Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday Miscellany

First off, please go and enter my giveaway for free vouchers from Michael Angelo's gourmet frozen Italian food.  As I type this, there are only 5 entries, so your chances of winning are really, really good! 

(Also if you go to that post you can see pictures of me in my youth, when I was thinner but my eyebrows were much, much thicker.)

So ... hmm.  It's Wednesday.  As I mentioned Sunday, I asked Trainer Jill to do three sessions with me this week, and to give the sessions a bit more of a cardio slant.  Whew.  Woman is kicking my ass.  The thing about Trainer Jill is, the exhaustion sneaks up on you.  This is true both while you're working out, but also later in the day, too.  Like, she'll have you doing something that feels so simple, some light little weight-lifting exercise or something, but after like the 12th rep you want to die.  Yesterday she had me doing five minutes on the stair-climber.  Not the Stairmaster, mind you, but this big old contraption that is actually composed of a few stairs.  It's sort of like a mini escalator, where the stairs keep moving.  You know what?  Here's a picture:

Also apparently it's technically called a stepmill.

Anyway, that thing was going at a slow pace and it seemed really easy, and when Trainer Jill said, "Let's see if you can do five minutes today," I was like pshaw, five minutes, I do that in my sleep.  And then by the time four minutes came along, I was begging for mercy. 

She's a sneaky one, that Trainer Jill.  And her sneakiness doesn't stop when the session is over, because then at some point during the rest of the day the hard-core exhaustion hits you and you just want to lie in your bed and whimper. 

But, you know, I have things to do.  Like yesterday?  We had to go and buy Nathan's soccer gear! 

That's right, the little boy is playing soccer this fall.  It seems like such a huge rite of passage.  Like, as big a rite of passage as when he started preschool, but maybe not quite as big as when he starts kindergarten.  Still, soccer feels big.  It's like, How can that little tiny baby be big enough to play soccer?

Predictably, he was pumped to purchase soccer gear.  The thing is, Nathan does not get pumped about very many things.  He's never the kid who loves anything.  He enters every activity grumbling, and although he usually ends up enjoying it, he never gushes about it.  (Hmm, sounds a little like me.  I'm a terrible gusher.) 

So, we went to Dick's Sporting Goods, and since I spent two summers in college working at a sporting goods store, I kind of knew how to purchase soccer gear.  We walked out of there with shoes, shin guards, socks, and a soccer ball.  I promised Nathan we could put it all on and practice the second we got home. 

And you guys?  The impossibly tiny little soccer shoes and the socks that practically go up to his neck?!  I could just. die.  (Wow, that was actually kind of a gush there.)  Photos to come when we get the real uniform and all that. 

Oh, and BTW, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I don't altogether suck as a soccer coach.  (Not that I am the team's official coach or anything.  I just mean I can pinch-hit as a coach for supplemental at-home practice with my own kid.  And yes, I know pinch hit is a metaphor relating to a totally different sport.)  But I do know all about how you have to kick the ball with your sweet spot, and I know about ... umm?  Dribbling and stuff? 

Nathan seemed to enjoy kicking the ball around, but he became exhausted quickly, and flustered that he couldn't use his hands, so he just sat down on the field and started picking grass.  Which, by the way, is exactly what my little brother Brian spent half his youth soccer games doing. 

Anyway, at least the soccer tired him out, and he went to bed last night at 6:30.  All it took was three days straight of sleep deprivation (self-imposed, since I didn't ask him to get up at the crack of dawn every day) and a whole lot of athletic activity.  So, it was 6:30 and I seriously didn't know what to do with myself.  I ate a bowl of my new favorite ice cream, which I mention because you have to try this stuff, you guys.  It's Edy's (known in some states as Breyer's) yogurt blends in the Key Lime flavor.  It's a tart lime yogurt with little bits of graham cracker crust swirled in.  It's 3 points on Weight Watchers for half a cup, which I admit is not a fantastic deal, but none of the dessert things ever are on Weight Watchers.  And 3 points seems to be about the going rate for the light ice creams.  And it has those little bits of crust in it!  This is not some kind of paid endorsement.  I have no relationship whatsoever with this company.  I just really like their ice cream. 

Also last night I read a little bit more of my book, Dreams of Joy.  It's the sequel to Shanghai Girls, which I really liked.  But Dreams of Joy?  I have had it for 2 weeks from the library and I'm only on page 100.  And since it's a "Hot Copy," it's due today, and I have to get it in Kindle form just to finish it.  LIBRARY USE FAIL.  It really isn't a bad book, it's just that with this freelance project I don't always have the time or the inclination to read at night, and a book is just never as good when you parcel it out into minuscule chunks and you can't remember what happened earlier in the book.  And also apparently I am not a fast enough reader to use the library anymore.  I might be going all digital, baby.  Or else maybe I have to downgrade to really fluffy books that don't require that much concentration.  Or magazines. 

In completely unrelated news, I broke down and bought a new Keurig.  This would be the latest in a long line of purchases that indicate that I'm maybe not the smartest consumer.  I can think of at least three examples where I get some kind of gadget, and I love the ease and convenience of it, but then it breaks quickly and I think, Wow, what a crappy product.  But then, the ease and convenience!  I miss it!  I cannot live without it!  So I go and buy the same crappy product again. 

Also I've been enjoying the Dunkin' Donuts K-cups with my new Keurig.  You have to go into the Dunkin' Donuts store to buy them, which makes Nathan happy. 

Donuts may be the one food that isn't really a weakness for me.  But that brings me to a discussion of Weight Watchers, which ... bah, I'm trying.  Does anybody else think the new Points Plus system is so hard?  My main problem is that you just can't eat very much bread, crackers, or other delicious carbohydrate-based items.  And that's all I want to eat.  All the time.  Many people say that you can get to a point where you stop eating breads for so long that you no longer crave them, but I wouldn't know.  I can't last that long. 

But, I keep plugging away.  With many, many derailments along the way.  (Was that, like, a mixed metaphor or something?)  I'm starting to wonder if maybe my problems with weight loss are rooted in some sort of deep psychological issue, like I don't think I'm worth it or something.  And then I say, No, shut up, Shannon, your problems with weight loss are rooted in the fact that you like to eat too much.  Still, I wish I could get to a point where I develop such a strong inner resolve that I could be standing in front of a platter of delicious food and will myself not to eat, for the purpose of achieving some greater good.  

Well, anyway, I'm gonna go and get on with my day.  I'm planning on swimming laps at the gym for the first time in forever, because I'm too sore for anything else.  And later I have a delivery window for Peapod, which is a grocery delivery service.  I've decided I can get better produce from them than I can at the store, which is important because fruit is really all you can enjoy on the new Weight Watchers.  And also, who doesn't enjoy having their groceries delivered? 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Little Pretties

Leia says:

For example, grocery store flowers:

Getting a jump on fall, I ordered the Bath & Body Works Wallflowers holder shaped like a leaf.  The scent bulb that's currently in there: S'mores!  Greatest air freshener scent ever. 

I know you've all seen the purple KitchenAid before.  Technically, the color is called Boysenberry.

My new favorite pedicure color, although I don't actually know the name of it.  Something from OPI:

I switched to French tips for my nails.  They're the gel kind:

Oh, and my other fall air freshener is shaped like an owl.  It has a fun 70's vibe, because I'm spending this fall writing a play script for the park district, and the play takes place in the 70's.  The scent bulb in there is Frosted Cupcake, which pretty much just smells like your generic vanilla.  It's nowhere near as awesome as S'mores. 

