Monday, July 25, 2011

Difference of Opinion

Elizabeth thinks you should feed your Little People dinner.


Campbell thinks you should cook your Little People as dinner.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Living out of suitcases

So, we’re still here in Atlanta at my parents’ house, which is still standing, miracle of miracles. We were supposed to go home on Tuesday, but our plans changed.


Let me see if I can even begin to explain.

The night before the kids and I left, B casually mentioned that he’d scheduled contractors to work on the house while we were gone. I didn’t give it much thought because he’s been talking about contractors for weeks. When he dropped us off at the airport, B asked if it was possible for me and the kids to stay at my parents’ house longer than the two weeks we’d already scheduled.

Little did I know what I was in for.

That afternoon, as we were driving from the airport to my parents’ house, B sent a picture of the house. And oh my gosh. B has asked that I not go into specifics on the work done, so I’ll just say that it was a good thing the kids and I were out of the way.

B also surprised me with the news that he had hired people to pack the entire contents of our house – something I was really looking forward to doing so that I could purge the kids’ belongings. Now I’ll just have to do it on the other end of the process. In the meantime, all our belongings are stacked in boxes in the house, waiting to be moved out.

All of this means that we won’t be living in our house again. Once the work is done, B doesn’t want the kids in the house to mess things up, and he doesn’t want to have to worry about getting everything cleaned up on short notice when someone (fingers crossed) wants to see the house.

The kids and I aren’t so sure about all of this, especially Ella, who has been in tears more than once. She wants to sleep in her bedroom and climb her favorite tree again.

When we leave Atlanta on Wednesday, we’ll be heading out to B’s dad’s house to stay for a few days. Then we’ll be moving back into town to stay in our neighbors’ house for two weeks while they’re out of town – they were kind enough to offer their house, which is a huge help.

But after that, I just don’t know. We may go back to B’s dad’s house; we may rent a house. It all depends on how quickly our house sells and how fast we can buy a new one. Until we move, though, we’ll be wearing the clothes we brought with us to Atlanta – everything else is packed.

B’s been sending me listings for potential houses, and I’ve been going through leaving notes about each house. After spending the better part of two hours looking at houses, I can say that some people have very odd ideas on home decoration. Yee gods. The good news is that I’ve found more than one house in our price range that I like.

So I’m hunkered down here in Atlanta for a few more days, trying to keep the kids under control. Given that I handle change about as well as a tired two-year-old, this whole process has been extremely stressful for me. When Ella starts crying that she wants to go home and sleep in her own bed, it’s hard for me not to join right in, because that’s all I want to do, too.

If you don’t hear from me for the next few weeks, it’s because I’m packing and unpacking suitcases and wandering from house to house, children in tow. Keep your fingers crossed that we all survive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Well Played

The kids and I are still camped out at my parents’ house in Atlanta, which, remarkably, is still standing, even if there are a frightening number of crushed goldfish crackers under the breakfast table.

Somehow, the other day, the topic of getting my big girls’ ears pierced came up, and I told Knittergran and my sister how Lily had tried to talk me into letting her get her ears done when she turned eight. Lily’s argument that “all the girls” in her class got their ears pierced didn’t sway me.

Last night, we all went out to dinner so that my sister, Keeffer in the comments, could have real barbecue, not the stuff they serve in Los Angeles. Because there are too many of us to fit in one car, we took two, and the big girls rode with Knittergran and Aunt Sarah to and from the restaurant. After dinner Knittergran and Aunt Sarah decided to head to the nearby mall for some shopping, and they took the big girls with them.

They got back about an hour after Runnerdude, Campbell, Elizabeth and I did, and when they arrived, we were all upstairs watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. Lily came into the room, looking slightly abashed. She sidled up to me with one ear exposed. And I saw this:

earring An earring! In my daughter’s ear!

I gasped out loud and put my hands over my mouth, while Lily stood there, looking terrified. I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe that my mother and sister would go against my wishes and get my 8-year-old daughter’s ears pierced without asking me first.

