Thursday, September 30, 2010

I sleep around.

Last night, I slept with the manatees.  And 24 fifth graders.  I'm slutty like that.

Sous Chef's overnight field trip to the Cincy zoo took place last night and I was one of about six chaperones.  The class all slept in the manatee house in front of the monstrous pool that the two manatees live in.  I have had this experience one other time.  I took my nephew, now a sophomore in college, when he was a little guy.  It was 11 years ago.  I was five months pregnant with Sous Chef.  I remember that being one of the most peaceful sleeps I had had.  Waking up in the middle of the night, watching the manatees sleep, fart and go to the surface for air.  I think adding 11 years to this aging body has done something, because this time it was different.

We got to the zoo about 7:00 PM and did some behind the scenes stuff before bed.  First, we had to ride a school bus.  These are my tips/warnings/heads up on how to handle an evening like this:
  1. Earplugs.  Not for the sleeping but for the bus ride.  Kids these days do not sing "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."  They are not permitted to say "beer."  But don't be fooled, because kids today are creative, and instead they sing "100 Bottles of Pop on the Wall."  Loudly.
  2. Meal worms.  If you find yourself in the forest with nothing to eat, meal worms are a great food source.  It's basically like taking a vitamin.  The most important thing to remember is that you must kill the meal worm before swallowing.  BUT you cannot kill it buy squeezing it or mushing it before putting it in your mouth, because as our tour guide said, "It's like a gusher and it will ooze everywhere.  There will be nothing left to eat."  So, you must bite the meal worm with your teeth before swallowing.  Our tour guide knows this because the first time she ate one, she swallowed it whole and alive.  About an hour later it crawled back up her throat and into her mouth.  I had to leave the room at that point and could not watch her eat the meal worm.  The kids, however, were mesmerized.  She offered us adults a meal worm snack.  None of us took her up on her offer.  Of course, I was in the other room gagging and heaving, so I think it was obvious I was not interested in a late night snack.
  3. Sleep masks.  I chose to sleep on the boys side of the room.  My son is in a high achievers math class.  I think we can all admit that it appears boys are better than girls at math and this class is proof of that.  His class is 3/4 boys and the boys side of the room was at high capacity.  I chose a comfy spot with a good view.  They told us all the lights would be out, so not to worry about being under a light.  What they didn't warn me about was that the exit sign would stay brightly lit.  Not just brightly lit, but lit bright red.  I slept most of the night facing away from the sign, but that side of my body kept getting sore and numb.  Whenever I would roll over, I had to pull my sleeping bag over my head.  I was really wishing I had a sleep mask. I don't even own one, but next time, I will purchase one.  I think they should sell them at the zoo.
  4. Farting.  I was on the boys side of the room.  Enough said.
  5. Gross factor.  See #3.  I had a group of boys.  We buddied up with two other groups for our night time, in the total dark tour.  Of the entire group, there were two girls, besides us moms.  The grosser the topic, food source or smell, the funnier they thought it was.  The girls?  They hung in there pretty well.  The moms?  See the gagging and heaving comment in #2.
A sleeping bag sea of boys!
All in all, it was a blast.  When my older son went on this trip, they did a different zoo tour and slept in a different building.  Also, MG went as the chaperone.  We have one more zoo trip in our future for CJ.  Maybe we can both chaperone that one!

Here is a funny video.  It's only about 30 seconds and unfortunately is not as clear as I would like.  The lighting was pretty low.  However, this little guy in the video is so stinkin' cute I could have brought him home with us!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sometimes, too many times, there are just no answers.

Our community has suffered a tragic loss.  The loss of a Freshman boy at the high school.  By suicide.  A family has suffered an unimaginable, there are no words to explain it kind of loss.  By suicide.

Word came on Sunday afternoon about this boy's suicide earlier that morning.  I don't personally know this family and I don't know all of the details, but my community is small and we hear things.  Apparently he was depressed and on meds.

Big E did not personally know this boy.  But they did share a class together last year and Big E immediately knew who it was when he heard about it.

The school had a moment of silence yesterday.  They sent a parent email letting us know a death had occurred and how they were handling it with the students and how we might be able to help at home.

Well, let me tell you people, I am not equipped for this. 

First of all, I have been on the verge of tears for this boy's family.  And his friends.  And for him, that he felt so desperate that this was his answer.  My family is peppered with mental health issues and suicide. Each one affected me differently, which is expected based on my ages at the times of the events and my relationships with the victims. But I know how confusing and hard each of those tragedies were for me. And none of them WERE.MY.CHILD.   I.just.can't.imagine. 


Secondly, Big E and even Sous Chef, who hears us talking, have had questions about depression and why and how it happens.  I am not a doctor.  I don't even play one on TV.  So I answer the best I can with what I know.  I beg them not to ever do anything like this.  To themselves.  To me.  To our family.

