Friday, November 30, 2012

November 2012 Pinterest Inspirations - I realized today that too many of my conversations start with,

I realized that a while ago, actually (not today), but the statement still holds. So how many things did I do this month from Pinterest? Um, I don't think there were any. I know!! I was rather surprised myself. I thought surely I had tried one single thing, but I could not find one. Guess that shouldn't be surprising since I don't think I'd even been on Pinterest in 2-3 weeks until I went to see if I had done something early in the month. I'll try to do better next month!

Currently feeling: completely and shockingly unpinned for the month!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 and the Folkston Funnel

We had a good Thanksgiving. Hope all of you did, too. I swear the trip to and from Brunswick gets longer and longer every year. The Google Maps app helped us take some super secret ninja shortcuts around the traffic, though, which was nice. It only took us an hour to get from North Avenue to Jodeco Road. That's unheard of on a normal day, much less the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. As we drove, we kept flipping through the SeriusXM Radio stations. I finally got to hear all of Adele's Skyfall theme song from start to finish. If the theme songs for Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever had a baby, you would get the Skyfall song. No doubting it is a Bond theme! We also had Christmas music to keep us company. Now, I am normally opposed to listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but I also knew I wouldn't have to monitor the songs quite as closely to make sure they were "safe" for little ears. We actually arrived at my parents' house before 11 PM! I wasn't even thinking we'd be there by midnight. Yay, more sleep! Except that I then stayed up until 4:30 AM talking to my brother. Oops. But it was worth it!

Thursday was ultimately very low key, just the six of us and lots of good food. If you've ever wondered how to make the best cornbread dressing in the world, we're showing our secret in the above picture: destem your sage leaves (and cut out the center vein), then fry them in butter! Mmm-mmm-mmm. It is anything *but* healthy, but oh so yum. Thursday night, DH and I went to see Wreck-It Ralph at the theater. We were hoping it would be a good one for Luke, so that my parents could take him to see it while we went to see the new James Bond. Alas, it didn't work out that way. (Read my full Wreck-It Ralph review here.)

Friday was supposed to be spent visiting my grandfather and my mother-in-law, but we ended up not seeing my grandfather. As badly as we wanted to go, they had a stomach flu virus running rampant at his care facility about 10 days ago, and there are still cases of it in the building. Stomach flu is not something any of us can afford to have right now, so I was not keen on willingly exposing everyone, especially when we still had to drive home in a couple of days. I am still terribly sad that we couldn't go, but as a mom and wife, it was the right call.

With our unexpected "free time," we decided to finally visit the Folkston Funnel. My dad heard about it several years ago, and we've been meaning to take Luke for quite a while, but we never "found" the time until now. Per their website:
"The Folkston Funnel is a double track which serves as the main artery for railroad traffic into and out of Florida. From the viewing platform in Folkston, visitors can see trains passing on their way to and from Jacksonville, Florida in the south, and a split north of town where trains go west to Waycross, Georgia, and north to Savannah. The platform features lights, ceiling fans, and a scanner to listen in to radio traffic between trains."

Typically, there are several trains an hour that go past, but being the day after Thanksgiving, there was very little traffic. One of the platform volunteers was there with a laptop, monitoring the track traffic. He said there was a train that was 30-45 minutes out. We had intended to watch 2-3 trains for 30-ish minutes, then go eat lunch. I know my child, and he needed to eat soon, but we didn't want to miss the *one* train that was within waiting distance. So, we decided on an impromptu picnic. Mom and I left the boys at the tracks and went to grab food, which turned into more of an adventure than we intended. First, the Michael's Deli where we planned to get food was now out of business. Plan B was Dairy Queen, but they were out of milk for the kids meal. I knew Luke would be crushed, so I walked across the five lane highway to the teeny-tiniest convenience store I've ever seen (my living room is bigger than the floorspace in that store, I kid you not), but they didn't have milk either! So we stopped at a second convenience store for milk, and just about then, we heard the train. ::sigh:: At least the boys got to see it.

