Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I think we need a dog

Our neighbors just adopted a 9 month old puppy, and I think my girls are as excited about Jake's arrival as his owners are. My big girls and the kids next door have been talking lots about dog training and what they are going to teach Jake to do.

But my girls' enthusiasm for dog training has taken a worrisome turn. They've decided to train Elizabeth like she's a puppy.

Yesterday I caught Ella teaching Elizabeth to sit and stay and then rewarding her by popping pieces of cookies in Elizabeth's open mouth. Ella and Lily have done such a good job that Elizabeth now responds to hand signals for lie down and twirl.

The girls have asked for their own puppy, but B and I have told them that we cannot possibly bring another living thing into this house because there is simply not enough room.

But if they keep up the puppy training with Elizabeth, I may change my mind.

And speaking of cute animals, go check out knittergran's adorable new kitten Baxter.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Second Sock Syndrome

I have a dreadful case of Second Sock Syndrome. For you non-knitters, SSS occurs when you finish one sock but just can't bring yourself to knit the second.

I cast on this pair of socks back in May. The socks are supposed to be a birthday present for a friend whose birthday was back in February. The wool is nice to work with, and it's fun to watch the color pattern reveal itself, yet I just can't bring myself to knit the socks. I've been knitting lots of other things - like these baby socks.
I finally finished the first sock last week, and I immediately cast on the second sock, hoping to be inspired.

No such luck.

Instead I started working on a baby hat from Spud & Chloe out of left over wool from the baby socks I've been knitting.
And in the ultimate act of SSS desperation, I cast on my first-ever sweater. It's a top-down, raglan sleeve wrap sweater that the Yarn Harlot raved about. I've had the pattern and the wool sitting on my desk for months, and I started it this weekend.

I even tried to force myself to knit the second sock by showing the first sock to my friend this weekend. Now that she knows about the socks, I feel a little more pressure to get the second finished already.

I know that if I would just force myself to work on the sock, I'd have it done in no time. If I had just worked on it instead of my other two projects, it would already be done. But knitting is supposed to be fun, not a chore. I don't want to force myself to knit.

But I do need to get this sock finished already.

Monday, July 26, 2010

NYC Marathon Training - Three Months to Go!

Oh lord, how is it possible that I only have three month of training left? I should be running much farther than I am, but heat, humidity and life keep getting in my way. The good news is that I am finally jumping up my mileage for my "long" runs. The bad news is that my weekly mileage still isn't where I'd like it to be. And the other good news is that Elizabeth is sleeping past 5:30 each morning, which means I can get back to running without having to push her in the jogger.

  • Monday - 4 miles with Elizabeth in the jogger
  • Wednesday - 2 miles with Elizabeth in the jogger (felt awful due to humidity)
  • Friday - 7.5 miles on the treadmill. Felt strong the whole way and was able to push the pace for the last two miles. And I got home to find all the kids still asleep!
I've already started this week off on the right foot - I ran four miles outside without Elizabeth, which made a huge difference in how I felt. The humidity was still awful, but I didn't die quite as much as usual.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gorillas in the Rain

Once Ella finished with her climbing, we were able to have some fun in Atlanta. My mom and sister took Lily and Elizabeth to Babyland General, the home of Cabbage Patch Kids. They both said it was a very strange place. The big girls also got to go to the American Girl Doll store, and we all went to see "Despicable Me" - two big thumbs up, by the way.

We also dragged everyone - me, B, the four kids, my mom and dad, my aunt, my cousin and my cousin's two kids - to Zoo Atlanta for a day. The zoo is a really good one; it's small enough to visit in a few hours. It's also very well shaded, which is crucial in the summer in Atlanta.

B is still on crutches for his broken foot, so we rented a motorized scooter for him. The kids all took turns catching a ride with him. Campbell loved steering.

All of the kids suckered Gran into buying them treats. Campbell picked out this mask and wore it for the rest of the visit to the zoo. Every time we exclaimed that he had turned into a bear, he'd lift it up and say, "I not a bear! It's a mask," like we were idiots.

Lily has loved pandas since she was small. She and I spent hours watching the panda cam at the national zoo when Tai Shan was born. Zoo Atlanta has two adults and one baby, and you can get up close and personal with the bears. Lily could have spent the whole visit sitting right there. Unfortunately, the baby wasn't on display while we were there. But being this close to the adults was still really cool.

Zoo Atlanta is known for its gorilla habitat. They have three different areas with silver back gorillas on display. While we were by the exhibit, a thunderstorm rolled in and the skies opened. We hung out under a covered bench in front of the habitat with the juvenile gorillas and their mothers. It ended up being the best part of the day for me.

Before the rain started, the gorillas had just been lounging in the shade. But once it started pouring, the little gorillas went nuts, chasing each other around, playing tag, doing somersaults, and thumping their chests at each other. It was like watching a bunch of four-year-old boys play in the rain. Every once in a while, one of the mother gorillas would make a little one sit down for a few minutes, like he was being put in time out. I had put my camera away while it rained, so I didn't manage to get any pictures of the fun. But we had a great half hour watching them.

