Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweeney Todd at Monaco Pictures

There is a brutal, uncomfortable cold making its way around our house. Henry has already had it and I am on my second day of stuffiness. Corby is just beginning to feel sick. We almost canceled plans we had made to go out last night, but at the last minute we decided to go ahead and see a movie.

We have been wanting to visit the new Monaco Pictures at Bridge Street in Huntsville, so we decided to go "all out" and paid online for the VIP balcony seats ($12 per ticket+$2 online fee). It was neat ordering on their website because their balcony seats are numbered and assigned just like in a playhouse. We choose AA4 and AA5.

Though this was the first time I had ever been to Bridge Street, I really didn't get to walk around much because, as usual, we were running a bit late for the movie. I could see the lit Carousel and bridge from where we parked, but I didn't see much else. I will go back for shopping some other time.

Monaco Pictures was definitely a unique theater experience. Downstairs in the lobby was a restaurant with a huge bar that glows red from underneath. An outside seating area included two fire places surrounded by modern, IKEA style sofas. A huge staircase winds toward the door, and upstairs is the Prive VIP area.

We made our way upstairs where we found another lit bar (this time blue) surrounded by more lounge-type furniture. We each ordered a drink, popcorn and Corby was a bit hungry so he ordered an appetizer-like chicken dish. All of this is allowed in the theater, even the alcohol (all of the upstairs seats are for ages 21 years and older) and since we were a bit late we went right in.

The seats in the balcony give you a large amount of leg room and the leather rockers are much wider than normal movie seats. Because we didn't quite know how to pick our seats, we were seated with a little wooden table between us, but if we had planned it right, we could have sat with a movable armrest in between us that would convert our seats into a love seat.

Overall, we had a great time. We saw Sweeney Todd, which we both loved, but would certainly not recommend to everyone.

After all was said and done, we ended-up spending around $60, which is actually about twice what we usually spend for a night at the movies. Next time we will try the "cheap seats"at $9 each, my guess is they will be just as good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Long time, no blog!

It has been such a long time since I last blogged! I must admit, feel a little guilty for petering out during the school year, but we have been very busy. Starting today, the kids are officially "off" from school for Christmas and I have a little more time than usual. Also, all of the kids' activities are on holiday hiatus, so that means no swim practice, dance class, theater, chess club, scout meetings or soccer. Hooray!

I still have much to do to get ready for Christmas and our upcoming trip to Florida. I have to report that (again) our family yearbooks will not be finished in time for gift giving, but I assure you that I am still working on them and will make sure everyone who wants one gets one. (For those of you who are wondering what the yearbooks are, just imagine a year-in-review magazine featuring just our family.)

A few topics to note:

Elora and Corbin did very well in their first scholastic team chess tournament this school year. Corbin's primary team (K-3) finished in third place overall and Elora won every single one of her games, despite it being her first year in the elementary bracket (4-6) plus she played first board.

The boys had their first theatrical performance last weekend and I must say that they did a great job. The director was a little nervous about what the outcome would be, seeing that Jacob tried to play duck-duck-goose on stage during the dress rehearsal, but fortunately he pulled through for the actual performance.

Corbin as Sniffwhiskers and Jacob as Tripalong in The Mouse That Didn't Believe in Santa Clause

Corby and I were able to attend the annual Margarita Ball at the VBCC this November. This is a charity event that collects Toy-for-Tots in exchange for a night of dancing, food and free margaritas. Since we almost never get to spend a night out together, this was a real treat. Thanks to those who made it possible with tickets and babysitting!

Before leaving for our night on the town

A brief Holiday warning:
For those of you visiting us for Christmas, I just wanted to warn you that our Christmas tree experienced a near topple, multiple items volleyed into it (mostly shoes by Jacob) and a near fire (Corbin playing with the lights) all in the first week of putting it up. It has since had three strands of lights go out (I was able to replace two with solid blue strands we had on hand, but the third is still out), and the bottom branches are sagging nearly to the floor. Yes, Christmas is still on as planned, but you will have to excuse the half-lit monstrosity in the corner. It is still standing, but it does look the worse for wear.

Lastly, I have received a few comments that I perhaps should lay off the political blogs, and I apologize for sometimes voicing my opinion so loudly. I am thinking about starting a separate blog for such ideas. In all likelihood, it would just sit idle most of the time, but when that disgruntled political mood stuck me, I would have a place to release it! Does anyone have any comments or suggestions? What do you think?

Corbin and Jacob riding the Ron Paul float in the Madison Christmas Parade.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Gaming: It's Mental Candy That Rots Lives

When I was in fifth grade, I remember being envious of the little girl down the street who had a Nintendo. I would fervently try to be her friend in hopes of being invited over so that I could try-out her games. I didn't get to play often, and my brother and sisters and I spent most of the afternoons playing four-square or hide-and-seek.

About a year later, my father bought us an 8-bit Sega. I have many memories of playing Hang On and Astro Warrior. We played from the moment we woke-up until it was bedtime. Deep-down I knew that it wasn't healthy to spend so much time playing and I always felt a little remorse when the sun set and I realized I hadn't been outside all day.

During adolescence I played less and less, but if ever I had a homework assignment I was avoiding or a paper I didn't want to write, there was always some sort of video game to distract me. I was able to submerge the guilt of many failing grades by simply immersing myself in some sort of game.

In college I discovered online gaming and my husband and I admittedly played side-by-side in virtual worlds. I knew it had to stop after our first child was born, and although I was able to quit without too many relapses, it was years later before our house was completely game free.

This history explains why we now maintain our home as a game-free zone.

Although we do have a computer, we do not have a gaming console in our house, and even though the children have asked for gameboys, they have been told that we don't ever want them in our house.

Recent news reveals the various dangers of gaming when taken to an extreme. Just last week a 10-year-old boy killed himself by jumping out of his 19th floor apartment window because his parents grounded him from playing computer games, another 10-year-old killed a 3-year-old after mimicking a violent game he played excessively. Not to exclude adults who play too much, this summer two babies in Nevada almost starved to death due to lack of care while their parents both obsessively played a computer game.

I am sure that these stories are not as rare as one might think. It makes you wonder why the American Medical Association recently rejected a proposal to recognize video game addiction as a psychiatric condition.

When our children ask "Why can't we play video games?" I explain to them that they are a waste of time and there are better things to spend time on. But my husband usually adds that video games are "too fun" which is really the most dangerous thing about them.

The pure fun of playing these games creates a pleasurable disconnect with reality that makes any pain or discomfort felt in the real world irrelevant, just like alcohol or narcotics. Thankfully people are figuring this out for themselves despite an official addition designation. There are countless websites that offer support for gamers and family members. Hopefully, our society is not far from a general awareness that might someday save a life in more ways than one.

