Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Virtual Coffee

It's time again for Virtual Coffee:

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Hosted by Amy from Lucky Number 13:

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Last week I mentioned that my Keurig coffee maker is having a problem where it only brews a little bit at a time.  I also mentioned that some online forums suggested hitting the back of the machine while it's brewing, and that many people had found success with this method.  I was not among them, until I found the exact sweet spot to whack the thing to make it brew.  I'm still not sure this is a permanent solution, and I don't like the idea of sitting there whacking a coffee maker every day, but at least I don't have to replace a $150 appliance.

You know, since I have to replace my $150 stolen bike.  For those who didn't read on Sunday, my brand-new bike got stolen from my garage, in broad daylight, while I was home.  I don't live in a high-crime area, but I guess bike theft is common around here.  I wish I'd known that last week.  Anyway, I feel like a sucker buying another bike, but I also realize that a new bike needs to be a high priority because bike season is so short here.  And also I feel less guilty spending money where my fitness is concerned. 

Let me move on to happier topics.  Yesterday Nathan and I went to the beach with Katie.  It was our first time using our pop-up sunshade tent that I got at Costco.  I liked it so much better than an umbrella.  It felt like we got our own little piece of property on the beach, which was a good thing because it was so crowded.  Now, I have been going to this particular beach for awhile now, and I like it because the parking lot is close to the beach, which is a good thing when you have a whiny kid who doesn't help you carry anything.  However, it turns out on crowded weekend days and/or holidays, this particular beach is a bit of a hangout for scantily-clad teenagers/early-twenty-somethings.  We saw all manner of ill-fitting string bikinis, navel piercings, and tattoos.  I felt like an extremely old person in my sensible Lands' End tankini, but I realize that I've always been the person in a frumpy bathing suit, even in my youth. 

But, despite the fact that we seemed to be smack in the middle of MTV's Spring Break: Indiana Edition, we had a great time.  Since Katie extended me the courtesy of not posting a picture of me in my bathing suit on Facebook, I will not put a picture of her on my blog, even though I think the picture is cute.  But here's a picture of Nathan:


Here's another one:


This last one is a little bit blurry, but Nathan was practicing writing letters in the sand, so I had to post it for its wholesomeness:


How come all pictures taken on the beach come out so well?  It's sort of like how all foods taste better when eaten on the beach.  Sure, you get sand in your food, but that's part of the fun!  You can take the girl out of California, but you can't take the California out of the girl. 

You know what Katie and I ate (among other things)?  Leftover jello/pretzel salad, which I always say is one of the foods I would eat for every meal if I found out I only had a short time to live.  (The other food is the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows that you make at Thanksgiving.  I'd probably eat some fries and hot fudge sundaes, too.)  The jello salad is so good, the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  It's made with everything good in the world, such as cream cheese, strawberries, and a lot of sugar. 

In case you didn't figure this out already, I was a very bad Weight Watcher this weekend.  I ate everything in sight.  So, it's back to the grind today.  I didn't go to the gym this whole three-day weekend, due to the gym's holiday hours, the gym daycare being closed, and just being busy/lazy.  Now I feel like I'm in kind of a minor snit and could use some endorphins.  Nothing in particular is upsetting me, I just feel sort of emotionally stopped up.  You know, like I need to get some undefined, free-floating minor stress out. 

I have an appointment with Trainer Jill this morning, and I am gonna have to cram in some cardio along with that.  Then I hope we'll get to cool off at the pool before the thunderstorms come.  The pool has been open for two whole days and we haven't gotten there yet.  Usually I like to be there the minute it opens for the first time of the season. 

And I think -- think -- summer is finally here.  This morning I helped Nathan get dressed in his t-shirt and shorts, to be accompanied by flip-flops, and I took a moment to appreciate that I was not battling him over a coat or trying to find a missing glove.  It's so much easier in the summertime. 

Of course, I do have some responsibilities today.  I have to finish my Beatles script and do the usual household stuff.  And I mentioned yesterday that there might be some freelance work for me this summer, and I'm supposed to be answering the "What is your hourly rate?" question, which is yet another adult skill that I feel I must have missed the seminar on.  (Other seminars I missed: "How to Apply Eye Makeup" and "The Right Thing to Say When Somebody Dies.") 

Thanks for joining me for coffee!  Hope everyone has a good Tuesday-That-Feels-Like-Monday!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Day I Became a Peace Activist

This event actually occurred about a week ago, but I never got around to writing a post about it.  I figured Memorial Day would be an appropriate time to put this post up.  

Generations for Peace is a local grassroots organization, one of many organizations throughout the country working for peace.  I'm not a member of the group, but they asked me to be an emcee for their recent coffeehouse program.  It turned out to be a lovely evening and a really fun time.  

Before the show, I took pictures of the table centerpieces.  I just love hydrangeas.  I had hydrangeas in the flower girl and bridesmaid bouquets at my wedding.  These white ones were from one of the group members' yards.  Hydrangeas change color based on the pH of the soil they grow in, so I guess when you're a very peaceful person, you have very non-acidic soil and your hydrangeas are pure white. 


Next I photographed the food.  A local bakery donated these brownies and chocolate-dipped strawberries.



I just think a tray of cookies is pretty:


Okay, this next video clip is sort of dumb, but I loved these solar-powered dancing flowers.  Also the iconic hippie song "If I Had a Hammer" is playing in the background on some kind of peace compilation CD that they played before the show. 


I got to take one of the solar flowers home after the show.  Nathan broke it the next morning.  We can't even keep plastic flowers alive here.

The first performer in the show was a guy named Bill Preston, who plays dulcimer.  He makes his own dulcimers, too, which I think is kind of cool because it's the kind of craft that so very few people do.  And it turns out, you can rock out on a dulcimer.  I liked this song he sang called "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore." 


There was a speaker in between performers, who gave a speech called "The Cost of War."  The speech was alarming and sad.  I don't remember the exact details, but she was talking about all the roads and public schools and other useful things that could be funded with the amount of money the country spends in one day on the war in Afghanistan.

The next performer was a 16-year-old violin prodigy.  Now, generally I would expect a young person who devotes so much time to practicing music to be a little bit socially awkward, but this girl had an amazing presence on- and offstage.  She was such an excellent public speaker, whereas when I was 16 I would have mumbled down at my toes so nobody could hear me.  So, not only was this girl an amazing violin player, but she did a little presentation about each song where she taught us about musical terms, themes, and composers.  Also she had all her music memorized, which I found impressive.


The last performer was a Bob Dylan impersonator named Danny Fox.  The event organizers told me he sounds "just like Bob Dylan, if Bob Dylan could sing better."  Which turned out to be a fairly accurate description of him.  You know, like he had a good singing voice, but didn't do all those weird incomprehensible noises that Bob Dylan does.  Anyway, Danny Fox apparently has won the sound-alike contest several years running at some kind of festival held in Bob Dylan's hometown.  He put on a really fun show.  Here's a clip of him singing the classic "Blowing in the Wind."

 

All in all, it was a really fun night.  In the end I found myself agreeing with those crazy hippies, and I might even go to one of their meetings.  
The least peaceful part of the night was on the drive home, when I unleashed hell on some leftover baked goods. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In: Petty Larceny Edition

Somebody stole my bike. 

You know, my brand-new, beautiful bike that I got only one month ago?  The one that I tricked out with a cushioned gel seat and a handlebar bag that contained $10-$15? 

The crazy part is that the thief came into my garage while my garage was open, which meant I was home and lurking about doing some sort of outdoor project. 

"The helmet's still here," Nathan pointed out.

"Good, I hope the thief gets a head injury," I said. 

However, in light of the recent tragic tornadoes, I'm glad bike theft is the worst thing that has happened to me lately.