And finally, this is my Fiesta clock that hangs in my newly-remodeled home office.  I hope to do a whole post about my office once I finally get that one last giant picture hung, but for now, here's my clock.  As you can see from the paint color on the wall, the office is obviously the girliest room in the house:

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GIVEAWAY! Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods!

Allow me to begin this giveaway post with a personal narrative.  In September 1998, my Grandma Toni and I took a two-week trip to Italy, homeland of our ancestors. 

Grandma and me in Venice

Here's Grandma getting swept away by gladiators at the Colosseum:

 Cute, but right after the photo one of the gladiators held out his hand and demanded 10 lire, which was the equivalent of about $6 at the time.  (This was pre-euro.)

And Grandma throwing a coin in the Trevvi Fountain in Rome:

Finally, because everybody loves this photo, here's me getting attacked by pigeons in St. Mark's Square in Venice:

Now, obviously I reference my Italy trip because this is a giveaway of vouchers for Italian food.  But I also bring up my grandma specifically because Grandma loved eggplant Parmesan.  

And when I was at BlogHer, I sampled an eggplant Parmesan at the Michael Angelo's booth that immediately reminded me of Grandma Toni.  I'd like to say that it was just like Grandma used to make, but Grandma wasn't really a big cook.  So Michael Angelo's eggplant Parmesan could be more accurately described as "just like Grandma used to order at a restaurant."

Which is to say, it was really good.  And, as I think we all know, not all frozen entrees are good.  Michael Angelo's entrees are good.  I went back to their booth and got a second sample the next day.  

But what really made me reach out to Michael Angelo's and ask about doing a giveaway was that I felt like I made an authentic connection with the owners at the booth.  So many booths were staffed by PR reps, and that's totally fine, because in the case of some huge conglomerates, it wouldn't make sense to have the original owner there, and that's assuming that owner is even still alive.  But for Michael Angelo's, a company that prides itself in creating authentic, family-style entrees, it was nice to see the actual family behind the product.  Here's a picture of the sweet Sara Agnello, who founded Michael Angelo's with her son:

She showed me old pictures of her family.  Like my ancestors, her family came from Sicily. 

So ... this week I am giving away a set of 6 vouchers for free Michael Angelo's foods: 2 single-serve entree vouchers, 2 family-size entree vouchers, and 2 natural line entree vouchers.  You can go here and get a full list of the possible offerings and where they're sold near you, but just to name a few ...

Meat Lasagna, Eggplant Parmesan, Four Cheese Lasagna, Shrimp Scampi, Baked Ziti and Meatballs, Spinach & Vegetable Pocket Calzones, Potato Gnocchi & Cheese Italian-Style Pie

All entrees are free of artificial colors, flavors, fillers, or chemical preservatives.  Co-Founder Michael Angelo Renna says, "If you can't find it in Mom's kitchen, we won't use it in our food."  Also, there are many vegetarian entree choices.  

To win the set of vouchers, please leave a comment answering the following prompt:

Tell me about a special food or recipe that is significant in your family.

The contest is open until Sunday, September 4 at 11:59 p.m. CST.  On Monday, September 5, I will ask to select a random number, and the person leaving that comment number will win the set of Micheal Angelo's vouchers.  I'll post the winner on Monday and ask that person to email me his/her address through the email link in my sidebar.  

Bona Fortuna, everyone!

Monday, August 29, 2011


I don't know how to tell this story without sounding like a whiny spoiled brat who lacks perspective.  That sentence actually would be a pretty accurate description of me right now.  It's just that ... well, I'll just tell the story. 

The very first booth I visited at the BlogHer expo offered the opportunity to go inside one of those game show-style booths where money blows at you and you have to grab frantically at it for 30 seconds.  The money was Monopoly money, but it was stamped on the back to indicate what prize you got, and one of the prizes was cash. 

In order to win the privilege of going in the booth, you had to put all your contact information into an iPad, which served as an application to be part of the company's affiliate program.  You know, like your blog could be a place to click through to their site, and you would make some itty bitty bit of money when people entered their site through yours.  (It's sort of like what Amazon used to do, but this company wasn't Amazon.) 

I was the very first participant in the booth!  The Monopoly money was still crisp and easy to stuff through the little collection slot.  I ended up with $12 in cash, a t-shirt, a hat, and a water bottle.  I put the water bottle and the hat in the swag recycling box, and I've been wearing the t-shirt to the gym. 

End of story, until about two weeks ago when I got an email from the company saying, "We received your application, and we hope to accept it soon."  The email went on to talk about new legislation regarding affiliate programs, which necessitated a bit more time-consuming red tape before the applications could be processed. 

Still, all of the sudden my hopes were up.  They hoped to accept my application soon!

I didn't give the issue any more thought until this morning when I was at Great Clips with Nathan and my phone's e-mail notification dinged.  (Side note: My new notification ringtone sounds like the first few notes of Bruno Mars' "Rocketeer," which means I get that song stuck in my head every single day.) 

Anyway, the subject line of today's email was:

"Your application to [Company]'s Affiliate Program was rejected" 

Now, here's the thing.  I had no intention of ever applying for that program, and I only filled out the application so I could go in the money booth.  My life does not depend on the pennies I would make each month off that job.  And I know I'm a small-potatoes blogger; I didn't expect to be chosen by their program.  I gave out my contact information to many companies at BlogHer and never expected to hear from them again.

Still, the whole process of having an application and then using the word rejected somehow makes the whole thing needlessly dramatic and disappointing.  It's like that company's affiliate program was a sorority or something. 

Oh, and I come from the overly-coddled generation where minor victories are praised with certificates and minor letdowns need to be couched in the most blow-cushioning way possible.  Case in point: At my college, if you didn't want to opt for the letter-grade choice in a class, you could take it pass/no-pass.  Notice it was not pass/fail.  It was pass/no-pass. 

So I don't really feel good when you use the word rejected.  And while I'm criticizing the company's word choices, why did they say they hoped to accept my application soon?  Why didn't they just keep it neutral and say they hoped to finish processing the applications soon?

So, to recap:
  • Low-paying job I didn't care about
  • Application I filled out simply to earn the privilege of going in a money booth
  • Experience I forgot about
  • Email indicates they are interested in me!  Yay greatest job ever!
  • Next email says they are rejecting me.  CRUSHING BLOW!
  • Now sad and stewing over issue all day/questioning self-worth
It's an interesting example of how putting up the illusion of exclusivity can really manipulate your feelings about how important something is.

But it's also an example of how I really need to get some perspective and just get. over. things.  You know, the other day I was thinking about all the fun opportunities I've been given lately.  Freelance work.  Selling an ad on my blog.  New relationships with companies, which have led to fun swag and giveaways.  Increased readership.  New friends. 

And then, I get a stupid email that includes the word rejected, and I can't help but focus on the negative.  I need more freelance work.  I really don't have anything else to do, work-wise, after my current project ends.  My blog isn't that big, which is why I got rejected.  Oh, and my house is messy and my kid doesn't sleep and, oh yeah, I'm fat. 

And yes, I know I need to focus on the positive.  I know [insert famous author here] got rejected by [insert large number here] publishers before finding somebody who would take on [insert huge mega-bestseller here].  I know that famous athlete was cut from his freshman team.  I know I have to get back on the horse and ride.

