Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Favorite Time Of Year

Do you really have to ask? No, I'm not talking about the wee ones going back to school (we aren't there yet anyway), nor am I referring to the end of hot yucky weather (hottest Labor Day in 25 years predicted).

Ahhh, I love college football. And I love my season tickets (13th row on the 40). And I love watching them play.

Especially when there's some good defense being played. Lucky me, I caught them in the midst of bringing that quarterback down.

(Sorry, no shots of scores, especially not Brendan Smith's interception for a TD as I'm too busy cheering at that point in time!) After every score, we do get to see the big Northwestern flag traipsing around the end zone and then cheerleaders doing their pushups. Unfortunately, the view of the cheerleaders was blocked much of the time because of the bad fans who would leave right after each score and make it so I couldn't see them!

Of course, the best part is when they win! Look at all those happy people!

Unfortunately, I could never be a football player. The below explains why. The team manager dips cups into the giant tub 'o Gatorade and then fills them. And they share the Gatorade bottles. And he puts his whole hand including the pitcher into the tub to fill it with Gatorade before distributing it amongst said bottles.

My seats are almost directly behind this, and I inevitably end up watching it at some point during the game and getting totally grossed out. Somehow, I have a feeling that football and hockey are just not in the cards for the wee ones!

New this year was the trivia contest in the Goose Tent prior to the game. Yes, we get two free cups of Goose Island before every game at Wildcat Alley. Except that I don't like beer, so I don't drink it. Which is probably why I noticed this:

Ten points to:

1) The person who can best answer the trivia questions above -- without cheating! Remember, we're at a football game tailgate, not sitting at our computers with Google at our fingertips.

2) The person who can find the error in the questions that is still driving me nuts!

In the end, my husband and I both entered the contest. Winner received an unnamed prize, but I'm competitive enough to go for it! We both agree that my answers were better than his. Yet somehow, he was the winner announced at halftime -- at least we assume it was him. They announced his first name and our last name. Except that our last name had an extra letter in it when they read it. I'm blaming his bad handwriting, but maybe someone else really won the Goose Gift Certificate and gear that supposedly will be mailed to us. I mean him.

This is so my favorite time of year though. Oh, and knowing I was headed to a wedding immediately afterwards (in Lake Geneva that started at 4pm -- you do the math), I was smart enough to put on sunscreen yesterday, so I only had a tiny patch of red on my thigh where I somehow missed application. Not too shabby for four hours in the sun! And lucky me, all redness is gone today, and I'm back to normal.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm So Behind In My Birthdays

... but we did finally celebrate Little Miss's third birthday.

We had a lot of fun inviting her preschool class from last year (I agonized over this one knowing that we wouldn't see most of these children again, as she's going to a different preschool this year -- more on that in the next few days -- but finally decided that since those were kids she wanted to invite, I'd invite them). We also invited our playgroup friends, friends from the neighborhood, etc. Lucky for me, the second week in August appears to be the time when the majority of people around here are on vacation.

That meant that instead of 31 children in my home, I had only 13. That is honestly the smallest birthday party I've ever hosted.

It's also the first party for Little Miss that hasn't involved rain at some point, not that I'm complaining about that part.

I am a big fan of the make a craft of some sort that is also the party favor so you don't go home with a goodie bag full of stuff you don't need or want. I've been to too many of those birthday parties already. Mister Man has had a chocolate (as in make your own) party, a cookie decorating party, a treasure hunt for puzzle pieces party, etc.

For Little Miss this year, we did Making Friends. It is sort of like Build-A-Bear but ummm not with the same cache. The consultant dropped everything off with me ahead of time, so I had the three kinds of animals (elephants, pigs and monkeys), the stuffing, the star shaped hearts, the hospital namebands, and the birth certificates.

Whoo hoo -- that took all of seven minutes for everyone to make the animal and be done with that one. Hmm. Fortunately, it was great weather, so we were able to play outside and just have fun until cake time.

So what kind of a cake would a three year old girl want, you might ask?

Disney princesses? Of course not, that's what Mister Man wanted for his third birthday. And yes, I delivered. Totally age appropriate. Of course, we did have to do it while in Florida away from Daddy because Daddy was freaking out. Sadly I have no pictures of the cute little cake with the Dopey, Candlestick guy, Belle and Snow White figurines I found at Target.

She didn't want ponies or Dora or anything like that either.

No matter how many times I asked her (ok, begged her, really), all she wanted was a Batman Spiderman cake. Okie-dokie. I went to six stores before I finally found something that I could use for the cake. Do you like how Batman has just about captured the bad guy?

Lucky for me, she was happy with it.

And in case you're wondering, Mister Man's birthday isn't until October 11, but I've already called the restaurant where we're having to reserve the date for him. We're making pizzas and pasta. All I have to figure out is whether I'm going to do it November 1 or November 15. Those are the first days that don't coincide with us being in Florida or a Northwestern game. Sadly, I do have my priorities.

Oh, and he wants a Thomas cake. That I can do. Phew!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thanks, Honey!

This evening, I decided I needed a little sweet treat after the wee ones had gone to bed. It had been a long day (although not a bad one), and I just wanted a couple spoonfuls of sherbert.

When I opened up the freezer, I discovered this:

Apparently, it's a good thing I only wanted a couple spoonfuls because I wasn't getting any more than that!
My real question though is: Who puts away a container of ice cream or sherbert with that little left in it? Really, go ahead and finish it off! I'd rather use the freezer space for something ... more useful.
But those two spoonfuls did do the trick!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How To Scare The C#@p Out Of Yourself

Step A: Donate blood.

Now, I don't mean that donating blood is scary or that it's bad. I do it on a regular basis, and I encourage all of you to do the same. In fact, when I donated on Tuesday, I got a gift card for a free quart of Oberweis ice cream and a really nice barbeque set that included an apron, salt and pepper shakers, an oven mitt, tongs, and a grill cleaner because I'm a member of the four seasons club (donate once each season at least).

Step B:

Do a spin class the next day.

I joined a gym back at the end of May so that I would have somewhere to run as it got beastly hot in Chicago (those of us who don't really sweat can't run outside in summer). As an added bonus, my gym has some neat features including super cheap swim lessons for the wee ones, as well as the pool, and some totally cool classes.

In fact, I no longer do yoga elsewhere because I can do my yoga for "free" at the gym. And I can also do my belly dancing classes there.

Last night when I went to the gym, I forgot my iPod because it was still in my backpack that I'd taken to Vegas. Except I just remembered that I'd moved it into the console of my car in case I wanted to listen to any music on the way to or from Minnesota. If only I'd known that then....

I can't run without my iPod. I hate running enough as it is (and since it's been awhile since I've run due to other commitments, I figured I'd really need it), and without my iPod it's just not happening. Lucky for me, there was a spin class starting at 6pm, and it just so happened to be 5:43.

I've been talking about trying out spinning for awhile now (and Melisa will be proud of me, I think, that I went). However, I don't know if I can ever go back. Not because I don't want to try it again, but because I'm not sure I can face the people in the class.

I got there a bit early so that the teacher could show me how to set up my bike (as instructed by Melisa). No teacher. One person was pedaling slowly on a bike, so I confirmed that yes, there was a class there at 6. A second person walked in and volunteered to get me set up. Yay!

The instructor walked in and we got going. Well started the class anyway, as everyone else had been pedaling slowly waiting for it to begin.

It was actually not so bad. It's been awhile since I rode my bike, but I could do this. Then we stood up to pedal, which wasn't so fun but I did it. We sat down and sprinted, and I did it. I surreptitiously reduced my tension when we were supposed to increase it the next time, and we did two more rounds of standing and sitting.

We stood the next time, and I decided to sit. Then the room, which was already in very low light, started to go dark. Uh-oh. My ears started ringing. Big uh-oh. I slowed wayyyyy down. The room went totally dark, and I prayed that I wouldn't pass out.

I continued pedaling as slowly as I could, hoping that this would pass. I realized that this was not passing quickly and quickly (by my standards at the time) deduced that this was because I was not getting oxygen for some reason. Which would explain why I had started yawning repeatedly a few minutes before even though I wasn't tired.

I decided that I needed to take a break, and I was paranoid that I was going to pass out on the bike and fall over and hurt and/or embarrass myself. I took a few deep breaths and the room came into enough focus that it looked like the Charles Schwab commercials where people are cartoons but not really (I now know where the ad exec got the idea for the concept). I slowly eased my feet out of the pedals and stood next to the bike, grasping it for dear life.