Moving on ...

I had a pretty good week.  Right after I wrote last week's check-in, Nathan and I had our first beach trip of the season.  It was so pleasantly warm, which was good because the water was still so cold.  The lake wasn't quite ready for people to swim in it, because I think the last of the ice had thawed the night before our visit.  But the beach was gorgeous, and put me in a positive state of mind the way only the beach can.  (BTW for people who live near oceans and are feeling sorry for our "lake beach," let me note that the Great Lakes look exactly like oceans, and sound like oceans, and have all the qualities of oceans except the saltwater.) 

Continuing with my lake theme, Tuesday I went to the boat party. Wednesday I baked pies, and Thursday was Nathan's last day of preschool.  Friday was my first rehearsal for The Beatles tribute show, wherein I am the emcee, which meant I was trying to sneak in time here and there to write my script.  (In the interests of accuracy, I will say that I have only written half, but my "Beatles vs. Justin Bieber Comparison Chart" is, if I may say so myself, pure gold.) 

Anyway, at the first rehearsal, it was fun to see the kids again.  They were like, "Yay, Shannon, are you writing the script again?"  And then, "Shannon's here!  Shannon's here!"  I really need to hire adorably exuberant children to announce my presence everywhere I go.  And the kids wanted to know if I had brought "Batman" with me, which is what they call Nathan because of the time he came to Snow White rehearsal in his Batman pajamas with the cape, and proceeded to run across the stage at random times. 

Also one of the kids asked me if Elton John was a member of The Beatles. 

All fun aside, I'm not sure I did a very good job on my SuperIma goals this week.  The weather did not cooperate for my "30 minutes outside each day" goal.  In fact, I think maybe the only time I spent outdoors was when I was waiting to get on the boat, and we were all freezing then.  It was definitely an indoor week.

Which means you'd think I would have gotten more reading done, but I didn't achieve my "finish two light, fluffy books" goal either.  I did finish Jen Lancaster's If You Were Here, which was mostly good but went on too long, such that I dragged my feet on finishing it.  And now I'm almost halfway through Water For Elephants, and I acknowledge that, yes, I am the last person in the world to read it.  And now thanks to the movie version I have to picture the characters as Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, and I have a problem with the fact that R-Patz's character is named Jacob, when he basically made a name for himself playing a character whose rival is named Jacob.  But that's okay because R-Patz is hot. 

I think I did do a good job with my goal to keep my general areas clear of physical clutter.  Daily straightening up of the kitchen and my bedroom seems to make upkeep easier.  (And I know, there is no greater "duh" than the revelation expressed in the previous sentence.)

This upcoming week will be a bit different than normal.  For one thing, it's the first of a two-week hiatus between school and camp, wherein I have no away-from-Nathan time.  The challenge is that I have some writing to do, and it's hard to do it with Nathan around.  Nathan is okay at entertaining himself, until I have to get some kind of task done where his presence is not wanted.  Like, the other day I was trying to do my super-accurate-Wikipedia-based research for my Beatles script, and I went up in my bedroom to get some peace and quiet, and it was at that instant that Nathan came in and argued that he just had to watch TV in the bedroom, he just had to.  

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at here is, I think I need some sort of daytime babysitting arrangement so I can have some dedicated time to write scripts and do errands.  Also, this is by no means definite, but I might (might) have some actual paying freelance work this summer, so it would be good to have some kind of babysitting arrangement in place.  So, I guess my goal this week is to sort of flesh out what I want, childcare-wise, and figure something out. 

My other goal is to spend more time petting Leia.  For those of you who have pets, you know they are a very calming presence, and I could use some calming this week.  Besides the stress of having to be with my kid 24/7, I also have rehearsals three nights this week and then two shows next weekend.  I realize none of these activities actually constitutes a legitimate stressor, at least not by life-and-death standards, but sometimes I find it challenging to be out of the house and away from my control-freak tasks three nights in a row.  I don't want to make it sound like I'm so important that chaos immediately erupts in my absence, but it is amazing how quickly my kitchen can go from relatively clean to "possible condemnation by the health department" when I'm out for one evening. 

So, that's it.  Babysitter and pet Leia. 

Have a good week, everyone!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bloggers on a Boat: A Book Release Party for Melisa Wells

I mentioned on several occasions in the past few weeks that I was excited to go to Melisa Wells' book release party on Tuesday, May 24.  And guess what?!  The actual party was everything I expected and MORE

Let me share the relevant book information before I go into details about how much I loved the party. 

Melisa Wells lives in west suburban Chicago, where she blogs at the hilariously-named Suburban Scrawl.  Like me, Melisa loves to explore the amazing and unique venues of Chicagoland.  Unlike me, she actually put in the effort to transform her love of Chicago into a book.

Chicken in the Car and the Car Won't Go is a comprehensive guide to fun in Chicagoland with tweens and teens.  (Melisa herself is the mother of two teenage boys.)  You can order it on Amazon here, like it on Facebook here, and follow Melisa on Twitter here

Although my son Nathan is not yet of the tween/teen variety, I have still enjoyed reading the book.  There's a lot of basic information in the introductory section about Chicagoland in general, such as that May is one of the three rainiest months here.  (That is, I maybe need to stop complaining about the rain.  Except the book also says that complaining about the weather is one Chicagoans' favorite pastimes, so I'm just doing my best to blend in.) 

So ... onto the book-release party!  Since the book is a guide to Chicago, the release party was just one quintessential Chicago experience after another.  (Most of the experiences were food-related, not that there's anything wrong with that.)  First off, the party itself was on the Chicago River architectural boat cruise, which, if you live here or have ever visited, you know is kind of a must-do experience for natives and tourists.  There was an official tour guide who pointed out facts about the buildings we passed, although Melisa told us in advance that we were free to talk amongst ourselves during the narration, and the guide wouldn't mind.  (I guess you can kind of do what you want when you're on a private charter of the architecture cruise.  Well, you know, as long as you comply with the laws of maritime safety.)

So, we talked.  And we ate.  There is no food that is more quintessentially Chicagoan than deep-dish pizza, and sponsor Pizzeria Uno hooked us up!  And on the side we had another iconic Chicago food, Garrett's Popcorn special "Chicago mix."  For the out-of-towners, the Chicago mix is a sweet-salty combo of cheese popcorn and caramel popcorn, which might sound a little bit unappealing, until you try it.  (I might add that Garrett's stores are so popular that lines snake out the door with Disneyland-style signs indicating the estimated wait time from that point.)

For dessert we had cheesecake from Chicago's own Eli's Cheesecake.  And I washed mine down with a couple of beers.

Now that I'm done gushing about the food, I would like to point out that the architectural boat cruise offers so many wonderful photo ops featuring beautiful, river-level views.  And I would also like to point out that I didn't take a single photograph the entire time, because taking photographs necessitated leaving the boat's indoor cabin, and I was too damn cold to do that.  It was a rather blustery day.

But soldiering through weather and making the most of it is what Chicagoans do best (after eating pizza, that is).  And I must say, I was sitting at the best table of bloggers at this event.  First there was my real-life friend Farrah.  (Well, we actually did meet through blogging, but she's my real-life friend now because we've hung out many times in non-blogging situations.)  I met the hilarious Cynthia, a.k.a. Nap Warden, who does blog design and also really liked the Justin Timberlake season finale of SNL.  Also at the table were Tracey, who used to blog at Chicago Moms Blog with me, and Rita, my sweet new Facebook friend. 

Our table was the best!  And we had a great time!  There were some raffles.  I didn't win.  But that's okay because everyone was a winner with the awesome swaggy gift bags we got when we disembarked.  Not only did we all get free copies of Melisa's book, but the sponsors were good to us.  We each got one free ticket to the Blue Man Group (I guess we're all going together), two free tickets to the Bristol Renaissance Faire (which is awesome because my family was planning on going this summer anyway), and a discount at awesomely awesome indoor waterpark Key Lime Cove (where we were also planning on going this summer). 

