Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Businesses and websites

This is something that drives me crazy. In this day and age, why do so many businesses not have a webpage? Even a static page with basic information seems to be an essential part of doing business these days. Yet so many companies don't bother.

Putting your own information out means you have control over it. For example, Applacres doesn't have a webpage, but you can find some basic info on other sites about apple picking locations. That doesn't mean the info (hours, produce, etc) is up to date.

Putting a webpage up can help bring in business. When I am looking for a service or product, I am more likely to do a web search (yes, usually Google) rather than pick up a phone book. Also, by searching online, I can get more wide-ranging results. I can also find information late at night when I have time. If I'm limited to calling and asking for information, it's not necessarily going to happen, because I can't always make a call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Listing basic information, even if details require a phone call, can help weed out options. A real example here is the lack of online information about preschools in Bloomington. Moms either have to look through a phone book and call each one or give up. That page of basic info could tell me, before wasting my time and the school personnel's, whether it is a good fit. If it's too expensive, has bad hours, has a religious program or not, etc. I lucked out, but I know so many moms who are frustrated at not being able to do basic research before picking up the phone.

I'm sure there are lots of other good points. One final thought is to keep the information updated. Tonight I went looking for a local farm that participates in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where we could buy a share of local, seasonal produce. One that pops up on search is Musgrave Orchard.... but the data dates to the 2006 growing season. Does this mean they just haven't updated or that they no longer do it? Either way, they really should update their page. (I sent an email but got a garbage auto-reply, so unless I get another response later, I'll assume they don't do it anymore.)

Friday, December 11, 2009


We went to see Cirque Dreams Illumination tonight. Wow! Great show. Highlights included:

  • a slack wire walker who was awesome
  • cube aerialists, 4 contortionists from Mongolia who did a routine in spinning cubes above the stage (Chris says Mongolian contortionists are always good)
  • popper Robert Muraine (from "So You Think You Can Dance")
  • a vaudevillian director who took 4 audience members and 'directed' a scene without saying a word
  • foot manipulator brothers (also called icarian games)
  • a percussion juggler who played a drum set by juggling balls
  • the contortionists along with the popper, which was a neat juxtaposition of old and new styles of a similar art
  • a paint can stacker, who stacked rollers between paint cans then stood on top on a balance board (our thought - "that's never a good idea" - when he had paint can/roller/paint can/roller at 90/paint can/balance board, all on top of scaffolding, then stood on top)
  • a strap flyer, paired with a dancer - wow! very erotic routine
  • perch balancer/aerialist pair, which is an old-time art that is rarely seen these days
We are so glad we went to the show. Next time we need closer seats, but it was a packed house. 


This is the 100th post on this blog, so I thought I would try to post 100 things to smile about.

  1. The earth is still rotating around the sun.
  2. Babies are cute.
  3. Babies grow up.
  4. Cold weather kills bugs: notice mosquitos the size of dinner plates and malaria don't exist in Indiana.
  5. Snow is beautiful (until you have to drive in it.)
  6. Bloomington is a beautiful town.
  7. Netflix.
  8. Good friends who help us when we need it.
  9. There are garbage men who collect our trash.
  10. Polka bots, argyle and plaid, just not together.
  11. Steak 'n' Shake - steakburgers and shakes.
  12. Washable markers.
  13. Sidewalk chalk.
  14. Groundhogs in the backyard.
  15. The end of the semester.
  16. Hot chocolate.
  17. Elvis. 
  18. The Beatles.
  19. ABBA.
  20. Queen.
  21. Skype, email, Facebook to stay in touch.
  22. "Phineas and Ferb".
  23. Kittens.
  24. Puppies.
  25. Babysitters.
  26. Spending the day in pajamas just because.
  27. Pizza. Especially really good pizza.
  28. Old friends.
  29. New friends.
  30. Having no plans for the weekend.
  31. Going  to the zoo.
  32. Watching a child open a present.
  33. Tahiti.
  34. A cruise.
  35. Taking the long way home.
  36. Driving in the country.
  37. The mountains.
  38. Christmas morning.
  39. Making a snow man.
  40. "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
  41. The first warm day after a long winter.
  42. A perfect sunny Saturday.
  43. Finding $20 in your pocket.
  44. A massage.
  45. Hearing a child giggle.
  46. Wookies.
  47. Muppets.
  48. "Daddy fix."
  49. The students leave for break next week.
  50. Pixar.
  51. Indoor plumbing.
  52. Electricity.
  53. Cookies. 
  54. Ice cream., especially on a hot day.
  55. Homemade lasagna.
  56. Good neighbors.
  57. Families that get along.
  58. Curly hair.
  59. Not having to make dinner.
  60. Going to bed early.
  61. A good book.
  62. A cat purring on your lap.
  63. Luke is Leia's brother.
  64. Orion disappearing from the night sky.
  65. "The Philadelphia Story".
  66. "MythBusters".
  67. Sleeping in.
  68. A beautiful sunrise or sunset.
  69. Hearing a joyful "Mommy!" when picking up Wil from school.
  70. Getting the kids in bed early.
  71. Having the car in the garage on a cold, snowy day.
  72. Heated seats.
  73. Roasting marshmallows.
  74. Both kids napping at the same time.
  75. "I love you Mommy."
  76. Fitting into my skinny jeans.
  77. Date night!
  78. Finding Sam's blanket and bink.
  79. British comedies.
  80. Reruns of old shows on cable or the net.
  81. Listening to the boys play.
  82. Little kid voices.
  83. J. D. Robb books.
  84. A balanced checkbook.
  85. Old fashioned block parties.
  86. Game night.
  87. Chris coming home early.
  88. "10 Things I Hate About You".
  89. Christmas specials.
  90. Sunny evenings in summer.
  91. Chocolate.
  92. Going down a slide.
  93. Having kids is a great excuse to play.
  94. Great sci-fi shows.
  95. Harry Potter.
  96. A cozy roof over our heads.
  97. Snuggling in bed on a cold morning.
  98. Holidays with family.
  99. Taking a long walk.
  100. Chris.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Buy her jewelry? That's love?

Along with the holidays, the jewelry store commercials have gone into overdrive. They drive me nuts!

Every jewelry store advertises that the gift she wants is jewelry. And she won't love him unless he finds the perfect, expensive piece. Because jewelry equals love.

Argh! Is this offensive to anyone else?

I'm not a jewelry girl, but still, here goes:

Jewelry is cold.
Jewelry is usually impersonal.
Jewelry is not thoughtful - it's a cop-out.

I'd rather have something that took thought. Even if it's just a book I'd enjoy or something that reminded Chris of me. Things that are practical are ok - I'm a practical person and stuff that makes my life easier is thoughtful to me.

It's all about knowing the woman and finding what makes her happy. But the jewelry stores aren't going to say that. They want to sell... jewelry! Not much of a rant, but I'm too tired to expound on why these commercials bug me so much.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas memories

'Tis the season, so I've been thinking about Christmas. There are 23 days until the big day, and a lot to do in between. I'm almost done shopping. I used to finish before Thanksgiving, but that's a dream these days. I have a cookie exchange coming up, plus baking cookies to give to neighbors and friends. And I still need to do most of my decorating, including the tree.

The best Christmas present I ever received was when Wil was a month old.  I asked for a night of sleep and my mom came through. She got up at night with him, giving him a bottle, so I could get 8 hours of sleep. Talk about proof that the best gifts don't need to cost a lot, or even anything.

We're pretty lucky. Our families don't pressure us about the holidays. My parents celebrate with us and my sister's family the weekend after Christmas. That makes it easy for us to spend the actual day with Chris's family and my sister to see her in-laws. My parents usually spend the day with my mom's brothers in Chicago. My mom chose to do things this way specifically so there was no arguing and we can put it on the calendar each year. We always know what our plans will be! Thanksgiving is often with both families since they get along so well. This year was no exception. It really helps to have parents who like each other and don't see holiday time as a competition.

Barring illness, which kept us home last year, this should be a really fun year for Christmas. The boys are both old enough to enjoy opening presents. Wil is somewhat aware and Sam just likes presents.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thoughts about President Obama

I've heard the opinion that one can't support the President because he did X, Y or Z, a horrible mistake. It strikes me as funny how the tables have turned and those who complained now rejoice and those who rejoiced now complain. 

