Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 2 Chicago

I booked the hotel room for one more night and following a free hot breakfast we headed to Navy Pier. Kaylin really, really wanted to do some maze thing she found in a brochure. Ugh. After our wait at the Sears Tower I was nervous about how busy Navy Pier would be. It wasn't bad at all. I found out that the Chicago Children's Museum was on the reciprocal list for our Lakeview Museum membership so we flashed our card and got in free. We hadn't been there in several years and I was sort of surprised to find that little had changed. Gene and Logan spent a very long time constructing a Sears Tower out of precut and drilled pieces of wood while Kaylin built a chair and I sat on a bench and balanced my checkbook and deleted old photos from my camera and watched some guy fish. We then spent a short time checking out the old exhibits and realizing our days of Children's Museums are more or less over. I would never pay to take the kids to this place again. Not nearly enough for their age group. It is all about toddlers and preschoolers.

The food court tables were packed so we took our lunch up to the Crystal Gardens (or whatever that room of fountains and palm trees is called) and found a table no problem. We ate and relaxed and the kids played and ran around. We all wanted to go back to the awesome Lego store so we grabbed a cab and headed back to Michigan Avenue. This time we were more focused on the boxed sets (rather than filling cups with Pick-a-Brick) and I found some amazing clearance deals on some cool sets. Kaylin did the build your own minifigs while Logan and I shopped the sales and picked out the best stuff. We left happy and satisfied and I'm pretty sure we will somehow manage to NOT go back today! Although they did have the new Toy Story Legos and I still have Christmas money... But seriously, that is probably my favorite store ever!

We then walked several blocks to the Hershey store. That was Logan's brochure find and the thing he really wanted to do. They had this thing called the "factory tour" where for $15 we got a paper "factory worker" hat (like a Steak and Shake hat) a photo ID badge with a lanyard and a bucket of assorted chocolate from this machine the kids had to turn several cranks that made noises and turned on lights before chocolates poured out of the machine to fill the bucket. It was pricey, but soooo worth it for Chocolate Boy. I didn't think he'd take off his ID badge to sleep last night! Kaylin had the choice of her own "factory tour" or doing the maze when we got back to Navy Pier. She chose the maze.

We headed back to Navy Pier via the longest route the cab driver could formulate (eye roll) and Gene and Kaylin headed for the maze. I had read some really negative reviews about this attraction (ridiculously overpriced and very short.) Plus, it was loud and dark. Logan probably would have enjoyed it, but we convinced him otherwise. Logan and I paid for parking and got ice cream. We found a free Chicago map and plotted our course back to the hotel. Kaylin loved her maze. I didn't get too many details. Whatever, time to head back to the hotel and play with Legos! We played with Legos, swam for an hour, ate dinner and played with Legos. It was a good day.

The plan for today is the Field Museum (again free with our Lakeview membership) and then head home. I think today's New Year's Eve. I can't remember for sure :) Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Gene and the kids are off work/school for two weeks and I took three extra days off this week so we decided to hit the road. We discussed many options, but the thing that remained constant was that Logan wanted to go to the Sears Tower Sky Deck. He talked about it nonstop. Yeah, he didn't care if we went to St. Louis or Indianapolis or Wisconsin Dells... As long as we went to the Sears Tower first. (And yes, I KNOW it's the Willis Tower now, but would anyone actually know what I was talking about?)

So Monday night after work I did laundry and packed. Tuesday morning I finished packing and got everyone up early, hoping to leave around 7. Hah. We did manage to pull out of the driveway at about 7:40, BUT we still had to get gas, shop the gas station for the perfect road snacks, stop at the ATM and run through the McDonald's drive-thru. We started on the road for real a few minutes after 8. Traffic was excellent. We hit a minor slow-down right outside of the city, but were parked and walking into the Sears Tower at 10:45am. The line for the Sky Deck was HUGE. We waited maybe 20 minutes just to get into the elevator to take us down to the level where we could buy tickets. We then waited another 30 minutes to get through security, another 10 to buy tickets, another 15 to get into the movie and then another 20 to get on the elevator to the Sky Deck. Ok, I'm not adding all my times together, but it was around 12:30pm when we finally arrived at our destination.

I have to admit, it was So. Cool. I was surprised because I'm usually not a fan of heights, but this didn't bother me at all! I can even remember other trips when it did bother me. Logan held it together for a while, but by the time we made it over to the new glass boxes he was freaking out and begging to go down. There was no way I was going to spend fifty bucks and all that waiting time to skip those boxes! We had Logan stand far back while the other three of us waited our turn to stand in a box and look straight down over the city. It was a thrill for sure! By this time we were all starving and Logan was about 10 seconds from a meltdown so we got in yet another line to go down. Fortunately, the down line was very short :) We filled our bellies with pizza and then Logan wanted to go back to the gift shop. Uh, ok. He actually spent $13 of his own money to buy a mini Sears Tower replica. He calls it his trophy. I think in his mind he earned this trophy for bravery on his terrifying adventure. Funny how the whole Sears Tower thing was HIS idea! He immediately changed the whole experience in his mind and it is now one of the best things he's ever done.

We left the tower and started walking aimlessly up the street, trying to decide where we should go and whether we should take a cab and how we would go about getting a cab when we ran into a La Quinta. Hey, La Quintas are usually cheap and clean! And we can see the Sears Tower from our hotel! We booked a room and found they have an indoor pool. Bonus! The kids are happy, the rate is acceptable. Actually, I think it's cheaper than we've paid for the La Quinta in Schaumburg. Yippee, we found a hotel.

We walked back to the Sears Tower parking deck and got our bags (We would have paid $36 to move our car two blocks for the night) and settled into our room. We headed back out after an hour or so and found that getting a cab in Chicago is rather effortless. Our next destination was the giant Lego store on Michigan Avenue. The kids and I spent a good hour packing cups full of "pick a brick" Legos. We also found an awesome set of 30 minifigs that came with bikes, dogs, skateboards, ATVs and tons of other accessories. That is one fun store! I kind of want to go back today and do the build your own minifigs thing. Probably won't happen.

Gene and I had never shopped on Michigan Avenue before, so we thought we'd check out Water Tower Place. Yawn. We're just not shoppers. Or hip or fashionable. Or at all interested in ANY of the stores at that mall! Or ANY of the non-Lego stores on the way to the mall. We did check out the American Girl store. Kaylin was very impressed and expressed interest in getting a doll some day. Honestly, she was way more thrilled with the Lego store. I think the bulk of her American Girl interest was because she was surrounded with gorgeous displays and crowds of other girls drooling over the dolls. I told her to research which doll she wants and if she really wants one I'll bring her back for her birthday. Her perfect acceptance of that offer further cemented my notion that she's really not terribly interested in the dolls. They are very nice, though.

We grabbed another cab back to the hotel. I told Gene that what I wanted "for Christmas" was for him to go pick up some food and then take the kids swimming while I relaxed in the room. He did! I played with Legos and dinked around on Facebook. Today we're either going to Navy Pier or the Field Museum. I'm considering booking another night at this hotel so we can do both. The kids love being in the city. It's supposed to snow today so I really don't want to drive several more hours north. I want to go to Racine to visit my old zebras at the zoo, but that trip will have to wait until another time. Oh, and Logan found a brochure in the hotel lobby for a Hershey store on Michigan Avenue. The brochure has a coupon for a FREE Hershey bar! Hmmmmm. Twenty bucks for cab rides to the Hershey store for a free candy bar or a buck at the Walgreens down the street? We shall see...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

Before Brady-dog crashed and burned on Christmas Day, we did have an excellent Christmas Eve. I had to work from 7am-10:30am. The plan was to let the kids open their (two) presents from Santa while I was at work (they were Wii games so I figured I'd see them play PLENTY of times...) and then open everything else as soon as I got home. Well, both kids were up and raring to open presents at 6am so we let them.

By the time I got home a little before 11am, the bulk of the paper and box mess was cleaned up. I was able to jump right in the shower and was in my pajamas, ready to hunker down and play for the rest of the day by 11:30. It was such a fun day! No neighbor kids, no obligations. Just the four of us playing Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart on Wii, playing SpongeBob Uno and Slamwich. Building Lego sets and playing with Bakugan and fairy dolls. Drinking hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream and eating Pringles and candy and donuts. The only thing that would have made the day more perfect would have been if I hadn't had to work.

I got Logan a giant Hershey's Kiss. He had it almost 3/4 gone by the time I got home from work! I thought for sure he'd spend the afternoon clutching his stomach and vomiting, but it didn't happen. I guess Gene was too busy frantically cleaning bits of wrapping paper and packaging to notice his kid was consuming a pound of chocolate :) Oh well, it's Christmas!

Christmas morning both kids woke up sick. Kaylin had a slight fever, a horrible cold and a sore throat. Logan just had a nasty cold. We ended up staying home from church. Gene's family only gets together once a year on Christmas, so he really wanted us all to go. I was pretty reluctant to take Kaylin around his cousin's kids. Then when we discovered Brady was in such bad shape, that made the decision. I stayed home with Kaylin and Gene and Logan went to the party. It was too bad since Kaylin loves playing with these (2nd?) cousins, but she was pretty miserable. We played video games and Blokus and I stayed in my Christmas Eve pajamas until I had to leave for the vet the next morning. I usually can't tolerate that much relaxation and need to leave the house regularly, but I have to admit it was a wonderful couple of days of down time. Other than the dying dog, it was a pretty great Christmas.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Brady had been doing fairly well for months. He could no longer jump. Playing fetch or going for walks for exercise were out of the question. But he was eating well and maintaining weight. He was playing with the kids and the neighbor dogs. He was happy in his old age.