I repeat.  I am not equipped for this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Simmer down!

I was watching The View today.  I don't get to see it every day, but I do like to catch the hot topics when I can.  Some days it cracks me up and other days it gives me something to think about.  Today was one of those days.

As usual, Joy and Elisabeth were fighting about politics - liberal vs. conservative, one defending the current government, the other criticizing.  Neither giving in.  In fact, it turned into a yelling fest between the two of them.  Finally, Barbara jumps in asking them both to calm down.  Then she started talking and I just wanted to hug the woman.

She talked about how out of control we are.  How this whole left vs. right is blocking the way of getting to common ground.  How angry both sides are and instead of talking and trying to find resolution, it's easier to yell, name call, point fingers, blame and get pissed off at each other.  She pointed out this was happening right in front of her, between FRIENDS, so imagine what it's like amongst those who don't consider themselves friends.  She talked about how it's time to take a breath and focus on what needs to be done and not on which side "wins" or "loses".
I don't always agree with Barbara Walters, but dammit, I think this time she has the right idea.  Why are people so mad?  What happened to the government, the community, our citizens working together to find common ground instead of always having a winner and a loser?  When did this "all or nothing" mentality take over common sense and the "do the right thing" attitude?  Where are the level headed people who can think things through for the better of our government and society and not focus on their own personal benefit (ie: campaign $$!)?

I'm already tired of the ads with one candidate telling me about all the things the other candidate did wrong.  All that says to me is that the accusing candidate must not have done anything productive or he/she would be shouting that accomplishment from the rooftops!  They ALL do it.  I don't care what the opponent did wrong.  I want to know what YOU did right.  What you WILL DO if elected.  Let the cable and local news people, the watchdogs, etc. shout out the flaws of the other candidate(s).  And really, most of what they say about one another is so skewed and taken out of context that you can't really believe it anyway.

Come on people!  Why can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jumpstart your child's brain and have fun while doing it!

Read on, there is a giveaway at the end!

I recently was given the opportunity to review the Jumpstart 3D Virtual World website.  If you are not familiar with Jumpstart, I will quote their website: 
JumpStart is an award-winning adventure-based 3D virtual world that is super-personalized, wildly imaginative and really fun, but don't let that fool you - it also teaches math, reading, and critical thinking skills so kids get a real jump start in life.
For me, Jumpstart brings back memories of the CDs for our computer - Jumpstart Preschool, 1st Grade and so on.  We had many of the CDs for our kids to play on.  But that was years ago and times have changed.  Now there is a website where the kids can go and play some fun, educational games.

I had my 6 yr. old and my 10 yr. old play a couple of the games.  My youngest's review is "I like having to answer those math questions before moving on."  That's about all one can get from a 6 yr. old, I guess.

My 10 yr. old was not as easy.  He fussed and groaned and threw a fit.  "Jumpstart is for little kids," he says.  I say, "But this website has games for older kids.  Come on, just try it for 10 minutes!"  I couldn't get him to do it.  Then, I think because it was close to bedtime and he didn't want to go to bed, he said, "Ok, ten minutes." 

He went into Futureland.  He thought the games were fun, but didn't like how areas/zones were either fun or educational games.  He would have liked a mixture of each type of game in all the areas.  I puttered around some in Futureland and liked how the questions for things like Geography, US Trivia, Math, Science, etc. were played in a way similar to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  I was hooked and since he was playing in the area for 10 yr. olds, I could actually answer the questions!  I am, apparently, as smart as a fifth grader, but maybe no smarter.

He stepped away after his 10 minutes and I decided to look around.  I went to an area where I could grow a Mythie, a dragon looking thing.  Of course, there were things you had to do first before you could get your egg to go to the hatchery.  I must have been sighing and whining because I am bad at video games in general.  He clearly heard me and came to the rescue.  Next thing I know, he says, "Move over" and he is running the show.  We found our 15 hearts, got our egg and got it to the hatchery.  The game then said, "Come back tomorrow to see your hatched egg."  We logged off and as he was leaving the room he said, "Do I need a password to get into that website?"  I asked him if that meant he was coming back to play and he grinned and sheepishly said, "Yes."

So both kids give the games a thumbs up.

These are just two of the gzillion areas to play and learn in.  Ok, maybe not a gzillion, but you get the idea.  There is a lot to do here for kids, and apparently parents (or at least parents like me!), too.  If you play video games like I do, though, you'll need your child to help you.

Now for the good stuff!  I am giving away a three month membership to the Jumpstart website.  A membership includes the online world and 4 downloadable games.  You can have up to 6 kids on one account!  The site has games and activities for 3 yr. olds up to 10 yr. olds, so there is something for almost everyone.