Do I think Obama is perfect? No, he's human. Do I agree with everything he does? No. Do I think he's in a tough spot, as is any US President? Absolutely. Do Presidents need to compromise? Yes. Are the choices sometimes bad or bad? Definitely. I wouldn't want to be responsible for some of the situations that happen. Is the President sometimes at the mercy of Congress (Congress actually writes and passes the laws!) Yep.

Every President does things that are good and things that are not so good. I think most have one thing in common: they want to make a difference and think they have good ideas to solve our problems. And some of those ideas sounds good but turn out bad in practice and vice versa.

I'm disappointed that some of Obama's goals have not been met. I think some are bigger than he imagined and will just take time. I think some are more complicated than they appeared. There are some that I wish he would follow through on. I never thought he was a Messiah, which seems to be the assumption of those who didn't support him about those who did.

I like the new Educate to Innovate initiative. Hey, the Mythbusters were invited to the White House for this! Having an intellectual, someone smarter than me, in the White House, is kind of nice. 'Cuz I sure don't know how to solve our problems.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Betty Crocker I'm not

Saturday was a day of baking. I decided to try my hand at a molded, decorated cake for Wil's birthday this year. It is both harder and easier than I thought it would be, but I took a few pictures of the process:

I started with baking the cake in the morning. I make spice cake for Wil's birthday and strawberry for Sam's so they each have a special cake until they are old enough to choose their favorite. After the cake cooled, I worked on icing it off and on all afternoon and finally finished around 8:30 p.m. Some of the markings (from the pan) didn't show well, so I had to freehand a lot of the design, so it doesn't look exactly like the picture; I also had one big goof, but I didn't notice until after I cleaned up so oh well! Overall, I think it turned out well and Wil loved it!

While the cake was cooling, I took the opportunity to try a recipe we had read about, Indian pudding. This is a corn meal and molasses pudding that is possibly something served at the first Thanksgiving. It's interesting and not bad, but not something I would make every day. Or even often.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ah, teen romance

With New Moon in theaters now, I've been thinking about the whole Twilight saga again. I enjoyed the books and the first movie. I'm planning on seeing this movie. But I have a few concerns about the appeal of Edward to teenage girls - it must be the mom in me.

Edward is a stalker. Really, Bella didn't like him at first and if she hadn't decided he was the love of her life, she could have gotten a restraining order against him. He snuck into her room at night to watch her sleep. He followed her. If he weren't the romantic hero of the story, it was the perfect set-up for a horror story.

And then there's the whole Bella wanting to die thing. Life is precious. That she wants to throw it away because she can't imagine any experience that could be worthwhile is very sad and scary. Are we now encouraging young women to not live for themselves? That they have nothing unless they have a man? Education is only necessary if you don't have a rich guy?

And the whole Romeo/Juliet vibe. Why does every teen romance in pop culture need to involve the melodrama of "I can't live without you. I'll [literally] die" and then often follow through? Really, breaking up hurts, but it isn't fatal. Lovers throughout history have parted and survived the ordeal, usually gaining wisdom and learning from the experience, painful though it may be. Wouldn't it be better to show teens how to survive a break-up?

I have to say I'm on Team Jacob in this one. At least he's still alive! Or even Team Human Guy. (I do have a soft spot for Jacob and wonder what the series would have been like if he got Bella in the end.) The fourth book in the series was my least favorite. I found the themes disturbing and actually thought it seemed familiar - maybe Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches series? I really think one of those involved a similar type of birth, but I haven't re-read to verify.

All that being said, as an adult who is capable of separating real life and fiction, I really did like the books and found myself escaping into the travails of Bella, Edward, and Jacob. I laughed and cried at the appropriate moments (with an occasional cringe as my inner adult jumped in.) I just hope all the teenage girls going gaga over Edward understand that romance shouldn't be that traumatic. And death is never the answer.

Update: There is a good review of the New Moon movie here that identifies some of the same type of themes I found disturbing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When it's time to call it quits

I've spent a lot of time and energy over the last year trying to make a moms group function well. Last November, the Moms Club of Bloomington - East disbanded and created our own club, the Moms of Bloomington. We tried to make things work better than they were, but unfortunately it didn't work. We made the decision to disband the group and it is now officially over.

It's a relief for me in a lot of ways. I feel like I put a lot of work in for no reason. A lot of moms kept saying they wanted us to keep the group going and they were excited, but they never went to events. It is extremely discouraging when you plan something and no one comes. Especially when someone responded that they would. There were many times when I might have preferred to stay home if we were having a bad day but went out because someone else was supposed to be there... only no one showed up. It's frustrating.

I'm kind of mad that so many people said they were going to participate but didn't. I would be less upset if people could admit they didn't have the time, desire, energy, whatever, than to talk a good game and leave me hanging. Just tell me you can't do it! It hurts less to hear 'no' than to hear 'yes' and see 'no'.

Luckily I am in another moms group that is very functional, with a lot of active moms. I'm happy that I've met so many nice moms and kids through both groups. And now it's time to let the past rest and move on. I only have one calendar to figure out now, so that's a big plus.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you

Today is Veteran's Day, so I think it appropriate to post a thank you to all the men and women currently serving in our armed forces as well as those who have in the past. I've known people in various branches of service, including some in the family, and appreciate the efforts of all who serve.

So, here's remembering Grandpa (Army, WWII), Great-grandpa (Army, WWI), Tom (Air Force MP).

And to Opa (Air Force), Dad E (Air Force), cousin Jeremy (Air Force), The Colonel - Mr. M. (Army), Ed (Navy), Mr. B. (Army, Green Beret, Vietnam), Tony (Army), and all those I'm forgetting at the moment.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A little politeness, please

Have you used an Automated Postal Center lately? 

When I am done making a purchase, the machine always 'asks' politely whether it may help me further. I may be weird, but in my mind, I always think 'no, thank you'. The options are, of course, 'yes' or 'no'. 

Which makes me wonder if more automated machines used standard polite options, would people start to pick them up? Granted, it's probably not going to change the world, but a little more politeness in the world can't be a bad thing.

That is all. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The joy of a pile of leaves

I raked leaves in most of the back yard late this afternoon, with 'help' from the boys. They had a lot of fun playing in the piles.

Watching them have such fun made raking a lot of leaves more enjoyable. There were a lot fewer than before we took down the rotting maple (I'd say about 1/3 as many).

They had so much fun sitting in the leaves, getting dirty and damp, not worrying about bugs. There is such joy in that innocence and naivete that we lose as we grow older and think about all the possible icky things (or dangers if we extrapolate).

Having kids is a great reminder that clothes clean and so do we. Enjoying the moment is something I would like to strive to do more. We have a pretty good life and are learning to be satisficers rather than perfectionists, so I think that will help. But one of the best ways I know is to look at the world through the eyes of a child. It's a cliche because it's true.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Scent overload

Has anyone else noticed that it is almost impossible to buy anything these days without some sort of scent? When did we get to this obsession with perfumed everything? Even soap doesn't smell clean enough and has to have a 'fresh' scent! I like the smell of soap.

Barring bad b.o., what is wrong with people smelling like people? Smell is one of our strongest memory senses, yet it is almost useless these days. Would you recognize your significant other's scent? It should be appealing. Who decided 'male' (or 'female' for that matter) was a bad smell?

Why is it that you can't walk into a store without perfume assaulting you from all sides? There have been stores I've had to walk out of because the perfume is so overwhelming. And I have some allergies, which means I can't breathe in them.

At RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles, a woman got out some hand sanitizer in the row in front of us. My throat closed up a bit and my sinuses stuffed up because her hand sanitizer had to have a pretty floral scent. I would hate to be more allergic to scents, like a former co-worker, and have to leave an expensive show because someone was inconsiderate.

Yes, there are icky smells, but we are losing the smells of so many interesting things. It's hard to enjoy the aroma of a good meal when it is being drowned out by scented candles and the perfume on the diner at the next table. At least we don't have to worry about the malodorous stench of cigarette smoke.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Learning curve

A few weeks ago, we took all of the cars away from Wil (and Sam by extension, unfortunately) because Wil has been acting up, running off in stores and parking lots, laughing at punishments. It was time to do something that would sink in. Even though he isn't a bad kid, we decided to nip the bad behavior in the bud and he loves his cars, so giving them an extended time out while he earned them back seemed a good way to go.

