Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's 10pm New Year's Eve and I'm writing just to stay awake. I'm thinking there's no way I'm going to make it to midnight, but I'm at least going to try. And then when I fall asleep the kids can wake me up at 11:59, I'll scream and celebrate and hit my bed at 12:02. Gene had big plans to go to a hockey game but both kids were adamantly against it. I love hockey but then started thinking about climbing up and down all those stairs in my cast and sort of had to side with the kids. They have a Jim Thome bobblehead night coming up in a couple of weeks so I think Gene's ok with putting off going to a game. (Why Thome at a hockey game? No idea.)

The new plan was to watch a movie On Demand, but the movie we wanted wasn't yet available and we couldn't agree on anything else. We're watching an American Pickers marathon on the History Channel instead. We played Hedbanz for a while, the kids made a pinata and now they're playing marbles. I've read about "crackers" in Harry Potter books and have been curious. I was thrilled to find some at Target and bought them. The crackers were my hockey game for the night. The kids were terrified of the pop. Well, the pop turned out to be extremely lame and not scary, but the lame pop was nothing compared to the lame crackers. We had 9 and not one worked the way it was supposed to. Each and every one had to be manually ripped open. The kids liked the prizes and the paper crowns ok, but the bad jokes were the best part. Overall, a disappointment they didn't "explode" their contents, but still fun.

We ate Avanti's and got stuff to make cookie monsters. It's been a fun night, but the later it gets, the grumpier we all get and the more the kids fight.

The kids' vacation has been amazingly relaxing. I'm sure it's because I'm hobbled and not forcing everyone to go, go, go and do as much as possible. Kaylin spent two days in a row doing almost nothing but curling up on the couch or in her bed reading. It was awesome. Logan's been playing way too many video games, but he's also spent lots of time playing football with the neighbor boys and playing on the floor with cars and marbles. Nobody besides me has been getting out of bed before 9. Gene and Kaylin were in bed until almost noon yesterday. We're all just being lazy and while it's not my usual way, it's been fun. I think it's going to be really tough to transition back to work and school.

Do I have a New Year's Resolution? I want to lose some weight and have an adventure, but mostly I just want my feet to get better. If that happens, I'm going hiking. In the mountains.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Hungry Rock, Take Two

I finally have a date set to go back to work! I need a permission note to return and my doc is on vacation this week, so I have an appointment on Monday to get clearance to return and will start back on Tuesday. I will likely spend my first few days back working part-days cutting diets and hopefully doing some other light stuff and then get back into my string. I keep laughing at myself because I'm just as excited about going back to work as I would be if I had a big vacation planned. Every time I think of it I get a little wave of happiness. Hopefully the happiness will last at least a little while!

Gene's been off work since last Wednesday and the kids have been off school since Thursday. We've had a wonderful time! Santa came Thursday morning and the kids have maximized their time with new toys and video games. Kaylin got the Playmobil school. It is currently taking up our kitchen table with its hugeness. The set is detailed down to Playmobil figure sized pads of paper. It's one of the best sets I've seen; even Logan likes playing with it. I think Logan's favorite present is a set of bases. They're white rubber, slightly raised and very heavy. He sets those things up everywhere and slides into them about a million times a day. I literally just replaced all of his outgrown school pants and jeans (ALL with ripped out knees) right before this break. It will be a miracle if any of his new jeans make it through this week with knees intact!

We've mostly been hanging around home together, playing with new toys and games and having fun. We left home Sunday morning and headed to Starved Rock to get away and spent the night at Grand Bear Lodge. Being at Starved Rock and being unable to hike drove me INSANE. There was a ton of fresh snow so the kids bundled up in all their gear and played in the snow on the picnic tables and then slid down the hills from the visitor center. We then drove around to a viewing area at the dam and spent some time watching eagles and watching a barge come through the locks. That was really fun and required very little walking. The waterpark resort is maybe half a mile from the main park entrance. We checked in at ~12:30 and were happy our room was ready. We were starving so headed over to the amusement park building to eat and play before the kids started swimming. The food was incredibly expensive and just barely edible, but that didn't get us down. The amusement park was open, but so understaffed I think there might have been one person running all the rides. Well, we just ate and all the rides spin or drop so that didn't get us down. We moved into our room. The deal was that Gene would take the kids to the waterpark right after the Bears game. Meanwhile, I took them to the arcade and we had a wonderful time. I couldn't swim this trip because I need my cast to walk and didn't want to even enter the water area because there are so many jets of water it would have been hard to keep my foot dry. I drove around and found a Subway for dinner while the kids swam and Gene played on his computer. I returned to the room, put everything away and figured I'd at least try to relieve Gene and watch the kids swim a while. They'd been at the waterpark a little over an hour and I assumed they'd want to stay MUCH longer. Nope. It was so freezing cold they were ready to be done.

Both kids took long, hot showers and agreed they were done swimming for this trip. The waterpark was fun, but the cold water made it miserable. Wow. All I can say is that water must have been COLD. My kids swim until they're blue and then protest leaving. To not even want to TRY again? Brrrrrrrrr. We hung out in the room until 8pm when Gene took the kids to the hotel's showing of How to Train Your Dragon. Eight is way too late for me to go to a movie! I knew I'd be asleep in seconds so I just stayed at the room and read (and fell asleep within seconds.) They liked the movie and had a good time staying up late.

The plan for Monday was to swim all morning until we needed to check out and then hit the amusement park until we were ready to head home. Well, the kids didn't want to swim at all and the amusement park didn't open until 11. They wanted to go back to the arcade. We packed all our stuff and checked out of our room, hit the arcade for a while and left the resort around 10am. We drove around LaSalle-Peru just to see what it was like and then headed home. We stopped and picked up lunch in Chillicothe and were home shortly after noon. It was kind of a bust of a trip, but strangely- we all had a good time doing the things we did and were all perfectly happy being back at home. For anyone considering it- I do NOT recommend Grand Bear Lodge in the winter! It can be a great, fun place, but go in the summer when the barely heated pools are no big deal and the amusement park is actually staffed! Starved Rock, on the other hand, was absolutely beautiful with all that fresh snow and I would have LOVED to hike back into some of those canyons! It would have been amazing!

I hope to spend my final week off work playing with my kids and cleaning and decluttering the house. Today the Christmas decorations are coming down!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like

The past several days have been great! Logan returned to school on Friday following his adenoid/ear tube surgery Wednesday. Other than some weird pressure issues (this seems to be minor, but annoying) you would never know Logan had anything done. He's been tearing around with Kaylin and his cousins, doing great. The make-up work from missing two days of school was tough to finish with all of the family fun and the call of fresh snow and video games, but I think he finally completed everything. I would never in a million years take Logan out of school for a week of vacation with this teacher! We'd need another week just to make up her work. On a normal night he has more homework than Kaylin who is in middle school with 4 primary teachers! And this is all scheduled homework we get notice of on a handout at the beginning of the week, not stuff he's goofing around and failing to finish in class! Ugh.

Saturday was the Kaiser family Christmas. It was crazy-fun to get all of the kids together to tear around and destroy Grandma's house. There were 10 great-grandchildren ranging in age from ~9 months to 10 years. It. Was. Nuts. From the phone calls I've gotten I'm thinking Grandma may be reconsidering her role as Hostess of Major Events. Smart move, Grandma! I do not volunteer to play host to anything, but will gladly cut pies and bread or make finger jello and celery with peanut butter at YOUR house :)

Sunday was Christmas with my family. Again, there was plenty of mayhem with 5 kids running around, but nobody fell in the lake or fell down the stairs, so I'm thinking perhaps the jammed CD drive on the computer will be fixed and forgotten. One thing we noticed was that the kids don't seem nearly as eager to open presents as we were back in the day. All of them were perfectly fine with playing together for a couple of hours, eating dinner at a normal pace, playing some more while things were cleaned up... My brothers, Sarah and I were all remembering being so excited about presents we could barely eat. Being so impatient we whined and begged the adults to hurry. Feeling like we made a MAJOR score on those odd years we convinced the adults to do presents before food. Our kids love opening presents as much as we did, they just seem to have WAY more patience. My mom suggested that maybe it's because they have SO MUCH. Well, of course they do, but so did WE! I'm wondering if maybe the big treat now is being with each other? I might not be remembering correctly, but it sure does seem like as kids we took a LOT of trips to Champaign, St. Louis and even Cissna Park to visit my mom's sisters and our cousins. My dad's side of the family got together regularly and we saw our cousins (at least the ones who lived nearby) all the time. Perhaps with this generation's working women and busier lifestyles the kids aren't getting together as much as they used to and playing with cousins is more of a treat than presents? Just a guess because I know my kids are insanely excited about opening presents on Christmas morning!

Gene and the kids have work/school through Wednesday and then we're all off until January 3rd (the day I will HOPEFULLY be returning to work!!!!) This will likely be the last time for a few months we'll all have time off together so we're hoping to go somewhere for a couple of days. The issue is my foot and that I can't be on it. The other issue is our perfect option would be a water park resort, but we don't have custom swim plugs for Logan's freshly tubed ears. Hmmmm. What can we do in driving distance where I don't have to walk or do stairs and doesn't involve swimming? Um, not a lot that I can think of! I'm going to call the ENT office today and see what they say about over the counter ear plugs and whether Logan should be swimming so soon after his tube placement. If that works out, great! If not, I have no idea and am open to suggestions.

