The week of Instant Coffee. Oh, horror!

If you like coffee, never, ever stay at one of the lower priced Disney resorts. We stayed at the the "All Star Sports" complex. I noticed the first morning that the coffee tasted weird. At the park, I stopped for another cup (since I didn't like my morning coffee much, I only drank half the cup), and not only was it the same weird-tasting coffee, but the only thing available to lighten it with was Coffee Mate. (But I had to drink it, because caffeine withdrawal is NO FUN!) The second morning, I noticed that the coffee serving machine said "NesCafe" down the side. Well, that explained it.

I would like to think that if you went to one of the more pricey resorts, they would have real coffee. (They did have it in the Norwegian bakery at Epcot -- with Coffee Mate, though, so I went with black.) But at the less expensive hotels, there was not a proper restaurant. Just a food court. And the food there was REALLY bad. Also, of course, overpriced. It is Disney.

On the bright side, we got a lot of walking, sunshine, and pool time in. It really was a nice break from work. And now we know my son won't go around feeling like he's the only kid in school that's never been to Disney World. Plus, Jeff took a really silly picture of me. And some good ones of Ben. Also... Ben has made some big steps toward being able to swim.

But if I ever go back (not likely, actually) I will not stay in one of the Disney hotels. I'd rather stay almost anywhere else. And I think we could save enough on food to rent a car (plus the food would be better.)

Never put a 75 Watt bulb in a socket rated for 60 Watts

Yeah I know, that's obvious. But I can't say that I always think to check before I change a light bulb. Evidently, I didn't check before the last time I changed the bulb in my bedroom fixture. Here's what happened.

I walked into the bedroom, and the light was flickering. So I took off the cover to see if the bulb was just loose or needed replacing. When I tried to tighten, the bulb seemed to be turning freely. At that point, I noticed the clearly printed message on the socket not to use a bulb more than 60 Watts. And sure enough, the bulb in question was 75. Who would think the single socket in the only fixture in my bedroom would take a measly 60 Watt bulb?

So now, I had a bulb that would not unscrew because the glass part was turning freely inside the metal screwy thing. And frightingly, I saw some sparking and flickering while I turned it. Darn, I really thought I had the light turned off. So I went to the wall switch to make sure it was turned off, and thought about what to do. If I put a paper bag around the glass, I could probably break it off without dropping glass fragments in my bed, and then I could probably unscrew the metal part with a needle-nosed pliers. But you know what? I don't remember the knob moving when I went to turn off the light. And it's definitely in the "off" position. Am I sure there's really no electricity coming to this socket?

Well, I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid. I go downstairs and break all the upstairs circuits, since I really don't what circuit this light is on. I managed to dig up a pair of pliers (why do we have 4 wire cutters, and only one pair of needle nosed pliers buried way in the bottom/back of the tool... um... box... heap... I'm not sure what to call it?) I got a paper bag. I checked that the fan had stopped moving (it was part of the same fixture as the light, so that was my proof the correct circuit really was broken.) I broke the bulb, which felt scary, but it broke really easily. I don't think there was actually a vacuum in there. I did manage to get the screwy part unscrewed pretty easily, despite the fact that it looked like part of it had melted a bit. Some of it was pretty crumbly and weak. That could not have been safe.

Then, after screwing in a right-sized bulb, I turned the light on and nothing. Oh, great. It's broke. No wait a minute -- the circuit is (intentionally) broken. I went back downstairs and reset the circuit breakers, and sure enough that light is working better than it has been for weeks. The light from the 60 Watt is way brighter than what we had before (from the broken bulb -- what do you know?) So everything worked out, but seriously -- I need to be more careful about that in future.