Helpful Links:, Amsterdam clinic with a gaming addiction program., for partners of gaming addicts., On-line Gamers Anonymous forum., includes online tests for Internet and gaming addiction., Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Am I the Only One Concerned?

For some reason I can't seem to shake my concerns about the current status of our democracy.

I just started reading the letters of correspondence between John Adams and his wife Abigail during the American Revolution. I am impressed by the degree of thoughtfulness toward life and purpose that these two individuals express. They seem to be continually concerned about the well being their community and society. They discuss the prospects and education of their children along with the future of a nation.

While studying the development of the Constitution, it was interesting to discover how widely discussed and considered it was by even the most common and poor Americans. When it was first published, every newspaper printed the extensive document and everyone read it. Our country, as a whole, began an open dialogue discussing opinions and possibilities that related the framework for the new nation. One historian said that there never was, or will there ever be again, a time when a nation was so aware of the value of a human being, individual rights and the laws that protect them.

So what do we have now? Is this what our founding fathers intended?

Most people do not even know what their rights are nor do they care if they are taken away. As long as the population remains in a general state of comfort; the nation is pacified by whatever leaders do to maintain that comfortable state. Most of us know that the government is corrupt and incompetent. A recent Gallup poll found that trust in the federal government is now lower than it was during Watergate.

I think that most of us do not find this surprising, but shouldn't we be shocked and appalled?

Please watch this video about voting by Texas lawmakers.

Why do we tolerate such a digression of our democracy? Could it be that we have all been lulled into complacency? Perhaps the satisfaction from buying a new pair of jeans or finding that Pottery Barn lamp on sale for 30%-off has put us to sleep. Or maybe we are living dreamily awaiting the release of a much anticipated movie or computer game.

I wonder if it even matters to people that our leaders are liars. Does it matter that they knowingly break laws? Do you personally care that dishonesty is the rule rather than the exception? I am curious to know, comment please!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Teaching the Constitution - maybe I need to rethink this

The past few weeks we have been studying the American Revolution. The kids and I just finished off a 6 part PBS series called Liberty which, in its last part, discussed the Constitution.

I must admit that I am not as familiar with this document as I should be, but after browsing the internet I managed to find the complete text.

Then I entered the twilight zone.

I found a strange string of articles that seemed to point to the US Constitution as being somewhat controversial.

It even seems that law enforcement officers are informed that quoting the Constitution is reason to believe someone is a terrorist! The following law enforcement brochure informs officers that:
If you encounter any of the following call the Joint Terrorism task force.
The brochure goes on to list various terrorist warning signs. Included among the terrorist characteristics are making reference to the Constitution and defending the Constitution. Here is the front and back of the police handout.

I am sure that this is just a rough outline for officers to follow and they would use common sense when choosing who was actually a terrorist threat, right?

But after seeing this video shot earlier this week of a woman being arrested for reading the second amendment in front of the capital building, I am beginning to rethink my assumption.

If you watch the video you will notice that the women being arrested are not Arabs, skin-heads or hippies. Nor do they even look threatening--more like grandmas actually! They appear to be wearing cheerfully pink "red-hat society"-like clothes.

Oh, well, I guess this is their fault for not keeping their old lady traps shut! They just need to shut-up and start loving this war like everyone else!

Perhaps I should not teach the kids about the US Constitution, it seems that the knowledge of such a document may be dangerous to them.

Or maybe I just shouldn't bother teaching it to them because the Constitution is about as useful as a piece of toilet paper these days.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food For Thought

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, things have been very busy around here. I came across this poem today and wanted to share it and perhaps provide everyone with a little food for thought.

When the American imperialists came for the Muslims,
I remained silent;
I was not a Muslim.

When they tortured innocent foreigners,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a foreigner.

When they locked up a defense attorney representing Muslims,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a defense attorney.

When they arrested a man for simply telling Dick Cheney that he disagreed with his policies,
I remained silent;
I have never spoken with the Vice President.

When they shattered a reporter's elbow for asking too many questions,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a reporter.

When they said an entertainer should be killed because she questioned 9/11,
I remained silent;
I wasn't an entertainer.

When they arrested people for insisting that the President follow the Constitution,
I did not speak out.
I wasn't there.

When they broke a minister's leg because he wanted to speak at a public event,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a minister.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Inspired by the poem by Martin Niemöller:

"When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."

When I copied this poem, the links copied too. Some of the websites are admittedly far from mainstream, but I left the links as the original author had them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

You Know You're a Parent When...

...every morning you get to watch a tiny, crispy-bearded, bald guy eat breakfast.

(Actually, you really know you are a parent when you are the one who has to clean it up!)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Breastfeeding...Where's the profit in that?

The Washington Post reports today that our government department of Health and Human Services, in 2004, caved in to lobby pressure and changed ads promoting breastfeeding. The formula manufacturers were "grateful" for intervention which stopped health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding."

The original print ads displayed asthma inhalers and insulin syringes topped with a bottle nipple; bluntly insinuating when you feed formula to an infant, you are feeding them asthma and diabetes. These ads were never shown in the United States, but here is an international ad with similar imagery.

The pressure from formula companies caused the U.S. health organization to abandon the scary, shocking ads for softer, less assaulting suggestions that plainly inform parents of breastfeeding benefits. The Human Health and Services department was informed beforehand that these ads would be ineffectual, but they spent our money on them anyway. Current reports show that the number of breastfeeding mothers is decreasing.

Is anyone surprised? After all, infant formulas are manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and big drug companies are known for their powerful influence and generous spending in Washington.

I imagine pharmaceutical companies would not only lose money from the decrease in formula sales, but later on, sales would be lost by the fewer number of people taking diabetes and allergy medication.

Why do we allow these companies to make decisions about our health?

I am sure we would not let a company who makes money per every high school drop-out decide how we educate our children. Doesn't it seem just as logical that an industry that makes money from sick people should not be pulling the strings in our government health offices?

Everyone should take an interest in our government's soft promotion of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is more than the premiere bonding experience for mother and baby, it is the only way newly born human beings were intended to be nourished.

All mothers should breastfeed, plain and simple.

If a mother's health or physical limitations prevent her from doing so, fortunately formula is available as an artificial substitution. Keep in mind that this substance is a man-made chemical solution that is industrially manufactured. This should not be a mother's first choice for her baby.

In our society it seems acceptable for mothers to opt out of breastfeeding because it is an inconvenience.

If cooking dinner for the kids become too much of an inconvenience are we going to insert feeding tubes with a liquid supplement into each of their bellies? I'm sure they would all "turn out just fine", but really, it's just not an option!

