Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day in Michigan

I always want to go to the beach.  Always.  But the only other adult in my family is a bit sunshine-averse, and so I'm always looking for other adults to drag along accompany me to the beach.  So, when my mother-in-law arrived yesterday, she got to be the lucky beachgoer. 

The cool thing is that we are able to cross not one, but two state lines in about an hour.  We skirted the coast of Lake Michigan, driving through Indiana and into Michigan.  My favorite beach in southwestern Michigan is about an hour and 20 minutes away. 

But it was so worth the drive.  The sand in Michigan is so pure and soft, and the view is nothing but sky and water. 

Here's Nathan eating his SpongeBob ice cream bar:

Here he is on the best raft, which I bought last year at the grocery store:

Still featuring dribble on his chin from the melted SpongeBob:

After the beach we stopped in New Buffalo, Michigan (home of I Love Toy Trains: The Store), to have dinner at the famous Redamak's:

Here's Nathan on the coin-operated fire engine before dinner:

Waiting for dinner to arrive:

Group shot before dinner, in which I thought I looked fat, but proceeded to eat that whole burger and fries anyway. 

What?!  It was a turkey burger.  And see how my phone is out?  I was waiting for text updates on my sister-in-law, who is in labor.  So far no word, and we don't know the sex of the baby.  Oooh ... cliffhanger!

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The One Thing I'm Not Worried About

I wrote this post to be cross-posted at my friend Farrah's blog, DuPage Mamas.  So this post contains a lot of introductory information that you already knew about me, because it's also intended for a whole other audience. 

Right off the bat, there's something you should know about me: I'm a worrier.  Always have been, probably always will be.  When I was a kid, my parents would go to my parent-teacher conferences, and every teacher -- from kindergarten through high school -- would say the same thing about me: She's such a good student, but she worries too much.  

I come by worrying genetically. I hail from a long line of worriers.  We're excellent at worrying.  It's what we do.  It's our way of coping with unknown situations, preparing for the unforeseen circumstances and what-ifs of life, in a way that's, you know, a totally pointless waste of energy. 

You can tell me about the futility of worrying all you want.  Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair--it's a way to pass the time, but it doesn't get you anywhere.  Worrying about things that haven't happened yet is like paying interest on money you didn't borrow.  Look, I get it.  There's no point in worrying.  But I'm still going to be a world-class worrier. 

And there is no greater arena than parenting in which to excel at worrying.  A positive pregnancy test is like the starting pistol to a nine-month worry-a-thon.  What about the time I cleaned out the cat's litterbox before I knew I was pregnant?  OMG the restaurant accidentally put a chunk of unpasteurized cheese in my salad!  What if I go to the grocery store and come into contact with a kid who has Fifth Disease?  And on and on and on. 

Then baby comes out, completely unscathed in spite of that deli meat you ate at Subway, but the worrying is just beginning.  Why is my baby eight weeks and three days old, but he still can't bat at an object with closed fists like So-and-So's baby can?  Am I giving him adequate daily tummy time?  Why did he only gain three ounces since his last checkup OMG my breastmilk is inadequate I am such a failure and waaaaaiiiiiiiill.  

And the kid gets older, your parenting journey continues, and yadda, yadda, yadda ... you're still consumed with worry.  You worry about your child's health, as well as your own health and your spouse's health.  You worry that you're not strict enough, or too strict, or squelching his creativity, or letting him be too creative, or not playing with him enough, or playing with him too much.  You worry about potty-training, and sleep-training, and whether or not he eats enough vegetables.  And all this worrying pales in comparison to the terrifying late-night irrational fears that creep into your mind: What if something tragic happens to my child? 

But in spite of all the worrying that goes into an average day as a parent, there is one major area about which I do not worry:

I am not worried about preparing my son for kindergarten.

Let me explain.  My only child, Nathan, is four years old.  He will start kindergarten in the fall of 2012.  Right now he's headed into his second year of preschool at a park district school that I picked because it was nearby and reasonably-priced.  I mention this not-so-rigorous preschool selection process to illustrate the fact that I was in no way concerned about choosing a preschool that would lay the foundation for his academic success. 

It's not that I'm certain he will be successful academically.  And it's not like he's some kind of genius.  While, as his mother, I can't help but recognize that he excels in some areas of intelligence, I don't labor under the delusion that he's any more academically advanced than most other kids.  He can recognize most letters of the alphabet, and he can write his name.  He doesn't have a firm grasp of phonics, and he can't read yet.  I think, for the most part, he has picked up an average amount of academic knowledge from his two-day-a-week preschool and from some children's TV shows. 

Yes, I let him watch television.  Some days he probably watches too much television.  And I'm not balancing that TV time by doing workbooks or lessons with him.  Workbooks aren't really his thing, and if I'm being honest, they're not really my thing either.

So, I've got a TV-watching, workbook-averse child.  How could I possibly not be worried about his level of kindergarten preparation, or lack thereof?

I'm not worried because I know my son is being raised in an environment that will prepare him for kindergarten.  And I'm willing to bet that your children are being raised in the same type of academically-rich environments. 

You might think that my attitude toward kindergarten preparation makes me either (a) lazy, (b) overly-optimistic, (c) naive, or (d) All of the above, especially given today's academic climate of high-stakes standardized testing and No Child Left Behind.  Well, first of all, clearly my ability to phrase my thoughts in the (a), (b), (c), (d) outline format indicates that standardized testing is a high priority for me.  But also, it is the academic standards themselves that provide benchmarks to reassure me that my child is being adequately prepared for kindergarten. 

Let's look at some of these benchmarks, taken from the Illinois Early Learning Standards. 
  • Language Arts, Benchmark 1.A.ECa: Understand that pictures and symbols have meaning and that print carries a message. Has your child ever seen the Golden Arches and recognized them as a McDonald's restaurant?  If yes, then your child has the important pre-reading skill of understanding that pictures and symbols have meaning.  I'm serious. 
  • Language Arts, Benchmark 1.A.ECb: Understand that reading progresses from left to right and top to bottom. I'm guessing that you take your child to the library and/or read to him/her, so your child probably understands the whole left-to-right, top-to-bottom conventions of documents written in English.  Really, it is the teaching of concepts this basic that constitute kindergarten preparation.  
  • Language Arts, Benchmark 1.B.ECb: Begin to develop phonological awareness by participating in rhyming activities. Now, I will say that I have a background in education and can understand the meaning of fancy jargon like "phonological awareness," but really all it means is having the understanding that words are composed of sounds.  CUH-AAA-TUH spells cat.  There, you have it.  Now all you have to do is encourage your kid to kid to think up rhyming words, and/or read your kid books that rhyme, and you're helping him/her develop phonological awareness. 
  • Language Arts, Benchmark 1.C.ECa: Retell information from a story. I'm guessing your kid can tell stories, over and over again, ad nauseum.  Congratulations, you're suffering through that seemingly pointless oral drivel to give your kid a leg up academically. 
  • Mathematics, Benchmark 6.A.ECa: Use concepts that include number recognition, counting and one-to-one correspondence.  Have your kid count out apples as you put them in a bag at the grocery store.  Done.
  • Mathematics, Benchmark 6.C.ECa: Explore quantity and number.  Okay, so the other day at the Dunkin' Doughnuts drive-thru, my son wanted to order 5 Munchkins.  He's very particular as to what varieties of Munchkins he gets, so I asked him to tell me which ones he wanted.  I held up 5 fingers to indicate the number of Munchkins, then put fingers down as he listed each type of doughnut.  He realized that he could not have 2 jelly, 2 chocolate, and 2 powdered, because that was more than 5.  See?  We were exploring quantity and number at Dunkin' Doughnuts.  (Oh, I didn't mean doughnuts, I meant fruit.  Organic fruit.) 
  • Mathematics, Benchmark 7.A.ECa: Demonstrate a beginning understanding of measurement using non-standard units and measurement words. If you've ever recorded your kid's height on a growth chart on the wall, you've met this standard.  
I could go on and on, but there are several more categories of Benchmarks, and I think you get my point.  You can prepare your child for school by doing everyday activities.   You're probably already doing these activities.

So, let's all take a deep breath and give ourselves a break when it comes to freaking out about education.  We're already doing a great job. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to worrying that my kid has Nature Deficit Disorder. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Morning, 7:56 a.m.

Yesterday I wrote about the absolutely crushing workout that is Spin class.  The thing I should note about Spin is, it's often touted as a workout with plenty of room for individualization.  That is, you're free to turn up or turn down the resistance to meet your level of fitness.  And the instructor turns off the lights, so nobody can really see what you're doing on your individual bike anyway. 

