Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sneak Preview

I got a sneak preview of Mary, Katie and Anthony! They got in last night around ten. We picked them up at the airport and then we hung out for a little bit at the house before bed while Anthony and Otis ran around. It was one of Cooper's first times seeing a little boy, and he was pretty timid about that. He squirted all over the garage and driveway when our NC family arrived. (Dave wisely suggested we bring Cooper outside to meet the family, because he's known to squirt when he gets excited or nervous). Then he barked and barked and barked.

And this morning, he barked and barked again when he realized the NC family stayed all night. We headed to Perkin's for breakfast. I had french toast, since I don't eat eggs at Perkin's. Then I headed off to work around ten. lol. Yeah, so when family is in town and it's your manager's last day and you've officially given your two-week notice, you don't really care what time you show up for work.

Yeah, it's still pretty surreal that I only have six more work days at my job. I've been trying for so long to find something new -- and all of a sudden -- it's happened. I have something new. But I haven't started the new job yet, so it probably won't feel real until August 12 and I get off the freeway at a different exit and my path will literally turn towards something fresh, exciting and new.

Ok. So there's one other thing I need to mention. Me, the girl who never does any fundraisers, is signing up to do her second one this year. But I'm really energized to raise some funds for this cause. And I am honored to have been asked to participate. I am going to do the "Light the Night" walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In this walk, cancer survivors carry white illuminated balloons and supporters carry red balloons.

In the last year, I've been touched by cancer with more friends and family members being diagnosed than I have probably the whole rest of my life combined. I've learned that even if you don't personally have cancer, it still affects you as you worry, pray and support those that do have it. Although, unfortunately, many people still die from cancer, I've learned that just because one is diagnosed with cancer, it is not a death sentence -- especially as more money is raised for cancer treatment. So I really want to help the cause so that more people can beat the cancer with treatment and go into remission.

My friend, Tonya, was one of my friends that was diagnosed with cancer in the last year. She went through the chemo and radiation and now has been in remission for five months! She's actually the captain for my team. I am truly inspired by Tonya's story. She has two adorable little girls, and I am sure that the day she was diagnosed, she was living a nightmare worrying about what could happen. But Tonya didn't let the worry dampen her spirits. She battled the cancer with her doctor-prescribed treatment and her self-prescribed enthusiasm. There just isn't enough room in her body for both her heart and cancer. Her heart is too big and too full of life, so obviously the cancer had to go. And it did. And Tonya is just as enthusiastic about life and her girls as ever. She's definitely inspired me with her attitude. From Tonya's example, I have learned that you can't take life for granted and you must live everyday to your fullest.

Tonya wants more people to be cancer survivors just like herself. So that's why she decided to start the team for this walk. I want more people to be cancer survivors too. That's why I decided to accept Tonya's invitation and help her team raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The walk isn't until October, so you can pretty much guarantee that you'll hear about it on my blog again. But I'm really excited to do this, so I'm putting it out there now. And if you want to help support Tonya's team right away, you can do so by donating to me at http://www.active.com/donate/ltnStLo1/2299_jbalow

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday, July 29 -- A very good day

Today was an excellent day. Here's why:
  • I woke up in my comfy bed surrounded my boys. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by my family that love me. So nice and comforting.
  • I indulged myself with a Caribou this morning.
  • Then I bought gas and it was only $3.54 per gallon.
  • I got a couple of compliments on my new hair coloring (I am sure I'll have pics soon enough.)
  • Mary, Katie and Anthony are one their way to Minnesota!!!! Hooray!
  • Stevie got to feel an earthquake (thankfully, she's all right...and the earthquake that I felt in Washington in 2001 was bigger...lol. I'm so competitive.)
  • Found out the my friend Michelle got the weekend off work for the weekend by her birthday so we definitely get to go to her cabin.
  • My team at work got to enjoy a nice lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.
  • But what I am truly so excited about is that I accepted a new job today! I don't want to indulge too much, because my blog is public. But I am very excited for a new opportunity and I now get to check another item done on my 101 in 1,001 list. If you want to know more, send me an email!
  • Update --- And Dave captured the giant bull snake that lurked around the neighborhood.Yes, today was a very extraordinary day. Hooray! Hooray!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Wiggle Monster

Found this video on my camera. Cooper is the known as the wiggle monster, while Otis is known as the cuddle monster. The names are self explanatory. Cooper loves to wiggle, while Otis loves to cuddle. This video features our wiggle monster.
video

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some valuable advice...

