The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Surprise vacation 3

We got home from Cleveland on Sunday. Joseph said goodbye to the Peanuts sheets that were mine when I was a kid.

Sam and I tried on Dorinda's crusty old suede 70's skates and skated around the driveway.

Yes, Dorinda, we stole and ate all of your stoned wheat crackers.

The weather turned nasty mid-way through the drive, with big moist snowflakes whipping around. Apparently, Sunday morning in Normal there was a thunderstorm with snow.

But by the time we got back to Normal, it was clear and lovely. I was sick with a cold when I left Normal, and I am still sick, so nothing much has changed. (Although I got my mom sick too--sorry!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Surprise vacation Part deux

Other highlights from our trip to Cleveland:
We went up the street to Lee Rd. to see my old high school and check out the newest converging waves of revitalization/gentrification and decay. I actually visited Revive, the fair trade store that I mocked the last time that I visited, and it was awesome! (Actually more awesome than the Goodwill where I used to buy my clothes.) I bought some jewelry and the kids had a great time looking at stuff and pretending the changing room was a airplane cockpit.
We went to the Phoenix for coffee/hot chocolate and were underwhelmed.

Highlights also include a trip to the library and a problem with the water heater. Joseph's tub unexpectedly filled with rusty water, which reminded the kids of one of the illustrations in their library book "Two Bad Ants."

On Saturday we went to see Michelle and Rich's lovely new house in Solon/Twinsburg. Oddly enough, the kids spent hours playing with those 20 sticky rubber cockroaches. The hallway was painted with gloss paint that didn't get marked by the roaches, so the kids had a great time hurling, dropping and catching the little buggers.

I also discovered that my Mom prints out my web posts of Situation Normal and stores them in a binder. (Aaaarrrggh...) Danny warned me that if I post this picture, the universe as we know it will be sucked in on itself and implode. (So of course I had to do it to see what would happen.)

Surprise vacation

The kids had Spring Break this last week, and we impulsively decided that we really needed to leave Normal, so we quickly packed it up and went to Cleveland for a 4-day weekend.
The kids had a great time with Grandma Dorinda.

We went to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I hadn't been there in ages. There was quite a bit of construction, but we got to see the armor and the other old galleries. It was kind of bizarre--some exhibits had been moved but replaced exactly in other rooms, giving the impression that everything was exactly as when I was a kid, but somehow the orientation and light had changed. Sam was super-excited about the armor and weaponry as well as any paintings dealing with death and gore. Joseph had a fantastic time filling out this treasure hunt sticker book that one of the guards gave him. It was very tricky, and really got both of us to stop and look at some of the paintings that I tend to skip over.

The gardens were still open, and it was a beautiful day.

The kids strike their best superhero poses.

Next, we went to Coventry Rd to eat dinner and browse the post-post-hippie gentrified stores, etc.

We gave each of the kids $5 to spend at the novelty store Big Fun, and it took them nearly an hour to make up their minds. Sam bought some growing animals. Joseph was delighted to discover that for $5, he could buy 20 sticky rubber cockroaches. When we got home he carefully made a cockroach enclosure with leaves like the one that we have in the lab.

The kids had a great time and the playground, especially rolling down the sledding hill over and over again until they were really stoned.

Danny and I amused ourselves testing the weight tolerances on the playground equipment.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bring on da Funk

This Saturday TaeKwonDo was canceled, so we went to Funks Grove Nature Center. Sam and I were a little sick and Joseph and Danny were a little crabby, but it was a beautiful spring day and everyone had a lot of fun.
In Imagination Grove, there was a ladder nailed to a big tree. Sam climbed it in his slow and cautious way, and eventually ooched across and down without incident. Joseph decided to give it a try and nearly gave us a heart attack. He is very confident and actually quite agile.

Tire swing!

Zip line!

Poking the creek with big sticks.


This was a week of big happenings. First, Danny got a raise. So here were are toasting him with champagne, apple cider, fine cheeses and sausages.