Nonetheless, the class manages to kick your ass no matter what fitness level you're at.  And I, a person with a very strong guilt complex, attempt to get through every class without having to drop out/take a break/lag behind/make my own schlubby workout. 

So, after Spin class yesterday, I was pretty much glued to my bed.  I know, I'm a stay-at-home mom, we never rest, blah, blah, blah ... but the truth is that I lay in my bed reading for at least an hour yesterday while my kid played quietly in his room.  Look, he doesn't take a nap anymore.  An hour of quiet playtime is the best I'm gonna get. 

Except I had promised to take Nathan to Lego Time at the library at 3:00.  Ahh, Legos.  Such a wonderful classic toy, promoting imagination and creativity and learning about architecture ... and ... but ... I just don't personally enjoy building-type toys.  Especially when I'm relegated to a library basement with florescent lighting and forced to play one-on-one with my kid and some building-type toys. 

But who says no to a totally free, wholesome activity in an air-conditioned room?  Especially when the activity involves minimal hassle for you and a good degree of excitement for your kid?  So, we went to Lego Time.  Nathan loved it.  I counted down the minutes.  Aaaannd ... done.

Mother of the Year.

I'm not, however, Chef of the Year, because last night we had breakfast for dinner.  Except ... somehow it took me the better part of an hour to prepare.  Between the hash browns and the millions of pancakes and the separate, individualized omelets ... phew. 

Yadda, yadda, yadda ... Nathan and I both fell asleep before the sun went down. 

You guys, I am just so exhausted.  (No, I'm not pregnant.  Don't even ask.)  I suspect this exhaustion has something to do with excessive working out and minimal eating, which Trainer Jill would scold me for, but, come on, what can I do?  Weight Watchers and all that. 

I also suspect I am a having a bit of a bout with depression.  Which is like, seriously?!  It's summer, I'm exercising, I'm eating right, life is good ... WHY?!  You might be thinking that I shouldn't automatically equate exhaustion with depression, but I have ways of knowing.  I have ways. 

But, you know, I'm properly medicated and all that, so this bout is more of a minor annoyance than a major catastrophe.  Yay drugs!  And so, I press on.  Today I'm going to swim a little before lifting weights with Trainer Jill (See: Excessive working out with minimal eating). 

Oh and later this week, I'm going to the beach.  To stare at a large body of water. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Well, They Can't All Be Winners

It's Monday.  I'm going to let you in on a secret about me: I actually like Mondays. 

Of course, I didn't like Mondays when I had a regular, 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday job.  Back then Mondays felt like some sort of cruel machine that came to your bed and slapped you in the face, mechanically pried open your eyelids, removed you from your warm cocoon of slumber, and threw your half-asleep body into a pool of ice water. 

But now that I'm a suburban housewife schlub, I kind of like Mondays.  Mondays feel like a return to the natural order of things.  And since my job kind of involves a sort of 24/7 low-grade stress level, it's nice to know that on Mondays everybody else is working, too.  When you're spending Saturdays doing the same thing you do all the other days, you feel resentful.  Mondays are the great equalizers. 

I always feel a little more disciplined on Mondays.  I'm going to the gym!  I'm going to eat oatmeal for breakfast.  I'm cooking all three meals at home, and they are going to be healthful, dammit!  I'm catching up on the laundry.  I'll have the dishwasher emptied by 8 a.m.!

The days when I can go to bed at night feeling like I did everything right that day, those days are likely to be Mondays.

This particular Monday I started off doing Spin class at the gym.  Nothing says "atonement for my weekend eating sins" like Monday-morning Spin class.  If you've never done Spin, let me paint the picture for you: You're on a stationary bike, pedaling fast, with the resistance turned up to simulate riding up a giant muddy hill against the wind.  Just when you're about to die, the instructor tells you to turn the resistance up.  And that is the first five minutes. 

Spin pushes me to my outer limits of endurance, and probably beyond them to a point that's unsafe.  I suspect the whole unsafe thing because Spin usually still has an exhausting effect on me the next day.  I can really only do Spin once a week. 

BUT ... According to the Weight Watchers website, a person of my particular fatness can earn back 10 points by doing a 45-minute Spin class.  To give you a reference frame, that is 1/3 of the daily points I'm allowed to eat.  Which means, technically, I should be able to eat 33% more each day that I do Spin. 

In the interests of accuracy, I will say that I usually save those points for another day when a restaurant and a lot of inappropriate food choices are involved.  For today, I made myself a lunch consisting of a Super Cheesy Salad of Cheesiness.  See, in my refrigerator I had some full-fat, five-year-aged sharp cheddar from the farmer's market, as well as some grocery store Gorgonzola.  Servings of a hard cheese like cheddar are measured in ounces, one ounce being a 1-inch square cube, so being the good Weight Watcher that I am, I actually busted out a ruler and measured my allotted cheese square.  The Gorgonzola is crumbled, of course, and can be measured in a measuring cup.  So, I threw those two fatty cheeses in with some lettuce, raspberries, and a fat-free raspberry vinaigrette, and that was my lunch.

I have no idea why I just told you all that. 

Oh, I know why!  Because I have a really graceful segue from talking about cheese to talking about my career.  See, I first got into aged sharp cheddars when I bought them from a cheese seller that came to the farmer's market outside my old workplace.  On my last day of work, I informed the cheese guy that I would not be coming around anymore because I quit my job.  This led to the usual conversation about where I was headed next, career-wise.  I said that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, but I hoped to be a writer.  The cheese guy said that he liked to hire creative types to sell his cheeses at the various farmer's markets, and he asked if I might be interested. 

You guys, I was so interested.  I followed up via email a couple of times, but they never got back to me.  So, I never became a cheese-seller, and I still don't have any paid employment today. 

And ... it's time for me to do some work.  I can feel it.  I want something part-time, or else freelance of the work-from-home variety.  Those sorts of gigs are hard to find using online databases, because I think they tend to be more of a word-of-mouth thing.  I've considered just putting out a general "Who has a job for me?" call on Facebook or Twitter, but it just feels too desperate.  Also, I have 19 followers on Twitter, so that's not the way to reach people. 

I spent the morning browsing jobs online.  I didn't really find anything.  Now I'm sort of mentally and physically exhausted.  So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and finish Pretty Little Liars now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In: We have Air Conditioning! Edition

Last week's check-in post was a bit of a bloggy trainwreck.  I was seriously so hot in my house with the air conditioning broken, that I couldn't even think straight.  The next few days saw the weather fluctuate from about 60 to 100 degrees -- seriously, what is with this summer? -- and at one of the hotter points Bill asked me to close the window so the house wouldn't get too humid, and I said, "I don't care!  I'll buy you a new house!  Just let me open the window!" 

Fun times, I tell you.  Fun times.  

But on Thursday we got the glorious call!  The AC guys were coming on Friday!  And they did!  And we got AC!  And life is good!

Anyway, due to my brain-melted-ness, I did not have any SuperIma goals last week. 

This week is shaping up to be a fun one.  It's the first of two weeks that Nathan will be off of camp, because I thought he needed a break.  The upside of skipping camp is that we'll have more time to do fun activities, and Nathan will have more energy because he isn't running around in the heat at camp all morning.  The downside is that I won't have any time to myself to run those quick errands that always take 15 times longer when you have a child with you. 

The other downside is that I will have to work harder to bring structure to our lives.  I really enjoyed the last two weeks of camp and swim lessons, wherein I had to get us fed, dressed, and out the door before 9 a.m.  I exercised most days right after camp drop-off, so I had that out of the way for the day, and then I was efficient at cramming in errands and chores while Nathan was gone.  In contrast, on days where I don't have anywhere to be, I tend to putter around and waste time, so that by the time I look up it's 11 a.m. and I haven't accomplished a damn thing. 

So ... my goal for the week is to get us out the door by 8:30 each morning.  (I picked 8:30 because that's what time the gym daycare opens, and also when a couple of classes at the gym start.)  I'm also going to add the goal of finishing two books, which is really actually a goal of finishing 1.25 books, because I'm three-quarters of the way through one already.  And I'm going to spend at least half an hour a day looking at pretty stuff on Pinterest, which is really just a goal that allows me to sit in my house and enjoy air conditioning. 