Running a 10k only two days after giving blood = not a good idea.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bathroom remodel, part 1 (We're done! Hooray!)

After the mess from peeling of the tape that resulted in a ginormous area of peeled off paint, we've finished our first part of the bathroom remodel. I am very pleased with the color and the yet-to-be-replaced gold light fixture actually looks much better now. The gold doesn't stand out quite so much anymore!

Here's the before an after pics.

First a re-cap. Here's the hideousness that we had to deal with when we first moved into our house. For real, who would paint their walls gold. (Ok. The answer is obvious. The walls were painted gold to complement the gold light fixtures and faucets. It's a master bath after all -- who wouldn't want to bathe in a bathroom full of great goldness!)


Well, Dave and I didn't want to bathe in a bathroom full of great goldness. So when we moved in, the walls were painted a light gray/blue color.

Then a year or so later, we bought a new shower curtain. Since then, I've been itching to repaint the walls to better match the curtain. Here are the results! Enjoy!



Otis likes the new bathroom!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cooper Joe's First Hair Cut

Today, the boys went to the groomers. It was Cooper's first visit to get trimmed up (usually we wash them at home). The report from the groomers? The boys were perfect. They were a little scared, but did really well.

Otis and Cooper couldn't wait to take their photo so they could share with all their blog fans. They even cooperated with me and let me take a decent photo. lol.

Can you tell that they're extra handsome today? Their coats are freshly washed, trimmed and brushed!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Love

Cooper is almost one year old.

He's still a little baby in his momma's eyes.

But he thinks he's old enough to have a girlfriend.

And he thinks he's old enough to go over to his girlfriend's house all by himself.

And invite her to come out and play.


Here's the story.

Saturday night, Dave and I got home around 10:30 p.m. and promptly got the dogs outside for one last chance to do their business. As always, the boys were excited to see us and so we didn't put them on their leashes, because we knew that they would stay along beside us.

But Cooper had a different business plan in mind. His girlfriend, Lily (a jack russell terrier), lives nearby the area where we take them out. Coops did his 'business' then ran over to Lily's front door. We called him to come back. But he stayed sitting next to her door. He even pawed at the door, which got Lily and her parents up to see who was there. It was Cooper! Lily's parents let her go out, so Cooper and Lily could have their play date. And they lived happily ever after!*

*For the next 10 minutes until his curfew...when he had to say goodbye and go home to go to bed and have sweet dreams of his little girlfriend.

Bathroom remodel, part 1



This weekend, Dave and I started work on remodeling our master bathroom (#59 on the 101 in 1,001 list). This project will be occurring in multiple stages. The first part was painting. We bought the above shower curtain a while ago, and decided to choose a paint color that matches it. We choose the darker of the blue-gray color for our walls. The painting this weekend went so smoothly. I taped up the room while Dave was at work. He came home and we did the first coat on Saturday. We let that dry and Dave did the second coat on Sunday and that's where the smooth sailing came to an end.

Dave went to rip off the tape and up came a whole patch of paint....the patch was about the size of a square foot. Great. All of our hard work trying to do a quality paint job. Peeled of like a banana. And tossed in to a garbage can. Probably about six layers of paint all stuck together and just came off the wall. Have you ever heard of such a thing??

But he's a hero. He stayed positive and got out some sand paper and smoothed the edges. Got out the can of paint, and for the third time in not even as many days, started painting another coat on the wall. And you can't even really tell...unless you look really closely and know what you're looking for.

And someday, when I decide not to be lazy, I'll post the pics of our little home improvement project. First I have to finish putting the room back together, so I can take the 'after' photo. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Balows Do Chicago

Last weekend, Dave and I had the best time visiting our friends Erin and John in Chicago. We drove down to the Windy City Friday morning. We had an absolutely awesome time. I really wished Erin and John loved closer to Shakopee, but Chicago is a really cool place to visit them. And next summer, Morrison, Ill., will be a cool place to visit too (The Luckeys are moving there next June). I've been meaning to write this post for a week...but the trip was so busy and wonderful that it's hard to put in words...and we did a lot, so I knew I had to wait until I had lots of time to write (so there's your warning this is going to be a long post!)