They all let me twist for a few minutes, trying to figure out how I was going to explain this to B and what I could possibly say to my mom and sister, before everyone started laughing. The earrings are held on with magnets, and Knittergran and Aunt Sarah bought Lily a whole pack of them.

I was so relieved that Lily didn’t actually have pierced ears. And Lily was so proud of herself for pulling off such a great prank – it was all she talked about for the rest of the evening. And, honestly, she did a frighteningly good job of looking like she was truly scared of what my reaction would be.

Once I recovered, I sent a picture of Lily with her earrings to B with a note that said, “I had nothing to do with this.” But Ella ruined the joke by telling him right away that they were magnets.

I hate to ask what the next prank will be.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Girly, Twirly Fun

We are still in Atlanta – our trip has been extended by a week, which is a story for another day.

The kids are having a grand time being spoiled by their grandparents. My dad takes the kids to the pool every day, and they have all made huge strides in their swimming abilities. My sister took the big girls to see Harry Potter 7.2, which they all loved.

Grampa also took Campbell to a train store and a train museum, where they got to ride a real train.

While they were doing that, my sister and I took the girls to the American Girl Doll store – twice.

The first time was so that Ginny (Lily’s doll) and Hermione (Ella’s doll) could get their hairs did. Ginny’s hair was a dog-awful mess, with rats nests and dreadlocks thanks to Lily’s enthusiastic hair styling. The hair dresser had her work cut out for her.


While the nice hair dresser was able to work magic on Ginny’s hair, she wasn’t as successful with the ink all over Ginny’s face and legs (thanks to Elizabeth).

After the hair appointments, we went upstairs to ride the carousel. It was Elizabeth’s first time, and she’s now a fan.


Lily and Ginny had a lovely time, too.


After the ride, we all had lunch while the girls’ dolls watched. Elizabeth’s new baby, named Baby Doll, joined her big sisters and babysitters.


On Sunday, the big girls, Aunt Sarah and I headed BACK to the American Girl store for dessert at the Bistro. If you’ve never been, it’s quite a production. They have special booster seats for the dolls, who get their own cups and saucers. If a girl arrives without her own doll, the Bistro kindly provides a loaner.

Fortunately, Ginny and Hermione were able to join the fun.


Lily and Ella each had an ice cream sundae as big as their head, and neither of them was able to finish it. They both made a valiant effort, though.


It’s been a treat to spend some time with my big girls while Campbell’s been occupied with Grampa. As much as I love that little guy, the boy energy level can be tough to handle. There’s no way he would have sat through lunch at a girly store.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A dream come true

Back in the fall of 2005, Lily and I became obsessed with watching the National Zoo’s Pandacam. The zoo had a squeeably cute baby panda named Tai Shan, and Lily and I spent hours watching his antics online.

In the spring of 2006, we visited my parents in Atlanta, and one of our excursions was a trip to Zoo Atlanta, which has a pair of pandas. Lily got to sit just on the other side of the glass from a panda, and she could have cared less. She was far more interested in reading her map.


Ella, on the other hand, was fascinated. After seeing the pandas, Knittergran got suckered into buying the girls stuffed pandas, and Lily’s collection was begun. Our house is now filled with stuffed pandas of all shapes and sizes along with books on pandas and a DVD all about Tai Shan’s first year at the National Zoo.

Last summer, we went to Zoo Atlanta again, and Lily was far more interested in the pandas. If she could have taken one home with her, she would have.


This fall, a baby panda was born at Zoo Atlanta, and we began watching him online through the Zoo’s Pandacam. Lily wanted to hug him and squeeze him and call him George.

On Monday, the kids and I went to Zoo Atlanta, and Lily got to see a real live baby Panda. I think she can die happy now.


Baby Panda Po was at his cutest, hanging upside-down, falling off logs, ignoring his mother. I think we all could have spent hours watching him, except Campbell was hungry and whiny.

If you’re ever in Atlanta, I highly recommend a trip to the Zoo. Seeing Po is worth the price of admission alone.


