Sunday, August 31, 2008

Block Party

I have to be honest. We're not the best neighbors. Ever since we moved here, I've been looking for reasons why, but can never come up with anything concrete. Here are some of the excuses/reasons I've conjured up in my head: Our house is situated on a street with a stoplight at the end, so it gets pretty busy with traffic. The people on our street don't really hang out in front of their houses other than cutting the lawn, or getting into their cars parked on the street. Our street is a wider street than most, so it puts us at a visually and psychologically separate place from our neighbors. We're all too busy. And the list could go on and on just to make me feel better.

Growing up in Chicago, I never had these problems. We knew all of our neighbors well. Granted, we were kids, so we were constantly in and out of people's yards and houses. We followed Mrs. Lichtenstein through her crowded, cluttered living room, past her crowded, cluttered dining room, and into the even more crowded and cluttered kitchen. It was there where we would get the cup of sugar or flour we needed to make our cookies. We knew about the triumphs and troubles of other neighbors on our street, and on the other three or four streets surrounding ours. At the annual block party, everyone mingled without caution, and every parent disciplined every child regardless if that child was his or hers. We had bouncy houses, a bike parade, three-legged races and other picnics games, and food galore. It was a great time to be a kid.

But now, when we're invited to the block party in our neighborhood, Stein and I take the invitation cautiously. We know we haven't been good neighbors, and we really don't know anything about any of them. We sometimes feel like we get the invitation out of pity. "Well, we need to put an invitation in the mailbox of that grey house. What are their names again?" I imagine the organizers discussing. Last year this was most obvious when one of the organizers came to our door a few hours before the party and apologized for forgetting to invite our whole block. Stein took it personally and told the woman that we already had plans. We then went out to dinner to pretend we had somewhere to go and to wallow in our guilt.

We have attended two of the Christmas parties. The neighborhood does a progressive-type party, where each course it at a different house. We have never made it to the first two houses, but always seem to make it to the third for dessert. It's at this time when most people have imbibed a bit too much and are feeling very sociable. It's very easy to talk to people, but you can't expect that they'll remember you the next time.

Which was the case this year at the block party. Stein and I arrived on Friday evening with trepidation, thinking that people would have an attitude because of our lack of participation in all things neighbor. Most of the people whom we had met at previous parties asked questions like, "And what house do you live in?" or "And how long have you lived there?" When we would answer the questions with, "The grey house," or "Four years," most of the people had shocked looks on their faces. Yes, we are the hermits, I kept thinking.

The party ended up being pretty fun. There have been some new neighbors who have moved into the neighborhood the past year, so it was nice to have some fresh people to talk to, who didn't know our back story of slacking. We even volunteered our house to be part of the progressive Christmas party this year. Man, were we getting neighborly.

Until the police showed up.

No joke, a police car pulled up and out came a police officer. People who were holding adult beverages promptly poured them out on the grass. I felt like I was at a college party being busted. He asked us if we had a permit to have alcohol in the park. When we replied no, he said that we needed to get rid of the alcohol. This definitely put a damper on the party and it immediately set people in motion to clean up. We quickly said goodbye to our neighbor friends, said we would be in touch before the Christmas party, wished people good luck with parking cars for the game the next day, and went home. We were on the couch watching TV by 8:00.

At least they know our names. Again. For now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Go Grease Lightning

Do remember the pirate-themed party that Stein and I went to last summer? Well, this year's theme for that party is Grease. I thought about it for a while, and wanted so badly to think of something clever to get around the theme, like we did last year. (I mean, how many people will be dressed in jeans and white t-shirts on?) But alas, no luck.

I briefly thought about having Stein dress up like Frankie Avalon and I would wear a bouffant hairdo as in, "Beauty School Dropout". (Chris, great minds think alike!) And then, when I asked Chris for more ideas, I knew she wouldn't disappoint. She came up with some more obscure ideas that may be more fitting for Stein and me.

