Monday, December 31, 2012

Year end goals progress

The year is coming to an end and it's time to look at the progress I have made (or not) on my goals.

  1. My first goal was to finish my novel. I haven't finished revisions. I actually haven't worked on it in a while. I have been thinking about it, though. I like my story, but I think I've been too nice to my characters. I need to do some serious revision if I want it to be a better story. 
  2. My second goal was to finish our screenplay. And I did finish a draft. Now comes rewrites.
  3. My third goal was part of the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge. I set a goal of reading 40 books this year. It was a stretch at times, but I finished #40 this evening. I think I'll set a more leisurely goal for 2013.
  4. My fourth goal was to see at least 1 movie each month at the IU Cinema. While we did miss a month or two (the Cinema was dark in July, for example), we did see a LOT of films there this year. 
  5. Goal five was to visit a state park each month. We didn't manage every month, but I knew some months, especially in winter, would be tough. All in all, I'm pleased that we managed to get to a state park most months.
  6. My sixth goal, added in the spring, was to run a mile. I did manage to get to running a mile. Not every time I ran, but most times. I haven't run as much lately with the cold weather, but I did get out once in December. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Santa Club rules

The first rule of Santa Club is you don't talk about Santa Club.

The second rule of Santa Club is to spread joy.

That's it. Don't deliberately hurt anyone. Once you join Santa Club, you become an elf for the jolliest idea on earth.

And that's pretty darn awesome in my book.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas memories

I love Christmas. I get that from my mom. Christmas music, Christmas lights, Santa, Christmas cookies....

Growing up, we spent Christmas Eve with my dad's parents. We usually had a Bohemian style meal of pork roast. With two holiday meals in a row, it was nice to not have turkey. Afterward, we'd go to midnight mass. I think I was a teenager before I actually stayed awake through mass. The choir would sing for an hour beforehand as parishioners arrived. That was the best part.

Christmas morning was spent at home, where we had donuts for breakfast after opening our piles of presents. The Christmas music would be playing. Yes, I know the words to a lot of Christmas songs. Even some of the obscure verses.

In the afternoon, we'd go to my mom's parents' or one of her brother's for Christmas dinner. There were a lot of cousins, so we'd play while the turkey finished cooking. After dinner, there would be another batch of presents to open, then time to play with our new toys. If we were at Grandma and Grandpa's, we'd try to find the chirping bird in the Christmas tree and giggle at the stegosaurus in the nativity set.

As we got older, the traditions changed a little. We no longer visited my dad's side of the family, opening Christmas Eve up to new traditions, like spending time with my sister's mother-in-law. With my mom's side of the family, we aged into the grab bag at 18, so instead of a present from each family, we joined the drawing of names at Thanksgiving.

Every year we would spend a weekend baking dozens of cookies: toffee squares, pumpkin cookies, Imperial cookies, sugar cookies, butter cookies, lemon squares, Bible class cookies, chocolate covered pretzels. We brought plates of cookies to our neighbors every year. They were also our contribution to the Christmas dinner.

Until I was in college, we had a real tree every year. One year, after a drought, the tree we brought lost all it's needles about 2 or 3 days before Christmas. One moment it looked ok, although it had been shedding some needles. The next, we heard a rustling sound as every needle fell to the floor. What else does one do but go to the nearest gas station lot and buy a new tree - then invite the neighbors over for an impromptu tree-trimming party. The best thing? Plenty of neighbors came over to help redecorate the tree. We served hot chocolate and plenty of those Christmas cookies. Before we knew it, the new tree was fully decorated.

Sometime over the holiday season we made time to go to downtown Chicago and view the windows on State Street. Marshall Fields always had the best windows, but other stores had neat displays too. Driving around looking at Christmas lights was another tradition. The downtown area of the town I grew up in had a Christmas walk every year. We'd wander through the stores, enjoying carolers and hot cider or cocoa, munch cookies, see Santa arrive on a fire truck. I remember going to Brookfield Zoo each year for Holiday Magic. Wandering around the zoo after dark, with every tree lit, was a special treat.

Over the years, all the 'grandkids' have grown up and most of us are married. There's a new generation of kids. We're more spread out and traditions have adapted.

Some years we spend Christmas with Chris's family and some years we make the trek up to Chicago to see my extended family. Christmas with my parents, my sister and brother-in-law and their kids takes place on the weekend.

We try to spend Christmas morning at home so the boys can wake up to presents from Santa under our tree. They are the perfect age this year, understanding Christmas and excited for Santa to come.

I try to bake a few batches of cookies every year (toffee squares, pumpkin cookies and Imperial cookies this year). We also go to the Indy Zoo to see Santa and the lights. The boys love decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus. We go to Fountain Square Mall to look at the decorations and see Santa. Our rule with Santa is that the boys can only ask for the one thing they want most; the rest has to go in a letter. The beauty of this is that they understand Santa is busy so they can't take up too much time, but it makes it easier to find that one thing they really want.

If we're home on Christmas, or on Christmas Eve, we started a new tradition: "Traditional Holiday Pasta". It started one year when we couldn't travel to Evansville due to a bad snow storm. Stuck at home, we made what was on hand. This year, we're hosting Christmas. It'll just be the four of us and Chris's parents. We're having lasagna for dinner.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Can you admit it?

One of my favorite bloggers recently posted this regarding a ridiculous Google Search ad. Go read the post. I'll wait here.




Ok. I consider myself a feminist. I follow a few feminist blogs. I believe that women are fully fledged humans and should be treated as such. There are many, many aspects to feminist issues, but one that I think we can all do something about is to admit our flaws. So here goes:

I am not Supermom. I am not a perfect mother, but I am the perfect mother for my sons.

I hate cleaning house. I pay someone to do that for me because I hate it. I'm not good at cleaning.

Chris cooks better than I do. I can usually follow a recipe, but even then I've ruined more than one dinner.

I'm 37 and I'm just figuring out what I want to do with my life. I have a degree I don't use because I figured out I don't like lab work - after I got the degree. At least I enjoyed getting it and learned a lot.

I can be impatient. Sometimes my kids drive me crazy.

I need to lose some weight and get in better shape so I stop getting hurt every time I do something physical, but I'm lazy.

I never feel like I have enough time.

I look at this list and know there is plenty more I could put on it. But it just shows I'm human. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have different interests. And we need to stop judging and comparing.

I'll never be Donna Reed, and I'm glad. I don't want that.

Now, I don't know if the idea I had makes sense, but can you admit your flaws and failures? And then move on? Can we agree there is no paragon of womanhood, whether it be the 1950s version or the feminist version? Can we?

Friday, November 30, 2012

November goals progress

Is it already the end of November? It's time for my monthly update.