Yesterday morning I noticed Brady's food bowl was still full. Weird. I took him the big bone treat I got him for Christmas. He raised his head a bit, sniffed the treat and turned away. Very weird. I cleaned up the extra toys and food and candy and brought him into the house. He wobbled and fell. He got back up and peed all over the carpet. Weirdest of all. This dog would burst before he peed in the house! By evening he couldn't get up and was only moving enough to scoot himself out of his urine. He refused to eat or drink anything so I couldn't even give him an arthritis pain pill. Still, he was happy to be petted and the kids and I showered him with attention.

This morning he wasn't moving around at all. I tried using a towel under his belly to support his hind legs while we walked, but his front legs were so wobbly Gene and I had to carry him part of the way to the van. He lay on his dog bed in the back of the van and didn't move the whole way to the vet's office. One of the vets carried him into the clinic where they had a room all set up and ready. He was euthanized quickly and painlessly. The vet hit his vein on the first try and Brady was gone in seconds.

Brady was almost 13 1/2. That's pretty old for a shepherd. Especially one that had sooooo many health issues as a puppy and young dog. I can't count how many times I wondered if Brady would make it to age ten. Amazing.

Kaylin and Logan were pretty upset. Logan can't quite wrap his brain around euthanasia or even death. Kaylin at least understood the death part. Both kids want another dog someday. Kaylin only wants a dog with one floppy ear and one partially sticking up ear like Brady. Um, that could be tough to find.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Vacation

Today's the first day of the kids' Christmas break. Friday is my normal day off so I'm home with them today and then Gene is off with them for the next two weeks. I took three extra days off the week of New Year's so we plan to go away for at least a couple of days and of course have no idea what we'll do. Logan very much wants to go up in the Sears Tower so that's a definite possibility. Today the kids just wanted to hang around home and play with the neighbor kids. Little Girl had school today, but Little and Littlest Boys were over most of the day.

Logan wanted to play hide-and-seek. I was doing the puzzles in the paper and not paying much attention to the game until I realized the three boys were taking FOREVER to find Kaylin. Even though Kaylin kept yelling out hints to where she was hiding... Her yelling was obviously coming from the kitchen, but the boys kept running to both ends of the house, outside and even into the garage. They did this over and over and over. I was finally laughing so hard that Kaylin noticed and asked what was so funny? I told her I couldn't believe how terrible Logan was at hide-and-seek. I would have figured the younger boys (2 and 4) wouldn't be fantastic, but Logan is seven. I thought it was hilarious that he couldn't figure out where Kaylin was by listening to where her voice was coming from. They played round after round and nobody could ever find Kaylin without her yelling or bumping around. Ridiculous.

The kids are now making a gingerbread house. It was one of those projects that sounded more fun than it actually is. The royal icing is sticky and gross. The candy isn't staying on the house. Cementing the house together was a two hour process. Kaylin's having a tough time with the thick icing in the dispenser bag. I'm trying to stay out of it :) Hopefully next year they'll agree to decorating cookies instead. At least they're working together without fighting!

It's been a crazy week at the zoo with moving hay and adjusting to new schedules and getting ready for the two holiday weeks. Our Christmas party was Tuesday night. We had it at the new zoo lodge and it turned out to be a good time with only zoo people and no worrying about bothering other customers at a restaurant. I wrote and sung my customary spoof song and received a brand new Easy Bake Oven at our white elephant gift exchange. I'm saving it and giving it to Kaylin for Christmas. She's going to flip! I told her there was NO WAY I was spending that kind of money for a toy oven when she could use the real thing. I'm pretty sure she'll be able to make the mixes all by herself and will be really happy.

Sigh. The gingerbread house just collapsed. Better do some damage control.

Friday, December 11, 2009

School (eye roll)

Huh. Where is the time going? It's December 11th and I haven't taken a Christmas card photo of the kids, much less had cards made and sent out. I'm a slacker! Wow. I just did the two weeks math :)

This week I got a notice in the mail that Kaylin has been selected to test to get into the gifted middle school next year. I suppose this should make me feel all smug and proud and I should be returning the enclosed form and scheduling her testing and maybe even paying some tutor to prepare her so she has a better shot of getting into the bestest school in the district. All I can say is THANK GOODNESS I have a friend who sent her child there and gave me some insight as to how they operate! They expect all of their students to fit the stereotypical mold of geeky bookworm, sitting in perfect concentration and self-driven to work hard and accomplish much. Non-conformist free thinkers are not appreciated. This school would be a horrible fit for Kaylin!

I don't even have a clue how she will keep up with the homework from "regular" middle school. She hates homework and is so easily distracted she can take hours to complete a 5 minute worksheet. If she has a sharp pencil and paper she needs to draw something, not solve math problems. She will spend hours writing and illustrating books, but will take hours to write a one paragraph essay about what she wants for Christmas. She reads all the time, but can't handle required reading from a textbook. I dread middle school and all of the horrible, closed-minded teachers Kaylin will likely encounter. Ugh. I hated junior high so much. I don't know how to prevent Kaylin from reliving my nightmare with idiot teachers and pointless work. Kaylin seems a lot more optimistic than I've ever been. Hopefully a few good teachers will be all she needs.

Changing subjects, I couldn't sleep the other night. I was bored with the computer and don't like the book I'm trying to read, so I spent some time watching the cats. They were playing hide-and-seek and play fighting on and around the pool table. The pool table is normally covered with toys and games, but Gene and the kids cleaned it off so they could actually play pool. Tiger jumped onto the table and accidentally knocked a ball into a pocket. He was shocked. That gave me the idea to teach the cats to play pool. I put all the balls on the table and started rolling them around, occasionally knocking a ball into a pocket. Tiger caught on quickly and in minutes went from batting balls around to intentionally moving the balls to the pockets. It was hilarious! Simon watched from the computer desk. Before I went back to bed I put all the balls on the table again. Only two were still out in the morning. I put them all out again and all were in pockets when I got home from work. Hee hee. Kitty enrichment. I bet Simon tried it out the second Tiger went away.

Friday, December 4, 2009


When it comes to material possessions, I'd say I'm low maintenance. I'm far from a minimalist, but I honestly don't care about "stuff." Clothes bore me to tears. I have no interest in home decor. I own two pieces of jewelry valued well under $100. I'm considering replacing my 13-yr-old car sometime in the next year, not because of the rust or broken bumper, but because of the weird noises it makes and the fact I feel uncomfortable driving it anywhere out of town. I love my new laptop, but it is a basic model. I am completely satisfied with my outdated point and shoot camera and my years-old iPod.

I like to spend my money on vacations. My motto is "Experiences, not things." And by experiences, I mean FUN ones with maybe a little education on the side. Wisconsin Dells comes to mind. Watching Logan's face as he plummeted down the water slide or getting caught up in Kaylin's excitement as she flicked her wand at a treasure chest that "magically" opened... That is the good stuff! Playing in the giant ball pit at City Museum in St. Louis, watching a single-file line of adorable otters at the Indy Zoo, seeing dozens of wild manatees in Florida, Disney World! Even little things like our membership to the small museum in town bring plenty of fun times. Then there are free things like hiking in the woods and finding deer and turkeys or throwing rocks in the river and poking dead fish with sticks. Even spending time playing with the cats provides endless entertainment. This is the stuff I love and live for!

So, when Gene wants to spend a wad of cash on electronic items I consider ostentatious and completely unnecessary, I balk. I question his values and judgment because they aren't the same as mine. With his last purchase I even questioned his sanity. But wait, who on earth am I to play all holier-than-thou??? I don't care about TVs and stereos and musical equipment because I DON'T CARE about them. Just because a new TV isn't important to ME doesn't mean it's not important to HIM. Gene loves watching football and baseball and racing. It's not like he wastes any more time watching sports than I do dinking around on the internet. Reading blogs and forums and writing emails is my therapy and sanity saver. Watching sports is his. Gene also loves electronics and technology. For me a TV is a TV is a TV. For Gene it will be so much more...

I guess the bottom line is that I need to lighten up and accept that my husband has (gasp) different interests than I do. He's not putting us into debt with his purchase. The kids will love the new TV and even I am looking forward to playing Wii on a big screen. So Gene-Gene, I publicly apologize for going off on you. Enjoy your new TV!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Snuggie for every cart!

I hate shopping, but I love Black Friday. I don't care about the deals. I don't care about Doorbusters and BIG 5 Hour Sales!! and Unbeatable Prices! I love watching and listening to the people. I love spying on other peoples' carts and watching people grab stuff off of shelves for no other reason than it's a "good deal." I love heaping carts with hundreds of dollars of useless junk that no one will like or appreciate. I love strolling through the stores and looking at the huge lines and then leaving without buying anything. I love the groups of women in pajamas with perfect hair and makeup and the women in sweats who look like they actually did just roll out of bed. Today's winner was a woman who appeared to be in her late 50s. She had on Green Bay Packers lounge pants, those fuzzy slipper boots that went halfway up to her knees, a puffy pink coat with a rainbow fuzzy scarf and a black and white Cruella DeVille hair-do that must have taken an hour to accomplish. I was too gutless to ask if I could take her picture with my phone and I couldn't really have snuck it. Maybe next year I'll make a certificate and hand it to the winner :)

After hearing my aunt's amazing story of Wal-Mart and covered pallets and store maps and crazed shoppers grabbing at items, I decided to hit Wal-Mart first. The sale started at 5am. I left home ~4:40. I figured I could watch the fun and then maybe grab some of the $3 pajamas for the kids and beat the crowds to the registers. Ha ha on me. By the time I got to Wal-Mart the parking lot was completely full, as were the lots at Bob Evans, KFC and the little strip mall next door. I could have walked from Arby's, but I could see crowds and crowds of people lined up inside and just couldn't handle walking in the cold just to view the nutters.

