Friday, December 31, 2010

Five Guys

I'm loving the 60+ degree weather here in Southern Indiana today. Way to ring out 2010. Betsy and I took about a 45 minute walk this morning and got 'too hot.' I wanted to go out for some more walk around 3:45 and took off on the "Heritage Trail," a paved bike/walking trail through Clarksville. C'ville is the kind of town where inflatable holiday decorations are ubiquitous, now deflated on the lawns, the per capita of dogs is high and/or dog owners who don't clean up after themselves and burned out stock cars rest in the yards of homeowners. This particular trail is quite ominous taking me down a tree strewn deserted path with J and J Pallet Company fences on either side, one side barbed wire, the other simple chain link. The smell of burning pallets was pungent in the air but no workers were to be seen (perhaps oompa loompas operate here). 3 young men walked ahead of me and luckily turned off and 20-something men with no teeth on kiddie bikes passed leisurely by. Somehow my cell phone was not making me feel very secure. I finally arrived at the hallowed 'soccer fields' Betsy recommended I walk to. I came back along Brown's Station Way and preferred the threat of death by a 60 mph speeding car to being dragged into the woods and raped and eventually killed. Anyway, as you can tell, I lived and am here to write about it.

In between these delightful walks, Betsy and I went to lunch and shopping in New Albany. What is all the hubbaloo about Five Guys Hamburgers anyway? First of all there weren't hardly any customers in there, and I'll tell you why. All they have is hamburgers, fries, and a hot dog, literally. No sweet potato fries, no cheese fries, no malts, shakes or ice cream, and no patience for two sisters arguing over whether to put onions on the hamburger they were about to share. The burgers are big, and greasy but much like I would make at home. The fries were good, natural cut, oh and they do have free peanuts while you wait. Well, I wanted to try it because it's Obama's favorite. I just don't know why.

Shopping. I have gone completely mad about shopping. I now have a printer/scanner, bath and body stockpile, scrapbooks, crafting supplies, a new duvet to go with my down comforter and sheets, and a dress and heels for a reunion I don't even know if I am going to. It's insane. I feel like a complete shopaholic, reality show, game show junkie. Good thing I drove my parents van so I can load up good.

I am simply stuffed from Simply Thai where we had our New Year's Eve dinner. Edamame appetizer, Spring Rolls (cold, ick), Pad Thai (of course), Loaded Fried Rice, and Red Curry. We ordered spice level 3 out of 5, which was plenty for me to keep the water and tea flowing to drown it out. We stopped at Pie Kitchen on the way home, there seems to be one on every corner now, and picked several decadent desserts for later.

We played two board games, Imaginiff and Pictureeka (Nephew11 and I each won one game), devoured gluttonous portion of 7 layer dessert, watched more Kendra, Chelsea Lately and The Soup to make it to midnight, which I am happy to say HAPPY NEW YEAR and goodnight.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Strawberry Pictorial

This was reportedly the 47th year of the Vicks making Strawberries. My first Christmas my mom was mentored in the fine art of strawberry making in Columbia, Missouri, and we have been doing it together ever since, bringing in the next generation, despite the fact that some of us have thrown up (coincidental) after eating too many. My dad always takes pictures of the endeavor, we have hoardes of them by now, so here goes 2010-


This process starts on the right where I am pictured rolling the balls. Betsy is stressfully shaping the balls while simultaneously rotating them in the red then green sugar. Nephew11 is inserting the green dyed almond sliver that is the stem. (This is sounding a little weird)


Now I have taken over the stem job. Rolling the balls only last so long because your hands gets covered in gook and you then get to lick them off. Boy17 has taken over stage 1, Nephew11 is the shaper, Boy16 is a bystander, still in coat.




Here I am holding up a shaped strawberry for a stem, flexing my muscle for the picture and asking, "How does my arm look?"



This is Betsy Laughing her ass off at my Arm Vanity. Stay tuned, I somehow missed a couple of other pics I needed to add here. So the story is not quite finished.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What is this Wonkiness?


I am trying hard not use words like "crazy," "retarded," and "gay" where those are not literally intended and trying to think of clever ways to get my students and people around me not to use them. The only synonym I can think of for crazy seems to be wonky, and/or that something is driving me up a wall. For the latter two, I have substituted "ri-donk-ulous" not that I am one to use those anyway. Be that as it may, here are some goofy pictures from Christmas, the last being poor Uncle Cal photographed up the nose. The others are me trying to get a good picture of myself, hahaha and our game of "Last Words" after dinner.



Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 2 or 26, Depending on how you look at it

What is up with this new schedule? Today is day 2 of my 27 day winter break. I know, it's sick. But why am I waking at 4-4:30 a.m. when I usually get up at 5:30 for work? This creates a dire need for a nap before noon which doesn't always work out. I have so much to do! But I'm not complaining, no no no.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Left Foot

Things I hate about aging:

When the bank teller asks how old you are not to assess if you are too young for ?? but to see if you qualify for a senior discount. At least I haven't been mistaken for being a grandmother...well, one of my students was wondering why I wasn't a grandma since I have 22 year old off-spring.

My left foot hurts, a new ache between the toes and ball of my foot leading me to believe I will be having foot surgery before I retire. If that ain't old...

When I'm tempted to put on a plastic rain bonnet to go outside. JUST KIDDING!!!!

Lack of memory and having to write all over my hands, and when there is no pen available repeat over and over the same thing so I remember it, and make up little devices to remember things like, I have to get 3 things at the store, they all start with S. And all of this seems so urgent and life or death.

Talking to myself is getting way out of control. Out loud. I am doing it now in public places like stores and privately in the shower and anytime I am frustrated or annoyed. I don't even care anymore. Maybe my years in mental health are impacting me here, too, where talking to oneself is considered a mild symptom.

Menopause. Need I say more? Yes, I have to tell one story. Last summer when Mom, Betsy and I were on our way back to Seattle after our excursion to Vancouver in a rental car after the Alaskan cruise, I was lamenting the fact that my doctor didn't agree that I needed a hysterectomy. And Betsy says, "My doctor said I could have a hysterectomy because of my five rights."
Me: "What five rights? What healthcare bill of rights do they have in Indiana saying you're entitled to one free hysterectomy?"
Betsy: "Five rights? I didn't say five rights, I said fibroids."
That exchange was then enough to wake Mom from her roaring slumber in the back seat to our hysterical, sisterly laughing and was good for two to three days of pants wetting delight. We were all getting a little punchy by then anyway. We then debated how long we could get off work for various surgeries and if a tonsillectomy was also one of our five rights, even if you don't need one and just want some time off.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Little Night Theater

Wow. Now I have seen my son smoke, drink and wear a dress on stage. Last night was the student directed One Act Plays at the high school. Boy17 was slated to direct a melodrama called "The Wild Flowering of Chastity." Friday we learned he was also acting in two of the plays including his own since they were short on actors. Pat and I picked up my parents for a "double date" since it is nice to get in a warm car and have door to door service when you are in your 70's. On the way in another parent said, "He looks nice in a dress" and we looked bewildered since we are always the last to know about our children. She quickly apologized for ruining the surprise.

