Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays

From our house to yours ...

And from the house down the road ...

I know this looks bad, but I swear we came by ours honestly. Family hand-me-down.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Book club!

Fear not, little blog. I will be posting again more soon. I feel inspired. Finally.

But first, our next book club pick is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I've already read it, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of science. I found an interesting interview with the author regarding the structure of the book and having herself in the book as a character.

Now if you'll excuse me, N finished building (mostly) my beautiful new bookshelves, and I have a couple thousand books to sort and organize.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book book bookie!

I ended up selecting Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. A quick read for the holiday season. A nice blog to accompany it is Black and WTF. More old and odd photos for your enjoyment.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What I look like

As previously stated, Nea (age 7) has limb apraxia as well as apraxia of speech. She has worked very hard on her handwriting, which is pretty good now, although still larger than it should be. Work in progress, like much of her life. But she can zip up her jacket. We have no intention of teaching her how to tie her shoelaces any time soon. Hey, if Daniel Radcliff is still struggling with it at his advanced age, why tortune her?

Anyway, here's a picture she drew on her iPad yesterday. It's me. Her people have had a robotesque look for quite awhile. I like them. Check out my biceps! Whooo! I do wonder whether I should have my ears pinned back, though.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rule one of book club

Rule 1: Do not post information about the new book until members of book club had a chance to get a copy.

We are reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I'm enjoying it, but the German is odd. Must be a dialect. Or something. He translated Zufriedenheit as happiness. That's just wrong. It's satisfaction.

I need to pick out my book for December. You'd think I'd have a bunch of ideas, but I dunno. I've been reading all these crazy books lately. I liked Little Bee by Chris Cleave so much, and then I read another one of his books, Incendiary. Loved that even more. Then I read Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. Apparently I've got a terrorism/end of the world theme going.

And they took away my Visual Bookshelf (It was free! It was online!) and didn't even warn me, so there went a giant list of books I loved. GRRRR.

Maybe I'll pick The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Or The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Or Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. Thoughts?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ugly Christmas Ornament Party: A Retrospective

A long time ago, we used to be fun. That was before we had kids. Back in those idyllic days, we would host amusing parties. I would say the most popular themed party we had was the Ugly Christmas Ornament Party. Which was a nice break from all the serious holiday parties. It started out fairly casual and became pretty competitive by the end, with rules and stuff. Actually, a lot of my parties seem to have rules. It's because I'm German. I can't help it.

The rules were:

  • One entry per person.
  • Enter into one of the categories: store-bought or homemade/altered.
  • One vote per person. Yadda yadda, can't quite remember all the voting rules for having two categories.
  • You must be willing to give up your entry. Everyone will go home with a different ornament.
  • The winning ornament stays with us.

Luckily we are organized (snort!) and have all the winners still carefully stored all together in a box. I present them to you for your enjoyment.

1998 Red D*ldo -- Joanne Harrison

1999 Paschke -- Perrigo family

2000 Santabird -- Darin and Olga

2001 It Just Screams Christmas -- N

2002 Holiday Time in Afghanistan -- Tish

2003 Cowpie Snowman -- Kris Ward

And this little bonus item that was robbed of winning. I think John brought it the first year we had the party. His grandma made it or something. I'm pretty sure I voted for it. It's top-notch.

And this. This monstrosity.

This started it all. N and I found it in an antique store in Hebron, IL. It was $7. I took off the little plaques N made with the winners' names on them. And ain't she a beaut.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Club

Last month was Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, which lead to quite a discussion. As far as I'm concerned, as long as we discuss the book for more than 10 minutes, it's a hit. We all really enjoyed this one: always a plus.

Next month: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I finally talked someone into picking this one! I think it's going to be a lively talk. Last time we did one of Lionel's books, I was shocked to learn it's a girl. Who names a girl Lionel? Bizarre. Oh, wait, it's not her given name. See? Learn something new every day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Not in the original job description: SN version

As Robert Rummel-Hudson said in a tweet this week, "I resent the people who can't get to sleep because of all the hookers and blow, rather than parenting anxiety. Dicks."

How true that is.

