Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's for dinner?

So, I like to cook. I'm pretty good, but still learning. Sometimes, I have a big hit on my hands - like last week when I made sausage gravy over biscuits for dinner. Other times, the kids both turn up their noses...I tend to forget those meals, since I don't repeat them. Tonight I had a hit-or-miss. I got some brussels sprouts on the stalk in my last CSA box of the season and roasted them tonight to go with the panini sandwiches I made for dinner. N loved them, A couldn't stand them. I thought they were pretty tasty - and really easy, too. I just tossed them in olive oil, salt, pepper and grated garlic, then roasted them in a hot oven for 30 minutes. Salty and just slightly bitter on the outside, with an earthy sweetness on the inside.

The night before, I had a hit with chicken and broccoli burritos. That was just chicken that I ground up in the food processor, sauteed up with a whole mess of broccoli (also processed to within an inch of its existence), then threw in some black beans, salsa, smoked cheese and rice. Fill a tortilla with the stuff and voila, an easy, healthy and fun meal.

Tomorrow, I've got burgers on tap. I plan to serve them with slaw made from red cabbage. I'm not generally a fan of cole slaw - but that's because most slaw dressings are too sweet for me. If I'm making it myself, that shouldn't be an issue. I found a recipe online with an Asian-inspired dressing - so I'm thinking of trying that.

What are you cooking this week?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apparently, I live in a red state now

And I have to tell you, I'm not so happy about it.

I admit it, I'm a Democrat...a REALLY liberal Democrat. Seriously, if they had any political traction whatsoever, I'd probably be Green. But since I don't relish throwing my vote away, Dem I am.

I don't get why so many people think of being liberal as a bad thing. The Merriam-Webster definitions of liberal are:

1 a : of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts (liberal education)
b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
2 a : marked by generosity : openhanded (a liberal giver)
b : given or provided in a generous and openhanded way (a liberal meal0
c : ample, full
3 obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious
4 : not literal or strict : loose (a liberal translation)
5 : broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
6 a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism
b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives

The only one of those definitions that I don't associate with myself is considered obsolete. I happen to think being called generous and broad-minded is a good thing. I like the idea of government as a pooling of resources to make everyone's life better.
People complain about taxes (and associate those taxes with Democrats, even though both parties apply them), but the fact is, they allow society to do things that individuals can't. After all, while my family is comfortable, we certainly don't have the means to build roads, fight crime and put out fires. I know some people home school, and more power to them, but I have neither the skill nor the patience - so I'm glad some of my tax dollars go to educating my children and the children in the community.

I believe that when someone's down and out, the answer isn't to kick them to the curb, but try to help them lift themselves up. Do some people take advantage of that social safety net? Of course, and I think that's wrong. But I wouldn't do away with the system that helps so many just to punish the few who take advantage. I hate the fact that it seems like conservatives look at welfare as theft. But I digress...

The thing I find so frustrating about yesterday's election is that it seems that the Republicans gained seats because people are frustrated with President Obama. Why? The economy isn't recovering fast enough. Actually, it seems as if he's being blamed for the economy going bad in the first place, which really baffles me. The housing crisis crash happened during George W. Bush's presidency. The TARP bill (that bailout people associate with the Dems?) was signed into law by President Bush.

And I knew this would happen. I knew that when President Obama was elected, people were expecting too much of him. Intelligent, talented and charismatic as he is, he's still just one guy. Granted, the most powerful individual on the planet, but our government structure has checks and balances for a reason. Much as he might like to - the President doesn't get to govern solo. Look at how long it took the health care bill to pass.

As for the health care bill - I can't tell you how many times I've heard that while it's statistically unpopular as a whole, people generally approve of all of the individual provisions. Which means, they don't like the idea of a health care bill, because the Republicans have framed it as a government takeover. But the bits and pieces are all things that people can support.

Why are the Republicans so good at making Democrats look bad? The cynic in me says it's because they have no compunctions about playing dirty and taking advantage of people's weaknesses. And then when the Democrats try to correct the misconceptions, they sound like whiners.

I'm almost disgusted enough to run for something myself...almost.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Well, hello there!

Um...hi...sorry to have been neglecting you.

I have no good excuse. I've been busy, sure, but that's pretty much status quo.

Do you forgive me? Pretty please?

Okay, so now that I've crawled back onto this blog, what shall I write about?

How about my latest acting venture? Sound good? All-righty then!

I had the great privilege to play the role of Catherine in The Foreigner. A fun role in a hilarious comedy! But the best part is I got to be part of the centennial season of my home theater, The Players Club of Swarthmore! Actually, to call it my home theater implies that I work at others, which I don't. But that's because PCS is a convenient 5 minutes from my house and is one of the most well-respected community theaters in the region - so I don't have cause to wander.

Anyway...the premise of The Foreigner is that this guy, Charlie, is depressed, so his friend takes him to a backwoods fishing lodge to get away for a few days. But he's also painfully shy and doesn't want to talk to anyone - so his friend tells the innkeeper that Charlie doesn't speak English. The comedy comes from him understanding everything everyone is saying, when they think he can't.

As always when I work at PCS, it was a great bunch of people. All super talented and fun to work with. I get to flex my creative muscles and make new friends at the same time - what could be better?

