the friday 5: over the summer hill

from thefridayfive... 

1. What sign marks the end of the summer for you?

I live with school aged children so summer ends in mid-august when they go back.

2. What plans, if any, do you have for the rest of the summer?

We JUST found out that Kansas has this "Sunflower Summer" app that grants every school kid one free visit to a ton of local museums. so we have to hit all those now! weekend agendas! I think tomorrow will be the aviation museum. already did the science museums.

3. How would you describe your summer/winter so far – too hot, too cold, too wet, too buggy or what?

It's summer in Kansas. It's raining one day, 100 the next... but not 110 yet so I'm counting my happiness there.

4. Summer often means open windows and the sharing of conversations, music, games and so forth with everyone. What sort of neighbor are you? Loud or considerate?

They are welcome to come over for any party we have. I think we are the best neighbors.

5. Aside from spouses and pets, have you had any trouble with pests recently?

Flies, ants, and whatever mosquitoes bit me last night.


Topeka weekend

A Capitol Time
A Capitol Time

Last Friday was my sisters birthday and we were planning to leave Olive up there anyway, so I said why don't I drive up, take you out to dinner, stay the night? Everybody loved the idea!

Olive was staying there for our Camp Cousin exchange program. Every summer, my sister and I swap kids around so they get some quality extended time playing with each other's toys. I'll bring Olive up, she'll bring Olive back along with my niece, I'll return niece and leave Josie, the goal is 3 nights per kid but we'll see. It had to be very carefully scheduled this year between other camps, trips and events... we made a spreadsheet.

Back to Friday night. We had a great time in downtown Topeka! Dinner at Iron Rail brewing, I had pulled pork tacos and hush puppies.

Then we went to Brew Bank, a pour-your-own beer place that I'd never heard of. You charge up a little card, then there's a wall of beer and wine taps. Put the card above the one you want and start the tap and it starts taking cents off your card. The beers are 40-60 cents per oz, and you see a little screen running it down. You can get half a beer, a quarter of a beer, or the whole 12 oz, or however much is on your card, it's great!

We went to The Pennant and played ms. pac man and ski ball. 

Hazel Hill chocolate, where we each got a golf-ball sized cake ball sort of thing for desert. It was really a great amount for desert.

Then there was this big open area with a jumbotron playing Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc. My brother-in-law had told us about it, but when we stepped out we heard the music and couldn't escape it. Lots of people had picnic blankets or chairs, we did not, but I said "I've got a yoga mat in my car!" so we got the yoga mat and set it out and saw the whole last half of the movie. Dr. Jones escaped from a terrifying snake pit, survived a car chase, hid from the nazis until he was captured and they opened the arc of the covenant and had their faces all melted off.

come to think of it this movie was a lot more violent than I remember as a kid. the body count rivals pulp fiction for sure.

anyway I am happy that downtown topeka has seen so much revitalization in recent years. it really used to DIE on the weekends, the joke was that nobody would want to LIVE in topeka, a job in topeka meant you needed to commute from Lawrence which has always been the cooler hipper Kansas downtown. But Lawrence has its issues and Topeka never deserved the second class billing, it looks great now. I'm biased because my sister has lived there 20 years now and has been full of Topeka civic pride the entire time, it's rubbed off.

grateful for the non-rainy, not too hot night and the great time, she loved her birthday!


what I wanted to be when I grew up

for my birthday, daphnep asked what did you want to be when you grew up, when you were small? Any silly early wishes? And how old were you when you started figuring out where you really wanted to go?

So going back... when I was very tiny I was in dance class and piano lessons I remember asking my mom if I could be both a professional ballerina and pianist, she said of course dear. She didn't mention that I was really bad at dance class. Years later, I saw videos. No idea where they're at now, but I was not one of the kids who'd ever get to be in the front row. I haven't gotten my own kids into any lessons like I was in. They did some YMCA sports, one month here or there, but nothing serious. I wonder if I did them a disservice.

