Monday, July 8, 2013

California Girl

It's been three weeks since I last posted. There has been a lot going on.

We packed our things, packed a truck, sold our house and got on an airplane with our three cats. We flew to San Francisco and put the cats in a lovely kennel facility for cats only called Mission: Cats.

Then we stayed at a Staybridge Suites in Sunnyvale. The second day we were in California, I insisted that we tour some of the houses in the "outer rim." Just to see what the areas were like. The outer rim is not in the top five areas we thought we'd be in to be "close" to Apple.

As it turns out, one of them was a big surprise. It's called Morgan Hill and it's 20 miles south of San Jose, 10 miles north of Gilroy and about 15 miles from Watsonville on the Pacific Coast. That's right -- the beach.

Morgan Hill is only 40,000 people. So it feels a lot like Urbana. MacTroll and I got a hoot out of the fact that there is a winery right across the street from the high school. Farmers are everywhere, so there's no need for a weekly farmer's market. They have stores open year round, and there's always Upick options.

We toured three houses while we were down there. Two up in the Diablo Mountains. One down in the valley on the west side of the town next to the Santa Cruz mountain range that is right next to a city park with a playground, tennis courts, a small lake, a dog park and the local Community Center which has partnered with the Y. We can walk to the grocery store. It also turns out that the Specialized bike company is headquartered there so the bike lane situation is phenomenal all around the city. There's a small downtown area about a mile and a half away with lots of independent restaurants. And driving is easy. It also turns out that Apple runs buses with Wifi down and picks up employees three times in the morning at the Caltrain terminal and then drops them off in the evening.

That was really hard to beat.

So was the fact that one of the houses we found was 14 years old and had been totally redone and kept up. It's beautiful and a lot more room. It's the most inexpensive house that we put in on (under $1m) and the largest in size. It also comes with a hot tub and a swimming pool. We put a bid in and it was accepted.

The only draw back, is that the Diablo mountains on the east side of town are home to native tarantulas. Tarantula bites are not fatal to humans. But they are creepy looking and from time to time in the fall (how appropriate for Halloween) a tarantula has been known to be seen in the yard. Morgan Hill celebrates the tarantulas with a festival and BBQ every year.

I'm not deathly afraid of arachnids. I totally appreciate what they do (eat bugs and rodents). But I don't like to look at them and I certainly don't want to go to clean the pool filter and find one hiding there (which is, according to some online research, is the female tarantula's favorite spot because she burrows).

The other thing I learned is that the native predator of the tarantulas is a giant wasp, called a Tarantula Wasp. Seriously. And if I thought the tarantula was creepy, the wasp is way worse.

It stings a tarantula repeatedly, but the venom does not kill it. Instead, it paralyzes it. Then the wasp drags it to safety and puts an egg on it. The egg hatches and the new baby wasp literally sucks the life out of the tarantula, while it's still living. However, it avoids eating any vital organs to keep the tarantula alive longer until it's able to fend for itself.

That's just nature being really quite brutal.

It also says that wasps primarily go after fat and happy, larger, female tarantulas because during mating season in the fall when the most tarantulas are exposed, the men are all bony and gross because they starve themselves while trying to find a mate.

Ain't that a load of fun? Anorexic, sex-crazed, male tarantulas.

Sorry, I digress.

We close on the new house on August 7. This week we've been in Willow Glen in a VRBO. On Thursday night we spend one night at a Kimpton Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Then we go up to spend a week on Stinson Beach north of Muir Woods. On July 19, we'll be heading down to Morgan Hill to live in an Extended Stay America Hotel.

And thus ends, Looseyfur's Midwest Adventures.

Thank you for being a part of my life for so long, and I wish you nothing but good luck and a lot of love.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Fun

MacTroll wasn't feeling very well today. Our plan (mine and X-man's) was to let him sleep in as long as he wanted. I would run out and fetch some bagels for a light breakfast, and then we'd take MacTroll to Maize to order lunch. X-man doesn't like Mexican food (he always orders a hamburger off the kiddie menu) and most places only do vegetarian with a lot of cheese, which I can't eat.

So, MacTroll got his food, and we took it home.

Then he went upstairs and fell asleep for several hours. Around 4 p.m., he came downstairs and sat on the couch watching TV with X-man. Then we went out around the neighborhood for a walk with Lily. X-man whined and fussed about how he didn't want to take a walk. About how he rides his bike too much (he doesn't ride it enough in our opinion). But we gave him the, "This isn't an option" look. And he put on his shoes and went out in the garage for his helmet and bike. As it turns out, the heavy rain last night left a giant, long puddle on one of the new streets of the new sections of our development.

We wondered around looking at the progress on the houses, while X-man rode his bike through the puddle back and forth. He had dirt and water splashed up the back of his calves, his butt and up his back. And he was laughing and laughing. I watched him as he jumped up and down splashing in the puddle in his sandals. He declared there were two kinds of mud in that puddle. The kind that washes away, and regular mud that travels in clumps.

Lily, was very confused, by his behavior. She could tell he was happy, but she was a black dog on a hot, sticky day, and she wanted nothing to do with the dirty water. She waded in it to her ankles, just deep enough to get close to X-man, who was sitting on the curb with water up to his own ankles splashing in it and touching the mud, to see what he was doing. Then when he walked out of the puddle she tried to stay between him and the puddle like she was protecting him from getting gross.

Lily is a retriever mix. But she isn't to hot on water. Mostly because the only water she's ever been in (to our knowledge) is bath water. But she hates sprinklers when we walk around the neighborhood. She runs away from the hose when I water the flowers in the backyard. So, I get that she's not a fan. But to watch her try to herd him away from the water for just a few seconds, was pretty priceless.

We have three sleeping nights left in our house. We're spending Wednesday and Thursday at the iHotel, because I think it would be sad and lonely to stay in our house when it's empty. Then on Friday at 11 a.m., we close, and drive up north. My mom is watching our dog for a few days (until the week of July 4) and the cats are flying to California with us on Saturday morning.

I've been planning for this day since January 2012. It's hard to believe it's actually here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mommy Mistakes

Tonight X-man and I made a date to go to the YMCA at 8 p.m., so that he could go down the water slide one last time before our membership expires on June 13th. I would not normally have him out that late, but it's the only time the water slide is open during the week.

He had a friend over, so I ran upstairs and grabbed him a suit and a couple towels, got changed and was ready when our neighbor came to retrieve his son.

X-man threw on his flip flops and off we went.

We got there and he went into the changing room. He asked for help. I went in to help him and pulled the suit up. It was a suit I ordered from Mini Boden one day when I was feeling splurgy.

Anyway, the suit isn't baggy like all the one's at Target. It doesn't go to his knees. It goes to mid-thigh. He freaked out. "I look like a girl!"

Apparently, only girls show thigh. I explained to him that he looked fine, but he kept trying to pull the legs down, which meant that the top part of his privates were going to be exposed. I explained that once he got in the water, no one would see him.

He was too embarrassed. We ended up driving back home, getting another suit, and driving back to the Y. By the time we got into the pool after the 20 minutes of him falling apart as to weather we should go home and get another suit or stay and use the shorter one, it was 8:45 p.m. He went down the slide once, and then they randomly closed it. The schedule said the slide would be open from 8-10 p.m.

Oh well.

We played in the water a lot. It was fun. I like going swimming with him. He wore his little green band that showed that he passed his annual swim test with pride. He showed me his awesome dives into the deep end. He timed me swimming 25 yard sprints. We tried to say words under the water and understand what the other was saying.

Then, X-man looked around at 9:15 p.m., and said. "Mom, where did everyone go?"

It was just us and two guards. "Where are the grown ups?"

It's late buddy. So at 9:30 p.m., we got out and went back home. I read him Shark Vs. Train (even though he can read it himself, he still likes me to read picture books and usually chapter books at bedtime). And he was out like a light at 10 p.m., 30 minutes past his normal "summer bedtime."

And that short, Mini Boden suit for 7-8 year olds... is totally out the door.

I really didn't mean to make him uncomfortable and embarrassed. He had one just like it when he was 4 with alligators on it that he loved. But at 7, I guess, not so much.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I'm here, I'm here!

