Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Countdown to the Beach

Okay, so the comic strip "Baby Blues" is just about ALWAYS an echo of my life. But, check out this link if you want to know what we're doing around here this week. The day this one was originally published, I was out of town. J. clipped it and taped it above my computer. The day previous and the two following on the archive are along the same theme, and almost as funny.
We are not light packers in this house -- I wasn't raised to be one. We used to take the station wagon filled up with a car top carrier as well.
I'm actually feeling like I should be doing more to prepare to pack -- so far it's just been laundry city. But so much of what we need to take is in constant use around here, (blankies, towels, bottles, sippy cups) I don't feel like I can pack quite yet. When I was younger, I always knew it was beach time when we went to the grocery store and stocked up on the car snacks -- the only time we got the pick a mix candy (root beer barrels and Bit O Honeys). I've been feeling an urge to go to Target for snacks and toiletries, even though we have enough sunscreen to whitewash a mile of fence around here already.
So, what are you doing for vacation this year, and what will it take to get YOU prepared?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

All Over But the Shoutin' (and the backup copy and postage)

Oh-ho! Two posts in two days? It is a wonder, nay, a MIRACLE, you say. Well, I must pronounce: the classes, they are done! I have, indeed, completed the work necessary to renew my license to be a teacher for yet another five years, none of which I actually expect to be teaching in any meaningfully paid way. Celebration is indeed in order.

And now, instead of feeling the weight of having to write about "cognitive coaching" or "habits of mind" at 9:30PM after wrestling my 9 month old into sleep and singing my 3 year old into talking to himself, not me, I can actually sit down and write about what it's like to be their mom. That's nice.

Only, what it's like to be their mom tonight is that even though they got to sleep before 9:00 today, I was wrestling the double stroller until 10:00. Trying to figure out how to take the back seat out and turn it into a real Sit and Stand so I don't have to lift O. in and out at the zoo tomorrow. And the instructions? Not so helpful. All full of "Figure 15" and 15A and no actual drawings of how things are attached, just vagueness and dire safety warnings. But, I think I figured it out, so there are now THREE strollers in the back of the van. Pull the jogger down from the garage wall and I can handle an entire preschool class, almost.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Read, Toss, Eat, Record Challenge

Thanks, MEP, for giving me an idea to write about. I'm responding to the comment challenge posed on a recent post. Sorry it took me a while to get to it. I'll put it here so those of you who check my blog for something new and find yourself so often disappointed will have a little something something.

Read it:
I'm listening to a Look at Me: My life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison in my car right now. It's taking me a while, as I can only listen to it when O. is watching a "show because of some foul language he is apt to repeat. I had a similar problem with a Nevada Barr mystery recently and finally gave up. I've got to get a better system. I'd recommend all of the Anna Pigeon books as well, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, Robison is Augusten Burroughs' brother, mentioned briefly in Running With Scissors. Burroughs actually wrote the foreword here. I'm a fan of Burroughs, the current distaste for memoir and its questionable truthfulness notwithstanding. Telling a good story runs in the family, or maybe it's just that both were raised in such a bizarre world they have lots to say about it. Anyway, it's a fascinating insight into life with this condition, which is a mild form of autism. Robison has some amazing, funny and at times uncomfortable stories that show how very little he cared about what others thought growing up. What I think is most interesting is the way he obviously taught himself to adjust to a world that was so obviously foreign and puzzling to him so that he became quite successful in anyone's definition of the word. For example, he toured with Kiss for a while, responsible for many of their special effects guitars, and later, he got a job making electronics toys for Milton Bradley. It's not read by the author, and I've been thinking about whether or not that colors my perception of his so-called "normalcy" as it's been my experience that people with Asperger's have trouble with just about all the social graces, including vocal nuance. Anyway, a good read so far, one I'd even consider passing on to my husband, who is much more picky than me about his book titles.