So my challenge for you is this: what can Stein and I wear for the theme party that will be different from everybody else? Oh, and it needs to be something we could pull from our closets, or from a quick trip to the thrift store. And please don't suggest the stretch pants that Olivia Newton John wears in the "You're the One That I Want" scene. There ain't no way you will ever see this body in pants like those. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Waste of 2 Hours

Whatever you do this summer, DO NOT go see Tropic Thunder. It is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I wasn't too keen on seeing it, but when I checked out Rotten Tomatoes to see how it fared with their rating system, it got an 83%. (Am I reading these numbers wrong? After seeing it, it would make more sense that it got a 17%, or lower.) The cast was also promising, seeing that it had a bunch of people that Stein and I normally like in movies: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr. And as we watched it, more well-known stars were in it: Tom Cruise, Nick Nolte, and Matthew McConnaughey. I said to Stein afterward, "Didn't these stars see themselves at the premier and think, this really stinks?"

Man, did it ever. I don't know what was worse, the movie, or the 2 women behind us who laughed at ANYTHING. I mean, the opening scene shows Ben Stiller standing there. Again, standing there. And what is this woman doing? Laughing hysterically. After 2 hours of laughing at everything, Stein and I wondered if maybe they were drunk. I never laughed once. I smiled probably two times, but never laughed. Dumb doesn't even begin to describe it.

Don't get me wrong. We love our fair share of comedies, be it silly or slapstick. But this was neither of those. This was stupid. (Another word I don't use often unless I mean it.) I wouldn't even recommend it on DVD. That's how bad it was.

I read that it is leading box office sales and is ahead of Dark Knight (a GREAT movie, by the way). Seriously? I weep for the insane people who actually like (and laugh at) this movie. Like the two crazy women behind us at the theater.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Withdrawal

I'm having a bit of withdrawal today without the Olympics. I told you about my obsession with the Olympics? Well, now I'm feeling the effect of not having them around. It became a schedule for Stein and me. Every night at dinner, he would ask me what time it was. Eventually we would have to come in to do the dishes (or load the dishwasher, as we do) and get settled on the couch to watch the events. Last week, when I was home in-between my trips, I found myself up until 11 or 12 each night to watch events. One was beach volleyball, another was track and field. Saturday night? The men's marathon. And then there was always the Today Show recapping the night before, having interviews with the winners, etc. Today it just seemed boring when they were broadcasting from Rockefeller Plaza.

This year the Olympics took on a whole other dimension for me. I think it was my last ditch effort to savor summer. I've been struggling with this the past few weeks. I've been grasping onto anything and everything to make summer last. I am in denial that the students are moving back this week, and the first football game is Saturday. I am in denial that next Tuesday is the first day of school, and every store and sale ad is hawking school supplies. Do I have to mention again that I loathe winter? I don't mind fall, really, in fact I love the change in the air, but it just begins a slippery slope into winter which I hate. Hate. I don't use that word very often, you know.

Last night as we were watching the closing ceremonies, I said to Stein, "Don't you think that these athletes are kind of saying to themselves, 'what next?" He agreed with me, and we both mentioned that it probably is like graduating from college only worse. I mean, in the Olympics, you work hard for four years or more, perform, maybe get a medal, and then what? At least with college, you get a diploma, and hopefully the possibility of landing a job, or going to graduate school, or something. Life after the Olympics seems a lot more unknown for most of the athletes.

Now what? Well, we just got the Big Ten network available to us on cable. So now we can watch any given game from any given year every night of the week. It's kind of how the Olympics were this time with knowing a lot of the outcomes beforehand. We know who wins, but it's football all the same.

Next year fall won't be so bad. At least I'll know that the Winter Olympics are just a few months away.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sensory Overload

Well, I'm back. Again. Stein surprised me with a spontaneous trip to Chicago on Friday for our anniversary. "Do you want to go to Chicago?" he asked on the phone. "When?" I asked. "Now," he replied. And so we were off. (After I unpacked my stuff from Chicago/Baltimore and repacked the same stuff for Chicago. Wow, do I have laundry to do.)

