Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

This post for all of my mid-west relatives who may be worried about our recent weather issues. I hope they keep in mind that the national news sources they may be hearing are based on the East coast - so of course, it's going to dominate the news topics.

The earthquake on Tuesday came an went. I felt it when in a meeting on campus. As some members of the meeting got a little freaked, we all moved to the courtyard. I called over to my office to make sure the kids weren't panicking. They didn't feel it. It was pretty uneventful in retrospect. Aside from the damage of Washington DC buildings and monuments, the only conversation was around humorous pictures of the damage: turned over plastic chairs, or a broken plastic doll from falling off a shelf.

At this moment, we are waiting for the pending rain and high winds from "Irene." The air pressure was causing my knees to ache a little, but I still plucked my self up to do my run this morning. We even got a family trip to Sears to buy the back to school stuff. All back home as the cloud formations over South Mountain were looking different than I've even seen.

We've had the weather on TV pretty much all day. At 4:30pm, we heard that Irene finally hit Ocean City, MD, and that she's still coming this way.

The time is now 5:21pm, and it started to rain. It's predicted we'll get anywhere between 6-10 inches. The Monocacy creek will most likely flood, as will some low lying streets. The Delaware and Lehigh rivers will also come close to cresting, but that might not happen until Monday. The winds may get up to 60 miles per hour. We've had a pretty wet August, so many root systems are loose. We could see a lot of trees come down and take out power with them. We will have all of our mobile devices plugged in before we go to sleep. If the power goes out, it may happen in the middle of the night.

We have everything we need to get through the hurricanapocalypse. We're even planning on a few games by candlelight Sunday night if power is not restored by then. I'll post updates on Facebook for anyone worried. I think we'll have a school delay for the kids' first day of school. That's about as dramatic as we expect things will get here.

#72 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

My son is a worry wart

For the past week, my son has been sharing concerns of his 3rd grade teacher. She has the reputation of being strictest (a.k.a. meanest) teacher in the school. I have some slight concerns about the teacher - but not because of reputations for strictness. They are the same concerns for every new teachers my kids have.

Steve and I worry that we are sending the kids to the right school. Since we were both raised with Catholic schools, the setting seems natural to us. We chose this school more for convenient location to my work - but since then, I've grown quite fond of the school principals, the teachers and the families who also send their kids there. I'm still trying to figure out how the school relates to the parish - but only in terms of operational budgets. The pastoral leader of the parish is a lovely gentleman, and I have no concerns over trusting him. But is the school the right one for my kids? Do they get what they need to help me encourage a sense of curiosity about the world and how they fit? Does this school help me raise them into being good citizens? Does this school do more than teach?

Back to this particular teacher. I've seen her lead school morning prayers. She leads the "regular" prayers (The Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, even the Pledge of Allegiance) with grandeur and dramatic pauses. It's a little over the top. I often fight a sense of urgency to leave during the prayer - but I have to tell myself that her deliberations are only taking 2 extra minutes. I can spare 2 minutes for Jesus....

It's not just her public personality that makes me wonder about her intentions. I've had too many parents come to me with their concerns. I'm the school advisory board president. I have no influence over curriculum or hiring policies. While I frequently assist in bringing programs to the schools, or promoting the school to other community partners, I don't mess with the sticky stuff.

I don't have to like my kids' teacher. If my son is worried that he's going to get detention - then I'm happy he is aware of consequences of behavior. He'll have to figure out how to choose priorities between getting along with the teacher, and getting along with his friends. Time for another step of social behavior lessons.

Will this teacher encourage my kids to learn? Or will she just "teach" curriculum? Will she encourage my kids to explore? Or will she shut down their curiosity questions? Will she tell me when it seems my kids are bored? Or will she think they are trouble makers? I wonder how many conferences I'll be requesting.

If my son is a worry wart, he gets it from me. I only hope that as my kids go through this year - and in the next couple of years - they talk to me or Steve when they have concerns at school. Whether it be with a teacher, a classmate, or a student on the bus, I hope they never feel scared to tell us what's going on.

Why don't I write of worry for my daughter? That's a whole different person. She's already developed a nice hard exterior if she is worried. I can only tell if something is wrong by her silence following a probing question.

Third grade. I remember mine a little too well. I hope I don't mess up too badly when the issues start to get tougher. This might be the year they loose a little innocence. It could be the year they figure out Santa Claus; toothfairies, leprachauns, and the Easter Bunny. Egads, this might be the year they want to know how babies get inside the mommy's tummy in the first place. This could be the year, they start liking boys or girls, or just start to identify their sexual identity.

It's hard to imagine these situations coming. When they sleep, I still see their baby faces.