Before the show my dad and I both agreed to nudge my mom if she fell asleep, make that, started snoring. You do not want that to start since her snoring is akin to a train rolling through town. Midway into the second play, I looked to my left and Pat was sitting with his hand over his face, eyes closed and his usual pained expression on his face (let's just call it his theater mask). To my right I could hear the heavy breathing of my mother which is the precursor to the big snore. On her right was my dad with his head tilted and since his dead eye is on the left it appeared he, too, was dozing. I suddenly started laughing to myself at the absurdity of it, which also helped pass the time. I let my mom go until a faint snore started and then elbowed her gently.

The last act before intermission was called "Two Jerks Buying a Christmas Tree" starring Boy17's best friend Danny and a girl we call Peppermint Patty. They walked onto stage dressed Housewives of New Jersey style talking to each other on cell phones in their best NY accent and mannerisms. Patricia had on a huge fur hat, tight jeans, chewing gum. Danny's standard line was "Whattaya want babe?" They proceeded to annoy the Christmas tree seller on the street with goofy requests such as a 50 foot tree. It was so funny I was busting out laughing with tears streaming down my face. This was originally a Saturday Night Live skit. Both Danny and Patricia are regular actors in the numerous home movies that Boy17 and his friends make. Patricia is one of the two girls, make that three after last weekend, to have set foot in my house. She is from a musical, theatrical family and rides a bicycle straight out of Wizard of Oz. She is unique.

After intermission there was "12 Angry Pigs" with twelve pig jurors sitting at a long table debating the fate of the Big Bad Wolf. Boy17 played Little Boy Blue skipping across the stage offering the jurors a pail of slop, a pizza, then after they jump up to get it, "Nah, it's empty." After finding the wolf not guilty, Boy17 walks onstage in a red riding hood cape dress and yells, "Officer, arrest that wolf," in a high voice.

Finally, the melodrama with Boy17 playing the sheriff with a large fake mustache held on with visible cellophane tape. Boy17 also directed with the aforementioned Danny and it was a fun little farce. Needless to say we were all able to stay awake through the last part in which our son/grandson was involved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Old and Young

I probably shouldn't even be telling these stories, but here goes. Last night Pat (Husband2 ?) and I went over to my parents house spur of the moment, kind of, to socialize. Boy16 had mentioned that "someone is coming over tonight" and when I asked who and he said it was a girl we decided to clear out for awhile to give him some space. No girl has ever been here before except in a group with Boy17 who pals around with a couple of girls.

When we got to my parents, Mom was playing the piano and Dad was in basement. We called him to come upstairs and when he got there he collapsed in a chair completely gassed. I asked what was wrong as I had never seen him like this. This is the man who a year or two ago was riding his bicycle 4 miles up and down hills that I can't manage. His reply was something like, "Honey, I have heart failure, they don't call it Congestive anymore." For some reason, that struck me all at once like a death sentence and his mortality flashed before my eyes. I said, "No, no. That's fatal." Back at me came, "Life is fatal." Oh boy, this was just a conversation I was not ready for.

Now for the youth. While we were visiting at Cedar Drive, Boy16 called first to ask how to work the DVD so they could watch the movie, "Flight Plan." A bit later he called to say "something happened" and the plans fell through. If I ever thought in a million years any monkey business would be going on, I would never have left the house. He didn't ask us to, we thought we were just being nice. Later we come to find out, Boy16 and his friend picked up two sophomore girls at the movies who had to lie to their parents to spend time with the boys. Somehow, Boy16's date's parents must've got tipped off, and arrived at the door of our house to retrieve their daughter and give her and my son a beat down. He and his friends were laughing about it by the time we got home at 8:45 because the dad was a short bald guy who came in the house to deliver his tirade. Both our question was, "Is she Mormon?" Lesson learned for him and us. If that's the worst thing he does, we should be okay.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Don't read this if you think I might send you a Christmas Card

Greetings Family and Friends, December 2010
Forgive the self-indulgent Christmas letter; I will try not to brag too much while updating the Denecke-Tuttle status for those of you I have not socially networked with this year.
Adam is graduating from the University of Illinois at Springfield this December with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. He has been interning this semester at the National Alliance on Mental Illness office in Springfield. He seems to have found his niche in writing and has also assisted with the statewide conference in Peoria. His post graduation plans are a bit mysterious, but I think he is available for nationwide job opportunities. Graduate school is likely to be in his future.


Eli has applied to Illinois State University and University of Illinois for next fall and is awaiting acceptance and financial aid packages. He tinkers with any musical instrument he finds around the house and elsewhere (accordion, keyboards, concertina, drums, sax, harmonica, etc.). He recently made All-State honors in Orchestra. His garage band, Kasa del Phunk, plays locally and has recorded a 5 song EP. This will be good preparation for the career in music education he wishes to pursue. He was honored for four years in soccer when he actually only played two, but the coach teaches French, not math. Eli played the part of the drunken pharmacist in “It’s a Wonderful Life” whom George saves from making a fatal mistake.


Cal started varsity soccer at mid-field and played fall league baseball. He is now on to varsity basketball where he leads the team out for warm-ups and occasionally gets off the bench. This fall he hosted a Danish student and will be traveling to Copenhagen in March to spend spring break with Bjarke and his family (Eli previously hosted and visited his brother, Toke). Then he will move into baseball, his true love.


The three boys are in a height war (must be a guy thing) and fall in the 5’8” – 5’9” range, with Cal looking to take the lead and maybe improve his basketball playing time.
Pat continues in his 8th year with Spoon River College, advising students in classes and life. His office is a shrine to the Bills, which sparks some interesting conversations. He is approaching the big 5-0 and may go into hiding to avoid any attention that may bring.
I started a new job as a school social worker at a “micro urban” high school about an hour away. I work with kids labeled emotionally or behaviorally disordered. I do individual and group counseling, classroom observations, behavior goals and crisis intervention. In my spare time, I study cultural phenomena such as Facebook, the rise of Bristol Palin as teen activist and dance star, and the Michael Vick redemption.


Pearl will be 11 in March and trains for the title of Fattest Tail-less Cat in Macomb.