As fun as the train was, I think Luke was more excited about the picnic! He is always begging us to eat outside, usually when we walk up to a restaurant that has outdoor seating, which means I didn't have any of my sun protective gear. Ms. Melanoma here usually has no choice but to nix the idea, but not knowing how much shade might be there, I had prepared for some sun exposure (had my shirt and was wearing sunscreen, plus borrowed one of Dad's sun hats from his car). Trains *and* a picnic? I'm not sure life gets any better than that for an 8-year-old boy.

We hoped another train might be "on the radar" by the time we finished eating, but the next closest train was over an hour away. We will definitely make some time to go back the next time we're around on a non-holiday weekend (whenever that may be). We packed up and headed to MIL's house. She is still quite weak from her ordeal back in February and March, and though she is doing *much* better, she had some rather distressing news for us. Her kidney function never did improve after leaving the hospital, so she will be starting dialysis after the holidays and will be added to the transplant list. Her family (siblings and children) are all still trying to decide what to do about getting tested and/or donating. I envision next year being a very long and possibly traumatic one. If you could keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers, I would appreciate it. Other than that, the visit was very good. Luke is both thrilled with and a little afraid of her dog, and they mutually tired each other out.

After much debate, we finally decided to head home Saturday evening instead of waiting until Sunday with everyone else on the planet. We didn't get home until about 1 AM, but I still think it was the right call. With Luke still getting over his sinus infection and everyone just being so tired and worn down from all the stress of the last few weeks (with the new job and all), it was nice to have a down day before plunging into another week. A very very busy three days, but well worth it. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Currently feeling: full of turkey

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - November 21, 2012

Currently feeling: awed by the beauty (and amazed with the quality of my cell phone's camera! well, when there's good light)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Official 8 Year Old Stats

Finally had Luke's well visit for this year. (We had to move last year's appointment to November, and now the insurance company won't let me move it back because "it hasn't been a full year since his last one." GGRRR!!!). He's, um, bigger! LOL
  • Height: 54 in (1.37 m), 92nd percentile, up 3 in (7.6 cm) from last year
  • Weight: 71 lbs (32.2 kg), 88th percentile, up 9 lbs (4 kg) from last year
  • Doctor's verdict: "He looks perfect!"
Well, except for the traditional Thanksgiving sinus infection; that was not so perfect. Luke will now behaving his traditional Thanksgiving antibiotics yet again this year. Yay. Not sure who is less thrilled, us or him.

We have also hit the "milestone" I have been dreading suspected was coming for some time now. He is being referred for a psychoeducational evaluation for reading issues. According to his pediatrician, children's academic abilities are loosely categorized into five levels: average, below and above grade level, and far below and far above grade level. No child should have a gap of more than two levels between math and reading ability. Any child as advanced in math ability as Luke should be reading at least on grade level by now; the fact that he is not indicates some sort of issue, and this is the way to find out what that might be and how to help him improve.

I know it's what is best for him, and as his mom, I want to do anything I can to help him. I'm just not happy that we're having to do it. No amount of rationally knowing that it's not my fault (it's just the way his brain works; it's nothing I did or didn't do) is helping me *not* feel like a terrible mom, if for no other reason than I've known there was an issue and maybe I should have pushed for the testing sooner. I just kept hoping it would resolve itself and the reading would click, just like everyone (including his pediatrician) has said since he was about 4 years old. Mom guilt at its finest! :-\

I also ended up missing a meeting with my manager. She called my cell about 8:40, just as the doctor came in (I actually had my phone in my hand to turn the ringer off). She was calling to make sure I was okay since I'm "never late." I explained that I was at Luke's appointment. "Oh, but you accepted a meeting invite for this morning." I did? Um, not sure how that happened. "We reschedule for later this morning." Okay, thanks. I should be back in the office around 10.

I was completely mortified about the while thing. When I did finally get to the office, I checked into it. If she had called and asked me if I could meet her on Monday at 8:30, I would have said no, because I knew he had his appointment today. But she sent me an invite and I accepted because my calendar showed the time slot as empty, despite the fact that I *knew* I had marked his appointment on my work calendar expressly to avoid this very situation. So what happened? I had the appointment on the wrong Monday!! ::sigh:: There's no accounting for an ID-10-T error.