#71 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm not 28 anymore

I'm still in recovery mode from last weekend. It was a great time, going to three days of Milwaukee Irishfest. After a completely restful five days with the family in Canada, I flew out early last Friday morning. I had about 4 hours sleep before the flight because I stayed up late to turn around the vacation laundry. Knowing how much juggling single weekend parenting can be, I knew Steve wouldn't get to the stinky towels, bathing suits and sweaty clothes. Didn't want to come back to that kind of ripe situation.

When I got to Milwaukee with my friend Jayne, we checked into the hotel, and headed straight to the festival grounds. The gate wasn't opened yet, so we decided to grab something substantial; maybe even some vegetables in order to put our stomachs in a better place than fair food (a.k.a grease pit). When we finally got into the festival, I checked in with my mom and sister, then Jayne and I started our walking tour. The festival is on 22 acres of redeveloped land along Milwaukee's lakefront. There are 11 different stages and another large area dedicated to education and culture in addition to music. All the walking is done on concrete, so legs take a beating. With all the stuff to see; vendor booths, information stations and kiosks as well as smaller stages set in temporary tent, there's no way one can experience all the details of the festival in one day. We were there for all three days; to the final activity of "the scattering."

If the long days weren't enough to wear me out, we were in the same hotel as all of the musicians. Jayne and I went to sleep relatively early the first night. I think we got about 7 hours of sleep. Saturday morning, we saw a Perkins immediately after I pulled out of the hotel parking lot. Jayne knew it meant time for pancakes. As we got seated, I spied a dear old friend and we joined them for breakfast. I knew at the end of that breakfast, I wouldn't get much sleep for the rest of the weekend.

Jayne and I got to the festival on Saturday around 1pm. We stayed until about 10:30pm. We were invited to the seissiun, but decided to head back to the hotel room for a little nap. My friend would call me when he got back to the hotel to seek out the real music. I got a call around 12:30am, so I headed down to the lobby. Jayne was smart enough to stay in bed. There were so many groupies and "me too"musicians. At around 4am, we both gave up the possibility of a real seissun happening, so I went to bed. Of course, the time waiting was not wasted - it was full of conversation about nothing important, and loads of deep belly laughs. When I called it a night, I realized I had grabbed a credit card instead of the room card. I had to call Jayne to get her to open the door. I was still wired, so I blogged. That night was about 4 hours of sleep.

Sunday festival activities started with a huge mass in the Marcus Ampitheatre. My brother and aunt were joining the rest of my family, and I didn't want to miss it. Jayne was a real friend who didn't mind accompanying me (even after waking her up at ridiculous o'clock) Mass started at 9:15am. We got there by the gospel. And I even showered!

After mass, we rolled straight back into the final day of the festival. Another 11 hours walking around and checking things out. After the scattering, we headed back to the hotel. We went to the lobby for one last drink. Three or more hours later, (only one drink - I swear), we gave up hopes for a seissun. The 5:30am airport arrival time scared us. We packed our bags before we sent to sleep so that we would just roll out of bed and hope the shuttle bus. 4 hours sleep.

When we went to the check out counter the next morning, there were still musicians awake and playing music. These guys just don't quit! We shared the shuttle bus to the airport with a couple of people who reeked of alcohol. I was afraid the smell would stick to me - and I needed to be greeting parents of incoming students at 11am. Fortunately, I had a layover in Chicago to help separate myself from all things Irishfest.

On the last leg of my flight, I caught a decent nap. I awoke feeling rested enough to get through the first day of the pre-orientation program, which went to 9pm. I finally hit the last wall at 10pm. I got up on Tuesday with plenty of time to get to campus with the kids by 9am. When we came home at 5pm, my energy was drained, so I laid down for a minute. two hours later, Steve woke me up for dinner.

Wednesday, I started my morning run again - determined to stick with the 4 day routine. I actually got up with the 5:30am alarm. Buddy was very happy to see the sunrise with me. By 5:30pm, the wall hit me again. Same energy cycle today. Thank God, Steve does his weekends with the boys. He's got nothing to hold over me for my bad sleeping choices. I think I'm just about back to normal. But of course, the weekend is coming - and we're expecting hurricane Irene to cause a little mayhem....

Monday, the kids go back into school routine. I pray I'll be back into a normal sleep cycle by then. I'm not 28 anymore. It's taking way too long to recover. I'm just thankful I'm wise enough to be tired from the walking and not sleeping, and not being stupid about the drinking. I like whiskey, wine and beer. I just don't like getting wasted. My mom may not believe me, but that episode on my 16th birthday actually taught me how not to ever do that again. My late party nights are actually quite sober.