I am about out of space, so I will close with wishing you and yours a most blessed year in 2011 and do keep in touch.
Love, Susan, Pat, Adam, Eli and Cal

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Firsts


Bjarke("his suit is sick")and Cal


Eli

It's hard to believe it is October with already 7 weeks of school behind us. Our Danish friend, Bjarke, has arrived and is fitting in perfectly with our family. This is Homecoming Week and it has been crazy busy. It is the first time I really feel I have been involved with Homecoming. Eli and Cal have both attended the dance and festivities before but as parents of boys, we are pretty much on the fringe. My involvement was limited to snapping a photo on their way out the door while Pat is assigned to necktie duty. In contrast, this year I was asked by Cal to shop for clothes (aka pay for) Tuesday night 25 minutes prior to the store closing. I also assisted Cal to pick out his date's corsage, but he did pay for that. Eli seems to have mastered that one.

Thursday night we found out Eli was selected for Homecoming Court at Stunt Night. It was tortuous to sit through, what with all the noise, crowd, and microphone deficiencies. Not to mention the goofy skits about the teachers which I could only marginally understand. Pat and I accompanied Eli onto the football field at halftime last night at the game. That was a surreal moment (he did bathe and shave from the early morning Braveheart battle in the river).

This year, Cal is grouped with a boy whose mother likes to talk, and so I was invited to send food to the dinner at her house, and to take pictures of the kids at a nursing home before the dinner. Sounds weird, and it wasn't altrustic of the kids either. I bet you're thinking they were doing some sort of fashion show for the old folks. Turns out it is just a pretty place for pictures outside with gazebo and fake picket bridge. Too bad is was 58 degrees and girls were barely clad. I snapped a few photos before receiving a panicked call from Eli to bring the car home, so he pick up his date. The other moms were on the 300th picture of the girls and there was no end in sight, so I left.

We were also invited to attend the coronation (?) at the dance this evening to take pictures, but it was really cold in the house and I took a hot shower, put on warm pajamas, and convinced myself that if I didn't belong at Homecoming when I was in high school, I certainly don't belong there now. Besides, a professional will take a perfectly fine picture and put it in the newspaper! That is the perfect amount of involvement for me.

A note on Bjarke (or "Barky" as Pat calls him): Bjarke is the brother of Toke who stayed with us for 11 days in 2007 and became good friends with Eli. He is sweet as his brother, charming and funny. He is taking in this experience with the abandon of a child at Christmas and it is so fun to be part of.


The boys with Cal and Bjarke


Dates: Cal's is on the left. I'm not sure if he is tall enough for her.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to School

It's that time again when I struggle to control my emotions. I actually liked school and was fairly good at it, but there's something scary in the start of each new year. I am challenged with a new job and have been at it a week. I wanted to work in the schools and my dream came true. So why is it so difficult? Fear of the unknown is mostly what I have come up with.

Boy(man?)/22 is getting his meager belongings together to go back to school today. He has a furnished apartment and there is not much needed. He survives on next to nothing anyway. It's hard to know how one goes seemingly without food, shampoo, laundry soap, etc. I mean, he has access to these things, but comes back at the end of the year with them still in his car.

The high school boys start back Wednesday but have their first soccer games Monday and Tuesday. Marching band is in full rehearsal as well. Getting their physicals and registration fees and lunch accounts set up, I discovered I neglected the car registration on the boys' shared car. So much to keep track of. My head is spinning and my stomach churning. I'll let ya know when things calm down a bit but for now, I better get busy living.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Details, details, the devil is in the details

These last few days before school/work starts are busy wtih appointments, errands, etc. Today I switched out cars with my parents. With the new commute, I felt a need to be comfortable so I will be driving a largish sedan rather than the rattle trap Corolla. More gas expense, but I hope it will save me some energy and be safer. I know, that sounds really stupid. So that involved transfering the junk in my trunk, license plates, title, registration, and notifying the insurance company. Insuring 3 young men is not a cheap proposition either.

I don't know how people live on one salary these days. The utilities and insurance are as much as a house payment. Supporting kids through college is another one. And there are now so many extraneous 'necessities' like cable and internet.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

100 Degrees of Inferno

It was hotter than a marshmallow in a campfire today. Dejavu??

We departed on time with lunch packed and 9 aboard for Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, a huge theme park in the Hoosier National Forest. Sounds cool and comfortable doesn't it? Not so. It was death defyingly hot. Without the unlimited free drinks and sunscreen there would have been multiple heat strokes throughout the day (and that was just from me). The water park was not any relief at all as the water was all turned to jacuzzi temp and the lines for the slides 35-60 minutes long. The pavement was like walking over burning embers, there was no shade but we persevered. After about 3.5 hours we decided to try the amusement rides where maybe there would be some shade and shorter lines. The shade idea didn't really work out since it was still 110 degrees in the shade. We did ride the Voyage and it was the bad assest ride ever. The kids wanted to do it twice.

We be Trippin'

Highlight of my day: riding to dinner on the back of my BIL's motorcycle. The experience was a little cumbersome with two very heavy large helmets (required in Indiana but not in Kentucky). My head kept bumping against Chuck's when we would start and stop, and it was an extremely hot day, and it was a little difficult to hold my head on one side or the other of Chuck's so as to see where we were going. Other than getting used to that, and believe me, I wouldn't be out of the Interstate without a helmet these days, it was great fun. He rode me down around the Ohio River park development that has occurred over the last several years and I hadn't really explored that area yet.

So many things to do in Louisville. They have the new U of L arena erected, and it is a mighty fine structure. Some say it looks like an airstream trailer, but I'm not so sure. It is unique architecture anyway. The kids and some grown ups went to the Louisville Slugger museum in the morning and found something to new enjoy about it. They went maybe about 7 years ago. In the afternoon we went to Marengo Cave in southern Indiana. I was distracted by the tour guide's accent. She called the Ceiling, the Silling. Good formation and at 52 degrees was a great place to be in the afternoon.
Dinner was at Lynn's Paradise Cafe, an eclectic cornucopia of crap for decor. Interesting. I like playing with the little plastic animals in buckets on the table and the Find It. Food was somewhere in the B range.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

We in the South: Diagnosis Hyperhidrosis

We are as far south as you can get in Indiana, but it feels souther. A 1.2 mile walk to the Falls of the Ohio State Park didn't sound bad yesterday, and I thought those carrying water bottles were wimps. So wrong. By the time we wandered around the fossil beds and walked back to sis's house, we were all drenched including me, who is usually a pretty light sweater. Sitting in a/c all day then was a little uncomfortable with wet clothes on. Our afternoon activity was the water park across the road, Atlantis, which Pat carried out with the five kids. I stayed to help Betsy shop and cook the famous "Hot Brown Sandwiches" I had requested (a Louisville classic). We had 14 open face toasted smothered pockets for 13 people so we were a little stingy with the kids. Turned out they loved them and were turned down in their requests for more. After the adults ate, we actually had 1 1/2 left over. Bummer. Never get the food thing right. Game night had to be divided between two rooms and two games but fun nonetheless.

