Archive for the ‘Raves’ Category

Discovering Someone New

When I worked in bookstores (not the Borders headquarters, but actual bookstores) back in the 90s, I loved discovering new authors. My absolute favorite thing about discovering new authors was when I found someone I loved … who had already written a bunch of other books. There was nothing like binge reading fun authors like James Patterson (back when he only – and actually – only wrote about one character), Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, John Kellerman, Faye Kellerman, etc.

And since our bookstore allowed employees to borrow hardcover books (to help us keep up on the latest without having to buy them – we didn’t get paid much), I didn’t have to wait to get them from the library. I could read them right in a row. Bliss.

TNBT_pblgWhat’s amazing is that now, even after being an adult reader for 20+ years, this still happens. I still manage to find an established author that I haven’t read before. It’s kind of surprising that it still happens, actually.

My latest “discovery” is Jennifer Weiner. I think I read one of her books a couple years ago, and then earlier this year I read Then Came You. But it wasn’t until I read The Next Best Thing last week (in two days, no less – quite a feat when one has three young kids and works full time!) that I realized I love this author! I can’t wait to get to the library and pick up something else by her. (I thought about buying one for my Kindle – instant gratification! – but that’s a habit I really cannot afford. So I’ll either find something in the library or get in virtual line behind numerous others in the library’s electronic book site.)

What’s YOUR favorite “binge reading” experience?

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Patience is a Virtue

Earlier this week, Tim and I took the kids to Michigan’s Adventure, a regional amusement park that we’ve visited every summer since 2004. We love it – the price is right, the park is small and easy to navigate, lines are short, etc. Even though Cedar Point is about the same distance, we’ve never seriously considered taking the kids there because the tradeoffs (trading the things listed above for bigger/better rides) just wouldn’t be worth it.

This year was great for Allie. She has just hit 48″, so she is tall enough to ride all but one ride. She told us on the way home that “This was my best Michigan Adventure day ever because I got to ride all the big roller coasters!” She’s turned into quite the a coaster fan, and I’m thrilled. I’ve always loved roller coasters, except for the especially rattly ones. (Tip: Don’t ride something called “Shivering Timbers” if you don’t like the rattly coasters.)

Our mistake this year? Taking Jenny.

We usually wait until a kid is four to take them to the amusement park. We intended to wait until next year with Jenny, but this trip was planned somewhat at the last minute and we didn’t have anyone to leave her with. Adam and Allie wanted to take her with us, and she wanted to go … so Tim and I said yes, against our better judgement. (We even turned down a night-before offer from my sister to watch Jenny – we’d been telling her for days that she was going with us, so it seemed a little cruel to change our plans at the last minute.)

Turns out we should have waited after all, and left her with Aunt Betsy. We were so excited about taking her, but it just didn’t go the way we hoped it would. Jenny had fun, but wasn’t interested in riding anything except the really little kiddie rides. So, in the interest of letting the big kids ride big kid rides, we split up almost immediately, and Tim and I pretty much spent the whole day trading off Jenny and the big kids. It worked out all right, I guess, except for the last hour, when I somehow ended up with both Adam and Jenny.

J tantrum 2

Yes, that’s my three-year-old throwing a tantrum in the middle of the sidewalk at the amusement park. For those of you who think it’s so sweet that Adam was “watching over her” – this picture was taken as he briefly looked up from holding his head in his hands, saying “Come ON, Jenny! MOM, can’t you DO something?!”

Ironically, this was the second time she threw a fit that day – in pretty much the exact same spot. I don’t recall her problem the first time, but this time she was mad because she wanted to go back to the helicopters (kiddie ride) and I had the gall to insist that we let Adam ride some big kid rides for the last 45 minutes before the park closed. (She and I had just spent about two hours in the kiddie area, and I even bought her an ice cream cone.)

So, we’ll definitely return next year, but Jenny may be visiting Aunt Betsy that day.

(She DID have some fun, as you can see in the pictures below. Adam even humored her by riding on the Winky the Whale ride once.)

kids in whales

J snoopy

J in boat

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Adam, Allie and I had a fun adventure today. A while back, I found a “Groupon” for a local athletic center that has an indoor water park – four passes for $24. So the three of us, along with one of Adam’s buddies, spent the day playing in the pool, floating down the lazy river, rushing down the spiral water slide, and frolicking in the splash pool.

We broke for a (second) bite to eat around dinnertime. Since the passes were “all access,” the kids had decided that they wanted to stop swimming before this snack break and explore the rock climbing wall afterward. Adam’s friend had tried (and loved) rock climbing when they were in Boy Scouts, but it had started raining just before Adam’s turn on their big outing. So he was anxious to try it. Allie was a little trepidatious but was willing to try.