Like the post I did on my trips to Chicago and Baltimore, I can only think about things in bullet points. This summer, I feel, has been a series of bullet points. Quick little glimpses of people and places that come and go in a flash. This weekend was no exception. On the ride home from Chicago yesterday, I realized that my senses have been overloaded with sights, sounds, and smells. I am not complaining about any of this, this summer has been really fun, but just busy. I feel like I haven't been able to capture entire moments, because small moments came and went too quickly. As much as I loathe the impending arrival of fall and then (ugh) winter, I do look forward to slowing down. (Come to think of it, didn't I say that about the beginning of summer? Well, we all know how that turned out...)

So, without further ado, here is our past weekend through my senses:
  • The sight of dying trees on the side of I-94, and wondering whether it is the lack of rain we've had that led to their demise.
  • The sound of NPR on the radio, giving us the updates on the Olympics and other pressing news.

  • The sight of virtually no traffic, something that is very rare on trips to Chicago.

  • The first sight of the skyline from the skyway that always reminds me I'm back in my hometown.

  • The sounds of honking taxi cabs as they weave themselves through tight spots on the city streets.
  • The sight of the lakefront from our hotel room window.

  • The sight of tourists walking around downtown, craning their necks to see the tall buildings around them.
  • The smell of the lake mixed with car exhaust, flowers, hot tar, and sunshine on my skin.

  • The sound of a boy beating on a plastic bucket with drum sticks in front of the Art Institute.

  • The sight of people taking dance lessons in the park, crowded onto a dance floor with barely enough room to move.

  • The sight of Millennium Park filled with people walking, enjoying the sights and gathering for a concert.

  • The sound of kids running through the water in Millennium Park, slipping and sliding in the fountains and water.
  • The sight of the "bean" in Millennium Park and all of the buildings and blue sky reflected in it.

  • The sight of a taxi cab pulling up to take us to a restaurant.
  • The smell and feel of a hot and humid taxi cab with plastic seats in summer in the city.
  • The sound of talking and laughter at a rooftop bar full of people enjoying the end of the work week.
  • The sight of the bellman at the hotel waving and whistling for the next taxi to pick us up and take us to dinner.
  • The smell of Mexican food being made at Frontera Grill while we waited for a table in the bar.
  • The taste of mint in the mojito I sipped as we waited.
  • The sound of glasses clinking as Stein and I toast our anniversary.

  • The sight of the coveted outside table where we were seated.
  • The taste of guacamole and chips and queso fundido with spicy chorizo.
  • The taste of delicious marinated pork with fresh tortillas.

  • The sight of the sun streaming through the curtains in our hotel room.

  • The sight of traffic as we made our way out to the suburbs.

  • The sound of babies as we got onto the maternity ward.
  • The sight of baby Ellie as we arrived at Shark and Jane's hospital room.

  • The sound of Ellie's coos as she slept in my arms.

  • The sight of fall colors (ugh) on some of the trees along I-94.

  • The sight of our home as we rounded the corner of our street.
  • The sound of my sigh as I sat on our couch.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Welcome to the World, Elliot Anne!

Shark and Jane had their baby! A little girl - Elliot Anne. They call her Ellie. We went to see her this morning (yes, we were in Chicago again this weekend - more about that later). She is precious, and everyone is doing well. We're all Ellie fans already.

Congrats, Shark and Jane. She's beautiful!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Small Moments

I'm back. I had a wonderful time in Chicago and Baltimore. I saw so many friends in both places, ate fantastic foods, and saw fabulous sites. But my favorite parts of these trips weren't very monumental. My favorite parts of these trips were small moments. Moments that came and went in a flash, but will have a lasting imprint on my memory and emotions. Things like:

  • Waiting for the el to pass on my way to Rick's house to pick him up. There are only a few places in the city where the el is at street level, and it always makes this stop (our stop near our house growing up) seem special to me.

