Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Books, Books, Books

The New York Times reported yesterday that Barnes and Noble is planning on closing 30 percent of their stores. I think it's the end of the coffee shop bookstore. This makes me sad. Mostly because I love shopping at bookstores. But honestly, I have to admit that once our local bookstore closed many years ago, I didn't drive up to the huge shopping complex to do most of my book finding -- I went to the library. It comes in particularly helpful as a mother with a child who loves to be read to. Plus, I never have buyer's remorse. Free is good.

However, there is something that goes on in the CU area each February that I love. I treat it like a birthday present to myself. The Children's Book Center at the University of Illinois has a sale of all of the books they've gotten in over the year. It's awesome. All of the books are at a discounted price $2 for paperbacks and $5 for hardbacks. I take one canvas bag over, which, when full, is usually around $75 worth of children's books. If you have kids or grandkids, it's a great way to fill your bookshelves.

The trick is that it used to be free to go, but a few years ago to control the crowds of libraries, reading tutors and schools coming to get cheap books they had to start limited the number of people there (it also prevents a 2-hour wait outside the building). Anyway, it's now $20 per person to get in (and don't take your children). But I find it worth the $20.

I e-mailed in my reservation yesterday, got a confirmation and have the check in the mail today to hold my spot. The sale is from 1-4 on Sunday, Feb. 17. Then, whatever is left over is open to the general public (at no admission cost) starting that Monday and continuing through Wednesday.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Adapt the Plan

In the last few weeks, we've run into a couple snarls in regards to moving. The first is the massive fall of the Fruit's stock. The second is the fact that we're prepared to likely not get what we paid for our house out of it. The third is that there is a shortage of homes in our favorite area, so we've expanded our search to three other different school districts in the area. Only one of which has the whole "walk to school" situation available.

Our stock is only able to be used at certain times due to capital gains and option vesting issues, so it's not like we could have cashed out last September. It is what it is. And it was free -- so no complaints. The house is worth more now than it would have been last summer, but I think MacTroll was thinking we'd get what we paid for it and a little bit more to pay the realtor... and we've been told that that probably won't happen due to low assessments.

Our California realtor, however, has been very supportive of the other neighborhoods we've been looking into. She has good things to say about them, so we just have to hope the stars align or we'll be in a rental situation either here or there for a while. It's not ideal, but we'll make it work. You just have to roll with it, ya know?

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I have to admit that we sat around on Saturday like three lazy-boned people. It was great. The sun was shining through my bedroom window and MacTroll and I snoozed pretty much on and off the whole day with a variety of fuzzy animals. X-man was busy playing by himself for a while, and then MacTroll went and played the Wii U with him. In the afternoon his friends from down the street came over and played for a couple of hours, too.

Today, was a bit different. It was miserable outside. We were still kind of lazy (in bed until 9:30 a.m.) but then we watched "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." We finished the book a couple of weeks ago, and X-man wanted to see the movie. We did have to fast-forward through the end fight, but other than that, he did pretty well. What was great was that throughout the movie, he was pointing out things that were different from the book. It was amazing not only how much he comprehends, but how much he can recall from finishing the books two weeks ago.

He also started his private swim lessons with Ms. Ellen at the Y again. He finished them last July, and due to my surgery, wasn't able to start them up again. So, he had six, 30-minute sessions. Today's were on Sunday but the next five will be on Monday evenings at 6 p.m. For the first time ever, though, he was able to swim from the deep end of the lap lanes in the family pool to the shallow end. It was 25 yards. It was all face-in-the-water doggy paddle. But it worked. Ms. Ellen was impressed, because all last summer he was scared to go too far. He was thinking about it too much.

While he was at his lesson, I took roughly 14 minutes and went up to the track and walked/ran a full mile. It's the first running I have done since March 2012. It was a big deal. It felt weird, but there was no pain. Afterward, when I dropped X-man off at Skateland to go play laser tag with MacTroll at 2:50 p.m., I swung by Body N Sole and picked up "The Orb." As I ran, my calf was tight. It worked, but I really had to concentrate to push off using my toes. I seem to push off on the lateral (or outer side) of my foot. This means I have a tendency to supinate. It's something I get to talk about with my doctor when I see him on Feb. 4 for my final "post-surgical" appointment.