I was so proud of both my kids! They took turns for about 45 minutes, and each made about eight attempts to reach the top. Adam didn’t quite make it to the top, but certainly wore himself out trying. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him work so hard at something.

Allie, on the other hand, made it to the top! (I do think it helped that she is so lightweight, the bungee cord probably gave her more of a boost than it did Adam.)

AER rock wall

Just look at her up there! I can’t wait to see what she wants to try next. (Swimming lessons, actually – and we’ve got them planned for fall.)

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The Energizer Bunny

Remember the Energizer Bunny, from the old battery commercials? You know, the one that just keeps going and going … and going …

That’s Jenny.

We had an extremely busy day today. First up was my nephew’s first birthday party, in a town 1.5 hours away. The kids all had a blast, and the girls ran around playing in the wading pool, filling water balloons, etc. Next up was a wedding reception for the young woman who was our summer nanny last year. They had a band and a dance floor set up. Jenny danced for about a half our with our friend (Allie’s best friend’s mom, who is one of my best friends.)

Adam and I figured we’d leave once our friends left, since the only other person we knew was the bride. Nope – we stayed for at least another 90 minutes, with Jenny pretty much dancing the WHOLE time (much of it with Adam, who had patiently been waiting for our friend to leave so that J would pay attention to him).

I thought she’d be exhausted by 8 – busy day, she spent the whole time outside (even the reception was outside), etc. On the contrary – she danced until 9:30! She probably would have gone longer, but the band took a break and Adam and I decided it was a good chance to make our departure.

(And even once we got home, she didn’t crash – she played on my phone for a little while, until at least 10:30.)

A & J dancing

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Getting a New Car

safety pilotWell, it’s not actually new, and it’s not actually mine to keep. But there is an extensive, multi-year U.S. Department of Transportation safety pilot research study being conducted in our area. It’s pretty neat. And, being somewhat of a vehicle safety nut, I find it interesting and signed up to participate when the study was first announced.

There are three levels of participation. The least-involved level (which we currently have on our main vehicle)  includes a small data collection device that involves no interaction from the driver. The middle level (which my boss has) includes the data collection device and also emits warning signals when another study vehicle is too close. The third level involves driving a study-provided car equipped with five cameras that collect data about driving conditions, proximity of other vehicles, driver reaction, etc.

I was notified today that they want me to participate in the third level. Besides being excited to participate further in the study (I happen to work in the research environment at the university, and was interested in research even before I started working there), I am really looking forward to driving one of their vehicles for 5-6 months. It won’t be a luxury vehicle, but it’ll certainly be nicer than the 2003 Ford Focus station wagon that I usually drive. (Or maybe it will be a luxury vehicle – I’m supposed to be getting a 2011 Buick Lacrosse. Not new, but nice!)

Here’s an interesting article on the study, from Wired magazine. (Though I do think their “300 vehicles” figure is wrong.)

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OK, a kid of a different color. Or a shirt, really.

The day after Allie wore her “Go blue!” clothes, she got to wear her “Go green!” clothes. And so did Adam and I. More specifically, we got to go to a hockey game at my alma mater! (Which just happens to be another huge Big 10 university within easy driving distance – and oh, did I mention that it’s my employer’s archrival?)

Adam and Allie with Aunt Betsy, our benefactor for the evening.

Adam and Allie with Aunt Betsy, our benefactor for the evening.

How did that happen, you may ask? Well, it was another example of why I love Facebook so! I posted a picture of Allie in her maize and blue – and one of my college friends chided me (good naturedly), asking how I could let her wear those colors. I replied that we wear the colors of both schools, and that we’d even go to another (alma mater) hockey game if my sister Betsy could get us free tickets again. Two minutes later, I had a private message from Betsy saying that she had free tickets to the game that night, and would we like to go! Of course we would! So I got off work an hour early, raced to pick up the kids and run home to change (why oh why did I have to wear a maize and blue shirt for casual Friday?) and get to the hockey arena.

We had a blast, as expected. Our team lost (5-2, yikes) but it was fun. My friends and I had season hockey tickets all through college, and our dorm was directly across the field from the hockey arena (on top of which I had my first-and-only cigarette – just a puff, really) so it felt just like the old days.

I don't remember the band being this big when I was in college (it was usually about a third this size at hockey games).

I don’t remember the band being this big when I was in college (it was usually about a third this size at hockey games).

In fact, it really felt like the old days because of where we sat. Our ticketed seats were quite a ways from the band, and we couldn’t hear it very well. And what’s the point of going to a sporting event if you can’t do the silly chants/cheers, sing the fight song, etc.? We quickly noticed that the student section was only about a third full – because it was spring break. So after the first period, we moved to the student section, which surrounds the band. It was kind of surreal. On the one hand, I felt like I was back in college, because this is how I spent many a Friday night. On the other hand, watching Adam cheering and singing with gusto – I felt like I was getting a glimpse of my son in 7 years or so, a college kid rooting on his team. Weird. But cool.

