Tuesday, May 31, 2011

5 Things About My Wonderful Son

I would've called him "beautiful," but he has informed me over the years that "handsome" is the more appropriate term. ;) Therefore, my handsome son is a GREAT kid who has loads of character and his own unfiltered charm. He is a ton of fun and a wonderful addition to our family. We are all better people because of him, as he has a natural ability to keep things light and mindful (in other words, he helps us be present and chill!).

Cuddling with Scout -
Thing 2 totally set up this little bed/blanket area

He is our resident goofball -- he's funny, he keeps us laughing, it's often difficult to keep a straight face when talking to him. But he is so much more than that and also takes things very seriously. He is a kind, sincere, polite, sensitive soul with many other great characteristics and qualities. He, like his sister, is a joy to be around. Here are 5 things about Thing 2 that I'd like to share:

1. He is free and generous with his compliments. If he thinks something and wants to share, he says it. This is his M.O. whether what he says would be considered a compliment or not. He's honest. He says what he thinks and isn't afraid to tell it like it is. He doesn't just casually say passing things; he consciously shares meaningful things. He often, at the most unexpected times or during the most mundane tasks, comes over to me and tells me that he loves me or that he thinks I'm the best mom in the world or that he thinks I'm pretty. In fact, just this past week, during the American Idol finale when they were doing the J Lo tribute and talking about how she was voted the most beautiful girl in the world, we had this conversation:

Thing 2: She's not the most beautiful girl in the world.

Me: No? Who's prettier?

Thing 2: You.

My son thinks I'm prettier than Jennifer Lopez?!? I love this kid!!

Me and Thing 2 at Thing 1's spring violin recital

2. He is just as comfortable with adults as he is with teenagers as he is with younger kids as he is with babies. He is so very comfortable in his own skin and has no qualms whatsoever striking up (or not) a conversation with anyone, anytime. When we're at a store or out to eat, he speaks directly to clerks and wait staff without batting an eye. When he's playing baseball, he talks to every coach as he waits on each base. They stand there and talk like old buds and Thing 2 doesn't even seem to know that an age difference exists, let alone allow it to deter him at all.

There's a funny story from when he was about 4 and we were all having dinner at a restaurant with a family here that really took us under their wings. The dad (who was in his 50s at the time) was eating his food and our son said, "Oh, that looks good. Can I have some?" I was mortified and began to scold him when the dad waved me off as he busted up laughing. He was totally tickled that he felt so comfortable to ask. Some time later, we were eating take out at their house and Thing 2 did the same thing again. At that point, I recognized that's just him. Acceptance is a beautiful thing. I was about to say something but then saw the look on the dad's face telling me not to worry about it; so, I shrugged my shoulders with a smile, and the dad and I laughed together.

Giving a presentation with Jake on Three Mile Island -
I love how Ellie is looking at him!

When we've talked about these sorts of "manners" in what we say or don't say, he doesn't really always appreciate nuances of what's considered acceptable or not. He figures that he is saying what he means, so what's the problem? The other day, he invited himself over to a friend's house for dinner. When I tried to explain that that's not polite, he countered, "What? We invite people to our house." I said that's different and he countered that he was just asking and that they can say no if they want. He's VERY matter of fact, logical, and unfiltered. He doesn't like to be referred to as a contrarian, so we try not to do that, but we do often joke that he is our resident skeptic, always logical and quite a realist. The gears are always turning. And it's really quite refreshing to see the world through his honest, call-it-as-you-see-it eyes.

And part of this comfortable-in-his-own-skin quality that he has, includes knowing when he needs some down time for himself, too. One day, a couple of years ago, he was playing hard with all his friends outside at a park. I didn't see him and when I went looking for him, he was sitting quietly under a tree, just resting. I asked if he was okay and he cheerily and jauntily responded, "Oh yeah, I just needed some quiet time, so I just sat here and meditated for a little while by myself. I feel better now." I wasn't surprised. During his own birthday party when he turned 2, we went looking for him at one point and he had gone downstairs to the basement to sit quietly by himself while he watched some "Bob the Builder" even though his friends were upstairs. I used to think he'd be a shy kid, but that's not one bit the case at all. He is incredibly social and really, really enjoys being around all kinds of people. And already, at a young age, he knows himself, and knows how to balance the fun with some quiet introspection. He is a good example to us in that.

Thing 2 and his buddies, Rich and Brennan

3. He loves and knows music. He has always had really good rhythm and an interest in learning about bands and songs. As he's gotten older, we've noticed that he also picks up lyrics very easily (a genetically passed down talent from his mother). He plays piano and tinkers with the ukelele/guitar as well as percussion (with whatever he can find). He also sings. A LOT. He sings as he walks around, he sings while he plays, he sings in the shower -- it's like he has a running soundtrack. He's got his opinions on what music he likes (Europe, Beatles, Bruno Mars) and what music he doesn't like (country). He enjoys watching American Idol, listening to the radio, practicing piano (I don't even have to ask him to do it -- he just does), playing for anyone anytime, talking about music, learning about music, and singing to himself.

Apparently, he also enjoys singing in front of his sister and his friends. He recently told me as much when he came to me one-on-one the other day and told me there was something he wanted to do for me. He told me that he sings in front of others but hadn't sung in front of me yet (though I've heard him when he sings in the shower and under his breath as he plays, etc.). He seemed kind of self-conscious and asked me to go first, so I did (can't remember what I sang now). Then he sang a couple of lines from "Raise Your Glass" by Pink (the radio version). His lyrics came out way better than the original's when he said, "Slam! Slam! Oh hot jam!" He has a very nice voice and I love that he loves and appreciates music. I'm excited that he has been expressing an interest recently in learning how to harmonize and sing a cappella music. He really likes to hear a cappella covers of songs he knows and wants us to try doing it ourselves.

I love that he knows music. When I hear something on the radio and ask, "Who sings this?," he knows. And when I'm singing a song and can't remember the lyrics, he helps me out. And when I can't remember a song and just explain what I do remember, he knows what it is. It's like having our own resident music trivia buff in the house. It's great!