  1. I decided to work on a new novel during NaNoWriMo for November. I started "Dear Grace", an idea I've been thinking about off and on for over a year. While I did start, I didn't get very far. I found that having to work on it made it harder, made it a chore. So I've gotten back to writing just when I feel inspired. Yep, I'm never gonna be a full-time writer. And that's ok. I want to enjoy writing.
  2. No new progress on the play.
  3. I've read 36 books so far this year. Only 4 more to reach my goal of 40. I'm on track to do it.
  4. November was a very busy month for us at the IU Cinema. We started the month with From Here to Eternity, followed by The Motorcycle Diaries, Cabaret and, finally, A Trip to the Moon last night. 
  5. We didn't get to any of the state forests this month. One Saturday we considered it, but ended up going to an SCA archery practice instead. 
  6. And the cold weather takes away any desire to run. I think this one will be on hold until the spring.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving memories

It's that time of year again when Thanksgiving gets lost between the ghoulish, sugar fueled giddiness of Halloween and the bedecked hysteria of Christmas. I like Thanksgiving. I like Halloween and Christmas too. But I'd really like Thanksgiving to have its due. 

Growing up, we always spent Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family. Each year was at a different house. There was a rotation for Thanksgiving and another for Christmas, based on who had enough space. Some years Grandma hosted, or Great-Aunt Elaine, or my mom, or one of my aunts.

The food was usually the same, with minor variations: turkey roasted in the oven, sage stuffing cooked in the bird, gravy. Heart-attack mashed potatoes, with a brick of cream cheese and a stick of butter. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli casserole - the kind with Velveeta and crushed Ritz crackers. Caponi Macaroni, my grandma's macaroni salad that beats store-bought hands down. A choice of Jello-like canned or Aunt Jill's homemade cranberries. Rolls. Pickles and olives, usually eaten as hors d'oevers while we waited for the turkey to be ready.

Grace would be said, giving thanks for the meal before us and for all the good things that had happened in the family that year. The uncles would pile their plates high, everything mixing together. Some of us kept our food neatly separated*. When we were all stuffed and couldn't eat a bite more, there were the pies: pumpkin, of course, and apple. Often a chocolate variety as well. We'd pile whipped cream on the pumpkin pie until it toppled over. 

Afterward, the kitchen would be cleaned, the tv turned on. If we were at Aunt Elaine's, she would play the organ. I have fond memories of sitting next to her while she played Christmas carols. At Grandma's, the kids would disperse to the basement play area tucked next to Grandpa's work bench. We knew better than to play with his tools. 

Some time in the evening, the adults would draw names for the Christmas grab bag. They would each write their name and three gift ideas under $20. The trick was to get a name that wasn't in your own household. 

On the way home, we'd tune the radio to a station playing Christmas carols. These were the first signs of the Christmas season. It wasn't a never-ending barrage from September on. But once Thanksgiving was over, all bets were off.

We would go to the Christmas tree farm and cut down our tree on the day that has come to be called Black Friday. It would go in a bucket of water in the shed until we were ready to put it up, much closer to Christmas. We'd spend the weekend decorating the house, starting with the outside lights. Christmas music would blare from the record player; hot chocolate would be drunk. This was the start of Christmas.

But not before we enjoyed our Thanksgiving. Not before we gave thanks and enjoyed a day with family.

Nowadays, we usually go to Chris's parents'. There are some different dishes and ours are the only kids there.  My parents usually join us, and Chris's grandparents, and some friends. We eat, the kids play. Sometimes the kids watch a movie while football plays in the other room. There's often ham in addition to the turkey. Sometimes Downs family specialties like creamed onions and turnips join a wild rice dish from a family friend. Dessert is usually a fantastic creation from another family friend who loves making cheesecakes and other delights. There's usually still a pumpkin pie for the traditionalists.

* Legal moves when filling a holiday plate: the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing can touch. They can all be covered with gravy, depending on preference. A skilled plate fille will use the mashed potatoes and stuffing as walls around the turkey to keep the gravy from spreading. Cranberries must be segregated from everything else, especially the mac salad. Putting broccoli casserole between those two is an excellent buffer, although some broccoli may be lost to spreading cranberry juice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When it's ok to talk to strangers

I walked into my 4 year old's preschool at pick-up time. His teacher was just finishing a story.

"And remember, NEVER talk to STRANGERS."

Inwardly, I cringed. Because the more I've read, and the more I've thought about it, I really think the whole stranger paranoia is giving the wrong message.

We walked out to the car. "Mommy, NEVER talk to strangers."

"Well, sometimes it's ok to talk to strangers."

"But Ms. Paula says never talk to strangers."

"I know, and in school you shouldn't disagree with her, but Mommy and Daddy think it's ok to talk to strangers sometimes."

He got really upset and started crying. Which made me start to tear up. I pulled myself together, glad I was in the front seat and he was in back (and thus couldn't see me).

"When is it ok to talk to strangers?" I asked. "Can you think of something you did recently when you talked to strangers?"

"Trick or treat."

"Yep. You went trick or treating and talked to lots of people you didn't know. Do you know when else you've talked to strangers?"


"Do you play with kids you don't know when we're at the park?"


"Well, those are strangers. When do you think it would be ok to talk to strangers?"

"I don't know."

"What about if Mommy got lost in a store? Do you think it would be ok to talk to a stranger? Maybe find the register and ask for help?" A pause while he considered that. "How about if we make a different rule: don't go with strangers."

"Ok," meekly from the back seat.

"If someone came up to you and it wasn't trick or treat and said 'here, little boy, have some candy' what should you do?"

"Say no."

"Yes. And if someone offered you a ride and you didn't know them, what should you do?"

"Not get in the car."

"Exactly. And you should yell, really loudly, 'NO! I don't know you!'"

"But that's not appropriate." (We've had talks about yelling lately.)

"This is a case when it's entirely appropriate and I want you to yell." Another pause while he thought about that. "If Mommy or Daddy couldn't pick you up at school, do you know who is allowed to pick you up? Who you can go with?"

"No." More tears. This whole conversation was very upsetting for him, especially the idea of Mommy getting lost or not being able to pick him up.

So I listed the people who are approved to pick him up.

"Do you think most people are basically good or basically bad?"

"Basically good."

"You're right! So are most of the strangers you meet mostly good?"

He nodded.

"So is it sometimes ok to talk to strangers?"


At that point, he didn't want to talk more. This will be a conversation that we'll need to address time and again. Learning to judge when it's ok and not ok to talk to strangers takes a little practice. But it's a lesson we need to work on because knowing how to live in a world where most of the people you encounter are strangers is good.