Now go visit SuperIma #1, the SuperIma who started it all ... Leigh Ann

An Update on That Whole Weight Watchers Thing

Sometimes I feel like putting my goals on the Internet will help me stick to them.  Perhaps I'll be motivated to avoid the shame of having to publicly admit to failure. 

So ...

For quite awhile now I have been telling people that I've lost 25 pounds in my current run at Weight Watchers. In actuality, 25 pounds was rounding up, because I was hovering somewhere around 23 for like a month.  Last week I gained a bit, so my net loss was down to 22 pounds. 

But this week, I officially hit 25 pounds.  I have now lost exactly 25.0 pounds since I restarted Weight Watchers in mid-February. 

On the one hand, this milestone motivates me to keep going.  Yay exercise!  Yay fruit!  Yay measuring out portions so that by the end of the day every single measuring cup I own is in the dishwasher!  I could do this forever!  Oh, it's so worth it.  So worth it. 

On the other hand, there's a big But that keeps popping up in my head to temper my excitement.  Let me explain.

See, around this time two years ago, I had hit my heaviest weight ever.  I was slightly humiliated.  I joined Weight Watchers and lost 33 pounds.  I was about halfway to my goal. 

But then winter hit and my motivation was low and ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... I gained all 33 pounds back, plus 2 more.  So then I was at a new all-time personal high for my weight.  That was a few months ago when I began my current WW run. 

What frustrates me, then, is that I have to lose 35 pounds just to get back to where I was a year and a half ago.  Instead of losing the second half of my the weight I was losing back then, I'm just losing the first half again.  I feel like I'm never going to get to thin.  

So, I think when I finally hit the 35-pound mark, I will feel like I have turned a corner.  I realize the whole "won't be happy 'til I get back to where I was before" logic is flawed.  First of all, all weight loss is an attempt to get back to where you were before, and every weight loss experience is fraught with the guilt of allowing yourself to get to that point.  If I'm gonna go and feel guilty about gaining back the weight of my previous Weight Watchers run, I might as well feel guilty that I'm not even close to where I got on the run before that, when I lost all my pregnancy weight.  Or what about what I weighed on my wedding day (seven years ago today, by the way)?  That's a whole other milestone.  And even if (sorry, when) I hit my goal weight this time around, I'll still be almost 20 pounds heavier than I was the very first time I did Weight Watchers, the time I became a Lifetime Member.  And when I was in high school ... okay, I'm at least going to draw the line at reference frames from my adult life here. 

My point is, if I set the bar at "some weight I achieved at some random point in time," there is always the opportunity to feel like I could do better.  So why, then, am I so fixated on getting to the 35-pound mark, which is a goal I associate with my previous experience doing Weight Watchers? 

Well, it could be that the last time I did Weight Watchers is just the weight-loss experience that's the freshest in my mind, so I keep coming back to it.  And, of course, there's the fact that my most recent WW experience was the one where my lifestyle and physical factors most closely resembled those of my life today.  It's unrealistic to think that I can get back to the weight I achieved at 23, when I was single and childless, lived with my mom who was also doing WW, resided in a state with ample produce and outdoor exercise opportunities, and, you know, was twenty-three.  But it is realistic to think that I can achieve the same weight-loss that I achieved two years ago. 

But getting to the 2009 weight carries significance beyond recency and similar lifestyle factors.  There's also the fact that my 2009 Weight Watchers run was very emotionally significant for me.  It was horrifying to get to my highest weight ever, horrifying to cross the 200-pound threshold, horrifying to have to start buying plus-sized clothing.  I think I'd always been a little in the chubby range, but that was the first time I think people saw me and thought fat.  I was disgusted with myself, and I knew I had to do something. 

So, as you can imagine, gaining all that weight back, plus a little bonus, amped up my disgust exponentially.  How could I let this happen?  I had to get back to 2009's preliminary weight-loss success, to my halfway-to-goal point, ASAP. 

But, as I'm getting there, I feel like each small loss is totally insignificant.  Until I get to the 35-pound mark for this WW run, I feel sort of like I'm spinning my wheels. 

Which is to say that now that I've hit 25 pounds, I'm setting a 10-pound mini-goal.  Overall I have about 45 more pounds to lose, but I'm focusing on these next 10 for now.  I hope I'm not totally off-base here, but I think my weight-loss will become infinitely more fulfilling once I cross the 35-pound threshold.  (If you're calculating, that will also be my halfway point, and it's always more fun to lose the second half than it is to lose the first.)  

I'm considering putting one of those weight-loss tickers on my blog.  That would definitely publicly shame me into weight-loss, because you have to put your actual weight on there.  But I'm still undecided about the ticker, because you have to put your actual weight on there. 

I'll end on a happy note.  Since I did mention our wedding anniversary today, I'll put up a wedding picture:

Long, happy marriage: Good goal
Getting back to wedding weight: Unrealistic goal

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Night Leftovers

BWS tips button

I realized last week that the other Friday Night Leftovers participants tend to do their updates in bullet points.  I'm not very good with bullet points, because I tend to want to write entire paragraphs.  Oh well, I can put bullet points next to paragraphs.  It's my blog and I can do what I want.  YEAH.  WAY TO TAKE A STAND. 
  • First off, the AC repair guys are here!  For those who haven't kept up on this oh-so-interesting saga of whining, we found out a few weeks ago that our air conditioner was totaled and needed to be replaced.  Fast-forward through three weeks of research, bids, excessive mugginess, and waiting for parts to arrive ... and the AC guys showed up, right when they said they would.  I'm really looking forward to my weekend of air conditioning.  
  • You might recall that I broke a Fiestaware plate in the discontinued rose color.  You might also recall the minor detail that we spent four hours at urgent care Wednesday having a piece of that plate removed from my husband's foot.  Is it wrong that yesterday I began actively seeking replacements for the plate?  Is that like putting your dog to sleep and then stopping at the shelter for a new dog on the way home from the vet?  (No, I am not comparing an inanimate plate to a pet.  I'm just saying that after a family member suffers some bodily harm, is it wrong to immediately think about replacing the cause of harm?)  Anyway.  I got on ebay yesterday to look for the plates.  First off, I have to admit that I have never purchased anything off ebay.  I've casually bid on a few items, but I never put that much attention into it, and therefore have gotten outbid.  Part of the cause of my apathy is that these items were either Fiestaware or depression glass, two things that are extremely fragile and have very high shipping costs.  So you're never going to get a great deal when the shipping cost effectively doubles the price of the item.  Now, I did get an alert from about an estate sale in the city today, and they have plates in the rose color, as well as the coveted discontinued lilac color.  And seriously, I have just devoted a long paragraph to the topic of pottery collection.  Do you guys hate me?  
  • I just joined Pinterest.  After reading about it on 50 million other blogs, I thought I'd give it a shot.  I guess the same thing happened when I finally jumped on the bandwagon and joined Twitter, although unlike Twitter, I actually see the point of Pinterest.  I wish I had thought of Pinterest.  For those who don't know, Pinterest is a site where you basically have several virtual bulletin boards on which you can pin items you like.  Each board has a theme, like Books to Read, For the Home, and Recipes.  Whenever you come across an item you want to save, on any website, you can pin it to your board for safekeeping.  Not only is Pinterest a useful organizational tool, it's also a giant time-suck!  You can spend hours on there looking at people's pretty items, and then repinning those items to your boards.  You can create an entire fantasy home, fantasy wardrobe, fantasy life on there.  All for free. Oh, and you know the only items on my board that people have repinned?  Fiestaware. 
  • We'll probably see Cars 2 this weekend.  I'm not a huge fan of Cars 1, because that Lightning McQueen was so obnoxious and cocky.  But at least Cars 2 has a bit of an international element, and maybe they have jazzed it up a little more than the excessively-predictable, hackneyed-storylined Cars 1
  • Speaking of predictable, you do not need to Netflix Life As We Know It.  I watched it last night and it was pretty dumb. 
  • I'm reading total YA trash novel Pretty Little Liars right now.  I've come to terms with my love for YA, but this one feels a bit like slumming it.  I haven't seen font size and spacing like this since my Baby-Sitters Club days.  And by the way, why can't they do a "10 years later" for the Baby-Sitters Club, like they've done for Sweet Valley High and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?  I would totally buy that book. 
  • I made my flight arrangements for BlogHer San Diego yesterday.  I went on the hotel's website, and you guys, I am excited about a trip to a hotel alone.  I'm going to go to the beach alone and swim in the pool alone and, most importantly, sleep alone.  It's not my husband who I'm eager to get away from, sleeping-wise.  (And I do mean sleeping, not that other thing that sleeping is used as a euphemism for.)  I'm more eager to get away from the four-year-old who ends up in our bed most nights, especially since the AC broke and his room is so hot.  
  • I wish my blog was important enough to be represented by the first mom blogger talent agent, The Sway Group.  But when I went on their site and saw the heavy-hitters they represent, I realize they're way out of my league.  It's sort of like starring in a cable ad for a local car dealership, and thinking you deserve the same representation as George Clooney.  Or, more accurately, playing the Evil Queen in a community theater production production of Snow White, and thinking you deserve the same representation as George Clooney.  
  • Sunday is our seven-year anniversary.  Since we did the whole babysitter thing last week for Bill's birthday, we probably won't go out again.  I'm thinking I'll just see if the library has a DVD of The Seven-Year Itch, and we can watch it after Nathan goes to bed.  Yay us and our wild life.
  • Time for camp drop-off.  They're going to the Splash Pad today, except it's only like 62 degrees out.  Boo, weather.  
Have a good weekend, everyone!  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Days