4. He is crazy smart and a wiz at all kinds of games! He is a super creative and inventive kid and is constantly inventing all kinds of games - strategy games, card games, outside games, board games, group games, video games, you name it. He has always done this. He can take just a few items and turn it into some kind of game with rules and objectives. As he gets older, he is getting clearer on rules (earlier games used to resemble something akin to Calvin Ball) and we are also all getting more chances to win (he used to win just about every game he'd teach us).

Playing Yu-Gi-Oh with his teenaged friends at the park
(There are several Jake pictures on this post -
for the record, he is looking healthy
like he does in this picture
and his hair is totally growing back).

Playing Yu-Gi-Oh at home with a buddy

We love to play games as a family and we often break out games that you'd think were well beyond him because of his age and their age suggestions, but it doesn't matter. He catches on really quickly and just GETS it. He can jump in on any game and play really well and quickly figure out good strategies and tricky moves.

He appreciates the value of a good challenge. He enjoys playing games with people who are really good at them, so he can learn new skills, be challenged, and get better at them. And yet, he is patient with those who are learning when he is the more expert player, and takes time to teach others about games he's long played.

Some of our favorite games to play are Settlers of Catan (all versions), Ticket to Ride, and any of the "10 Days" games. He is excellent at all of them. Those age recommendations have nothing on our 8-year-old!

His absolute favorite game is Yu-Gi-Oh and he always seems to have at least one deck (usually multiple decks) on him. Whenever we get together with any friends anywhere (the park, the YMCA, our house, their houses, restaurants, wherever), there are always many, many Yu-Gi-Oh duels with kids of all ages. And it is a really complicated game (most of the parents have no idea how to play). What's astounding is how quickly he learns the strategies and really advanced math skills in these games without anyone formally teaching him how. He does all kinds of crazy hard math to keep track of his scores (and sometimes those of his opponents as well). It's a testament not only to the wonders of natural learning but also to Thing 2's personal talents, likes, and abilities.

Playing Yu-Gi-Oh at a restaurant with friends

Late-night Yu-Gi-Oh fun with his sister and more friends

I have a couple of funny stories (of course) that sort of address this point as well as the 2nd point on this list.

A few weeks ago, he and I went on a date to a candy store and a park. We took Travel Scrabble with us and played for part of the time. He was just learning to play so I was trying to give him suggestions and help him come up with words. At one point he said, "I want to do it myself!" and then caught himself, looked at me, and said very sweetly, "It's not that I don't appreciate your help; I just want to try it myself." Seriously, you can't help but smile when you're with him!

See? Here I am smiling during our Scrabble date.

And just today (May 30th), I heard him asking Mark to play chess and I said, "Hey, I thought you wanted to play with me!" to which he responded, "Um, I'm not trying to be mean or anything, but Daddy's more of a challenge." Such unfiltered honesty.

5. He is a natural leader and a very good friend and people really enjoy being around him. It seems that every time we go someplace, he is the one introducing us to someone he knows. He makes and meets friends EVERYWHERE. I'm totally not exaggerating. He has a very easy manner and strikes up a conversation so easily and people just seem to gravitate toward him. At baseball, Tae Kwon Do, the YMCA, the park, our house, at a store, at Thing 1's track practice or group violin, at the beach, at a playground, on a bus . . . doesn't matter where, he makes friends. There is often an exchange of phone numbers and information and they'll talk on the phone or play Wi-Fi video games together. I mean, he knows all about online and in-person safety, so he's smart about it, but he is totally uninhibited about meeting new people and making new friends.

There he is - right in the middle of all the action,
friends all around him

When we go to Park Days (and other places as well), we always joke that he has an entourage of kids all around him. Every time we see Thing 2, there are usually 6 or 7 more little boys following him around and playing with him.

Thing 2 and a bunch of buddies at Lazer Tag

Thing 2 with a whole bunch of buddies
at a minor league baseball game

And what's really sweet is that he totally looks out for the little kids. If he sees someone taking advantage of a smaller child, he steps up. He doesn't take advantage of the little kids nor does he let anyone else. He is gentler with the littler kids when they're playing battle games and he is careful in his Yu-Gi-Oh trades to do what's fair. His buddy Rich, who is older than Thing 2, told us just this weekend that our son is always fair and honest in his trades. He said you can tell when he kind of wishes he could do a certain trade that would benefit himself, but he closes his eyes, pulls back his cards, and says, "No, I can't. That's not a fair trade." We weren't surprised, but it was REALLY nice to hear that kind of high praise from one of his peers.

Thing 2 with one of his younger friends
playing a video game together

And he play video games with older kids, too.

He's like a big brother to his buddies as well as a friend. One of his favorite friends is a little boy who just turned 6 in March. And if you ask him who his friends are, he'll mention kids younger than he is and kids older than he is, including several teenagers, and the list has both girls and boys, people who live close to us and people who live far from us. It doesn't matter. He simply enjoys people.

He even makes friends with college-aged kids -
Here is he at Penn State THON with a new friend

And here he is with even more college-aged friends!

Just a few months ago at the YMCA, he came over to me and told me that there was a little girl who kept hitting him and kicking him. We've talked to our kids about not starting fights but defending oneself if necessary. I told him to sternly tell her to knock it off and to let the gym instructor know if she didn't stop. He came back a little later and just sat by me and said he wasn't going back in the gym. He wasn't scared or crying; I could tell he was trying to cool down and had just had enough. I asked what was up and he told me she'd knocked him to the ground and kicked him again.

The mama bear in me came out and I saw the mom of the little girl exiting the Y. I ran up to her and said, "Excuse me. Your little girl keeps hurting my little boy." What followed was one of the strangest exchanges I've ever had. The little girl immediately took one step forward, apologized to Thing 2, and then stepped back. The mother looked at her child and said, almost in passing, "We don't hit" and then turned to me and said, "That's just how she shows she likes him." WHAT?!?!? I am not often at a loss for words, but I didn't even know how to respond to that. I was totally flabbergasted at her nonchalant attitude about the whole thing and wondered why on earth she didn't teach her daughter new ways to show she likes someone and of course I wondered what on earth the kid did to show she didn't like someone.

