Thursday, February 26, 2009


My brother started dating my sister-in-law when they were in high school. I was either in 4th or 5th grade when she came into my life. I can't remember exactly because it seems like I've known her my whole life. Obviously growing up with two brothers meant that I never had that precious sisterly bond but having Tina around for so much of my life makes me feel lucky that I have something close to that. 

I remember when they went off to college and she would send me care packages with all kinds of ISU merchandise. I loved getting those boxes of t-shirts and notepads. She was the one who taught me how to make my hair defy gravity in the late 80s and I believe she is single-handedly responsible for the hole in the ozone layer above Southern Illinois. If she thought it was cool, so did I. 

Fast forward about 20 years and she is just as cool today as she was then. She and my brother are happily married with 4 beautiful girls. She has been a teacher and dance coach at the same school since she graduated college--even with all those kids to care for at home. I think she could probably be mistaken for one of the kids at her high school because she is so young and energetic. (just don't talk to her after about 10pm or so) She loves what she does and she is passionate about dance and winning. 

About 5 or 6 years ago her dance team started earning a spot in the State Championship in Illinois. This is 100% thanks to the hard work and energy that Tina puts into that program. She fights for those girls and she works her ass off to make the team the best it can be given the limited resources they have. Lots of other schools have the advantage of better locations and more money to attend private dance lessons during the off season. Tina's school is in the middle of nowhere so they don't have a great dance studio close. Despite this, they continue to excel and represent their school in the state tournament every year. 

This year there is a group that has done fundraising for her team to help cover the cost of all those dance shoes and competition trips. The group is called TDI and it is a group of guys at the high school that support the dance team (tough job, I know) by doing a freestyle dance in regional competitions. It sounds like it could be pretty funny. Right now voting is taking place to determine which school will get to have their TDI dance team perform at State. 

And this is where you come in:

I would love it if you could help me support my sister-in-law and her dance team by clicking HERE and voting for FIELDCREST. You have to enter your email address after you vote so they can ensure you are only voting once. 

I appreciate you taking just 30 seconds to do this for my sister-in-law. She has meant so much to me over the years and I would love to be able to help her out in the campaign for her school. It isn't a kidney or anything, but dance matters for her so I know it would mean a lot.

And as a reward, I will promise to post the YouTube video of them dancing if they win. :-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

oh, Right. hi.

Things I have learned since my last post:

Jack would rather feed himself than have anyone else feed him. I am still making all of his baby food but now I am doing a lot more "tiny cuts of food" and a lot less pureed foods.

Avery would rather play with/ride on/bounce on whatever toy our neighbor has rather than the one she is playing on. And she isn't afraid to make her opinion known.
Luckily I also learned that our 3 year old neighbor is much more chivalrous than he should be for his age. Such a nice kiddo.
I learned that Jack will stand any time and any place. He will also take steps but will not walk not matter what--don't even try to talk him into it because he will just sit down and cross his little ankles in such a way that will make you want to eat his thighs.  nom nom nom.
I also learned that a quiet child is not necessarily a well behaved one. Avery drew this masterpiece all over herself while I was making baby food for Jack. (damn tiny pieces take forever to cut)
And I mean everywhere. The bottoms of her feet, all over her legs from top to bottom, her arms and her face.
Forgive the mouth full of goldfish but wanted to show the extent of her coloring adventure. 
I learned that weeds do not take time off from growing just because you are in another country. Matt plans to take the back patio apart this weekend in his war against the weeds. I hope this doesn't turn into a Caddyshack situation...but I have a feeling it may.
I learned that those big cheeks just never get old. And that his father is never allowed to be alone with him while I am away because he had the nerve to teach him new tricks while I was in El Sal. Jack can now high five upon request and he turned 11 months old without my permission. See what I mean, I can't go anywhere without things changing way too.

I am happy to be back home after a great week in El Salvador. At home Matt had to deal with 2 sick kids (Avery had a mystery illness and Jack had a double ear infection) while battling a virus of his own. My parents and Aunt Debbie picked up most of the slack since Matt wasn't able to care for himself, much less the kids. Remember when I said that I plan to give the other months a chance in 2009? Yeah, well, February is ruining that for the rest. Hopefully March will bring better luck on the illness front. (always the optimist)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I've Got Your Bonus Right Here, Punk

Can you believe companies are actually giving bonuses? In this economic environment. FOR SHAME. I mean, who are these people who are getting bonuses? I heard Barney Frank (he's a Congressman, Emma) ask why you need a "bribe" to do your work well. He asked if people would perhaps go home early on Wednesdays if they weren't given a bonus. 

