Friday, August 31, 2007


My three year old follows a basic rule: What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine. Aleita is the first to become upset and insulted if you refuse to share something with her, but the very last to actually concede to share something of hers with you. When she wants something of yours, she will oft remind you that it is nice to share - - which indeed works out nicely for her. She stands in stark contrast to our older daughter, Maggie. Maggie has a very tender heart and even from a very early age, has always been willing to share whatever she has with you - - sometimes to a fault where she will find herself without because she's given away all that she has. Aleita on the other hand. . .

A few nights ago, after I was done giving Aleita her bath, I was drying her off and reached over to drain the tub. She started to reach in and grab the bath toys out to put them back in the toy bucket that sits beside the tub. I told her to just leave them there, because Maggie was taking a bath next and would want to play with them. "I don't WANT Maggie to play with them," she declared, and started to pull them out of the tub anyway. I reminded Aleita that her bath was done and that she wouldn't be playing with them anymore, as well as the fact that most of the toys in the tub were Maggie's anyway, but she was adamant about the fact that her sister should not partake in the same bathtime frivolity in which she had just engaged. Despite her tears and a small fit, the toys stayed put. Aleita was "not happy about this." (see my blog entry from 8/24/07 for that story.)

Aleita will often ask Maggie to share her dolls with her, but seldom is the time that she will return the favor. On the occasion that Maggie asks to play with one of Aleita's dolls, she will gather them all up in her arms and carry them around with her so that can't get them. Likewise, when she plays with the Thomas the Train set at Von Maur in the Children's Department, she will rush around the set, gathering up the train cars and piling them in front of her. When another child comes along and wants to play as well, I tell Aleita to share - - this usually results in that child being handed a wooden person and a caboose (and Aleita eventually getting drug away from the train set screaming because she refuses to share.) This morning, Aleita was watching a few minutes of TV shortly before Chris took her to school. As he told her to come upstairs to brush her teeth, she and Maggie passed on the stairs. Aleita let out a pained yell, but did proceed up the stairs. When Chris asked her what was wrong, she sourly replied, "I don't want Maggie to watch the TV."

Perhaps the most telling example of Aleita's unwillingness to share occurred in church last Sunday. Last week, near the beginning of the service, I had given Maggie and Aleita each a roll of Smarties candy. Aleita gobbled hers down in the blink of an eye, but Maggie's more of a savorer. She was slowly eating her candy, one piece at a time. Once Aleita realized that Maggie still had candy, she requested that she give her some. I told Aleita that she had already had her own, and that was Maggie's to eat. She persisted, saying, "but it's nice to share!" When I told her no again, she pouted. Shortly thereafter, our minister began the passing of the peace:
Rev Ellen: The peace of Christ be with you
Congregation: and also with you.
Rev Ellen: Please share that with those around you
As everyone stood and began shaking hands and greeting each other, one small, pouty girl, with arms folded, could scarcely be heard saying, "I don't want to share!"

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Only a week ago this time, Maggie was lamenting that she did not have any homework. Fast forward one week: I enter the door to the after-school care program to pick her up - - she runs to greet me with a hug, then frowns, drops her shoulders and says, "I have more homework." I have explained to her a few times that her teacher said she would have a little homework every night, but so far, that hasn't sunk in.

So far, first grade homework consists of: 1) a sheet of math homework (usually counting and coloring are involved) 2) a sheet of basic reading work, like writing the beginning letter of each picture - - if there is a bird pictured, she writes a "b." 3) memorizing a new Bible verse every night (for those of you who don't know, Maggie goes to a private, religous-based school) 4) reading pages from her primary reader with a parent.

That last one is the crux of the homework dilemma. She enjoys doing the math pages and the reading pages, and so far, she hasn't had any trouble memorizing the Bible verses (and last night's was John 3:16 - - I thought we'd be in for trouble, but she did a great job!) No, the kicker for Maggie is that learning to read just ain't easy. And if it don't come easy, Maggie isn't a big fan of it.

I can't say that I really blame her. The plot line in her stories isn't exactly mesmerizing. Gone are the days of Dick and Jane in the primary reader, though not that they themselves had many fascinating adventures. So far in Maggie's primer, we have met Nan and Ann and Dan and Dad. They do a lot of running, as in, "Ann ran. Nan ran. Ann and Nan ran to Dad." They did introduce a new character to the story, "Adam" in last night's pages. I must admit, I was so glad to see someone new - - hallelujah! He even brought a new verb with him! Adam is apparently more talented than Nan and Ann and the rest, because he not only runs, but he also drums. That's right, Adam runs AND drums. Nan and Ann seem to be fascinated by this, but they unfortunately have a limited vocabulary with which to express themselves, so they simply continue to run while Adam drums. Maybe they will soon learn the word "sit" so they can quit running and take a break already.

In all seriousness though, I really do feel for Maggie as she sits and struggles through the difficulty of learning to read. I actually remember being her age and struggling with that very thing myself. I recall crying and putting up a fight when I couldn't make the words come out right when reading with my mom - - much like Maggie is doing now. She'll get there. . .I know she will. And in the meantime, Chris and I will dutifully listen to her regale us with tales of monosyllabic characters and their repetitive actions as she works on becoming a reader.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Are anyone else's kids "morning people"? Our children definitely are. It takes them all of about 15 seconds for them to go from totally asleep to 100 miles an hour. They definitely did not take after their parents, as neither Chris nor I are early morning folks. In fact, when we were first married, Chris worked second shift hours for several years. He loved the hours, but once we had Maggie, working day shift hours became a lot more desirable so that we could do things as a family.

Our kids scoff at the idea of sleeping in. On Saturday, when most people would love to catch a few extra zzzzz's, our kids' little internal alarm clocks go off and have them springing out of bed about 6AM. As an example of our superior parenting, we have found that we can buy ourselves an extra hour of sleep on Saturday mornings by turning on the TV to the Disney channel the night before when we go to bed. When they wake up on Saturday mornings now, most of the time they head downstairs without distubing us and get sucked into the glow of the TV, contentedly passing an hour watching riveting programming, such as Little Einsteins or The Backyardigans. About 7AM though, the peaceful bliss of the morning evaporates and we are awakened either by: A) someone about 2 inches from our face inquiring about breakfast OR B) the sounds of the squabbling coming from downstairs as the girls get bored with TV and start bickering over the blankets or something equally significant.