Standing actually made things worse, but there was no way that I could either climb back on the bike or walk out of the room, so I just held on. The room went black again. And my ears started to hurt. You've seen the commercials where cartoon animals have steam coming out of their ears, right? I totally get that now. I thought my head was going to explode out my ears from all the pressure.

Eventually, the instructor walked around to each of us -- fortunately only six of us in the class tonight -- to see how we're doing. I didn't know he was there until he touched my arm. I think I told him that I would be ok, but I'm not really sure what I said or what he asked.

It took almost ten minutes before the room was not fully black and was at least back to the funky cartoon people. I bent over to pick up my towel that had fallen and felt slightly better. That's when I realized that sitting on the couch in the locker room with my head between my knees would probably be a good idea.

I did manage to get to the locker room and put my head down. Fortunately the couches are tucked into a corner. My vision and hearing cleared eventually, but the pressure in my ears and headache did not. And I just felt off after twenty-five minutes.

I realized that I eventually needed to get home and moved over to the bench by my locker. That's about when I got the flop sweat and goosebumps on my arms. Yeah, I was really starting to freak myself out right about then, but at least I wasn't dizzy anymore.

When I got to my car (literally fifty minutes after I had left the class), I called my husband and had him talk to me the whole way home to ensure my brain stayed active and if I crashed someone would know immediately. Looking back, it would have been smarter to have someone pick me up and take me home, but apparently when your brain is deprived of oxygen, thinking isn't its strong suit.

The good news is...

before I went to the spin class, I found Little Miss's missing swimsuit bottom that I had left in the swimsuit dryer spinner thing Tuesday after swim lessons AND

I learned that you're not supposed to exercise after donating blood because the nice blood cells that carry oxygen to your body -- brain included -- haven't fully regenerated and can't supply your heart and muscles and brain if you do it too soon. I wasn't actually having a stroke, and yes, I was paranoid enough to think that for a short while.

After my inelegant exit from class after participating for twenty minutes and standing by my bike like a moron for ten minutes and then weaving my way out of the room, I don't think I can ever go back there and do a spinning class again.

So hey -- go donate blood. It's yet another great excuse to avoid exercise!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Now?

I wish I could figure out what's going on in Little Miss's head.

In fact, I need to figure it out, and I need to figure it out quick. Preschool starts for us on Tuesday next week. That gives me fewer than six days to figure it out.

Oh yeah... you want to know what I'm talking about, don't you?

Well, Little Miss is potty trained. I swear she is. Or was. Or whatever. And when she starts preschool on Tuesday, she must be potty trained, or they'll send her home. And then they'll kick her out if she doesn't get potty trained until she is potty trained. And I just can't have that.

She knows that she needs to be potty trained to go. In fact, that was a big motivator to get potty trained. She really wants to go to preschool and be like Mister Man. And she really wants to continue swim lessons. And I won't do swim lessons if she isn't potty trained because that's just too much yuck to clean up after 30 minutes in the pool.

In May, my mom started her potty training while they were in Florida, and she did pretty well. When she got home, we worked on it some more, and she did well and got it and had very few accidents of any type. She was still in diapers at night but even during naptime, she was in underwear.

Then she started wetting nearly every naptime, and we got tired of doing sheets on a daily basis. Into nappy-time Pull-Ups she went. And she is still in them. I'm totally fine with this part of it, as I know it's hard to stay dry when sleeping, and frequently she is dry.

Then we started getting streaks. And not the running through the house naked kind of streaks. I'd be sort of ok with that, too. Nope, these are the kind that you find in underwear. Just a little streak and a little pebble.

So onto the potty she'd go, and ... nothing. An hour later, I'd smell something, and we'd have another streak. And yep, nothing on the potty. And an hour later, repeat.

Seriously, I had to go out and buy her more underwear twice because I couldn't keep up with the laundry. Eventually, she'd poop in the potty, but it appeared to be completely not related to her streaks. And it sometimes wasn't until a day later.

My husband has had it and wants her back in diapers, but we can't do that -- one because it's not recommended to go back and forth, two because she'll be totally fine for days on end and three because she needs to be potty trained when she goes to preschool in a short five and a half days.

And yesterday, my mom watched the wee ones in the afternoon while I met with the principal at Mister Man's preschool. In the two hours she had them, Little Miss had two accidents. Two of the pee pee kind. And she didn't tell my mom when she did, she just kept on playing. In fact, I don't know that she noticed them.

When we got home, not forty minutes later, she'd peed in her pants again. She had gone to the bathroom before we left my mom's, so I don't get it. And again, we discovered the accident only because my husband was about to take her out on an errand.

What is going on with her, and more importantly what is she thinking?

Is this a game of wills with her?

Does she not feel when she has pee or poop coming (which would explain why she stops the poop, but not until it's started to come out)? In which case, what do we do about this? But she was fine for awhile, so something was working, right?

Am I doing something wrong?

I wish I could figure it out easily. But right now I'm stumped aside from reminding her that she needs to be potty trained to go to preschool, congratulating her when she does use the potty, and cleaning up after her. What else do I do? What am I missing?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blame Daddy!

So my new car has XM radio for a 90 day free trial. It's a great way to sucker everyone into learning how they can't live without it and then paying the $12.95 per month to be able to listen to all sorts of things that aren't available on your radio but may be available elsewhere with a little effort.

I get it. We no longer have an '80s station in Chicago, something I truly lament. And I can listen to whatever baseball game I choose. And they have the Big Ten network, which I'll definitely be listening to as football season arrives (NU's first game is August 30!). But really, NU football is on WGN, and I can listen to my iPod for the 80s if I want to (another new cool feature about my new cool car).

But the kids stuff is really the winner. We're a big singing family. We sing all the time, and unfortunately, it's moved from me singing to the infants (I sang the ABCs often enough that I can now sing it forwards OR backwards without thinking about it) to them singing all the time. If anyone knows how to get "Night and Day" (a Thomas song) out of my head, please let me know.

For Mister Man's second birthday, I created a music CD as the party favor -- all the songs that are kid appropriate that I can stand listening to. It ranges from the Hawaiian version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (otherwise known as "Mommy's favorite song") to "Yes, We Have No Bananas" to "The Teddybear Picnic" to "My Hair Had a Party Last Night." But I've listened to it 5,235,624,632 times.

XM Radio has Disney kids (channel 115), which admittedly is aimed at kids a bit older than the wee ones. It also has XM Kids (channel 116), which has some really fun songs. We've been listening to that a lot, and it's added a bit of variety to the musical montage in my head. I also recently discovered the Old Time Radio station (channel 164).

This station plays radio programs from wayyyy back in the day. Most are from the 1940's and are mysteries or westerns and lots of fun to listen to. They tend to be fairly kid appropriate, and they enjoy listening to them.

Then we had yesterday. We were listening to Baby Snooks. Apparently Baby Snooks is not a full half hour program, as they needed to fill in the last few minutes with a song. They chose "Never Trust a Woman" by Phil Harris. Given that the wee ones were singing "Night and Day" again, I thought nothing of it.

When the song ended, Mister Man announced that it was his new favorite song. Tied with "Night and Day." Oops. (You have to listen via the link to understand why this is such an oops.) Then he started singing "You can never trust a woman" a few times. And tossed in "You can never trust a monkey" to top it off.

I heaved a small sigh of relief at that. It could have been worse. The lyrics are actually "Never trust a woman; she'll just make a monkey out of you." While I tried to convince Mister Man that other songs were his favorite, he was not to be deterred. Thinking that maybe changing the topic would help him forget his new love, I steered him onto other topics.

However, in the midst of dinner, he announced to Daddy that his new favorite song was "You Can Never Trust a Woman" which garnered raised eyebrows from Daddy. And he proceeded to sing the two lines that he "remembered." Yeah, more raised eyebrows.

Daddy's concern is that he'll do this in public and people will think that his daddy is really trying to mess him up by teaching him such things. And the lightbulb went on. That's exactly what happened. Daddy taught him that horrible song. Yep, it was him. Mommy had nothing to do with it. Phew!