Later, when I talked with Thing 2 more about it, I asked why he hadn't hit her back. I mean, I wasn't encouraging him to do that, but I wondered what his thought process had been and what had helped him hold back and not haul off and hit her after she wouldn't stop. He looked at me and said with such sincerity, "Because she's little and I don't want to hurt her." That's why he had come over to me and just stopped himself from going back in the gym. He is such a sweetheart.

And he is a cutie, too. Another time at the Y, right around this same incident, I was standing near him when a little girl (a different one who had apparently learned appropriate ways of showing you like someone) ran up and whispered, not quietly at all, in his ear, "I think you're cute!" and then ran off. He knew I'd heard it (it was kind of hard not to) and so he grinned at me and said, "That was weird. No one has ever said that to me before," and kept shaking his head and laughing. I tried not to, but I couldn't help it -- I kept giggling and smiling and he said, "What?" And, as I stood there thinking about how I am SO not ready for this, I said, "Well, I think you're cute, but I'm your mom!" Mark and I often joke around and say, "We are in SO much trouble with this kid!" (Well, both of them actually - Mark's ready to pummel anyone who so much as thinks about Thing 1 as anything but a friend).

Thing 2 loves spending time in groups and he also VERY much enjoys one-on-one time. He absolutely LOVES spending time with his sister and considers her his best friend. In fact, I often think she probably knows him better than anyone! And he loves one-on-one dates with me and Mark as well. He often talks our ears off when Thing 1 is at a friend's house (he almost seems lost when she's out), but he also enjoys the individual attention, too. Wherever we are, whoever is over at the house, he is not ever at a loss for company.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 - best friends.
My Mom sent Waldenbooks gift cards just because
and they went on a fun book shopping spree!

Because he is a natural leader, we've talked with him about what that means with regard to integrity and how he acts around his friends, especially the younger kids looking up to him. While none of us are responsible for anyone else's actions, nor is it fair to carry some kind of duty to be an "example" to others, "it is good to be good to be good" as we say around here. We simply feel it's important to "Be the best 'you' you can be and make the world a better place." And that's exactly what he does. The world is a better place simply because he is in it. I hit the jackpot in the family department -- great husband and great kids. I genuinely, genuinely enjoy them.

Me with my handsome son,
celebrating Mother's Day

I love my son and feel so very lucky to get to be his mother!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Two more days to enter . . .

Our family

This is the 5 of us celebrating the 4th of July this past year. We don't usually do the matching T-shirt thing, but every once in a while, it's fun. Well, today is another 3-day-weekend type holiday (Happy Memorial Day!) and you have today and tomorrow left to enter this giveaway to win a $100 Visa Gift Card.

See Scout in that picture of all of us? Click here to see more cute pictures of Scout, read more about her, and see what she thought of Purina Pro Plan Selects, and enter to win (plus, there are SEVERAL more ways to enter to win -- see the link for details!).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5 Things About My Beautiful Girl

My beautiful daughter is growing up and continuing to be the impressive human being she always has been and simply one of my favorite people to be around. Here are 5 things about Thing 1 that I'd like to share:

1. She loves to read and write and does so almost constantly. In fact, she's been blogging a lot lately. I love her stories and posts. She especially loves the fantasy genre (Harry Potter being her all-time favorite), though she'll read anything and everything. She's ahead of her own time in all that she accomplishes. It won't surprise me one little bit when she gets published one day. Not one little bit.

2. She wants to do everything. She has interests in just about anything and everything she sees or hears about or considers and goes after learning about all those things with a zest, happiness, excitement, enjoyment, and determination like no other.

At 3 years old, she took a sign language class and ate it up and continued to teach herself even more on her own. She currently is taking a horseback riding class that she absolutely loves. In fact, she has declared it her favorite activity. Perhaps it has something to do with the more than 70-odd books she's read about horses.

Taking a horsemanship class with two of her close friends

She also plays two instruments (it would be more if there were more hours and money in each week -- she would love to try even more!) -- piano and violin. I could go on and on.

For now, I want to share a picture of our virtuoso who will have the wonderful honor of playing violin at Carnegie Hall this week -- all the girls are wearing white dresses and red sashes. Isn't she lovely!

Dress rehearsal for the Carnegie concert

3. Other than horseback riding, I didn't mention her athletic side in the paragraphs above. She takes on any challenge with gusto. She is currently participating in track and field this spring.

Participating in the softball throw

Running the 200-meter

She is a tomboy BIG TIME. She can usually be found climbing a tree or play structure, swinging on monkey bars, or running full speed in a wicked game of Capture the Flag with about 50 other kids (usually barefoot to boot). She approaches sports and fitness with more openness than I ever did as a kid and she serves as an example to me in that. I let my height and scrawniness deter me. She lets nothing deter her. This is especially evidenced in the following video.

You see, she takes Tae Kwon Do. Her brother was the only one in the family who was doing it at first and she, of course, said, "I'd like to try it!"and so she and Mark joined in as well.

When Thing 1 tested for her green belt a few months ago, she seemed preoccupied and struggled with the board breaking part of her test. Mark and I noticed right away that she wasn't herself during the test. She got home and laid on the couch all day with a fever. I asked her what was up and if she slept well. She admitted that she had been up much of the night with worry about the board breaking part of her test. She was so consumed by it that it had affected her on test day. She passed and did well on her forms and her crazy high kicks (she's mad flexible), but she was not able to break the board (they don't have to break it -- it's more important that they try).

We talked a lot about her feelings, positive thinking, self-confidence, approach, perspective, and not giving power to outside factors. She worked hard over the next couple of months and prepared to test for her high green belt. I asked her how she was feeling about it, especially since the master of the studio said that for high green belts and above, there is an old Korean proverb that says they should be able to defend against 3 attackers at once and so she would be up against 3 black belts running at her with boards that she would have to break in 3 different ways. She said, with total and full confidence, "I'm ready." She was not nervous at all and she tackled that test like no other. Whenever I'm feeling less than capable or determined, I just think of this -- she kicked BUTT on this test:


video

4. She is a great friend and enjoys many sweet friendships. She and her brother are best of friends. Yes, they have their moments (don't all siblings?), but by and large, they are often cracking each other up and enjoying time together. They are really good friends who care about each other deeply.