It's possible he may want to make me custom orthotics, so that I don't lean out on the outside of my foot, which is called supination. It's easy to feel, as I'm running that I lean on my peroneals, and I don't want to risk another tear. Since 90 percent of runners pronate versus supinate... I often wonder if it would drive a podiatrist mad to try and make inserts that actually perpetuate pronation in order to prevent supination and work up muscles in a different part of the leg. I guess I'll find out!

But I did the mile. I didn't have to walk in between (i.e. I felt I could run longer and wasn't winded when the time was over. I was advised by my PT to try it out first and to go slow, and I'm a very compliant patient. I'm hoping that I'll get to do it again on Tuesday.

The only other thing we did this weekend was play an 8-hour game of Monopoly. We ended up calling it a three-way tie because it went on for so long. But we noticed that X-man was totally adding up the three die (we use the speed dice in the championship game) and adding and subtracting the money really well... into the hundreds.

I hope everyone had a restful and fun weekend, too!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Raising a Jedi

X-man's therapist, April Keaton, devised a new reward system for him. He's currently working his way from being a Padawan to becoming part of the Jedi Counsel. We picked some of our key executive function issues like "Behaving during specials" (meaning Occupational Therapy, Behavioral Therapy and Mathman) and "Not whining, complaining or generally being rude or grumpy in the morning" along with four other behavioral goals on his list. And he's advancing 1-2 levels a week.

The fun part is, he likes it so much, that he's actually inserted his own "Clone Wars: Jedi General" level, so he can extend the chart longer.

At the end of each level he earns something special. At the beginning of the training Jedi Master MacTroll and I sat down with him to ask him what he thought good rewards were. He picked things like: Make my own lightsaber out of a swimming pool noodle, play laser tag, extra Wii U time, go to the Children's Museum in Normal, etc. We were supposed to play laser tag in Dallas, but that didn't work out timewise, so MacTroll is going to take him this weekend, while I pick up the swimming noodle and some duct tape.

Either way, outside of two outbursts of frustration with technology on Wednesday, we haven't had an uncontrollable tantrum since he became a Padawan. Now at the Master Jedi level. He's doing GREAT!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


There are a few words in the English vocabulary that make my skin crawl: anniversary, cummerbund, zit, slacks, blouse, etc.

There are two phrases that drive me crazy with annoyance. One in particular, that my husband uses non-stop. "I'm going to hit the bathroom." The other is, "Can we be adults about this?" (Which, for the record, MacTroll has never used.)

The first time the second phrase made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, I was in college and some guy that my freshman roommate had been doing something with while she partied away her weekends was basically whining into our answering machine. He'd done something stupid and insensitive. And in response, she'd gotten mad, and spoken her mind to not only him, but to her close girlfriends (who also happened to be partying with his close guy friends, so I'm sure he was most annoyed that his friends were having to hear about how he was a jackass). 

And so I began to notice that when people used the phrase, "Can we be adults about this?" It was usually when the person who speaks those words has done something utterly juvenile in the first place. And on that observation alone, I immediately discount that person as having any valid complaints and not worthy of the seconds or minutes that they want to put into "fixing" whatever was wrong so that they can feel, on some emotional level, like they're okay. 

It's kind of like lying to someone, feeling guilty, and then coming clean -- to make yourself feel better, while you make the other person feel terrible (insert half or more of the politicians caught in any kind of public relations scandal). You effed up. You should live with the terrible burden. Why hurt the person (or people) who didn't do anything wrong with your admission? Oh, yeah, because you want forgiveness, so you can start feeling better about yourself, which to me, is another selfish act on top of the initial selfish act. You're human. Try to figure it out and make it better. Tell the truth when it's required and live with the consequences of your actions. It's all you can really do.

The other problem is the "Can we be adults about this?" often implies the person NOT saying those words is acting irrational when, more likely, their emotions are right on target. They're feeling something. They're not shutting down and suppressing. They're letting you know that they're angry, sad, annoyed, in disbelief, etc. That's how it's supposed to work with someone that you have in your life. You're supposed to be able to have emotional responses. You're supposed to talk in I statements and talk about how you feel -- postive or negative. And if someone tells you that your I statements make them feel in some other way than you're feeling -- that's not on you. That's on them. 

