two hours though for X-man to calm down. He was overexcited and wouldn't just talk to Bubba, he was basically shouting at him in crazed lunacy. Right now the boys are safe in the basement playing Lego Pirates, and I can hear Bubba's giggle coming up the stairs all the way to my bedroom. It's very sweet. MacTroll is in his office playing Civilization.

The reason I'm not downstairs is that I finished eating my allotted food just before 7 p.m. and I know if I go down there I'll eat something. But I also know that I'm not hungry. I'm tired. And a lot of times when I'm home alone, I'll eat from dinner until bedtime from exhaustion to stay awake. It's a wicked habit to unlearn.

So, it's 9:18 p.m. and I'm going to continue being a layabout and turn off the lights and go to sleep and let MacTroll get the boys into bed. I'm sure I'll wake up when they tromp up the stairs to X-man's room.
One of these days, we'll have to pitch the tent in the basement and put the air mattresses down there. But not yet... Maybe in second grade. Right now I like eavesdropping.

My favorite quote came this evening when the boys were in X-man's room playing a game on the computer. X-man was having trouble relinquishing control of the space bar to jump in some game. And Bubba asked very politely if he could do it himself. X-man protested sor MacTroll went in to intervene. Just as he opened the door, X-man looked up at him and said, "It's hard having a brother." :-)

I like that he feels that close to his friends, even if he doesn't get to play with them as much as he would like. It's special these kids he's known since he was a babe.

Friday, February 3, 2012

I'm lying in bed with a MacBook on my lap hungry. It's really pretty sad, but I am -- hungry. I swear I'm looking up food online just to stare at it. It just goes to show that I need to get up, turn off the lights and go to sleep so I can get up for Kari's circuit class tomorrow.

Since I've been sad and nervous and tired since Thanksgiving because of all the craziness that's been going on, I've been doing a lot of emotional eating.

Last night at weight management, I finally looked at the number. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't any surprise, but sometimes, I feel like I do this to myself. Like I need a goal to aspire to. Because I don't know what to do when I get to the place where I'm okay with how things are to stay that way. Life happens and I sabotage. It's pretty terrible.

Anyway, I downloaded the Lose It! App on my phone yesterday during class. Another person uses it and it's free, so I figured I'd go for it. It has one of those barcode scanners that uses your camera to determine what you're eating so you can record faster. I love that!

I've always poo pooed apps because they took a lot of work to do the input or set up "regular food" lists. This one so far has been pretty awesome.

Tomorrow is a slow day, which is good because Sunday is full of crazy fun. In fact, every weekend is full of at least one day of crazy fun from now until -- April 13. Seriously. Isn't that awesome?

The other nice thing this week is that I had two teachers pay me compliments at school. It was really nice of them, and I found it encouraging. One said I was patient and had a good tone. One was complimentary that I wasn't phased by much.

It made my day. And I'm thankful for such a wonderful workplace to go to every day.

Dogs and Cats sleeping together!

Our cat Luke and our dog Riley were in love. We'd find them in pretty affection positions from time to time. For example, I'd carry a laundry basket upstairs, put it down on the bed and be faced with a brown dog and a large black and white cat spooning each other. They both had their heads raised and gave me a look of annoyance like I had walked in during a very intimate conversation. "How Dare You?"

Riley was close with a number of our cats... not at first, but as he aged. Our 4,000-year-old cat Looseyfur used to sleep on the pillow above where Riley was asleep on the bed. It was like she was absorbing his warmth in her little arthritic body. None of the cats minded Riley -- except Clawdio, who would stare down Riley and make him whine in nervousness. 

Riley passed away last June, and I miss him very much, but I am ever so happy we adopted Lily. She is a very sweet and neurotic dog. And although this is a very far away photo taken with my laptop, what you're seeing is a snoozing almost 1-year-old Lily, upside down on our bed, with an almost 12-year-old Luke licking her head. It's not his dear Riley, but clearly he's accepted Lily as part of the family.

And Clawdio? He stares this dog down, too. :-)