Sunday, May 31, 2009

hello, handbags

One of my favorite things about my husband's trips to China... hang on a sec... I meant to say, The only thing I like about my husband's trips to China is when he goes shopping for me at the Ladies' Market.

He has started bringing me purses.

This is the one he got me on his most recent trip.

It's really soft leather. And the inside is super soft, too.

Usually, the Ladies' Market has the latest styles that will be making their way to America. So, I'm hoping that my new purse is really hip and cool. I'm just not sure yet.

I keep wishing someone in her 20s would come up to me and tell me she loves my purse! This morning at church, a high school girl and her mom were poking each other and pointing at it. The mom told me she got one that was similar at a flea market.

I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

This is the purse he got me last year. My fake Coach. Why do I feel the need to tell everyone, "It's fake" when they say they like it?

Maybe I'm more proud of the fact my husband got me a fake Coach for $10 off the street in China than I would be if I had paid for a real Coach. Yep. I'm proud of my cheap-o-ness.

The purse purchases started a few years ago when my husband came home with this purse. It was for my 2-year-old daughter.

"Where's mine?" I asked.

"I thought you had a purse."

Oh my. That was the day my husband learned that just because a woman has one purse does not mean she doesn't need six more. I guess he wasn't that good at math.

While I'm on the topic of purses, this is the bag I picked out for myself for Mother's Day. Bass Pro Shop. Go figure.

I thought it was kind of nice for summer.

It love using it to carry around all of my junk when I'm going to be stuck sitting somewhere for a while. It's the perfect size for my everydayMOM planner, too.

Maybe I should start selling it as an accessory?

What do you think? Does a new purse or handbag make you as happy as it makes me?

Friday, May 29, 2009

happy endings... or maybe not so happy

How many people, SERIOUSLY, would start crying a full-blown cry at the hair stylist?! Really?! This is not normal behavior.

And yet, sad to say, that IS what happened to me today.

It all started when I went to pick up the 30 Little Caesar's pizzas for the last time for the last hot lunch of the school year.

The funny thing is, we have been anxiously awaiting this day for WEEKS, maybe even MONTHS! It's the last day of school! Summer is here!

I was feeling quite sentimental as I set up the pizza and got everything ready for lunch.

Then in the middle of lunch, the other hot lunch moms called me out of the kitchen and presented me with a big bouquet of flowers in appreciation of my job coordinating the lunch every week. All of the little kids were clapping and cheering.

And it just hit me how bittersweet that last day really was. As I mentioned in my last post, my boys most likely will not be returning to their school next year. (I WILL write more about this soon.)

My second grader has been with his same class of friends since kindergarten. And my kindergartner has enjoyed a year of developing his own friends apart from his older brother. We have loved the school, loved the families who are such a community and loved the teachers.

I also have loved hanging out with the other moms during hot lunch or play dates in the park or whatever brought us together.

So, it was a tough day to say good-bye, realizing that this would be our last day at that school. I was trying so hard to fight back tears that it got to the point I had to just stop people from saying their thank-yous and good-byes. "No, no, no.... I don't want to start crying again!"

I had a haircut scheduled right after lunch, and fortunately, I was running late this morning and had put my make-up bag in the car. Boy, did I ever need it!

I pulled myself together and reapplied my make-up so I could behave like a normal adult in the swanky hair salon where Amy, my stylist now works.

During the last four years, I have followed Amy to three different salons and even trekked 40 minutes to her house to dunk my head in her kitchen sink when she was between jobs. When I first met her, Amy's hair-cutting name was Shea because another Amy already worked at her salon. I have only recently been able to train my brain to ask for "Amy" when I make my appointments, since they haven't heard of "Shea" at her new gig.

I sat down in her chair and Shea, I mean Amy, told me the bad news.

"Today is the last time I can cut your hair."


I was speechless.

I knew this day was coming. When she took the new job, she was hired as a colorist. They made an exception and let her cut my hair, too, for the past six months. But I was not prepared for this news.

Amy is the only hair stylist I have trusted so fully. She has a way with scissors. She is creative and intuitively knows how to cut my hair. She gives me suggestions to try new styles. And she has corrected several haircuts when I couldn't find her and had to go somewhere else out of desperation.

She introduced me to "Mo" who will be my new stylist.

"Amy has been cutting my hair for FOUR YEARS!" I explained to Mo, hoping to let her know that she was an unwanted intruder in my hair affair with Amy. Then, I burst into tears.

Both Amy and Mo had tears in their eyes as they ran to get me a box of Kleenex. We all cried and hugged for a while before I could compose myself.

"It's my kids' last day of school, and now THIS?!?" I tried to explain.

Mo does look like someone I can trust. She is a little more mature than many of the other stylists so she can probably ignore some of my fine lines and wrinkles. And she has a very short haircut herself, which gives me hope she might be able to cut mine just right.

But she's no Shea, or Amy, or Sheamy, or whatever the heck her name is!

We still have to go to a school function tonight. I'm sure the tears will be flowing freely as the kids recite their poems and sing their little songs.

But at least my hair will look hip. Maybe for the last time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

perhaps i need an suv or a semi-tractor trailer

Just so you know, I do have some very informative posts that I am planning to write in the next few days on important topics that I know will be highly interesting and possibly even award-winning.

For example, I have been trying to find time to write about the new purse my husband bought me in China, as well as my new nail polish color -- which I consider to be next to perfect -- not to mention an explanation of WHY my husband took his power tools and sawed our kids' swing set in half over the weekend.

But, alas. Those will have to wait another day or more because so many other awe-inspiring events happened today that I really need to unload on you right now.

They mostly have to do with shopping, which was the inspiration for the title. My mini-van was barely large enough to hold everything and I couldn't think of another title.

For starters, tomorrow is Field Day at school. And for the second year in a row, I signed up to be in charge of purchasing all of the food that we will cook and serve for lunch for all of the students, staff and volunteers during the day-long team competitions.

Buying the food for Field Day is a lot like childbirth. If the pain of the experience from the previous year didn't dull in your mind, leaving you with only the memory of the children's smiling faces when they were consuming their hot dogs, you would never do it a second time.

I should point out, though, that this entire school year I have been the hot lunch coordinator, which means that every Wednesday, I order, bill, and serve hot lunch to the entire school. I also have to collect all of the orders from every student each trimester, print out color-coded tickets to tell the hot lunch moms who gets what, negotiate prices with local restaurants and make sure the school office gets all of the invoices.

So, how hard could it be to go to the store and buy enough hot dogs, buns, chips, applesauce, bottled water, mid-day snacks and popsicles for 150 people? (It's a tiny school. Good thing.)