Our wonderful SLP wanted to write a progress report for the school, especially since we have a new school SLP. She wanted me to answer the following questions/requests.
  • What is Nea's average sentence length?
  • What is her intelligibility rate when speaking with people who don't know her? Also, was her intelligibility really 10% a year ago? (Yes.)
  • Provide some sample sentences she has produced recently.

My gut reaction for sentence length was "approaching 5." Did a little analysis during dinner (as parents do, ha ha!), and Mama's intuition was correct. 4.63 words per sentence on average.

Reflecting awhile, I went with 50% intelligibility. With the caveat of "context helps!" which it always does. If you know what the topic is, you will have much greater success of understanding her. I do think we have done a good job of teaching her circumlocution, and she uses other words or gestures to help her audience along.

We have also decided to leave her talker at school permanently. It's heavy, and she reached for it once all summer, when she wanted to discuss Earth as a ball. I have to say, Camp Invention (science camp) seems to have sparked her interest in science. Below are the sample sentences I collected at dinner. The science ones were all in a row.

Me go home morrow way? (I stay home tomorrow)
Me playdate with Bella?
Why Elmo drive? Too little!
Me hold it one more time.*

Why people no feel turn around? (about the earth's rotation)
Wind in space now?
Why people in space on moon?
Why flag in space?
Flag in space right now?

What is life?
What does plant make cotton?
Plant alive in fridge. Die in tummy?

And this is the child they pulled completely out of mainstream class for science and social studies last year. Sure, they wanted to spend more time on literacy and math, but come on! Anyway, she'll be joining the rest of class for those subjects this year. Which just happen to be units on astronomy and biology.

*Note: We are very much working on the "begin sentences with I" thing. Ugh!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Part 3: How Nea is doing, vis-à-vis apraxia and literacy

Nea is seven and will be starting second grade next month.

Looking back at May, there were many memorable lines from the IEP meeting. From the school psychologist: "Her IQ and other scores were normal! That's good news!" Wow. No shit, Sherlock. Did you manage to find those results in the massive, detailed, financed-by-us neuropsych report we gave you? Or did you come up with that yourself? She has excellent logic skills and does well on standardized tests as long as there is no language component.

From our mainstream teacher: "Oh, no, she's nowhere NEAR reaching the bottom of the class!" (Trust me, it was very clear in context that she didn't mean she's in the middle. She meant there was no prayer of Nea ever catching up.) A hearty middle finger salute to you, Mrs. M. Oh, and this gem: "She's not very good at non-fiction, is she?"

That was when I decided that we needed to focus on academics this summer. Because I know my special special snowflake is smart. She just needs a little more effort than your average kid. Not every mainstream teacher is talented enough to teach to multiple levels. I understand that. But it sure would be nice if they tried. On the other hand, I don't think she should be in the special education classroom as much as she is. It's not a good fit.

Anyway. Enough of the venting. On to more positive things.

The good news is that Nea is advancing at reading! And just as our wonderful SLP said, it's improving her speech. She's using more of the "little words" ("the" and "of" and so forth) than ever before, more full sentences, all that. People comment all the time on how much clearer her speech is. I'll post some examples soon. I haven't been able to transcribe any lately. I mean *blush* she says, "You're the best mommy in the whole wide world" but it doesn't come out exactly like that.

And it's not just the reading. Check out this great drawing she did recently.

Lightning McQueen

She's started with inventive spelling, which is a big milestone. On May 26th (I know the date because I tweeted about it) Nea wrote her first unscripted sentence. "I like you." All spelled right, too! Sure, she's behind, but this is more progress than we've seen before.

In her workbook, she and I counted out loud from 1 to 100 while pointing at each number. I actually wanted to quit twice, but she wouldn't let me.

So. My house is a disaster. My garden is a weedy mess. But it doesn't matter, because Nea is only about a full grade behind her peers, which is better than where we were in June.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Part 2: Our insurance saga - Winning!

My last insurance update was here.

Several months ago I heard from Blue Cross Blue Shield. In a chirpy voice, the nice lady told me that they were not only going to stop paying for speech, they had changed their minds and were TAKING BACK all the money they paid our SLP this calendar year. Under the very weak argument that they do not cover developmental delays after age 6. Nea is 7 now. She does not have a developmental delay. She has apraxia.

