New Year’s Resolution: Do Something. Also, Some News.

newyearsIn 2014, I started doing two things that put a severe cramp in my free time: working, and walking/getting tortured weekly at the YMCA/eating vegetables. Last week, it occurred to me that if someone were to ask me what I do in my spare time, I’d have to answer “walk aimlessly around Target and/or Costco” and … yeah, that’s pretty much it.

I don’t even watch TV anymore. I am living in a state of nothingness so severe that watching TV would MAKE ME MORE INTERESTING at cocktail parties. I can not bear to be someone who has nothing to add at a cocktail party.

So here we are again.

I thought I would start things off with a bang by announcing that our park’s, and hence my blog’s, namesake has sadly passed away. (I really know how to get a party started, don’t I?)  Theodore “TW” McCollum, age 92, has gone to the great Park District in the sky. I didn’t know him, but I’m glad for him that he left behind a great legacy and something that adds real value to people’s lives. I hope his family isn’t too sad; my condolences to them. I would just like to say “thank you” for being one of the few people who could actually get something new added to Downers Grove. That is quite the accomplishment.

That is all for now. Let me look at those widgets on my sidebar and see if I can update any of those babies too.

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One false move and it’s all over…

post-imageA post that got tossed around a lot at the end of the school year was this story, telling us all about how to give your kids a 70’s summer.

They’ll play outside all day! And make things out of scrap paper! And drink from the hose! It’ll be GREAT! And … most importantly… MAKE THEM DO IT! Because you TOTALLY can!

Here’s the reality: a vast number of parents try to do these things, and the kids will simply sit on the couch and mope. You can take away their electronic goodies, their internet access, everything. You can cajole, plead, threaten, yell, stand on your head. THEY WILL NOT DO THE THINGS YOU WANT THEM TO DO. Your fantasy will not play out. What you want and expect will not happen. It just won’t. Unless your kid was prone to doing those things anyway, in which case none of your excess work and planning would be necessary anyways.

A lot of us go into this “parenting” thing thinking we can make or break our kids. What used to be a noun became a verb to underscore just how ACTIVE it is. Admittedly, it is possible to facilitate our kids development, just as it’s possible to completely destroy them with abuse or neglect. But it’s also possible to try really hard to create an optimal environment for them, do the right things according to the best information you have and the best practices you have experienced, and get a completely different outcome from what you wanted or expected.

It is especially frustrating for parents of “different” kids — kids who fall somewhere on the autism scale, or who have developmental difficulties, who suffer from depression or OCD or any other brain chemistry imbalance, or even kids who just have a hard time living in this current hyper-competitive culture we have built around us.  Summer can seem like one long Pinterest Fail.

It’s not going to get better when school starts, you know. It gets worse. You might possibly have a kid who will NOT do his/her homework, or loses it even if he/she DOES do it. You might have a kid who doesn’t want to move at all under any circumstances, but wants to sit in a dark basement like a mushroom. Yes, even if you take the electronics away. You may have a kid stuck in a fantasy world. Or who only cares about sports. I don’t know; there’s all sorts of ways your kid is probably disappointing the world at large because he/she isn’t falling in line with expectations.

I’m just writing this to tell you you’re not alone. And I know you’re trying your best. We shouldn’t feel like we just don’t know the magic formula that will fix it all, because there is no magic formula. And there is no “perfect.” Yes, we should all keep trying, the way we all kept trying to guess what was wrong with our babies when they kept crying even after we tried feeding them and changing their diapers. Okay, maybe we guess wrong sometimes; but that just means we keep trying. Not that we “did something wrong” we need to feel inadequate about. We just need to guess again and try something else.

One last note: the 70’s weren’t that great; we’re lucky we survived.

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Something Happened; It’s Unclear Exactly What

ildownersgroveBy now, most of you have heard some variation of this story.

I slept through this overnight brouhaha, which happened overnight between Sunday and Monday. It took a while to get the official story, and lots of unofficial stories came out before that.