It got pointed out to me the other day from a friend who lives far away that I have been remiss in not only sending him e-mail but also updating my blog.

Most of my life has been consumed with house hunting in California and packing up in Illinois, as well as finishing working at MMO and getting X-man done with school.

MacTroll has been in California every week in May. We've not been selected for two houses. The first one we bid on in April closed this week. The asking price was $929,000, they received $1.18 million. So, uh, yeah. The second house was a similar situation. I don't know what the money was, but we offered more than the asking price and kept in the contingency that we could pull out if it didn't appraise for as much as we were willing to pay for it. The other family withdrew that contingency. So if the house closed at $1.2 million, but it only had $900,000 worth of value, that family was willing to pay $300,000 extra at the closing. I don't know about you guys, but I don't have that kind of cash floating around...

This week though, we might have a break through. MacTroll toured a month-to-month rental home that is furnished, and the woman is sending us an application. It's also a place Lily can live while the cats are staying at Mission Cats in San Francisco. And there's a house, in a lesser "in-demand" neighborhood, still with good schools that are walkable, but groceries and shopping are not, that might fit our bill.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up about the permanent home though, because on average it takes a buyer 8-10 bids on houses before they get one...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Old Cats

My cats are old. Old enough that they're pretty set in their ways. I know that Clawdio (15) is the cat that no one sees. Luke (13) is the big, friendly guy who doesn't make eye contact. And Maya (12) will cuddle with just about anyone as long as they sit still.

Lately, when I crawl into bed at night, Clawdio has been curling up on my hips and shoulder diving into me for attention. If anyone else comes near us, he whacks them away with an open paw and a hiss, but no claws.

When I am sitting at my desk downstairs, Maya comes over stares at me. She climbs into my lap a lot and just sits there. I thought she was deciding she would be the "downstairs" cat. But now, I think she's just annoyed that I'm in her favorite chair.

Before my surgery, I got tired of moving of the kitchen table chairs back and forth to the desk, so I broke down and went to Pier One during one of their sales and got this blue flowery chair. It's probably the girliest thing I've every purchased. It was comfortable to sit in and it was 40% off with an extra 10% for getting a Pier One credit card. That's not bad.

And since then, Maya has been sleeping on it. So, if you see me walking around town with a bunch of cat hair on my behind -- it's courtesy of Maya, who would like me to very much go mow the lawn so that she can take a mid-morning snooze, now that X-man is at school on HER chair.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When You're Related to a "Monster"

In the last few months, there has been a lot of media coverage of "monsters." People who have gone out of their way to hurt other people in some really sick, violent ways.

I have to admit, I initially avoided the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt, because I didn't want it to turn into another 9/11 TV news time vortex. I don't have local or cable television at my house, because I filtered all those funds into my Internet connection. And let's face it, I can get the highlights (if not the whole telecast) online, most of the time. But I didn't want to sit in front of the ugliness, a slave to the horror. Because let's face it, you could sit in that stupor for days before the Feds were able to release any real information about the investigation. And who needs to watch TV newscasters desperate for updates repeat assumptions and incorrect news for hours at a time. It's not Scandal, I don't need that kind of drama. But over the weeks that followed, I dutifully caught the updates of the investigation.

Then the news of Ariel Castro came out. It was the same thing. The reports of the investigation got uglier and uglier.

And in both instances, loads of family members were found by news organizations as coming out as being disgusted by their relatives (brothers, daughters, uncles, etc.). They disowned them publicly. And it got me to thinking, could I ever really separate myself from my child or my sister or my best friend, even, if it turned out they weren't who I thought they were? Could I walk away from them? Publicly abandon them? Even in the face of them committed the worst kind of tortures.

I think it would break me in ways I might not be able to process. But somehow, in my own brain, I think my first instinct would be not to pick up the phone to talk to a reporter, or get in a car and drive around with the windows down acting alienated by reporters asking me questions about how I felt about my loved one being an alleged murderer. I'm pretty sure, I'd go on communications lockdown and deal only with the authorities and an attorney -- and my loved one.

I'm pretty sure, I'd keep that personal horror private -- and get a good therapist.

I get particularly emotional when I attribute that kind of scenario to the emotions of parents of violent criminals. That criminal is still someone's baby. Usually, I'll admit, it turns out that there was abuse in the family or mental illness that was left untreated. But in situations when there wasn't any of that, it's very difficult to get your brain (and heart) around the idea that something went so wrong in his life to cause him to hurt others, particularly children.

When I read the Chicago Tribune online today, there were more awful reports. A mother held her 11 year old down while her father whipped her with an electric cord for finishing all the ice cream in the house without asking. They think of it as appropriate discipline for stealing.

A mother and her boyfriend beat up a 4 year old boy to the point where both of his eyes were swollen shut and he had brain injury, lacerations on his liver and spleen, cuts up and down his legs (from nail clippers), etc.

Often, this is the kind of stuff that happens to children, to have them grow up to be the Ariel Castros of the world. Abuse is a viscous cycle.

I know sitcoms tell us otherwise, but there are families that exist that aren't emotionally close. I'm reading reports about Michelle Knight, Castro's first victim. She went to the hospital, saw her mother once, and then asked not to have any visitors. Before she was taken, she was in a custody fight over her own child, who she hasn't seen in a decade. 15 months after she was reported missing, the FBI took her off of their list, because they couldn't get in touch with Knight's mother to confirm that she was still missing. It was assumed, per ABCNews that the family thought she had run away, and since she was 20, everyone stopped looking, like she never even existed. Neglect.

It's all just so harsh, and so unhappy.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thinking about Work

I know that the first step to moving somewhere -- is actually finding a house and getting into it.

But I've been looking at wanted ads lately, and I'm having a hard time deciding what kinds of things sound good. I thought I might want to go back to school. And then I got annoyed with the thought of doing homework and writing papers in APA style.

So I started to look around. And, of course, I can find jobs varying from part-time library clerk, which only work 10-12 hours a week, to full time low paying jobs (Americorps has a literacy project going out there that looks really pretty amazing), and for more corporate kind of jobs writing, editing, communications, etc.

Then I stumbled on this odd job that I'm not even sure how to deal with. It's at Google. And it's a Social Impact Principal. It requires a lot of research to find projects that push the envelope for solving real world social problems,  and then writing reports as to why and how these social entrepreneurs are worth investing in, tracking the work they do and keeping updated profiles for each.

And I have to admit... I got a little excited. I looked at the requirements, and, of course, I've never worked for a grant giving foundation where people applied for money.

I think I may look at it again later this week. There's this voice in the back of my head that reminded me that I'm not there yet.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Day with the Family

Today, we went to two different parks. We played this morning at a neighbor's 4-year birthday celebration at Porter Park in Champaign (they really need to put some Port-a-Potties out there, so people don't have to throw their kids in the car and run them to the dog park on the other side of Windsor). X-man got picked as the big kid friend to the 4-year old's sister. That was very sweet of her. Plus, X-man was not about to complain about having donuts and cupcakes and playing ball and climbing things all morning.

Then we ran home and let Lily out and got back in the car to drive to Decatur. We were meeting up for a goodbye playdate between myself and one of my former students from Millikin. He has a son the same age as X-man, so we met at a park and let the boys go crazy. One was way into sensory and the other was way into pretend play, so there was a lot more adult/child interaction than child/child interaction. But hey, that's the way it goes. We ate lunch in Decatur while we were there and I ran X-man down to Millikin to see where I went to college. Of course, as we're driving through he exclaims that he needs to go to the bathroom, even though he'd just gone at the restaurant before we left. So I stopped at Shilling Hall and took him into the building. It's Saturday, in May, so it was pretty much abandoned. All the lights were dim and X-man was scared he wasn't supposed to be in there because he was "too big." (meaning too little)

But he got over it as soon as he realized I knew exactly where I was going. :-) We played at Forsyth Park north of Decatur with our friends for an hour and a half. There were cops and robbers, digging in pebbles, running on a log play equipment, climbing walls, etc. We even rolled down a big hill a few times.

