Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter Traditions

Our family has always had very specific Easter traditions. When I was a child, we would dye hard-boiled eggs with the traditional Paas sets** (many years, my dad didn't cook the eggs enough). We also painted blown eggs (always fun to test our peak flow by trying to blow an egg yolk through a tiny pin prick). My mom has all the eggs from our childhood. Just like Christmas morning, we would wake up incredibly early and sit at the top of the staircase and wait until a more appropriate hour to force our parents out of bed. My mom would walk downstairs to make sure the Easter Bunny came. Then when she called up to us, we would run down. My brothers would find most of the eggs and I would end up crying trying to find an egg on my own. Most years, the boys had to rehide eggs for me. Our Easter Bunny would hide all of our hard-boiled eggs and leave our baskets on the dining room table filled with jelly beans, malted milk balls, and books. After our candy-filled breakfast, we would eventually head to my Polish grandparents for beet-red horseradish (to symbolize Jesus' blood) and Polish sausage.

I was sure this was exactly how every other family celebrated this holiday.

Fast-forward to our first Easter as a couple, my husband, unfortunately, had to suffer through years of celebrating Easter completely wrong...all his life, just wrong. He did dye eggs but his Easter Bunny only hid their Easter baskets. No eggs! Maybe we was too tired from hiding them at my house, just 4 blocks away. My husband, his sister, and parents would hide the eggs and then find them. They also didn't eat horseradish, at all, ever.

So we had to settle on some traditions for our own children. So, our bunny hides baskets and eggs...lots of eggs (we dye a bunch as well as use plastic eggs). The baskets are still filled with jelly beans and books, but Peeps are the star (which take their turns in the microwave). Instead of blowing out eggs, we decorate a couple hard-boiled ones with ribbon, pipecleaners, markers, etc. and compete to throw/roll them the farthest. And I have to eat my horseradish by myself.

**Smile Politely has included an article about using natural materials for egg dying.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dragons are on Fire!

Since we didn't go anywhere for Spring Break, we decided to go something special with everyone. So after shopping with the teenager, I took the boys to see How to Train Your Dragon and even splurged for the 3D experience (after my 6yo begged and begged). We went to a matinee (which is cheaper) and got some kid's combos with popcorn, fruit snacks, and soda (a big treat!). (Note to CU movie goers, the Beverly has raised their concession prices)

How to Train Your Dragon (PG, 98 mins)
First, I loved that the theater had child-size 3D glasses (which I haven't seen before), of course they almost didn't fit the 6yo with his big head.

The movie itself shares the journey of Hiccup as he, and his Viking community, discovers who he is. The main story is not necessarily original but the characters are delightful. The animation is wonderful. The setting and costumes are fresh and funny to the animation genre (I can say I haven't seen a Viking village and its giant, hairy inhabitants before). The dragons are nutty and unique as well. The vocal talents are good with Jay Baruchel's Hiccup clearing standing out.

Overall, the kids loved it! The 4yo liked every part. The 6yo liked the big climax of the movie (which I won't spoil). The grown up enjoyed it.

I think most children over 4 will love this movie, especially if they like dragons at all. My boys loved it! The dragon scenes might be scary for some kids, especially in 3D, and they talk about hunting and killing dragons (however, the story resolves some of this issue). I would recommend it as a treat in the theater without 3D and definitely on DVD for a family movie night.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shutter Island

I have spent most of Spring Break on the couch recovering from a nasty stomach virus. But today, I finally got out of the house! We went to see Shutter Island.

Shutter Island (rated R, 138min)
This is Martin Scorsese's latest film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It is presented as a classic thriller, with classical music, flashbacks, rain, dim lighting, and all. From the beginning you know that you need to be watching for clues because nothing is as it seems. The story presents itself in 1954 as two US Marshals who arrive to an island housing a center for the criminally insane that happens to be missing a patient. Teddy (Leo) leads the investigation and finds out more and more about the island's inhabitants.