I've never understood how they can be so chipper and cheery first thing in the morning, especially because I never have been a morning person. When my brother and I were little, we used to occasionally get all the cereal boxes out of the pantry and build a wall between us at the kitchen table during breakfast so we wouldn't have to look at each other. If that doesn't speak volumes about my attitude about the early morning, I don't know what does.

Maggie, who is not known for excessive periods of solitude, is always especially talkative in the morning. During the week, I am generally up before she is, but usually only by a matter of minutes. As soon as she hears me rattling around in the bathroom, she is right there with me. This morning, I was not quite awake when she started in with what Papa Dale refers to as "nattering," which I assume is a Southernism for talking incessantly. She started by giving me a run-down of who she wanted to play with at recess today, of who had what for lunch yesterday, and then she talked about what she hoped would be for lunch today. All of this and my eyes weren't even fully open yet.

I suppose it could be worse. . . I could have to contend with getting two grouchy kids off to school in the morning. Hmm. . .perhaps this would be a good time to apologize to my mom?

Monday, August 27, 2007


This morning, I ran by the post office on my way to work to pick up some stamps. I was there before the post office actually opened (about 7:30AM) and had planned on just getting some stamps out of the machine. The machine was of course, broken, and did not have anything to offer me but a handwritten sign that stated, "OUT OF ORDER." I should have known. It is seldom that those machines are actually working. At any rate, as I went to leave, I ran into this woman who looked vaguely familiar. I thought I could get away with just a lovely, polite smile and a "hello," but that was simply not to be.

She reached out and touched my arm, and said, "Hey - how are you doing? Wow! You must be letting your hair grow, huh? It looks good." UH-OH. I was trapped, trapped, trapped. I was scanning my brain as fast as I could, trying to figure out just where I might know this woman from. "Oh, I'm not too bad," I said and smiled. Oh crap....who is this woman? And how long until she figures out that I don't have a clue who she is? "How about you? How are you doing?" I asked. "C'mon," I thought....."give me a clue here...." I was hoping that somewhere in her answer I may be able to discern some hint as to where our worlds had collided. But, she just delivered another form of the same pat answer I had given.

Unfortunately, I didn't have Chris with me to ask, "where do I know this woman from?" Not that that usually helps. He almost always looks at me and says, "How do I know? Why do you always ask me that?"

There were so many possibilities to consider: Have I met this woman through my job I have now, or perhaps a former one? Did we go to school together once? Did she date a friend of mine? Did I meet her at church? Do our kids go to school together?????? Oh help!

I had to think of something that could help me gain some information, without looking like I'm fishing, so I asked, "Can you believe it's back to school time already?" I was pretty proud of myself for thinking of such a non-suspect question. Unfortunately, her reply was, "I know! I was stuck behind a school bus picking up a kid for a few minutes this morning." Hmm...that one yielded no gold, did it?

Although only perhaps a minute or two had passed, I was growing more uncomfortable by the second, because clearly, this lady had no doubt in her mind that I knew who she was. I knew if I stuck around, it was only a matter of time before I was discovered. Saying that I needed to head off to work, I made my exit. She told me it was good to see me, and I claimed the same as she headed into the post office (probably to discover the broken stamp giver for herself.) I got in my car and congratulated myself on such a good performance.

and the Oscar goes to. . .

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Hey everybody! I am trying out a new feature! If you look at the right hand side of the page, you will see there is a way to enter your email address if you want to receive notification in your email everytime I update the blog. Just thought I would bring it to your attention!

Friday, August 24, 2007


Aleita has a new favorite saying: "I am not happy about this." She pulls this one out at least a couple of times a day. I am not sure where she picked it up, but she uses it to describe her state of mind from anything from getting her hair combed to being told to finish her green beans. Last night, she wanted me to read her an extra book before bed. When I told her no, she replied, "I am not happy about this." When she gives me her new line, I always respond, "How unfortunate." This morning, as I put her pink and white tennis shoes on, she said, "I want my Dora tennis shoes!" As I already had one on and was almost through putting on the second, I said, "sorry - you get the pink and white ones today." "I am not happy about this," she responded. I replied, "How unfortunate." She doesn't usually argue beyond that point, she just feels the need to clarify with you that indeed, she is not happy with the current state of affairs.

What if we could get away with such candor in our everyday adult lives? Think about all those times when you have to bite the end of your tongue so that you don't say something rude or inappropriate. Imagine if we could simply let go when we are just not happy about something. My day might go something like this: At work - - "Hey Becky, I need you to complete this report by 3PM today." Instead of replying, "ok, no problem," I could simply say, "I am not happy about this." At Wal-Mart - - "Your total comes to $239.32." Instead of just swiping my debit card, I could add, "I am not happy about this." At the doctor's office after waiting 45 minutes past my appointment time, when they say, "sorry we're running so late today," instead of the standard, "oh, that's ok," I could add, "I am not very happy about this."

Truth be told though, I would most likely hear, "oh. . . . how unfortunate."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

First day, first grade

(The above pictures are Maggie - - the one on the left was the first day of kindergarten last year, the one on the right is the first day of first grade this year.)

I can't believe that the summer is over already and school is back in session. Maggie started first grade yesterday. Where did my scared little kindergartener go? Taking her place this year was a brave 1st grader who was disappointed to find out that the first day of school was only a half day. She even came home a little dejected because they had not been given any homework yet. Both yesterday and today, she has fallen into bed dead tired at 7:30PM. I guess first grade can really take it out of you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I got busted last night. Maggie and I were standing in the kitchen while I was doing the dishes after supper. Out of the clear blue, she asks me, "where is that birdhouse I made?" I knew exactly what she was talking about, but to stall and think of something to tell her, I said, "what?" She said, "you know - that birdhouse I made at Vacation Bible School this summer - where is it?"

Allow me to elaborate. This summer, Maggie went to a Vacation Bible School where the theme had something to do with the Wild West. One thing that she brought home from Bible School that week was a really cute "wanted" poster, done in the style of the old West, that had her picture on it and said "Wanted by God." I thought it was really cute, and she has it hanging on her bulletin board in her bedroom. Another thing that she brought home was a tiny cowboy boot about four inches in height, made of thin craft wood, and painted in dayglo orange, pink and green. It had an opening on it the size of a nickel in the shape of a star that a bumblebee would be hard-pressed to get through. She called this creation a bird house. The "birdhouse" hung out on the kitchen counter for a week until she had forgotten about it, then it was shoved to the bottom of the trash can and picked up by our garbage man on an early Thursday morning.