My foot is getting better. I still don't put weight on it if I'm not wearing my cast. Around the house or short walking distances I don't use crutches. If I'm going to be walking a lot I still use one, but mostly because my left leg is so weak from being completely off it for 5 weeks, not because it hurts my foot to walk. My plan is to use my remaining time off work to somehow equally rest my foot, but also slowly work myself back into being on my feet for extended periods. I probably won't go immediately back into doing my usual physical job on my feet for 8 hours straight, but will work part days and maybe do light work like cutting diets for a while and work myself back into full duty. Hopefully that process will take like 3 days, lol.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Logan's surgery

Logan had his ear tubes/adenoid removal surgery today. It was at the surgery center just down the street from our house. We arrived at 7am, supposedly to fill out paperwork. Um, I signed 2 or 3 things, all while standing at the reception desk and that was it. The paperwork took about a minute or so and then we sat and watched the Today show until 8am when Logan was finally called back. We went to another room and got Logan changed into a gown, filled out more paperwork and I was sent back to the waiting room. I'm not sure why, but I was surprised to find out Logan needed to be intubated and have an IV for this surgery. After all, it only "maybe" took 15 minutes. But I guess, duh, how would they keep him masked down when they were doing the adenoid portion?

Anyway, after about 20 minutes in the waiting room, the doc came out and told me everything went well. He said Logan's adenoids were so large he was surprised he could breathe through his nose. WOW! Logan doesn't even snore. In recovery I asked him if he ever had trouble breathing through his nose and he said no. I suppose the adenoids were probably contributing heavily to his ear issues, so I'm glad they're gone. The doc said someone would come get me in the next 15-30 minutes when Logan was ready to go to recovery.

A full hour later... They wheeled the gurney to the recovery room and my poor boy looked puny and pitiful. He was incredibly nauseous so stayed in recovery MUCH longer than we hoped. He never actually vomited, but clutched the little pink basin to his chest the entire time. He looked terrible. The anesthesiologist was awesome with kids and had all kinds of tricks to ease the nausea. Logan finally begged the nurse to let him go home. She allowed him to get dressed but said she wanted him to walk around a little before he left. He jumped out of the chair, walked in a circle and WHAM! the nausea hit again full force and he was back in the chair clutching his stomach. Awesome Doc returned with some more tricks and Logan was able to leave. We got home a few minutes after 11am.

I picked up Logan's prescriptions and went through the Steak 'n Shake drive thru. I was a little nervous about him eating a cheeseburger, fries and a shake when his stomach was so shaky, but that was what he wanted and he chowed down every bite. Fortunately, he felt much better after eating. Despite his sore throat (supposedly from the tube, not the adenoid removal) he's eating and drinking and shouting at the Mario game and talking nonstop. He's a little bit cranky, but otherwise I think he'll be just fine. Right now he's furious with me because I won't let him go play with the neighbor kids.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Learning to Cook

Kaylin has been really interested in cooking lately. She wants to make meals and wants to do the work by herself as much as possible. Cool! A dream come true for me! I still do the "oven work" because she's so short it's hard for her to reach in and pull something out safely, but she does most of the prep work, menu planning, etc. She's been making some more "complicated" things like green bean casserole, but right now we're mostly working on easy stovetop things like pasta and eggs.

Last night we got home a little late. Gene was out with his friends and Logan had a lot of homework. Kaylin wanted to make dinner but I wanted her to do something easy. Score! We found a bag of frozen ravioli. Kaylin boiled the water and carefully added the ravioli. She likes to experiment so she added a few pieces of spaghetti and a few other noodles. I was busy with Logan so wasn't paying attention. The ravioli only needed to boil a few minutes. Kaylin drained it no problem and called Logan in for his partially cooked piece of spaghetti.

I made a comment like "Oh, you put some spaghetti in there?" Kaylin answered "Yeah, and I also put a few pennies in the pot." I freaked out. WHY would she put pennies in with our food??? GROSS! I told her I'd make myself a sandwich because I wasn't going to eat that! Kaylin was totally confused, but I was all "DUH! Pennies are filthy! And metal! I'm not eating something they've been cooked with!" Kaylin doubled over with laughter. "No Mom, not pennies, PENNES! You know, the pasta tubes?" Yeah. We laughed the rest of the night.

I'm trying my best to keep her interested in cooking. She really wants to experiment and change recipes and tweak them. She couldn't have a worse set of teachers! Gene is rigid in following instructions and more concerned with the mess than the product and I am clueless and uninterested. I have tried and tried over the years, but cooking just doesn't interest me. If Kaylin can be my personal chef the next few years that would be super. Kidding! Sort of...

Off topic, Logan's reading has progressed so far, so fast! The "click" I was waiting for in his brain finally happened. He reads out loud and only has trouble with big, strange words when he doesn't know the meaning. He's scoring much better on comprehension and he's even (gasp) reading for fun in bed at night! (I mean, it's only for a couple of minutes because he falls asleep so fast, but WoW!) The difference in his spelling is night and day. Practicing spelling used to be the most frustrating thing in the world because he would sound out the first letter, but nothing else. Every single word had to be memorized. It was terrible! Suddenly he gets it and can spell anything that is phonetically "normal." It's then easy to memorize a few weird words. He's also FINALLY able to read all of his homework instructions so can do most everything by himself.

And quickly, speaking of homework, I have complained endlessly about Logan's word searches. Kaylin brought home the ultimate last night. Sixty-three astronomy words. Seriously? This thing would have taken her HOURS to do on her own. Why? You better believe I helped her! She would have kept me up bawling about that thing until midnight. With both of us working together it still took nearly an hour. Gene even helped with the last several words when he got home. What a crazy waste of time!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Friends, family and coworkers have all assured me that my 10-year-old doesn't REALLY believe in Santa. She's faking because she doesn't want to hurt my feelings. She's faking because she's thinks she'll get more presents. She's faking because she WANTS to believe. Nope. Some girl Kaylin rides the bus with got locked out of her house today and came over here to use the phone. She's staying until her dad gets home from work ~5. She's in 6th grade and Kaylin sort of wants to impress her. Kaylin just told her she got the video game they're playing from Santa last year. Sigh. Fortunately, the girl either didn't hear or pretended to not hear.

Final Christmas Shopping

I dragged my gimpy self out of the house this morning and went to ToysRUs for attempt number two at buy one get one 50% off on the two Wii games we wanted to get the kids for Christmas. The first attempt was by Gene on Sunday and they were out of Donkey Kong Country. I figured (correctly) they'd be getting almost daily shipments so it was worth another try. The other game I wanted was Mario Super Sluggers, a baseball game Logan will likely love.

The obvious thing would be for us to give Kaylin the Donkey Kong game and Logan the baseball game. However, since the kids refuse to stop believing in Santa, these games will be their joint gift. They will come with a note from Santa stressing the importance of sharing. Santa might as well teach a lesson.

I then went to Dollar Tree for D batteries for what will likely win Worst Toy of 2010- the slimy bug maker. I read several reviews and all were poor, but this is the ONLY toy Logan wants and has talked about and asked for over and over. While there, I overheard an older man shopping with his adult daughter. It was his first time in a Dollar Tree and he could not BELIEVE that EVERYTHING was only a dollar. It was completely awesome listening to him grabbing everything in site, completely marveling over the bargains. I'm thinking Dollar Tree just gained a new customer. He won't just come to town for Tractor Supply anymore!

My foot is slowly improving, if only slightly. As long as I'm wearing the cast, I can put weight on my toe so can now toe touch while I use my crutches. That makes life MUCH easier! I can also stand in one place with a little weight on my left toe so I can actually do dishes or cook. So far, my "good foot" is holding up well to the extra stress. I'm still bored absolutely to death, but as I can do more with less pain, my attitude is improving.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My boring life

Well, I'm bored half to death. My foot isn't really any better and the thought of 4 more weeks off work is pretty much killing me. I am, however, in a much better mental state since talking to one of my friends from another zoo who missed a YEAR of work following a freak accident that nearly left her blind. She was in town last week and we met Thursday night for dinner and a nice long vent session. I think I needed to hear myself express all of my ridiculous concerns out loud to realize how silly I was being. She made me realize that as much as this injury sucks, it is giving me the gift of time. Time to de-stress and decompress and really think about what I need to change and how I can be a better and happier person at work. Time to calmly and logically deal with Logan's reading issues and time to take him to ear doctor appointments. Time off with my son during his surgery and recovery. Time off with my family over Christmas break.

My only problem is that I really work better under pressure. The fewer time constraints I have, the less I accomplish. That was probably the thing I disliked the most about not working outside of home. I am still totally dependant on crutches, so I can't be on my "good foot" (formerly my bad foot) for long periods. Also, my shoulders ache from the crutches. I need to accomplish SOMETHING at home during my time off!

The kids got their mid-term grades. Kaylin kept up her As. Logan brought up his Cs in Reading and Language Arts to Bs! His nightly reading practice is paying off! I've really noticed how much his spelling has improved as he becomes a better reader. That's what I assumed would happen last year, but I guess his reading never improved enough. I've said it before, but I think he really just needed to be told there was a problem and that knowledge gave him the kick he needed to improve on his own. He needed to understand the school work was actually important. He didn't care before. He cares now.

We got 4 or 5 inches of snow Friday night and the kids have been thrilled. They played outside until 9pm Friday and were up early Saturday and back outside. PawPaw picked them up at noon and took them sledding. This morning they were out in the freezing cold playing some more. Then the neighbor kids joined them and now all 5 kids have been inside for the past two hours. Gene told them they needed to get out of the living room and be quiet for the Bears game that started at noon, but the girls are by the window playing DS and the boys have a hockey rink set up in the middle of the floor, with flying sticks and yelling and balls everywhere. Littlest Boy is standing directly behind a goal and I'm waiting for him to get smacked in the face with a stick. I guess that's a positive aspect of being in the cast and on crutches- Gene can get his bloody little body bundled into snow pants and boots and carry him bawling home to mama. Great, all three boys have now started playing tackle hockey, wrestling on the ground. At least sticks aren't involved.