I should also mention that the event's main sponsor was General Motors, who parked a Chevy Cruze outside the entrance to the dock.  We all brought donations for Ronald McDonald House and put them in the Cruze, which was packed to the gills with toilet paper, detergent, and other consumables.  You know what I learned about GM?  If you are an important blogger (which I'm not saying I am), you can contact them and they'll loan you a car to take on a road trip.  How awesome is that? 

So, that party was great.  Melisa is great.  The book is great.  Pizza is great.  And if you're wondering about the title of the book, Melisa mentions in the introduction that it comes from the following silly rhyme that her mother used to say:
"Chicken in the car and the car won't go
That's the way to spell Chicago.
A knife and a fork!  A bottle and a cork!
That's the way to spell New York." 
And in case this wasn't totally obvious, readers and the FTC, I got a lot of stuff for free at this event.  I got to go on the boat cruise for free, and I got free food and drink.  I got a free copy of Melisa's book and a bunch of swag from the sponsors.   All my opinions are my own.

Thanks, Melisa and sponsors, for a great night! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Last-Day-of-Preschool Party

Oh, Illinois.  You're a great state and all, but it's frustrating when somebody plans a luau party for late May, and then everyone ends up crammed indoors because it's 50 degrees and raining.

And so that was the situation yesterday for Nathan's preschool class's "Moving Up Luau."  It was a combined gathering for the M/W/F class and the T/Th class, which meant a total of 36 kids and their assorted parents, grandparents, and younger siblings.  That was too many to cram into a small classroom, and spirits were ... stressed out. 

There was a pretty nice spread of food, because 36 families contributing to a potluck means a lot of food.  Nathan, of course, refused to eat any of it, save for a bite of cookie and a lick of cupcake frosting.  I made up for his picky eating by eating the food on both of our plates.

At the end, there was a little "Moving Up" ceremony, where each kid came up on the makeshift "stage" and got a certificate.  Since I was far away and the lighting was of the florescent variety, I got the following grainy picture of Nathan:


At the end, the teacher asked all the kids to get together for a group photo.  Much like at the Christmas party, my kid refused to be in a group photo.  WHY?!  What is so scary about a group photo?

Instead, he just sat on the rug and gave me this look:


Then, he apparently wanted me to know that he's number one ... ?!


At the end of the gathering, the teachers asked all the kids to come up and give them hugs.  Of course my kid was having none of that, so the teacher kind of teased him until he was forced to hug her:


Since my original photo of Nathan on stage came out so poorly, I asked Nathan to re-create the scene for a better close-up photo.  This other kid insisted on being in the picture too.  Now, you know I have a policy that I don't put other kids' pictures on the Internet, but this kid would not move, and, let's face it, he's making a better picture face than my own kid.  And what was I supposed to say, "You know, Alex, I have this blog and my policy on the blog is not to put pictures of other kids, so, could you please move?" 

This is also where Nathan began a series of photos wherein he was dropping his certificate on the floor to, umm, learn about physics?

Oh, for the love of all that's holy, can you just pose for one nice picture? 

Apparently not. 

As I was gathering up the leftovers from my vegetable tray, I overheard another mom tell the teacher something like, "Susie is the type who will just run across the hall to give you a hug at the beginning of next year."  The teacher said, "I always get sad when kids don't do that." 

Nathan will be the kid who doesn't give the teacher a hug next year.  He's also the kid who doesn't eat and doesn't pose for a group shot.  Maybe it was yesterday's downer weather, but I was kind of sad about these issues yesterday.  I know you get the kid you get, but I can't help but feel like this is all my fault. 

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Capture: Pretty

I haven't linked up for awhile at You Capture, the photo carnival hosted by Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry.  Today's You Capture theme is "Pretty."  I'm not sure if pies are pretty, but since I was going to post photos of the pies anyway, I decided to link up with You Capture.

These are the strawberry pies I made for Nathan's teachers.  I made a little pie for Bill and Nathan with the leftover dough and filling. 

I like to think the pies represent my family.  Two big pies, one little pie.  No cat pie, though.

I wasn't sure if I liked the pies photographed on the bare table or on a tablecloth better, so I'm just including both versions:


Close-up:


Extreme close-up!


I packaged the pies and tied bows on them, with cards for the teachers.  The cards have Target gift cards in them.  I mention the gift cards because I know a lot of people need to get teacher gifts in the coming weeks, and I want you to know that when I was a teacher, I loved to get gift cards from the students.  Starbucks is a favorite for gift cards, especially because Starbucks is a place where a gift card in a small amount is still useful.  (I know when you have many teachers to buy for, the cost of gifts really adds up.) 


And just to make this a nutritionally-balanced blog post, here's a picture of a veggie tray I made for Nathan's end-of-the-year class party:

Hey, Marzetti's, let's work out an endorsement deal!  E-mail me. 


I used this recipe for the pie filling.  This is the recipe I always use for pie crust.  People seem to like the pie crust recipe.  Then again, I have used store-bought frozen pie crust, and people have liked that too, so that's always an option. 

While making this recipe, I learned about blind baking, which is when you bake an unfilled pie crust.  Basically, you poke several holes in your crust, cover it with foil or parchment, dump some dry beans on top to weigh down the crust, and bake.  That link about blind baking said you could use wax paper, and that wax paper was vastly superior to foil, so on my first shot I tried wax paper.  About a minute into the baking, smoke started pouring out of the vents in the oven, and there was a terrible smell.  Then came the smoke alarms.  The wax paper was melting, and since I didn't want to serve my child's teachers pie with melted wax leached into it, I had to dump the crusts and start over with another batch.  So, even though that link says you can put wax paper in your oven, you cannot put wax paper in your oven. 

(Not pictured: the part where I was cleaning up and my kid decided to coat himself, the table, the floor, and chairs in flour, because he "wanted to look like a ghost.")

Oh, and regarding the veggie tray, I signed up to bring a veggie tray because of my mom's Weight Watchers axiom: Always bring something to a party that you can eat.  (Note that the presence of veggies did not stop me from eating a bunch of other crap that I shouldn't have eaten.)  So, I went to the store on Tuesday to purchase the dip and a bunch of vegetables to cut up.  I went to Party City and spent $4.00 on a cheap plastic tray so that none of my good trays would get lost or broken.  I noted that the grocery store was selling an already-assembled veggie/dip tray for $8.00, which was probably like half of what I spent when all was said and done.  And I just thought, Why am I not going with the store-bought tray?  But there was something about me that just couldn't do it.  I had to assemble my own tray.  Why!?  When did I become that person? 

The thing is, being that person doesn't totally suit me.  There are the Martha Stewart-types who actually enjoy making things from scratch.  I find that making things from scratch totally stresses me out.  And, in the case of the vegetable tray, sometimes the DIY option actually costs more, so there isn't even a financial argument for putting in the extra effort.  (I realize I can't totally call that veggie tray from scratch, since obviously I bought the dip at the grocery store.  I figured a commercially-produced dip would be safer in terms of potential allergy issues.) 

Anyway, after the veggie tray experience, I have come up with an axiom of my own: Always bring cookies.  It even has a fun mnemonic acronym: ABC.  With cookies you can just throw a package of Oreos in your cart at the grocery store, and everybody's happy.  It's easy to transport a package of cookies versus, say, an awkward and heavy tray of vegetables.  And Oreos are cheap.  And everybody likes Oreos.