Oh, you'd better not be thinking to yourself: she is so heartless! Not saving her children's special art projects, shame on her, she belongs in the bad mom hall of fame. Confession time here - - NOPE - I don't save every creation my children bring into the house. I will admire and compliment them on their artwork and drawings and colorings and paintings, but I don't save every single one. That's not to say that I don't save SOME things, but I indeed do not save every piece of paper that a crayon has ever touched, or every art project that a gluestick has ever graced. If I did, I think I would have to rent a separate storage facility to simply house it all.

If you visit my house, you will see the kids' artwork hanging on the fridge. As more things come in the house that they want on the fridge, the old stuff has to go somewhere. A few of the things do get saved in boxes I have set aside for each of them that I keep under my bed. Most of it though gets relegated to the vertical file. And occasionally, like last night, my tidy habits have a way of biting me in the butt. And so I looked my daughter in the eye and firmly said, "ummmmmmm......I'm not sure where it is." (because that is true after all - - I don't know where our garbage is taken once it leaves my house!!) But she knows me....yes, she knows me well. She took one look at me and said, "you pitched it, didn't you?" Under the pressure of my six-year old's knowing eye, I caved. "Yes, sweetie, I think I did," I admitted. She didn't seem that fazed by it, and we moved on to talk about something else.

HEY - nobody better diss me in the comments section for keeping the clutter to a minimum in my house by selective artwork reduction. . . .if you have a problem with it, I can always set aside a box of "treasures" just for you. My kids can even come over and help you redecorate. . . .

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


They say that with age comes wisdom. Unfortunately, with age does not come better eyesight. Quite the contrary, in fact. In recent years, I have had more difficulty seeing at night, particularly when driving. A few years ago, I broke down and got glasses to improve my night driving vision, and all was well. This year when I went to have my eye exam and get new glasses, the doctor told me that my astigmatism was one degree worse than it had been, but, good news! my nearsightedness was the same as it had been on the previous visit.

For those of you who do not know, astigmastism is a medical term that means if you want contact lenses, you are going to pay through the nose because they are a lot more expensive than the regular ones. OK, actually it has to do with the shape of your cornea - - your cornea is supposed to be shaped like a sphere, but in people with an astigmatism, it is shaped more like an ellipse, thus making regular contact lenses unable to work for those of us with our weird-shaped corneas. An astigmatism makes it more difficult for the cornea to focus light and has a tendency to make things, like in my case, signs on the roadside, blurry and hard to read.

For the last several years, I have been content to have my driving glasses in the car - - and it's not to say that I can't drive without them, but I know that I obviously see better when I am wearing them. I will fight tooth and nail before having a restriction placed on my drivers license for having to wear corrective lenses to drive. A few years ago, a friend of mine went to the DMV to renew her drivers license, and she too wanted to leave that pesky corrective lenses restriction off her card. As she took the eye test sans glasses, she read a row of letters in the machine and the technician deadpanned, "would you like to guess again?" She begrudgingly dug her glasses out of her purse and reread the line perfectly. Her license now bears the big "R" for her vision. At the time, I said to her, "It's not like you don't always have your glasses on anyway? What's the big deal?" But I think I am beginning to understand.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Growing by Leaps and Bounds

My older daughter, Maggie, is quite tall for her age. She is six years old, turning seven in November. Last year in her kindergarten class, she towered over most of the other kids. I am sure first grade will prove to be no different - - I just measured her on her growth chart on her wall yesterday, and she has grown 3 1/2 inches since her birthday last year, putting her at just over 55 inches in height. When we bought her back-to-school shoes a few weeks ago, she needed a women's size 7. Looking back in my school books where my mom recorded information about me when I was young, I found that Maggie is the same height I was when I was in about the fifth grade....of course, I was always the smallest kid in my class until about 8th grade, so that may not be the best comparison. Maggie has the height and form that I always(and still do) envy. Despite being so much taller than most other kids her age, I am so proud of the way Maggie carries her height . . .she has a long, lean, strong athlete's body, and she carries herself with such grace. She can also run like the wind.

One difficult thing that my daughter has had to endure since the time she was about three though, is that people are always so shocked when they find out how old she actually is. They will ask her how old she is, and once she answers, she always gets the same response, "wow . . . you are really tall for your age!" Many times now when people ask, they will give that surprised expression, but before they can say anything, Maggie will comment for them, "I know. . . I'm really tall for my age." She has countless people that tell her that she will make a good basketball player someday. She has asked on more than one occasion, "Do I have to play basketball?" What do people say to kids who are really small for their age? You'd make a good jockey?

Another difficulty Maggie faces is that people who don't know how old she is always assume that she is much older than she actually is. I think that even the people who know her expect her to act more mature, simply because she has the build of an older child. Sometimes it is easy to forget that she is only six.

I have, at times, been given "that look" by folks who don't believe me when they learn how old she is. When Maggie was five, we ate at a restaurant in which kids five and under eat for free. I told the waitress that we had two children five and under. She looked right at me and blatantly rolled her eyes and let out a little snort as if to say, "yeah, right!" She didn't argue with me, but it was clear that she thought I was trying to cheap out on her.

Only about 8 1/2 inches and a half shoe size separates me from my six year old. I am working very hard to instill disclipline in my fast-growing child. After all, it won't be too long before she's looking down at me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Planning for the Future

On the way to school today, Maggie and Aleita were in the back seat talking. I love those moments when they forget I am there for a little bit - - those times when I get a small glimpse into those things that they talk about when I am not around. This morning, it was hard to suppress my laughter as we drove along. Here is a small snippet of the exchanges between the two of them:

Maggie: When I get older, I think we should have houses next door to each other.
Aleita: No, I want to live with you.
Maggie: Mmmm….well maybe. But how about we just live in houses BESIDE each other?
Aleita: I want grandma and papa to live there too.
Maggie: OK – how about Grandma Mary and Papa Dale move into one house, Grandma Helen and Papa Kenny move in next to them, and you can live on one side, and I’ll live on the other. (notice no mention of dear old mom and dad, hmm?)
Aleita: I want my house to be pink.
Maggie: Me too. Brick like ours, but pink.