Thing 1 and Scout cheering on Thing 2 at his baseball game

It is totally so NOT "beneath" her to hang out with her little brother. She jumps right in and plays with him as well as any and all kids of ALL ages -- boys AND girls. And if the game involves battling or Nerf weapons or light sabers? She's in.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 with their VERY good friends,
Rich and Brennan, after a long, intense battle in the sun.

She also enjoys a sweet friendship with her BFF and it's really special. The two of them are SUPER nice girls who are so young at heart and not one bit in a rush to be "tweeners" caught up in boys or make up. I'm sure that will come eventually, but I'm glad there's no interest yet and that they're enjoying being children for as long as possible.

They're content playing games, being outside in the backyard, and talking about horses, dogs, or dolphins. They enjoy making friendship bracelets and art projects for each other, and talking about books, movies, American Idol, Wizard 101, and Webkinz.

Celebrating spring with a May Day celebration

5. She loves and has an interest in good food. Whether we're cooking at home or eating out, she is adventurous and open and willing to try anything -- the stranger the better. She has said for years that she'd like to own a restaurant someday (so long as she can write her books, too). We've seriously looked into possibilities like someday owning a franchise or maybe even a food truck, so she can pursue her dreams. Attending culinary school is on her list as well as majoring in creative writing in college. For now, she is happy to help in the kitchen, try new foods, and continue enjoying her tried and true favorites. Top of the list? Girl after my own heart - sushi!

She and I went on a special date this past week (I got this really neat idea from a very good friend of mine who does the same with her daughters) -- we used this date to talk about what it means to be a good person generally and a young lady specifically. We went out for a sushi lunch together, stopped at the girl's section of Kohl's for some, ahem, growing up clothing for sports, read an American Girl book together about the physical and emotional aspects of growing up, and stopped at Claire's so she could spend a gift card she got for her birthday. It was really special and so, so comfortable and easy.

Out for a sushi lunch with my favorite girl

I love my daughter and feel so unbelievably lucky to be her mother.

Stay tuned for the next post about Thing 2 . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The finale of no reason

So, American Idol started the night with a video of a shy Carrie Underwood singing at age 8. Hmmm, a video of a country singer. Shocking. That was followed by home videos of the two country singing finalists when they were kids. I did NOT see that coming.

The L-A-U-R-E-N sign holders in the audience got it right. That's a step up from the S-C-O-T-Y-T fans from this past week.

They brought out a doctor in black scrubs to explain that Lauren strained her vocal chords. Hmmm, they've never done that before. Think they want Lauren to win?

So, the night goes down like this:
1. Contestant's favorite song of the season
2. Idol's idol's selection (did you follow that?)
3. A song that will be each of their first single(s)

Scotty won the coin toss and then let Lauren decide. What a guy!

Round 1

Scotty sang "Gone" again. The crazy violin guy followed him around in what looked like what would've been a parade if more people had participated. He ended by swinging the microphone like a bat. And for some inexplicable reason, the judges did not judge anything. Apparently they have no reason for being there other than to watch like everyone else except at an oddly-shaped table.

Lauren sang "Flat on the Floor" making the crazy violin guy really work for his money tonight, though I suppose that's just the nature of a country finale (yawn). There was consistency in the selection of her outfit. It was as consistently hideous as the rest of her outfits all season. She wore her grandmother's shiny aluminum foil shirt (two of them!) with cowboy boots. Her voice sounded strained. The judges again said nothing for no reason that I can imagine.

Round 2

Scotty sang "Check Yes or No," because George Strait told him to. I know none of these songs, so I kind of tuned out and noticed other things. Scotty holds his guitar way up high under his arms and stands like he's straddling a giant horse. This song didn't seem challenging at all. Again, for no reason that I can see (except for maybe staying on time so as not to mess with Glee), the judges remained silent and Ryan just gave out lots of numbers.

Lauren sang "Maybe it was Memphis" and I couldn't tell you a thing about this song that I didn't recognize, but Carrie Underwood chose it and I think Carrie Underwood doesn't like Lauren Alaina all that much. Also, WTH is she wearing?!? She was dressed like a precocious little 6-year-old girl from the 1920s participating in a child pageant in some sort of ghastly baby puke color with matching baby puke petticoat.

Wow, that round was really boring.

Oh, judges! This part where the judges started talking? Very strange. Why the rush? Why is this on a Tuesday? (I'm so confused now and will spend all day tomorrow thinking it's Thursday). Why is this on before Glee? Why the ugly Randy jacket with giant, black, silk lapels? WHY, Brennan, WHY?!? (That's a little shout out to our friends -- My blog, my comments. Behold my power.). Wow, I'm so bored tonight. All of these questions and no conceivable reason or explanation whatsoever.

Randy and J Lo talked a lot and rapidly while reading from their notes and I tuned out. Steven gave both rounds to Lauren "because she's prettier," thus reminding us all that the best and most redeeming aspect of this entire season is Steven Tyler.

They premiered a song that Taio Cruz sang while Lady Gaga's drummers (Blue Man Redux -- thank you, Mark) joined him on stage. His mic went out, so someone's getting fired. We fast forwarded because we saw no reason at all to sit and listen to a song that sounds exactly the same throughout its entirety, but hey, Taio did introduce us to a new genre of music that I'd call "Techno Pop Marching Band Symphonic."

Ryan tried to get me excited before each commercial but I've never been less invested in any AI finale.

Round 3

Scotty sang "I Love You This Big." He looked so nice in his suit jacket, holding his arms out to the side with as little cheesiness as he could possibly muster while his mama cried. He was slightly off but good. That was a really dull "finale" song, though. Not his fault, but whoever chose that song? Yuck.