I'll be honest. I was a little pissed off.

So we lawyered up. Which was a great decision. Also, turns out ASHA* (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) has a very helpful form letter that argues persuasively (using that insurance-speak language that the insurance companies love) that apraxia is not a developmental delay. Please contact them if you need help fighting your insurance company.

Here's the money shot from their letter:

Verbal apraxia is not a developmental delay and a child will not outgrow this disorder. It is not an educational issue, but rather an issue of health and normal physiological function. Developmental delay describes a slower than normal rate of development, but verbal apraxia is a disorder.

The lawyer (who, I'll be honest, is ruining my deep suspicion and disregard for the profession) recommended we get nice, fresh letters of medical necessity from our SLP and pediatrician. These letters said the same thing as the letters we had previously submitted, but they were, you know, new. Plus she has fancy letters behind her name when she signs official documents. People respect that.

And then the clouds parted. The sun shone.

And therefore, ta da. BCBS is covering our ST again. With no visit maximum for the calendar year! (Let's go every day!) I'd frankly feel even more excited if I didn't think we'll have to go through it all again next year. Still, a victory for now. I'll take it.

Thanks to some help from my friends on Facebook (shout out to Steve and Lex! Smoochies!), we have a rewritten I Fought the Law by The Clash (from the point of view of BCBS)

Denying claims in the hot sun,
I fought Bluestem and...she won.
I fought the completely rational and justified MamaBear and...she won.

*Next time perhaps I'll share my thoughts on the American Saddlebred Horse Association and the American School Health Association.

C'mon! Everybody sing!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Part 1: Summer homeschool curriculum - trying to catch up

I know y'all thought I was crazy when I told you our summer plans for getting Nea closer to grade level reading and math. I am proud to say she has made significant gains! In reading, anyway. I don't think the math has changed much, but given a choice between the two, reading would be my pick.

1. Hooked on Phonics has a giant gap between level 1 and level 2, so we are using the Scholastic Hello Kitty phonics readers, which have an emphasis on vowel sounds, which Nea really needs. We are also borrowing books from our SLP. They are The Learning Company's Reader Rabbits Interactive Reading Journey books, which don't seem to be available anymore, but there's always eBay.

Sample page from book 34: Sam hit the ball. It was a bad hit. See Nan with the ball.

Like most early readers, it's a snorefest, but them's the breaks.

2. Educational iPhone and iPad apps we like are: math bingo, word bingo, rocket math, sight words, stack the states (for Boo)

3. Summer Bridge Activities workbooks -- just discovered all the online games and iPad apps, so we'll be using those soon.

4. Earobics

5. Working on calendar (days of the week, months of the year), time, and money

6. And the usual focused activities assigned to us by our wonderful SLP.

Apraxia update

This is it, people. This is the huge blog post that I've been putting off all summer. It's turning into such a monster that I'll be covering recent news in three parts, in the next few days.

Part 1: Summer homeschool curriculum - trying to catch up

Part 2: Our insurance saga - Winning!

Part 3: How Nea is doing, vis-à-vis apraxia and literacy

Monday, July 18, 2011

Salad that my kids will actually eat

A while ago we all went to Stacia's house for dinner. Among other delicious items, she made this salad, and at one point I glanced over at the kiddie table, and the kids were fighting to the death over what was left in the serving bowl. They were fighting to get more salad. No, I swear.

So, not being stupid, I asked for the recipe. Boo said it wasn't nearly as good without the anchovy paste, so we (meaning my husband) went to four stores and finally found it. Also, the big white bag of croutons they sell at Costco are apparently crack.

Caesar Salad Dressing

¼ cup light mayo
Scant ¼ cup skim milk
½ T lemon juice
½ tsp anchovy paste
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp pepper
pinch ground mustard
1 garlic clove, minced (or ½ heaping tsp crushed garlic)

Put the above ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously. In a bowl, combine Romaine lettuce and croutons in the correct quantities to satisfy the number of people you expect for dinner. Toss. Then add:

¼ cup parmesan cheese (heaping)*

In other news, this baked marinated tofu was a big hit around the house, too. Give it a whirl. I left out the smoke flavoring, though.

*Buy the good stuff. You deserve it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Temple Farms Organics CSA review

our half, week one
Despite growing our own veggies and fruits, we decided to try out a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share this season. We are doing a half share of veggies and a full fruit share. We are actually splitting the full share veggies with a coworker, which gives us some flexibility. For instance, I don't need more dill. At all. Or asparagus, really.

our fruit, week one

The good points of joining a CSA: try new vegetables, forced to eat healthy foods, fun to be surprised with a big box of produce every week, organic

The bad points of joining a CSA: figuring out what to do with new vegetables, forcing healthy foods into the family, keeping up with big box of produce every week, expensive

So far we've had two weeks' worth, as follows.

Week 1: Spinach, Green Swiss Chard, Asparagus, Hakurei Turnips, Red and Green Head of Lettuce, Pak Choi and Garlic Scapes! Fruit Share: 2 quarts of Strawberries and 1 pound of Rhubarb!

Week 2: Green Scallions, Romaine Head Lettuce, Crispino Iceberg Lettuce, Asparagus, Fresh Cut Dill, Dandelion Greens, Zucchini, Chinese Cabbage, Purple Kohlrabi, Garlic Scapes! Fruit Share: lots and lots of Strawberries! (And hey, turns out Nea is allergic to strawberries. At least in vast quantities.)

From the Tempel Farm website:

Vegetable Share CSA:

Full shares: offered every week for 20 Weeks of the farm’s harvest from June 9th through October 20th. Your share is a 5/9 bushel box filled with 7-12 delicious items. $585.00

Half shares: same amount as a Full Share but offered every other week for a total of 10 weeks from June 9th through October 20th. $345.00 (We are doing half the full box every week instead.)

Fresh Fruit Share CSA: is offered every week for 16 weeks from mid June to late September. A variety of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, melons, peaches and much more will fill your summer with "in season" sensations! Fruit will be harvested from our farm and fruit grown by Mick Klug Farms who treats his crops with little to no pesticides and always practices sustainable farming methods. Once apple season begins we will augment your box with contemporary and heirloom apples grown by our farm, Mick Klug Farms, Seedling Fruit and other local growers. $275.00

Monday, June 20, 2011

Proof I am a cephalophile!

At great length and with much enthusiasm have I spoken of my cephalophile ways. But ne'er was there proof in my abode. Hark! This oversight has been rectified.

I know y'all are filled with the envy. Methinks my coolness rating has ballooned.

Especially as I found this in a second-hand shop in Door County. Where we all go for our stained glass octopus needs, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011

My sprint triathlon, in 5 very short acts

Our protagonist, the night before the race, googles "what to wear for a triathlon when it's 50 degrees" while fretting and worrying. She cuts the toes off some socks to wear for arm warmers, and packs long biking tights. And fleece gloves.

Act 1: The Swim

Wow, am I really doing this? I guess so. OK, starting now!

Blub, glub, panic panic, flail, get kicked, kick others, repeat for half a mile. Leave water exhausted from the wasted effort of panicking.

Act 2: The Bike

La la la, I'm a biker. I bike. Shiny new bike. La la la!

Act 3: The Run, Mile 1

Ow! Shin splints! Jelly legs! Oy!

Act 4: The Run, Mile 2

OK. This is going pretty well. I can finish this. It's a lot harder to drink out of a paper cup while running than you would think, though.

Act 5: The Run, Mile 3

At 1 hour, 44 minutes after I started, I ask a bystander what time it is. It's the first indication I have of my time. I realize that I am well within my goal of finishing in less than two hours. I speed up, feeling great! I see my family cheering me on! I start wondering where the finish line actually is!

Excuse me, where is the finish line? No, seriously, how far is it? I can't see it. Oh, hurrah, it's over, and I never have to do that again! I wonder what my time is?

Several hours later, I check my results online. One hour, 49 minutes. Yeah, baby!

Note: the arm warmers, long biking tights, and fleece gloves were not used. Plenty warm in just a shirt and biking shorts. You know what everyone says, "If you are cold, you aren't working hard enough."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Books, books, books

It's official. I'm only telling you the book club picks every other month. No reason. Don't really know why I still blog it anyway. Now that Amazon refuses to play nice and share 4% of the purchase price. Which I gave to charity. Whatever.

Anyway, I already mentioned that April was Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply, but I want to add that it reminded me of the movie Momento, both of which really need more than one reading/viewing. They are Complex and Make my Brain Ache. But in a good way.

May was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Other people liked it.

July/August is Welcome to Utopia by Karen Valby which I have no opinion on yet, as I'm on page, um, 8 or something.

And as a bonus book recommendation, I'm halfway through In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent. Super fun for language geeks like me! Thumbs up. Geek quiz: How many invented languages can you name? There are at least 500.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How we plan to survive this summer

I'm sure this is probably normal for plenty of families. Right? At least, for families in which one parent works full-time and one who works part-time at home. Here's the current summer schedule for the kids.

  • One week at home (Monday-Wednesday) with a young babysitter from down the block.
  • Thursdays with Oma.
  • Two weeks at a park district camp near us, but not our actual resident one (which we didn't like last summer). This includes four visits to pools in neighboring suburbs.
  • Two sessions weekly with a tutor for Nea, working on literacy and math.
  • One session weekly with our private speech and language pathologist.
  • Fridays, hang out with me.
  • One week at home (Monday-Wednesday) with a young babysitter from down the block.
  • One week full-time at a YMCA. This includes at least one pool visit. I won a buy-one-week-get-one-free deal, so this is a good price.
  • One week full-time at Camp Invention, a science camp the girls attended last year, too.
  • Thursdays with Oma. Except when she is at knitting camp.
  • Two sessions weekly with a tutor for Nea, working on literacy and math.
  • One session weekly with our private speech and language pathologist.
  • As time allows, Nea will go to Extended School Year classes, which are a joke, but she gets an additional 45 minutes of speech weekly there. Assuming they can work with our schedule. Right now I think she'll go 12 days out of a possible 20.
  • Fridays, hang out with me.
  • I'm taking some time off, which I'll need after trying to figure out who I'm driving where in July.
  • One week at home (Monday-Wednesday) with a young babysitter from down the block.
  • Possibly some gymnastics camp and swim lessons.
  • Thursdays with Oma, plus a couple extra days just before school starts.
  • Two sessions weekly with a tutor for Nea, working on literacy and math.
  • One session weekly with our private speech and language pathologist.
  • Fridays, hang out with me.
I hope someday this will just be some confusing weird memory of how ridiculous our summers used to be.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fourth Annual Trash Pick

This year was a little sparse in comparison to some other years, but I can't complain. It's free, after all. 

Booster seat, lemon twist type toy. Papa Skateboard, Mama Skateboard, and Baby Skateboard. Old-timey playpen that I will use with some chickenwire for our hypothetical guinea pig, should we ever acquire one. We keep talking about it, but nothing ever happens. Three pretty china plates, a "suction cup it to your window" bird feeder, and Keen shoes, new with price tag ($29.90 at Nordstrom Rack).
Seven sample upholstery fabric books (for crafts), magazines (also for crafts), a bag of board books (will give to our old preschool).

Double jogging stroller (lending to a friend), tile address sign (will take apart for trivets), plastic flamingo (score!).

Basket with decorative grapevine balls, 12 new-in-box wire baskets (probably will give to Girl Scout troop), planter, cool old three-drawer thingie, plant stand, old toolbox (cool!), three square plastic planters (maybe for Garden Club), concrete planter (already being used).

Cute wee bunny, games, toy microphone for speech therapist, snorkel gear, find-the-Santa book. In background, large glass container for terrarium I hope to make.

Candlesticks, very nice plastic storage box, another stack of magazines, frame, little silver heart-shaped boxes (with lucky pennies and a little note from Grandma. A bit sad, really.), and a treasure trove of keepsakes from my high school Alma Mater, including keychains, cheerleading trophies, etc.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Garden news thus far

This Spring has been crap. Cold and very rainy. We haven't even mowed the lawn since it hasn't grown, although it is nice and green.

Here in Zone 5, it's still at least 2 weeks until the average last frost date. I should have started a lot of seeds earlier (I finally did the pole beans, brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, and cucumbers yesterday!), but the weather didn't exactly motivate me.