All in all, not our best well visit, but he's healthy, and I do hope we can get him what he needs to be successful going forward. That's all a mother can ask for.

Currently feeling: emotionally conflicted

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2012 Rain Gutter Regatta

Luke participated in his first Rain Gutter Regatta on Sunday. I was familiar with the Pinewood Derby from my brother's days in scouts, but the Rain Gutter Regatta was new to me. They have premade kits, similar to Pinewood Derby, that the kids then take and build and decorate themselves (well, we helped with the wood glue part). Luke drew his sail design on a piece of paper, then I transferred it to the sail, since the permanent markers were a bit difficult to handle on the slick plastic. (No, he hasn't seen Braveheart, for anyone wondering. Heck, I haven't seen Braveheart! No idea where the half blue face idea came from, except for maybe Pixar's Brave.)

Then they race their boats in gutters filled with water, or in our case, huge PVC pipes split in half, which I thought was genius! The boats are powered by the scouts themselves in the form of blowing on the sails. The kids had an absolute blast.

Because this was our first year doing it, there was some user error which caused him some problems. We forgot to glue the sail in place before we went, so when he blew on it, it would turn on the mast. That meant it wouldn't go straight for very long without readjustment. I don't think it mattered much with his first race; that kid just had him beat. But his second race was really close, and I think his loose sail cost him. :-(

Still, everyone had a grand time, and we learned quite a bit for next year. Looking forward to the next one!

Currently feeling: on the orinoco flow

Friday, November 16, 2012

Challenge Words

Every week, Luke brings home his homework packet. There are worksheets for each day, plus some other assignments, and a list of spelling words. There are actually two lists of 15 words, the official spelling words and the "challenge words." They take a spelling pre-test on Mondays. If the student misses 2 or fewer, they are assigned the challenge words for that week. Needless to say, given Luke's parents' lack of spelling ability (ahem) and his reading difficulties, he has never been assigned the challenge words. He has done well on his tests on Fridays, but that is because we have worked diligently on the words each night for 10-15 minutes. Usually by Fridays, he would have at least 90% of them down. That, to me, indicates that they are about the right level of difficulty. He has to work at them, but he does (generally) get it eventually.

However, we were informed last week that all of the Gifted students are now expected to do the challenge words each week. I have serious issues with such a sweeping declaration, especially when Luke did NOT qualify for Gifted based on his language ability. In fact, he barely squeaked in with the minimum requirement there (and I think part of that was luck). I can't even remember now what some of the words were (DH has handled most of the spelling practice since I've started back to work), but I know three of them were executive, archaic, and beautifying. Whoa!! I have trouble with those words; I can't imagine trying to learn them in second grade.

We decided to try it. Maybe he will surprise us? No, it was as bad as we thought. We were literally working with him 30-60 minutes a night, just on spelling (and in addition to his "Spelling Tic Tac Toe" activities that are already part of his homework). We were not making much progress, and by Wednesday night, Luke was in tears. It was awful. There's challenging a kid, and then there is crushing his soul; this was the latter. He made a 60 on his spelling test, which we actually thought wasn't too bad, all things considered. When he came home again this week having been assigned the challenge words, we decided to say something. DH spoke with the teacher. He explained how hard we were having to work, and that Luke was still really not getting/learning/knowing the words. "But he is in Gifted; he should be able to do this." Why? We explained that he qualified almost purely on math ability, and that we didn't feel he and his spelling grades should be punished because he is gifted in math. Especially when she *knows* he is in the below grade level reading class. How does this make sense? She asked that we try the challenge words for another week. Studying that week was just as bad, if not worse. It was painful and torturous for all of us. And guess what? He made another 60.