Ryan interviewed Scotty afterward and held his mic under Scotty's chin for no reason since Scotty was using his own mic just fine. But hey, doing something for no reason was in keeping with the night. I think that even the producers and crew of this show are bored and burned out. Scotty just kept talking into his mic while probably thinking, "You can hold your mic next to my mic if you want to look like a moron, but I'll just keep talking into this perfectly functioning one right here in my hands." I think even Ryan has checked out.

Lauren sang "Like My Mother Does" and it was a much better finale song. She went to her mom while singing, which I thought was mighty risky. Her mom totally lost it and then so did Lauren.

Steven articulated his crush on Lauren (again) only this time it was less creepy. Maybe because she was singing about her mother.

In keeping with an evening of "nice" people (Lauren, Scotty, J Lo, Steven), they had David Cook, one of the nicest winners ever, sing us out.

So, tomorrow we get to tune in and watch Lauren be crowned the winner, but probably not before we have to sit through some kind of spastic African dancing contribution from Naima. However, I did hear a rumor that a Mr. Jack Black will be in attendance, so it's probably worth watching just for that. Heaven knows I don't care who wins, but bring on Jack Black!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A chance to win $100

Scout's 1st birthday

We made Scout a peanut butter and toast "cake" for her first birthday.
This summer, she turns 2!
I wonder what we'll do . . .

Want to hear more about Scout and enter to win $100 Visa gift card?

We love birthdays.
$100 sure is handy for birthdays,
birthday parties,
birthday presents,
or just because.

How can you get a chance at winning
a $100 Visa gift card?

(AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU READ OUR BLOG?!?)
Keep reading . . .


Click here to see more cute pictures of Scout, read more about her, and see what she thought of Purina Pro Plan Selects, and enter to win (plus, there are SEVERAL more ways to enter to win -- see the link for details!).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who's in the finale?

Ryan said he was welcoming us to American Idol, but for the first 15 minutes I was confused, because the only thing resembling American Idol at all were the 4 very bored contestants watching a "Super 8" movie in a room. They said "Super 8" 867 times. Actually, I don't know that for sure, because after the first 73 times, we fast forwarded the rest. That got us to the :15 spot on our TiVo line.

At that point, we witnessed Haley's underwhelming visit home (that, however, didn't stop her from hogging EVERY single camera moment). That was followed by the dullest Ford music video ever.

Then, the Jonas Brothers' Italian exchange students sang. They were 10 trillion times better than any of the "idols."

Scotty's hometown visit was so sweet and emotional. What a nice kid.

We fast forwarded someone whose name I don't recall. For those who were watching (or fast forwarding), she was wearing feathers around her waist and little else. They said she was singing with 50 Cent, so as soon I saw him show up on stage, I stopped the fast forwarding to watch him a little and Boop! He was gone. That was the quickest celebrity rap star cameo I've ever seen.

Really, we started this show around 8:40 and by 9pm, we had caught up and were done. Behold the power of TiVo!

Lauren's hometown visit was genuine and emotional, too. She and Scotty are such good kids.

So, yesterday, I said I didn't care who left. Well, I changed my mind tonight while watching the hometown visits. The juxtaposition of the three made it easy.

Ryan brought out all 3 on stage where Haley's mouth was dropped open in dawning realization as she thought, "Oh shoot. They had lots of people at their hometown visits. Is that why they showed mine first? Oh crap. Well, that security guard bit with the tissues? That was funny, right?" Then, with a sideways glance at the other two, "Oh no. They're nice and stuff. I'm so screwed."

And sure enough, ding dong, Haley's gone!

I'm happy for the top 2. They seem sweet and nice. Haley seems insincere and way too full of herself. Even our 11-year-old said, "When she talks, she seems like she's reading a script."

Good riddance, Haley. Even J Lo's wind machine could not blow away your arrogant airs. Haley reminds me of girls I didn't like in high school. And that just doesn't make for pleasant TV viewing.

So, bring on the country finale. Two teenagers. Wouldn't it be cute if they both made it big and got married and had country-singing babies?

Top 3 Sing 3

It's 1am. Don't ask. I'm on a hedonistic bender. Bear with me.

So, dweeby Ryan tells us how it's going to go down. 3 songs -- one contestant's choice, one Jimmy Iovine's chioce, and one judges' choice. Beyoncé was the mentor. She was super nice and has seriously muscular legs. We fast forwarded many things, so the SYTYCD dancers were jumping at me through the screen really fast.

Contestant's Choice

Scotty sang "Amazed." Some people in the audience held up individual papers that were supposed to spell Scotty, though regrettably, their 7 seconds of fame happened right when two of them switched places, so it spelled S-C-O-T-Y-T. It reminded me of this:

(Modern Family, Season 2, "The Musical Man")

Randy channeled his inner Urkel and it was good (Scotty's singing, not Randy's outfit).

Lauren sang "Wild One." She plodded into her practice session with Beyoncé wearing yet another hideous outfit. To see how she walks, you would think she doesn't know she's pretty. Crying shame. She wore gigantic flowers in her ears. It was boring but good (the song, not the flowers. Well, those, too). And the whole time she's on stage, all I can think of is how Steven must be ogling her and then I feel all gross, but I do giggle a little when I think of how Jimmy Kimmel has a whole weekly segment called, "Steven Tyler's creepy leer of the night."

Haley sang "What Is and What Should Never Be." It was really, really good. I love her voice and it was cool that her dad got to play guitar up there. She fell right when Thing 1 and I wondered aloud how she could run in those shoes. It went something like this: "How does she not fall when--oh." I think it's cool that she did a Zeppelin song. "Oh boy, a Zeppelin!" (Yeah, different kind, I know. But things pop in my head and I say them. Are you new here?)

Winner of Round 1 - Haley

"Winning!" See? I did it again. Squirrel!


Jimmy Iovine's Choice

Scotty sang "Are You Going To Kiss Me Or Not?" That guitar looked huge on him and he was missing a ten-gallon hat. It was fun and good. I love to see a guy with a guitar hanging at his back. I'd call it "sexy" but he's 16 and that's just disturbing since I'm almost 40. And someone taught the letter people how to spell "Scotty" correctly.

