Sunday, October 14, 2012

There Won't Be Blood

I passed out attempting to donate blood yesterday.

Now, let me note that, due to a strong sense of guilt social obligation, I feel like I should donate blood.  Sure, I give my time and money to various charities.  But anybody can give time and/or money.  Not everybody can give blood.

I, however, can give blood at this point in my life, and therefore feel like I should.  I feel like a random patient would love to have my blood.  My blood hasn't been exposed to any serious risk factors, so the recipient of my blood would be assured that his/her new blood has lived a relatively boring and safe life.  I mean, sure, my blood is teeming with Prozac and caffeine, but it's not like getting happy, perky blood is a bad thing, right?

So when the family and I walked into the library yesterday and I saw that they were having a blood drive, I went right in.  They noted that they would be squeezing me in as the last donor, which is a detail that sort of becomes relevant later.

I should also point out that my past attempts to donate blood have had mixed results.  I donated once in college with absolutely no adverse effects.  Then, I attempted to donate again at age 26, and I nearly passed out during the finger-prick they do in advance to test your blood, so they turned me away.

Yesterday's attempt was my third.  And I figured all my aversions to needles and blood and veins would probably have gone out the window, since I had given birth in the interim between my last attempt and yesterday's donation.

The donation actually went fine.  It was the post-donation that kind of went awry.

I was supposed to sit at the snack table for 15 minutes, which already felt kind of unnecessary because, as I said, they were wrapping up the blood drive.  Another group was already at the door waiting to have their meeting in the next time slot for the meeting room.  Bill and Nathan were milling about with nothing to do.  So I kind of had a Let's get this show on the road attitude.

But then I began to panic.  I told the employees I wanted to lie down.  Immediately they sprung into action.  It was like I was on ER in its mid-90s glory days.  They pulled out a mat and I had to lie on the floor right next to my chair, and then they shoved ice packs down my shirt and put a fan next to my head.  And I was supposed to move my legs back and forth.

At that point, Bill and Nathan came in to see what was taking so long.  The blood drive employees had packed up every single bit of equipment around me.  I was all, "I'm fine!  Let's go!"

And then I nearly passed out in the parking lot.  The blood drive guy came after me and dragged me back indoors.  Back to the exercise mat and the ice packs.

As a side note, when they took the blood they had told me to take off my cardigan, so I was only wearing an ill-fitting undershirt that kind of exposed my stomach fat.  In an attempt to leave without too much shame but still meet the blood drive's "keep cool" directive, I had put my free blood donor t-shirt on over the undershirt.  But then they told me to take off the shirt, which I was having trouble doing without making my undershirt ride up, and at a certain point, I said, "Screw it, you're all going to see my bra."  I think Bill was horrified.

So there I was, lying there with my stomach fat exposed and ice packs down my shirt, and trying to be all, No, Nathan, Mommy is fine, even though I'm pretty sure he wasn't the least bit concerned because he was busy devouring the contents of my vampire-themed "Fangs for Your Donation" goody bag.

And they let the next meeting come in.  They were just like, We'll have them work around you.  And they told me to squeeze my buttocks over and over.

My one saving grace was that at least I didn't know anybody in that meeting.  Which is saying a lot in a small town like this where everybody seems to know everybody else.

Meanwhile, I downed two packs of Cheez-Its, some Gatorade, and a small bag of Famous Amos cookies in an attempt to regain full consciousness.  (As a fun aside, the guy who came and chased me down in the parking lot looked a little like Famous Amos.)

At one point I was thinking of asking them if I could just have my blood back.  That seemed like it would solve the problem.

Eventually I got to the point where I could at least remain conscious on the drive home.  (It probably goes without saying that Bill was driving.)  Then I woozily made it through the evening.  And now this morning, I'm still feeling woozy. Which I'm pretty sure is all psychological at this point, but just to be safe I think I'd better take a nap and have Chipotle for lunch.  Chipotle has a lot of iron in it.

So, there will be no more blood donation for me.  You can have my time and my money, but you can't have my bodily fluids.  Maybe I can pay other people to donate blood in my stead.

The thing is, I rationalize away my guilt like this: My blood type is O+.  It's neither rare nor the universal donor.  What do they want with my blood anyway?

I'm posting about this to see if I can find some kindred spirits out there who are also too wussy to donate blood.  Leave your story in the comments, fellow wusses!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates: Sometimes You Need a Kick in the Pants to Get You Going Again. Or Something.