Monday, July 11, 2011

I’ll admit it, I cried

One reason we’re in Atlanta, other than reducing my parents’ house to a pile of rubble, is for Ella to compete at US Climbing Youth Nationals, which were held this past weekend.

Ella qualified for Nationals at the competition in Boulder last month, and she joined the best brightest young climbers in the country in Atlanta. She qualified for both Sport and Speed events. In Sport climbing, scores are based on how high you climb. The goal is to finish a route without falling, which is called flashing. Speed climbing is exactly what it sounds like – see who can get to the top the fastest.

The event started on Thursday, and all 31 girls in Ella’s division climbed – 21 of them, including Ella, flashed the route, so there was a huge tie. All 31 climbed again on Friday, and Ella didn’t climb as well as she had the day before. She rushed a move and fell much lower than she should have. Fortunately, she squeaked into semi-finals as part of a four-way tie for 16th place.

Ella started Saturday by climbing in the Sport semi-finals, and she did well enough that she made it to finals. She also climbed in the Speed finals Saturday night. She had had her heart set on placing in the top four and earning an invitation to join the US Climbing Team. Unfortunately, she had two bad climbs, mostly because the girl climbing next to her fell both times, ruining her concentration. Ella ended up in 7th place, meaning she is the 7th fastest 10 and under climber in the country, which I thought was quite cool. She didn’t. She viewed it as losing and was in a snit the whole way home. She perked up after being bribed with some ice cream and brownies, though.

I was very nervous about finals on Sunday, worried that her bad mood Saturday night would affect her climbing. I should have known better than to worry. When I woke her up to go to the gym, Ella announced that she had decided she was going to flash the route. I told her I’d love to see her do it. But, privately, I had my doubts. This was finals at Nationals – you don’t just flash routes at finals.

One of the many things I love about the climbing world is watching the climbers interacting with each other. When they brought Ella’s group out for route preview, the 10 girls worked together to draw a map of the route and its holds. Then they chattered away, discussing strategies for different parts of the climb.

All the climbers are kept in isolation before their climbs, so they don’t get extra time to study the route. And when they are brought out, one at a time, they have to sit in a chair facing away from the wall. I was fortunate to grab a seat right in front of Ella, so I could smile at, but not talk to, her.


I almost wished that I hadn’t sat so close. She looked so small and so nervous while she was waiting. I was sure that Ella was going to barf right there and then. But once the belayer got her started on tying in, Ella put on her game face.

And she climbed better than I have ever seen her climb. I had my hands over my mouth, willing her up the wall the entire time. She didn’t flash, but she came damn close, climbing higher on the wall than anyone else had at that point, by a long way.

When she was finished climbing, Ella came over to me for a congratulatory hug. I told her that no matter how she placed, she should be proud of how well she climbed. Ella didn’t say much – she just gave me her small, quiet, very happy smile. Then she bopped off to sit with the other girls in her division to watch the rest of the climbers.

And it was so stressful. Ella climbed third in her group, so we had to sit through seven more climbers. And as each climber fell off the wall far lower than Ella had, Betsy and I ticked off Ella’s possible place on our fingers. In the end, two girls touched exactly the same hold as Ella did, putting them in a three-way tie for first place. To break the tie, they added girls’ scores from their previous climbs.


Ella placed THIRD at Nationals. Holy cow! I got all teary-eye seeing her up on the podium with the other girls, giving them fist bumps and smiling for pictures.

But then there was even more exciting news – Ella received an invitation to be on the US Climbing National Team. Right now, it means that she gets a cool team jacket and automatically qualifies for Nationals next summer. But if she keeps placing on the team, once she’s 13, she’ll get to go to the World Cup, which is held all over the world. This year it’s in Austria. Three big kids from our team are headed to Worlds, the lucky ducks.


They brought out all the National Team members for pictures, and that’s when I really started crying from pride and joy and everything else. There’s my daughter, my baby girl, right there on the front row.


Friday, July 08, 2011

Nope, not tired at all

We are safely installed at my parents house, which the kids are doing their level best to reduce to a pile of sticky rubble. The whole trip went very well – from getting through security to navigating the Atlanta airport on the other end. The kids traveled like the seasoned pros they actually are.

