Saturday, March 18, 2017

How am I? Bitter.

The President's skinny budget was finally released. It's gross. Just gross. Cuts to tiny programs that make huge differences in people's lives and giveaways to the people who least need them. And it's hard to walk around these days and not be bitter.

I have spent a crazy amount of time trying to explain to people what particular policies being advanced by the administration and his daughter mean. I oscillate between thinking they were designed poorly as an honest mistake (so maybe they can be fixed) and they were designed by people who pretend to care just to market an idea, knowing that they're in the end it's just another big giveaway to high-income families.

Do you know what I should be doing? I should be working with colleagues to decide just what would be the best way to address poverty. I shouldn't be trying to hold the line, I should be stretching the safety net as far as possible, granting access to as many people as possible.

And sometimes? It makes me bitter. I want to say "you voted for this monster and when you vote for monsters, monstrous things happen". But that's not who I am. So instead, I call, and I call, and I call. I answer question after question that shouldn't even be being asked.

But when people ask me "how are you", I'm not being honest when I say "fine, and you?".

Elaine

Monday, March 6, 2017

B-Corps - check 'em out!

There has been a lot of chatter about buying products that support one political side or the other. And I am all about following your beliefs. But we could also focus on purchasing products that treat the environment and community well - and there's a mechanism in place to do that - Certified B Corps
Certified B CorporationsTM redefine success in business.
Individually, B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.
Collectively, B Corps lead a growing global movement of people using business as a force for goodTM. Through the power of their collective voice, one day all companies will compete to be best for the worldTM, and society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity for all.
And...these B-Corps cross all types of products -  from toothbrushes, to yogurt, to eggs - and more! Below is a smattering:
King Arthur flour - a staple in my house;
Stonyfield yogurt - also a staple; and
Method cleansers - which sit in every bathroom in my home (refillable!).
Beyond that, I was introduced to pukka teas, purely elizabeth snack products, and Pete and Gerry's eggs!
I even have a certified B-Corp toothbrush from preserve.
Admittedly, it's going to take me a while to familiarize myself with some of the other products, but I figure I might as well try and save the planet with my wallet. Join me!
Elaine
As part of Stonyfield's blogger program I was gifted the items pictured here. No complaints - and feeling good about incorporating the ones I don't already incorporate into my home.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Arm Fracture

Helen and her friends regularly turn our kitchen into a roller skating rink. It's a large space covered with linoleum, so other than the hazard of various counter tops, it's a good space for this. On Saturday nights, a local community center turns their gym into a roller skating rink - and Helen loves it.

A few weeks ago, we took one of her friends with us to check it out - and within minutes of arriving, Helen crashed and ended up with a slight fracture in her wrist. She doesn't tend to complain about pain when it's real, and she had been lamenting the fact that ALL OF HER FRIENDS have been in a hospital - and she was even born in one. After the fall, she skated for another 45 minutes and then it was time to head home. I slapped a wrist brace on her that I had from years ago and Ed and I headed over to a neighbor's house to play bridge.

Helen said once the brace was on she felt fine - and indeed, when we went to the ER the next day they were unable to see a break on the x-ray, so they told me to keep it in a brace until we could see an orthopedic specialist. She said the ER's braces were larger than the one Helen was already in - making this possibly the only time in my life when my freakishly small wrists have been useful.

Ed took Helen to the orthopedist who had treated Connor. Given how severe and traumatic his break was - and yes, I still wake up in a sweat over it - this was extremely easy to deal with. Treatment would be the same whether there was an actual break or just some deep tissue damage, so the orthopedist did not take an additional x-ray (the ER PA had told us that the the orthopedist might take another x-ray, looking for bone growth which would reveal where the fracture was).

After consulting with Ed and Helen, the orthopedist recommended keeping the arm in a brace, gave permission to Helen to all her friends that she broke her wrist, and sent her on her way.

After a few weeks with the brace, Helen tends to find it annoying, which I think is a good sign that she's close to healed. She was cleared for soccer and has been playing a bit of violin - but gymnastics and softball pitching remain no-gos.