I know this isn't even a "get back on the horse and ride" situation, because that would imply that the setback I experienced was severe enough to be analogous to falling off a horse, which is pretty severe.  This was just a job I didn't care about that didn't pay well.  

But still, please don't use the word rejected in the subject line of an email.

This whole situation reminds me of a story my dad likes to tell about smashed pumpkins.  (No, not the Smashing Pumpkins.)  Some time in his early teaching career, my dad organized some kind of a pumpkin-carving activity.  All participants appeared to have a great time.  Except at the end, one kid dropped his pumpkin and was devastated.  My dad could not stop focusing on that one kid's disappointment, even though many, many other kids had a great time and built fond, lasting memories.  Point is, sometimes the rarity of a negative event stands out more in your mind than the many, many positive events do. 

And in my life, there is so, so much positive and so, so little negative.  I know that.  

Still, just for kicks, I cut the company's t-shirt into rags to use for cleaning.  I threw the logo part in the trash.  It's the minor protest that says "I will not be doing any more free advertising for your company," but it's still eco-friendly. 

WINNER! Hi-Tec C Pens From Tokyo Pen Shop! selected:

Lucky Number 21!  Which was eepeep, please email me with your mailing address (email link in sidebar, shaped like a big envelope), and I'll have Tokyo Pen Shop send you your pens! 

But for everybody else, remember that you can still enter code "SHANNON" at checkout and get 15% off your order at Tokyo Pen Shop through October 1! 

Thanks to everybody who entered!  Stay tuned for my next giveaway! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In: "Desserts" Spelled Backwards

I'm actually typing this Saturday night and auto-posting it.  I have a ton of work to do, but my brain is too fried for editorial work, so I figured I'd type tomorrow's blog post instead and save tomorrow for the rest of the editorial work.

Hmm, what to say about last week?  We're plodding along.  We have one more week before school and our new babysitting arrangement starts, and before the gym daycare returns to its regular hours.  Basically, one more week until we return to normal, structured life.

Oh, and we are having major bedtime woes.  I feel like we make some progress on bedtime, and then it's one step forward and two steps back.  I would just like to see a situation where we go through the whole bedtime routine, have a brief snuggle, and then walk him to his bed shortly before 8:00, and then he just goes to sleep.  I'm knocking myself out to tire him out every day, really working to keep a schedule/routine, but then what can I do if he doesn't fall asleep for another hour and a half?  I can make all the threats and bribes I want, but I can't force the child to actually sleep.

Case in point: right this second.  The child woke up early this morning and then ran himself ragged at a birthday party today.  He showed major signs of exhaustion by dinnertime.  I did everything in my power to rush him through the bedtime routine and get him into bed in a no-nonsense fashion.  He was in bed by 7:30.  And that's where he's been until now, which is 9:10, and he still isn't sleeping.

He gets so crabby and naughty when he doesn't sleep enough, and I feel like the world's worst parent because, seriously, why can't I get this child to sleep?  But then it's nighttime and he won't go to sleep again and I'm just getting more and more stressed out because the cycle continues.  And I know, sleep begets sleep, and the more you sleep the more you want to sleep, but, see, in order to beget more sleep, you have to sleep at some point and OMG HE WON'T GO TO SLEEP.

As you can see, I'm a little bit stressed out.  Perhaps I should make a plan to tackle that stress this week.

First of all, all I can do is keep fighting the good fight, sleep-wise.  My whole deal in the last two weeks is that we need to plant the seeds of a schedule before school starts, so that we aren't making too many changes all at once the day after Labor Day.  So, right now, this whole getting on a schedule thing is a work in progress.  And I can't give up before everything eventually gels.  Everything will eventually gel, right?  Right?!

Second, and this isn't something I can achieve in one week, but I'd like to get to a point where I don't see every single negative thing Nathan does as a reflection on myself as a parent.  I guess all I can do is keep repeating the affirmation: "This isn't a reflection on you.  This isn't a reflection on you."

And I need to go to the gym at least four times, which I think I can do because I seriously scheduled three appointments with Trainer Jill this week.  I figured I be less likely to flake on the gym if I made appointments.  Effective?  Yes.  Cheap?  No.

Oh and I'm finding a way to see The Help this week.  Even if I have to hire a babysitter.

And, when times get tough, I'm just going to take a quiet break, even if that means locking myself in the bathroom.  Or crying it out. 

P.S. Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Hi-Tec C Pens from Tokyo Pen Shop!  Tomorrow I'll be giving away free vouchers for frozen Italian foods! 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction: Part 2

As I said last Saturday, I am answering all the prompts over at NaBloPoMo in August, when the theme is Fiction.  Last week I answered the prompts from first two-thirds(ish) of the month.  Today I will answer 5 more, and then sometime next week I will wrap August with the last three prompts.  (I know, the anal person in me is freaking out about how unevenly I broke those up.  But, you know, it is just a blog.)  Here you go, Part 2 of 3:


August 22: What character would you want to have over for dinner and what would you cook?
This prompt seems awfully similar to "What book character would you want to meet?"  But I did say that I'd want to meet The Man With the Yellow Hat, but that I'd want to meet him in a public place, so there goes the whole dinner party thing.  So, continuing with the children's book theme, I think for dinner I'd like to have Junie B. Jones and her family over.  That little girl is such a brat that I think I'd feel better about my own kid by comparison.  It doesn't really matter what I would cook, because none of the kids would eat anyway, but I know for sure there would be lots of wine for the grown-ups.

August 23: Would you rather be transported magically into an imaginary world or to a different time in this world?

Well, I am fascinated by time travel.  This is sort of an embarrassing confession, but sometimes I have a fleeting thought that suggests that I kind of actually think time travel is real.  Like, "Imagine when those visitors from 1950 come and see our cell phones!"  So, I'd for sure say I'd rather be transported to a different time in this world.  I am especially taken by the 1950s, which I imagine were not quite as idyllic as people painted them out to be.  I think there was probably a lot of hidden unhappiness and unrest, and I'd like to go and check it out for myself.  Also I'd like to wear one of those big skirts with the crinolines underneath.  And tell people about my cell phone.  (Though of course my cell phone demo would be really stupid, because without any cell phone towers, my phone wouldn't get a signal and I'd basically just be showing everybody a dark plastic box.) 

August 24: What book did you always take out from the school library?

If there was a book I checked out repeatedly, I don't remember what it was.  I do have fond memories of going to my elementary school library, where the librarian was Mrs. O'Donnell.  Ethel O'Donnell--is there any more quintessential name for an old-timey school librarian?  (A quick Google search just revealed that she died in 1998.  Here's her obituary.  I didn't realize she had such a Chicago connection.)  Oh, and the librarian at my middle school was Mr. Yates.  I remember in eighth grade, a few of us were selected to participate in a week-long session where we learned about the library's new online periodicals database, Dialog.  This was my first exposure to a (very primitive) Internet.  Mr. Yates was so excited about Dialog, and I remember him practically bursting when he told us about how he was able to get up-to-the-minute news and weather information from as far off as the East Coast of the United States!  We used Dialog to get a list of articles about a particular topic, and then we had to go to the public library and pull up the articles on microfiche and microfilm.  Then we had to write a report.  My report was about popular TV shows.  I was so lame.  At the time I was super obsessed with Murphy Brown, which was kind of an odd obsession for a 14-year-old girl. (Also apparently Dialog is still around, but in a more advanced format.) 

August 25: What do you think about the act of banning books?  