They discussed their future housing plans a bit more, then moved onto the subject of what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Maggie: When I grow up, I want to work at McDonald’s. How about you, Aleita? Do you want to work at McDonald’s?
Aleita: Yes – and then I can eat chicken nuggets and french fries and ketchup.
Maggie: You can’t eat them when you’re working – you have to wait until you’re done to eat them. Hey - - how about we work at the McDonald’s by Grandma Mary’s house? We can work together!
Aleita: OK. I want to juggle too.
Maggie: Juggle?
Aleita: I want to juggle in a circus (a glance in the backseat showed Aleita juggling imaginary balls. . ..or flaming swords for all I know!)
Maggie: You can’t juggle in a circus if you are working at McDonald’s!
Aleita: I’ll do both!
Maggie: (finally including me in the discussion) She can’t do both, can she Mommy?
Me: She can if she wants - - she can work at McDonald’s and be a circus juggler.
Aleita: See! I can do both!
Maggie: OK, then I want to do both too.

We always tell our kids that they can be anything they want to be, right? It seems my kids will be living in pink houses near their grandparents, and supporting themselves through their employment with McDonald’s and the circus. Looks like that we may not need that money for college after all, right? Perhaps we’ll keep investing towards that goal, just in case though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Welcome to Wal-Mart!

Why is it that everytime I go to Wal-Mart, I manage to pick a bum cart? As I grab a cart when I go into the store, my mind keeps repeating, "please don't let this one be crappy, please don't let this one be crappy. . ." Since the floor is rough in the entryway to the store, I don't usually realize how bad the cart is until I have pushed it to almost the checkout lanes, at which point I usually just say forget it, and keep pushing my gimpy cart. I sometimes contemplate going back and getting a different cart, but then I convince myself that I may actually end up with one worse than I already have. Plus, I often have my three year old with me, and it is hassle enough to get her into the seat without having to switch to a different buggy.

Through my careful observation, I have discovered there are three basic types of bum carts that you can have when Wal-Mart shopping.

The first kind is like the one I got today. I got a little ways into the store and realized I had a right turner. You know what I mean - - -if the store was set up like a racetrack, I would have done just fine. As it was, the cart wanted to right turn all the way through the store. I had to fight the cart the entire time by overcorrecting to the left to keep from smashing into everything. Luckily, today was a relatively light Wal-Mart run. . .no dog food or cases of pop. . .and no three year old in the seat. You see, the heavier the cart gets, the more difficult it becomes to keep overcorrecting it. When I get a right turner, (or a left turner, for that matter) I tell myself that I am getting an excellent workout for my arms. Who needs the gym when you have a Wal-Mart cart?

The second type of bum cart is the skidder. At times, the problem is that one of the wheels has something jammed in it, or simply just refuses to turn. Or sometimes, it will turn for a little bit, then all of a sudden, jam up and skid down the aisle for awhile. You have got to really put some muscle into it when that happens (especially if the cart contains the aforementioned dog food and cases of pop, or a three-year old, of course.)

The other type of bum cart is the squealer. This cart is the one that may or may not have one of the previously mentioned maladies. Sometimes, its only problem is that it is a noise-maker; other times, you not only have the noise, but you also get the joy of having it be a right or left turner or a skidder. This cart is the one where you experiment by trying to slow down or speed up as you push to see if it will quiet the screeching wheels, but nothing usually makes for any dramatic improvement. The squealer cart is the one that everyone feels the need to joke with you, "guess they can hear you a-comin', can't they?" Ha, ha....that one never gets old. The squealer cart is the Wal-Mart equivilant of nails on a blackboard.

I must admit - on the rare occasion that I actually do score a decent cart, I do a silent little victory dance in my head. It's the little things in life, right?


As of late, our three-year old daughter, Aleita, has decided that there are too many other things worthwhile to do than to waste her time at night sleeping. Up until this point, we have been very lucky in the respect that since both of our children were little, they were really good about going to bed and getting a good night's sleep (and thereby, allowing us to have one as well.) I always prided myself on having done a good job early on of establishing a bed time routine - - -baths, books, prayers - - - and in bed by no later than 8PM. I used to think it was so cute when Maggie was little, because she would lay in her crib and sing herself to sleep. Aleita would lay in her crib and jabber to herself until she fell asleep. . . but both kids knew that once we put them to bed, they didn't cry or whine to get out of bed. And thank goodness, neither of my kids were "crib climbers." No, they both seemed perfectly contented to settle in for a good night's rest once they were put to bed.

Aleita has apparently decided that she is through with this routine. In the last few months, the child makes so many trips in and out of her room at night that we should probably install a revolving door. She has been in a "big girl bed" for a little over a year now. When she was first moved out of the crib, she didn't seem to realize that she could actually get out of her bed on her own free accord for a few months. Once she did, she started getting out of bed soon after she had been put there, but only to get books out of her basket of books. She would then take the books back to bed with her, and look at them by the light of her nightlight. We would go in to tuck her in before we went to bed and find her covered in books. We didn't mind her doing this though, because it calmed her down at night, and she wasn't any worse for it in the morning. And let's face - - she wasn't getting out of bed and bothering us, so no harm done.

Lately though, she seems to have springs installed on her pajamas. Hardly any sooner than she is put down in bed, she bounces right back out it and can be found tiptoeing down the hall to see what we are doing. Repeated threats, and even spanks, have done little good to keep her in bed. Last night, Chris and I went downstairs after putting the kids to bed to watch a little TV. We headed upstairs about 9:45PM to go to bed. As I rounded the last stair, I noticed the light was on in Aleita's room, and then I realized that she was singing. Chris and I went in there, and she looked up from her bed, book in hand, and quite nonchalantly queried, "is it morning time yet?" After being assured that it indeed, was nighttime, and time to go to bed, she was tucked in (again) and within 10 minutes, was asleep.

This problem isn't just limited to the going to bed time though. In the past few months, Aleita has been waking up several times in the night and coming into our room. God bless this child, she walks around my side of the bed (which is nearer the door) to Chris's side of the bed and wakes him up. I have attributed it to the fact that I am a heavier sleeper than Chris is, as well as the fact that travel for work occasionally has me out of town. . .whatever the cause, I can't say that I am sad that she has chosen to rouse dear ol' dad in the night instead of me. The night visits usually start about 3:30AM, and require a trip to the potty. However, they often continue in 1/2 hour intervals after that, and often culminate in a spank by the third one. The other night, Chris woke up (as I snoozed on) to find Aleita sitting on the floor next to Dempsey's bed, just sitting there petting him - - it was 4:15AM. Once she is placed back in bed and settles down, she does go back to sleep. She also doesn't seem any worse for her nighttime wanderings in the morning - - though sometimes it is a double Mt. Dew morning for Chris.