But it doesn't help your ass get out of the fire that's for damn sure. You're just stuck in there with them looking at you like you're this demon from hell, when, really, you don't feel in your heart that way at all.

But they're telling you how you feel over and over -- because to them that's the truth they want. Because that makes them feel better.

Even thought it's not the truth you've spoken, and that ain't right. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

504 Update

Yesterday, MacTroll and I met with X-man's "team" at Carrie Busey. The team is made up of various teachers and administrators who have various specialities and can do observations of children to see if they need any special interventions/accommodations.

When we last met, we talked about X-man's emotional issues. He gets stressed out very easily and could only have successful academic interactions with one other student in his class. He had difficulties making his letters. He had spatial awareness challenges sitting in a space on the carpet or standing in line going to specials (music, art, etc.). He was fidgeting and constantly pulling at his socks or putting things in his mouth.

So we put our heads together and came up with some things to try. His teachers followed them and then reported back on his growth.

The awesome news was that most of the feedback were celebrations. He's not chewing on as many things (although he still has no fingernails). His OT is helping his handwriting and he's making giant improvements. He has an emotional thermometer where he records how he's feeling throughout the day that has made a giant difference in letting him know when he's getting aggravated and needing some chill out time. He also meets with a social thinking group that utilizes the Zones of Regulation to help children become more aware of their emotions and to regulate them before they get to a breaking point.

His one challenge remains special awareness. He walks either at the front or the back of the line to be the most successful, but he seems to have trouble sitting up during carpet time. He has a special stool to sit in, so he can swivel around and keep moving without the danger of leaning back and tipping his chair.

What this means is that since we've seen improvements because of the accommodations, he has a 504 plan. If he hadn't been improving, we would have to take another six weeks to do a full case study and work toward an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

He takes his 504 with him to California when we move. And we'll have to sit down with the new principal and talk to them about how they operate and where they think the best place will be for X-man.

The administration and teachers at Carrie Busey have been extraordinary. They even told us to feel free to have his new school call if they want any additional information on the plan or on X-man in the school.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Yee Haw!

We spent three days visiting the Supers in Colleyville, Texas, a burb between Dallas and Fort Worth. It was great to see the kids running around and giggling and to get caught up. The Supers found a very lovely house with giant ceilings, a pool and a nice yard for Cooper to run around in. The girls were very happy and it returning to a land filled with sunshine rather than fierce winds definitely suits them.

While we were there, we visited the Stockyards. X-man got to take in the Longhorns and ride a pony. It was Sunday, so a lot of the country western stores were closed (which made SuperShawn sad) but MacTroll and I took the older kids for cupcakes at La Bella. They gave them two thumbs up.

Then on Sunday night, after we went back to our hotel in Southlake for some quiet time/nap time, MacTroll and I got a special treat. We got to go out to dinner with one of my childhood friends, O. O has lived in Dallas since graduating from law school at the turn of the millennium. He has a "newish" wife, Hil, who is very fun. We met for some Tex Mex in Irving, Texas, and I had more tequila than I had had in a long, long time.

On Monday, SuperShanna, MacTroll and I took the kids to the Fort Worth Zoo. It was warm enough to just wear sweatshirts. We saw a very ROARY lion, some adorable penguins and a lazy, loveable meerkats (among many other animals).

Then we had lunch at Mooyah and played at the girls' favorite park. 

It was nice to get some sun on our faces, even if it was only 52 degrees. It felt like spring, and it was their winter. It's odd to think that in a year, that kind of temperature could be our "winter."

Last night we returned to Savoy where it was a whopping 10 degrees when we got off the plane. X-man was put straight to bed and was dragging a bit this morning.

I'm off to physical therapy and then to workout with Kari, while MacTroll goes and gets Lily from Doggies on the Farm (See the flash of black in the front of the line, that would be ours) and then waits for the home inspection guy to come check out our house. The realtor comes tomorrow to check out our place. And then I have some "finesse" work to get done, now that the house is basically dejunked.

