Girls’ Day!

I cautiously took this photo, hoping not to 'spook' the koi and goldfish.

I cautiously took this photo, hoping not to ‘spook’ the koi and goldfish.

Kind of a lazy start to a day that rapidly got busy and moved with a swift edge like a river anxious to get to sea.

We had a lazy-ish breakfast as I worked ferociously on finishing up grading, an Internet snafu having caused some of my students to not be able to finish their Saturday night assignment. That was a major rub as this is the speaking exam week as we wind down the summer semester.

MK and I went to Sports Authority to check out safety life vests for kayaking as we are going to be ‘test driving’ a sit on kayak today. This kayak would be more user friendly in terms of stability and fishing.

The girls came over around 1:30 PM or so, having come from the pool. It ended up being a very normal, very hot summer day with a good amount of humidity. The overall heat and humidity combination made me quite sleepy. Despite the heat and humidity and sleepiness, I managed to get the hedges trimmed while Samantha climbed on the climbing rope in the back yard. I also did some adjustments to the pond, trimming some water irises and removing some things. The fish actually came up for the first time for feeding (within my sight) and I hope to continue to get them to understand that we are not the enemy.

We had a dinner of fancy sausages on the grill, an apéritif beforehand, and while finishing up the tail end of dinner as Christian saw the signs that a quick departure was called for, I filled up the dishwasher. Koerners are very good at sensing when that special moment has arrived, when you need to get the kids packed up and take them home before they become too unpleasant to even allow themselves to peacefully go to bed.

This morning the day started out quickly with a visit from the gas people as they change out our meter in the house. All of the crazy work they have been doing outside, digging up here and there, putting in new equipment next to the house, that is all going to pay off as the new meters are put in, meaning that never will they have to set foot in the house again. They had put in electronic readers before but that never totally functioned; this, supposedly, will change it out for good.

Later this morning, we have the kayak test drive and then some intense time working on preparing my class for the fall. I still have a bunch of quizzes to prepare and then I will have to transpose my work onto the D2L website, hoping I remember how to do it or at least find the necessary information online. If I am totally confused, I will contact Jessica at Oakton, the most amazing tech person ever, not the stereotypical techie in any way, a good listener, a person with a smile, and a person who can quickly help you accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

Okay, off and running.

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Wine and Good Friends


Sunday was ‘winery’ day for the Koerners and the Dennys. I have known our good friends since 1975, I believe, and for Mary Kay, much earlier than that as they were all undergrads studying German at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign together.

We had planned on an outing which all of us really needed. The Denny Family kitchen has been out of commission for some time during its redo and is finally ending its final phase as things are being put back and the boxes emptied. Needless to say, one of those stressful situations, remodeling certainly is, with its many ramifications and levels of pressure.

We planned on heading to their place in Hanover Park, check out the new kitchen, and then get in the car together to go to Maple Park, Illinois, literally out in the middle of beautiful nowhere, lush midwest farmland, cornfields, and grain elevators within view.

Aquaviva is the name of the place, named after a place in Italy and the dream of a representative of an immigrant family. A wine-making gig, originally just to please family members, turned into a business. The castle-like building of Aquaviva made us think of Napa and our trip there a year ago (Jack and Carolyn were our Napa fellow-travelers), not that the midwest can look anything like that, but it was a moment of wonderful respite with good friends, good food, and good wine.

It was a busy and very congenial place and despite the fact that the wine was not French, it was wonderful. It was sunny and our original placement on the upper, sun-filled patio was great but they very quickly moved us to the umbrella-laden area where we could enjoy both sun and shade on a nicely warm, July day. Vito precipitated the move and we found out later that he is the owner. He never called himself out that way, taking more of a background to the servers. It was clear that people were relaxed, intent on showing us a good time, and making sure that we would want to come back. They all succeeded.