Lauren sang "If I Die Young." She traded her ginormous flowers for ginormous pearl wheels. Ryan ad libbed about her legs and nylons and it was wrong on so many levels. I got chills when she sang (on this song, not the next one that gave J Lo "goosies"). She got lots of "beautifuls" from Steven, but none of us are surprised by that. She missed the key change, but recovered well. I suppose that after Haley's fall and Lauren's slip up there, it would be Scotty's turn next to flub it.

Haley sang "Rhiannon." I have never seen a diva make it this far. They lent her J Lo's wind fan. That was an Idol first. She didn't move her feet during the entire song. I'm not sure if it was the shoes or the wind. Our dog howled at the end. Another Idol first.

Winner of Round 2 - Lauren


Judges' Choice

Scotty sang "She Believes in Me" and I had flashbacks to my elementary school days. Kenny Rogers, The Carpenters, Carole King . . . all playing on the AM station on my parent's radio while we all got ready in the morning. Why? I don't know. My mom liked to call in and win stuff. But I digress. This was the third love song in a row for Scotty. Hmmm. I have to admit (Mom? Are you paying attention?) that I think Scotty is winning me over. And that's a non sequitur. It's not the love songs. It's just that he's endearing and good. The Idol people let all the parents talk on the microphone since Haley's dad got to play guitar. They're equal opportunity with that, but not with J Lo's fan. I think it's a conspiracy.

Lauren sang "I Hope You Dance" in a Cinderella ball gown. Thing 2 griped in an exasperated tone, "Finally something she wears that's not atrocious." And then added, "Well, it's not good either." And yes, he uses words like atrocious. Rhymes with precocious. He calls it as he sees it. I love our kids. I didn't love the arrangement, but she did a decent job.

Haley sang "You Oughta Know" and I thought it was all wrong for her. Sure, she kind of sounds like Alanis Morissette, but that's not at all her style. At least it shouldn't be. I like the blues on her more than that. It was a terrible song choice for her and someone had to tell the audience to stand up, because they weren't doing it on their own. It was that uninspiring.

Winner of Round 3 - Scotty

So, if you're keeping track at home, they're tied. I have no preference for who goes home, because I like and dislike them all equally for different reasons. I think Casey should've won, so I checked out a long time ago. And I'm going to bed now. I look forward to your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Because It's Been That Long

I really don't post on this blog very often, and that is pretty obvious. If you think I do then you haven't really been paying attention very well. I don't know why I don't other than I just don't take the time to say anything. But it bugs me that sometimes I gloss right over this part of life, sharing my thoughts and feelings. I decided to write a short post because despite all the things we are trying to keep up on around here (and it's A LOT!) I feel like I need to give a shout out to my family and say you guys are the best.

I have great kids. You make me smile and laugh. You let me be needed. You give me hugs when I need them. You make every day interesting and unique.

I have a great wife. You love me unconditionally. You take so much time to make sure this family has a rich and meaningful life. You make me smile every day. You are spontaneous and help me see the beauty in all of the mundane.

I even have a great dog. You keep me on my toes. You love to hang out with me. You make me laugh (a little more than you make me cry). You know just when someone needs a little love.


(Yes, Stacy just posted this picture here, but I'm working from my work computer so my choices are limited.)

Sometimes it gets really easy to forget how great I have it. I mean, it only takes a few seconds to start counting out all the good in my life, but it can be just as easy to focus on what isn't going as well as I'd like. So, this post is for you Stacy, Thing 1, Thing 2, and Scout. You are easily the best things that have ever "happened" to me and I want you to know that I don't take that for granted. I hope I can always be one of the best things that has ever "happened" to you, too.

I love you all!

This is a MUST read.

Because it's the funniest thing I've read in a while.

Courtesy of my kids, I present their most recent book review.

Welcome to my life.

Monday, May 16, 2011

$100 for you!

Sweet Scout


Couldn't you use $100?

Here are 5 things you could do with $100:
1. Replace your van battery.
2. Help pay for your annual car inspections.
3. Buy some food.
4. Pay part of an unexpected bill.
5. Pay for your kids to participate in sports.

Yeah, sure, I just made those up.


Would you like a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card?
Keep reading . . .

Click here to see more cute pictures of Scout, read more about her, and see what she thought of Purina Pro Plan Selects, and enter to win (plus, there are SEVERAL more ways to enter to win -- see the link for details!).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Well, hey, would you look at that.

I CAN be more bored with this (highly inappropriate for "family" viewing) show. Lamest top 3 ever. I've never been so UNinvested in a finale. Ever. We watched tonight's show in about 5 minutes (thank you, Tivo). Stupid, stupid, stupid results. Lame, lame, lame. And one more "highly inappropriate" for good measure. Bah.

(Also, as a note, Blogger was down for a couple of days and they're working on restoring comments -- they'll be up by the weekend).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Could I be any more bored with this show?

I don't think so. Thankfully, writing about it dulls the pain.

The Top 4 sang tonight. 2 rounds. The first one was meant to inspire (meh) and the second was from the Leiber and Stoller songbook (also meh). Jimmy Iovine wasn't around for the first round, so I'm guessing he needed some time off. Or perhaps some interventional therapy. I know I do.

James - "Don't Stop Believin'"
I think it was pitchy at times, but good overall. Randy, who played for Journey (in case you have been living under a rock for 10 years), lapped it up.

Haley - "Earth Song"
Do you all join me in saying, "Michael Jackson sang this?" Never heard of it. It was a horrible rendition backed by a swaying gospel choir. Casey was going nuts by the time she was done, but the judges weren't. And neither was I. Jennifer and Randy hated it. Stephen Tyler disagreed and I contemplated that he still might be on drugs. Haley's got some SERIOUS attitude. And not in the good way. She was glaring and pursing her lips together AND back talking. I'm so done with her.

Scotty - "Where Were You When The Earth Stopped Turning?"
It was very good, even if the lyrics invite a helpless ignorance (hat tip - Mark).

