Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blogger’s Block

I’m suffering a bit of blogger’s block these days. Everything I start to write turns out whiny and cranky and mean. So I’m going to opt to not write anything until I can mange to be a little more upbeat, or at the very least, not so cranky.

See you soon. I hope.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Marking his territory



I guess we all know who lives here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

14 Years Ago



Goodness, we were such babies.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The only child

On Wednesday, B loaded the big three into the car and headed out for a camping trip, leaving me and Elizabeth at home to fend for ourselves. And this was absolutely fine with me.

First, Elizabeth is still a bit young for camping. Chasing her around a state park for four days, trying to keep her out of the fire, other campers’ tents and the river wouldn’t be fun for anyone, least of all me. Additionally, these days it’s hard to keep her in crib at bedtime, crib tent notwithstanding, so I can’t even imagine how tough it would be to get her to sleep in a real tent.

Second, I don’t like to camp. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There are lots of parts of camping that I do like – sitting by the fire, eating food cooked outside, roasting marshmallows, drinking campfire coffee – but I do not like sleeping on the ground in a tent. I think the fact that I’ve been chronically sleep deprived for the last 10 1/2 years may have something to do with it. Planning to sleep badly for three nights just isn’t appealing.

For one camping trip when Ella was small, I borrowed a friend’s sleeping bag, which turned out to be one of those dreadful mummy-style deals. I spent the night fighting with the damn thing every time I tried to roll over or even scratch my nose. The last time I went camping, we managed to set up our tent on a very slight, unnoticeable hill. During the night, Ella, Lily and I gradually slid to the far end of the tent, ending up in a big pile. I kept scootching back into place, but I left Ella and Lily alone. They never even noticed.

So Elizabeth and I are happily hanging out at home, sleeping in our own beds and using indoor plumbing.

It turns out that being home with one kid is easy peasy. It’s a breeze to drag her along on errands when I don’t have to worry about getting everything done in time to pick up other kids from school or deliver them to activities. So if Elizabeth wants to take her time, poking along on the sidewalk, jumping over every crack, I can let her. I also let her walk next to the shopping cart in the store instead of wrestling her into the seat so that I can sprint down the aisles to get shopping done as quickly as possible.

It also turns out that being home with one kid is kind of, um, boring.

I realized last night that I’ve never been home full time with just one kid. When Ella was little, I still worked full time. I’d go in to the office from 7:00 – 12:00, leaving her at home with B. When I got home, we’d have lunch together before B headed off to the pool – he was still coaching diving at that time. I’d get more work done while Ella napped, and then we’d have the rest of the afternoon to play.

I didn’t switch to being home full time until Lily was born. In fact, my last day of work was on a Friday, and Lily was born the following Monday. I dove right into the chaos of being a SAHM of two.

This week Elizabeth and I have had lots of hours to fill, even with running lots of errands. Without all of her siblings here, Elizabeth expects me to entertain her nonstop. And there are only so many times I can sing “Baby Bumble Bee” before I start getting a little punchy. And if I keep letting Elizabeth “do” my hair, I’m going to be bald by the time everyone gets home tomorrow night.

The high point of our day is walking around the block to feed our friends’ cat – the friends are on the camping trip, too. Every time we run out of things to do, or I get tired of having my hair yanked out by the roots, I suggest a walk to see Midge. That cat is going to be well fed and well loved by the time her owners get home.

I miss the constant chaos and mayhem that comes with having a house full of kids. As much as I love Elizabeth, I’m looking forward to having the rest of my monkeys home. I can’t wait to hear all the stories about their adventures and mishaps.

Of course, after 48 hours, I’ll probably be longing for the quiet that I’ve had this week.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What comes around goes around

At some point during my childhood, my dad got a book called The Lazlo Letters by Lazlo Toth, whose real name was Don Novello, better known as Father Guido Sarduci on “Saturday Night Live.” The premise of the book was that if you send letters out, you get letters back. The whole book was filled with letters Novello sent out to various companies and people and their subsequent replies. It’s a wonderfully silly little book.

I’ve kind of been living that with my knitting lately – I send knitting out, and I get yarn back.

As a result of my meditative knitting, I’ve had a lot of things to send out into the world. In the past month I’ve given one of my best friends a knitted kerchief, my childhood best friend a scarf, Becky of Princess Mikkimoto a scarf (she’s getting married this weekend!), and Becca in Alaska a warm wooly hat.

In return I’ve received some lovely random wooly goodness from friends. First, a box addressed to “Heather O’Keeffe Gardner’s Home for Wayward Yarn” arrived from Meanlouise. The box was filled with lots of Malabrigo worsted weight yarns. One skein turned into the kerchief I gave to my friend. A partial skein is being turned into a hat. The final skein is now residing comfortably in my stash until I figure out what to do with it.