It's hard to believe that in six to eight weeks, people will be going through our home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gifted and Talented Education in Unit 4

Last night I attended the informational meeting for parents regarding the Unit 4 gifted program. X-man had taken a test with the rest of the first graders called the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test. If your child scored over the 80th percentile, they got a letter in the mail to test for the gifted program.

I am not a fan of self-contained gifted programs. But I wanted to see exactly what kind of test they would be administering given X-man's current list of learning disabilities (handwriting and anxiety). He did very well on the NNAT test, but if you mention the word "test" to him he freaks out. And since I didn't even know they were administering the last one, I'm just going to make sure he's well fed and well rested and not use the word test this time.

Around twice as many people showed up for the meeting than were anticipated, because the administrator there had to set up many tables and chairs.

He explained where the gifted programs are in the district for elementary school children (Dr. Howard, BT Washington, Garden Hills and Stratton Elementary). Most of the schools with gifted program are typically under chosen schools in Unit 4. Three of them have enjoyed more popularity because they've become Magnet schools (BT, Stratton and Garden Hills) so they offer more variety in their curriculums.

If a child tests into the gifted program, parents are required to go through the school selection lottery again and rank/choose the school they would like their child to attend. There is no guarantee, even if your child tests into the gifted program that you'll get the school of your choice. It is required by federal law that there must be a drawing at all the schools that are Magnet Schools. It is part of the requirements when the school district accepted Federal funds to create those Magnet Programs. But, as usual, because it's Unit 4, when parents, who are two years past the kindergarten fiasco hear lottery, they get wound up. Past numbers, according to the administrator, were that 95% of the families entering the gifted program got the magnet school of their choice.

And every time parents asked the same question asking for guarantees that their child will have a "higher" possibility of getting into the gifted program building of their choice, the administrator answered with a no each time. And each time there was this uncomfortable silence like a giant boulder hitting the floor. Once they appeared to accept where the programs were, they started asking about whether or not gifted programs would be opening up in schools in other parts of the district to make it more accessible so children wouldn't have to be on a school bus for an hour or two each way to school. The administrator said confirmed that no new gifted programs would be coming next year, but if they see growth in the program, particularly since they're doing so much building in other schools, it might be possible that in the future other schools could have gifted programs. But no -- just because you have a high performing school with lots of children qualifying for gifted or enrichment, doesn't necessarily mean they'd put a gifted strand at your school.

They handed out a sample of the Naglieri test so parents could see the kinds of questions their children had been successful answering. Then they put out a sample of what they call the three-subject test (Verbal, Non-Verbal and Quantitative). First graders who scored over the 80% on the Naglieri test and had their parents sign off on the test at registration, will spend one hour a day for two days in the next few weeks taking the three-subject tests. In the past, children who scored in the 90% or higher on three of the four tests (the three-subject tests and the Naglieri) are usually welcomed into the gifted program. Usually 300 children are tested, but there are only 100 gifted spots in the district at each grade level. The top three scores are usually a composite score of 270 for three of the four tests. The difference between the tests (besides the subject) is that Naglieri measures potential for learning, where as the three-subject test measures achievement/knowledge.

If family decides not to enter the gifted program, but their child did well on the Naglieri test OR if a teacher nominates a student, they can go into enrichment at the school where they normally attend. Students in enrichment usually spend 30-40 minutes per day doing either pull out (kids leave the room) or push in (they accommodate accelerated learning in the classroom). Some of the schools use things like Lego Engineering as a project-based learning approach that is above and beyond a regular education classroom activity. (Don't get me started on the 1,800 reasons why I think all kids should get to use Legos...)

In a gifted program, the children spend all day doing accelerated work. From what I could tell, how it is accelerated is left up to the teacher. They could learn the Latin roots for words. If your child tests into gifted, he or she will automatically jump one grade level in the Everyday Math curriculum that the district uses. That is, when they start second grade, they will start third grade math. If you have a child that is stronger in language arts, than in math, it is up to the teacher to make sure that your child gets the extra help he or she needs to bring up their more challenging subject.

They also handed out a couple of flyers on what defines "gifted and talented."

"Champaign Community School District 4 believes that all children have special gifts and talents. Outstanding talents are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor.

Gifted and talented children in Champaign County School District 4 are identified as those children with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at exceptionally high levels of accomplishments when compared to others of their age, experience, or environment. THese children and youth exhibit high performance capacity in at least one or more of the following areas: intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or specific academic fields. They require additional services or activities that need to be provided by the schools."

So here's our deal. X-man did well on the Naglieri. But if you had asked me before we started looking into the spectrum disorders if he was gifted, I would have looked at you funny. You'd walk into a room and see that most other kids could sit still and follow directions, and my kid was moving -- all the time. You'd see him cry at sad stories, hide under his kindergarten teacher's desk when they watched movies on rainy days that made him uncomfortable or bite his fingernails until they bled when he was worked up over something. You'd notice that he can't be quiet when he's supposed to and that he's always asking questions. Always asking questions. You'd notice he has social skills deficits with children his own age, but will talk to adults or older kids about a wealth of subjects. You'll find that even though he's doing everything but seeming to pay attention, he actually understands what's going on. And you'd notice that my child has a pretty crappy self-esteem problem. He doesn't think he's ever good enough and he struggles with being self-accepting. But he does have a tinge of "leader" in him. He wants to know what's going on. He wants to know why it's happening and why it's important. Basically, if you put all of these things together, you have a walking hot mess that often feels like a parental puzzle to figure out. And I always wondered why he couldn't sit and focus like child A or B or why he badgers people with constant questions, so eager that he can't wait his turn, and why does he always have to have his hands in things all the damn time?

The last flyer they gave us was one comparing a "bright child" with a "gifted child." And it made me wonder if, indeed, X-man could be gifted, albeit with his learning disabilities and perhaps also on the spectrum.

Bright Child
Knows the answers.
Pays attention.
Works hard.
Answers questions.
Enjoys same-age peers.
Good at memorization.
Learns easily.
Listens well.

Gifted child
Asks the questions.
Extremely curious.
Gets involved physically and mentally.
Plays around, still gets good test scores.
Questions the answers.
Prefers adults or older children.
Good at guessing.
Bored. Already knew the answers.
Shows strong feelings and opinions.
Highly critical of self.

So, I guess he takes the tests and we see what happens. In California, they don't do self-contained gifted. Gifted and Talented is worked like enrichment (sometimes it's in the classroom and sometimes it gets pulled out). And I'm fine with that. I just want to make sure he's intellectually challenged while finding a social environment he's able to thrive in. I'm not sure such an environment exists. But I hope so.

If he doesn't get the scores, that's quite okay, too. Let X-man be X-man is still the most successful philosophy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guess what?

I was permitted to "jog" for three minutes on the treadmill today at physical therapy. My PT watched my gait (I still lean way to the outside on my right foot), but there was no pain!

The Big Apple

Our house is going on the market sometime in March (or at least that's the plan barring any unforeseen issues). Spring break is also in March. I wanted to go somewhere, but not for too long and not too far away. We read a few weeks ago that a new Museum of Mathematics opened in NYC, and MacTroll and I started talking about taking X-man. MacTroll's been in Manhattan many times for work, but I haven't been since 1999 when MacTroll and I stayed in mid-town. The time before that 1997 when my friend Julie and I stayed in Times Square for a college journalism conference. The time before that was 1978 and my parents lost me (they swear I'm the one who wandered off, but I was two... so, um, I hold no responsibility for that) overlooking the Statue of Liberty to go feed birds with my six-year-old sister. So, you know, it's been a while.

Anyway, we looked into tickets, and they were really inexpensive (what no one wants to go to NYC for spring break? Too many trips to the Panhandle of Florida?). So, we bought our flights and MacTroll is currently surfing around all of the hotel points he has deciding where he wants to stay. I did tell him he needed to be closer to the museum end of things (Museum of Natural History, MoMA, etc.) to keep X-man walking places. So we're likely to end up somewhere near Central Park/Times Square. Since it's a kid-friendly trip, we'll pick up a CityPass. It worked really well when we went to San Francisco when X-man was 3.

He's already asking how big the city is. I told him if we fly over it on our approach to LaGuardia, he'll see something that looks a bit like Coruscant like in Star Wars. But that it would be a lot of walking, some subway taking and that Dad would do his best to find a hotel with a pool.

But we'll be there March 19-23 doing the tourist thing...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Reading Stamina

Carrie Busey has a book club that started in November. Children in grades K-2 record how many minutes they read or someone reads to them, and then they turn in a sheet every 120 minutes. As X-man has been moving up in his reading from a level 6 to a level 14, the number of words per book (as expected) have been going up. Every Tuesday and Thursday parent volunteers very nicely go into the classroom and help each student in his class pick out two books. They get sheets to record how many times they read their books, and then they have to bring them back. X-man has a goal of reading each of his books twice before he returns them. They're called Baggie Books (because they come home in a Ziploc bag.)

When he read a level 6, he'd read me both of his books in one night. Now that he's moved up, I notice that he gets tired around 2/3 of the way through the book. When the books were easier, he could hold them himself and he wouldn't get distracted. Now, it works better, if I hold the book and move my finger under the words. I try to get him to do it, or to use a ruler, but he declines. But awful protests ring out if I point out that he skipped a line and that's why the story doesn't make sense.

His baggie books take him roughly 5-12 minutes to read, depending on the story. Right now he's got one about a family helping to rescue a fisherman on the beach that he breezes through and one about a family who lives near a river that has flooded their house, that he is less interested in, so it takes a while.

I'm starting to do some research on reading stamina, because when I read to him, he has giant comprehension stamina. I read a story. We talk about it. He hands me another. It goes through waves, but sometimes it's an hour a day of me reading to him. Sometimes (like if it's a graphic novel) he sits next to me or at the end end of the bed and gets really into the pictures while I read (or do sound affects, if it's a Star Wars book), but other times, if it's a picture book, he just plays quietly on the floor with something. Then he answers questions about the book at the end or he starts a conversation about it.

Sometimes, I think it's trouble, all this reading I do versus making him do. But he understands and processes the story and the ideas. And I keep reminding myself that he needs to be at a level 16 by the end of 2nd grade to be "at grade level," so he's got time to get to 16 and to pass it, even, before May. In fact, I told him when he goes back to school on Tuesday, to try a level 15, since the rescue one was so easy for him.

In my bag of tricks, I get a lot of "you read/I read" books. We started doing this when he was in kindergarten and was tired of reading to himself. So I read the parts of Gerald the Elephant in Mo Willems' Piggie and Elephant books and he was Piggie. Nowadays, I can find Usbourne books at the library that do the same thing. Right now we're reading a book about school poems that works the same way. If we read together, for whatever reason, he can go much, much longer than if he's reading by himself. In a way, I think he just likes that it's a partner effort.

But I love that we're working hard at trying, right? I mean, he loves being read to, so hopefully, one day, he'll love reading to himself as much as he loves being read to. Until then, we're turning in a blue sheet every 2-3 days at school.

The Tolono Library is also having a winter reading program, where the kids record how many minutes they read for prizes. But the trick is that he has to read to himself. He's doing pretty okay. He's averaging about 10 minutes a day, which will get him to the 300 minutes mark by the end of the club, but if he really wants a football prize, he's going to have to kick it up a notch.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Life Insurance

MacTroll and I recently made changes to our life insurance policy. In order to apply for the new policies, we had to go through "physicals." I was nervous because I don't feel I'm in good shape. I hadn't weighed myself since before my surgery four months ago.

The insurance company sends an examiner to your house. They take a urine sample, a blood sample and they check your weight and height and your blood pressure. All of the medical history information is required over the phone prior to the exam. The weight actually was pretty within ballpark of what I was thinking. I'm also realizing that the difference between my high intensity cardio and low intensity is the extra 20 lbs I'm carrying around over my "goal" weight of 165. And my blood pressure, now that I'm not in chronic foot pain is back to being 96/60.

I haven't gotten all of my numbers back yet, but the policy called our Ameriprise guy to let him know that we  both passed. And then he added that we were getting a refund because I'm "preferred." I'm not sure what I'm preferred for, but apparently, I got the good health discount. So hooray.

Then X-man asked what insurance was. So we explained it to him. We all agree we don't want anything to happen to anyone that would require us to use it. :-)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flying with Cats

I've been doing a lot of research about flying with animals. When we finally get the family headed to California, we decided that making our 12, 13 and 15 year old cats drive for three days in a crate with a kid and a dog really isn't going to suit them. Instead, we're looking into flying with them in the cabin as carry-ons.

American Airlines charges $150 per pet to do this, and they allow up to seven animals in the cabin. Each animal has to be with a ticketed passenger. (MacTroll is asking his favorite American employee, Amanda, at Willard if X-man counts or if the passenger has to be of a certain age.) Animals have to stay in their carriers the entire flight and cats must be under 17 lbs.

The trick is that you don't want any kind of connection when you travel with cats. You want to go straight to your destination. So, we'd drive them up to chicago in a larger crate (Lily's dog one), and we'd go through security there and then get on the plane.

The next trick is that you have to take your animal out of the crate at Security, if you're carrying on. This is crazy, but in order to do that, we're going to put the cats in harnesses on leashes. Just in case they freak out among a lot of people in O'Hare and try to scamper, we've got an extra hold on them.

Then, once they get through security they can go back in the carriers for the five-hour flight to California. On the other end, we'll be checking them into a well-to-do pet boarding place until we've got our house purchased. Then we'll set up some litter boxes, send MacTroll back to get a traveler friend of his choice and our car, dog (who will be at Doggies on the Farm for a little while) and goldfish (who will need to stay with a friend for a bit) and drive them out for three days while X-man and I put the house together on the other end.

Organizationally, there are a lot of details. But I love this kind of thing. I like coming up with plans and contingencies. I love big picture ideas with layering of details. I am not intimidated. I'm a planner.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thief! Thief!

This is our cat Luke. He will be 13 years old in March.

He doesn't look like he'd cause too much trouble, but lately, he's become quite a pain in the butt. You see, he's taking things that don't belong to him. His favorite thing to steal are socks. And usually, this is no big deal. He find one that X-man leaves on the floor, or he swipes one out of the clean laundry basket that I carried upstairs but was too tired to put away... and I find them all over the house the next morning. Sometimes it's just one or two. Sometimes its up to eight. (Woot! Laundry party.)

He meows as he carries them around. It's very distinctive.

So earlier today, after X-man got ready for KTDID to take him to soccer, he and I ate dinner. (We had Morning Star mini corn dogs, where he told me I couldn't eat them because they were meat. He took learning that his beloved corn dogs were actually soy with an air of -- WTF? It was pretty funny. He's never eaten a meat-based corn dog at home -- ever.) He had his uniform on, but not his socks. We heard Luke meowing upstairs, and I made the comment. "Luke's got someone's sock."

Forty minutes later, I went upstairs to get the sock, and X-man was showing me the mini Lego Harbor he built today that he got from Santa for Christmas. (It's pretty cute and he's having a ball playing with it.) But for the life of me, I could not find his other sock. X-man started to get upset, "I left them both right here!"

And then I froze, and I smiled. "What Mommy?"

"Think about it."


So we wandered into my room and there in the middle of my bed were three socks. One of them was X-man's, two were mine from my hamper.

Besides the sock stealing, he's also stolen underwear from X-man's bottom drawer and a small, stuffed blue hippo from X-man's room. I found Luke using it as a pillow.

I'm wondering if all this carrying around suddenly has a purpose, or if he's just going crazy in his old age?

Update: He just brought me X-man's two dirty socks that he put on the floor of the laundry room to be washed. Normally, I'd thank him for helping me pick up the house. But since X-man put them somewhere where they'd actually be washed. It just means I have to carry them downstairs again. :-)

Monday, January 7, 2013


My child has always been a kid who would rather run around outside pretending to put out fires on a playground or to play spy around the neighborhood than sit inside. He has always reserved his indoor play to his precious Lego pretend play time or to work with playdough or to do games on his iPad.  Until the Lego Wii games came into our house...

We received our dud of a Wii U back in the mail the other day. It is now all set up and playable. We only have one new game that's Wii U specific. Tanks! Tanks! Tanks! Basically, you go around saving the city by shooting down mechanical monsters in your tank. You can work as a team, or you can go into a training ground and fight against one another (again, you can do it by yourself with the computer or in teams).

And on Saturday, I realized while I was washing walls and marking them with painter's tape, that X-man was spending too much time this vacation in front of a screen. What's the difference between the Wii and his iPad. Well, honestly, when he plays the iPad he often plays educational games. It's hard to argue when a kid spends 45 minutes doing a Ms. Frizzle Magic School Bus book or when he's working on spelling words in a spelling game or when he's fitting tangrams into a design in a math game.

The video game situation was becoming obsessive, so I imposed time restrictions. At first he was really upset. But today, he is actually planning out his time. He ran down the street to see if his friend could come over and play. He had to go get a haircut first, but when he was done, he'd be down. X-man is excited to have him come over and play the Wii U, so he's saving all of his Wii U time for when the friend is here.

In addition, he's excited about giving his Wii to Awesome. Once we got all the files from the other games transferred over, he felt it was safe to separate with the old console. So we'll be getting that ready, too.

I can't really say that the obsession is any different than when my parents first got us an Atari when I was six. I'm pretty sure I spent hours after hours playing Ms. Pac-Man, River Raid, Frogger and Centipede. None of that was educational, either. That's what our Commodore 64 was for.

:-) I totally just dated myself. And that's okay!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Wet January

Because giving up dairy wasn't enough of a crimp in my style, I've also decided to only drink water for the month of January. I want to see if I can do it. I can still cook with soy milk, but everything liquid has been ice water. I haven't even gone the tea route.

It's not hard. But I have had a lot of moments where I want to reach for MacTroll's beloved Cherry Coke Zero on the counter for a sip and then think, "Oh yeah!"

I'm terrible at hydrating. I always have been. But I'm working on it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

"We Don't Own Anything Orange!"

Tomorrow, we are taking X-man to his first U of I men's basketball game. We've avoided it his whole life for many reasons.

1. Tickets in the C section are $40 per ticket.
2. There are lots of crowds, and we aren't partial to crowds.
3. Although MacTroll is a graduate of U of I, I'm the closest thing to a sports junkie in this house. And although I was a Bulls fan for most of my childhood, I could give a crap about college sports.
4. Women's basketball games tend to be more family friendly. If you end up next to a grumpy fan who curses and freaks out over everything -- at a woman's basketball game, you can just change seats.
5. Up until last year, there was no way he could sit still for the whole game.
6. Most of the games don't start until 7, and by 6 p.m. my child is pretty much exhausted -- every day.

So, why are we going? Because X-man has asked to go every year, and every year I tell him the reasons why. But he still asks. I will admit that most of the sporting events at U of I that we go to are female sports. We're big fans of the Illini softball team. But X-man got to go to a volleyball game in 2011 when they were tearing other teams to the floor.

It was then than he realized a giant crowd could be fun. It got him excited! So, we're going to show him what a really large crowd looks like. He's seen one at Busch in St. Louis, but it's all outdoor (not contained inside) and the amount of orange in one room is heinous.

Besides softball, his favorite sports experiences are watching Illini hockey. Speaking of hockey, X-man went to the Ice Arena today for the first time as part of his Day Camp with the Champaign Park District. He learned to skate using a walker and said that he wants to go back and take lessons.

This is very exciting. Because before now, he was always super afraid of skating. I don't have my PT's blessing to skate yet, so MacTroll will have to take him for now, but I did get her blessing to start strength training again. I'm working out with my friend Kari twice a week, and I'm going to give BodyPump a sporting try this Sunday at the Y.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rube Goldberg

X-man has enjoyed sitting around on his butt not doing much besides play with his new Legos, working on his new Pigeon activity book and playing Lego Clone Wars III with Mactroll. Today, he was not happy with me when we woke him up at 6:50 a.m. to go to an all-day summer camp.

He's spending today (and Thursday and Friday) making a Rube Goldberg machine with fellow campers. In the middle of the day they're taking field trips to bowling and to the aquatic center. I haven't told him Friday they're going ice skating, because he's not a big fan. And I don't want him to be a mess the next two days because he gets himself worked up over his fear of falling on hard ice.

In the meantime, I'm getting all kinds of things done before I go back to work next week. I'm very excited to be returning to MMO on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Other than that, it's pretty quiet around here until the weekend. We're going to our first U of I Men's basketball game on Saturday. I guess I should run out and buy us some orange, right?