Friday, March 30, 2012

A first time for everything

In the 5 1/2 years I’ve had this blog, I’ve gotten a few pitches to do product reviews. Right now I seem to be getting a lot from strangers wanting to guest post on things like “Five ways to get your kids to eat broccoli.” Anyway. I’ve never done a review post before because a. the product has nothing to do with me or my life or my blog and if the PR person had read for five minutes he or she would have known it, or b. the conditions associated with the review were just ridiculous.

Two weeks ago I got an e-mail from a company called Fresh Produce with an offer I couldn’t resist.


All I had to do was pick out one item from their catalog and write a review. Easy peasy.

I picked the Cruiser Skort in melon. I went with the it because I love my running skirts and thought it would be nice to have a version that I could wear in public without looking like I was on my way to the gym.

clip_image001 They wanted me to post a picture of me wearing the skirt, but the model has much nicer legs than I do.

The skirt arrived on Wednesday evening, and I’ve been wearing it ever since. This is definitely not the kind of skort my grandmother used to wear (shudder). The skirt portion is just the right length and the shorts underneath are really comfortable. It’ll be the perfect thing to wear all summer as I’m taking kids to and from the pool and climbing and camp and whatever. I can be a little bit dressed up without having to worry about showing everyone in the parking lot more than they wanted to see while I wrestle kids and dogs and gear in and out of the car.

My only complaint is the pockets. I hate carrying a purse, and so I always have stuff crammed in my pockets – phone, keys, debit card, special pebbles, bits of fluff, random treasures. I once bought an adorable, ridiculously expensive party dress because it had pockets. True story.

This skirt has two pockets in the front, but they are positioned in a way that I can’t easily stuff things in them. My friends (and sister) who care about fashion will probably say that not being able to cram all my belongings into my skirt is a GOOD thing, but I disagree. I need pockets.

Despite the pockets, I really do love this skirt. I may just order another one, or two, and some cute shirts to go with it.

Thanks Fresh Produce – you were fun to work with.

Monday, March 26, 2012

That house is never going to sell

The neighborhood where me moved, especially our little area of it, is brand new. Of the 10 houses on our street, only 5 are occupied. There are also six empty lots. Neighbors are few and far between.  Someone has bought the house to our right, but they haven’t moved in yet. Once they do, I’m going to have to buy window treatments for that side of the house, at the very least.

In the past I’ve joked about the sellers’ agents paying me a commission to keep my kids inside and quiet while they are having showings, and after yesterday, they really may want to.

Something to know about our family – we’re noisy when we’re outside. My four kids bicker and play and laugh and cry all at full volume. I never really noticed how loud we are until we moved here. Our old neighborhood was filled with kids and the bustle of in-town life. Out here, all you hear are crickets, and on Sunday afternoon, even the crickets are quiet.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day. Austin was in full show-off mode – clear blue skies, light breeze, non sweltering temperatures. We all wanted to spend as much time outside enjoying the weather as we could, because we know that in a month or two, we’re not going to be able to go out without melting.

So I let the kids help me give FeeBee a bath (for a water dog, she sure doesn’t like baths). This turned into Campbell spraying his big sisters with the hose. They ran for the house and came back out a few minutes later in bathing suits. And it was ON. All four kids were in the driveway spraying each other and laughing and screaming. Then the big girls got on top of the Suburban and started throwing wet rags down on the little two, which lead to lots more screaming and laughing.

I was sitting the shade, reading and making sure things didn’t descend into absolute chaos. And then two cars pulled up across the street. A Realtor and two clients, who looked to be retirement age and who had a purse dog with them, emerged, looked at the mayhem in my driveway and disappeared into the first house.

I thought about pulling the kids inside, but I decided not to. If those folks are going to buy one of the houses, they need to know what they’re in for – and it’s not a quiet retirement village.

They left about 20 minutes later, casting horrified glances over their shoulders at us.

We’re never going to have new neighbors.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I’ve lost that loving feeling

I had a revelation this morning: I don’t love running anymore.

It’s become a chore and something I dread doing. But on the days when I don’t run I beat myself up about not just getting my ass in gear. So I’m going to give myself permission not to run for a while, to find something else to do.