  • Going to the Daily Bar and Grill with Rick for lunch and drinks. We watched the planes from the air and water show there scream by on their way east to the lake. We laughed so hard we cried at some silly stories. The weather was beautiful. Sunny, warm (but not hot or humid), with blue skies everywhere.

  • Going to a play downtown with Chris, where we watched the planes in between the breaks in the buildings. Throngs of tourists stopped in their tracks and looked up to the sky.

  • Ordering food from Leona's late night with Chris and watching Olympic swimming she had taped earlier.

  • Going out on Patty's boat on Saturday, where we had a perfect vantage point for watching the planes over head. I spent a lot of the time floating in the cool water and looking up. It was another beautiful day - perfect for being on the lake.

  • Sitting on the back of the boat with Patty and Chris dangling our legs in the cool water while we rode back to the harbor.
  • Hanging out with Chris and Rick at the party on the dock before the sunset. It was a beautiful night for a party on the dock.

  • Watching the sunset from the dock, water all around, boats in the harbor, and the skyline in the distance. I love this city.

  • Hanging out in Shark and Jane's kitchen on Sunday enjoying a delicious brunch with Steve and Kathryn, Chris, and Colleen and Todd and their kids.

  • Riding in the car with Chris for 4 hours back to Ann Arbor, where we always had something to talk or laugh about.

  • The feeling of going on vacation on Monday morning when Chris and I flew to Baltimore.

  • Laughing hysterically about the rental car with very touchy breaks that made us jerk every time we stopped.

  • Seeing Karen when the door opened at her sister's house.

  • Hugging Karen and hearing her voice and laugh in person.
  • Hanging out with Chris, Karen, and her sisters by the pool all afternoon.

  • Having a delicious dinner outside on a beautiful night with Karen, Chris and Sara. Talking and laughing about old stories, recent stories, and making new memories.
  • Hanging out and talking with Chris and Karen early in the morning in the hotel room.
  • Hanging out with Chris, Karen and her mom, and then going to Target with Karen where she took advantage of the strong Euro and bought gifts for her kids.
  • Going to Camden Yards for the first time, hanging out before the game, watching the people, laughing with Chris, Ellen, and Karen, and smelling delicious ballpark food (crab cakes?!) being cooked in tents nearby.

  • Joking with Chris and Karen about the Orioles slogan, "This is Birdland". Pointing our fingers with force to the ground, and saying, "This is birdland," very seriously.

  • Laughing hysterically at Karen strutting her stuff in her new Orioles t-shirt. She conned it out of a guy on our way out of the ballpark. (They gave them away to the first 10,000 fans, and Karen was bound and determined to get one).
  • Laughing hysterically again when Chris and I got back to the hotel and searched for food in a place where pizza isn't delivered very late.
  • Walking in the door of our house when I got back to Ann Arbor.
  • Seeing Stein when he got home from work.
  • Sleeping in my own bed.
  • Feeling relaxed and refreshed this morning after two great trips.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bear With Me

I have a bunch of things going on this week, like the end of summer school, a trip to Chicago this weekend followed by a trip to Baltimore on Monday, and some other stuff that just needs to get done this week.

I'm not promising a post a day as I had hoped in the slowness of summer. In fact, this summer has been everything BUT slow. Stein and I just talked last night about how next year it will be different. "We need to remember how busy we were next year," he said. Yes, like we remember most things a year later....

So I may be posting here and there, from here and there. And I know I owe you pictures from the canoe trip and stories from our cold Tigers outing.