So what did we do? Lots and lots.

Friday night we went to dinner at a restaurant in Lincoln Square. Then we went to this cool bar that had billiards and bowling. They actually had people at the end of the lanes whose have to set up the pins. Then we went to another bar. We were tired so we didn't stay too long.

Saturday we woke up and went out to eat for breakfast at the Golden Nugget. The French toast I had there was the best ever! (Apparently, they have the best pancakes there too).

There was a Cub's game Saturday afternoon, so we walked to Wrigleyville to partake in the atmosphere. I must say that the atmosphere in Wrigleyville is so much cooler than the area around the Metrodome where the Twins play. There really isn't much that surrounds the Metrodome. There's one bar...then there's just parking lots and the light rail. The Metrodome has a roof on top, so you can't hear the crowd cheering the team from outside the stadium. Not so at Wrigley Field. The sound of the crowd and the announcer oozes onto the street. It think the neighborhood was built around Wrigley Field. There are bars and stores surrounding the stadium, where all you see are people in Cub's apparel. The vendors even make their way onto the streets around the stadium. Dave got a t-shirt from one of the vendors on the street. There were also people selling bags of peanuts. The tickets were too much money for us, so instead we went to a bar nearby and watched the game and some drunk Cubs fans. We had fun.

So much fun that we went back to the apartment to take naps. That evening we went down to Navy Pier. During the summer they have fireworks at the pier overlooking Lake Michigan. It was the coolest fireworks show ever (didn't I just say that about the fireworks we saw a week ago.) But the really cool thing about these fireworks was that the show was choreographed to music! And one of the songs just happened to be one by Justin Timberlake...and that made the show just that much cooler....especially since I was with Erin (the two of us were obsessed with Justin and *nsync during high school.)

Sunday...we just hung out at the apartment for the morning. We didn't eat breakfast, because we were saving room for our fabulous lunch. We went to Lou Malnati's, where we had the best pizza ever. Erin and John recommended the sausage with garlic, and so we all shared a large. I'm not even a huge fan of pizza (yes, I am weird), but this was the best. Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza...and this had to be the best ever. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Then Erin and John took us one a walking tour of downtown Chicago. We saw the Chicago River, did a little bit of shopping on Michigan Ave, and then went to the Hancock Building. Erin and John took us to the bar on the 96th floor. Yeah, that's not a typo. It's the second tallest building in the city. We were lucky enough to get a table next to a window. Actually, the exterior of the floor is all windows, but not all the seats are by windows. The view is awesome (I feel like I am using too many awesome/spectacular/fabulous-adjectives, but everything was so great). There were hardly any clouds in the sky, the air was clear and you could see for miles. According to John, you can see three states -- Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana -- from the 96th floor. Erin had a nice surprise for us at the bar. She got Shannon to stop by and see us! It was cool to see her, since we were in the city.

Not long after we got back to Erin's house, we left again for our next outing. We went to the art and folk festival. John was volunteering at the medic tent. Dave, Erin and I walked around to check out the music, the food and the art. We got some dinner and then I bought my nieces the cutest Bohemian sun dresses ever! I can't wait to give them their dresses (but I have to wait because they're gone camping). Before we left the festival, we got chocolate milk shakes for dessert and then stopped by the medic tent to say goodbye to John. At the tent, we met another resident from Minnesota. Coincidentally, he went to Lourdes high school in Rochester, where Dave's mom went to high school and where some of his cousins go/went. His dad actually still works there. Then we walked home and Erin and I reminisced about stuff from high school. High school was awesome. I'm really lucky that I went to Vis and had such a great high school experience and made some great friends.

So after we walked back, we just hung out at their house for a little bit longer before going to bed. We had to wake up at 3:30 in the Monday morning so that we could get home because Dave had to work. I was happy that we got to stay Sunday night so we could have a little bit more time with our friends.

I will post the photos soon. Probably tomorrow. lol. I think I blogged enough tonight. And I still need to put them on the computer. And I think Dave and I are going to paint our bathroom! That's the first step in our plans to remodel our bathroom! I'll take pics of that too!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Feedback from camp...

Today I picked up the boys from camp. (Dave and I went to Chicago this weekend to visit Erin and John, which I'll blog about soon!).