It turns out that blogging is like exercise: The longer you stay away from it, the harder it is to get back into it.  

Honestly, I considered just giving the whole thing up (blogging, not exercise), like so many before me have done.  But I'm trying to come back, and the reason for that is truly pathetic.  It goes like this: 

The other day I was talking to a dad at soccer about the time I went to the Sweets & Snacks Expo.  He said, "That sounds like an awesome show.  How did you get to go to that?" I explained it was because I had a blog, and that's when I realized it: If I don't have a blog anymore, I can't go to the candy show anymore.  And then I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the new candy show strategies I learned from experience (go more than one day, bring Ziplocs).  

So, I'm back.  And enough blogging about blogging, even though it's so meta.  I just really like to say meta.  

The thing is that my freelance career has picked up a little bit lately.  Now, you know I'm highly superstitious and don't like to jinx myself, so I will just say that things are above average in my work life right now.   I got another freelance gig, and this one is with my old company, which is good for many reasons, namely that (1) I've been trying to get back with them on a freelance basis since I quit working there full-time four years ago, and (2) This new job really kind of encompasses every single one of my professional  experiences and interests.  That's right, every single one.  

So with the presidential candidates debating about creating new jobs, I can definitely say that I'm better off than I was four years ago.  Because a stay-at-home suburban mom who is just trying to keep her mind focused and keep her foot in the door career-wise is definitely the person Mitt and Barack are most concerned about, not, you know, the laid-off factory worker who can't feed his family.  

I'm gonna stop writing now.  I have a million other mundane update-y things I could talk about, but I'm focusing on keeping these posts a little bit shorter.  I think it becomes more daunting for me if I endeavor to do too much.  Also like exercise.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Reflections on Kindergarten, Ten Days In

I've been hesitant to publish this post ever since it was titled "Reflections on Kindergarten, Six Days In."  That's right, I've let it sit in Draft mode for a whopping four days, due to fear of the great parental phenomenon known as Jinxing Oneself.  But, knocking on every piece of wood I can find, I will publish this preliminary assessment of kindergarten:

It's going way better than I thought it would. 

First off, he likes it.  He comes home spouting glowing platitudes like I love kindergarten! and I wish I could go to kindergarten every day!  Then over the weekend, doing his weekend homework, he asked, Is there more homework?  Because this homework is too fun!

All this coming from a child who could never muster more than mild tolerance for preschool.  Preschool, which I thought was universally-loved, like puppies and pizza.  (Though now that I think about it, Nathan doesn't actually like those either.)

Behaviorally, he has achieved my goal of at least making a good first impression.  The class uses a behavior system where each kid has a clothespin with his/her name, clipped on a color chart.  You start each day on green, and you can go up with good choices: blue, purple, and pink.  You can go down with poor choices: yellow, orange, and red.  That's a whole seven-color spectrum on which I can rank myself as a parent each day, despite that fact that the kid's school behavior is somewhat out of my hands. 

So each day he comes home with a calendar in which he colors the day's square with the color on which he ended the day.  Now, look: I know I don't have a pink kid.  I taught for three years, and I can still name the kids who would have been on pink: the sweet kid, usually a girl, who was always, always doing the exactly right thing, the nice thing, the helpful thing.  Nathan is not going to be that kid.  That's fine.  I don't care if he isn't a pink kid, so long as he isn't a red kid. 

So far (knockonwood, knockonwood, knockonwood) he's been on green, with the occasional blue. 

And so kindergarten life is chugging along.  With each passing day, life overall feels less traumatic.

Here are a few more obvious conclusions I've come to in the last couple of weeks, with regard to school:

  • It's so EARLY: Now look, I have the rare kid who likes to sleep in.  Sure, this was an incredible luxury for about four years.  But when he slept in until an all-time lateness of 11:30 on August 1, I knew I had trouble.  (For purposes of accuracy, I'd like to point out that 11:30 was an outlier even for him.  His average wake-up time was probably more like 10:00 over the summer.)  But I knew that by August 23 he'd have to be up at 6:30, and that is a serious difference.  I did Sleep Training 2.0 during the first three weeks of August, getting him up earlier and earlier.   Now we're up at 6:30 every single day, albeit not happily.  But he did get up voluntarily at 6:30 on September 1, which is a five-hour difference in one month.  I consider it my first-ever sleep-related victory as a parent.  
  • But when I say early, I'm not just talking about the wake-up: Our whole day has shifted now.  Nathan gets on the bus at 7:11 a.m., which means I have to start my day of productivity at 7:30.  (I've allowed 19 minutes for pointless Internet-surfing.) Under the old model, the day seemed to begin at more like 9:30.  Now I'm cramming in all the exercise, work, chores, and errands before lunchtime.  And pretty soon it's ...
  • 2:00: This is the time Nathan's bus gets home.  Which is a problem, because I generally regard 2:00 as the worst time of the whole day.  No, wait!  I didn't mean it's the worst time of the day because that's when Nathan gets home; in actuality I kind of miss him during the day and I'm excited to have him get home.  I just mean that 2:00 is the worst time of the day because I'm experiencing post-lunch exhaustion, but also realizing that holy crap, there's so much more day to get through.  So 2:00 is always a time of that classic, What are we going to do to get us through until dinner?, a relic of the baby days.  Of course, dinner is now at 5:00, and bedtime is now at 7:00 ... hence my assessment of Early. 
  • Also, paper.  Now, having been a student and a teacher, I know there's a lot of paperwork that goes home from school.  I understand why every single office needs a separate form with emergency contact information and a parent signature.  Getting hundreds of children to and from and around school every single day is a nearly-impossible feat.   I get it.  I'm not complaining.  I want my kid to be safe and well-cared-for.  But I also know that if I didn't stay on top of the volume of paperwork that goes home, I would very quickly become a giant problem for the school.  I don't understand how people keep up with this when they have multiple school-aged children, or two jobs, or aren't native speakers of English.  
  • Subset of the papers: Fund-raisers: You know that bumper sticker that says something like, "It would be a great day when our public schools had all the funding they needed and the army had to hold a bake sale to buy grenades"?  Never have I more wanted to paste that sticker on every vertical surface I own.  (Though I kind of think it fails as a bumper sticker on an actual car, since it's too wordy and seems like it would increase the chance of people rear-ending you as they strain to read your sticker.)  So anyway, the schools are under-funded, and have to make up for that lack of funding with fundraisers.  We're ten days into the school year, and already I have: signed up for a 5K fundraiser, ordered Market Day, bought 2 magazine subscriptions, collected 8 Box Tops for Education, and purchased books through the Scholastic Book Order.  How much are the schools getting from the actual government?  Like, a nickel?  
  • Homework: Homework is a touchy subject.  Some parents like the homework, some hate it.  Some think kids should get more homework, some think they should get less, some think they should get none at all.  So far, I'm going to admit it: I like doing the homework.  However, I understand that we're in the honeymoon phase, and also that kindergarten homework is kind of simple and fun.  But here's why I like the homework: It makes me feel like a good parent when I do the homework with Nathan.  He's never been the kind of kid who is receptive to attempts at formal learning experiences at home (you know, workbooks and the like).  Homeschooling him would be a nightmare.  But with the homework, he understands it's mandatory (though, technically, the teacher said it was optional, but he doesn't know that), and so it's the first time I really feel like I've been able to sit down and teach him a formal lesson.  And, in the interests of being diplomatic, I will admit to having full understanding and sympathy for homework-haters.  Not only is homework decidedly less fun in the upper-grades, but there's a huge quantity of it.  Every textbook series used in school today has some sort of built-in homework, so that means that elementary school kids are getting multiple subjects of homework at night, in addition to enrichment projects and the usual 15 minutes of free reading.  
In conclusion, I'd like to say that so far I like our kindergarten life.  I like the balance of time without Nathan and the time with Nathan.  I like the routines.  Sometimes I miss him terribly and can't wait for him to get home, and other times I wish there were kindergarten boarding schools.  Sometimes I feel like life is so easy now that I'm outsourcing my kid to the public school system, and sometimes I feel like life is full of all kinds of added responsibilities now that we're in the public school system.  Usually I feel all those emotions in one day, multiple times a day.   It's a whole new world, but so far it's one that I'm glad to be living in. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

So My Kid's in Kindergarten Now

I've been warned for quite some time about the parental emotional trauma known as The First Day of Kindergarten.  I know there are schools that specifically recruit parents of older children to volunteer to console new kindergarten parents on the first day of school.  Our own school hosts the "Boo-Hoo Breakfast" for parents on the first day of kindergarten.  They pass out Kleenex. 

