Saturday, May 31, 2008

I Took The Plunge...

In addition to shopping for churches lately, I’ve also been shopping for gyms. I have a couple of reasons to be looking for one.

The first is that I started running this spring once the danger of ice on the sidewalks was gone (you know, late March or so). As it’s getting warmer here – 79 right now, somehow – I can no longer run outside, as I have this little problem where I don’t sweat. In the summer, exercising outdoors means that I’ll literally be keeling over, and that’s not exactly conducive to exercise.

I also have been doing yoga twice a week for the past couple of years. I do them at two different places, and I always end up with makeup classes that I need to do but that get really hard to fit into my schedule. Last week was the last yoga week at one studio, and I had two makeup sessions, so I ended up going three times in a five day span which was hard on everyone. If I belong to a gym, I go when I go and makeup when I can without worrying that a session is about to end.

My time to exercise also has generally been on Tuesdays and Fridays when Mister Man is in preschool. On Tuesdays, Little Miss also had been in preschool, which gave me time to run. However, last week she finished up her preschool year, so now she’s home on Tuesdays and Fridays, so childcare becomes an issue. At a gym, they have childcare centers.

Anyway, I was debating between two different clubs. One has more people that I socialize with who belong, and it’s in our school district and sort of the “in” club, if you will. However, a single membership is $88/month. The other gym is about equidistant from me, but I’ll never know anyone who belongs there. A single membership there is $59, which is more reasonable, and it’s just as nice. Actually, they have a great and kid-friendly set of indoor and outdoor pools, including slides at the cheaper one. Oh, and the cheaper one also has two hours of free childcare per day. The more expensive one requires you to pay $3 per hour for childcare.

They also offer swim lessons at both clubs, which is a great benefit. Mister Man started lessons in January, and I've told Little Miss that she can have lessons once she is potty trained. My dad has been taking Mister Man to his lessons and is becoming less and less thrilled with the place that we're taking lessons as time goes on. Having an alternative that's actually cheaper than our current option is a nice bonus.

Needless to say, for the past week I’ve been trying out the cheaper club to ensure that I liked the classes and the instructors, as the idea is that this will replace the two other (and very different) places I do yoga today. I did a yoga class last Sunday that was a fitness yoga, and it was slightly more intense than what I’m used to with essentially no breaks for over an hour, but I’m good with that.

The rest of the week was hard for me to make classes given my schedule and the gym’s, but I did make it there twice to go running, and I discovered that Little Miss loves the child care. In fact, when she saw me she came running up and asked if she could go there another day again. Too cute!

Today I went again and did a belly dancing class. Stop snickering! A friend of mine who lives in the city has been doing it for awhile now and really loves it. It totally isn’t about body image and being super skinny -- which had understandably been my fear -- but more about having fun and lots of movement. So I figured I’d give it a try.

When I went in, I was the only newbie to the class, which is fine. Oh, except that I really stood out because I was the only one without a belly dancing skirt. Fortunately, one woman took pity on me after a few minutes and offered me a spare skirt she had. The only issue is that you can only tie them so tight because they have coins woven into them and you don’t want to ruin the design. About halfway through the class, I realized that the skirt had started slipping down. After that, I ended up having to pull it up every few minutes, and I felt bad for the woman who owned it. By no means was she fat, but the pants I was wearing must have been to slick to have it stay up. All in all, it was a fun class, so I’ll probably try that one again – they offer it on Tuesdays, too, although starting next week I have softball so who knows how I’ll fit that in.

But since the last time I belonged to a gym was shortly after college when my gym was literally two doors north of my building on the Gold Coast, I have spent the last week learning what I need to remember to pack when I go to the gym:

1) If I am going to really workout, bring shampoo, etc. While they have soap in the showers, there is no shampoo at this gym.

2) Locker room floors are yucky. Bring a shower shoe type thing to wear when walking around.

3) If you put a child who isn’t potty trained into childcare, remember to bring a small bag with a diaper in it. The day you forget it (notice this is singular and not plural) is the one day your daughter will decide to not use the potty.

4) If you have a class that starts at 9:30, pretend the class starts at 9:10 so you can get there, drop the wee ones off in the childcare, change and get to class before it starts. I’m still working on this one – but I was only 2 minutes late today.

5) People will invade your space in the group classes. Either find a back corner or deal with it. Six inches from me is not a good place to put your yoga mat thank you. I debated pretending I had a hacking cough but then decided that wasn’t a good idea.

6) Figure out where the towels are kept in the locker room during your initial tour. I felt like a moron on Tuesday walking back and forth across the locker room as I first went to the bathroom, back to my locker, in search of towels (and found only small ones), back to my locker, back to find a large towel, back to my locker, to the shower area (of course I passed it and had to double back), etc. The poor women in there must have thought I was scoping them out.

7) Oh yeah, and know what class and what time you’re trying to do on a given day. I was going to take a belly dancing class yesterday at 9:30 but ummm couldn’t find it so I just ran instead. Duh, the class was today not yesterday. The class I had actually wanted to try yesterday was at 9am and was a spin class. I haven’t tried spinning yet, but I swear I’m going to!

8) And lastly, along the same lines, know what time the pool is open. I just assumed that at 10:30am on a Sunday, the pool would be open. My poor disappointed children… were taken into the pool anyway by my husband after he saw another family in the same boat who had decided to ignore the pool hours. And if anyone needs to know, summer pool hours are 10am to 8pm most days. Phew!

So now that I’ve officially joined, who wants to start the pool for how long I’ll go regularly and make the classes?

Friday, May 30, 2008

To Pee Or Not To Pee...

Little Miss is quite the independent little cuss. Mister Man, in many ways, was so easy. His personality wants to please others and be a good and helpful child. When he was a baby, he wasn’t colicky and he wasn’t a crier. In general, he has a sunny disposition and goes along with what those in authority tell him.

I don’t want to paint Little Miss as a bad child in anyway, but her personality is very different. She does want to be a helper and is very good about helping me do laundry and putting her dishes in the right spot in the dishwasher after meals. But she wants to do things for herself, and she is loathe to accept help no matter how difficult the task.

Good luck putting her to bed if you try lifting her into the bed versus letting her climb in by herself. Don’t even think about helping her feed herself or put pants on or buckle her carseat or anything that she gets into her mind she can do. And woe is the person who makes that mistake.

I will say that I’ve put my foot down on something that has already been done. If something has already been done, she may not undo it to redo it herself. She does accept this now – but only from me.

With this in mind, I thought about how to potty train my little angel. I knew that I would have to make potty training her idea. There would have to be something that she wanted rather than something I was wanting her to do.

I talked about how Mister Man gets to go to swimming lessons because he is potty trained. I discussed how other children in her preschool class use the potty. We chatted about how next year’s preschool won’t let her go to school unless she’s potty trained. I showed her the big girl underwear that Grandma had bought her. We went to Costco and drove by the Pull-Ups aisle where she decided she wanted to get princess Pull-Ups. I also told her that once she’s potty trained, she won’t have ouchies on her bottom anymore – the poor girl gets diaper rash in the blink on an eye, and it’s so hard to get rid of.

When she was in Florida, after I’d bought the Pull-Ups but before we’d started using them, she started using the potty. My mom started keeping her just in Lil’ Swimmers, which I thought was quite brave, and she kept them mostly dry.

When she got back, I told her that she could start wearing Pull-Ups if she kept her diaper dry for two consecutive days. She did it, and we moved into Pull-Ups. She did a great job, and I told her that she would get to wear big girl underwear when she kept her Pull-Ups dry for four days.

She did great. She told me when she had to go potty, and if she mentioned that she was keeping her Pull-up dry, I knew that meant that she needed to get to the potty soon. And it was fully dry and clean. Monday was good, with one small accident at daycare. Tuesday was dry all day long – including telling me when she had to go when we were in the library. Wednesday was pretty good until someone at daycare put her into a diaper instead of a Pull-up and it was soaking wet when I got her home. Thursday my parents watch her, and she had accidents of the wet and dry variety multiple times.

Uh-oh. By the time I got her back on Friday, she was no longer keeping herself dry, so we moved back to diapers since she obviously wasn’t ready. Now, she understands that she can’t wear Pull-ups until she keeps her diaper dry for two days. But she only goes on the potty sometimes. If we go out to eat, she’ll go two or three times during the meal. But tonight she did that, and when we got home she had poop in her diaper. I changed her, and immediately there was more poop. Argh!

With Mister Man, he did great until he had six accidents in one day – pressure on himself, I’m convinced – and we moved him to diapers and didn’t mention the word potty for a month. He was trained within two days when we brought it up again.

With Little Miss, it isn’t about the pressure though. It’s almost like she doesn’t care, and I’m not sure where I go from here. If she doesn’t want to be potty trained yet, that’s fine and I won’t push her, but she talks about wanting to be potty trained. And then she won’t tell me when she has to go. And come September, she must be potty trained to go to preschool although I know that’s three months away.

In the meantime, I’m stumped. Do I quit trying for right now and buy more size 3 diapers (yes, she’s only 26 pounds although she’s really tall so anything bigger leaks because she’s not round enough)? Do I put her in dresses and underwear once summer finally arrives and keep her outside until she figures it out? Do I put her in Pull-ups and grit my teeth? Help!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

You Could Be a Weiner Winner...