It's been a rough few weeks. We had a few days early on where he managed to earn some of his larger trucks back, then a week and a half of bad behavior. The last 2 days seem to have been a bit of a breakthrough.

Wil understands that his cars are in time out. That's an established punishment for the rest of a day if a toy misbehaves (is used in misbehavior like being thrown). I think the trick here was to create the link between 'if you keep doing what you are doing, you will get a time out' and 'if you get a time out, you don't earn any cars' to 'if you keep doing what you are doing, you won't earn any cars.'

I think one of his a-ha moments was last night. Sam dumped a box of blocks on the floor; Wil was upset for some reason that I haven't figured out. Wil picked up the blocks, put them in the box, and put the box back on the shelf of his own volition. Without being asked. And immediately earned a car (his school bus) right then and there. Bingo! If he does something good, he gets a coveted car!

He was pretty good the rest of the evening, so I let him pick 10 small cars (he has enough that we have to do them in batches or he may never earn them all back) before he went to bed. Today he was pretty good again, so about half an hour before bedtime, I let him pick another 10 small cars. He was ecstatic to play with them again. He knew exactly which ones he wanted.

I've felt bad for Sam since he's being punished by Wil's bad behavior. Today, he was really good while we took one of the cats to the vet, so I let Sam earn his school bus today. I think it's fair that they both can get a reward for good behavior. I'm also trying to reward more good behavior rather than just an absence of bad behavior. I think that is a little more concrete for them. Let's hope they earn all the cars back soon. I really don't want to keep them in the holding tank forever!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


We saw Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles last night. Excellent show! Considering we were born after the Beatles broke up and two members are gone, this is as close as either of us will ever get to seeing them in concert - and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

I think the costume changes to illustrate the eras was a wonderful visual cue to the attitudes of the time. There were also 3 projection screens which showed scenes from the original Beatles concerts/shows, RAIN re-enacting famous pictures, or other graphics during the music. Between sections, the screens showed scenes of the time while playing contemporary music (early rock 'n' roll, Buddy Holly, etc, leading up to the Ed Sullivan Show segment at the beginning; Summer of Love, protests, Jimmy Hendricks leading into the Abbey Road era). It was a nice way to transition time and set the scene, making the music more relevant. It's amazing what a good job of re-posing pictures they did, inserting RAIN. Some were hard to tell the difference.

This really was much more than a standard impersonation - Chris and I decided after the show that it was much more like a re-enactment. Awesome, awesome show. Yes, there were songs they didn't do, but they hit most of the important ones and there just wasn't time for everything. Our incomplete Beatles library is almost 10 hours of music.

What a great show for homecoming weekend!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Walk on by....

I thought I would catalog some of the places I walk in town, double stroller and all:

To the post office (.6 miles from home)
To Barnes & Noble (~1.2 miles from home)
To the mall (I don't know that I've tracked this, but I guess ~1.5 miles)
To Marsh (~1 mile from home)
To campus (2-3 miles, depending on where on campus, from home)
To Eastland Plaza (I haven't tracked this, but my guess is ~1.8 miles)
To the park (~.5 mile from home) and often on to Bruster's (.7 miles)
Past Eastland Plaza to the credit union (not sure, but maybe 2 miles)

I've also been known to take the bus downtown and walk to the farmer's market, the library, or other destinations, usually only a few blocks from a bus stop.

Some of the walks we've taken include the B-Line Trail, a campus woodland tour (we need to do the campus limestone tour in the spring), downtown historic tour of the square, and laps in College Mall.

People always think I'm crazy, but this is how I get exercise. And if I can get somewhere without taking the car, it saves on gas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tired of poop

It's been a long week.

We got two new kittens last Wednesday, Dinah and Cole. The other cats have been a bit upset, although they will eventually adjust. But, the new kittens have created some clean-up around the house. We're not completely sure if it was the kittens, the older cats, or a combination, but we woke up Thursday morning so a steaming pile in the hallway. Then Sam's bed became the alternate litter box Friday morning. I think we've discovered at least part of the problem: I caught Roarke, our alpha, guarding the stairs to the den so the kittens couldn't get to the basement and the little box. So, we're working on making it easy for them to go and keeping bedroom doors closed for a while so they can't leave messes on beds.

Friday Sam woke us up at 4 am throwing up. He only threw up once more, after lunch, but he definitely didn't feel good and was clingy and cuddly all day. He did have a low-grade fever in the evening.

Sunday, Chris woke up with a stomach bug. Sunday was a very bad day, because stomach viruses are "fast and furious". He had to take yesterday off work and class and is just starting to feel hungry and eat again.  At least he's able to clean up after himself, because I was getting really tired of cleaning up poop and puke.

So, it's been a rough week. Chris still has a major project at work this week. Next week will hopefully be better.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

His father's son

Wil is the image of his father in so many ways. He looks just like Chris at that age, he's a very picky eater (but hey, at least he's eating now!) And today he followed the footsteps of dad, only at a much younger age, in another adventure:

He went searching for presents.

While I was putting away the boys' laundry, Wil decided to explore in our closet, which he is not supposed to go in. And he found a guitar that was supposed to be a Christmas present but will now be a birthday present. He was so proud of himself, bringing it to me proclaiming, "Look! My guitar!"

After being reprimanded for that, a little later, while I was downstairs starting a load of laundry, he decided to explore our closet more, looking for more presents since he discovered my (now former) hiding place. He was pulling things out, although luckily didn't find the rest of the loot as it was above his reach.

Needless to say, I had to find a new hiding place after he went to bed, and our door was closed until then to keep him from exploring more.

He's not quite 3! Isn't this supposed to start when he's older? Chris doesn't remember looking for presents until he was around middle school age. He was also sneakier, opening boxes, playing with the toys, then repackaging them. His mom didn't know until a few years ago when he was telling a story at Christmas dinner.

I guess I should be pleased that Wil didn't try to hide it and immediately brought his find to me. But there aren't that many places to hide things in this house! And I'm not going to do all my shopping on Christmas Eve just to keep him from finding stuff.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Exploring religion

I've been exploring various religions recently to see what they have to say.

I started by trying to read the entire Bible, although I'm still in the Old Testament, because I'd like to read it myself rather than just have someone tell me what is in it. I will eventually finish. I'm also in the middle of The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions, which briefly skims the major religions of the world. I have finished Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and am just getting into other religions around the world. It's interesting to read the basic tenets of each and there are parts to all that I find fascinating.

I won't go into what my personal take on religion is because I really don't want to get into a flame war. But Chris sent me a link to a YouTube video that fits with my current exploration, so I wanted to share it.

Putting faith in it's place

I will say that two of the reasons I started this learning quest are 1) the habit of believers of various faiths to try to push their particular religion without worrying about offending anyone who believes differently and yet getting offended if you try to state your point of view and 2) current events including a) insistence that the U.S. is a Christian nation and b) anti-Islamic sentiment. I really don't want to say more because I'd rather not start arguments. But the video above really fits with my quest.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Triangles and circles and squares, oh my

Last night as I was making Wil's lunch for school today, I found myself once again cutting the sandwich into triangles. Wil loves triangles* so this is partly a tactic aimed at encouraging him to eat his sandwich. But  there's a much deeper story here too.

One of my childhood memories is of eating sandwiches cut on the diagonal at my grandparents' house. At home, they were always cut in half top to bottom into rectangles, but Grandma and Grandpa always cut on the diagonal. It's funny how these things stick with us, but I always liked that. And I never cut my own sandwiches that way - it was something special.

Now I find myself cutting sandwiches for the boys and for Chris on the diagonal all the time. So when I did it last night, I stopped to think about why I do it. I think it has to do with rectangle sandwiches being ordinary everyday in my mind and triangles having that special bit of love in them. I guess sending Wil to school and Chris to work with triangle sandwiches is my way of sending them with a little love in their lunches. Hokey, but I think that's it.