Instead, I headed out to Gordman's which was the place I really wanted to go. They were giving out shopping bags with a 25% discount on everything that fit inside to the first 300 customers. They also had marshmallow shooters for $8.99 and cheap Webkinz. I arrived right at 5am and the line wrapped around the store. I got in the slow moving line and was inside in about 5 minutes. Yeee! I got my bag! Boo! I missed the marshmallow guns. Oh well, I got some really cheap sleep pants and slippers, a cute zebra shirt for Kaylin and a reindeer Webkinz that came with a KinzClip (to unlock a new game) for Logan. They often have a nice selection of White Sox stuff, but I found absolutely nothing for Gene. The lines were long, but not horrible. I probably waited 20 minutes at most.

On to Michaels. It was a couple minutes after their 6am opening and I walked right in and could have gotten a cart if I wanted one. I found some craft items for Kaylin and a few stocking stuffers. There was one person ahead of me in line. Michaels had the same sales and deals last night, so that majorly cut back on their shoppers at opening today. A couple years ago I waited in line almost an hour at Michaels. Hurray for making their employees work on Thanksgiving!

So far, the people hadn't been that interesting (though The Winner was at Michaels.) I needed to go somewhere for some good people watching. Kmart had buy 2 get 1 free Legos. Eh, worth a look... I parked at the garden center at the back of the store and walked in to find lines from the two garden center registers waaaayyyyyy into the store. I strolled along, looking at the people and their pending purchases. There was a Snuggie in every cart! There were also tons of those cheap small appliances, gobs of doorbuster toys and clothes. Just what everyone wants for Chrismas, a lovely $7 blouse from Kmart! The lines in the main part of the store were outrageous, stretching more than halfway back through the store. Fortunately, the Legos were picked over and nothing tempted me to wait in a two hour line to save $10! I have to admit that my time is far more valuable than $10.

I was very satisfied with my Black Friday experience. I got home before 7:30. I spent maybe $60 and got a bunch of fun stuff I wanted to buy anyway for 25% off. The kids will be thrilled that I bought a gingerbread house kit. I will enjoy my new pajamas and slippers. Now the kids are hounding me to get off the computer and help them make Shrinky Dinks. Now!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blah dee blah

Whoohooo!!! I am done with all of my major Christmas shopping. I haven't bought candy for the kids' stockings because I'll eat it. I also plan to hit Michaels on Black Friday, but only if they have their usual 40% off your entire purchase coupon. I'll buy a few stocking stuffers and Kaylin wants some green yarn. (?) I kept on budget and managed to get the kids pretty much everything on their lists. (Kaylin actually made a list and had "a real cooking station" on it. Um... Does she want her own oven? She can have the one in the kitchen :) I found some great surprises, especially some new books Kaylin doesn't know exist. Yeeeeeeeee! Now I just need a better place to hide this stuff.

The kids are off of school today and I took the day off of work. I also had yesterday (Tuesday) off because I switched days with a coworker. I'll have to work Saturday, but it was great to have yesterday off by myself and complete that shopping before the mega-crowds hit. I don't know what we'll do today, but hopefully it won't involve the neighbor kids being here all day long!

Speaking of the neighbors, their awful, out of control, untrained border collie jumped the fence into our yard on Saturday. Brady was locked in his crate while Gene was working in the front yard with the garage door open. Stupid Dog entered our garage through the doggie door and proceeded to mark (pee on) every open surface inside our garage. This included Brady's crate and dog bed. I walked out there and was Ticked. Off. Brady would NEVER pee in the garage! I spent way too much time cleaning up after Stupid Dog. I dragged him home and threw him into his own yard and left a long note about what a pain it was to clean all THEIR dog's pee out of my garage and would they PLEASE find a way to contain their own dog! And that he barks nonstop while they're gone and that I've heard other neighbors complaining about him and yelling at him to be quiet. They have avoided me since (which is more than fine) and Stupid Dog has not been back in our yard. They haven't refrained from sending their children over to play at dinner time. Oh well. I can't have everything :)

One bit of good news came from the podiatrist. I've had horrible plantar fasciitis pain since last spring. It has been bad enough to majorly affect my life and decisions about vacations, etc. I haven't been able to run or even walk for exercise and have gained some weight. For most of the summer, the pain was the major focus of my life. I could make it through my workday, but would come home to immediately soak and stretch and ice and wrap my feet. I've been on a high dose of an arthritis drug for months. I spent hundreds on custom orthotics and new shoes. I've previously only visited the doctor this many times for pregnancy. Anyway, the pain has steadily been getting better. My left foot is almost completely better. My right foot still hurts, but is sooooo much better. My life no longer revolves completely around my feet! I had yet another appointment on Monday and told the doc I'd like to start exercising again and figured losing some weight would help my feet as well. He misunderstood my intentions and thought I WANTED to start running again. He quickly forbade me to run or even walk for exercise, but said I can use an exercise bike. Being "forbidden" to run again (at least for a while) makes me happier than I can express :) I hate running :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009


The kids and I were wandering around Wal-Mart looking at Christmas decorations. Kaylin suddenly asked if we had Tiger last Christmas? I told her he wasn't even born until January, so no. She said "But how are we going to have a tree?" Uh.... Smart child. I never even thought about Tiger and Simon and a Christmas tree! We will have a tree that gets knocked over multiple times daily. We will have a tree with no breakable ornaments, no candy canes and no decorations we care deeply about. Fortunately, our artificial tree is only ~5 feet tall with built-in lights. It will be annoying to wake nightly to the tree crashing over, but at least the cats can't do any real harm.

My next holiday problem is that both kids still believe in Santa Claus. Kaylin's classmates keep telling her there is no Santa, but she refuses to believe them. She had forms sent home for parents to fill out if they want a phone call or letter from Santa to their child. Both were stamped with the logo of the park district. Kaylin asked if Santa is my coworker? I told her in this case he is, because obviously Santa can't call and/or write every kid in the world so park district people and volunteers do the actual calling and writing of letters. She was ok with that explanation.

I am not really ok with the whole Santa thing. I've been working hard with Kaylin on spending vs. saving and checking reviews of expensive toys before purchasing. She may still blow her $10 on yet another Webkinz rather than saving for a new video game, but she has gotten into reading reviews on Amazon. We just read about the Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker and found that the vast majority of reviewers thought the cupcakes were mediocre and the frosting applicator didn't work. We also found that a refill package that makes 6 cupcakes costs $12! We discussed how many "real" cupcake making supplies she could buy for $30 and how many regular cupcakes she could make for $12. Kaylin is now fine with NOT having the cupcake maker toy under the tree. However, she does keep throwing out huge, ridiculous things that she'll "just ask Santa" for. She understands and accepts that Gene and I aren't going to spend $$$$ to buy her equipment so she can have her own web show like iCarly. But why can't she just ask Santa? Aaahhhhh! Now the stuff the kids want is getting more expensive. When Santa brought a $30 set of toys that was great! Now one teensy little video game costs more than that! I never in a million years thought my 4th grader would still believe in Santa! Surely, next year in middle school there is NO WAY she can still believe. Right? Right? (Oh, and as far as Logan's concerned, I don't think he'll care or be overly disappointed. He lives in the "real world" and will likely be relieved that some fat guy isn't actually breaking into his house, even if it is to leave presents.)

Otherwise, most everything in my life has been blissfully boring. Nobody's sick, school is normal, work is normal. I found a great deal on a new laptop that doesn't overheat and shut down every 5 minutes. (Oh, Mom, that's why I haven't been blogging. My old computer wouldn't stay on long enough.) The cats have been my major source of entertainment. Simon figured out how to push down the tapper on the water dispenser and enjoys watching the bottled water run out. Tiger has taken ownership of the box my laptop came in. I bought myself a Fiskars scissors that is zebra print. Yep, boring :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Logan!

Woohoo! I can't believe it's Thursday (my Friday) already. This week flew by!

Saturday night we went to Logan's Roadhouse to celebrate Logan's birthday. Birthday Boy was very impressed with the barrels and buckets of peanuts everywhere. And you could throw the shells on the floor! He's been talking about the peanuts all week. A couple days ago he added "Too bad you can't throw all your food on the floor." Um, eeewwwwwww. That reminded me of when I worked at Pizza Hut we always hated it when the assistant manager's toddler son came in to eat because the kid threw an obscene amount of food on the floor. So much, that when he left we had to use a broom and dustpan, a hoky AND a vacuum to clean up after him. Back to intended topic, Logan loved "his" Roadhouse and even Kaylin (who normally picks at her restaurant meal and then comes home STARVING) ate almost everything on her plate.

The place was packed so we went to the parking lot to open his presents. He got two Fisher Price Trio castle building sets from Grandpa and Grandma and another from Andy. He also got a "moon in my room" nightlight from Kaylin. Logan was bouncing around, incredibly excited about his new toys. He wanted to go to Wal-Mart (within sight of the restaurant) to spend his birthday money from Great-Grandpa and Grandma Kaiser. He bought a Play Doh set and a Hot Wheels race track and was now begging to get home to play with all his new toys.

It was about 7:30pm. I quickly put together the Hot Wheels track while Gene hung the moon nightlight. (Man, those Hotwheels tracks are JUNK! They are so flimsy I don't think a kid could put one together without destroying it.) Logan went in circles, checking out the moon, playing with the race track, playing with Play Doh and building one of the castle sets. I was in bed sleeping by 8:30 but Logan stayed up playing until 9:20pm. That's pretty impressive for him :)

He got up early the next morning and played and played. The neighbor kids were over most of the day and Logan and Little Boy built another castle. When I got home from work we had the neighbor kids over and sang and had cake. He's been running into the house after school every evening and plopping on the floor to play with his new toys. It was a good 7th birthday!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Thursday was parent-teacher conference day. Kaylin has had two nutjob teachers, so the thought of conferences is horrifying. (Kindergarten rubbed my thigh and back the entire time, 2nd grade was an insane drama queen who had a major personality conflict with my kid.) Last year I got lucky and loved Kaylin's teacher (she was that special, once in a lifetime teacher Kaylin will always remember) and liked Logan's teacher. I wasn't too concerned about Logan's conference because both kids had his teacher for several weeks of kindergarten before they were moved to another class so I have gotten to know her. I was a little concerned about Kaylin's teacher because of some things she said at the back to school night. I thought we might have another personality conflict...