And the role of Catherine was especially fun because, well...she's a bitch. Most actors will tell you that it's more fun to play bad than good. Well, to call Catherine bad is not quite accurate - she's basically someone who hasn't found her place in the world and takes it out on everyone around her. Still, as much fun as it is to yell and stomp and pout, I had a hard time doing it. I kept getting direction to be meaner. I felt like I was really pushing it, but I guess my idea of nasty doesn't come across on stage. Thankfully, the Director and AD didn't give up on me and I finally got Catherine where she needed to be. Even got a decent review! So, that was tons of fun.

Now I have to read scripts to try to find a show I'd like to direct next year. Any suggestions?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Generic update

Whew! It's been a crazy couple of months. The post-surgical limitations to my mobility ended up slowing me down in lots of other ways, too. When you can't get around quickly, or (as when I was still on crutches) have limited use of your hands as well as legs, things like checking email and blogging tend to get pushed aside. This is because everything else takes so damn long to accomplish, the other stuff feels like small potatoes.

Anyway, the knee is much better, thank you very much. Not 100%, certainly, but I'd say about 75%. It still feels a bit stiff, and while I got full extension back, full flexion hasn't been reached yet. But I'm being a good girl - going to PT 3x/week, doing my home exercises on days that I don't and generally working toward normalcy once again.

The kids finished school for the year. N wants to start Kindergarten RIGHT NOW, but I think I've finally managed to get her to accept the fact that she has to wait until September, there's just nothing to be done about it. A enjoyed second grade ever so much more than first, thanks to his wonderful teacher, Mr. Haines. But still, he was thrilled with the arrival of summer vacation. We just spent an unscheduled (except for my PT appointments) week together and are gearing up for the start of summer camp this week.

They'll only be there for a week before they head to Grandma camp for a week while DH and I go to St. Maarten for vacation. We were originally going to Saba, but that island's main claims to fame are diving and hiking - two things I'm not allowed to do right now. So, since our main air tix were to St. Maarten, we decided to just stay there for the week instead of taking our puddle hopper to Saba. St. Maarten's diving isn't as pristine, but it still doesn't suck. So the divers among our group can still get their fix in, but I'll have more to keep me happy top-side while they're under water. While we're gone, Summer will stay with my dear friend, The Crazy Dog Lady. I'm sure she'll have a blast, as she does every time she goes there.

Then it's back to normal life for a while before we head back to Erie again for my *gasp* 20-year high school reunion. How the heck did 20 years go by? I swear, inside my head I still feel like the girl who graduated from Mercyhurst Preparatory School in 1990. Okay, maybe not quite...but if not 17, certainly no older than 25. Alas, I'm less than a month from my 38th birthday! I take pretty good care of myself and am (with the exception of the recently bum knee) in decent shape, so age is not something that freaks me out. But still...the number just doesn't match how I feel. It's odd.

Then, in September I'll be stepping back on stage as Catherine in The Players Club of Swarthmore's production of The Foreigner. I'm so proud to be able to be a part of the Theater's Centennial season - it's going to be such fun!

I think that's all the news that's fit to print around here lately. So, what's up with you? Drop me a line, will ya?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sometimes there really is such a thing as too nice...

...as in, to the point of stupidity.

So, you may remember that the fam and I went to Disneyland and Legoland for vacation just before Easter. Well, on the flight out, A had to go to the bathroom. But Guy Sitting in the Aisle Seat was asleep. We'd already woken Guy once to let A go to the bathroom, so I hated to do it again. I decided to try to lift A over Guy's lap and into the aisle. About 2/3 of the way over Guy's lap, there was a sickening *POP* and poor Guy was startled awake anyway, because I had just dropped A onto his lap when my knee gave out from under me.

I guess trying to twist and lean in a confined space while lifting almost 50 pounds isn't such a great idea.

But the funny thing is, other than the initial horrific stab of pain, it didn't really hurt that much. I could put weight on it right away, and it just felt a little stiff, maybe slightly out of joint. I was convinced that a trip to the ER upon landing wasn't necessary. Still, the pop was pretty nasty. So, the next morning, before embarking upon our Disneyland adventure - I found the nearest pharmacy and bought myself a brace. I figured just because it didn't hurt much right now didn't mean it could tolerate walking around amusement parks for a week without some support.

And we had a lovely time on our vacation. Managed A's food well, with just one oops on my part that led to an afternoon of hellboy reaction. N enjoyed Disneyland less than we expected because, as it turns out, even though it's supposed to be for kids - many of the rides have some sort of "startle" factor to them that N really didn't like. Legoland ended up being much more her speed.

Anyway, back to the knee. By the end of the week, it felt pretty good. I was still wearing the brace for support, but it was more of a "just in case" measure than anything else. Got home and continued to improve. So, after another week of taking it easy, I resumed normal life, including running.

But when it still didn't feel 100% after a month, I figured I should do something about it. It just felt slightly out of joint - so a visit to my Chiropractor seemed in order. Dr. Cole moved my leg around a bit, felt the knee and asked me to let him know what hurt. After about 30 seconds of this he said, "Yeah, I can't adjust you. You need an MRI."

I was shocked! "Why??" I whined.

He informed me that, "I think you may have torn your ACL."

A flurry of expletives went through my head. The only thing that saved Dr. Cole from hearing them was N's presence in the room.