Lauren - "Anyway"
It was good, well done, all of that. Stephen Tyler drooled over her and her shoe buckles. Seriously, is he even paying attention to anything BUT her? She got an "In it to win it" from Randy and a "Beautiful thing" from Stephen, so basically, the judges liked it.

Round 2. Ding, ding.

Haley is a SNOT. When they recapped Round 1 and Randy reiterated what he thought, did you hear her say something to the effect of, "Okay, okay, Randy. I get it. I heard you the first time. You don't have to rehash it." I'm sorry, does she NOT know that she's a contestant on a show with a panel of JUDGES?? Does she not understand that it's a competition? Has someone not clarified for her that she is LUCKY to be there? Or at least informed her that when she glares at the camera and back talks, it makes us not like her even more than we already don't? No? Well, she should find some friends who are kind enough to be honest.

She sang, "I, Who Have Nothing" and it was much better. She also got an "In it to win it" from Randy and a "Beautiful thing" from Stephen. And that's all I feel like saying.

Scotty - "Young Blood"
Lady Gaga made him uncomfortable. She made me uncomfortable, too, truth be told. WTH?

Lauren - "Trouble"
As Thing 1 astutely pointed out, "Her stylist really is trying to kill her!" This time, her stylist dressed her up like the women I saw at the "50 and up" Expo we attended today except that they filled the shiny black and gold jacket with all the shoulder pads from ALL of my 1980's shirts. All of them. Stephen Tyler loves her, in case you missed the first 973 times he told her. You know, she had her hair all down and crazy for that number, so I'm wondering if Stephen is confused and thinks he's looking at himself in a mirror when he says those things? That's less disturbing to me anyway.

James - "Love Potion #9"
I hate it when James talks to the audience in his songs. Also? Flames every time? It sort of dulls the effect, no? James is like Adam Lambert lite. But, apparently, it's a beautiful thing and he's in it to win it, so what do I know.

Going home -- all of them, one way or another.
Getting booted -- I hope it's Haley.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Want to win $100?

Our family on vacation at the beach

Ready for summer?
Gas prices are up again.
$100 sure would help.
Would you like a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card?
Keep reading . . .

Click here to see more cute pictures of Scout (do you see her in the picture above?), read more about her, and see what she thought of Purina Pro Plan Selects, and enter to win (plus, there are SEVERAL more ways to enter to win -- see the link for details!).

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Weekend In Mexico

Well, not really. But the food was amazing.

So, Stacy already gave a little teaser about my weekend, but I've got to tell you how amazing it was.

She was in our local coffeehouse and noticed a poster for cooking classes at a relatively new bed and breakfast here in town. They call them "Acclaimed Chef Weekends" and the programs they've held so far look great. She happened to notice that there was one coming up about Mexican cooking, and since I love Mexican food, she thought this would be a great class for me. She would have loved to have done the class with me (and honestly, it would have been even better if she could have), but despite her best efforts we weren't able to swing it. Stacy really wanted me to do this class, though, so she insisted I go.

Anyway, this bed and breakfast is great, and the owners are fantastic and super friendly. You would think Stacy and Rosalie had known each other forever the way they get along. The inn is beautifully decorated and each room has a theme, our favorites being the English Manor Suite and the Secret Room (seriously, you tip some books on a bookshelf and it swings open to give you access to the secret room--so cool). The inn has a wonderful view as well, overlooking the rolling hills and valley below. It is a really great setting.

So on Saturday there was a small reception to meet the chef, Chef Israel, and the other class members. It was a lot of fun to talk with him about food, his experiences as a Mexican immigrant, food, restaurants, food, and whatever else came to mind. He started giving us teasers about the meal we'd be preparing on Sunday, and even the small tidbits he was feeding us made me drool.

Sunday afternoon we all met in the inn's kitchen for class. There were five of us in the class all together: a couple from Washington, D.C. that literally got engaged on the ride up the night before, a father and son from the area, and me. It's really amazing how working in a kitchen together can bring people together, even people who just barely met. We had such a good time learning about Mexican cuisine, preparing our meal for the night, and just talking about so many things. I could bore you with all the details, but I think I'd rather just give you the menu for the evening.

**********

Appetizer
Sopes de Pollo: homemade corn tortillas topped with homemade refried beans, shredded chicken, diced onion and cilantro, lime, and a fresh tomatillo salsa

Soup
Caldo Tlalpeno: chicken soup with chickpeas and chipotle peppers

Salad
Spinach salad with Chef Israel's "especial dressing"

Main Meal
Lomo de Cerdo en Adobo: Roasted pork loin with fresh adobo sauce
Mexican rice
Refried Beans

Dessert
Tres Leches Cake topped with fresh strawberries and kiwi

**********

Let's just say that meal was SO good! We made all of the sauces fresh in our class and just learning how to do that was worth the price of admission. A good friend took Thing 1 and 2 for the evening so Stacy could come join us for the actual meal on Sunday night. I'll let her comment on how good it was, especially all the things I helped to make.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and I'm so glad Stacy found the class for me. I'm looking forward to when the same chef comes again so we can do this again, hopefully together!

Thank you, Little Miss. I love you!

P.S. The Innkeepers took about a million pictures and they will be sending them at some point. I just didn't want to wait to post about the weekend.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Steven Tyler Says Beautiful Things

Now that Casey left, I'm so bored, we watched both shows in one night.

The Top 5 performed 2 songs each and it was all over the place.

Randy started the night by stating the obvious and saying typically non-profound things and either someone held up an "applause" sign or the audience is getting stupider by the season and truly will clap for anything, as Mark says.

James - "Closer to the Edge"
Was he sick?? It started horribly and just when I thought it was getting better, it didn't. The judges mistook "loud" for "good."

Randy's "In it to win it" tally count for the evening - 47

Jacob - "No Air"
Jacob attempted a duet by himself with 3 back-up singers in smoke. I listened to it and missed Casey. There were more off notes and more nit-picky criticism from the judges. EVERY TIME. I wouldn't mind that they pick on him all the time if they would do the same with every other contestant when they deserved it, too. I do agree with Randy on this one -- more Luther, less Chris Brown. Randy and J-Lo argued and the show turned into The View and was equally as annoying.