I'm mostly against it.  I do believe that some content is inappropriate for young children, but I think most of the time books get banned for really stupid reasons.  Like when you hear about a dictionary getting banned because it has the word sex in it.   Or when Harry Potter gets banned because some religions have a problem with witchcraft.  Those are not valid reasons to ban a book altogether from a library or school. 

August 26: Would you rather publish a work of fiction or a work of non-fiction?

I'd be happy to publish anything, although I don't have the discipline to write a book.  I guess fiction books are more likely to sell, so from a financial standpoint I'd rather publish a work of fiction.  But there would be something really cool about doing all kinds of research and being an expert on some particular topic.  Ultimately, I'd say, the money issue notwithstanding, I'd rather publish a work of non-fiction.  

Look at Us, Doing Something Outside Our House

When Nathan was about two, we used to go everywhere.  Zoos, museums, parks--you name it, and we were probably there at least twice a week.  Two years old was that perfect sweet spot where he was old enough to be entertained by various kids' activities, but not so old that he was too busy with school and other activities.  Also for the first time in my parenting career I was neither depressed nor working, so I wanted to take advantage of my new-found energy and free time and go everywhere that Chicagoland had to offer for kids.

But then about a year ago things got busier for us, and we just didn't go as many places as we used to.  Nathan started going to school Tuesday and Thursday, and then I signed him up for the supplemental preschool at the high school Monday and Friday.  And even when we did have time to go somewhere, I felt he was too overwhelmed from his other programs and needed a quiet break from stimulation.

Which, honestly, is fine.  Obviously a small child cannot handle that much stimulation and activity, and besides I want him to be able to entertain himself with simple, at-home activities.  Now that he's old enough to participate in preschool and various extracurricular activities, those take the place of the old field trips we used to take, enrichment-wise.

Also this summer I started doing freelance work, and we just can't be jetting off to fabulous locales at the pace we used to.  And, again, while it's challenging to keep Nathan entertained while I work, it's mostly good for him to practice having to entertain himself with the (vast quantity of) toys he has at home.

But sometimes I still feel that urge to get out and do something completely different.  We're in Week 2 of 3 of a particularly boring spell, because it's that "stuck between summer and fall" sort of period.  Bill's classes have started again, so he's gone more, but Nathan's preschool doesn't start until after Labor Day.  Most of his friends have started school, so there's nobody to play with.  The gym daycare has very limited hours during the month of August.  And I have some major work deadlines, but my new babysitting arrangement doesn't start until September 8.  There seems to be very little structure to our days, which honestly makes it surprisingly exhausting to try to make it through the day and keep everybody entertained and deal with various personal, professional, and household responsibilities.

I haven't felt like going to the gym, even when the daycare is open.  And making dinner?  Why would anybody do that?!  Laundry?  Whatever.  Hey, Nathan, you wanna watch that Wow, Wow, Wubzy DVD again? 

Obviously I'm in a bit of a rut.  And yesterday I just got that feeling that it was time to shake things up.

And what better place to shake things up than Northwest Indiana?

No, but seriously, we only live about 12 minutes from the Indiana border, and Bellaboo's Play and Discovery Center in Lake Station, Indiana is, in my opinion, the gold standard for children's museums.  It has all the typical hands-on children's museum stations (your water room, your construction area), plus a giant indoor jungle gym with a ball pit.  It's everything you need to wear your child out give your child an enriching afternoon of play-based learning that incorporates both large- and small-motor skills. Plus every day they have extra activities like cooking classes and gardening activities, which are included in the price of admission.

So, yesterday we went to Bellaboo's.  Against all odds, we arrived before the place even opened.  Yesterday was one of those days that happens about once a month around here, where Nathan randomly wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and never goes back to sleep.  So we were up very early.  The 9:00 departure time felt like practically lunchtime.

Anyway, we were early, and the museum hadn't opened yet.  We had about 15 minutes to wander around the lake next to the museum. 

Now, I should note that at this early point in the day, I discovered my camera battery was dead.  So all the pictures are from my cell phone.  Still, we had wonderful light and scenery to work with outdoors, so I think these next two pictures came out well:

He can never just stand still and pose.  He has to come at you, charging. 

This picture is quirky, but I like it.  He loves to pick dandelions and give them to me, telling me that I should put them in a jar of water at home.  Except ... we weren't going home for another six hours, and also?  It's a weed.  So then I show legitimate gratefulness for the gesture, and then discreetly drop the dandelion on the ground. 

This was right before he stepped in gross swampy water and we had to spend the next ten minutes in the car holding his shoes in front of the air conditioner vents.  

Finally, with dry-ish shoes on Nathan's feet, we went to the museum.  First stop: the ball pit, which I think makes a fantastic photo backdrop.  But of course Nathan was too quick for my cell phone camera, so I just took a picture of the empty ball pit: 

There, now you know what a ball pit looks like.  In case you never visited a Chuck E. Cheese's in the 1980s. 

Blurry view of the awesome fort we built in the construction area:

He was adamant that the fort fully hide his entire body, but unfortunately we ran out of blocks.  So you can still see his hands:

Oh, and you guys?  Outside they were constructing a new dinosaur dig play area!  It looks like it is going to be super cute!  Here's a photo of our pretend construction with the real construction workers in the background:

No, I did not take this photo because I wanted a topless picture of that one guy on the left. 

We then covered up the gap in the fort with some florescent safety vests:

Water room photo, blurry as all hell:

I thought this next activity was fun: Painting your name on the windows in the art room:

The cooking activity of the day was putting frosting and sprinkles on a chocolate-chip cookie.  So, you know, a health food:

And then, the activity we'd been waiting for ... Stuffee!  Stuffee is a large stuffed animal with a zipper, and when you unzip the zipper, he has various organs stuffed inside.  They only take him out on Thursdays at 1:30, and Nathan has been asking for months when we can go and see Stuffee. 

Nathan after just listening to Stuffee's heart.

Nathan's turn to pull out an organ.  He picked the heart.  

Following Stuffee's organ harvest, the museum employee led a discussion about what makes your heart beat faster.  After discussing exercise, she invited the kids to come up and take turns bouncing on a small trampoline to make their hearts beat faster.  A group of kids under 5 + a trampoline = chaos.  And at one point Nathan became frustrated that this little kid, who could not have been more than two, was taking too long on the trampoline, so he shoved the kid off.  And the kid did a full 360-degree tumble off the trampoline and onto the floor.  A room full of parents and caregivers gasped.  Oh yay. 

I whisked Nathan out of the Stuffee room and over to the concession area, where it was time for a time-out.  Here's the thing, though: Nathan does not handle time-outs well. He gets so mad.  Which might be kind of a good thing, because at least I know it's an effective punishment, but it also tends to escalate matters.  Now he was all Go away!  I don't want to see you!

I didn't want the fun outing to end on a sad note, especially over the activity Nathan was eagerly anticipating for months, so eventually I got him calmed down and he played some more in the playground.  Then we did the "Little Diggers" activity where he learned about gardening and planted a seed.  He was perfectly lovely and pleasant for that activity.  

That was the end of our outing.  We stopped at the chocolate and gummi bear factory on the way home.  