So anyway, I scheduled the MRI for a couple of days later. I had the report sent to both Dr. Cole and to my primary doc. Primary doc's office called first to tell me I needed to schedule an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon because, yeah, I tore my ACL and possibly the meniscus as well.

Isn't that just peachy?

We have a dive trip scheduled for the beginning of July, so I wanted to be FIXED ASAP. So, the surgeon scheduled me for the procedure last Friday. I was supposed to be able to put some weight on the leg right away, with the assistance of crutches. I was supposed to start physical therapy less than a week after surgery. I was supposed to be working on strengthening my leg right quick, so I could be strong enough to dive.

But my bones seem to have other plans. Turns out, they're soft. I'm not exactly sure what this means in the big picture (though you can bet that I'll be finding out as soon as someone in the Orthopedics office calls me back), but the short-term effect is that I have to keep weight completely off the leg until after my post-surgical follow-up, which is a week from today. This delays the start of PT, which means I won't be strong enough to dive in six weeks.


Still, a week on a tropical island won't suck - even if I can't dive.

In the meantime, my Mommy flew in from Erie to help out for the next few days. Thank goodness! With the unexpected extra limitations, I'm not sure how I would be managing, otherwise.

The moral of the story? Wake the Guy up!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The week of family, friends and food

So, last week was kinda crazy. Tuesday, my Sister-in-law, L, came for a visit with her 3 kids (G, H & C). They were on spring break and hadn't been here in a while. It's always a joy to hang out with those guys. L and I became such fast friends when M and I got together that she was my Matron of Honor at our wedding. And of course, the kids love playing with their cousins. The timing worked out pretty amazingly - her kids are all about three years apart, with my kids perfectly sandwiched in about halfway between each, so they really play well together (most of the time). While they were here, we went to the Franklin Institute, which was fun, but exhausting. Seems like we usually eat out a lot when they come, but this time I mostly cooked. The soup I made for dinner on Tuesday wasn't such a hit, but I redeemed myself with a much-appreciated beef and noodle stir-fry on Wednesday and homemade pizza on Thursday. Friday morning, we gave hugs all around as L and the cousins headed out for the next stop on their week of visits and N and I headed to her school, where I was asked to fill in for one of the teacher's assistants for the day.

When we got home, I cleaned as much as I could before Friday night, because we were welcoming friends from Binghamton (our best man, P, and his family - wife C and kids A & H, plus their two whippets - Zinger and Comet) and from Syracuse (S & J - our SCUBA diving buddies). Saturday all the grown ups met up with another couple (C & K - college friends) for dinner at Amada. For the past few years, we've gotten together for a splurgy meal in Philadelphia each spring - usually in April, and called it Philly Phood Phest. Past excursions have taken us to Roy's, Le Bec Fin, LaCroix, Morimoto, and others. M and I had a dinner at Amada last year that we really enjoyed, so we thought it would make a good Phest choice. Basically, it's an upscale Tapas joint. Tapas is the perfect cuisine for people like me who like to try lots of different foods, because it's small plates, meant for sharing. Think of it as an entire meal of appetizers. And Amada does it really, really well. The table got the chef's tasting menu - three courses of chef-chosen specialties, with several plates in each course. I didn't take a bite of anything I didn't like, but the standouts (for me) were the Ensalada de Jamon, the artichoke and wild mushroom flatbread, Parmesan Artichokes, lamb chops and the Leche Frita. My biggest complaint is that the place is very loud. Also, the first time we visited, (when it was just me and my husband) we felt that our 2-top was squeezed in too close to other tables (it was difficult to get up to use the restroom without bumping the people seated near us). But this time, our group of 8 got us a large table with lots of room around it...much better!

But I think the best part was just hangin' with family and friends for the week. We love these folks, and wish they all lived closer so we could see them more often. Ah well, still don't have enough money for that family compound where they can all just live with us. Someday...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The day that wasn't

So, a couple of entries ago, I told about an open call I went to. They were looking for background talent for a movie that's shooting in town, as well as an NBC pilot. Well, less than a week later, I get a call. They catch me in the middle of grocery shopping and ask if I can be on set of the pilot the next day. Much as I want to, I can't just immediately say, "yes." Why? Well, there's that pesky child care thing to arrange. So, I tell them I'll make a few calls and get back to them as soon as I can.

First call is to my across-the-street neighbor and good friend, P. You may remember P from my power-outage entry - they're one of two families that let us bunk with them when our house got too cold to be habitable. Anyway...P was available to watch the kids - which is fantastic on a number of levels. She knows them almost as well as she knows her own son, since our two boys have been playing together since they were less than two-years-old and before my daughter, N, was born. Plus, since she lives right across the street, the whole school bus thing is a no-brainer. And we have given each other keys in case we lock ourselves out (which we have), so she has easy access to all of our Feingold-friendly food for A. Brilliant!

Call the casting people back, yes, I'm available. Cool, get the info on how to retrieve all of my call information for the next day from their web site and I'm good to go. Mind you, all of this is happening while I'm racing around Trader Joe's grabbing groceries so I can be done in time to Pick N up from preschool.