We’ve been busy, busy, busy since we got here. Yesterday’s adventures included not one, but two trips to the pool. By dinner time, Campbell was an absolute mess. I finally carried him to my room, dropped him in the bed and closed the door. He protested the whole time that he was not tired at all.

Five minutes later, he was silence, and I found him like this.


Nope. He wasn’t tired at all. He didn’t even wake up when I carried him to his bed.

This morning he’s back to his usual cheerful, enthusiastic little self.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

And away we go

In two hours, I’ll be loading everyone into the car, including a tired husband, and heading down to the San Antonio airport for our trip to Atlanta. With any luck, the kids and I will be seated near each other.

I’d like to say I’ve been calm and collected during the past few days as I’ve gotten us ready to go, but that would be a lie. Part of it is that I always get panicky before a trip; part of it is that my new anti-anxiety medication is NOT working. I never realized how much my old medication kept my anxiety levels manageable until I stopped taking it.

Unfortunately, the kids have picked up on and have been feeding on my stress. The Bicker Twins were going full tilt yesterday. I ended up sending them to separate rooms to read for an hour yesterday morning just so that I didn’t have to hear them pick at each other. Campbell’s been extra clingy, and Elizabeth has been a monster. I have spent much of the past two days saying “Campbell, stop crying!” and “Elizabeth, stop doing that!”

Yesterday was so bad that it really is nothing shy of a miracle that I didn’t cook and eat one of my kids.

It’s not like I’m not ready. The suitcases are 98 percent packed. The kids’ carry-ons are set to go. I’ve got plans to entertain the littles on the plane. But I’m still really amped up because so much of today’s success depends on things that are entirely out of control – the airlines, my kids’ moods, traffic.

Right now everyone in the house is sound asleep, and I’m enjoying the silence by reading the paper and drinking coffee. I know I need to get the kids up and moving, but I’m not quite ready for the commotion yet.

Keep your fingers crossed that I arrive in Atlanta with my sanity intact and all four children still with me.

Catch you on the flip side.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

We have another day of 100+ degree weather, so I figured I’d cool things off with some pictures from my trip to Colorado last month. I’d be willing to sell a child to be back there right now.

Ella and I got to Boulder on Thursday, which meant we had two full days to play before her climbing competition on Saturday. It rained pretty much all of the first day, so we contented ourselves with brunch at Lucile’s and some meandering on the Pearl Street Mall before checking into what is quite possibly the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. If you ever go to Boulder, do NOT stay at the Rodeway near campus.


This was our lovely bedroom. The canopies were covered in dust. The carpet was icky – I didn’t let Ella walk barefoot in the room. It’s like the place is deliberately not doing any updating. The lobby looked like a bordello, and the “Cabaret” was apparently built OVER the old indoor pool.

Friday was gorgeous, so we escaped the hotel and headed up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The Trail Ridge road had just opened two days before, and there was still a lot of snow at the top.


There were chipmunks hiding in the rocks. Ella was desperate to feed one, despite the signs that said doing so was against the rules.


I kept making Ella get out of the car to look at scenery, which she declared was boring.


But then we got up to the snow, and she was much happier. In the picture on the left, that’s not a snowbank left by plows, that’s how much snow was actually on the ground. In the picture on the right, the snow field was huge and several feet deep. You could see holes where people had broken through the ice.


The back end of a marmot. He was too busy rooting around in the rocks to let me get a good picture of him.


Some other tourists had built the snow man up on the top, but Ella decided she needed to do some repairs – at least until her fingers got too cold. Being above the tree line at more than 12,000 feet was pretty amazing.


Back down to a mere 8,000 feet above sea level. Ella thinks that she may want to work at Rocky Mountain National Park when she gets older, especially when she saw that the staff lives in cabins in the park itself. Given that she wants to go to college in Boulder, I can see her possibly spending summers working at RMNP.

Next up, pictures of our trip over to Rifle on the western side of the mountains.