Just leave me a comment.  That's all you have to do to enter.  No crazy other stuff, BUT if you wanted to tweet about this giveaway or mention it on your own blog, that would be awesome!  Any comments that are submitted to me by midnight on Friday, Sept. 17 will be put into a random counter and one will be selected.  Only one entry per person, please.

Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My plan is working beautifully.

I have a life before kids - it involved frequent travels, extended trips, lots of dining out, going to parties, lots of shopping - well, most of you probably know what I am talking about.  It also involved a career.  A career I really enjoyed for a company that I adored.  Being that I came into the company when it was very young and I had a great relationship with the President and also the CEO, I was kind of spoiled there.  I knew it and I was ok with that.  Really, who wouldn't be?

Once I had my first child (who is now 13 yrs. old), things started to change.  The travels slowed down, we didn't eat out as much, the parties became less important.  I don't think I shopped less, though.  My career suddenly wasn't as important.  In fact, I gave up my full time career for a part-time position at the company.  Then I decided that wasn't good enough either.  I needed full control of my schedule.  I needed to work when I wanted and could and be home when I needed to be home.  So I quit.  I walked away from a career and a company that offered many rewards.  My husband thankfully has a job that allowed us to do this financially and I took full advantage of that with 100% of his support.

I knew in order to have that dream job, that job where I had full control of my schedule, I would have to choose another career.  So I went to massage therapy school and became a licensed massage therapist.  I worked on and off from the time I was licensed (2000) until recently (2008).  Mostly it was off.  Having babies, having surgeries, moving out of state for three years, taking care of kids put a dent in my "on" working years.  Well, you get the picture.

In 2008, an opportunity arose and I hopped on it.  I've been a "working" mom ever since.  I use the term "working" loosely.  I started working only 3 hours a week.  Yes, 3 hours.  After all, this is the career I chose to let me work what I could and my plan was working beautifully!  When CJ went off to kindergarten in 2009, I bumped up to a whopping 6 hours.  My mom friends who work FT outside the home jobs make fun of me (and that's ok!), but my plan was still working out just as I wanted.  CJ started 1st grade this year and my plan was to double my hours again, to 12 hours!  Twelve whole hours!  I was thrilled.  Then the Great BlogHer Wipeout of 2010 happened. 

I've never been the wife who felt "guilty" about not making money.  I always felt my job at home was so very important that no amount of money into our family budget would be worth me going back to work.  "His" money is OUR money and we have lived happily like that for many years.

Thanks to the above mentioned wipeout, things have taken an unexpected turn and I am now home sans kids.  It's a totally different feel than being home with kids!  I feel like I should be working.  I don't make a lot of money as a massage therapist compared to my previous career.  But my few hours of work provides us with some extra spending money or unexpected bills money.  But here I sit.  My days consist of physical therapy and trying to keep busy.  Busy with what?  Some days it's productive stuff, like volunteering at school or grocery shopping or straightening the house.  I even steam cleaned the carpet using my good arm to push and pull the steam cleaner.  Other days, it's reading and napping once I get everyone off to school.

It just feels weird.  I will be happy when I can return to work outside of the home!  As long as it's on my schedule, of course.  Thankfully, my employer is OK with that!!!  My plan is working beautifully.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On this day...

September 10.  For many people it's just a day.  Our history tells us it's the day before 9/11.  For me, it is a day with much significance.  Today is the day I quietly celebrate the "anniversary" of my first brain surgery.  September 10, 2001 was a day that I will never forget.  It's been nine years on this anniversary.  Nine years.  It's been a good nine years.  There was a little blip, six years ago, when I had brain surgery #2.  But in the big picture, it's been nine good, healthy, symptom free years.  Both recoveries were a little rough, but once I got on the healing path, it wasn't nearly as rough as it was prior to my first surgery.

I am eternally grateful to my surgeons and medical team that got me where I am today.  I had tons of support from family and friends.  I had two little boys at the time of surgery #1 and I am thankful they don't really remember it.  I learned a lot about myself.  I ditched some of my weaknesses and learned a lot about my strength.

September 10.  It is a day I will never forget.

(For anyone who is new here, I was diagnosed in the early 80's, while in HS, with a type of cyst at the base of my brain.  In the early 1990's, with the improvement of technology and the invention of MRIs, I was rediagnosed with a Chiari Malformation.  I managed for 18 years, living with symptoms, discomfort, pain and eventually black outs resulting in the need for surgery.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

NY, NY

So y'all know I went to BlogHer and experienced more than I cared to of the emergency medical system in NYC during that weekend.  If not, go HERE.  What you may not know is that I spent a total of ten days in NYC, five of them with my husband and prior to heading to NYC, we were in Philadelphia for a day.

