Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ky trip, part the first

We are in Kentucky, the kids and I. We did the whole trip in one day, much to all of our surprise. Daniel was so excited to see Oma and Opa he kept saying, "Mom, I'm not tired of being in the car yet. Let's drive all the way to Kentucky today!" and I kept saying "We'll see how we feel after dinner." As it turned out, everyone was doing just dandy, so after dinner we kept going and going...and here we are.

The kids behaved spectacularly the whole drive, so their reward today was a trip to a local orchard with a huge playground. Daniel and Anya managed (barely) to avoid being trampled by the throngs of school kids there on field trips (I counted five buses when we drove in) and had a really good time.

Here is some photographic evidence from the morning, largely for Stuart's benefit, as he is still in Madison nursing a(nother) cold and preparing for a midterm:

(We came home with apples, cider, pumpkins for carving, cider doughnuts and FRIED APPLE PIE which is so Southern and so friggin' tasty...Jessi, you were right!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

road trip prep

The kids and I are taking a road trip next week. We're traveling south to see my parents in Kentucky, something we haven't done for a year. (It was exactly a year ago, in fact, because I remember we were there for Halloween.) I'm equally excited and anxious about this trip. Excited because I need a change of scenery before Wisconsin winter gets me down, anxious because I'm making that drive by myself. My plan is to pick up Daniel from his preschool class on Monday and just GO. (Maybe get our flu shots first, if there's an appointment time available.) Hopefully they will sleep some in the car, and we'll have snacks, too, but we'll go until we can't anymore and stop for dinner and stay overnight in a motel and then finish up the trip on Tuesday. In March when I went to Kansas with the kids to see my cousin, we made the trip in one day and it was too much for me. We survived, obviously, but it was incredibly stressful. I'm hoping that splitting this drive into 2 days will make it bearable, especially if we find a hotel with a pool. Stuart has to be in Indiana the following week for work, so we'll meet him on the way back home.

But I have all this pre-travel anxiety about the driving and keeping the kids occupied and making sure I have all the right things packed, even though it's not like my parents live in the middle of nowhere, so it's not like we couldn't go to Kroger or Wal-Mart (horrors!) if I forgot something like a toothbrush or underwear.

I need this trip, though. I haven't played a gig in months, I only have a couple piano students, it's getting cold here, and I just feel like I'm spinning my wheels. Plus, I think my dad is pretty excited about carving more jack-o-lanterns with his grandson.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


You know, when you've lived in Wisconsin for nearly a decade, as I have, your personal definitions of "good weather" and "bad weather" shift, as do your notions of what is "warm" and what is "cold." The other day the temperature barely cracked 40, and I wore flip-flops the whole day without so much as a shiver. Mostly, it was because I couldn't find any matching socks. But the way I see it, the fact that wearing mismatched socks drives me bonkers more than not wearing socks when it could potentially be snowing outside proves that I have toughened up to some degree.

Today the sun was out and it was warm (52), so we took an impromptu trip to Eplegaarden. Now, I have mixed feelings about this place. I've only been twice, and the first time was a while ago, maybe when I was pregnant with Daniel. It's always busy and crowded. There are the usual u-pick fruits and squash, plus wagon rides, concessions, corn maze, a playground and in the fall a haunted house and they charge you for ALL OF IT. The wagon ride is $4/person unless you're under two. Ditto the corn maze. Ditto the haunted house. They even charge you to go down the slide on the playground. Not that you have to do any of those things, of course, but it's a little annoying. On the other hand, it is a local farm with lots of yummy produce, and those other things, as gimmicky as they are, bring in the crowds of people, including kids who can see how some of their local food is grown, so if that keeps them in the chips, more power to 'em.

(We did do the wagon ride, and it was pretty fun. Just saying.)

We also found ourselves a 30# pumpkin and carved it into a jack-o-lantern. Daniel was the Creative Director on this project. He requested triangle eyes and a round nose, and when I asked him if it should be happy or sad, he said "sad." The fangs and eyebrows were my idea.

We are very proud of our jack-o-lantern. I found three tealight candles to put inside, and all evening we've been ducking outside to watch him glow on the front porch. We'll see how long he lasts. The neighborhood squirrels are not generally shy when it comes to decimating local works of pumpkin art.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


You'd never think from this picture we're supposed to get snow tomorrow, would you? Alas...