Toss It:
Sadly, over half of the peaches I buy in search of a fresh, not rock hard, yet not completely bruise-ridden summer taste experience. There is just nothing like a good ripe peach. Those things in cans or the little plastic cups? I don't know where they come from, but it's certainly not any peach tree I'm interested in eating from. I KNOW I should just wait until I head south to the beach and get a basket from the farmer's market, but shouldn't I be able to taste the juicy wonder of a fuzzy peach more than one week a year?? I keep trying, and I've had a couple of good ones, but the process of ripening them on top of my microwave then transferring to the fridge at just the right time gets away from me too often.

Eat It:
I just had yet another delicious creation using my new favorite bread of choice: Kangaroo brand Flatbread. I found it in my Kroger with the pita bread, and it is much more tasty than any of the pita I've had for a while. The original purchase was for my "Greek burgers" recipe (an adaptation from an Eating Well magazine recipe I can't find online to share), basically burgers with garlic, onions, parsley, allspice, cinnamon and cloves. I serve them with cucumber/yogurt sauce, and usually in pita pockets. This time we had the flatbread, warmed on the grill, and it elevated the meal by quite a lot. Since then, I've used the bread to make mini pizzas, grilled cheese, and today's grilled chicken/swiss in the skillet combination. O. likes them turned into PB&J triangles, great for when we're at the pool or park. And if you have a decent ripe peach to go with it, oh man.

Record It:
I'll have to go with In Plain Sight, a new USA show. It's about U.S. Marshals working with Federal Witness Protection clients, and stars Mary McCormack (I know her from her late role in The West Wing). I'm sure it's not that realistic, because how many witnesses can really have been relocated to Albuquerque?? (I don't think I've ever had to write that word, had no idea how to spell it. Yes, J. you ARE the geography champ. Happy Birthday :)) Anyway, the main character's that version of strong, damaged female character that they've been writing into shows lately, ones that I mostly like. (The Closer, Saving Grace -- new seasons of those soon to come if your DVR is feeling lonely for non-Noggin programming as mine is too) I think the writers get some of it right, but the whole "I'm too independent and screwed up to ever really love someone or have a life outside my work" thing gets a little old for me. Can't women characters be nurturing, loving, AND interesting??
I'm also catching Design Star and The Next Food Network Star, and while they have so far entertained me through the mindless work of rocking my daughter to sleep, I wouldn't miss any good summer fun to view them.
Since my readership is BIT different from MEP's, feel free to share your own list if you haven't yet over at Not To Brag.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yes, Everything Is Just a Google Away

I have to give credit to J. for this post, as he suggested this was indeed possible. We have a small slinky around here that's been all twisted and bent out of shape. I've been about to throw it out, but it's one of those things that N. thinks she should not have and thus is entertained by it for short periods of time, unlike most of her own toys.
(Have I mentioned her shoe obsession? It's not going away. Did I really think it would, given my own shoe issues? I had a gate up to keep her away from the shoe pile, but quickly realized it was more of a pain to lift the heavy three year old over the gate to go to the bathroom than it is to drag the less-heavy infant away from the shoes, dog bowl and magnetic letters on the steel garage door)
Anyway, J. picked up the slinky the other day and said "Have you EVER had a slinky that this didn't happen to eventually? I bet there's a website for how to fix one." I snorted, but googled away anyway, and voila: How to Fix a Slinky. I'm thinking the promise of this website in general is kind of appealing: "How to do just about anything." Deserves a bookmark for future parenting emergencies, I'm sure.
In addition, I was discussing N's attire for my brother's upcoming wedding and whether or not she'll have enough hair to wear a bow or not. She's got quite a few wispy growths in the back that I'm quite vain about, but the top is still decidedly peach-like. I know, we could do a headband, but I really just HATE them. Sorry if you're a devotee to the look, but there's something just bizzare about them and the marks they leave behind. I said I thought you could get some kind that glued on or something. Later, I went to the trusty Google toolbar and typed "bald baby bows" and here you go.
Amazing, I tell you. So, what have you googled that surprised you with its instant answer?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Adventures in Bugs and Other Childhood Joys

It's cicada season here in the Small World, and the background noise of cicada song in our woods is certainly not small. Standing in our front yard, the din is darn near deafening, hard to believe it is caused by some mere insects. We are in a prime emergence location for Brood XIV, and the insects can be found on just about every crawl-able surface. If you aren't familiar with the cicada phenomenon, you can read a little about it here.