Cooper Joe did fantastic! This time he didn't just follow his big brother Otis around like he usually does. In fact, he played so much with the other dogs that he got to go play in the room with all the big dogs (i.e. labs and golden retrievers). This is a big step for Cooper because....1) he always, always follows Otis around...2) he was separated from Otis for one of the first times (besides being in his kennel at home) since he was became part of our family....and 3) he usually is scared of big dogs. But apparently he liked playing with the big dogs and did great on his own.

Otis on the other hand...apparently, our little guy gets separation anxiety when the 'camp counselors' leave the room he's in. He has this nice high-pitched yelp/bark he uses to make sure it's known he doesn't appreciate being left that I'm sure the workers just love. lol. But luckily, he is loved and spoiled at camp. The counselor that checked the boys out today said Otis got to follow her around all day instead of staying in the room.

Now the boys are sleeping! And will be for the next two days!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Balow Bunch

We've had some fun trying to get some family photos.





Holiday Weekend

Just like my previous post predicted, our holiday weekend was really busy...

Some of the highlights:
  • Canterbury Downs was a ton of fun. I even got lucky and won a couple of races. There were a lot of picture taking, but none with my camera. Maybe I'll get lucky and someone will email me a couple good ones (Andee!). The fireworks that night were absolutely amazing. Definitely rank among my top 3 firework shows. And I definitely want to go back there again!
  • Lake Calhoun. We met up with Angela, Matt and Jack (their dog) at Lake Calhoun. Dan was already there and hung out with us a little bit. We brought Amanda with us, and she got some special time with just her and Uncle Dave and Aunt Jenny. She told us that she is done with preschool and is worried about Kindergarten. Her exact words: "The problem is...that I am afraid my teacher is going to yell at me." (Emily had a bad experience with her Kindergarten teacher...the yelling wasn't directed at Emily...well, at least I don't think so...but it didn't make for a positive experience for her).



  • BBQ at the Miller's. We had good company and good food. And I know my countries in East Asia (apparently except for China). Rachel made us take the ninth grade geography final. It was actually pretty fun, and I did surprisingly well...except for Africa.
  • Powderhorn Park. Following our annual tradition, we went to Powderhorn Park for fireworks with my nieces and a couple of their friends (and all their parents too) and Rachel and Deborah. The weather was gorgeous and the fireworks were pretty good too.




  • Nap #1. Saturday went differently than anticipated. No yoga and no lunch at my aunt and uncle's. Instead I took a wonderful nap.
  • Nap #2. Apparently, my first nap wasn't good enough. I followed up with a second nap a couple of hours later.

  • Taste of Minnesota. Actually, this was a low-light. The food was just fair food (misconception I had b/c I thought it was supposed to be good restaurants in MN showcasing their food)...and it was way too overpriced. But the fireworks were great there....right over the Mississippi River.
  • Twin's game. Sunday the Twin's came back from behind to win the game! Of course that was fun.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sweet Tea, Any size, $1

Several yard signs advertising "Sweet Tea, any size, $1" at our local Arby's enticed me and Dave to go through the drive-thru and order some "Sweet Tea, any size $1" on our way home Saturday night. We were optimistic that we could finally get some decent sweet tea north of the mason-dixon line.

Employee: "Welcome to Arby's, may I take your order?"
Dave: "May I have some sweet tea?"
Employee: "What?"
Dave: "I'll have sweet tea."
Employee: "What?"
Dave: "Tea that has been sweetened."
Employee: "uhh, some rasberry tea?"
Dave: "No, sweet tea."
Employee: "Oh, yeah, we don't have any of that. It sold out quick. Would you like rasberry tea?"
Dave: "Uhh, no. Nevermind."

We should have known that sweet tea in Minnesota was too good to be true.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Anticipating the holiday weekend!

I am looking forward to the holiday weekend! Just a day of hanging out at work to get through (today's one of those day-before-holiday-so-the-few-people-who-show-up-at-work-leave-by-3-pm-days). So that's good. A few hours of boredom before the fun begins.

This weekend will be one of the most activity-packed weekends we've had in a long time...well, at least since last weekend!

Here's the plans:

Today:
1) Go to Canterbury Downs to watch horse races and fireworks.