When I was a pre-teen, I was definitely going to be an architect. Maybe blame lego for this? or the world... but I was convinced I'd found my calling. I'd build tiny houses out of everything. Toothpicks, paper, mud, household items. I loved quadrille paper. I'd draw floorplans and kept them in a folder. I loved thinking about houses, where doors could go, how they'd swing out or in, I loved big center spaces for gathering, or I'd add a stage or something random. So many houses. Architecture sounded like a real job and I could get serious about it.

In late middle-school, early high school, I was going to be a Christian Minister. I felt called. I was going to help people find meaning in their lives. I was leading the Christian club at school, I'd write essays and manifestos and songs about how we can all rest assured that we are loved by God. My youth group mission trips would bring me to tears, thinking about how much work there was to be done in the world to help people. I thought very deep thoughts.

Late in high school, I started getting more economically motivated, and suddenly both jobs seemed to have a supply and demand imbalance. I started looking around. Rather than telling the world what it needed, I wondered if I should listen to it. There weren't articles about how bad the world needed ministers. Architecture was competitive. Physics, my favorite class, was competitive. I got a 30 on my ACT but that wasn't exactly MIT material. I felt average, I felt that intensely, and wanted to find something that was more of a sure thing.

In high school, our essays and assignments grew more and more research based, and I started learning that some disciplines force you to look at the past and back up your assertions with what everyone else has said, especially if you're not an established, proven expert.

So I let the colleges pull me. We'd visited lots, and I agreed to go to the one with the best scholarships, it made perfect sense to me. In the world of engineering and consumer electronics, little people could come up with new ideas without having to prove that they stood on other shoulders. That was what I wanted - some kind of something technical. Then I got another scholarship to choose electrical and the rest was history.

I guess my big question is... why don't other people think this way? We keep watching this show Master Chef on TV. It's fun watching Anne Burrell work with restaurant owners to pick their next executive chef. The people applying for the job always confuse me though. They always say that being a chef is their dream, their passion, but it's so stressful, and so far it only pays $12 an hour... HOLD UP! Why would you pursue something with that huge of a cost/benefit imbalance? Isn't there some kind of food industry related job that will actually pay for you to eat and afford your student loans at the same time? Did you not KNOW, ahead of time, what a terrible deal this was, how over flooded the industry is with chefs? Did your culinary school tell you that everybody does just fine after graduation?

I know it's easy for me to say now that I'm 18 years into a career... I know nothing is guaranteed. When I graduated in the awful post-9/11 economy there were several months of job interviews where I worried that I could not be an engineer after all. I do tell young people that if they're passionate, they can make it in something related to almost any field. But I'm still glad I picked a field with slightly better odds.

In high school I started seeing so many people, but especially women, who were unsure of what they wanted to do. So I said if you're not sure, why not pick a job that will pay well? That was a strange thing to say. Most of them shrugged and picked something that would never pay off. Why? And why was it always women who shrugged and picked the lower paying fields, while men shrugged and picked the higher paying ones? Something was sketchy as hell, there. I was only 16 but I was feminist enough to want to kick that trend over. I still haven't figured out the others.


Last week we were on the road and I remembered how much I don't like restaurants.

I should call myself lucky that I am in a position to run this experiment. So many people consider eating out to be a luxury. My husband said when he was a kid his family would back a cooler of burritos for their road trips.

Come to think of it, that sounds awesome.

But no, we hardly ever go out to restaurants anymore, so the vacation week would be full of treats for us, I figured? I didn't feel like it was a treat though.

Olive is 8 years old and still has some unpredictable kid eating tendencies. There will be one meal where she eats a whole pizza, another one where she takes a single bite of her $9 sandwich and declares herself full. Sometimes I tried not ordering food myself to account for this, and sometimes it works. I just eat what's left from the family. But after our day at six flags I was starving and grumpy, and Marc said it was because I had one chicken finger for lunch. I really wasn't that hungry. I don't feel deprived.