I am, of course, grateful that this injury was relatively minor compared to Connor's injury at about the same age. Now...to sort out the medical bills and determine which ones we pay and which ones insurance pays.

Elaine


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Recharging: Whole Milk Smoothies

Typically when we ski locally, our strategy is to ski hard in the morning and then head home. But a few weekends ago, Ed took the kids on an overnight weekend adventure. I stayed home to join the Women's March (more later), and joined them late.

By the time I arrived, they'd already put in two full days, and they had not taken it easy on themselves. Which meant in the morning - they needed calories! So they slurped down some Stonyfield Whole Milk Smoothies and fruit.
 

The verdict? Delicious. And the fate of those caps? They've been turned into wheels for an Odyssey of the Mind vehicle,  which I will reveal in a few weeks when my team publicly reveals their solution to this year's seemingly impossible problem!

Elaine

Stonyfield sent me strawberry and peach whole milk yogurt smoothies. And even though my kids usually balk at non-strawberry items, they were not offended at all by the peach smoothies and sucked them right down. Thank you, Stonyfield!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Newsies! Coming to Arlington - WIN TICKETS!

I am, admittedly, a late comer to the Hamilton craze. In fact, it wasn't until last Fall when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon that I finally listened to the whole musical. (I had time, might as well use it!) And downloading it to my phone is likely what got Helen interested, and now she sings the show from opening to closing and has listened to it enough times to make me crazy. (I used to do this to my sister, so, ahem, I'm not complaining.) With Hamilton on the way to DC next year, I am struggling with whether or not to purchase tickets for us. Pricetag = OUCH!

But...there's another, more accessible musical coming to the theater a few blocks from my home - Disney's Newsies. I don't even think I need to go into a natural political commentary on the importance of news - in reliable sources, something the Newsies of the day were trying to deliver. 

You can purchase tickets to the filmed version of Newsies by clicking here. (You can enter zip code info to find your closest theater.) Or - see below to win free tickets.

Set in New York City at the turn of the century and based on a true story, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies,’ who dreams only of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. But when publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack finds a cause to fight for and rallies newsies from across the city to strike and take a stand for what’s right.

I'm giving away four tickets to see Newsies at the Regal Ballston Common Stadium 12 on Saturday, February 18 at 12:55 PM. For those who haven't been, Ballston is now a reserved seating, very fancy theater (according to my kids).

Click on the form below for a chance to win tickets. Contest ends at 11:00 AM on February 16. After that, the winner will be contacted with information on how to pick up the free tickets.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Filmed live on stage at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA, this not-to-be-missed high energy show stars Original Broadway cast members Jeremy Jordan as “Jack Kelly,” Kara Lindsay as “Katherine,” Ben Fankhauser as “Davey” and Andrew Keenan-Bolger as “Crutchie”. They’re joined by North American Tour stars Steve Blanchard as “Joseph Pulitzer,” and Aisha de Haas as “Medda Larkin,” and Ethan Steiner as “Les” along with members of both the Broadway and North American Tour ensembles, filling the stage with more “newsies” and more dancing than ever before.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Steamboat, 2017

As far as I can tell, children always say they hate ski school. They will say they hate ski school, even if they are laughing when parents pick them up. They will persist with their stories of hating ski school, even as they tell you about the cool trails they went on, the other children in their class, and the extra Gatorade they inhaled at lunch. They hate it, I suspect, because they can't stand the idea of their parents spending the day away from them on vacation.

Parents, of course, must love ski school. Why? Because it costs and arm and a leg. The hope, of course, is that the children will eventually learn to ski well enough that the whole family can ski together, enjoying the same trails. In the interim, parents get to enjoy skiing wherever they want, without worrying about a child falling, getting stuck somewhere, or having to stop and go inside every thirty minutes.