I did put in the potatoes (Katahdin) and onions almost a month ago. The onions look good, but nothing is showing in the potato bed. They may have rotted from all the rain. I need to dig one up and look.

In the cold frames, the carrots, radish, and beets look really good. Almost time to eat some radishes, even. And the carrots came up! That never happens for me.

My garden guy recommended not putting out the zucchini and winter squash until the end of June. That way you miss the entire vine stem borer life cycle. I don't know if I can wait that long, but I will start them indoors soon in bigger pots and wait as long as I can.

In window boxes, the bok choi and lettuce mix look good. The Red Mountain Spinach (Orache) self-seeded and is doing well. I have peas coming up in a pot. I hope we get a good crop this year, as the kids really love eating them right off the plant.

I'll be buying tomato plants, since only 3 of my heirlooms sprouted. Sigh. My seeds are old.

Basil -- one tiny spring coming up. Pathetic. The parsley came back.

New this year: salsify. I started it outside today. I was supposed to start it with the radishes, but I couldn't find any seed locally. Luckily my brother got me some for my birthday! Hurrah!

Almost ready to harvest: rhubarb and asparagus! Very late this year, but thems the breaks. As always, the chives, oregano, and sage all look good.

In other garden news, we found another old well! We filled in one when we moved in. The idiots we bought the house from had just put a piece of plywood over the top. Can you imagine? Total morons. It was 30 feet deep, with maybe 8 feet of water at the bottom. Sure, that's safe! Anyway, we've always wondered why we have this little sinkhole in the lawn. Every year we throw a little extra dirt on it and scratch our heads. The other week Boo tripped on it, and it's two feet deep, and you can see the bricks along the sides. Yup. She's lucky she didn't break a fetlock and have to be put down.

Lastly, I know I've posted this before, but if you missed it, use this planting guide! It's so helpful.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Apraxia stories

Part 1: This never gets easier
Nea (coming up on 7 years old) has made a lot of progress in the last 7 months with our new SLP. You would think this would mean that she's easier to understand, but as she improves, the number of possibilities for what she's talking about also increases, so it's actually harder to follow her in conversation at times.

We were hanging out in bed the other morning and she said, "Keemo weet." I thought she said. "Three more weeks" so I said, "Three more weeks of what?" Finally figured out she was talking about Cream of Wheat. As her breakfast choice.

Trust me. Her "Three more weeks" and "Cream of Wheat" sound exactly the same. However, she can say "oatmeal" very well.

Part 2: You'd think I'd be better at this by now

Setting: birthday party at a park, chatting with two moms I don't know. They are very nice, and we are enjoying the crazy warm sunny day.

Nea comes up and tells a story in her usual blabber. She sounds like a slightly delayed two-year-old. "Me … go … dere … bad guy … up!" etc. Her words and phrases are improving, but when she tells a longer story it all falls apart. I don't concentrate fully on what she's saying, as I feel very self-conscious on her behalf, which is distracting. I repeat back some of it ("Oh, you ran fast? To the tree?") to help the other listeners, who I know can understand nothing.

One of the moms: Oh, is she speaking German?

Me: No, she has apraxia.

Other mom: What's that?

Me: It's an oral motor coordination … thing.

Long silence.

Me: But she's making a lot of progress!

Nea doesn't say anything. Then she runs off to play.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book club picks

Apparently I did it again, with the forgetting. April was Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. The evening ended very late, with my pregnant friend dropping me off around 2 am. Her water broke an hour later, and she had her bouncing baby boy at 8 am! Exciting! May's pick is Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon. No babies are expected to arrive that evening. Although I am expecting a new niece in a few months. It's baby season!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fun with thrifting

Well, it's not trashpicking, but going to thrift stores is also a lot of fun while waiting for garage sales to start up again. I hit two today: one that benefits the local hospital, and a new Goodwill. I've had some success at the Goodwill before, including a great stained glass lamp for $5, but had only longingly looked at the other store every time the train goes by it when I'm coming home from my Big Important Corporate Job that I rarely leave home for. Some of these will be Easter gifts (like the purse) and some will be Rainy Day prezzies. So don't tell my kids, please, ok?