Always bring cookies. 
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Virtual Coffee: Inadvertently Bitter Edition

Here's the Virtual Coffee badge:









Here's a button for Amy, the host of Virtual Coffee:
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I did my introduction in badge form because I'm in a hurry.  Plus the badges are cute.

Hi, welcome to Virtual Coffee today. 

First off, my obligatory discussion of the coffee I'm drinking.  Today I'm trying Green Mountain Coffee breakfast blend K-cups for the first time.  I usually drink the Caribou Coffee ones from Costco, but yesterday I used my last one and didn't feel like going all the way to Costco, so I had to get K-cups at Bed Bath & Beyond (well, I didn't have to, but I had one of their many, many, many coupons), and they don't carry the Caribou ones. 

I am actually super-duper frustrated with my Keurig right now.  It only brews an ounce or two of coffee at a time, so I have to keep restarting it to brew an entire cup.  I Googled "Keurig only brews a few ounces" and many people said they had fixed the problem by hitting the machine.  That sounded awesome.  But unfortunately I hit away and nothing happened.  Katie suggested that I run the machine through with no K-cup, just to rinse it out with hot water.  She said that's what the Keurig brochure said to do.  Unfortunately I tried it and it didn't solve the problem, but I am super impressed that she would even read the brochure that came with the machine.  I never read the directions unless I absolutely have to.  Oh, and if I had any freaking clue where the directions/receipt/original packaging are, I might be able to check if the machine is still under warranty, and possibly get it replaced.  But instead I'll probably just go and buy a new one, even though the first one didn't really work out for me, because that's the kind of dumb consumer I am.

In other "broken things" news, my iTunes account has somehow been frozen and the password doesn't work, even after I reset it.  I called iTunes to fix the problem, and they just straight-up blow you off ("Please visit our website.  Thank you for calling.  Goodbye. [CLICK]") if your iPod is more than 90 days old.  Mine is more than 90 days old, and also has gum from my purse stuck to it. 

I think you're starting to see how awesome I am at breaking and ruining stuff. 

Anyway, so I am in email conversations with the iTunes tech support people, who said it might take several days to fix the problem, which is frustrating because I'm pretty sure I'm going to want to download the Glee original songs featured on tonight's season finale. 

In less gripey news, I did successfully make it to my 5:30 a.m. swimming engagement today.  I can't believe that in high school I swam at 5:30 a.m. in an outdoor pool.  (Granted it was in Southern California, but even in SoCal it can be a little chilly at 5:30 a.m.)  I was pretty exhausted this morning because I went to Spin class yesterday.  Now, in the world of exercise, there are some good kinds of exhausted.  There's that feeling of tired serenity after a workout.  And there is that powerful feeling when you're tired during a workout, but dammit, you're gonna bring it the f**k on, because you are a powerful warrior and you are kicking that pool's ass.  Today's exhaustion was none of that.  Today's exhaustion was more like the kind where I had to picture my bed sitting on the pool deck to motivate me to keep swimming toward the wall. 

But that's done, and now I can feel all smug for the rest of the day knowing that I am done working out. 

(P.S. Obligatory Weight Watchers update: Lost 2.2 pounds at yesterday's weigh-in, despite some bad moments involving cookies.  That brings my total up to 24 pounds lost, or about a third of what I want to lose.) 

Today I'm excited to be spending Nathan's preschool hours ... going to the grocery store and getting an eyebrow wax.  No, but after that I am going to buckle down and start writing my emcee script for the Beatles tribute show I'm participating in this summer for community theater.  I got the song list yesterday, and the first show is June 4, so yay! 

I'm also excited because I was contacted yesterday by the people at BBC radio in the UK about being a call-in guest to talk about the subject of Gender Reveal Parties.  In case you haven't heard about this trend, it goes as follows: (1) Expectant couple goes for 20-week ultrasound and asks ultrasound tech to write the sex of the unborn baby on a sheet of paper and seal it in an envelope, (2) Couple takes envelope to baker and asks baker to dye cake batter either pink or blue, then frost the cake in a neutral color, (3) Couple forces family and friends to endure pointless party, the culmination of which is the cutting of the cake to reveal the sex of the unborn child.  As you can see, I'm not so much an "expert" on this custom so much as I am a giant hater/mocker of the concept, which I see as silly, self-centered, pointless, and a little bit hard on your friends who have recently experienced miscarriage or infertility.  Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, because I wrote a post about this trend back in my Chicago Moms Blog days, and the BBC people found it and asked me to be a guest.  I know absolutely zero details about when this show will be, or whether it will be online.  And honestly, I'm a little bit scared about the whole thing because some of the comments on my original CMB post were mean.  Apparently I am a mean, bitter person who doesn't understand how to be supportive of my friends, and I don't deserve to have anybody be happy for me and my life accomplishments.  I'm hoping the British are nicer to me than some Americans. 
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Well, I could go on, but I have to go!  Thanks for coffee!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stake It!

Ashley is my former college roommate and current friend, and recently she wrote a funny post about "gym rants."  Inspired by Ashley, I thought I'd write my own post about the gym and the annoying things people do there.  

("Stake It!" is a gym catch phrase that giant gay stereotype Jack was trying to popularize on an episode of Will & Grace.)  

First off, there are two particular members of my gym, one man and one woman, who really stink up the place.  Look, I get that it is a gym, and nobody's expecting you to look awesome or be completely sweat-free.  However, that does not mean that you should reek when you come through the door, or that you are allowed to wear clothes that stink even before you start working out.  When the entire room stinks the minute you enter, you have a problem. 

On the flip side, who are these people who wear all kinds of makeup and have perfect hair at the gym?  I'm not talking about people who still look nice because they came straight from work.  I'm talking about people who obviously get all gussied up to go to the gym first thing in the morning. 

Oh and also, speaking of personal grooming, the following grooming is socially acceptable in the locker room: (1) showering, (2) putting on deodorant, (3) drying/brushing your hair, (4) putting on makeup.  Please do not shave your legs at the gym, perform a complete DIY pedicure where you're cutting off dead skin from your cuticles, wax/bleach anything, shave your face (I'm referring to the woman who did this in the women's locker room), or bring in an entire set of hot rollers.  And if you have to bring in some sort of transitional garment like a robe or housecoat to wear between the shower and getting dressed, you are spending too much time on personal grooming in the locker room. 

Please, please, for the love of God, wear a bathing suit in the hot tub.  And if you are going to be completely naked in there, please do not do some sort of weird exercise where you bob up and down so your naked breasts are flopping around all over.  And why is it that the non-bathing-suit-wearing, breast-bobbing people are always the ones who want to talk to you in the hot tub? 

Don't complain about what's on the TV.  If you want to watch a specific program, stay home. 

If you are a group fitness instructor, please don't feel like you are a radio DJ and have to talk constantly on your microphone. 

If you are a group fitness class participant, stop with the damn additional clapping and dancing in a spin class (or in a weight-lifting class, for that matter).  Dancing and clapping in Zumba is encouraged.  Dancing and clapping in spin is distracting to everybody else.  If you have enough energy to dance and clap, you should be pedaling faster. 

And my gym now provides special disposable anti-bacterial wipes in a convenient pop-up dispenser, so if you are still too lazy to wipe down your equipment, you deserve to get kicked out of the gym. 

Plus, to the busybody who reported to the front desk that one window in my car was halfway open, on a completely sunny and warm day with no precipitation of any kind, resulting in some scary cryptic message over the loudspeaker for "the owner of a blue Toyota Corolla parked in the back lot" to please come to the front desk, causing me to take a very panicked walk where I imagined that my car was either on fire or had rolled into another parked car, please mind your own business. 

(That one was probably only applicable to my own particular circumstances.) 