Finish shopping. Check. Pick N up from school. Check. Oh crap! There's a dentist appointment and a parent-teacher conference the next day. Okay, these acting opportunities don't come along very often, so the dentist and teacher will have to wait. Reschedule the dentist appointment for THREE MONTHS LATER, sheesh! Luckily, teacher (Mr. H - the BEST!) was much easier. Simply rescheduled for the next day, perfect.

Hubby comes home and announces that he's decided to work from home while I'm off earning money as human set-dressing. So, wonderful P is off the hook. Still, I'm awfully grateful to her for being available. The kids are excited to get to hang with Daddy on a school day, although I remind them he still has work to do, so he won't be able to play much.

Now, it's just a matter of waiting until 9pm, when I'm supposed to log on to the casting site to find out when I'm called, where I'm supposed to go and what I'm supposed to wear. Wait, wait, wait... 9pm - site says come back at 10. When I spoke to them that morning, they said call could be as early as 5:45am. Don't they know I don't work well without much sleep? *sigh* Wait, wait, wait...10pm - site says come back at 10:30. AAArrgh! Wait, wait, wait... Finally, info! Luckily, I'm not called until 9. Still, with getting the kids ready, getting myself camera-ready and driving in during rush hour, I gotta get up pretty early.

The next morning goes a lot smoother than I expect. Although I'm asked to wear a suit. My suits are pretty old. Not worn-looking, but definitely a bit dated. Still, they're suits, so I wear the one that fits me a bit better and keep my fingers crossed. Mental note: should probably have a more up-to-date suit in the wardrobe for just such an occasion.

The place we're told to park is about 18 blocks from where we're to sign in, but I arrive in plenty of time. I decide to walk. But as I'm leaving the parking lot, one of the PAs tells me there's a shuttle, but it won't be here for another 20 minutes or so. Okay, I'll wait. The weather's not bad, but it is breezy, and after standing there for 10 minutes I'm starting to feel cold. I'm regretting not walking (or taking the subway) just to keep warm. But eventually, I get on a shuttle and am on my way!

There's a background PA to report to. This poor woman's job is to literally wrangle all 30-40 background people to make sure we wait where we're supposed to, eat when we're supposed to and don't leave the room (even to go to the bathroom) without letting someone know where we are. Much as waiting around is boring, her job is both stressful and boring at the same time.

We get approved by wardrobe, the makeup lady tells me I look good, but keep my lipstick on me and refresh often, the hair lady fixes me up a little, I fill out my paperwork and I'm good to go. So, then we move from the holding room to a hallway just outside of the stairwell where they're shooting to be ready for when they need us. The stairwell, by the way, is large and ornate - if you've seen the film Law Abiding Citizen, you've seen it. It's part staircase, part atrium.

So, we wait, and wait, and wait. While we wait, I get to see Jimmy Smits, David Ramsey and Jesse Bradford walk by. Cool! After a lot more waiting, we move into one of the nearby unused courtrooms, so that we can at least wait in chairs. At one point, about ten of us get pulled into the aforementioned stairwell and we think we're about to actually get to do something. Oops, sorry, no. False alarm. Back to the empty courtroom. More waiting.

Eventually, we got to stop waiting for a while to have "lunch" which was actually after 4pm, so it was almost dinner. Good food. We finish - go back to the original room where we signed in. And those of us who are non-union (that would include me) are told we're done for the day, we can go. WHAT?!! Seriously, I covered child care (twice, really), rescheduled two appointments, stayed up late and got up early to wait around all day and never step in front of a camera? You've got to be kidding me. No, sadly, they weren't.

Mind you, I got to spend the day talking to some interesting people. Nearly all of them have a lot more experience with TV and film than I do, so I learned a bit. But still, it really wasn't worth it. Especially since, getting the non-union rate - my pay for turning my family's life upside-down for the day and waiting around for ten hours for nothing was, after taxes, a whopping $68.36. No kidding. Of course, if I had gotten into the scene, I wouldn't have cared about the measly check. But as it stands, I'm a trifle disappointed.

Sorry to have this entry be a bit of a downer, but there you have it. If it makes you feel any better, last year, when I got onto the set of Law Abiding Citizen, I got a union waiver for the day, which means I got the union rate (that day's check was over $300 after taxes). Plus, I not only got into the scene, I'm easily seen right behind Girard Butler. Guess you win some, you lose some.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sorry I've been away so long...

...There's been so much going on, I don't know where to begin.

So, what would you like to hear about?

The day I got called onto the set of Garza - the new NBC pilot that was shooting downtown?

Our trip out to CA for spring break, my ridiculous knee injury (and aftermath)?

Our time in Disneyland?

Our time in Legoland?

Our low-key Easter?

A's potential opportunity to have a speaking role in a film?

My much-delayed trip to the tax preparer's office?

Any other requests?

Seriously, a little guidance could go a long way, here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Actually did something for the acting career today!

So, despite my desire to build some kind of part-time acting career for myself out of the local projects that are available - I've been terribly lax about pursuing it. While it's something I want, I'm always terribly nervous about making the child care arrangements work out right. That tends to make me hesitant. And when things get complicated, well...let's just say we become a less-than-happy family for a while.

