Saturday, May 31, 2008

Opening Pandora's ... er ... Website!

A big THANK YOU to my bloggy pal, Donna, for pointing me to Pandora. What is Pandora, you ask?

So glad you asked! It's an internet radio station...sorta. The big difference is you are in control of the station programming. You start by picking a band or song you really like. They will play that song/group right off the bat, but in the background the site is putting together a playlist of other artists and songs that they feel have a similar style and sound as the band you like. Then they play one of their suggestions as the next song. If you like it, you can click Guide Us and say so. Ditto if you DON'T like it. What you end up with is a radio station full of songs and artists you LOVE and nothing you don't. How cool is that?

So far I am on song number 8 and they haven't thrown anything at me that I don't like...and all I did was pick Rush as my starting band. And the sound quality over my cable broadband connection is friggin awesome! Now I wish I had a cigarette lighter so I could light it and wave it over my head. Heh.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friends in the News

One of my bloggy pals (Bridgette of ...And Then There Were Four, a private journal) was interviewed recently. She has a son on the autistic spectrum and has been a tireless advocate of autism awareness and the need for major reform in how our children are vaccinated.

Just wanted to drop a pointer to the article (complete with video). There has been a great deal of debate over whether vaccinations are a cause or contributing factor to the onset of autism. Her story is quite compelling.

At the very least, I agree with the argument that we need to "Green our Vaccines!" Go Bridgette!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Can you feel the soft cool grass...feel it with your toes..." L. Berkner

While visiting Grandma on Memorial Day, Max lost a sock. It was a nice day, so we decided to skip shoes and just go outside in bare feet. I quickly realized this was only the second time Max had been in grass without shoes on. This was his reaction:



Heh. Max may love Laurie Berkner's song Under a Shady Tree, but he does NOT like how grass feels on his toes.

And now it's time for Max's word of the day:




Hope you all have a great week.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Photos from the Show

As I mentioned before, while I was taking video with one hand, I was shooting photos with the other. Here they are.

I decided to just do a one time share rather than post them on my Shutterfly site/album because there are photos of some of Tyler's classmates in there. Shutterfly photos don't show up in search engines and the only way to view them is through that link. Just trying to be mindful of showing other people's kids on the net (something I never used to give much thought to in the past since I never had any hesitation to share photos of my own kids.)

The photos turned out much better than the video did (sorry about that!) LOL! I used my new (birthday) Sigma telephoto lens and quickly realized we were sitting too close to the stage. Wow can that thing zoom in. A good lesson for next time. Plus maybe if we sit further back, I won't freak Tyler out with all that A/V equipment trained on his every move. Heh.

As I said in the note included with the photo link, Tyler and I had a long talk when he got home from school that day about why is Mommy is so camera crazy. He remembered the previous conversation where I explained about childhood memories and looking back one day when he is older. He can't imagine being older at this stage of life, so obviously that argument didn't hold much water with him. Then I went on to talk about all the people in his life who love him and can't always be around to see him growing up and doing cool stuff. It was light-bulb moment for him. "Oh yeah! Grandma and Grampy and Grandma Lois didn't get to see my show! It's too far to drive to get there on time in the morning..." Then he was thrilled I had made the video of the whole show so his grandparents and aunts and uncles and all those nice internet friends could all see him in his play. He wants you all to know that he "worked real hard" and he's sorry he didn't sing the bad wolf song (he thought it was too silly.) Then he wanted to make a video of his brother's butt to share on the internet. Funny, kid. Very funny.

I'll have to remember this argument for the future. "Tyler, smile nice please. Remember, all those people who love you want to see how big you are getting. Photos are important!" Heh. Maybe it will work. We'll see.

Oh! And just an aside... I've mentioned her before, but, Tyler has a classmate who looks just like Dora (from Dora The Explorer). She happens to be a HUGE Dora fan and deliberately tries to maintain her "Dora" look...right down to the hair cut. There's a photo of her at the link above. She's so adorable and a really sweet kid (who likes Tyler a lot.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The wolf said WHAT!??