Tuesday started very early with Nathan waking up at 4:30 a.m.  The sun was starting to come up, and I figured he didn't have a prayer of going back to sleep.  Damn you, longest day of the year, I thought.  Then, miraculously, around 6:00 a.m., the boy went back to sleep.  This, of course, made waking him up for camp at 8:30 a bit difficult.  Blah, blah, blah, battle, yadda, yadda, yadda, "I hate camp!" ... anyway finally I got him there and all was well. 

While he was at camp, I worked out with weights.  Then I took a picture of my new zebra nails:

White polish with OPI Shatter topcoat in black.  And those scabs on my knuckles are from an injury I sustained while doing laundry.  Yeah. 

After camp pick-up, the fam and I went to Subway, en route to Target to buy another fan.  It was 96 degrees, and we were waiting on a call from the AC repair service to tell us they had our part in stock.  (Spoiler alert: It's Thursday and we're still waiting.)  This whole waiting thing feels like so many episodes from my youth where one of my friends or I was waiting for a boy to call.  Bill will come home and frantically check the messages, and when there's no message he scrolls through the missed call list.  "Why don't you call them?" I ask.  "No, no, they'll call," he replies.  Oh Bill, if only you had been a teenage girl, you'd know they never call.   

Since it was 96 degrees out, and since we had no AC, I told Nathan we were going to the pool.  The pool is just one of many places he claims to hate ("It's the WORST!"), only to have tons of fun once he gets there and be reluctant to leave.  

We stayed at the pool for three hours.  We came home and I threw together a gourmet hot dog dinner.  Now, in case I didn't remind you in the last four seconds, it was 96 degrees.  And since I figured Nathan wasn't going to go to bed until it got dark out, and, again, longest day of the year, we did something rare and went on an evening outing.  I got Nathan bathed and in his PJs first, because I just always feel more accomplished when he's done with the bath portion of the bedtime routine.  

And we all got in the car amidst ominous storm winds and went to the library.  Nathan got his summer reading club dollars and, miraculously, used them to buy something besides candy.  (It was a cheap plastic knockoff of a Bakugon; that detail becomes relevant later.)  Bill and I entered the weekly raffle for the adult no-reading summer reading club.  I asked for the weekly passport sticker (Ireland) for my souvenir passport, and the librarian said most people weren't asking for them.  I felt like a dork.  Next we got in the car to go home.  Then Nathan realized he had left his cheap plastic knockoff of a Bakugon in the children's DVD section.  At that point the storm winds were really blowing, and I pictured myself getting sucked up in a tornado in an effort to retrieve the cheap plastic knockoff Bakugon.  But he picked something that wasn't candy, I reasoned, and I made the trek.  It probably goes without saying that I didn't get sucked up in a tornado, or else this blog post would be a lot more interesting. 

As if not getting sucked to my death in a natural disaster wasn't good enough, the best thing happened when I got home.  We read our new library books, and then the boy went right to sleep.  I had nailed bedtime, you guys.  I actually got time to read on the couch for an hour and a half or so.  Then I was determined to go to bed at 11 p.m., and wake up right at 7 a.m. for some productive time before Nathan woke up.  

At 11:30 Bill came in and asked me to help him remove a splinter from his heel.  The efforts went on for about an hour, and I turned off my 7 a.m. alarm, and in the end Bill went to bed with the splinter still in his foot.  


The day started off perfectly for me.  I got to sleep in until 7:45, giving me half an hour to get stuff done before Nathan strolled into the kitchen, well-rested and pleasant, at 8:15.  Perfect timing for us to get him ready for camp and allow him to watch one episode of Go, Diego, Go! before we left.  He voluntarily turned off the TV when it was time to go, and then he willingly stood for sunscreen application.  What a difference a good night's sleep makes.  

After a completely drama-free camp drop-off, I went for a bike ride.  I read recently that people find outdoor exercise the most calming when they exercise in an area with plants and water, because those elements remind us of necessary, life-sustaining forces.  So I took my bike to the forest preserve.  I will say, it was awesome, and I actually had like a spiritual moment there.  It was one of those life-affirming moments where you take a deep breath, and you feel calm, and like you're the only person in the whole world at that moment:

The sense of being the only person in the world was, of course, a false one, given that I took this picture with an Internet-capable cell phone, meaning that I was still connected to the entire world.  That's about as close to roughing it in the wilderness as I'd like to get.  I should also note that I was not, in fact, in the wilderness, because no more than 200 feet from this bucolic scene was a Petco store. 

When I got home from the bike ride, I took a picture of my muddy legs.  Because I am HARD CORE:

But there's a cute pedicure underneath.

At that point it was time for me to call the doctor and ask if they could perform my husband's splinter-ectomy.  Fine, they said, come in at 12:45.  So I frantically packed up a lunch and preschooler entertainment items (a.k.a., the iPad), and we picked up Nathan from camp on the way to our afternoon doctor adventure. 

From 12:45 to 1:45 we had our obligatory hour of doctor's office waiting.  Bill got called in and I got excited, which is always a mistake because of course there is still the obligatory half-hour of waiting in the exam room.  Somewhere around 2:30 Bill emerged, having gotten a tetanus shot, but with the splinter still in his foot.  Guess where we had to go to have that removed?  Urgent Care!

So, continuing our weekly theme of Visits to Urgent Care for Pointlessly Minor Medical Procedures, we trotted over to the Urgent Care facility.  (I swear, when health insurance companies make employee training videos, our family is going to be the horrifying personal interest story vignette that they show at the beginning.  "This Illinois family went to Urgent Care and got x-rays twice in a 72-hour period, for what turned out to be a bruise and a splinter.  These are the kind of excesses our company needs to trim.")  

We were at Urgent Care until 4:15.  Somehow, through the magic of the iPad, Dinosaur Train on the waiting room TV, some cheap plastic toys/candy purchased at the on-site pharmacy, and sheer magic, Nathan's behavior was flawless the entire time.  And I finished the last 50 pages of The Peach Keeper, and half of the miraculously brand-new copy of Redbook that they had in the waiting area.  Plus, unlike our home, the waiting room had AC, so the whole experience wasn't that bad.

Eventually Bill emerged with a wad of Kleenex, in which the "splinter" was wrapped.  He surmised that it was not a splinter, but a small shard of the rose-colored Fiestaware, which happened to be the (discontinued) color of the plate I had broken the previous day.  Shit, my husband's injury was largely my fault. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to complaining about pain, men have difficulty eliciting sympathy because they aren't the ones who have to experience the pain of childbirth.  So our conversation on the way out of Urgent Care went something like this:

Bill: Man, it hurt to have that chunk of glass removed from my foot.
Me: Yeah, I had something surgically removed from me once. (Pointing to Nathan.)
Bill: The shot they gave me in my foot really hurt.
Me: Oh, I know, I had to have a shot in my spine.  ... So, do you want to grill that chicken tonight?
Bill: I don't think I'll be able to do that in my period of convalescence.  (Note he did have a joking tone here.)
Me: Yeah, you know what I had to do in my period of convalescence?  Take the thing they removed from me home, feed it from my own body, and get up with it several times in the middle of the night. 
Bill: But it was kind of your fault that the glass was in my foot.
Me: It was kind of your fault that Nathan was in my uterus.  [NOTE: I do understand that it takes two people to create a baby, and Nathan was very planned and very wanted.  Just go with it for the sake of the joke, okay?]