I admit that I was a little disappointed that the student section no longer does a couple of the gags that we used to do. I mean seriously, if the other team has someone coming back in after a penalty, and you know the announcer is going to say “Western, full strength!” – why wouldn’t you shout “Hey Jerry (or whatever the announcer’s name is now), what’s that smell?” Or when the announcer is going to say “One minute left to play. One minute.” wouldn’t you shout “Hey Jerry, how much time?” Sheesh. Kids these days.

Mmmm, the traditional hockey game snack - Melting Moments ice cream cookie sandwich.

Mmmm, the traditional hockey game snack – Melting Moments ice cream cookie sandwich.

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Go Blue!

The local Big University’s women’s basketball team was supposed to visit the first grade classes at Allie’s school on Monday. Unfortunately, the visit was canceled that morning. Allie was disappointed, but was thrilled when she found out that the team had sent ticket vouchers to the entire class. She insisted that Tim go with her.

BB 2-28-13a




















They had great seats. Allie watched for a classmate friend that she knew would be there, and she and Tim were able to sit right next to them. The pep band was there, and so were the cheerleaders. Tim might possibly have really enjoyed that part. Allie also liked the local baton twirling school that performed at halftime.

BB 2-28-13b




















Tim caught a shirt from the shirt-shooting cannon. It’s a little big for Allie, but she’s using it as a night shirt now.

Oh, and our team won, 50-55.

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I Love Netflix

netflixTim and I resisted Netflix for a while. We borrowed DVDs (free) from the library for a long time. That worked well until the library instituted a $1/day late fee (we’re not great at, ahem, managing our library materials) and the DVDs were often so scratched that they were unwatchable. So, when I went back to work a couple of years ago, we decided to get Netflix.

I’m so glad we did – I love it! Tim and I don’t watch a ton of TV, but one thing I like to do is find a series I like and watch it all the way through in a series of marathons. The first one I watched was Friday Night Lights. I watched all four existing seasons in three weeks.

Tim has a knack for picking series that we like. After Friday Night Lights (which Tim didn’t watch), we moved on to Dead Like Me, then Pawn Stars, which was our “Sunday night laundry folding” show.

A few weeks ago, we started How I Met Your Mother. I’d never watched it before Tim suggested that we watch the first few episodes, and it has become one of my favorites. It reminds me a lot of Friends. I believe there are 150 episodes on Netflix, and lately I’ve been watching them at a rate of 5 per night while I do other things after the kids go to bed. Seriously, tonight I couldn’t wait for the kids to go to bed so I could turn the TV on.

Do you like Netflix? How do you watch? What’s your favorite TV series that you’ve caught up on via Netflix?

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John Taylor 10-23-11I’ve mentioned several times here that Duran Duran is my favorite band of all time. A couple of years ago, I saw them in concert for the first time ever. It was better than I could have imagined. My friend Amy and I had third-row seats on John Taylor’s side of the stage, the band was awesome, etc.

But it wasn’t enough. We wanted to go again! So when more concert dates were announced and one was within four hours’ driving distance, Amy and I decided to take a road trip. We got third-row seats again (!) on John Taylor’s side of the stage.

The concert was set for August 28 (the day after my birthday), and we got the tickets in April. So we four fun months to plan and anticipate our road trip.

Then … horrors! A few days before the concert, keyboardist Nick Rhodes got sick. First one concert was canceled, then another. At 10 p.m. on my birthday, I read the Facebook message saying that our concert was canceled. I was heartbroken. I cried. Dare I say it – I was disappointed. I posted as much on Facebook and Twitter, even using the word “disappointed … ”

… and was scolded by other fans! It wasn’t Nick’s fault, they said, and his health should come first. People had no right to say they were disappointed.

Well, duh. Of course the band’s health comes first. I wasn’t angry that the concerts were canceled. Obviously I wanted Nick to get better. But I was hideously disappointed that the concert was canceled. Not angry – just disappointed.

Anyone else find that – the idea that one can’t be disappointed without being angry – rather absurd?

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More Opportunities


There are plenty of great places to have a birthday party when a certain girl turns 7.


We’ve got many terrific zoos and science centers within easy driving distance.


And closer to home, there are tons of places to play. Jenny and I came across this little hidden playground on a warm day in late October, when the big boss had sent everyone home at 3:00 to enjoy the 70+ degree day. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do than play with her.


Until, of course, it was time to pick up Allie, and then we played on the school playground for another 15 minutes. (Tim picks up Adam, or they’d have been there playing with us.)

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