But if I really want this, the only way to make things go smoother is to get more practice. It's hard to get better at something that only happens once or twice a year. So this morning I went to an open call for background talent for a film that will be shooting locally in April and May. The call said to come either dressed in upscale business attire or trendy nightclub attire and to bring a photo of yourself in business attire. Well, some of the headshots that were taken of me last spring are in a suit jacket, so that covered the business attire. I wanted to show them both looks, in hopes of doubling my chances at getting cast, so I decided that I would show up in nightclub attire.

There was, however, one problem - I haven't been to a nightclub since before I had kids. Since my oldest is 8, not only did I not own any appropriate clothing...I didn't even know what would BE appropriate. Thank goodness for Facebook! I posted my dilemma as my status earlier this week and was informed that all I needed to do was go to Forever 21 and buy a cheap shirt. Good to know.

So yesterday, after picking N up from preschool, she and I took a little trip up to the King of Prussia Mall - where the closest Forever 21 is located. Normally, I hate going to the KoP Mall - the traffic is generally awful and I'm not a fan of crowds. But it turns out neither is very bad in the middle of a weekday (I'll have to remember that for future reference). Score!

Of course, N was hungry, so we hit the food court first. She got herself Chick-Fil-A (a special treat, since we can't go there as a family, with A on the Feingold Program). And I hit Salad Sensations. N finished all of her lunch and I didn't finish mine - I was very proud of both of us.

Then, we were off to Forever 21. Of course, since I'm 37, I felt a little silly. But I valiantly tried on a selection of cheap tops. Now, I've lost some weight recently and am feeling pretty good about my body right now. But many of these shirts were not only tight, they were nearly all the kind of unforgiving knit fabric that shows every little bump and bulge. Definitely not cute (at least on me). But I finally settled on a cute satiny top that had boning in the bottom half that pulled double duty of adding interest to the garment and hiding flaws. To complete the nightclub look, I got some cheap bangles to go with it. All for less than $20 - double score!

Got home and put them on with my black skirt. $#!+ - the skirt in question is definitely too long to look nightclubby. That little detail made it look like I was going for business attire and missing, rather than succeeding at looking like a trendy chick going out for the evening. Now what? It occurred to me that my friend, K, is pretty close to my size. I called in desperation asking if she had a short black skirt I could borrow. Luckily, she did! She would bring it the next morning on her way to work. But since she's thinner than me, I wasn't sure if it would fit - so I decided on a pair of tight jeans as a backup in case the skirt was too small.

A short while later, the doorbell rang. K had kindly sent her hubby over early with the skirt in question, plus an extra one, just in case. Thank goodness, one of them fit and looked perfect for a night on the town!

So this morning, I got myself all dolled up like I was going out dancing. This felt a little silly, since it was about 10:30 am. But I did it, right down to the FMPs. The casting director rounded a bunch of us up in the middle of the room and gave us the low-down about what to expect in terms of when we might be contacted and how we would get all of our info. Then she indicated where we would put our photos and said we could go. For a second I was crestfallen - I had gone through all that effort for nothing. There was no way anyone would notice how I looked in the split second it took me to put my photo on the pile. But as everyone else was moving to leave their photos, one of the other casting directors who works at the agency was pulling a few women off to the side. He took photos of us right then, holding a board with our name. Triple score!

So, I left feeling pretty good. I did everything I could do to get a chance at the gig and someone noticed that I looked nice. Now I guess it's just a matter of keeping my fingers crossed and my cell phone on!

Who knows, perhaps six months from now, I'll be blogging about where to look for me in the background.

Speaking of where to look for me...if you happen to rent Law Abiding Citizen, look for me behind and to the right of Girard Butler in the bail hearing scene, I'm wearing a gray turtleneck.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Not as hard as it sounds

So, a couple of posts back, I gave a bit of an explanation of The Feingold Program. In short, it's a diet (although it's more, since it also involves cleaning and personal care products) that eliminates artificial additives (colors, fragrances, flavors and certain preservatives).

Having to follow any special diet takes some getting used to. And it's certainly more difficult than walking into the supermarket and buying whatever you fancy. But following Feingold isn't really as difficult as it might first sound.

Of course, I'm lucky. I live about ten minutes from a Trader Joe's. While only a few of TJ's products are officially on "The Foodlist" (see "The Medless ADHD Son" for more on the Foodlist), all of their private label products are free of the offending artificials. Admittedly, many hard line Feingolders would say this isn't following the program. But I'm not really a hard line kind of girl. When I learned about the artificial-free nature of TJ's in-house products, I was cautious at first. I knew what a reaction would look like (short temper, impulsiveness, more fidgeting than usual) and kept a sharp eye out. The only TJ's products that elicited any such response were off-list breads. When we started on Feingold, I learned that cooking spray is often laced with preservatives, but isn't considered an ingredient. So, I assumed that the offending breads used inappropriate sprays. Now we stick to the breads that are on the list. But otherwise, TJ's makes our life on Feingold pretty easy.

If there weren't a Trader Joe's nearby, my second choice for shopping would be Whole Foods. I know what you're thinking...EXPENSIVE. But here's the thing, their in-store private label brand (365 Everyday Value) is actually quite reasonable and of good quality. Plus, most of their products are on the Foodlist. In fact if a Whole Foods were closer to my home, it might be my first shopping choice, just because as much as I love TJ's - they just don't carry everything. As it stands, the nearest Whole Foods is about 30-40 minutes away, so second choice it remains.