In the meantime, savor every last bit of summer you can. The tomatoes are bursting, the basil is getting "woody", and oh yeah, I saw mums being sold at the store yesterday. Hold on tight, folks. Maybe if we do, we can keep it a little longer. Have a great week!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Can't Get Away From It

I love the Olympics. Winter or summer, it doesn't matter. I love 2 weeks dedicated to young athletes from around the world competing, and the pomp and circumstance of it all. I was lucky enough to go to the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. It was fantastic seeing the events in person. (Except the men's walk-race which took place outside the stadium while we watched it on the jumbo tron).

Stein and I have been watching the Olympics religiously on TV this past weekend. It was convenient over the weekend, because you could see a lot of the events live, even with the time difference. When we couldn't see an event live, and would have to wait until that night to see it replayed, I tried my hardest not to watch the news, pay attention to the headlines on MSN, and listen to NPR. This morning proved to be the hardest.

As Stein and I got ready this morning, the Today show was on. They are broadcasting live from Beijing, so of course they're going to keep the viewers up to date on what's happening. When they started reporting on the swimming events which we hadn't seen, Stein immediately switched the channels to keep us from seeing the full report. I went in the shower and turned on the radio, just in time to hear, "And last night's swimming event..." I said, "La la la la la la" out loud to keep from hearing it. Then I just turned the radio off. But then, as I exited my email this morning, MSN's home page had a headline about the event. I tried to avert my eyes, but I think I may have an idea of what happened. Don't tell me - I didn't read the details, and we'll hopefully get to watch it tonight.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I will post and download pictures from our canoe trip today, but before that, I need to post about a fabulous phone call I received last night.

I know that Sara and Karen are going to moan when they read that last sentence. But I won't give away too much. Although I do hope Sara is feeling okay today...

Anyway, I digress. The phone rang, the number shown on caller i.d. was unknown, so Stein let it go. Then I heard the familiar, "Kelllllyyyyy Leeeee!!!!!" that I heard so many times during college. One of my roommates was visiting our other roommate in France, and I knew right away that I needed to answer the phone. A cackle from thousands of miles away could be heard over the phone. What a treat. I went back and forth with the two of them, sharing current news and stories along with memories of all of us together. I was so jealous that they were together to see smiles, to see expressions, to see body language. But I was thankful to hear their voices, hear the familiarity, hear the comfort. I was right there with them.

We talked for an hour and a half (thankfully, Karen has free international calling) and I savored every minute of it. When we were done, I was compelled to get on Facebook and join, just so I could be part of what they were talking about. And once I joined, Karen and I continued our conversation. Into the wee hours of her morning, into the later hours of my evening.

We Need Rain

Or a horse to eat the straw that is our lawn.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I am starting to reflect on the experience I've had with this summer program, and I have to say, it's been a great one. I can't help but compare it to what I have now named my "hellish long-term sub job". The differences have been incredible. One big difference is that with the summer program, I am not counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until we're done. In fact, I'm going to be a little sad on the last day when I say goodbye to my kids.

First of all, I have had a class size of about 7 kids, give or take 2-3 on any given day. Out of these 7, I have had only one challenging boy, who I had in my class as a student teacher. In fact, all of the kids I knew from my student teaching days, either in Linda's class or Matt's class. It was easy, then, to re-establish ground rules for behavior. Classroom management was a breeze.

I had to pinch myself numerous times throughout the program. Sometimes the kids were engaged in an activity for almost an hour straight, and actually asked, no begged, to do learning activities. This is unheard of in teaching. Despite the rapid pace I had to teach with trying to cram everything in, I was definitely spoiled this summer.

But you know what? It felt good. I believe in things like, "Good things come to those who wait", or, "It all comes out in the wash", or, "If you do something good, it will usually come back to you". A karma of sorts, I guess. And then I think back to that "hellish long-term sub job" and I think, yes, this is definitely a karma of sorts.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We Have Spirit, Yes We Do

Thanks to all of you who made comments about school and class spirit. I'm going to use a lot of your ideas this week and next week.