Some parents believe that because their own mothers used formula and they turned out o.k., then that is what they should do too.

I guess that makes sense for some, but I was never able to look at any of our newborn children and maintain the philosophy of only trying to provide what is "good enough".

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You Know You're a Parent When...

You find yourself cleaning an excessive amount of glue from your preschooler's forehead, resulting from his six-year-old big brother's plan to glue his head to his desk.

The funny thing is, the four-year-old "victim" was completely compliant because he thought that this was a pretty neat idea, too.

(Another great day of homeschooling!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Diaperless Parenting - Are you trying to make me feel bad?

Yesterday was a homeschooling challenge for our family. I had a dental appointment at 8:00am and struggled with a very numb mouth for the remainder of the day. We all worked hard to stay on schedule, but the kids were understandably distracted a bit by their mom's sagging lip and unintelligible speech.

"Tomorrow will be better," I vowed. But, I am only more aware of my parenting short comings today after reading that I should have potty trained my toddler over a year ago!

That's right folks, the latest and greatest coup de grâce in the "Who's the best mommy?" death match is diaperless parenting!

Reports reveal that there is
... a growing “diaper-free” movement founded on the belief that babies are born with an instinctive ability to signal when they have to answer nature’s call. Parents who practice the so-called “elimination communication” learn to read their children’s body language to help them recognize the need, and they mimic the sounds that a child associates with the bathroom.
Wow, I really have fallen short on this one. I wouldn't even know what grunt to begin with!

Although I pride myself in trying to interpret and anticipate the needs of my children, I will be the first to admit that I am no where near passing this parenting test. With the daily challenge of just keeping up with the location of each of our children, I have very little time for maintaining a constant "poop-watch" vigil for anticipatory grunts and body language.

I'd be lying to say that I never notice the signals of the secret language of poops, but seeing that this communication is usually very subtle, I regrettably concede that I am much more in tune with the not-so-secret odor of poops.

There are days when we are so busy that even the odor goes unnoticed for a while! (But as you can imagine, that's not often.)

After reading a bit about this potty training idea, I began to wonder why this story is considered newsworthy?

I seriously doubt that this technique is really an option for most parents. The experts and doctors both seem to agree that there is no scientific or medical basis for the belief that infants are even able to be potty-trained.

I guess they need something to report on... but come to think of it, aren't we still at war?

Don't we face an environmental crisis with global warming? Not to mention the our dwindling energy resources, rampant government corruption and an economy that continues to teeter on the brink!

I would imagine that these things would all be great topics for the aspiring investigative reporter, but I guess most people think it is more interesting to read about a 12-week-old infant pooping on a potty.

Actually, it is pretty interesting!

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Secret Obsession: Etsy

The Chronicles have suffered this week because I have developed a minor obsession.

This past week I have spent all of my internet "free-time" visiting and revisiting one website. This website is an eclectic artists' market,

Have you heard of it?

My sister introduced me to it a few months ago, but I had only glanced at it a few times until this week. This website showcases handmade items from all over the world. The depth of creativity realized in this one site can be overwhelming, but the site designers have devised a lot of interesting ways to showcase each artist's work.

The only thing that seems to be lacking from Etsy is an advanced search filter, but the items are so much fun to browse, it doesn't really matter much.

I must admit that viewing the ideas of so many thriving artists has stirred my own creativity. My long neglected art training seems hard to ignore and I find myself wanting to rediscover those forgotten skills.

Because time is so scarce, and my days are so busy, I know it will be a challenge to squeeze anything new in, but I am going to try. Even if it only means carrying along a tiny sketchbook so I can scratch out a few drawings while waiting for soccer practice to finish, swim practice to let out or dance class to end.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why This Soccer Mom Supports Ron Paul

You may have heard a bit about the Iowa straw poll in the news the last couple of weeks, but it is unknown to many that other states also have straw polls that are never recognized by mainstream media sources.

A Republican straw poll was held in West Alabama last week and you may be surprised at the results. Ron Paul, a much ignored, neglected and often smeared libertarian-republican, came in first place by a landslide. Here are the results.

I must admit that I usually lean to the left in politics, but gosh darn it I like Ron Paul! Let me tell you why.

If you are a parent of more than two children you have probably experienced the whining, grabbing, and the cruel crossfire that ensues between two siblings who are vying for the same toy. I would estimate that at least once a day I have to resolve some sort of fight over something the kids want at the same time or don't feel that they can share.

This is much like our political system.

Republicans and Democrats squabble and bargain for their share of tax money. Sometimes they agree to share, but mostly they just whine, grab and harshly shred the opposition. If I have to choose a side in this "who gets the money?" battle, I usually side with the Democrats, but the whole system makes you feel bad because the end often does not justify the underhanded means.

That is why Ron Paul is an alluring candidate.

Any good parent knows that when kids continue to incessantly fight and argue over one stupid toy, and the brawling disrupts the house and begins to destroy their relationship, there is only one thing to do!

Nobody gets it.

I can't count the number of times that I have had to take away something, sometimes even throwing it in the trash, because no matter what, it was going to cause a fight.

And maybe that is what needs to happen in Washington with federal spending, the eternal squabbling needs to be put to a stop by simply declaring, nobody gets it.

Ron Paul wants to send most federal programs back to the state level. He actually believes in a smaller federal government that limits itself to upholding the constitution.

This could be exactly what our country needs. Perhaps we wouldn't be as divided if most decisions were made on the local level. Citizens would feel like they could still play a part in the political process and our individual needs, unique to each area, would be taken into greater consideration.

The idea of reducing federal control and spending is obviously taboo. Large corporations, political action committees and even foreign interests have a lot invested in our current way of doing things. They know how to pull strings and make things happen, all of that is threatened if the states were given decisions that are now made in Washington.

I think that it is pretty safe to say that the mainstream media has mostly ignored Ron Paul, but hopefully that will change. Fortunately, many people do not have to rely only on television, radio and print. Citizens are now able to seek out ignored information on the internet.

Ron Paul has a very strong following on the internet. Some people have even taken to calling all Ron Paul supporters fat, pimpled-faced computer geeks that sit in their parents basement and spam online polls.

I certainly don't fit that description and these people don't either.

If you would like to learn more about Ron Paul, here is his official website.
There are also countless interview videos on Ron Paul's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You Know You're a Parent When...'ve realized that the most effectual way to get poop out of a bathtub is to scoop it quickly with your hand before it breaks into smaller pieces (the bath soap is close-by for afterward, so don't hesitate).

Remove the children first and then get the poop out before the water drains, while it is still floating, or it will smear onto the bottom of the tub.