In the Hormel Row of Fame! Great, now I'll have that song going through my head for the next six days. Can anyone name the venue that runs that contest and has since at least 1987?

In addition to dishing on various topics and cool pictures and other such things that bloggers put out there in the blogosphere, many bloggers run contests that can be pretty cool. I actually won a book from a blog contest I entered on a whim (yay!), so I figured I’d let a few of you know about them so maybe someone I know can win something else.

Manic Mommy is giving away a book called Driving Sideways by Jess Riley. All you have to do is visit her blog and post a story about a road trip you’ve taken, and Jess will choose a winner. Of course, this is the book that I won elsewhere, so I can’t enter. But lots of good stories there – go join her!

Feener is giving away a cream chocolate bib and burp cloth. Just leave her a comment on what WoobeeKids product you love best and any points about the website. On June 2, she chooses a winner!

Green & Clean Mommy is moving to a new website on June 1 and is having a prelaunch giveaway, too! She has five different prizes, all green of course. My personal favorite is either Prize C (green cleaning book, non-toxic oven cleaner and digital day timers) or Prize E (a year’s subscription to Kiwi magazine). How cool!

Angie’s Spot also has a lovely contest, as she attempts to clean out her home. You can choose between wanting to win a set of books to read once we finally have spring arrive and you are sitting out by the pool or scrapbooking supplies for the overzealous among us. Yes, I’m bitter. A friend of mine called today to talk about the scrapbooking she was doing last night, and her photos are up to date. I’m still waiting to print out pictures from 2001.

Ragu is giving away a trip to BlogHer ’08 in San Francisco, including airfare and hotel. All you have to do is share your secret to getting your kids to eat something healthy.

Oh yeah… and apparently my blog has found its way to the marketers, too. I got an email from a PR firm (yes, I checked to verify it was legit and truly had GE as a client) asking that I talk about their giveaway for moms. And yeah, I’m probably a sucker for promoting it, but again – how cool would that be if someone I knew were to win? Anyway, this last one is sponsored by Whirlpool which is holding their “Mother of Invention Grant Program” that provides winners with seed money and guidance to turn their invention, business or service ideas into full-fledged business ideas. Come up with something great, and you could win a $20,000 grant all the way down to invitations to business boot camp.

So, go! Enter! Win!

I do hope you enjoy (and win) one of the contests. There’s a bunch of neat stuff floating around the blogosphere, and I feel like I should share since I won a contest (and can you tell how excited I am?).

The mother of inventions contest probably requires the most creativity, and I’m sorely lacking in that lately. There have to be a ton of great ideas out there though. So what would you invent?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And Don't Forget To Sit Up Straight!

Sometimes I’m concerned about what management is being taught these days – I say this like I’m some old fogey. Sadly, I’m only mentally an old fogey. I’m a bit concerned to see what I’ll be like in another forty years!

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, my office has a set of, well, interesting rules that they’ve implemented in our new office, some of which I somewhat understand and some of which are pretty asinine.

Today when I got to work, there was paper on my desk. Shame shame. Actually, it was a memo of some sort. And now, I think I’m back to kindergarten.

Really, is this necessary? Has there been such a rash of inappropriateness that we have to be told what to do in this detail? Are we that automaton that we can have not even a modicum of personal expression?

Without further ado, the memo:

Operations Division Voice Mail Quick Reference I’m in the operations division? That’s news to me!

In the office
Hello, this is First, Last Name) of X’s (Department Name). Today is (Date) and I am in the office today, but unable to take your call. Seriously, they want me to update my voicemail every single day? I don’t think so! And ummm incorrect punctuation in two places in that single sentence! Please leave a brief message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If this is an urgent matter, please contact (Contact Name) at (Number with Area Code). Because I might give only the internal extension? Credit, please! Thank you for calling.

In the office, external customer facing area Hmmm does this mean people who deal with clients (all of us essentially) or end customers (none of us) – now I don’t know which voicemail to use!
Thank you for calling X followed by slogan, this is (First, Last Name). Today is (Date) and I am in the office today, but unable to take your call. Please leave a brief message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Ok, apparently we care about voicemail etiquette but not butchering the written language. If this is an urgent matter, please contact (Contact Name) at (Number with Area Code). Ok, I just made the executive decision that I don’t work in a customer facing area because I can’t say the slogan after the company name without laughing.

Out of office full day or longer
Hello, this is First, Last Name) of X’s (Department Name). I am out of the office and will return on (Date). Please leave a brief message and I’ll get back to you when I return If this is an urgent matter, please contact (Contact Name) at (Number with Area Code). Thank you for calling. Actually, this is very similar to the message I leave when I’m on vacation. But I’ve been doing this since oh, I don’t know, oh yeah since I was an intern in college!

Out of office part of day
Hello, this is First, Last Name) of X’s (Department Name). Today is (Date) and I will be unavailable (state part of the day you are unavailable). Please leave a brief message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If this is an urgent matter, please contact (Contact Name) at (Number with Area Code). Thank you for calling. Does this count for when I’m in meetings? Because most days I’m in meetings the majority of the day. As is everyone I work with. And most of our clients. Who know that we’re in meetings and will return calls when we have a chance. Yep, this is a voicemail I’ll never be using.

Out of the office part of day / Working remotely – checking messages
Hello, this is First, Last Name) of X’s (Department Name). Today is (Date) and I will be unavailable (state part of the day you are unavailable or working remotely). I will be checking my messages and will return your call as soon as possible. If this is an urgent matter, please contact (Contact Name) at (Number with Area Code). Thank you for calling. And this is better than the previous message why exactly? Oh yeah, I won’t be using this one either.

Apparently I have learned that:
It is critical that people know what the date is even if you’re in the office day after day.

All voicemails should have five sentences.

I shouldn’t tell people to have a good day in my voicemail.

Working remotely is different from being out of the office part of the day, and this requires a completely different message.

People working in a white collar, professional environment for years can no longer be trusted to compose their own voicemail message.

Oh yeah, and I’m crabby today.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I’ve lived up to my name yet again.

Tonight, we had a mixer for the softball team I play on in the summer. It’s a Christian league, made up of teams from the churches around town. Ironically, the church I’m looking at joining isn’t a part of the league, so I may have to sneak my way onto my current team next year.

Anyway, a local restaurant kindly sponsors us and pays the majority of our league fees. We’re supposed to head there after games to partake, but let’s just say that doesn’t always happen the way it should. Something about suburban moms playing softball.

This year, we decided to have a preseason party there to at least get things off on the right foot with our very kind sponsor. All you can eat pizza and pop with the six teams (or as many of us as could show – only eight from my team that has almost 20 players), hanging out and catching up.

We all sat down at a series of tables set up to make a U shape. I happened to be near the base of the U. The chair to the left of me was open, and I was talking to the women to the right and across from me. A team was trying to fit their women in to the right of us, and they were short a seat. The asked if we could make room. Sure!

Since the chair to the left of me was open, I just did the scoot from one chair to the next, pop up, over and down. Wayyyyyy down. In fact, all the way down to the floor. Initially, I was stunned. I couldn’t figure out what happened to the pizza I had been holding (it flew out of my hand when I landed and was on the floor behind me).

I swear. There had been a chair behind me. Right? How did I not notice that there was no chair there? By this time, the entire room is staring at me (I’d do it too, were I them), so I turned to look for the chair.

The woman who had been two chairs to my left – new to the team this year and having never played softball before – was sitting there with a horrified look on her face and her hands over her mouth. She slowly pointed to the chair she had pulled back and out of my way. She had thought I was just scooting my chair down, not moving chairs. Uhhh, no.

Not surprisingly, the waitress came over to ensure I was alright. Except for a bruised ego, I was unscathed. Or so I thought. A couple hours later, I can feel a goose egg on my nether regions. And it’s sort of hurting to walk now.

So how do you know if you have a bruised tailbone or if you actually broke it anyway? How funny if I weren’t able to play at the beginning of the season because of an injury suffered eating pizza?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

I’ve mentioned before that I love the neighborhood I live in, and Memorial Day is a good example of why. Every year, we have a Memorial Day parade in our neighborhood that the great majority of the neighborhood participates in. It’s a great way to kick off the summer.

It starts with everyone gathering at a single house in the neighborhood at 9am. For the next half hour (or until the fire trucks show up!), we hang out eating donuts and drinking juice or coffee – supplied by the babysitting co-op.

(Those donuts look good, don't they?)

Once the fire trucks arrive – and we know they’re coming because they call the owner of the house to let him know they’re on the way (or can’t come if there’s an emergency) – they line up in front of the house. This year, we had an old fashioned fire engine, three of the regular big ones, an EMT vehicle and the chief’s vehicle. There have never been that many (usually it’s just two or three total), so it was pretty cool to see this year.

(This one unfortunately broke down partway through the neighborhood, apparently due to overheating. However, it also gave Little Miss a chance to check it out more closely and see the wooden ladder they used to use to fight fires -- hmmm -- and the old fashioned fire extinguisher and ash can -- they weren't very optimistic back then, apparently!)