Then we came home, and X-man was tired, so he sat down with an iPad. MacTroll went up to our bedroom, and Lily went outside with me. I'm pleased to say that the strawberries Rachel gave me two summers ago have really started to go nuts in the front garden. Here's hoping I get some berries this year! I only pulled two off last year. Of course, this might have been due to the sneakiness of my bunny population, too.

I also had to weed the Knockout Roses in the backyard. If you look beyond our fence in to the "back 40" you'll see NOTHING but thistle. It grows right up to the fence and is starting to come through the fence. We have a lawn service, so as soon as they come through, it usually prevents taking over the yard, but it blows into the south gardens and the sandbox, so I have to stay on it. I used to have peppers and tomatoes where the roses are now, so I didn't want to spray anything toxic around them. But now that they're gone... I'm seriously considering it. Because getting between pokey rose bushes to pull out pokey weeds is a terrible job.

Not that I'll have to worry about this particular garden in six weeks... MacTroll is flying out on Monday to go look at houses. Let's hope there's one out there that he gets!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Not Alone

X-man got in the car yesterday after playing at the park. I watched him for 30 minutes wander between two groups of children, trying to find a place to fit in. It took him most of the first semester to learn to like playing tag, so if there's a game, he wants in on it. I love tag -- because I get to watch him run. He does this interesting thing with his arms. Instead of making fists, like I see so many runners do on the road, he extends his fingers out, but keeps them all together. You see sprinters do this or hurdlers. But he doesn't bend his head down for speed. Instead, he stays upright, and kind of swishes his hands in front of him front and back rather than using his whole arms.

Anyway, the version of tag going on was really a first grader chasing a fourth grader and a group swirling around them trying to intervene to help the fourth grader escape. But since he was a 10 year old escaping a 7 year old, there really wasn't much to do in the intervention process besides run along side. X-man, trying to figure out why the other kids thought this was fun, kept interjecting. "I want to play. What are we playing? How do we play?"

One of the fourth graders finds X-man annoying because he talks so much. But no one is stopping to explain to him the game, so he just keeps chatting. He disappears checking on other kids in the playground to see if they're doing anything he's interested in. But he keeps going back to that group, because he's 7 -- and he has Big-Boy-itis, pretty badly (wants to play with the older kids).

He got mad when I said it was time to leave. But then I pointed out that three of the other families were also leaving and he relented and avoided a tantrum.

Then we get to the car and he says, "Mom, I'm not going to get to go to the Kindness Café on Thursday."

The Kindness Café is a lunch that is served to children in his class if they accrue enough "kindness" tallies. In hopes of inspiring the children to be nicer to each other, it was an award system created at the beginning of April by his teacher. It's a fundamentally good idea, but difficult for X-man. Because what he sometimes labels as kindness -- doesn't come off as such. Shouting at people to not run in the hall so that they don't get in trouble, doesn't feel kind to the person being shouted at. They don't understand that his intention is for them to avoid getting in trouble. And indeed, X-man also thinks that just by following the pre-set rules he is being kind, when really, he's just doing what he's supposed to do.

His main issue though comes in how the "kindness" tallies are received. Your teacher can give them to you, but so can other students. And in his skilled observation, X-man has noticed that people have friends giving them tallies at the end of the day, but he says he doesn't have really close friends. He has one, who he loves, but she's a girl, so according to X-man she only speaks up for the other girls. He seemed slightly frustrated with that, but in the end he forgives her because in truth, the boys really only give kindness tallies to other boys. His -- he says -- have all come from his teacher, who recognizes that he's trying in his own way, but that his kindness really doesn't translate to the other children.

So we had a big conversation about why he doesn't belong. He listed three cliques at school and says he sometimes plays with two of the three. The third, he said, has kids who generally spend a lot of time getting in arguments and going to the principal's office, and he understands that as a bad thing, so he doesn't want to get mixed up in it, but one on one those kids are fine.

But he asks me why he doesn't really have a place to fit in. Is it because no one likes him? I told him that I think that sometimes people have a hard time seeing the world the way he does. And that often times, his tone is rougher than he realizes. But that in the good column, if he isn't a core member of any of those groups, that means he's pretty open minded because he plays with everyone.

He smiles a bit. Then he asks, "Why is it people have playdates at our house, but never invite us to theirs?"

I don't have a real answer for this. Not one I can put my finger on. All I know is that in all of my reading with kids who exhibit social disorders, is that this is a common situation. When neurotypical kids develop in kindergarten and start to understand that your child isn't typical, they stop inviting them over. The birthday parties invites for kids your child has known since he was born stop, too. And this isn't just on the kid front, it's on the parent front, too. It doesn't make it an easy situation for anyone.

I've been reading the book, "Easy to Love, Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories" by Kay Marner and Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. And it's been kind of nice to read these stories about quirky kids, regardless of their labels and the insane lives their parents lead just trying to get through each day, let alone wondering if their children will be able to function at 23 without parents (usually Mom) there to translate their unique ways to the outside world and vice versa. (For the record, most of them seem to function just fine later in life.)

Without a doubt, speaking X-man has become my key role in life these days.

In the opening sections of the book, which is a collection of essays written by parents, one of the editors brings up the overall idea of what these parents go through. I'd like to share it...

"Like so many girls and young women, Eve has a fantasy of parenthood, formed during childhood play, and reinforced through years of romantic musings. Finally, it's her turn to live the fantasy. Her son, Eli, is born (or adopted). Eve's a mother!

Before long Eve is confused. Although she loves him, the experience of parenting this child is nothing like she thought it would be...He won't follow directions, has violent tantrums, sometimes for little or no apparent reason. He never wants to slow down enough to eat. He doesn't share or take turns at playgroup. Eve would love to connect with other mothers there, but she is unable to relax and talk with them, because she's constantly chasing, correcting, and redirecting Eli. Neither of them is getting anything positive out of it. They quit going.

Eve had expected standard discipline tactics to work with Eli, but they just don't. She's frustrated and angry, with Eli and herself. She reads parenting book after parenting book, and tries strategy after strategy. Nothing works. And when they don't, Eve blames herself. Eve starts to question her ability to parent.

The idea that Eve is at fault is reinforced by others. Family members, friends, the parents of her child's peers, his teachers -- even strangers in the grocery store -- are critical of her parenting abilities. Eve is far from a lazy parent; in fact, she has no choice but to work harder than most, but her efforts aren't reflected in her child's behavior for others to see. Some people express their criticism of Eve outright. Others show their disapproval through their expressions, their reactions.

Eve often feels shame in situations where other adults can observe her with Eli, and she starts to withdraw from her former supports. She begins to feel isolated...

Something about this child is different. Something is wrong.

The first inkling cements into valid concern around the time Eli starts preschool, and then kindergarten, when he is expected to conform to more rules. According to his teachers, Eli can't sit still on his carpet square, keep his hands and feet to himself, or color inside the lines...

Eve begins the search for someone to diagnose Eli's problems, unaware that this is just the beginning...

Eli's peers seem to mature more quickly. They stop inviting him to birthday parties. He joins Scouts, but quits because he feels excluded. No one plays with him at recess. Sometimes he's teased or bullied. Eve aches for him. Her pain is as palpable as Eli's own.

Eve's isolation grows in tandem with her child's. Since Eli isn't invited to sleepovers, doesn't excel at team sports, and isn't part of various other groups, Eve's not part of the mom cliques that surround these activities...

Finally, Eli's problems reach crisis proportions. He sees himself as reflected by those around him -- bad, unlikable, stupid. Eve can no longer sit back and watch this happen.. In addition to ADHD, Eli has a mood disorder (or OCD, Tourette's syndrome, autism an eating disorder...)...

By now, Eve is no longer trying to "fix" Eli's problems, to "cure" his condition. Instead, she focuses on finding coping skills and tools to help him... Eve also opens up to a few others about some of Eli's symptoms, and how he deals with them. When there's no shame, there's no secret. When there's no secret, there's no shame."