Fortunately, I was wrong. Kaylin's teacher doesn't "get" her and love her like last year's teacher, but she also isn't offended to the point of major drama by Kaylin's quirks. Mrs. M was matter-of-fact about Kaylin's disorganization and doodling and writing silly things on papers. She feels Kaylin is bored and seemed really happy she channels her boredom in these ways rather than being disruptive. (That's what I couldn't figure out about 2nd grade!) Kaylin's ISAT scores from 3rd grade were very good so I got a small lecture on how her class grades would be higher if she would turn things in on time. Are you calling MY KID disorganized? Yes, I know. All-in-all, a good conference. I came home and showed Kaylin her ISAT scores and her report card grades and told her that Mrs M said that Bs were not ok because she was only getting them because of late assignments and disorganization. Kaylin was somewhat impressed, but honestly, she understands the material. I don't care about Bs in 4th grade!

Logan's conference was a breeze. He is doing well and is well-behaved. We discussed his hatred of reading and how incredibly stupid the "decodable books" that are constantly sent home are. Kaylin breezed through those things so I don't think I paid much attention to the stories. Logan struggles with them so this time I've noticed how bad they are. I mean, they're written for phonics, not content, but when you have a kid who struggles (and Logan isn't that bad, I'm just comparing him to Kaylin) the story means a lot. I think they make him hate reading even more and I can't even blame him! I know I can't stand listening to them! Mrs. S asked why we haven't turned in Book-it! forms the past two months (free Pizza Hut pizza for reading) and I replied that there was no way I could get Logan to read 15 extra books every month on top of the ~10 decodable books he brings home every week! That is a battle I choose not to even think about! She said we could record the required decodable books for Book-it. Whew. No problem, I'll start sending in his forms.

I survived another round of conferences! The teachers were both fine so I'm not dreading the spring conferences :)

The kids were off of school Friday so I decided to take them to Bloomington. We did some Christmas shopping (sorry, Sarah, it was a bad idea to involve them in choosing your kids' presents...) and then went to the Children's Museum. We had spaghetti at Fazoli's and got doughnuts from Krispy Kreme (both favorites that closed in Peoria.) We went to the wonderful Gingerbread House toy store. The kids played for hours at the museum. Of all of the activities and displays, Logan's favorite thing was playing with crutches in the medical area. That cracked me up because that would have been my favorite thing, too. Logan and I played several games of giant checkers while Kaylin spent time in the art room. There were at least three other families from their school at the museum, but no one they knew really well.

The museum is on the campus of Illinois State University so when we were done, I took them to one of the bookstores and then showed them several of the buildings where I had classes or hung out. Neither of them could wrap their brain around this huge area and all of these buildings being one school. I tried to explain dorms, but they kept comparing them to the gigantic, multi-level apartment in the tv show iCarly. Next time I'll walk them around the quad and take them to the student center and the library. Hmmm, we usually go to the smallish Lakeview branch library which is one large room. I think they'll be impressed with the floors and floors of books at the university library. Well, impressed or bored...

Today's my last day of vacation from work. I feel like I've spent the entire time recuperating from last week's flu. I guess a week of rest was probably good for my recovery. Still, it sort of feels like a lot of wasted time. I really wanted to make a major Goodwill run, but I didn't go through all the junk I wanted to. I planned a major fall cleaning that never happened. I did get a haircut and got most of my Christmas shopping done. I guess that's something :)

Tomorrow is Logan's 7th birthday. (Wow, where does the time go?) We're not having the usual theme party, but he's been wanting to eat at Logan's Roadhouse for months. We're planning to eat there with Grandpa and Grandma (and hopefully Andy) tonight. It should be fun and will hopefully be great food!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vacation, yawn.

Well, I'm on vacation from work this week and feel like I'm accomplishing next to nothing. My illness last week really knocked me out. I'm still tired and coughing and lacking my usual energy. I guess I'm glad to be home and have time to recover rather than working and wiping myself out. Relaxation is rarely high on my vacation priority list, but this week I'm getting plenty. I'm also bored out of my mind :)

Gene and I ended up going to Lincoln Park Zoo on Saturday. I haven't been there in a few years and they opened a couple of new exhibits. We had a great time strolling around and seemingly had the whole zoo to ourselves. Gene was thrilled to have scored the best free parking space possible, right in front of an entrance gate. I was thrilled to watch the wolf pack catch a squirrel and scrap over who got to carry it around. They were still playing with the carcass when we left several hours later so I guess it was just a toy, not a snack. We then stopped and shopped in Bolingbrook and Joliet and slowly made our way home. I was disappointed at our shortened trip, but didn't feel like walking through huge museums and couldn't imagine spending another day shopping. We did at least get a good chunk of Christmas shopping out of the way!

This week I'm taking it easy, going through stuff to send to Goodwill and spending WAY too much time with my computer. Gene's work schedule has changed yet again and he's back to working five eight-hour shifts with Saturday and Sunday off. Poor guy can't win with his new job. I guess I better shower and get ready to take the kids to school. Today I'm going to force myself to get a haircut. Ugh. Tomorrow I have parent teacher conferences. Ah, new year, new teachers. What wonderfully stupid things have my kids done in the past couple of months?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swine Flu?

A week ago Thursday I returned to work after taking two days off with sick kids. I told my boss I thought they weren't sick enough to have had swine flu and got to work. By the end of the day I was completely wiped out. Well, maybe that was because I spent the previous two days doing absolutely nothing. I spent Friday doing as little as possible and by bedtime felt sick. Saturday I had a fever and felt horrible. Sunday I woke up without a fever and forced myself to go to work. I made it until lunch before I went home with a fever and slept the rest of the afternoon/night. Monday and Tuesday I had no fever but felt really run down and was coughing horribly, to the point my back and shoulders ached. Wednesday morning I was so wiped out I called off work and once again slept all day. I forced myself to go back to work Thursday because I was scheduled to train a coworker. My cough was still the worst I can ever remember, but I was feeling much better overall. It's Saturday and though my cough has improved tremendously, it is still pretty bad. I'm still a little wheezy and a little more run down than usual. Swine flu? I have no idea. I kept forcing myself to stay away from the doctor by reading about my symptoms online and convincing myself that antibiotics would not help my virus. The green phlegm I was producing was a sign of the END of my illness, not necessarily pneumonia.

I'm on vacation this week because I needed to use up time before the end of the year. Gene and I had planned to do something without kids this weekend. The kids were all thrilled about getting to spend two nights at Grandpa and Grandma's house and go trick-or-treating in their neighborhood. Our original plans to go to Starved Rock fell through because I put off booking the Lodge due to illness and then they were booked. We're currently in Schaumburg. We shopped and ate at Fuddruckers last night. I have no idea what we'll do today and if we'll spend another night in Chicagoland or go home tonight. I feel pretty good and can control my cough enough to not completely alarm those around me :) Gene's all worried he's going to get my disease from sharing time in the car with me. He's shared the same house and bed with me from day one of my illness. Surely I can't still be highly contagious? No idea. I also have no idea what I have/had. It was incredibly much worse than a cold. It had to have been the flu. Must've been swine flu. And I'm still alive...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Litter Robot

The kids have been sick the past couple of days. With Gene's new job (redeployed inside Cat back in April) he doesn't have his past flexibility. We used to tag team sick days where I'd go in to work in the morning and he'd go in the afternoon. Now he's in charge of running tests on air flow (?) and he has to be present. I missed my first full days of work due to sick kids. I felt stressed and guilty about it. When I miss work my coworkers are really strained because obviously, caring for the animals can't wait until another day. It's almost like getting punished for showing up to work because you get all kinds of extra work added to your day. I thought about how many people I've covered over the years and got over my guilt.

Kaylin had a fever and sore throat and Logan had an awful cough and snot that makes me shudder to think about. So we were all home and bored out of our gourds, but I didn't want them to have too much fun because I don't want them to stay home unless they're REALLY sick. They weren't allowed to go outside or play with any bikes, go karts, etc. They weren't allowed to fight. The big thrill of our sick days was watching the cats use their new litter box.

Don't worry, it's not as disgusting as it sounds! We weren't watching them do their actual business. That would be impossible since their business is now done inside a giant orb. It was actually the cats' interactions with the giant orb that were hilarious.

Gene decided he was tired of scooping. He was tired of litter box stink. He was tired of having two stinky boxes and went searching for a solution. He found his solution on Gene purchased the Litter Robot. The Cadillac of litter boxes. The solution to all his woes. The most expensive pet supply ever! The Litter Robot arrived in a box large enough for both children to fit inside. It is gigantic. It is basically a large orb sitting on top of a large base. When the cat enters the orb to do his business, the Litter Robot senses his presence and cycles seven minutes later when the cat is safely gone. What happens is the entire orb rotates almost 365 degrees while sifting the litter. The clumps remain and when the orb rotates enough, the clumps fall into a sealed chamber in the base. The orb then rotates back to its original position with only clean litter. Each cycle takes maybe a minute.

What is interesting or funny about it? Well, when a cat approaches the Robot while it's cycling, it stops immediately. If the orb or the step to the orb is touched, all motion stops until ~10 seconds after the cat is gone. Tiger was so interested in the motion of this thing, he couldn't leave it alone. He just kept stopping it, letting it start and stopping it again. He totally had it figured out, but he couldn't stop playing with it. Then, when the cycle finally did complete, he'd jump right back inside so the cycle would start again in seven minutes. Over and over. Lather, rinse, repeat. Simon was interested, but watched the first few cycles from the safety of the pool table. Eventually, Simon got into the action. Now the one minute cycles were taking ten minutes to complete. It was funny! So yeah, we spent the better part of an afternoon watching the cats play with their new litter box. I'm ready to go back to work :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

DC- Wow.