This poster was a brainchild I had somewhere around 2 am yesterday morning. I wanted to make some sort of poster to hang on the door to let the rest of the school that we had class spirit, and remind the kids in my class where they were going (ha ha). The picture doesn't do it justice, but the letters are colored with a silver marker, and the lightning bolts are cut out of sparkly paper.

I put it all together at 6 am yesterday morning, so I could hang it before the kids came to school. (I did take a picture with them near it, but I figured I would keep their identities private here and leave it to the school website to show their faces). On the other door of our room, I made a similar sign that read, "You are now entering the Steinhauer Power Zone". I know, kind of cheesy, but sometimes the kids are all about cheese, you know?

Can you believe we only have 5 more days of school? Wow, did this time go fast. And yes, I've been having fun. No, I've been having a blast.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The West Side of the State

So where have I been? Well, we were out of town once again this weekend. We had a wedding in Holland, MI on Saturday, and stayed over until Sunday. It was a short but nice trip, especially since I've never been to Holland before.

We left early Saturday morning to make it to the wedding at 10:30 am. The wedding was followed by brunch at a restaurant on a lake. Like most of the Midwest this past weekend, the weather was gorgeous. Sunny, in the 80's, and most importantly, no humidity. So having the brunch on this lake was fabulous. The groom sells boats, so of course the bride and groom and bridal party arrived at the party aboard a gorgeous boat. Quite an entrance they made!

There was a cocktail/dessert/dancing reception that night (yes, there was a 6 hour break in between - ugh) which was held at an historic mansion. So during our 'break', Stein and I walked around downtown Holland. It is a great place, with all kinds of shops and restaurants on the main drag. We were able to find a restaurant with an outdoor deck to enjoy the weather a little more. The reception that night was lovely, but as my sister-n-law put it, "It lost the oomph when we had the break." I have to agree. I felt like we were just at another party with the same people we saw that morning. It seemed separate from the wedding.

Sunday morning we had breakfast in Holland, and then headed to Saugatuck on our way back home. We walked around there, went into a few stores, and enjoyed the weather for another day. How lucky were the bride and groom to have such beautiful weather? And then also to be getting on a plane to go to Hawaii? Hmmm.

I do have to say that I enjoy the west side of the state a lot. You have Lake Michigan, which I'm familiar with, but it's almost like another lake on this side. The beaches are less crowded, cleaner, and you can watch sunset over it. Don't get me wrong, I am still biased toward the lakefront path and beaches in Chicago, but it's just different over here. The towns that dot the lake in Michigan all feel the same: laid-back, friendly, comfy, and quaint. And with most of these western Michigan towns only 2 hours away, we can visit them whenever the spirit moves us.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Glimpses from my classroom this week that once again make me thankful for what I have, the things I've experienced, and where I have come from:
  • A girl desperate to invite her friends to her birthday party, writes out 'invitations' on scraps of torn loose leaf paper.
  • A boy returns one of my books he borrowed and brought home, and the pages reek of cigarette smoke.
  • On the cigarette-smoke theme, I bend over to help a girl and her hair and clothes reek of smoke.
  • I tell the kids, "Multiplication flash cards are available at the dollar store, surely you have a dollar?" When most of them say no, I say, "Well, then you can make your own. You have paper at home, right?" There wasn't an overwhelming response of "yes".
  • When doing word work with nouns and verbs, no one knew what a captain was. No one knew what the word ponder meant. And those weren't the only two unknown words.

What kills me about all of this, and I know I've written about it before, is that we live in Ann Arbor. It's a college town. You don't expect things like this. And I really don't think the people in this town, other than the people who live near the school, do either.

Again, I find myself in the short time I have with these kids, giving them as much worldly exposure and experiences as possible. But there's only so much time in summer school, especially with shortened days and trying to fit in as much reading, math and writing to catch them up for 5th grade in the fall.

"If I ran the zoo..."