It's just a creative sample at the beginning of the book, but many of the essay share bits and pieces of what I have found parenthood to be. Most of all, though, over the past two years, I've found it very isolating. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it is I do or don't do that makes it incredibly hard for me to be close to people. I think people just get sick of hearing about what I'm fixated on at that particular moment. But that's what I'm dealing with. That's what is affecting me most, emotionally. And it's hard not to talk about it. But when there's no one to talk about it with, you learn to be quiet.

At least until someone gives your kid this sideways look at the park. And you realize the "few" people you talk about your son with are also parents of "quirky" kids.

Suddenly, you're not alone. But you're definitely on an island. Others are either on islands within shouting distance or they're sailing by on boats of their own trying to shout their stories as their own kiddos keep them on their toes.

This is the part about being a parent that is so hard. Advocating for him, so that he has someone, when you, as a parent, often feel like you don't have anyone at all. So I hope, that as he gets older, he finds someone else, quirky like him, that he can spend his life with.

Cause I gotta tell you, I am thankful every day, that MacTroll is as wacky as I am, and that we're over our heads in this together.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Back in the Saddle

I just finished the Couch to 5k, Week 5, Run 3. I've been doing the Free podcasts on my phone and then uploading the workout to MapMyFitness. 

Today's workout was walk 5 minutes, run 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes. Before this, the longest interval I'd done was 8 minutes. But since I haven't really been able to run in two years, it felt -- wonderful. Except I have to admit that my brain seems all messed up about the whole thing. I know physically I can run for 20 minutes. I mean, I've been doing it on an Arc Trainer for the last six months, and I've gone through 60 minute Body Attack classes. I can jump in the pool and swim for 45-60 minutes, no problem.  Cardiowise, and breathing wise, I'm fine. In my head, though. I'm scared.

I know that my PT said that she'd recommend running not be my main everyday exercise routine. I'm going to be on a bike or in exercise class for at least two of my five cardio days. Given my biomechanics and injury issues, I'm not meant to withstand long time periods on concrete. But there's just something about getting -- outside that I love. I've missed it.

In a way, I think I've missed that more than the running, because I have to admit at 15 minutes into the run portion, I knew that I could finish it, but I didn't want to. My body isn't to the point where I finish and feel amazing. It's at the point where I finish and feel tired. 

But my brain does something else. It looks at my body differently when I look in the mirror. I don't dwell on what it looks like... because I ran. I used it. It got me not just from point A to B (like walking does), but it made me sweat and made my body feel used in a good way. 

When I don't run, I look at my body with a sense of bewilderment. What am I supposed to do with this girl, now? When I run, I feel like I've done what I'm supposed to do. And it pretty much doesn't matter what size the body is, it can move. It can go. It wasn't just sitting. 

So I've got three more weeks to this program, and then I'm going on to the Runner 10k App ($3.99) on the iTunes store. And then I think I'll be a 10k girl, 3x a week. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Putting it all together

We're down to our last six weeks in C-U. And I'm starting to plan for everything coming to an end by June 2. X-man will finish with his behavioral counseling sessions with April Keaton. He'll be done with his Occupational Therapy on May 29th. Soccer is done on June 9th. For the first time in two years, we didn't go and renew our pool passes or our dog park passes. Hell, I even mowed the lawn and thought, just six more weeks of this.

I still need to find a home for our snow thrower. I contacted a friend of a friend but never heard back. So, if anyone out there wants to prepare for next year, it's a small, electric, Toro. It's very reliable, corded, so you don't have to worry about battery issues, and it can handle up to 8" of snow without any problems. I did the driveway twice during our snow in March. It's a bit like vacuuming, if that makes any sense. It's also FREE.

What else we have to get rid of will depend, of course, on where we're moving to. MacTroll is going back out there the week of May 15 and the week of May 21. He knows his job is to find us a house. :-) So, let's hope the stars all line up.

I ordered stickers with X-man's name on them, so that when I start packing his room, he can tell which boxes are his by putting his stickers on them.

I did sign him up for half day Harry Potter camp at the Orpheum in June. I figured while I was packing, he could be having some fun (and not be so under foot).

I taught at MMO three times this week. It was a lot of fun. But, boy howdy, can you tell it's the end of the year. We were trying to get the kids outside as much as possible, since it was so cold and rainy in April. I was hoping to go for a walk, but it just wasn't happening. I had a rope for my class last year that they could hang on to to keep everyone together, but I'm not sure what happened to it.

I'm still trying to figure out a good "adventure" for X-man to invite some friends to as his "goodbye" party. I was kind of hoping for just a park play date with some treats. His buddy JA is coming over this weekend to play. He's wild crazy about that. Plus, we promised him a video game play date with Big Jack before we go. :-)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fast feet, fast feet -- okay, well maybe just feet

I participated in the Illinois Marathon 10k today. I set my phone to play my favorite Couch to 5k interval workout (Week 4: walk 5 min, run 3, walk 90 seconds, run 5, walk 2 1/2, run 3, walk 90 seconds, run 5) and then I repeated it until I was done.

My surgically enhanced foot felt no pain, but now at the end of the day, it's a bit puffy. I dipped my left foot with the Plantar Fasciitis in ice water when I got home, and then I've been stretching my feet and calves the rest of the day. And besides a general ache when I stand up for the first few seconds (that actually feels more like it's coming from my pelvis) I feel pretty great.

It was fun, and unlike other big city races I've been in, I had a pack of people around me until just past mile 5. Then it thinned out. I think people started to walk around 4, so they fell a bit behind.

I was not fast. But I also was not injured. I'll totally take that. It was, actually, only 12 minutes slower than my uninjured time back in 2010 when I ran a 10k in 90 degree heat in Baltimore. :-) I was in much better overall shape then (and 25 lbs lighter) but I am terrible at exercising in heat.

Much better to be walogging in 47-52 degrees than in 90 degrees.

I had a good time participating. I know that because I was smiling and thanking the police and volunteers. I didn't do that at the trail run 5k a few weeks ago. That was the first, so it was harder, and I had unreal expectations.

Today was just about perfect.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Same Old, Same Old

MacTroll and I ended up leaving X-man (who had a case of strep throat last week) with KTDID on Saturday and flying off to California to look at houses. We toured six. Online two looked very promising, and four looked -- okay. In the end, One looked awesome, one looked okay (but was in the our second choice school area versus the first choice) and the rest were ugly to meh.

So we put in on the first house we walked through, but there were many bids, and ours did not get chosen.

We're going to go back at the end of May with X-man to look again (unless, while Joel's there) he visits a house that he finds fantastic.

In other news, I've been weeding the gardens and mulching (per our buyers' request). We have to leave everything else as is, and I don't want to look at empty garden beds for the summer, so I put in some mixed wildflowers today.

Tomorrow I'm going to walk/run the 10k at the Illinois Marathon. I guess I should be getting to sleep very, very soon for it. My race starts at 7:40ish a.m. I'm just going to turn on a low week number of couch to 5k and do it 2-3 times, and consider it a good workout.

I also started to track my walks with Lily. Since my surgery, I haven't walked her as much as I used to. And I've been kind of lazy about taking care of my workouts, so she's got some extra weight. I have reduced her food, but we've also been out a few times doing my old short running path (around 3.5 miles), but at a walk. I found a new Dog Walking App and downloaded it. This way, I can track the mileage and speed, without using my Nike run app, to track my walking workout.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Key Up the Adventure Music

You may remember a long time ago, when it rained so much I found a baby catfish stuck with it's head in a sewer grate in my subdivision because the lake at Dana Colbert Park overflowed, and then poured over the two ditches and drained down the access sidewalk to the park into the grate west of my house.

Well, with our torrents of rain this week, it happened again. Yesterday evening as we were returning MacTroll's rental car (his flight from NYC was grounded because of the floods in Chicago, so he didn't get to Illinois until midnight and then spent the night in Lisle before driving home on Thursday afternoon), when I spotted another one. This time, MacTroll jumped out and went over and helped the dude get free of the grate pushing him through. As he was doing so, another smaller fish jumped out of the grate.

This morning, when we took X-man to school there were two smaller catfish with heads too big to go down the grate. I couldn't leave them there to die, so I got a bucket and put them in the bucket (using a towel to pick them up because -- ewww)!