Thursday, October 08, 2009


We're heading into mid-October here in Wisconsin, which means that truly warm weather is gone for good, and mostly it's chilly and gloomy, but every once in a while the sun makes an appearance to cheer everyone up. Fortunately, yesterday was one of those days, so we went apple-picking with my friend Pat (the same Pat who found that awesome u-pick raspberry farm where we went three weeks in a row).

She picked a good place, Door Creek Orchard:

They have sheep!

Anya was pretty stoked about carrying a bag herself.

She got tired of her hat, though.

We walked allllll the way up the hill to the upper orchard past the sheep and the barn and the grape vines...and then it occurred to us that with two little kids and a lot of heavy apples, perhaps a wagon would be helpful. So Pat went and got one.

Anya was not interested in picking apples, as it turned out. She plopped right down between the trees and staged a protest.

Daniel was pretty thrilled with apple-picking, though. There were lots of low-hanging fruit for his eager hands.

They enjoyed the wagon ride back down the hill.

And it was so nice outside we sat down for a picnic and completely lost track of time.

It was a really lovely day.

Now what am I going to do with all these apples? Mmmmm.

ETA: For anyone wanting to know what varieties we came home with, there is a whole bag of Cortlands, a bag of about half Empires and half Jonafrees, and Daniel's bag was a hodge-podge of whatever was in reach!

Monday, October 05, 2009

the saga of Stuart's feet

Poor Stuart loves to run, but he's having a tough time with it. For the last several years he's had various injuries and pains in his knees and feet. He's tried physical therapy, deep tissue massage, even surgery, and he keeps getting hurt. Then over the summer he (and eventually I, too) discovered barefoot running, and it was a revelation. You can either wear regular running shoes with all the cushioning and padding and work and work and work for a proper stride. Or you can just go barefoot and your body will automatically adjust. Watch this video from the New York Times of their Roving Runner reporter with author of Born to Run Christopher McDougall for discussion and demonstration of barefoot running. Go ahead. I can wait...I've gone on and on (and on and on, to anyone who will listen) about that book and the benefits of barefoot running and frankly, this probably isn't the last time I'll post about it, but I need to continue with my story, so just go watch the video and you'll see what I mean.

For a while there barefoot running was going great for Stu. He eased into it, but was eventually going between 3 and 3.5 miles at one time. His feet were toughening up and he was feeling confident and healthy. Then, as always happens up here in Wisconsin a few weeks before you're really ready for it, the weather got cold. Not super-cold; we haven't had a hard freeze yet. But early one morning Stuart went for a barefoot run in the grass when it was only about 50 degrees, and his poor feet were starting to get numb when he came back.

Now Stuart was in a conundrum! Running shoes hurt his joints, running barefoot will eventually lead to frostbitten toes, and the Vibrams, I'm so sorry to report, aren't doing the trick, either. Let me say at this juncture, that I love my VFFs (Vibram Five Fingers). They are like gloves for my feet, and if I could, I would just wear those all the time. Stuart wants to like his, he really does, but unfortunately something about the separated toes bothers him and gives him toe pain. He's hoping they'll break in eventually, and he's found he can run in them for a few minutes at a time, but he needs something else for his feet in the meantime.

He tried his old running shoes. Definitely a no go. He tried flat-soled sneakers and even those didn't work. Finally, one evening last week, he came up to me and said "Do you think you could make me a pair of moccasins?" That prompted much internet-searching for instructions on how to make moccasins (there are several free sites, as it turns out), and some thinking on just where exactly one might obtain shoe-quality leather and other supplies for sewing it up. I did some calling, and it turns out that finding moccasin leather in Madison is no picnic. (You know, we live in a state full of people who hunt deer. Don't you think finding cured leather wouldn't be that hard?)

We don't know yet if I am capable of making running moccasins for my husband's fickle feet, though, because he has found another solution, at least for now: Aqua Socks. That's right: Aqua Socks. Those funny shoes with the meshy top and flat plastic soles you wear...where do you wear these things anyway? To wade around in ponds? To shower in locker rooms at the gym? They were fifteen bucks in a big old bin at The Shoebox in Black Earth. He's gone running twice in them with no complaints, and I personally hope they can carry him through until his feet are used to the Vibrams or it's warm enough again to go barefoot. Because Stuart might have enough faith in my crafty skills to fashion him running mocs, but I'm not sure I do.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

today's links

1. Today's NYT article about E. coli bacteria in ground beef is why I will never eat a hamburger unless I know exactly where that burger came from. It's scary and disgusting and is just about enough to turn me vegetarian again.