If neither of these were available, I'd be leaning much harder on my darling Foodlist and hitting a conventional Supermarket. When I first started Feingold shopping, before I learned about the magic naturalness of TJ's in-house brand, I did this quite a bit. I would hit the store with my shopping list in one hand and the Foodlist in the other. Doing the weekly grocery shopping this way easily takes twice as long (and I learned early NOT to do it with the kids), but it certainly can be done. And it can be done for not much more money than pre-Feingold days. I did a bit more cooking from scratch, but I enjoy cooking, so this was no big deal for me.

So, does Feingold take a bit of effort? Yeah, but not nearly as much as I thought it would be going in. Does it cost a bit more? Sure, but not as much as a prescription would - and nowhere near as much money as dietary measures some others have to take (gluten/casein free, for example). But the joy of having a kid who's on the high-energy-end of normal rather than out of control is more than benefit enough. Add to that that we get it without the side effects of drugs and you got yourself one satisfied Mommy.

So, what should we talk about next time?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Some people should not be parents

Please pardon my outrage, but this will be a soapbox entry.

*stepping up*

I'm a SAHM, so I spend a lot of time around my kids. They are, in essence, my full-time job. Yeah, yeah, there's cleaning the house and taking care of the pets. But really, it's mostly about the kids. So, I get that my perspective is a bit different from a working parent. Still...it seems to me that there are some parenting concepts that should be universal.

Like, you do not leave an 8-year-old in the house by him/herself. Now, I'm not talking about running out to get the garbage can, or even across the street to give something to a neighbor. I'm talking about parent-completely-inaccessible-to-child alone.

It recently came to my attention that there's an 8-year-old in my neighborhood who is left alone on a regular basis. Think about that...second grade. I think back to when I was in second grade, and while we may have played outside unsupervised, we were close to home and there was a parent at home. Never in a million years would my parents have left me in the house by myself. And that was 29 years ago, when general ideas about parenting were a lot less protective than they are now.

How did this come to light? The poor thing heard some creepy noises and got scared. She ran crying to a neighbor and asked if she could come in, because she just couldn't stay there alone anymore. She later said that she's alone every day.


The neighbor she ran to told me about this. She's understandably upset and worried. We both did some online searching and found that Pennsylvania has no law regarding minimum age that a child can be left alone. I had always heard that kids had to be 12 before they could babysit, so assumed that there was a similar age limit for kids taking care of themselves. Turns out, the 12-year-old babysitter law doesn't even exist. So, despite being glaringly against all common sense, what these people are doing to their child is COMPLETELY LEGAL. The only way they would suffer consequences would be if something were to happen to the child while left alone. Then, an investigation would look into the ability of the child to care for herself and the parents' judgment of said ability. Seems to me, that's a little too late.

Sometimes, the inconsistencies or outright holes in the law leave me completely speechless. My neighbor is now left in a horrible position. She's the one the child went to, she has repeatedly witnessed lack of concern for this girl's well-being and there's nothing she can do.

It breaks my heart.

And I keep asking myself, "why did these people decide to have kids?" And it does seem to have been intentional, since they also have a younger child who was at daycare while all this was going on.

I admit, there are times when I'm less attentive than I probably should be. No parent is perfect. But when it comes down to it, I would die for my kids. I would never intentionally endanger them or even place them in a position to potentially be frightened the way this poor girl was. And I can't imagine the kind of person who would. Makes me think of the line from the movie, Parenthood, "You know...you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any [expletive deleted] be a father." I'd say that goes for some mothers, too.

Some people just should not have kids.

*stepping off soapbox*

Just had to get that off my chest. So...what do you want to talk about next time?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting back to it

So, it occurred to me that I should actually write about acting, or something tangentially related to such - given the title of the blog and all. Of course, that meant I would have to get my @$$ in gear and actually do something to write about. You see, theoretically, I'm pursuing a part-time acting career. This generally translates into me going on a string of three auditions in a week and then not doing anything remotely acting-related for a month or two.

It's not that I'm not motivated, it's that I'm usually at a loss for what to do next. It's not like a regular job where A leads to B which leads to C, etc., etc. I tend to lose focus without structure.

So, yesterday I took a baby step forward. I updated my headshots with Mike Lemon Casting and Diane Heery Casting. Doing so made me realize it had been far too long since I checked my profiles with them - couldn't even remember what login name I had created. But I eventually got it all squared away. Yay for me!

So now what? Now I check various web sites to look for audition opportunities and hope for the best. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Kindness of Friends and Neighbors

February here in Southeast Pennsylvania has seen much more than it's usual share of snow this year. Now, I'm from Erie, in the opposite corner of the state. Up there, this is just typical winter stuff. I saw more than one white Easter growing up. But there, they deal with it a lot better. Roads get cleared faster and even when they haven't been yet - people know how to drive on them. And here's the kicker - snow doesn't generally cause power failures back home. Doesn't matter how heavy the snow, it just doesn't happen (or it didn't when I still lived there). The only winter power outage I can recall was because of a storm that coated the city in over an inch of solid ice.