That was the night of course that we went to a restaurant, got seated, waited a bit... and then the server admitted that they were totally overwhelmed and it'd be 90 minutes until we got our food. So we bailed. It was 30 minutes lost but it was 30 minutes starting at 7pm, so I got to feeling neurotic when we went to a second place. I almost wanted fast food. but not quite.

nothing is cheap, fast food isn't cheap. that's the other thing. it's bad enough that restaurants are so iffy... you can get forgotten about entirely, or the kitchen gets behind and you're stuck for an hour. I am thankful that the restaurant that kicked us out had the honesty to kick us out. I still gave them three stars on yelp.

back to finance. our normal grocery budget is $40 a day. That includes meals, snacks, fruit to have around the house, breakfast, drinks... we almost stick to it.

a restaurant is easily $70-$100 per meal for us now. Fast food is $40-50! Josie needs grown ass person meals. Marc and I have cut our drinking down, we'll get a glass of wine and split it, I'm proud of us. But out traveling, I did not want to get fast food that much, I wanted to try the local places, have experiences, eat a step healthier.

prices will go up because the pandemic sent all the restaurant workers elsewhere, and they deserve to be very well paid to come back. I'm okay with that. it is how capitalism works and fixes things. chefs aren't paid enough, staff isn't paid enough. it's one more reason for me to opt out of the whole scheme though. it just doesn't make sense. no more restaurants.

I'm going to ask my inlaws about those coolers.

the friday 5

from thefridayfive

1. What was your favorite past time in high school?
Definitely track and field! High jump, triple jump, heptathlon, some short sprints, hurdles... I was good at high jump and enthusiastic about everything else.

2. What is your all time favorite board game/card game?
My family has "throw throw burrito" which is pretty fun, that's the best new one. But our real favorite is dominoes, either train or chicken feet.

3. What is the last movie you saw at the theatre and what did you think of it?
Back to the Future! It was just a few months ago, I promise I have seen plenty of movies in the theater since 1985, but theaters are doing different things these to get us all back in. I liked it.

4. What is something (no matter what kind of mood you're in) that makes you happy the moment you do it, see it, or hear it?
As an aviation professional, it will always be this far side cartoon:
wings on wings off

5. Do you believe that crop circles are made by human or alien?
Humans. Aliens would do something weirder, guys.

June spending report

compared to our may spending report...

Restaurants: $330, about the same as May. I'm happy to say that our two biggest restaurant bills were a ton of food for my birthday party, and a ton of pizza when my sister and parents visited.

Groceries: $1175, darn close to the budget!

Alcohol: $129, down from $200

Home improvement: $805. The last bit for the backyard, but mostly a plumber for the sewer line (sigh) and the quarterly exterminator guy comes out. Hey, it's down from $1640 last month!

Car repairs: $1569 to fix marc's breaks and bearings. we have spent $4500 this year on a car that I think is barely worth $5K. The problem is 1) it's all been a little here, a little there. Not one big thing that cost $5K so we could look at it and say "the car is totaled!" the other problem is that used car prices are so high, we wouldn't dare buy another car this year. So I REALLY hope that the money we've shoved in will please the car karma spirits (carma?) and they'll leave us alone for a bit?

I deposit an amount that closely resembles a car payment into an emergency savings account each paycheck. I feel zero guilt about dipping into that fund this month for our stupid car.

Other stuff: $100 for AAA hit. I need to call my car insurance to see what roadside assistance would cost through them. nothing like a "surprise!" annual subscription when you're watching spending really close.

$60 for AT&T to activate Josie's new phone. The phone itself will only cost $10 a month which is great, and the activation fee should have only been $30. But there was a chance there for AT&T to double charge us and if there's one thing they jump on, it's screwing up a bill. I'll call them.

Gas: $300

Shopping: $530, up from $418 in May. I REALLY want new running shoes, mine are shot! $200 was hair dye. Don't get me started, Marc's DJ fund is paying for it - him and the girls are way too latched into the vibrant hair trend and I bitched at them about it but at the end of the day, I am being outvoted.