From Katy & Evy (and friends)

Hello, all of you various wonderful and amazing parents. :)

We wanted to let you know that we've arrived safely at Laura's cabin. We stopped for lunch yesterday and went to the fireworks store. At the fireworks store, Laura and Carly and Mr. Skow went inside to buy fireworks, the rest of us went outside and sang by the door. Adam played his ukelele and Alex, Katy, and Evy sand along. Before we left, a store employee gave us a free firework because we "brought business". The car ride was pretty long, but we managed not to kill each other on the way up, and arrived at Laura's early enough to get some swimming in on Friday. We have some blow-up rafts set up on the lake, which are pretty wicked awesome. We spent most of today out on the lake as well, in Mrs. Skow's words "trying to kill each other." No one's actually really managed to hurt themselves, although Alex has been punched in the nose. All in all, it's been lots of fun. We have kayaks and lots of fun cool stuff and we get lots of wonderful amazing food, and we love Laura and her parental units for taking us up here because they're amazing, and all of you wonderful parents who we're writing this letter to for letting us come up here. We had to make a group effort email because the internet is ridiculously slow, and this would be a three-hour ordeal if we all wrote individual emails. We did think it was important to keep you all updated though, and at least let you know that we weren't mauled by bears on the way up here and are now dead in the woods. We will try as hard as we can to squeeze one of these loving Emails into out busy schedules.

Thank you,
Alex, Katy, Evy, Adam

A bit late, but I wanted to say something about this...

So Frankie Manning died last week. I wanted to write something then, but couldn't come up with the words. I still can't. But plenty of other people came up with great words. So I'm going to quote for you, my friends, the words of someone I like very much (although I don't know her very well) because they express what I've been thinking and feeling about this better than I ever could myself. Thanks, Ginger.

Frankie Manning passed away today. For a good portion of you, that name means very little. For those of us who dance, who have a passion for Lindy Hop, it means a great deal more. Frankie was a founding father of Lindy Hop in the 1930's, whose extraordinary creativity and energy graced films and dance floors. Yet when interest in Lindy waned, he went on to spend many decades living what some might say was an ordinary life, working for the U.S. Postal Service. It wasn't until interest in swing began to grow again in recent decades that Frankie hit the floor again, and took to teaching and inspiring new generations of dancers.

Tonight, dancers everywhere were mourning his loss and celebrating his life by dancing it up. I took a special trip to Fizz Bar & Grill in Chicago to join my fellow dancers. What I witnessed was not just grace on the dance floor, but the grace that can only be seen when people gather together to show respect for the significance of another. That grace was on the faces of my friends tonight as I danced with them and as we stood in silence to remember Mr. Manning. Yet the silence only lasted a few brief moments, because how dancers express their grief and joy best is by releasing it all on the dance floor.

The energy in the room was like nothing I've ever seen before...there was stomping and clapping, cheering and laughing, the likes of which can only be created when true passion is present. As I watched and listened, I took some time to consider how one man could affect so many in such a brilliant way. I thought about how because of Frankie's dance, his creativity, and his teaching, so many people in that room had been inspired. And I thought about how that roomful of people held so many good friends, people I never would have met if they or I hadn't fallen in love with dancing. That life, a life without that dance floor and those people, would be so much less colorful.

So what I came to consider is this: Frankie Manning changed the way we dance, and through the vibrations of his stomps and spins on the dance floor, had a ripple effect on us all...bringing strangers together to become friends through four minutes of swingouts and a song. It's interesting to think of how many people's lives you can change, just by living with passion and enthusiasm and the desire to reach out to each other like Mr. Manning did. That might be all it really takes to make an ordinary life extraordinary.

Here's some nice video from that evening. To my mind, the video doesn't expose 1/10th of the energy that was in the room that evening, but I enjoyed watching it, over and over. Also, if you're any good at "Where's Waldo", you might be able to spot me (but since most of my body is hidden, you won't be able to see how dorky I look dancing.)
http://www.youtube.com/user/DougDoberman (thanks, Doug).

Also, there are now some nice videos out from the funeral in New York last Saturday. Apparently (and unsurprisingly), dancing broke out in the aisles of the church. Here's a great post (with videos!) about that:

ABC's of Me

The meme came to me from Facebook. I'm not gonna tag anyone, but hey I love to write about ME. So I'll do it here -- it'll get loaded to fb anyway. Do it if you feel like it -- I'll read it.

A - Age: 42

B - Bed size: Queen

C - Chore you hate: Freakin' laundry

D - Dog's name:

E - Essential start your day item: Coffee

F - Favorite color: How can I have a favorite color? Different colors are good for different purposes, and in most cases, multi-colored is best.