By-the-way, I don't think Henry's body knows how to digest grapes.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Pop!" Goes the Nursemaid's Elbow

Yesterday, around 11:30, I started our nap-time routine by herding together our two youngest boys.

Being three, Jacob is old enough to dread his nap, and he began to protest, while Henry, 18-months, held my hand and climbed the stairs next to me. In playful retaliation, the J-Man, decided to grab hold of Henry's leg during our climb. Trying to prevent a serious fall, I was forced to maintain a firm grip on our toddler's hand while the full weight of our 3 (almost 4) year-old son threatened to pull everyone down the stairs. The end result of this tug-of-war was the sound and vibration of a firm "pop" from little Henry's arm, followed by crying.

He cried for a good 15 minutes, but was very tired and fell asleep for a short bit. About half and hour later, Henry was awake again and crying. He held on to his left arm and would not move it. For a while I was able to distract him as I called and consulted our pediatrician's office. The nurse advised me to bring him to an Urgent Care clinic or the ER so that he could be X-rayed.

While waiting for my husband to drive home, I carefully observed our injured toddler, so that I would be able to answer any questions the doctor might ask. I noticed that he was holding his arm slightly bent and perfectly still, almost as if it were in a sling. He was in good spirits and even smiled and tried to play. If he forgot about his injury and tried to move his arm he would flinch or cry.

It is amazing to me how resilient children are, because for all little Henry knew his injury could have been permanent but despite this grim idea, he continued to play. When he encountered a situation where he wanted to grab something but could not because his right hand was full, he would stop and carefully calculate what to do.
"Ok, I've got my Thomas train in this hand, but I want to grab that tricycle. Hmmm, what can I do....well, that other hand is no good anymore, so let me think.....I can try to grab both in the same, no, that doesn't work....this is the only arm that moves, so I need to find somewhere safe where I can put my train down and then I can grab on...."
All of this seemed to play-out in his head as he held his useless left arm firmly paralyzed at his side. It was a very, very sad thing to watch, but I was amazed at his ability to adapt to the situation!

After Corby arrived home to stay with the big kids, I was finally able to leave for the ER. Worst case scenarios accompanied by visions of little Henry toddling around in a cast played out in my head as I drove into Huntsville.

When we arrived at the Pediatric ER, the administrative nurse look doubtingly at Henry, who was all smiles in his stroller. While I described what had happened to him she calmly stated,
"It sounds like Nursemaid's Elbow."

We were admitted without a wait, but there was no urgency. Next the triage nurse assessed Henry,
"Probably Nursemaid's Elbow."

No one seemed surprised or worried. The doctor came in and I began to explain what happened. Before I could even finish, while holding Henry's arm and twisting inward, he said,
"There, it's fixed. It was Nursemaid's Elbow."

Wow, it really was fixed!

No x-ray or cast needed. He was diagnosed and cured in an instant of something I had never heard of before.

It turns out that Nursemaid's Elbow is a common injury to children whose arm has been pulled too hard. The doctor said that once it occurs it is more likely to happen again, up until the age of 6 or 7. Needless to say, I had the doctor show me how to "pop" the elbow back into place.

Henry began to use his arm almost immediately after the "fix" and never showed any sign of residual pain.

I guess having the experience of parenting three toddlers doesn't show you everything there is to know. Does anyone ever get to the point of being a hardened parenting veteran with encyclopedia like knowledge?

Maybe these parents.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Power Outages. What, Me Worry?

Last Thursday it was so hot. How hot was it? It was so hot that my daughter's soccer practice was cancelled at 5:30 for fear of the heat, and I have heard from parents with children in school that the kids are not allowed to go outside for P.E. All of the children are relegated to the gym.

The temperatures seem to be maintaining their triple digit streak, and there has yet to be a sign of it letting up in the forecast.

With it being so hot, and everyone cranking up the A/C, it was reassuring when Huntsville Utilities informed customers that "there's no need to conserve energy... despite the summer-time peak" and usage that "tops the charts". (link)


I was starting to suspect that our local power infrastructure would be susceptible to the same failings of similar power companies in similar heat conditions. Within the past week outages attributed to the heat have occurred in:
... Arkansas,
... Missouri,
... Texas,
... Virginia,
... West Virginia
... Georgia, ..and again in Georgia.

I suppose we are lucky to have our power provided by the far superior and indestructible Huntsville Utilities, but my excitement was short-lived. Yesterday I received a call from my sister in Huntsville.

Uh-oh, her power is out along with a large portion of the city.

Even on University Drive, a commercial shopping area, the power outage has forced retail businesses to close, and on a Saturday no less!

Is this an early indication that global warming is beginning to rear its ugly head and show us what kind of discomfort and inconvenience we have to look forward to?

Could it be that our energy resources are not capable of exponential growth and as our population continues to grow, they will only be more scarce and hard to maintain?

Are our power infrastructures aged and more susceptible to the strains of demand than our utility providers would like us to believe?

We need to answer all of these questions, and hopefully this power outage will be the catalyst for the consideration.

Lets see...

Today the Huntsville Times reported on yesterday's power outage:
About 30,000 customers of Huntsville Utilities sweated out a power failure in 99-degree heat Saturday afternoon when a switch failed.

At 4:30 p.m., a delivery point that disperses electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority power grid shut down, the utility said. Crews restored power to about 23,000 customers by 5:18p.m.

Crew completed restoring power to 7,500 customers in the Nick Davis and Old Railroad Bed area by 6:35 p.m.

The heat, weather conditions and the heavy load of electricity usage this past week were not responsible for the failure, the utility said. (link)

Oh, silly me! I got myself all worked-up and afraid for nothing!

My local, friendly utility company, Huntsville Utilities, said the weather and heavy usage was not a factor, and I know they only have my well-being and comfort at heart!

I am sure they would tell us of any problem they might be having, even if the public response would be negative and against their best interest. Even if the reality of a situation were to reveal evidence of global climate change or the inadequacy of their own resources, they would surely tell us!

Wouldn't they?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hey Kids, What's In It For Me?

Yesterday, I took our two oldest children to the Sci-Quest science museum in Huntsville for homeschool science labs. Both of the kids had a lot of fun learning about light, prisms and rainbows.

During their hour-long class, I walked among the exhibits with our two younger boys and met many homeschooling parents. I ran into a few friends who use our cover school, and also met other families who I had never seen before, many from nearby cities like Decatur and Athens.

Not feeling in the least bit shy after encountering so many pleasant homeschooling parents, I approached a father with three young boys. Although it is uncommon to meet a homeschooling dad, it is not unheard of, so I decided to strike-up a conversation.