Aleita is only sleeping about an hour at school during nap time, so I don't think that is what is causing the lack of sleep at night. The only things she drinks are milk and water, so it isn't as though she is getting pop or tea to give her a caffeine jolt before bed. Whatever the cause, I hope our little night owl settles into a more peaceful nocturnal rhythm soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


As we were returning home this weekend from our trip, Chris and I stopped at a Buffalo Wild Wings (BW3) to eat. Everytime I eat in one, I wax nostalgic for the dirty little dive of a BW3 that Chris and I used to eat at in campustown in Urbana with Charlie and Kelly. My great memories of that BW3 have very little to do with food, and much more to do with a much younger, more carefree time in my life.....anyway, enough of the stroll down memory lane.

The reason I decided to dedicate a blog entry to eating at BW3 was because of the picture display on the wall as you enter the restaurant. I hadn't noticed it, but Chris pointed it out to me. To have your picture included in this display, you must take the "Blazin' Challenge," and eat 12 of their wings prepared in the Blazin' sauce, in under six minutes, without any dips or something to drink. For completing this challenge, you also win an oh-so-attractive blaze orange t-shirt that I am sure proclaims that you are a Wing-eatin' god or fool or something to that accord.
Here is the description of the Blazin' sauce, as taken from the BW3 menu: Blazin'® - Keep away from eyes, pets, children: The hottest sauce we got. You'd BETTER-BE-READY BLAZIN' ™

The first thing I said to Chris (keep in mind that I had not seen the photo display) is, "I bet all the fools on that board are men." We walked by the board on the way out, and sure enough, there were 20 or so photos - - all men. Most women simply aren't foolish enough to feel the need to participate in this kind of activity.

I've never understood what draws people to compete in activities like this one, especially in eating contests. Every year on the 4th of July, Nathan's Hot Dogs sponsors a hot dog eating contest. This year's winner downed 66 hot dogs AND buns in 12 minutes. It is reported that about 40,000 people attend this event that is held every year at Coney Island, and an additional 1.5 million viewers watch it at home on ESPN. WHY? I don't understand the attraction. A few years ago, we went for lunch on the 4th of July to Bennigan's, and this event happened to be televised while we were there. I had to turn away from the television screen because I simply couldn't watch it while I was eating. It was enough to make you feel sick just to watch them furiously shoving hot dog after hot dog in their mouths. This year in 2007 was the first time in which cash prizes were actually awarded - - but even receiving $10,000 for first place doesn't seem like compensation enough. What's baffling is that people have been entering this contest for years, even though there was no prize money involved - they competed simply to win the "Nathan's Mustard Belt." Why would you want to win this contest? Bragging rights? What a way to charm the ladies (though in all fairness, I must note that a few women do sometimes compete in this contest.)

As I was doing a little research to write this entry, I discovered that there is an organization called IFOCE, which stands for the International Federation of Competitive Eating. They sponsor various types of eating contests held all over the world. According to their website, upcoming events include a pizza eating contest in Maryland, a rib eating contest in Connecticut, and a tamale eating contest in Texas. One of the major sponsors of these events? Alka Seltzer. How fitting.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Chris and I spent this weekend on the road. On Saturday morning we left for Iowa, to attend my cousin Carrie’s wedding, held near Des Moines. I had never attended an outdoor wedding in August, so sufficed to say, we were dripping with um. . . sentiment . . .by the time the reception rolled around. After the recessional, the guests didn’t wait around to see if the bride and groom planned to dismiss everyone by row. No, it was more or less a refined stampede into the air conditioned hall. Actually, once you got past the 95 degree temperatures, it was a very lovely setting to have a wedding. It was held at a golf course, and the wedding site was on a rolling piece of land, overlooking a small lake, with lots of large trees all around (unfortunately, none of which provided shade for the event, but so it goes.) I really did enjoy the chance to get to see some of my family that I rarely get the opportunity to spend time with. One of my cousins and I figured out that it had been thirteen years since we had seen each other. Unfortunately, it seems that the only time most of my dad’s side of the family is all in one place is for weddings or funerals.

The next morning, Chris and I left Iowa and returned back to Illinois. Chris’s parents had graciously offered (ok – they were persuaded) into keeping the kids an extra night for us, so that we could have one more child-free night to ourselves. We decided to stay at the lodge at Starved Rock State Park in Utica. As we checked in that day, we noticed people busy putting the final touches on a wedding being held later that afternoon there at the lodge (an outdoor wedding as well. . .since when did outdoor weddings in August become so chic?) At any rate, later that evening, Chris and I were sitting in the great hall of the lodge, having some liquid refreshment and playing a game of rummy (to all my single readers, this is what high excitement in married life looks like after ten years.) As we played, we could hear the wedding banquet getting underway next to us - - the great hall had been curtained off, but we could obviously still hear the music and the people milling around next to us. Everything that was said over the PA system was also quite public, which is how I am able to recount the following event.

One of the first things that they did at this reception (before the food was served even) was to have the toasts from the maid of honor and the best man. The maid of honor was first and gave a very short, yet heartfelt toast. Soon it was time for the best man. He took the microphone, and said to the guests, “hope you have an hour . . . I have a lot to say.” The guests all gave a little laugh. . . .little did they know that he was more serious than they realized. He then started his toast with this joke: A man walks into a bar and says, “ow.” This less-than-amusing line was met without even polite laughter, and it was all downhill from there. I will spare you all the details, simply because of the space it would take up to have to write it all down, but this man’s diatribe covered everything from childhood, high school, college, and in between. He even managed to work in the fact that his friend’s wedding date was the same date that his own brother had died on four years prior, and then went into detail about THAT event. I have no idea how in the world this man felt that his toast was in any way acceptable - - he actually went on for close to fifteen minutes with his rambling toast. FIFTEEN MINUTES!! Twice, the guests at the wedding starting using their utensils to clink their glasses in an effort to let him know that he had gone on entirely too long. He seemed oblivious to their hints, and plowed right on through. I can only surmise that someone must have had to have physically removed the microphone from him, because all of a sudden, his toast stopped short, and everyone in the room started applauding.