* Part of why Wil really likes triangles is because he participated in a psychology study over the summer. It was a week long sleep study, plus a lab visit where they played games with him. One of the games involved a play house. A character would knock on the door and he had to decide if he wanted to open it. Mr. Triangle would give a Hershey's Kiss, Mr. Square would take one away, and Wil didn't know who was knocking each time. The point was to see if he would stop playing because he had enough rather than risk losing another.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Road warriors

There are several road construction projects on the books for the Bloomington/Monroe County area. There is a group opposed to ALL of the projects. I am on the email list where the group discusses strategies and thoughts about traffic because I am president of the Grandview Hills Neighborhood Association and by being informed, I can pass along information to folks in our neighborhood.
To start, some of the proposed projects (in various stages) include:
  • widening Bypass from Walnut to 3rd
  • widening SR 45 (E 10th St) from Bypass to Russell Rd
  • I-69 expansion from Indy to Evansville
  • improving E 10th St though campus, possibly by making a pair of one-ways
The B-TOP group does not want any of these to happen. They also have proposed closing 10th St and 3rd St through campus to bus only traffic.
All of this is an introduction to a few of my thoughts. While I can agree with the need to make the local roads more pedestrian and bike friendly, I have concerns about the idea of crippling transportation.
There are no true east-west corridors through town. Options include Bypass, 10th (which doesn't go through), 3rd/Kirkwood, Rogers/Winslow/Country Club/Tapp. The point of closing 3rd and 10th through campus is to make campus safer, which is great. And their goal is to get more cars off the street and force more people to walk, bike or use public transportation. But I really don't think that will happen. If the main roads to get across town are closed, I really think that would force more traffic onto neighborhood streets. Compound that with not widening Bypass, which is already crowded, and I think gridlock would be terrible.
It's great to want to get cars off the road, and I try to use the bus or walk when I can, but there are a lot of people who live on the opposite side of town from where they work, all services are not of both sides of town, and many people live where buses don't go. There are also people for whom other options are not ideal.
I'm ambivalent about the need to widen SR 45, although turn lanes/signals would be appreciated. My only concern there is the what will happen with our neighborhood.
Bypass has enough traffic that I think widening is probably necessary, although I would like to see better bike and pedestrian access.
Making 10th and another street a pair of one-ways would probably be a better option than closing 10th the through traffic. Isn't it better to concentrate traffic on a few streets where people know they need to be careful than disperse it into neighborhoods?
Anyway, I may update with a few more thoughts later, but that is my first round of thoughts on this issue.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An apple a day

I took the boys to ApplAcres in Bedford yesterday. They really enjoyed picking apples off the trees. I only let them pick a few, but they had fun walking around the trees.
We also picked up a few things in the store - cider, apple butter, pumpkin butter, cheese. There were free popcorn and cider samples, plus a free apple for the kids (Sam had one, Wil didn't). It was a nice way to spend an hour.
Afterward, we stopped at the Big Lots parking lot in Bedford for a petting zoo that was there for a few days. Wil liked petting the goats and llamas and was fascinated by the ponies, although I didn't pay for a pony ride. There were also: a tiger, 2 capuchin monkeys, a python, a kangaroo, and a few more.
To finish off, I treated the boys to lunch at the McDonald's across the street since it was lunch time, almost an hour home, and I only had $6. I think they both had fun and we'll have to take Chris there sometime.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Self-serving folks out of jobs

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but I always forget when I get home from the store.
Have you noticed how many things, including grocery store check-outs are now self-serve? And people love them! And then they complain that companies are laying people off, not hiring, jobs are disappearing....
Just thought I would mention the obvious: if a company can get its clients/customers to work for free, why are they going to pay someone to do that job? I generally try to be helped by an actual person when possible.
Something to think about.

Future teen idol

Lately, Sam's hair has been looking a bit like Zac Efron from High School Musical. I finally figured out why. He loves to play peek-a-boo by putting his blanket over his head then pulling it forward, which pulls his hair forward. Since his hair badly needed trimming, he was looking like a baby teen idol.
I did cut his hair the other day, so we shouldn't see this again for a few more weeks when it grows out. But if you wondered, that's how to get your teen idol hair do.

Friday, September 4, 2009

KISS for the food bank

One of the things I really like is when the local grocery stores have prepackaged bags ($3, $5 $10) for the food bank that you can pick up as you check out and drop in a bin on the way out. It makes it very easy to donate food and the food bank gets stuff they actually need.
Kroger usually has the bags on display around the holidays but I commented during our tour Tuesday that I really liked it because it made it super easy to donate. I don't know if my comments, made to the secretary to the manager, are the reason, but when I went to the store today, there was a display! I made sure to pick up a $3 bag (I go to the store at least twice a week, so if I get a small bag each time, the boys see us doing it and it doesn't break our budget.)
Here's the thing: having the food prepackaged and a collection bin at the store makes it simple to donate (you don't have to pick up extra stuff, hoping what you get is needed, then keep it separate as you check out or put it aside when you get home, then get it to the food bank, which is not in the most convenient location.) I understand why they wouldn't want to always have them out - people would get used to seeing them and not pay attention. But especially when the food bank is in desperate need it is such a no brainer! Having 3 or 4 food drives a year would really help.
Kroger does donate daily to the food bank as a company, per our tour guide Tuesday. I believe it. There is stuff they can't legally sell that has to be destroyed. But there is also a lot of food that is still good but won't sell. It's a good way to get rid of it since they don't need to pay for it to be trashed and it's good p.r.
So, kudos to Kroger for putting the bags and collection bins out again.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How did my garden grow?

Well, this was a lousy year for vegetable gardens around here. I got some tomatoes; apparently I was lucky. A lot of people didn't get any either because of the unseasonably cool and wet weather or because deer ate the plants.
I didn't get a huge harvest, which is okay since I can only eat so many tomatoes, although I had hoped to take lot of extras to the local food pantry. Hopefully the weather will cooperate next summer.
Tomatoes were really my only crop since they choked out the peppers and eggplant and rosemary. The basil is ok; I still need to dry some.
Next year we need to plant fewer tomato plants and spread stuff out a little more. I would like a second box. For a first foray into square foot gardening, we did alright and can learn from this year's mistakes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


One of my moms groups has started setting up tours at various companies. It's a lot of fun to see behind the scenes. So far we have toured Fazoli's (August) and Kroger (September). One thing these tours share is food!
Fazoli's was neat. We saw the big vats where they cook the pasta and the kids got to walk into the freezer. We saw the prep areas, too. But the kids really enjoyed trying on the headset for the drive-thru and talking on it. Since the restaurant wasn't open, they got to pretend to take an order. And we saw how the thingys work that light up when your order is ready. And we all got a slice of pizza.
There was much eating today at Kroger. I'm sad Wil missed it because he would have enjoyed it, but he was at school. Sam, who loves to eat, really had a good time. We toured the freezer and dairy cooler, the loading dock (and a semi), the general store room. Then the food started. We stopped at the meat/fish counter and the kids got to see sea food - including a prawn since the lobsters weren't in yet. No, nothing to eat there. But our next stop was the bakery where the kids each got to decorate a cookie to eat. And then we saw them make tortillas and each got a tortilla fresh from the oven. Oh, and a bit of cheese from the cheese/olive bar. And some chips from the chippery. The chips weren't fresh made, but they showed us the machine that makes them. They made a special veggie only sushi roll at the sushi bar for the kids to try. I even had a taste of the crab roll. After a quick stop in produce where our guide picked up a bottle of juice, we stopped at the Dunkin Donuts where the kids each got to choose a munchkin (Sam had cinnamon). We ate the doughnuts and drank the juice in the lounge - which is really nice with some chairs and tables, but also couches and a flat screen tv.
I can't wait to see what next month's tour will be!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A year of the King