It was an exhausting day, but it was fun to do something different for a change.  I'm feeling like we need to get back into day trips as much as possible this year. While of course I want to do activities for my child's personal enrichment, and for parental bonding, and because this is the last year he won't be in school full-time, I admit that my interests in educational field trips are largely motivated by the fact that our local public school system asks parents of incoming kindergarteners to complete a checklist indicating which local museums and other venues your child has visited.  Now, I'm sure this checklist is not used in any sort of evaluation/placement capacity, and in truth it's likely that nobody ever looks at the form, except maybe for the purpose of planning field trips.  But, given my overall annoying competitive nature, I of course view this particular checklist as some sort of test of my parenting skills.  And while Nathan has been to most of the museums, it's not likely he'll remember, say, that trip to the Field Museum when he was two.  (Though he will fondly recall his time wearing the space suit and exploring the space area at the "sanitarium.")  So, this year we're going to hit all the museums again, I swear.  Because, dammit, I am going to rock that parental evaluation random supplemental enrollment form. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brief Ad/Plug/Reminder

Quick quiz:

227 is:

(a) My grandma's high score in bowling
(b) My all-time high for daily pageviews on this blog
(c) A mediocre 80's-era TV show 
(d) All of the above

That's right, (d) All of the above! 

I remember when my grandma bowled a 227, she actually made a big poster in her living room saying, "I bowled a 227!!!"  I felt equally excited yesterday when I found out I got 227 pageviews, which is my all-time high.  I'm not making a poster, though.  This blog post will have to suffice.

So, 227 is a good number for all-time highs.  Though I wouldn't call 227 an all-time high in the history of television.

But anyway, I can attribute all my new blog friends to my awesome giveaway of Hi-Tec C pens from Tokyo Pen Shop!  Have you entered yet?  Do it now!  Or, you know, before Sunday at 11:59 p.m. CST.

And, fun preview: Next week I'm doing a giveaway of a food-oriented nature.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

GIVEAWAY! Hi-Tec C Pens from Tokyo Pen Shop!

I love pens.  I'm very particular about my pens.  And my favorite pen is the Hi-Tec C, available from online retailer of awesomeness Tokyo Pen Shop

I fell in love with this site last year when Martha Stewart Living endorsed the Hi-Tec C pens.  Is it not just the most adorable thing you ever saw? 

After my first order, I knew Tokyo Pen Shop and I were in a committed relationship.  The shipping is lightning-fast, and your order comes packaged in a cute little envelope with a personal, hand-written note from shop owner Kimberly. 

So, I emailed Kimberly to ask if she would donate some pens for a giveaway on Same Old Shannon, and I was beyond thrilled when she said yes.  Seriously, right after I got the email from Kimberly, I wrote the following Facebook status in a haze of excitement:

So, the giveaway:

One lucky winner will receive 6 Hi-Tec C pens from Tokyo Pen Shop!  Here's an image of the Hi-Tec C collection from the website:

The specific colors the winner will receive are:
  • black
  • green
  • violet
  • sapphire blue
  • pompadour blue
  • wine red
(There is a writing sample with each color ink here.)  

The winner will receive pens with 0.5-mm tips, although the site offers 0.3-mm and 0.4-mm tips as well. 

Here's how you enter:

Leave a comment here with an answer to the following question:

You've just gone back to school with a pencil case full of Hi-Tec C pens!  Your teacher asks you to write an essay on what you did over the summer.  What do you write?  (For blog comment purposes, this can be a 1-3 sentence summary, not a 5-paragraph essay.) 

But wait!  There's more!  

If you "like" Tokyo Pen Shop's Facebook page, come back here and tell me in a separate comment for an extra chance to win.  (The comment can be, "I liked Tokyo Pen Shop on Facebook.") 

This contest is open until Sunday, August 28 until 11:59 CST.  After that I will go to and have it generate a number, and the person who left that comment number will win!  I'll announce the results Monday, August 29 and ask the winner to send me an email with his or her address, which I will pass onto Tokyo Pen Shop. 

But that's not all!

Even if you don't win, you can still get a 15% discount on all purchases at Tokyo Pen Shop by entering code "SHANNON" at checkout.  The discount is valid until October 1, and shipping is always free on orders of $25 or more shipped within the United States. 

Okay, go enter the giveaway!  Good luck!  And thanks a whole heaping lot to Tokyo Pen Shop, not only for giving away free pens, but for making my entire month as well!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Endless Summer

Man, I love summer. 

Everyone loves summer, but having grown up with parents who were teachers, summer was even more meaningful in terms of defining our overall life calendars. 

My life was centered around summer for the 18 years I lived at home, the 4 years I went to college, and the 3 years I worked as a teacher.  It honestly barely occurred to me that there were people who had to work during the summer, until I got a job in the corporate world and became one of those sad people languishing under florescent lights and blasted air conditioning all summer long. 

Those corporate years were not my best summers.  But even in the days of sweating buckets during my walk to the train station in humid August, I could appreciate summer for what it wasn't: namely, winter.  No shoveling snow.  No lost gloves.  No Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

And summer becomes infinitely more important once you have a child. Parents in warmer climates may not realize this, but being cooped up indoors all winter with a baby or small child is not great for your mental health.  You long for the days when you can just pop out your back door for a walk.  A walk ... is that too much to ask?! 

Then when the child becomes a toddler, the battle of the coats begins, and you find yourself on a gray January day, fantasizing about July when you can just pop a pair of sandals on your kid and head out the door. 

So longed for is summer, that it is no surprise that it feels like it takes summer forever to get here.  When it's May 1 and you're still wearing your winter coat, you doubt summer will ever come, and your doubts are only intensified when you're freezing your ass off Memorial Day weekend on the opening day of the pool. 

And then summer finally arrives, and you get this feeling like you must soak up every last second of it. 

We must go to the pool every afternoon!  We must go to the park, the zoo, the splash pad, and the amusement park ... at least twice!  Never mind that you're tired!  No, you can't stay in and watch TV!  You can do that in January!

This excessive use of exclamation points is making me exhausted. 

And that, my friends, is my sad admission:

I'm tired of summer. 

I know, I know, I know.  I just went through a paragraphs-long explanation of why summer is just the greatest season ever.  How could I be tired of it? 

Believe me, I'm as surprised as anybody by this development.  I never expected to ever wish summer would end.  In fact, so worried was I about the fleeting summer, that the week before Memorial Day I had a dream ... nay, nightmare ... that it was already Labor Day and the whole summer was over. 

But now I find myself asking, When will Labor Day get here? 

Part of this desire to move onto the next season has to do with my personal need to compartmentalize periods of time.  Summer is summer, and fall is fall, and this late August part feels kind of neither here nor there.  I mean, technically it is still summer, but the camps are all over, the pool has reduced hours, and the school supplies at Target are all picked through.  The local public schools start back tomorrow, although we have to wait until after Labor Day for Nathan's preschool to start, and I imagine we'll feel even more in limbo during the next two weeks.

I'm also not one for last hurrahs.  They feel like trying to squeeze one last product out of a bygone age, even though in your mind you have moved onto the next age. 

Case in point: The Raging Waters pencil. 

See, sometime in late August of 1989, my mom decided to take my brothers and me to Raging Waters waterpark, as one last summer hurrah before school started.  I was starting middle school in the fall, so that year felt like a really big deal.  Toward the end of the waterpark trip, my mom ducked into the gift shop and bought us each a souvenir pencil, so that we could think of our fun summer outing every time we did our schoolwork with that pencil. 

Well, sorry to sound ungrateful, Mom, but I hated that pencil.  I refused to write with it at school.  (And since young Shannon always carried a minimum of 12 sharpened pencils in her pencil case, I never had to use that one particular pencil.)  Every time I'd look at that pencil I would tear up--yes, literally cry--thinking about how that pencil didn't belong. 

Several years later, in the fall of 1996, I was preparing to head off to college.  The fact that my college was on the quarter system and started a full month later than my high school friends' colleges felt, again, very limbo-ish.  Not to mention I was a blubbering mess, to the point that I am still eternally grateful that my family is still speaking to me after that summer.  I just needed to get to college and get over the initial shock. 

So, the day before college, as we were running last-minute errands, my mom suggested we pop into Starbucks to get coffee.  And I, literally, asked, "What would be the point?" 

Now, being a mother myself, I realize that the point was that my mom was maybe trying to soak up one last moment with her firstborn before she went away to college.  But, being a mom myself, I also realize that you always step aside and put your child's feelings before your own.  So we didn't go for coffee. 

Again, sorry Mom.  But in my mind, I was already away at college.  I needed to move on.

And that's how I feel right now, in this moment, at the end of August 2011.  It's time to move on. 

Obviously I'm not as dumb and dramatic as I was about the pencil or the coffee, but I do still feel this really strong longing to move on to the next season.  I'm ready for structure and cooler temperatures and pretty leaves during afternoons at the park.  I'm ready for chili and apple-picking and corn mazes. 

Some people might take exception to this wishing away of the present.  It is true that life is short, and we should seize the moment.  It is also true that, while the autumn is glorious, the season after it is much less so, and a wish for fall to hurry up is therefore a wish for the winter to hurry up as well.  It's better to just live in the moment and appreciate today.

But I like to think that there's a hint of optimism, or at the very least, acceptance, in my attitude.  The seasons are going to change anyway, and we might as well accept it.  That fall that seemed nightmarish back in May?  It now feels very, very welcome. 

I dare say it, but I'm actually going to get excited about the first snow of the winter, too.

Because, ultimately, the change of seasons is a comforting rhythm of life.  Some may choose to fight it, but I choose to accept it.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

From the "There's a First Time for Everything" Files: I Refurbish a Dresser!

I find DIY/home remodeling blogs kind of boring.  But hopefully that's just me, because I'm about to tell you all about how I refurbished and old dresser for my home office!

Here's a picture of what the dresser originally looked like.  In the true spirit of "before" pictures, it's a little bit dark and blurry:

First I took all the drawers out and unscrewed the handles.  Then I coated the whole thing with primer:

Next I painted it blue.  The color is Benjamin Moore St. Tropez Bay, #2128-30. 

I wanted to give my dresser sort of a distressed look.  See, with the distressed look, minor flaws look like they were intentional.  It's like, to quote Pee-Wee Herman, "I meant to do that." 

So, to create the distressed look, I sanded down various edges with 100-grit sandpaper.  According to the Interwebs, you are supposed to sand any corner where natural wear and tear might occur, like from people brushing past that corner. 

Next, I went to my least-favorite do-it-yourself home repair conglomerate and purchased new handles for the cabinets:

Then I realized that two of the handles required longer screws than the ones that came with the handles, so I ... got mad.  And then the next day I went to my local Ace hardware, where the super nice lady helped me pick out screws. 

Except, here's the thing: If you need to install two handles, and each handle requires two screws each, you need four screws, not two. 

(And it's not like I spend my days editing documents containing just those types of word problems or anything.) 

But I made do with what I had, and the handles got screwed on, and here's the finished dresser:

Not pictured: weird smeary stain-type thing that happened when child spilled that oil diffuser on top.  Bill said, "Well, you wanted it to look distressed, right?" 

I was, in fact, distressed.  Except, I mean, I meant to do that. 
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In: Vaguely Philosophical and Slightly Different Format Edition

Every Sunday as I sit down to write my check-in, I reflect back on my week. 

And I can't ever think of a damn thing to say. 

I mean, not literally.  Every week I could say that I cooked and cleaned and did laundry and a million other boring life-sustaining household chores.  Some weeks I can reflect back on special, unique events.  I could talk about various professional endeavors. 

But I guess what I'm unable to do is sit here and compose a one-sentence evaluation of the week.  As in, "Last week was _______________."

I guess maybe that sort of fill-in-the-blank life summary doesn't really make sense, outside of the context of, say, first grade. 

Last week was.  

Happy things happened, frustrating things happened, I displayed some behaviors I was proud of and some behaviors I was not-so-proud of.  The not-so-proud behaviors aren't interesting or scandalous.  I'm just talking about things I shouldn't have eaten or times I should have worked out when I didn't.  Or times I let my kid watch too much TV.  Even my transgressions are sort of boring.

Lest you think this is getting a little bit sad, let me remind you that I love boring.  No news is good news and all that. 

In fact, no news is good news could be my life motto. 

Because, really, isn't most of life composed of mundane, everyday moments? 

I always think it's strange that realtors like to point out that a particular house is a "great space for entertaining."  I mean, yes, the concept of entertaining evokes all kinds of positive, happy moments among friends and loved ones, and that's just the kind of good feeling a realtor wants you to associate with the house.  But, really, what percentage of time in a house is spent entertaining?  Even avid entertainers only entertain like, what, two times a month?  That's about 100 hours a year of entertaining, versus the thousands of hours you spend every year in your home doing everyday tasks.  Why can't a realtor say something like, "This would be a great bathroom in which to brush your teeth every morning?"

Because everyday grooming tasks and household chores are boring at best, annoying at worst.  Nobody looks forward to buying a house so they can wash dishes in it. 

But, lately I've been challenging myself to be more appreciative of the little things in life. 

Let me be clear: I will never love doing the laundry.  I can step back and be grateful that we have a washer and dryer in our home, and plenty of clothes and linens to wash.  That still doesn't make it fun to fold a pile of laundry as high as my waist, just like I did last week, and just like I will do next week. 

But maybe I can at least move away from out-and-out hating my house and all the chores I have to do in it.  It is not that I literally hate my house.  I like my house.  I think it's a nice house.  It's just that I hate sitting in it and reflecting on how the floor needs to be vacuumed and the walls need to be painted, and why can't it be more like so-and-so's house or that house I saw in a magazine? 

I just want to move toward a life where I can focus more on what's going right than on what's going wrong. 

This goal is neither specific nor measurable.  It's more of an attitude I'd like to cultivate than a goal I'd like to achieve. 

So, this week my goal is to let whatever I do be enough. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction: Part 1

So, you know what site I haven't mentioned lately?  NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month!  I haven't officially signed up there for any of the months this year, even though I'm trying to post 365 posts in all this year, more of a NaBloPoYe.  But since I like the freedom of being able to skip a day here and there and then double up later, that didn't really seem to be in the spirit of NaBloPoMo's "post every day for a month."  So no NaBloPoMo this year for me. 

However, I do like the writing prompts at NaBloPoMo, because sometimes I need help thinking of something interesting to blog about, so boring is my life.  And when I moseyed over to the Prompts tab yesterday, you know what I discovered?  This month's theme is "Fiction"!  And I was just about to write a post about books! 

So I'm going to go through and answer all the prompts for August.  There are maybe about 20-ish, because they only give them on the weekdays, and I think sometimes they just randomly forget to post one.  I'll compose an x-part series answering the August prompts.  That x is a variable, and not Roman numeral 10.  See, you can tell it's a variable because it's italicized. 

(The previous sentence would be an example of the kind of exciting things I deal with in my everyday life.  Italicize all variables, people.  Remember it.  Live it.  Oh, and side note, remember how Richard Gere's character in Runaway Bride had a cat named Italics?  Best cat name ever!)