Clearly we should all be outraged by people who are getting these bribes for showing up at work and staying all day. Not to mention the ones who are working hard to turn a profit. What the hell is wrong with them? They think that they should actually get some kind of monetary payment for performance?


I think we are getting wrapped up in this mob mentality and we are forgetting about the middle class--the very class that everyone is fighting to save. It is a common practice in many companies to give bonuses at the end of the year based on performance and I don't see a problem with that. It's called merit based pay and it just makes sense to me.

That means that instead of paying everyone the same thing even though some schmucks are going to go home early on Wednesdays no matter what, you pay your high performers more for their contributions. And you make it yearly to keep them motivated to work hard. It's a good deal for the company because they have high producers and it is a good deal for the employees because they know where they stand and they see their hard work paying off.

Man I would be pissed if, hypothetically, I worked at a place that paid the slackers the same as the hard workers. There is only so much pride in performance and work ethic that a person can have before they go crazy that Mr. Arrives after 9, Goes to the Lunch for 90 minutes at 11:30, and then Goes to the Gym at 2 before he leaves work at 4 gets paid the same as you. You. The one at your desk by 8 and works through lunch almost every day only to leave at 5 and then Work from Home each night. Yeah. That would make me really mad, hypothetically. 

Which is why I think working at a place that gives performance bonuses based on the *ahem* PERFORMANCE of an individual is a great idea. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water here. Sure, there are idiot CEOs at companies that are taking bailout money and then not spending it wisely (I'm looking at you Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) but not all companies are doing this. Otherwise it wouldn't be Breaking! News! when they do.

Most companies are probably full of middle income earners that are managers and individual contributors who work their asses off and spend too many hours away from their families every day to produce something good for their company. Sometimes not taking vacation days. Sometimes logging on during their vacation time. Sometimes working at all hours of the day or night to meet deadlines. They are just doing what they are told and are continuing to work during pay freezes and threats of lay-offs. They have employees that are filling up the community refrigerators with lunches rather than going out to eat like they used to. They have employees who love what they are doing and fear that it will all end at any moment. 

And these people deserve bonuses if their performance merits one. I am totally ok with that. Once we have people in Congress and the media flipping out when the middle class gets an annual bonus we are defeating the purpose of trying to have an economic recovery.

(That being said, you VPs and high level executives that are getting tons of money to leave your job because you are terrible can leave your bonus at the door on the way out. You shouldn't be getting a bonus for the hot mess that you are leaving behind. You can go ahead and be ashamed of yourself.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's Not that I am a Valentine Scrooge or Anything...

Raise your hand if you are watching the Grammy Awards right now? Because you know I am. I mean, anyone who watches the SAG awards is definitely watching the Grammys. (or is it Grammies?) So far the best part of the night has been Jennifer Hudson singing that song about getting her through the hard times. Not sure if she wrote that about her mom or if it was a song that has been out there for a while but when she sang it tonight it was powerful.

Kenny Chesney sang tonight, too. Does anyone else wonder what actually happened between him and Renee Zellweger? Because that marriage was weird in the first place and then super weird when it ended in a divorce due to "fraud." It's one of those things that I think about from time to time and wish I had some insight into FOR NO GO REASON. I mean, does it get anymore random than that? I can't see how.

And now MIA (who is a rapper, but I didn't know that until tonight) is up on stage 9 months pregnant wearing this horrible polka dot see-through outfit. I don't think it would be as horrible if the polka-dots were not also on her butt. I realize that there aren't a lot of wardrobe outfits for someone who is just about ready to give birth but there had to be something else available. 


In other news, Valentine's Day is just around the corner and I am about to make a lot of women mad because I DON'T CARE. It just isn't one of those "holidays" that I get excited about. I think when you are single you just want it to pass quickly before you kill yourself out of depression that everyone else is getting candy and overpriced flowers while you eat a pint of ice cream and watch G.I. Jane to make yourself feel better. When you are in a relationship you just want something nice from your partner but not too nice because what does that mean? And also, what if he gets me something more significant than I get him or worse, the reverse? Or what if he gives me a little jewelry box that has...ear rings in it and not what you thought it would have. 