Actually, this year's shopping experience was a piece of cake compared to last year when I didn't have a Sam's Club membership and drove to about 9 different Wal-Mart and Meijer stores trying to collect enough of everything at a reasonable price.

Sam's Club had it all. And it was all cheap. But pushing the cart was another story. Who knew that much food would weigh as much as a couch and take up nearly as much space? Half way through the store, the two little kids and I had to ditch our regular, mega-sized extra large Sam's Club cart for that big flatbed trailer shopping cart that most people use to buy furniture.

Part of the reason I signed up for all of the food-related jobs was that until this year, my child was the only one at the school who had any food allergies. About halfway through my shopping, I realized that there also are kids this year at school allergic to eggs and milk, plus another family that restricts all artificial flavors and colors.

Believe it or not, I only had to make a few exceptions and I was able to buy everything that fit into those criteria. I was so happy.

Next, we were off to find a purple shirt for my oldest son because his team on Field Day is the Purple Gems (or something like that). We do not have a speck of purple boy clothes in our house. And it turns out that most major retailers don't carry purple boy clothes either. We finally landed a bright purple polo at Wal-Mart for $4. How great is that?

Oh, I forgot to mention that before all of this happened, I popped by lunch to drop off 150 popsicles in the freezer for tomorrow. A LOT has happened this year and we are nearly sure that the boys won't be returning to their school next year. (This is ANOTHER post that WILL be written shortly.)

When I went over to say hello to my son and all of his 2nd grade lunch buddies, a couple of the little boys had tears in their eyes. "I didn't know that (your son) isn't coming back next year," one said to me plaintively.

"Gabe said he's going to cry," my son told me.

"Me, too," I told his sweet little friend. Then I rushed out of the lunchroom and did cry, somewhat hysterically, for the next 20 minutes.

By the time we got to Panera Bread for lunch, my eyes were so foggy with tears that I ordered the Forest Mushroom Soup. I just wanted to mention this because it was the WORST CHOICE EVER. Please don't be tempted. Unless you like eating a big bowl of brown gravy with mushrooms in it. If I had a side of mashed potatoes and some turkey to absorb some of the soup, it might have been delicious. Otherwise, no.

While I was running around town on all my shopping adventures today, I noticed that a new Wonder Bread outlet store had opened. I think it might be on North Aurora Road? Anyway, after reading this post on my friend Lara's blog, I just wanted to let her know. I realize I could call her, and I almost did, but I thought it would be more fun to just tell her this way. Plus, I'm super lazy.

Finally, I decided that because my kids don't know the names of half of the vegetables on this planet and the new revelation this week that my son thought ALL cherries were MARACHINO cherries, we should start a new program at our house of trying new fresh veggies every week. I started tonight with a green pepper.

As I was giving each of them a slice, my mouth, on it's own, told the children that we were going to have a vegetable-tasting contest and at the end of each week we would rank all of the vegetables and choose the best-tasting veggie.

I amaze myself sometimes. I really don't know where I come up with this stuff. But it totally worked. They got very excited and they all wanted to make sure they tried their one little sliver of green pepper. I couldn't convince anyone to eat a second slice, but at least they have a miniscule amount of whatever vitamin resides in a green pepper in their system. And for that I'm grateful.

However, I realized my plan to put the family on a gluten free/casein free diet with no artificial flavors or colors could be even more difficult than I even imagined.

Before I started writing this post, I set out a Hershey's chocolate pie from the freezer (since the diet hasn't started yet and we need to celebrate the fact that it's Field Day tomorrow). The instructions said to defrost for 7 minutes. And then, "CONSUME IMMEDIATELY".

So, I guess that means I better run.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

allergies, asthma, adhd and autism

Whenever I start talking to someone about my oldest son's severe peanut allergy, the inevitable question always arises: Why do you think so many kids today have allergies? We never heard about allergies when we were growing up.

I have mentioned in my last two posts a book that I am reading, which, for the first time, answers that question in a way that makes sense to me. The book is called Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Kenneth Bock.

Bock asserts in the book that the dramatic rise in the incidence of all of these 4-A conditions began at about the same time. He believes that the same factors that contribute to the increase in autism also could be causing the other "A" conditions that are plaguing this generation of children: toxins in the environment, immunizations, weakened immune systems, as well as genetics.

And if the causes are the same, could it be that the cure also is the same? The author definitely believes this is true.

And for the first time, I feel like some of those motherly instincts I have had for the last eight years are validated by an independent source.

I mean, why is it that only one of my three children has allergies?

He not only is allergic to peanuts and nuts, but also to EVERYTHING outdoors: trees, grass, mold, pollen, ragweed, dust mites, cats and dogs. If your child has ever had a prick test on his or her back or arms, just imagine if every single one of those little dots turned into a bright red welt and came back positive.

I also have wondered if all of this goes back to his first day of life outside the womb. The day when I pushed for two hours, but he didn't move an inch down the birth canal. The day when his heart rate started dropping and they rushed me to the emergency room. The day he was born almost blue from lack of oxygen and had an APGAR score of 2. The day they placed him in an oxygen tent and fed him through a tube in his nose.

Now, I'm reading that on THAT day, the first day of life, doctors also give newborn babies their first vaccine. I don't know if that happened to my son. I was out stone cold after the doctor sliced me open before I was fully anesthetized. They had to put me completely under, and I didn't see my newborn baby for about 12 hours.

Before I go on, let me just tell you, that this kid is a delight. He is truly one of the sweetest, most caring, compassionate kids you will meet. He is highly creative and can run like the wind. He is a leader in his class and has a great group of friends.

But I have always suspected that the same forces that are causing his allergies could be causing some of the other struggles he has had throughout his life. When he was little, these played out in the form of constant crying as a baby, followed by uncontrollable tantrums as a toddler.

Then came the fears of swings, slides, bike rides, tunnels, anything at an amusement park. He couldn't handle loud noises. He actually refused to go in our back yard for an entire year because he was afraid of the sound of the neighbor's dog barking. He hated getting his hair cut, new shoes, brushing his teeth and even at 8 years old, he has never put his head underwater. This kind of makes swimming lessons impossible.

Although he is very intelligent in his school subjects, he also has problems understanding certain concepts or figuring things out. We have been on a journey the past few years to determine what is causing this. He has been to therapists, reading specialists, an audiologist, an eye doctor and an occupational therapist, but we still don't have a good answer.

Could it all be related?

Could it be that the author of this book is correct?

He says that whether your child has autism, ADHD, asthma or allergies, the root of the problem lies in what is inside their bodies. Maybe it's a high concentration of metals. Maybe he is eating foods to which he is allergic, and we don't realize it. Perhaps he needs supplements, such as Omega-3 or Amino Acids.