Pat and I found a cute little coffee shop called "Perk-fection" and breakfasted there yesterday. He decided to cut out early and left this morning, not interested in the Louisville Slugger Museum followed by Marengo Cave this afternoon. Mom, Dad and I stayed back to study (me) and grill hot dogs for lunch between outings.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spillage on Grant Street


This is my bad ass blue leg.

Nothing weird ever happens to me, but today I fell off my bicycle (Ginnie beware). Actually, when I think about it, I'm a little surprised it didn't happen sooner. So, I turned onto this semi busy street, looking behind me to possibly turn left a block or so up and there is a string of cars there. They seem to be following me at my 15 mph pace waiting for me to go left (there is no street to turn onto yet, mind you). I wave them past me, and again they hesitate, but eventually start passing me, and I feel like they are now trying to run me off the road. I decide to turn into a driveway and wait until they pass to cross the road (and take the safer sidewalk) but there is a pool of water at the bottom of the driveway and a slight grade up. My front tire completely turned around and I found myself awkwardly planted on the concrete with my ankle scraped (no blood) and what I know will be badly bruised. I already have the appearance of a hemophiliac ever since I started taking prophylactic aspirin daily. Luckily, none of the cars stopped to make a scene, but a lady a few houses down getting her garbage can asked if I was all right.

Safety plan: eventually I will have to get a helmet, but when you ride at the pace I do, it just looks stupid. I could always use the beautiful sidewalk on this particular street, but I feel it was put there for walkers, and there are quite a few I would offend. Other than that, I will be a little more tentative and aware of those routes that make me a little uncomfortable.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday

I have finished my one and one half hours of studying for my social work licensing exam (an optional step I am fool enough to pursue) tonight so I am free to do whatever. Whatever has been, sorting through scrapbook pictures/papers/etc. in preparation for tomorrow night's class, checking Facebook to see that there are still no new exciting stuff going on in the world, picking a large bucket of corn in a field, riding around in the 1968 International Harvester truck, looking up a Weight Watchers recipe and getting distracted by a new blog called "Simply Nurtured." The writing was good although I am in a very different life stage than the author. I guess in my young parenting days I was experimenting with different parental philosophies, too, so I shouldn't be critical of differences in that area. I have become much more conservative in my parenting, though I seem to have little need to discipline or intervene in my children's lives at this point. Maybe I just think other parents should be a little more authoritarian with their children, even if I was not. My tolerance for other people's children has never been as high as for that of my own, which may explain it.

So, my goal is to study 1 1/2 hours daily and take the exam on August 9. That means working on my so-called vacation. As if the entire summer since May 28 hasn't been one big VACATION. We are going down to spend time with my sister in Southern Indiana the first of August.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Saga



Okay, I admit I am hooked on the Twilight movies. As much as the picture above might infer, I am not, however, one of those bizarre Twi-Moms that I think should be kept away from all teenage boys. I found the first Twilight book to be quite mediocre and so I did not pursue reading the series as many of my friends (admittedly younger than me) did. I really enjoyed the first movie, I think the music had a lot to do with it. It was very artfully done. The actors were all new to me, fresh, and very interesting. I thought the second movie was just stupid and created to promote Taylor Lautner's abs. There's something creepy about 30 and 40something women gushing over a 17 year old boy's body. So, I'll leave it at that. The ending was really dumb and furthers the ridiculous notion that girls need only live to marry the man of their dreams and they will live happily ever after. Balderdash!

That brings me to movie #3. When I first heard about the infamous "tent scene" (I won't ruin it for y'all who haven't seen it and plan to) I immediately thought of Guinevere and her evening with King Arthur and Lancelot all in bed together. That would set off some bells in less constricted women than I! The idea of the love triangle kept my attention nonetheless and was well acted (very palpable performance by Lautner), though I am tiring of Edward's incessant whispering/brooding/depressed characterizations. I loved the opening of the movie, because I know Robert Frost is not high brow poetry, but I adore him anyway.

On a hot summer day, with my old work pals, Twilight was a perfect distraction from life's realities. I do understand, as a female, how it has captured a huge audience as it evokes those long dormant romantic feelings from youth and provides an escape from the ho hum grind of daily life for many women. It also may have to do with the fantasy of being dominated ("changed" "imprinted") by a man.

But who are these men who go to Twilight and unashamedly join teams? And, please, for the sake of humanity, grown women, stop having adult Twilight parties and get a job or a life. You are setting a bad example for your daughters.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Post 6



This picture (you might want to click on this to enlarge) post should probably go under my "Arm Meat" blog. That is where I wistfully engage in discourse on motherhood, the boys growing up, and the passage of time. This summer Boy15 (soon to be 16) is playing Legion baseball for the first time. His classmates have a strong affinity for baseball and so there were enough boys this year for junior legion team (17 and under). He has gotten to start most games at 2nd base and Pat caught him in the picture below starting a successful double play.



On Friday I drove with him to Morton for a game. It was a super hot evening, well maybe not truly that hot, but since there was no shade and no concessions, only a warm water fountain, it was pretty much a sweat and sunburn fest. Afterwards, Boy15 wanted to look around some stores for birthday presents since he will not be getting the now expected CAR on his 16th birthday. He seems okay with that. Boy15 is definitely my pro social kid. We talked the whole evening and it was very enjoyable for me and I think for him. He remembers the most minute details and we had fun reminiscing about different vacations and experiences we have had.



While Boy17 was away at music camp this week, I got at his bedroom. It seems a lot easier for me to throw away other people's belongings than my own. Above you will see a large fish pillow that Boy17 had in the back of his closet. He used it for many years on his bed, but now it is just collecting dust (and this boy is on allergy meds and shots for dust and grass, kind of hard to avoid, huh?). I've found that I can throw things out easier if I take a picture when the articles have sentimental value. So here ya go.

I attended Boy17's final concert on Saturday in Urbana where he was first chair Senior Symphonic Band on trumpet. He had solos in English Folk Song Suite. One sounded just like the melody "and a partridge in a pear tree." He did a great job and again, I could see his three fingers moving on the valves and I wondered how my little baby toddler grew up so fast. They played a wonderful piece called "Satiric Dances" by Dello Joio, which the first movement was really awesome. Very fast and eerie. Boy17 said he knew I would like that one, based on our previous discussions about music. I'm sorry I didn't take my camera into the concert hall, as the students and conductor posed for a photo op. Darn. I was in a little hurry when I arrived only 10 minutes before the start of the concert and forgot it. It was a very nice day and ride home with just Boy17 and me talking all about his experiences at camp and future plans for college.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

thanksgiving 2008?