But here, snow can cause power outages and we were hit by a doozie last week. Not the first storm - the one that buried us under about 2 feet of the white stuff, but its little sister that hit a few days later. This one only dropped about a foot, but it was wetter, heavier stuff that just stuck to the trees and power lines. Two of the pine trees in the yard behind mine got a good dose and lost most of their branches, right on the power lines running down the middle of the block. (Actually, I think that's why snow outages don't happen in Erie - they keep the lines well above/away from trees.) The kids and I did the best we could to be productive and entertain ourselves without electricity, but about four hours later, we were starting to get pretty cold.

Luckily for us, our good friends across the street still had power and were happy to take us in. We had figured out by this point that we probably wouldn't have electricity back by that night, so I took the kids over and came back to get our overnight things, grab perishables to stash in their refrigerator and put the other freezer/perishable items in a cooler in the back yard, which was certainly cold enough to keep them from spoiling. I then went back and we cozied in for the night. P & R went above and beyond. Not only were they keeping us warm, they reminded me to charge my cell & laptop, fed us a delicious and hearty soup for dinner (perfect for a snowy day) and offered me a beer as soon as I walked in the door. Now THAT'S what I call hospitality.

Of course, the kids thought this was all great fun. Oh, wait...I haven't mentioned DH, have I? Well, that's because the stinker was lucky enough to be out of town for work. And Denver had less snow than we did. Hello? Twilight Zone, anyone?

Anyway, our "sleepover" was a big hit with N & A. The next day, I tried to do my part to help out by participating in kid-wrangling and bringing over our Wii. And an update from PECO let us know were were likely to be without power until the next day...AAAAAAAARRRGGHH! And DH was due to return late that night. P&R had only a single bed in their guest room, so we were a bit stymied. Thankfully, another family of friends had offered us refuge as well, so we checked in with them to see if they were really up for an invasion. And wouldn't you know it? They offered to put us up for the night, and yes, their guest room had a double bed.

So, the whole lot of us (including P, R & their son, M - who are also friends with the I family) headed over for a pizza dinner, kid chaos and some grown-up conversation. Again I say, incredible hospitality. These folks were invaded by twice the numbers and did it with grace. After the kids were all snuggled in for bed, I stayed up to wait for DH and then went to bed myself.

Of course, in addition to all of this, I had put in two marathon shoveling sessions. So you would think that I'd sleep like a rock, right? Of course not! I never sleep as well out of my own bed, but add the worries of the situation and I tossed and turned both nights.

The next morning, DH is ready to go out and buy a generator. I don't mind the idea, but wished he had been around two days earlier with it. Because as happy as I was to have such good friends take care of us, I hated having to impose on them. Because as much as the kids thought they were on an adventure, their excitement was starting to make them a little frayed around the edges. Because when it comes right down to it, I love my comfy house with my family and my critters and life just the way it should be.

Turns out, we got power back just when he was in the car to go to Home Depot. How's that for irony? So, off he headed to work and I gave the house about an hour to get warmed up before packing up our stuff and my kids and coming back home. I've been largely hibernating ever since. After a couple of days of forced exile, I just don't want to leave.

But I'm ever so grateful to know that we have such good, loving friends that I can turn to if we ever need to again. And I hope they know that we would be happy to return the favor.

Thanks - P, R, M, B, K, K & C - you guys are the best!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The medless ADHD son

Okay, so when I started this blog, DH asked, "Are you going to try to make some money from it?" I was all, "huh?" I had no idea that was even a possibility. But it turns out, by letting there be ads on my page, I could theoretically make some money depending on how many people click through to the ads from my entries.

I mentioned in my last entry that A is on a special diet to treat his ADHD, without meds. So, guess what ads I see on my page today? ADHD meds. Guess they must have automated searches to find keywords that they think might be appropriate to the blog's content. I want to be absolutely clear, while I realize that there are some children who really do require the drugs, I strongly believe that most of the kids taking ADHD meds today could successfully manage their symptoms with dietary modifications.

When A was 4, he was evaluated by the DCIU (our county's early intervention program) and found to have an emotional/developmental delay. Basically, he didn't always respond appropriately to social cues, and had a difficult time controlling his impulses in interactions with other kids. He would lose his temper quickly and sometimes yell or even act out physically with me or a playmate when things didn't go his way.

After a little over a year of educational support from the county, I saw improvement, but had a gut feeling that there was something more going on. The impulse control was better, but still a problem. Watching him, I could see his body acting before his conscious mind could interrupt and moderate his behavior. At times, he literally appeared to be out of control. But ADHD seemed inappropriate, since A could certainly maintain focus on things that he was interested in. Still, I had to figure this out; so, I did a little research and learned that there are three different types of ADHD - the mainly attention-deficit type, the mainly hyperactive type and combined type. A seemed to fit the mainly hyperactive type. So, I found an ADHD specialist associated with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and took steps to have him evaluated.

Four months later, we finally had our appointment with Dr. Glanzman. Based on questionnaires that A's teachers and I filled out, plus tests she did with him in the office, the good doc determined that A was at-risk for ADHD. We made it clear that we would only use medication as a last resort, and really wanted to explore other options, first. Dr. G said she could recommend some dietary changes. My heart sank. I had heard about how some kids on the Autism spectrum benefit from a gluten-free/casein-free diet. I had also heard how difficult and expensive it could be to follow. But I steeled myself and was ready to take it on, if it would help my boy. Surprisingly, the doc asked if we had heard of the Feingold Program. I hadn't - so she explained that it is a program that eliminates all artificial flavors, colors and certain preservatives from the diet, as well as personal care items like toothpaste, soap and lotion. I was so relieved that she hadn't said GF/CF, I perked right up and said, "sure, we can try that!" She added that increasing the ratio of protein to carbs in his diet would help even out his blood sugar, which would also be beneficial.