I guess I'll pay bills and balance my checkbook. Maybe I'll take a photo and have Christmas cards made or maybe I'll skip it this year. Dunno.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Logan's ears

Yay! Logan's ENT appointment went very well! He's scheduled to have ear tube and adenoid removal surgery on December 15th. I'm thrilled to get the surgery in this calendar year when we've already met some of our huge insurance deductible. Before seeing the doctor, Logan saw the audiologist and had his hearing tested. She said he has no inner ear damage and therefore none of his hearing loss is permanent. Hooray for that! She also said his ear drums in both ears aren't vibrating at all so his hearing is pretty bad right now, especially in situations like school where there's a lot of background noise when the teacher is talking. That's also possibly why I hadn't noticed the increasingly bad hearing at home because without all the "clutter noise" he seems to hear me just fine.

The doctor surprised me speechless with the adenoid surgery. I had obviously expected ear tubes, but since I don't know what adenoids are or what they do, I hadn't considered their removal. Logan's not a big mouth breather or snorer; it wasn't something I'd thought of. Anyway, he said adenoids work as a "sewer" for the eustachian tubes, keeping the tubes filled with fluid. In kids Logan's age removing the adenoids almost always helps noticeably with the ear problems. Ok. The doc picked up on my surprise and went on about how we could wait and see and do the adenoids later, but I assured him I was just surprised and needed time to process the news. I most certainly DO want them removed if it will help Logan hear better!

Meanwhile, a nurse at the office scared me straight about my torn tendon! She went on and on about a similar problem she had last year, but her tendon (probably the same one) completely ruptured. She had multiple surgeries that included removing tendon from another part of her body and transplanting it to her foot. She also had much of her foot and ankle rebuilt with metal plates. YIKES! My foot hasn't touched the ground since hearing that horrible story! I will be a good girl and use crutches and bear no weight on my foot!

My good news about my foot was that I complained to my doc about how awful my air cast is when I am just sitting in my chair. I told him I understand my foot needs to be stabilized, but it hurts worse with the 10 pound cast dragging it sideways (due to gravity) and isn't there something LIGHTER I can wear while I'm sitting around doing nothing? (The air cast is a walking boot with a thick sole and goes up to my knee- good for working in, bad for sitting around with your feet up!) He gave me a very lightweight surgical shoe. Yippee! It's like going from steel toed hip waders to flip-flops! Soooooooo much more comfortable!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

MRI results

My MRI results were bad. I tore a tendon as well as some connective tissue. The tendon tear is particularly bad news because if it completely ruptures the surgery to repair it is highly unsuccessful. I will be in my beloved cast for many weeks and am off work until January 3rd. I'm supposed to use two crutches and not bear weight until the pain is gone. I will eventually be in physical therapy. Crap!

I knew this was the worst injury I've had in a very long time, but was in complete denial about how bad it actually is. I totally planned to go back to work today; I could at least work half-days. Wrong! Telling my boss last night made it real. I was forced out of denial and made to realize I will not be working the month of December. I will spend at least the next couple of weeks sitting around, keeping off my feet as much as possible. I will become proficient at carrying food and drinks and my laptop while using crutches. I will come up with creative ways to do laundry with crutches and one leg. I will be so incredibly happy that my house has no stairs!

I know I can't sit around feeling sorry for myself. I also can't be overly ambitious with accomplishing anything physical around home. I will hopefully not have this much time off work again for a very long time. I need to use the time off to my advantage and try to actually enjoy myself. I was laughing at myself last night because I was thinking at least this isn't as bad as when I was on bedrest when I was pregnant with Kaylin. I mean, I didn't do ANYTHING for two or three months! What I was laughing about was that I can't even remember how long it was. I'm sure 10 years ago I could have said 74 days. Now I don't remember even how many weeks or months. A long time? Good enough.

I have to do one thing today and that is take Logan to his ENT appointment. I can't wait to hear what he says. I hope, hope, hope Logan just needs tubes! That would be such a quick and easy fix. Yeah, it's gotta be too easy to be true!

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm a-skeered

Right now I'm suffering a big case of "what ifs" and feeling quite sorry for myself. Today I should find out the results of the MRI on my foot. I will find out if I can go back to work tomorrow. I can't even begin to express how much I want to go back to work. On the other hand, I'm terrified I won't be able to stand for 8 hours. My foot is much better than it was two weeks ago. However, it still hurts when I'm on it very long. I did nothing over the weekend other than some housework. I didn't leave the house once- not even to walk to the mailbox. If my foot started hurting I sat down for a while. Will working all day re injure my foot? Will I go from manageable, minor pain to excruciating pain? Will sitting at home another week drive me completely out of my mind? What if I have to wear the stupid cast 10 more weeks? What if I need surgery? What if whatever is found on the MRI doesn't justify having had two weeks off of work? What if I DON'T get my results today? What if the doctor is sick?

Haha, yes, I know I'm being ridiculous. Unless I actually DO need surgery(not likely), I will barely remember this a year from now. I'm making missing work a much bigger deal than it is. I'm sure it bothers me far more than it bothers the coworkers I'm "screwing over." Whatever happens, happens.

But I suppose being out of control is the reason for my mental turmoil. (Neener-neener Ruthie Roth, I LOVE starting sentences with the word but!) I mean, I obviously KNOW there are many, many people with much worse illnesses and injuries. I am not comparing my boo boo foot to someone with cancer! It drives me nuts that something that doesn't bother me at all while I'm sitting and typing this entry can keep me out of work for two weeks! Why can't I just suck it up and go to work? How did I hurt it in the first place? Why did it happen?

Yes, poor, poor me. And poor, poor YOU if I ever have a REAL illness or injury and you have to be around me!

I am going to spend what is hopefully my final day off of work taking my son out for breakfast and cleaning the kitchen. I am going to relax and watch some bad television and spend too much time online. Perhaps I'll take a little nap with my cat. I have three minor writing projects to finish. I have PLENTY of stuff to keep me busy until my doctor appointment at 5:15pm. Twelve hours and 45 minutes...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This and That

While not "all better" my foot is noticeably improving! I hope and plan to be back at work on Tuesday. If not, I will be very, very sad. Thanks to the holiday, I won't get the results of the MRI I had Wednesday until Monday late afternoon so still have no idea what's actually wrong. Hopefully NOTHING!

I have spent my time off going through So. Many. Things. The entire pool table is stacked with stuff ready to be donated to Goodwill. We will be getting rid of TONS of toys, books, movies and clothes. And yet, my house is still cluttered! It honestly doesn't look any better than it did before I started. How is this possible? It seems that our stuff reproduces like rabbits and accumulates overnight. Where does it come from? Why can't ANY flat surface remain uncluttered for 24 hours? There are books, papers, toys and clothes everywhere! How do I make it stop? Aaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

My plan for my (hopefully) final three days off is to spend a day apiece in the living room, kitchen and bedroom and attempt to find a place for everything. There must be 10 coats and 4 backpacks on the kids' hooks by the front door. There should be 4 coats and 2 backpacks. I will fix that. WHY are there golf clubs in the living room when nobody in this house has EVER played golf? Surely we can find a better place for all of the papers and chapstick and books and JUNK all over every table or flat surface. It must be possible!? I'm making an attempt...

So far we've had an awesome holiday weekend. The neighbor kids have been gone so haven't been bugging me. The kids have been getting along fairly well and mostly sharing video games. Mostly. Yesterday morning Gene and I were still lying in bed when the kids started fighting about who "owned" the Mario game they were playing. Kaylin claimed that Santa gave it to HER. Ugh. Well, I can say one thing, Santa (and WHY do you kids still believe in Santa???) will NOT be bringing individual gifts this year! Santa's bringing a family present and a note about SHARING. Otherwise, the kids have been more than happy about hanging around home with hobbled Mom. It's been fun watching them relax and play. Kaylin put up the Christmas tree yesterday and Tiger the cat has so far left it alone.

I've decided to stop freaking out over Logan's reading ability. After a week of making him read out loud from a comprehension workbook I found at Barnes and Noble, his reading and comprehension have both improved noticeably. I think what was needed was for Logan himself to be told there was a problem. I think he has been uninterested in reading and had no desire or drive to improve. Now that it's suddenly a "big deal" he's like "Oh, I CAN sound out words and read whatever's in front of me. I CAN pay attention to what I'm reading and answer questions about what I just read." I mean, he still needs plenty of work, but I think that will include practice and enforced reading time daily rather than testing and tutors and $$$$. If we work with him for the next couple of months and he's still way behind his class, I will certainly take major steps with tutoring. Meanwhile, his Ear, Nose and Throat doctor appointment is on Tuesday, so hopefully that will be the start of taking care of his hearing problems.

One of my favorite restaurants near our house started selling I think 50 different flavors of soft serve ice cream. This could have been a year or two ago, but I'm not a big fan of soft serve, so have never bothered trying any. The kids occasionally get some, but I think black raspberry has been the strangest flavor they've tried. I've been bored to death with my time at home and was in a weird mood yesterday, so when Gene went to pick up our order and the kids asked for ice cream, I told him to get me a black licorice one. Both kids groaned in disgust and I figured it was worth a dollar to eat a bite or two and watch their reaction. I dramatically spooned the first bite of black licorice ice cream to my lips, happily listened to their fake gagging and quickly shoved the bite into my mouth. Pure bliss! It was the best soft serve ever! I loved it! Perhaps my occasional side order of hummus will be replaced with black licorice ice cream. Or maybe I'll try rum raisin or peanut butter. Oh Pita's, you just keep giving me more reasons to love you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Boo Hoo

I'm off work for another week and trying to make the best of it. I still can't put full weight on my heel and have an MRI scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. It's 11am and I'm still in pajamas and unshowered. Sigh. This is not who I am. I WANT to be at work! I'm bored off my gourd!