Once they’re all in place, they start up their lights and sirens and lead us all around the perimeter of the neighborhood before they head out to the village parade. Neither of the wee ones likes the siren, so they cover their ears, with periodic waves with one hand while the other continues to cover the ear. All the firemen are glad to do this for us and wave and greet us as they drive along.

Once they pass, everyone follows in their decorated bikes and trikes and wagons – or golf carts or go karts, depending on the age of the kids. This year, Mister Man rode his new bike and did a great job. Little Miss rode her trike and was a shocking rear to the parade. As fast as she goes when we go on our bike rides, I was really surprised that she wasn’t up near the front. She was far too busy looking at everyone and watching what they were doing to really pedal. By the time we were halfway through the neighborhood, we were lapped by some.

We actually stopped at our house, which is about three quarters of the way through the parade route, and switched up her trike for the wagon. Once she got into the wagon, she promptly laid down and put her feet up on the front, the true princess. All we needed were grapes and a fan to make the image complete.

We all hung out at the neighbors for awhile afterwards, just chatting. It’s such a rare opportunity and so nice to have this. This afternoon, I had some of the neighbors over for dinner, and it was a blast.

The kids ran from kiddie pool to kiddie pool to the bouncy houses (a neighbor brought over theirs so we had two) and back again. Let’s just say that neither of the wee ones made a peep once we laid them down! The food all turned out well, and we had plenty of it without there being so much that it will go to waste.

The best part for me though was seeing Mister Man playing with the kids who were about his age. Our kindergarten aged neighbor came over to join in the fun, a boy who’s going into kindergarten next year was there, and a girl in kindergarten this year all played together and interacted and had conversations and acted like five and six year olds will (which means a little out of bounds sometimes, of course).

Little Miss also had no difficulties finding a place to fit in, as usual. And apparently during dinner, she and the about to be kindergarten boy were making quite the googly eyes at each other. She’s cheating on her preschool boyfriend!

One part I missed, but which I wished I hadn’t was the exchange in the basement after dinner with my friends who just got married and the wee ones.

A: So who am I?
Little Miss: I don’t know. (She really has the coy act down pat at an early age; I'm in so much trouble.)
A: Well, do you know who that is (his new wife)?
Little Miss: Miss Married (apparently she sort of got it)
A: How about you, Mister Man. Who is she?
Mister Man: Mrs. R.
A: That’s right. And how did you know that?
Mister Man: Because she just got married.
A: Yep. Who did she get married to?
Mister Man: To you!
A: You got it. And what’s my name?
Mister Man: Mr. K (her maiden name)
J (his wife): Well, he’s got that one right, doesn’t he?

Here’s hoping you had as great a Memorial Day as I did, including the mojito granita I made (a real keeper and SO easy to make!) and the lack of rain although we were scheduled for huge thunderstorms all day. Thank you to whomever decided to have them hold off. I’ll even forgive you the low of 42 tonight and high of 56 tomorrow in exchange for the gorgeous day today!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Here Comes Number Five!

Usually I’m really good about gifts and figuring things out for people ahead of time. Right now, I’m stumped. In six days, it will be my fifth anniversary, and I have no idea what to get my husband.

When we got married, my wedding present to him was a year’s membership to a baseball academy where he could go hit whenever he wanted, got 10 lessons on hitting, etc and also six lessons that worked on visual acuity. He loved it, and the whole thing was a great hit.

For our first anniversary, the gifts are supposed to be either paper or clocks. Surprisingly, I went paper. I cheated a little bit, and my paper was tickets, but I took him on a trip that involved an out of state baseball game, which was really cool.

The second anniversary’s gifts are cotton or china. Yep, I went cotton. I found an old time authentic St Louis Cardinals jersey that my husband treasured. Three guesses where he grew up!

The third anniversary was harder, as I had to choose between leather and crystal or glass. I chose leather, which meant a new baseball glove and cleats (anyone sensing a theme here?), as well as all the other baseball type goodies like a new bat and socks. Before then, I had no idea how expensive bats were as I hadn't purchased one since high school!

I had to get really creative for the fourth anniversary, but it worked out well. It was supposed to be fruit or flowers or appliances. Now that was a tough one to choose between. I finally decided that if I got something that went into an appliance, that was close enough. I got him a beer making session where he got to go make his own brew and then bottle it. He thought that was the coolest thing ever, especially when he made his own labels (Cardinal Schorr) for the bottles that were individual images of the guys on his baseball team batting in a game.

Needless to say, I have a lot to live up to at this point. And I’m stumped. For the fifth anniversary, it’s wood or silverware.

I was thinking that I could do a wooden bat for him, as his league is now having three games that are wood bat games this year. The whole team is protesting, given that wooden bats aren’t cheap and tend to break frequently, especially when used by a bunch of guys who play baseball for fun and don’t really know how to use them. That idea got scratched.

I started searching for a gift a few months ago:

The I Love You Photo Cube? Nope.

A tree? Well, we are redoing all our landscaping, but that had nothing to do with our anniversary.

I thought seriously for awhile about the personalized pub sign for our game room downstairs, but that seems like too much of a reach.

A wooden dresser valet? Unfortunately, my husband wouldn’t know what a dresser valet was, nor would he use one.

Then I thought maybe a foosball table for our game room, but now that my pinball machine is finally repaired and in its rightful place – more on that in a few days – the game room is really pretty full.

I think my best idea is to go with the paper comes from wood idea and make him a booklet of gifts: I’m not allowed to be crabby, a get out of trouble free, I’ll get up with the kids in the middle of the night, date night of all his choosing, etc. I’ve done something similar in the past, which makes me a bit loathe to do this one.

My only other somewhat viable thought was to maybe get a little wooden table that works for picnics where you’re sitting on the ground, a bottle of wine we like and tickets to Ravinia.

Ugh! Anyone have any ideas?

My husband has actually suggested replacing our kitchen table and chairs as our anniversary gift. Granted, they’re the same set I purchased when I graduated college X years ago, but they’re perfectly functional. Plus, I want to remodel our kitchen for a number of reasons but can’t do it until the appliances go since I want to move the appliances around and that means I need to know what size they’ll be then, which means I can’t really get rid of the kitchen furniture since I don’t know what will or won’t fit…. He of course doesn’t get that at all and just wants a new kitchen table and chairs.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Let's Count The Animals

Ahhh, the infamous zoo field trip. Apparently Mister Man’s preschool isn’t the only one that does this, as we had at least 100 other schools at the zoo at the same time yesterday. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

My mom kindly volunteered to come over early to watch the wee ones so I could go running before Mister Man and I left for the zoo. Mister Man didn’t do great on the bus last year (he was getting bus sick), and it seemed silly to drive the 25 minutes to the school then get on a bus and drive back towards the direction I came and then reverse that on the way home. Besides, Mister Man didn’t want to ride the bus.

My mom kept harping on how it’s part of the experience to ride the bus, so at 8am, I asked him again if he wanted to ride the bus. Nope. I went running and got back at 8:52, just in time to throw a lunch together and head out the door (gotta love the no sweating gene sometimes). My mom and the wee ones were sitting on the front steps. Apparently, she’d talked him into riding the bus. However, by 8:52, I literally couldn’t get to the school before the bus left had I walked out the door that second. Thanks, Mom.

Fortunately, Mister Man was amenable to riding the bus next year. Then of course I realized that I didn’t really have all that much lying around the house to make lunch for both Mister Man and I. Whoops. Toss together some bread and ham for Mister Man, a couple of little treats to share with his friends, cut up a pineapple to take with us, a string cheese and some granola for me (like I said, there wasn’t really much just lying around), and all of a sudden it was 9:20.

It takes at least an hour to get to the zoo, and the class was going to leave the meeting point at 10:20 sharp. We hustled into the car and headed out, with Little Miss going with my mom to spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa. Somehow, we got to the zoo at 10:16 (and I wasn’t speeding – gotta love it when you hit the lights).

When I got to the meeting place, I didn’t see anyone who looked like they were in preschool, so I immediately started panicking. Then I saw someone waving at me, one of the moms in Mister Man’s class. She was waiting, too, and shortly thereafter, another mom and boy came up to join us. Then we saw another boy with his brothers and mom and Grandma. And finally, the first mom got a call from another mom saying that she’d driven behind the buses and they were just arriving. That was at 10:40.

By 10:50, we still didn’t see anyone from our preschool coming in the gates, so we started wondering if we’d missed them somehow. Finally, I saw two teachers I recognized so went up to them to ask where Mister Man’s teacher and class were. At that point, I learned that it was likely the class had already come in but that the teacher wasn’t with them and had yet to come in. Interesting.

The teacher finally walked in the gates, saw the five kids standing there waiting (of the 13 who were even possibly coming to the zoo) and walked up to us. “Hi, there’s no pressure but if you want to meet up with us for lunch, we’re meeting at noon at the Safari Café. Have fun!” And then she walked off. By herself. With no kids. After we’d spent 35 minutes with very anxious 4 and 5 year olds waiting for the class to go on our field trip together. No further comment.