I also don't think, and this is just a general nit-picky thing, that the octogenarians in the cardiac rehab program need to have eight brand-new state-of-the-art treadmills with touch screens and iPod hookups reserved just for them, when they could easily walk 1.5 mph on the old treadmills, and they don't actually know what an iPod is. And I know I'm going to get struck by lightning or something for hating on the elderly, but my point is that I'm tired of being told I can't use those treadmills between the hours of 8 and 12, or between the hours of 1 and 4.  I want them to have treadmills.  I just don't want them to have those treadmills. 

Please don't tell me that you were suuuper concerned about my belongings because I left my locker open for 90 seconds while I went to the bathroom.  Do not proceed to justify this concern because "there was somebody last week in the [insert section of the gym] who had his/her [insert item of value] stolen and [insert shocking turn of events like 'she was standing right there' or 'the surveilance cameras don't film the part of the parking lot where his car was parked.']"  These anecdotes are always completely implausible rumors that you heard through the gossip mill. 

And to the many, many members of my gym who come in, respect other people, clean up after themselves, and don't do stupid stuff like get in fights over who gets to use the lane in the pool, thank you.  You are solidly decent people and it's a pleasure working out alongside you. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In: "Life's A Beach" Edition

 Photo from last summer, Indiana Dunes

I would like to begin by giving original SuperIma Leigh Ann mad props for the amount of organization she puts into planning her family's meals.  As you recall, Leigh Ann recently moved, and she posted a picture on Facebook when she got her menu boards put up in her kitchen.  Like me, a lot of Leigh Ann's friends were impressed that she would even have menu boards.  I do try to plan meals on paper each week, although half the time my plans get shot to hell because (a) Bill works late, or (b) I am lazy and we have something like cereal for dinner.   Oh, and notice I said I try to plan meals on paper each week.  Lately the planning has really only been about three days at a time, if that.  With Weight Watchers' new "free fruit" dictum (free in the sense that it's 0 points, not free money-wise), I go through so much fruit that I have to go to the store at least twice a week anyway, so I just pick up stuff for meals each time I go.  And those meals have rotated between: (1) breakfast for dinner (or "brinner"), (2) tacos, and (3) hot dogs.  Occasionally spaghetti. 

Anyway, I'm on a tangent.  My point is, Leigh Ann is sometimes hard on herself (coughpotcallingthekettleblackcough), but I just want to compliment her on her organization in family meal-planning and budgeting.  I know she wrote a very self-deprecating post about the meal-planning, but seriously, she plans two months in advance, and the rotating list of menu items, which she seemed to imply were limited and repetitive, is like 5 times longer than the list of dishes in my dinner repertoire. 

Also, another blog friend, Andrea, wrote a post awhile back about her impressive meal-planning efforts, so she deserves a shout-out, too.  And I must give a shout-out to my real-life friend Sarah's impressive level of meal-planning and general organization in grocery-shopping and life in general, which makes me feel inadequate by comparison. 

Moving on to the check-in:

Last week I began by talking about my recent realization that a huge part of the massive, all-consuming guilt I feel boils down to the fact that I feel like I should want more out of life.  Now, in many ways I actually do want more out of life, and in and of itself the desire to get more out of life has the potential to be a very positive thing.  But all this positive energy gets squelched by feelings of guilt and inadequacy, because I feel like I should be doing more, and achieving more, and So-and-So is doing so much better than I am at this, and Such-and-Such is better at that, even though she has X kids and Y professional responsibility and Z important side task. 

(And yes, I know that previous italicized sentence made no sense from a mathematical standpoint, because X was a variable that stood for an actual number, whereas Y and Z were really just letters that served as placeholders for some kind of text.  I just thought I would point that out, because I think at least somebody might be having a problem with that sentence.  Though I feel I have competent math skills, writing is my stronger suit.  In fact, last night I had a dream in which it was the summer before my senior year of high school, and I made the decision not to take A.P. Calculus.  If only I had made that decision in real life, I would have saved my 17-year-old self a lot of grief.  Okay, end of tangent--the literary kind, not the geometrical tangent.) 

Anyway, my point is that the desire to get more out of life is generally a very positive desire, but the feeling that you should want more out of life will bring on all kinds of negative guilt that will overshadow any positive emotions you may have previously had.  Generally speaking, the word should kind of has the power to take a big fat crap on any good feelings you may be having.  (Crazy Camp had a saying, "Don't should all over yourself," so I guess that's why the word should conjures up scatological analogies for me.) 

So, now freed from (some of) the guilt of should, I had a very good week.  I started to realize that even though I tend to feel like a schlub who just takes up space on the planet, I'm actually building a lot of meaningful life experiences. 

Let me use a specific example to illustrate my point about the value of life experiences.  As I previously mentioned, I was asked this past week to be an emcee at a coffeehouse hosted by a local grassroots group called Generations for Peace.  Now, first of all, the only reason that people associate me with emcee-ing is that I stuck my neck out and auditioned to be an emcee for a community theater show this past winter.  And that community theater show opened up all kinds of new opportunities for me, too, because I got to write the script and try my hand at stand-up comedy, and now I have another writing/emcee gig for a show this summer, and the opportunity to write a script for a murder mystery show this upcoming fall/winter.  Those are all really awesome experiences that led to other awesome experiences. 

And anyway, my point was that my latest awesome experience was getting to emcee at the Generations for Peace coffeehouse.  At first I was bewildered as to what I could possibly say at a coffeehouse for a group that I am not a member of.  But a member of the group emailed me some information about Generations for Peace, and about one of their frequent partners, the American Friends Service Committee.  And I was like, American Friends Service Committee?  I know them from when I was in high school and participated in a group that helped plan events for kids in the city.  The American Friends Service Committee sponsored a lot of the events.  And also, I was pretty familiar with pro-peace activism because I grew up attending Unitarian Church. 

So you see, life experiences. 

And this week I was able to focus on all the really positive and varied life experiences I'm having, between my gigs in the community and my writing endeavors.  I worked extra-super hard on my article for Technorati, and that foray into legitimate journalism really gave my brain a much-needed workout.  Plus the local cancer support center called and asked if I'd like to take a weekly shift working at their thrift store, and there's nothing like charity work to make you feel like a productive member of the community. 

Anyway, that was a really long check-in, but the bottom line is that I had a positive week.  As you'll recall, my specific goals were:
  • Take 5 minutes to straighten up my immediate area, in the name of simplicity: I think I did a pretty good job on this one, although of course there were plenty of times where I just set up my laptop and parked myself amid a sea of squalor and Cheerios.  But the kitchen was cleaner than usual this week, at least.
  • Spend 30 minutes outdoors, weather permitting: I loved this goal!  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we went to a different park each day.  Thursday we sat in the yard.  Friday I was super busy and didn't make my 30 minutes, but I made up for it on Saturday with an epic-long bike ride where Nathan and I got kind of lost, which is overall not a good experience with a whiny four-year-old.  (The dumb thing is that I got lost once before in that same area, back when I was walking with Nathan in the stroller.) 
  • Finish two fluffy, light books: FAIL.  I am only halfway through the first one.
This upcoming week promises to be another busy one.  It's Nathan's last day of preschool Thursday, and I'm going to attempt the pie-baking for his teachers.  Plus I signed up to bring a veggie tray for the end-of-year luau.  And on Tuesday night I'm going on the architecture cruise to celebrate the release of Melisa's book.   (I don't know her IRL, but I like the name of her blog, Suburban Scrawl.) 

Oh, and today we're going to the beach!  I know I have other chores I could be doing, like sweeping up that general crud that seems to grow so easily on the kitchen floor, but I need to stare at a large body of water, dammit. 

I really liked my goals last week, so I think I'm going to have the same goals next week.  Which I know is kind of a cop-out, but there should be no guilt in the SuperIma goals, right?  That's the point, isn't it? 