We've been anticipating its arrival for over a month now, but I have to admit, it's one of those things that you're really not sure is going to live up to the hype in the newspapers, local news, etc. until it is really upon you. That's even after living through the emergence of a different brood in our other house (just a fifteen minute drive away, but not affected this time) the year J. and I got married. I was even more skeptical last time, when Old Time Cincinnatians were holding forth with stories about women running away from swarms of bugs flying up their skirts, and layers of insect carcasses carpeting lawns. No way, I thought.

And then, my brother literally filled a garbage can with the dead ones so that his dog would stop eating them and getting sick. I remember sitting waiting to go through the car wash, and there being a tornado-like cloud of cicadas buzzing my car. I've told those stories to a couple of people who have not yet experienced the red-eyed creatures, and I can see them rolling their eyes.

But last week, O. and J. easily filled a gallon sized Ziploc bag with them in less than a half an hour in our front yard. (Apparently, they make good fishing bait, and I guess we're going to store them in my freezer in a Pringles can. Yum.) Surprisingly, O. shows no fear of them, and likes to grab them by the wings, listen to them sing their song, and then throw them up so they can fly away. Like this:

It's starting to smell down around the edge of our trees, due to the rotting insect protein. Wondering how long that lasts in the 90 degree heat we're expecting.

So, while we're obsessed with insects (O. keeps asking if he can go on another "hunt adventure" to collect more), why not feed the love? The caterpillars for O's birthday butterfly garden arrived by mail last week, so we're keeping a close eye on the cup full of them on the counter, waiting for them to spin chrysalids so we can transfer them to their habitat.

Also, we had planned to make our first trip to the pool today (more on our recent membership at a local swim club in a future post), but the weatherpeople got it wrong again, so the rainy day sent us to the Butterfly Show at Krohn Conservatory. Given the plethora of insects available for close up observation of late, I'm not sure it was quite the thrill it would have been otherwise. But, O. did love exploring the "jungle" and was VERY intrigued by all those prickers in the cacti room after his recent experience with a splinter in his finger and its painful removal. It also made for some excellent photo ops:

Okay, I know this post is getting very long, and J, I know you're still waiting to hear about the lake (but hey, didn't you live it and the seven -- oh, I mean eight and a half -- hour car trip with me??) but I think I'll just add a little about the trip O., N., and I took last week with my mom.

We went to Pennsylvania to visit my grandmother and my cousin and her new baby, and had a great time despite some brutal driving through monsoon-like rain. We spent a couple days at our family's cottage. A little piece of rural heaven on a small river (AKA crick) in the woods, it's only a steps up from camping, but many of my happiest childhood memories come from time spent there with my parents, grandparents, and cousins.

Though I only spent a couple of weeks there each summer, in my memory, days spent there have grown to encompass practically the entire time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We spent long hours floating in inner tubes and rowboats; building ponds for crayfish and fish we caught and sometimes ate; catching "snipes" and lightning bugs; and playing kick the can, badminton and croquet. We painted rocks to look like animals and other shapes, then sold them to whatever adults were nice enough to indulge us, and took marathon bike rides to buy candy and pop at a tiny grocery store all by ourselves. One summer, I caught a ton of fish using a tried and true method of spitting on my worm. The next summer, I did not catch a single bluegill and gave up fishing forever.

We threw sticks into the crick on one side of the bridge on the main road outside camp, then watched them float to the other side, then raced back down the dirt road, convinced we'd be able to identify our sticks floating by our cottage. My cousins, brother and I spent rainy afternoons playing rummy and spoons on top bunk beds inside, and I read stacks and stacks of library books. We had Top Chef-worthy meals of mountain pies, s'mores, and hot dogs that had only fallen in the campfire briefly.

Those are only a few of the moments I could share about growing up at the cottage. As I raise my own children in a time when true childhood magic seems threatened, they are the moments I turn to to shape the kind of life I want them to experience. Despite the fact that the weather was not at its greatest during our short visit last week, below you'll see a few photos of O. getting a good start. That's all three of us on the bridge, right after O. watched his stick appear on the downriver side.