Vacation: $200 on tickets to six flags, tickets to a cave tour... that is the tip of the iceberg pre-sales on vacation. the rest will all hit july and the restaurant tab alone will be zillions. but that was our biggest trip of the year, and we used points to get a free hotel, and no flying anywhere. I should try to relax.

how far I've gone

for today's birthday question sewcute asked How far do you live from where you grew up? why?

Figured it'd be a good one to pick because I was just there!

From age 5 months old to 12 years old I lived in a suburb of St. Louis, MO. So I live a little over 400 miles from where I grew up. Dad was transferred there when I was a baby for a 2-3 year assignment that for some reason lasted 12 years. My parents lived in Kansas City, and in 1992 we moved back to Kansas City, then in 2002 I moved to Wichita for work and that is where I have stayed.

So it's true I haven't gone far. But I've considered st. louis a few times, whenever I was wondering about jobs that was one of my targets in the linkedin filters that I said I'd move to. I'm currently liking my job, my filters are all off, but the idea was fun.

My parents are not outdoorsy people and that's a real shame, because now that I'm grown up I really appreciate eastern missouri's landscape. Caves, streams, camping grounds with trees, the mark twain national forest, the Meramec river, float trips, hiking trails. We don't have anything like that in Wichita. We have the arkansas river (pronounced our-kansas, definitely, thank you very much) and its fun as a gathering spot but there are no tree-lined scenic rivers to float down. Even western missouri is pretty sad. There's the elk river, but you're basically canoeing through pastureland. The water is 100% brown and murky. So if you're in Wichita, and you want to find beautiful nature, you're looking at a six hour drive. This is definitely the worst thing about Wichita.

Growing up as a kid, we took zero advantage of the landscape. My parents would take us on day trips to tourist places, historical buildings, but nature was not on the agenda. I didn't camp outdoors until I was 23 and went with my fellow engineers. That's how I discovered Missouri.

St. Louis also has great italian food everywhere. There's a void of it in Wichita. Kansas City does pretty well. Wichita has great BBQ, Mexican, Lebanese.

St. Louis has awful traffic. Growing up, my mom used to talk about the magical places she'd lived where the streets were a "grid" but I didn't understand that. She said that St. Louis just let people build buildings, then they'd zoom out some random streets to whatever was happening. Consequently we were stuck in traffic all the damn time, and as an adult I've learned that navigation is senseless and requires a turn-by-turn GPS.

Wichita and Kansas City are grid plans, as all cities should be. Everything is easier.

Childhood cities are always weird to navigate though anyway, matching your memories up to reality and changes. I remembered Queeny Park being a metropolis of a playground. It is much smaller. But even my kids pointed out, I was much smaller. I was thrilled that our hotel was by the Chesterfield Mall. That was THE SPOT. In 1989, all my friends and I did was brag about what we'd just gotten at the Chesterfield Mall. Who got to go to the mall this weekend? Who got to hang out? Who was wearing clothes from Esprit?

So one day last week in 2021 when my family was swimming in the hotel pool I said I'd walk over to Chesterfield Mall, even though there were some "for lease" signs indicating that it had some vacancies... but when I arrived, it was all vacancies. A completely dead mall. Closed shops. Unopened shops. Pickleball courts. Yes, there were 10-15 people in there, all playing pickleball. That is was the mall is. Surrounded by shops and rolled-down gates, just mall walkers and pickleball. That's not a st. louis thing I know. It's a "I grew up in the 1980s" thing. We got to see indoor malls at their peak, and then they died.

400 miles, 40 years, both fairly short distances.

rain songs

I've been working on a spotify playlist of songs I can listen to while running in the rain. Still looking to add more... I started adding some general songs that work while running but I hate for it to come to it. I was probably inspired by two songs... "Rain On Me" that came out this year, and I've been dancing to it with my kids on Just Dance and it's such a favorite. And then there's Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Beautiful Rain" which I had on my track and field playlist in high school... clearly, runners need rain songs.