A was in kindergarten at this point, and within a month of starting the new program, his teacher was thoroughly impressed. We certainly made a believer out of her. My family (especially my Mom, who is a nurse at a special needs school) was mightily impressed when we went for visits, as well. I can't say enough about how wonderful the Feingold Program has been for our family. Not only did A's behavior improve - his palate began to expand dramatically. The kid whose only plant intake had been carrots and bananas now eats just about everything under the sun! (Except apples, for some reason, they make him act up.) Of course, the whole family is pretty much Feingold-ing, since I don't buy foods that A can't have. I've noticed that N (my daugher)'s eczema has improved as well. Plus, none of us gets sick as often as we used to - and generally recover more quickly when we do.

The only thing that's tricky about Feingold-ing is that you can't just do the diet by reading ingredient labels. Trust me, that would make life much easier. Some of the eliminated substances (especially preservatives) can be hidden within other ingredients, in packaging (that can leech into the food), even a non-stick spray they used to cook the food (which would not be considered an ingredient, even though it gets absorbed). So, in order to know you're really following the program, one must join the Feingold Association (http://www.feingold.org/). Then they send you materials explaining how to work the program, including a 200-page book called the "Foodlist and Shopping Guide" which lists what foods they've researched and found to be free of the offending ingredients. I never go food shopping without it. There's lots more I could say about Feingold, food labeling and ways I've learned to make the program easier for us to follow - but I think that's another post.

So, ignore the ADHD meds ads on this page...unless of course, you just want to click to help me earn a little dough.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Balance has never been my Forte

Like pretty much every mother I know, I struggle with finding a balance in life. Between kid time and grown up time, between housework and hobbies, between doing too much and not doing enough. But here's the thing...this is not new to me. Ask my mother - she was always telling me I had too much on my plate. Of course, back then it was plays, cheerleading, chorus, dancing...you know, school stuff.

Now I find that I have days when I can't focus on anything for more than five minutes, because there are too many things I want to do. So what happens? I end up accomplishing very little. It's frustrating as all get-out! But does this stop me from wanting to do more? Of course not! That would make way too much sense. I'm on the board of our local community theater, plus I write and distribute press releases for them, am on the show selection committee and directed for them earlier this season. I'm trying to build a part-time acting career by going to local auditions when I can. And along those lines, I've even gone to auditions for some non-paying gigs in hopes of building up the resume to get better offers. I have two kids, one of whom is ADHD and on a special diet (it's called the Feingold Program and allows us to manage his symptoms without meds - feel free to ask me about it) - N (my daughter) takes dance classes, A (son) has weekly basketball. And of course, they each have their parties and play dates to get to. We have a dog and two cats - but I would have more pets if M (the hubby) would let me. I'm a sucker for animals.

Doing all this stuff is mostly fun for me. But the problem is - it's like pulling teeth to make myself keep up with the household chores. And outdoor stuff? Fuggedaboudit. It's not that I don't care how the house looks, inside and out - I just have the hardest time finding the motivation to actually DO it. And all of my other activities don't exactly help.

Although today, my focus was forced for a whole 2.5 hours. I was called in to sub as a teacher's aid at my daughter's preschool. This is always a huge dose of cute! I love being able to see how the little ones spend their mornings and I get exposed to lots of different kidly personalities. Of course, it also usually means that the whole rest of my day gets thrown off track by the change in routine. But today, for once, I actually managed to get some stuff done afterward. I actually ran errands and got the kids' school valentines sooner than the day before their parties, managed to get myself less behind on the laundry (which reminds me, I need to put the sheets in the dryer), loaded and ran the dishwasher and finished clearing the kitchen peninsula (can't call it an island, 'cuz it's attached to the wall on one end) of papers. Who knows...after 37 years of teetering, maybe I'm finding my balance after all.

Nah...today was a fluke. But I can still enjoy it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Testing...testing...Is this thing on?

So, for some reason I don't quite understand, I've been feeling the urge to "blog it out". I have a few friends with blogs of their own, and have admired their humor, insights and chutzpah. In a way, I guess I sort of want to see what I do with a blank canvas that's all mine. I can't help but wonder if I can come up with enough interesting things to say. Can I be funny? Can I be deep? Do I need to be either? Guess we're about to find out.

The title probably needs a little explanation. I consider myself an actor, although I don't get to practice my craft as often as I'd like. Creatively speaking, it's my biggest passion. But unlike the actor stereotype, I have very little patience for people who just can't help but stir up drama. Off the stage, I tend to be a pretty no-nonsense type of person and do my best to take things in stride and just deal with them the best way I can.

All that being said, who doesn't have some unavoidable drama in their life? I have two kids, so there's a source, right there. And my family? Well, let's just say divorced/remarried parents and multiple sources of siblings and step-siblings tend to produce a certain amount, as well.

So, that's me. At least a simple intro. Gonna let this digest a bit before deciding what I really want to Blog about. Besides...Lost is almost starting.