The story (who is really insane here?) isn't entirely original but I am always up for a new twist and turn. This film delivers that twist. Mostly because Scorsese doesn't give the audience the appropriate clues to pull all the threads together on their own but instead concludes the mystery in one summarative scene. I think the film would have been much better by giving the viewer the information and leaving the ending in the minds of the viewers to figure out....making them want to watch the film again right away and discuss it with everyone. (I will acknowledge the final line of the film attempts to do this but fails) (I will also note that this is my opinion based on one viewing, I plan to watch it again to see what is there up front)

Stylistically, the film does deliver completely. Many film noir staples help to set the mood and mystery. The setting is spot-on. Who doesn't love a good insane asylum, this one based in a Civil War camp. Isolated rooms of white walls, fedora hats, stiff drinks, filthy cells, swinging lights, lots of water (rain and ocean) all contribute to the darkness. The costuming is beautiful. The men's tailored suits are perfect. Michelle William's yellow print dress is stunning. The music is a bit distracting at first but serves its thrilling purpose. The special effects are simple and do not distract from the acting or story.

As far as the direction goes, I think Scorsese decided to go off the usual and make a thriller/film noir and accomplishes this. I think he does mob movies best but this is better than most other current films in the genre (I think young film makers go from thriller to horror too fast). It is a nice throw back to the great films of the 1940-50's.

I enjoyed it and recommend you check it out when it comes out to DVD.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Birth Stories

An article in Newsweek today discusses how although research supports Vaginal Birth After C-Sections (VBAC), doctors and hospital are still resistant. It makes me think about my three deliveries and how I still have strong emotions about each one.

My first baby was positioned oddly (and came with an extra large head, thank you husband), this combined with my young age and three hours of pushing, made a c-section the best choice. At the time, I was like, yes, anything to stop this suffering and get my baby out safely.

When I got pregnant again I was on the VBAC train from day 1 and so was my doctor. I did my research and I did all that I could to prevent another surgery. But a major infection during labor resulted in a change in plans. This one really affected me. I brewed over the situation for years (I still obviously have some regrets). I had such a high fever that I was mentally incapable of delivering the baby on my own will. My husband and mother were scared and wanted it all to end as quickly as possible. I later found out that another mother had very serious complications that night and that may have made the staff a bit more cautious with me. But not one person in the room said, no, wait, she can do this, let's help her, this is what she wants. I needed someone to say that and help me through. But in my fever, drug-induced haze, I did consent to the surgery.

When the question came up for our third child, the doctor did say that he would respect my wishes but he recommended a repeat section. I resisted for awhile but the emotional pain of the second birth experience pushed me to a more controlled situation. It came down to the question of 'should we try a VBAC again and if it fails, will I be able to deal with that failure?' I didn't I think I would. Honestly, the third was the best (as much as a major surgery and recovery can be). We selected the day appropriate with my due date and baby size (I was affirmed a bit when I was having contractions that morning). We had childcare ready for our other children. We knew when and what to expect. Our OB and pediatrician were there and it was lovely...nothing like telling jokes with someone who is rearranging your internal organs. I got to hold the baby as soon as I got to recovery and nurse him. It was great. I was happy to have made that choice.

If I am faced with the decision again, what will I do? I really don't know. I had three c-sections for three different reasons. C-sections happen for appropriate reasons and we shouldn't feel bad if that is how our children entered this world. But we also shouldn't be forced into the decision because of hospital or doctor's fear. I would, however, recommend that anyone who has had a c-section at least consider a VBAC with your doctor and partner. Consider hiring a doula. Make your intentions clear (in writing) beforehand. It is your decision overall but making it in the heat or pain of the moment is not effective in the long-term.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fitness Friday

The weather is great, so fitness is easy to fit in now!


Run around with the kids, and I mean literally run! Try hide-and-seek, chase, running bases.

Go for a family bike ride.

Take a walk! I live close enough to downtown to be able to make a healthy walk out of it and the kids can handle it too. We can also stop at two parks along the way.