We have spent the last year watching Elvis movies on Wednesday nights with some friends. We did take weeks off for various reasons - holidays, vacations, illness, etc - so it took us just under a year to complete the series. Wil loves Elvis and recognizes him on the radio or in movies now. He likes to play guitar and wiggle his hips.
As we watched, I made notes about the movies - which are the best, which should be avoided at all costs. So here is the list from most recent to the first we watched.
• This is Elvis (1981) *** interesting documentary
• Aloha From Hawaii (1973) **** good concert
• Elvis on Tour (1972) **** good concert
• That's the Way It Is (1970) **** a little drawn out getting to the concert
• Change of Habit (1969) .... Dr. John Carpenter **** essential
• The Trouble with Girls (1969) .... Walter Hale *** average • Charro! (1969) .... Jess Wade *** average, but only title song
• Elvis ('68 Comeback Special) (1968) ***** essential, Elvis at his absolute best! • Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) .... Greg Nolan **** essential • Speedway (1968) .... Steve Grayson **** Entertaining • Stay Away, Joe (1968) .... Joe Lightcloud ** worst. Elvis. movie. ever. • Clambake (1967) .... Scott Hayward/'Tom Wilson' **** average • Double Trouble (1967) .... Guy Lambert **** very entertaining, one of the better movies • Easy Come, Easy Go (1967) .... Lt. (j.g.) Ted Jackson **** entertaining with trippy yoga song • Spinout (1966) .... Mike McCoy **** entertaining • Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) .... Rick Richards *** Blue Hawaii wanna be • Frankie and Johnny (1966) .... Johnny *** average • Harum Scarum (1965) .... Johnny Tyronne ** one of the worst • Tickle Me (1965) .... Lonnie Beale/Panhandle Kid ***** surprising, highly entertaining, maybe essential • Girl Happy (1965) .... Rusty Wells **** average • Roustabout (1964) .... Charlie Rogers **** average, but entertaining • Viva Las Vegas (1964) .... Lucky Jackson **** essential • Kissin' Cousins (1964) .... Josh Morgan / Jodie Tatum ** 2nd worst Elvis movie • Fun in Acapulco (1963) .... Mike Windgren **** average, but entertaining • It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) .... Mike Edwards *** boring • Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) .... Ross Carpenter **** average • Kid Galahad (1962) .... Walter Gulick **** hanging plot line • Follow That Dream (1962) .... Toby Kwimper **** average • Blue Hawaii (1961) .... Chad Gates ***** essential, master of formula • Wild in the Country (1961) .... Glenn Tyler **** average • Flaming Star (1960) .... Pacer Burton **** Elvis in a western • G.I. Blues (1960) .... Tulsa McLean **** 1st formulaic • King Creole (1958) .... Danny Fisher ***** essential • Jailhouse Rock (1957) .... Vince Everett ***** essential • Loving You (1957) .... Jimmy Tompkins (Deke Rivers) ***** essential • Love Me Tender (1956) .... Clint Reno *** essential

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Preschool begins

Wil started preschool today. He had a great time. We took lots of pictures when we dropped him off (they are on the boys' site). He walked into his classroom, started playing and didn't look back. I think he was ready.
His preschool (Noah's Ark) runs from 9-2, which is a long day, but he did well. He ate half his lunch, which is impressive for him. When I got to the school just before 2 to pick him up, I got to see him walking back to his room with his class. They hold a rope to make a chain. He was smiling and holding on and seemed to be enjoying himself.
His class and the other 2 year old class get together a few times during the day for music, movie and play times. That's good, because one of his friends is in the other class. Today they watched Dora and Boots (according to Wil). More information reveals it was a Dora episode about blueberries. That ties in with the color they learned today, blue.
In his backpack were the things he did today: a coloring sheet about the color blue, a coloring sheet about the Bible story "Jesus loves the children," a bear he colored and then his teacher pasted together on a sheet of construction paper (his class is the Bouncing Bears), and a sheet with the names of all the kids in his class written in balloons.
There was also a letter to the parents letting us know that his teacher is leaving - Thursday is her last day. I met his new teacher at pick-up. In the brief moment we spoke, she seems fine. Hopefully she will send a letter of introduction home.
Wil was ready to go home but not anxiously waiting when I picked him up. I think he's ready to go back on Thursday. This has been a positive first day, which is what we wanted.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's pretend!

Wil is at an age where he is really starting to pretend. I find it highly entertaining to listen to him play with his cars, dolls, stuffed animals, whatever, and find out what he is thinking. This is such a fun age! Here are a few things he likes to pretend:
He role-plays that he is Caillou, Sam is Rosy (Sam has no clue!) and one of our cats is Gilbert. Sometimes Mommy and Daddy get to play the roles of Mommy and Daddy too.
With my old Barbie and Ken dolls, he plays house. One particular Ken is Daddy doll and usually Ekaterina (doll based on figure skater Ekaterina Gordeeva) is Mommy doll. Sometimes his Little People get to be the kids. We're flattered that I'm Katya and Chris is Ken.
He loves giraffes. He has lots of giraffes and has made a family with Mommy, Daddy and several baby giraffes.
He re-enacts scenes or makes up his own with his Cars and Nemo and other characters. He even substitutes other cars or critters to fill in the gaps for characters he doesn't have. Currently, he is also obsessed with Elmo, Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. He has Mickey (Sam's, but Sam let's him play with it) and Goofy; Elmo, Zoey (Mommy's), Cookie Monster (Sam's), Grover (Mommy's); Pooh and Tigger. The others he makes up with Raffe (a giraffe, what else) and other stuffed animals role-playing.
I love that he not only pretends and makes up stories, but he is able to imagine a toy is something or someone else.
Of course, the 'dark' side is that he sometimes passes blame. I don't think he understands what he's doing, because he seems to think it's all just part of pretend, but he will blame Daddy, while Daddy is at work, for something happening. When I remind him that Daddy isn't home, he corrects himself and tells me Wil did whatever.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stop, look and listen!

That's Elvis's philosophy in the song Rubberneckin'.
Wil loves Elvis, so we're using that when we cross streets. He seems to like it. When we get to a street, I ask him what Elvis says and then remind him to 'stop, look and listen.' He's starting to get the idea, although he thinks parking lots are a fun place to run off. It's a trial getting from car to building and back with both boys, especially if I have to carry anything.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthy, wealthy and wise

I honestly tried to read the House healthcare reform bill. It is huge and written in such legalese that I couldn't understand the bit I was reading. (Maybe once the current financial crisis and healthcare reform are taken care of, we can work on simplification of more legal documents, including legislation, into plain English.) So, I found a video on "Healthcare for Dummies" from FOX News (not my most trusted source, but this was actually pretty straightforward.)
Here are my thoughts on this whole debacle:
1) Things aren't working now. Costs are increasing way faster than the rate of inflation. A lot of people are losing insurance coverage because costs keep going up and it is unaffordable. People without insurance or with poor insurance tend not to be able to afford preventive care and end up in the ER with a major health issue, often not being able to pay those bills and declaring bankruptcy, which leads to whole other issues. So we all pay more to cover the losses.
2) We are so lucky to have pretty good health insurance. If we didn't, we would be in big trouble. We paid roughly $2000 for each pregnancy/delivery for me, plus about $500 per child for pediatric care within the first few months. The hospital and doctor bills added up to well over $20,000. Yeah, not pocket change.
3) Market forces are obviously not the solution since they haven't worked so far. The current bill may not be perfect, but we need to do something.
4) There are many functioning government run programs around the world. Those countries have better healthcare at less expense than we do. Can we look at what works there and try to implement it? Why is everyone so against "socialized" medicine? Seriously, if we did have a single-payer, government solution like Canada or the UK, all doctors would accept payment so your doctor wouldn't change. They actually seem to get pretty good results, despite the few bad stories you hear. There will always be someone who has problems. Can we determine if something works for 99% of the population? Because that would be a heck of a lot better than the current system.
5) The current bill doesn't have socialized medicine. It doesn't change anything for people who currently have employer-provided coverage. What it does is provide an option for people who don't have coverage. I'm no economist, so I can't explain how this is supposed to make healthcare overall less expensive other than surmising that by more people having insurance and getting primary, preventive care, there will hopefully be fewer expenses for catastrophic illnesses. And by the government getting into the game with a healthier population than just Medicare recipients (generally the elderly who generally have more health issues), the government can maybe provide a little competition to drive down costs. And the bill actually makes it harder for companies to stop providing insurance if they currently do, so maybe fewer people would suddenly lose their coverage.
Things I'd like to see:
1) Incentives for more med students to choose primary care and ways to reduce med school debt so that isn't an excuse for the huge bills. (I'm not saying that is the only reason for a large salary for a doctor, just that it shouldn't be part of the equation.)
2) Less restrictions on who can provide primary care - PA's, CNP's, midwives. I really think that would help reduce expenses because a lot of things do not require a doctor and doctors are more expensive than other practitioners.
3) Figure out a way to cut the cost of medical malpractice insurance. I really think this is a HUGE part of why some care is so expensive. Our lawsuit-happy society has kind of done this to ourselves, but can we cut the lawsuits to when they are really needed? Bob Cringely actually had an interesting idea regarding malpractice insurance.
4) Maybe there needs to be some sort of health insurance co-op, like a credit union where the insured are the owners. That way, they have say over CEO pay (no multimillion dollar bonuses!) and no stockholders to be beholden to so any profits go back into making premiums smaller. Hey, that might have actually been a brilliant idea! Now if only someone can figure out how to make it work...
On that note, I will close by saying I hope something gets done because not to act is worse than to act right now. And may we all end up, yes, healthy, wealthy (however you define wealth) and wise.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Great responsibility