Now, the police are limited by what the people involved tell them. But this story does not make much logical sense to me.

I don’t want to make light of this situation, because no matter what the real story is, creepy people were in the parking lot of the park doing something, probably something creepy. That’s not cool, creepy people. I live here. With my kids and stuff. Patrolling the parking lots should probably be on the police department’s To Do list from now on. But the story still stinks.

According to what they told police, these ladies went back at 1:30 am to look for a wallet in the park. Now, there are lights in the parking lot, but if they dropped the wallet anywhere else in the park, they would not be able to find anything, anywhere without night vision goggles. Maybe they had night vision goggles, and were just looking for the perfect opportunity to put them into use.

Meanwhile, the world’s most patient thief, who hangs around an empty park all night just waiting for someone to show up, finally gets his chance to steal something when a car with two women pulls in. And, as luck would have it, he’s ALWAYS WANTED a PAIR OF NIGHT VISION GOGGLES. Huzzah! So he sneaks in the back seat of the car, and demands their purses. Which he assumes hold the night vision goggles in this scenario.

He then flashes some sort of gun, which I’m hearing from unofficial sources and therefore I have no idea if it’s true or not, was probably a BB gun or a fake gun. Which didn’t mean it didn’t scare the two victims, because they usually look pretty darn real, but he didn’t shoot them — he smacked them with it. And the gun-smacking resulted in minor, treatable-on-site injuries of some sort. Again, this is nasty business; I’m not making fun. But I’m happy it wasn’t life-threatening business.

Then, the guy takes off running. With the purses? I don’t know; it doesn’t say. He’s long gone, and we are left with a weird, mysterious story that doesn’t add up. And the cops have to come out and investigate. And the neighbors have to worry, at least a little, maybe a lot.

I’m in the “a little” category. I think this was an isolated incident, but somebody somewhere got the idea that our park’s parking lot was a low-risk place to engage in weird behavior. I would prefer it to be known to low-lifes as a place to avoid because you’ll get caught for sure. But I am not concerned our neighborhood is about to be overrun by weirdos above and beyond the ones who already live here.

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I’m a psyched as a spoon can be

Guest contributor: renowned block party mascot and bon vivant Spoonie

Guest contributor: renowned block party mascot and bon vivant Spoonie

Two weeks away!

We will need tables, a couple of pop-up picnic tents, a movie screen, an air compressor to inflate things, 2 liter soda bottles and/or liquor bottles for ring toss, and water balloons (pre-filled please). Also, if you have a bag toss (cornhole) game, you can bring that too. If you have a kiddie pool you’re not using, we can have it for splishing and splashing, too.

And photos! We want to see new babies, life milestones like graduations and weddings, any new home additions or snazzy landscapes, and especially photos of what the neighborhood USED to look like, from old-timers!

We already have: water slide/bounce house, face paint, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, kiddie pool filled with foam for sculpting or just sensory play, DJ, giant Jenga set, watermelons for exploding (and safety goggles!), kubb game (don’t know what it is? We’ll teach you!), large tent for food area, volleyball/badminton set (with light-up shuttlecocks for night time use), grills, a mayor to judge the pie contest, adult and kid sized hippity hops for racing, a tug of war rope, a photo booth (but it might blow away, so we’ll see. It’s the one we used at El Sierra.)

If you are interested in not missing certain things, the watermelons will be exploding around 3 pm. The pie judging takes place at 5 pm. The hippity hop races take place around 7. If the Blackhawks are playing, we’ll have the game up on 2 screens. If not, those screens will be used for an all-ages movie. Also, we will kick off with a ceremonial melting of the 2013-2014 winter snow.invite2014

If I’m missing anything, I’ll let you know.


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Up on the Housetop Tree Branch Falls…

IMG_4110… Dents the gutter but not the walls

Now on the roof there’s a saggy spot

We better patch it before there’s rot

Oh ho ho, who has to go?

Oh ho ho, with a rake in tow-OH

Up on the housetop’s pitch pitch pitch

To check out the damage — his name is Rich.