We're back to the regular words. I don't think the teacher is happy about it. I think she's just trying to keep us from raising a fuss (which we would). If he were making Bs on the tests, I'd say fine; at least he would be getting the vast majority of the words right. He's barely getting more than half. Like I said, if she wants to assign some words that are somewhat harder than the regular words, but are useful words that he might actually need one day, I'm fine with that. Computer, dinosaur, rectangle, etc. Archaic? Don't think he'll be needing that one for quite some time. I'm not saying he shouldn't have a good vocabulary or try to learn to spell. I'm just saying I think the words should be reasonable and appropriate. /end mom rant

Currently feeling: so frustrated

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Old School = New Monitor

(Just FYI, the background visible on the monitor is from from

Remember me commenting in one of my first posts about my new job that I didn't even have a flat screen monitor? I had an ancient CRT tube monitor, with a curved screen even. There are absolutely no 2012 dollars left in the budget, so no chance of getting a flat screen any time this year. Other than the glare, I figured it was liveable, at least until January or February. Then, I started working with my massive spreadsheets. And the monitor started whining at me. Literally! Depending on the magnification of the spreadsheet, the high pitched squeal would change pitch. I could play Mary Had a Little Lamb with it by flipping between 70%, 80%, and 90% magnification. No, I'm not joking!! The noise was giving me an awful headache daily. I had no idea what I was going to do.

I've likely mentioned before that we've had a computer in my home since I was 7 or 8 years old. That means I am rapidly approaching 30 years of experience with them. Despite the fact that most of my coworkers are 15-30 years older than I am, I assure you, I have more computer experience than they do. Which probably explains why this monitor was still laying around. If you've ever worked in "cube land," you know that cube dwellers are notorious scavengers. We'll dig up all sorts of things from abandoned cubicals. I found this flat screen monitor abandoned in a cube on the floor. It had dust on it, so it had clearly been there a while. No way it should still have been there, with flat screens so rare on the floor. So why was this one still sitting there? Maybe it's broken? Only one way to find out.

I take it back to my desk, only to discover that it has the wrong cable on it. The format was one I had never seen before, but the cable just screwed in to the monitor. All I had to do was unscrew it and see if I could find the correct cable in the spare parts room (yes, we have a whole room of spare tube monitors and keyboards and the like). Now, most of the tube monitors have "fixed" cables, meaning they don't unplug from the back of the monitor, and there weren't any of the right kinds of cables in the huge box by the door. I checked every single monitor in the room (there had to be at least 40), and finally found a single one with the right kind of cable. Plugged it in, hooked it up, and flipped it on. It lit right up! It's not a widescreen monitor or even high def, but it doesn't whine at me anymore. I'm betting those young whipper snappers today who have only ever had laptops and tablets couldn't have done that!! LOL Yay for old school computer geeks!!

Currently feeling: a little bit smart, and a whole lot old!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - November 14, 2012

Currently feeling: warmed by the beautiful sunrise

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading Room: Lucky Man, by Michael J. Fox

Lucky Man, by Michael J. Fox

Like most people my age, I grew up watching Alex P. Keaton. Why wouldn't you? He was cute! A bit self-centered, but cute and charming nonetheless. Then Alex became Marty McFly, and things changed a bit. And then, in terms of my awareness, Michael J. Fox fell off the face of the world. He popped up occasionally, like on The American President (one of my all time favorite movies), but not much. I never did watch Spin City, but I knew he was on it. It just made me smile to know that good old "Alex" was still around.

And then the news broke that Michael J. Fox had Parkinson's Disease. This struck me rather hard, since my grandmother also had it. I knew something of her struggles, and I couldn't for anything imagine someone not much older than me going through the same thing. When this book popped up as an Amazon daily deal for Kindle, I immediately purchased it. I really enjoyed it. His "voice" is exactly what you'd expect, making you both laugh and pause at the seriousness of his words, often at the same time. Knowing what all he has gone through and is continuing to go through (it has been almost 10 years since this book was first published) makes his story and his continued success all the more amazing. I hope to read more of his books in the future.

Currently feeling: like reading more

Saturday, November 10, 2012

October 2012 - Pinterest Inspirations

Whoa! Almost forgot my October 2012 "Pinspirations". (That's what I'll be calling this feature next year, though it won't be as many with the new job.) Hope you're all enjoying it. October's mostly revolved around Luke's birthday party, since I had literally been pinning stuff for it for months. November's section is going to be rather.... lean, in comparison.