G - Gold or Silver: It depends...

H - Height: 5' 9"

I - Instruments you play: Nothin' anymore. I can't even sing well these days.

J - Job title: Software Engineer

K - Kids: Katy, 16; Evy, 16; Ben, 7

L - Living arrangements: I have a nice little house.

M - Mom's name: Bev

N - Nicknames: I don't think I have any. Wanna give me one?

O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Tonsilectomy... and some weird joint issue -- I don't think anyone ever really figured out what it was. (I wonder if it happening shortly after Chicken Pox was significant?)

P - Pet Peeves: Damp towels on my bed (or really anywhere but spread out on the towel bar, or in the laundry room waiting to be washed.)

Q - Quote from a movie: "Calling it your job don't make it right, Boss" (Cool Hand Luke)

R - Right or left handed: Right.

S - Siblings: John, Mike, Dave

T - Time you wake up: Weekdays, 5:00... weekend, 8-ish.

U - Underwear: I'm a granny panties kind of girl. (TMI?)

V - Vegetable you dislike: Brussel sprouts.

W - Ways you run late: I get to talking with someone. I can't find something I need. I forget something and have to turn 'round and go back for it. (It all boils down to being a space cadet.)

X - X-rays you've had: Who can remember them all?

Y - Yummy food you make: All the food I make is yummy. (Yes, it IS.)

Z - Zoo favorite: I'm not much of a zoo fan. (Maybe I'm adopted after all?)

Road trip recap

The denver trip was fun, although we got some seriously bad weather to drive through, and delays on the way home due to bad weather, including road closures. We made it home around 10:30 Sunday night. And the girls definitely got some good driving experience, which was kind of the point.

We took some photos with Francha's camera (the boys weren't with us, and I'm the worst person in the world for taking pictures -- I don't even own a camera.) She's supposed to send us copies, and I'll post some when they arrive.

On the way to Colorado, we had dinner in Des Moines, and slept in Lincoln, Nebraska, so we spent time in the capitols of all the states we visited. We also had a nice time visiting a small town outside of Lincoln, and having breakfast at a charming local restaurant (with unfortunately poor service, but really good food and nice atmosphere.)

My uncle Ken and his wife Francha were super sweet, and made it a cheap and comfortable week for us. Ken actually seemed better than I expected from what I'd heard (he's had a couple strokes, the latest one pretty recent.) He was in good spirits while we were there, and we got in lots of nice visiting. He took us to Red Rocks and showed us around some (the girls did their share of running & climbing there.) We went for dinner to a really excellent Mexican restaurant. We also met some other friends of theirs (relatives? I can't remember) who stayed with them for a couple days which was fun.

My cousin Stephen was great. He worked a lot of hours in the week we were there, but spent pretty much all his spare time with us (including some he really should have used for sleep.) He showed us downtown Denver (he made a very good city driving coach for the girls, and even talked Evy into a rather small parking spot successfully), and took us into the capital building. He took us on an all day drive through the mountains and into the South Park area where he used to work (stopping for a very nice lunch in FairPlay.) Also, we got the tour of the fire station in Golden where he now works.

Tuesday evening, we took a couple of dance classes, and went to their most popular swing dance night (I think it was Evy's first official "Lindy Hop" class.) Steve tagged along for that, and was even brave enough to dance with me a couple times. The classes were good -- I definitely got some stuff to take home from them, and the people were very friendly. We had lots of fun.

Also, I have to say that I was pleased with Katy and Evy. If Ken and Francha (and Stephen) were good hosts, the girls were also pretty good guests. They were cheerful and patient with visiting, listened well, and told lots of their own stories. They even baked Ken his favorite (frosted ginger) cookies, and made Francha a couple of chocolate cakes.

Exciting times

Life has been busy. I'm trying to remember what I intended to write last time I got on to post.