When my son was first tested for allergies five years ago, the initial test showed that he was allergic to wheat and soy. His allergist told me not to worry about those. She said the levels weren't high enough to eliminate them. So, my son lives on a diet of bread, pasta and cereal. But this book also says that kids tend to crave the very food to which they are allergic.

Could we be filling his body with foods that are irritating him from the inside out?

I have a lot more research to do to determine our next step. If anyone has any experience with alternative medicine or holistic doctors, I would love to hear what you have found, both good and bad.

We have been on a journey the past eight years. If it were a marathon, I would say we have made it to the one-mile mark. But I am excited about this new information and where it might lead.

autism and vaccines

After writing my last post about the autism conference where I had a booth this weekend, I wanted to go into a little more detail about what I have learned about the link between autism and childhood immunizations.

The first time I heard anyone mention this link was in the early 90s when I was a reporter for a chain of newspapers. I spent about five years covering state government in the capitol building in Springfield and then later became the Chicago bureau chief, where I also covered state government.

Honestly, this experience made me highly skeptical. That can be both good and bad. I don't take anything at face value. As they say in journalism school, "If your mother tells you she loves you, ask a second source." I tend to over-analyze things, think about them obsessively, research and look for second opinions.

So, I was skeptical when a tiny band of parents and advocates came to Springfield to hold a press conference, asking lawmakers to make changes to the number of vaccines required for young children to enter school.

This small group asserted that immunizations were the direct cause of autism. I also remember the public health department denouncing this claim, as if it had absolutely no basis and was a bit crazy.

The issue continued for several years after that. Studies were released showing no link between vaccines and autism, and it became a national issue.

I don't think I ever developed an opinion one way or another on that issue. I could see both sides. The claims of this group made sense to me. But could it all be coincidence? Regressive autism usually sets in around 18 months of age. That is right when most kids are getting a major round of immunizations.

I didn't think about it much until I had to start taking my own children in for their immunizations. I remember one time in particular when I questioned my doctor about the number of shots she wanted to give my daughter. She became visibly agitated, as if she had just had enough of arguing with Crazy Moms over this issue.

She started raising her voice and gave me papers and reports showing these claims were completely unfounded. We finally reached an agreement that she could give my daughter one shot that day and we would come in later for the others.

At Autism One, there is no debate over the link between vaccines and autism. To those parents, it is a proven fact.

A couple of years ago, my booth was next to that of some young ABA therapists. Their job is to do therapy with children with autism to help them learn to modify their behavior. By the way, this job that was barely even heard of a decade ago is now a hot field and services are much in demand.

These women told me about one of their clients. He was a boy adopted from South America when he was 2 years old. He came to the United States with bright eyes and a playful spirit. Because he had not had any immunizations, he got all of his shots at once. I think he had around 10 vaccinations at one time.

These ladies said that when that boy went home, he immediately sank into the dark hole of autism. The sparkle in his eyes was gone. He no longer made eye contact. He lost his ability to communicate. HE disappeared into the darkness called autism.

I don't know if this story is true. But it sunk into my brain and has stayed there for several years.

When I talk to the parents at Autism One and ask them when their child was diagnosed with autism, every one says that it was right after their big round of immunizations at about 18 months to 2 years.

This year, I decided it was time for me to gain a better understanding of the basics of autism and what these people believe.

I purchased a book called, "Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies". I am so fascinated by this book for several reasons, which I hope to write more about this week. You could say that I'm completely obsessed with this book now.

Anyway, the author, Kenneth Bock is a holistic doctor who writes about how he has used a biomedical approach to cure children of autism, ADHD, asthma and allergies.

He also explains the connection between autism and immunizations. I will attempt to explain that here, but if you know more about this, feel free to correct me.

First of all, I learned that there are two forms of autism. Classic autism is mostly genetic and passed down through generations. That's why you sometimes see a parent with autistic tendencies who has a child with autism.

Regressive autism is when children are developing normally as babies, but around 18 months to 2 years, they start regressing into the world of autism.

He says that many factors contribute to this. A few of those include:

  • Genetics
  • A mother's health when she was pregnant (maybe she got a flu vaccine or other harmful medication, or maybe she had Lyme disease)
  • The toxins in the environment. Some highly polluted areas of the country have a much larger population of children with autism.

So, factors like these are the "gun" and immunizations are the "trigger."

Did you know that over the last 20 years, the number of immunizations our children receive has skyrocketed? Back in the 80s and early 90s, pharmaceutical companies used a preservative called thimerosal in the vaccines so that doctors could give several at once. (The most common example is the MMR.) Thimerosal contains mercury, which is one of the most deadly chemicals on the planet, and this was being injected into children.

The early 90s also is the time when the cases of autism skyrocketed to about 1 in 150.

Thimerosal was eventually banned from vaccines. (This book states that it is still used in the flu vaccine. I don't know if this is true, but I am not taking any chances.)

Even though the chemical isn't used in the vaccines anymore, Bock said he has seen that children with a weakened immune system at the time of their vaccines, or children who are subjected to an unusually high number of vaccines at one time are the ones who usually have an adverse reaction.

These kids also have some of the factors I listed previously that make them more predisposed to getting autism in the first place. So, they had a weakened immune system for another reason -- genetics, illness, toxins, environment. And when they got the shots, their immune system basically crumbled.

That is my understanding of the process. This book also gives a guide for parents to safely get their children vaccinated.

I am hoping to write another post about how this book is changing the way I think about allergies. Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

the power of hope

Memorial Day weekend is always one of the busiest weekends of the year for me. I know, I probably should be lounging around with my family during the long holiday weekend.

But instead, for the past few years, I have packed up a toy store into the back of my minivan and hauled it about an hour north for one of my biggest "work" related events of the year. As most of you know, I'm a sales director for Discovery Toys, an educational toy company.

I choose when I work. And I don't like to work on weekends. But this one weekend of the year is very fulfilling to me in many ways. It's when hundreds and even thousands of people from around the world gather in the Chicago area for one of the largest autism conferences in the country: Autism One.

It's exhausting: Standing on my feet for three 12-hour days in a row, setting up my booth, talking to hundreds of people and then loading up the stray toys that are left on Sunday afternoon.

But I love this conference because the parents, therapists and doctors who stop by my booth don't see a huge display of toys. They see tools. They understand how important play is in the growth of a child's brain. They understand so acutely that play is not something every parent can take for granted. It's not just being silly or goofing around. It's essential to a child's development.

It's also overwhelming to be surrounded by autism for so many hours. It gives me only the tiniest glimpse of what it must be like to live in that world without end. One woman stated her feelings so well, when she came running up to my booth after finishing a seminar.

"It feels so good to see toys!" she exclaimed. It gave her a feeling of relief and comfort compared to all of the others booths lined up and down the hallways of the large hotel.

I'm sort of like a little island surrounded by the tricky waters of the other vendors: hyperbaric oxygen tanks, gluten free/casein free diet plans, auditory integration therapy, hormone therapy and the many other types of biomedical innovations that are being taught at the conference.

But I also noticed this year a current that seemed to be cascading through the crowds of people in attendance. They all had gathered for the same cause as previous years: Autism. But they seemed to be buoyed this year by a force stronger than ever: Hope.

Hope is an amazing thing, isn't it? Without it, why would parents travel from around the world to learn about the latest discoveries in treating a condition that 10 years ago was routinely labeled as "incurable". Hopeless.

To hear their stories is heartbreaking. Babies and toddlers developing normally. Then around 18 months, they stopped babbling. Stopped talking. Stopped looking Mom in the eye. Started twirling. Started flapping. Starting crying out in pain.

In this enclosed space of the Westin Hotel in Rosemont, assumptions don't match those in the medical community. Here, it's not only accepted, but an unquestioned fact that childhood immunizations are a large contributing factor.

This talk really disturbed me the first few years. I hope I can write more about this debate later on this week.

But this year, the focus was less on what had caused the problem and more on how to solve it.

"How old are your kids?" I asked one dad who was especially excited about my toy offerings and how he could use them with his sons.

"My boys are 3 and 1," he said. "But they are both NT."

(After a few years I've learned much of the lingo. So, I quickly figured that NT is code for neuro-typical. And that means their brains are developing "normally". They don't have autism.)

"Oh? What brings you to the conference then?" I asked.

"Well, my 3-year-old had autism. But he is cured."

It was a story I had heard a few times throughout the weekend. Sure. There were still lots of families coming up to my booth along with their kids who showed the classic signs of autism. There were several moms running up to me in desperation. "My son is having a severe meltdown. I need a toy. Now."

But there were also these stories I hadn't heard before. Radical diet changes. Infusions of vitamins and minerals. Oxygen treatments. And they were working.

Still... cured? You have to understand that the families that come to this conference, by their own admission, aren't mainstream. They represent a small percentage of families affected by autism who are waging war on this condition. They are looking at every possible solution. They are willing to try anything for their kids. And according to some of them, it's working.

During the last few hours of the conference, I stepped to the front of my booth to see that a little boy, about 9 years old, had dismantled by Marbleworks Deluxe set that I had painstakingly constructed as a display. All of the pieces were sitting in a big pile and he was carefully attaching a few tubes back together.

I love it when kids park themselves at my booth to play. But I was at the end of my energy level and ready to pack it up and go home. And, I will admit, after several days of putting toys back together, I didn't have a lot of confidence in this kid's ability.

He played quietly on the floor while I talked to my customers. After a while I heard the distinct sound of a marble running through the maze. I peered over the table. He had created a marble run that was far more elaborate and creative than anything I had ever built. He even had a jump halfway through where the marble soared off a ramp and landed on another part of the run.

He looked directly at me and asked, "Would you like me to put it back the way it was? Or should I leave it like this?"

"Oh, I definitely want you to leave it like that!" I answered. "It looks awesome."

This boy, Mark, went on to test out several of my other toys. But he would politely ask my permission before grabbing one and then thank me after he was finished. I found out through other passersby that he had just finished speaking at one of the sessions.

I asked him what he had talked about.

"Oh... how I was cured of autism."

I actually felt kind of sad when Mark's mom informed him it was time to go. Talking to him had been a joy. He carefully tweaked his Marbleworks run before thanking me and walking away.

And I realized I had a deficiency myself. He had given me a surge of something I had been needing all weekend.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

it's gonna cost ya!

A few years ago, I made a discovery in my parenting. Most of the time when kids are acting out, they need some discipline. But sometimes when a child is having a meltdown that looks like a major offense, what he is actually crying out for is a big fat hug.

This is especially true of our Middle Child, whose love language is all about hugs. That kid has always loved to sit on my lap, give me kisses and hold tight for big bear hugs. He also gets easily frustrated. It's not easy having a brother who is 22 months older, runs faster, rides his bike faster, jumps higher and pretty much does everything as if he's two years ahead (because he IS).

As the meltdowns increased, I realized that I needed to be more proactive in the amount of Mommy love that was being dished out on a daily basis in our house. But as my boys were getting older, convincing them to slow down and soak up a hug was becoming more of a struggle.

That's when I instituted the payment system. It works something like this.

"Mom, could I have a cup of milk?"

"Sure, but it's gonna cost ya."

"How much?"

"I'll need five hugs and three kisses."

This took them by surprise at first. They acted like they were being tortured as they grudgingly handed over their payment.

But as this routine became a more familiar part of our household, they started looking forward to hearing how many hugs and kisses they would have to "pay" me.

When my husband is out of town for weeks at a time, as he has been lately, everyone in our house seems to be a little more edgy. And then I remember that we all need to pay up. Forget time outs. We need some hugs.

It's gotten to the point that my kids even inform me of what I owe them. And their requests are often extreme.

"I need 43 hugs and 25 kisses," one of them will say. We hold tight while we count to 43, and then the 25 pecks begin.

It can be steep. But I'm willing to pay the price.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

senor and the roses

I was thankful to sit in the darkness for nearly two hours. I didn't have to worry about any of the people seated next to me and what they would think about the tears streaming down my face.

Things like this always make me cry. The adorable little 3-year-olds in their bright pink tutus, spinning when they are supposed to kick. Raising the right hand, when it's time to lift the left. Tapping their tiny little ballet shoes. Their cuteness makes me cry.

Then the 7- and 8-year-olds come prancing onto the stage. They are old enough to do their dance almost in synchronization. Their little skirts flow behind them as they run in a circle. Now it's the beautiful music that makes me cry.

Out comes my daughter and her class in their bright red tutus. They are "Senor and the Roses". Senor is often facing the wrong direction, lifting the wrong arm, spinning the wrong way, but he's so cute in his bright red sparkling bow tie. And there's my daughter, leaping, running back and forth, spinning and tapping her foot in her first ever ballet performance. I better find a Kleenex.

The acts continue. Pre-teens. Teen-agers. Adults. I sit there in my solitude thinking about all of the women who choreographed each dance, all of the hours the kids spent practicing, all of the time their parents spent driving them to class. And, of course, it makes me cry.

I know I'm feeling a little more emotional than usual because I'm there alone. I'm squeezed between grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who came in groups of six, eight and 12 to see one little performer.

I'm wishing my husband wasn't in China right now. I'm thinking how nice it must be to have family living nearby. I'm missing my boys, even though I know it's better that they are enjoying the beautiful day outdoors at a playdate. They sat through the dress rehearsal yesterday and, even though they loved seeing their sister perform, that was enough ballet for them.

When the show finally ended, the people sitting next to me didn't want to move. So, I waited behind a stream of people to fight my way toward the waiting room where I could find my 4-year-old.

She came running toward me and then pulled me down to her level.

"Mommy. All the other girls got flowers," she whispered. She had a tear in her eye.

It hit me.

She had been waiting as each parent came to pick up his or her child. They entered the room with their bouquets for the little performers. She probably thought the flowers were an automatic benefit of being in the show.

I, on the other hand, had walked right past the table where they were selling flowers. Just as I had walked past the T-shirts and the personalized street signs, with words like "Danceforce Way", one could purchase for a child's room.

It hadn't occurred to me that the other moms of the 3- and 4-year-olds would present their daughters with a bouquet after their 1-minute segment in the show. I saw it as one more extravagance. I mean, wasn't it enough already? The $100 to take the class? Another $50 for the costume? Then the shoes and tights? And the professional video? The class photo? I had sprung for all of that. But it hadn't entered my mind to buy the flowers.

She kept saying it all the way out of the high school and the whole ride home. "Mommy, all the other girls got flowers."

"I thought maybe we could get you a movie!" I suggested.

"OK! A movie AND flowers."

"Hey, let's go get hot fudge sundaes!"

"OK! And then flowers?"

She was tired after sitting in that room nearly three hours. The girls colored as they waited for the show to start, and they played during all of the other acts. It was a long afternoon for the little girls who didn't get the benefit of watching the other dancers.

She was tired. Too tired to run in a store and grab some flowers. Not that it would have been the same.

Sometimes I feel so inadequate as the mom of a girl. I spent the first half of my eight years of motherhood parenting boys only. As long as their clothes were somewhat clean and their hair wasn't sticking up, they were presentable.

But a girl? I've never really been all that girly. So, I have to think hard to come up with a plan for how I will style her hair. How will I get that little flowery thing to stay put on the top of her head for three hours? I thought I was doing well to suggest she put on some pink lipgloss for the special occassion.

When we got there and met up with her little group, I hoped she didn't notice the other girls had glitter in their hair, eye shadow and make-up. I hadn't thought to go to such lengths to make my 4-year-old beautiful.

We drove home and enjoyed our ice cream sundaes. I let her watch a movie on the way to pick up the boys. I know it wasn't necessary.

I was feeling guilty that she had no one but a single parent in the audience. Why didn't I think about putting glitter in her hair? And the flowers. Those darned flowers.

Several hours later, the flowers are nothing but a distant memory to her. She probably won't think about them again. But me? I'll probably go buy some tomorrow. And I'll think about her in her bright red tutu, spinning like such a big girl on that enormous stage.

And I'm sure it will make me cry.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I'm such a proud mama today! Both of my boys earned three stripes on their karate belts. This means they both did an excellent job in their testing.

My oldest son got black stripes because he is 8. My second son received red stripes because he is in the 7 and under group.

Those with black stripes need four stripes before the progress to the orange belt. Those with red stripes need six before they can earn an orange belt.

The judges don't give out stripes liberally so I was so happy that they both earned three in their first test.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

lost in the wind without the correct color of paint and no room for a sink

I know you are all probably waiting on the edge of your seats to hear my thoughts about last night's Season Finale of LOST.

All I can really say at this point is: "How about that hole in the ground?"

First, you can throw a nuclear bomb down there and after plummeting about 1,000 miles to the center of the Earth it doesn't explode.

And then, poor, sweet Juliet falls in after it. And she must have landed on a pillow, rather than all of the metal debris that went in before and after her because she seems to be fine. And it sure is a good thing she fell down there because she now can blow up the entire island.

I can handle the new revelations about Jacob and how he mysteriously was present at the key moment of every character's life. And I was strangely excited to find out that Locke really was dead and that other nameless guy had taken over his body.

And I don't really mind the whole premise that the Losties are now going to completely alter the future by running through the woods with a nuclear bomb in a backpack and then throwing it in the hole.

But, come on?!? Let's get realistic with throwing Juliet down there and having her survive. That's a little far-fetched, don't you think?

Well, anyway. I'm kind of happy the show is over for the summer and I can relax. I would sure hate to be one of those script writers who has to figure out how to tie all of that together.

Moving on... I just wanted to mention that my husband has been out of town for a bit, but unlike in the past when I might have started to get a little stir crazy from the lack of adult conversation, I think I'm holding things together perfectly well. In all honesty, the days do get a little long when he isn't available for days on end to chat by Skype about all of the daily events around here. But, I think I'm doing OK.

Take last night, for example, when a tornado watch was in effect during LOST. I didn't freak out and carry all three of the sleeping children to the basement, and I actually stayed quite calm until a huge bolt of thunder and lightning that sounded like a freight train exploded right over the house and it sounded like someone was taking huge buckets of water and throwing them at the windows.

But when I woke up at 5 a.m., the first thought that ran through my mind was what the weatherman had said last night. "Believe it or not, when this storm passes through here, it's going to be a beautiful sunny day tomorrow."

And so I jumped out of bed bright and early and prepared myself to go for a walk as soon as I could get the boys off to school. I knew better than to make the same mistake I had made two days ago when I let my 4-year-old daughter ride her tiny bicycle along during the walk. It seems "the bike gets very tired" about halfway through and then I have to carry it the whole way.

So, I put her in the wagon, and immediately realized how out of shape I am. Pulling her 40 pound body, plus the 10 pound wagon, felt like I was pulling 50 pounds. I had misunderstood the weatherman's prediction of "beautiful sunny day" to mean pleasant and warm. He didn't mention the frigid wind that was going to wisk across my face for the next six (or maybe it's two) miles of my walk.

And so I pulled that wagon into the wind with my ears stinging.

And when we got home, I realized it was only 8:30 a.m. and I still had an hour and a half before ballet class. So, I turned on PBS Kids for my daughter and snuggled my frozen body back in bed. I woke up exactly 45 minutes later, because that is precisely the length of my REM cycle, not one minute more or one minute less, and I suddenly had a wonderful thought!

"It's observation day at ballet class!"

That means instead of sitting out in the hall, trying to make small talk with the other moms and trying to act like I'm busy doing some sort of paperwork, I would be able to sit in the ballet class. That alone was cause for a cute outfit! So, I jumped up and found a winter sweater, some jeans and wooly socks and tried to hide the indentation on the side of my face and my flat hair on one side and make myself look like a true ballet mom.

I had a job to do now! I had an actual purpose. I could video tape and photograph my darling daughter for 45 minutes! I picked out my absolute favorite of her ballet outfits and told her to get dressed. And since Clifford, The Big Red Dog, was still on TV, she didn't have enough sense to argue with me that she would rather wear the glittery, hand-me-down Strawberry Shortcake ballet outfit.

A few minutes later and we were ready. But I still had time to analyze the paint swatches I had picked up at Home Depot. Even though I really like all the colors I painted my house, I'm ready for a change. I'm just not sure if I will be able to find three complementary colors that flow as you walk through the house the way my current colors do.

While we were getting the paint samples, we also picked up some little paint booklets that were next to the Disney paint colors. The kids have decided they want to re-do their rooms, as well. But they don't seem to realize that part of the reason the rooms in those photos look so good is because they don't have any candy wrappers, Lego pieces or dirty underwear strewn across the rooms.

They also think that because the pictures show a bathroom in each bedroom that if we paint their rooms those colors, they also will get a bathroom in their rooms. I have tried explaining this to them about five times.

"People, we don't even have space in your room for your Lincoln Logs! How do you think we are going to fit a bathtub and toilet in there?!?"

They listen for about five seconds, and then they say, "What color do you think we should paint the sink?"

Yeah, LOST. I really did like the Season Finale. I just thought the end was kind of hokey. And I'm kind of OK with the fact that everyone blew up. It helps my mind rest until the fall.

And if by some strange chance anyone reads this rambling babble, let me say, "thanks for listening."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

summer adventures

I have been daydreaming about summer.

At the beginning of every summer, I sit down with my kids and we write down our "goals" for the next 12 weeks. Now don't let the word "goals" scare you.

The first page is all of the places we hope to visit during the summer. The second page is all of the friends we would like to invite over for a playdate. And the third page is anything else we want to accomplish: swimming lessons, learn to play tennis, piano lessons, read a certain number of books. I also will include anything a little more serious on this page, such as reviewing math problems, memorizing Bible versus or working on chores.

If we experience a moment of boredom, the kids will say, "Hey, let's look at our goal sheet!" We will get out the notebook and choose something from our list to do that day!

I have been so anxious for summer to arrive that I kind of cheated. I made my own list of summer adventures for this year without the kids' help. (We'll do another one together later on.) I guess I just needed a mental diversion from homework and the rainy weather that has been hanging over the area for months now!

These are some of our plans for the summer. By the way, we LOVE to have friends go with us on our adventures! If anything sounds like fun, let me know, and I WILL be giving you a call. (If you live in the area, I'll probably be giving you a call anyway. Adventures are more fun with friends!)

Blackberry Farm is one of our favorite places to visit in the summer. The kids can ride ponies, a carousel, a train or a wagon.

They also can visit the farm animals and farm buildings. We love the peaceful open space. It never seems to be busy there. Would you believe my kids' favorite part is to go inside the "museum" and walk down a city street made to look like the 1800's?! We can pretend that we're living in Little House on the Prairie and going for a visit to the city with Ma and Pa.

We are members of The Morton Arboretum, so we will probably go there a half dozen times! We love hanging out in the Children's Garden or the Maze Garden. If we go with friends, we'll see it all. If we are by ourselves, we'll plop down by a stream and play for hours. The kids love to build dams with the rocks and pretend they are the beavers in the book, Poppy.

Or we will hang out by the tree houses. My daughter will make a new best friend and play house while my boys will run around underneath the tree houses looking for Ewoks and hiding from Darth Vader.

If the Children's Garden gets boring, we'll head into the wide spaces of the rest of the arboretum. Some people don't know this, but this is actually the land of Narnia. We'll search for the white witch and maybe even have a picnic with Aslan. Don't forget the Turkish Delight!

Some of our other favorite adventures are The Brookfield Zoo, Pirate's Cove, the Riverwalk and visiting the restored tanks and war museum at Cantigny.

We also love our bike rides from Hidden Lakes Historic Trout Farm to visit several parks along the bike path and then back. You might not have realized this, but the nature trail behind the trout farm is actually another planet. You have to be very quiet so you don't scare Yoda, who lives in the swamp there.

Another little known attraction here in the suburbs is the Red Oak Nature Center. A visit here includes a hike of about .25 miles down to the river to find this little, tiny cave:

It might seem kind of boring, unless you have read Mystery Island in The Boxcar Children book series. Then you will realize, it is the same cave where a Native American was hiding in the book! Actually, the cave does have a similar history and you can learn all about it in the nature center.

I thought the nature center was pretty dumpy and boring, but NOT the kids! It has a whole display of types of poop of various animals, not to mention a room with mirrors that make you look like you are shrinking. The kids also can use animal puppets to put on a show. Seriously? What could be better??

Another place we visit several times each summer is Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. We hang out by the waterfall and eat our lunch, then we head out to the little hiking trails.

Waterfall Glen is also an excellent place to bike, if you and your kids can handle a hilly ride that's about 11 miles long. We can't wait until our kids are ready for that day!

Other stops on our list include Starved Rock State Park, Klein Creek Farm and Naper Settlement.

Oh, and then there's downtown Chicago, which would take up several more posts. We actually don't get into the city much since we have so much fun out in the 'burbs, and it's a little easier to navigate out here.

But we do like taking our bikes downtown and exploring the city that way. It can be a little treacherous, but it's a fun way to see the sights.

Finally, summer wouldn't be complete without at least a few camping trips. We're planning one longer trip to Michigan this year.

But I'm hoping we also can find time to camp at Starved Rock and St. Joseph, Michigan. The campground where we usually stay is completely kid-friendly with a pool, playground and bouncing pillow. And it's about 10 miles from the beach.

If you like camping, let us know! It's always more fun to go with friends!

We aren't doing a big vacation this year, but we will be spending some time with family in Indiana and making a stop at Holiday World. If you haven't been there, it's a fun get-away and worth the drive! The amusement park is SUPER kid friendly and has rides for every age from 1-year-olds on up!

So what are your favorite places to visit in the summer? Have I forgotten anything that is a MUST!?

Oh... back to reality. It's a cold, rainy day here, but it's summer in my heart!

Monday, May 11, 2009

heian sho-dan!

Our boys are just finishing up their first year in karate. I have decided this is a sport I really like.

Basically, any kid can try karate. You don't have to be exceptionally strong or athletic or have great hand-eye coordination.

Instead, to be good at karate, you need focus, determination and perseverance. And those are skills that every kid needs to be successful in whatever he or she decides to do later in life.

After three sessions of karate, both of my boys, ages 6 and 8, were ready to test to determine if they would get to add a set of stripes to their karate belts. I didn't know anything about this process prior to this experience, so I will explain how it works.

For each level, the children have to show they can perform a series of karate moves called out by an instructor.

They also have to perfectly perform their kata. The first kata is called Heian Sho-Dan. It's a series of nine moves, which have to be done in succession with good form. The kids have to look straight ahead and move their arms and legs with precision. The kids are asked to "Name your kata" at the beginning, and the child shouts, "Heian Sho-Dan!"

Our younger son had to do his testing first. We were all very nervous because he is about as shy as a kindergartner can be. He doesn't like to go to karate class unless his older brother is with him, and he rarely talks to -- or even looks at -- anyone he doesn't know.

We've actually had to pull out of several other park district classes, like swimming and sports mania, because he refused to participate, and opted to sit on the sidelines crying hysterically.

I was picturing him standing in front of the big black-belt sensai and melting into a fit of tears, which isn't a good look for someone going for his karate belt.

When we got to the testing, the sensais took the 75 or so kids, all between the ages of 5 and 7, into a separate room and helped them warm up. We weren't sure what was going on for an entire hour during which the most we saw of the kids was when bunches of them had to be escorted to the bathroom for a potty break.

Finally, it was time for the testing to begin, and I breathed a little sigh of relief. Each of the black belt judges came into the room holding hands with a little group of four kids to be tested. Instead of looking scary and tough, the sensais were smiling as they led their little line of children. They helped each group of four line up next to one of 18 numbered cones.

Then, the first row of 18 children all stepped up to the front and did their moves in unison. Each judge kept his eye on a certain set of kids.

It was much less pressure than we had imagined. And actually, with that many kids that age, the biggest problem was keeping them from lying down on the floor or tripping on their karate belts. One of the sensais was obsessed with rolling up their pant legs and tying their belts correctly. He kept jumping up from his judging table right in the middle of their moves to straighten the little kids' outfits.

(As the kids get older, their testing is much more serious and rigorous. No hand-holding with the older kids! And they are expected to do each move without faltering.)

In the end, I have never been so proud of our 6-year-old. He did all of his moves perfectly. He stayed focused. He looked straight ahead. And he didn't miss a beat.

We will find out this weekend how many stripes he earned. But regardless of what the judges decide, what he gained in self-confidence was black belt quality to his mom.

second grade economics

Save birthday money + Lose teeth + Do chores

= lots of change

= enough money to buy a new Star Wars Lego set

(He's been saving that money pretty much since birth.)

As opposed to 4-year-old Economics...

Use chore chart as coloring project

= No money

= Get photo taken with Barbie she found in the closet.

Mommy Economics

Kids who want things badly enough = Chores are done without complaining.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

the gift of motherhood

So many years on Mother's Day, I have spent the day enjoying my family's attempts to cater to me in every way. The handmade cards. The homemade breakfast. The break from cooking and washing dishes. The gifts. And hugs.

And while I treasure all of that attention this year, like any other, I can't stop thinking about this amazing gift God has given me. This gift of being a mother.

From the beginning, we "try" and hope to create that new life. We give up our very bodies to sustain the life of another. It's a wonder that is nearly impossible to comprehend unless one has experienced it firsthand.

In some cases, we talk about a baby as an "accident" or an "oops". For others, it's not easy or unplanned. Some agonize and seek medical help. Or they are blessed with a gift so special I can't possibly fathom what it would be like -- that gift of adoption.

We think of ourselves as the creators. As the ones who created a child. But in every case, there is only One who gives life. One who decides. One who knew us before we were born.

I have realized that as a mother, I am merely the vessel. And I have tried to do that job the best that I can.

The baby is born, and we focus on its physical needs. We try to keep him warm. Give her nourishment. Provide a comfortable place to sleep.

Then, the brain starts to grow and develop. We teach colors and numbers and letters. We insist on good manners and remind the little one to eat his fruits and veggies.

And through it all, we moms sacrifice our wants and desires, our dreams and goals and ambitions, to wipe noses, clean bottoms, wash clothes and cook healthy meals. The job seems overwhelming at times. We think about how we might ruin our children or scar them for life. We worry that we won't expose them to art and culture and sports and opportunities.

We try to meet their physical needs and provide a safe and loving home.

We strive and work and toil. We try to shape their minds and their hearts and prepare them for life outside our little nests.

But today, as I think about my children, I see things a little differently. It's a big responsibility, the job of being mom. But it's not so much about me, and all that I've done.

It's a gift that God has given me. It's the most amazing gift I've ever received. I'm so thankful today that God chose me. That he entrusted me with these little lives. It's a gift like no other. This gift of motherhood.

Friday, May 8, 2009

i'll turn if i want to, Richard

My husband got me an awesome gift for my 40th birthday. It's a GPS for my car.

I spend a lot of time in my car driving to unknown destinations. For the last six years, I've been a home party lady. I have been in more homes in more subdivisions in more suburbs than you can possibly imagine.

So, my sweet husband thought the GPS would be a great way to help me get around. And while I'm generally really good at finding my way, it would help avoid those occasional phone calls of, "Honey, I think I made a wrong turn. Can you go on MapQuest and figure out where I am?"

I love the GPS. It's really fun to have around. But I have to admit that, lately, Richard, the voice of my GPS, and I haven't exactly been seeing eye-to-eye.

My trips always start out the same. I type in the address of my destination. Then, I tell myself: "No matter what Richard suggests, I'm going to do it. I want to see which way he tells me to go."

Then I pull out of my driveway, and the conflict begins.

"Turn left, and then take the second right."

Umm, Richard. You should know by now that I like to turn right to get out of my subdivision. I know you want me to stay on the major streets, but it IS a little faster, I sigh.

I relent and go his way.

I start cruising through town on my way to the tollway. And I wait.

Richard, I really need to turn left up here. Don't you remember the shortcut?! Richard, if I keep going straight, I'm going to hit five stoplights. There are no stoplights this way. It's much faster.

My heart starts pounding as I get into the left turn lane. What is he going to say now? I'm making an unauthorized turn! Can't his memory chip learn that I want to turn here?! He's quiet. And then, he comes back to life.

"After 500 yards, turn right."

Whew! He readjusted.

I keep going my way, and Richard is silent for several miles. He lets me go through stop signs and past major roads and he doesn't say a word.

I know what he's thinking:

"I told you to go straight back there, and you didn't listen."
"Why do you even turn me on if you aren't going to do what I tell you?"
"Why don't you just go back to using Susan?"

I'll admit it. When I got the GPS, it came with the pre-set voice of Susan. Something about her bossing me around was even worse than Richard. I know this makes a serious statement about my gender relations, but I'm not sure what it is. I switched to Richard because he has a calm, but firm, voice. I felt like I could trust him.

Finally, he wakes up and gives me another order.

"After 500 feet, turn left."

I get in the left turn lane and look down. Richard's battery is dead. Great. Right when I really needed him! I start searching for the car adapter and get him plugged in just in time for the next direction.

I follow his commands the rest of the way, with only a few minor adjustments. But I start thinking about why he makes me so irritable.

Maybe if he would just couch his statements a little. You know. He could say, "You might want to turn in about 500 feet." Or, "I know you have several choices right now, but I would suggest a right turn."

Maybe if he would give me the big picture and explain why he thinks this way is best. "I have researched all of the options, including your short cut through the forest preserve and this way will save you 2.5 minutes," he could say in his monotone voice.

Maybe then, I would be more inclined to listen.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'm just too strong-willed to own a GPS.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

the helicopters are here!

"Mom, Dad! Come outside! Quick! The helicopters! They're flying over our house!"

No, way! I was thinking. Could this be it?

"Mom! Dad! What is it?! Why are the helicopters flying over our house?"

My husband's first reaction was to turn on the news. Sure enough. This was the day that -- like so many other people in our town -- we hoped would one day come.

They arrested him.

I think the entire town was breathing a sigh of relief as people stood outside with their necks craned to the sky, watching the loud news helicopters spin their massive blades. It's hard not to feel just a little bit happy when you live just a few neighborhoods away from one of the most notorious men in America. Really. I don't even want to write his name.

But when the camera crews are in the area, it's usually about him. For the last year and a half, reporters have spent a lot of time filming life on his odd little cul de sac. I can't imagine the tension of living on that circle.

The next door neighbor has a huge monument in her front yard with an enormous photo of his missing wife. Signs with large photos are posted in each front lawn, asking, "Where is Stacy?"

"What's going on?! What's it all about?" our kids continue to ask.

Oh, they just want to take some pictures of a house over there.

"But, WHY?!"

A guy lives over there who did something he shouldn't have.

What, really, do you tell your kindergartner in a situation like this?

The bigger question in my mind has always been, "What does HE tell HIS kindergartner?"

What does his little boy think when he walks to school every morning past the photos of his mom, who he hasn't seen for more than a year? What does he think when people cross to the opposite side of the street to avoid his dad?

The youngest of the two children from his marriage to Stacy is in kindergarten at the school down the street. Two older children living in the house are the kids of his third wife, who was found dead in her bathtub in 2004.

What DO you tell those kids when their mom disappears? What do you tell them when the helicopters are circling overhead? What do you tell them when the state police take Daddy away?

Our neighbor makes himself the subject of widespread contempt around town with the arrogant and rude statements he constantly makes to the media. But my mind always rushes back to that kindergartner. And I wonder who is there with him when the helicopters are flying over the house.

you lost me...

About halfway through last night's episode of LOST, my husband asked me, "What do you think?!?!"

Think? I replied.

Umm. I really am past that at this point. This is pure entertainment now. I can't even begin to comprehend what is happening.

Let's face it. This is television. I'm just going to sit here and be entertained.

And that's pretty much my review of last night's LOST: Follow the Leader.

I would like to point out that I think I was right about Eloise taking Daniel's journal. It does seem that she is going to use it to predict the future, understand time travel and influence her son's life.

  • But that deal with John Locke taking Richard to the exact spot where Richard has to go to help Locke with the bullet in his leg?!?
  • And Locke saying the island "told him" to go?!?
  • And now Sawyer and Juliet are on the submarine leaving the island?!?
  • And Jack is down in some elaborate tunnel with the bomb, which he thinks he is somehow going to use to blow up the power source and prevent Oceanic 815 from ever crashing?!?
  • And trying to keep track of Richard in two different time zones, 30 years apart, looking exactly the same?!?


And then the thought that if Jack IS able to change the past, it would keep the plane from crashing and prevent everyone who died from dying... and the Oceanic passengers would get off the plane never having met each other? Wow! That is so hard to comprehend.

I'm still trying to decide if I would like that ending or if it would just seem so pointless to have devoted all of this time to watching. Hmmm. What do you think?

Oh, and one more thing. I'm actually feeling a little bit relieved that next week is the season finale. I'm just not sure my mind can handle much more. What about you?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

from the big, cushy seat of my trike

My bloggy friend, Jenny-Jenny, has been posting tons of photos lately of her amazing 70-mile bike rides through incredible scenery in Washington state.

So while I was out for a bike ride this afternoon, she got me thinking about how much our rides have changed. From the time I was a kid, biking was always one of my favorite activities. I would map out 10- and 20-mile rides around the little town where we grew up and ride for hours.

When my husband and I got married, we would spend our weekends exploring forest preserves and state parks on our mountain bikes. We would even plan our vacations around our bikes.

Before we had kids, we put our bikes on top of my red Pontiac Sunfire and we headed out on a two-week mountain biking vacation, starting in Utah. I had to take pictures of my photo album, so these photos aren't great. But hey, at least I DID scrapbook back then, too!

Here I am at the top of the world in the Mountain Biker's Promised Land, Moab, Utah. If you look behind me, you will see two naturally-formed bridges. Most visitors to the area would pay to have their bikes carried UP the mountain in a truck and then ride down.

But NOT us! That mountain was our first climb during our time in Utah.

This is my husband on the ascent.

Another photo from the top.

Next, we headed over to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and biked in the National Forest. You might not recognize the Grand Canyon in the background because most people visit the south rim, which is a desert. The north rim is much cooler and is a forest.

Our last stop was a ski resort in Colorado, which was converted into a mountain biking resort in the summer.

Yes... our rides have changed significantly. Now, one of us is usually pulling a bike trailer with at least one child for a 3-mile ride to the nearest park. If the kids ride their bikes, then we are usually riding circles around them at about 5 mph.

Jenny was reminding me about the time it takes to build up your tolerance to sit on the bike "saddle" for long stretches of time. I don't even need my padded shorts anymore.

THIS is my bike of choice:

It's my husband's recumbent trike. It's actually a ton of fun to ride. It's as comfy as an easy chair, so you can sit in it for long stretches, like I did today as I rode 50 laps around a parking lot while my husband tried to teach one of our kids to ride without training wheels.

There are a few things you should know though about a bike like this.

1. People stare. And they shout at you. "Hey, I like your bike!"

2. Some people even drive their cars along beside you for miles until it's safe to pull over so they can ask where you got the bike.

3. Because you are so low to the ground, it's harder to see and to be seen. This also puts you more at eye level with pedestrians. And that seems to make them want to strike up a conversation as you ride past.

4. This bike doesn't exactly turn on a dime. You have to leave extra room for wide turns.

5. It's also very back-heavy. So, if you decide to sit still at the top of a hill, it will start rolling backward. And it can take all of your strength to make it stop.

So, Jenny, enjoy your beautiful scenery and 100-mile rides out there in Washington. And think of me here in the 'burbs poking along with the kids on my trike.

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