Anyway, let me note that my husband was being a good sport about all this, and he doesn't, in fact, equate the removal of a small piece of glass with a c-section.  And I do acknowledge that having a chunk of glass in your foot is disturbing. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We Were Only Freshmen

This is Ashley and me our freshmen year of college, going to the All-Hall Ball.  It was a formal dance for students who lived in the residence halls.  For a whopping $2 you got access to the dance and the charter bus that took you there.  Anyway, clearly this was a long time ago, back when I hadn't yet discovered the magic of eyebrow waxing, and I thought a barn jacket was acceptable outerwear for a formal event.  (Though, in my defense, the dance was held at an airplane hangar.)

It was also our freshman year that The Verve Pipe's hit "The Freshman" came out.  As young people are wont to do, I believed that the song's lyrics were imbued with all kinds of profound meaning directed especially toward me.  Looking back on those lyrics, I still have no idea what they are talking about, something about the singer doing something regretful with a girl, but I think there is definitely a clear message about the brashness of youth and foolishly thinking you have it all figured out when you're young. 

That year I thought I had many things figured out.  I thought I understood relationships, and I believed love could conquer all.  I was moody and angsty, and I figured that meant I was some kind of artistic type who really truly understood the meaning of life.  

I was such a dumbass.

One particular memory comes to mind when I think of "The Freshmen."  It was Easter night of freshman year, my hometown friend Wyatt and I got in a car accident driving back to college.  He was driving, and we were essentially victims of road rage.  The car spun around on the freeway and hit a guardrail, but we were okay.  After we pulled over and patched up the headlight using duct tape purchased at K-Mart, we got back on the road.  "The Freshman" was playing on the radio.  Somehow the song's message about the stupidity of youth seemed loud and clear at that time. 

We all have those personal connections with the songs from our youth.  Which is why I was super excited last week when I got an invitation to go see The Verve Pipe in concert, at a special media-only event.  (I was even more excited that they referred to me as "the media" in the email they sent.) 

It seems The Verve Pipe is now producing songs for children, and Nathan and I were going to get to see their concert, eat a free meal, and get a free autographed CD.  

We were getting ready to get on the 4:13 train downtown.  I was running around upstairs doing stuff, and to keep Nathan occupied I said he could play with his toy coffee maker in the kitchen sink.  It seemed wholesome enough, but what I didn't realize was that he was getting the entire kitchen floor wet.  So when I went downstairs I slipped and banged my shin into the corner of the kitchen door frame. 

The strangest part was that a giant purple ping-pong ball-sized lump formed on my leg instantly.  Like, before I could even get off the floor, this thing had grown on my leg.  Bill was at Home Depot, and the second he came home he said, "We're going to Urgent Care."  He figured I had internal bleeding or something.  Going to Urgent Care seemed like overkill, but I didn't want it to end up being one of those stories where a blood clot dislodged from my leg and traveled up to my brain and killed me or something.  

The Urgent Care people did x-rays.  Those x-rays had to be emailed to a radiologist at the hospital, who I'm sure was thrilled to have to consult on some stranger at Urgent Care who had a bruise.  Anyway, while I was waiting for the radiologist to give me the all-clear, I had a lot of time to wait around.  I'm not gonna lie, I found it kind of relaxing.  But since I also had so much time, I took a picture of my leg, which was not nearly as swollen as it had been:

After 90 minutes at Urgent Care, the doctor came in to say I had a bruise (duh).  They gave me an Ace bandage, I think just as a consolation prize because they figure everybody who comes into Urgent Care is expecting some kind of medical treatment.  

My leg looks fat when photographed from this angle, but the pedicure/flip-flop matching is impeccable. 

So, I will live to see another day, but I missed The Verve Pipe.  I asked the PR rep for the concert if I could still have a CD to do a giveaway, but I'm still awaiting her reply. 

Meanwhile, I had "The Freshmen" in my head all night.  And while Nathan was not guilt-stricken sobbing with his head on the floor, he did apologize for getting the whole floor wet.  I actually didn't blame him, because it was just an accident.  And if freshmen can't be held responsible, I can't exactly blame my four-year-old, either. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Picture Perfect

When Nathan was born, we lived in a very small rental house.  Now, my husband is bit of a collector of stuff, so our tiny house was crammed to the gills with clutter.  

The clutter made taking pictures of our new baby somewhat difficult.  I didn't want to share baby pictures that featured embarrassing piles of clutter in the background.  I guess I could have Photoshopped some of the clutter out before sharing the photos, if my Photoshop skills weren't limited to the "auto contrast" and "crop" functions. 

But one day at the mall, I discovered a place that would meet my need for cute baby photos with a clutter-free background.  I was nursing my three-month-old (fully covered up!) in front of The Picture People portrait studio, so I had a lot of time to stare at their adorable sample portraits in the store window.  I could have cute pictures of Nathan, I thought, and I'd have the perfect gift for Father's Day!

Once Nathan latched off, I went over to Picture People and inquired about their availability.  Somebody had just been a no-show, so they had an opening.  I raced over to Baby Gap across the way and bought Nathan a cute casual outfit. 

They took some of the most adorable shots I'd ever seen.  At the end of the day I walked out with $200 worth of portraits and some great Father's Day gifts. 

At that point I was hooked.  I took Nathan back to have more portraits taken when he was six months old.  I missed his one-year portraits because of, you know, that whole depression thing, but I took him to take portraits when he was 15 months old.

We went back about a year later, to get Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts, but this became a portrait session that would live in infamy.  See, it's really hard to pick which poses you want to buy, and so I just picked them all and ended up spending $750 on portraits that day.  What?!  I got 10 gifts out of that, plus a bunch of cute stuff that still hangs in our living room! 

(The lesson I did learn, though, was that it would have been smarter to purchase the photo CD for $250, thus granting us the rights to the photos and therefore the ability to print as many as we wanted.  The fact that we didn't have a good photo printer didn't matter; we could have bought one and still come out ahead.) 

So, after that session, Bill put the kibosh on professional portraiture. 

And our photo needs were met by Nathan's school photos, which seriously look a lot more professional than any school photos I ever appeared in. 

But with Father's Day approaching, I wanted some new portraits to give out as gifts. 

So, a couple of weeks ago, Nathan and I trudged out to Picture People again.  I hadn't really planned for this session in advance, so on the way we got his hair cut and bought some clothes. 

He freaked out a little bit at the photo session.  He just didn't want to smile.  We had to take a break and leave the store to have a little talk.  All he was interested in was going behind the backdrop screen to find all the toys they use as props.  We took a few shots with a plastic guitar, some with him riding a fire engine that was too small for him, and the standard ones where he's holding the number 4. 

None of those made the final cut.  In fact, I struggled to choose because the package I was getting with my coupon included one large framed picture, and I couldn't find a shot that just screamed "hang me up in your living room."  I finally settled on this one:

You can't see his teeth, but that's okay because at least this doesn't feature his cheesy picture smile.

But I couldn't resist ordering some prints of this one, too:

He frequently talks about Mad Nathan, an alter ego who lives inside of him and fights to come out sometimes.  Now we have a portrait of Mad Nathan. 

It's really kind of perfect because the boy spends about half his time happy and half his time griping about things, so now we have living room portraits that reflect that ratio. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In: Hotter Than Hell Edition

The temperature in my house has reached a critical point.  It's just too damn hot to think, move, or be nice to my family.  Bill swears he has decided on which air-conditioner repair company to use, and he will be calling them tomorrow. 

In spite of the heat, I had a pretty good week.  The start of summer camp brought back some structure into our lives, and I felt more productive.  Yesterday we had a crazy day and mostly got our lives in order, chore-wise, and then we had a fun date night.  Today was the first day in a week that we didn't have to get out the door in the morning, and I relished the luxury of it.  I didn't have to go anywhere all day!  This excitement lasted until 2:00, when I just got so frustrated and needed to get out of the house.  Lesson learned: structure and outside-the-home activities are good.

I was semi-disciplined in my personal health habits.  I was a good Weight Watcher ... ehhhhh ... four out of the seven days.  The problem is that on the other three days, I ate like every meal was my last.  It makes no sense to restrict myself some days and then totally go off the deep end the rest of the time.  But ... I have no solution for this problem.  I realize there are people who have a much healthier relationship with food than I do, and they can just do that whole "eating in moderation" thing every day of their lives.  I'm not like that.  I'm still struggling.  Now I feel sad.