Anytime anything breaks, Wil immediately says, "Daddy fix." Ok, sometimes it's, "Mommy fix." But mostly Daddy.
He has such confidence that we can fix everything. It's a nice feeling, but also comes with great responsibility to actually fix everything. And a slight bit of dread for the day when something can't be fixed. And that day came today.
The back of his garbage truck broke off and it can't be put back on because one of the little plastic tabs broke off. He was devastated. At 2 1/2 he has learned a tough lesson: sometimes things just can't be fixed. He seems to have moved on for now, but I'm waiting to see if he will ask again now that Daddy is up.
At least this lesson came with something small. What if the first disappointment had come with something big like one of the cats dying? I shudder to think of that conversation. Hopefully he will return to his confidence in Daddy's abilities because it is really very sweet and exactly what we want in a 2 1/2 year old. He should be able to trust that Mommy and Daddy will make things right at this age.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Proud parenting moments

There are some things our kids do that just make us extremely proud. Here are a few of Wil's:
This evening, we had friends over for pizza. The boys all played very nicely and when they were getting ready to leave, Wil told their son, "Thank you for playing cars." Unprompted.
A week or so ago, Sam wanted to play cars with Wil. Wil has several Lightening McQueens so I asked if he would let Sam have one. He did. The next day, when cleaning up his cars, I put that McQueen in Wil's bucket. He saw and corrected me, putting it in Sam's and telling me it was Sam's car. He really can share!
I know there are others, but those are ones I can remember. Despite all the fights over toys, I have hope that he is learning some good manners.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When a politician becomes a statesman

Chris and I were listening to an interview with Gavin Newsom on NPR. That interview is unimportant to this post. What is important is the discussion that followed.
What we both would like to see is a politician who wanted to win, but not at all costs. Where an election wasn't life or death. I bet that politician, if he or she did the job right, would get reelected.
Following opinion polls isn't a bad thing for a politician since they are elected to represent the interests of their constituents. But a politician who can balance following what their constituents want with what their conscience says is in the best interest of that constituency is probably a rare thing at the higher levels of government.
There are few statesmen left these days, and most of those are retired from politics. Once the need to win elections is gone, it seems our leaders can actually find the greatness within. And that's why I'd like to find more politicians who weren't driven by the need to win and could embrace that inner statesman while in a position to really enact change.
Will politics change? We'll see. It doesn't appear so. Some of that is the nature of the beast and the unwieldy system that has developed over the last 200+ years. Some is pragmatism at its worst. But if I ever run for office, you can be sure I will look at both sides of an issue and try to balance what is right and what is necessary, just as I hope my elected representatives do.

Part of being a mom

There are lots of challenges to raising kids, but I've been thinking lately about a couple of things, so here goes.
There is so much concern right now about childhood obesity, but having a child at the opposite end is also hard. I don't think people appreciate the difficulty of a child who doesn't like to eat and prefers liquid calories. He's consistently below the 3rd percentile and we have him in for weight checks every 3 months or so. I can't force him to eat.
I can offer food until I'm blue in the face, but he'll eat when he wants. So when he had 2 bites of a Wendy's hamburger yesterday for lunch, I was thrilled! Four bites is a lot for him, actually more than he eats in an entire day sometimes. He had a couple of bites of peanut butter and jelly today and told me it was yummy! This is a good streak and I hope it continues, because we get worried about him.
The other thing I've been thinking about is c-sections. I never went into labor with Wil. We chose a c-section when we discovered at 39 weeks that he was breech, knowing that it was likely given my circumstances that we would end up having one. With Sam, I went into labor the day before his scheduled c-section. While all babies are different, I wonder if anyone has done research on c-sections after labor. Would planned c-sections be less controversial if they were not pre-scheduled but waited until labor began? Does it make a difference? While I can't change things, it just makes me wonder if Wil would be different if I had gone into labor.
Wondering and trying to do the best you can are part of being a mom. Or dad. Chris gets just as worried about the boys.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The modern 3 R's

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I know it's been pointed out before, but they are actually in order of importance.
Reduce your waste.
What you can't reduce, reuse.
If you can't reuse that, recycle it.
(Of course, what can't be recycled gets tossed.)
We have a friend who is very thrifty and saves everything. I work for a neighbor shipping boxes of books. The guy who saves everything is passing along years worth of packing material to be reused shipping boxes of books. Go figure: what most would have considered a sign of being crazy is just his way of keeping useful things out of landfills, at least a little longer. I'm sure all those packing peanuts and bubble wrap will end up there eventually, but at least they got a second use first.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Time out for toys

Wil's toys earn time outs. He actually seems to understand and his behavior is improving since we've implemented this tactic. Here's how it works:
1) Implemented a few months ago, if Wil throws a toy at someone or hits someone with a toy, the toy goes in a clear plastic jar called the "Holding Tank" and he doesn't get it back until the following day. He can see the toy. The first few times he asked to have them back. Now, he occasionally comments on them, but doesn't ask for them back. He also doesn't throw his toys very often. And when he gets in the mood to do it, he will offer up additional toys as I collect the offending ones, as if to say, "I was going to throw these, so you might as well take them now." It's cute. He'll tell me his toys are having a time out.
2) Implemented last week and still in the learning stage, his toys get a time out for a day if they aren't picked up at night. We are still doing most of the picking up, but he's getting better at helping. I'm hoping another few weeks will have him doing more on his own. There's hope. The other night, he wanted to go up to bed, then remembered his toys were still out. So he asked to come down and clean them up so they wouldn't have a time out. Since they get put in time out at bedtime, they spend the following day in the jar.
It seems to work punishing his toys. He doesn't want to lose them, it's something he can see, and it is directly related to the offense. Giving him a time out is very temporary and he often thinks it a joke. But seeing a toy he can't play with is material, longer lasting enough that it makes an impression, and shows a clear path of action having consequences.
Now if only I can come up with a suitable creative solution to throwing food on the floor. Suggestions welcomed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My baby is growing up

Tomorrow is Sam's 1st birthday. It's bittersweet, as was Wil's first birthday, because I'm both happy and sad he's turning 1.
The first birthday is the first! It's a big deal. He's doing so many fun things and learning something new every day. I love that he's becoming more independent and can do so many things for himself. I can't wait until he starts walking so I don't have to carry him everywhere, and he's so close! He's been tentatively taking a step or two for the last couple of days. Every new stage is fun. I've really enjoyed each stage so far with both boys (despite the challenges).
But it's sad because my baby is growing up! He's never going to be this little again. He's slowly growing away from me as he becomes more independent. That's as it should be. Overall, there's more happy than sad, which is also as it should be.
So, happy 1st birthday, Sam!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Women's health

Planned Parenthood called me today to ask if I would call Baron Hill's office about the healthcare reform legislation. Their big concern was that women's reproductive health needed to be included and women should not be left worse off than they currently are.
I can get behind that sentiment. Women's reproductive health seems to get caught in the crossfire of the abortion wars. And there is a lot more to reproductive health than abortion. Actually, with better access to reproductive health, there would probably be fewer abortions.
A quote from Abigail Adams keeps running through my head which I think is very apropos:

Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.

Sadly, that request is still needed in a lot of ways.
Healthcare reform is caught in the political battle it was supposed to avoid because neither side seems all that willing to compromise. With so many countries with working health care systems, you'd think they'd have a pretty good blueprint of what works and what doesn't and it would be a matter of hammering out a few details. But our politicians seem determined to reinvent the wheel and make it square in the process.