I started falling out of love last year after the marathon and when the great depression hit. I had gotten back into decent shape last December, but then we moved and the holidays and blah blah blah. I’m worn out mentally from having to start over every few weeks.

I’m also tired of running by myself. I haven’t found anyone to run with out here, and I can only make it in to town to run with the group on Saturday, and that’s on a good week. When I do make it in to run, I can’t keep up with the group. So I drive 25 minutes to say quick hellos to people and then watch them leave me in the dust as a totter along, feeling slower than slow.

I’ve been running since I was 21. I started after I had knee surgery that allowed me to stand up without wincing in pain. When I was coaching swimming and spending 8 hours a day on the pool deck, I wanted to do anything BUT swim for exercise. So I ran. A lot. Probably too much. Enough to have multiple stress fractures in my leg. But that’s a story for another time.

In 1998, 1999, and 2000, I took running really seriously, going to track and hill workouts and training with a group. I finished the Austin Marathon in 1998 and 1999 and did all the training for the 2000 race before winding up pregnant.

I’ve run with the same core group of women since 1999. I used to watch them run past on the trail and wish I could hang with them. Then one Saturday, as I was blowing along chatting, I realized I had become one of the running chicks I used to envy. That was a good day.

Unfortunately, this is exactly when I need running the most. We’ve got some big stuff we’re dealing with with Ella, which has raised my already high level of anxiety. Running should help me clear my head and get focused, but it doesn’t.

So I’m giving myself permission to take an official break instead of beating myself up over not getting out the door. I’m keeping moving, though. If I don’t take FeeBee for at least a two-mile walk by 8:00 am, she follows me around heaving big heavy doggy sighs. She’s exactly the coach I need right now.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slumber Party

I was lying awake at about 1:00 this morning suffering from a combination of migraine and insomnia, when there was a tap on my door. It swung open to reveal my two oldest daughters and the dog.

The girls were freaked out because B had let them watch an Abbott and Costello vampire movie, and they were convinced every sound outside was caused by a vampire trying to get in the house.

After some wild negotiations, I gave in and allowed them to set up a pallet on the floor in my room. It was a sight that did my heart good.


FeeBee slept most of the night curled up with them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Well, he told me


Me: Campbell, what did you do with all the clean clothes I handed you yesterday?

C: I threw them in my closet and closed the door.

Me: Campbell, you’re supposed to put your clothes away neatly so they’re organized.

C: Mom, I’m just a boy. Boys don’t organize their clothes.

Me: That’s not true. Daddy’s a boy, and he keeps his clothes very organized.

C: Mom, I’m just a FIVE year old boy. We don’t organize things.

Friday, March 09, 2012

I’m proud of myself

Last night I did something way, way outside of my comfort zone. I auditioned for the Austin Listen to Your Mother show. I wanted to do it last year, but I was so in the depths of depression that I just couldn’t. This year, however, I stopped talking about submitting an entry and actually did it.

I was thrilled when I was invited to read my entry in a real audition. But then terror quickly set in. Standing up in front of people and reading my own work terrifies me.

In the week leading up to the audition, the mean little voices in my head had a great time, telling me that I was foolish for thinking that anyone would want to hear anything I had to say, asking who I thought I was to even think I deserved to be on the stage with the other women in the show. I hate those mean little voices.

By the time I left for the audition yesterday, I was a wreck. It wouldn’t have taken much to tip me over the edge into full-on meltdown. I kept thinking up excuses to not go. But I went, despite horrible traffic and miserable weather.

And I did it. Voice and hands shaking, I stood in front of Wendi and Liz and read my piece. 

Even if I don’t make it into the final cast, and I very, very much want to be in the cast, I’ll be happy. I stood up and did something that truly scared me. That in and of itself is something to be proud of.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

We did have some fun

Contrary to what my last post may have said, Ella and I did have some fun in Colorado Springs. Chronic insomnia, a cold, a cranky child and scary hotels tend to make me a little punchy.

We arrived in Colorado Springs early enough on Thursday to have brunch at this great little family owned restaurant in the downtown area. I hadn’t eaten before we left the house at 4:15 am, and that was the best damn bacon, egg and cheese omelete I have ever had.