Play at the playground! Climb, do the monkey bars, do some push ups!

Jump rope.

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Something I never planned on

I think I always planned on being a mom and teacher. I could envision myself playing with children, nursing my babies, watching them running in a field of green grass. I also like pets and always had something growing up and most of my adult life. I enjoy listening to the purring of my cats, watching them groom and care for each other, and chase ridiculous items around the house. In all these blissful images, I never once included poop or pee. Not once but I should have because it is a major part of my life!

I spend a considerable about of time talking and dealing with this topic. I have blogged about it before but today was a very active day. My 6yo wet the bed this morning up to his armpits and had to stay home from school because he was so constipated (he is better now). I had to run to the store at bedtime to get some more pull ups. At school, of course, we are simultaneously potty training 15 children. I am always asking someone if they need to use the bathroom. I am lucky to pee by myself without some at best, standing right outside the door. And our kitten was very angry with us over bringing her to the vet that she needed to mark her territory when she came home. (all this while my husband decided to redo the plumbing in the laundry room).

I'm not complaining, I am happy to help children successfully navigate the bathroom world. Bedwetting happens, no big deal. Animals have natural instincts. Sure, no problem. But I find myself talking about it all day long.

Do you need to go pee? Are you sure? Let's get there quick! Hold it! Do you need new panties? Do you feel like all the poop is out? Push your penis down, please. Do you want to stand up or sit down? Do you need a new diaper? Is that pee I smell? I know you don't feel like it but you have to try. Did he poop today? Is that pee or juice on your pants? You used the potty, awesome!

Do other adults talk like this? I sure don't remember hearing my parents talk like this when I was a kid but perhaps it was perfectly normal conversation even then. I suppose I will get a chunk of time where this won't be at the forefront of my life (until my children are saying the same things to me and my husband) but for now it is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sickies, again.

I don't think this sick season will never end!

Since the new year, every living being in the house has been to the doctor. The boys have been there multiple times as well as the cats. I have learned the pharmacy hours around town and which ones have free or reduced-cost antibiotics. And my kids have missed more school this year than all other years combined.

2 have had strep. 1 ear infection. 2 stomach bugs. 1 broken leg. and my favorite, 1 green tongue.

Fortunately, my husband and I have survived with only some nasty colds and allergies.

So, for whatever reasoning, a lot of germs, viruses, and bacteria are breeding all over CU. I hope that warmer weather and more fresh air will clear everything up.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Taking the day off.

Sometimes it is nice to do as little as possible, so on this grey day, that is what I did.

I started by sleeping in, which I rarely do but since the clocks were changed it felt very indulgent. The boys were happily playing together (and having interventions with each cat on living together) so I made myself some eggs, toast, and coffee. I drank my whole cup of coffee while it was still hot!

I did clean up a bit and did a tiny bit of work then sat down to relax and saw that one of my favorite movies was on, The Cutting Edge! Score! Actually, there was a marathon of horrible sequels...but I watched most of all of them (with some breaks to make lunch, drive kids places, and listen to my work music). I did some cuddling with the boys and kitten. One of my son's favorite TV shows is Food Network Challenge so we watched that together before bedtime. And then my daughter and I watched the season premiere of Kendra (a true guilty pleasure).

I have ended the day with thoughts of basketball brackets and some reduced-fat ice cream.

It has rested my body and brain for the week ahead.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fitness Friday

Another DVD program review: Physique 57

If you want to tone up and strengthen your body to look hot at the pool or beach this summer, do this!

Physique 57 combines strength training and a mild cardio workout to tone out your legs, core, and arms. It is slightly based on ballet (and the videos are full of dancers so don't be discouraged by them if you can't stretch as long and beautiful as them). You use light weights, a ball, mat, and chair (or ballet barre). You basically burn out each muscle until it is shaking and fatigued.