This could be 2007. At any rate Uncle Cal and I have both aged quite a bit. Maybe if I died my hair a little more frequently and Uncle put on 20 pounds we would be back to this state. haha

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Like

Dog owners who pick up their messes even when no one is looking

Herbie's 34 flavors of soft serve

When my son gets a hit (or two)

Turning my head to the right (because my muscle strain is feeling better)

Boy22's buzz cut

Earnin' a living with summer's off

Alaska

Whoever made up the stars and moon

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 11



The fam.



Adam and the Gram

As I mentioned on Facebook, June 11 was Boy22's 22nd birthday. Also, the bday of Shia LeBeouf, whoever that is. I know 'the kids' know him as some type of celebrity, but really what self respecting 47 year old woman knows who some 24 year old punk is? I just think the name is cool, but hard to spell.

Boy22 is apparently living here this summer, as he sometimes makes an appearance between 3-5 p.m. to drink a double shot of Carnation Instant Breakfast and then disappear somewhere. Occasionally he smells money in the mailbox and miraculously appears before noon to rip open an envelope, leave it on the table, and speed to the bank. The bank of Wal-mart.

I had a job interview this morning followed by a large fat free sugar free Galesburg's best iced coffee. Ran into an old friend of Pat's who did not know who I was. Today is the 15th already. I blinked and last weekend was gone.

Boy17 found an old, but in good condition, accordion in the attic. He is now self teaching on that. Can't wait to hear his first polka.

P.S. On Stanley Park, it is 10% bigger than Central Park in NYC. The first year Kathleen lived there, Betsy visited and she thought they would take a stroll. She had to keep encouraging them to soldier on. They were not equipped with proper footwear and had already had a walk before they got there. Eventually, they learned it was 6 miles around the loop.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mal de debarquement

Immediately after we finished the cruise we rented a car to drive to Vancouver. Maybe didn't realize the toll 7 days of nonstop eating and inactivity would take on our weary bodies. Full throttle ahead, Betsy drove into Canada and contacted her old friend Kathleen from Denver University for a visit. We eventually found our hotel. A converted Holiday Inn Express with dirty carpet and gaudy fixtures and an underground gated parking garage.

After shopping at Hudson Bay Company for some "official" Olympic wear (slim pickins) we met Kathleen for dinner at a small Thai restaurant (ThangThai). Wow, the food was delicious. We ordered one appetizer and four entrees and stuffed ourselves, not quite finishing all the tasty dishes. In the bathroom, though, I swear the building was rocking. Mom and Betsy experienced it, too. I mentioned it to Kathleen, and she said the technical term is "mal de debarquement" which you can see means sickness (mal) of disembarkment wherein you feel like you are still on the boat. I had it in Denmark after sleeping a boat nightly. It happens on land, more often in confined spaces where you are not in motion. Riding in a car, for example, would not bring it on. Back at the hotel, walking in the halls, I had it bad, felt like I was walking the halls of the ship. To tell the truth, I think it's kind of cool.

After dinner we went back to Kathleen's high rise where she has a beautiful view of Cypress Mountain where the arials, moguls and short runs were skiied at the Olympics. Also, the harbor and Stanley Park, a very large public park just two minutes away from her apartment. Kathleen works for the U.S. state department and has a very nice home. She has lived all over the world and collected really nice art and furnishings. This is how I kind of imagined I would live one day in my dreams.




Betsy and Kathleen

We then took a short walk in Stanley Park. It is either the biggest, or very close to it, park in the world. The perimeter is 6 miles. Needless to say, we didn't walk that. Vancouver has the "English Garden" thing going on, along with lots of rain which makes for some very beautiful vegetation.



Afterwards we stopped by the Olympic torch site. Well, one of them. The one Gretzky had trouble lighting was actually indoors at another location, but he did light this second one in downtown Vancouver himself so that people could drive by. They are working to make it a permanent fixture so it can be lit for more special occasions. In the background, you might see the new convention center with it's grass roof.



Then it was back to our hotel to sleep and drive back to Seattle. I was disappointed to see so many homeless (or at least down and out) people on the street after dusk. Hastings Street was just teaming. I will leave you with one last photo. A view of Kathleen's apartment building and downtown from Stanley Park.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Post Script

I will just mix up the dates if I try to back track. I wanted to mention our anniversary dinner. Mom treated us to the French restaurant on the boat (extra charge) for her 52nd anniversary which she was celebrating with us instead of her husband. I had some flavorful cream mushroom soup for appetizer. Betsy and I had the lamb chops. I ordered medium rare and Betsy medium well. Hers were pinker than mine, but they insisted they gave us the correct ones. I couldn't get the fork into those puppies, let alone the knife. Tough as tripe, but plentiful (huge). I finally determined these were loin chops, not rib chops. When Pat and I prepared lamb rib chops for Easter they were delicate and soft and moist and wonderful. I'm glad I spent the extra money on the better cut. Mom had the duck and sent it back for more cooking. Then it took an hour to cut it off the bone and remove the fat. She would have preferred it thinly sliced with a sauce over the top. For dessert Betsy had a magnificent Creme Brulee. This was done right. Actually our mediocre server, Floyd from Jamaica, claimed he had made it himself. Mediocre because despite the fact he only had one or two tables he had trouble remembering the orders and wanted us to read off numbers from the menu which we needed to use reading glasses for. I had the Napoleon, a dark chocolate horribly rich concoction I could only eat half of. All in all, Le Bistro was not a success, but we celebrated 52 years of marriage nonetheless.

Later that night we went to a Chocoholic Buffet which was a big disappointment. Since we hadn't had quite enough chocolate. We couldn't find the fondue, and ended up with more gelatinus desserts than one might find in a nursing home. I never want to see chocolate again.

We had the great glasses hunt several times on the trip. This is something I think Dad is familiar with. This is where mom can't find one of her three pairs of glasses: the red Sally Jessie Rapheal's for distance, the Walgreen's reading glasses, or the Rx sunglasses. Sometimes these are worn simultaneously on top of each other.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Skaguay

It is way too hard to upload pictures on this computer, so forget it. I am down to my last 3 minutes. We had a good day in Skagway. It must have been 90 degrees before the White Pass train left. Up in the mountains it was raining and about 45 degrees. When we got back to port an unbelievable wind storm had started up. People were literally being blown and thrown into the rickety railings of the gangway. Luckily no one fell in the ocean that I know of.



This is a black bear we saw scurrying up the mountain on our train ride. Some people supposedly saw mountain goats as well, but that was way far away. At best, they looked like Q=tip ends.