Through a strange chain of events, I found myself sitting front row at the David Copperfield show last night. The show was not something I particualarly wanted to do. I have little interest in magicians (or even illusionists) so the fact that the theater was at least 3/4 full of actual paying attendees made my excellent seating that much more ridiculous. And to add to the crazy, I also was taken backstage before the show to meet the man himself.

Ah, such a pleasure I have never experienced! (Rolls eyes.) There were eight of us backstage and we were lined up against a wall when The Man Himself burst into the room for all to admire. He made his way down the line, shaking hands and then stood before us and forced us to say how wonderful he is. I was in shock, but with only 8 of us in the room silence would have been inappropriate. Wow. Narcissist much? He was with us for maybe a minute and then we were escorted back to our seats.

At our seats we were treated to a large screen scrolling DC's many accomplishments such as "Only living magician to appear on postage stamps" and "Forbes Top 100 Highest Paid Entertainers list past 10 years." Then the lights went down, the smoke and spotlights started and we were treated to several minutes of video clips of every movie and television show that has made reference to David Copperfield. Again, I was kind of in shock...

Finally, DC appeared in all his glory. He made the entire audience stand and bow to him. I threw up in my mouth a little. The show finally started for real. I was surprised to find I enjoyed it! A car appeared from nowhere, a wadded tissue danced, was folded into a rose and then turned into a real rose, a ring was tied to the laces of a baby shoe in his back pocket, several audience members disappeared on stage and reappeared on the balcony seconds later. He did an extensive stunt with random numbers and facts shouted from audience members that showed up on a piece of paper, an audio tape and stamped license plates. My favorite part was when one of my group was pulled to the stage to hold a container with a live scorpion for a card trick in which the scorpion pulled the correct card from the deck.

My least favorite part was a video in the middle of the show of some stunt from years ago (DC still had a mullet haircut) in which he was escaping from a straight jacket while dangling upside-down over flaming spikes. Um, Dude. We just saw you 5 seconds ago. You obviously were successful and didn't die or get terribly injured. I have no problem with you taking a short break, but maybe switch the video to the Statue of Liberty disappearance or some other non-death-defying illusion.

Eh, I'm being too negative because I didn't like the man himself. It was a really fun show and despite not wanting to go in the first place and being kept up past my bedtime, I'm glad I went. It was definitely a new experience. I doubt I would ever pay to see an illusionist, but I've already stated that magic is not one of my interests. A strange, unexpected event in my life that probably would have been the pinnacle of someone else's existence. Too bad it was wasted on me :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

So much excitement

I think throughout my childhood my dad instilled in me an almost insane curiosity about events that make no sense to me. This only applies to a select few things that strike my fancy. For example, I would never attend a bridal or a fashion show, but when Mean Gene Okerlund opened his burger store in East Peoria, I knew I had to go. I've never been any kind of fan of wrestling, but I absolutely HAD to go check out the kind of people who attended this event. I needed to see how they were dressed and just had to see Mean Gene in real life. I did not wait in the two hour line for his autograph, but I did sit in the autograph tent and watch people of all ages, many costumed, get their photos taken with him. It was totally worth it!

A truly stupid tradition I have is to go out "shopping" on Black Friday before I go to work. I have no desire to actually buy anything, I just like to drive around and check out the parking lots. I love to walk into Kohls and see the line of people wrapped all the way around the store to check out. I love to see the middle-aged groups of sisters in matching pajamas shopping at Target. I love to see carts piled high with crap that no recipient will actually like, but man was it a deal! Eventually, I go to Michaels and use my 40% off your entire purchase coupon and buy stocking stuffers for the kids. Then I go to work and am happy to be at work rather than rushing to JC Penney for a free Mickey Mouse ornament or to Old Navy for a free $10 gift card if you purchase $50 worth of stuff. Whoopee.

I have worked Saturdays for years now. I always like going to Toyland at Farm and Fleet, but have never been able to go opening day. Since my days off changed this year I decided to give it a shot. I was ok with buying nothing today, I was just curious how busy it would actually be and how the crazies would behave being more or less confined to a few aisles of the store. I was not disappointed.

My first observation was that the usual large number of pickup trucks was replaced with minivans and SUVs. There were maybe 4 trucks in the packed lot. (And probably four very disappointed men that "their" store was being invaded by a crazy herd of women on this unfortunate day...) Carts were in such high demand that people were stalking the parking lot waiting for others to leave so they could snatch the cart. I overheard one woman brag to a friend that she didn't have a cart so she loaded her arms with as much as she could carry, paid and put it in her car and was now on her second round. I intentionally remained cartless. The aisles weren't nearly as bad as I would have thought. Other than the extremely busy game aisles, I was able to have each aisle pretty much to myself at some point of my visit. I arrived an hour after opening and the checkout lines were long. By the time I checked out I walked immediately to a waiting cashier. I did get some excellent deals on a couple of games and a large tub of K'nex. I also found myself a lightweight jacket nice and cheap. Yeah, I love Farm and Fleet. And I only got bumped by one shopping cart.

October has been pleasantly boring, with almost nothing blogworthy. Oh, I did not get a cortisone shot in my foot! Yeah! It has improved slightly so the podiatrist just gave me another round of painkillers. Phew. My dad gave each of the kids $5 to spend at Wal-Mart last night. Kaylin came home with a small toy. Logan bought a bag of candy and a pineapple. Yep, a pineapple. Now he wants it for lunch. Um, what do I do with it? Guess I'll Google how to cut it...

Friday, October 9, 2009

How the Touch 'n Brush has changed my life!

Let's see... Some of the amazing claims of the Touch 'n Brush are less mess and less waste of toothpaste. I have NEVER spent so much time cleaning toothpaste as I have in the past week. The TNB is always coated with paste. Also, it dispenses "the perfect amount of toothpaste which just happens to be about 4 times as much as the kids normally use and twice as much as I would use. This results in toothpaste all over the sink and countertop. I don't like the Touch 'n Brush. It has not improved my life at all. Yep, it has my my life more difficult. Poor, poor Susy. ;)

Today Gene and I went shopping for Logan's birthday present. Logan originally asked for this huge remote controlled dinosaur that cost ~$150 at Target. The ages on the box were 3-10 but it looked like it was definitely more suited to the younger kids. I tried to convince myself that it would be fun to scare the cats, but I just kept coming back to the conclusion it would be a huge waste of money. He'd play with it a couple of days, figure out all the tricks and be done.

Gene's been wanting to get him a go kart ever since we went to Wisconsin Dells. Gene found a used NASCAR themed kart online and even called and inquired. I was very against a gas powered kart for a 7-yr-old- too loud, too fast and too expensive for gas. I started looking into battery powered karts and found one made by Razor that had good customer reviews and cost about the same as a Power Wheels toy vehicle. (He plays with our neighbor's Barbie Jeep Power Wheels every chance he gets.) We argued back and forth and finally decided there would be absolutely nothing he would like more than the go kart and that this would be that "once in a childhood" awesome birthday present.

Anyway, I shopped extensively online, but we decided to try a couple of sporting goods stores today. We stopped at Dunham's this morning and found the slightly better dune buggy model kart on clearance for $70 less than I found it anywhere online. It was also $30 more than the model we wanted to buy. We decided to try Dick's before we made our final decision. Dick's had battery scooters but no go karts. Gene finally convinced me that inflatable tires and suspension, as well as a safer-looking body were worth the extra thirty bucks. We headed back to Dunham's and bought the dune buggy.

We opened the (HUGE) box to find the kart fully assembled with a charged battery! There was absolutely nowhere we could hide this kart or box so we decided to go ahead and give it to him early. His excitement was AWESOME! He drove up and down the street a zillion times and then Kaylin did and the two older neighbor kids. Gene took it for a spin. Then the kids all took turns. It's a great, fun toy I think will get a ton of use.

Kaylin has taken over the box and is turning it into a house. I'm sure it will cause Gene no end of stress to have Kaylin's house in the middle of the living room :) The cats love the huge box.

I have three weeks until my vacation. As usual, I have no idea what I'm going to do. My new option I thought of today was going somewhere by myself. I could really go anywhere and do something I want to do. I'll have to give it a lot more thought... Right now I'm just focused on the fear that I may have to get a cortisone shot in the bottom of my foot on Thursday. I've heard they're incredibly painful, but I don't know anyone who's had one in their foot. Yikes!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

As seen on TV

If our television is on and Gene isn't watching baseball, football or racing, it is usually tuned to the children's channel Nickelodeon. The kids rarely just sit and watch tv, but it's often on in the background. I've worked from birth to convince them that tv advertisements are rarely truthful and that everything advertised is made to look much, much better than it actually is. This has worked for the most part. They rarely want specific toys just because they've seen them on tv. Food is a little bit different, but at least they eat it!

Some of our recent purchases due to heavy advertisement are Reese's Puffs cereal, Fruit by the Foot, Danimals Crush Cups and Fruit Roll Ups with wacky fortunes. The cereal is fantastically delicious and no more expensive than any other kiddie cereal. I can usually get good deals on Fruit by the Foot at Big Lots. Fruit Roll Ups are the same price at Wal-Mart whether they have tongue tattoos or fortunes or peel out stars. The fortunes turned out to be hard to read (and really stupid) so Logan got over those with one box. The biggest rip-off were the Danimals Crush Cups- single serve yogurt in crushable cups so you don't need a spoon. Crush Cups are way overpriced and the fact we still have 2 out of 4 in the fridge from 3 weeks ago indicates they aren't all that tasty.