Today, Tyler had his very first school play. He starred in a kindergarten production of The Three Little Pigs (he was the 3rd pig who made his house out of bricks). This isn't Broadway, but it was cute (and the kids are reading the scripts all by themselves). I was filming with my left hand and taking photos with my right, so the video goes a bit wonky at times. Hope you don't get too sea sick. Also, the audio goes on the fritz half way through Part 3 - I'm not sure why. Either I had my fingers covering the mic or the battery was running low. Needless to say, I'm not too happy about trying to hear Tyler over a buttload of static. I'm not going to embed all these, I'll just link them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkK-050ZzmI Very short vid - I just wanted to capture the stage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwfWB281P7Y Tyler's class arrives - also a short video. Not too exciting, but Tyler looks very cute at the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnVrzBEn7pk The play begins. Tyler's best pal Robert was supposed to be either Pig #2 or the Big Bad Wolf (can't remember which) but he's been out sick the last couple days. Ty was feeling sad that his friend missed his opportunity to be in the spotlight.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rLwBf5UWsU The thrilling conclusion - if you can hear through the static. Sorry about that. I'm sorry, but, excuse me? The pigs didn't make FRIENDS with the wolf at the end of the 3 Little Pigs story *I* heard as a kid. Heh. I like it better when the wolf gets his buns toasted in the fireplace after he attempts to climb down pig #3's chimney. Still, the kids did a nice job for their first production.

Max was VERY good during the play. I was really pleased. We came armed with his sippy full of milk and a snack container full of cheerios. He was transfixed! He sat very quietly and watched the story, only making a couple of excited noises when he saw his brother. I think he might be ok to bring to the circus or to go see his favorite kid's singing star (Laurie Berkner) in concert. Speaking of Laurie...here is one last video of Max enjoying her music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt3jh-Cpx1E
The ringing phone at the end...? That was Grandma calling to chat. She has great timing...she always calls when I'm on the toilet, changing a diaper, or napping with Max. Heh.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bring it back!

Monica has a great topic in her journal today...stuff we miss that we wish would make a comeback - like the old fried apple pie at McDonalds or ice cold Coke in those signature glass bottles.

I could spend a whole entry just on McDonalds alone. I want the original chicken nuggets back (before they were "all white meat" and dry as hell), I want the old french fries back - who cares if they spray them with a beef flavored coating?!, the amazing cheddar burger (quarter pounder sized patty on a whole wheat bun with cheddar cheese sauce and grilled onions...omg they are heaven), the ORIGINAL shakes before they made them lower in fat and took out the industrial plastics that made them so thick...and so on. LOL

But let's move beyond the superficial (and food)... what else would I like to see make a comeback? My waist would be a good one. I miss that. My stamina and upper body strength. Those would be good too.

How about a genuine sense of community? Where are the block parties? The concerts on the green? Folks having open house parties with the grills fired up in the driveway and kegs of beer on ice in the garage? We're all too busy in our own lives and have lost that connection with each other in this town.

I asked John this question too and we brain-stormed. Marathon bars! Remember those? It was like a braid of caramel dipped in chocolate. Mmm! He says "good music on the radio" and I chimed in with "The REAL MTV!" not this reality TV craptastic channel it's turned into.

Wetson's hamburgers (from John). He says it was a burger place in the 60s. I have no clue. LOL! It's funny how many food related things we are thinking of. "New Coke!" He loved New Coke apparently.

Palisades Amusement Park (again from John). Long gone, but not forgotten.

Fanny Farmer chocolate stores. They had the BEST jelly beans ever (yes, even better than Jelly Belly).

There are a TON of TV shows we came up with, but I won't list them all. Honestly, if TV execs and writers have run out of ideas, then why not remake some TV classics? They do it enough in the movies. Look at Battlestar Galactica! That show is kick-ass!