Then when you are finally married you decide that it isn't worth waiting at your favorite restaurant for an hour to get a table even though you have reservations so you get takeout or make something at home, which is fine but you do that most nights of the year anyway so I don't know why this one is so special. Except for the overpriced flowers that you have sitting on the counter. Also, don't forget the chocolate covered strawberries that they only sell in boxes of 18 that cost almost $50 and there is no way that you will eat 18 chocolate covered strawberries in 3 days before they go bad so then you just feel like you got screwed. (we won't even go there because you probably got lingerie as a gift, which is not a gift at all for a woman and so then there is the possibility that that won't happen either because you are now pissed. Because, seriously?!)

You see what I mean? Not worth it. I don't need that kind of pressure so I just skip the whole thing.

That's not to say that I don't want to acknowledge the day by getting Matt a card and probably a stuffed animal for Avery that will just end up in the box of stuffed animals she has in her room. It's tradition, after all. Let's not go crazy with the anti-Valentine sentiment. I just mean that I don't make a huge deal out of the day.

Of course, having kids adds something new to the equation because you definitely have to send Valentines to all of their friends. Not to mention the party at school with all of the valentines and treats that they will have there. I do get into this part of Valentine's Day because it is always fun to send love notes to friends when you are little and the whole tradition of doing that starts when you are too young to actually write or mail any of it on your own. So Avery and I went to Hallmark on Friday night and she picked out cards for her friends at school and ones to send to other friends/family in the mail. She was pretty into it and loved looking at each of the cards before making her final decisions. I have them all addressed and stamped so now the challenge is to make sure I get to the post office and actually send them out.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What? There was a football game on, too?

As is our tradition, we went to Derrin and Jolene's house for the Superbowl yesterday. On the way to their house Avery asked me (again!) where we were going and I told her (again) about the football party. It went something like this:

Avery: Are we going to visit friends?
Me: yes.
Avery: why?
Me: because they are having a football party and we go every year.
Avery: why?
Me: because it is fun to watch the game with friends and these are the friends we always hang out with during the Superbowl.
Avery: Every year of my whole life? 
Me: yep. Your whole life. 

(on a side note, she is really into this "why" question lately and I am finding that I am just not as smart as I thought it was. For example, I can't answer why the clouds cover the moon some nights and not others. Or why the neighbors have 2 dogs. Or why the car next to us on the way home was white. Or why we go when it is a green light and stop when it is a red light. It's just the rules of the road, kid. I don't make them, I just follow them.)

Once we got to Derrin and Jolene's house she was fascinated with "Derrin's mess" that Matt and Jolene were cleaning up. It was "large item pick-up day" this morning and they needed to get all of the remodeling stuff out of the trash area in their backyard. Since Derrin is a gimp right now thanks to knee surgery (which he had to have after falling out of an attic, but that is a different story for a different blogger), Matt was glad to help. Avery asked tons of questions that started with "why" and really none of us could answer to her full satisfaction.

She loves going over to their house because Jolene doesn't have any kids yet (but will in about 7 months!) so the house is full of things that could potentially get Avery into trouble. She usually starts with the pool table and moves on to the glass cabinet in the TV room. Lucky for us she didn't break anything. I can't same the same for Matt, though. 

We had a great time hanging out during the first half but had to leave before the second half thanks to 2 sleepy babies. Here are some pictures of the evening:

Uncle Josh was lots of fun for the kids. When he got there Avery ran to him and said, "UNCLE JOSH! Jesus is my friend!" So random that she would say that to him in this situation but it was the lesson from Sunday School yesterday, so I guess she retained the information. :-)
Jack totally spit up all over Josh right after I took this picture. 
Avery playing with the balls on the pool table. 
Our traditional "baby drinking out of a beer bottle" picture from the Superbowl party. We have a picture of Avery doing the same thing when she was 6 months old. Don't worry, the bottle was empty (and washed) before he started trying to drink from it. Right after I took this picture he dropped it and it broke on the tile floor. I blame Matt, since he was in charge of holding the bottle. Josh reminded us that neither of us were exactly up for Parent of the Year Awards in this situation so there was no reason to blame anyone for anything. 

We had a great time, as always, and look forward to next year when there is a new baby in the house for the big game!