Rain On Me / Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande
Ocean Bed / Darlingside
Have You Ever Seen The Rain / Creedence Clearwater Revival
Come In With The Rain / Taylor Swift
Set Fire to the Rain / Adele
Freedom / Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar
Never Seen The Rain / Tones And I
Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain / Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Rain / Breaking Benjamin
Here Comes the Rain Again / Eurythmics, Annie Lennox
Umbrella / Rihanna, JAY-Z
Rain Over Me / Pitbull, Marc Anthony
The Rain / Missy Elliott
Kiss The Rain / Billie Myers
Between The Raindrops / Lifehouse, Natasha Bedingfield
Rain / Madonna
Flood / Jars Of Clay
Rain / Ben Platt
It Will Rain / Bruno Mars
Raindrops / Basement Jaxx
Splash / PUBLIC
Water Me / Lizzo
It's Raining Men / The Weather Girls
Steady as the Rain / Dolly Parton
Rain / The Beatles
Storm / Raining Sorrow, Ez Mill

post road trip

we're back home! missed you all, lj. i've been in missouri since last saturday, road tripping with the family.

quick blitz of what we did...

saturday - drove six hours to southeast missouri
sunday - float trip!
monday- Onondaga Cave tour
tuesday - st. louis zoo
wednesday - six flags, for riding roller coasters
thursday - city museum
friday - drove home from st. louis

three nights in our rented cabin, three nights at a hyatt in st. louis. swimming every day! the kids took FULL ADVANTAGE of that hotel pool. it also rained almost every day, but we lucked out, no constant storms that totally ruined all our plans. I will admit that we picked our thursday activity because I needed SOMETHING that would not be weather-dependent at all, after we got kicked out of six flags about two hours earlier than we would have liked for lightning.

I was almost thinking wednesday that six nights on the road is too much. but getting to do city museum changed my mind, again. we've been there before but it's such an amazing treasure, we have to just keep going.

we didn't even get stormed on during the float trip, despite an 80% chance of storms or something. we heard thunder in the distance. it was just fine, it was great. there was some drizzle once. we floated in our raft and even swam the next day after the cave tour. the kids hadn't seen a missouri cave, it was beautiful.

no bats though. the bats have gone. succumbed to a disease that's taken them away. there were salamanders, and caution... missouri won't let you tour multiple caves in a given day now. you have to change clothes and shoes between caves if you go do that sort of thing, and they close them down so the remaining bats have a place to hide from the disease. I had no idea.

the st. louis zoo brought back memories. they didn't have all those penguins when i was a kid though. josie got a huge kick out of the penguins. olive liked the giant snakes, and strange tropical hornbill birds.

and the hotel pool. jump in, swim to the other side, jump out, walk around, repeat for hours. we hit up playgrounds, and the mall, simple stuff, just disconnected and hung out with each other.

chase card

I promise I will not turn this lj into credit card promos all the time, but my referal link got updated for the 100K points chase offer so I should post it:

That link gets you 100K points, me 20K points. $95 annual fee, must spend $4000 in three months, then they basically give you $1000 but let me go on...

I'm happy because my family has booked spend three nights in a hotel in July that is not costing me anything, just credit card points, just from buying groceries, all because I signed up for this card and got 60K points. I know, I know, credit cards are dangerous etc but ever since my 2018 spending diet, I've learned to pay mine off every month. and I really like them for budgeting and tracking spending.

The only problem is that when I signed up for my chase card, it was for 60K points. then the bumped it to 80K, which they sometimes do. now it's 100K, which they've NEVER done and all the travel hacker points people are going nuts about it. you can go DEEP into how to use credit card points. I am not going to do that. I do not have time.

but I do know that 100000 points can get you...
$1000 cash back or
$1250 in groceries or
$2000-ish nights at a hyatt

so it's worth that first $95 they charge on the card.