Following a wonderful Italian meal with the best calamari around (Carolyn’s recommendation), bread in olive oil, a wonderful rosé, pasta, and then coffee, we headed back home to Jack and Carolyn’s. On the way, we decided to check out some homes across from a Del Webb development, a subdivision meant for baby boomers perhaps wanting a living arrangement in a nice area with a first floor living situation (to avoid stairs if necessary) and were pleasantly regaled with some beautiful possibilities. Somehow we feel too young to even think about that but reality being what it is, it is there as a possibility.

We headed back and hurried home to Stewart, who had spent a good amount of time in the crate.

All in all, a beautiful day on all counts: good friends, good wine, good food, good weather. There is absolutely nothing to complain about.

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Kayaking, lawn mowing, and dog walking

This shows my trip through the lagoons

This shows my trip through the lagoons

Mikey on his way back in

Mikey on his way back in

The day promised to be beautiful and despite the cooler than normal mid-July temperatures, it was exquisite.

Stewie and I did not get to walk until later in the day and then he got a great workout going to see his cousin Murphy where he managed to tire himself out completely.

The morning started out with a quick trip to the Skokie Lagoons where Mikey went out and did his fishing gig while I finished up a book (it is great to be in a situation where I have no choice but to sit and chill with a book without recourse to getting into work-mischief).

He did not catch anything but he did get hissed at by a quite large snapping turtle.

When I went out, I decided to use my RunKeeper app to see exactly what my progress was and I ended up pretty much doing about four miles of paddling within about an hour and twenty minutes. I also found out that I was averaging about three miles per hour paddling.

I saw many people kayaking and fishing and also many birds. It amazes me that there are certain beautifully artistic-looking dead trees that are like the mini-branches you see for parrot cages. They harbor numerous birds and the number of Great Blue Herons is absolutely astounding to me. They sit there as you pass and look all so regal.

I managed to see a huge Lake Michigan Salmon who someone found his way into the area, dead as all get out and floating in the water. I am sorry I did not take a picture of it.

I was truly impressed by my ability to handle the kayaking scene and get everything right and not even have my kayak move an inch while on the car.

I drove up to the hardware store, made some purchases before returning home, and then mowed the lawn. I took Stewie for his walk.

It was a great day although I am a bit stiff today. I guess I shall just have to get over it.

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Intense Prep for the Fall Semester


The day looked threatening yesterday although, in the end, nothing really happened. All in all that worked out well as I needed to ‘bite the bullet’ and get going as I realized that my new ‘shells’ for D2L were in, which means that I can start setting up my fall online classes which will begin at the end of August.

Not only do I have the usual hoops to jump through that I have when starting the prep, I also have a new textbook with all sorts of differences. The differences occur mainly in the online component, as there are different things to access. I noticed, pretty quickly that there are more things that we can assign then before, with the previous textbook, so I put out an e-mail to my department chairman to see what she wants us to do, it being a good idea to be in sync with one another.

I have taken a pretty good look at the book already, having come up with a ‘generic syllabus,’ one that has all of the curriculum listed and can be handed out to someone who might be interested in knowing exactly what we accomplish (and I have, in fact, already shared that with a possible student). I decided to take a look at the exam materials and come up with two exams so that I can work back from that.

It took all day. I perused the software, looking for the exercises to put together. Gone are the days when we have to come up with every section on our own, now there are resources in which to cull what we need. I ended up coming up with enough material for the two exams, they are worth approximately what the previous exams were worth in value and now I have the tedious assignment of fitting them onto the D2L site. In doing so, I am putting them there so that students can go to the Learning Center and be proctored, as the exams they take are generally taken on Campus, that and the speaking exam taken in the lab the only thing that they have to come in for. For those living afar, they must either locate a proctor in a local university testing center or access an online proctoring service (that has been used with great success). Both of these choices are subject to the approval of our Distance Learning Department who work with the students to set everything up.

I already started setting up the ‘News’ section of the site, putting in information about the new textbook and what they need to know. I have ‘migrated’ information from previous classes so that I do not have to do everything from scratch, this way I can modify things for the new situation. I have already had a glitch or two. I am not always sure whether it is because I have somewhat forgotten the process or because the software for the D2L site has been updated, and frankly, it is probably both.