(and those people thought the most uncomfortable experience they were going to have all day was sitting outside in the August heat at a wedding!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Is Dad "BABYSITTING" tonight?

The other day I as I was getting my hair done, I was talking to the lady who was in the hairdresser's station next to mine. We had figured out that we both had children around the same age - - mine are 6 and 3, hers 8 and 4. She also happens to be a mom who, like me, works full time. We were discussing some of the difficulties in balancing family life with work life. At some point, I mentioned that I have to occasionally travel for my job. I explained that it is only usually for a few nights, and then, it is only about every other month. Often when I tell people this, I get a variant of the same response: "Who takes care of the kids while you're gone?" I always answer, "well, their dad, of course!" This response tends to really impress people. This particular occasion was no different. My new acquaintance was surprised to find out that my husband is totally responsible for getting the kids ready and to school each morning, picking them up after school, cooking meals, giving baths, doing stories and bedtime. . .the whole nine yards. . .when I am traveling. She just shook her head and said, "if I had to be gone like that, my husband would take the kids to my mom's house."

When I get these type of responses from people, I am always just a bit baffled. Is the expectation for fathers these days really that low? With more and more women working outside the home, I can't even imagine being in a marriage where it wasn't an equal partnership. Chris and I have an accepted rhythm of what each of our responsibilities are around the house: I take care of the grocery shopping, most of the cooking, the finances, taking care of the flowers outside, and most of the cleaning. Chris takes care of mowing and trimming, and most of the laundry and ironing. That's right - - I said my husband does most of the laundry and ironing. Chris attributes the time he spent working in a dry cleaners in high school and college for his top-notch ironing skills - - and he actually doesn't mind doing it. I have only to hang my clothes that I want to wear to work the next day on the ironing board, and they are pressed and ready to go before we go to bed that night. When most women I know hear this, they think that is just incredible. I DO appreciate that he does this - - I really do (especially because I hate ironing) but I don't get why it is such a huge deal to have a husband who actually helps out around the house. Don't we both work full time hours?

In the same vein, it seems that most people don't think much of it when the husband has to travel for work and the wife is left at home to take care of the house and kids. Why then, are women who have to travel for work looked upon by many so unfavorably? When men have to travel for their jobs, people say, "oh - poor you for having to travel and be away from home." When women have to travel for work, people say, "you should be home with your kids" (OK -they often don't say it, but you can tell they're thinking it.) If the woman takes care of the house and kids while her husband is gone, she is just doing her job - it is expected. If the man takes care of the house and kids while his wife is gone, he is deemed practically a saint. Don't get me wrong, I think my husband is great - - and he really is a wonderful dad - I would never want it to seem like I am trying to take something away from him. I just wonder why, here in the 21st century, are such antiquated gender biases still so inherent in our culture?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Grab your Jacket! It's Going to Be a Hot One Today!

I love when the weatherman says, “well, it’s 98 degrees outside - - but it feels like 112 degrees with the heat index!” Can you tell me that your body can actually discern the difference between 98 and 112 degrees? I have my doubts. It’s not as if 98 degrees is passable, but 112? Well that’s just out of the question! I think August is the time of year when God decides to have a laugh at all those people who kept complaining about the heat in July.

One thing I can’t understand about the heat is the way that some restaurants and businesses respond – their power bills must be enormous! I understand wanting to keep customers happy with a cool environment, but it seems that all too often, during these hot summer days, I sit and shiver in a restaurant when I go to eat a meal. I have taken to leaving a light-weight jacket in my car to put on when we enter a restaurant and it is set on “North Pole.”

I had meetings for work last week at the Hilton Hotel in Springfield. It was so cold in the rooms that you could have hung meat. I was glad I had my little jacket with me in my car - - - it wasn’t exactly flattering over my business attire, but it did keep me from shaking from cold all day long. I am not usually a coffee drinker, but I had coffee with my lunch, simply to warm up a little bit. I would imagine that the amount of money spent to run the air conditioning for the summer in some of these places is enough to feed and clothe the inhabitants of a small, third-world country for days on end.

I notice that it always seems to bother the women a lot more than it does the men. My husband is never as affected by cold restaurants that way I am. Our conversation usually goes like this:
Me: It is really cold in here (as I start to shiver)
Him: It feels good in here to me.

This is a common conversation throughout the summer for us. I notice that I am not alone though. Take a look around the next time you go to a restaurant. Many of the women sit and rub their arms to keep warm, or bring a sweater because they know it will be so cold. Most of the time, the men seem blissfully unaware of the Arctic-like conditions.

One summer while I was in college, I worked for DHS (Dept. of Health & Human Services). It was so cold in that office building that many of the women actually had space heaters under their desks because it was so frigid in there. Complaints about the freezing conditions had gone unheard, so they took matters into their own hands - - - every day, they would enter the office and don sweaters and crank up their portable heaters. When it was time for our break in the morning and afternoon, it was not uncommon to hear someone say, "Time to go outside and defrost!"

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?

Chris and I are trying to do what we can to ensure that we won't have to work until we are 87 years old. We are fortunate that we pay into state retirement plans rather than social security, because in all likelihood, it will not be around by the time we retire. However, neither of us is naive enough to believe that the income from our pensions is going to be enough to sustain us once we are of retirement age.

One way that we have been planning for our future is to work with an investment planner. This method of saving for our retirement is looked upon much more favorably, than say, burying coffee cans of cash in the backyard, which is what I am tempted to do after listening to our A. G. Edwards guy explain how my Roth IRA works. I don't consider myself to be a stupid person, but often times, I find this whole process completely overwhelming. You could take the knowledge that I have of the stock market and investing and use it to fill up a thimble. . .and perhaps still have some room left over in it.

As if planning for retirement weren't challenge enough, we are now attempting to make more prudent invesments toward our daughters' college savings. I thought we had been doing a pretty good job of making headway on this goal, until we met yesterday with Mr. A. G. Edwards guy, AKA, the Master of Doom & Gloom. He had run some numbers for us that showed projected rates for college tuition for both of the girls. He speculated that by the time Maggie and Aleita are of age to go to college, they will need approximately $150,000. EACH. (Keep in mind, these number are for a STATE school, not a private one. . .should they decide to follow in mama's footsteps and attend a private one. . .well, I don't want to even think about that right now.) To say that the wind has gone out of my sails is an understatement. He showed us some investment options to assist us in reaching the goal of having college tuition money for them, but then I reminded him that we like to eat, and that we really enjoy sleeping with a roof over our heads.