We started in Philly, where I flew to hook up with MG.  He was there for work. 
We had a nice dinner and putttered around South St.  We ate dinner at the Latest Dish.  It was delicious and I fell in love with this drink, the raspberry zinger, not the key lime cocktail (though it looks good) or the dirty ho.
I loved the raspberry zinger.  I had two.  Unfortunately, I did not get the dirty ho included in this photo, because I know many of you will be interested how to make that drink.  Maybe you Philly readers can get to the Latest Dish for me and let me know.
We then headed to NYC via train.  Before we left Philly, we got a call and found out we would be going here.  We were THRILLED and had a blast.  We ended up in the fourth row, center.  Awesome!  Mark Wahlberg was the main guest.  We also saw Will Ferrell leaving the studios that day.
Once again, I rotated the picture and saved it.  Why does it turn it back when I add it to my blog?
We stayed at a hotel in the UN Plaza in Midtown East.  It was a nice quiet area compared to other parts of the city.
This was the view from our room on the 36th floor.
After dropping off our luggage and getting checked in, we headed here:
Jo in Times Square
MG very quickly became claustrophobic.  Times Square was probably our least favorite place and we stayed clear of it the rest of the trip.
This was our subway stop every day.
It was good we were at a well known stop.  It made it easy for me to remember once I was on my own.
We went to Central Park three times I think.
We took the Circle Line Cruise from Midtown West, to Lower Manhattan to Midtown East.  We saw parts of Brooklyn/Long Island and Staten Island.  We saw all the sites along the way, including the Statue of Liberty.  Besides the American flag, I don't think there is any symbol that says "America" like this statue does.

This is MG and I on the Circle Line Cruise.  This was our one and only official "We are tourists" photo. 
We happened upon a little festival where MG got a yummy snack and we bought cheapie t-shirts for the kids.  Unfortunately, by the time we were there, the festival was shutting down.
We went to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Building) and watched the city go dark.
The red, white and blue lights are the top of the Empire State Building.
We had dinner at Fanelli's in SOHO with a family friend who is co-oping in NYC.  I had dinner with her again after MG left.  She's such a sweetie!

This is what we looked like a little over a week later when she visited for her birthday.  Stop laughing.  You would also look like this if you broke your dominant arm and elbow and couldn't fix your hair or apply mascara or wear a shirt with sleeves!
We had a yummy breakfast at Bubby's Pie Co. in Tribeca.  We ate in Little Italy and Chinatown.  Thanks to the King of NY Hacks, we went to this awesome litttle place in Chinatown called Wo-Hop (the downstairs location).  We would have never found this place without his suggestion.  In fact, we had an exact address and we STILL had trouble finding this place!  It is exactly the kind of place we love - small, locally owned, filled with locals and cool tourists, the police were coming in for carry out.  We shared a table with a very young European couple.  The food was awesome and our only regret was that we didn't have a fridge and microwave in our hotel room so we could take our leftovers back for a late night snack.

We went to many of the museums, like MoMA, The Museum of Natural History and Hyde Planetarium and the Guggenheim.  No trip to NYC would be complete without seeing this Frank Lloyd Wright design!

Of course, we visited the World Trade Center site.  A somber and reflective moment of our trip.
The Soup Man (aka The Soup Nazi) re-opened his Seinfeld location just before our visit.  We could not resist going to get some soup from here.  The lobster bisque was delicious, even on a scorching hot day.
And yet, another picture that won't stay rotated the correct way.
We went to the top of the Empire State Building.
 From there we headed to the Flat Iron Building. 

If you are a music lover, it's a must to go here.  Well, it was for me anyway.  The Dakota House, the site of John Lennon's assassination.

 And then a quick trip through Strawberry Fields in Central Park.
After MG left, I spent the day in Greenwich Village.  I enjoyed some quiet time reading in Washington Square Park and watching the street performers.  I walked around and I got the most awesome pedicure.  Honestly, I have never had ANYONE massage my feet and calves the way this woman did.  I was in heaven!
Cool that Greenwich Village named a street after my husband!  Coincidentally, when I was in college, I had a boyfriend who lived on this street.  I tried to find his apartment, but that was 20 years ago and, well, my memory just is not that good.
 No laughing when I tell you I attended mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.  It's true.  And yes, the church is still standing.  No lightning strikes, no earthquakes, no crumbling of the walls.
I probably don't need to explain at this point that something is screwy with importing rotated pictures.
That brings you to the end of my/our trip.  It was fun, it went fast and we had a blast.  I then moved to my new hotel for BlogHer, met my roommate, hung with her and attended the BlogHer events, and well, we all know what happened there.