The next week or so will be pretty intense as I wind down the two online classes I am currently teaching and I rev up on the prep to get the other two set up. The first semester French will be with the new book, the second with the old one (so that students who purchased the previous book can finish up their French using their already purchased textbook and not have to purchase a new one.

Busy, busy, busy, there is always something. I am hoping to get in some kayak relief today to take my mind off of it!

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A day with the girls

KBK and sit on toy

SHK and Brio train

Little rocking chair


SHK and Big Wheel

As we headed into it, we knew that it was going to be a long, but rewarding, day.

The girls arrived before 8:00 AM and we had breakfast with them and their dad and prepared for the day.

Kelsey, as usual, was not happy when her daddy left, but she gets over it quickly. Not even one year old, she is able to express her wants and needs and even display mini-tantrums when she does not get what she wants. I do not see that as bad behavior; she is very young and learning about her environment. She does not like the word, “no” at all. She is figuring out how to configure her relationship with the universe. We all do our best to be kind but firm in regards to fulfilling her wants and needs, especially when her safety is at issue.

It is amazing, when you have kids around, how things can get into a ‘creative’ disarray and that certainly happened yesterday. As you proceed through the day, you do your best to keep up with it and keep it at bay. Whether you have the kids help put things away (which we do), there are still things that need to be returned to their positions later on. It is intense.

At some point in the morning, Mary Kay needed some time to do a few things before we put Kelsey down for a nap, so I pulled out the old, clunky stroller that we inherited from MK’s nephew’s family, and put Kelsey in it. We went for a nice walk (she loves it) and Samantha helped out as we strolled through the neighborhood. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, we returned home and Kelsey went down for a nap. I then decided that we would do a major cleanup of the stroller, putting parts of it in the washer (it was clean but a bit dustier than I liked), and cleaning up the rest while on the frame.

Meanwhile, the Brio train from Sweden came out, a staple of our lives when the boys were young. Made of wood and having magnetically connected cars, the Brio train is a lot of fun. Samantha and I set it up outside on the driveway. She wanted and needed help setting it up, then left it for a while, returning to it much later in the day. She also totally took it apart and put it back in its container afterwards, before leaving.

Kelsey ended up testing out some of Samantha’s toys from way back when. She was not so sure about all of it, but she too will grow into it. She is still having a good time, however, climbing into the minuscule rocking chair we have from the boys (that I wove a seat for), getting in and out of it.

It was a nice day, but not warm enough for the pool and Samantha’s energy level and need for its dispersal was hard to believe. We were happy when mid-afternoon the UPS deliveryman brought a package, a Big Wheel. I was wondering if they still existed, having been such a popular toy when the boys were young, and so popular that we needed to replace them periodically as the wheels actually wore out.

The funny thing is that it used to be that in a neighborhood, you would see children playing and that is pretty much a thing of the past. I know that there are children in our neighborhood but you rarely see them, for whatever reason. Thus, even if they might have a Big Wheel, you will not see any evidence of Big Wheel Play.

For so many of us, Big Wheels conjure up fast moving, low to the ground hard plastic trikes with a very large front wheel and very small rear wheels. We ended up purchasing one for Samantha, a Radio Flyer of all things, and figured that she could use it to get rid of some energy here in Deerfield.

Samantha was pretty tentative at first, in a very Koerner way, but it is clear that she will ‘grow into’ this one. She and Stewie were having a good time on the patio and driveway racing around this and that and just having a good overall time.

Christian came late afternoon, around 5:00 PM or so and we had a wonderful skirt steak on the grill dinner. That was accompanied by zucchini flower fritters, fresh garlic-laced Italian bread, a good salad, and topped off with a trio of sorbet: orange, raspberry, and lemon. Who says that having kids around means that you cannot eat like the foodie you are?

What a day!

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