I've spent my time off scooting around on my butt, going through books and toys and stuff. I can only stand to be on the floor for a certain amount of time because my cast cuts off circulation so I pretty much go back and forth between going through stuff and sitting in my chair reading blogs. I guess the good news is that I have 90+% of my Christmas shopping done. Yeah for Amazon! But really, I don't work well when I am on forced rest. I need to record receipts and balance my checkbook which will take 10 minutes max, but I've put it off for the past week. I'm surrounded by junk mail and trash and recycling but can only carry like one thing at a time with my crutches so I stack it all nicely and Tiger the cat scatters it all over again. I'm frustrated half to death but too bored and lazy and hobbled to do anything about it.

I've kept up with the Kardashians, watched countless episodes of Made and am actually excited about the Dancing With the Stars outcome tonight. I've spent hours upon hours with a fat cat curled up on my lap. I've moved from intense stress over not being at work to acceptance and pretty much a state of lethargy. I'm terrified that all the work I put in to lose weight to (ironically) help my feet is going to be lost to my inactivity. If I'm stuck in the stupid cast for another 12 weeks I may lose my mind.

I know, I know, boo-freakin'-hoo. Lots of people have it extremely much worse. I have a boo boo foot and in or out of the cast, will probably be back at work next week. I've had a stressful couple of months and am going to do my best to spend this week chilling out and de-stressing. When I go back to work I want to have a better attitude and a better outlook on life. It's definitely time for a change for the better.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ears and Reading

Hurray, the day of Logan's doctor appointment FINALLY arrived and taking him to Gene's and my family doctor worked exactly as I had hoped. Well, except I had hoped the doc would do his "sucky worst" and blow us off and recommend Logan to an ear, nose and throat specialist. I was apparently remembering my childhood family doctor, because this doc was extremely helpful! He first scoped Logan's ears and then used some thing to measure the vibration of his ear drum. Doc left the room for a minute and brought back a printout of the vibration test. He sat down and showed me on a piece of paper what a normal printout would look like- pretty much like a single heartbeat on a heart monitor- sort of an upside-down V. Both of Logan's ears were flat lines. Doc said he took a while getting the results because he initially thought the device was not working. Anyway, that probably means there is fluid or other blockage prohibiting Logan's ear drum from vibrating, which is a necessary component to hearing well. Off to the specialist he will go!

This doc did a great job helping me understand what is wrong but wouldn't speculate on whether something as simple as tubes will fix the problem. Logan did NOT have ear infections at this visit so hopefully he'll somehow stay well until the specialist visit. I had completely forgotten that I chose this doc because when Kaylin and I saw him at a prompt care before he started his private practice, he took time with us, listened and was NOT an arrogant jerk! When we got a letter in the mail that he was starting his own practice, I immediately called and signed both Gene and myself up. I absolutely loved Kaylin's pediatrician at the time and Logan wasn't born yet. I think I still have a horrible opinion of family doctors because of the idiot I saw my entire childhood through young adulthood. I could go for YEARS without a visit and then go in with nasty bronchitis and he would act like I was a total hypochondriac wasting his valuable time. The visit I was soooooo sick and walked up to the receptionist to pay, a nurse noticed how sad I looked, questioned my symptoms and gave me a bag full of sample meds (all while rolling her eyes in disgust at the doc's ineptitude) was my final visit. I went the prompt care route until my current doc started his practice.

It's funny- I love my podiatrist and my OB/GYN. I loved two of the kids' pediatricians and the Kaylin's ENT. I like my family doc (haven't seen him enough to "love" him...) And yet, my opinion of doctors is completely skewed because of the one idiot. I mean, the guy was such a jerk and always made me feel so bad about myself. Even as a small child, I NEVER faked an illness or injury! If I was at the doctor, there was a GOOD reason. Dr. Jerkwad ALWAYS treated me like I was a faking pain in his butt, wasting valuable time he could be seeing REAL patients. Idiot.

Whew, I digress! We are supposed to be receiving a call for an appointment with Logan's new ENT. I'm sure it will be months before anything is accomplished, but I'm thrilled the ball is rolling. Meanwhile, we're working on reading and comprehension. He's doing better, but still just shuts down and doesn't even try when he encounters a big word he doesn't know. I've always hated the pointless SRA books that are apparently the major part of reading at school. The stories are horrendous and boring. They were hard to read and comprehend when all the words were simple. Now every other word is a "big" word and the nonsense stories read like a technical manual. This system of reading is incredibly unfortunate. I love reading but hate these stupid readers. The kids who don't love reading are almost screwed. I mean, when you're already struggling with just the reading and then you can't understand a quarter of the words because they throw in "impoverished" as an example of the short o sound... The whole state testing prep curriculum is alarming and stupid! How can the teachers who have been around for years and years go along with this crap? Are they totally brainwashed? I don't get it! I can help my own kid, but what about the many parents who can't or won't? These kids are doomed!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

whine on

Whatever I did to my foot, I don't think it's my usual plantar fasciitis. Wednesday I called the doctor who recommended I get crutches and keep weight off my foot. With PF, even at its worst when I was always in pain, the pain got better and manageable as I walked around. This I just can't even walk on. Even in the cast.

I haven't been able to do a lot during my time at home, but I am going through and weeding out lots and lots of stuff. We've lived in this house 11 1/2 years and I can't believe how much crap we've accumulated and kept. I really thought I wasn't materialistic or into "stuff." I was wrong! Why on earth do I still have ~50 VHS tapes? Do we even have a VCR? Good-bye! Do the kids really need an entire library of baby board books at ages 8 and 10? Nope. Ok, those things are easy to part with, but what about the Disney DVDs? WHY am I have a tough time getting rid of movies neither the kids or I will EVER watch again? Why is it so hard to get rid of certain toys? Ugh, and books... What is my attachment to books?

My plan for the next few days is to condense my extensive Playmobil collection to one Rubbermaid tub by eliminating all the boxes and separating smaller sets into ziplock bags. I also hope to do this with Legos. It's not a fun job, but at least I feel like I'm doing SOMETHING other than sitting around not working.

Kaylin and I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch yesterday. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I've baked anything from scratch. They turned out to be excellent. We even bought a pint of Ben and Jerry's Karamel Sutra and made cookie monsters out of the fresh cookies. Mmmmmm.

If anyone wants any DVDs, kiddie books, toys, etc., let me know soon. I'm going to take everything to work and then whatever people don't want is going to Goodwill.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Foot problems again :(

Yesterday at work I hurt my left foot climbing up a hill when we were at shotgun practice. It was no cliff, just a slightly steep short hill. I figured it was nothing I couldn't walk off, but by 2pm I was in agony. I've had my share of foot pain in the past year and a half, but this was incredibly much worse. I hate leaving work early and calling off sick, but by 2:30 I pretty much knew I wouldn't last until 5. I finished what I was doing and went home and spent the rest of the night icing, elevating and massaging my throbbing foot. This morning it wasn't any better. I could barely stand and the only way I could walk was on my toes. I called off work then called and begged to be seen by my very booked podiatrist. Yes, today.

Doc was pretty surprised when I told him how much pain I was in. He was shocked I called off work because he made so much fun of me for working every day of the 12 weeks I was in the cast because he always offered to give me a note if I wanted one. This time he INSISTED I not work. For a whole week. Sigh. He also insisted I wear the cast again. Double sigh. He tried to give me a prescription for crutches (you need a PRESCRIPTION???) but I asked if I could wait and see if I was doing better on Wednesday with the cast and rest before I run out and buy crutches. He took Xrays and prodded around on my heel and ankle until I almost kicked him because it hurt so much.

I came home and sadly dug the cast out of the closet. Apparently I just discarded it, hoping to never give it another thought, because it was completely disgusting from its final previous wear at work. Yeah, I got to clean it first! Well, I didn't forget at all about how much I hated wearing the thing. It sucks.

Logan's family birthday party was Friday night. He had a blast playing with his cousins. Patrick gave him a Nerf blowdart gun that everyone young and old had way too much fun shooting. Andy gave him a um, flying UFO thing that you charge and it glides around the room. Yes, horrible description, but a really cool toy that again, was enjoyed by everyone. It was a fun night.

Kaylin got the good news on Friday that her B in Effort was a computer mistake and had been changed to an A. That meant she made the strait A honor roll and was recognized and given a certificate at an all school assembly. She was very thrilled her hard work paid off and very proud to show everyone her certificate. I was glad her hard work was recognized enough for one of her teachers to make the Effort to go back and change the grade!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


My baby is 8. Eight! Monday morning he ran out to the car, removed his booster seat and ceremoniously chucked it in front of the garage where it remains today :) Wow. My car has not been carseat-free for almost 10 1/2 years! It's not quite as monumental as being done with diapers, but hey! Both kids spent the ride to school yesterday complaining that the lack of boosters forces them to sit in all of their spilled cereal and food wrappers. Jeepers, children, there's a simple solution to that nasty problem. They just laughed at me and Kaylin explained to Logan that he'd get used to it. He gave her a serious nod and agreed. Sigh.

We celebrated on Saturday since we were all home and it gave Logan plenty of time to play with his presents on a non-school day. We got him some batting gloves and a practice weight for his bat, a Lego set and a "5-in-1 Game Table" that sounds about 1000 times cooler than it actually is. It's an extremely cool IDEA, but in reality is fairly pitiful, with lame-o "air" hockey, basketball, pool table with large raised hump in the middle and a couple other equally poor games I can't think of. Fortunately, Logan likes it anyway. Oh, I forgot about the dolphin punch bag I found at Farm and Fleet for $1.79. I couldn't help buying it because it's an adorable inflatable dolphin you're supposed to punch in the face. Who punches a dolphin??? Anyway, it has provided the most laughs. Both of my kids and all three neighbor kids have had a blast beating up the dolphin. Also, Tiger the cat is terrified of the thing so that provides even more comic relief.