Cute ninja invitations - This pin inspired me to make my own Ninjago invitations using the "Ninjago eyes" image. They turned out great! Far from a "1 to 1" translation of the image, but after seeing these, I realized I could make my own that looked more "accurate."

Lego Bingo - I liked that this was visual instead of words or letters or numbers, so that kids of all ages could play. I made my own using all Ninjago pictures downloaded from the web.

Party activity..."Sensei Says" Ninja party - This was fun, and the kids loved it!

Excellent Ninjago Party - This is where I got the idea for the headbands (that we forgot to use!) and the obstacle course. Our obstacle course was completely different, but this post is still where I first saw to do it as ninja training. Brilliant!

cheese + cracker = legos (I did this for my son's party, and they turned out so cute!!)

Candy Sushi from rice krispy treats - Made these for my son's Ninjago party. Everyone thought they were amazing!

Snake fangs for Ninjago party? - This pin inspired me to use Bugles as "Snake Fangs" for my son's Ninjago party.

Soak sliced apples in ginger ale or lemon-lime soda for 10 minutes to prevent browning - Did this for my son's party, and it worked great!

Source: via Erin on Pinterest

Oven Fried Chicken - This was good. I would adjust the seasonings a bit next time, but overall, we enjoyed it.

funky french with Sinful Colors Pumpkin Spice over black - I did this for my Halloween manicure this year. It looked fantastic, and I got so many compliments on it!

Currently feeling: pinned, if a little late

Friday, November 09, 2012

Another Blog Look Revamp

Well, revamp might be too strong of a word. Redecoration is probably closer; the layout/style is more or less the same. Several people said it was hard to read on the other blue background, and given that most of the people who said that are the same people who actually visit my blog to read it (as opposed to using a feed reader), I definitely want them have an easy time of it! This is what you should now be seeing (click to biggify). Please let me know if you're not.

Obviously, this is for fall/Thanksgiving. I have a Christmas-y one ready to put up for December, and then hopefully by the new year, I'll have found the perfect background or template for "everyday" use. Thanks for looking!
Currently feeling: decorative

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - November 7, 2012

Currently feeling: thinking he had fun at the police station!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Do they really look at your badge?

In case you've ever wondered if the security people are really looking at your badge as you walk through the door, yes they are! Nothing like having security call in a supervisor on you during your 2nd week of work. I had gone out one door to get lunch, but I came back in a different door that I had never been through before. The security lady there stopped me.

"That isn't what contractor badges look like." Um, well, it's the one they sent me on Monday of this week. "No, this is what they're supposed to look like," and she pulls out a binder. They have color pictures of what the badge designs look like, which I actually think is pretty smart, even if it is causing me an issue. "Have you been using this ID before now?" Yes, I've gone in the West Peachtree door every morning this week since I received my badge on Monday, and no one there has stopped me. (I would like to thank my grandfather for teaching me to make friends with everyone I work with, no matter their "station." I think knowing the names of three of the main door security people helped me.)

"Let me call in and see if they've sent a memo about changing the badge design." She was very nice about it, and she was quite certain that's what had happened. "We're always the last to be notified," she said. But still, it is her job to verify. Her supervisor radioed back and said there was no memo on file or in email, so they sent down the head of security. ::sigh::  Again, everyone was very nice about the whole thing, even apologizing to me for holding me up (I was standing there with my hot sandwich getting cold). I was not in any way being accused of something or treated as a suspect/threat. Security Chief C took a look at it, verified that the hologram sticker was genuine, and made a phone call to corporate just to verify. "Yep, that's what happened, they changed the design last week sometime. You're one of the first new ones we've seen. Would you mind if I made a copy of your badge?" Um, sure, go ahead. So guess who is now in the binder as the example of what a new contractor badge looks like? My lasting legacy....

Note to corporate: please inform security at all buildings *before* you change the design of the contractor badges.It will save everyone a lot of grief.

Currently feeling: well guarded

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Movie Muse Picks - Holiday Movie Preview 2012

Greetings, movie fans! It's that time again; the 2012 holiday movies start tomorrow!! There are several interesting offerings coming up. I'm not covering everything (though I would like to) in an effort to get this out quickly. These are the films on my radar right now. Note: each group is listed in order of release date, not preference.