I noticed Sam's shoes (as usual) under my bed, and on a whim, I tried them on. AND THEY FIT. I think that that has to be a milestone of some sort. Here I am wearing Sam's shoes and his Ironman shirt. I am trying to get Sam to pose with his size 0-3 months onesie from when he was born, but he was having none of it.
Also, this week Joseph started calling us "Mom" and "Dad" rather than "Mommy" and "Daddy," although I have no idea why.

Sam was Einstein in his school Play/Parade of Great Americans. He was very specific about how he wanted to look, but luckily the party store actually sells Einstein wigs and mustaches for kids! (The rest if the outfit is courtesy of TJMaxx).

Sam doing his Einstein presentation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green day

Perhaps it is a new record--9:00 and both kids are asleep. Not only was it St. Patrick's Day, but it was an unseasonably balmy 73 degrees. I came home from work early today because I forgot my laptop cord and I ran out of battery power. We took the kids to see Prairie Thistle Pipes and Drums the local bagpipe and drum troupe play at Maguire's and Fat Jacks in Bloomington.

Despite the fact that it was 5:00 many local people had their drink on, so we didn't stay long. The kids seemes nonplussed by the wall of kilted hooting and thumping, but I feel like I have done as much as could be expected to put them in touch with their Irish 1/8th. One of the bartenders made Guinness cupcakes, which the kids enjoyed.

Last St Patrick's Day the town went nuts: the ISU kids starting drinking early and were outside shouting, vandalizing and hurling in the bushes until late. This year, everyone was out drinking on their lawns and playing bags ("cornhole") starting in the early afternoon. However, the little dears must have worn themselves out/passed out because it is rather quiet outside now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tripping it up

This was the week of the killer field trip. On Wednesday, I went with Sam and the Glenn Elementary 4th graders to Funk's Grove Maple Sirup Experience. It would have been an excellent experience indeed if not for the fact that it was @10 degrees, and we had to spend 4 hours outside in the woods. By the end of the trip, my feet, hands and face were numb/windburned and swelled up and my back hurt from continuous shivering. The kids had a great time and we all learned much about maple syrup (and sirup).

An enthusiastic volunteer with a tomahawk tells us the story of the Native American discovery of maple sap, and how Native Americans boiled sap into syrup without metal cookware. So very cold...

We go in the barn to learn how the maple sap evaporator works.

We go inside for a few minutes to learn about grades of honey and taste some samples.

Recess outside with relay races.

Sam playing some boy game.

I find Sam's interactions with his classmates puzzling. He clearly doesn't have much in common with the other kids, so he tends to keep to himself. But everyone in his class seem to be friendly with each other, with no clear friction or bullying/cattiness. When the kids are put in groups or given free time for running around, Sam engages with the other kids readily. The other kids seem to like him and sometimes seek him out. There are particular kids that tend to gravitate toward him/he gravitates toward them, but when he gets to pick his own seat on the bus, he chooses to sit alone.

We re-enact the functional anatomy of a tree.

Practicing tree tapping.

The real thing. Of course, as cold as it was, the sap was not flowing.

Thursday, Joseph's kindergarten class came to the ISU Planetarium, which is 6 feet from my office. The show was OK, and I offered to give the kids a tour of the lab afterwards. The kids enjoyed the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and crickets that we had in the lab, as well as the bug-shaped graham crackers that I gave them. But the parent chaperones clearly thought that I was some crazy bug-lover which was disheartening. The lab is a clean functional space, but I suppose that it may have looked shabby and antiquated to people who think that labs are supposed to look like on CSI. It gave me a new perspective on what I do that was not at all helpful.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bowling for emos

I have a new favorite stunt. When the weather is nice and I am running with Argos in the dark, we will often be startled by a cigarette ash or the flash of a cell phone by the gutter--the disaffected youths of Normal tend to hunker on dark stretches of suburban curb trying to look cool.

Lately I have let Argos buffalo into them and climb onto their laps for a smooch and a pet. It totally cracks me up to see the kids break character and as they are bowled backwards into the grass. I have done this three times (so far), and I love how it forces a genuine smile out of kids who generally try to avoid such embarrassing behavior.