We are sailing back to Seattle now. And I have a spa date. TTFN. Check back later as I will add pictures and more text when I get back Tuesday.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Cruise Notes

There are 2400 cruisers on board and another 1000 employees this Norwegian Star but I have to say it doesn't feel like it, though it is a small city. I've been waking usually between 5-6 am. and getting up anywhere from 6-7 am. At 3:15 am. I woke one morning it and was still light. I couldn't get back to sleep. Starting to feel like Al Pacino in that movie where he was a detective brought in to AK to solve a murder and he couldn't sleep. Bags under the eyes, just awful.

One night there were pictures with the captain and families and couples were all dressed for it. Betsy marveled at where women find men who 'put up with that crap.' Amen sister. The cruise has meeting times set up for Friends of Dorothy (GLBT guests), Friends of Bill W. (Alcoholics) and who knows what else. BTW, if anyone knows what the "dorothy" reference is to, let me know.

My only complaint of cruising so far is a tinge of smoke from the casino and some people smoking on the deck. We went to a mystery dinner Monday night and met some nice people. OF course, we have to call them by their stage names, Falcon, J.D. (my female husband), Tanya (Betsy's 60 year old twin sister), etc. It was fun. Some got into their characters. They had tables of eight and each table had the same mystery to act out and solve together.

Mom, Betsy and I are having a great time. Mom is using some words I don't usually hear her say. She is enjoying some humor I didn't think she would find funny. We are laughing until unspeakable things happen. Don't ask, don't tell. We have enjoyed Second City, rock bands, Name that Tune, Family Feud, Dancing with the Stars and What's My Line. I submitted an unusual job I had at one time. I then had to act it out for 30 seconds and answer questions from a panel yes or no. I did stump them with my pantomime of "Bus trainer for the visually impaired." My mom yells out in the middle of, "I'm her mother, and I don't even know what she's doing."

I ate 20 prunes in 2 days and got kind of a stomach ache.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tuesday Night

Last night was a nice evening. We had dinner at one of the upscale restaurants and Betsy ordered two entrees and two desserts. I should add the first entree, Sea Scallops and cheese grits was very small, and I did help her eat the prime rib and horseradish whipped potatoes. The evening entertainment was Second City sketch comedy and improv. We went to the family and the adult shows. It was pretty good, especially considering we are aboard a cruise ship. The theater was not nearly as full as it was for Cirque Pacific on Monday night. That show was pretty high quality as far as cruise ships go, but kind of Las Vegas-y.

Juneau

Tuesday in Juneau. I'm rushing right along here. This was the day of our Whale Watch. I fulfilled my dream right off the bat when Humpbacks were sighted not 10 minutes into our sail. This is a really lame picture, but it's my whale. We got to see a mother and her calf breaching. Apparently, this is extremely rare in Alaska because it is a mating signal and they don 't mate in Alaska. This mama was teaching her baby how to do it. No, she didn't give birth, breech, in front of us. They both jumped out of the water head first, like you see the pictures. One guy on the boat did get a picture of them: mama midair and calf all the way out of the water. Have to track that guy down and see if he will share it. It was amazing. Even though I'm not entirely sure I saw it happen. My picture is the tail of the humpback diving under. They only flip their tail when diving deep. They may not resurface for 6-30 minutes.



Also, I will show Betsy with a whole bunch of Steller Sea Lions. I say they were stellar!




Okay, this set up is not going to let me put a picture in. Damn computers.

Ketchikan


A big day of shopping in Ketchikan. Very touristy, very kitsch, but I guess that's what we want. Betsy is high fiving the bear in front of a shop that she and Mom made a big buy in, rings. They are Alaska Diamonds, something like Fool's Gold, I think. But pretty.

After shopping all morning Mom was pretty exhausted so she went back to the ship to rest before her 'Lumberjack show.' Bets and I soldiered on picking up more memorabilia and the rings which were sent to get sized. Did I mention my mom got shouted at by a Russian shop keeper? This occurred when she told him she should have bought more amber in Russia since it was so much cheaper. He then went on a tirade about how the prices have gone up and he is giving the best price in the world, and those vendors in Russia were ripping her off. It was very offensive (not the way to make a sale). The only reason we were still in his shop is because his very pretty and nice niece (Russian girls seem very dramatically made up and it just fascinates me) was engaging us in pleasant conversation.

Mom was about the last one back on the ship and we were anxiously awaiting her return (as we were warned, the ship will wave goodbye to you if you are late for departure). Turns out she got off the boat for her show and went with a girl who was holding a "Lumberjack Show" sign who directed her onto a Duck boat. The vehicle then took off on a tour of Ketchikan bordellos and zoomed into the water to see some wildlife (one bald eagle and supposedly a mother eagle sitting on her nest). Did you know eagles are monogamous for life? Isn't that interesting. Even humans don't do that anymore. No show, no lumberjack, no logs, no nothing. Mom was very disappointed in her complimentary ticket.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Day at Sea

A quick recap because 1) We are approaching a major glacier 2) I am fiendishly hungry and 3) again the internet is very slow

Sunday was a cruise day and my highlight was attending a presentation of shore excursions. After the speel, they asked questions from the lecture, and I ran to the front to answer the second question (correctly) and won a DVD of the Skagway train ride and a free Lumberjack show in Ketchikan. We all agreed mom should see the show since the trip was her treat and she is only booked for one excursion. The DVD I was thinking Uncle Cal, even though he doesn't have a DVD player at his assisted living.




Relaxing in one of the window seats along the Promenade deck. I decided I would walk the promenade 4 times/4 times a day at 1.4 miles each for a total of 5.something miles a day. Well, this only lasted two days before I gave it up. I also didn't see the inside of the gym as I intended.

We had a nice sit down dinner, one of the options of "Freestyle Cruising". I found out FC means you dine when you want. It has nothing to do with your underwear choice. One of our snobbish table mates explained that FC on NCL is "nickel and diming" you. Like they couldn't afford it! That means you pay extra for some restaurants (cover charge $10-25), Bingo ($35 a card), alcohol, even Pepsi. $50 for all you can drink pop. Ha. We'll just give it up. I did drink one can out of my in room refrigerator. This couple described the Market Cafe buffet as the "War Zone" which is actually pretty accurate and we have taken to calling it that, too.

We skipped the Frankie Valli tribute. Everyone said it was great, but we poked our heads in and thought it was pretty lame. Betsy and I attended the Newlywed and Not So Newlywed Show hosted by Candi. It was pretty funny and racey and now we know some of our cruise companions, intimately. In some cases, we know them too well. You remember the kind of questions on the old gameshow?



This is Endicott Glacier. I honestly don't remember what day this was, it seemed like further along in the journey. Betsy was most interested since Nephew11 has been fascinated with glaciers lately. The ship sent a small boat out in the inlet to pick up a piece of floating iceberg. I don't know if that is a good eco-practice, but I touched it the next day. It was just a piece of ice, which I have experienced in my own freezer before.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Seattle's Best

I am having some trouble figuring out how to add pictures so I will do that later when the internet manager is here.

We got to our cruise boat around 11:30 checked in and then Betsy and I went for walk around the Public Market area of Seattle. It was very crowded and full of Seattle grunge/hippies selling their tie dye shirt and leather bracelets. We didn't see the fish throwing show. I'm not sure exactly where that was. We did stop in for a tea tasting which was very nice. Betsy made a $30 guilt buy so we will hopefully be drinking Lychee Black on the boat.




We finally got out of port and the ride is very smooth. Very beautiful. I don't think we ever get out of land view. It is strange that the water is deep enough for the gigantic boat so close to shore. We explored the ship and got something to eat. I didn't get too distressed when a Haz Mat dude walked through the dining room in full garb including respirator. A few minutes later a whole team came back through carrying a red bag. Somebody probably threw up or spilled blood. I wonder why they had to carry it through the dining room, though.


**Norwegian Star**

Went to a show last night. It was a little taste of the performances coming up this week. You would not believe how big and nice the theater is. The host, our cruise director, Candi, looks like Ellen Burstyn, no, not her, Ellen Barkin, with a South African accent. The show was part Cirque, part cheesy theme park show. There was a contortionist girl who was wearing a very distracting body suit. In front, you know where, looked liked a tear drop, and in the back it looked like a poop stain. The sound volume was way too loud for Mom and she forgot earplugs, so she just held her hands over her ears the whole time. Betsy spotted a JFK/RFK/Rod Blagovich look alike in the balcony who obviously had a bit to drink and was singing the words to "tonight's gonna be a good night" and dancing in his seat. After the show he got up and boogie danced with his wife. I was picturing Boy17 playing his trumpet in one of these shows someday. Just for fun.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Airports and Such

Just so you know, I am blogging at the unseemly rate of .55 per minute. And the internet is working exceedingly slowly, I assume so you eat your minutes faster. Cruises rake you on the 'incidentals.' So, if I don't correct my spelling, grammar, and left out words, forgive me.

Back to the airports. Everything went smooth until I realized at O'Hare that I had a rat tail comb in my purse. For those who don't know a rat tail comb is a very pointy, in this case plastic, hair utensil. Since I didn't have anything else to groom hair with, I decided to keep it in my purse since I had already passed security. Imagine my discomfort when they announced there would be random security checks before boarding, and since I was so close to the gate, I couldn't really remove it from my purse discreetly and either throw it away or break the tail off (making it possibly more dangerous item), I decided to take my chances. I made it on the plane without being checked and started eating the leftovers of my candy apple (carmel, white chocolate cheesecake rolled in graham cracker crumbs). I suddenly realized I was now on the plane with not only a pointy comb, but a very sharp wooden stick surrounded by delicious apple. Needless to say, since I am now on the Norwegian Cruise Line (heretofore known as NCL) headed to Alaska, I didn't get caught with that contraband either.

I was real excited that movie showing was "Invictus" since I've been wanting to see it. It started with Ashton Kutcher in a flower shop and that didn't seem right. Eventually I figured out I was watching "Valentine's Day," light barfola fare. It was actually somewhat entertaining, except there were 4 or 5 guys I think go by the names McDreamy, McSteamy and McCreamy and I couldn't tell them apart so that was a little confusing.

We slept in an airport Seattle hotel quite peacefully except for the famous noises of my mother in her disturbing sleep. Betsy and I both awoke at 4 a.m. and the sleep talking, mumbling, snoring, snorting, grinding, etc. was in full force. We had a hard time stopping laughing enough to relax and go back to sleep because more and more emanations were coming all the time. My dad and children know what I'm talking about.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Into the Wild

So my sister calls me tonight and I am out for a long, leisurely bike ride, and gets me all hyped up about travel plans for Alaska. Boarding passes, luggage size, etc. When I say what time we're leaving for the airport, she gives me one of those, Oh's, with the dead air afterwards. Like that's not nearly early enough. I was way too unconcerned for her. I asked her earlier this week how we are going to resolve our inevitable quarrels while spending 10 days and nights together with our mother. There was no answer, of course, but to laugh about the time I was visiting her in Colorado in college and we got into a fight and I called up this goof ball who rode with me, and told him there was a change of plan and we would be leaving the next day instead of 3 days hence. Betsy was stuck lying in bed unable to move because she twisted her neck skiing and couldn't lift her head out of bed. I think she started crying and we made up and I had to call the guy back again and pretend like that was my evil twin who made the earlier phone call. We will have to use our fabulous Vick communication skills and it should make for a laugh later on in life.

I'm sure my dad will have plenty of panic attacks tomorrow when they come to pick me up. I will try to keep the blog up to date, since travelblogging is my favorite kind of blogging. There's always so much more to write about when you are on a grand adventure.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spiffy



Here is Uncle Cal looking resplendent (2nd time I've used that word today) in his new suit. He stopped by to show off the new threads today. He told me he hasn't bought new clothes since his wife Alva died. I'm not sure but I think that was sometime in the 90's. 1990's. He's a sweetheart and is trying to impart all the family history he can to the next generation (or anyone who will listen). His Parkinson's is making his speech very labored at times and hard to follow. Some of his favorite phrases are "he went to work and ..." and "a woman should raise all her husband's children." That last one comes from 'shocking' family history that was revealed about 15 years ago.

Uncle Cal's 1967 International Harvester pickup is in our driveway straight off the Farm in North Dakota. It took my parents 4 days to drive it here from ND. Wow, that was dedication to get that thing down here.

Four days till we leave for the Alaskan cruise. My mom, sister and I are departing from Seattle and will be back June 7. Can't wait.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May 15, 2010

Hello to all my blogger friends. All 5 of you. I have been distracted with the evil empire, Facebook. It has caused me to spend countless hours doing absolutely nothing productive, when I could have been blogging about important issues of the day and at least preserving my memories for posterity (or as long as blogger wants to archive them).

Here is what I have been up to today. Graduation with my Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois. I am totally bragging when I say that I graduated with a 4.0 grade point, though social work is not the most rigorous course of study out there. Oh hell, it's my blog I'll say whatever I want.