Lauren - "Flat on the Floor"
Beautiful girl, hideous outfit. That could be her tagline. Fringe on a belt?? That said, she was the best of the night so far.

Randy's "In it to win it" tally - 63

Scotty - "Gone"
That was more upbeat and fun than we've ever seen him. Now, that was the best so far. That's the first time I've actually enjoyed a performance by him.

Randy's "In it to win it" tally - 94

Haley - "You and I"
Jimmy had her sing an unreleased Lady Gaga song. Are they priming her to win? She looks like a mermaid -- the one from Splash. I think the song worked. I wish I liked her more so I could be excited about it. Wow, she gives some serious crusties when she's criticized. She has a major attitude. YUCK.

James - "Without You"
It was powerful and moving and raw. It was off in several parts, but overall it was very, very good. I love his more intimate songs. The final few seconds of the song were even a little, gasp, Broadway (which was kind of weird). He looked like he'd just finished singing, "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables. Strange.

Steven Tyler's "beautiful" tally - 1, 193

Jacob - "Love Hurts"
Jimmy seems to be sabotaging Jacob . The judges say "Do more Luther" and meanwhile Jimmy is saying (pre-recorded), "If he does more Luther, I think he's going to be in trouble." The judges and Jimmy are at odds A LOT. I think Jacob is making it hard to like him, too, with his constant and effusive self-praise. Blech.

Steven Tyler's "beautiful" tally - 2, 726

Lauren - "Unchained Melody"
I didn't love it. It was a lousy arrangement and boring. Yawn. I think Lauren's parents vomit in their mouths a little every time Steven ogles her.

Scotty - "Always On My Mind"
Jimmy's right. The judges constantly give the conflicting advice, "Be yourself" and "Do something different."I've said that many times over the years! These Judges vs. Jimmy boxing rounds are kind of entertaining. Scotty's performance of this song, however, was not. Boring, boring, boring. I liked it better when he was jumping around. But his grandma's cute.

Steven Tyler's "beautiful" tally - 2, 989

Haley - "House of the Rising Sun"
Awesome a cappella introduction. That was really, really good. And wow, the judges are on their feet. Wow. Now she's smiling. Too bad she's so annoying. She needs to learn to take criticism as well as she takes praise.

Randy's "In it to win it" tally - 137

My favorite part of the evening? Listening to Steven.
Predictions - Jacob's leaving.

------------------------

Oh, how I love the wonder of TiVo. On to results! All in one night! Huzzah!

Group Number

They started with a horrific group number. This group sounds absolutely TERRIBLE together. They don't blend at all. I feel badly for everyone who is watching Idol for the first time this year. I mean, the group numbers always suck, but this year's are especially bad. They usually pre-record and make them lip sync, but this year they figured, "Ah, screw it. They sound awful anyway. Don't bother." Either way, I fast forward.

WTH is Lauren wearing?!? Who is dressing her?!? It's hideous. Is it pants? Is it a skirt? Do I hear a motel lampshade? What on earth??

Haley sounds the best in the group. Too bad I don't like her.

Other Stuff

I hope Jacob had fun making the most boring Ford Music Video in the history of time, because he's so leaving.

"Hell's Kitchen" meets "American Idol"

Well, it looks like Jacob can be extraordinarily happy cooking omelettes. That bodes well.

Lady Antebellum showed us what it's supposed to sound like when voices blend together.

Mystery solved. Lauren's stylist is trying to kill her. (And we all nod and let out a collective, "Ahhhhhh!")

Jimmy basically destroyed Lauren right there on the stage. He said her lack of confidence is going to do her in, so he probably figures kicking her while she's down will expedite the process. Several points here. 1. He's right. 2. She's 15. 3. It's harsh. 4. It's how the industry is. 5. Would you be okay with your 15-year-old going through that? 6. He's right. I'm so conflicted!!

J-Lo always dances with wind in her hair even though it blows nowhere else. Curious.

Results

Scotty, Haley, and James are safe.

Child Labor Laws don't apply to or protect aspiring singers. Lauren is a mess.

Jacob is going home and so sings us out with a song that has no end. The show ended and he was still singing.

And that pretty much sums up Idol for me this season. They're singing and we're ready for closing credits. Bore.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Congratulations to Thing 2!

Congratulations to our other writer in the family! Thing 2 is one of the winners of our library's annual poetry contest! Needless to say, he's ecstatic about it. He'll even get a chance to read his poem at a special celebration along with the other winners. Thing 1 got to do this last year and it was a very nice event. His poem is called "Dragon's Roaring." Here it is:

Dragon's Roaring


The dragon’s roaring
The wind blowing
The trees falling
These are the signs of a dragon coming.

Quick!
Pack your things!
A dragon is coming!
Don’t trip or fall!
A dragon’s coming!
Don’t fly a plane or the dragon will get you!
Don’t drive or the dragon will chase you!
Just run!
Just run!
A dragon is coming!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Adorable Puppy

Scout sitting behind Mark while he works

Isn't she cute? Would you like a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card?
Click here to see more cute pictures of Scout, see what she thought of Purina Pro Plan Selects, and enter to win!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Play Ball!

Thing 2 has started little league baseball and he absolutely LOVES it. And like I said before, he is SO STINKING CUTE in his baseball uniform.

Thing 2 at his first game


Father and son -
Mark is an assistant coach for the team!

The team -
They were supposed to be
sponsored by the video game place
(the kids were really excited about that!)
but had a last-minute switch.
It's okay, though -- everyone loves the coffee shop!

Me and Thing 1
Cheering and supporting our boys

On Opening Day during the national anthem -
Thing 2 is number 11.

At his first game
Thing 2 was glued to the game the whole time -
He loves it!

That's my man pitching to our son!

Thing 2 is really good at it, too!
He's quite the athletic boy.

And he's soooooo social that he's always chatting it up at each base with all the coaches.
It's a riot to watch. He has friends EVERYWHERE he goes.

We really enjoy going to the games and playing/coaching/watching.
What a great way to welcome spring!