Tomorrow (Happy 4th of July):
2) Hang out at Lake Calhoun
3) BBQ at the Miller's
4) Fireworks at Powderhorn Park

Saturday:
5) Yoga class (hopefully it won't be cancelled)
6) Lunch at the Garvik's
6) Vet appt (dogs due for some vaccinations)
7) Taste of MN

Sunday:
8) Twins game
9) Sleep

The best part is that Dave doesn't have to miss any of it. I guarantee that if he still worked at HD, I'd be doing all of the above by myself!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A small little victory...

For the first time, I really got engaged in politics. I'm not meaning getting involved with the primary/caucus process and going to the state convention. I mean engaged and fighting for something that is happening right now.

Over the past couple of months, Congress has been trying to pass legislation to expand the GI Bill and provide vets with more funds to pay for school. The original GI Bill was enacted to pay for school, but the benefits have really weakened due to the increased costs of college tuition. So I really supported enhancing the GI Bill so that it does pay for tuition, since that is way it was originally created anyway.

So what did I do?

I wrote a letter to my Congressman, asking for his support.

Here's what I wrote...

Hi Rep. Kline,

I'm writing to urge you to support the bill before Congress that would strengthen the GI Bill benefits to our Veterans.

The GI Bill allowed many Veterans to complete a college education in the past, but it simply doesn't realistically cover today's rapidly growing college costs. I know you've been a supporter of the war in Iraq from the very beginning, and therefore, I think it is imperative that you support those very soldiers who proudly served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan by giving them the proper means to get a college education.

My husband served a tour of duty in Iraq with the 101st Airborne. Now that his time with the Army has ended, we have been struggling for the past three years while he has used the GI Bill to go to college. Granted the GI Bill helps with the costs of school, but it does not sufficiently cover the costs of completing an undergraduate degree. We both work full-time, and even with the GI Bill, we have had to take out student loans while my husband goes to Normandale Community College, because it is the most affordable school in our area. In the fall, he'll continue at Mankato where he'll graduate with a bachelor's degree in Business, again because it is the most affordable option for a four-year degree. I really think it's a sad state of affairs when the GI Bill fails to adequately provide for today's Veterans trying to get a college education at public universities.

Please support the GI Bill that is before Congress. Thanks so much for listening to your constituents.


Jenny and Dave Balow

What did he do? He voted against the legislation.

It didn't surprise me, because other republicans (Bush and McCain) at the time were against the version being voted on. But there was one thing that surprised though. Someone from his office called me personally to discuss his position on expanding the GI Bill. I was told that he was in support of expanding the benefits, but would only vote for it if it went through as clean (meaning that there couldn't be any other legislation snuck into the bill...it could only be for the GI Bill)....that sounds reasonable, but really, when is there bills considered in Congress that are 100% clean? There is always something else attached.

Ok. So then what did I do next?

I sent a letter to the editor to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which was published on May 27.

Here's what I wrote:

GI Bill deserved more support from Kline

Rep. John Kline, who supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has failed to support the very soldiers who fight in these conflicts by voting against the expansion of the GI Bill. The GI Bill, which was enacted to provide veterans with the opportunity to go to college, is outdated and does not provide adequate funds for our veterans in Minnesota to go to our public universities. The updated GI Bill would increase funding and provide veterans with 100 percent of their tuition to a public university. It's time Kline joined the other members of the House of Representatives, who overwhelmingly approved the bill, and support our troops.

That was pretty much it until I was looking at the news yesterday and say that President Bush signed a bill into law that expanded GI Bill benefits. So I looked into it a little more, and in fact, yes, the GI Bill benefits have been expanded!

And I looked up Kline's voting record again. The second time around, he voted yes. Ironically enough, the bill was not clean...this time that GI Bill was the smaller item snuck into a larger item (that item being the $162 billion funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year and there were also some other items in the bill too.) So while I feel I had a small little victory in playing my part to get the GI Bill expanded, I can't be completely happy b/c it's at the cost of the war being funded for another year -- even though I knew it'd be continuing on anyway.

Granted, I am 99.999999% certain that he voted yes for this legislation because of the war funding, and not because of the GI Bill expansion. But still, I am pleased that the GI Bill benefits have been expanded. And the second time around, he did vote yes.

All in all, it was an interesting experience...to get a call from my Congressman's office, to have a letter of mine published in the Strib, and to get the end result of having the GI Bill expanded.