I hate catfish they creep me out. Catfish and Asian Carp. Bleh! I put them in the bucket and put cardboard on top, so they wouldn't flip around, and then, Mactroll laughing until he cried at me freaking out, drove me to the lake on the far side (where there are loads of baby geese and ducks) and watched me toss them back into the lake.

I've now washed my hands about a dozen times.

I imagine, if there are others, swimming around in the extra drainage areas that when the water finally stops falling from the sky, there will be a fish feast of a great magnitude for the coyotes and hawks.

Funny how I'm okay with them getting eaten by other wildlife, but I'm totally not okay with getting killed in a storm drain grate.

Oh, and I really hope when they post "Don't litter" on the grates because that water returns to streams and creeks with actual wildlife, that it's true. Because maybe those fish that were lost down the grate will survive on there.

All I know is that if I were a prospective house builder, I would NEVER buy those two lots that have the water overflow problem.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Wow, it's been a while since I blogged. So sorry! There has been a lot going on. Most of it is just general life stuff and moving consolidation.

Yesterday, though, I had made a unilateral decision not to talk to X-man about the Boston Marathon bombings until we had found out more. Given his anxiety levels about danger these days, I thought it to be better.

Than, while I'm cleaning up dinner last night, X-man tells me his co-teacher was in Boston watching her father run the marathon. He asked if we could look up his time. I had know idea that his teacher was there. I explained that I didn't know his teacher's maiden name, so it would be hard to find him.

But I guess I had some kind of odd expression on my face. And my social cue clueless kid asked me what was wrong. "Wrong? Why do you think something is wrong?"

"You pushed your eyes together."

Oh. Crap.

So I told him. He was worried, but he felt better when I e-mailed both of his teachers to see if they knew if she was safe. Indeed she was, and so was her HUSBAND, who was running the race. They got back to me by bedtime, so I got to go in and retuck X-man in with the new news. And he went to bed and was okay.

MacTroll looked into moving our blue Mazda RX-8, and it was going to be more than he wanted to pay for a 9-year-old car. So last week, we took both of our cars in and traded them in on a new Toyota Rav-4. We used our Illinois tax refund to make up the rest. And now we're living as a one car house. Since he's not around a lot, it's a pretty easy adjustment.

We also went to Slumberland and got a new queen-sized mattress. We downsized our bed from king to queen last week, and I'm loving it. But the mattress on the bed is kind of gross, old and torn up from prior moves (before I got hip to mattress covers for moving). Anyway, they deliver it on Friday and take away the old mattress. So when we relocate, we'll only have two beds. Our queen and X-man's full. Now I just need to Craigslist X-man's 5-year-old iMac and donate his toddler table. But that will have to wait until next week.

X-man had his school carnival on Friday. He was very particular about the games he played. He won the Book Walk six times, because he loved the short line. And he found the books to be of more substance than the prizes. But if he had to wait in a line longer than 3 minutes, that game didn't get played.

MacTroll and I leave for California on Saturday afternoon. We're going to go look for houses. Of course the four I liked last week have already sold. This is going to be an interesting process...

That reminds me, I need to remind our attorney about getting us purchase Power of Attorneys this week.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Let the Freak Outs Begin

Since I have a spouse who likes to collect stuff and doesn't realize how much stuff he has, and I have a son who is no good at transitions, and I have a dog who is very protective and three cats who are stuck in their ways, I'm the person who has to keep the "crap" under control in our house. I think every household has this person, if there are more than one person in the house. The one who makes sure holy socks get thrown away (I guess in olden days they'd "darn" them, but now I just go buy new ones).

This week, MacTroll and I are giving away our king-sized bedframe to a friend of ours. X-man very rarely climbs into bed with the two of us, we instead walk him back to his bed and lay down with him. He's not a baby any more. There's no need for the extra space for the sometime visitors. And, honestly, sometimes I feel there's a giant canyon at night between MacTroll and I. The dog likes to fill in that space, but I don't what her there. I want the canyon to go away.

So, we moved our queen-sized bed frame into our bedroom this morning after walking X-man to school. I'm wiping down the old frame and carrying it down to the garage. This Saturday, I will transport it up to my friend and her husband and their two little girls.

The guest bed has a mattress that's a bit old, and it suffered in our move from Virginia to Illinois 10 years ago (ripped a bit). So, we're going to run out next week when MacTroll is home all week (he leaves today for California) and get a new one for it. We figured it would be cheaper on this end than on the other end.

But it also means that if I take three pictures off the wall, I can pretty much close the guest room door and never enter it again until we move. One room -- empty -- and ready to belong to the new family.

We close on this house on June 21, but the housing selection in California has been kind of slow in the neighborhood that is our first choice. We have schools identified that fit the bill for X-man, but we need to go out and drive around the neighborhoods again. So, MacTroll and I are headed out there on April 20-23. We'll likely have to go back again in May, but when we do, we're going to take X-man, because he's starting to have some issues with the transition. This is not to be expected. This is a major life change. It helps him to know that what is going on and when as much as he can. So he can repeat it to himself and get more comfortable with the idea, even though his acceptance last fall is starting to turn into anxiousness. And I admit, it's hard not knowing where you're going to sleep on the other side. But I want him to feel included when we go.

And we'll see where we land.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NYC: Day 4

It was our last day in NYC, and we had to get up early in order to get breakfast at the hotel (which was a very expensive organic-based restaurant with $9 juices), and catch a cab to go Circle Line Cruises, where our "Statue of Libery Cruise" was taking off. They only had one tour a day that was a) specifically went around that statue and 2) was less than 2 hours long. And yes, NYC has a lot to look at, and yes, John, the tour guide was very informative about the history of events that took place on the Hudson River. But keeping my child in a seat for two hours, isn't an easy thing, particularly when you get there 30 minutes early to make sure you get a seat on the inside of the boat, because the temperature had dropped a bit and it was a big windy next to the river. The CityPass is good for a limited number of cruises, and it seemed like a good way to see the city (and New Jersey). :-)

X-man did really well though. He chewed some gum and listened intently. He tried not to get too bothered by the fact that the tour guide kept asking people to take their seats. John had explained that everyone on both sides of the boat would get equal time to see the same things. He explained that the boat would even be turning around at the statue so that both sides could get a good view. You couldn't actually go to see the Statue when we were there because it was closed following some damage to the island and the docks from hurricane Sandy last fall.

X-man and I had read all about the statue, so he knew it was built in France and got shipped over. He was also excited that in its heyday, over 98 percent of the people who came to America were let into America to be citizens when they came to Ellis Island (including his great grandparents).

After our boat ride, we walked right next door to the Intrepid Museum. The Intrepid is an air craft carrier that was in service from the 1940s through the 1970s. This is totally MacTroll's kind of museum. It was expensive to get into $22 for adults and $17 for children ages 7-17. The first exhibit we went on was actually a Growler submarine from WWII. It was tiny and held 90 guys, and as we were walking through it (you have to pass a "door test" before you board, because if you can't get through the sub doors at the beginning of the line, you can't get through the sub below), all I could think about was how it must have smelled. We saw only 4 toilets and a few showers.

X-man had specific questions about how long it took for everyone to learn what all the freaking buttons did. I could tell he was doing his best not to reach out and start pushing every one of them.

We made our way through the museum seeing all of the various aircraft on top of the carrier. The space shuttle Enterprise and the Concord exhibits were closed that day, but we had seen the Enterprise at her original museum home in D.C. when X-man was 2. It was never used to orbit space, so that made it "less cool" or something like that. But it was also recovering from Sandy storm damage.

Then we ate lunch at an Au Bon Pain down by the exhibits about the mess halls. Let me say that if you are in the Navy, and the Intrepid is any indication, you get a whole lot more space to sleep and move about on an air craft carrier than you do on a sub. I'm just saying... in case anyone was thinking of joining up.

We returned to the top area of the museum and found the "children's area." X-man played for over an hour at all the exhibits where he could pretend to be a helicopter pilot, attempt to put his hands in thick astronaut gear gloves and try to do things like attach valves or remove bungie cords or other simple tasks that are not so simple in giant gloves.