Yes, we sustained storm damage from a large tree branch (trunk?) that fell on our house. Which means we get to call the insurance company. Yay! It’s been too long since I’ve had such fun and excitement.

Is there a (tree) doctor in the house?

At least the volleyball net escaped unharmed.



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Tales from the Walking Trail: Something NOISY.

Moxie Puppypants, author

Moxie Puppypants, author

Greetings, humans! Today, we heard something coming from the park and we wanted to investigate. And when you want to investigate something in the park, do you bring something dumb and useless like a cat? No, you bring the best dog possible. Which is me.

(Suck it, dumb Gizmo! Why don’t you go sit in your tent so everyone can laugh at you? Even the squirrels laugh at you.  To the chipmunks. They point with their evil little finger nubs and laugh and laugh!)

But we are not here to talk about dumb Gizmo today, even if he does have to sit in a tent when he goes outside, which is ridiculous. We saw something very noisy and it attracted a lot of humans so it must have been important. It was this!

It was some family’s reunion. I don’t know what that means but the humans seemed to enjoy it. Did you hear me at the end? I told them “Good job.” Because the humans were all happy.

But my mistress saw the three bouncy things and the drumming drummers and the popcorn machine and she got very anxious. She is afraid this family reunion might be better than the block party.

But I did not see a water slide. Or exploding watermelons. Or other things like a big movie screen or big bouncing racing balls, which are all things I see at the block party. So while this was a very nice family reunion, it was still not better than the best day of the year when food falls off of paper plates onto the ground right in front of me and smallish humans rub my silky ears all day and tell me I am a good girl.

I like it when people tell me I’m a good girl.

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School Buzz: iPad Minis Coming Soon to a Student Near You; Concert at O’Neill; DGS Veg-ges Out

Whether you have a kid in school or not, the health and strength of our public schools matters to your home values and our nation's future

Whether you have a kid in school or not, the health and strength of our public schools matters to your home values and our nation’s future

District 58 sent an email to El Sierra parents yesterday afternoon informing them that the 1:1 Tablet Program (iPad Minis) has been expanded to include all grades but kindergarten:

“After careful consideration, we are proud to announce that at El Sierra, students in grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 will have the opportunity to participate in the 1:1 program next year. In addition, students in kindergarten at El Sierra will also have access to technology and the associated learning experiences through the Learning Lab program, which allows them to have a 1:1 device for several weeks. All students at El Sierra will also continue to have access to the many laptops carts available at school.  Finally, if your student is a current 6th grader planning to attend 7th grade in District 58, he/she will also be part of the 1:1 program during next school year.”

That’s good news for parents who believe we need to prepare our students for technology and its future uses; bad news for parents who believe children should be using slates and chalk and bringing their lunch in a pail every day after they’re done collecting eggs and milking the cows. Yes, that was a snide editorial comment in support of the program.

Over at O’Neill, longtime music teacher Glen Sorgatz will be retiring after this year; last night was his last concert. Here he is from the back, directing his choir:


Non-El Sierra graduate Danny King playing the flute. Photo courtesy of Marge Mark

The orchestra and select band members also played (beautifully) last night. Including the theme from “Star Wars.” Every middle school orchestra/band should play Star Wars at least once.

Rumor has it Mr. Sorgatz will be replaced by a part-time instructor, but that rumor comes from the PTA meeting, courtesy of a former Fairmount parent. So take that as you will.

The rumor also speaks of an unnamed social studies teacher being forced to teach gym next year, too. It would be so easy to get out of that class. “What are the societal implications of me engaging in this athletic activity?” “If John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were here right now, what would they have to say about how dodgeball reflects man’s innate savagery?” By asking the right questions, students could avoid breaking a sweat the entire year.

In high school news, The District 99 Education Foundation awarded grants to the high schools. Downers Grove South received funding for more hydroponic vertical window farms for their science classrooms.