We've had somewhat of a compromise with Connor and Helen for a few years. When we're someplace local, we ski all day with them. The mountains aren't that great and it is fun to watch them become more confident skiers. But when we got out West, we sentence them to at least a few days of ski school.

This year, Ed purchased two days of ski school for each child. Connor and Helen, naturally, complained about their fate. But, the smile on Connor's face after day one is one I hope I remember for a while. He was grinning ear to ear as he announced that he had graduated from level 5 to level 6 - and his teacher confirmed that the whole class was moving up together the next day - and in fact, they'd been on level 6 skills after a couple of hours in the morning.

For the uninitiated - level 6 is the real deal. Black diamonds, trees, moguls - no more dancing around the mountain, just solid skiing. He was actually excited to go back the second day, because I think he senses he is on the edge of freedom from ski school forever.





Helen had, naturally, befriended everyone in her class and was very excited to return on day 2 because one girl in particular was planning to be there. After that, she wasn't too keen on going back because her friend wouldn't be there. Helen made it about halfway through level 5, which means she has skills, but lacks some confidence in execution. Also, unlike Connor who thinks he must go down the mountain the hardest way possible every time, Helen still enjoys cruising down an easy trail.

In the end, two days of school it was.

And what did we get in return?



We got two children who can get down pretty much anything, love taunting me as they ski through trees, and one child (Connor) who looks for the bumps just to show he can do them. But don't worry, even as they threaten to eclipse me on the mountain, I'm still willing to race them occasionally just to show them you gotta be fast to keep up with this old lady!


Friday, January 27, 2017

The reopened breakfast for dinner cafe

When I take breaks, I never know whether to start from the present and work backwards, pick out a few highlights, or try and cover what's been missed. Regardless, there will surely be big spaces of time left uncovered, and that's unfortunate because those times are probably the most important to me - but I'm too busy doing other things to blog at night.

Sigh.

Connor and Helen love having breakfast for dinner. And truth be told, because breakfast foods can be cooked fast, come with simple clean-up, and the kids like them - I like it, too. But it is not lost on me that Ed basically groans every time he comes home to find I've reopened the kids' cafe (which only serves breakfast). He knows it means I've pretty much given up on dinner, but he also knows he can't complain because the kids are so happy about it (and they like taking the orders, helping with food prep, etc).

We had breakfast for dinner a few nights ago.

It was awesome.

This time, it made sense not just because I am lazy, but because February is National Hot Breakfast Month, celebrated by none other than the folks at USDA (though whether they'll be able to talk about it remains to be seen - I'm only kind of kidding about that). So here, for your February breakfast inspiration are the kitchen scenes from our breakfast for dinner night.

(And yes, I am already planning on having a repeat in February when Ed is out of town and he won't be around to roll his eyes when he see the waffle maker out at night!)





Thanks, Krusteaz!

We had leftover waffles the next morning - still yummy!

Elaine

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Two!

Helen has been playing violin for a couple of years at this point - and a few weeks before Christmas, she graduated to Book 2 in the Suzuki method. This, for the uninitiated, is a big deal. Studios differ on how the move from Book 1 to Book 2 will be celebrated. In Helen's studio, the choice is to play most of the book at a group lesson, or to hold a recital. In order to be considered a recital, there should be ten people attending.

Now, I'm not saying it's not lovely to hear Helen play. And I assure you, because I am the practice parent in the house, there is nobody who has heard Helen play for more hours. But still, asking others to come to a 30 minute recital of beginning violin is a stretch.

My parents decided to come visit (phew) and wow, did we pack a lot of performing into that weekend. I knew Ed and Connor would attend, so now we were at five guests. My friend Helen has three children that play violin, and I actually have been to non-violin performances of them, so I didn't feel too guilty asking her to attend. She skied up with herself and her three children (and her husband would've even come if he'd been able!). That brought us to nine attendees, which I was pretty comfortable with. Her music teacher said she'd love to attend,  but in the end, was unable. And then there was Lulu. Lulu is the girl that Helen walks to school with most days. Lulu mentioned that she'd like to attend (awesome!) and she even brought her mother with her.