What option do we have now? We decided to just go do our own thing. One mom really wanted to see the dolphin show with her son, so she went off to do that, but the other three of us headed out together. First stop – because the kids saw it and begged – was the carousel. The three boys rode next to each other, with Mister Man on a turtle. As we got off the carousel, we ran into another mom from our class walking by herself, so she joined us.

At this point, the kids (including one of the boys’ younger sister) started the wagon rotation. One mom was smart and brought a wagon to help cart things around. Two kids rode at a time, one pulled the wagon, and the other ran near it. With four and five year olds, the rotation system wasn’t the easiest, but they all got along.

Somehow, the moms decided that the first stop would be one of the two playgrounds in the zoo. Of course! Why visit the animals? Once we finally left the park (which was a lot of fun, just not what I’d choose to do at the zoo if it were my sole decision), we started walking towards the bears. We saw a brown bear, and then we decided to stop for lunch since there was a not busy side restaurant right near the bear exhibit.

After our leisurely lunch, where fortunately everyone ate a decent amount, and our chocolate covered gummy bears were a great hit, as were the M&Ms from the bag of trail mix one of the other moms had brought.

Unfortunately, the mom we had picked up at the carousel had ridden the bus and wanted to go see lots more animals before she had to be back at 1:15, so she split off right after lunch. The other three of us had driven, so we didn’t have the same constraints.

Although it was May 23 and supposed to be 64 and sunny – I swear I was listening to the forecast on the radio as I was getting ready – it was freezing and windy and cloudy, maybe 55. Mister Man was wearing a t-shirt and jacket but was lucky to be warm enough. I had a long sleeve t-shirt and jacket and was freezing.

Knowing it was supposed to be 64 and sunny, I had brought a short sleeve t-shirt for me to change into once it got warm. And because it's Chicago, I brought a long sleeve tee for Mister Man if he got too cold. Well, it was at the end of lunch when I finally gave up and decided fashion wasn’t important. I brought out short sleeve tee from the backpack and on it went over the other t-shirt. Fortunately, it started to get warmer at that point.

We didn’t trust this, of course, so we went to the nice 80 degree primate house. They all loved it, and it was so warm and lovely inside. Of course walking back outside after that was a bit of a shock! Fortunately, the sun chose then to make an appearance.

Right outside the primate house was an educational play area where we spent some time. All the kids loved putting their heads through the various pollution superheroes, as well as hanging out in the random tube. I swear they were all sitting so nicely together and posing quite cutely until we got out the cameras.

After this, the kids decided they wanted to go to the other playground in the zoo, so we walked around the zoo until we found it and ended up playing there for most of the rest of the time. The dolphin show mom also happened to end up at the park shortly after we did, so the boys all played together and the moms got to chat some. Nothing like a zoo field trip for bonding!

As the other moms left at 2:20, Mister Man and I decided to go see some animals real fast before we left. After all, traffic in Chicago is a nightmare and it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

Once we left the others, we saw the elephants, tapirs, rhinos, hippos, ostriches, waterbucks, warthogs, camels, bats, various Australian animals and reptiles, kangaroos, and a few more I can’t recall at the moment in less than an hour. Now that’s my kind of zoo visit. It’d been awhile since I’d been to the Brookfield Zoo, and it involves a lot of walking.

Poor Mister Man was all tuckered out, not that he fell asleep in the car on the way home. Both the wee ones spent the night at my parents’ last night as I had my last yoga class and my husband had baseball (plus, they love to do it – my parents and the wee ones). Somehow, Mister Man slept in until 8:30 this morning which he never does. At my parents’ house, he usually wakes up around 6:30. Plus, he napped this afternoon and is already asleep tonight. This is at least a great way to wear out a small child.

Next year though, I’m going to drive again. And I’m going to verify with the teacher how she envisions the field trip working. If it’s anything like this year’s, I’ll call the moms I’m friends with and hang out with them like I did this time – sans the waiting for over a half hour for no reason.

Oh and ummm pics tomorrow, I promise!

Friday, May 23, 2008

And The Procrastination Ends...

I bought my first digital camera when I was on a cruise over New Years during the non-crisis of Y2K. I bought it on the island of St John after haggling with the guys for about 45 minutes and walking out of the store once. Needless to say, I got a pretty good deal and some extras thrown in on my nice little Canon Powershot S30.

It has served me well for years in the picture taking I do. It’s 3.2 megapixels and 10X zoom, which isn’t too bad for picture taking. Especially for someone who’s truly a point and shoot kind of person and has yet to read the manual. There are things I really love about the camera, like the rechargeable battery and the optical viewfinder.

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been using the optical viewfinder more and more often, as the battery just doesn’t hold a charge like it used to. The camera’s well over eight years old, so what do you expect? I finally decided late last year that it was time to upgrade to a new camera.

I couldn’t decide on a camera as there are quite simply too many cameras out there, so I put it on my wish list.

(Side note: I hate wish lists and believe that you should be able to buy a gift for a person based on what you know about them rather than them handing you a list of things they want that they could go out and buy if they so choose. Finding a gift for someone that they didn’t know they wanted is far more satisfying to me, and it’s how I was raised. After three years of marriage, I gave up when it came to my husband now and simply maintain a long wish list of items so at least I truly don’t know what I’m getting.)

In talking to some people I know who are far more knowledgeable and talented when it comes to cameras, I discovered that staying with a Canon was not a bad move, which I mentioned to my husband. Shockingly, I ended up with a Canon under the Christmas tree.

Except it wasn’t one I wanted. (I’m horrible, aren’t I?) I forget now which model it was, but there were features about it that I didn’t like – maybe it was lacking that optical viewfinder? So I ummm returned it, much to his consternation. Fortunately, he didn’t hold a grudge.

Since that time I’ve periodically tried to do some research on what camera I really do want, but it’s awfully overwhelming. Needless to say, I keep putting off the purchase.

Until tonight.

As you may know from ummm oh reading my blog before, today was the zoo field trip for Mister Man. Shockingly, it was a rush out the door this morning, which meant I got into the car forgetting both my phone and my camera. Fortunately, I realized that I forgot the camera before I actually put the key in the ignition and ran to get it.

Smart me (as opposed to normal me) remembered to charge the battery on Wednesday so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. When I went to take my first picture at the zoo, the LCD screen was black. Ok, so I used the viewfinder (see why I love it so much?) and zoomed in before taking the picture. And that was just the first picture on a supposedly full battery.

Needless to say, I learned something new about the camera. If the battery is low enough to need the viewfinder, while you can zoom the lens, it won’t actually zoom when the picture is taken. Needless to say my far away monkeys show up in the picture very far away.

Taking a picture of Little Miss at dinner tonight caused the same issues. It was really cute – she had a sundae for dessert and picked up the cup it came in to drink out the last of the ice cream. A circle of ice cream and chocolate syrup was pasted onto her face, and she was thrilled with herself. I couldn’t zoom to get the ancillary items out of the picture so it looked funny.

I hit my frustration point then. The gene from my dad kicked in. I came home, fired up the computer and started searching the options on the Canon point and shoot offerings. It’s still clear as mud, but I at least found some insights about what I need and want and am willing to spend.

The winner is the Canon Powershot SD850. It’s officially ordered and on its way. Of course, it’s Friday night, nothing gets picked on Saturdays, Monday is a holiday, and I likely won’t get my camera until the end of next week. Of course now that I finally ordered it, I want it yesterday – or at least this morning!

Oh yeah, and this camera cost half what the one I bought 8 plus years ago did.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Feeling Altruistic?

There are many reasons to donate blood:

You burn 675 calories.

You get to lay down and sit still with no one needing anything from you for at least five minutes.

You get to save up to four lives every time.

Manic Mommy tells you to.

You get cookies and juice afterwards, which is just like going back to preschool.

They give you a sympathy sticker that you can use on loved ones and strangers for the rest of the day (or longer, if you lack scruples).

Many donation centers have frequent donor programs where you can earn prizes or get giveaways for donating once a quarter.

You get a blood pressure reading that doesn’t occur in a doctor’s office (ok, so for many people, the blood donation center probably doesn’t lower it below what you’d get at the doctor but I like to try to beat my blood pressure score every time I go).

And if you have a Heartland Blood Center near you, you can get free ice cream! Yep, this Thursday (today!) through Tuesday the 27th, Heartland is giving out $11 Oberweis (mmmm Oberweis!) gift cards to all donors.

How can you turn that down? Go donate, even if you’re just doing it to be greedy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Feel Like A Traitor

I was born Catholic – or at least baptized Catholic at an early age – and raised Catholic, including going to Catholic schools until 8th grade. I taught Sunday School when I was in high school. I got married in the Catholic church, baptized both my infants Catholic, and joined my local Catholic church when I moved to my new home two years ago, sad as I was to leave my old parish.

But now, I’m thinking of leaving. (Yep, I'm venturing into the waters of one of those three topics.)

I don’t particularly like the priest of the local church. I can’t really find anything to complain about, necessarily, but there’s just something about him that rubs me the wrong way. That, in and of itself, isn’t enough to drive me away, as there are visiting priest and other deacons, etc presiding frequently enough.

Another issue, if you will, is that this parish is really over the top. It is absolutely huge. It’s massive and very impersonal, in my mind. On an average Sunday, there are 750 people at 11am Mass. I’m sure much of it is my fault, but I don’t feel a part of the community there (forget the fact that I play on their softball team – in a way that isn’t at all connected in my mind, since I never see those women in church).