I would like to conclude by thanking Leigh Ann for setting up this blog carnival, because it's the one time each week where I can really sit down and reflect, which is actually one of my favorite things to do.  And Andrea has been inspired by Leigh Ann as well, because last week she wrote a goals post, too.  I will never cease to be amazed by the power of the Internet to bring us all together. 

Have a good week, everyone!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Kid "Graduates"

Yesterday was Nathan's last day at Little Vikings, the preschool run by the Early Childhood Education class at our local high school.  They had a little end-of-the-year party.  I guess they were kind of technically calling it a "graduation," although there were no graduation hats or anything like that.   `

When Bill and I arrived, the kids were playing Twister:


The Little Vikings theme this year was "Fish."  The kids sang a four-line song about fish.  My child refused to participate. 


The classic "kid pulling up his shirt during a performance" photo: 



The kids had made a fish piñata (not pictured).  Nathan didn't get a chance to hit the piñata before it got broken, which is fine because historically he hasn't actually given a rip about hitting piñatas.  He does like the candy inside, though.   Here's a picture of Nathan with his bag of candy:


There was also a slideshow, and then the high schoolers made each kid a yearbook with photos.  Nathan's two "Big Viking" buddies wrote in his yearbook.  One of the buddies said, "I will miss seeing the funny faces you make."  I have no idea what she's talking about:


Then again, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree:


The kids had been working on an end-of-the-year project with real fish.  I had given advanced permission to allow Nathan to take his fish home.  The teacher assured us that the kids knew how to clean the fish tanks, so there shouldn't be much work for the parents.  Umm, yeah, I imagine that I'll just have to say, "Nathan, clean your fish tank," and he'll jump to it with the kind of alacrity characteristic of all his household chore completion. 

So, we have a new family member.  I suggested naming him Iron Man because of his red color, but Nathan wanted to name him either "Nathan" or "Fishy."  Growing up, I had a fish named Swimmy and a hamster named Hammy, and Bill has named visiting cats The Cat and Gray Kitty, so I'm not sure Nathan comes by the creative-naming gene genetically.  (Also, although we did give Nathan a proper, normal name, half the time we refer to him as "The Boy.") 

Nathan with the fish, whatever its name is:


I went to Petco and bought some fish food.  I got these little tablets that slowly dissolve into tubeworms and things, and you only have to feed the fish one tablet per week.  Talk about a feeding schedule that doesn't properly instill a sense of responsibility in a kid.  Nathan would probably be happy if we only fed him once a week (fruit snacks notwithstanding), but this girl is having none of that feeding schedule:

Wait, WHAT?!  You're only feeding me once a week?  No problem, I'll find nourishment elsewhere, like by gnawing off your arm. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Night Leftovers

I found this blogging carnival called Friday Night Leftovers, which is hosted by a woman named Danifred at a blog called Sippy Cups Are Not For Starbucks.  In this carnival, you are supposed to post a bunch of random thoughts.  And since half my posts are of the "random thoughts" variety anyway, I thought I'd join in the carnival!

BWS tips button 

Speaking of Starbucks, I'm headed there this morning to get a gift card as an end-of-the-year gift for the teacher who heads up Nathan's little preschool program at the high school.  I want to get something for the teenagers in the program, too, but there are 27 of them and I can't afford to get them all Starbucks cards.  So we're just going to Costco to get an industrial-sized box of candy bars that they can split up.  When I was in high school, I liked candy bars. 

Oh, and let this serve as your Public Service Announcement to PLEASE do something to acknowledge your child(ren)'s teachers at the end of the school year!  Teachers work beyond hard for little pay, and half that pay (give or take) gets put toward buying classroom supplies that the school does not pay for.  So, my point is, acknowledge them in some way.  Even if you can't afford a gift, a nice thank-you note goes a long way. 

I'm giving the two teachers at Nathan's regular preschool Target gift cards, but only because I gave them Starbucks cards for Christmas.  Anyway, I mention the Target gift cards because I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to attach gift card to some larger item like a plate of baked goods or a vase of flowers, and I'd like to discuss what I should attach the Target cards to.  (BTW I admit that I don't include the larger item to look like some sort of do-gooder, but rather because I think the card will be less likely to get lost that way.  Having been a teacher, I know it's always very chaotic at the end of the year, and in the mad shuffle to get out the door with your box of gifts, sometimes things slip away.)  Anyway, I'm considering baking pies for the two teachers, and I think I'd like to try strawberry, except I've never made strawberry pie before.  And also?  Baking pies?  Too ambitious?  For me, I mean? 

Speaking of my former life (as a teacher, I mean), let me give you some background about myself.  I grew up in a family of teachers, as in my mom and dad were both teachers, and my grandparents before that, and then my step-parents after my original parents got divorced/remarried.  My point is, the "September to June" schedule was fully ingrained in me from birth.  The first day of the year was not January 1, it was the day after Labor Day.  I lived my life according to the academic calendar through my years of high school and college, and then for the three years I taught school.  Then I got a job in the corporate world, and my first day was the day after Memorial Day, which meant I got a crash-course in OMG the rest of the world doesn't get summers off.  And after three years in the corporate world, and then two years at home raising a small, not-ready-for-school child, I had sort of gotten out of the world where late May was a mad rush of end-of-year-activities.  And now that we're finishing Nathan's first year of preschool, the mad rush of May is back.  There's the gift-buying and the card-making and the end-of-year parties.  Today's activity is a little show that Nathan is performing in at his high school program.  Oh, and in the show he and the other kids are singing a song about fish, which is because their big end-of-the-year science experiment was about goldfish, and at the end we get to take his goldfish home.  So we're getting a new pet, for a little while at least.  (Generally speaking, the life expectancy of goldfish isn't very long, although a Facebook friend announced today that her family just lost a goldfish they'd had for ten years.

I think I'm failing at this whole "randomness" thing (for once), because the preceding paragraphs were all sort of centered around the topic of end-of-the-school-year.  I must shift gears now. 

So, following Nathan's little goldfish program, I have to go to a meeting with Generations for Peace, which is a small grassroots group in the community that promotes (obviously) peace around the world.  I am actually not a member of this group (although of course I'm not opposed to peace), but my friend Kate is a member, and she asked me to be an emcee for the coffee house program they're hosting tomorrow.  First of all, I think it's funny that people have started associating me with public speaking, because I'm not sure that is one of my gifts.  (For people who are new here, I did an emcee gig at a community theater event in January, and I'm doing another one this summer.)  Also, although I'm sure my former-hippie-but-kind-of-not-but-she-was-in-college-in-the-60s mom is proud of me for taking part in the event, I am not sure I make a very good activist.  I just don't get worked up enough, at least not since I started taking Prozac. 

Another thing I'm not is a legitimate journalist, but I did write this article about education for Technorati.  The article was in response to a recent New York Times piece about the rise in popularity of traditional rote learning tutoring centers like Kumon for the preschool set.  My opinion, and the opinion of the educational researchers quoted in the NYT article, is that formalized instruction is not appropriate for young children, who should be learning through play.  I spent a few hours on Tuesday and almost all day Wednesday doing research on the early childhood education programs of other countries (countries who, generally speaking, are kicking our ass educationally) to show that worksheets for three-year-olds are not the key to success academic success in these countries.  Anyway, I did legitimate research for this article, people.  I was proud of it. 

Speaking of Technorati, my Technorati authority is 395, so close to 400.  Not that 400 is some kind of milestone or something, just some minor goal that I've established because it's obviously the value you get when you round to the nearest hundred.  I'm not entirely clear what authority is based on, something about stats and people who link to you, but I'm excited about my authority nonetheless.  (I do know that 1,000 is the best.) 