Obey all traffic rules

One of the things I enjoy doing when someone is tailgating and being a jerk behind me is to obey the traffic rules. I got to do that this morning with the SUV driving up my rear on 2-lane Smith (with no passing zones due to hills). Think he was annoyed at actually going 30 mph, but that is the posted speed limit. And I'm sure he was irked at my full and complete stop at Moore's Pike, but a stop sign does mean stop and not roll through slowly....
Actually, that is what you are supposed to do when someone tailgates. The drivers ed text book response is to slow down to give both you and the other vehicle plenty of time to stop. So my enjoyment is just a bonus to following the rules.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Lots of magic lately:
We went to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince last night. We really enjoyed the movie and are looking forward to HP7.a and HP7.b over the next 2 years. Of course, the babysitter cost more than the movie, but it was really nice to have an evening out.
Also in Harry Potter news, we have tickets to see the exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on August 15th. Several people who have seen it say it's awesome.
Space magic abounds: Chris read the new Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts book with lots of photos from missions. He's a space geek and is enjoying the current Apollo 11 anniversary stuff.
I'm sure there's more, but those are what I can think of right now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I really have nothing to say

But I'll say something anyway. :) Isn't that the point of a blog?
The boys and I spent last weekend in Urbana with my parents and celebrated my sister's birthday. Chris spent Saturday night and Sunday morning finishing filming of the movie he's gaffer for.
Last night I went to book club for one of my moms groups. We discussed The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, which is an awesome book. I highly recommend it if anyone is looking for an interesting story that really celebrates reading and books within the intriguing story. I didn't get home until late (11 p.m.) because we were having such a good discussion and moved into mommy things to talk about (actually related to themes in the novel.) I lost track of time. I really needed a fun night where I lost track of time and got home late, although I paid a bit this morning when the boys got up at 7. It took a long time to fall asleep last night because I was still thinking about our discussion. Next month I am hosting and we are reading Fahrenheit 451.
Sam will be 1 in less than 2 weeks. Twelve days. He is really turning into a kid and I think he might actually walk before his birthday. He is soooo close! Speaking of Sam, he's letting me know that it is dinner time, so I better go make something.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Ok, so Chris and I have both griped on Twitter/Facebook about fireworks. I just have to say that the legislators obviously don't have young kids because they would not have allowed fireworks until 11 p.m. any day of the year otherwise. My kids are in bed by 9! Loud fireworks are not conducive to sllep, although they have luckily slept through them. The fireworks are amazingly loud even with the windows closed.
While I appreciate that pyros have a right to set off their fireworks, the rest of us have a right to a peaceful night's sleep. Part of the problem is that we are now in the eastern time zone, so it isn't dark enough until nearly 10. I'm not sure why fireworks don't fall under noise ordinances, but non-stationary noises are allowed until 11 p.m. Stationary noise is restricted starting at 9 p.m.
So where do fireworks fall? I can only hope that they stop now that people have had a chance to use them since the 4th was rainy. Our neighborhood email was hopping with complaints and comments today, leaving one of the fireworks users feeling bad. I hope tactful diplomacy will ease the tension and help everyone remember that we are all neighbors.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The boys are growing up

Sam is on the verge of walking. In the last week or two, he has started walking holding our hands plus he's standing unassisted on occasion. Yesterday he had fun putting Wil's baseball back on the tee. He would stand next to it, holding only the ball, and place the ball. At one point, it wasn't working and he picked up the tee and moved it! Also, yesterday he walked around the living room only holding one of my hands. I think he's much more motivated than Wil was, so he might actually walk before his birthday.
Wil is making advances in vocabulary in leaps and bounds. He is starting to put concepts together and has been speaking in whole sentences. It's really exciting to understand what he's saying. And he's fun to watch playing with his cars or his people. He re-enacts scenes from shows he's seen, but he also makes up his own stories.
I fully expect to turn Sam's car seat around in another three weeks after his 1 year check-up. We had to wait until Wil was 15 1/2 months for him to reach 20 pounds, but I really think Sam will be 20 pounds by the time he's 1. It's amazing how different the kids can be. Wil looks like Chris at that age and Sam looks like me at that age, and they are very different people in personality and skill.
Just watching them first thing in the morning shows some of the difference. Sam wakes up happy and cheerful, usually early; Wil often wakes up crying, not happy about being up, and likes to sleep in just a little. Once again, Sam takes after me and Wil takes after Chris.
Wil starts preschool in the fall. We should be getting all the info next week.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Productive Sunday

Now that the weather has broken a bit (more normal rather than 90's and humid), we were able to get a bit of work done, including the long awaited play area for the boys. It isn't done, but finishing touches and expansion can happen as we go along.
Our garden is also doing well, with the exception of the rosemary, which I think is not getting enough sun. For next year, we need to make a second box so one is only tomatoes and the other can be for whatever else we want to grow. The box is extremely convenient and easy to manage, with very little weeding. Below are pictures of 1) some of the tomatoes, 2) the pepper plants flowering, 3) the basil, 4) my mystery plant, which turns out to be eggplant, and 5) the rosemary that is not doing so well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Here are just a few moments from today:
Sam was crying earlier and Wil told him, "Sam, no cry baseball." Translation: "Sam, there's no crying in baseball." We've used that quote from "A League of Their Own" for years (Grandpa Tom started it when my niece was a baby) and Wil knows it now.
It was time for Wil to go to bed, but he wanted a piggy back ride upstairs, so he climbed up on the couch, behind Chris, and hopped on. He giggled the whole way up, and was happy getting in bed.
I picked up strawberries at the grocery store today. Sam turned and reached back for them, then proceeded to chew on the plastic clam shell through the whole store. Later when I got a few out, he cried while I cut them because I wasn't giving them to him fast enough. The boy loves strawberries.
And I have decided what kind of cupcakes he's getting for his 1st birthday. We do spice cake for Wil, because that is a great cake and very autumnal. I love spice cake and Wil seems to like it too, so that's what he gets until he chooses a favorite. Looks like Sam will be getting strawberry, which is appropriately summery.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bird house

We have an abundance of birds nesting at our house this year:
  • Doves are nesting in the evergreen bush just outside our front door.
  • Robins are nesting in the Japanese maple tree immediately next to the bush.
  • Other robins were nesting in the evergreen tree between our house and the house next door, but we saw that baby a few weeks ago and it is now gone (hopefully of its own volition.)
It's a really nice feeling that so many birds like our yard - especially so close to the house, where people go by all the time. The nest in the maple tree is right outside a window, although high enough that we can't see into it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Just a few updates:
1) Here's a current picture of my square foot garden
2) Our June challenge has been challenging. We've made 2 1/2 weeks with a few slips (mostly by Chris, although I did have a slice of the garbage pizza when his parents were here Sunday - after a burger Saturday) and I have discovered I like falafel.
3) So far, I've gotten our neighborhood approved for an ice cream social grant from the city.
4) The semester is officially over, so after tonight (photo job), we should have a few more relaxed weeks (until the end of August when the fall semester starts.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Might as well have the title too

At our neighborhood association meeting today, I was elected president for the next two years. I've actually been doing most of the work the last two years, since Chris got elected 2 months before deciding to start grad school. So, it wasn't a big surprise. Hopefully we can do lots of good stuff the next two years and maybe hand off the office to someone else next time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Letter to those who wait

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm in two moms groups. Here's my gripe, which would offend many if said at our social, but really needs airing.
"This group will only work if we all take ownership and make it work. The calendar is pretty empty because you don't put anything on it. The same 4 or 5 people regularly schedule events, but can't do everything. Don't complain that there isn't anything to do but not pull your own weight. We are all busy and understand that sometimes things happen, but you still have to participate.
"Every time we have a meeting to discuss how to make this group better, people offer suggestions, but then expect someone else to do all the work. It doesn't work that way. Some people like to plan their whole month in advance and others don't know what they will do from day to day, but there is room for both to be on the calendar.
"So, if you want the group to continue, take a coordinator position or at least try to schedule the activity/quarter that you agreed to when you signed up. The more activities on the calendar, the more to choose from and the more likely we will all find something we want to do at a time we can do it."
Now that I have theoretically offended all but the handful of people who have put a lot of effort into the group, I'll go quietly sit in my corner and think about the family activities I plan to schedule in the next few months. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Moms groups

I've joined 2 moms' groups. The first, Moms of Bloomington (The MOB), is one I helped form out of the ashes of MOMS Club. The second, Bloomington Moms (or Hoosier Mamas), I found through
I joined both groups because they have different strengths and fill different needs. Hoosier Mamas has a very full calendar and lots of activities to do. The MOB has less on the calendar, although we hope to change that, but provides age-based playgroups, a monthly social and service projects. 
The nice thing is that both are inexpensive (less than the cost of just the MOMS Club before we dissolved that), $1.50/month for both. Many moms are in both, but I have met different moms at each, so it has expanded my network. 
I see no reason to be snobby and only join one. Isn't the point to do things and meet other moms and kids? The fun part is trying to keep calendars straight. 