Yeah, all this stuff is pretty superficial. I could list big things like strong and honest government, lower taxes, bringing back the peace (and our soldiers), and freakin' SCHOOL BUSES in this dang town... but superficial is better for my blood pressure.

What would YOU like to see make a come back?

EDITED to add:

For Andi -

Well...I can bring you 3, because they actually DID come back (or never left).

http://www.spencersonline.com/

http://www.babysnazz.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=2&gclid=CPr2pd_NsZMCFRIkxwod9C7gnQ OK, so the legwarmers are for the diapers and spitup set, but hey...they are BACK!

Xanadu - on broadway... http://xanaduonbroadway.com/

For Lori -

I give you http://www.driveintheater.com/index.htm where you can find the closest open drive-in to you. Maybe there is still one that is within a reasonable drive distance! We've been talking about a field trip to one in CT for a while. I think the boys would get a kick out of it. California is your best bet to find a woody. They are a cult classic with the aging surfers out there. ;-)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Max's First Words

For the past couple months, we've had some concerns about Max and his speech. Worried about a delay, we spoke to his doctor. She reassured us that speaking "later" is common in boys; particularly boys with older siblings. Suddenly, a couple weeks ago, Max started saying more words! His list now includes Mama, Dada, TyTy or Tyler (said like "Tywer" so cute!), good, more, bye bye, all done, that, shoes, and the words featured in the following cute videos (please ignore Max's chocolate covered puss and jammies - he was chowing on chocolate chip cookies right before I shot this footage. LOL):




And one more word!




Needless to say, we are tickled! I've been spending more time trying to engage Max in trying to say new words. I also spend all day talking about everything I'm doing and asking Max questions. The conversation is very one-sided and anyone eavesdropping on the baby monitor frequency probably thinks I'm nuts. LOL

Friday, May 16, 2008

Milestone: Tyler's First Movie (non-animated)

We just got finished watching E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial with Tyler. This marks the first time he's sat through an entire feature-length, live-action film (AND paid attention AND liked it!) The only other movie I know of that he's watched, in it's entirety before, is Finding Nemo.

It's interesting to watch this movie again, after so many years...and to see it from the perspective of a very naive and inexperienced 6 year old. He knows nothing of mans search for alien life, or the paranoia of government against any unknown and potential threat, or the effects of exposure to exotic life-forms and the precautions needed to prevent the spread of disease (wow, the questions we got when the faceless men in space-suits showed up at Elliot's house.)

We talked about radiation again (remember the microwave incident?) and it's effects on the human body. That sparked a whole side track on "cancer" and how it forms and why. Whew! Who knew E.T. would be such a catalyst for conversation on so many divergent subjects. We spent a great deal of time talking about the potential of life on other planets (and Tyler's certainty that alien life DOES exist and has already visited us.)

In the end, it's interesting to note that this movie still makes me cry. I cry at the part where it appears that E.T. has died (even tho I know he isn't really dead) and I cry at the farewell scene. Like a baby. Tyler was so engrossed in the chase scene and the space ship landing, I don't think he even noticed Mommy blubbering right next to him on the sofa.

He got so much out of this movie night experience, that I only feel slightly guilty for letting him stay up until 10:30pm to finish watching. Heh. At least it's a Friday night and there's no school tomorrow.

Oh! And he won't look at me funny any more when I point at him and say "Be good!" while doing my best E.T. impression. Yay for updating Tyler's pop-culture references!

For Liz

I found this video on a new blog I started reading today (hi Becky!) I wanted to share it with my birth-mom, Liz.



Thank you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little League 2008 & Stuff

We got Tyler's team photos today...

Tyler's Player Photo

I was instantly struck by how similar this photo is to last year's...