When asked if he had children attending the homeschool science workshop, he grimaced and quickly retorted an emphatic "No!". He followed with, "Is that what this is?" gesturing at the many parents and children playing and exploring the museum. I told him that all of the school-age kids there that day were probably homeschooled because the public schools had already started. He quickly informed me that he was from Birmingham (as if an excuse was needed for being ill placed). He said his kids started back to school next week, then he added that he couldn't wait for them to go back and he looked forward to the day when school would be year-round.

This miserable parent and his anticipated release seemed to fit a pattern I have long observed.

Ever since our first child was born I have come to realize that there are two distinct groups of parents in the world. Those who genuinely like to spend time with their children and those who tally every minute alone with them like a prisoner in a jail cell. I can recall mothers telling me, when our daughter was only a toddler, that they could never stay home with their kids because they "wanted a life". Come on, give me a break! I have a hard time considering the pursuit of selfish and material gains an equal trade for the rare and priceless opportunities offered fleetingly to a parent.

Can you think of any way that you could ever influence any other human being more than the influence of a parent to a child? Why do so many parents repulsively thwart spending long periods of time with their kids?

Some argue that they need quiet time; time to do grown-up things. But children aren't young forever. Is it too much to sacrifice a little of that "me" time for them? Don't they deserve that much?

You might think that the idea of feeling obligated toward children is what perpetuates the attitude of unhealthy entitlement that so many adolescents seem to exhibit. But I would argue the opposite.

Children model their behavior after their parents and when they see that Mommy and Daddy are constantly preoccupied with a "what's in it for me?" mentality, then of course these children will grow-up asking that same question.

I think that children of selfless parents are less likely to only think of what they have to gain in each situation. Having a parent who gives you respect and values you enough to give you his or her precious time will go much farther to build character than a special preschool and any amount of fancy toys and gadgets.

Be sure, I am not in any remote way suggesting that parents deserve no time for themselves. But, I do think that our society tends to diminish the value of selfless sacrifice, while heralding the rewards of selfish pursuits and the general disregard of others. We only need to turn on the television, open a magazine or read a newspaper to learn of the many ways you can achieve more for yourself, whether you are accumulating fame, power or stuff.

The attitude of "I sure can't wait to get rid of these kids" will only be more and more common until parents realize that they have a lot more to gain by actually giving it all away.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

McDonald's and the No-Hold-Bars Marketing Smackdown of Preschoolers

A new study has revealed that children surveyed at a Head Start center in California preferred the taste of food wrapped in the McDonald's logo over the exact same food unwrapped. Some of the foods were common-place snacks like carrots and milk.

Researchers are balking at the overly successful effects of McDonald's strategic marketing toward children. Psychologists are lining-up against MickyD's while others choose to blame the parents.

So, whose job is it to monitor what children are seeing and consuming?

As parents, my husband and I have always taken it upon ourselves to try to filter and educate our kids about advertising. We are a very non-commercial family. We hardly ever watch commercial television, in fact, we do not even have cable. The few times I have seen advertisements geared toward the kids, I have taken time to explain to our children what the ad is trying to accomplish and how it is trying to change their minds about what they are selling.

Marketing towards children is ruthless. There is nothing a corporation will not do to instill those warm, associative feelings toward their brand early in children. (Even our own government knows how to play the game.)

I have to agree that parents must beware.

But, does that mean that advertisers can do whatever they want? What else can we learn from this study?

It seems to me that it is evident that children in poorer, low-income families are more likely to report this way. In fact, I wonder if the study knew ahead of time that they would be able to produce these results by surveying a Head Start center. (Head Start is a government provided preschool for low-income and welfare families). I think it is plausible to expect low-income families and immigrants to be naive and uneducated of the harmful affects of television.

A study released last month reports that children with more educated parents watch less television. I do not think that it is safe to assume that this survey would find similar results in children from a more diverse background.

Educated parents may begin a sigh of relief, thinking "My kids sure don't watch that much television and we never eat fast food", but not so fast. Even I, an admitted television nazi, am concerned by the broader ramifications of this study.

The health and eating habits of low-income families should be a concern to us all. These are the people who are being supplied Medicaid by our tax dollars and will potentially not have insurance in years ahead. Being a society that attempts to provide care for all citizens, we cannot forget that the exploitation of the disadvantaged is an exploitation of us all.

Just because we know better than to eat McDonald's poison, doesn't mean that we are not feeling the toxic affects inadvertently. The "If you don't like it, don't eat it" mentality only works for adults. I don't remember being able to go out and grocery shop for myself when I was 4-years-old. Do you?

Friday, August 3, 2007

You Have The Most Powerful Tool For Change, USE IT!!!

Are you dissatisfied the with direction of our country? Do you want to change the level of global environmental concern?

Despair no more!!! Now is the time to cast your vote and change the world!

I know you may be thinking "It's not November yet!", but the kind of voting I am talking about has nothing to do with the government. This vote is more powerful than any ballot you can cast in any political election. It is actually the most powerful vote in the world, and the most amazing part of all is that you have more than one to cast, actually probably hundreds. And, if you cast your votes carefully, you can change anything about this country you may not like. Anything.

The secret is to vote with your dollars.

Every day of your life you should view every dollar you spend as a powerful tool and every purchase as an opportunity to send a message.

It doesn't matter how much money you have, anyone can participate. You may be wondering, "What sort of message can I send with my money? How can a dollar be a vote?" , here are a few simple examples:
If you believe a large retail corporation unfairly treats their workers, don't shop at their stores.

If you want to tell the producers of animal by-products that antibiotics and hormones are not what you want in your food, then buy organic.

A particular television show or cable channel may repulse you, so don't buy the products advertised there.

If you feel that too many U.S. jobs are being lost overseas, make an effort to buy American.
I admit that sometimes this may add to the cost of the goods or services you are shopping for, and I agree that even our finances limit what we can do, but it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

For example, I prefer to look for products sold by socially, environmentally and organically conscious companies, but their products are usually higher priced. I will often buy 3 of the cheaper "regular" products and just 1 of the more expensive "conscious" brand. Every little bit helps, even if you cannot commit 100%.

To look at our political system as the solution to all if our problems is a flawed mentality. Nothing will change unless we start to really pay attention to the message we are sending everyday with our dollars.

Money, more than any other method available to the average citizen, has the potential to change the world. Take time to research where your money is going and take advantage of every cent.

Ultimately, this is not about what you get to bring home with you in your shopping bag. This is about trying to envision and cultivate a better future.

Begin making responsible decisions today, tomorrow, the next day, and every day from here on out.

Everyday is election day!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Probably Overscheduled, But What Can I Do?