Logan tends to be much more influenced by advertising than Kaylin. He truly enjoys commercials and likes to quote them or even reenact them. Infomercial products are the worst. They play certain commercials so often on Nick that you can't help picking up on the ads. Last year it was Bendaroos. Kaylin and Logan banded together in their desperate desire for the waxy pipecleaner toys. My dad got them a box to share for Christmas and they both loved them and played with them for hours. Bendaroos are way overpriced, but I'll admit I was surprised at how well they worked and how much the kids enjoyed them. We still have an entire wall of Bendaroo creations by the front door that peel off the wall leaving no residue :)

The latest over advertised product has been a mystery to me. It's an ugly, overpriced toothpaste dispenser called the Touch 'n Brush. Once again, the kids have banded together in their fervent desire to own something Seen on TV. The problem? This piece of plastic crap costs $19.99 plus $8 shipping. No. We'll wait for it to show up in stores. Meanwhile, the kids continue to be in awe of the junky thing, assuring me that when we get ours, they'll brush their teeth 97 times a day and will no longer complain about brushing and will happily brush and even get each other's toothbrushes because now the horrendous chore of squeezing a bit of paste onto your brush will be replaced by a slight push and the perfect amount of paste automatically dispensed onto your brush every time! Oh yes children, I'm sure it will revolutionize our lives!

Yesterday we all went to Wal-Mart. We shopped for groceries, school uniform pants and Halloween costumes. On our way to check out, there it was... In all its junky plastic beauty, the Touch 'n Brush! The kids couldn't have been more excited if SpongeBob Squarepants was in line in front of us. Please, please, please. Ack! Still $20. But at least no huge shipping charge... Fine. But you WILL brush your teeth at least morning and night and not fight about getting toothbrushes and you will like and use this thing. Yes, yes, yes!!!

They took turns holding the box on the way home. While Gene and I were putting away groceries, they figured out how to put toothpaste in and hang the thing (suction cups on the mirror) all by themselves. Then they started a long afternoon of brushing every time they thought about it. They made the neighbor kids come over and see it. When the commercial came on tv they ran back to use it and brush yet again. Excitement all around! By bedtime and the last brush of the day, Kaylin was beginning to admit it dispensed more paste than she liked. Logan was still gung-ho about its awesomeness.

I'll give it today and then the lesson can begin. Bwa ha ha ha. Oh, no, you guys PROMISED you'd brush before school without complaining. Logan, you PROMISED you'd get toothbrushes for both of you EVERY night. Hee hee. It was a horrible waste of money, but I'm gonna milk it anyway.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I've been waiting and waiting for weeks to find out what kind of deal Disney will be having for January. Last year we got buy 4 get 3 nights free plus a $200 gift card. Most of this fall through Christmas week they have free dining. In previous years we've gotten ticket upgrades. This year? Buy 5 nights, get 2 free. Big whoop. That's maybe a $150 savings off my entire trip. The ticket upgrades before the recession hit were a better deal! For the moment anyway, we will not be going to Disney World in early 2010. Gene wants to go to San Diego for a few days and then drive up to Disneyland for a few days. That sounds great, but I don't want to make that flight in winter ever again! Last time we ended up stuck at Ohare in a blizzard for three days. No thanks! We're also considering going to Orlando and doing non-Disney stuff such as Universal Studios, Sea World and driving to a beach (that's not a tiny strip located directly next to a nuclear power plant.) A couple of years ago Logan was set on going to Texas. Maybe we could do that?

Also, I have vacation time I need to use before January. I couldn't get an entire week off when Gene and the kids are off for two weeks at Christmas. I couldn't get the 2nd week of November which includes Logan's birthday. I couldn't get any full week in October. I finally opted for the first week in November (which for me actually starts on Friday, October 30th.) I figured I could pull the kids out of school that Friday and we could go somewhere for a 3-day weekend so Gene wouldn't have to take any extra time off. Well. I wasn't thinking about Halloween and the fact that Kaylin REALLY, REALLY wants to go to her classroom party. Ugh! That severely limits our options if we don't leave town until 3:30pm. I can't do the next weekend because I have to go back to work Sunday and can't get that day off. Anyone have any ideas where we could go? Preferably not a waterpark hotel?

Ack. Better stop writing and get ready for work. I have to go in early so I can leave early for yet another podiatrist appointment. Last time I was the youngest person in the packed waiting room by easily 30 years. And if it hadn't been for the driver/caregivers in the crowd it probably would have been 40 or 50 years :) My foot hurt horribly and I was terrified I was going to have to give up my seat. Fortunately, a group of 3 was called back to a room right before the next person arrived. The youngster got to sit. Yes, my life is hard, lol.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The End of an Era

Cheddars is scheduled to close today and then reopen sometime soon as a new, non-franchise restaurant. I don't remember exactly when Cheddars opened, but I can remember going there often in high school, so at least 20 years ago. The restaurant was rebuilt following a major fire and kept drawing crowds. I fell in and out of love with their food over the years, but one thing remained constant- the Cookie Monster. The fresh, warm, giant chocolate chip cookie smothered in ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top. I hope the new, non-franchise place will keep the Cookie Monster on their menu!

But just in case... Gene and I took the kids for one last Cheddars meal. The two of us shared a mushroom swiss burger and then all four of us shared a Double Cookie Monster. It was huge and we managed to finish every bite. The Final Cheddars Experience would have been much more enjoyable had we not had about 100 fruit flies hovering over our table, but the food was good anyway. Goodbye Cheddars, I'll miss you!

Following Cheddars, we all headed to Glen Oak Park for Return to Hogwarts. I've been wanting to go for years, but have never made it. I figured the kids were old enough despite the fact they've never read the Harry Potter books or even seen the movies. It. Was. Cool. And the guy selling tickets recognized me as a Park District employee so we all got in free :) Anyway, we went for an elevator ride through the Ministry of Magic, attended a Wizengamot session with Amycus Carrow on trial, were sorted into Hogwarts houses, toured Azkaban prison where Dementors put their scaly fingers on my neck, watched potions demonstrations and had an astronomy lesson where the kids made constellation hats. There was tons of activity, with actors dressed as HP characters mingling around the crowds. They did some dueling demonstrations. There were tents with owls and snakes. The library had a tent where you could take your O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s and they scored them. I would have liked to do that but thought the kids were a bit young. There were several merchant tents selling food, wands, candy, etc. There was even one that sold purple pygmy puffs.

We stayed about 2 1/2 hours and had a great time. My favorite part was the sorting. You actually sat on a stool with the hat on and the hat talked to you. Gene and I were both sorted into Slytherin, Logan into Gryffindor and Kaylin into Hufflepuff. Great fun! The kids loved the potions demonstrations. Several chemistry teachers/professors were doing all kinds of cool experiments. Kaylin got to whack a leaf that been dipped into liquid nitrogen on the table and shatter it into a million pieces. It was awesome. We didn't stay for the movie, but I'd like to do that when the kids are a little older. Overall, it was an amazing event. I think any kid would have fun as well as any Harry Potter fan with or without kids.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What a week! It was a good one, but I'm glad it's my weekend. Even if I do have to work a few hours tonight for an after-hours event...

Monday was the Jack Hanna fundraiser at the zoo. Jack first did a meet and greet "wine and cheese" event in the zoo's Lodge. I mostly stood outside and talked to people about the lions, zebras and rhinos. It was interesting because I considered the early event to be an exclusive party with our upper-class donors and their friends. Tickets were pricey and let's just say I would never have paid for the privilege of meeting Jack Hanna in this setting. One of the people I talked to was single and worked at a local pharmacy. She was excitedly clutching her freshly autographed copy of Jack Hanna's book and was eager for the "insider information" I was providing about the lions. She couldn't wait to go to work in the morning and tell "the girls" all the stuff she learned about the lions. I like to imagine "the girls" as a couple of 19-year-olds forced to listen to a week's worth of zoo and Jack Hanna stories while they're stocking the make-up aisle, silently pleading for five o'clock and their respite from the Crazy Cat Woman :) But seriously, she was so much fun to talk to and really seemed pleased with the value of her $125 ticket.

At 6:30, Jack Hanna did an animal show at the Glen Oak Park amphitheater. It was hilarious and entertaining. He brought out a young cheetah, a clouded leopard cub and a snow leopard cub. Yeah, the cats are my favorite, but he had many other great animals including a penguin, a tiny miniature horse, a sloth that was walked around the audience hanging off a large branch and many, many others. The show lasted nearly two hours and I didn't stop laughing the entire time. I really wished Gene and the kids could have come! Anyway, there were a lot of people and it was a fun and successful event.

Wednesday was Gene's birthday. He wanted a steak dinner so we went to the place (Longhorn?) by the new mall. The kids were really excited because usually the nicest restaurant we take them is Applebee's. (Yeah, I won't even pretend the chain steakhouse is "nice" but for us it's about as high-class as it gets :) Anyway, Gene got his steak that he proclaimed excellent, I got delicious parmesan encrusted chicken breasts with a fantastic sweet potato side (I just don't like steak) and the kids... Kaylin got Kraft macaroni and cheese and Logan got grilled cheese. Wow guys, way to branch out! Kaylin claimed the Kraft macaroni and cheese was even better than the Kraft macaroni and cheese at Applebee's and Logan thought his grilled cheese was the best ever. Everyone left full and happy.

We then went to that place, it starts with a "g"... Ack! I'm suffering from Bob Kaiser Syndrome and can't think of the name of anything. Gordman's! That's it! Gene wanted some new shirts for fall/winter and the kids both needed winter coats. We found all of the above! Gene's original plan included Cold Stone for ice cream but we were all way too full. It was a fun night.

I'm ready for a weekend free from homework. We have nothing planned, but I hope to take Kaylin to the Park District's Return to Hogwarts event Saturday night. Otherwise, I hope to relax and rest my feet.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Same Pumpkin Festival, different year

I'm thinking and thinking and trying to remember if I've ever missed a Pumpkin Festival in my entire life. I'm pretty sure I haven't. Every year Gene sucks it up and accompanies me to a long evening of waiting in lines, eating pumpkin food and gathering free junk from the merchant's tent. We look at the decorated pumpkins and the giant pumpkins. Some years we look at the pumpkin displays in the shop windows. The kids go on rides and play one "can't lose" game to win a prize. This year Logan opted to play balloon darts and threw about 8 darts before he finally popped a balloon and won a tiny plush football. Kaylin won a tiny plush penguin with her lucky duck. The kids got pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin cookies. I had a pumpkin chili dog that (ahem) didn't agree with me.