Also excited about: the pool opening next week, riding my bike by the lake with Katie in the near future, someday going to the beach (you know, when the weather report doesn't show clouds with thunderbolts for the next 5 days), and getting some new sandals (I welcome suggestions from Zappos). 

Well, I gotta run to meet Trainer Jill at the gym.  Thanks for joining me for leftovers, which, BTW, we are actually having for dinner. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All You Ever Wanted to Know About My Undergarments: A Review of My Free Wacoal Bra

About a month ago, the people from Wacoal invited me and some other blogging types to an event where we drank cocktails and had our boobs measured.  As you may recall, because you keep these kinds of details about me committed to memory, I found out at the event that I was wearing a bra two cup sizes too small.  The people from Wacoal were kind enough to send me a free bra in the correct size.

I feel a little bit bad for the PR people at Wacoal, because bloggers just aren't going to take the kind of photos at a bra event that they would at an event promoting some other product.  At the other blogger events I've been to, people are frantically snapping away pictures, but of course that would be inappropriate in a room full of underwear, where people are individually whisked away to get their breasts measured behind closed doors.  Bras are tricky to promote like that.

But I looked up the bra they sent me, and it turns out it's a $65 bra, and so I figured in exchange for their generosity I would step out of my comfort zone and take some photographs.  First, two important points:

Important Point #1: The Wacoal people did not, in any way, ask/encourage/pressure/cajole me to write this post.


Important Point #2: They're not those kinds of photographs.

Behold, a full-frontal bra view:


The front has a cute little decorative doodad: 


And this is the back view:

Posted by Picasa
Life has improved tremendously since I got the right size bra.  The straps are very comfortable, and this is easily the nicest bra I've ever owned.  I'm not even going to put it in the dryer!  (And, as my mom will tell you, not putting it in the dryer is kind of huge for me, because I put everything in the dryer, including all my other bras.) 

The bra fitter started to fill out the order form to indicate I would be getting the default beige color, but I asked if I could have black instead.  For the entirety of my teenage years, I insisted on white bras and that was it.  The beige color seemed too old-ladyish, and black was too racy.  I don't think I bought a bra in any color besides white until I was about 21.  And even then, I didn't see the point of cutesy little details like the ribbon and pearly beads.  It's your underwear, for crying out loud.  (I know, wouldn't you just love to be married to me?) 

But nowadays my life is kind of dull, and I usually wear schlubby-looking outergarments, so I take pretty details in any way I can get them.  Wacoal had so many cute little undergarments at their event, with pretty embroidery and fun details. 

So, in conclusion, I say, Mom, you can relax.  I finally understand the point of having nice undergarments, and the point of caring for them correctly. 

And, Wacoal, thank you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Early to Bed, Early to Rise?

As I mentioned last week, my new workout partner Dana and I have established a Monday/Wednesday swim date at 5:30 a.m. 

Last week the swimming went great for us.  The first day, I did my swimming and then went home and slept for an hour and a half before Nathan got up.  But the rest of the day, I loved that feeling of knowing that my workout was done for that day. 

Last Wednesday, the weather was so pleasantly warm, and I felt so great after my early-morning swim, that I went home and set up my laptop and coffee out on my back porch for some early-morning web-surfing before Nathan got up. 

Morning exercise FTW!

This week, though, I became a big fat flake. 

Dana had to go somewhere for her job early Monday morning, but I swore I would still get to the pool without her.  I needed to get into the routine of Monday/Wednesday swims.  But then I stayed up too late Sunday night and didn't even bother setting my alarm for 5 a.m.  I mean, I did go to the pool later in the day, but by then my swimming session really broke up the day in a very awkward way.  I really liked the way early-morning swimming streamlined my day and gave me large chunks of time to get things done. 

So then today I had planned to go to the pool at 5:30 a.m.  But stupidly I drank two Diet Cokes right before bed and could not fall asleep, and I was up several times at night worrying about getting up in the morning.  (I know, if that's not the dumbest thing, I don't know what is.)  And then at 5 a.m. when my alarm went off, I texted Dana to tell her I wanted to flake. 

This week I failed at getting up early. 

Next week I have to do better. 

Besides the minor infraction of drinking too much caffeine before bed, I think my failure can be attributed to two major mistakes.

Mistake #1: Not getting up at the same time every day.  Every single tidbit I've ever read about healthy sleep states that you should go to bed and get up at the same time every day.  When you force yourself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. one day and then sleep until 8:00 the next day, that's really forcing your body to adapt to an unreasonable schedule shift.  In my ideal world, I would love to be up and exercising at 5:30 most days, and I think the summer is a good time to get myself into this schedule, what with the earlier sunrises and all.  I like the idea of going out on a morning bike ride as the sun comes up.  Seems like a very life-affirming way to start the day. 

Mistake #2: And this is more like an explanation than an actual mistake, but I think I need to come to terms with the idea that I have to shift my whole daily schedule if I want to work out in the mornings.  Because while working out in the morning might streamline my day, it cannot perform the miracle of adding extra hours to the day.  What I mean is, if I'm going to get up earlier, I have to shift my thinking to a life where most of my free, alone-time hours are before Nathan wakes up, rather than after he goes to bed.  Realistically he doesn't fall asleep until 8:00, and I really need to go to bed at 9:00 if I want to get up at 5:00 a.m.  It's hard to get used to only having one hour after Nathan goes to bed, and that's not even considering the all-too-frequent times where the boy is still carrying on at 9:00 p.m.  Again, I think it all goes back to the issue that I need to fully convert to the early-morning schedule, so that my daily life has a different flow to it altogether. 

There's also the side issue that I may be married to the worst night owl in the history of the universe.  Last night he went to bed at 3:00 a.m., and had I gotten up at 5:00 a.m., that would have only been two common sleeping hours.  Not that I think shared sleeping time is some important cornerstone of a marriage or anything like that, but I just mention it to illustrate that obviously we will now be on completely different life schedules. 

But I really think that if I'm going to use my time wisely this summer, I need to become a morning exerciser.  I need to get my workouts done before taking Nathan to camp, so that I can use my three camp hours to have uninterrupted writing time.  Seeing as I have to write two play scripts this summer and all. 

It all sounds great on paper.  But we all know that every argument that sounds really sound and rational in the light of day completely goes out the window when the alarm goes off first thing in the morning.  How many times have we stayed up late, thinking it seemed like a great idea at the time, only to regret it in the morning?  As Jerry Seinfeld says, Morning Guy and Night Guy are two separate people. 

Anybody have any suggestions on how to become a better morning exerciser? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Virtual Coffee: With Random Cell Phone Pictures!

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I haven't linked up with Amy for Virtual Coffee in quite some time.  So, good to see you all, coffee mates!

Speaking of Coffee Mate, I'm having my coffee for the first time today with a generic version of the non-dairy creamer, a light variety that I calculated to be 0 points on Weight Watchers, so long as I only use 2 teaspoons.  (If you've ever been on Weight Watchers, you can sympathize with this hyper-calculating and hyper-measuring.)  It's not as good as milk, but it's zero points, and as hilarious author Wendy McClure once said (and I'm paraphrasing here), you would eat a deep-fried baby panda if it were zero points on Weight Watchers.  (I imagine it isn't zero points; pandas seem pretty fatty, and deep-fried anything isn't your friend on Weight Watchers.)  

This brings me to my obligatory weekly weight-loss update, which this week is: EFFING 0.2 pounds.  This time around my loss has followed a pattern of a big loss one week, followed by a tiny loss/maintenance/gain the next week, and repeat.   I don't know if this pattern is due to actual changes in behavior (as in, shit, I didn't lose this week and I need to crack down), or if my body has chosen not to lose weight exactly according to the weekly Weight Watchers weigh-in schedule. 