They also had a light signal for Morse Code and a "warning" alarm that X-man liked to set off and try to get other children to play with him. His favorite though was the astronaut cone that put two people in a very cramped spot for re-entry back in the day. It had a bunch of buttons that X-man could push all that he wanted.

After the museum, we walked a couple of blocks and hailed a cab. Metro fair was $2.50 per person each way. Taking a taxi down 42nd street was $12. We were good on the subway, except for a few people who were slightly annoyed by X-man's constant questioning on our second day. One moved two seats away from us, another switched seats to the other side. He was asking things like how people got into the tunnels to vandalize them with spray paint, and did they ever get hit by the trains because they were going very fast, and "Why is that man asking everyone on the train for money. He's a soldier, are we supposed to give him some?" when the man is 3 feet away. Or my favorite, "How many stops is it now?"

In the cab, he was fascinated by the fact that they have Touch Screen TVs, that are like airport TVs, they repeat the same news and game show questions every 10 minutes. I'm sure it would drive me nuts if I drove a cab.

That night, we took the metro to Times Square. X-man liked that when he looked up at the sky it was dark, but down on the street it was like daylight from all the screens and lit up billboards. He was, however, dismayed that that's all it was. A bunch of people with some lit up advertising. So, we ducked into a Disney Store (after noticing the trend of regular people to dress up in really old superhero and Sesame Street costumes) and charge a couple of bucks for folks to get their pictures taken with them.

In Disney, X-man looked around and keyed up Phineas and Ferb shorts and a Jack and the Neverland Pirates short on their big TV screen, and then we walked a couple blocks back toward the Metro and got dinner at The Counter.

We were seated next to two NYPD cops. X-man was excited to see them and said hello. Halfway through dinner as we were talking about all the places we'd been that week, one of them leaned over and handed me some fun playing cards. They were three "baseball card" like items that featured three of the dogs in their K-9 unit.

We read all about the dogs, which required me to research what the heck "Vapor" detection was. (Gotta be impressed with a Chocolate Lab that can smell an explosive 15 minutes after it's left the area and then track it down.) The owner of the restaurant kept offering them steak to take their dogs. But the officers refused. The dogs ate a specific kind of kibble. They didn't touch anything else.

After dinner, we took the subway back to our room. X-man was excited to watch the show Tanked! While MacTroll and I packed up to leave for home the next day. It was a very busy trip, but it was all the fun a 7 year old could muster. He wants to go back in the summer and play in Central Park and visit the penguins to see if Tango and her fathers are still alive (even though he knows they're not a couple any more).

NYC: Day 3

On Day 3, we totally slept in. I worked out in the gym and the boys watched some TV, until I returned and showered. We headed out around 11:15 a.m. and walked up to Rockefeller Square.

X-man was excited not just because he could watch the ice skaters (he's only gone once, and decided he didn't want to skate that day) but if you look in the back corner of the photo by the flags, his favorite store is right there!

We ate at a 'wichcraft, and then I left the boys to use the Citypass at the "Top of the Rock" and tour the Lego store, while I walked further uptown to meet my friend George at his office to catch up.

On my way to 6th Avenue, I heard this very loud music. An RV passed by blaring it. And then there were four more RVs. A police car sped by. I looked down street to the south and realized there several dozen RVs in some sort of parade. On the side of each RV was a sign wishing everyone a Happy Passover. And little Jewish children inside were shouting the message into microphones as they went down the street. Shopkeepers came out and waved at the parade. It was noisy, but very sweet. I managed to sneak across the street to the other side in a gap between slow moving RVs.

When I was done visiting my friend, I met up with the boys at the Museum of Modern Art. X-man was excited because he knew of some of the artists in the MOMA. He was most excited about Vincent Van Gogh, because they had studied him in art class at the beginning of the year. He was also fascinated that this was an art museum that had an exhibit all about the design of video games, and that there would be 14 playable games on exhibit (including PacMan). At the Natural History museum, we had to exchange our CityPass book coupons for tickets, which included standing in a short line. But at MOMA, you just walk right up to the ticket guy and he scans the back of your book and you walk right in. It was awesome. However, unlike the history museum, you have to check in any bag larger than a purse. I was thankful X-man was no longer in a stroller and required a diaper bag.

We picked up a map at the 2nd floor information desk and was told about a Child Art Activity being done on the lower floor. X-man wanted video games first, so we went to floor three to check out the design exhibits. He identified the wall discussing the design of SimCity 2000, and the original Sims game, first. He and MacTroll were like book ends traveling from exhibit to exhibit.

Me, I went and got in line to play PacMan. I felt bad that I finished the first two levels without dying, where as most of the people before me killed all three of their guys on the cherry level. Sim when I finished strawberry, I totally let the person behind me take over. :-)

Then we ran up to the fifth floor to seen Vincent. X-man searched and searched and searched. And when he found Starry, Starry Night, he asked me to take a photo of him with it and e-mail it to his art teacher. I have to admit... seeing this picture in person was totally worth the journey to New York. Its so bright and expressive. I have a thing for swirls. In comparison to MacTroll and my trip to Paris two years ago to see the Louvre, it made the Mona Lisa look dull and very boring. Her you can check out in a text book (she's not much bigger), but the Van Gogh was awesome.

X-man was getting tired from all the walking, so we found a bench for him to sit on. MacTroll sat with him, while I walked around taking in Matisse and Van Gogh and Monet and Seurat. I spotted Mondrian, which reminded me of our art unit at MMO. Then MacTroll took his turn. Suddenly, X-man got his brain back and saw the giant Waterlilies of Monet, and asked MacTroll to take him to see them. He was excited that it took an entire wall. 

After looking so much, X-man really needed to "do" something. So we headed down to the children's art exhibit. Because it was a weekday, and there weren't any school groups there at the time and most of the MOMA visitors were ages 20+ the kids area was pretty empty. The art study was about "people." And so there were magnetic shapes you could make into faces and this cool idea that I think would go over great in a pre-school room. You put up a dry erase board and then make three doors to cover a head area, a body area and a leg area. Then you take turns drawing in them. X-man went first and made a head. Then I made a body, and then MacTroll made the legs. We covered up what we made so the other family members couldn't see them. Then when MacTroll was done, we uncovered our bodily creation. 

X-man moved on to the another great idea for pre-school. It was three clip on desk lamps pointed at a semi-transparent piece of thick paper. There was a magnet board in the back that held pre-made shadow puppets, but you could also make your own. X-man spent a good 45 minutes down in the art area experimenting with various projects.

But then it was snack time, so we bought and shared a pretzel and some bottled water from a street vendor outside, and walked X-man to his reward for being so awesome: FAO Schwarz

It was right behind the big glass cube that is the entry to the 5th Avenue Apple Store. We walked in and X-man found some stairs that you could climb to look over the first floor of the toy store. He went up there and was delighted at how he could take in everything. And then he looked over his right shoulder and saw someone waving at him -- Iron Man! He waved back, and then ran down the stairs and got on an escalator to go to the second floor. There was a magician showing elements of a magic kit, and a woman with a colorful no mess drawing board. I hadn't seen that kind of "salesmanship" in forever. X-man cruised through the train section, the Mega Blox, the dolls, Barbie, until he found a mini Lego store inside the bigger store, where he found his newest hero waiting for him. 

Then there was a Lego minifigure movie showing the guys playing the large $250,000 piano at FAO (like in the movie Big). And through the other side was that piano. I asked X-man if he wanted to go over and play on it because the line was very short. He was too shy. But he kept staring and staring. And then suddenly, he walked over and waited for his turn.

He got around 3 minutes on the piano, which he said was not long enough. But he though it was cool.

We grabbed the Lego set he wanted and went down the stairs to finish the first floor. The escalator dumps you off right into a massive candy shop. X-man got some Gummi Angry Birds and some Gummmi coke bottles. Then we walked for 45 minutes back to our hotel room and ordered Thai food for dinner -- delivery. :-)

As we waited for it to arrive, X-man and MacTroll put together Legos together, and I totally iced my foot.