This year Gene skipped the festival. He had to work late. My dad picked the kids up from school and got them to the festival right at opening. By the time I arrived, they only had a few ride tickets left and I watched them go on the Ferris wheel with Andy and then on the bumper cars. On to the food line, dinner and the Budweiser Clydesdales. The Clydesdales were pretty cool, but there were about 7 million gnats flying around while we waited for them to pass. My mom was right in front of me and it was pretty gross to see them crawling around in her hair. Sorry, Mom. They were too tiny and too numerous to remove. I'm sure they were all over my hair as well, but I couldn't see them :) We left around 7:30 and rushed home for showers and homework. And then homework the next morning and plenty of grumbling about being tired.

Is it worth it? I always wonder... But then the next year nostalgia consumes me and I do whatever it takes to go back. Back to the crowds, the lines, the bugs and the mediocre food I don't even really like. I usually don't really have fun and even wonder how much fun the kids actually have. They much prefer the HOI Fair with unlimited ride wristbands, many more rides and much shorter lines. We don't always go to the State Fair, but that's even better. I guess we'll keep going to the Pumpkin Festival until the kids beg me to stay home and I finally decide to not go by myself. Oh. Gene didn't miss it one bit and was thrilled to have the house to himself for the evening and watch his baseball game.

I went to the parade today for the first time in years. I've worked the past four years and haven't been able to get the day off. Last year I asked off 7 or 8 months in advance but requested the wrong Saturday. I was disappointed, but it turned out to be awful and rainy that day and I ended up going to Nashville to visit a friend the next weekend which was far more fun. It was great to watch my kids, nieces and nephew and cousins' kids scramble for candy and clap for the bands. It was really great to go back to Grandma's for her traditional BBQ lunch. That's definitely one of my favorite meals of the year. Mmmm, custard pie with peaches for dessert. Enough said.

Quick Simon story. Kaylin was sitting on the floor eating a Pixie Stick (those paper straws filled with sugar candy.) Simon. Freaked. Out. He was sooooo excited. His eyes got big, his tail twitched, he ran over and started climbing up Kaylin's chest trying to get to the candy. Kaylin wasn't paying attention and the massive cat knocked her backward into a laughing heap. She sat back up, gave Simon a pat and affectionately said "Oh Simon, you're such a dork! You fit in here perfectly." Yeah, I think Simon's here to stay. And I think he'll even be happy about it :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Little Things

Yesterday was a really good day at work. I accomplished many of the minor tasks I've been trying to get to all week (or for weeks.) I witnessed a very successful hog introduction. We put the mama and baby hogs in the yard together with dad and auntie for the first time and they all got along great. It was fun to see the half-grown piglets climbing all over dad and watch them follow him everywhere. It was cute to see the entire group moving around together all day or sleeping in a giant hog heap. The adult hogs were very happy to be back together and the piglets just made everything even better.

I had a funny incident while I was cleaning the porcupines. The three porcupines were inside yesterday while George the giant tortoise was outside in their shared yard. (The porcupines try to poke poor old George so if he's outside, they stay in- and vice-versa.) Anyway, the porcupines have a shift area at the back of their stall where they stay while I'm cleaning. I don't get poked, they don't escape into the keeper hallway. Everybody's safe and separated by a metal mesh wall. We can see each other, but I'd have to get stupidly close to get poked :) I was hosing in the main stall when I noticed a chunk of carrot in the shift area. I started hosing the carrot, attempting to wash it into the stall. (It's a large enough area I was nowhere near hosing the porcupines.) I was concentrating on that carrot and not paying much attention to the animals. Suddenly, I realized Spike was backing his quills into the stream of water. They fluff up all their quills and do this bouncy little backward "dance" into whatever they're trying to attack. (I assume if it was a REAL threat the dance wouldn't be quite so cute and bouncy, but I've fortunately never seen them THAT upset.) Anyway, Spike was repeatedly poking that water. The look of victory in his eyes when I moved the hose was priceless. Funny stuff!

Tiger and Simon's relationship continues to evolve. Until last night, Simon has been allowing Tiger to completely dominate him. Tiger is considerably smaller so that's been fun to watch. Simon finally started fighting back. They still aren't wounding each other, but they have hilarious wrestling sessions where Tiger knocks Simon onto his back and Simon yowls and screams. Now Simon flips his massive body back onto Tiger and flattens him on the floor. All Tiger can do is try to bite his way out while Simon screams. Hopefully Tiger won't be smothered by Simon's flabby folds. The cats are fantastic entertainment. Way better than tv! They play and wrestle nonstop.

And finally, my stupid, stupid injury. I get so many minor injuries at work I often don't notice them. I'll find a gigantic bruise on my thigh and have no idea what I did to myself. I'm too busy working. At home, I tend to notice. Last night as I was getting out of the shower I brought my elbow down on the small shelf at the back of the tub surround. It's plastic and has a little give so I was surprised at the searing pain. I ignored it and started drying myself when I noticed I was dripping blood. The mirror was all steamed up and my cut was on a place on my elbow impossible to see. I apparently brought my elbow down onto my razor! I had to call Gene into the bathroom to apply a band-aid because I couldn't see where the cut was and didn't want to bleed all over. What are the odds? Eh, with me, probably pretty good.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Simon's been with us a week now and is quickly settling in. He appears to be comfortable in the entire house and has been approaching the kids and even showing himself to the neighbor kids. He loves to play with the laser pointer. He likes to play fetch with ponytail holders, but he hasn't done that with me yet. He also hasn't joined me in the shower, though he does like to sit on the toilet tank while I'm using the toilet. Creepy!

Both Simon and Tiger are friendly cats who need lots of attention. The hope in bringing them together is that they will bond and be buddies and entertain each other. So far, they have the entertaining each other part down. Simon has a black tail with a white tip that never stops twitching. Tiger finds Simon's tail irresistable and attacks it over and over which makes Simon twitch his tail even more and Tiger attack even more. It's a seemingly neverending cycle. Simon is a huge, fat cat. He is literally about twice Tiger's size, but Tiger still takes him down. So far, Tiger is the dominant kitty.

While they haven't exactly bonded yet, they're not quite enemies. They hiss and fight and attack one another, but so far, no blood. I've seen my share of cat fight wounds at the vet's office. Tiger and Simon are mostly just playing. It cracks me up that big old Simon allows weenie kitten Tiger to dominate him. It appears to be working out :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Back to School Night

Last night, following a 10 1/2 hour workday during which I sat down only long enough to eat lunch, I attended the annual back to school night at the kids' school. I had just enough time to eat and shower before rushing off to the event. I was tired and grumpy and not really in the mood for information about Strive for Five and We are Kellar! and the Fall Fundraiser and How I Can Help and Joining Hands With My Neighbors and Singing the School Song. I'm kidding about the last one, but I was in a fairly foul mood before even leaving the gym to go to the kids' classrooms. They conveniently had two 15 minute sessions. I decided to visit Logan's classroom first because it is close to the gym and I didn't have to climb any stairs.

I walked into his room and found his desk. I then found out I had to go to the library where all four 1st grade teachers gave a perky joint presentation on how 1st grade would be run this year. I found out that Logan will have homework Monday through Thursday nights. This is in addition to nightly reading aloud that I will have to record in his homework folder. None of the four teachers could contain herself to her allotted time so the first session ran over by five minutes and I had to book it up to Kaylin's room. Kaylin's teacher has an EXTENSIVE behavior program that involves "cash" deposits and withdrawals in a checking and savings account. Kaylin will also have nightly homework and will need her student planner signed nightly. Logan needs money for Weekly Reader and Kaylin needs money for Time Kids. I got a large packet of parent information from both teachers and my head exploded. I was told by five different teachers how I need to drill and hover and be involved in every moment of my child's homework life. No. Absolutely not. I take my kids to educational places and read to them and teach them all kinds of things. Their homework is theirs. I already did it.

I hate school. I hate homework. But most of all, I hate forced parental involvement in school. Why is my kid's effort grade dependant on whether or not I sign their folder/planner? This is ridiculous! Logan will come home and immediately sit and finish his homework, clean out his folder, make sure we sign it and put it back into his backpack. He also gets up early on his own and gets completely dressed to his shoes and gets his own breakfast and is ready long before we have to walk out the door. That is how Logan is. Kaylin, on the other hand, has to be nagged to do Every. Little. Thing. Every. Single. Day. There is no improvement. Ever. She is punished when she forgets to bring her homework or planner. We are consistent. We make lists of things she needs to accomplish before (whatever.) None of it works. She is still a dinglebrain and needs to be reminded to put on her pants. And her socks. And her shoes. And to go get her backpack when we're pulling out of the driveway. The one I set next to the door and reminded her twice to grab. Every day. That is how Kaylin is. And then she leaves the door to the house hanging open and has to be told to go close it.

Logan can handle homework because he is all about The System and Playing by the Rules. Kaylin wants to do other things. She needs every minute of unstructured time away from school to play imagination games and draw and make up stories. She loves to read and spends a lot of time with science and non-fiction books about the way things work. She wants to run and play outside and boss the neighbor kids. Homework is completely useless to her. It's nearly impossible for me to force her to waste her valuable free time doing boring things like writing spelling words five times apiece or infuriating her teachers by writing vocabulary sentences that don't CONFORM to the NORMAL sentences expected of her.