Kaylin made a cake and cupcakes. We tried to have a celebratory birthday dinner at Chili's, but left home at (gasp!) 5pm and the wait at 5:15 was already 40 minutes! Logan made the choice to go to (sob) Denny's instead. Denny's is almost right across the street from Chili's but instead of waiting outside for a table there were maybe 5 families. I wonder why?

For Logan's actual birthday on Monday he took cupcakes to school. Hee hee, there are now health department regulations so sadly "I" didn't make them, but bought them at the Wal-Mart bakery. Then for dinner he wanted carry out Bob Evans. Oh yeah. Bob Evans, the "other" Denny's! He had a great birthday, is thrilled to be out of the bay-bee seat and got two fantastic dinners :) Friday we're having yet another party at my parents' house and he'll get to see his cousins!

In other news, I scheduled Logan an appointment with our family doctor. I'm counting on him to be impatient and in a hurry and just immediately recommend Logan to an ear, nose and throat specialist. Please, Doc, do your sucky worst and get us in and out with that specialist appointment! I also talked to my zoo friend and emailed Logan's teacher and am hoping for a tutor recommendation. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another round of Parent-Teacher Conferences

Ah, nothing like a parent-teacher conference to shatter my illusion of well-being and complacency! Thursday evening I was already tired from a long week at work but had to rush home to shower and change and get to my evening conference with Logan's teacher. I wanted to be relaxing in my chair, but instead sat in a tiny 2nd grader chair processing words like "intervention" and "occupational therapy" and "hearing problems." Logan's issues with reading have apparently gone well beyond what I previously thought. I still believe his issues mostly stem from lack of interest and plain stubbornness. However, I also see that if we don't do something soon the reading issue will become major. The teacher went on and on about budget cuts and how Logan's not critical enough to be placed in the existing intervention programs. That basically means he CAN read Hop on Pop, but once he attempts anything past beginner level he struggles. The thing about Logan is he doesn't even ATTEMPT to read words he doesn't immediately recognize. It doesn't occur to him to sound them out. He just skips them and the story makes no sense and therefore he can't comprehend what he just "read."

As far as Logan's hearing issues, he's been to the district audiologist several times and we've been told his hearing is at the low end of normal range due to fluid buildup. He doesn't have nerve damage, he needs tubes. Then I go to the pediatrician and they either put him on amoxicillin (which does nothing) or flat-out refuse to see him (that's happened twice.) I'm on my third pediatrician and none will recommend him to an ear, nose and throat specialist! I don't know what to do! I guess I'll go back one more time and insist and demand and cry until I get the appointment. Maybe I'll try our family doctor. He's never had issues sending Gene or me to a specialist.

Meanwhile, I posted a question about Sylvan Learning Center regarding tutoring. I assumed it would be expensive but one person who replied had her 2nd grade son tested and estimated it would cost between $13,000-$15,000! That's approximately TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS more than I had guessed!!! And that was NOT one on one help, it was a small group that included snack breaks. Um, no. I have a friend at the zoo who works as a school counselor and has done tutoring and I will beg her for help on Sunday. She's much younger than Logan's teacher and hopefully knows some young teachers willing to tutor for a lot less than $15,000.

Kaylin, on the other hand... My disorganized child has pulled herself together in her first grading period of middle school! I was shocked at her change! She had 11 letter grades on her report card and 10 were As with one B in Effort. She was very disappointed with the B, but sheesh! I'm not! In middle school you just line up at the different teachers' classrooms and wait your turn for conferences. It sucks. It was nice to be able to talk to all the different teachers, though. The mystery of the Effort B was never solved. Each teacher claimed "they" had given her an Effort A so it must have been the Social Studies teacher. (Her English teacher actually said that, lol.) Anyway, I spent more than 2 hours at Kaylin's school, most of it waiting in line.

I had assumed her Effort grade came from her Accelerated Reading (AR) points being low. She always hated AR in primary school and always had low points despite reading constantly at home. I sat down with the English teacher and glanced at the printout, thinking Kaylin had 2.9 AR points. Nope. It was 29! Far more than required for her A. Probably more than she had in 3rd and 4th grades combined! It was just class after class of compliments about her work, her attitude and her (gasp!) organization. This is ALL Kaylin's effort! I've told her over and over that I refuse to nag her endlessly about her school work. She can choose to take responsibility for herself or she can deal with the consequences. Ultimately she'll be an adult and nobody will care about her grades in 5th grade. They will care about hard work and personal drive. Being born with natural intelligence is a gift to be treasured, but without the drive to push yourself to do what you love the gift will be squandered and you will be passed like crazy by the C students you previously found yourself superior to...

As for the B in Effort, I feel simultaneously furious and happy for the tough life lesson. Obviously, these stupid teachers don't realize Kaylin should get an A+++++++ in Effort! The kid has made an incredible change in attitude! Of course, the teachers don't know any of that, they see her amazing ISAT test scores and assume her As came easy. This is a good lesson about life NOT being fair and sometimes never getting a satisfying answer to why things happen the way they do. Does a 10-year-old need that lesson? Sigh.

The sad news from Kaylin's school was that Art is going to be replaced with more Writing. The students as a whole are struggling with writing so the Social Studies teacher who previously held one art class a week will now have a writing class instead. Puke. Stupid test scores! Ack, test scores are a whole other post! My other sad news was I got caught up in excitement talking with the science teacher about the upcoming animal unit and accidentally revealed I'm a zookeeper resulting in the unwanted invitation to COME SPEAK TO THE CLASS!!!!!! Shudder.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Yesterday it was my birthday...

Is my use of song lyrics getting old? Tough :)

Yesterday I turned 38. I've never really sweated getting older before, but for some reason this birthday hit me hard. Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling old, but I do feel like if I want to make any changes in my life I better get on them! It's like I'm still young enough to go back to school if I need to, but just barely... How much longer will I be able to do my extremely physical job before I have to quit? I mean, I'm hoping another 10-15 years, but then what? Is it worth putting all that time in and then what, finding another non-zoo job in the park district to keep my benefits? What could I possibly do? Secretary of golf?

I've also always wanted to leave the Peoria area. If you would have told High School Susy I'd still be living in Peoria at age 38 I would have fallen on the floor laughing! I want to move to Denver or New Orleans or Montana or somewhere in Florida. Just to see what it's like! Then I think about how instead of using my vacation time to see these places, I'd be using it to return to Peoria. Ugh to that! Plus, Gene and I have worked HARD to get where we are now. I don't want to relive my "poor twenties" in my forties! Gene has been promoted so much at Cat I strongly doubt he'd be able to get a similar opportunity elsewhere.

I'm so conflicted between adventure and common sense, risk and safety, immaturity and maturity. If it was just me, it would hardly be a risk to find another job, move to another city and make what I'm making now. It would be a great adventure and potentially a way to advance my career. Gene's job is so different. Leaving his job would be a huge financial risk and potentially very unsafe. Would it be an adventure or a lifetime of disappointment and bitterness? It's hard to predict. It's hard to take that kind of risk when the kids are involved.

Speaking of the kids, now would be the perfect time to uproot them! They're old enough to have some measure of input and independence but young enough to not be completely tied to their friends and activities.

Urgh. Knowing me, I'll go with safety and security. I don't know if I can handle going from comfortable to poor, plenty of room to tiny apartment, college savings accounts to scraping together enough change for milk and bread... I guess I'll have to take the risk I'll live long enough to see retirement and save like crazy for the emu ranch of my dreams :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The coolest thing EVER

Last week I was turning on my work computer. It was early and I was tired and sitting at the desk waiting the excruciating 25 seconds for the password screen to come up. A fly landed in the middle of my monitor. Not wanting to damage the monitor and never expecting to actually hit the fly, I gently flicked at the fly. Y'know, just to get the fly to go away. Well, the fly must have been dazed by the brightness of the monitor or something because I hit it! I hit it but didn't kill it. The fly was stunned and fell to the desk buzzing and fluttering its wings. I had a split second of amazement over what I had just done before a spider came tearing out from under the printer, grabbed up the fly and retreated to its printer sanctuary.

I was completely horrified! It was so unexpected! I spent a few seconds in shock before realizing that was one of the coolest things I've ever seen! I spent the rest of the day thinking about it, blabbing about it to anyone who would listen and generally building up this mini display of nature as the best thing that ever happened ever.

I wondered if I could recreate this spectacle? Could I intentionally reproduce the shocking event? Could I share the joy with my coworkers? I grabbed a flyswatter and went around lightly swatting flies until I managed to not actually kill one. I picked up the struggling fly and dropped it in the area the original fly fell. Sure enough, the spider tore out from under the printer and grabbed the fly! Sweet!

That started the feeding of the spider. Once or twice a day for the past several days we've fed the spider. It will only come out for struggling flies, not dead ones. I have no idea what kind of spider it is but it's about the size of a nickel and not hairy. We even tried giving it a mealworm one morning, but the mealworm was too big and the spider came out and checked it out but left it all day. I ended up removing it so our pet wouldn't be too stressed. Last night was the first time the spider didn't come out for her fly. Hopefully she's just full. Otherwise I'll have to believe she moved elsewhere because she was bored with not having to do any work. We did not overfeed her to death! Noooooooooo!

I finally remembered to pack my camera so if she does come back I plan to get it on video and post it. I have a feeling that's a blown opportunity, though...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The photo is a tortoise eating watermelon. No blood. I was looking for a pic that would actually work with my formatting issues and cracked up at this one... It worked EXACTLY how I hoped. We'll call it my scary Halloween header.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Junior Politico

The other day on the way to school, Kaylin was checking out the sea of campaign signs along Detweiller. She commented on how many there were and then was talking about how many tv ads there are. Eventually, she asked who I was planning to vote for? I told her I wasn't sure; I had to do more research before making that decision. She then filled me in on the most hilarious list of why I couldn't vote for potential candidates I could have imagined. If only I could have recorded it, because I will never remember her entire amazing rant.