NYC: Day 2

On our second day in NYC, we got up and walked two blocks to Grand Central Terminal. It's the 100th anniversary of the train station (and also a key NYC subway stop). We went down to the food court and got breakfast and then sat in the station on very old wooden benches and people watched.

After breakfast, we went up to the main area where X-man discovered the Apple Store within the train station. He thought that was pretty cool.

Then we got on our subway train to go down to the Museum of Mathematics. At the MoMath, X-man was in heaven. We arrived shortly after 10 a.m., paid for our tickets ($15/adult, $9 for a child) at the computerized kiosk and whisked him into a wonderland. Like most kids, X-man enjoys museums where he can do things, and that's all there is at MoMath. He rode a tricycle with square wheels on a special grooved floor. He painted in patterns on a computerized screen, he played with the coolest version of tiddlywinks, where the connector pieces had different shapes in them to match up the long beams for a more complicated build. He danced on a Math Square lightup square, put fractions together to create an electronic connection to make a sound go off and played a plethora of math games. It's a small museum with floors 0 and -1. We were there for two hours, and after the first 15 minutes, we shared the space with a number of children there on school trips. It's a museum mostly for the elementary and middle school-aged.

After the museum, we walked down to Eisenberg's Diner near the Flat Iron building and had lunch.

After, we took the subway to the upper west side to play some more at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. As a first grader, X-man is somewhere between big kid museums and children's museums. He's find ing that more and more children's museums are geared toward the 2-4 crowd, and the Children's Museum of Manhattan definitely fit this mold. Tickets were $11 each. There was one entire floor that he could not access because he was too old. He did, however, enjoy his time on the first floor doing all of the "body" activities. His favorite was the "Royal Flush," which showed you what a healthy pee and healthy poop were supposed to look like. (They showed the unhealthy versions, too.)

He also liked the basement where they had a number of building elements. He and I sat down with a bunch of blocks and began to build skyscrapers while MacTroll checked out a small exhibit on the history of NYPD mounties. In the middle of our build a three-year old wandered over, looked at X-man's building and then knocked it down. The tears welled in X-man's eyes. But I stayed calm, this is something that happens at my workplace every day... a child is building something and a friend has a hard time resisting the urge to knock it down to watch it fall. I said, "Uh oh!" And then I invited the friend to help rebuild the building. The mother came over looking very worried and apologetic. I told her not to worry about it. X-man realizing that the child was so much smaller swallowed back his tantrum, and said, "If you want to knock down someone's building, you should ask first." I smiled. He smiled. Then he set back to work, and the little boy watched and bent down and picked up two blocks and put them on top of X-man's new building, lost interest and wandered off.

Since it was about 3 p.m., we decided to walk around the corner near Central Park and make it a three museum day by visiting the American Museum of Natural History. It was included on the City Pass, and unknown to me, included a movie at the Planetarium. Nothing wrong with dinosaur bones and a space exploration to close out our day.

It's a big, museum, but X-man was mostly interested in seeing the bones and learning about space rather than seeing a lot of "dead animals and fake peoples." We attended a movie in the Planetarium called, "Journey to the Stars." It was narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, and it was awesome. We've read a lot about planets at our house, but not a lot about stars. X-man got to learn how the sun was born, and that in 5 billion years, it will burn out (or perhaps go supernova). This scared him, but then I pointed out how long away that was. About how just millions of years ago there were dinosaurs on the planet, and that Earth changes a lot in much shorter periods of time.

But besides learning about our sun and smaller stars, X-man got to learn about "dark matter" and the beginning of the universe 13 billion years ago (or 13.8, if you read the news last week). He was also really excited to learn that each of us contains about a teaspoon of elements made from stars. (Turns out the singer Moby was right...)

We left the museum at 5:30 and were exhausted. It had been a long day on our feet, and my surgically enhanced foot was doing great, but the plantar fasciitis in my left heel was terrible. So, we cabbed it back down to midtown and ordered pizza from Two Boots. It was nice that they had a choice between cheeseless pizza and vegan cheese for me and regular for the boys. But we ordered smalls thinking they'd be individual sized. Alas, as all things in NY pizza, the smalls were gigantic.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

NYC: Day 1

Our trip to New York City with X-man was a success. He's a kid who thrives on constant stimulation, so being in the city that never sleeps was definitely exciting for him. It was non-stop adventure. We purchased our tickets, so we drove to Chicago to fly out, because they were cheaper than other areas. But we did get our hotel using MacTroll's travel points.

We arrived on Tuesday night and took the cab from LaGuardia Airport to the Westin at Grand Central Terminal. They surprised X-man with a Westin Kids Club bag that contained colored pencils, stencils, a sunhat and a postcard coloring set. We got a suite on the 41st floor, so it had a fold out couch for X-man to sleep on. We unloaded our stuff and looked out the window. We had a perfect view of the Empire State Building from our room. We pointed it out to X-man and then we walked over to it. Luckily for us, the line was minimal. The one thing X-man really hates is line waiting. It's hard for him. He can focus on a game on a phone for little while, but often times his body just turns to goo and he sits on the floor and crawls along. Sigh. It was the same at Disney World almost a year ago.

We had purchased a Citypass for New York when it was on sale in February. So we paid $89 for each adult (usually $106) and $64 for child admission (usually $79). It covered admission to the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the only one we didn't use), The Top of the Rock (NBC) or the Guggenheim, a circle line boat tour of the Statue of Liberty and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). If we had paid for these out of pocket, it would have cost us $179 for each adult and $135 for our child. So, it was a good bargain.

We checked in at the Empire State Building cashier and picked up our Citypass booklet. (You pick them up at the first attraction you go to, and then they're good for 9 days.) Then we got a free audio tour speaker and went up to the 86th floor. There were huge chunks of white stuff falling from the sky. Like as big as my palm. I then identified that "stuff" as snow. It was in the cloud that was pretty much right on top of the building. We were inside staring out, but the audio tour instructs you to go around to numbers that are posted on the outside railing so that it can tell you what part of the city you're looking at. X-man wanted to go out and do this, but the only outdoor portion that was open at dusk was the West End. We waded our way through a lot of people and went out on the deck. I had to grab onto X-man's coat to keep him from blowing away. It was cold, windy and snowing. We were outside for exactly one recording from the audio tour before I hauled him back inside. We had gone during dinner time, hoping for a low attendance night. And it wasn't bad when we got there, but about 30 minutes later, people were pouring into the building. And others were waiting and waiting for elevators to go down.  You're required to go to the 80th floor (which is another waiting area) before transferring to a second elevator up to the 86th floor. In a stroke of sanity, the guards opened the stairs. We were allowed to walk down from 86 to 80 to get on a elevator faster. This worked great.

When we got down on the street, X-man looked up and was very impressed. He expressed his sadness that our Citypass did not allow us to use the "express" line to go up, or go to the "premium viewing floor" (102), but we had read the book "Sky Boys" from his school library and the amount of work and how high those guys were walking on top of iron totally impressed him.

On our way back to the hotel, we decided to pick up dinner, because we were wiped. The real challenge of our family vacations these days is trying to find some place where we can all eat. My child, who used to eat everything turned 4, three years ago, and has been a finger food kind of guy since. I don't eat meat. And I can't eat dairy without being sick. 

But in a city as large as New York, you can find places that serve to all. So we settled on picking up dinner at Bareburger. It's not at all healthy, but it did have stuff X-man would eat and stuff that I could eat. So we took it back to the hotel, turned on the TV and reminded ourselves why we haven't had cable since 2004. There was nothing on worth watching. But X-man focused on Chopped! and Tanked! (I made him turn off Swamp People.) 

Then we all curled up in our beds to get ready for our week of city life. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Winding down

As a family, we're starting to realize that our time in Chambana is limited. We're talking about parks we want to play at before we leave, restaurants we want to visit and friends we want to see.

X-man has made playdates in the last week with two of his favorites from school. He and Bubba went to the Y pool on Saturday and enjoyed playing Marco Polo with me and some of the big boys. And when we return from NYC after spring break, his favorite friend that's a girl is coming over to play for a few hours.