Last weekend I went to a Saturday dance workshop in Milwaukee. It worked out really well because I ended up sharing a room, and the driving with Amy, which definitely made it more fun. There's a video of the moves we worked on here. In addition to all the fun of hanging out with Amy, having dance classes, lunch with the Chicago group, and evening dances, I also got to have a wonderful dinner with Tracy (aka PinkTruth). The dinner was really wonderful. Next time you're in Milwaukee, I'd strongly suggest you stop by Maharaja, and let the waiter help you make a good selection. I had chickpeas with spinach, and a potato nan of some kind. And I was home to catch up on laundry/housework by 11:00, and even managed to get out and dance for a short time Sunday. (I wouldn't have gone to the effort, but Ali is home on spring break, and we're so busy that was the only chance I had to see her. Anyway, I'm glad I went, because it was fun even though I left early.)

In other news, Ben is done with winter soccer, and signed up for spring. Katy is on the badminton team at school, and won her first match yesterday. She also made state for one of the math team events. And she had her choir concert yesterday. Evy and Katy are signed up for Relay for Life again.

And this weekend (day after tomorrow), we girls (Evy, Katy, and I) are leaving for our Denver road trip. Sadly, this means I will miss Swinger's Ball this year. But I don't care -- I'm really looking forward to this (although I'm a little apprehensive about being separating from Jeff for longer than we've ever been. I've got used to having him around.)

Must remember to get the oil changed Saturday morning.

Six books and a movie

I went to post a new entry, since LOTS of stuff has been going on, and LJ asked me if I wanted to restore a draft. So why not -- I'll try to finish this one.

I took the girls to see Coraline Sunday. [This was maybe 2 weeks ago now?] We expected to enjoy the movie, and it lived up to expectations. There's a ton of stuff I could talk about with that movie, but better you should go see it and decide what you think. I'm not sure how good it would be for younger children, but it did a great job of presenting a point of view for the parents that we knew would be different from what the children were seeing. (And wow, that Coraline character really reminded me of Ben.)

I thought I'd say a few words about my last shipment from Amazon that I finished.

I enjoyed reading this. There was some really good stuff, but there were some things that made me uncomfortable about it. Weird magical stuff going on that I really didn't know how to take, and the author seemed pretty serious about it.
This one read really slowly for me. It just never hooked my interest. I suppose I didn't have enough in common with the writer (although, by the title and some of the description, I'd expected to.)
This was a really beautiful book. I loved the artwork, and it's wonderful that it was published with a quality that did justice to that. It's hard for me to know how the writing would come accross to others, since so much of it spoke to me in a very personal way.  The stream-of-consciousness style of letter writing reminded me a bit of the way I wrote letters and notes as a teenager. Some of it was very difficult to read, because it brought back a lot of bad memories. Even the dates contributed to that -- 1987 was a very bad year for me, and the writer is very close to me in age, as well. In a way, it's odd that I identified so much. It seems to me that the style, actions, relationships, behavior, motivations and problems of the writer were very different from what mine have ever been, and yet some of her words expressed so accurately feelings and moods that I can remember having.This book was a lot of fun. It read very fast. I went out and bought the other Jen Lancaster book that I hadn't read yet (and went right through that one, too.)
I loved this book. I actually read it right after the Lauri Notaro book that I was kind of bored with, and it was such a pleasure to switch over to some really fascinating, high quality reading material. Honestly, I remember very little of what happened in the book, or even why I liked it so much, but I do remember that I didn't really understand what was happening at the very end (last 3 pages, maybe.) I will have to give it another read. And I must remember to get more Toni Morrison.
This book lived up to expectations. In some essential way, I thought it was more realistic than the other John Green books. However, I probably won't be looking for more John Green right away. I've sort of had my fill for a while.


nothin' much

Ben had his 7th birthday yesterday. We went out to dinner and Katy and Evy baked the best apple pie ever (Ben's not really a cake fan.) Saturday he'll have a birthday party at Chucky Cheese (having to go there is NOT one of the perks of being a parent.) He'll have ice cream cake (he is an ice cream fan... so see, he's human!)

I'm looking forward to Saturday, despite the Chuckie Cheese. I have my next hair appt Saturday morning, and I'm treating myself to color. This will be my second visit to Max at Linea Salon in Glen Ellyn, and the first one was great! Hah - I don't know that I've ever actually been excited about a hair appointment before.