I laid out a lovely table of snacks and Helen played her heart out. My friend, Lulu's mother, had no idea what she was getting into, I am sure. Yet, she delivered the absolute best line on the video. After Helen had finished playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", my friend commented "wow - she nailed that one". I'm guessing her enthusiasm was waning by the 15th song on the performance, but she endured - I can never repay her. Helen was so thrilled to have her good friend watching.

Helen played in our back room, which had the most beautiful Christmas tree in it that I have ever owned in my life. I'm still a little sad we took it to the curb a few days after Epiphany, but Ed seemed pretty convinced it was going to spontaneously combust on us.


Elaine

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Run Streak? with Strength?

I have still not come up with an adequate New Year's resolution. I like to stack the deck on these things so I know I can succeed (e.g. Drink more champagne! my all-time winning resolution). I'm toying with the idea of completing a big run streak - like at least three months long. To count as a run, I need to put running shoes on and run at least 1 mile. That's not too hard, so I'm adding in another element: strength training.

When I started running a few years ago, I was in great shape. I'd worked with a personal trainer and felt strong. I'm guessing this had a lot to do with not suffering any early running injuries. But fast forward to today, and I'm a mess. the muscles I use for running are in good shape, but everything else just sort of tags along with me.


I have tried to strength train for at least a year, but just never got into it. This time around, I purchased "Quick Strength for Runners" and I've been treating in like it's holy. Of course, it's January 4 and I am still in the relatively easy "week 1" phase of the book. So on top of my run streak, I'm adding the strength workout - and on days when I'm not doing an official workout from the book, I'm challenging myself to 25 sit-ups or the New York Times 7 minute workout. That way, I spend some time each day getting stronger.


Three days in, I can report that I am killing it. Any bets on whether I can go the three months?


Elaine

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Good Ending to a Hard Day

I wasn't sure how yesterday was going to go. I knew in my head that the electoral college wouldn't save us. Wouldn't protect us from Trump. Wouldn't vote differently than people in their state requested they do. I knew there would be no delay, we wouldn't ever really get to the bottom of Russian interference in our election. We wouldn't try and understand what it means to have a President-Elect who appears to be crushing our government with his appointees. Perry - the guy who wanted to eliminate the Energy Department will run it? A congressperson whose not an economist will  lead OMB? Department of Ed will be championed by someone who doesn't believe in public education? I can't find one silver lining in this - except the Marines seem to be proud their guy is going to lead DoD. I hope they're right.

And so it was that I donned my coat, still wearing my "I'm With Her" button, and set off for work. Even though my head knew how the day would end, with Trump officially getting the nod to be President, my heart is very powerful, and a small piece of it whispered "it's been a very strange few months, anything could happen". I held my breath as long as I could, but in the end it wasn't to be. It isn't to be.

Another day of tears, an upset stomach, and a confirmation that I am never going to get over this election. It's something I will carry with me to the end, like a dead relative. I penned a thank you note to HRC, dropped it in the work mailbox, and carried on.



By nightfall, I was alone with Helen and Connor and it was just what my soul needed. We played a couple of games, ate our favorite cookies out of the cookie exchange box, and listened to a Christmas story that I had downloaded.

Though Connor is not my naturally goofy, happy child - he does pull it out sometimes. We set to work on a robot soldering project, but before that, I lit up our unbelievable gorgeous tree that is filled with so many ornaments and memories. And Connor suggested we have a Christmas dance, so we did. Singing, laughing, and dancing around the room.

After we were a little bit winded, we made some progress on our project, which though he sort of resents having anything to do at night that doesn't involve him moving into a vegetative state, he was enjoying.

And then we sat in a chair together (not many more years for this) and by the time he went to bed, he told me I was the best mother in the world, and probably even the best parent. He doesn't always feel this way, but it's nice to know that sometimes the universe can send me a soft ball - and on a day when I was filled with a sense of gloom, it was perfectly timed.