I am finally drawing the line at religious education. When I was growing up, I went to Catholic school, so my religious education was embedded in my school day. Those who didn’t attend Catholic school went to CCD (and took things from my desk, but I digress).

When joining our new parish, I spoke with the person who oriented us (orientated is not a word and one of my pet peeves) to the church. I discovered there that it was now called Religious Education (and I think there had been a name between that and CCD). However, disconcerting to me, the woman knew nothing about it and didn’t have a contact to give me. I looked into it on my own and discovered that it began yearly in September and started when children were 3 by that September.

Cool, Mister Man was going to start getting a religious education this year. Then, I heard nothing about it all last summer. I finally heard about the new program in a homily in August. They were introducing “Generations of Faith” which met 6 Wednesdays a year from 6-8:30 and included dinner together and then splitting out by age group for appropriate activities. The whole family was included versus just the children.

My problems with this:

1) In my mind, religious education needs to be reinforced far more often than 6 times per year, and I’m sorry but I don’t have the time or talent to do it weekly on my own (nor would it be effective, I don’t think – peer pressure is key)

2) My children go to bed between 6 and 7. Having things go – on a school night no less – until 8:30 just wasn’t feasible for me.

3) Generations of faith has no program or activity for those under age 4. Little Miss can’t stay with the adults but has nowhere to go, so we can’t participate.

4) This will sound bad, but the religious education is for the wee ones, not for me. I’ve been through it all, and I get it, but I’m private about my faith and have no interest in discussing it with others. I don’t want to do Generations of Faith.

Sooo I’ve been slowly exploring the idea of finding another church. As I looked more into Generations of Faith, I discovered that this is a Catholic thing and that all churches will eventually go this route if they haven’t already. That somewhat rules out Catholicism for my family if I want to have a base in faith without sending them to Catholic school, which isn’t going to happen for multiple reasons.

The closest church to me is actually the preschool that Little Miss will go to next year. It’s Episcopal, which I know little about other than it was formed thanks to an egomaniacal king. I don’t know how similar it is to Catholicism, but I do know that they do Sunday School (I love websites).

So I called over there this morning and spoke with the temporary minister, who is a divorced woman (she asked if I was sitting down before divulging that, which I thought was funny). I spent about a half hour on the phone with her, and she was really great. Obviously, I didn’t get all the answers or near all the answers from her in that short conversation, but we’re going to set up coffee or lunch some day soon to chat more.

This Sunday, we’re going to try to attend a service there. I did get a few of the service details from her, and there will definitely be differences from what I’m used to. I have only been to services with the Eucharist at the rail a couple times, but this is a normal Episcopalian thing. And the 8:05 service has no singing. The 10:15 service has singing, but she said something about the choir taking the summer off, so maybe the congregation doesn’t sing at all but just listens.

I don’t know that becoming Episcopalian is the right move for us, but there are a number of positive aspects, not the least of which is the Sunday school that meets for ages 3 and up throughout the school year. And the smaller community that is a community, according to the minister.

If this church doesn’t work out, then I’m on to looking at other options, as there are at least five churches in town of varying religions. I do hope this one works out though. Any suggestions as I start my search for a new religion for my family?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Which Of The Wee Ones Do I Love More?

It was bound to happen eventually. After all, I do have two children. And now they’re school age and attending different schools. Besides, Mister Man had a (single) field trip this year to PetsMart and Little Miss had uhhh none.

So of course, this Friday I have a conflict.

Mister Man’s preschool class is going to the zoo for the entire day. They leave from school on the bus at 9:15 and return to the school at 2:30. Little Miss’s preschool is having an all school picnic.

Last year, I went to the zoo with Mister Man, and it was fun. Well, except for the pregnant mom who got bus sick before we reached the first main road away from the school. And Mister Man almost getting bus sick on both the way to the zoo and on the way home. And the screaming meltdown overtired past my nap incident we had when it was time to leave the zoo.

Plus, Little Miss can’t go on the bus with us, she’s even more in need of a nap than Mister Man, handling both of them at the zoo by myself isn’t exactly my idea of a picnic, and I did go to the zoo last year with him already.

Little Miss’s picnic is for the entire school and families, so Mister Man is invited to join everyone. But it’s only from 11:30 to 12:30, so he’d be home from school and missing out on a “big” experience with his classmates. Oh yeah, and Little Miss is going to a different preschool next year, so we won’t see any of those people (other than the five of the twelve kids in her class switching to the new preschool) ever again. And both times we’ve had events at Little Miss’s preschool – a back to school picnic and a Valentine’s Day dance – she’s ended up getting hurt with a bloody lip that’s required and ice pack, etc.

So which event am I supposed to choose?

Actually, I had to choose by yesterday. I finally flipped a coin, figuring that would at least not pin the decision on me when the wee ones come to me looking for funds for therapy years from now. The zoo won.

So umm I called my dad and asked if he’d watch Little Miss all day – and gave him the option of the picnic but he’s not the most social person to start with – while I took Mister Man to the zoo. Surprisingly, he agreed. However, I’m going to meet them at the zoo, which means that I can leave Little Miss later than I would have to otherwise, plus Mister Man won’t get bus sick in my car (knocking on every bit of wood I can find). This also gives me the opportunity to leave when we need to leave and drive directly home versus the disaster we endured last year.

My dad did volunteer to take Mister Man to the zoo so that I could go to the picnic with Little Miss, but that would be a bit awkward in my mind. Last year, the class pretty much stuck together, and the moms chatted and hung out and helped out as needed. Either my dad would be an odd wheel in that group or he’d be off by himself, in which case why go to the zoo as part of the field trip at all?

I also learned last year to pack a lunch. The form has the option of buying lunch there or bringing lunch. I remember field trips from when I was growing up and no one ever brought a lunch, so we planned to purchase our lunch. We were the only people to do so in the entire preschool. And it was a massive line. And then we had to wait for our food to be cooked. By the time we got back to the picnic tables with our food, most people had finished or were just about finished eating. This year, I’ve learned.

My only annoyance at the zoo right now is that I sent back the form saying that I’d meet the school at the zoo (an option provided), but I have no further information. Where do I meet them? What time do they plan to arrive? Where do I get my ticket? I’m giving it until tomorrow before I send a note to the teacher requesting those minor details.

So did I do the right thing? Should I take Little Miss with me and try to hold out as long as I can (technically, I could take her and pay for her ticket, but I’m worried about meltdowns and multiple children running in multiple directions)? Should I have gone to the picnic with both wee ones instead? How do you decide what to do when you have conflicts between your kids’ schedules?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mythbusters: Moms CAN Eat A Meal In One Sitting

It’s a running joke that moms never get to sit down for a full meal, nor do we get to eat our food while it’s hot. Tonight at dinner, I decided to count how many times I got up.

First, I placed Mister Man’s and Little Miss’s dinner plates on the table, along with forks, napkins, and cups of milk. That should be all we need, right?

Nope, two minutes in, Mister Man finished his milk and wants more. (1)

The Little Miss decided she had to go potty. (2)

She decided she wanted no help, so I sat back down. The she couldn’t get her pants off, so in I went to help her. (3)

Mister Man finished course one of his dinner and decided he wanted some banana mousse (plain yogurt, a banana, vanilla and a tiny bit of sugar blended together and chilled). That, of course, was in the refrigerator. (4)

Oops, forgot to get him a spoon for his mousse. (5)

When she finished, she of course needed help getting her pants all the way up. (6)

Next up (aside me me – ha, ha) was Little Miss seeing that Mister Man had banana mousse. Of course, were I thinking, I would have gotten her some mousse at the same time I got some for him. But I did remember her spoon. (7)

Then Little Miss decided she wanted a banana to dip in her banana mousse. (8)

Mister Man finished cup of milk number two and asked for some water. (9)

Little Miss decided she wanted water, too – tell me when you start to sense a theme here. (10)

Mister Man finished his banana mousse and asked for some carrots. (11)

Little Miss dropped part of the banana on the floor. (12)

Mister Man got excited and spilled some of his water, and his napkin wasn’t enough to soak it up. (13)

Little Miss decided a potty break was in order again. This time, I went with her to pull her pants down. (14)

Then Mister Man decided he was still hungry and wanted some watermelon granita (watermelon, blended with a tiny bit of sugar and some lemon juice, frozen and stirred with a fork about every 45 minutes until fully frozen. It makes fluffy ice, a great light summer dessert). And yes, I got a bowl for Little Miss at the same time. And me, too. It’s good stuff! (15)

Meow jumped up on the chair and decided he was going to join the family, so I kindly asked him to get off the chair. That didn’t work, so I got up to dump him off the chair. (16)

My phone went off, so I silenced it. (17)

The wee ones finally finished dinner. Mister Man ran into the bathroom to wash his hands and face, then presented them to me for inspection. He got them clean, but Little Miss still had watermelon granita on her face, so into the bathroom I went in with her to help scrub her face. (18)

Finally, I finished my dinner. Oh, I mean after we went upstairs, went potty one last time, brushed our teeth, put on our pjs, read a Bob book, and got into bed after hugs and kisses. But really, I did get to finish it. And it was so quiet when I did, too.

I feel like the owl from the Tootsie Pop commercial!

Of note… no, my husband wasn’t home at the time. Had he been, maybe I would have only had to get up 17 times. And that’s because the cat wouldn’t have jumped up in the chair had my husband been home and sitting in it.

Now the big question: How do I still not figure out that when one child gets something new, the next child is immediately going to want the same thing? It isn’t like I’m a new mom or this is a new phenomenon. And I can’t blame it on baby brain anymore, I don’t think.

Maybe it’s just my subconscious way of ensuring I get more exercise on a daily basis. No, wait. It’s a conscious way to get more exercise and ensure I take my time eating my food. Yeah… that’s it. I do it on purpose.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Give Up...

My parents called this morning to see if they could potentially come play with the kids. No reason for them not to, and Mister Man needs to work on riding his bike, as we have a parade around our neighborhood for Memorial Day next Monday.

Once we finally go outside, we had fun. However, it was an ordeal to get there. Little Miss insisted on dressing herself, but she decided wanted sandals today, even though is was low 50s and windy. Convincing her or the need for socks and shoes wasn’t exactly an easy task. And my mom decided that it was ok for Mister Man to wear his Batman pjs outside because we were just riding around the neighborhood, and he was going to have a jacket on (yep, that letter last week did no good).

We got through our neighborhood and were about halfway to the park in the neighborhood next to ours when Mister Man’s pedal fell off. It was really no big deal, as it tends to fall off frequently (well about every other time we ride the bike, which is about 15 times total), and I just screw it back on.

Not today, though. I tried screwing it on, and it went two turns then stopped. I unscrewed and tried again. And again. And again. Then my dad tried. That’s when we realized that the threads on the pedal were bent together, but not quite stripped. Needless to say, the trip to the park was aborted. That went over really well.

When we got back to my house, I found a wrench to see if we can potentially force it back on, since making it stay wouldn’t really be an issue, since it failing to stay was the problem in the first place. Unfortunately, no matter what position we put the bike or the pedal in, it just wouldn’t go in, and it was getting worse.

My dad being my dad, he suggested that we go to a local bike shop to see if they can fix it. Since he needs the bike next week anyway, I was fine with that. Ironically enough, there is not a single bike shop in my town nor in the one next to mine. Weird, huh? So we went to my parents’ bike shop. My dad and I wheeled the bike in, while my mom, Mister Man, Little Miss and my parents’ dog stayed in the car.

That was the first mistake. When we explained the problem, the nice bike shop guy explained that the way the pedal and crank arm were worn, we’d need to get a new pedal and a new arm. That would run us about $25. Considering it was about a $35 or $40 bike (my parents bought it for Mister Man for Christmas a year and a half ago but it’s been used fewer than 20 times), that’s slightly hard to swallow. Adding in the labor needed to make the change, and we’re looking at more than the bike cost initially.

At that point, my dad was on a mission – which happens frequently – and started thinking aloud and wondered if we should go to Target or Toys ‘R Us to get a new one. Then he asked the bike guy if they had any bikes small enough to fit Mister Man.

The bike guy didn’t hesitate. He asked how big he was (43”) and pulled out an orange bike. He said it might be a bit big, but what did we think? My dad said he thought that might work and asked my opinion. As I saw the $170 price tag on it, I decided that Mister Man needed to see it before my dad plunked down his credit card.

I ran out to the car, gave my mom the heads up and brought in the whole troop, less the dog. My mom has given up on trying to stop my dad (remember the whole Disney episode?), so she didn’t even try to talk him out of it.

Mister Man climbed aboard the bike, which was a bit tall to get on, but not unreasonably so, and definitely better built than his old Spiderman bike. And we actually needed to raise the seat, which the nice bike man quickly did. And Mister Man happily pedaled around the shop. And he actually was strong and more confident on the Trek bike. My dad asked Mister Man what he thought of the bike, Mister Man stated he liked it, and my dad was sold.

I actually gasped when my dad said ok. He looked at me and asked if I was going to buy it for him. I quickly put in that I certainly wasn’t going to buy him a $170 bike. So down went my dad’s credit card, and the bike shop gave the bike a checkup before we were off.

I will say that Mister Man really does like the new bike. He wanted to ride it around once we got home (after stopping to eat at the pizza place across the street to eat), even though it was already 2:30 and wayyyyy past our usually religious naptime. And he did a great job with it. He even made it up the hill on the path between the neighborhoods without needing any push-help from anyone. Yay!

But geeeez, a $170 bike? The good news is that the bike guy didn’t start pulling out the $320 or $260 bikes. This isn’t the first time my dad’s done this.

When I was heading to college (and this will certainly date me), my dad bought me a computer. I ended up with a Mac Centris 640CD, which had a CD-ROM in the days when almost none did. And that hardly touches the overpowered (for the time) nature of the computer. And yes, I was one of the few people in the dorm who had my own computer vs needing to use one from the lab.

Speaking of computers, my dad’s three year old computer went on the fritz last fall. My dad couldn’t figure it out, so he got frustrated and simply bought a new one. Including a new printer and monitor and everything else. Thus, my parents ended up with a perfectly good two year old printer/copier/scanner/fax and monitor sitting on the floor of my dad’s office. Fortunately, the psychologist at Mister Man’s preschool lost hers in a flood this summer, so we donated my parents, and she was thrilled.

These are only a few examples, but the list goes on. My dad gets a bug in his head and just can’t get rid of it. I still have an issue with it, but my mom’s resigned herself. I was telling my husband about it over dinner (he was at baseball all day today, so missed the episode).

Me: When we walked into the bike shop, the guy there saw the sign on my dad’s forehead.
Husband: A sign?
Mister Man: I didn’t see a sign, Mommy.
Me: Really? It read S-U-C-K-E-R.
Husband: He’s gonna figure that oooouuuuut (in that singsong whisper don’t move your lips voice parents use)
Me: Nahhh.
Mister Man: What does that say?
Me: Very. Nice. Grandpa.
Mister Man: What does it spell?
Me: Very. Nice. Grandpa.
Mister Man: But what does it spell?
Me: It still spells Very Nice Grandpa.
Mister Man: But what letters?
Me: Uhhhhh. V-E-R-Y-N-I-C-E-G-R-A-N-D-P-A.
Mister Man: What does that spell.
Me: That’s how you spell very nice grandpa.
Mister Man: But didn’t it have a K in it?
Me: I think you must have misunderstood me. It was very nice grandpa.
Mister Man: But why did the sign say that?
Me: Well, didn’t Grandpa buy you a new bike today? And wasn’t that nice of him? And that makes him a very nice grandpa, doesn’t it?
Mister Man: I guess so
Me: (Have I mentioned that he's reading now? Yeah, at that point, I went for the all out distraction.) How does your applesauce taste?

But like I said… it is a nice bike. And it’s big enough that Mister Man will probably be able to use it for the next three years. But $170? Eesh.

The old bike will go to charity at least. I read an article in the paper a couple months ago that talked about a guy who took bikes that had issues, fixed them up, and then gave them to kids who couldn’t afford bikes of their own. I’m off to go search for that article now….

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Much Anticipated Wedding Recap!

Ok, I’m long overdue, but I finally have a wedding recap!

The bridesmaid and I flew to Houston and checked into our rooms, which were lovely. I had a gorgeous view from my room of the forest that is part of the acreage and is threaded with trails. I don’t think you can actually see any of the nicely cushioned walking/running trails in the picture, but they’re there.

We immediately headed up to the groom’s room, because he and the bride had so generously brought us barbeque from their dinner out, which was quite yummy. The whole weekend was filled with little nice things like that, which were all so appreciated.

On Friday, I went to the health club at the Houstonian, which was far swankier than any I’ve been to in the past but I won’t complain. I actually got lost trying to find the track and/or treadmills for my run. When I saw an employee and asked him where it was, he actually walked me all the way to the treadmills rather than giving me generic directions.

The run actually went well, which was good as I’d been worried since I’d never run on a treadmill before. The weird thing was getting off the treadmill. I felt like I was going to do a somersault at any point. I thought maybe it was because I was overheated, as I don’t sweat and frequently have problems when it’s warm out. I actually chose to run on the treadmill vs on the lovely paths outside because I was worried about overheating. As I was walking through the café to get back to the hotel, I actually got a huge drink of water from them, and that helped a little.

After I got home, I asked a few people who run frequently their thoughts on why I felt so off. I’ve had a variety of responses, from agreeing that it was probably from overheating to the theory that I was looking at something too close while running for 36 minutes and then walking and seeing things move for real threw me for a loop to the theory that I needed to have the treadmill on an incline (which I didn’t know, and I think it was set at 0%) or it would be as though I were running downhill. Needless to say, I haven’t had the opportunity to try again, but I’ll definitely be experimenting this summer!

Anyway, after I got back, my friend and a friend of her mom’s picked us up to take us to get our mani/pedis. Ahhh, I love the vibrating chair and foot and hand massage. Actually, I could skip the polish and just do that part!

As our nails were drying, my friend presented us with our bridesmaid gifts (ok, the two of us anyway, the third bridesmaid still hadn’t landed from Israel). All I have to say, is: take a look!