This conversation is quite timely, actually. I'm going to a parenting book club with my moms group tonight where we will be discussing Free Range Kids. I've been following the blog for a while and have read the book. I've done at least the baby step in each chapter. While Chris and I have talked about a lot of the ideas in the book, this was the first big conversation with one of the boys about the topics.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A mini election

The boys and I were talking about the election today. I asked if they wanted to participate, which they did, so I made 'ballots' for them.

The ballots were pretty simple: pictures of each candidate, with their names, and a box to check. I only printed the top races: President/Vice President, US Senate, US House, Governor, State House, and State Senate.

The election was purely done based on pictures of the candidates.

Sam, age 4, seemed to randomly select candidates, telling me he picked each one because he "liked" them, but was unable to tell me why he liked them.

Wil, age 5, chose his candidates based on particular features. Since I thought his reasons were interesting, I will share them here.

For President, Wil chose Romney/Ryan because Biden looks too old with his white hair. He also thought Obama had an old face.

For US Senate, he picked Donnelly because Mourdock's eyebrows are scary. Good reasoning for a 5 year old. He's seen The Smurfs cartoons from the 80s and those eyebrows remind me of Gargamel's.

Gargamel and his cat Azreal. Photo from Wikipedia
For US House, Wil picked Shelly Yoder. She reminds him of his teacher.

For Governor, he didn't like any of the candidates because they all looked too old.

Interestingly, he didn't pick Matt Pierce, who is running unopposed for State House, because he has glasses. Even though Chris and I both wear glasses, he says he doesn't like glasses -- except on us.

For State Senate, he picked Stoops. He didn't have a better reason than that he liked him.

So there it is: not knowing anything else about the candidates, they had to go based on looks. And 'looking old' is a huge liability for young kids. So is looking scary.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October goals progress

It's November 1st. I supposed I should post my October goals progress.

  1. I worked on my novel a little. Got some good feedback. Lots of notes to apply... when I'm ready to work on it more. I'm starting a new novel in November for NaNoWriMo
  2. Got some good feedback on the play. I need to work with Chris to add action (it's currently dialog heavy).
  3. I'm on track toward my goal of 40 books. I've read 33 so far. I'm currently reading 2. 
  4. We spent a lot of time at the IU Cinema in October. Casablanca on October 4th, Bride of Frankenstein/Freaks double feature followed by The Gamers: Dorkness Rising/Beverly Lane double feature on October 27th.
  5. Does driving through Yellowwood State Forest count? Because we did that. We didn't get out and hike, but it was a nice drive.
  6. I've fallen off the running wagon. I got out a few times, but the cold has been an issue. I picked up some warmer running clothes, so that should help... as long as I can keep from getting injured and actually get out. 
Overall, a pretty good month. I think I'll add yoga or some other exercise in place of trying to run so much. It may be the cold, but I've been more likely to hurt after running lately. November is looking to be a very productive month.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The bus driver saga

I can already see this is going to be a recurring theme this year. I've posted about our issues with the bus driver multiple times on Twitter and Facebook already. And we've had another incident today.

The set-up:

Our neighborhood has no sidewalks. We walk in the street.

The bus arrives. She pulls all the way over to the far side of the street, probably 10 feet away from the driveway where our bus stop is. By the way, the bus stop is actually at the corner, but our neighbors are gracious enough to let us wait on their driveway.

The kids get off. Wil and I stand on the street, with our heels up to the grass. Wil is actually holding my hand, because he likes to do that.

The drivers calls down to move out of the street onto the driveway so she can drive away.



How is this different from any of the last several years when we have often been walking through the neighborhood when the bus came? Walking IN THE STREET.

I was standing there with him. He wasn't on his own. He was NOT near the bus, which she has stopped in the opposing lane.

My reaction? I pulled Wil across the street in front of the bus and walked home. If she wants us off the street, then she can wait until we cross to our side of the street.

I am so tired of her paranoia.

We don't jump onto people's driveways any time a car drives past as we are walking. That isn't the lesson I want to teach my kids. The lessons I want them to learn are abou safely walking, whether it be in the street or on a sidewalk.

What purpose does it serve if they have no idea how to interact with cars?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Releasing the fear

I just finished reading Free-Range Kids. I've been following the blog for a while and finally read the book.

I like the philosophy behind Free Range Kids. I want to raise confident, independent kids. I want to trust them. I want them to be able to trust the world. And the statistics show they should be able to.

The book is divided into 14 "commandments" in the first section. Bearing in mind the ages of my kids, I'm happy to report that we've already reached the "Free-Range Baby Step" highlighted in each chapter. In some cases, we've even ventured beyond that.

I look forward to the boys being old enough to do more on their own (many of the steps are geared toward 'school-age' kids, so they are just on the edge of being ready to try more).

An example, for anyone who thinks Free-Range is too scary:
The first baby step is to cross the street with your school age child without holding their hand. Yep, I've done that with my 4 and 5 year olds. We've even walked in parking lots with them walking right next to me. And I point out the sounds of cars approaching or starting, back-up lights, and other information that will help them navigate streets and parking lots on their own in the future.

Recently I was speaking to another mom about the book and how much I liked the ideas in it. She said she could never go free range because if something did happen to one of her kids, she would never forgive herself.

I know that feeling. I also know that doing everything for my kids isn't helpful. For me, for us, our job is to help the boys until they can do things for themselves. And sometimes the best defense against the unthinkable is for them to know how to protect themselves.

A point that is made over and over is that crime rates are lower now than they were when we were growing up. It is actually safer now, but we hear about more crime because of the 24 hour news cycle and the availability of information from around the world.

What does the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have to say? They've been trying to debunk the myth of stranger danger. There is a big difference between teaching kids to not talk to strangers and teaching kids not to go with strangers.

We've lost that message in the constant fear.

I could keep citing all the information in the book, but there's a whole book that does it better than I could. There's a great blog to read some of the crazy things that are going on in the name of safety (some of which probably make things less safe).

Free Range may not be for everyone. But I recommend reading the book and finding out what it's really all about. Maybe you're a little more Free Range than you thought.

Monday, October 15, 2012

An American theocracy

I'm terrified for the future.

I just read this article. My stomach is now in knots. Enough that I don't know if I'll be able to eat the dinner that is currently in the oven.

The reason? This quote from the interview:

Lane: Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person. I do not see that in men. The whole time I worked, I'd much rather have a male boss than a female boss. Double-minded, you never can trust them. 
Because women have the right to vote, I am active, because I want to make sure there is some sanity for women in the political world. It is up to the Christian rednecks and patriots to stand up for our country. Everyone has the right to vote now that's 18 or over (who is) a legal citizen, and every person that's 18 and over and a legal citizen should be active in local politics so they can make a change locally, make a change on the state level and make a change in Washington, D.C.

This from the Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janice Lane.

Yep, she doesn't think she should have the right to vote. Because women are irrational.