I have a feeling, I'll be in the same boat come the Celtic Classic. I won't be hanging out with the musicians. But I will be putting in some late nights and early mornings. And I'll love every minutes of it.

#70 of 90in90 for LUBlogTribe

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two more days of kid juggling

I've said it before - I have the best kids ever. For the last two days, they've been dragged around campus and in town (yet again) in lieu of babysitter. Steve's job doesn't have the flexibility I have in my office environment, so I get to take the kids into work frequently. I consider it one of my major job perks.

But perks can also have a down side; these poor kids have had their brains neutralized by the number of hours spent watching movies or playing games. Once in a while, they'll read library books - but they just don't have as much interest in them as much as I wish. This is definitely one of those "pick your battles" situations. The more movies they watch, the less I have to break up arguments. It only gets challenging when I get "shushed" by them when I'm taking a phone call.

At this very moment - my work is done at the office, and I'm ready to go home. I've been ready to go home for the last 30 minutes; but they want to finish the movie. It's my turn to wait. It's only fair. Just hope the dog can hold on a little longer.....

For the next four days, we'll be trying to adjust their sleeping schedule in order to be awake in time to get on the bus for school. Today was a stretch just getting pancakes down their gullets in time for me to get to the office by 9am. I must admit, I am also working on adjusting my schedule - or should I say, weekend recovery.

There's a few more things to do before the school years starts on Monday - and I'm deftly dusting off the Task List app (Remember the Milk) in order to keep my head clear of all the details. Once their school year starts, the juggling will shift. I'll be back to full office days - but this time I'll be working on efficacy. I don't want to keep bringing my entire desk home. I'll be spending much more evening time on campus as the new job duties roll out. I only hope the kids understand that what I do is important to me.

I will make more time for my family and for my personal health this year. And if I can swing a date once a month with my husband - then I know I'll have reset my priorities appropriately. It is my one "new [academic] year's resolution." We all need a little more balance.

#69 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Who doesn't love pancakes? They are soft, fluffy sponges of syrup meant to power blast into a Saturday. Pancakes are also the go-to celebration breakfast for snow delays. They come in a many forms from purely white processed flour kind, to whole wheat with organic blueberries.

I've tried a few dozen different pancake recipes. I've even tried a few different flours: soy, rice, whole wheat. Varying degrees of yuck on those....

I read a chapter in Michele Norris' book, "The Grace of Silence" about her learning that her grandmother was an Aunt Jemima salesmen; ripe with racial problems. I'll never look at a box of aunt Jemima pancake mix the same way again. I'll probably have similar thoughts every time I see a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's syrup.

I'm not a fan of pancake mixes. When I pack for vacations where I know I'm going to be making pancakes, I'll measure out the dry ingredients and add the wet stuff at the camp site. The trick to any batch of pancakes is knowing how thin the batter should be. So while the dry ingredients are important in their specific proportions, one must never follow the recipe exactly on the wet ingredients. Add the eggs first, then the milk. I always end up adding a splash or two more than the recipe suggests.

For fruit pancakes (applesauce, banana) - add the milk last. For buttermilk pancakes, let the batter rest about 10 minutes before pouring onto hot griddle. The batter always seems a little stiffer because of the creaminess of the buttermilk.

Kids always love chocolate chips in their pancakes. I buy a bag of mini's just for pancakes. I sometimes frame the pancakes with sliced strawberries (see above picture)

We eat pancakes for dinner when we're not in the mood to make a more traditional dinner. "Breakfast dinner" always seems like breaking a rule - therefore; cool. (see next picture)

I don't just eat pancakes with my family. Pancakes are my go-to food when I'm pulling late nights. When I was a student, I would often pull the all nighter study sessions at Perkins - they had a bottomless pot of coffee. After two pots, I needed something in my stomach to soak up all that caffeine.

I never order the pancakes in a cheap restaurant with the fruit topping. It's the same gross syrup-y gelatinous food colored goo with a few chunks of fake fruit. Blueberry, Strawberry, Cherry - all the same stick to the roof of your mouth nasty. I also don't like the fruit flavored syrups. Just maple syrup for me, or I'll make my own simple syrup with added melted butter - like my mom made when she was on a strict budget.

I learned how to order properly at cheap restaurants when eating pancakes at the "adult" time - after the bars close. I ate lots of pancakes after the late shift of tending bar. It was the comfort food to unwind a tough night of sloppy drunks and too many passes. It was the food I ate to power me through the long nights of "designated driver" while others needed the same food to absorb some of the alcohol in their stomachs.