Chris and I talked last night, and we have figured out a few ways that we can dedicate a little more money to this tuition savings nightmare. Do I think that we will be able to accumulate $300,000 for college for our children in the next twelve years? My guess is that it is not likely, unless some long lost relative that I am unaware of decides to make a large bequest to us in their will.

After talking with our financial guy for 45 minutes, my eyes were starting to glaze over. I had reached my limit of talking about stocks and funds and investments and such. As we were leaving his office, Mr. Doom & Gloom handed me a prospectus, saying, "thought you might want to have this on hand to use." And I did. As soon as I got home, I set my water glass on it to keep it from leaving a ring on the table.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


The other day, my family was at a friend's house, just sitting on the porch talking. As we sat and talked, my younger daughter was eating a banana. As my husband helped her with some of the peel, part of the banana fell onto the porch. Faster than you could say, "dirty Chiquita," my child had grabbed it and shoved it in her mouth. She knew that I would probably make her throw it away if she hadn't acted so quickly. My response? Well, if there was any damage to be done, it was already done, right? My husband and I just looked at each other and shrugged. Another friend nearby commented, "five second rule, right?"

I can't imagine that there is anyone, at least those with children, who is not familar with the five second rule. Just in case, I'll explain. The five second rule is basically that if any food falls on the floor, you have five seconds to pick it up - - if you can do so in said five seconds, the food is still edible. I actually watched an episode of the Discovery series show "Mythbusters" that showed that food, such as a piece of bread or a slice of lunch meat, that is exposed to bacteria and germs, even for less than two seconds, is indeed susceptible to contamination. OK - so as an educated adult, I know that the five second rule isn't actually valid. . . so why didn't I pry my child's jaws open and extract the banana that had fallen on the porch floor?

I think by the time you get to the second child, you are a lot more worn down. Things that used to upset you with the first one don't seem like such a big deal once the second one arrives. When we brought our older daughter home from the hospital, I could hardly sleep for the first several nights. Every time she would make a sound or move, I would instantly be awake and peering over the edge of the bassinet to make sure she was still breathing. Of course, then when I hadn't heard her move or make a sound for awhile, that would worry me too, and I'd be back hanging over the edge, resisting the urge to hold my hand mirror up to her nose to make sure it would fog up as she exhaled. With the second one, I had a restless night or two, then it was peaceful dreams from there on. I still worry about the younger one, of course, but not nearly to the degree that I did with the first.

A friend of mine, who has three kids, explained it likes this: With the first child, when they drop the pacifier, you scoop it up off the floor and won't give it back to them until it has been sanitized. With the second child, you pick the pacifier up off the floor, take it to the sink and rinse it off, and hand it back to them. With the third child, you pick the pacifier up off the floor, brush it on your jeans, and hand it back to them.

I do, of course, have my standards. I won't let the kids pick up food that has been dropped in a restaurant or other public place. Food dropped on the ground when outdoors is off-limits as well. Most of the time, the five second rule gets instituted at home, and then, usually only because the kids swoop down and grab something before we've had a chance to stop them or to realize what just happened (as was the case with the banana.) We find that most of the time, the five second rule only gets used when it is something the kids actually really like. I have never seen either of them dive to the floor for say, a piece of broccoli or a lima bean.

Drop a green bean on the floor? Better get rid of it. A piece of cookie on the floor you say? One. . . . two. . . three. . . . four. . . .GOT IT!

Monday, August 6, 2007

the floating fiesta

Yesterday, we went to a friend's house for lunch after church. It was nice to have the opportunity to come together, but oh, if only our reason for gathering had been that simple. Like the Blues Brothers, we were on a mission from God. Our purpose was not to save an orphanage from foreclosure, as was Jake and Elwood's, but rather to build the church float for the upcoming parade for the Blue Mound Fall Festival.

The theme for this year's Fall Festival is "Festival Fiesta." Trying to find a way to tie the Mexican culture with our church was not an easy task. We tried our best to someway tie God to a Mexican party associated with big, round hats and margaritas, but kept coming up blank. We thought it more than somewhat sacrilege to offer up a float depicting Jesus with a sombrero, holding maracas and a bottle of tequila. We finally settled on "Sunday morning is no time for siesta," meaning that you should be in church, rather than sleeping in. I thought this slogan was pretty good, until we tried it on a few people and they said, "what's a siesta?" I think I mistakenly thought there were a few words that, though foreign, had acclimated their way into the English language - - for example, what about: croissant, voilĂ , bonjour, or faux pas? Though all French in origin, most English speakers are easily able to understand the meaning in those words.

Hopefully there will be someone standing by who knows the Spanish word for "nap" when a parade watcher looks at our float and questions, "what's a siesta?" Regardless, as long as there is candy thrown, I don't think anyone will really care.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

(wo)man's best friend

My dog Dempsey has gone from a little pup to an old man right before my eyes. The process of his aging has all happened gradually, of course, over the period of the last nine years. It seems strange to look at pictures of Dempsey that were taken several years ago, and compare them to him now. Gone is his black mask, which has been replaced by white. Even his reddish-brown coat is quite salted with white hairs.

Dempsey is my beloved Boxer dog - my child before my actual children came along, and many days, the best behaved of the bunch. My husband and I got Dempsey when we had been married only a year - - our one-year anniversary present to ourselves. He was my constant companion over the course of many nights when my husband, Chris, was working second-shift hours (3 - 11PM) for the first several years we were married. For Chris, he brought comfort through the extra security he provided to me. For me though, Dempsey has been so much more than just my guard dog. In college, I had become used to being surrounded by lots of people all the time. Being married fresh out of college, I found out just how lonely it can be when you and your spouse work opposite shifts. Dempsey provided companionship that I so desperately needed while Chris was gone to work every night.

When we brought our older daughter, Maggie, home from the hospital, Dempsey sniffed and sniffed at her, trying to figure out what this mysterious creature was that we had brought into our home. Every time she would let out a noise or move around, he was on his feet with his head poked into her bassinet to sniff at her again. For the first several weeks of her life, he got little rest, until he became more accustomed to this strange new addition to his life. As she got older and more mobile, I was impressed and relieved at how tolerant he was with her as she would sit on him, poke at him, and tug on his ears.