"Well, Mom, you can't vote for Bill Brady because he's Wrong and Reckless. With Pat Quinn things have gone from Bad to Worse. You can't vote for Mike Unes because He's for Them, not Us. Alexi raised tax funds and Left Us with NOTHING!"

She went on and on with all the right names and campaign slams. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Probably a dozen idiot politicians blowing massive amounts of money slamming their competitors brought down by a ten-year-old girl. It was one of the best things I've heard in my life. My child is brilliant!

I usually get into the whole election thing and research and pay attention and read the paper. This year I just don't care. I'm sure I'll do some last second cramming and will go vote, but at this moment I don't feel like it. Ever since the last election when some competitor was slamming Illinois House incumbent Mike Smith for being FAT I have just lost interest and have ignored all the ads. Seriously, dude isn't in my district, I know NOTHING about him, but the ONLY thing you can come up with why you deserve the vote over him is because he's FAT??? He can't do his job because he's FAT? Wow. Kaylin got a kick out of that story.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Good-bye Sadie, it's been nice

Ours is a dog-free home once again. I wonder how long I'll be able to handle it? At the moment, I'd claim FOREVER, but I thought the same thing after Brady-dog died and I lasted maybe 4 months.

Sadie isn't dead, her previous owners took her back following several weeks of completely unacceptable horrendous behavior. Sadie's always been a nervous whiner. She's always had separation anxiety and issues with the cats. She's always been nasty with other dogs and an occasional problem barker. Those were not deal breakers. Sadie was excellent with the kids and neighbor kids. She was a fun playmate and great to cuddle with.

For some unknown reason, in the past several weeks she stopped coming when called. She started TEARING out the front door every time ANYONE opened it. She was unstoppable. By the way she came slinking home in shame, it was obvious she knew she was doing wrong, but that didn't stop her from repeating her bad behavior 5 minutes later. First she was visiting the dog two houses down and barking through the fence. At some point she realized it was more fun to try to attack the next door neighbor dogs through their house. The final straw was when the neighbors called the police over the weekend and animal control paid us a visit. We don't know yet whether the neighbors actually filed a complaint, but if they did we'll have a $100 fine. A fine that would apparently increase with multiple offenses. I think pretty much the ONLY way to NOT have multiple offenses would have been to either keep the dog in a cage 24/7 or get rid of her.

This was beyond a training issue. Well, that's possibly not true. I imagine with a HUGE amount of time and effort she could have been trained. Meanwhile, we probably would have had hundreds of dollars in fines and would have been sued for damages to the neighbors' house. Sorry, doggy, not worth it!

So far the kids are taking it well. Logan was extremely offended by her running out so he's glad she's gone. Kaylin will likely have a much harder time because she really loved cuddling with her. I feel like a failure, but the past few weeks have been so stressful I'm also extremely relieved to have her gone.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


In case you're wondering about my past three or so header photos, for some reason I can't get them to "shrink to fit" so I keep ending up with huge and ridiculous tiny sections of the photo. I have to admit, the polar bear nose is my favorite so far. :)

This morning I braved the Toy Land crowds at Farm and Fleet. I went much later this year and missed the insane people, but it was still really busy. This year instead of watching the crazy women grabbing up every bargain in site, I watched the grumpy old men who were upset there were no carts and upset about the check-out lines. Logan (for the first time in his life) showed some interest in what he wanted for his birthday and Christmas and went through the ad and circled things! I joked with Gene that it would be worth spending $40 on the sled he wanted because that would be an excellent insurance policy we'd get no snow this winter. When I actually got to the store, saw the size of the box and had no cart, I passed on the sled. Everyone can blame me when we have record amounts of snow. It is my fault for being cheap and unwilling to lug a box half my size around the store.

The kids had a 3 day weekend last week for Columbus Day so we decided to hit a couple of the local apple orchards. Y'know, not to actually pick apples, but to eat yummy food and play on playgrounds and ride monster trucks. The kids wanted to do the corn mazes, but my foot was hurting and oh yeah, I hate corn mazes. No. They are stupid. Apple Blossom Farm had the monster truck rides and gem mining. The playground was free this year, but most of it was for younger kids. We got some pumpkin doughnuts, cider and caramel apples. On Monday I took the kids to Tanner's Orchard. Holy cow, that place was packed! They had their pony rides and barrel train going for the holiday so the playground was full price. Um, no. Kaylin and Logan wanted to play their dinky mini golf course and do nothing else. Sorry kids, I'm too cheap to pay NINETEEN DOLLARS for 6 holes of mini golf! Instead they got make your own snow cones and played with the farm animals. We bought some amazing turtle brownies and some apple doughnuts and left because we could barely move around with all the people there.

I couldn't stomach the thought of going home and spending the rest of the day babysitting the neighbor kids so I drove on to Bradford. Bradford! What are we going to do in Bradford? No idea, but if they have a gas station I'll buy you a drink. It turns out Bradford has a nice park in the middle of town with a playground left over from the olden days of metal merry-go-rounds and animal teeter-totters. The kids aboslutely LOVED Bradford. They want to go back! Kaylin even begged to go back sometime with her friend Zoe. They talked about Bradford the rest of the day and Logan has decided he's going to live there when he grows up. Ok, then.

Well, better go do laundry and make lunch. I have to work Howl-Zoo-Ween tonight selling hot chocolate. Whoopee! Our zookeeper group is selling it as a fundraiser for bat conservation so if you're going, buy some hot chocolate to help the bats!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yet another Introverts v Extroverts question

I'm watching Logan struggle with yet another introvert issue. It's sort of a big deal. Not necessarily RIGHT NOW, a few weeks before his 8th birthday, but it could be a reason people view him as rude or weird or fill in the negative adjective in the future. Pointless greetings.

I would imagine for many introverts (myself included) pointless greetings are as painful and useless as small talk. They make absolutely no sense and we'd prefer to just ignore them. However, we're adults so we say "Good morning!" multiple times each day to the same people we see daily an in the exact same context daily. But hey! Why am "I" rude for NOT saying good morning but the extrovert is "polite" for saying good morning and possibly making small talk and ripping me out of my deep thoughts? Am I being selfish for not wanting to be bothered for something pointless or are they being selfish for needing to talk constantly?

Logan isn't shy. He's not particularly outgoing, but he's not afraid to talk to teachers or other adults. He makes friends at the park and loves participating in games and group activities. He orders his own food at restaurants and will happily answer any question the waitress asks. That is, UNTIL we get one of those overly chatty waitresses who tries to engage him in small talk. At that point he stops talking and will no longer look at her. But I don't think he's being bashful as much as he just doesn't understand why she's asking such silly and pointless things and is confused about coming up with an instantaneous answer. I imagine one part of his brain is shutting down in panic, unable to come up with an answer while another part is wondering if this adult is perhaps mentally challenged for asking something so pointless in the first place? Obviously, I relate.

Our issue right now is Logan's latchkey teacher saying "Good morning, Logan!" and "Have a good night, Logan!" Logan NEVER responds. I don't think he's being intentionally rude, I think he can't make sense of the exchange. I mean, if he happened to run into this same teacher at Target, it would make sense to say hi because it would be acknowledgement of an unexpected meeting. The whole "good morning" day after day after day baffles him.

I don't know how to approach this. The rebellious part of me wants my son to stand up against stupid social conventions. The sensible part of me knows rebellion will backfire and every extrovert he encounters will judge him as rude or stuck-up. How do you explain that even though something makes absolutely no sense you HAVE to do it because it's the socially acceptable way? WHY is it the socially acceptable way? Why is it polite? Why is it required for him to follow what the extrovert needs but completely unnecessary for the extrovert to follow or understand in any way what he needs? Freaking extroverts! :)

The Phone

The phone ringing... It sort of gives me the same feeling of revulsion I get when I hear the cat retching and know I'll have to stop what I'm reading or writing, get up from my comfy chair and out of the happy place in my head and clean a disgusting mess. The phone invades my privacy. It robs me of valuable free time. It makes me sad. Caller ID has helped immensely, but I still shudder in disgust as I listen to those four endless rings. Actually, there are many times I'd prefer scrubbing cat vomit to talking on the phone.

Ok, a quick disclaimer lest I offend: The calls letting me know about the family birthday party or the change in plans are the reason I still HAVE a phone. I want to know if so-and-so is in the hospital and I need that reminder that you'll be gone on Saturday and want me to get your mail.

It's not even the telemarketers or donation solicitors who have driven me to my phone hatred, it's the pointless babbling calls that invade my day and make me feel like I just got smacked in the face with a two-by-four. I have actually stalled and ended budding friendships based on the fear they are one of "those people" who will call me nonstop. My phone phobia has gotten much worse as I have gotten older, and now includes making calls such as doctor appointments. Phobia isn't the right word, I'm not AFRAID of the phone, I just hate the time commitment of being put on hold and asked the same questions over and over. For example, I now have Fridays off (instead of Mondays) and could actually have a "real" hair cutter person (yeah, sorry, I know they have a title) but I choose to stick with the walk-in places so I don't have to make the appointment calls.

Back to the donation solicitors, survey takers, etc. Gene also hates the phone and these calls, but we have opposite ideas about what level of courtesy to provide. I am of the belief these folks are doing their job to make a buck and are NOT out to pull me out of my happy place and ruin my night. I don't think they deserve rude treatment, but I prefer to cut off their spiel, tell them no thank-you and hang up. Why would they want to recite their entire spiel BEFORE I say no? Gene feels it's rude to cut them off and will let them go on for several minutes before his rejection. Does anyone have thoughts on this? Is it more rude to cut them off or to make them speak? Not that I care, I won't EVER listen to the full spiel, I'm just curious. I'm not against the individual calling, but I AM against the organization they are calling for! I will likely NEVER donate a penny of my money (on the phone, at least) to veteran or police organizations! Veterans and police are WONDERFUL, but their charities have called me too many times and they are permanently cut off. No soup for you!