After what was supposed to be a one hour ceremony, everyone was on edge. This bag of wind "student respondent" took the stage and thought she was the keynote speaker and blathered on and on about who knows what. No one could pay attention because she was giving a blow by blow of every class and every walk down the hallway she took. It was ridiculous, embarrassing, who picked her?? I would have done a terrible job in my own right, but it would have lasted less than 3 minutes and everyone would have been a lot happier. But who asked me?

Here I am with parents who supported me throughout this journey, and with Pat who has been there every step of the way, encouraging and casting humor on many a situation.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Pics

Who was it that said married couples grow to look like each other? I think it is true and you can see for yourself with these photos taken today.



Animal Cruelty?

Is it cruel to eat little lambs? Well, I just pretended it was filet mignon. I made lamb chops for the first time for Easter dinner today, and it was fabulous. Isn't Easter about sacrificing a lamb or something like that? I made a lot of side dishes since I could only afford 12 little rib chops for 8 people. Turned out everyone was so conscientious that there were two left at the end of dinner. I had to beg someone to eat them.

Here is some Easter artwork I did:

Saturday, April 03, 2010

16,099

A. Number of calories consumed today

B. Number of words in portfolio project I finished yesterday

C. Record number of steps I walked today

D. Number of strokes I stirred the Red Velvet birthday cake for Pat's birthday


I am really exhausted this evening which could be from doing any of the above. This has been a nice long weekend and Boy21 came home today to share Easter with us, although I don't think he has a religious bone in his body. We had a nice steak dinner grilled out tonight.




Boy15 is becoming annoyingly prickly. I guess he is doing his teenage hormonal thing, but I think we are going to have to have a talk about the need to be respectful to his parents (me in particular). He is barely ever home and when asked a question gets all offended and acts like I am the stupidest person on earth.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic Curling



We had a huge (for us) snowstorm yesterday and last night. Maybe 8-10 inches. So the boys got busy last night and spent two hours building this tribute to the Olympics. This is Boy15 with Team USA. Pat thinks Boy16 could have been an Olympic Curler if he had grown up in Canada. Indeed, he is fascinated with it. I think it's pretty dumb.

All the snow means, of course, another SNOW DAY. I can really appreciate these now, since it's not just for the kids anymore. I am on the school schedule, and snow days are a gift. It keeps running through my mind, "This is the day that the Lord has made." I have already trudged to the bank, taken the picture below, sent it to Weather.com, and made a blog entry. Not bad.


Friday, February 12, 2010

For Betsy

Everyone is home, and I am so happy. I feel content and complete. We're actually all in the same room, watching WVU and Pitt, whoever that is. I forgot to put lotion on my hands, but that's okay.

The luge death was tragic. That is going to put a damper on the Winter Games. I haven't paid much attention, but maybe I will find some interest in it as it goes along.

I am trying to think of something to write, and coming up dry. Looking forward to the movie "The Lovely Bones" for Valentine's Day. Other than that, my big test for certification is tomorrow. I have to pass in order to work in the schools as a social worker. Luckily, I don't have test anxiety. Well, maybe a little, more about whether I will be on time, or have the right documents, not over actually taking the test.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Day in Chicago



When Pat mentioned wanting to take the boys to a "Show" in Chicago over Christmas, I was shocked, then a little scared. Pat has not been that crazy about theater or musical productions. He usually hates everything. Now, he has come a long way in the last few years, having a musical and theatrical son. He has truly come to appreciate the events and plays the boys have been invovled in. That's about as far it goes,though. For example, he agreed to accompany me to a university production of Miss Saigon this fall. We didn't have to leave early, but came close.

So, it was now up to me to find something we might all enjoy. A friend tipped me off that a new Cirque du Soleil production was coming to Chicago and the dates would coincide with our schedule. I found a discount ticket source that also has member reviews. As I started reading more about it, "Banana Shpeel" was being panned by almost everyone. I was really nervous because I read that it wasn't a typical Cirque show with all the razzle dazzle. Most people were complaining that the jokes were corny and the schtick went on way too long.

I waited and waited, for our date (Dec. 28) to open up with the cheap tickets. Instead of $55-90 I could get ours for $35-$65. I went back and forth about whether this show would be worth it. Since I didn't really have any alternatives lined up, I finally took the plunge and picked the middle range seats (first balcony) and clicked my credit card information into cyberspace. The tickets were kept at the will call window, so I really hoped this website was legitimate. I printed my confirmation, etc. just in case. Next I checked on train tickets for the four of us, and they wanted over $400. We would have to drive, in that case.

The morning of our show, it was snowing heavily and the roads were not yet plowed. Pat, being the Buffalo trained driver he is, was confident as the snow was to clear up later in the day. We left early and it took about an hour longer than usual.

Parking in Chicago caused a small panic attack. We found the theater and began looking for a garage, but there was not one apparent. Finally after driving around a few one way streets, we saw a big sign for theater parking. It was one of those new fangled pay in a machine on your way out places. Luckily, I had used one before and knew to check all the orifices of the machine for tickets or receipts I might need to exit the garage, but I was worried the garage would be full. We pulled into the first space we saw which was designed for compact car but Pat nimbly pulled the LeSabre and we squeezed out the doors without scratching the two cars inches from ours.

We were only one block from the theater. We crowded into the packed lobby, approached the will call window, and voila`, our tickets were waiting. Into our seats 20 minutes early. Incredible. The theater was beautiful, but not as lavish as the Palace in Louisville, but the same style. The balcony was full, but we were sardined in with an annoying Chicago lady behind Pat who wouldn't stop yapping about everything and nothing.

Eventually the show started with two clowns miming the two sides of the audience to applaud and cheer loudest. That was stale...but finally they got on with the show. The jokes were corny, slapstick and physical humor, but Pat and the boys laughed noisily, which made me laugh, too. They brought out these fake contestants from the audience (ringers) that generated uproarious laughter from my crew. One was a tiny, skin and bones male (Weasel Boy to Eli) who stripped to his colored briefs and striped crew socks, did modern dance and ran around making funny noises. Another was an old man who came onstage with his walker and was kind of raunchy.

Interspred with the Shpeel were big dance acts, a lot of tapping (see below) which I thought was cool and three or four Cique-type acts. One was a lady who could twirl rugs on her hands and feet at the same time; another was a male pole dancer with impossible musculature that allowed for unbelievable pole gymnastics; a third was a female contortionist and her male counterpart who could have easily broken her neck if he dropped her incorrectly.

The criticims turned out to be of no concern to us, since the vaudeville act was the part the boys enjoyed the most. They could care less about dancing and circus acts. We shopped in Macy's but that wasn't a favorable experience; shopping is a female thing, and I am not even good at it. We found a quick restaurant for dinner and headed home. A successful day in the big city.


Note to self: Either get a GPS, or make sure to print out a Mapquest reversing your trip BEFORE you leave.