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Is Why I Can't Have Nice Things

I've discussed the issue I have with my computer. And how I have in the past had issues with watches, too. And maybe I've talked about how I lose sunglasses on occasion. This is why I buy the not so expensive watches and sunglasses. They're cute to look at, but I never spend more than $10 or so on them, knowing that I'll get at most a year out of them.

Last October, while in Florida on vacation, my watch stopped working. Apparently it decided it needed a vacation, too. Since I was on vacation, I didn't replace it right away. And when I got back, I was busy. Long story short, I didn't get a new watch until a couple months ago.

This is my watch.

Notice anything odd about it? Take a closer look. (Hey, I discovered my camera has a macro option -- how cool is that?)

Hmmm, maybe from a different angle?

Yep, the crystal broke. The good news is that the watch still works. But I know it's really only a matter of time. In fact, when I was in Costco today (more on this Costco trip another day, I promise!), I actually perused the watches, but nothing struck my fancy.

I didn't drop my watch. The wee ones didn't get to my watch. I honestly have no idea how this happened. On the other hand, it does explain the two small bits of glass that Little Miss discovered on the their bathroom floor last night. Here I thought it was something that the in-laws broke when they were visiting recently. Now I know.

Anyone know of a good looking indestructible watch?

Recipe Help Request

You all know I love to cook. And that I have a son who attends a special needs preschool. I'm hoping that you guys can help me out with both, sorta.

The former PTO president and treasurer, along with some other parents in the area, have started a new foundation for parents of special needs children from age 3 to 21. The school district does a pretty good job of providing the in school support, but this foundation focuses on all those hours outside school - helping parents navigate the system(s); providing recommendations for pediatricians, therapists, haircuts and the like from providers who do well with particular needs; setting up older and younger families to mentor each other; and more.

This foundation is just starting up and doesn't have much money raised yet. To this end, they're doing a few things (including a Guitar Hero tournament if you live near Chicago and want to play!). Where I'm asking for your help is with a cook book that the foundation will be selling later this fall.

They are searching high and low for good recipes to make into a cook book. I know everyone has that one recipe you use as your "go to" recipe when you need to make something for a party or special guests. Right now, we have 96 recipes, and we're looking to get over 700.

If you have a recipe that you'd be willing to share for this venture, please email me or post it in the comments below (I will be sure that it is properly attributed -- by which I mean the recipe will say that you are the author; if you can email me your first and last name, that would be great!). I have several that I'm going to put in, and I'll make sure I post those here, too, for you to (I hope!) enjoy.

And if you are interested in purchasing any once we get them published, let me know and I'll arrange it. I don't know yet when they'll start taking orders or the exact cost, but I'd guess that it will be well under $20 -- I'll update when I know more. If you know other bloggers who are good cooks, feel free to send them my way to contribute their recipes, too!

Thanks everyone. You have no idea how much this foundation means to the parents in our area!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Not My Problem

I very very rarely watch live tv (football, baseball, hockey and the Olympics being the rare exception and even then I prefer to pause it, walk away to do whatever I need to do and then watch it later). It's a disease as anyone with a Tivo can attest.

Sometimes as you're bouncing forward thirty seconds by thirty seconds, you catch just a touch of a commercial that makes you stop. Ok, and by sometimes I mean that this has happened to me once in the five years that I've had my Tivo.

In fact, my husband happened to be in the room, and I made him watch the commercial with me the second time because I was laughing so hard.

Really, you have to check it out.

I want to know where these women are for a few reasons.

First, the obvious is that watching the commercial cracks me up. I can't imagine how hard I'd be laughing if I saw someone on the street actually doing this.

And second, I'd need to conduct an interview with them.

Me: Excuse me, I noticed that you seem to have some trouble with your underwear. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Lady: Uhhh.
Me: Great! So I need to know, when your underwear rides up, is this something that you really have to adjust immediately while in public? Is there a reason you can't wait until you're in some sort of private space to adjust?
Lady: Well, you see....
Me: And really, does your technique work? I've never seen it before, and I just don't think that it would work for me.
Lady: Ahh...
Me: I mean, if I really have an issue, I go for the quick pull method. It's quick and very effective.
Lady: I see.
Me: And what kind of underwear do you wear? I've just never had an issue with it riding up on me constantly. Have you ever thought about going with a thong if you are that bothered by it?
Lady: I've got to go.
Me: Wait, just one more question! What's with the facial expression as you're adjusting? It just doesn't seem natural. If you kept more of a poker face, maybe people wouldn't notice as much?

Yeah, that interview probably wouldn't go over so well. But hey, it's an effective commercial by all advertising standards. I actually voluntarily watched it - more than once, mind you. I know what the product was (Hanes wedgie proof underwear -- maybe not the exact name but I could find it in a store) and where it's sold (Wal-Mart, which effectively means I'll never buy a pair). And the commercial made me giggle.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I May Be Loyal, But I Finally Gave In!

I wrote awhile ago about the car I drive and the issues it has. This is the car that I've had since I graduate college, and it is long past the decade mark. And some things about it have become a little less reliable, like ohhhh I don't know, starting in warm weather after I've driven it for more than twenty minutes.

I've been under pressure for awhile to get a new car -- primarily from my dad. Because he wants a new car, too, and he wants to cut a deal with me. And he isn't nearly as patient as I am. Give me a moment, the thought of my dad being patient and delaying gratification just reduced me to tears of laughter.

I've been debating between a couple cars. I have an Explorer, and with the wee ones getting into the age of carpooling and my parents living so close and wanting to drive with us, seating more than the four my car currently seats (due to car seats) is pretty critical.

I refuse to do a minivan. I'm just not ready to give up the false sense that I have a tiny modicum of cool left. That leaves a few three row SUVs, primarily the Pilot and Highlander. I already discussed my experience with the Chevy dealer, and that is SO out.

I finally decided on the 2009 Pilot, as they've made a number of improvements over the 2008 model (and Highlander) including dash design, room for storage with the third row up, totally flat storage area with the third row down, etc.

It was sooooo hard to give up the only car I've ever had title to though. I stick with those who've done well by me, and my trusty Explorer has -- for the most part, even though I've sworn to never buy another Ford again in my lifetime (and at the rate the health of the US automakers is going, this may not be an issue!). I almost couldn't make the deal.

Of course, they didn't have the color I wanted. And they really wanted my business. If I agreed to take one of the cars they had on the lot, they'd give me the built out car at the base car price. So I now I have a nimbus grey 2009 Pilot.

Oh, except that they sort of made a mistake. Apparently the 2009s havevn't been around for that long, and the salespeople are used to selling the 2008 models. When they wrote up my invoice, they charged me based on the 2008 invoice and not the 2009 one. Whoops. Needless to say, when my dad went to get that same deal they realized what they'd done and refused. That made me feel a little better!

So look at my beautiful new toy. It had only 8 miles on it (ok, 7.6 for the geeks among us) when I drove it off the lot, which is about 112 fewer than any car I'd ever driven before. So shiny. Smells so good!

The storage area is great. It actually fits my massive water bottle that I take with me everywhere -- my Explorer and my husband's Camry do not. Lots of space for the ummm stuff that accumulates when you have a car that children ride around in.

And check out how nicely it closes all the way, even when I've stocked it (neatly) full of all the necessities, from the Thomas CD for the wee ones to my lotion to paper and pens to nail polish to my coupon folder to umm other stuff.

I love the one handed operation!

And check out the lack of an ugly hole here. Do you see the beautiful armrest with nary a mark or scratchy ugliness to mar my happiness? Nope, me neither!

The only real complaints I have are in the dash, although I generally like it. To change the radio station, the tune button is a round dial. You have to spin it rather than pressing up or down, which is not the easiest (or probably safest) to do while driving. Not that I would ever do that.

Trying to change any of the settings on the stereo or clock there is also not intuitive. You press the menu button, then you pressing the "tuning" button to select something and then turn the tuning button left or right to get to an option and then press the button again to select. My only hope is that by writing this here, it somehow cements in my brain. I get the whole wanting to save space thing while adding new widgets and functionality, but for my brain at least this has gone a little too far.

And the gearshift was a bit to get used to, but I'm ok with it now. That was just more in a totally different place and setup than what I'm used to. I had the same issue with the windshield wipers. The poor people who I accidentally flashed with my brights when trying to clean my windshield. No matter what direction you move that stick in, it will do something. The trick for me is remembering what direction does what action.

The odometer is also more functional than the one I had before. The sad part is that my wee ones will never know the joy of watching the numbers turn slowly slowly and then suddenly you're at a new milestone. This is all digital. In fact, it's all digital enough to tell me (depending on the view I'm using): how many more miles I can go before I run out of gas, the average mpg I've had on the car in sum, the average mpg of the car on the current trip, the percent of oil life left, and obviously miles driven. Underneath this, it shows an instant readout of your mileage. You know, like 10mpg when you're accelerating and up to 50mpg when you're coasting down a hill.

That part is actually my favorite feature of the car, I think. It's a challenge to get and keep the mpg up. You know you're doing ok when the little green eco light shows up on the dash -- this is the light that tells me I'm driving gently and the car only needs four cylinders so it shut the rest down until I need them again, saving me gas. It's quite addictive. And it's nice enough to prove to me that I'm a better driver than my husband because he can't keep the mpg as high as I do. Granted, I've only let him drive my car twice, but for any consultants out there, we all know that two data points is a trend!

As far as the mpg goes, the model I bought is supposed to get 17/22. I'm a bit dubious of this claim. I know that previously the mpg tests were done in empty cars with all the extra gadgets shut off and in perfect conditions so they were always high, and now they've changed it so that they drive in more real life situations, but I'm getting much better mpg than they state. On the surface streets, I'm getting just under 21mpg (20.9 actually). And on the highway, I've gotten it consistently to right around 25mpg.

Trust me, I'm not complaining about this at all. I just think it's interesting how off this is. I'm also thinking about getting a Vornado or whatever it's called to put in my car somewhere that's one of the few mileage increasing devices that's actually been shown to work. For $40, I figure it can't hurt. Of course, first I have to go to a car store and find one and buy it and then convince someone to install it for me, but it'll happen eventually!

I have yet to mention that it also came with a 90 day free trial of XM Radio. Yeah, they try to sucker people into buying yet another ($13) monthly subscription that they don't need. And umm yes, my dad's already extended his agreement. Me, I'm still not so sure. While I'm going to take full advantage of the trial, I don't know that I spend enough time in the car to justify it, nor are there enough things that I can get only on XM.

The middle seat also earns kudos from me. It's actually comfortably roomy. And the 60/40 split seat moves forward and back to give more or less room to those in the second and/or third row. What an idea!

And the armrest goes fully down with cupholders for the days when the wee ones are out of carseats and arguing over how Little Miss is putting her hand in Mister Man's space and so forth. Not that I ever did anything like that with my sister or anything. (""Mom, make her leave me alone!" "I'm not touching her, see! She's making it up!" And it's possible that my hand was about an eighth of an inch from her face at that point. Only possible.)

So the back is pretty cool. You can see how much room I have with the third row down. It's actually more room than my Explorer had (and the car is slightly longer and wider than my old one, too).

Plus, you can see that the middle seat has a full seatbelt vs just a lapbelt, which I love. The third row has the same seatbelt, but I don't have it down right now. When you don't want that seatbelt, it actually stores in the ceiling. Way cool!

Under the storage area behind the third row seats, I have a cool nice wide storage area that opens up. It's a great place for me to put my uncommonly needed essentials like winter gear and emergency devices. That netting also hooks horizontally to better hold things in and down and I think I'm gushing. Do I have a crush on my car?!

Putting up the third row is truly a one hand operation. Grab the handle and pull up. It locks into place easily! Putting it down means pulling the same handle and pushing the seat down. I could do this with a baby on my hip (not that any babies are on the horizon!).

And seriously, check out how much room I still have with the third row up! My sister actually sat in the third row. To get in, we put up one of the seats, and she clambered through the back to get there. But the second row leans forward and slides up to provide easy access to the third row via the more traditional route.

It's hard to really get a good picture of the third row from the side, but this gives you a little bit of an idea of how much room there is. This is with both the second rows all the way back, so more room is possible. And yes, my 5'4" sister very comfortably sat back here.

All in all, I'm happy with my new car. But I do miss my old one, just for its familiarity. And I realized that my next door neighbor and another really good friend of mine both have identically colored Pilots. At least they're all different model years!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bad Idea

I thought I was being creative. You know, like mommies are when they need to get something done. Like many moms, I have children who sometimes are slower than molasses when I really need them to get moving for one reason or another.

I decided that a good motivator for them to do things would be to see who could get something done first. As in, "Ok guys, who can get up the stairs to go brush teeth first?" "Who can climb into their seats and start getting buckled in first?" "Who can put their shoes on first?"

Yeah. Apparently both the wee ones have inherited just a teensy weensy bit of my competitive gene. They both want to win. And they don't lose well (granted, over time I've learned how to lose gracefully but that's not an easy skill for any child).

They have now turned absolutely everything into a competition. And there are constant meltdowns and whining about it. Whoops.

I've been trying to counteract this now for weeks with the admonition that "this isn't a competition." It's seems to work a little bit in that the losing wee one shouts to the other "that wasn't a race" or "that wasn't a competition." That makes it slightly better, but I don't know how much the frustration level has eased.

I'm debating my next move in this one. We talk about how it's ok to be second or third or how we can't always win everything and that's fine. Suddenly losing board games have become much more frustrating for Mister Man, too. In a way, I hope it's the age and not just me messing him up, but the timing is a bit coincidental.

Mister Man has started asking me regularly if something he's doing or working on or whatever is better than Little Miss. My standard response is that I'm not comparing the two of them, which he fortunately accepts.

He's asking this question a little less often, so maybe continuing to reiterate that not everything is a competition and that it's ok to lose, coupled with playing lots of board games where sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses will help.

I can't decide if having playdates where they play board games will help or not. If he sees that friends won't want to play with him when he has a meltdown over losing -- or even falling behind sometimes -- then maybe he'll adjust his attitude and be more ok with it. On the other hand, I don't want him to lose friends or decrease his self-esteem by pushing this issue on him too early.

Yet another situation where I won't know the right approach until it's too late, but here I go forging ahead anyway. What other choice do I have?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Open Letter To My Dental Hygenist

Dear Ma'am,

I am sure you're a lovely person. Really, I am. I can tell this by the picture of you and your happy husband that you have sitting right in my line of sight as I'm leaning back in the chair. Your fun-loving dentist scrubs scream "I want to get to know this person better."

But I'm just here to get my teeth cleaned. I want to get in and out as fast as I can. God knows what the wee ones are doing to the poor neighbor who agreed to watch them for me while I got my teeth cleaned.

If you want to talk to me, that's fine. I am ok hearing about how you went to Vegas when you were in 8th grade with your parents and stayed at Circus Circus. And how you and your friends went to Potawatamie and played bingo and won $1,000 that you split amongst the four of you on the very last game of the night.

But when you're telling the stories, please don't stop cleaning. Don't back up your stool and look at me and expect me to respond when I have a mouth full of dental implements. Every time I try to talk, I drool a little, and drool creeps me out. Yes, even my own drool.

And when I mention that it took me a month and a half to get the "first available" appointment when I called, I appreciate that you sympathized with me. You told me about how busy it is in the summer months. But if that's the case, then why were three of you hanging out talking when I walked in. And why was I the only patient there the entire time?

When you're looking at my previous X-rays, don't make "bad" noises. It sort of freaks me out. I did feel a little better after you actually looked in my mouth and understood how my teeth work (I was born with no wisdom teeth and was missing 1 1/2 adult teeth -- a blessing and a curse, really) and then expressed your relief. My mouth isn't that freaky. Really, you have to see a lot weirder things on an almost daily basis. You work in a dentist's office for goodness sake!

I do have to thank you for the new flossy devices though. They are way cool. I love how they're made of foam at one end that's nice and soft and really traps things. Giving me a whole package was really nice of you. I guess that's what happens when I listen to all your stories.

I really don't want to offend you in any way. Your overtures of friendship were sweet and all. But I've got too many friends as it is. Did I mention the ten birthday parties I have to go to between July 27 and August 24? I'm working on removing some of the fringe friends right now. It's nothing personal, but I just want clean teeth every six months.

Thanks for understanding, and I'll see you in January. I promise to have flossed more by then. Really!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shhh! He's watching me

I'm beginning to think that my husband has somehow discovered my blog (hi, Honey, I love you!). And I don't know that I like that. How else can I vent without hurting someone's feelings?

Why do I suspect this? Well, you may recall me drooling over an iPod due to my current iPod having lots of yucky issues. You know like freezing repeatedly and requiring me to reset it every time I use it.

My frugal nature of course says that my current iPod works just fine so long as resetting it brings it back to life. And so far, it has. Therefore, I'm not going to buy myself a new iPod. Had I won one, however, I would gladly have accepted it and brought it into the regular rotation. Of course, I didn't win one.

So what does my husband show up with?

Yep, that's right. An iPod Nano. An 8G iPod Nano. In silver. Sounds suspiciously familiar, doesn't it?

Ostensibly, the Nano is a replacement anniversary present. Our anniversary was back in May, and my husband gave me a wooden swing for our yard. except that our yard really has no feasible place for a swing. So I have yet to tell him which one of the choices he presented I want.

I am debating whether I keep this one or not. My husband gave me the receipt with the Nano because he knows me.

Do I really need a new one? It won't fit into the neat little armband I have for when I'm running, so I'd have to get a new one of those, too. And really, my old one works; I just need to reset it every half hour or so.

But it is awfully cool. And it is my anniversary present now. And technically, I have 90 days to decide whether or not I want to keep it so long as it stays in the box.


SOOOO, an update here. We're back from Vegas (yay!) and had tons of fun. I feel so much more relaxed after some completely adult only time. Although I will say that I'm really glad to be away from the smoke. I forgot how much I hate it. (Thank you, Illinois congress!) I'll post a total update on the trip later (I want to include some pics of the hotel, etc).

And although we leave again tomorrow for Minnesota with the wee ones, the hotel we're staying at has wireless Internet and the wee ones take naps and go to bed early, so I'll try to catch up on some reading then.

Lastly, now that I took off the approval of each comment, I no longer get anything emailed to me, which makes it harder to track which and when posts have new comments. Anyone know what I need to change to get emails again?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This Is Probably Not A Good Idea

We are a family that likes music. I have music on in the car all the time -- kid friendly when they're in the car, I swear. I make up songs for the wee ones. They sing all the time.

They love books, too. And there are times when I can't read to them because I'm otherwise occupied. But some brilliant people have invented books on CD for small children, and the wee ones love them (except for Biscuit, which has been a horrible disappointment -- even at 1, Mister Man had no interest in that "story).

Sooooo we bought Mister Man a CD player.

Yes, that's a stray quarter sitting next to it and the baby monitor hiding behind it. Mister Man likes to keep his money where he can see it instead of in his piggy bank.

We discovered early on that the CD player eats batteries. We invested in an A/C adaptor that did not come as a standard feature, boo CD player maker. Had I been the one in charge of this, we would have ordered it online from the cheapest reliable source. I was 9 months pregnant at the time, so my husband ran out to Radio Shack that night and paid three times what he probably had to.

All was well in the land of music.

At least until someone (I still blame my husband for this one, although it could have been Mister Man) locked a cat in Mister Man's bedroom for several hours. The bored cat chewed a hole in the cord.

My husband's immediate reaction was to run to Radio Shack to buy a new one. I put the kibosh on that one as I was no longer pregnant and feeble. Fortunately, being a schoolteacher means you sometimes have connections. My husband took the A/C adaptor to school with him, and the engineers in the building fixed it for him. Good as new.

Am I the only one not feeling too good about hte maintenance of the schools in my area now? Really? Electrical tape is the solution for this? I was expecting something a little less ... me and a little more professional.

The good news is that the electrical tape has worked for the last two or so years. Mostly anyway.

A year ago, I brought the CD player into the kitchen to play music while we ate breakfast. I noticed that after about fifteen minutes, I could smell burning plastic, although I never determined where the smell was coming from. I didn't stop using it though.

The CD player also stopped ummm operating normally. When you hit play after putting in a CD, the motor can't spin fast enough for the laser to read the CD. In order to get it going fast enough (once it gets going, it's fine), you have to open the door, manually spin the CD, shut the door quickly and press play. I've perfected this art form. That's probably a sign that the CD player is near the end of its natural life. I didn't stop using it though.

Every once in awhile, I start to think about it, generally when I'm in Mister Man's room to call the wee ones to lunch when they've been listening to CDs for awhile. The burning smell remains, and I think about how stupid I'd feel if the house were set afire because I was using a malfunctioning CD player.

I told myself last year that Mister Man was getting a new CD player for his birthday, but he had so many presents from so many people that I didn't buy him anything. This year, he's getting a new one regardless! It's only two months away, right?

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Having A Party!

I've mentioned the SITS girls before and all the cool things they do. They aren't the only cool chicks out there though. AllMediocre is another community site that I like a lot. They feature bloggers there in a number of different ways, some of which are pretty creative like the Lonely Blogosphere Guidepost Series.

They recently posted about a suggestion that one of the members Auds at Barking Mad had around celebrating the community and friendships that the blogosphere has created. She created the idea of having an online dinner party.

Sooooo, I'm going to host a dinner party here, and I get to invite ten bloggers. So come on over, and let me know what you're bringing so I can be sure to fill out the dinner with whatever's missing. Somehow, I think we'll be fine on alcohol and chocolate, but maybe I'm wrong!

So first of all, Anymommy from Is There Any Mommy Out There? needs to come. She's so involved in AllMediocre (she hosts the traveling series mentioned above), and she's a great writer on top of that. She has three small children, and I admire her for that. That and for her fortitude, particularly with regards to potty training. She also writes some of the most honest and raw posts I read, many of which make me cry -- in a good way, of course!

And Steph from Manic Mommy needs to come. She's the one who first got me thinking that I could actually do a blog myself. Plus, she has a great kitchen and three great kids who are older than my wee ones, which means I have a lot to learn from her. Besides, she'll eat chocolate off the floor. How can you not love that?

I can't forget to invite Dawn from Because I Said So! This was the first blog I really ever read, and for a long time, it was the only one (not so anymore!). Dawn is absolutely hilarious to the point that a publisher approached her and now she has a book coming out next August. Besides, anyone with six kids needs a night out, right?

Angela from Hello, Dahrlin' definitely needs to come. She's my inspiration to do the 100 pushup challenge -- and I'm halfway through! Plus, her cooking rocks. I want to make sure my guests are eating well. And oh yeah, she cracks me up.

Angie from Angie's Spot of course needs to come, too, and not just because she's Angela's best friend since forever. She's always such a good commenter on my site (even on posts I don't mean to post!), and she's got such a good attitude. I can so see her kids playing with my wee ones. And may I just say that Big A and Little A have rockin' hair? But no kids are invited to this dinner party!

I'd love it if Kellan from On The Upside were to join us, as well. Kellan is another entertaining writer, and actually she's an overachiever with two blogs, as she writes On the Flipside, as well, which is a great thought-provoking site that I don't frequent enough. She has sixteen year old twin girls, and she's the one teaching them to drive. And she has more kids, too (cute ones at that)! The best part is that no matter what the situation, she always finds the silver lining.

Karen from The Rocking Pony is another must-have. If you don't already know, Karen makes some of the coolest kids' shirts I've ever seen. Plus, she breeds puppies, so if you're lucky you'll see cute puppy pictures (awww!). She also has some pretty entertaining kid stories that will make you laugh and cry. All her kids will be in school for the first time this year (just like Manic!), so I have a feeling that she needs some support -- or a party, I'm not sure which yet.

Debbie from This is the Life AND Blog Around the World has to come, too, along with her alter ego Betty. Not only does she keep up two blogs (another overachiever), but they're hilarious. I'm still chuckling about the Webkinz that needed chocolate milk from ummm, well, Debbie. And if you haven't signed up for her Blog Around the World (especially if you're from Illinois -- we only have six signed up, and I want more than California's 14 last I checked), head on over there. This is another fun place to find new bloggers to check out.

Kathy from Mama's Losin' It, please join us, too! She runs a daycare out of her home, which alone provides plenty of stories. Seriously, a mom wanted her to use a washcloth throughout the day for diaper changes. The same washcloth all day long. Rinsed out throughout the day. And there's all sorts of other chaos she can share with us that will keep us rolling. And maybe feeling a little better about the chaos that's in our lives. Plus, I love her apron, and I hope she'll bring it.

Oh, and I can't believe that I almost missed Jaci from Ravings of a Mad Housewife. Her face alone shows her need for a nice glass of wine to share with us. And she's so level-headed. She was blogging too much so pulled the plug on her blog before realizing that was a mistake (and I'm so glad she did!). Instead, she put together a blogging constitution that I think we can all agree with. Yep, another woman who cracks me up. I think we're going to be doing a lot of laughing at our party.

I'm getting hungry just thinking about the dinner and all the fun we'll have. And trust me, limiting this to ten bloggers was hard for me, so please don't feel left out if I didn't include you in this list. By no means does this mean I don't love your blog. Trust me, I read wayyyy more than 10 on a daily basis. Oh, heck, it's an open invitation. Just show up and let me know what you're bringing!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Be On Your Best Behavior

Because by the time you read this... I'll be in Las Vegas.

Oh, did I forget to mention this little vacation? My bad. Really, no need to be jealous.

My husband and I flew out bright and early, sans kids, to exceedingly hot Las Vegas for a few days. Oh, and a friend of mine from college is flying out to meet us there, too. And we're staying that the Wynn (I do a great job of finding cheap rates in Vegas, if I do say so myself).

And yep, we're going to go see Zumanity, a Cirque du Soleil resident show there. I've seen O and Mystere before, but not any of the three newer ones (Ka, Zumanity and Love). I actually much preferred Mystere to O, which I know puts me in the minority. I've heard some interesting things about Zumanity, but with a 35% discount I found, how can I not go?

The rest of the time we're there, we'll do the typical Vegas things. My husband wants to enter a poker tournament (or two) at Caesar's Palace, and I know Paul and my husband will spend plenty of time (and money) at the craps tables. And my husband will try to earn it all back at the roulette wheel, which he generally does.

Me, I'll just be watching most of the time. I'm one of those people who doesn't like to give her money away, and I'm just as happy watching the people. And cheering on my friends.

Really, the trip was fairly last minute. We were originally supposed to meet my friend in Vegas in July because he was supposed to get married in Seattle in mid-July but the wedding was called off. Good news, the wedding is back on (so I'll be in Seattle for several days in November now).

However, neither of us got our act together, so the July meet-up didn't happen. But about two weeks ago we decided to still meet up. And I decided I needed more time off work. That and maybe if I'm totally not stressed and really miss my kids, I'll enjoy the next vacation more. Because ...

We get back late Wednesday night, and Thursday morning, we head out on the aforementioned trip to Minnesota to go to the State Fair and visit some friends who live there. Unfortunately, my aunt and uncle who live there will be in Iowa that weekend, so we'll miss them (and no, they didn't offer their house for us to stay!). I'm definitely looking forward to it, as we haven't been to Minnesota since Little Miss was an infant.

Updates on that trip, by the way... two of my friends dropped off leashes that they own, so each of the wee ones will be under control at the Fair. Phew! AND, even better news, my husband talked to his principal who is letting him skip out on the pre-school starting meetings, so he's going to join us on the trip. This may save my sanity.

Now, a few house rules while I'm gone.

No swinging from the chandeliers. And please don't spill red wine on the carpet unless you brought your own club soda to clean it up. Also, if someone wouldn't mind checking in on the cats and making sure they have food and water, that would be great.

I somehow found things to talk about while I'm gone, so you'll be treated (oh, I crack myself up!) to a new post each day that I'm gone from me. Thus I won't be here in person, but I'm here in spirit. Don't be offended when you see no responding comments from me. I'll have no computer access while I'm losing my shirt on the casino floor.

I spent (literally) an hour figuring out how to change my post settings so that you all can still leave comments while I'm gone. Techno-savvy, I'm not. Sometimes. But with that responsibility (can you tell I'm practicing for when the wee ones are in high school?), you must behave in a responsible manner, as well. I'm almost afraid of what comments I might come back to! (kidding, kidding)

And since I'm away essentially Sunday to Sunday, I won't be reading any blogs for 8 days. I can only imagine all that I'll have to catch up on once I get back, so understand that you won't see any comments from me for awhile. In fact, when I get back, it will probably take me an entire week to catch up on my blog reading. But I'll somehow suffer through and make that sacrifice.

Have fun while I'm gone, but try not to trash the place! I'll be sure to have a drink for you while I'm in Vegas. And I'll eat a cheese curd for you while at the State Fair in Minnesota. And if you don't hear from me after that, you'll know that traveling with two small children is just not a good idea!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pretend It's Christmas

Go with me here for a moment. It's the middle of August, and it's brutally hot and humid. This is one of the few times of year when I long for cold days when it's too rotten outside to do anything but bake. And bake I do. Of course, then I have to give much of it to neighbors and co-workers and teachers because I don't want to eat it all, but I love to bake and nibble.

This becomes relevant for a few reasons. First, I've been reading a number of blogs that post recipes, and I've enjoyed reading them. I love seeing the pictures of how they come together, hearing the stories of how the recipes were invented or what the meaning behind cooking them is. And I've really enjoyed cooking some of them - thanks again, Angela for the salmon quesadilla idea! I've debated doing something similar myself periodically.

Then I got a nice kick in the rear. The SITS girls I've told you all so much about are having a recipe contest on their Saucy Eats website. I've talked to a friend of mine who also likes to cook about how I want to enter one of those national bakeoff/cookoff competitions to see what would happen, but of course I never get to it. Here's my chance to do this on a much smaller scale. And yes, you'll periodically see more recipes from me -- the white chocolate stuff for Little Miss's birthday party and the dip that was once confused with liverwurst and desperately needs a name among them.

These cookies are some of my favorites to make at Christmastime. I wish I had a better name for them, but I went with the very straight "Orange Chocolate Shortbread Cookies." If you want to help me out, I'd love some naming suggestions. And I'm in marketing - pshaw!

Anyway, the cookie came about as I was trying to create a cookie for the cookie sale that the animal shelter I volunteer for has every winter. I wanted something unique that would draw people to it without being too weird and over the top.

As I thought about it, I realized that orange is always one of my favorite holiday flavors, and chocolate just seems to go naturally with it. (Of course, my husband thinks chocolate goes naturally with everything – and who am I to contradict him?) One of my favorite treats is the chocolate oranges that Kraft makes. I’ve always looked for a recipe that incorporates those flavors, but I never managed to find a recipe for a cookie with orange flavoring, so I decided this challenge would fit the bill.

I based it very loosely off a shortbread recipe, since that was the cookie that seemed to hold its shape the best. Most shortbreads are far too dry for my tastes and crumble too readily to work well for this type of cookie. I didn’t want a moist cookie that wouldn’t stand up to the filling or would overwhelm the citrus flavor with sweetness either. Of all the variations I’ve tried, this seems to have won the most fans. That and they're surprisingly easy to make (and very forgiving, too)!

Oh yeah, and if you want to enter, too, and possibly win a $100 gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma and a digital camera, go here. But make sure you post an entry that won't beat out my cookies! And hurry -- the 10 (5? there's some discrepancy) finalists will be posted on August 23.

Orange Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

10 T butter, unsalted @ room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
1 egg
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
3 c. flour

1/2 c. cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 T Grand Marnier
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Make the filling first and let come to room temperature before starting the cookies.

1. Scald cream in a heavy saucepan.
2. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until fully melted.
3. Add Grand Marnier and stir.
4. Slowly add powdered sugar and stir until combined.

Set aside until cookies are cooled.

0. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1. Cream the room temperature butter and brown sugar.
2. Add the orange zest and orange juice, then the egg. Mix until well combined.
3. Add the baking soda and salt, then mix again.
4. Slowly add the flour and stir until fully combined. The dough should be fairly stiff.
5. Roll small amounts of the dough into balls and place onto greased cookie sheet.

Using a clean finger or back of an ice tea spoon, make a large, deep divot into each ball (the bigger the divot, the more filling fits!).

Bake each set of cookies 11-13 minutes until firm. These cookies do not crack when done. As soon as each batch comes out of the oven, carefully use the spoon to reaffirm the divot.

Let cookies cool ~10 minutes. Once cookies are cool to the touch, use the ice tea spoon to carefully fill each divot with thickened chocolate filling. Let cookies sit 2+ hours for filling to set.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Need To Talk About Me? Ok!

Angela over at Hello, Dahrlin' meme'd me awhile ago, and I'm just now getting around to it (sorry Angela!). I've actually seen a lot of people doing this one, and I typically enjoy reading the six things people come up with. It's a good number where it's interesting without becoming overkill. The only problem I realized is that if I don't get on the stick soon, I won't have anyone left to tag.

So here we go!

6 UN-spectacular things about me

And the rules are as follows:
1. Link the person who tagged you - Check!
2. Mention the rules on your blog - Check!
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours - And I promise to hold it down to only six!
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them - Done!
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged - Coming!

1) I have an unnaturally large bladder.
Really, I do. I read somewhere once that the average bladder can hold only 11 ounces. Then I look at my 32 ounce water bottle and realize I drink a good five or so of these a day, if not more. And 11 ounces seems really little to me. This actually comes in really handy for several reasons. First, it means I don't have to run to the potty when trying to entertain the wee ones. Second, it means that I went all 40 weeks of both pregnancies without having to wake up in the middle of the night to pee. And third...

2) I have an unnatural phobia of public restrooms.
In fact, I've never used a Port-A-Potty. Ever. And I can go an entire 5 hour car ride to St Louis without having to stop the car to pee. I don't even like going to the bathroom in my work's bathroom. When I do go, I have my standards and some places will and have caused me to just hold it some more. When I use a public restroom, I first have to wipe off the seat with toilet paper. Twice. I'm not a hoverer at least, as the idea of missing or splashing grosses me out more than sitting. And besides, I just cleaned the seat twice. When I flush, I always use my foot. Even when it's not the foot kind of flush. And I'm teaching Little Miss appropriate public potty behavior, as well, although I'm trying not to give her my phobia -- given that she insists on using the restroom at least twice in every restaurant we go to, I think I'm ok on this one.

3) I can't keep a manicure to save my life.
I love getting manicures and pedicures, but they don't like me. I've learned not to go swimming within a day or so because the nail polish just peels right off. But no matter how good of care I take of them, including putting another coat of clear polish on every other day or so, a manicure starts chipping within three days for me. And then I have to take it all off immediately. If I don't have polish remover with me, I have to chip it off myself. That's why I have polish remover in my car at all times. And along those same lines...

4) I can't stand the sound of nails being clipped.
For me, it's worse than nails on a chalkboard. When I get a manicure or pedicure, they have to manually file my nails. And I have to just cringe and grit my teeth when I hear other customers getting their nails cut. It's a noise that I can feel in my neck just under my jaw on either side by my ears. I don't know how else to describe it, but it almost hurts me there to hear that noise. I make my husband go into our bathroom with the fan on and door closed and me downstairs with the tv on before he can trim his nails or those of the wee ones.

5) I have hyper-flexible hips and shoulders.
Until I started yoga, I had no idea of this. In fact, I generally consider myself to be not at all flexible as I can't touch my toes. Even when doing the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge in elementary school and when I was a cheerleader (captain, even) in high school, touching my toes was a challenge. I just have exceedingly short hamstrings. So apparently I make up for it with my shoulders and hips. I can sit in the "butterfly" position with my heels only a couple inches from my body with both knees on the ground. In pigeon, I generally can't get my hips to feel a stretch. And I can grasp my hands easily behind my back with one hand going down over the back of my shoulder and one hand going up from my hips. I just always thought those were normal things people could do.

6) I have a spreadsheet dating back to 2001 that details every check or payment or withdrawal I've made from any bank account.
I'm a little anal when it comes to spreadsheets. I really like them. I created spreadsheets to track my wedding (and I mean who's responded and how many and what kind of food and how many have yet to respond and who will sit at what table based on who is and isn't coming and forecasts for all of the above). And I have spreadsheets for each of the wee ones' birthday parties that have formulae in them. The one for Little Miss has multiple formulae, one to tell me how many people have yet to respond, two to count how many people and kids are coming and one to calculate how many favors I need to buy and how much that will cost. And the one tracking my spending is quite similar. It doesn't just track what I've spent and where and the audit of my bank statements (separate sheets in the same workbook, obviously), but it also forecasts out my spending and how much money I have for the next four months. It's a sickness.

And after reading all this, you'll probably never come back to visit again, will you? BUT, I'm going to pass this along anyway. And I hope you've read this far.

The lucky meme'd are:
Manic Mommy
Mabunny from Able's Antics
AnyMommy from Is There Any Mommy Out There?
Cookie from The Cookie Jar
Karen from The Rocking Pony
Kellen from On the Upside

It's funny but most other blogs that I read have already done this meme (shame on me for being delinquent, I guess!). Soooo if you aren't into the meme's, feel free to ignore, but I'm a rule follower, so I have to do what it tells me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How To Be A Good Guest

I debated writing this. I really did. But it's Thursday now, and I'm still irritated so I'll just get it out of my system now.

Last weekend, we hosted people in my house. It started with my husband inviting up his best friend. Every year, his friend comes up to stay with us for a long weekend and they go to the Cubs/Cards series in August and usually pick up a Sox game, too. That's all well and good, other than me being trapped with the wee ones with no relief when I need a break at the end of the week, but it's just one weekend.

Then my husband realized he could get four tickets to Friday's game. So instead of asking if I wanted to go with a friend of mine, he invited up his brother and his brother's girlfriend for the weekend, too. Ok, fine. His brother is pretty independent, and he'd have a car to go to the casino or whatever he wants to do rather than hanging out with me and the wee ones all day long.

A month or so ago, my in-laws called and said they decided they were coming up, too. They didn't ask if it was ok, just announced they were coming. Nothing against my in-laws, but my husband will be doing three baseball games in three days (with Saturday off), and I'm not really up for entertaining you for two full days since your idea of entertainment is sitting on your rears watching tv and eating. I need to do things. And so do the wee ones.

I resolved to find things for them to do like go to the racetrack one day and maybe visit the children's museum. But my husband decided to get baseball tickets to them to Friday's Cub game which would remove them from my responsibility for the majority of that day and only necessitate entertaining after the wee ones were in bed (while my husband and friend and BIL and gf went to the second game of the day).

They all showed up on Thursday while I was still working (from home). And at 4:30, the questions about when they could go to dinner started. Seriously people, I'm working. The more you bug me about when you can go out to eat, the longer it's going to take me to finish what I need to do. Just go without me, and I'll meet up with you later. I'm totally good with that. Nope, had to wait for me.

Then I saw my FIL with his shoes on. In my house, we don't wear shoes. It keeps the floors and the carpeting much cleaner, and there are a lot of things we all step in that I just don't want in my house. My in-laws, on the other hand, wear their shoes everywhere.

When we visit their house, our feet and/or socks are literally black within a half hour of arriving. And our feet stick to the kitchen floor. We've asked my FIL multiple times on previous visits to please take off his shoes in our house. We even bought him a pair of nice slippers to wear if he didn't want just his socks.

Nope. He won't do it. And my husband wouldn't ask him yet again to take off his shoes. In exchange, my husband promised to steam clean all our carpets after his parents left. It has yet to be done. Ten bucks says he doesn't do it before I call out a carpet cleaning company. But really. Have respect for the way people live their lives in their home when you're a visitor.

On Friday night after they got home from the baseball game, just as I was putting the wee ones to bed mind you, they had to turn the tv on. Except our flipper is a bit complex. You have to hit tv in the upper left then power that doesn't actually say power, then input twice, then the cable button and then you can change channels. Me, I see a flipper with 50 (I did just count btw) buttons, I'll wait for my host to turn it on for me.

Not the FIL. He pressed buttons until it was a screen I'd never seen before. When I came down from putting the wee ones to bed, he was still standing there pushing buttons. I gently took it from him and tried to figure out what he'd done. He commenced in providing me with suggestions of what to do. Thanks, I can handle it. I fixed the tv (yay me!) and handed him back the remote while I went upstairs to tend to a wee one asking for water.

And the tv blasted on. And I do mean blasted. As I was giving Mister Man his drink of water, he told me unsolicited that it was too loud for him to sleep. I trooped down the stairs and asked if they could possible turn the tv down a little bit (we have the same issue when we stay in their house with paper thin walls and their tv blasts 24 hours a day and the wee ones can't sleep). He told me that if he turned it down he wouldn't be able to hear anything, so they huffed off into the basement. I then turned it down from 23 down to my normal listening pleasure of 4 so that I wouldn't forget when I turned the tv on the next time.