Baby naked mole rats in their habitat. The exhibit was really cool - all the dens had a glass side, so we could watch the adult naked mole rats scurry through their tunnels from den to den. The adults were really creepy looking.

The river otters were a blast to watch. They were swimming back and forth and playing follow-the-leader. It must have been close to feeding time while were there, because they all kept lining up by the fence that led to the keeper's area. When we went back by a while later, they were all dozing in their various dens.

Speaking of river otters, have you seen this video of a mama otter teaching her baby to swim? It's squeeably adorable.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Climbing Video

As promised to some of you via e-mail, here's a video of Ella's first climb at Nationals. She had three moves to the top when she fell. Her coach called it a "brain fart," because it looked to both of us like she just let go of the wall.

Still, it's an amazing climb. And there's no way in heck you'd catch me doing it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

US Climbing Nationals

Part of the reason we went to Atlanta, other than to visit my parents and have fun with airport security, was so that Ella could compete in US Climbing Nationals, which were held at Stone Summit Gym in Atlanta. This gym is brand-new, and it is amazing. Ella and I walked in the first morning and our jaws dropped simultaneously. Below is just part of the main climbing wall - it continues on to both the left and the right. The walls top out at 50 feet - almost five stories. If you click to embiggen the picture, you can see that there are seven climbers going at the same time.

Ella climbed in both the technical and speed climbing events, and she had a mixed comp. Thursday's event was the first qualifying round for technical, and she climbed really well until almost the top, when she had what her coach called a "brain fart" and just let go of the wall. She said she got her hands mixed up on the holds and couldn't figure out what to do next. She ended up 27th out of 36 girls.

Friday, however, she climbed like a rock star. This is just one of the two overhangs she conquered without problem. She fell three holds before the top, but it was still an incredible climb. She moved from 27th to 8th place, which qualified her for semi-finals on Saturday.

Saturday didn't go so well. She fell right after I took the above picture. The reach from the foothold on the right to the one on the left was too far for her. Shorter climbers than Ella had managed to get across by swinging over, but they all paused to work out the solution. Ella just went for it instead. Sigh.

This is the second time Ella's climbed at summer nationals, and the amount of improvement she's made since last year is just amazing. I can't wait to see what next year holds. At the rate she's going, she may actually make finals. But the most important part is that she has fun doing it.

Her overall results were 16th out of 36 in technical and 13th out of 36 in speed. Not too shabby for a 9-year-old.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You say it's your birthday . . .

Well, it's my birthday, too, yeah.

Today's my 40th birthday. whee.

It's bothering me a little more than it should, but I'm dealing with it.

We had a big celebration while we were in Atlanta at my parents' house. My sister made me a cake and then turned the girls loose with tubes of icing to decorate it. They made sure to put 40 candles on it - I'm surprised the smoke alarms didn't go off.

My best friend since childhood left a surprise for me at the house - the lovely hat and medallion I'm sporting in the picture. The kids thought they were hysterical.

No big plans for the day. I've told B I just want cake, lots and lots of cake.

Mostly I'm going to spend today feeling fortunate for the gifts I wake up to every day - a wonderful husband; four happy, healthy kids; a circle of great friends; and a supportive, loving family. Those are more valuable than anything that comes from a store.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Home again, home again

We got home from Atlanta yesterday afternoon, and it was a very good trip. I have several posts stacked up, but first I have to download pictures from my camera.

The trip to Atlanta went as well as it possibly could considering that I was wrangling four kids, four carry-ons and a husband on crutches. The folks at the Austin Airport - from the Delta employee who had a wheelchair and assistant waiting for B, to the TSA agent who didn't freak out when Campbell ran back through the metal detector looking for his favorite hat, to the lady behind in line in security who helped me get all our stuff on the conveyor belt - were cheerful and friendly and beyond helpful. As an aside, if you're ever faced with a huge line at security in Austin (honestly, this was the longest line I've ever seen at ABIA), break your foot and ask for a wheelchair; you'll get whisked to the head of the line in no-time flat.

All four kids behaved beautifully on the flight, even Elizabeth. I was able to knit for a little bit, which was a good thing because I needed to finish a pair of yoga socks I was making for my best friend, whom I was going to see while we were in Atlanta.

Getting through the Atlanta airport was a bit hairier. Thank goodness Ella's coach was on our flight and hung back to help herd the kids through the teeming masses.

The trip home from Atlanta was tougher. The chaos started at drop-off. The hourly parking lot was closed, so my parents had to dump us at the curb-side drop-off, which was a zoo. We grabbed everything from the cars and waved good-bye as my parents sped away.

We were greeted at the baggage check-in by an exceedingly rude and impatient Delta agent. When I told her we needed to request a wheelchair, she waved off into the distance and told me that we could get one "Over there by the sign." When I wasn't able to see the sign because people were standing in front of it, her mood went downhill. She asked which tickets we were checking bags for, and I handed her the two boarding passes on top of the pile, which happened to belong to Elizabeth and Lily. And she told me I couldn't use them because she had to have a driver's license to go with the luggage. Which didn't make sense at all because I've checked luggage for the kids before. But I decided not to do anything to make her more impatient with me, and handed her my boarding pass and B's.