Anyway, my point was, I don't know how many posts it's gonna take to answer all the prompts, but I'm gonna do them all.  This time I'll answer them in order from earliest to latest prompt.  Here goes:


August 1: What is your favourite book?  [Note British-ized spelling is theirs, not mine.]

Let me say first, that for me at least, book quality is context-specific.  If I read a book in a relatively happy situation, I'm gonna like it more than a book that I read in a stressful or annoying situation.  So I'm likely to enjoy a book more if I read it on vacation than if I read it while waiting in line at the DMV.  Obviously any given book can be read under many different circumstances, since most books aren't read in one sitting.  And a really good book can transcend poor circumstances, and vice-versa.  I'm just saying, sometimes I don't give books a fair shake because of outside circumstances. 

Case in point: all the books I've read this summer.  Since the nature of my freelance project is sort of unpredictable, sometimes I get a whole bunch of work sent to me all at once, and I don't have that much time to read for pleasure.  So I'm trying to parcel out a book into several minuscule chunks, and I forget what happened because it's been so long, and besides I'm sick of reading anyway because I read all day for work.  So, this summer I haven't really liked anything I've read.

So, back to the original question, what is your favorite book?  My favorite book is The Time Traveler's Wife, which I read during a retreat to a fancy hotel/spa in Palm Springs that my husband's company paid for.  So, as you can see, my love of that book was partially context-specific, because who doesn't love reading out by a pool after a relaxing mani/pedi?  But I think most people liked that book, no matter where they read it. 

Other books I like: The Help, Room, Hunger Games Trilogy, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Bossypants, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ... those are the only ones I can think of right now.  I also reserve a special category for "Best Book I Was Required to Read in High School," which is To Kill a Mockingbird. 

August 2: Who is your favourite author?  

I really don't have a favorite author.  I find that often an author can hit it out of the park with one book, but then his/her other book(s) may not be very good. 

August 3: Have you ever wished you could enter a book? 

Honestly, no.   To make a book interesting, there has to be a conflict, and why would I want to voluntarily enter into conflict?

August 4: Which character would you most like to meet?  

The Man With the Yellow Hat from Curious George.  That dude needs a makeover.  And I'd want to find out what his name is.  But since he's a grown man who has a pet monkey he treats like a child, and since he voluntarily wears the same outfit every day, and it's yellow, I think I'd insist upon meeting him in a public place. 

August 5: What is the best first sentence you can think of off the top of your head?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  Though generally speaking, reading A Tale of Two Cities was not the best of times for me.  It was sophomore year in high school, and like most high school students I was busy with sports and other activities to list on my college applications, and so I waited until the last minute to read A Tale of Two Cities.  It was probably about 3 a.m. when I finally got to "It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."  So the night I read A Tale of Two Cities was not the far, far better rest that I have ever known, but being a teenager, I was totally fine running on four hours of sleep. 

August 8: Do you always tell the truth?  

Mostly.  I am not a very good liar.

August 9: What do you think about white lies?

That term is racist. 

August 10: Fictionalize a boring part of your day and retell it.

See here.

August 11: Unpack the statement: truth is stranger than fiction.

I don't want to. 

August 12: What character would you never want to meet?

Old Nick, the rapist/captor from Room.  

August 15: What is your favourite place to read?

First and foremost, a beach.  There is nothing more peaceful than reading on a beach.  These days I very seldom get to read on a beach, though.  Mostly I do my reading in my bed.  Or on the elliptical at the gym.  And while the elliptical is not my favorite thing to do, I do appreciate that I'm able to distract myself with reading while I'm working out.  Also the ability to read in the middle of the day is a good incentive to get me to the gym.  

August 16: Do you prefer to own books or borrow them from a friend or the library?  

I like to mix it up.  If I'm at the library and they have something I want on the Hot Copies shelf, I will certainly borrow it.  I feel like anytime you borrow a book, you are doing your part for the environment and saving money.  However, I have a Kindle, and that's good for the environment too, not to mention fast, easy, lighter to carry around, and easier to read on the elliptical at the gym.  So, I do end up purchasing more books in Kindle form than I check out from the library.  Very occasionally I have a need to purchase a book in paper form, because I just want to own that book.  Tina Fey's Bossypants is an example.  I just wanted to keep that one in hard copy form in my personal library.  But usually I am just as happy to get rid of books or own them in e-book form, because my husband's books take up more than enough room in our house for the both of us. 

August 17: Talk about your favourite bookstore.

I feel like my favorite bookstore should be some quaint little independent mom 'n pop store, but I like the big-name chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble better.  Of course, Borders is out of business, so that really just leaves Barnes & Noble.  Except I never buy anything there, I just browse.  I really only get books off of Amazon for my Kindle.  So, I guess Amazon is my favorite bookstore.  I do like the idea of a small bookshop with a cat that lives there.  But I guess Amazon has a bookstore cat.  Her name is Leia. 

August 18: What was the last book you read?  

I read Sisterhood Everlasting, the latest in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  It was so. sad.  So sad.  I just wanted to get through it to get all that sadness out of my life. 

Currently I am reading a historical fiction novel, Rules of Civility.  It's one of those books that sort of gives you a slice of everyday life in a different era (the Great Depression).  I like that kind of book, but it may not be for everyone.  I do think the author is really good, although I admit that it's one of those books where every so often you just have to accept that you have no idea what she is talking about. 

August 19: Do you like paper books or e-readers?

I kind of already answered that question above.  Mostly I'm moving over to e-readers, because it's nice to just be able to think of a book you want and then have it almost instantly. 

And, with that, I am caught up on prompts. 


Thursday, August 18, 2011


You know what's going on with me? 

Work, work, work, work, work. 

Oh, and work. 

It's pretty freaking awesome. 

As stupid as it sounds, I missed saying, "I have to work." 

What?! I said it sounded stupid. 

And work is just all the more awesome now that I have my very! own! desk!

I feel important and useful again.

Nathan has his own desk, too, a.k.a. the new coffee table, and we sit, side-by-side, doing our work.

It's not quite as cute as it sounds, though, because one of us is illiterate and interrupts the other one of us approximately every 3.4 seconds to ask for a direction to be read from his sticker book.

Still, I feel like a better mom because at least now I'm making him do some kind of constructive activity while I work, and not just popping him in front of the TV all the time.

Although I get a lot more done when he is watching TV.  No reading involved there.

Today I was juggling paid work, childcare, grocery procurement, exercise, laundry, cooking, and transporting my husband to/from the train station.  I feel pretty badass right now.

It doesn't take much.   

You know what I like about work?  I like how I no longer feel guilty that my house isn't perfect, or that I don't have all the laundry done, or that I'm not making elaborate meals from scratch, because, hey, I have to work.  And granted the house was never perfect, and the laundry was never done, and the meals were never elaborate or from scratch, but at least now I don't feel so guilty about these shortcomings. 

I'd write more, but I have to work. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Guys, You Guys, YOU GUYS!