4 Kids Discovery magazines, 25 cents each and 11 Model Railroader magazines, 25 cents each. You can tell that model railroads are not a geeky hobby after all, because Rod Stewart is on the cover of the one on top. I don't know why. Ask N next time you see him.

2 games, Slide 5 and Mancala, $1 each

Stationery, $3

Metal sign, $2. Children's Place purse, $3, pretending to be made out of some corduroy pants with extra pockets, which Boo will love for the (fake) recycling aspect. Bonus: just found a pair of cute tiny tweezers in a pocket. Free!

Circo brand supersoft hoodie for Nea ($3), LA Conduct skirt ($4) for whichever of my kids is COOL enough to ROCK IT, and Gap brand jeans ($3) with embellishments for Boo.

Nordic Track brand yoga pants for me, $4.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New home improvements, part 1

I bought this leaded glass window at a garage sale two years ago. It was $10. Finally N hung it up in the downstairs bathroom window for privacy. I drew on the glass around it with a window marker to make it extra fancy. Isn't it? Isn't it fancy?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fruit and vegetable tasting program at the grade school

Wow, what a day! As part of the school lunch improvement plan, the PTA Wellness Committee decided to offer samples of fruits and veggies to the kids once a month for the rest of the school year. We didn't want to scare off anyone with anything too exotic for the first go-around, so today we served up cucumber and cantaloupe. Next month we are doing jicama and grapes. In May we'll do watermelon and zucchini.

You would not believe how much work it was getting this approved and running! You need sign-off from the principal, food vendor, county health inspector, and who knows who else. And everyone was really great and agreeable, but it's still a lot of coordination.

So, three of us cut up all the cucumber and cantaloupe that was donated by a local grocer. We had the use of the kitchen from 9-10 am, before the Lunch Ladies start getting the delivered lunch trays ready. (Ready = Take pre-made lunches from the middle school out of the heater boxes. Put on table.) Turns out our grade school has a compost bin, which I can't believe I didn't know. We put all the peels in there. Saved some of the seeds to clean up and give to the garden club (grades 3 and 4), which has no money left for seed purchasing. Went for a walk and checked out the new school speed limit sign, which I helped agitate for. Toured the still empty (zone 5!) community garden. Gave a little unsolicited advice on how to organize one of the sizable plots.

Returned to the school to prepare for the onslaught. There are three lunch periods, and they run for almost an hour and a half total. We served the samples on toothpicks. We have 400 students. Which means that we served about 2000 kids, because some of them just kept getting back in line. And back in line. And back in line. Turns out kids really like cucumbers and cantaloupe! Even kids who had never tried them before, hurrah!

The superintendent dropped by. He had some cucumber. Not a melon fan, apparently.

The leftover produce went to the fire station. In the future we hope to drop it off at the food pantry or homeless shelter, but that didn't come up as an idea until today, so we'll have to call them and arrange drop-off.

Every family received an informational flyer about how to enjoy cucumbers and cantaloupe at home, with a coupon from our grocer-sponsor stapled to it. Guess who did the copying and stapling? Yep, two of us Wednesday night.

I'm exhausted. But exhilarated, too.

The questions on the chart, from left to right, are: Have you ever tried cucumbers before? How does it taste? Should we include it in school lunches? And then the same questions for canteloupe.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Granola and granola bars

There's certain items at the grocery store that irk me. Too expensive for what they are. Top of the list? Granola bars. If you want ones without HFCS, you'll be paying a lot. Cereal is also something I stock up on only when it's on sale. To combat these budget-busters I've started making my own. In fact, I have the bars in the oven right now. And I made the granola on Monday.

This chewy walnut granola bar recipe is especially nice as it is peanut-free. A nice break from the usual, and helpful for people allergic to peanuts but not tree nuts.

And this granola recipe is fabulous, but I must remember to double or triple it next time I make it, or my family will burn right through it in a matter of days. As you can see, it's from my favorite bread book. I'm still making bread regularly, since it's so easy and delicious.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good news on the school lunch program

Here's the update we sent out to the school parents this week:

The district has chosen our school for a pilot program in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). We are applying at the bronze level. District-wide, we are already meeting several requirements at this level, including nutrition education, PE classes, and our wellness policy. The lunch menus for March, April, and May will be changed to make them align with the HUSSC guidelines.