Although it is challenging (and the first time you do it, you might not get through it) once you build up your muscles and endurance, it will sculpt you up beautifully. The creator, Tanya Becker, is entertaining enough to get you through and make you laugh from time to time. They do provide modifications for all fitness levels and you can always press pause. I did not find the cardio enough to burn into my fat, so I would pair this with some more intense cardio to see better results and balance your fitness needs.

Currently, they have an hour work out (or 57mins) plus shorter 30min Arms, Abs, and full-body versions. They have a studio in NYC to take live classes.

And as with any program I recommend, it only works if you put the work into it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nice to meet you

Once in awhile, as I navigate the world of parenting, I like to share the secrets I find. Here is a big one that is hard to learn, but if you know it going in, it will save you a lot of frustration and bring lots of joy.

Each of your children is different.

I know, it seems obvious, but not so much. After your first child, you assume your next one will be just the same. Eat the same, sleep the same, show the same temperament, have the same interests, have the same learning pattern, have the same interests. As humans, we create these frameworks and try to put everything into it but everything doesn't always fit. It would be way too easy if every child was the same and you could just repeat what worked the first time. But parenting isn't easy.

So, if you understand this concept, you can approach each child as they are (with all their individual strengths and challenges) and mold your parenting to meet their specific needs. Our youngest would rather run around and touch and explore new things but our middle child prefers to sit, observe, and analyze first. Our first two are very particular about their clothing options and choices. We are lucky our youngest is wearing any clothing outside the house. Our middle child doesn't eat, never really has. The youngest won't sleep. One needs to be stopped and talked to for us to understand what is going on with her life, one tells us everything that happens every minute, and the other one will draw a picture to tell us about lunch. One of our children needs physical affection often each day and another prefers not to cuddled at all.

I am often struck when other parents tell my just how surprised they are when their second or third child does something different than their oldest child. Parents will say, 'I just don't know what do, my oldest never did that.'

It may because I am a teacher and have worked with so many different children in different settings including children with disabilities, that I feel the strong need to let the child guide my parenting or teaching. I find that working with the child's strengths and understanding his challenges allows me to meet his needs (physically, emotionally, academically) much better without the frustration that he won't do it the way I want it. Overall, as parents (and teachers), it is all about the kids. Getting things done how we, as adults, want them isn't important but providing appropriate, sensitive experiences and interactions for the children to foster their development is important. We will feel great about ourselves as we raise happy and healthy children children.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

I suppose this relates to fitness...Jarling's Custard Cup in Champaign opens for the season today! Add some fruit to your snowstorm to make it healthy!

I've gotten into NBC's The Biggest Loser, and since some people I know have and love Gillian Michael's DVD's, I had to check them out.

I love to watch fitness DVD's (yes, I just watch them as research, I rarely actually do them in my living room). I've watched a lot.

Overall, I think Jillian Michael's 30 Shred and Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism are very good programs.

The 30 Shred is a great beginner program. It follows an easy format of 3mins of strength, 2min of cardio, 1min of core (and repeat for 20min). This allows you to focus on one movement at a time. It also allows you to move quickly from exercise to exercise (you can endure 3mins of anything, right?). She provides enough modifications to meet all fitness levels. There are three workouts on the DVD so as you get stronger, you can move up. For beginners that actually do this for 30 days, you will feel stronger and increase your fitness level. What I really like about this program, was that it was 20min per day...who doesn't have 20min to devote to themselves.

Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism is for a more advanced participant. I won't lie, it is challenging. It is almost in a boot-camp style format with lots of strength and cardio drills. She does not provide as many modifications so beginners will have to alter the workout to fit their fitness level. It is also 45mins long. I have no doubt that doing this program twice a week will get you into great shape. But since this is more challenging and longer, it might be more difficult for people to stick with it.

Jillian has other DVD titles that I am sure are equally good. She is motivating and gives good fitness information (both have 'extras' with more information). Her boxing form is terrible but I like that she includes a variety of fitness styles within both DVDs (such as plyometrics, pilates, boxing, athletic drills, weight work). I would prefer more 'normal' people on the DVD working out with her (those ladies are in amazing shape) but...