After brunch, we checked into Hotel Hell and then quickly escaped. We drove up the Pikes Peak Highway, which was closed at mile 13 because of the weather. It snowed! I forgot just how magical falling snow can be. Ella was beyond thrilled by the snow. She kept saying, “I can’t believe it’s snowing. It’s so amazing.”  It snowed again Thursday night and through part of the day on Friday, and I loved every minute of it.

The best day, though, was Monday. After Ella finished up some school work, we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Garden of the Gods. The weather was absolutely spectacular, and we had a lovely hike and then lunch on the terrace of the Visitors’ Center.


Pikes Peak in the distance


The “Kissing Camels.” In all honesty, this is the only rock formation where I could actually see the relationship between the name and the rocks.


Ella wished she had brought her climbing shoes. She’s now ready to learn to lead climb and have me belay so we can go back and she can do real climbing.


Balancing Rock made me nervous.


I don’t know why, but I really love this picture Ella took of me at Balancing Rock.

After lunch, we drove into Manitou to check out the Cog Railway. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of a trip and we didn’t have time to wait for it to come back. I also fell in love with Manitou. If we ever have to go back to Colorado Springs, I think we’ll stay in Manitou and commute. Colorado Springs just seemed so seedy. Manitou was really pretty with lots of cool shops and an historic district.

Since we couldn’t take the Cog Railway and we hadn’t made it to the summit of Pikes Peak earlier, I decided we’d give it another try. When we got to the entrance, the ranger said that road was closed at Mile 17 but that the drive was still worth it. And boy was it ever.

Once we got up above the tree line, the views were breathtaking. And it turned out that the road was open all the way to the summit.


Unfortunately, it was also 28 degrees with howling winds, so we didn’t last long. It turns out that the Cog Railway wasn’t running to the top, so if we had taken it instead of driving, we wouldn’t have made it to the summit.

After we got off the mountain, we had to head back into Denver to catch our flight home. I must say, it was nice to walk out of the airport in Austin and smell the Mountain Laurel trees in bloom. I love Austin in the spring.

One last thing. There’s an “amusement park” right at the turn off to Pikes Peak Highway called North Pole Santa’s Workshop. It was still closed for the season (I guess it’s where Santa spends his summers), so we could only see the parking lot. But this guy was enough to make me not want to go in.


He’s like the Santa you threaten kids with – “Be good or else this guy will come to our house!”

Monday, March 05, 2012

Can I go home now?

Ella and I are still in Colorado Springs. Our flight out of Denver isn’t until 8 tonight. But I am just so ready for this trip to be over. It hasn’t been a good one.

First there was Hotel Hell, which just everything started on the wrong foot. Even though our new hotel is perfectly clean and nice, I still keep expecting something awful and gross to pop out of a drawer someplace.

We came here for Ella to climb at Nationals. I knew it was going to be a tough competition for her. She just moved to a new age group, and the big girls in her division all look like 16 year olds, not 13 year olds. Plus, due to a lot of stuff going on at home, Ella hasn’t been climbing nearly enough.

I volunteered at the comp on Friday morning while waiting for Ella to climb. It gave me something to do other than sit there and worry. The actual volunteering I did was great – I got to talk to all of the climbers as they came out –but the goings on around the whole volunteer group? That’s a story for another day.

Ella climbed well. She flashed her two first routes and then didn’t finish her second two. But she stayed calm and collected and kept trying. I was proud of how she climbed and how she handled herself.

She ended up 28th in her group, so she was finished climbing for the weekend. Her one consolation was that her best climbing buddy, who lives in Houston and who also just aged up, didn’t make it to semifinals either. The coaches and I all reassured them that next winter, they’ll be the big girls in the group at nationals.

On Saturday, Ella and I both volunteered at the comp, after waiting around a cold gym for two hours because the volunteer coordinator told me to be there way too early – a story for another post, again. Ella got her dream volunteer job – escorting climbers from the isolation gym over to the staging area at the venue. I don’t know why she wanted this job so badly, but she was thrilled to do it and had a great time.