One of my suitcases was three pounds over weight. She told me that it would be $90 for the extra three pounds and asked if I wanted to pay that. When I said no, she told me we had to go wait in another line. I asked if I could rearrange stuff in my suitcase, she said I had to leave the area or TSA would come over to deal with me.

At this point, all four kids were pulling on me and asking questions, and I was ready to scream. We walked away, and I managed to shuffle us over to a corner where I rearranged things. Then we all shuffled back to the baggage check-in area and waited in line for a different agent. My big suitcase was still half a pound over the limit, but the nice man let it go through. I think he may have noticed that my eyes were spinning two different directions at that point.

We finally made it to the wheelchair pick-up area and were immediately assigned a very nice, very efficient young man who walked so fast that the kids and I couldn't keep up with him. We almost didn't get to go through the handicap lane at security because we were trailing so far back. The wheelchair guy lost us again as we walked through the concourse, but I wasn't as concerned with keeping up with him given that I knew where I was going. Plus, Campbell had decided that he needed to jump over every stripe on the floor and Elizabeth had decided she absolutely positively did not want to walk at all.

The flight home was miserable for me and everyone in earshot. B, Ella and Campbell were two rows ahead of us and had a grand time. But Lily and I suffered the wrath of Elizabeth, who had decided she'd had enough of all of this thankyouverymuch. With brief breaks now and again, she cried pretty much the entire time, and then came close to falling asleep just as the plane landed.

But we're home now, and I'm slowly putting life back to order and unpacking. Even though we left the house clean, relatively neat, not disgusting, the children have already reduced it to a sticky rubble. The kids are also getting used to not being spoiled constantly by their grandparents, who have made it their mission to grant their every wish - from going to the pool for hours each day to taking trips to Babyland General and the American Girl Doll store.

My parents are busy cleaning their house up after the destruction and mourning the departure of the kids. B said he imagine my mother picking up legos and weeping silently as she wandered the quiet house.

Next up, Ella's climbing comp.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

On Vacation

I'm blogging from Atlanta, where we've descended on my parents, all six of us. The house is a disaster, with dolls and legos and race cars scattered everywhere. We're here to both visit my parents and to watch Ella climb at Nationals. Today was the first day, and she had trouble with her first route in technical climbing. She climbs again in technical tomorrow, and if she climbs well and gets lucky, she'll move on to semis on Saturday. She fared better in speed climbing and will probably climb in semis tomorrow.

At any rate, I'm going to be out of touch for the next few days, with limited access to blogging and e-mail.

So, if you don't hear from me, that's why.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Fourth

We spent our Fourth of July at the lake place. And unlike our last trip, no one ended up in the emergency room at the end of the day. Having B on crutches for the day made things a little more challenging, but we managed. He was still able to man the grill and turn out enough hamburgers and hot dogs to feed a small army.

The kids swam and swam until they turned blue, warmed up in the sun, and then swam some more. The lake traffic died down enough at the end of the day that B put the boat in and pulled the kids behind the boat on the tube. We finished off the day with sparklers and bottle rockets and lots of noise.

Today I'm dealing with tired, cranky kids. But that just means everyone will be taking naps this afternoon, myself included.

And now some pictures, in no particular order.

Elizabeth fell asleep in my lap while we were sitting on the diving board watching B pull the kids in the inner tube. I managed to get her onto a blanket without waking her up. She slept for almost two hours in the shade.

Watching the bottle rockets go off. They aren't as spectacular when it's still light out.

The scurvy pirate crew in the boat.

Elizabeth loves being at the lake. I got her in the lake once, which she did not like. She spent the rest of the time splashing in the wading pool on the dock.

For the first time, Campbell got in the lake. He spent the day climbing up and down the ladder on the dock and splashing. I took him swimming once in the lake, which he wasn't so sure about. I think we'll have him swimming with me by the end of the summer.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

NYC Marathon Training - 18 weeks to go

Last week I wrote that I had my running mojo back, and I'm still feeling that way. I can now call myself a "runner" and not feel like a poser. Running at the gym really has reinforced that I am in decent running shape and that my problems really are all humidity related.

  • Tuesday - 4 miles, with Elizabeth. I tried out a new route, which I like. I'd also like the chance to run it without pushing Elizabeth.
  • Thursday - 5.25 miles, at the gym. It was so humid that the windows at the gym were completely fogged over. I was able to push hard on the last mile, which felt good.
  • Saturday - 5 miles, Windsor Loop. The Windsor Loop is one of my favorites - it's got a challenging number of hills in it. I had to walk a few times because I was wheezing, but I still finished strong. The humidity was terrible. I sweated so much that my shoes are still damp.
Even though I only ran three times, it was still a good running week for me. I'm starting to feel like just maybe I'll be able to pull of this crazy stunt.