Yesterday the following relatively minor but still awesome things happened to me:

  • So, you know how I really have a special interest in pens and all things stationery/office supplies?  And you know how I have massively gushed about my love of online retailer Tokyo Pen Shop?  Well, I emailed Kimberly, the shop's owner, and asked her if she would give me some Hi-Tec C pens for a blog giveaway, and she said yes!  You guys, this is kind of huge for me, because this is my first time pitching a company, and I was so excited to get a positive response!  Especially from a retailer I love so much!  Anyway, the giveaway will have 5 pens, and when we work out the details of what colors they will be, I will put up the official giveaway post.  This is not the official giveaway post.  You won't win anything from commenting on this post, although of course I still love getting comments.  And also, if you have input on what colors you'd like to see in the giveaway, speak now or forever hold your peace!
  • Speaking of giveaways, Yankee Candle is sending me a sample pack of their upcoming product line, and I will be doing a giveaway for that, too.  I don't know at all what is in the sample pack, so again, the official giveaway entry post will have to come later.  You won't win any candles commenting on this post either.  But you will win my appreciation!
  • As unrelated as you could possibly get from the topic of blog giveaways, I had my annual physical at the doctor yesterday.  Last year he harped on me for being overweight, and I was afraid I would get harped on again this year because I still am overweight.  But, he commended me on my loss of what he called "a tremendous amount of weight," which I think was a bit of an exaggeration because I was 19 pounds down from where I was last year.  But still, as you probably guessed from yesterday's post, I really needed some weight-loss encouragement.  Honestly, that compliment from the doctor buoyed my spirits into the evening, so that I was still a responsible eater for the rest of the day (i.e., I did not reward myself with food for being done with an annoying checkup).  
  • I finally finished assembling the desk and coffee table!  You guys, I am the worst at assembling furniture.  I aspire to reach a level of personal wealth that allows me to exclusively purchase already-assembled furniture.  I always laugh because at Ikea they have a picture diagram, and it goes from a panel where the person is standing there with a box, to a panel where people are sitting around on the assembled furniture, smiling.  Did many hours pass between the assembly and the smiling, so that the family has forgiven each other over the fight that inevitably occurred during the frustration of the furniture assembly?  Or in Sweden do they actually send families a government-appointed furniture assembler?  Anyway, I had some screws and things left over from the desk assembly, which ... may not be a good thing.  But, whatever, it's a desk.  It's not like somebody has to sit or sleep on  it, so it's not exactly a safety issue if there are a few screws missing.  Here's a photo of the assembled desk and coffee table:

And an equally-boring side view:

As you can see, it's kind of a work in progress.  We don't have chairs yet, the walls are bare, and that big white thing is the bed that we still have in there.  As I am kind of a "let's get it done now" kind of person, I don't like having a work in progress.  I kind of hate home decorating.  
  •  My kid went to sleep in his own bed, BY HIMSELF!  I fully admit that we achieved this awesome feat because we imposed both a threat, and a bribe.  The threat was that he wouldn't get any screen-based activity the following day if he got out of his bed, which was a threat I was reluctant to impose because it did seem like he was legitimately scared in his room by himself.  (Also, never give a punishment that actually punishes you.)  But when I saw that he could easily go to bed by himself when a babysitter was here, it dawned on me that he was probably just pulling this "I'm scared" crap for me.  So ... enter the threat.  But I also like to put a positive spin on things (that is, I am a big fat softy), so when he asked if he could have an incentive chart for going to bed by himself, I said yes.  But then I asked him what he wanted for his incentive, he said cash.  So now I am literally paying him to stay in his bed.  The going rate for staying in bed is $2/night, but I made it clear that we are only doing this for 5 nights in a row and not that I'll be cutting him a $60 check on the first of every month.  I think with the five-day cap I am still keeping it in the realm of "a positive reward for a temporary period where we're enforcing a new behavior" and not "my kid is so spoiled and/or I am so desperate that I'm paying him for something he should do anyway."  Right ... RIGHT?!  And besides, at least it's a bit of a money lesson for him.  RIGHT?!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

And Now, Ironically, I Will Talk About Weight Watchers

I know, I know yesterday I talked about a pie.  And not just any pie, the richest pie you could ever possibly eat.  That pie is like the opposite of Weight Watchers.

But that pie was for the greater good, to support a grieving family in the face of tragedy.  Bigger picture, people.  BIGGER PICTURE.

However, here in the small details of my everyday life, it's time for me to buckle down and get serious about weight loss. 


I realize the exact details about how my most recent weight gain happened are kind of not altogether scientifically accurate, nor are my behaviors based on any kind of sound reasoning.  But, the basic story is that I kind of took a major Weight Watchers vacation during my trip.  Now, the trip was a week long.  The Weight Watchers vacation was more like a month long, because I decided to add in a little extra Weight Watchers staycation before and after my actual week of travels. 

This past Saturday I got up the courage to face the music and weigh myself at home.  And, in the month that I was off of Weight Watchers, I had ...

... lost 7 pounds. 

Buoyed by my new weight loss non-efforts, I decided I'd have one more all-you-can-eat gorge-fest Sunday at the Renaissance Faire.  The highlight of that day's eating was this loaf of bread that was actually like a cinnamon roll in loaf form.  Here is a picture of Katie, who is very thin and obviously eats responsibly most of the time, modeling the loaf:

I called it "the bread that God eats."

So, two pickles, a bread bowl with broccoli-cheddar soup, the bread that God eats, toffee, an Italian ice, and the Mexican takeout we got on the way home later, and ...
... I had gained 7 pounds by Monday morning.  

Monday morning I dragged myself to Spin, the most calorie-burning workout that I can possibly muster, and then to Weight Watchers, where, according to their scale, I was:
  • 10 pounds heavier than I had been on my home scale Saturday (which, again, you can't always compare two different scales, but still)
  • 3 pounds heavier than I had been that exact morning on my home scale (see parenthetical caveat of previous bullet point)
  • 4 pounds heavier than my previous Weight Watchers weigh-in
  • 8 pounds heavier than my Weight Watchers low of this particular weight-loss effort
  • generally just a fat-ass
  • angry and disappointed
How could I let it get to this point?  And I know, I know you can't look back.  Nothing can be done about the past, all you can do is improve your behavior in the present so you won't have regrets tomorrow.  One of my favorite Eagles lyric quotes goes:
"Right or wrong, what's done is done,
It's only moments that we borrow."
--The Eagles, "Try and Love Again"
So, I get it, no looking back and all that.  But, for crying out loud, how many times have I said this?  How many times have I failed?  When will I ever get this right? 

But I also know that self-hatred is not the best spirit in which to lose weight.  So, in the interests of looking on the bright side, I will consider the following:

I'm proud that I always end up going back.  I am proud that even when I slack off a bit, I always rein it back in, difficult as it may be.  The door to Weight Watchers may as well have one of those "DO NOT ENTER!  SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE!" pokey grate thingies on it, because that's how hard it feels to cross the threshold of the Weight Watchers facility sometimes. 

But I do it.  I force myself to go back.  And then I go and buy myself flowers or jewelry or lotions or some other form of inedible reward.  Weight Watchers is very expensive.  But I like to think little baubles are going to be cheaper than the eventual angioplasty I'll have to get if I don't lose weight.  Prettier, too. 

And so, here I sit, back on the proverbial horse.  And I'm focusing on another quote for inspiration, one that Weight Watchers itself actually put on its Facebook page:
"Fall down seven times, get up eight."
--Japanese proverb
Or, closer to home, something my stepmom always said when I was growing up:

"Shannon lets her room get messy sometimes, but you can always count on her to clean it up eventually."

And, with that, I am off to eat half a cup of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit.  Wish me luck!  (Not on the oatmeal thing; I can probably figure that one out.  But, you know, just in general.)