They are freshwater pearls that were hand picked by a friend of the bride’s mom and strung specifically for each necklace. Now I feel bad for my friends when I got married. It isn’t like I got them nothing, but I just got them a spa case with a variety of products. Oh well…

We then went to have Pho for lunch, which was yummy and busy. I finally met my friend’s sister for the first time (they get along fine, but she isn’t in the wedding because she wasn’t comfortable with it) and several of her aunts who ate with us. Apparently, this restaurant is in what used to be a K-Mart. I had my hopes up briefly as my friend was telling me about the Icee stand in the middle of the floor, but I soon learned she meant when it was a K-Mart, not now. Still yummy!

And after that, there was more as we headed to get some bubble tea (mmmm!) and chat for awhile before we headed back to the hotel to relax for a little while. The other bridesmaid and I went for a walk on the trails and also to go check out the pools (yes, pools – there were four) when we ran into the groom and one of his brothers, who we also hadn’t met before. It took us awhile to connect though, as they were banging on the inside of mirrored glass and didn’t get that we couldn’t see them.

Finally we converged and went to go check out the pools together. Wow. I really wish I’d taken a picture of them, but I didn’t have my camera with me and never thought to take one after that. They had a slide built into some rocks near a waterfall – which we went down of course! Plus, there was a lap pool, a relaxing pool, a hot tub and more. At this point, we were both regretting not bringing our kids (and respective parents to corral them) so they could have fun there and we could see them.

We then went to the rehearsal, which was entertaining. I got lost trying to find the room but eventually made it and wasn’t even close to the last person there, fortunately! It was an entertaining rehearsal, as the room wasn’t the same room the ceremony would be in, so it was somewhat makeshift. The third bridesmaid was quite obviously not going to pay attention, which showed when we went through the second time and she tried to stop and stand in my spot instead of at the other end of the dais.

The eleven year old ring bearer wore his sunglasses and did his Miami Vice shooting fingers snap gesture all the way up the aisle. Fortunately, he left that for this part and didn’t do it during the ceremony. The flower children (the eleven year old’s half siblings) were obviously very tired after flying in from Israel that day, and they weren’t really interested in participating. It’s always a risk to have very small children in the wedding, and they were obviously a bit overwhelmed with it.

Fortunately, by the end we all seemed to know where we were going and what we were doing, which helped. And the bride was a good sport, as she even carried the bow bouquet I’d made her at the shower. Her dad was so cute walking her down the aisle. I won’t say that same for the bride when she sucker punched the groom as he leaned in to kiss her (after insisting that he had the wrong woman when “checking” under the nonexistent veil).

Pretty quickly, it was time for the rehearsal dinner, which was a hoot. The groom’s parents hired buses to get us from the hotel to Fung’s Kitchen Seafood Restaurant. There we enjoyed nine delicious courses ranging from chicken lettuce wraps to lobster to sesame balls. Lucky me, I took only a few bites of the courses that sounded the most appealing to me versus eating a bunch of everything. Some of the guests were a touch too full by the end of the night to enjoy the sesame balls and melons, but not me!

My friend also had the cutest costumes made up for the wine bottles. They were supposed to be a girl in a kimono and a boy in traditional dress including a cap and ponytail, but the restaurant only put out the girl costumes, not that anyone who didn’t know about it in advance figured it out or would have cared anyway. They were adorable, and both my friend and I were sent home with some of the extras to give to our children to use as doll clothes.

Unlike a traditional rehearsal dinner where the bridal party and families were the ones invited, everyone from out of town plus all the in town relatives were at the rehearsal dinner, which meant there were in the neighborhood of 120 people there. It was a little chaotic, but in a good way. And it also gave the two dads a chance to practice their toasting for the actual wedding night. They literally toasted (and drank) at every single one of the 17 tables, with our table being the last one.

That would also explain the discussion on the bus ride home (which fortunately included only the groom, the groom’s dad, the other bridesmaid, one of the groom’s brothers, and me). When the groom’s dad starts insisting that he’s getting too much information on details of his son’s life he doesn’t care to know about, you know people have had too much to drink. The only good news is that the dad may or may not have remembered it the next day. I didn’t ask.

The next morning, we had until 11am before the hair and makeup artist was coming to do us up right. Obviously, that meant we had to spend some time at the pool. We were both careful not to spend enough time in the sun to get tan lines that would show in our dresses, but we definitely enjoyed the weather.

Given the humidity in Houston, we all vowed not to set foot outside the hotel once we had makeup and hair done... especially since we were having it done eight hours before the ceremony! Only the three of us plus the bride’s MIL were getting our hair and makeup done. The third bridesmaid (who had no interest in talking to us anyway or meeting or getting to know her new SIL) wasn’t going to get anything done and was just doing her own.

The bridesmaid and I decided that we were going to enjoy our time getting hair and makeup done and ordered up champagne, orange juice, munchies, tomato juice, and Tabasco (to go with my friend’s vodka). I think the bride was surprised, but not unhappy, about it. And it definitely helped us pass the time while were hung out.

The hair and makeup artist started with my hair. I explained that it tends to be very curly and won’t work if she tries to straighten it, especially in this humidity. I told her she could do whatever she and the bride wanted with my hair, which turned into a half up, half down ‘do. Once completed, I felt somewhat like a ‘50s housewife and it wasn’t my style, but it was cute and worked.

The MIL was done next, and we watched our words with her in the room. As she was leaving, she told us that she was going to watch her grandkids so the third bridesmaid could come to our room to hang out for awhile and get to know us. Oh, and she insisted on writing a check to cover the third bridesmaid’s share of the snacks we ordered (and yes, I did finally get a check from the MIL for the dress Sunday). We all saw through her statement though in that she was forcing the third bridesmaid to spend some time with us because even she saw how sad it was.

When the third bridesmaid came to chat with us, we could see that she had spent time at the pool, too, and not just because she was still wearing her swimsuit with a coverup. I was hoping that the tan lines wouldn’t be too obvious with her dress, and fortunately I never noticed them that night. I will say that I understand now the MIL’s comment that she insisted on buying not just the dress, shoes and jewelry (she chose large and black, which I thought was an interesting choice given our dresses) for the third bridesmaid, but also her undergarments, as I don’t think I saw her wearing any others the entire weekend, not that I was trying to look, mind you.

Anyway, once the makeup artist left at 3, we were on our own until pictures started before the ceremony. We got the bride checked into her room, ensured the dress had been appropriately delivered and … wait a minute! The dress was delivered, but there was no veil! Fortunately, after calling both the front desk and Saks to find out where the veil was, someone discovered it in the luggage room and brought it to us. Crisis number one averted!

We made our way down to the girls’ changing room where we proceeded to get ready for the wedding. It was quite entertaining to watch the flock of women and come into and run out of the room to talk to the bride as she was getting ready.

The other bridesmaid and I got her into her dress and shoes, and she looked gorgeous. The makeup artist returned and touched us up – especially my hair that was being forced to be far straighter than I likes. Somewhere in there, the flower person arrived, and the bridesmaid and I helped check the flowers.

It was at that point that we realized that the chuppah had no roof! When bringing it to the bride’s attention, she blew it off as not a big deal, but fortunately we know better. Without alarming her (sorry if you’re reading this!), we alerted others who could help us fix it. The florist got it and wasn’t going to leave until we had figured out a way to make a roof for the chuppah. Somewhere, someone found a tablecloth that was large enough to cover it, and the florist pinned it up with materials from his truck. By the time he finished, no one was the wiser, and I certainly hope that he got a huge tip!

Finally, it was time for the ceremony. The groom and his attendants awaited everyone on the dais. One by one, the bridesmaids walked up the center aisle. Then we waited for the flower boy (the girl insisted on being carried by her mom, who was the third bridesmaid). And waited. And finally saw him, sprinkling rose petals behind him, coming up the side aisle. Mental note to specify the route for small children in the future. Fortunately, it broke up some of the tension in the room, as we all awwwed at him.

Then the bride came with her dad, and she was handed off to the groom. She looked gorgeous and as happy as any bride should. The opening line of the ceremony mentioned the importance of the chuppah and what the roof of it stood for (ha! Again, I’m so glad we insisted that was fixed!). There were no hitches, no lost rings, no missed steps. And suddenly, my friends were married!

The reception was just as lovely, with a gorgeous cake that I would never have dreamed up in a million years but that I totally loved and would have had for my wedding cake had I seen it. Plus, there was the surprise poker groom’s cake and the tuxedo flowers (that I only tasted because I stole one off an untouched plate near the end of the ceremony).

The dinner was delicious, with the main course of a center cut filet and crab cake – two of my favorite foods. It went faster than I thought it was going to, but the wait for the cake was worth it. I had the coconut (it was coconut, right?) cake that was supposed to have raspberry filling. Mine lacked the filling, as it was a tiny corner piece, but I snagged some of the filling from my husband’s piece who so generously shared when his attention was diverted. To be fair, I did give him my entire groom’s cake piece, as I’m not a fan of chocolate cake.