Tyler's Player Photo

He does look a tad younger and less experienced. This year's I think he looks more confident (less squinty too - LOL darn that sun). I have to laugh at the photographer a bit. He finds one good pose and really sticks with it, doesn't he. Props for consistency. Ha! I used a new (to me) photo editing program on the latest picture. Did a bit of color correction. The original shot looks just like the old photo...kinda pale and washed out. Not a true reflection of reality. Anywho, I'm proud of my little slugger. :-)

Changing subjects. We went up north to visit my parents this past weekend. I spent Mother's Day trying to keep Max out of trouble in their very un-child-proof home while John slept in. Wha? Yeah. I feel a little ripped off there. ;-) Tyler made me a, er, decoupage (I guess that's what you'd call it) flower vase and a hand-colored Mother's Day card. I love it when Tyler makes me things. And he loves it when I display them proudly on my desk. Plus John filled the card with my favorite lottery scratch tickets (thanks Hun)...then we all went out to eat at mine and my Mother's favorite local restaurant. Max was acting up a fair amount (the lethal tired + bored + hungry combo) so it was hard to taste and enjoy my meal. Oh well. John told me NEXT year he will make sure the day is all about me and won't let my mom hijack it in her normal modus operandi.

I've been so tired lately. No energy to be online. Lacking concentration. Nothing creative to write about here. I feel very disconnected from my online circle of friends. One even called me to complain that she never gets to chat with me anymore (sorry Kimmy!) I owe her a phone call. Ever since she and a couple other online pals started working full time, it's getting harder and harder to stay connected with them. I know earning a living is important, but I'm sorry...it sucks that these ladies aren't stay-at-homes any more. I'm at my most energetic in the early afternoon (right after my nap with Max). LOL And now I don't have anyone to IM with. Since I know there isn't anyone to chat with, there's no reason to even go online so I just do other stuff.

I keep forgetting to even sign in on AIM or Yahoo or Messenger. Tsk. That doesn't help either.

I thought once the winter was over and I finally got my health back (yay for not needing to blow my nose every 3 seconds and not wetting myself from coughing so hard!) that I would get some of my seasonal motivation back. Have a desire to get out of the house more. Use my new camera. But I still feel so so wiped out. I was sick pretty much non-stop for over 3 months. I have no stamina. No energy. It sucks! I fear it's all just a steady down-hill slide if I don't DO something soon. I think I need to start with a visit to my doctor. I honestly feel like I need physical therapy after all these months of illness and inactivity.

I'm all out of whack and all out of words. Happy Belated Mother's Day to all my Mommy pals.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gerber NUK learner sippy cup

Gerber NUK learner cup

This is currently Max's favorite sippy. He was weaned off bottles and onto this sippy with NO problem whatsoever. He took to it immediately. There are no valves, it's leak proof and the spout is soft (made of latex). The cup comes apart easily and all parts are top rack dishwasher safe. Why do I sound like a commercial?? LOL Honestly, these cups top my list of useful items for weaning babies and toddlers.

But the MAIN reason I am posting this info is to test the power of Google. These NUK learner cups are not easy to find in stores or online. Currently the only place that carries them that I can find is Drugstore.com. And NO PLACE has replacement spouts. The cup, handles and top ring on all Max's sippies are in perfect shape after months of use, but the spouts have seen better days.

SO, after months of looking, and as a public service to all the other Moms out there who love these learner cups, here is where to get replacement spouts! You need to call Gerber directly. Call 1-800-4-Gerber and ask for the NUK Learner Cup replacement spouts. They cost $1 each (with a min order of 5).

End of public service announcement. LOL

UPDATE 7/13/09: Spouts are now $2 each with a minimum required order of $5 (so you have to buy at least 3) and a shipping charge of $5. You may also be charged tax depending on where you live. At $2 each plus shipping I think it still beats the cost of replacing the entire cup when the spout wears out.

UPDATE II 8/3/09: The round hard plastic disk that comes with this sippy is NOT a valve. It is a leak-proof seal used along with the clear dome lid to prevent the sippy from leaking inside a diaper bag or during transport. REMOVE the plastic disk before your child attempts to drink from the sippy. All you need for normal use is the o-ring and nipple-like spout. The spout has a built-in valve to regulate flow and prevent most leaks. If you still have trouble with slow flow, just press on the inside of the spout on the little bump with the X cut through it to flex it outward and give it a bit of a stretching.