How about cell phones? I got my first cell phone when I was pregnant with Logan and Kaylin was 2. It was all about emergencies. If the car broke down and I had a baby and a toddler, I needed the phone. I don't think ANYONE but Gene had the number and I barely used the thing. That was 8 years ago and one of the first "pay as you go" phones. I still don't use a cell enough to bother with a contract, but I have learned the joys of texting. I still don't get the OBSESSION, but I love a quick text instead of an actual call. I now carry my cell most of the time and actually remember to check it most days. I still only need to add minutes maybe twice a year, but I use it a lot more than I used to.

Kaylin's in 5th grade. I'm almost positive that at her age I was calling friends nonstop. Maybe I was a little older, but I don't think so. I can probably count the number of times Kaylin's called friends on ONE HAND. I think it's interesting that she's so disconnected because the phone is so underemphasized in our home. In this age of email and texting, the land line is almost obsolete for our house of phone haters. I remember my mom yelling at me to get off the phone in case someone was trying to call with important news. I can't imagine having the same issues with Kaylin! When she gets "into" the phone, she can have it!

Friday, October 1, 2010


I've spent the past 3 hours cleaning Kaylin's room and I'd guess I'm about 1/3 of the way done. I don't usually wear gloves at work. I can't stand how they make my hands feel. I dislike gloves so much that I'd rather bare-hand animal feces than wear them. If I had a pair of those yellow rubber housewife gloves I'd be wearing them right now while cleaning Kaylin's room. So far I've removed 2 giant bags of garbage. The most shocking thing I've found so far was a bag of approximately 200 (no exaggeration) MOLDY buckeyes that were swarming with fruit flies. Ummmm. Sadly, Kaylin will be home in about 10 minutes and that will severely slow my progress. This job is way too huge for a 10-yr-old. It might be too big for an almost 38-yr-old!

I'm really sad about how long my house decluttering project is taking. It seems that every time I haul a bunch of stuff to Goodwill, Gene and the kids go to a garage sale and bring home a junky toy ice cream making set with 1000 pieces or 20 gourds from Great-Grandma's house. Kaylin has enough art supplies to stock several classrooms. I'm so overwhelmed with stuff I feel completely buried! I feel like the only way to actually get everything cleaned out is to ACTUALLY move. But who would ever want to buy this house???

Ok, my break's over. I'm gonna spend two more hours on the room and then give up for the day. I'll need a shower before Gene and I go out to dinner tonight. It's that bad.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

School, ugh.

I had been a little nervous all school year because Kaylin has been completely in charge of her own homework. I have literally not looked at one paper or asked her about studying or ANYTHING. I told her I'd keep off her back, but when the first progress report came, if it wasn't good, things would change. Kaylin insisted she was getting everything done and promised to come to me if she didn't understand something. Progress reports were sent home yesterday. Four As and one B. Yes!

As I have stated approximately 12,000,000 times, I hate parental involvement in homework. I hate homework period, but stuff that requires parental involvement particularly burns me. I in no way feel it is the teacher and the public school system's lone job to educate my children. I take them to all kinds of educational places and am constantly teaching them everything from nature and animals to how to load and put away dishes from the dishwasher or the potential evils of credit cards. We apply math and reading to everyday life. Gene shows them how to build and fix things. Gene and I are involved with our children and care deeply about all aspects of their education.

However, don't force me to spend 30 minutes helping my son color a picture. My evening time is extremely limited and valuable. I have approximately 2 1/2 hours to make, serve and clean up from dinner, take showers, do laundry, deal with the pets, deal with correspondence from school and help with homework. I also have a very physical job that keeps me on my feet all day long and I mostly want to sit down and relax. I believe required parental involvement results in a whiny, crying kid who expects the parent to do everything for them. No. My kid needs to learn to read better. He needs to read and answer ALL of his own questions. He needs TIME to practice spelling and reading (I will certainly help with spelling.) When he spends 40 minutes on a gigantic word search that I end up half doing because it takes so long and is so frustrating, he has NO time for spelling and reading. Logan's teacher is probably the most regimented and organized teacher we've ever had. We get a homework list at the beginning of the week with all assignments listed. It is too much homework for a 2nd grader. And all of it requires at least some effort on my part. There is literally not enough time in the day. This is going to be a long year!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Giant Word Search

Yeah! I've lost 11 pounds and my feet have been MUCH better! I have a lot more weight to lose, but so far it's coming off pretty easily. I haven't had any fast food or candy this month. I haven't even gone through the McDonald's drive-thru for a sweet tea! I've been doing my best to satisfy my sweet tooth with fruit, and peanut butter has been my special treat if I'm really craving dessert. I am failing miserably at giving up Diet Pepsi. I haven't been cutting back at all. I recycle all of my plastic bottles, but I know it would be much better if I'd just switch completely to tap water that would make no waste. I'm probably also harming some major organ by drinking so much soda, but man, I love it.

We're finally falling into the school routine. I need to work harder at making Logan read and practice spelling, but it's so hard to spend valuable evening time working on even more homework. Logan's teacher loves time consuming pointless homework that makes me want to scream from the rooftops that she's an idiot and he doesn't have to do it. Instead I pretend like the ginormous word search that takes over an hour is the most important thing he could be doing in life. You know, just in case word searches help him with his future career. I have no idea what Kaylin is doing in school. She supposedly does all of her homework right after school. I have never seen any of it and don't plan to until after she proves she can't do it on her own.

Kaylin's going to play trumpet in band. I was really surprised. I thought she'd play flute or clarinet. We got my old trumpet out of the attic and the valves are completely frozen. I'm too tired tonight, but tomorrow I'll try to get it in good enough working condition to use for a couple weeks until I can either get my other trumpet from my parents' house or else rent her a better one. Maybe I'll start playing again. Or not.

I think I write this every month, but I can't believe how fast this month has gone! I've been a blog slacker once again. We have tons of stuff going on, but I either can't or won't write about it :)

Friday, September 17, 2010


I'm mentally exhausted from a week of stupidity. I never thought I'd have to ground my children for something this ridiculous, but alas, Kaylin called Logan "Pants." I think Logan was playing Wii and Kaylin wanted a turn. "C'mon, Pants, gimme a turn." And then later "Nice one, Pants!" And then "Hey Pants, you're up." Meanwhile, I was doing the puzzles in the paper and ignoring the kids. I should have continued ignoring them, but asked "Why are you calling him Pants?" "Because pants are the most boring thing I could think of, just like Logan." I then made Bad Parenting Mistake #7 and laughed. Logan also thought it was funny and wasn't at all offended by being called "Pants" or by my laughter. However, my laughter encouraged Kaylin. Now instead of calling him Pants once every 10 minutes, the game turned into "Hey Pants, it's your turn, Pants, c'mon Pants, Pants, Pants, Pants." In seconds, Kaylin escalated Pants from funny to annoying to infuriating. Then Logan whipped a Wii controller at her and it smacked her hard in the chest. Kaylin was bawling in pain, Logan was sent to his room and both kids were grounded from playing with the neighbor kids for their entire Saturday. I had to stop doing my puzzles to lecture Kaylin on how while violence is never ok, Logan wouldn't have hit her if she hadn't driven him to it. And then talk to Logan about never resorting to physical violence over words. I did get to reward myself with a day off free of the neighbor kids, though!

Wednesday we went to the Pumpkin Festival. Before kids, I was always overtaken by nostalgia and would excitedly drag Gene year after year for pumpkin porkchops and pumpkin ice cream. We'd stroll through the merchant's tent and pick up free junk. We'd do a quick walk around the grounds and check out the window displays and giant pumpkins. We'd avoid all the really crowded ride and game areas and be done with the whole experience in about one hour. I'd laugh at myself for loving the mediocre food and "needing" to grab up the free sewing kit and pens. Gene would roll his eyes and go to Farm and Fleet so at least the drive to Morton wasn't a total waste.

The first few years of taking kids was fun. Especially when both were old enough to go on two or three kiddie rides together, but young enough to be happy with two or three rides. Now that they're both in school, going to the festival is more of a pain than it's worth. It's now ALL about the rides. Now we're submerged in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, waiting in the forever-lines, trying to figure out how to use up all of the tickets so we can leave at a decent hour to get the kids to bed for school the next day. No more window displays or checking out the fire trucks and ambulances. No more looking at the giant pumpkins. Just rides and lines and crowds. And worrying about how on earth we're going to finish homework when we get home so late at night and have to leave so early the next morning for school. The Pumpkin Festival is awful! And compared to the county or state fair where you buy an unlimited ride armband for $20 (and the money goes to charity) and there are WAY more rides and virtually no lines, the Pumpkin Festival is a rip-off! Oh, and I had talked for DAYS about the importance of getting all homework done at Latchkey so we wouldn't need to worry about it later. I asked Logan if he got everything done? His reply? "I thought you said DON'T get my homework done." Yes, my brilliant snowflake, that makes complete sense!