Once the dining was over, the band started to play, loudly as you’d expect at any public event. This was all the groom’s doing, and the Lost Boys play 80s music, which I’m totally good with. I think I danced for almost the entire time, with maybe one five or so minute break. The only downside is that there were literally no slow songs to dance to, which was a bit of a bummer. The gamut of songs they played was incredible though, and they did a great job, even though most of the guests left once cake was served. Personally, I don’t get leaving a wedding that early, but I’ve been to enough where people head out once cake is served. I don’t remember that really happening at my wedding so much, but I could have faulty recall there, too.

I will say that everything there was fantastic and well done. If anyone is ever getting married in the Houston area and needs some referrals of wedding vendors, I can definitely speak to the strengths and weaknesses of those that were used by my friend.

Finally, we got to the toasts. The co-best men gave their spiel, and I immediately was grateful that I had a written copy of mine with me as I listened to them. Then a friend of the groom’s parents gave his toast (and three times called the groom by the wrong name, which apparently was not an inside joke), which he does at every function where the families are together. Finally, it was my turn. I gave my toast and went to hug the bride. At which point I found out that I’d made her cry! That’s the mark of a good toast in my book, and it made my night to know that I’d touched her.

The next morning, we had a brunch hosted by the bride’s family at a house on the hotel grounds. Again, everyone from out of town, plus all the relatives were invited, so you can imagine the mass of people. When I had gotten the original invitation to the brunch, I had assumed it would be more formal, with food served, the hosts saying a few words, everyone there at the same time, etc.

The way they actually did it was very different, but it worked. The whole Manor House was rented out, and it was a beautiful spread of a buffet. People came in and left when they chose between 10 and 12, and they simply sat in a room at a table that appealed to them. The only disappointment I had was that I really had to search out the parents and in-laws to thank them again as I was leaving. The bride and groom chose to sit at my table, at least, so that made things easy!

Oh, and that whole outfit I’m wearing in the pictures at brunch… the whole thing is going. I never realized how unflattering that blouse is, but the magic of Kodak will certainly clear that up. I’m not sure I want any more pictures of me in any clothes after that! And the pants… well, as I was packing everything up in the bathroom, my makeup slipped off the counter and shattered on the floor. Oh yeah, and it splattered all over the legs of my pants (yep, before breakfast, yay!). I’ve tried everything I can think of to get the makeup out of the pants (that I’d worn once before that Sunday), but they’re trashed. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them, but I’m not holding my breath.

Ok, and here’s my moment to be petty. The third bridesmaid did not choose a dress that flattered her. The primary issue is that she insisted on ordering a size 8, yet she is larger than I am (and I didn’t order an 8). With an empire neckline and A-line skirt, she didn’t have the most forgiving dress. We found out later that the MIL had to rip out the lining in order for her to be able to zip the dress. And she still (in the words of a friend of mine) looked like an overstuffed sausage in the dress. Another word of caution for those who are getting caught up in numbers instead of what really fits. While my dress turned out to be slightly too large even after taking it in some, I’m still thrilled that it fit well enough to not make me look like an immense cow.

And now, for the toast (and no, I didn’t write it on the plane. I actually wrote it Friday morning while waiting for the bride to pick us up to get our mani/pedis – but I did find the time to write it at least!):

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Michelle. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. K and Mr. and Mrs. R for such a lovely evening tonight, and to J and A for inviting me to be a part of it.

I’ve known J since she graduated from business school and started working at the same consulting company I did ten years ago. We’ve been through a lot together, and I couldn’t be happier for her tonight.

You couldn’t ask for a better friend than J. She is incredibly generous and always willing to help out. She’s never gone on a trip and not come back with some sort of gift for me, for my children, for my kitchen, or for whoever she thought might enjoy something she saw. She never comes to my house empty-handed, although all I ask of her is some company.

(This was directed at J) Over the years of spending time in each other’s company, we’ve had lots of fun, from someone offering to buy you at a Bears game to more cooking classes than we can count to endless Slurpee’s from the Seven-Eleven across from Wrigley that we’d enjoy at Cubs’ games. We’ve both had our share of dating issues and definitely kissed our share of frogs. In the past, we’ve joked that we are freak magnets, but tonight you’ve proven that this isn’t true.

It’s time to say goodbye to bad blind dates and awkward meetings in bars and to Ivy League dinners. In the past, there have been guys you’ve dated who we knew weren’t the one, but we always supported you. When you started talking about A, there was something different.

It’s far more than that, however. A and J are a great match. Each has quirks, but those quirks complement each other. A is a rock for J when she needs one, and J has an excuse to really cook with A. They both challenge each other intellectually and keep each other on their toes, which should provide years of entertainment for both them and those of us who are around them. But most importantly, J and A make each other happy, and you can’t ask for more than that.

I always knew that there was a man out there for J who would truly understand her and love her the way she deserves, and I’m so glad to see that she waited to find A, and that he is all those things for her. It may have been many years in the making, but A was certainly worth waiting for. It is so great to finally see you so happy.

Best wishes to the happy couple on their wedding day. May your love for each other grow with each passing year and blossom into your own family.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Winter, No Summer, No Fall, No... I Give Up

Today started out fairly cool, and I sent both the wee ones to school wearing long sleeves and coats. Of course, this is Chicago, so by the time they got home from preschool, spring was in full swing with the sun out and warmth abounding.

As I picked up Little Miss from preschool, I didn’t make her put on her coat to go to the car. In fact, we played outside while we waited for Mister Man’s bus. As he climbed off the bus, I was relieved to see that his coat was shoved into his backpack, so at least he wasn’t roasting.

Once inside, I changed them into more appropriate attire. Little Miss had on a little dress, while Mister Man put on shorts and a t-shirt. We ate lunch, read a couple books, and they headed up for naps.

When it was time to go upstairs to wake them up so we could start the next phase of our day, I started with Mister Man. As I approached his room, I could hear a noise that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Opening the door, I realized that he’d turned his overhead fan on full blast. Without even looking in his direction, my mind immediately went to two thoughts: 1) he didn’t stay in his bed as he’s supposed to, so he probably didn’t sleep and 2) he was playing with the light switches which he’s forbidden from doing (after coming into his room in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep one too many times and discovering his lights on, that privilege was revoked).

Then he popped out from under his covers. Immediately I noticed that his shirt was off, as were his socks. And his shorts were nearly there.

Me: Uhhh, Mister Man. You took off your clothes.
Mister Man: Well, it was hot.
Me (noting the logic of his statement as I shivered under the breeze of his fan): Apparently. Generally you can leave your clothes on though, not turn on the fan and just sleep on top of the covers, and that works just as well.
Mister Man: Oh. But Mommy, I didn’t get all the way undressed.
Me: True, but you don’t really have any clothes left on.
Mister Man: (Quite indignantly) Yes, I do. I only unbuttoned and unzipped my shorts. I didn’t actually take them off, so that doesn’t count.

Apparently, not. I’m not taking any cues from him the next time I get hot though! And of course, by the time we met my parents for dinner, it was pretty chilly again and we needed our jackets. And I wonder why no one is ever completely healthy around here!


And I swear tomorrow will have the wedding recap, including pictures!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Green Is A Popular ... Color

So my company is going green. It’s quite proud of the fact that its new building is carbon neutral. In fact, there was an article in the paper about it recently.

Going green is a good thing, and I’m all in favor of it. But some of it seems a bit hypocritical.

For example, apparently our clean desk policy is green. Yep, the fact that we can have no paper on our desk at the end of the day or if we are leaving our workspace for more than 2 hours apparently makes us green.

I finally decided it’s because the paper collects dust if it sits on the desk, which necessitates the use of cleaning products which aren’t green. Forget the people who throw things away only to reprint them the next day.

And I learned tonight when a friend of mine was over that apparently the building gets power from appropriate sources, which means that there is a lack of power. So for the multiple thousand of people who work there, we have six microwaves. They’re all in the cafeteria, and when I was there for the first time today I saw the long long LONG line. But apparently we have enough power to have flat screen tvs throughout the building everywhere brainwashing us about how great the company is.

Surprisingly, the cleaning materials tend to be more harsh chemicals, too. I know this simply from the smell, let alone the containers that I can see them using. The interesting part of this to me is that Illinois recently began requiring that all school use environmentally friendly cleaners, so you know they’re out there.

But there are good things that they’ve done, too. Although the office is further from home for just about everyone I know (meaning more miles driven in traffic), they’re also incorporating working from home for many more people, which somewhat offsets that.

The cleaning staff also cleans during the day vs at night, which is a bit odd to see people polishing and vacuuming (and somewhat distracting when on a call but that’s ok) as you’re working, but no lights are needed for them to see at night to clean.

And in the cafeteria, there are no disposable plates or cutlery. It’s all white china – and sadly, I like it and am tempted to ask where they got it for when my current dish set needs replacing – and regular silverware. Less in the landfill, yay! They actually separate out the china from the paper (napkins, wrappers, etc) from the food waste. The food waste is recycled and utilized for something – sorry, I forget if it’s compost or animal food or what – and the paper products are also recycled.
But I still go back to the clean desk policy being green. It’s an audit requirement, people. There’s spin, and then there’s flat out silly. But hey, if someone can come up with a good way that no paper is green, I want to hear it!

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