Update 4/4/2011:  After several reports that Gerber no longer sells these through their 800 number, I did want to mention that they are still available from Amazon (see above) and Walmart. The entire cup is also sold at Drugstore.com.  The trick is finding them in-stock. Complaints to the Gerber 800 number will score you a free replacement spout to tide you over. Be sure to request a restock at your local Walmart!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Student of the Month

I got a letter from Tyler's school Principal today. For many parents, seeing an official school envelope like that might make them cringe. Not us! But I wasn't expecting THIS:

Letter from the Principal

And Tyler came home with a certificate and award ribbon.

Student of the Month - Smug

Ty has a very "aw shucks" attitude toward our gushing praise, he's very humble. I honestly don't think he realizes that he is student of the month for his entire school! Maybe I should explain that he beat out 8th graders for this. That will probably impress him. LOL I think it's nice that the school is having a special lunch for all this year's Students of the Month. Makes me wonder if they pick someone for June (and that kid is just screwed out of free lunch) or if they just skip June because it's the last month of the school year (and a short month too with school being out long before the month is over).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On being adopted in the 60s...

With all the complaining I do about my parents, there are a few things they did right by me. They never kept it a secret that I was adopted. They kept other things secret such as my birth mother's age when I was born, the fact that they had a court document with her last name on it hidden in their safety deposit box that I didn't get my hands on until I was in my 30s, the name of my adoption agency...yadda. But the fact that I wasn't their biological child? They were open about that; at least to us kids. They did NOT want us blabbing about it to our friends, the neighbors or our school teachers.

That could get rather tricky at times. There were those school science projects... I remember one assignment where we were studying genetic characteristics and I was told to go home and study my parents' ear lobes and then report back to school with who had ear lobes the same as mine. Apparently lobes are one of those traits you get from one parent or the other. Ah. Yeah. I have large, detached lobes (great for earrings). My parents both have attached ones that are close to their heads. I announced this in class and my teacher was going to flunk me for not really doing the assignment. *sigh* Naturally I had to come clean as to why it was possible for my lobes not to match. And yikes, the can of worms! You feel like an act in a side-show. Other than my brother, as far as I knew I was the only adopted kid in my entire school.

That incident, at least, didn't happen until high school. I was able to nip another potential disaster in the bud when, in elementary school, we were assigned to fill in our family tree. I had recently shared with my best friends that I was adopted (and they swore to keep it quiet). They flooded me with questions like, "Where is your REAL mother and father? Why did they give you away?" etc. etc. Questions I didn't have the answer to. But I got stuck on that question of "real". Real? If my mom and dad weren't my REAL parents, did that make them fakes? With how secretive they were all the time and how they always insisted on privacy...maybe I wasn't really adopted. Maybe I'd been kidnapped and my REAL parents were out there, somewhere, looking for me.

Naturally, my friends let the cat out of the bag by telling their parents my secret. Then one of their parents (a real busybody) called my mom to ask if it was true and to grill her for all the dirt. I got into some serious trouble for blabbing. My mom was embarrassed to answer all those questions. She wanted to just pretend I was her natural child so she could nod and smile at people when they said, "Oh, she looks just like you!" Then I found myself wishing they weren't my "real" parents. They were mean!

Oh, back to the assignment. Like I said, I was stuck on the question of "real" and my ability to complete the assignment honestly. So I approached my teacher in private and told her I was adopted. She just shook her head and said, "Your current family is your REAL family, like it or not. You don't call anyone else 'Mom' or 'Dad' do you?" She said some other stuff that made total sense that I can't recall now, but I was grateful that she set me straight on that point. Plus it was a challenge to get info about ancestors out of my Dad. He wasn't the easiest person to talk to.