One night my mom called from her knitting night and asked if I wanted some more Malabrigo Rasta, which is unbelievably soft and lovely and unbelievably hard to find, and, of course, I said yes. A few days later, it arrived. It’s on my projects table, waiting to be turned into a cowl for a Christmas present next year.

Yesterday another surprise box of yarn arrived from a high school friend who is a knitter and whose daughter works in a yarn store AND spins her own yarn. The box contained a skein of her daughter’s hand spun lace weight yarn and a skein of sock yarn. My friend said the sock yarn reminded her of our school colors – blue and gold – and when she saw the name of the colourway – Rock Climber – she knew she had to send it to me. I’m going to have to learn to knit lace so that I can do the handspun justice, and I’m going to knit my little climber socks out of the other yarn. But I won’t let her climb in them – climbing shoes are death to socks.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to knit and send my projects out into the world. Because, apparently, if you send yarn out, you get yarn back.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Q R Yes

No reason for posting this other than it makes me giggle every time I watch it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Brunch with Conan

OK, not really, but I did see him in the lobby of the Four Seasons as I was on my way to the PBSKids brunch.

Last year, I was invited to brunch with the PBSKids crew, and it was less than impressive. So when I received an invite to this year’s event, I wavered on whether to accept. Finally, the thought of spending a few hours with grown-ups at the Four Seasons, which is lovely, won out.

Yesterday morning I put on my best skinny jeans and cool top and headed downtown. I left the house early and spent a while just noodling around, people watching. South by Southwest (SXSW or South by, for short) is a HUGE event here each March. It draws tens of thousands during its two-week run, everyone from celebrities – Jake Gyllenhal, PeeWee Herman, Rene Zellweger, and my new BFF Conan, just to name a few – to bands, filmmakers and tech insiders. I have no real desire to fight the crowds and attend SXSW proper, so getting invited to an event like this brunch is great. I can experience a little bit of the fun without having to shell out for a wristband or have anxiety attacks.

This year’s brunch was world’s better than last year. A lot more people were in attendance, and the PBSKids crew gave an excellent presentation on their programs and how their online stuff ties in. The presenters talked about the research they do on how kids learn at different ages and whether the games online appeal to kids AND teach them at the same time. The data they’ve gathered are pretty impressive. They also gave us previews of upcoming web-only programs that look totally awesome. One, called “CHUCK VANDERCHUCK’S something something EXPLOSION” looks like it’s going to be a great show. All in all, I feel a lot better about letting my kids watch PBSKids shows and play on their site, and I’ll be downloading some of their game aps for the kids.

Wendi, Bejewell and I sat at a table with Linda Simenski, who is the VP of programming for PBSKids, and I totally geeked out while talking to her. She used to work at Cartoon Network and NickToons and was responsible for some of my favorite shows – namely “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “The Rugrats.” She also knows Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, who worked on “Rocko’s” and who created my current favorite kids’ show, “Phineas and Ferb.” In her time at PBSKids, she has shepherded great shows like “Dinosaur Train,” “Word Girl,” and “The Wild Kratts.” When I told her that the first time Ella saw “Dinosaur Train” she said, “Dinosaurs and trains – I’m surprised no one thought of that before,” Linda laughed. She said that was the exact pitch the creator of the show used at PBS.

In addition to the time spent talking to the PBSKids folks, I did some great networking. I’m very proud of how I did at the event. Normally, walking into a room full of strangers is enough to cause a panic attack, but I just made up my mind to act like a big, important blogger, not the 30 hits a day blogger than I really am. When I arrived, I saw down in the first empty seat I found and immediately introduced myself to everyone sitting there and handed them all my card. In fact, I handed just about everyone I talked to my card. When I told B about it, he was so proud he almost cried.

As a result of my bravery, I met some cool Austin bloggers like Gigi of KludgyMom, Catherine of LiveMom, Cristina of The Ramblings of a Closet Writer, and Carol from GrowingUpAustin. I know I’m leaving out some women, but I didn’t get their cards, and my memory for names is shaky on a good day.

All in all, it was an excellent event, and I look forward to next year’s. Plus, they gave out what are quite possibly the best swag bags EVER.


The kids are trying to claim Cookie, but he’s mine ALL MINE.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Signs of Spring

March really is the best time of year in Austin. The mornings start out cool enough for a jacket, but by the afternoon it’s warm enough for shorts and bare feet. I feel obligated to spend as much time as possible outside while I can before the miserable heat of summer sets in – usually around mid-May.

The plants and trees seem to agree that this is the best time, too.


The Red Bud trees are covered in purple blossoms.


The Bradford Pear trees are in full bloom.


Bulbs have finally poked their heads out of the ground.


And my Christmas cactus is covered in flowers.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cakely Wisdom

Yesterday was a not very good day for me. I was feeling pretty dark blue thanks to two straight weeks of sick kids, several days of migraines, and lack of exercise. Plus B and I are having all sorts of serious grown-up talks about finances and house shopping and moving, which ratcheted up my anxiety level even higher than usual.