Anyway ... gym-wise, I also exercised four out of the seven days.  My main problem is swimming, which is like my very favorite sport in the whole wide world.  But every time I intend to go swimming, I just decide to skip the whole gym altogether.  It seems like such a hassle, and I can only go at certain times because of the pool's aquacize class schedule.  Plus swimming makes me so hungry, but I don't want to consume all the calories I've burned.  So ... I don't know where I'm going with this. 

In general, I was just a big fat slacker all week.  I didn't do anything to further my "career" and I didn't eat well or exercise enough.  I'd say my goal for this week is to get back on track, but I've failed so many times that I don't even have faith in myself.

I'm sorry ... this is all just the excessive heat talking.  My living room is hot, and my computer is hot, and my kid is driving me crazy and  ... AHHHHHH!  I have to go now. 

Instead go and visit SuperIma Leigh Ann, who is kickin' some butt on her novel!

Summer Reading, and the Summer "Reading" Club

When I was a kid, it was very important to join the Summer Reading Club at the library.  Every year there was some sort of Summer Reading Club theme, and the library would be festooned with decorations based on that theme, as well as some sort of visual aid to indicate how many books each kid had read.  It was always very obvious which kids were doing the most reading.  And then each time you reached some sort of reading milestone, like 5 books or 10 books or whatever, you would get some kind of lame prize like a pencil or a plastic bag to carry your library books in.  At the end of the summer the culmination of the Summer Reading Club was a magic show for all participants.  It didn't matter what the theme was that year, there was always a magic show.  Then in the fall the librarians would come to your school and acknowledge the students who had participated in the Summer Reading Club.  I felt sorry for the kids who hadn't participated. 

When Nathan was two, which I saw as the first age where he had any clue what was going on at the library, I proudly signed him up for his first summer reading club.  Now, our library does the prize system a little bit differently than the libraries did it when I was a kid.  At our library you write down the names of the books you read on a sheet, which has lines for 5 books.  Once you've read your 5 books you turn in your sheet and get 5 reading dollars.  The reading dollars are redeemable for various prizes, mainly Oriental Trading Company stuff and candy.  Nathan always picks the candy.  I probably should encourage him to get something else, but whatever.  We're reading together. 

Another thing that's cool about my library is, they do a Summer Reading Club for adults.  The format for the adult one has varied a bit through the years, but it's always raffle-based.  You read books, earn raffle tickets, drop them in the bucket, and hope to win a gift card to one of various local stores/attractions.  Well, you used to have to read books.  This year they've kind of dumbed it down a bit, and all you have to do is check out something each week in order to enter that week's raffle.  Note that you don't have to check out a book.  You could check out a DVD, CD, or magazine, and that would count. 

Now, I really don't think I'm a snob.  I have enjoyed many library DVDs and CDs.  I have plenty of low-brow, trashy interests.  But for crying out loud, is it too much to ask that an incentive program at the library require you to read a book?  Also, I read plenty of library books, but I also read plenty of books on my Kindle, so why are you requiring me to check out materials each week?  Now I feel as though I have to check out some token item every week. 

I'm not even sure if they're checking to see if you check something out before you enter that week's raffle.  I asked the librarian at the check-out desk if she needed to stamp my ticket or something to prove that I checked something out, and she said no, but that I would get my Australia sticker for my "passport" because I came in during Australia week.  The sticker was a little Australian flag. 

Okay, I don't see the point of collecting those stickers.  But I admit it, I like stickers, and I thought the Australian flag one was cute.  I liked sticking it on my passport.  I felt accomplished.  See, I have low-brow interests. 

My favorite part of the passport is the part that says: "Personalize your passport.  You may use this space to draw or paste a picture of yourself."  Now remember, this is a passport designed specifically for grown adults.  I could see including this activity in the kids' version, but do I really need to draw a picture of myself?  But I like to follow directions, so:

As you can see, my artistic talents extend solely to the craft of words.

So, even though you don't have to read a book to enter the raffle at the summer reading club, I have decided that I will not enter the raffle that week if I haven't read a book.  

Last week's book was the YA book Moonglass.  It's different from a lot of YA books in that it isn't a fantasy.  There are vague references to fantastical elements, but those are in dreams and/or used as metaphors.  It's filled with great beach imagery, the characters are really multi-dimensional, and there was something about the ending that just had my brain humming on some whole other plane.  

That book was actually from the library, thank you very much.  And this week I checked out The Peach Keeper, which I have not made adequate progress on, and so far I am only sort of meh about. 

I have two books on my Kindle that I haven't read: Night Road and Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen. 

Plus I have a bunch of other books I want to read, YA and actual A.  And I welcome your book recommendations.  

I'll have plenty of time to read because I plan to put that passport to use and take a tropical vacation soon where all I do is read.  Unfortunately that plan is about as realistic as the passport. 

Date Night, Part the Third

We went out last night in honor of Bill's birthday.  We had a new babysitter who hasn't watched Nathan at our house before, but she has watched him over at his friend's house.

I think we're getting better at the whole date night thing.  Or at least, I personally am coming around enough that I can at least see that the benefits of the date night might outweigh of the hassles of preparing for a babysitter. 

The first hassle was the procurement of dinner/snacks for the babysitter.  I went with a DiGiorno pizza this time.  I figured it was the meal that said "I made something specifically for you" without having to actually go out and buy something from a restaurant.  I bought chips and popcorn so Nathan could have a special snack, and then I got the fixin's for (microwave) s'mores, which he is always begging me to make.

(Bill doesn't understand my obsession with getting good food for a babysitter, but that's because he wasn't the avid babysitter that I was as a teenager.  The food availability at a particular house was a Big Deal when I was babysitting.  No doubt the husbands and wives who hired me to babysit in the mid-90s had the exact same argument about the importance of food provision for babysitters.) 

Next we had to clean our house like nobody's business.  The thing about a babysitter is, her job necessitates being in certain areas of your home that you might not clean for your average guests.  So I had to clean all the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Next I:
  • Typed up the babysitter instructions, which, okay, only took like 5 minutes because I already had a document saved from a previous babysitter experience.  
  • Set a bunch of stuff out so they would be easily locatable for the babysitter (the labeled s'more fixin's, bedtime stories, Nathan's toothbrush, and so on).  
  • Prepared meals for the babysitter and Nathan.  
  • Gave Nathan a bath because I have a hard time letting a babysitter do it.  
  • Took a shower myself because I was cleaning all afternoon, and, I don't know if I mentioned this in the last five minutes, but we still haven't gotten our effing AC fixed. 
 At 5:00 the babysitter arrived, and I gave her the whole house tour.  This is this room, this is that thing, I am going to undermine your intelligence by suggesting you don't know how to operate a light switch, etc.  Plus we had to go through the detailed "this is how you use our TV remote," which, seriously, is becoming ridiculously complicated.  Remote control operation was already getting complicated when I was babysitting in the mid-90s, and it just keeps getting worse.

Let me say one more thing about babysitting in the era of weird remote controls.  I recall many a late night in my babysitting days when I was forced to pop in the least obnoxious children's/family videotape the people had, just because I couldn't figure out how to switch back to regular TV mode.  The parents would come home to find me watching Beauty and the Beast or some such Disney film.  So every time a babysitter comes, I insist that we leave the big TV in TV mode, and that Nathan can watch a DVD in the other room.  Bill wants Nathan to watch his DVD on the big TV, and inevitably we end up having an argument in front of the babysitter, where I wind up implying that the babysitter is not smart enough to figure out our TV. 

"I can probably figure it out," the poor babysitter interjects.

"Oh, I can't," I say, hanging my head in shame.

Look, the whole remote control operation thing seems easy when somebody's giving you the tutorial.  But then three hours later, you're staring at 6 identical remotes, and you can't remember whether you're supposed to hit ModeOpt or AuxCont first, and just when you think you've figured it out you realize you're watching the picture of regular TV with the audio from a Backyardigans DVD. 


Nathan was oddly clingy when we left, and he cried a lot, which is unusual for him.  Bill is a much bigger softie than I am, because he was trying to console Nathan before we left, whereas I usually just wait until Nathan isn't looking and bolt out the door.  I stick by my methods.  It's what mothers have been doing for centuries, and as far as I know it hasn't scarred anybody for life.

So, by the time we got through the house tour, the six-part remote control tutorial, and the consolation of the crying child, we didn't get out the door until 5:45.  Now, we didn't know what we wanted for dinner, but our plan for after dinner was to see X-Men: First Class.  Unfortunately every single local theater was showing the movie at either 7:00 or 9:00.  Seriously, why no 8:00 showing?  Movie theaters are so not babysitter-friendly.  There might have been a time in our lives when we would have said, "Oh, okay, let's shoot for the 9:00, and we can just kill time until it starts."  But when you have a babysitter on the clock at $12/hour, there is no killing time.  That's just one of the many realities of parenting that I still haven't come to accept. 