After our shift ended, we wanted to escape the dust and noise, so we went out for a drive. I decided to go up to the Broadmoor, because I’d heard it was old and lovely and elegant. What it was was enormous, cold and not very interesting. We took a walk around the “lake” on the property and then headed back to the car. Ella was not impressed by any of it – except for the amount of goose poop on the path.

We went back to the gym to meet up with other climbing team members and watch the big kids compete, which was a lot of fun. But then things went south. I told Ella that she couldn’t go back over to the climbing gym because we needed to get back to the hotel for her to work on a massive school project.

She proceeded to lose her mind. And that’s all I’m going to say on that.

So we spent all day Sunday in the hotel room (thank dog we switched hotels) while she worked on her project. To her credit, she worked hard and stayed in good spirits. But it was a loooonnngggg day. I walked over to the burger joint next door at one point and picked up lunch. But before that I stood in the parking lot between the hotel and the Carl’s Jr and had a long talk on the phone with B. I got lots of odd looks from people driving by, and a few obscene gestures. I told him I looked like a daytime hooker and needed to get off the phone.

Today Ella is finishing up some little bits on her project, and then we’re going to check out of the hotel and see if we can cram in a little bit of exploring. Mostly, though, I just want to beg the airlines to put us on an earlier flight. I want to go home.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Tale of Two Hotels

Ella and I left the house at 4:15 this morning for a 6:00 flight to Denver. From there we headed down to Colorado Springs for US Climbing Nationals.

I had booked pretty much the whole trip using points we’d racked up on our credit card while renovating the old house, so I was feeling pretty smug. Until I saw the hotel I’d booked us into.

When faced with the options available, I thought I chose wisely – something in the middle price range that had free breakfast, a nationally known chain that might rhyme with ShmoJos.

I got completely turned around and lost coming into Colorado Springs, and as a result I drove past the hotel before I could turn in. As we went past, I thought “Please don’t let that be our hotel. Please.” I looped back around so I could make the turn through the alley that lead to the parking lot and realized the hotel was even grimmer than I’d first thought.

The hotel office had a window with a slidey drawer type thing and a speaker box, I guess for after-hour check-ins. The area where the “free breakfast” was served looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a while, and the only coffee was instant. But I soldiered on, and checked in, begging for a non-smoking room.

As we lugged our suitcases upstairs, we found the employee smoking area – two torn and disgusting sofas wedged under the stairs, surrounded by cigarette butts. When I opened the door to the room, the smell of stale cigarette smoke, air fresher and mold almost knocked me backward.

It just got worse from there. I told Ella she was absolutely, positively not allowed to be barefoot in the room, and I stripped the bedspreads off, holding them by the very edges. The sheets didn’t look much better.

Thanks to raging insomnia, I have been awake since yesterday morning (so if this post makes no sense, that’s why), and I desperately wanted to lie down for a bit. I set Ella to reading, and I climbed into bed fully dressed. Instead of sleeping I listened to the ice maker that was located just on the other side of the wall from my head and a couple having a loud disagreement over who lost the keys.

We lasted for about an hour and then fled the room. After a lovely drive up to Pikes Peak, we headed back, filled with dread. I ran in to grab my computer, and realized I just couldn’t spend four days with that smell. I had already started wheezing, and I knew a migraine wasn’t far behind.

Since the hotel had no Wifi, Ella and I hung out at a Shmarbucks and watched it snow and searched for different hotels online. I finally settled on one that was reasonably priced and had good reviews.

We went back to the hotel, grabbed our suitcases, which we hadn’t even opened, and loaded up the car. I went into the lobby to check out, and when the clerk asked why, I told her I couldn’t stand the smell of the room. She offered me a different room, and all I could do was shake my head and mutter something along the lines of “Worst.hotel.ever.”

To confirm that I’d made the right decision, as we drove out, we saw a man peeing against the side wall of the hotel.

When we checked into the new hotel, I mentioned to the clerk that it was our second attempt at finding a place to stay. I told him where we had been, and his immediate response was “Good god, no! That place is the worst in town.”

Now we’re at a nice little La Quinta that isn’t new or fancy by any stretch, but it has brand new paint and carpet and the sheets don’t look like they carry contagious diseases. And we have Wifi.

I think we’ll stay here.