June challenge status

We are 1 week into our June challenge and so far it is going well. Chris forgot and had a burger at lunch mid-week, but otherwise, we chose Saturday as our meat day and managed to find other options for the rest of the week. 
It helped that I made a cheesy pasta bake on Monday and we worked on leftovers for much of the week. Lots of pb&j, ramen, beans & rice and pasta, but we like those things and they are cheap, so it's good for the pocket book. 

Friday, June 5, 2009


Ok, so I try not to rock the boat and offend other people with my opinions, but they have no problem offending me with theirs. So, here are a few things to get off my chest.
Unpopular opinion #1: Our taxes are too low.
Unpopular opinion #2: We should ditch the penny and switch the dollar to a coin. Think of all the tax money we could save.
Unpopular opinion #3: The post office should stop Saturday delivery. There would be griping, but it wouldn't really make much difference.
Opinion #4: The government really needs to get out of the business of legislating morality. This means gay marriage should be allowed because the whole man/woman thing is religious morals. This also means abortion should be between a woman, her doctor and the father of the baby (and on this note, can we improve sex ed so maybe we can reduce the need for abortion?)
Unpopular opinion #5: Mandatory sentencing should be scrapped, especially for drug crimes. Why do we spend so much imprisoning people who aren't a danger to society?
I think that's all for now. 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A trip to the zoo

We took the boys to the Indianapolis Zoo yesterday. Chris's parents joined us there, and a fun time was had by all.
Some highlights:
  •  wild monkey sex (fans of J.D. Robb will appreciate the humor, but a couple of gibbons decided to have some morning delight) 
  • Wil enthralled with giraffes
  • Sam watching Mommy enjoy the dolphin show
  • Grandma and Grandpa spending time with the boys 
  • Wil startled by penguins swimming under his feet
  • watching a baby elephant take a drink
  • seeing a Scottish highland cow:
Sometimes, it's the small things. More pictures are, of course, posted on the boys' website. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are you up for a challenge?

After reading the National Geographic article "The Global Food Crisis: The End of Plenty," Chris and I have decided to challenge ourselves for the month of June. Here's our challenge: 
Can we move to a less meat diet by only eating meat once a week for 30 days? 
This will be tough, especially in grilling season and since Chris doesn't like many vegetables, but there are lots of veggie options we can still do. Examples include beans and rice, bean burritos, grilled cheese, cheese pizza and pasta. 
Obviously, we won't solve any major problems by ourselves, but moving down the food chain is actually a very environmentally friendly thing to do. We're never going to be vegetarians, but maybe we can lessen our impact. (I did learn all this years ago as part of my Environmental Science degree. So, this is not new, just becoming more critical.)
So, anyone want to join our challenge?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My reading list

I still have a small stack of books to get through, but there are a few I'd really like to read:
Jane Eyre, which I actually have never read before
the next Outlander book, when it is released (
A Dance with Dragons, when it is released (
Several "In Death" books:
  • Salvation in Death
  • Promises in Death
  • Kindred in Death
My current stack includes Rhett Butler's People, the rest of the Midkemia novels, The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions, and finishing the Bible.
I know there are more, but isn't this a long enough list for now?
UPDATE: I am almost done reading "Rhett Butler's People" which I'm thoroughly enjoying. And I picked up "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Mysteries of Udolpho" yesterday, so they are now officially in my stack.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Ellers' cats

Just for fun, a variation on the Victorian parlor game "The Minister's Cat."
The Ellers' cats are Adorable cats.
The Ellers' cats are Black cats.
The Ellers' cats are Cuddly cats.
The Ellers' cats are Delightful cats.
The Ellers' cats are Elegant cats. (aren't all cats?)
The Ellers' cats are Friendly cats.
The Ellers' cats are Gentle cats.
The Ellers' cats are Happy cats.
The Ellers' cats are Inquisitive cats.
The Ellers' cats are Jumping cats.
The Ellers' cats are Kneading cats. (yeah, especially with claws in our laps)
The Ellers' cats are Lovable cats.
The Ellers' cats are Marvelous cats.
The Ellers' cats are Neat cats.
The Ellers' cats are Orderly cats.
The Ellers' cats are Purring cats.
The Ellers' cats are Quiet cats.
The Ellers' cats are Restful cats.
The Ellers' cats are Silly cats. (when they want to be)
The Ellers' cats are Talented cats.
The Ellers' cats are Unflappable cats.
The Ellers' cats are Virtuous cats.
The Ellers' cats are Whining cats. (when hungry)
The Ellers' cats are eXceptional cats. (Ok, I cheated, but can you think of one???)
The Ellers' cats are Yowling cats. (when strange cats encroach)
The Ellers' cats are Zen cats.

Friday, May 22, 2009


We skipped the flimsy pressure gates and installed top-of-stair variety gates at the top of the stairs, bottom of the stairs, and both doors to the kitchen. Much easier to just close the gate when we want to block an area off. So here's a boring list of how we use our gates.
The kitchen is pretty much always blocked off these days since Sam can't be trusted in the kitchen, but before Sam was mobile, we still used it when we wanted to keep Wil out of the kitchen, such as when we were cooking.
The top of the stairs gets blocked at night time so Wil doesn't accidentally fall if he runs out of his room (he's had nightmares on occasion) and if Sam is roaming free upstairs.
The bottom of the stairs gets blocked when Sam is roaming free or, and this is the fun one, when Sam is upstairs sleeping and Wil is not. Wil likes to go upstairs and wake Sam up to play. Not kosher.
So, enough about gates, but that's my life. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

And more little things

So, after yesterday's post, here's a rundown of a few other things we have done:
  • Chris commutes most days via bus or motorcycle (~60 mpg)
  • we've replaced several appliances (c. 1986) - dish washer, oven, washer and dryer
  • we deep sixed the deep freeze ($20 savings the first month!)
  • we added R25 insulation to our attics, which had only the original R6 
  • we got a new car that doesn't have spectacular mileage but is a significant improvement
  • I haven't done well the last year or so, but hope to get back into riding the bus or walking with the boys when feasible
  • replace original single-pane windows with double pane
And a few things on the list that we still need to do as time and money (mostly money) permit:
  • replace the c. 1986 HVAC, water heater and refrigerator
  • add solar panels or wind power
  • make or buy a rain barrel
  • replace the siding with insulated siding
I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting, but the point of these two posts was really just that a series of small steps can add up to a lot. And using less energy due to global warming isn't the only reason to do these things. Many save on energy costs so they directly hit our pocket book. Plus, I'm all about the energy independence. 
So what have/are you doing to cut energy costs and consumption?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sometimes it's the little things

  Yes, we would love to add solar panels or a Jellyfish, but our budget just won't allow right now. Yes, we would save money in the long run, but start up costs are currently prohibitive. 
What can and do we do?
Here's a simple investment in solar/wind energy that paid off the first year, with a total investment of about $15:
Yes, we've changed almost every bulb in the house:
And for $35, we got a programmable thermostat, which is set at 68, with a bump to 70 for 2 hours in the morning for winter heat. For summer, we'll experiment to see what works well, but our usual was 80, with an occasional drop to 78.
 (NB: I forgot to rotate the image and am too lazy to do it now and this is the temperature with no heat/air and some windows open today.)
There are other, bigger, things we've done and more we'll do, but I was thinking about how much energy we've saved as I was hanging out that load of laundry today.