I also spent the entire weekend walking around the house putting down toilet lids. I never realized how often people go to the bathroom until this weekend. We put the toilet lids down for two reasons. Ok, three. First, we have small children, and I don't want them to have access to potty water. Second, we have cats, and I've seen them access potty water when the lids are left up. Third, I grew up with them down and to me it just looks nicer.

We've also asked people to put them down. I get that it's hard sometimes to remember and change a habit, but don't you eventually notice that the lids are always down when you come into a bathroom? Really, we even got the self closing lids on our toilets so they won't slam when you close them, I swear.

We also recycle in our house. I eventually got tired of picking through the garbage after people and gave up. Apparently southern Illinois doesn't recycle. We both repeatedly asked our guests to just put recycling items on the island and we'd take care of it later, but no such luck. That's just more educational to me than really annoying because I just can't conceive of not recycling, but it makes sense when I think about how hard it is even now for my husband to remember to put things in the recycling bin.

Oh, and if you really want to tick me off, when you visit, be sure to bring lots of your own pop and snacks because we don't have enough in our house. Granted, we don't generally eat or drink those things and so never have them in our house, but I buy them when I know you're coming. You don't have to insult my hostessing buy bringing your own goodies.

But you can really send me over the top if you open up my fridge to put your 38 (I counted when they were gone on Friday) cans of pop in my fridge and promptly announce that I need to buy a second fridge for when I have so many people visiting. I'm sorry, what? I need to spend how much money on an appliance that will never be used except the one or maybe two times a year you retired people deign to visit us? And you really have to put all your pop in the fridge at one time? Can't you put more in as you drink some of it?

Really, I'm happy to make room in my fridge for your stuff. Just ask me. But don't announce (and mean it) that I need to buy a new fridge. And for the record, it took me three minutes to rearrange and then get all their cans into the "full" fridge. Ha!

The best part was Friday afternoon when my husband called me to let me know that my SIL had decided to drive up on Saturday with our neice, too. Wait, what? Because having five people visiting at once in my house wasn't enough? Now you want to add two more uninvited (but still family) guests? Who need places to sleep and food to eat? Okie-dokie! At least that SIL and neice interact with the wee ones and have fun with them, although Little Miss is the shameless favorite, which is sort of hard on Mister Man who can recognize it now.

Fortunately, we had two birthday parties to go to on Saturday, so I had to leave the house at 10am and didn't get home until almost 3:30 with the wee ones. My in-laws declined Arlington because "we've been to the race track once before." Good to know we can't repeat tourist attractions! Instead, they all trooped to Costco and oohed and ahhed over the items in the store and ate them out of samples. And bought the blueberry pomegranate jelly I have that they apparently really liked.

The good news though is that this is the first visit where my FIL hasn't plopped himself down in front of my computer within five minutes of arriving. He's convinced that it needs fixing, and he adds programs and "cleans things up" without asking every time. And every time after he leaves, I have to reinstall Excel because something he does deletes it. This time, my husband must have said something because he showed up with two CDs of programs but so far as I know never turned on the computer!

I felt bad because by 9:45am on Sunday, they were on the road. I did and said nothing to encourage this. But my FIL is someone who hates to get home late. He wants to be on the road and where he's going, so it wasn't me. This, by the way, is why we didn't plan Little Miss's birthday party for last weekend. My in-laws have literally left to go back home a half hour into her birthday party before. As in walking up to me and hugging me good-bye as I'm trying to entertain 30 two year olds. When they had planned to leave the next morning.

I'm going to get up from my couch now. My therapy session is over, and I feel much better. I almost don't even want to post this, but I put so much effort into it, I may as well, right? And I'll be good until the family reunion somewhere down near St Louis on October 6.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pinball Wizard

We all have some memory from childhood that we want to take with us when we're grown and living in our own homes. For me, that was the pinball machine I grew up with.

My parents bought it when I was either late in junior high or at some point in high school. I think they were operating with the philosophy that if we were the cool house where kids hang out, they could keep a better eye on me (and my friends). For the most part, it worked, and I'm going to go with the same theory for the wee ones.

I spent more than a few evenings playing with it, and it was a great thing to play with my dad, too. Good way to bond with a teenager in general, really.

When Mister Man was born, my parents moved from Minnesota within four days (literally). They brought the pinball machine with them, but they had no room in their new house, as their basement is unfinished and the house much smaller than the one we grew up in. It lived in their garage until my husband and I moved to a house that had room for it.

Two years ago, we bought our house. I was soooo excited to have my pinball machine again. While the movers were moving our stuff in, we were loading the pinball machine into a U-Haul.

As you might imagine, pinball machines are really heavy. We removed its legs to make it easier to get onto a cart. We also laid it on its side, knowing that it was pretty top-heavy. And to remove some weight, we tool out the clear protective glass atop the playing field. We definitely didn't want that glass to break on the way.

When we arrived at our new house fifteen minutes later, disaster awaited us. Apparently the innards of the playing field are not at all attached to the base. When we took off the protective glass, the guts fell out somewhere along the way and shattered the backglass (where the scores are).

With a heavy heart, we moved the pinball machine into the garage in the hopes of salvaging it someday.

A few months after moving, my dad and I finally found a pinball shop that appeared to also have a repair service. We drove the forty minutes there to talk to the guy in his tiiiny little shop. He could probably fix it, but he wasn't optimistic about finding new backglass. Apparently machines made in 1982 don't exactly have a huge spare parts market. He promised to look, and if he couldn't find it we could sell our machine to him for parts and buy a "new" one.

I checked in with him perioidically, but he always seemed a bit sketchy and off. I searched eBay and Craigslist for High Speed backglasses to no avail. Finally, I found someone on eBay selling one. For $300. Ouch. I kept looking.

Eventually, I discovered a website that specializes in the pinball culture and had a free classified section. I wrote up my ad and posted it. Once a month, I'd get an automated message asking if I still wanted to keep my ad posted. Sadly, I did. Over a year after I posted the ad, I was contacted by someone with a backglass in pretty decent shape. I talked him into free shipping and $175 for the backglass (the dealer I had talked to usually paid $150-200 per backglass, not counting shipping).

I held my breath from the time I hit send on that Paypal transaction until I finally received the backglass. When I called the dealer back, his phone was disconnected. Apparently, he'd moved his business and was operating solely by his cell phone. Way too sketchy for me. Oh yeah, and I'd have to pay at least $100 each way to ship the machine to and from his shop.

And so the backglass sat in its unopened package in my foyer for a few more months. This February, I went to a preschool fundraiser for a friend of mine at Suiteplay (as a side note, this was one of the cooler fundraisers I'd ever been to, and yes, Suiteplay is now out of business). Ah-ha! I asked one of the people who worked there if they did repairs. They didn't, but they had a business they referred their customers to. I took that number home with me.

I called the next day and got a recording. It was obviously a small, family run business, but it was something at least! I didn't get a call back for a week, and initially I was disappointed, as they don't do repairs on older machines. However, they had a guy they used for people who had older machines, so I got his number.

This one was definitely someone's cell. I left my message and waited patiently. After a week and a half, I'd given up hope again and was planning to start a new search. But I got a call back from him, with apologies as apparently his phone and voicemail hadn't been working for the past three weeks.

Since he'd come to my house and his rates were reasonable, we set an appointment. And he showed up when he was supposed to. And when I finally opened up my backglass package, the backglass was as promised and pictured (and yes, I had mental paranoia that the box would be empty when I finally opened it).

Six and a half hours later, he was done. I still have one error beep when I first turn the machine on, but it all functions. All the glass has been vacuumed out of it. And it works beautifully. Had I been thinking, I would have taken a picture of the machine with all the glass in it, as it was truly impressive. But all I have is this:

(For those of you who are wondering, yes, that is a Homer Hanky in the background, vintage 1987. And all sorts of fun NU stuff, of course.)

The game itself is pretty cool, and it isn't super high tech like the newer games. You try to make the ball go up the ramps, you hit the markers that represent stoplights, and you try to "escape the police" once the lights are all red. Totally doable.

When you "escape," it looks like this with most of the lights out on the playing field to represent that you made it to your hideout and now get multiple balls. And yes, I scored well over a million on this particular game (no one around to take my picture playing, though!).

It almost feels like I'm back in high school again. My husband has started disappearing down there, and our friends think that's the coolest room in our house. Here's hoping the wee ones and their friends do when they reach their teenage years!

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