2. But on the upside, the government is actually supporting the local food movement. USDA has launched a program called "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" that, among other things, encourages people to eat locally and provides money for things like farmers' markets. I find this very encouraging, to say the least.

3. On that note, here's the NPR story on the new USDA initiative...

4....and here's the requisite follow-up interview with a gal who thinks the answer to bringing fresh produce to all Americans is to - get this - open MORE WAL-MART STORES in urban areas like Chicago. There's got to be another solution, don't you think?

5. Last, but not least, what should we be more afraid of: the flu, or the flu shot? Apparently, some scientists in Canada have a study that is currently under peer review that shows a person who has the regular seasonal flu vaccine is actually twice as likely to get the H1N1 virus. Only Canada is taking this seriously, and several Provinces have suspended flu vaccination programs until the population is inoculated against the swine flu first. First thing tomorrow I'm canceling our flu shot appointments, which were supposed to be Wednesday afternoon. And then I guess I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

don't hate me for being a morning person

I've hit a rough patch with parenting. Mostly, things are good, actually. Daniel and Anya are the best of friends and play together beautifully (except of course when they don't, but I realize fighting is part of siblinghood). The relationship between me and Daniel, though, has reached a new stage that often leaves me either speechless or yelling. Most of the time he is sweet and charming, but there are other times when he is defiant and belligerent and resists everything I tell him purely on principle. Our biggest arguments usually stem from the smallest, routine tasks like getting dressed or washing his hands after using the bathroom. He'll refuse, I'll insist, he'll yell, I'll yell, and before you know it he's weeping in the time-out corner while I confiscate his tinker toys with gritted teeth. Fortunately, he only exhibits this behavior towards me and sometimes Stuart, never (as far as I know) his preschool teacher or other parents. I know this is typical and part of being three and a half (those 6 months make a big difference, trust me) and learning to be independent and all that, so I'm not worried. I have a pretty strong stubborn streak myself, so not only do I know where he gets it, most of the time I know I can handle it fine. I just get frustrated from time to time.

It doesn't help that Anya's naptime is unreliable, at best. She could fall asleep anywhere between 11:30 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon for anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour and a half, though she's usually not asleep for more than 45 minutes. That makes for some looooong afternoons, especially now that we can't be outside for too long before we're cold and miserable.

Sometimes just the anticipation of a long day will put me in a bad mood, particularly if Anya has kept me up at night (she still doesn't sleep through*) or if I've had to get up at 6:00 or before with the kids. 7:00 is sleeping in, for us.

But I've discovered a new therapy: running. The last two mornings in a row, I've rolled out of bed, slipped on my Vibrams and gone straight out the front door for a 3.4 mile run. I relish that half hour or so I get to myself, and it feels so good to get moving first thing. It clears my head for the day and puts me in a better mood, which is good for everyone; I've noticed Daniel and I get along better when I've had a chance for some honest exercise. I know Stuart isn't wild about it, since it means he has to do the breakfast routine solo, but he's a good man and hasn't complained. Plus, my morning run has yet to make him late to work, so he'll deal.

I finally got around to reading Born to Run, and I can't stop talking about it. Yesterday I yammered on about the evils of traditional running shoes to the guy at the farmers' market who sells goat cheese and hot peppers, and he was nice enough to pretend to be interested. When I met my knitting friends later, I bombarded them with trivia like "Did you know humans are the only animals who sweat to cool off? Did you know that if you can keep a deer in sight for 6 miles you can chase it down and hunt it with your bare hands?"; at least they know me well enough to know I'm not nuts, just enthusiastic.

Reading Born to Run has completely changed my attitude about running. I've been using the Vibram five-finger shoes since before I read the book, so I was sold on the concept of running barefoot (or nearly barefoot) already. What I didn't get until I read it, though, was just how well-designed the human body is for running. We were meant to run. Running is probably the reason we survived and the Neanderthals didn't. So if running is our destiny, it shouldn't be a chore to do a 5K every morning, it should be a pleasure. And by golly, it is a pleasure! At least so far. Ask me again in a couple months when the morning temps are in the single digits and I'll be singing a different song, but I won't let that spoil it for me now.

*Please don't offer advice on the sleep problem. Just don't. It is what it is and I have to work this out myself.