Bottom line, when all was said and done, we had like 20 minutes to eat.  So our big romantic dinner was at Five Guys, which, I'm sorry to say, is vastly superior to In-N-Out.  Vastly.  I attempted to look at our fast-food date night as romantic and cute--you know, the whole "anything is fun as long as we're together" kind of thing.  Plus their food is really, really good, and I cheated on Weight Watchers big-time, and also they have one of those new-fangled drink dispensers that has the touch-screen and lets you pick from like 100 different types of sodas. 

We made it to the movie in time, and I was kind of insistent on getting popcorn.  I wasn't always a movie popcorn person, but when you get out as seldom as I do, I figure you can splurge.

And even though the movie was Bill's choice, I ended up really liking it.  Largely because James McAvoy is now my new boyfriend:

"Please, Shannon, stop staring into my piercing blue eyes and pay attention to your husband.  Remember, I also played Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia, and he was a half-goat-man.  What are you, some kind of freak who's into beastiality?"


The movie was good. 

During the movie, I felt a sense of I enjoy going to the movies.  I enjoy acting like a grown-up.  I enjoy my husband. 

So I guess date night is worth all the hassle, which is what others have been saying all along. I do not enjoy when other people are right.  That is like one of my least favorite things. 

And back at home, all was well with the babysitter.  Nathan went to bed fine, which as you know is not one of his strengths, and the house was still spotless.

And, in reality, I guess we have to clean the house anyway, and we have to buy groceries anyway, so some of the babysitter preparation isn't adding any additional work to our lives.  

Which means, in the end, I guess date night is worth it.  I guess we'll go out again sometime.  Once we've saved up enough money to pay the babysitter, of course.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Night Leftovers

BWS tips button 

Remember the Friday Night Leftovers carnival hosted by Danifred at Sippy Cups Are Not for Starbucks?   You just write a bunch of random bits of information, none of which would constitute an actual post in and of itself. 

You know, leftovers. 

First off, meet my new bike, same as my old bike:

For those just joining us, the saga of my old bike is as follows: On April 29, I got a bike.  On May 28, the bike got stolen, from my garage, during the day, while I was home.  I hesitated to go and spend more money on another bike, but I reasoned that bike season is short in Chicago and I'd better hurry up and get a new bike. 

I really liked my old bike, so I just got the same one again at Target.  Except this time I didn't have the 10% off coupon, and the bike was not on sale.  So I kind of lost out all-around on this bike's purchase.  Which I guess is usually the case when you're a victim of theft. 

I'm pretty sure the bike thief is going to come by my house and say, "Wait ... I thought I stole that bike already." 

I took my bike out this morning for its inaugural spin.  The culmination of the ride was at a garage sale, where I bought Nathan a Storm Trooper costume for a quarter. 

Oh and speaking of yard sales, I forgot to show you these really cool glasses I got at the sale at the Jewish temple Tuesday:

 In case you can't tell, there's a line at the halfway point, with arrows indicating the way the optimist and the pessimist would view the glass.  

I don't know, I just thought they were cute.  Remember the sale was "All you can cram in a bag for $5," so there was no harm throwing those in (gently).  

In other news, here's how camp is going: 

So, you know my whole dilemma about whether to have a summer of structured activities or an unstructured "see where the day takes us" summer?  Or maybe it's not so much a dilemma as it is an attempt to strike the perfect balance between structured and unstructured time.  Anyway, I thought we had struck a good balance with camp in the morning and an unstructured afternoon.  Sure, it's a little bit of a hassle to get Nathan out of bed, slather him with sunscreen, and pack all the required supplies for camp, but the upshot is that we're forced to get out of the house and I'm forced to be productive during the camp hours.  (Shut up, writing my blog counts as "productive.")  Then in the afternoons after camp, Nathan plays with his toys, makes his potions, watches TV, builds a trap to catch "bad guys" (no doubt ones who steal bikes), tinkers with random junk to build inventions, and does other such wholesome activities associated with a good old-fashioned childhood summer.  We sometimes go to the pool or library in the afternoon; you know, low-key stuff.  

So, I thought it was working out well.  Then yesterday on the way to camp, Nathan said, "Mom, how come you keep signing me up for stuff, like school, camp, and Little Vikings?"  URGH.  I wanted to be like, "Well, Nathan, as I've been blogging about, I believe we need some amount of structure in our lives."  But instead I just said something like, "It's good to have things to do."  He said, "But I just want to play with my toys all day."  

And I want him to have unstructured playtime.  Everybody knows it's good for kids to have some time where they're forced to entertain themselves, and besides they learn through play and all that.  He has many hours of unstructured playtime at home.  But.  While unstructured playtime is good for his development, it also leads to a big fat mess.  The traps consist of various rope-like items tied to furniture, plus every small item we own piled up.  He makes the potions in his old baby bottles, which means that even though he is four, I am still pulling bottles and lids and nipples out of the dishwasher every morning.  Every day we clean up the living room, and just as soon as we clean it, a pile of train tracks and little vehicles seems to grow.  

Sometimes it's just easier to shove your kid out the door and send him to camp.  

We're gonna stick with camp for at least another week, even though today he was showing signs of wear when it was time to go.  He has all weekend to recover.  

We have to get going to the pool now.  I have rehearsal tonight for the Beatles tribute show.  Tomorrow is swim lessons and then a birthday party.  And I'm gonna go see one of my fellow castmates perform a one-woman show at the local art fair.  (I guess it's more of a one-girl show, because she is only 13.  And by the way, when I was 13, I would not have been brave enough to sing by myself onstage.  Actually I'm not brave enough to do that now.)  

Tomorrow night Bill and I have a babysitter, so we're going out to dinner and to see X-Men.  I know we saw a superhero movie last time, but it's Bill's birthday and Father's Day, so I let him pick.  On Father's Day I think we are just hanging out at home, because Bill says all he wants to do is play board games.  I'll probably make enchiladas (his favorite) and/or we might grill something.  

In closing, here is what I want to do all the time: (1) read, (2) write in my blog, (3) sit in some sort of body of water.  

Besides the activities listed in this post, here is what I do most of the time: (1) laundry, (2) that's it. 

Oh, and since I'm showing blurry cell phone pics, here are some strawberries I ate while writing this:

I prefer to think of it as not so much blurry, but Impressionist.  Nobody called it blurry when Monet did it. 

The Calm Before the Storm

Wednesday night I was sitting at my computer wasting time, as I usually do, when the tornado sirens started to go off.  The siren was that unsettling constant tone, interrupted by intermittent recordings saying, "DO NOT DELAY!  SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!"

Not being a native Midwesterner, I take tornado warnings very seriously.  It seems my friends who grew up in this area can hear a tornado siren and just dismiss it like it's somebody else's cell phone ringing.  "Pssh," they say, "it's never a real tornado.  So ... what does everybody want for dinner?" 

I, on the other hand, hear a tornado siren and begin mentally running through every tornado episode of every sitcom I ever watched.  Remember the Married with Children tornado?  Did they have one on Mr. Belvidere?  Wait, where were they supposed to live on that show?  What about the one that destroyed the Flanders' house on The Simpsons?  More recently, there was the Desperate Housewives tornado, and, of course, the movie Twister.  In every tornado episode, there is always a very dramatic scene where the tornado touches down, and somebody -- although never the main character, it seems -- has their house totally destroyed.  Cue dramatic music ... a little "We'll get through this together because we're a family" ... then schmaltzy music, hugs, freeze frame, and ending credits. 

Seeing as my family would probably not be able to get through a devastating natural disaster, and I base that idea solely on the fact that we still haven't managed to tackle the everyday home-repair task of getting the air conditioner fixed, I began to panic. 

But first I went to  It seemed a tornado had touched down in a city about two miles to the east of us, and although it was heading away from us, I still thought we shouldn't take any chances. 

"Get in the basement!" I said firmly in a voice that was just short of actual yelling. 

Five minutes later, Bill and Nathan sauntered down. 

Bill said, "This is ridiculous, look how clear the skies are."

"Haven't you ever heard the saying 'the calm before the storm'?" I barked. 