By the time bedtime rolled around, I was huddled under a blanket on the sofa, feeling sorry for myself.

Ella sat down next to me and asked what was wrong. When I told her it had been a bad day, she said, “I think you need cake. Because then it would be a bad day with cake, which is much better than a bad day without cake.”

I laughed and told her she was exactly right but that we didn’t have any cake. That’s when she offered to ride her bike up to the neighborhood store to buy some cake for me. I had to veto her plan because I’m not ready for her to ride that far solo yet, and because it was dark out.

But today, I think I’m buying a cake.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Climbing Report

Yesterday I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about Ella’s climbing. I guess I’ve been distracted by broken teeth, dental surgery, Campbell’s exploits, and our odd use of Lily’s doll.

B took both of the big girls to Boulder a few weeks ago for Ella to climb at Nationals. She climbed like a rock star the first day, placing 9th and qualifying for semi-finals. The second day didn’t go as well, and she ended up 15th overall in her division. Regardless of how she placed, we’re proud of her climbing and thrilled as can be that she has found a sport she loved so much.

Because Ella didn’t go through to finals, B and the girls had all day Sunday to play. He found a nearby ski resort that had a tubing run set up, and they set off for a grand adventure.


Ella and Lily spent hours sliding down the hill. They figured out that they would go faster if they linked their tubes together, which was a good incentive to get along with each other.


The place had a big fire at the bottom of the hill, which is where B spent most of the time. The girls would slide until they got cold, sit by the fire until they warmed up, and then head off for more sliding. B mostly froze.


B said they passed out asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows.

We’ve now moved on to sport climbing season, which means Ella is climbing in a harness on belay. This weekend was the first comp of the season, so Ella and I headed to Grapevine, just outside of Dallas, Friday night.

The comp was a good one – about 150 kids from Oklahoma and Texas competed. Ella flashed her four routes, which means she finished each route without falling. One other girl did the same, so they ended up in a climb-off. In the words of one of the team parents, Ella “boofed” her climb. She got her hands tangled on a hold and fell off about halfway up. The other girl climbed higher, so she placed first and Ella got second. The comp also had a speed climbing event, and Ella placed second, behind the same girl. Best of all, Ella and the other girl hit it off and spent the rest of the day playing with each other, talking a mile a minute the whole time.

When Ella first started climbing, she never talked to anyone – not her teammates, not her coaches, not her competitors. Now, she runs off as soon as we arrive, looking for her climbing buddies from other teams. And she willingly talks to her coaches about her climbs and what she needs to do. It makes me so happy to see how she has blossomed in the past year. Even if she never placed at another event, climbing will have been worth it for the self confidence Ella has gained from it.

I forgot to take my camera to the comp, but I did manage to get one video of a climb. It was her first of the day, and the easiest of the bunch. But it still gives you a good idea of what she's doing.

Her next comp will be in Houston at the end of the month.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Vague Threats

For Christmas, Ella got a little greenhouse thing to sprout seeds in. It’s been on the ledge next to the big window in our bathroom ever since, with little plants growing inside. Ella and her siblings are endlessly fascinated with the whole process, which means they all pop the lid off the greenhouse to look at the sprouts.

This week Ella decided that she’d had enough with everyone messing with her plants. I found this note propped up on the greenhouse.


In case you can’t read it, the sign says (sic all):

for their saftey, and yours! Do not open, it squishes the leaves, 3 of my plants have died because of you. They have enough water.

When I asked what “for their saftey and yours” meant, she just giggled. But now I’m afraid to check on the plants. I don’t want to find out what she might do to me if I mess with the greenhouse.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Doll in the Wheelchair

Last fall, when Christmas catalogs started arriving, Lily got one from the American Girl Doll company. Featured in it was a wheelchair for the dolls. Given that she already had the set with crutches and a cast for her doll, Lily squealed at the thought of having a wheelchair for Ginny. (This whole thing started the now-famous Anne of Green Gables literary smackdown between me and my sister.)

My sister gave Lily the wheelchair for Christmas, and she was beyond thrilled.


When Liz from Peace, Love & Guacamole showed this picture to her husband, his comment was that at the rate Lily is going, Ginny’s dog would have a seeing-eye dog harness strapped on her soon.

Little did I know that having Ginny in a wheelchair would come in handy.

On Monday I took Elizabeth to the doctor because she was coughing and wheezing. The doc diagnosed her with RSV and prescribed nebulizer treatments. The first few treatments went just fine because Elizabeth felt too miserable to protest. But now that she’s feeling better, it’s getting harder and harder to get her to sit still.

That’s when B came up with a brilliant idea. He had Lily go get Ginny in her wheelchair, and I held the mask in front of the doll’s face for a few seconds before putting it in front of Elizabeth’s. It worked like a charm.

Now we start each treatment session by giving Ginny some breathing medicine. If Lily is home, she even makes breathing sounds for the doll. Elizabeth loves it.

Whatever works.