The must sees:
  • Wreck-It Ralph (Nov 2) -I'm *sure* y'all know by now that we are huge Disney fans. Pretty much, if it is an animated Disney film, we'll see it. And this one, to its credit, looks really cute. They did a great job of honoring the "old school" video games, I'm sure in an attempt to appeal to parents as much as kids. I have high hopes for this one; hope it's not a disappointment.
  • Rise of the Guardians (Nov 21 - mainly for Luke) - Pre-Luke, we definitely would have seen this one. If he was too young to get to the theater, I'm not sure we'd "spend" one of our rare theater opportunities on it, but since I know he will want to see it, we'll definitely do our best to check it out. I think the premise is quite interesting, and it has a fascinating vocal cast. Dreamworks has been hit and miss for us lately; hopefully this one will be good.
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec 14) - I just want to hear the dwarf song in surround sound again. A choir full of bass voices is like a dream come true for me! ::happy sigh:: More Tolkien from Peter Jackson. How can that be a bad thing? Sure wish we could take Luke, but I'm betting it will be too intense for him.
  • Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (Dec 21) -Well, since I can't stomach the prices for us to go see Totem (currently showing here in Atlanta), perhaps this is my consolation prize? I adore Cirque du Soleil, and I think this will be a great (more affordable) option.

Really want to see (but new job might prevent taking time off to do so):
  • Skyfall (Nov 8) -I'm already hearing good things about the latest Bond film, though I could do without some of the extensive advertising campaigns that have come along with it. (I'm sorry, but 007 does not drink beer! Well, maybe a proper British bitter or Guinness, but not Heineken.) We missed the last one in the theater. I forget what all was going on, but we just never could make it happen. Given the terrible reviews it also received, we didn't think we were missing much (though we do hope to see it in the next few weeks so that we are caught up). But with the advance reviews looking so good for this one, we'll definitely try to catch it if at all possible.
  • Lincoln (Nov 9) -Steven Spielberg + Daniel Day Lewis. That makes it both an automatic "need to see" and an automatic Oscar contender. I know a lot of people are frustrated with the voice, but according to historians, it's probably closer to accurate than many films (he was described by contemporaries as having a high, sometimes shrill voice). The rest of the cast also looks stellar: Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones (LOVE him!), Bruce McGill (a personal favorite character actor, currently on Rizzoli & Isles), and I've caught glimpses of David Costabile in the commercials, who we're becoming quite a fan of (Daniel Hardman from Suits, but we've seen him in 2-3 other things recently). It opens in limited release on Nov 9, and in wider release later in November.
  • Life of Pi (Nov 21) -This is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years now, but never got to. Now that the movie is out, I know I need to see it first, before I read the books. (That is my general preference for the order to do these things.) I've always thought the story sounded fascinating, and the visuals look absolutely stunning!
  • Les Miserables (Dec 25) - As cliche as it sounds, Les Mis is probably my second favorite musical (next to Phantom, and I don't care what you have to say about it, I like it!). I got to see it on Broadway in 1994, and it was amazing. I'm not so sure about this supposedly more visually "real" version (I'm afraid it will seem all the weirder with people breaking out into song in a more real environment; movies just don't hold the same magic that the stage does in that respect, especially with some of the more ridiculous/humorous songs), but I think most of the casting was done quite well. Guess we'll find out! I'd really love to see this one, but it might have to wait for DVD.

If we had the (non-child) time, we'd probably try to catch Anna Karenina, but I just don't see that happening. I think The Man with the Iron Fists looks fascinating (note: I did not say it looks good, just fascinating), but I know we don't have the time to spend on that. It will probably be on the movie channels faster than most, so we can wait. I also think Hitchcock looks interesting, but with that type of drama, it can also wait. Lincoln would fall under that "dramas can be seen at home" rule, if it weren't for the nearly assured Oscar noms. I'd really like to try and see that one before February.

So that's what I've got! What are you looking forward to seeing this holiday season?

Currently feeling: ready to hit the theater!