Whatever, blah, blah, blah boring Weight Watchers. 

Here's a blurry cell phone pic of some gerbera daisies I bought yesterday:


Okay, that picture is terrible, but I show the daisies to illustrate the flower arrangement I "made" to go with my new simplicity kick. 

Oh and look at this adorable necklace that Katie brought me back from Scotland!  Isn't it perfect, since I spent the week watching her cat?  And also because I love cats more than anything?


It's a celtic knot cat! 

And here's my real cat, who is bored now that she doesn't have Katie's cat Fraidy to torment anymore:


I have to go now.  I have to drop Nathan off at preschool, and then go to the gym, then Target, then laundry, and ... this sentence is so boring I can't even finish it.

Thanks for joining me for coffee!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Super Ima Okay-It's-Not-Really-Sunday Check-In

The original Super Ima, Leigh Ann, spent the weekend moving.  Is moving not the woooorst?  It's like you look at your house and you see everything on shelves or out in the open, and you think, Okay, I don't have that much stuff, I can pack this up easily.  And that's because you've lost sight of all the crap you've crammed into your drawers and cabinets, and things you saved for God-knows-what reason, and seriously, why is half this drawer filled with receipts from grocery shopping in 2005?

I mean, hypothetically that's how it is.

Anyway, even though Leigh Ann spent the weekend moving, and is writing a YA novel, she still got her check-in up on Sunday.  I, however, couldn't think of anything to write about yesterday, and had to do some additional thinking before finally posting this check-in today. 

So, unlike the title of this post, the theme for today's check-in is: Simplicity.

You know how I talk a lot about the issue of doing it all, having it all, [insert-gerund-here] it all?  And so does every other woman you know?  Well, today during a particularly determined 2500-yard swim, I had a thought about doing it all: Maybe I really don't want to do it all, maybe I just feel like I should want to do it all. 

Let me explain.  I could go all the way back to high school, when I was that do-gooder student who got straight A's and was the president of this and the captain of that, all because I wanted stuff to put on my college application.  Maybe that's where it started.  But, more recently, I think a lot of my thinking began in October 2008 when I quit my full-time job.  At that time, I figured I would get my act together, then have another baby, and/or get a part-time job, and/or do freelance work.  Now it's 2.5 years later, and I haven't done any of those things.  And it's true that of all the moms I know, I am the least busy/accomplished in terms of those afore-mentioned professional and family activities.  Recently during a discussion of a particular time-consuming activity, somebody said to me, "No offense, Shannon, but you have the time to do [activity]."  I was offended.

By suggesting that I would be offended at the notion that I'm not busy, she was implying that we are supposed to want to be busy and accomplished.  You are supposed to have it all, and do it all, or at least have a toe dipped into every category of personal and professional accomplishment.  I do not. 

I spend an incredibly huge amount of time feeling guilty about not having it all.  I have one kid and no job, and I'm supposed to want more.  And maybe on a practical level, I do want to do more so that I can earn money for my family and keep my foot in the door professionally.  But on a deeper emotional level, I realize I don't really have any need to be crazy and stressed out all the time.

I mean, life seems pretty busy as it is.  My days are filled with entertaining Nathan, cooking, cleaning, errands, laundry, working out, doing Weight Watchers, writing/acting for community theater, and blogging.  Sure about half of those things involve taking care of my personal health, which I feel guilty about.  But am I actually the giant waste of space/drain on society that I spend 75% of my time thinking I am?

Anyway, none of this is to say that I've made my peace with my lot in life, or that I have any concrete goals for my future.  But I think once I get over the feeling that I should want more, I can actually start thinking about whether or do want more and, if so, what the hell it is I do want. 

I have a really great life, and I shouldn't spend so much of it feeling guilty.

I think it all ties in with my new spirit of simplicity; you know, simplifying my crazy mind, appreciating what I have, all that stuff. 

So, I did set some specific goals about simplicity.  I'm not going to try to overhaul my whole life and simplify every aspect of it, because that would probably actually be very complicated.  But, this week I would like to simplify my environment.  I don't want a lot of clutter around me, even if that does seem to be the goal of the other members of my household (dammit, Leia).  My house is relatively clean after my big pre-babysitter cleanup, and this week I'd like to take the time to do a quick straighten-up of the areas where I mostly spend my time in my home.  (I guess this was technically saying that my goal is to clean, which is not in the Leigh Ann spirit, but it's really cleaning to achieve a greater end, that being peace of mind.  And it's not like I said I was going to get down on my hands and knees and scrub for hours.  I'm just talking about taking 5 minutes here and there to put things away.) 

And I'd like to be outdoors 30 minutes a day, weather permitting.  And finish 2 light, fluffy books.

The end.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hissy Fit

Date Night Redux:

Yesterday I posed the question on Facebook as to whether it would be a total violation of the date night spirit if Bill and I went to two separate movies.  There was a Thor playing at 7:30 and a Bridesmaids playing at 7:20.  The consensus among *ahem* my friends was that it would be fine to see two separate movies, so long as we had dinner together beforehand.  The consensus among all my husbands, however, was that there was no point in getting a babysitter if we were each going to the movies separately. 

I knew we were involved in a game of chicken here, just waiting for the other person to cave in first.  During dinner I asked Bill to run down his case for Thor.  Some of his arguments were weak, such as that he hates Kristen Wiig and imagined the entirety of Bridesmaids would be her doing that Target Lady character from SNL.  But he did argue that Thor was a movie that should be seen on the big screen, whereas Bridesmaids was suitable for Netflix.  So I gave in.

Thor was not my favorite movie of the superhero genre.  I'm not all that interested in Vikings, and I was way more excited by the trailer for the WWII-era Captain America.  I thought Thor's "realm" looked super cheesy, and I just don't like Natalie Portman.  I also don't like these confusing superhero plots with wormholes and parallel universes and a bunch of crazy backstory that Bill says you have to have read the comic books to understand.  I miss the Superman days, where it was a very straightforward Good vs. Evil, and the biggest plot "twist" was that Clark Kent was really Superman with glasses. 

But I think it's really fun for my husband to get to see film adaptations of the comic books he's been reading for years, and I do like the idea that each superhero gets an individual movie before they all come together in The Avengers in a few years.  Somehow the discussion of all these superhero films caused me to have a very pleasant dream about Robert Downey Jr., I mean Iron Man, and side note who remembers on Ally McBeal when he sat next to her at the piano and sang to her and is there anything more swoon-worthy in the world and excuse me I have to go collect myself I'll be back.

Okay, better.

So, we saw Thor.  And before that we went out to dinner. Let me just say that if I don't effing lose weight this week I will effing bite a Weight Watchers leader's head off (Points Plus® value: 6).  I carried my own damn fat-free dressing to the restaurant in my purse, and then when we went to the movies I swapped the bottle of dressing for a container of homemade air-popped popcorn and some Red Vines.  And I didn't even eat the whole box of Red Vines, or even half.  I counted out 10 damn Red Vines. 

Today: 

The weather is so bad.  I was gonna ride my bike outside, but it is freezing.  The temperature is 45 degrees, 36 with the windchill.  You know what I want to do today?  Sit in my house, take a bubble bath, read, write blog posts, and take a nap.  And I think I should get to do all those things, as a reward for my diligent Weight Watcheredness. 

Also tonight I'm going to pick up Katie and her mom from the airport after their Scotland trip, which will also include returning her cat Fraidy.  This will be a relief for poor Fraidy, who has probably grown weary from her one-cat re-enactment of the book Room.  On the occasions when she has gotten out of Room, she and Leia have been a giant hiss-fest, and yesterday while their mutual foe the vacuum was out, I caught them actually scrapping a bit, with the puffy tails and the jumping and all.