People are actually saying the thing I most feared this election cycle. The thing I was dreading hearing after more ultra conservatives got elected.

They've done a lot to restrict women's rights already. I'm not just talking about abortion, that big hot button topic. I'm talking about a systematic eroding of the rights our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought for.

Let me ask a question:

What's the difference between a Middle-Eastern theocracy and an American theocracy?

Answer: Not much. You can quibble about one being a Christian nation and the others being Muslim, but it's still a theocracy. It's still governing based on religion. And not everyone in this country is Christian. Not all Christians agree on some of the basic tenets of Christianity.

What are we headed to at this rate? A society where women are treated as second class citizens. Where women can't vote, own property, get an education.

Is it really a stretch to think we'll go back to those days? That headlines like this will appear with datelines in our own country?

After seeing statements like the one above, I don't think it is a stretch to think we could find ourselves in that world. And once women lose their rights, where does it end? Non-whites are feeling similar pressures. And let's not forget that non-heterosexual folks are still fighting for equality.

I don't want to see the tide turn so only white, heterosexual, cis-gendered males have rights.

Before you cast your vote this year, think about the people you are voting for. Think about if you might be giving up rights if they hold the office they are running for. Consider carefully. Because I refuse to see a world where statements like the above are accepted. Where anyone really thinks women are too irrational to vote.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Those tiny moments of heartbreak

"Mommy, no kisses today."

Sam told me this as we pulled into the parking lot at his preschool today. My heart broke just a little bit.

It's the second time.

A few weeks ago, he waited until I was ready to hug and kiss him as I left him in his classroom. Then he went back to wanting the hugs and kisses.

He's 4. It's only a matter of time until he, like Wil, doesn't want anyone to see him getting hugs and kisses from Mommy.

I'm glad my boys are growing up and becoming more confident. But there's that little part of me that misses the unrestrained displays of affection.

They still happen from time to time, like yesterday when Sam came looking for me just to kiss me, leaving a smear of lip balm on my cheek.

And we have their new bedtime knock knock jokes:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Wil who?
 Will you hug me?

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Sam who?
Same for me!

I'm not a baby person. I have always looked forward to them growing up and being real people. My goal is for them to be independent.

I'm glad Sam feels confident enough at school not to need the kissing hand or even a hug from me to get through the day. 

But it still hurts a little. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cats in the laundry chute

Chris and I had the following conversation this evening as we folded laundry.

Chris: I wish our walls were thicker so we could have secret passages and a laundry chute.

Me: Things tend to get stuck in laundry chutes.

Chris: Yeah, especially since the boys would probably shove stuff down it. Like the cats.

Me: They wouldn't need to do that. The cats would jump in there on their own. Especially Siofra.

Chris: And they'd scare themselves and pee the whole way down. Then we'd have to spend a lot of money to clean it out. It's probably good we don't have one.

Me: Yep.

Chris: But secret passages would still be cool.

(Although now that I think about it, secret passages are just another place for spiders to lurk. Cool in theory, though.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September goals progress

Time for the monthly progress report:

  1. I worked a little on my story. Not as much as I should have, but some. I like where the story is. I am aware of my weaknesses. Now I need to buckle down and finish so I can move on. I've started thinking about a new story to write during this year's NaNoWriMo in November. I'm excited. This year's story isn't a fantasy piece. I'll be writing in the real world. 
  2. I finished a draft of our play! There were major problems with the penultimate scene, but I've even rewritten that and fixed what I knew was wrong. I've sure this will need revising, but I'm happy with where it's at right now. Chris needs to go through it and help with action. He's already pointed out a line that was unintentionally creepy, so I fixed that.
  3. I've read 30 books toward my goal of 40. I'm 75% of the way to my goal, 75% of the way through the year. Right on track. I think next year I'll lower my goal a little. Even though it looks like I can do 40, I almost feel like I'm reading just to meet the goal sometimes. (Usually I just get lost in the book, but ones that take a bit longer to read... I feel pressure to finish them quickly.)
  4. The fall season at the IU Cinema is fantastic. This month we saw Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, with Herzog in attendance, no less; Treasure of the Sierra Madre; and Two Years at Sea, an experimental film. Fitzcarraldo was interesting - a little long and slow, but interesting. For the record, I liked the ending. The whole point was about bringing opera to the town, and he did. Two Years at Sea wasn't really our cup of tea, but it's good to get out of our comfort zone and try something different.
  5. We didn't get to any of the state parks this month. Between weather, other commitments and a surprise visit to the grandparents, it just didn't happen.
  6. Running. What can I say about running? I read a book this month about interval training. While I have no desire to run a half marathon, the principles in the book can still be applied to my own running. And I did try to implement them once my leg felt better and I recovered from a cold. I had my best run (2 minutes jogging, 1 minute walking). Then I had a couple of bad runs trying to keep to that schedule. I was trying to time it so I would hit the hill at a walk, but that backfired on me. I decided to change my interval to 1:1... and then I got hit with another cold and it rained all week. I haven't had a chance to get back out and run. Honestly, I still don't like running, so running when I don't feel good or when the weather is crappy is just enough incentive to give it up, so I take those days off. If the weather holds out, I should be able to get back into the swing of things this Tuesday.
All in all, not a bad month. I feel like I'm getting back in the groove now that the boys are in school. Of course, I'm also looking forward another 2 years, making plans for grad school, which means I should pick up a GRE study/practice book because I'll need to take the GRE and apply to grad school next year if I want to start in 2014. It never ends, does it?

Friday, September 28, 2012

A good night's sleep

"Are you tired at school?"


"What should we do about that? Do you need to go to bed earlier?"


"What time would you like to go to bed? Bedtime is usually 8. What about 7:30?"

"Yes, 7:30."

So we moved bedtime to 7:30. And the boys both go right to sleep.

And they usually still sleep until 7 when the radio turns on. But then we had a morning when they were up around 6. We sent them back to bed, but they played in their room rather than go back to sleep. Wil had another rough day at school.

"Did you get up too early this morning?"

"Yes. I was too tired at school."

"What can we do to help you get enough sleep? Would you like a clock like at Grandma's?"

"Uh huh. I can read the numbers."

So we put a digital clock in their room. They aren't supposed to get out of bed until they see a 7. That's the rule at Grandma and Grandpa's house. It seems to be working.

And that extra half hour of kid-free time in the evening? Precious.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What September 11 means to me

My Twitter and FaceBook feeds have been full of lovely remembrances of September 11, 2001. Today is the 11 year anniversary. 

It was a shocking day and things did change a lot afterward. 

But this post isn't about all that. Too many people have said all the things I could think of to say, often much more eloquently than I could.

To me, September 11 is a little more personal.