The public schools are starting. Today Madison County schools had their first day, and next week Madison and Huntsville City schools will start their year off. Despite being a homeschooling family, I still feel a tinge of stress and anxiety when the schools get started because I know that kids' activities are soon going to start.

I must confess that our kids are moderately over scheduled. There are many articles written by psychologists that enumerate the disadvantages of enrolling your child in too many activities, but I'm not sure how much of their logic would apply to the homeschooled child. Many doctors say that kids are stressed by being away from home and family, first all-day at school and then in sports and other extracurricular pursuits afterward. But, our kids are home all day long and are always excited about their out of home classes and sports, and that is the problem.

Our kids want to do everything!

Last year Elora participated in Brownies, soccer, multiple dance classes, chess tournaments, swim team and piano lessons. Corbin also played baseball in addition to soccer. We are also involved in classes and field trips with our homeschool cover, and we try to maintain some involvement in our church's children's activities.

Corbin has been begging all summer to get involved in tennis and basketball, and Corby would really like for the kids to be involved in some classes at the children's theater.

How do you decide what to do? You certainly can't do it all!

There is always the cost to consider. Dance classes, theater classes and tennis lessons are billed monthly, our piano lessons are free (Thanks John!). Chess class is also free, but it can cost anywhere from $20-$40 for a tournament registration, and if that tournament is far enough, you pay travel expenses. The sports through the city recreation department (baseball, basketball, soccer, and swimming) charge a up front fee of about $90 each. Scouts are relatively cheap, but then you have the inevitable fundraiser where all the kids are pitted against one another to see who can sell the most cookies or popcorn.

Another consideration is logistics. Piano lessons are the easiest because they are at our house during the day at a convenient time. Our Friday homeschool classes are also in the morning, which is not a conflict because we do most of our school Monday through Thursday (The one-on-one teaching actually goes much faster than classroom learning, and we use Friday for tests, review, make-up work or fun stuff.)

All the other activities the kids are involved in are in the afternoon, because they are open to school age children, so they take place after school is out. Tennis and swimming are at a very nearby park, while baseball and soccer are a bit farther away. Dance and scouts are very close, while theater would be the farthest away activity.

I am trying to weigh all of this information, but I haven't even received a complete schedule for most of these activities. What about the time conflicts? Elora would like to join the winter swim team, but they practice 3 days a week. That certainly limits the amount of time she has available!

You can see how all of this may be a little stressful, and I am sure it seems a little ridiculous. Part of being a parent is knowing when to say "NO", but I have a hard time refusing the kids experiences that I myself enjoyed as a child. You are probably wondering, "Why do kids have to participate in so much stuff?", and believe me, I wonder the same thing. Can't we just decide on few things and eliminate the rest? We are finding that decision very hard to make.

We really need some feedback on this, so I am adding a poll for you to offer up your opinions. Please leave a comment if you have the time, every little bit helps!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Starting School Today

We started school today. Hopefully I will be able to keep up the posts. Here is a pic I took of our school room before the kids woke-up this morning.

Out of the Pool and Into the Frying Pan

When looking back at childhood, I think that every memory tends to take-on a particular slant. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative, these memories are forever painted in dramatically vivid colors that tend to outshine the more recent additions to your biographical record.

Childhood sports and activities distinctly stand-out in my mind as completely positive, fun, and exciting experiences. Some of my most fun times were on summer swim team; perhaps that is why it was so important to get our kids into the pool as soon as possible.

This is Elora's second year being on the Madison Dolphins summer swim team (incidentally, this is the exact same team that I swam on in high school, with the same head coach that coached me, believe it or not!). This is the first year that she qualified for the state swim meet which was held this past weekend. We were very lucky that this statewide competition was hosted by our home team this year; last year it was a 6 hour drive away in Dothan!

It has been a fun summer watching Elora improve and compete, but I have also learned that being a swim parent is not the completely positive, fun, and exciting experience from childhood; it is much harder, maybe even borderline grueling!

The state meet takes place over two days. An ample amount of time to provide many stressful experiences!

On Friday Corby couldn't come because, duh, it was a work day, so I had bad odds to begin with. The first dramatic development reared its head in the afternoon. Our medley relay was grouped together outside the bullpen, unfortunately, too close to a fire-ant hill; their butterfly swimmer was stung nearly 20 times. Elora was only stung twice, but made-up for it with an extreme amount of complaining. Despite her itchy wounds, she was still able to swim her lap and their relay finished second overall.

Afterward, the process of trying to get out was a nightmare. It would be easy if it weren't for all the stuff (you have to bring the stuff...chairs, cooler, blankets, towels, toys, games plus I had a stroller with baby included).

So, while I struggled with the folding chairs in a sea of mini-camps and swim squatters, Jacob decided to wander away. When I turned around to look for him, I could see that he was crying amidst a crowd of friendly fellow parents who were trying to help him. I finally reached him and I asked why he had walked away. He told me he had lost his sock. I looked down and noticed that he had taken off his shoes and was carrying one sock, after pointing out that the other was still on his foot, he brightened and came along. He walked all the way to the car wearing only that one sock.

Calm relief eased its way into me as we crossed the threshold of the parking area, only to be shattered when Elora declared that she had left her flip-flops behind and we would have to go look for them. Glancing back at the hordes of tents, concession stands, parents and swimmers, I informed her that nothing could drag me back in there, especially not a $4 pair of very worn and dirty blue flip-flops, that no one would ever take home with them!

Saturday was easier. Corby there to help, and after finding those lost flip-flops the day seemed to be rolling along nicely. If only it weren't 98 degrees outside with 85% humidity!

By the end of the meet, as the free relay neared, dark storm clouds began to roll-in. I crossed my fingers and said many a prayer to forestall disastrous thunder and lightening, in which case the meet would be paused for a half-hour. Much to our relief, the 8 and under relays were completed right before someone heard thunder and we were able to scramble for the car with smiles on our faces despite the fact that we were being drenched in a summer downpour.

Oh, how I felt sorry for the parents that we hurriedly left behind! I try to ignore the little voice in my head telling me that as the kids grow and move up in age groups, that will surely someday be me waiting. Whatever happened to the good ol' days when I got to be the swimmer and the whole world revolved around me? Swim team certainly looks different from this side of the pool deck.

Link to results.

Elora after warm-ups.

Elora watching from the coach's table.

Elora's 25yd butterfly (she is in the farthest lane on the left, she finished 9th overall)

Girls 8 and under medley relay, Elora swam the final lap of free, they were in lane 6 and finished second. You can't really see anything, but you can get a feeling for the hysteria.

(Actually I found out later that they finished third because another team had a soft touch. Also, looking at this video objectively, most of the people watching look pretty sedate, not at all hysteric. I guess my feeling of roaring chaos came from a combination of being in such a big crowd and feeling very stressed.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Poisoning Our Kids? Thanks, President Bush.

I didn't intend on blogging about Bush so soon after last week, but I must make an exception.

Bush is soon expected to veto a ban on mercury in vaccinations.

Mercury is poison. If you ever broke a mercury thermometer as a child you might recall how much fun it was to watch the tiny, liquid-metal droplets roll across the floor. Perhaps you even played with them, allowing them to separate and then forcing the drops to jump back together. All of it was fun until you mother found you and harshly lectured about the toxicity of mercury, after which you would forever look apprehensively at any mercury thermometer placed in your mouth.

Recently mercury has been linked to brain damage and learning disabilities including autism.

Parents have been warned to limit the frequency in which they allow their children to eat fish because it contains traces of mercury. (By-the-way, mercury does not occur naturally in fish. Mercury pollutants released into the environment by factories and power plants filter into our water and then leach into the fish that live there. Read more about mercury pollution here.)

With this knowledge, you may wonder why drug companies continue to use mercury as an ingredient in thimerosal, a preservative used in immunizations. This chemical variant is outlawed in most countries, but not the United States. And, to add insult to injury, in 2002, a mysterious piggyback on the 2002 Homeland Security bill freed drug companies of liability in lawsuits regarding thimerosal.

To any parent this is disturbing news, especially to those who feel a pang of guilt when forcing their cheery, trusting, unsuspecting baby into a position to feel the painful prick of a shot. Now there is the additional worry of unintentionally poisoning our children.

Although our pediatrician assures me that all the shots given to our toddler are mercury-free, it just makes me wonder, "Why wouldn't Bush make sure that all parents have the same assurance?." Especially since there are certainly families that do not have the awareness to inquire about such a thing, or the means to find alternative health resources.

Is there any way to tell Bush that we value our health and the health of our children? Does he care that most Americans no longer support him and view his policies as outrageously foul?

Monday, July 23, 2007

You Know You're a Parent When...

You feel relief for your 3-year-old after learning from Poison Control which "DO NOT EAT" preservative packets are dangerous.

The ones with clear, kosher salt-like contents are O.K.; the ones that are darker and packaged with beef jerky are dangerous (they have iron in them).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Staying Up Late with Harry Potter

Last Friday our family adventured the the land of Barnes & Noble for a magical Harry Potter: Deathly Hollows book release party. Elora, who is eight, has read the entire series but we have never participated in one of the all night events. Since this is the last book, and thus our last chance, we decided to take all of the kids.

Around 7:00pm Corby arrived at the store straight from work and stood in line to receive a bracelet. Each bracelet would designate the order in which you could go to the register at midnight and buy the book. The line stretched from the front door of the bookstore and far around the side of the store.

I didn't arrive with the kids until 8:00pm. We had strategically planned to drive two cars and all the kids were showered and ready for bed (they youngest two wore their P.J.s).

At the party there was a costume contest and although we didn't participate, we enjoyed seeing children and adults dressed as the various characters from the book. Surprisingly, there were not that many dressed as the namesake, Harry Potter. Here are a few favorites.

The kids were all able to enjoy activities including: hatching dragon eggs, making their own wands, a puppet show and trivia. At 10:00pm I brought all of the boys home and Corby and Elora stayed to be sorted into their "houses" and mix their own potion (with colored sand).

At 1:00am father and daughter arrived home with the new book in hand.

Elora fell promptly to sleep, but read the first chapter before she got out of bed the next morning. She is currently on chapter 9 and is very proud to have stayed up so late with all the die-hard fans.

I am so glad that the kids had an opportunity to see so many people enthusiastic about a book.

I don't have a single memory from my childhood to compare it to! I can vaguely recall reading Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books as a child. Back then, many girls were really into The Babysitter's Club series, while most of the boys preferred the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. There was no literary achievement that transcended so many lines as the Harry Potter series.

My mother compared the book fans to the late 70's early 80's fervor associated with the Star Wars movies, but then again, the whole point is that this is a book. Hopefully this excitement about reading will make an impression on the boys, even though they have only seen the movies and haven't read the books for themselves. Eventually, I hope they will read all the books and perhaps they will remember that they were there that night.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why'd Ya Do It George? Say It Ain't So!

Who says George Bush isn't trying to cut federal spending?

On Wednesday Ol' George showed his frugal side with his plan to cut the $420 million federal subsidiary for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes federal subsidies to PBS, National Public Radio and hundreds of public radio and television stations.

Cookie Monster and Barney needn't worry though, the house voted down the bill, 357-72.

We don't have cable and rarely watch television, but when we do, PBS is our channel. Personally, I think it is the only channel worth watching. NPR is also one of our favorite, although I rarely get to listen nowadays because the kids prefer Jack Johnson's Curious George Soundtrack (which, I must admit is great).

Well, this certainly doesn't help my (dis) approval rating toward the Prez.

I was glad to see that all of the Alabama representatives voted against this bill. You can check to see who voted to kill Elmo and Big Bird here.

It is also worth noting that PBS now has one of the best
shows I have ever seen for elementary age children called Fetch!, but our kids call it Ruff-Ruff. They absolutely love this show. It airs at 4:30pm in Huntsville and is sort-of an amazing race premise geared toward children, where the challenges are educational. Take a look, it is really neat.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stop Looking in Caves and Under Bridges, Trolls Are Everywhere

In my last post there were a few people who commented on the story about the mother and toddler who were thrown off an airplane. The original article is here and Grandma Bettyanne provided a link to the article's comments here.

If you glance at the story's comments you will notice that many people applauded the flight attendant's actions. For example:
If this person sues it will be in federal court. She and her lawyer should pray that I do not sit upon the jury. Bratty kids should be quiet but, as is obvious here, the parents are the ones responsible for their continued unacceptable behavior.
But one particular comment, noted by Anonymous, really stands out for its idiocy:
God Bless this flight attendant. This mother sickens me. Take the child away from her before more damage is done. And put the the little brat on Ritalin. It is SO CLEAR that he has a behavior problem and guess who is to blame. This pathetic excuse for a mother. GOD BLESS AIRLINE ATTENDANTS. AND GOD BLESS GEORGE W. BUSH.
Now, as you may know, I am a very skeptical person, and I have a hunch that this is not even a real comment.

Let me introduce you to the idea of trolling.

A troll is a person who gets their kicks from scouring the internet for controversial topics, and then posting outlandish things in order to cause a stir. Often these people post a view that they heartily disagree with, but by arguing the point in a pig-headed, outrageous and ignorant manner, they are able to do more damage to the position than good. For more information on trolling, read Wiki here.