“Discovering new ways to create sustainable farming is critical to meet the world’s growing demand for food,” says Lisa MacArtney, a science teacher at South High. “Harnessing our own resources by having biopionic farms in our classroom windows is opening up our students’ minds to future possibilities and solutions.”

Mr. Green Jeans couldn’t be reached for comment.greenjeans

Since the District 99 board just changed food service providers, these gardens could come in handy if the new food is unfit for human consumption. Although “teen consumption” and “human consumption” are often wildly different things.


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Tales from the Walking Trail: Secret Messages!

Moxie Puppypants, author

Moxie Puppypants, author

Greetings, humans! It is Moxie.

Today Master took me for my walk in my awesome exciting award-winning park, and we found something extra exciting: human messages!

I am always finding messages in the park. Mostly they are things like “Daisy tinkled here” or “Snuffy tinkled here” or “Wrigley pooped here, and he ate lamb and rice kibble for dinner last night.” And then I have to tinkle on top of all of them, because THIS IS MY PARK, DAISY, and you BETTER GET THAT THROUGH YOUR DUMB THICK SKULL.

You too, Wrigley, with your fancy elitist vet-recommended food pellets!

But today, there were human messages! That said nice things in them, that were meant to make the other humans feel better! Like this one:


It says “Be Happy!” So I did that. I was happy. Can you see my happy face?

There was also this one:


I am always doing that one. But humans seem to need to be reminded to do that.

In other exciting news, the ducks are back. They were in my very own front yard.


Their names are Mr. and Mrs. Swampflapper. I don’t know their first names. They have their babies here every year. Master is afraid I would eat the fluffy little babies, but I would NEVER! I just want to sniff them a little.

Nobody trusts me.

That is all for today. I have to go relax.

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I Believe There’s Been a Breach of Fun Run Ettiquette

Abner! ABNER!

Abner! ABNER!

I can see a fun run massing outside my house, and police cars and golf carts are cruising around.

Yet I received no flyer to warn me of such an event.

There is a chance it was delivered but flew away in one of the many storms we’ve had, but if not… POOR FORM, race organizers, poor form.

Wait, it’s 7:52 and it looks like some people are crossing the finish line. What time did they make these poor people start this morning? Is this the Sadists Society Fun Run? It’s also freezing out there. I couldn’t even sit outside in my adirondack chair with a cup of coffee to watch, that’s how cold it is. Oh well.

Run, you crazy runners, run.

UPDATE: The vast majority of people are not running, they are strolling. Not even fast-walking, strolling. These are my kind of people.

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Too Many Fundraisers? But So Much Need!

donorfatigueI think it’s great our middle schoolers are not only aware of what terrible things happen in the world outside our happy little suburban American bubble, but are willing to do something about it. If you can, you should go and help out.

Scarlet 8 Cluster Mongolian Grill Fundraiser

The emphasis is on “if you can.” Because every week, or sometimes every day, you are presented with an opportunity to print out a flyer and eat at a restaurant for a sports team, a school, a church youth group. Scout troops need our support. Band students are selling candy. And that’s just kid stuff.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was lasso-ing people for Career Day at El Sierra; now we need a week’s worth of Teacher Appreciation Week volunteers. Saturday is a fundraising Rummage Sale and Bake Sale. Then it will be time for Field Day and class picnics.

With most families needing two incomes to support a middle class lifestyle these days, the pool of available bodies is shrinking. Our disposable income isn’t looking so hot, either. Yet all these things are important and worthwhile, and need our support.

I don’t know what I’m suggesting here, other than I know that people are burnt out. I supposed some prim puritans out there might fold their arms and say, “Well, do you really NEED playground equipment? Do you really NEED a music department?”

Well, I suppose if you want to reduce life down to our basic needs, you could say that all we really NEED is a cave and access to firewood and potable water. The question is what is BEST for our kids, and that takes funding and able bodies.

Is our current system working? If not, or if it’s becoming unsustainable, what can we do to fix it?

Maybe we should have a fun run to finance a think tank to figure it out.

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