My grandparents, Gus and Lucille, on their wedding day.
September 11, 1948. Gus Caponi and Lucille Simpson got married, joining a boisterous Sicilian family and a Scots-Irish clan.
Caponi family, 1941
Simpson family, 1947
My grandpa died in March of 1998, just a few months before their 50th wedding anniversary. Grandma died in August of 2002. 

For me, September 11 has always been their anniversary. It's a day for me to remember two very special people.
Gus and Lucille, 1995

Friday, August 31, 2012

August goals progress

I feel like I'm finally getting back on track with my goals.

  1. I didn't work on my story, but writing group started meeting again. I got some good feedback on a chapter and lots of ideas to work with.
  2. Progress on our screenplay! I'm working on the penultimate scene. I need to figure out exactly what happens in this scene and then write the ending. I've changed a few earlier scenes from the first draft, which changes everything after that.... I feel good about where it's going.
  3. I have read 25 books toward my goal of 40 for the year. I'm 1 book behind - the book I'm currently reading. I hope to finish it this weekend. For the record, I'm reading "A Study in Sherlock". 
  4. The IU Cinema is back in full swing. In August, we saw Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love". I haven't seen many Woody Allen films, but this is the first one I actually liked. 
  5. Despite the heat, earlier this month we drove down to Mitchell and spent the afternoon exploring the Pioneer Village at Spring Mill State Park. We picked up some freshly stone ground corn meal and made corn bread for dinner that evening. Actually, we have to make more corn bread since we have so much corn meal. While at Spring Mill, we stopped at the Gus Grissom memorial. Space geeks that we are, we enjoyed seeing his space suit and Gemini capsule. There was also a memorial in Mitchell, his home town.
  6. Ah, running. What to say about running. August was a Jekyll and Hyde month for running. The cooler mornings made it much easier to run in the morning. I was even running 4 mornings a week. Until this week. Saturday evening I was restless, so I decided to take a quiet jog around the neighborhood. I had to stop and walk part way through because my shin started hurting. I guess my history of shin splints is catching up with me, because my right shin has been giving me trouble since then. I haven't run, but I've been trying to walk. Not the same, but I need to let my leg heal.
So, mixed bag again, but much more on the positive. With the boys back in school (Wil full-time and Sam 2 days/week), I hope to make more time to write during the day. The weather should also cool off some, which may help us get to state parks to hike. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I refuse to be chattel

I wonder if part of why so many people, especially men, pooh pooh rape is because they don't realize how many women in their lives have been victims. It takes courage to share, but it's important. For the record, I haven't been, but I know several women who have.

As for the asshat's statement regarding "legitimate" rape, I'm pleasantly surprised at the backlash. His opinion isn't actually all that unusual. Many, many politicians have tried to redefine rape. And his lack of actual factual information, making up science as he goes, seems to be par for the course with certain right-wing groups.

That said, I was reading a post today about the importance of defending abortion access in all cases, not just throwing out the exceptions. Every woman who has one has a good reason why it is the right choice for her.

This divisiveness is a powerful tool of the right: if we keep fighting the same battles (rape is rape, abortion should be available for all, women deserve the right to vote and control their own bodies and be treated as fully equal human beings), we get distracted.

I really want to face an election where I can concentrate on important issues like the economy and healthcare and national security. I want to be able to vote for the person who I think will lead the country in the right direction.... without being forced to vote for the candidate least likely to treat me as a second class citizen.

I call myself an independent for good reason. I often agree with Republicans on some issues. In local elections, I usually vote a pretty balanced ticket, about half Dem and half GOP. But I can't ignore this huge looming issue, this groundswell of anti-woman legislation.

Look, many women are just trying to keep the rights we already have. Our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers fought hard to win the rights to vote, own property, work, etc. We still don't have equal pay for equal work. We're still trying to be seen as equal human beings.

When a predominantly male legislation keeps passing laws restricting the rights of half the population, there's a problem. When we are still having discussions about what constitutes rape, that's a huge problem. (HINT: If the victim, whether male or female, did not say yes, it is rape.) When politicians make comments that they pretty much want women back in the kitchen, that should tell us where they want this country to go.

Frankly, going back to women being chattel is the wrong direction. Period.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Supporting independent film

Chris and I have backed a few projects on Kickstarter. We like helping independent artists reach their goals.

Most of the projects we have backed offer the product as one of the backer incentives: pledge a certain amount and get the dvd or book or trebuchet. It's kind of like preordering the nifty new thing, and that's usually the level we pledge at.

We are currently backing our 13th project. It's a movie we really believe in, by some good independent filmmakers in Seattle.

We first met the Dead Gentlemen/Zombie Orpheus Entertainment at Gen Con, through friends. Yeah, I know, but they really are friends of friends. They have worked really hard to get their company to the point it is at. They make films about gamers for gamers. They are fan-supported.

If you've never heard of their work, take a moment to check out their filmography. You can watch their webseries JourneyQuest, currently in its second season, online. (Yep, we backed the 2nd season on Kickstarter.)

They also have a series of movies called The Gamers. The first two movies were made with tiny budgets. The second is the breakout hit. The Gamers: Dorkness Rising is a fantastic film. It will play at the IU Cinema this October.

They are currently fundraising for the third film in the series, The Gamers: Hands of Fate.

And that's the reason for this post. The project is 60% funded with 18 days to go. The way Kickstarter works, if they raise at least their goal ($320K), they will have the money to complete this film. If it doesn't reach that goal, they can't finish it.

This past weekend at Gen Con, they filmed a number of scenes - 1/4 of the movie, by rough estimate. But all that footage will be wasted if they can't afford to film the rest.

And that would be a shame. If you've been paying attention lately, you've probably read or heard about the terrible misogynistic attitudes of certain gamers. One of the great things about Dorkness Rising is that one of the main characters is a female gamer who shows the guys another way to play. And the new film, Hands of Fate, will feature another strong female lead (in addition).

 At a Q&A session after viewing JourneyQuest at Gen Con, the filmmakers talked about why they feature female gamers in their films. And it is a deliberate choice. While filming, some male gamers walked up to one of their (female) actors and made disparaging comments about how she couldn't possibly be interested in games. This still happens in 2012! At Gen Con. Where you can see grandmothers walking the hall cosplaying.

Chris and I believe in this project enough that we raised our pledge amount this weekend. We're not settling for just a dvd or BluRay of the final project. We want to see this made, so we looked at our finances and decided we could give a little more.

But there is still a ways to go to fund this film. If you want to support small independent filmmakers, if you want to be a parton of the arts, if you are a gamer, if you love movies, if if if.... if you can consider backing this project. Every dollar counts. You can pledge as little as $1.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


It's that time of year again. Yep, Gen Con has started. And once again, I've made myself a Gen Con BINGO card. My goal is to take a picture as I find each item on the card. Here is what this year's card looks like:

Gen Con 2012 BINGO card
And now the fun can begin (as soon as we get there).

Monday, August 13, 2012

1st day of Kindergarten

Today was Wil's first day of Kindergarten.

He was a little worried this morning, apprehensive about riding the bus on his own.

Worried about riding the bus alone.
He was nervous about going to a new school, with kids he doesn't know. But he managed a tiny smile.

An "I love you, Mommy" before we let for the bus stop.
He got on the bus. And off he went to the "big kid school".

Stepping on the bus, with help from Daddy.
It was a long day for Sam with no big brother to play with - and wrestle with. We marked nearly every hour today, waiting until 4 p.m.

"Mommy, is Wil home yet."
"No, sweetie. He won't be home for a few more hours."

And finally it was time to meet the bus.

And Wil got off the bus. Sadly.

He didn't like riding the bus. He doesn't remember the names of the kids in his class. He didn't know where to throw his milk out at lunch....

Everything is new and scary. He'll be fine once he gets the hang of the new routine. But in the meantime, we need to help him figure out how to deal with the things that worry him.

First up is the bus issue. I asked what would help make it better. His answer: a green and white bus. While I can't do anything about that, I can give him something to look forward to after riding the bus. We're one of the last stops in the morning and one of the first on the way home. Yep, I bribed him with a Tootsie Roll, his favorite candy, when he gets home tomorrow. It may not be the best solution, but it will help until he gets comfortable.

Then we spent some time role playing this evening.

First up: disposing of the milk carton. He practiced finding a teacher and asking where the trash was. Pretty simple, but he was smiling, knowing he had the words to solve his problem.

Next, making friends. We all took turns introducing ourselves to each other. And we thought about times when he could get to know the other kids: meeting the kids sitting next to him, finding another kid playing something interesting on the playground.

These are all pretty easy things. But sometimes I forget that we learn how to do all this. He's used to preschool where the teachers tell the kids when it's time to clean up and make sure they throw their trash out. He's used to a much smaller class, with a lot of kids that he's been in preschool with since he was 2.

He went to bed feeling better about school. I think he'll be fine. And hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

There have to be better ways

My oldest starts Kindergarten next Monday. It's a big milestone.

But what's making me anxious isn't worry about him. He'll do fine. He loves school. He's never looked back, since the first day of preschool 3 years ago.

What's bothering me is the lack of information from the school.

Now, I admit I'm type-A when it comes to things like this. I'm a planner and a doer. I like to know what's going on. 

But here we are less than a week before school starts and I have no information - no bus number or time, no teacher name, etc. 

Talking to friends with kids already in the school, I've heard there's a teacher meet and greet before school starts. But I haven't received any information about it. Apparently that is when we'll find out who his teacher is and where his classroom will be. 

I did look on the school's website and find that it is scheduled for Friday afternoon. But why did I have to look at the website for that information? I'm on the school's list-serv. I've received emails with the school supply lists and notice that we'll be getting a book rental bill.

Apparently money is more important than students. At least, that's what the lack of communication regarding something as basic as the date and time of the meet and greet indicates to me. That date has to have been set weeks or months ago. Yet the first notice I got was looking it up for myself. Which I only did because other parents told me there should be such a thing.

I spoke to the transportation secretary today. Bus info was mailed today, so we should have it by tomorrow. I sure hope so. Per the school's website, Wil needs to know his bus number and where it picks up and drops off. With a 5 year old (probably older kids too), that requires a few days of repetition. Luckily our bus stop should be at the corner, just 1 house away.

I called and spoke to the school secretary today. I had a few questions. She explained. I mentioned that I hadn't received any emails regarding the meet and greet and had to look it up myself.

She claimed the information had been sent and I must have missed it. And that I should have been told about it when I registered my child. Back in April. Because I should remember something from 4 months ago. (Although she admitted that maybe they hadn't set the date that far back.) I pointed out that being new to the system, I didn't know how it worked. Even if I was told something 4 months ago, in the midst of all the form-filling, it may not have registered.

An email about School Welcome and Meet the Teacher was sent about a half hour after my phone call, with letters of introduction from the new principle and assistant principle. I guess they forgot to send it earlier.

I still think there could be better ways to do all this.

Communicating better would be a big help.

We live in the 21st Century. I understand that the current system is better than when they just posted the lists on the school doors the night before and parents crowded around to see what class their kid was in. But that doesn't make this better.

The school claims they are still making class lists. That, since more kids are enrolling every day, they can't finalize the lists until the day before school. I call BS. Plenty of other school systems (example: neighboring RBB) can send a letter a few days, in not a week or two, before school starts with pertinent class information. If the majority of students have already enrolled, they should have pretty balanced classes already, and should just need to add new students as they come in.

As it is, they are punishing those of us who registered early, making us wait for folks who, for whatever reason, couldn't or didn't register earlier. Why can't there be an early cutoff point, say August 1st, when the class rosters are prepared? Are there really SO many more students (more than, say 25% of any given class) registering late that would throw off the balance of a class?

There have to be better ways to do all this.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July goals progress

July was a busy month. We spent part of the month out of town, which made it hard to keep to a regular routine. But, some progress was still made.

  1. I didn't write at all in July. I meant to.... and then just didn't. 
  2. I didn't work on our screenplay, although I did set it up so Chris can access it. I am stuck with where to go on the last few scenes. 
  3. I did do a bunch of reading in July. I'm at 23 books toward my goal of 40 for the year. This is good news. I'm finally back on track.
  4. The IU Cinema was dark in July, so we didn't see any movies there. My mom and I did take the boys to see Brave at her local theater.
  5. Wow, I guess July was worse than I thought. Between the heat and the traveling, we didn't make it to any of our state parks. 
  6. And finally, running. Once again, traveling took its toll. I have been trying, but not as consistently as previous months. I did notice 2 things while jogging (can I really call it jogging? I'm barely above a walking pace). First, I've been breathing through my nose. This is exciting, because when I started, I was panting within a block. Isn't the point of running to improve cardiovascular health? I think that goal is well on its way. Second, I tire out very quickly when it is humid. Even on cooler mornings, if it is humid, I struggle to make 3/4 of a mile. My legs feel leaden and start to cramp. On less humid mornings, I can make my full mile. (Yeah, not stretching for more than that at this time.) I'm slow. I was averaging in the 4.5-5.0 mph range in June. This month I'm in the 3.9-4.2 mph range. But I keep plugging away.
So, not the best month. But that just gives me room to improve this month. August is already starting off well, with cooler mornings and a lot less heat and humidity than July brought. And the boys go back to school soon, which might give me more time to write.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rule #1: don't murder

One of the most popular posts ever on this blog was Best Poster Ever. It has had 271 views since I posted it in June 2011.

Over the last few days, a lot has been said and written about the recent shooting in Aurora, CO. On one side there are folks calling for more gun control. On the other side are folks who spout the 2nd Amendment while proclaiming that criminals don't follow laws.

There are a lot of people who have written some very smart things about all this. But there's one thought that keeps going through my mind.

Just like with rape, we talk about how we can protect ourselves from being victims of violent crimes. Take self-defense classes. Don't go out at night. Be aware of your surroundings. No costumes at theaters. Metal detectors at every door. Etc, etc, etc.

Some of these things are surely not a bad thing (being aware of our surroundings). Some may very well stop some crimes (metal detectors). Some are just ridiculous (no costumes).

The one thing we don't talk about is how to actually prevent crime: Don't commit it.

Just as that sexual assault prevention poster ultimately comes down to #10: Don't assault people, I would say the list of how to prevent murder comes down to this:

Don't murder.

If you practice a Judeo-Christian religion, you should remember that as 5th or 6th Commandment (depending on which sect you subscribe to).

Even non-Christians pretty much subscribe to this philosophy.

Let's ascribe responsibility for heinous acts where it belongs: with the perpetrators, not the victims.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A mini-vacation

We haven't had a real vacation in years. This summer has been crazy, with Chris gone for two weeks for work, but we decided we really needed to take the boys somewhere, even if it was only for a couple of days.

Cue a whirlwind tour of Chicago.

The view from our hotel.
We started Monday with a trip to a water park with Lisa and her boys. Chris and I even went on the water slides (I haven't done that in... I don't remember when). A few hours playing in the water wore Wil and Sam out; Sam slept on the trip downtown.

After checking in at the hotel (the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive, which we would definitely go back to), we took a taxi ride to the tower formerly known as Sears. The boys wanted to see a skyscraper. Seeing the view from the top of one was beyond exciting for them.  

The view from 103 stories up, through the floor.

Tuesday morning we were treated to a view of window washers. They were on a building across the river. Between the window washers and the spiders outside the Willis Tower windows, the boys were in awe of things up high. 

Window washers, as seen from our hotel room.
Highlights of the hotel, since the boys had such fun feedback: Wil loved the bathroom. They both loved the view. Sam really liked the escalator, although Wil preferred the elevator.

So how many museums can we go to in one day? 

We started with the Field Museum of Natural History.
All three of my boys in front of Sue.
The boys were really only interested in the dinosaurs there, so we moved on to the Shedd Aquarium. It was incredibly busy, with a line out the door and down the stairs. Luckily, we had purchased CityPasses the previous night, which offered admission to 5 attractions, including express entry. We got to go right in, skipping ahead of the hundreds of people lined up baking in the heat.

Next up was the Museum of Science and Industry, a big part of why we chose to go to Chicago.

Watching a 1/3 scale Mars Rover model.
 The Henry Crown Space Center was very popular with our space loving boys.

They also enjoyed the Farm Tech exhibit.

Sitting in the cab of a combine.
 After watching the model train from every possible angle and a brief stop at the Science Storms exhibit, it was on to the reason Chris and I wanted to go - Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition.
Sitting on a swing supported by interleaved phone books.
 Wil's favorite was building a house to see if it could withstand wind. (Three Little Pigs - straw vs. wood vs. brick)
Wil building his 3rd design. 
  Then he had to test it:

Chris and Sam each tried pulling a table cloth without knocking over dishes.

There were many other myths to test, along with props and items from the show. 

Our last stop was the 727. Sam was thrilled to see the cockpit and sit in the seats. But by this point, we were all tired and ready to head home. 

If you were keeping track, we stopped at 3 museums in one day. Buying the CityPass was a great idea. We had planned to stop at 3 of the attractions (Willis Tower, Field Museum and Museum of Science & Industry). Without it, we wouldn't have stopped at the Shedd Aquarium (between expense and the long line). We saved money by using it, and would have saved more if we had spent more time and taken advantage of all the options. We skipped the Adler Planetarium, which would have been our 5th attraction. 

We'll definitely look into CityPass if we go to one of the other cities that offers one and next time we plan a museum tour of Chicago. And we'll definitely go back to Chicago to spend more time at the museums, but not until the boys are a little older and can appreciate more of the exhibits.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Those tiny moments of heartbreak

Chris has been in DC for a business trip. Today is day 13 of 15. Two weeks is a long time for us. It's an eternity for the boys.

For the first several days, the boys didn't seem to notice he wasn't here. Given that he's at work all day during the week and sometimes works late (such as when he's teaching or in the lead-up to this trip) or otherwise doesn't come home until late (weekly bagpipe practice), there are days when they don't see him until bedtime or the next morning. But usually he is around.

On day 5, the boys and I left for a mini-vacation of our own, visiting my parents. There was enough out of the usual, and enough going on, that it wasn't until several days into the visit that Wil suddenly noticed Daddy wasn't there too.

And then the tiny moments of heartbreak began.

"Daddy's missing all the fun."

"Is Daddy coming home today?"

"I miss Daddy." (Followed by him bursting into tears.)

And last night's gem, the one that almost made me cry: "Sam says Daddy is finding a new home."

Sam misses Daddy too. And I'm sure his taunt is partly due to fear that Daddy will never get home (2 weeks is a long time!) mixed with being mean to his brother. But that sure hurt.

I got out the calendar and counted the last few days: "Today is Friday. Tomorrow is Saturday. The next day is Sunday. Daddy will be home Monday." 3 more sleeps (that's how they keep track of days). I told them they could stay up Monday until Chris gets home (it'll probably be around bedtime).

Then I called Chris and let him count the days with them. By bedtime, they seemed to understand, although they asked again this morning if Daddy was coming home today. Only 2 more sleeps.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A comedy of missteps

We tried to go to Allerton Park today. We didn't make it.

We made it to Monticello, IL. But then things went wrong.

While streets had local names, they weren't well-labeled for the tourist. We ended up on 105 (not labeled as such!) rather than Allerton Rd. And that's when the fun began.

View Larger Map

By the time we realized our error, we were almost to County Road 1300 North. Which looked like it would take us to the south edge of Allerton Park. Only 1300 N was a grass path through a corn field.

So we went on toward 1200 North, thinking we could take that across and then head north on 500 East to the southern edge. 1200 N was at least paved, although it, too, was a narrow road between corn fields.

And then there was a sign on 1200 N at 700 East that the road was closed ahead. So we drove north on 700 E, hoping we'd find 1300 N.

We did. It was a gravel road. After a few yards of rattling (my mom joking that she could picture a cartoon car with bolts falling off), we turned back to 700 E.

And eventually found Allerton Road. And the entrance to Allerton Park. Where there was a sign that the bridge was out and to go to the County Farm Road entrance.

Not sure where that was, we went a bit further south to our old friend, 500 E at 1300 N. The Potawatomi Trail of Death marker seemed an ill omen. It was around this time that we all began laughing, cracking jokes (you had to be there to really get it), and ended up laughing so hard we were crying. And yes, I snorted. Several times. Chris would be proud.

After a few more wrong turns, we realized the County Farm Road entrance was at the north end of the park - and would involve going back to Monticello to get on County Farm Road, which runs somewhat parallel to Allerton Road.

We had lunch instead. At the Brown Bag, a pie and sandwich place my parents had heard about. I have to admit the sandwiches were good. Instead of pie, I had a pumpkin bar. But the selection of pies and other baked goodies was fantastic. And yummy. The place was hopping, with a constant line of customers.

Monticello was a cute little town. We've seen several nice little towns this week. Sunday we drove down to Arcola to see the Walldogs murals. If there are Walldogs murals near you, go check them out.

Yesterday we explored the Boneyard Creek Second Street Basins. What a neat little park and walking path. There were several waterfalls, including a spiral fall. Lots of ducks, geese and other water fowl were happily swimming in the pond. The park is a watershed and designed as a flood plain in that area.

We also stopped at the prairie farm the Champaign Park District has each summer. It is a replica of a turn of the century farm. The kids got to pet some animals, although we were there at feeding time, so many were too busy eating. They liked seeing the turkey all puffed up and petting a pig. They were disappointed the peacock wouldn't show his lovely plume and the sheep wanted food more than attention.

All in all, I think they've had a lovely mini-vacation at grandma and grandpa's house.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

June goals progress

It's time for another check in on my goals progress. Here's how I did in June.

  1. While I haven't finished revisions on my novel, I did get back to writing. I revised 2 chapters this month. I consider this a win.
  2. I didn't work on the screenplay, but at least I got back to writing.
  3. I have read 18 of the 40 books I hope to read this year. At my current rate, according to Goodreads, I am 1 book behind. While still behind, this is an improvement over last month.
  4. Chris and I went to see a really good Norwegian film, Turn Me On, Dammit!, at the IU Cinema.I highly recommend seeing this movie if you get a chance. Go save it on Netflix if it isn't coming to a theater near you. (IMDb listing) As a bonus, we also saw a movie at the local multiplex. Yes, we saw Prometheus. In 3D.
  5. The boys and I met a group of moms and kids for a hike at McCormick's Creek State Park. We picked the most rugged trail, of course, since it is the boys' favorite, although we only did a portion of it (and not the hardest part). 
  6. While I've had to take this week off from running since Chris is out of town (can't leave the boys home alone yet), I have been running a mile through the neighborhood 3 times each week. I haven't usually gone further, but my breathing is much easier than when I started. And I haven't been getting shin splints. Considering the heat (it's often already warm when I head out to run at 7:30), I'm pretty happy that I can go a mile. I'll worry about getting more distance in the fall when it cools off. If then. A full circuit of our neighborhood is about 1.5 miles, so that might be a good goal to work for at that point.
Overall, not bad progress. I feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things. I just need to find time to do everything I want to do.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

CSA week 8

After a spring full of leafy greens, our CSA share is quite different this week. We're starting to get summer veggies.

This week's box.
There is still plenty of kale, but no more lettuce, kohlrabi, cabbage, beets, radishes, or carrots.

Garlic, onions, potatoes, beans, broccoli, tomatoes and kale.
In all honesty, I'm much more comfortable and familiar cooking with these veggies. I miss the lettuce a bit (although 2 heads a week was a little much), but I'm excited by the tomatoes.

We'll probably make more soup with the kale, although I may mix it up with some pork, white bean and kale soup. I know at least one tomato sandwich is in my near future. And fresh garlic! I've been using the fresh garlic rather than my jar of minced garlic.

Oh, and last night's accomplishment was cooking Swiss chard that was actually good. My first batch was inedible (note to self: skip recipes with vinegar). Last night I sautéed the chard with some fresh garlic and olive oil, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, topped with a dash of salt and some butter. The butter was overkill, but that's what the recipe called for. Next time, I think I'll either skip the butter or just sauté in butter and skip the olive oil. Also, the red pepper flakes added a little spice, but it would also have been good without.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Swimming lessons

The boys started swimming lessons last week. They are both in the beginner class, which teaches basics like blowing bubbles.

They are both making progress - slow, but progress. Sam is game to try floating on his back and putting his arms out in front of him holding a floaty. Wil is a little more reluctant, but has been trying. He actually volunteered last week when the floaty was first brought out!

Today Wil had a little set-back. He got water in his eyes. He hates getting water in his eyes. Even in the tub (yep, bath time can be fun). So today we stopped and picked up goggles on the way home. I bought goggles for both boys, since Sam decided he liked them too, but I'm hoping they will help Wil feel more comfortable.

We have 3 more lessons. My goal is really just for them to feel comfortable in the water and gain basic skills. We'll definitely do more lessons next year. We may sign them up for the final session in late July/early August this year.

Things to practice at home: have them put their heads back when they take baths, get Wil used to his eyes getting wet, try to float on backs (with head on my shoulder) if we go to the pool, and try to get them on their tummies kicking if we go to the pool.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Clock making

Recently, the boys discovered Cyberchase. I've tried to watch it with them on PBS, but it was on Netflix that they wanted to watch it.

There are only 3 episodes available on Netflix, but one is fro season 4: "A Crinkle in Time".

In the episode, our intrepid mathematics-using heroes are sent to Ticktockia, a land of clocks. They use gears to solve puzzles. In the Cyberchase For Real segment, Bianca learns how the gears on a multi-speed bike work.

Wil was enthralled. He drew and cut out Ticktockians. And asked if we had any gears. He wanted to see the inside of a clock.

I found a clock-making kit on Think Geek.

Guess what arrived today? Yep, the clock-making kit.

Guess what Chris and the boys did after dinner?
If you said built a clock, you are correct.
They built the clock. I forgot to take pictures while they were putting the gears in, but the boys had a lot of fun - all three of them.

Sam adding the hands.
 They followed the directions, putting each piece in.
Wil finishing the hands.

They wound the clock when it was done. The look at pride and delight on Wil's face was priceless. 

Wil really liked putting the clock together. He followed the flow of movement, from the pendulum, to the first gear, to the second. Some move to slowly, he couldn't see their movement, but we traced how each gear turned the next.
Finished clock!
He enjoyed this so much, I won't be surprised if he starts taking clocks and radios and toasters apart in a few years to see how they work. Will we end up cruising garage sales for tinkering toys?

Oh, and while I was shopping at Think Geek, I found a stuffed Cthulhu for Sam. What could be a better way to end an evening than with a boy and his elder god?

Sam and Cthulhu.