Last night was Kaylin's back to school night at her school. We spent 8 minutes in each of her 8 periods, running around from one side of the school to the other. (English and math are each double periods, so only 6 changes.) Most of the teachers were normal, one was frightening and two were insanely enthusiastic to the point I could hardly handle the 8 minutes. The social studies teacher was my personal favorite. She made a point of allowing the kids to make and learn from their own mistakes and not hover and helicopter. The math teacher was one of the enthusiastic ones, but I think she'll be great for Kaylin. She has all kinds of games and learning tools I think Kaylin will embrace. Overall, it was a good experience and made me much happier with my choice to send her to this school.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pretending to be moving across the country

This week has been overwhelming with back to school nights and getting kids up early and remembering homework and forgetting to practice spelling words. Friday mornings used to be relaxing and wonderful. The kids got to sleep in and poke around until 8:45am. Now Kaylin's school starts at 7:30. Ugh. As I pulled in to drop off Kaylin, my car started beeping that it was running out of gas. (Seriously, I can't BELIEVE how much this car beeps. I call it Beepy.) I went from last second spelling practice to Logan freaking out that we were going to run out of gas. I immediately headed to the gas station and filled up, but it was too late. Logan was focused on the gas and not the spelling words we should have been practicing the past four days. Ugh again. Another spelling F.

Back to school is incredibly stressful for me. I hate the homework. I hate the morning nagging to hurry. I hate the bedtime fights. Then everything else in my life piles up and I go crazy. The clutter in my house is probably the biggest thing bugging me at home. I decided to go through EVERYTHING and get rid of stuff like I'm getting ready to move. But not just move, move across the country. Every single item has to be judged as if I was moving to California. Would I keep this if I was moving to California? If not, it goes to Goodwill, is recycled or goes in the trash. The end.

This morning I did the kitchen cabinets. I filled a large laundry basket and a garbage bag of stuff for Goodwill. I can't believe how much excess stuff I had in the kitchen! I'm going to make my way around the house and do all the rooms, all the clothes, all the toys. The garage is going to be a huge job. I'm wondering if we'll need a dumpster!? It's beyond amazing how much crap can be accumulated in 10 years of living in one place!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First day of school

Sunday we went to the Topeka Zoo. One of Meghan's former coworkers gave us a tour of the whole zoo, including many behind the scenes areas. We got up close to the adorable baby hippo. I got to pet and feed mama hippo and had some good photo ops. In case you were wondering, hippos feel like rubber. That was one of my favorite zoo experiences of my life! We also got to see their baby giraffe up close. The tour was great, but the kids were exhausted and acting like zombies. They weren't complaining or whining or anything, just wandering around with blank faces. There was no joy. I wore them completely out with 8 hours at the Omaha Zoo.

We then went to a really cool animal sculpture playground across from the zoo. It had many sculptures the kids could climb and play on. We didn't stay too long because it was 95F, but that perked the kids up quite a bit. We stopped at a really cool toy store and a Target before eating lunch at (blech!) CiCi's Pizza and heading home around 2pm. I had no idea if I'd be able to make the entire drive, but the kids were ready to go home. We stopped at a rest area where Kaylin roller skated and Logan and I played catch. We stopped for dinner and then made a final stop at the Meijer store in Springfield for gas and walking around to wake me up. We finally made it home ~10:30pm. I was the zombie yesterday. I was almost too exhausted to move :) The kids were up early and running around all day. Kaylin complained that we didn't have anything "fun" planned for the last day of summer vacation. Ummmm...

Tuesday was the first day of school. Everyone had new haircuts and new shoes and new backpacks full of supplies. Both kids woke up early and got ready without complaining or fighting. Kaylin's school starts at 7:30am and Logan's doesn't start until 9. That means Logan has to go to morning latchkey, but their schools are very close so I can drop off Kaylin and then take Logan before heading to work. I was planning on having Kaylin take the morning bus, but getting her out the door at 7:15 is going to be hard enough. I can't imagine the fights that would accompany her having to be completely ready and at the bus stop at 6:40am! Not worth it! Especially since I always left at 7:25 last year to drop them off at latchkey.

I didn't get a lot of information, but both kids had a good first day. Kaylin was disappointed she didn't get a locker assignment because she was unable to open her padlock. It was discovered too late in the 2 1/2 hour day that her padlock was defective and the teacher couldn't even open it. She got a working padlock on Wednesday and is thrilled to have her first locker. Even if it is one of the stupid smaller ones. Logan appeared happy with his teacher and classmates. Today is the first full day of school with lunch and latchkey and "real" switching classes for Kaylin. Last night's homework was all about ME filling out emergency cards and personality profiles and after school stuff. Ugh!

I was dreading having Kaylin and Logan at different schools, but it seems like it will work out ok. At least until the fundraisers start...

And finally, and very off topic, we got to see the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile at Hy-Vee on Tuesday! It was the kids' first time seeing the Wienermobile. I was disappointed they weren't giving out wiener whistles or selling Wienermobile stuff, but seeing it and getting our picture taken was good enough :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo

Yes indeedy, this place was everything I hoped and more. What an awesome day! We arrived at 9am, left at 5pm and still didn't see quite everything. I'm trying hard to remember if I've spent 8 hours at a zoo before? Maybe Sea World or Disney's Animal Kingdom, but if so, it was due to shows and rides, not 8 hours of animal exhibits. We did see a 45 minute Imax movie (Bugs! in 3-D) and ride the Sky Tram one way because our legs were so tired. Otherwise, we hoofed it the entire time. And no one complained because the place was so awesome...

Since babies are my favorite, I'll start with them. A tiger cub, an orange baby langur, a tiny sea lion pup and a pair of adorable fossa pups. The fossa pups were being hand raised in the nursery and we happened to see them at a time they were being bottle fed and then allowed to run around and explore the room. It looked like about the most fun job ever, wrestling the squirmy little things while they nipped hands and wiggled around to escape. Too cute! The sea lion was the smallest I've seen and beyond adorable. I always love tiger cubs and who doesn't love a bright orange baby monkey?

The exhibits were all new to me, but new to the zoo was the Madagascar exhibit. It. Was. Amazing. First, we walked through a huge outdoor walkthrough with red and black and white ruffed lemurs free to jump on the visitor boardwalk. They did! I have several photos of the kids within touching distance of lemurs who just sat there. They also had large outdoor enclosures for ring-tailed lemurs and sifakas (those lemurs who leap sideways on the ground.) The indoor building housed zillions more lemurs, many birds, reptiles and amphibians native only to Madagascar and my favorite animal of the day- aye-ayes! Aye-ayes are creepy-looking, shaggy lemurs with a weird skeletal finger on each hand and are considered an omen of evil or bad luck when seen by the native tribal people. They're incredibly cool and only housed in 3 US zoos. I can't remember for sure if this was the first time I've seen them, but I'm positive this was the first time I've seen them well. I didn't get any photos because they are nocturnal and their exhibit was very dark, but they were running all over the exhibit and came close to the glass many times. We even got to see their weird fingers. Google them and look at photos! They're awesome!

The rainforest and desert dome were mindblowing. The cat building was HUGE, with the most cats I've ever seen at one facility. I'm not usually crazy about great apes, but the gorillas had a tiny baby who was riding on mom's back and then scampering all over the place. I spent more time watching gorillas than I ever have before. The aquarium was cool, but way too crowded. The butterfly building was pretty great. We all enjoyed riding the sky ride directly over the rhinos and the lake full of koi. The whole zoo was fantastic.

We set out from the zoo and drove directly to Topeka. That wasn't exactly intentional, there just wasn't ANYTHING between Omaha and Topeka! It was shocking! About an hour into our drive we happened upon a small town that had a Pizza Hut. It was maybe the size of Eureka, Il and was by far the biggest town right on the highway. There was another small town with a Super 8 motel about 30 miles out of Topeka, but I thought since we were so close already, I'd like to get 20 miles closer. Nope. Topeka doesn't have suburbs! At least not to the north. We had to go all the way into town to find a hotel. Oh, and the dink town we stopped at to eat at the Pizza Hut didn't have cell phone reception!

Today we're going to Topeka Zoo to see the baby hippo and giraffe. It appears to be a fairly small zoo so I'm thinking maybe two hours instead of eight. The kids both have bad colds so I don't think we'll stop at Kansas City Zoo. We'll see. I have no idea if we'll drive all the way home tonight or find something else to do and come home Monday. Again, we'll see :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vacation meant to be spent alone

My title means nothing. My last two titles were Go-Go's lyrics to their song Vacation so I'm continuing for my own pleasure. I'm having a blast with the kids and don't actually want to be alone.

We left home Friday morning at 8am, hit no real traffic and only minor road construction and following a quick lunch and gas stop, pulled into Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines around noon. I had been expecting a small zoo that would give us a nice break from the car ride. I wasn't expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised. We loved the place! We fed ducks, baby swans and zillions of koi at the pond. The koi were so thick around the feeding area they looked like you could walk across them. We happened upon a tiger when she was being very playful and jumping on the windows and interacting with the kids. We played with the tiger for probably 20 minutes before another family came and I made the kids leave so the other kids could have a turn. They had a budgie feeding area with nearly 300 parakeets. You couldn't even go inside unless you bought a stick of food for a buck. We spent another 30 minutes covered in birds. The zoo had some great exhibits (NINE ostriches!) and we had a great time.

We drove on toward Omaha. I had expected to stop in Council Bluffs, but had no idea how big it was. I was confused by the sudden multi-lane highways and no hotel/gas/restaurant signs. Suddenly we were over the bridge in Nebraska and I saw the dome that could be nothing other than the Henry Doorly Zoo Desert Dome! It was "rush hour" so I exited just to get my bearings and found a Comfort Suites that's actually called the Comfort Suites at the Zoo. Indoor pool and breakfast? Check. Perfect! I can see the zoo structures from the parking lot. It will be a 2 minute drive this morning.

The kids swam for a good hour. So far everything's gone well. Now I just need to somehow pass the next 2 1/2 hours before zoo time. This is the number 1 zoo I've wanted to visit the past 15 years! I've always thought we'd do a train trip to Denver "next year" and make a stop in Omaha so I just never made the drive. I'm crazy-excited! I just read about a new sea lion pup and a tiger cub that are on exhibit. I hope this place lives up to at least some of my expectations :)