Other than those two instances and my own perpetual curiosity about my biological family and the circumstances of my birth, my childhood wasn't really all that deeply affected by the fact that I was adopted. Their insistence on privacy may have been another thing my parents did right. My mother used to talk about her infertility woes to me (something we both share) and the fact that they didn't hide things from their close friends at the time. Their friends all knew they registered with an agency and one friend threw them a shower once I arrived. Mom says they got some strange looks at church where, obviously, the weekend before she was NOT pregnant and then voila there was Mom carrying ME into a pew. But no uncomfortable questions. Maybe it was the mid-west decorum (we were in Kansas at the time). She would not have escaped unscathed in Massachusetts, of that I am pretty certain. Talk about nosy neighbors!

Mom says not all agencies did things the same way. Theirs was rather progressive. Others still advocated NOT telling the child about their origins so they wouldn't feel out of place in the family. I mean, seriously... I know there are times where adopted kids do look like their adoptive parents (just look at us; people tell us all the time how much our boys look like us). But what about the kids who look nothing like their parents. What if there are biological siblings who DO look like the parents. Kids aren't stupid. Plus they just might end up getting those annoying school assignments that call attention to the fact that you have no genetic relation to your parents.

Oh! That reminds me of another incident where I got into an argument with a teacher. Advanced Bio...we were learning to type our own blood. Again, we were told that one of our parents would share our same blood type. Ahem. Wrong! I told my teacher that I was A and my Dad was O+ and my Mom was AB-. LOL She started an argument with me. Being a wiseass teen, I was insistent that I was right (and totally messing with her head) and had her good and riled up before I told her, finally, that I was adopted. *snort* Sometimes being adopted came in handy, if you wanted to mess with people. Like how I told my little friends in elementary school. "My mom can't have babies. She's allergic to my dad." Heh. They were all superior in their comments, "You liar! Then how did they have you and your brother!" "Oh, they found us abandoned at an amusement park and just took us home." "No way!" I was such a fibber when I was a kid. ;-)

Friday, May 02, 2008

WeAss #214 - ChaChaChaChanges

Karen speaks of the power of change in this week's Weekend Assignment. She says, "Tell us of one change you voluntarily made in your life at some point, that worked out really well."

Several things pop instantly to mind and are pretty obvious like adopting our boys or building this house, but the more I think about it I realize the single most significant change I made in my life that improved things and altered my outlook in an earth shattering way was my decision to quit my job/old life and move to New Jersey.

See, I was in a soul sucking, dead-end of a job working for a really nice guy but working WITH a bunch of evil shrew women from hell and a few sexist, ex-military, sexually harassing men that gave me nightmares. While working with Satan's minions, I also lost my best friend to suicide and the love of my life decided he couldn't stand living in Massachusetts for one minute longer and he up and moved back home with his mommy. [insert wink] And who could blame him. I didn't like the state either and had moved to New Hampshire myself and was enduring one hell of a long commute each day. I loved my little condo and my boyfriend, but they were very tiny bright spots in an otherwise fairly dark and hellish daily routine.

Add to that some extreme tension between me and my parents over the above mentioned boyfriend, and you have the icing on an extremely rotten cake. What the hell was I doing with my life???

John (the boyfriend) and I had gotten engaged and were planning a wedding in all this mess. Yet another reason I was staying put - most of my family and friends were in New England. When I had a massive falling out with my mother (who called off my wedding), that was the proverbial straw. I got out of my lease (my landlord was very understanding), gleefully quit my job, packed up all my crap into a U-Haul truck with the help of John and a buddy of his from work and made a run for NJ.

John had rented a cute little house from another buddy of his and was busy feathering this new love nest for his future wife when I moved up the time table. We had every intention of waiting until after our wedding to move in together, but life just wasn't working out that way. Instead, I moved in and we re-planned our wedding, in NJ, together. Once we got home from our honeymoon, it was like a huge weight was lifted. I was able to breath again and really start over. I'd found a new job that turned into a successful career and, other than a few bumps, life has been pretty darn good ever since.

If your life totally blows, I heartily recommend bagging it and moving to NJ. Worked for me.

:-)