Nathan indicated that he wanted to stay up and watch the tornado, but Bill said it was too dangerous.  In an attempt to instill a little fear in the boy, we spent our entire time in the basement watching You Tube videos of tornadoes. 

Then we eventually decided it was safe to go upstairs.  No tornado.

Oh, and we forgot to bring Leia down with us.  If anyone is going to get sucked up by a tornado, it's a small cat.  The visual of a cat flying through a tornado is ...

... Okay, it's kind of funny.  Go ahead and laugh.  Hahahaha.

But still, I feel bad about forgetting Leia.

So, that is the account of the June 2011 tornado siren incident.  It was my third serious tornado warning experience since moving here seven years ago. 

My first was during the summer of 2007, when I was at work.  The tornado warnings started coming around 3:30, just in time for my 4:00 breast-pumping session.  I really didn't know what to do.  I mean, I didn't want to be killed by a barrage of broken glass, but, I mean, I really needed to pump.  And nobody else in my office was remotely fazed by the warning, so I just decided to just suck it up and pump (no pun intended).  In retrospect, a lactation room is actually a pretty good place to go during a tornado, because there are no windows, and this particular one was in the interior of the building. 

But, no tornado. 

My second tornado warning experience was in the summer of 2008.  My little family and I were out doing some errands.  Just when I thought we were done, my husband said the dreaded words: "I'm just going to stop in at Best Buy."  Ugh, BEST BUY.  More like Worst Buy, hahahaha, I'm so clever. 

So, I said Nathan and I would wait in the car.  Bill went into the store, and a short time later came out and knocked on the car window.  "Come into the store for a little while!" he said. 

"Ugh, no," I said. 

"There's a tornado warning!" he replied. 

Now, this particular Best Buy had a very large home theater section, wherein they displayed big-screen TVs and comfortable couch set-ups.  Apparently since there were no windows in that section, all the customers were being sequestered there.  Nathan was in that annoying stage where he was still very excited about knowing how to walk, and wanted to just walk everywhere, so I mostly chased him around.  All around us the big-screen TVs demonstrated just how clear a picture you could get of the imminent destruction that was headed right toward us.  Like, seriously, there was a map of the tornado's path, and the city we were in was circled by a giant ring that indicated the tornado.  Damn.  It was about to get all Twister up in that Best Buy. 

(Also, apparently nobody who worked at that Best Buy had a sense of humor, because nobody thought to pull a Twister DVD out of the bargain bin and project that on the amazing big-screen TVs while we were all sitting there.) 

But the tornado changed course, and, on a serious note, actually did do some damage in the cities to the south of us. 

So, those were my non-tornado tornado experiences.  I'm good with keeping them as non-tornado experiences, thank you very much. 

"I hate you." 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun at Rummage Sales

Yesterday Nathan and I went to a rummage sale at the nearby Jewish temple.  We visited toward the end of the multi-day sale, and the organizers were starting to get desperate to get rid of stuff.  So they started handing out paper bags to customers and telling them that they could take whatever fit in the bag for $5.  This same thing happened last year at the Lutheran church rummage sale, except they were giving you the whole bag for $2, so they must have been more desperate to get rid of stuff.

Now, the thing is, at the end of a rummage sale, you probably aren't going to find a diamond ring to stuff in that paper sack.  And, truthfully, there was nothing there that I wanted to take home, even with the astounding "all-you-can-cram-in for $5" deal.

But I felt kind of bad for leaving empty-handed, and I reasoned there must be something I wanted in this giant room full of people's discards.  Plus Nathan started throwing some of the most random miscellaneous crap into the bag, like seriously broken toy parts and stuff, and ... well, this would be where I was supposed to use that parental technique known as "saying no," but I didn't think of that because my mind was too caught up in calculating all the amazing deals that could be had.

Eventually I stumbled upon this vintage cookbook:

 Helen Gurley Brown's Single Girl's Cookbook, copyright 1969

Like at the eye-catching orange and yellow swirls!  It's everything a turn-of-the-decade book cover should be: the psychedelic swirls of the sixties meets the hideous color palate of the seventies!  

I find the introduction on the front flap really funny:

Another cookbook?!
Yes, another cookbook.
And this particular one was four years in the preparation.  It's for single girls who haven't done much cooking before and for married girls who want to be as attractive as single girls in their husband's eyes.  Actually, it's so basic anybody can use it. 
First of all, I like how even in the late sixties, the market was already so over-saturated with cookbooks that she has to ask, "Another cookbook?!"  (And yes, it was in red font like that, and yes, she used the question mark/exclamation point combo, or interrobang or "quesclamation mark," which I foolishly thought was invented along with the Internet.)

Also, Helen Gurley Brown was like a major feminist, and in my college days I was informed that the term girls was demeaning to women and not at all politically correct.  Plus, the implication that you could cook your way into being attractive to your husband, to the point that you would be as attractive as a single woman ... hahahaha.  And how does being single equal being an inexperienced cook? 

Oh but wait, Helen's feminist slant comes out later in the introduction:

I believe passionately that any girl who wants to, can have a lovelier, happier life.  Not because it will be plopped into her lap but because she can do things herself to make it happen.  Cooking is one of them.  It's creative and you can please a lot of people with it.  You don't do all this cooking specifically for a man.  You do it for you, but if you follow the directions for each little dinner carefully, you can't help but wind up one of the most beloved hostesses in town. 
See, being a modern woman is about making success happen for you!  And there's no better way for a girl to get ahead in life than by cooking "little dinners"!  And oh, you're not cooking just for a man, you're sequestering yourself in the kitchen for you.  All this toiling in the kitchen is worth it, because you'll wind up one of the most beloved hostesses in town, and there is truly no greater honor that can be bestowed upon a woman. 

Note to self: Do not put the late sixties on your list of places to visit once you perfect that time-travel machine. 

But, as you can see, Helen Gurley Brown's Single Girl's Cookbook is a fun historical document.  And even though I have said before that my own person cabinet is as crowded with cookbooks as a 1969 bookstore shelf apparently was, it's still fun to have a vintage cookbook. 

Helen Gurley Brown begins by telling you the essential items you must have for the kitchen, and aside from "molds for aspic," the rest of the items seem like classic items that are still important today.  But I like what she says about the "Electric blender" :

This is a big investment, but I do think you should save up and buy one as fast as you can.  ... An electric beater, can opener, juicer--even a waffle iron and toaster--you can probably live without; a single girl doesn't--shouldn't anyway--eat a whole lot of toast or waffles, but don't wait too long to acquire the blender.

Did you get that?  If you're single, you aren't allowed to eat toast or waffles.  In fact, I shouldn't be telling you this, but the night before your wedding, your mom or another trusted female relative sits you down and gives you the true secret to making quality toast and waffles. 

Or maybe toast and waffles are really only for men, so that's why a single girl shouldn't have appliances that can make these food items? 

But for when you do catch a man, you might want to make "Rhett Butler Casserole You Can Feed Any Man" (p. 24), though I take exception with the "any man" part because it has sweet potatoes in it and my husband doesn't like those.  Perhaps he'd prefer "Deviled Kidneys with Mustard Butter and Bacon" (p. 66), except he doesn't like mustard.  (Plus, you know, it contains kidneys.) 

What is also nice is that Helen gives you menu options for very specific situations, such as "Summer Dinner for the Gang" or "When Your Boss Comes Over for Dinner in the Winter."  (Though I'm pretty sure when your boss comes over for dinner in the winter, the only difference between that and when your boss comes over for dinner in the summer is that you have to let him feel you up under a wool sweater as opposed to your sundress.  Presumably these recipes for when your boss comes over are kind of "hands-off" cooking, since you're too busy with your boss being "hands-on" with you in the living room.  A good single girl allows for the obligatory sexual harassment time.) 

Also: The "Winter Dinner for Relatives You Don't Like" menu, which has ... what? ... poison in it?  (Actually that menu just has more kidneys in it.)  Oh, and the "Summer Dinner for Relatives You Don't Like" features "Jellied Beef Tongue in Red Wine."  Relatives you don't like, indeed.  I think I'd prefer poison. 

Then on page 257, Helen gives us the recipe for "Wonderful Coffee."  Now, I realize in the sixties women weren't enrolling in college at the same rate as they are now, but how dumb were these single girls presumed to be?  The ingredients for "Wonderful Coffee" are: water and (see if you can keep up here) coffee grounds.  Thanks so much, Helen!  All these years I thought you were supposed to put kidneys in coffee!  

So, as you can see, this cookbook will prove to be infinitely useful.  Worth the $5 in and of itself!