Three years later, we brought our younger daughter, Aleita, home from the hospital and placed her in that same bassinet. Curiously, Dempsey poked his head in and took a sniff. He then looked at me, let out a snort, and turned and walked out of the room. If I dog could shake his head, I think he would have done it - -it was almost as if he wanted to say, "oh come on. . .must we really do this again? Have you learned nothing?"

Maggie is now 6, and Aleita, 3. He is extremely tolerant and protective of both the children. Try as they both might though, Dempsey remains fiercely loyal to me. When Maggie was four, she tried to get him to sleep in her room with her (he sleeps on a dog bed on my side of the bed on the floor.) We consented to try it, and took his bed into her room. For three nights in a row, we would leave him there with her after stories were read, prayers said, and kisses and hugs given. Each night though, he would dutifully lay there until he heard me go into my bedroom, at which point he would come lay on the floor in the spot where his dog bed had been, and sleep through the night. It disappointed Maggie to realize that he wanted to sleep by me, rather than her. I found it impossible to explain to a four-year old the bond that existed between Dempsey and me.

As much as I hate to admit, or even think about it, Dempsey isn't getting any younger. He has more telltale signs of his aging, other than just his white hairs. He has always been an avid ball chaser - - he loves to fetch his ball for you when thrown across the yard. In his younger days, he would play this game with you until you grew tired of it and finally walked away. These days, after three or four chases though, he lays down out in the yard with the ball still in his mouth to catch his breath and cool off. He used to love to go for long walks with me, but these days, he is panting and slowing down before we have even covered a mile. He also is having a little more trouble with his hearing these days. It used to be that if you dropped a crumb of food on the floor, he could hear it from two rooms away. Now, he sometimes doesn't hear me when I bring him in from outside until I haved called his name two or three times. He is also of late having some trouble with digestive upset with his food - but I'll spare you those details.

I am not naive about where things are headed. Life expectancy for Boxers is 8 -10 years (Dempsey just turned 9 in June.) Our veterinarian reminds me that he has known Boxers that were well taken care of to live to be 12 - 14 years old. I really hope that to be the case. I know that there are folks who could never understand the deep attachment that some people form with their animals. But for me, Dempsey is like a member of my family, and I just can't even imagine a time when I won't roll over in bed and see him laying there on the floor beside me each morning.

I talk to him when I'm lonesome like; and I'm sure he understands. When he looks at me so attentively, and gently licks my hands; then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat. For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that. ~W. Dayton Wedgefarth

Friday, August 3, 2007


I have had dates the last several nights. . . with Harry Potter. I am slowly working my way through the final book as I have time. It has so far been a fantastic read, and it is very hard to put it down, but finding the time to just sit and read for a long stretch isn't always easy.

I am one of the 17 katrillion people who pre-ordered the book. However, I wasn't actually even able to find the time to open the box it arrived in until four days after it had been sitting on the stairs (my ceremonial dumping ground of things that need to go upstairs, but yet often get passed over because actually carrying them up the stairs would mean that I then have to do something with it.) I am apparently the slowest person on the planet to be working their way through the last Harry Potter book. Five days after the book was in my possession (and only one since I had actually unwrapped it), I received my Entertainment Weekly magazine that I was unable to read most of because of all the "spoilers" about the book contained within. I found I could scarcely flip through TV channels without finding someone talking about it. Afraid that they would give too much away and spoil it for me, I would have to change the channel. When I went to visit a friend a few days ago, her 9-year old daughter kept threatening to give away the ending and to tell me the characters who died. I cut my visit a little short for fear that if I stayed much longer, this little spoiler would reveal too much.

Will I make it through the book without anyone feeling compelled to reveal the ending to me? Only time will tell. Perhaps I should spend the next few days in complete solitude until I am able to finish it - - somehow, that just doesn't seem very likely. I should have seen this coming - - naturally, because of the almost unbelievable popularity of the Harry Potter series, one should only realize that everyone is going to want to TALK about it as soon as they read it. I am almost half way through with the book now, and I will probably push to finish it as soon as I can, which is kind of a shame. When I am reading a really great book, I love to take my time and enjoy it. This time though, I just don't want to run the risk that someone will tell me how the story ends. So, if you have read it and know what happens, just keep a lid on it - at least for a few more days!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Let's belly up to the bar. . . at the zoo!

My husband and I took our kids last week to Chicago. While there, we spent a day at the Brookfield Zoo. It truly is a fantastic zoo - - very clean, incredible array of animals, and a wide variety of exhibits. While there, we saw an impressive dolphin show, took a tram around the zoo, and rode the carousel. There were other things to do as well, such as visit the petting zoo and walk through a butterfly display, all of which, of course, involved tacking a lot more money onto your tab. We decided to stick with the basics for this visit. My kids always beg to visit the petting zoo at our local zoo, but then complain the entire time about the amount of goat poop they are stepping in, and end up spending most of their time there trying to avoid it. We thought it wise to just skip it altogether and forego their lilting manure avoidance dance.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention one thing that I just could not get over while at the zoo - - the amount of beer stands. It seemed that every time we turned a corner, there was another beer stand. OK - perhaps that is being a bit over the top, but I was quite surprised simply by their presence there in the first place. The zoo isn't exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think, "you know, I could really use a cold one."

The Brookfield Zoo has two really nice play areas with playground equipment for the kids to play on. It offered a nice break for us to sit for a bit while the kids had a chance to run around and "blow some stink off." (thanks for the addition of that phrase to my vocabulary, Mom.) Close to the play area are of course, the obligatory food stands that are strategically placed so that the kids can beg you for an ice cream cone or a pretzel the moment they stop to take a breather from the play equipment. And located, for your convenience, right between the ice cream stand and the nacho stand? Not one, but TWO beer stands. Parents! Had enough of looking at the elephants and the rhinos? Well grab an incredibly overpriced semi-cold beer in a plastic cup and recharge those old batteries!

Having previously taught elementary school, I had visions of school groups descending on the zoo en masse during the spring for those age-old teacher-torture tests, better known as "field trips." I could just envision a teacher, weary from a long day with thirty little kids who act as though they have never been in public before, eyeing that beer stand with just a slight bit of envy.