I have the cookbook, "the American Country Inn and Bed and Breakfasts." I've tried so many of them, that I've written notes in the margins on each recipe to keep them straight. The book (and my colleague from France) inspired me to making crepes as an alternative to pancakes. Only because I'm starting to enjoy a little creative cooking with the left-overs. But honestly, if it's round and was flipped on a griddle; I'll eat it.

And now my favorite comfort food has been revealed. Bon appetite.

#68 of 90 in 90 for #LUBlogTribe

Monday, August 22, 2011

Two kinds of tired

This is not going to be a complaint about how tired I am. For many months, I've been concerned about feeling weary and tired about the swirling worries, occasional dizzy spells and moments of sheer physical exhaustion. I know that most of that kind of tired - the bad kind - if brought on by relentless hours of work and worry, with no break for fun, or a little bit of taking care of myself.

But I am only writing about the feeling I'm experiencing with the good kind of tired. The kind of tired that comes after a week of focused exercise, capped off by a long weekend of not sleeping because I was having too much fun to sleep.

My last night of 8 hours of sleep was last Wednesday night. Thursday was a long run, a kayak trip and a lot of upper arm exercise folding laundry after a six hour drive back from a Canadian paradise. That night, I got about four hours sleep finishing laundry so that I could pack a clean bag for the Milwaukee weekend. Had to get to the airport early. Barely any time to putz on things like dreams...

Friday night was a reasonably good sleep. Maybe about seven hours. Saturday night, I stayed up too late with an old friend. Tis friend is the kind of friend where it doesn't matter how much time passed since we last saw each other. We just pick up where we left off. After a few rounds of friendly insults, we catch up on kids and spouses, work and music, and then launch again into more jokes, jabs, and stories. I tried to hang on until the seissun, but when 4 o'clock rolled around, I gave in. I wanted to get to mass Sunday to be with my mom, aunt, sister and brother and I knew that Monday was going to be a long one. So like the grown up I'm supposed to be, I caught about four hours.

I was fine during mass. And a third day of endless but informative walking the festival grounds. Each time through areas, we kept seeing new ideas and got to hear more bands. That night, I stayed up a little late, this time with my new friend bonding with my old friend. My new friend s just as comfortable sparring with the craic as I am. Fortunately, we were both a little more sensible at went to be around 1:30am, so we could have a little rest before getting up at 4:30am in order to catch the early flight back.

I had some really weird dreams on the plane. I only wish I could remember the details. I just remember waking up as the beverage cart was coming to our seats. The nap and crappy airplane coffee was enough to give me the energy boost I needed for some meetings and the rest of the orientation activities with the students. Sometime around 2:30pm, I finally bonked. I had forgotten to eat.

After quickly fixing that need, I was able to keep an even keel of energy before finally calling it a day at the office by 9pm. As I write this now, my eyes are struggling to stay open. My voice is deep from days of too much talking, loud, belly aching laughing and hooting at the music. My legs are stiff from all the walking on concrete. My head is full of ideas and stories.

I wanted to write about my anniversary - but I'll save it for the time when we really celebrate it as a romantic night. Whenever that will be. (Goodness, I hope not too long from now.)

I'm just so tired now.

It's just a good kind of tired.

#67 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

Sunday, August 21, 2011


One of the pleasures of this year'sIrishfest is staying in the hotel with all of the musicians. There's sessiuns going on in random spaces, many levels of inebriation, and lots of good craic.

Craic is the Irish word for conversation. Topics run from where you're from to philosophy of humming birds. Great craic can slide from a good joke to a serious story, to great lies. When there's lots of people, craic becomes like popcorn. Trying to retrace a conversation is almost as fun as the telling.

One thing I like to do in these settings while listening, is watching others. I'll see one young guy try to pick up a girl. When she turns him down, he looks for another option, starts a conversation, and either succeeds or needs to find number three. I see this and am so glad I'm older. These moments can be hard, stupid or silly.

In festival after parties,I sort people into categories:
1. Married and being polite
2. Married and flirting, but safe - no mixed messages; only joking around
3. Married but still a player
4. Wants to be married, but afraid of commitment
5. Single, and loving the variety of options
6. Single and lonely.
7. Single, and thinks their status (main stage performer) will get them anything they want.
8. Musician who is still trying to prove themselves
9. Musician that really loves what they do
10. Musician riding on someone else's coat tails
11. Musician who feels like they need an entourage
12. jerks

Most people are here to let their hair down, meet other musicians they admire or are waiting to be admired. One band still had their costume kilts on. Why do they need to wear it? Maybe they fall into a few if the above categories. I wonder who they really are.

I spent the night talking with a great friend I met at Irishfest 10 years ago. Before this weekend, the last time we really talked was January 2009. We started talking like it was yesterday. I'm lucky that I get to meet people like this every once in a while.

#66 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe