Peanut Picnics #1

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As long as the weather remains bearable, I will be taking my two favorite little Peanuts on a picnic every Tuesday night. My husband went back to school and has a night class that leaves us apart from the time I get home from work to the time I drop into bed. I thought it would be a fun idea to take my son and nephew to a new localle around town for each picnic. I've been making a mental checklist of places for awhile now. Last night, we hit the gazebo at a local park because it was on the verge of raining. See, I have a few "backup" places in mind too so the rain can't stop us.


I threw a few Lunchables in the bag for the kiddos and a sandwich for me and off we went.


These two kids have such extremes in the hair department. One gets comments for his near-white albino-like hair and one gets compliments for his shiny copper top.


After they were done eating, and we had shoo'd away the lone bee that wanted our juice, we made our way over to the nearby playground. Climbing the trees seemed like more fun than the slides!



And blowing dandelions. I love how kids pick up on simple things like this. You show them once and they remember it for a lifetime. I mean, he had no idea about this simple childhood pleasure of dandelion-blowing until one day we were stuck in the backyard one day with nothing to do. Instant entertainment. Makes me think about all the wonderful I'd like to teach him.


My basic requirements as a mother: keep those babies well-fed and happy. Here's the evidence that I'm doing a fine job.


Mental notes for next time:

1. Find a nice reusable tablecloth for the questionable picnic tables around town. This time, we made sure we kept everything on top of plastic baggies and Lunchable trays.

2. I'm still trying to find a cute old quilt to throw on the ground anywhere we decide to munch or hang out. We have an old off-white blanket that we use for the dog in the car, but I think I'd like something a little more memorable or whimsical.

3. Juice=Bee Catcher. Lets try chocolate milk or airtight water bottles next time.

A Shocking Treadmill Experience

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Anyone else have a problem with static shock when running on the treadmill? At the new gym I'm going to, the treadmill zaps me every time I touch the handles. I remember this happening at previous gyms too. And it happens on all different treadmills, not just one in particular. It doesn't let up after I'm damp with sweat either. Maybe I'm just more electrifying than most people. Yeah, that must be it! Ha!

From the solutions I scrounged, I didn't come up with any that really fit my particular situation. I have no control over the humidity levels in the gym nor do I have any control over grounding the treadmills (which I have confidence are already properly installed).

A few other suggestions were to wear those wristbands attached to the treadmill, but I don't think these treadmills have any (plus they're pretty dorky-looking). You can also go out and get new running shoes that prevent shock, but my budget doesn't really comply as I just recently bought brand-new running shoes.

Now I don't know if this is scientifically sound or not, but it seemed like when I rubbed my fingers on my cotton shirt (which holds a neutral charge) before touching the bars, I wouldn't get shocked. I must somehow be dispelling the charge. Or maybe I'm just crazy. Either way, it's worth experimenting with since this is the easiest fix I could fathom. And this article indicates that polyester and nylon clothes--typical in performance-wear--are good conductors of electricity. Cotton is not.

The most comprehensive solutions I found were in this Runner's World forum.

None of this will stop me from running of course. It's my drug of choice. I've been a runner for over 10 years now, and I don't plan on letting a tiny thing like this prevent me from my chosen exercise. However, I do think it could be enough to deter a beginner or exercise-averse type, so it's worth looking into.

Embracing My Plate

Monday, August 29, 2011

I did a post awhile ago about Bento Boxes (laptop lunches). The timeliness of these pre-portioned containers is impeccable! Of course you know that the USDA is no longer using the Pyramid to indicate how many servings of each different type of food is recommended. They're using a sectioned plate! My Plate is being embraced by Starbucks with their new Bistro Boxes. The system also translates well to the Bento Box or those standard paper picnic plates with different sections. Some businesses are even designing plates exactly as the USDA advises. It will be fun to watch how different businesses align their brands with this simplified system and embrace this new take on nutrition.

It's so much easier to visualize a meal this way. Just knowing that half my plate should be fruits and vegetables--in other words, the main part of the meal should be produce--makes it so much easier to plan menus and go grocery shopping. Even just eyeballing a throw-together lunch is much less daunting than attempting to count all the items in the pyramid for each day.


My Champion Breakfasts

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When it comes to breakfast, cereal just doesn't cut it for me. At all. I will be ravishingly hungry by about 9:30 with cereal, even if I go waaaaay over the standard 3/4 to 1 cup serving. A good bowl of Kashi might cut it on a relatively sedentary day. But, I've found a handful of healthy breakfasts I thought I'd share that do keep me very satisfied until lunchtime. And by that I mean around 12:30, not at almost-11:00. Not only are they diet-friendly, but they're also super-fast and simple to prepare and very inexpensive. My kind of meal!

1. Waffles: Two whole grain toaster waffles, 1/4 c sugar-free syrup, 1/4 c cottage cheese on the side and sometimes a sprinkling of blueberries over the top. A sweet applesauce/syrup mixture is also a great way to sneak in fruit.

2. Oatmeal: 1/2 c quick oats, 1/2 c milk, 1/4 c sugar-free syrup and 1 mini box of raisins all heated in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes. I use milk instead of water for my oatmeal to make it richer. Then, I have another cup to drink.

3. PB&Honey Toast: Two slices whole wheat toast spread with 1 T peanut butter each and a drizzle of honey over the top. Side of canned pears.

4. Eggs: Scrambled Egg Beaters with two slices of buttered toast. Side of fruit. I like to mix whatever I have on-hand into the scrambled eggs if possible: mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, deli meat, green pepper, shredded cheese, etc.

My New American Dream

Friday, August 19, 2011

I entered an essay-writing contest put on by recently called the New American Dream Contest. It was a 250-word-or-less contest describing what the new American dream is, which is far-removed from the Gatsby-esque picket fences and 2-1/2 kids of yore. The first bout of judging was a "popularity contest" type of judging where you have to send all your friends and family to the site to vote for you (blech!). The second round was judged by a panel of third-party professionals. I was notified that I made it to the top 25 and then heard nothing more.

This might sound crazy, but I was already dreaming of the winning vacation and researching the motel. However, I think my entry got lost. Long story short, my essay does NOT show up in the top 25 (which I'm totally miffed about) and I've been trying to contact both and their third-party consultants to figure out what went awry. I'm a bit disheartened, but I'll live:) *wink*

Anyhow, I just thought I would share my entry:

My American Dream is to be able to go to bed at night without worrying about foundations failing in rainy weather or roofs leaking into moldy messes. To be surrounded by the people and things that make my heart sing. To have the resources to be able to do something that profoundly improves the life of someone else. To be able to give of my time, heart, and wealth generously. To feel relatively safe from intrusion while I'm sleeping at night. To be able to occasionally gather with a kindhearted group of friends and warm their bellies. To have a second child without fears of bankruptcy or crippling lifelong debt. To have a happy family without sacrificing time on multiple side jobs or donating body parts to survive. To enjoy cleanliness and safety throughout our home. To enjoy a cup of tea without worrying about the effects of the cost per tea bag on my family's overall well being. To constantly be intellectually stimulated through travel and educational opportunities. To have a small stash of cash in the bank for that feeling of security. To be able to hear the words "middle class" and not hear the derogatory underlying suggestions of struggle and lack. And most of all, to one day stand in front of my family, the group of people that I had a hand in creating, and be able to relish in all their accomplishments and valuable contributions to the world.

Birthday Boys

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two weeks ago, my in-laws from Florida stayed with us for a week. It was so hard to see them go after my son became so close to both of them, especially his grandpa. With them being so far away, and our budget being constrained by tuition and other normal things, we don't get to see them but maybe once a year. But we have some photos to hold us over until then. The best thing I can do for my son is to make him copies of these pictures and put together his very own picture album. We'll go over the pictures from time to time and relive the moments so those memories don't fade and he can hang onto that beautiful, sweet connection he had with his family.

Here he is being checked by Doctor Grandpa. We know their hearts are definitely dearly connected.

He and his grandma also shared special moments filled with teasing, goofing and laughter.

Until next time, we miss you deeply!

Job Perks

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's official! I am now a brand-new member of the gym again, thanks to my employer. Can you believe this place? Offering gym memberships to all of its employees, among all the other things they do for us? I went last night and, although I had never been inside that particular gym before, I felt like I was right at home. I even walked confidently over to the weight lifting area where all the sinewy dudes were grunting and claimed a bench for my own 20-minute strength routine. (PS, I know it's not fair to judge other people at the gym, but some of those sinewy dudes had terrible form. I just thought I'd inject that lest you be intimidated by joining the gym because of the likes of these dudes. They are, in fact, imperfect, just like the rest of us.)

I remember walking into a first gym for the first time. It was like walking into a foreign country and not knowing the language, the etiquette, or the popular fashion. But once you start going regularly, taking the gym up on their offer for a free personal training session, attending group classes, and reading the trade magazines (for me, these are Self and Shape), you get to know the territory. If you start watching what other people are doing, you begin to notice habits and patterns. Maybe no one told you that you're supposed to wipe down the equipment, but you notice several people grab the spray bottle while you're on the treadmill. Ah-ha, take a note to self... Please, try not to be intimidated (though you will be), try to get into the habit, and just take a look around. We're all glad you're here. And you'll be a gym rat in no time!

Voting is Just What We Do

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In history-making fashion, my husband and I headed to the polls last night for the Wisconsin recall elections. According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, there have been only 20 recalls like this since 1908 in the entire US. Wisconsin is holding 9 in just one month, fueled in part by a vote to strip government workers of their collective bargaining rights. There have been more campaigners at my door every single day this past month than there were for the last presidential election--and kind, non-pushy, polite ones at that. I am more than proud to say that I was a participant in this unprecedented event.

But more importantly, we took our three-year-old son along. He took in the scene from the school gymnasium with wide eyes and followed along with us so obediently, as if he knew something important was happening here necessitating his best behavior. The fact that there were only two people on the ballot made the voting process painless, but still... He was absorbing an event that was completely new to him, but something that we, as his parents, are determined to instill as completely normal activity. Voting is just what we do.

I grew up in a politically-apathetic house, where no one really voted or paid attention to elections until we were in high school and urged our mom to vote just so we could get extra credit points in social studies. The concepts of "the structure of the government" and "how a bill becomes a law" were foreign to me in school. And now, though I wouldn't really call myself completely politically-inclined, I still take my right to vote very seriously and do what research I can at election time. I firmly believe that the actions of one person are crucial. And just like with working out, I want my son to see voting as something routine, just a natural thing, so he might be more inclined to take a proactive role in his own life and that of his country when he's all grown up.

Wait, I didn't say that. He's going to be my little baby forever!

Banning Children

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ok. I get it. Some kids could potentially derail your plans to have a nice quiet dinner away from home. But what's the deal with the new trend and enthusiasm for banning kids?

Looking at this strictly from a constitutional standpoint, isn't this a complete and utter example of age discrimination? I mean, I like to get away from my son once in awhile for adult time too, but I certainly don't like the idea of his rights to enter a public building being stripped away. Especially because of someone else's lifestyle choice to remain kid-free. I respect that lifestyle choice, but I do not think it constitutes a right to shun someone else's. Isn't this the equivalent of putting up signs that, say, people of a certain color are not allowed in an establishment? Let's blow the entire structure our country was founded upon because someone finds it grating when a child whimpers.

It always made me seethe inside when I was in high school, and the nearby gas station put up signs up that said only three students were allowed to enter the convenience store at a time. And then the owners would watch you like a hawk. This is a small town in WI, mind you. Either way, it's discriminatory. If you look younger than 18, you automatically hold a scarlet letter that says "most likely to steal" or "most likely to ruin your dinner." Highly discriminatory.

It's such a shame that young people are becoming the victims of this modern stigmatization, this new round of sheer discrimination.