The message for parents about the first day of kindergarten has always been clear and simple: You are going to cry.  

I think what makes kindergarten so traumatic for parents is that you're battling a transition on two fronts: your challenges as a parent and the challenges you feel on behalf of your child. 

As a parent, my biggest challenge is having to see myself in a whole new category: The School-Aged Parent.  Being a School-Aged Parent seems to carry with it a greater expectation that you have some idea of what you're doing here.  I mean sure, we were all just newbies back in the baby and toddler years, young parents just testing the waters.  But now, now we are honest-to-goodness, full-fledged parents.  I mean, I remember when my own parents were School-Aged Parents, and they seemed like they knew what they were doing.  I guess it's time I buck up and figure out what I'm doing, too. 

And on top of having to accept my new change in status, I had to deal with the fear I felt on behalf of my child.  It's a fairly well-established fact that parents often grossly overestimate the emotional trauma their children are experiencing.  I was so terrified for my kid to get on a bus and find his way in a whole new place with a whole new level of seriousness.  And I think he was a little bit nervous, but for the most part a child's limited worldview protects him or her from truly grasping the magnitude of a situation. 

I, on the other hand, spent the whole month of August feeling like I had a horrifying Date With Destiny looming right on the horizon.  It didn't help that my kid seemed to be the only kid on the planet who wasn't giddily excited for kindergarten.  Nathan tends to be like Larry David: He curbs his enthusiasm.  

So I felt like I had to rally him and give him a daily talk about how long it was until kindergarten, and what would happen at kindergarten, and how you are supposed to behave at kindergarten, and OMG yay rah rah kindergarten!

It was exhausting. 

I spent about a month agonizing over every detail.  He had to have two completely new outfits, down to socks and underwear: one for Meet the Teacher Day and one for the actual first day.  I bought all the school supplies on the list a month in advance.  I carefully organized all my forms on a clipboard.  We did recon to stake out the bus stop location.  We worked for three weeks to establish a new school sleeping schedule and new school morning routines. 

Finally the day I referred to as Kindergarten Day Zero came.  That was the first day of school for the older kids, but for kindergarten it just meant you came with your parents for a special assigned hour of orientation.  I agonized over my own personal appearance that day, as though the teacher would think something like, Wow, that Nathan sure has a promising academic future.  I know because his mom matched her earrings to her sweater so well. 

The orientation was a bit chaotic.  But totally fine.  And also over within an hour, so I had to spend the rest of the day dealing with a kid who couldn't process the feelings brought on by this transition, and thus more or less acted like a moody teenage girl. 

[Here is where you might see some pictures of Nathan in his classroom on Kindergarten Day Zero, if I could find the camera I took them on.]

The next day, Friday, was Kindergarten Day One.  That was the day Nathan would go by himself.  We followed the school's advice to have him start out taking the bus to school from the very beginning, because the beginning is when there are special helpers on the bus to help kids know what to do. 

So our whole family headed out at 7:00 a.m. to wait for the bus.  Nathan was a bit keyed up, so these are the closest I could get to the classic First Day of School photo:

Bill wanted the actual embarkation of the bus to be captured in video form, so if you really want to see what a kid getting on a school bus looks like, you can watch this video.  Of particular note is that the bus sat there forever before leaving, so I had to stand there and endure the brutal long moments of watching my baby stare at me through a bus window. 

So he went to school.  And I set about my day.  I'm sure that I will spend every day for the rest of Nathan's academic career complaining about how quickly the day passes, but that first day really dragged.  I was just terrified that he'd come home with a report of bad behavior, the way he had on his first day of preschool.  I just kept thinking, I don't care if you get in trouble somewhere down the line, just please don't get in trouble on the very first day. 

Eventually the day passed.  The bus came back with Nathan.  Good report! 

Not only that, but he exclaimed, I wish I could be in kindergarten forever!  That sort of gushing means a lot coming from Nathan.  

Of course, I was sort of like, well, shoot, you're all rarin' to go, and now it's the weekend. 

But this weekend I also found myself relaxing for the first time in weeks.  The first day of kindergarten is behind us.  And yes, we have about a million more days of school to get through. 