I have a suspicion that the above comment was written by a troll.

You might think that my suspicious assumption is unfounded. Perhaps you believe that everyone on the Internet is honest when they present a point of view, and for the most part I want to believe this too, but, when viewing comments or other information on the internet something should be kept in mind.

People have been using various traditional media to spread disinformation for a long time.

Read here about
Black Propaganda.

It seems that the idea of misrepresenting the source of information is a classic strategy used by governments or other organizations when trying to manipulate a group of people. The internet is only the most recent avenue used to influence public opinion, and this time anyone and everyone can participate.

Now, I must admit that my stomach begins to sickly, churn when I think of George W. Bush, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would post such an idiotic comment. I would bet that the person who posted this feels the exact opposite of what they wrote. When confronted with so many of the other heart-felt, moderately stupid, negative comments toward the mother, they probably decided take the point-of-view to an extreme plus throw in a little stab at Bush.

I certainly don't know this for sure, and there are very likely many people who wouldn't hesitate from writing something as absurd as this, with full belief that they are right, but trolling is real so we shouldn't take every comment at face value.

By-the-way, I know someone who likes to do this, and that is proof enough to me that this is a factual activity for some people's amusement.
If you are reading this now, my trolling friend, make sure you don't leave any of those troll comments here!!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Another Place Where Kids Are Not Allowed? How Inconvenient! It Makes You Wonder Why People Even Bother Having Children.

I thought that nothing could top our grueling air travel experience from earlier this week, until I read this article about about a mother and her toddler getting kicked-off an airline for the 19-month-old's incessant baby talk. In contrast, on our flight, our toddler was not repeating the cute "bye-bye plane" baby-talk, our baby was repeatedly screaming at the top of his lungs.

I'm so glad that our attendant only went as far as indignant complaints and dirty looks.

All of this got me to thinking...

Is it just me or does it seem that more people are becoming increasingly intolerant of the needs and behaviors of children?

Could this be a symptom of a society that marginalizes children and exiles them from reality?

Daycare services admit children as young as 6-weeks-old and from that point on there are an amplitude of services that allow parents to temporarily free themselves from their burdens. When children turn 5 (and in some areas 4), public education devours kids and institutionalizes them until they are of competent working age.

As a homeschooling parent I can attest to the fact that many adults are visibly uncomfortable with the mere presence of a child. I have endured many hostile glares when I have occasionally ventured out with my school age children before 3 pm.

Why does our society treat children like an inconvenient necessary evil, only to be pacified and occasionally praised when they make their adult counterparts feel good about themselves?

Perhaps we have forgotten that children are people who are capable of more than we give them credit for. Our ancestors were thankful for each new little human being that was added to their family because they knew that they had worth and could contribute to the livelihood of a household even at a very early age. (Even a toddler can be taught how to snap beans and carry a bucket!)

Awaiting the day when they can flip-a-burger or open a checking account, American kids are locked away from the rest of society, placated with toys and electronics.

It is no wonder that once out of their parents house they find themselves ill-equipped for reality, in a downward spiral of partying and debt; never truly becoming well rounded adults until their late 20s or early 30s...

or never at all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My Family Spent The Night in Reagan Int'l And All I Got Was This Lousy Blanket!

Well folks, we are finally home!

As always, our yearly vacation to New Hampshire was a wonderful retreat. Despite very little swimming weather, we still managed to have fun canoeing, kayaking, hiking, jet skiing and (of course) cooking s'mores by the campfire.

But our time spent in transit was far from pleasant, and kicked hard against the border of misery.

On our flight out we connected in Charlotte, NC. Although the first flight from Nashville was easy, the connection flight trapped everyone helplessly on-board only to alert us minutes before departing that we would be taxiing back to the runway for maintenance. Seems that one of the engines wouldn't start and it would be 45 minutes to install a new starter. I balked at the idea of waiting a extra 45 minutes in a plane with four children. How horrible!!! I was more than a little steamed when we arrived, but was able begin our vacation in fairly good spirits.

Little did I know that this was just a small, dainty appetizer of discomfort preceding the gut wrenching experience of our returning flight home.

Yesterday, we boarded our return flight in Boston aimed at our connection in Washington D.C. at Reagan International. I should have guessed bad things were ahead when the flight attendant rudely commented that my baby was disturbing too many passengers. I must admit that our 18-month-old only has 2 volume settings, quiet and spine-tingling, shrill scream, but honestly, what did she suggest I do? So I asked her "What do you suggest I do?", I think that this response took the young, obviously childless, woman back and her smug look melted into defenseless puzzlement. A few moments later we had an ample supply of airplane snacks and thus, he was much quieter.

Nearer to Reagan, we were informed that lightening had struck the building and their communications were out. No alarm, the pilot planned to just circle the airport patiently until....

We ran out of fuel.

(Or at least we nearly did.) We had to leave Washington to fly to our back-up landing location for a refill. I still don't understand why, but our designated back-up was in New York at Laguardia Airport. This was going from bad to worse! This airport is notorious for delays.

Refueled and ready to fly, we quickly proceeded to the tarmac to begin our three hour wait for take-off. The pilot informed us that the weather had prevented a slew of flights from taking off and landing. I imagine our plane was of little overall significance, but it sure felt significant to us and to every other traveler within earshot of the screaming, whining, jumping, arguing and crying of our four tired, hungry and trapped children!

We arrived at Washington at a 7:50pm, seven hours after initially boarding the plane. For a few brief minutes when we entered the airport, I had hope that there might be a remaining flight out that we could catch, unfortunately the departure screen revealed nothing. We were stuck, along with hundreds of other travelers.

Because the kids had not had anything to eat since noon and because every vendor was beginning to close, we hastily found a restaurant and ate. Every US Airways ticket counter radiated lines of stranded businessmen, grandmothers, college students and families. Everyone was desperate to get where they were going. And, to top it all off, there would be no vouchers because all of this was attributed to weather.

We avoided the lines and called the 800 number, our flight would leave at 8:40 am and we would sleep at the airport until then.

Few people know that a magical thing happens in the middle of the night at an airport. When the clock strikes midnight a khaki-colored fairy driving an electrically powered cart visits the marooned travelers that are tucked into every chair and quiet corner. This fairy bestows blue bundled gifts that are unfolded to reveal the warmth and softness of polyester fleece. The piles of stranded sleepers become uniformed in their appearance of rolling mounds of new fallen snow.

Cuddly, bright blue polyester snow.


We made our morning flight and soon were home. We have 5 blue blankets to show from our journey, plus the miserable memories of heinous travel.


To end on a positive note, here are some pictures of the kids at the lake. (Click to enlarge)