Kaylin learns so much more on her own doing her own thing than she could ever learn from boring, repetetive homework. I completely refuse to squash Kaylin's creativity by nagging and drilling and forcing her to spend huge amounts of time on things she hates. I used to think homeschoolers were nutjobs. I now wish I had the patience and organizational skills to pull my kids out of school and teach them at home!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another vacation over :(

I've had a great vacation. It was the perfect mix of going somewhere fun and loafing around the house. I can't believe it's over :(

Last night we got a new cat. A friend is moving to a temporary location and can't take him. He'll either stay with us forever or go back with her when she finds a permanent place. So far, he's not doing well. He spent the evening hiding behind the toilet in the "cat bathroom" and all night and all day today behind the couch. If anyone looks at him he hisses and yowls. In real life he's a lot like Tiger so I'm hopeful that once he adjusts to his new home they will be buddies. (And he'll be buddies with the rest of us...) Oh duh, his name is Simon. Tiger is a little upset by Simon, but mostly is acting normal.

The kids had a great first week of school. Both liked their teachers. Kaylin has had only minor homework and Logan has had none. I took them to school every day since I was off. School doesn't start until 9am so they were able to sleep until 8. Monday will be a bit of a shock when we have to leave at 7:25 again. Oh well, they did it all summer. I suppose one week won't ruin them too much! I hope.

I finally got around to reading Twilight and I hated the ending so much I decided to not bother with the rest of the series. At least for now. I usually love books written for children and teens, but the incredibly drawn out "epilouge" of Edward taking Bella to the prom made me want to puke. Would a 100-yr-old vampire really go to the high school prom and then be jealous of a 15-yr-old boy hitting on his girlfriend? It was so lame. Also, the huge buildup of the tracker vampire coming after Bella and then- nothing. Bella's in the hospital. Whoop dee doo. Maybe I have to read the rest of the books, but I honestly don't understand why this series is so popular with adults.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

40 before 40 revisited

I've been meaning to update my list for a while and now that I'm almost 37 (and have the day off) it seems like a good time.

40 before 40
A list of 40 things to accomplish before turning 40 on 10/29/2012
1. Overcome walkingstick phobia- some progress but still eewwwwwwww
2. Vacation without kids for at least 3 days- DONE (Nashville 9/08)
3. Vacation by myself for at least 3 days- DONE (see above)
4. Vacation with kids somewhere other than Walt Disney World- DONE
5. Start college savings for both kids
6. Organize and declutter entire house-LOL
7. Furnish at least one room with "real" non-hand-me-down furniture- DONE (and now looks old...)
8. Establish savings account-DONE
9. Avoid acquiring ANY new dogs, small mammals or birds-so far, so good, but I should have originally added cats
10. Meal plan for an entire month- probably least likely to happen of entire list
11. Keep weight at or below current weight
12. No fast food for two months straight- yikes
13. Regulate sleep schedule-hmmm, bed at 8:30, up at 4?
14. Establish daily exercise program- Did it and stopped doing it
15. Figure out how to balance family/work/kids activities/personal time-I'm getting better, but will probably never figure this one out!
16. Go to Yellowstone or Grand Canyon
17. Visit a friend or family member out of state- DONE
18. Do something every day that takes me out of my comfort zone-A work in progress, but yeah, I'm doing it.
19. Write a book-even if only for myself
20. Buy a video camera and actually use it- I bought one and shot video of the tigers tearing apart bags of feathers. I have not used it on my human children :(
21. Hang family pictures-DONE
22. Learn to play piano or guitar
23. Read the classics I've never read- working on it.
24. Eat the daily food pyramid recommendations of fruits and vegetables- did it for a year and then slacked off
25. Increase wardrobe to include DECENT outfits for every season and occasion- hee hee, nope
26. Get up close to a giant anteater- DONE. Twice
27. Take kids to see the eagles near the dam in Burlington
28. Run in a Zoo Run Run- DONE (9/08) Will likely never do again thankyouverymuch.
29. Find a place to see wild otters
30. Learn how to buy and cook meat other than hamburger and chicken breasts
31. Make and freeze a week's worth of meals and then actually eat them
32. Refrain from starting any new collections- so far, so good
33. Organize photos into albums or scrapbooks
34. Learn to identify trees- working on it
35. Go to a concert- I can't believe I haven't accomplished this one!
36. Regularly keep a journal or blog- so far, so good
37. Read at least two books a month- um, I must have been running out of ideas as this has never been a problem for me!
38. Sleep in past 8am (being sick doesn't count)- Hmmm, I think I slept until 8:20 once at Disney World, but definitely never at home.
39. Huh, I somehow missed a goal. My new goal is to find out the old goal before my next revision list.
40. Do something completely unexpected- I wonder what I originally had in mind here... I mean, I don't want to do something terrible :)
Many goals accomplished, many more works in progress that I'm keeping up. Most of the food and meal planning goals are no longer important to me and I can't imagine I'll bother freezing a week's worth of meals or planning menus for a month. We shall see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The First Day of School

It's hard to believe that yesterday at this time we were still in Wisconsin Dells, riding go karts and having fun and today is suddenly school. Sigh. Anyway, school starts at 9am this year. Since I was off work today, the kids got to sleep in until almost 8. They got up and put on their uniforms. Logan was in khaki shorts that went below his knees and a navy polo. He looked like a mini zookeeper. Kaylin wore her one and only white polo with a navy skirt. They looked so cute in their uniforms. I walked them into school and all the other kids looked so cute in their uniforms. It was interesting to see the girl who is normally dressed in $$$ outfits with matching shoes wearing the same thing as everyone else. I don't really think clothing is an issue yet at Kaylin's primary school, but it certainly will be at middle school next year. My feelings are still pretty mixed about the whole uniform thing, but I will be glad to not EVER have to shop at the mall for school clothes!

The kids were both excited about their first day. Logan had a couple of old friends in his room and Kaylin went from being incredibly disappointed about the teacher she got to being crazy-excited. It turned out that she had the teachers' names wrong and thought she got the "mean" teacher but actually got the nice one! She was yapping loudly as we were walking out of the building and the mom behind us stopped her and asked who the mean teacher was? Kaylin told her and the mom admitted that she'd heard that. It was pretty funny.

I better get some laundry done before we go to my parents' house to celebrate my dad's birthday. Logan is eager to go fishing. Now! Happy birthday, Dad!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Dells, Part Two

We did manage to book a third night at Great Wolf Lodge, but probably only because I was up early and went to the front desk first thing. The woman at the desk told me they were even busier Sunday night than they were Saturday. She said that was very strange and figured it was people trying to eek in one last getaway before school starts. I happened to be walking by the front desk after breakfast and heard them turning down someone else who wanted to book an extra night. We were lucky ducks!

Even the kids were tired of swimming! They actually skipped their morning swim. We drove about 20 minutes to a big cat rescue facility. They take in unwanted big cats and (apparently) don't breed them or do photo sessions with cubs. We had a good time watching many tigers, seven lions and two leopards. Most of the tigers were displayed alone or with littermates (tigers are solitary animals.) The lions were in pairs because they are social animals. However, my favorite exhibit contained a grown male tiger and a grown male lion. I am assuming they must have been raised together as cubs. I can't even estimate the number of times I've been asked at keeper chats who would win a fight, lions or tigers? My answer is ALWAYS "We don't know because we'll NEVER put them together!"

Kaylin was eager to play MagiQuest. She carefully chose her electronic wand and we began our very long scavenger hunt. We used a booklet of clues to guide us on 10 missions to find ancient runes and become Master Magi. It was really cool because most of the items did something when you aimed your wand at them (treasure chests opened, lights turned on.) The thing that was painful (for me) was that there were FIVE floors of clues and almost every mission included at least four floors. Up stairs, down stairs, up stairs down stairs, over and over and over and over. There were 4-8 things to gather per mission and nearly all were on different floors. We played for about four hours before we finally "won." Of course, there is really no end to the game because now she can choose from a dozen "adventures," plus there are two missions located inside the lobby area of the lodge. Kaylin loved every second of the game and wants to go back today.

I knew Logan would NOT love the game, so he and Gene went to a huge indoor playland within walking distance of our hotel. They had indoor go karts as well as many rides and a large arcade. Gene took him on the go karts twice and then got him a ride wristband so he could ride everything over and over. We met up at MagiQuest about 3pm, just as Kaylin was completing her Master Magi mission. I really wanted to go to the International Crane Foundation, so I hopped in the van and headed there. Gene took both kids back to the playland and got Kaylin her own wristband :) The crane place was awesome. They displayed a pair of every kind of crane from around the world (15 or 16 types- I sadly can't remember.) Years ago, I worked with African crowned cranes and had forgotten about how much attitude they have! I'm trying to think where we could (safely) house some in our new Africa exhibit. It was extremely enjoyable to wander around without kids. They would have hated the place!

We met up for dinner at 6 and then hit the waterpark from 7-9. I have no plans to swim this morning, so I decided to make the most of my last night. Logan and I went on slide after slide and I played in the wave pool and the basketball pool. (Kaylin made a friend that she was hanging out with.) Suddenly Gene showed up in his swim trunks and said he'd decided to go with me on the Tornado. The Tornado was the one slide Logan wasn't tall enough to do and it required at least two people so I couldn't do it on my own. You sit facing each other on a tube and do an almost vertical drop into a huge cylinder (the tornado) where you go back and forth up and down the walls until you are flushed out into another vertical tube and expelled from the ride. It was 15 seconds of pure awesomeness for me and terror for Gene. (Eh, only a few seconds, thanks Gene-Gene :) I wisely stayed out of the hot tub and all my stair climbing for the slides kept me warm. I wasn't cold at all. The kids loved swimming as always and will go one last time this morning. The plan is to then maybe do MagiQuest for a little while, go on "real" outdoor go karts and then start heading home.

It's been an excellent weekend adventure. We've all had a great time and have tons of stuff we want to do "next time." My only complaint is that my bad (planter fasciitis) foot flared up again majorly after climbing all those waterslide stairs barefoot. Then when it was already flared up I spent four hours climbing stairs at MagiQuest and then on many more barefoot climbs at the waterpark last night. I will have to spend the remainder of my vacation week with my orthotics or just resting the foot. Poor Susy. At least I have five more days off work :D