But I survived the first day of kindergarten. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

There Comes a Time in Every Blogger's Life When She Writes a Post Like This

The blogger begins by apologizing for her extended online absence.  She then immediately qualifies this apology with a comment about how she would never be so presumptuous to assume that anybody noticed and/or cared about her absence.  But, she says, she has been absent nonetheless. 

Next she explains the reasons for her lack of recent blogging.  She has been busy with work, family, and all the usual trappings of modern life.  At the end of the day, there just wasn't time for blogging. 

Often in the ensuing paragraph(s), the blogger begins to question the motives behind her blogging.  Is she doing it for herself?  For her family?  To make money?  Sometimes she notes that she started the blog for one reason, but ended up writing it for completely different reasons.  Perhaps she feels she has gone astray.  Words like branding and social media are bandied about, along with a commentary on the modern state of the blogosphere and a call for blogging to get back to its roots. 

At the end of the post, the blogger often makes a definitive promise about the future of her own blogging.  She decides to fish or cut bait, as it were.  Deciding to quit the blog always comes out sounding way too dramatic and ominous, especially if the decision is explained with some cryptic comment about how there are some things going on in my life that I don't think I want on the Internet. 

If she decides to keep going, she makes a promise to blog more often.  She usually then attempts to quickly catch everybody up, in the course of one post or several, on everything that has happened since her last post.  For some reason, it kills a blogger to leave gaps in her coherent narrative, because bloggers feel some need to post all the news that's fit to print on the Internet. 

The post often concludes with a thank you to readers for hanging in there, or for being supportive, or for leaving such thoughtful comments.  The final phrase of the post is usually something jaunty like Stay tuned! 

And that is how a blogger explains her absence.


As for me personally, I do not have any major life issues at hand, cryptic-sounding or otherwise.  I have just been busy with the usual daily activities, namely paid work and mundane chores.  I am neither going to fish nor cut bait.  By which I mean, I am not going to make a futile attempt to catch you up on everything that went on in my life since the last post, mostly because it's not that interesting.  But I'm also not going to quit writing this blog.  I know my motives for writing this blog.  It's a hobby, and a very cathartic one.  I like to entertain and inform.  I like your comments.  So, that's the state of my own personal blogosphere.  Stay tuned!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Eight Exciting Things: Number 8

And for my next trick ...

(a.k.a., The Summer of Swimming)

Pre-triathlon, I wondered if I would have so much fun in the triathlon that I would immediately go ahead and sign up for another one. 

That did not happen. 

I mean, the tri was a great experience, one I'm glad I did.  And I haven't ruled out the possibility of doing another one next year.  But the major logistical hassles of getting all my gear where it needed to be were more than I wanted to handle another time this year. 

Still, I liked the idea of having another athletic goal to work toward.  Thinking about how the swim was my strongest portion of the triathlon, I decided to focus on an all-swimming event. 

And it was actually a flier in the triathlon participant packet that led me to my next event:

Swim Across America!

Swim Across America is actually a series of different swims which, as the name implies, take place all over the country.  Each event raises money for a different local cancer charity. 

The Chicago event is August 4 and raises money for Rush University Medical Center, a hospital and leader in the field of cancer research. 

Swimmers can choose the distance they want to swim.  I chose 1 mile. 

I set a goal to raise $1,000.

I need help.  I am not even close to that goal. 

Do you want to sponsor me?  This is a link to my personal fundraising page.  There's also a link in the upper-right-hand corner of my sidebar.  Thank you in advance!

Meanwhile, the training for a mile in open water has been ... harder than I thought it would be.  You might be thinking, Well, duh, Shannon, swimming a mile is kind of hard. 

But, the thing is, I was kind of overly-confident in my ability to swim a mile.  I swam a mile when I was ten at Montecito-Sequoia Family Summer Camp.  I swim about a mile every time I get in the pool. 

But, (a) that's a pool, and (b) all of the sudden my hubris has foiled me to the point that I struggle to even swim a mile.  My mind has gotten the better of me.  Swimming makes me hungry and sick, and I find both of those conditions lead to panic. 

Once again, the psychological challenge has proven to be just as daunting as the physical challenge.  That must be why the contestants on Double Dare always picked the physical challenge over answering the trivia question. 

To combat my mental block, I decided to turn to the time-honored tradition of Gold Stars. 

First I checked out a library book by one of my swimming heroes, Olympic swimmer Janet Evans.  Janet Evans' Total Swimming outlined several workouts, which I photocopied and put in a binder.