If the pilot is successful (meaning that the number of lunches sold is equal or higher than in previous months), this program will be rolled out to the other elementary schools in the district.

The menu changes include:

  • White milk choices will change from skim or 2%, to skim or 1%. Chocolate milk will remain at 1%.
  • Whole grains must be served three times a week. Examples include brown rice or whole wheat hamburger buns.
  • Dark green or orange vegetables will be added every week. For example, romaine salad or sweet potatoes.
  • Beans will be served at least once a week.
  • Fresh fruit will be offered at least once a week.


So. Progress is good. I'm happy that we are making these changes without an impact on the budget. However, I have to say, there are a few menu items that perhaps need tweaking. My favorite day is next week. It is "Cheese pizza, romaine garden salad with dressing, mixed fruit, brown rice." Oh, those little kids will just be gobbling up their brown rice that day! Obviously a whole wheat pizza crust would be a better fit, but either it's too expensive or not available from our supplier right now.

There's also a side dish called "Toasted Oatsies." Yeah, essentially Cheerios. A bit odd. My daughter spy tells me that they are fairly popular, though, so that's cool.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Catching up on book club picks

Whoopsie. Apparently I've been negligent in my duties.

February was The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series) which was a lot of fun. Quite a bit of discussion.

March is The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

My old buddy Tish wrote up her favorite books of 2010 for your viewing pleasure. Check it out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Apocalypse Snow

I love the smell of salt trucks in the morning.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Triathlon, revisited

I've been meaning to write this post since missing last June's triathlon. I'm making it up this June! Who is with me?! Women's sprint distance, Naperville, June 12th. It's the old .75K (.5 mile) swim, 22.8K (14.2 mile) bike, 5K (3.1 mile) run thing.

You still have 5 months to train, so no excuses. Unless you are planning on having a baby between now and then. That's an excellent excuse. Also, if you are a boy. Sorry, find your own event.

I'm expecting the following tri-buddies thus far: Erin, for her fourth tri, Carrie for her second, Buffi who has been meaning to do one for awhile but then had another baby, Kate from Atlanta for her first. Anyone else? Who's in?

I think this means I have to start training again. Can I just say that Jillian Michaels' exercise routines (available on Comcast's On Demand for free, or cheap at Target or Amazon) are amazing? 30 Shred, Shred-It With Weights (Kettlebell!), Toning, even her Yoga Meltdown, it's gonna kick your booty even if you give up in a sweaty pile 20 minutes into it.

But eventually I'll have to start swimming, biking, and oh yeah, running again. I should probably pencil all that in.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Certain values of Easy Street

Six months ago when Nea turned 6, I called Blue Cross Blue Shield. I knew that insurance companies often use a little BS move, in which they stop covering speech therapy at that age, claiming that apraxia is a developmental delay. Which it is NOT. More here. They said everything was fine then. Great, I said to myself.

Then we made a mistake. In my 2010 health insurance plan, BCBS covered speech therapy up to $2000 per year. We were going to be over that by just a little bit. (Should have just coughed up the difference. Who knew? Hindsight.) So our SLP wrote a letter of medical necessity (it's a thing of beauty with lots of big words), included a bunch of medical records, and BCBS denied it. Which, it turns out, means that they were denying any ST for Nea forever and ever, amen. Not. Cool. I got the news a day or two before Christmas, and frankly, I was in no mood to deal with it. I called BCBS once before the end of the year and did a little half-hearted protesty thing, but you gotta be in the mood, y'know?

So I called yesterday. Forty minutes later, our file was going for re-review. The nice lady said, "We'll call you within 30 days with the results." I rolled my eyes and took notes in my binder. At 3:00 THAT SAME DAY I got a call back from her. It wasn't overturned, but she gave me the key phrases we should use in the next letter. Apparently our SLP didn't call it verbal apraxia in her session notes, and didn't mention specifically that Nea's gap between receptive and expressive language is huge. Whatever. I'm not worried about it at this point. We have to jump through a couple hoops, and we'll be back on Easy Street. For values of Easy Street that include having a 6.5 year old who can't pronounce her last name.