Most of the time, X-man is pretty okay with moving, but now that the sign in front of our house says, "Sale Pending" it finally seems real. I'm glad we've spent so much time talking about it with him. But he delivered me a note the other day that said, "I don't want to move. Love, X-man."

Today, I went to the dentist and got two old fillings drilled out and replaced. Next week Clawdio goes in to Dr. Mary to get a dental and a tooth removed. X-man has visited Dr. See, his pediatrician, and gone to get his eyes checked and he got his tooth cleaning last January.

It's like we're taking care of all the stuff we can now, so we can take our time finding doctors and what not when we move.

Tomorrow, we drive up to Chicago and catch a plane to LaGuardia. We bought a Citypass and plan on taking X-man all around New York City. He's very excited about the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Mathematics and going to see the Empire State Building and taking a ferry around the Statue of Liberty (since it's still closed). I haven't packed our bags yet. I may do that earlier in the morning, because I'm tired. I swear I've been taking my iron and my vitamin D, but I feel so sluggish!

I could use some sunshine, along with everyone else living far above the equator...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Run without busting my move

Tomorrow, I'm going to try to do my Couch to 5k run outside in the neighborhood on concrete. It's a walk/run mix, so it's not high intensity. There are no hills in my neighborhood or uneven farm roads. It's part of my attempt to be back to being able to run 20 minutes without foot pain on concrete for the first time since April 2011. It's been a long road. And I even signed up for a 5k the second Saturday in April, so I'd get myself out there to do it.

It's very exciting, and, yet, it makes me feel highly anxious. Every other run has been done on a rubber track, indoors.

But I must admit, I totally miss being outside. I watch this older man run his same route every day. He's run it since we moved here in 2003. It's like clockwork to see him coming down Rt. 45 in his bright yellow jacket.

I miss being one of the regulars.

Injuries suck.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Worn Out

So, I'm just gonna say it. Selling your house is not for wusses. Especially when you put it on the market the weekend of your son's 7th birthday party.

I at least had enough foresight to hold the party NOT at the house. We had two calls on Friday morning about showing the house on Saturday.

One buyer said the house just didn't fit their needs right now. The other put in a very low offer that we said no thank you to.

That Saturday night, MacTroll and I got all dressed up and went to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank Prom fundraiser. Some of my friends were there and it was fun to finally be old enough not to feel like being a wallflower. We all got out and danced and danced.

MacTroll saw that they were auctioning off trips in the silent auction. He got on his phone and found out which one of the Caribbean Islands worked easiest with his miles on American Airlines. And then he had me put in a bid. I upped the ante once and ended up with a 7-day, $2,200 package to St. James Resort on Antigua for $800. We'd been talking about going on a vacation at some point after all this house selling was figured out. And the places we were looking at were all $300-400 a night. So, this seemed like a pretty okay deal. It's an all inclusive resort, so it's not as remote as what we're used to. But we've never been to Antigua before. :-)

On Monday, we heard back from the buyers we had declined with a new offer. We weren't able to make it work out. And then they called me at work on Wednesday and asked to see the house again. They went by and said that they were still worried about a smell of gas in our HVAC room.

We have two water heaters and a furnace all that run on gas, so they all have pilot lights. I wondered if maybe the couple were first time buyers and just never had their own appliances before. But I called a plumber to be safe rather than sorry (because I couldn't smell anything abnormal, but this is gas...). He came and inspected all the mechanicals (even though they had just been inspected via our home inspection that we did before going on the market in January) and did a gas leak test on each of them and found nothing. It was $89 well spent to be sure.

Anyway, as it turns out, we got a call today that we have a new showing with a new couple today. I like that we're getting action. On the weekends, people have been driving by our house and taking the flyer out of the box. The first weekend we had over 200 hits online (and Joel and I swear they weren't just from us) at

But this getting up and making the bed and wiping everything down every day is -- ugh! I feel like I'm living in a museum. We keep eating out, which isn't a good health or financial choice, because I don't want to have to be in a rush if someone calls and wants to see the house. Maybe the longer that we're up, the less anal retentive I'll feel about it. But right now, it feels like everything has to remain perfect.

X-man had a ball turning 7. He celebrated with six of his friends at the Savoy Recreation Center. He had an R2D2 cake from Cake Artist's Studio and gets to set to work writing his thank you notes today, since in less than 20 minutes, he starts spring break!

As for me, I've been having trouble sleeping. So much so that this morning as I'm finishing the house clean up and getting ready to go work out some stress at the Y, sleepiness hit me like a brick. Instead, I set my phone for 10:20 a.m., laid down on the couch with our dog and fell asleep. I woke up and took a shower and felt a bit more like myself. But honestly, I don't know if it's the gray cloudy day or me averaging 5-6 hours a night over the last two weeks, but I feel like if I could, I would have just hit snooze forever.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Lovely Letter...

Yesterday, we got a letter from Unit 4 telling us that X-man has been accepted to the gifted program. He did very well on all the tests they gave them.

Today, we sent the letter back declining. We were asked to say why, so I told them about our potential move to California, the fact that I don't like self-contained gifted programs and that we were very happy at Carrie Busey and didn't want to move.

When I went to volunteer at the library at the school this afternoon, I saw the principal. His first words were, "Did you check your mail?"

We were both very proud of X-man. So he's gifted and socially awkward. And in Mr. Scott's words, he just has different strengths than other kids. I wish it was that easy with other people. People recognize him as being different and they make comments or offer suggestions, and it's infuriating to me. Mostly because it's usually from a stranger...

Lately, I've been feeling boxed into the idea that we have to have some sort of diagnosis for him. That for some reason it will help him. But today, I'm bouncing back the other way. I guess we're still thinking about it.

As for the house... we are now on sale.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Totally Worth the Money

Today, Blair and Scott from Picasso and Sons came to my house to do my pre-sell painting. I've used them three times prior and have loved them each time. They give me an honest estimate, they show up on time, they're communicative and they're amazing.

It took the two of them from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. going up and down ladders, mudding things down, making sure my old house paints from when we moved in were an actual match, but they got it done, and it was money well spent. They know what they're doing and it took them a full work day.

I am not the world's best painter, so we can estimate that it would have taken me five full working days and I would have done a mess of a job.

So, people who may buy my house this spring... if you're out there... be grateful. You got a first-class interior paint job. I left their name and number in the binder with the rest of the housing information.

Be wise, use Picasso and Sons. They're worth EVERY stinking penny.

As it is, my house should hit the market by Thursday. I'm both elated and in a state of panic. But, if I remember correctly, this is normal.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

She Works Hard for a Living...

You know one of the most uncomfortable things anyone has ever said to me was to welcome me to the "Mommy Club" after X-man was born. It not only left a bad taste in my mouth, it made me vomit a little bit.

I hated the idea that now that I had given birth that there was a small, but loud, group of women who were all about the thrill and adventure of reproduction. Yuck. (Have I mentioned that I'm an introvert? So group activities are not really my thing.) Anyway, today was one of those days where I was able to exist without hearing my nickname "Mom" 5,002 times.

It was that way because my lovely spouse took X-man to the Children's Discovery Museum in Bloomington. I was alone for six hours, and I spent every moment of it doing housework (minus a few online communications during lunch and bathroom breaks).

The garage is now orderly. I managed to find takers for two of the three things I put up on Craigslist. I walked my dog. My garage is organized, washed down and swept clean, except for the area where the patio furniture is currently residing until the winter weather passes.

I even dropped off some things to a friend and another two bags and a box to the Savoy Goodwill drop off (the usual guy there fell down on ice at Parkland and is in a sling, so help him out a little for the next few days if you're going).

I cooked a crazy good dinner of roasted vegetables and orzo with chickpeas (never mind that my orzo had a best by date of 2012 -- Ssshhh), lit a fire in my fireplace (gotta use up that wood, right) and cracked open a bottle of wine (gotta drink that before we move, too). :-)

I haven't felt this -- efficient in a long, long time. Darn it. I really want a merit badge, but not for being a parent... I guess I want a homeowner merit badge. Think my realtor will make me one, if I ask her?