Each time I finished a workout, I would get a gold star:

I very quickly ran out of do-able workouts, and the psychological challenges returned.  An influx of other professional obligations have also severely compromised my training time and energy. 

So let me look to a hackneyed Internet poster meme for inspiration:

Meanwhile, for further inspiration I have decided to immerse myself (no pun intended) in all things swimming this summer and declare it The Summer of Swimming.  (And obviously the Seinfeld reference here was intended.) 

As part of the Summer of Swimming, Nathan's main organized activity was swimming lessons.  We did a (personal) record three sessions of swim lessons.  Nathan enjoyed the lessons more than ever before, and I enjoyed the way the morning sessions gave us a reason to get out of the house and gave me a half-hour to sit by the pool and regroup. 

Also as part of The Summer of Swimming, I read a book called Swim: Why We Love the Water, by former 20/20 correspondent Lynn Sherr.  The book is a look at all things swimming, from the history of the sport, to the evolution of the bathing suit, to why people seem to just naturally love swimming.  It's a great book for swimmers.  Others, probably not so much. 

I also checked out a collection DVDs featuring the films of Esther Williams from the 40's and 50's.  Esther Williams was the star of several of that era's "aquacades," films that culminated with ellaborately-choreographed water ballets.  (The commercials for the NuvaRing, where the swimmers represent birth-control pills, are kind of modeled after these films.) 

Here is what I learned about Esther Williams movies: They all feature a long and somewhat weak romantic storyline, during which Esther plays somebody whose career is somehow connected to swimming (swim instructor, bathing suit model) and brief references are made to some water ballet that has nothing to do with the main plot.  Then, in the end, there's an awesome water ballet.  You're better off just watching the final scene if you're into that kind of stuff. 

And, focusing on more modern-day role models, I have already spent a week during the Summer of Swimming watching every minute of the Olympic swimming trials (okay, I admit to fast-forwarding through some of the longer races), and I'm looking forward to the actual Olympics next week.  The media is really playing up the rivalry between Michael Phelps and his teammate Ryan Lochte, which is fine in my opinion because they are both very good-looking and can have all the screen time the media wants to give them. 

Finally, if nothing else works to inspire me, I have turned to my other love, office supplies, and purchased these awesome swimmer binder clips from my online fave, Tokyo Pen Shop.  

This way when I use them to close up a bag of chips, I can be like, Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be swimming.

So, that's the story of the Summer of Swimming and my big swimming endeavor coming up in a couple of weeks.  Want to inspire me by sponsoring me in the event?  Here's another link to my fundraising page! 

Thanks you guys, and I hope you're having a swimmingly great summer! 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eight Exciting Things: Number 7


My husband turned 40 recently, a fact that I'm pretty sure he'll be glad I'm sharing with the Internet.

A few months before The Big Birthday, my mother-in-law told me that she and my father-in-law wanted to come surprise Bill for his birthday.  The plan was to tell Bill we were having dinner with our friends at our favorite local special-occasion place, but then when we got there our actual dinner companions would be his parents!

Now, let me pause here and say something about my ability to keep secrets.  I am an excellent secret-keeper.  You tell me your secret about an Important Life Issue, and I will understand the importance of keeping it a secret and not tell a soul.

And of course when it comes to fun secrets, I would never spoil a surprise.

Or at least, not intentionally.

The trouble is, although I try my very hardest to keep secrets, I also tend to obsess about things to the point that the obsession sometimes takes over my rational thoughts.

So, when my in-laws were coming to visit for the weekend, I was laser-focused on getting the house clean and procuring groceries for the guests, and it was so so so hard not to accidentally blurt out something like, "Come on, pick your socks off the floor, your parents are coming!" 

But, I'm proud to say, I held it together.  Even when I had to say things like, "I'm cleaning the house because a babysitter is coming," and, "I bought four bags of Pop Chips because you never know when Aldi will stop carrying them."

And, after a lot of lying on my part, Bill's parents finally came to the restaurant.  Bill was legitimately surprised, which is always so fun.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the moment of surprise because I'm not that together, so you can just imagine what a surprised person would look like.

Like this random baby I found on the Internet, but with more clothing.  

So, it was a fun surprise and a delicious dinner, and Bill got his birthday cake: 

That picture makes it look like he's eating with his hands, but I assure you he used a fork.  Unlike with his first birthday cake:

 Apparently in the 1970s babies and dogs ate out of the same type of bowl. 

A very key element of the surprise was that Nathan also didn't know anything about his grandparents' visit, because children are horrible secret-keepers.  So Grandma and Grandpa were a surprise for Nathan, too.  

We enjoyed a fun weekend with our guests.  On Saturday we went to Legoland Discovery Center.  

 Nathan, mother-in-law Diana, and me at Lego Navy Pier.  It's better than regular Navy Pier.  

 Bill, Nathan, and father-in-law Walt in the Lego jungle.  Nathan looks a bit like a monkey himself. 

 More Lego Chicago

 The indoor playground, God's gift to everyone

 This is where you build a vehicle and launch it down some ramps.  I built an awesome purple and pink one that got destroyed on the ramp. 

Legobama 2012!

Then, in the gift shop, my mother-in-law bought me this girly Lego set, because I was saying that our extensive Lego collection really lacks pinks and purples (and kitties!). 

The next day was Father's Day, and we had a barbecue in our yard, complete with a birthday cake my mother-in-law and I made, which I somehow lost all the pictures of.  

So, all in all, that was a really fun weekend.  And a really awesome surprise. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Eight Exciting Things: Number 6


We're all familiar with the MasterCard Priceless ad campaign.  It's a clever series of ads, one with just the right hint of poignance and nostalgia to drive home the message that money can't buy happiness, but it can help make the priceless happy experiences happen. 

But you really don't understand the true meaning of Priceless until you have a priceless experience of your own.  Recently, Nathan and I got to have our MasterCard Priceless experience at Wrigley Field. 

Our priceless package was provided to us, free of charge, through the MasterCard Priceless Chicago Cubs Pledge program, and made possible by fellow blogger Hope Bertram

Here's how this awesome day went: On the morning of Wednesday, June 13, Nathan and I took two trains up to Wrigley Field.  By 1:00 our feet were planted right on Wrigley Field.  Here are my shoes touching the soil of the Friendly Confines:

I'm not just saying it: This was priceless.  There's such a special aura about Wrigley Field, such a sense of history and an infectious spirit all around the stadium.  To be right down there on the field was just magical.

OMG I'm on Wrigley Field!

Nathan was a bit overwhelmed at first, saying he wanted to "go back to the chairs."  I like to think he's demonstrating the stubborn Cub fans' attitude of Well, there's always next year. 

I'm at the famous ivy:

Nathan, now with a much-improved attitude, is taking his own photographs:

And here we are 368 feet (yards?) from home plate:

Photo by Nathan of an awe-struck Mom:

We had the opportunity to practice hitting and catching with some real Cubs coaches, but Nathan and I were both too insecure in our baseball skills to practice with the big leaguers.  So we just played catch by ourselves:

Then we saw the dugout:

Can I get an Awww?

We're on the warning track:

After an hour on the field, we all had to vacate the stadium for three hours while the players and employees prepared for the game.  Knowing it was going to be kind of a long haul for a little kid, I brought in reinforcements in the form of a new toy.  We got this adorable stuffed animal pretzel, which proved to be hugely entertaining for all:

We spent some time in the Cubs Village next to the stadium, where Nathan practiced hitting:

And played beanbags:

And took a photo with Ernie Banks (and the pretzel):

Finally, at 5:00, it was time for our free dinner buffet at the United Club inside the stadium:

The buffet included turkey breast, rack of lamb, prime rib, and lobster gnocchi. 

Also beer.  Of course, beer.

 After dinner we headed out to our seats to watch the Cubs play the Detroit Tigers.

Please stop!  You're eating my cousin!

The only thing Nathan could talk about was cotton candy, so we spent at least an inning scouring the entire stadium to find the one stand that sold it. 

Around the sixth inning, Nathan announced that Pretzel was ready to leave.  At that point the Cubs were winning, but in the end they lost, 4-8.  Oh well, there's always next year. 

He does look a little peaked.

A huge thank-you to Hope and to MasterCard for this truly priceless experience!  And if you want a chance to win this same priceless experience, visit the MasterCard Cubs Pledge Facebook page before June 26.  To enter, you'll have to pledge to do something wacky to support the Cubs, then take a picture of yourself doing it. 

I'll tell you my wacky pledge later.