Overall, if you like working out at your house or want something to take with you when you can't get to the gym, I recommend Jillian's DVDs. But remember, you only get out what you put in. You have to do the work.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

End the Word on 3-3-10

I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.

Our language frames the way we think about others. Help eliminate the use of the R-word from everyday speech.

Sign the pledge, take a stand!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Oscar Update

Since I am sure everyone is really interested in how I feel about the Oscars....Let's talk the Big 10.

An Education (haven't seen it yet and can't find it but it looks fantastic, can't wait)

Avatar (haven't seen it yet but I will try this week)
I'm sure this will win some awards but I don't know which. I am not confident it will win the big prize.

A Serious Man (not to be confused with A Single Man)
I really liked this film until it ended. The characters are rich, the dialogue fantastic, and the acting spot on (every part of the ensemble is very strong). The production design is beautiful and true to period. It is funny, serious, and, for the most part, real. Most people can identify with the main character and plot but then it just ends without resolution. This is not really nominated for anything else except Best Original Screenplay (which is might win, the screenplay is great).

District 9
I am not a sci-fi person but I actually really enjoyed this film. The documentary-style is very engaging and drew me in more so than a traditional linear-plot. You have to give the movie at least 15min to get things going. I absolutely loved Slarlto Copley's Wikus Van De Merwe. This is one of the best character's and portrayals of the year. It can be a bit gory at times but it has some interesting social implications (which I always love). It won't win but it might for visual effects (it is a movie where you just can't figure out how they do it).

Inglorious Basterds
I would not normally seek out Tarantino films but....I thought this was highly entertaining (despite the violence and blood). Of course, future Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz is brilliant. His character is great but his acting makes the movie. The first 10mins of this film are fantastic.

I love to read books that are now movies so I found this to be a great adaptation of the very intense Push by Sapphire. This being said, I don't know how the film comes across to someone who is unfamiliar with the novel. Overall, this film is a good story with strong performances and great directing and editing. It is shocking to know that the Oscar-nominated lead, Gaby Sidibe, had never acted before and Mo'Nique is a comedian (she will surely win her Oscar on Sunday). Even though I don't think Lee Daniels will win, I hope he makes another amazing film so he can get his well-deserved celebration.

The Blind Side (haven't seen it but waiting for it on my Library-flicks)
I assume that Sandra Bullock will win for her performance (unless Gaby knocks her out).

The Hurt Locker
I rarely see war movies. I had expected to be able to tell that the film was directed by a woman, like there would be more dialogue or emotional nonsense (like Steel Magnolia meets Platoon) but that was not the case. I had a major issue with this one (despite the fact it looks like it might win best picture and best director). I didn't feel there was any character development or resolution (just lots of bomb work). In short, I didn't get it.

I love this movie! Love it! I have written a full review of this movie on the blog but let's recap. The story is perfect. The characters are rich and developed. The visual aspects are fantastic. And, unlike, most of the films, the story is complete! I felt very satisfied with the film in all aspects. I am positive it will win Best Animated Film.

Up in the Air
I really enjoyed this film. I love George Clooney, so I can watch him do anything for 90mins. The story here is very timely and touches most viewers. The supporting cast, both women are nominated, are strong and truly support the lead and make the film successful. I did want a little more story at the end. Although a great film, I don't think it was strong enough in the aspects of film to win much on Oscar night.

In summary, none of these films blew me away and made me think....OMG, when is the DVD coming out so I watch this over and over again (without kids, I would not own Up). But since we have to pick....I think Hurt Locker will probably win big at the Oscars (Avatar might win more but HL will take Best Picture/Director).

If I was in charge, out of these choices.....I would go independent with Precious. Overall, it hits not only in story and acting but technical aspects such as direction, art design, screenplay, and editing. (A Serious Man would probably have it but the ending....yuck!)

What are your opinions?