Archive for July, 2009

Aaaaaargh!

Friday, July 31st, 2009

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“Aaaaaargh!” I heard someone moaning through my open office window yesterday. “Ohhhhhh…nooooo…Mommmmm!”

“What?!”

“Mom, a spider! I think it’s a black widow…” followed by the gate slamming as “the Thing,” that mighty tank of a little boy a.k.a Parker, ran out my garden into the front yard.

I’d asked the boys to clean out under and behind Roxy’s (one or our dog’s) “house,” pull out her bedding to be washed, and brush her prior to taking her to the groomer. (We couldn’t have her return to a messy, stinky home, could we?) This is routine pet care assigned to my resident, and very capable, super heroes, so I honestly did not expect to be called from my work to ward off arachnids.

“Par…ker…,” I couldn’t help “yelling” in response, “Who’s bigger? You or the spider?” No response. He was already too far away to hear.

Apparently, the dog hair that accumulated under and behind Roxy’s kennel had become home to a couple of spiders, which Tank didn’t notice until he was dumping the hair they’d swept and scooped into an old cat litter container. Hence, the moan and subsequent screaming. Though both boys swore that at least one of the eight-legged beasts was black, I couldn’t find it; in fact, I didn’t see ANY spiders at all.

In cases like these, I’m convinced my “Tank” is like Ferdinand in  The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf's story about the bull who preferred sniffing flowers to bull-fighting – a veritable “flower” himself, beneath that brawny exterior.

Warning: Daydreaming Can Be Hazardous to Training

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I’ve always considerd “training” to be a perfect time for daydreaming. Not anymore.

I really thought I’d mastered the whole clipless pedal system thing. Honestly, I couldn’t remember the last time I panicked as a I twisted my heel outward to release the cleat on the bottom of my riding shoe from bicycle pedal. In fact, I had become so accustomed to the traffic flows around campus that frequently found myself drifting off into my own thoughts between signals.

Yesterday, I was so completely lost in my own thoughts – about a climbing expedition I have in mind for my honors students – that I just pulled up between my son (on his bike) and the curb and stopped at a red light. For a second or two, I simply forgot to release my shoe and put my foot on the ground. By the time I realized what I’d forgotten, it was too late.

I literally just fell over. My right ankle turned inward so that the outside of my foot and ankle was crushed into the pavement under the full weight of my bike and me! The inside of my ankle slid into and along the front derailleur, tearing it up pretty badly. Although my “accident” was really painful, and it hurt to walk afterward, I thought it was “nothing.” My mistake.

My ankle is actually bruised and swollen on both sides and it was STILL painful today – so much so that I opted to walk instead of run today (in preparation for the Nike Marathon in San Francisco). I remain optimistic about tomorrow, but am seriously re-thinking daydreaming as a sure way out of the monotony of training in So. California during the summer’s peak temperatures.

Don’t go near the water!

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Remember when fear was enough to keep children ON the pool’s stairs and OUT of the deep end? No more. Thanks to “floaties” and cute, Speedo life vests designed for pooling, Olivia – a.k.a. the “Invisible Girl” – thinks she can swim…even when she’s not wearing her life vest.

Take Wednesday, for example.

I had finally, successfully lured all four of my children out of our community pool with the promise of take-out pizza for dinner when I saw one of their boogie boards bump up against the edge of the pool’s deep end. They must have been really hungry because when I asked the “big kids” to go retrieve the board, they started arguing about who most deserved to be bothered with the task.

Meanwhile, the Invisible Girl slipped away. I caught sight of her, squatting at the edge of the pool and teetering on her tippy toes, just as she leaned her life vestless little body out over the water and snagged the board’s cord. I didn’t have time to complete my command, “Step away from the pool and GET BACK HERE!” before she was speed walking (at least she noticed my glare and, I’m sure, was anticipating my usual, “WALK!”) back to our little poolside group.

Invisible explained that it was okay: “I just grabbed the cord and pulled the boogie board out; and, anyway I can swim!” I explained to Invisible – as calmly as I could – that although I was very thankful for her assistance, she is not to go near the water without my permission and her life vest, without which she cannot swim.

On our walk home, Invisible slipped her hand into mine, looked up and asked, “Mommy, so next time it’s okay if I put my life vest on and THEN go get the boogie board?” What could I say? I wonder if it’s even possible for her to “get” my need to SEE her, to KNOW where she is?

Solar Powered Bicycle Mister System

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

“Mom, I know what we need!” Quentin, a.k.a. “the Human Torch” exclaimed as we turned off what must the THE HOTTEST third of our ride home from campus, into a shaded neighborhood along a nearby arroyo. Note: it was AT LEAST 100 degrees out and I was nowhere near inclined to chat.

“Mom?!”

“Yes.”

“Bicycle misters! That’s what we need.”  On the verge of ecstasy whenever a froghopper (you know, those insects that secrete anal fluid like rain from trees) chanced to “poop” on me, believe me, he had my attention.

“Great idea,” I said, already seeing a small fan on my handle bars spraying a light, gentle mist over my face, chest, and upper arms. “It could be pedal-powered.”

“No Mom,” Torch responded, exasperated. “Then it wouldn’t work when we stop at lights…It would have to be solar powered.”

Right. The kid’s a genius. And not far off the mark.

There actually are mist cooled bike paths in Qatar: a 35-kilometer mist cooled, covered network of cycling paths.

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I am so ready for that :)

Introducing the Fantastic Four

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

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The Fantastic Four … Allisons, that is.

Forsaking nearly 14 years of parenting experience, and untold amounts of advice, which, in the West, emphasizes the individuation of children, my spouse and I recently elected to recognize our children as – first and foremost – a “team.”

To be honest, whenever one of them is away, the others appear to be at a loss. Saturday was a case in point. Reiley, a.k.a. “Stretch,” was training as a Girl Scout camp aide, and the place was SO QUIET. You never would have guessed the chaos that had ensued a day earlier, when “clean your rooms” turned into a duvet pageant (yes, they were WEARING their bedding), followed by a game of INDOOR hide and seek, including a dog (our 100-pound Malamute, Ayla), that ended with – yet another – a broken wine glass.

My spouse actually came up with the moniker: “The Fantastic Four.”

It works really well. Reiley, who at twelve years old is a full 5′6″ tall and all legs and arms makes a terrific “Stretch.” Easily adopting Mr. Fantastic’s ability to stretch his body into countless lengths and shapes, she’s always the one I ask for help in the kitchen, where it seems that every spice I need is on the top shelf! Her big brother Quentin is “Torch” – so named for his fascination with all things hot, shiny, and generally dangerous; he’s also the “Four’s” ringleader and chief prankster. Our younger son, Parker, is the “Thing” because he is unquestionably a tank. Eight years old and nearly 90 pounds of solid brawn (and love), the kid is a force to be reckoned with. Finally, Olivia, is the “Invisible Girl” because no, we can’t see her when she hides behind her finger while she’s pilfering snacks from the pantry or sneaking into our bed at night.

Though, to date, our Fantastic Four have been the source of familial angst and upset, along with a good dose of property destruction, we remain hopeful. If they could just use their powers for good, I’m sure they could accomplish amazing things.

My Three-Hour Nap…

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Half-way through summer school – consisting of two back-to-back classes, beginning at 8 AM every Monday through Thursday – and a full 24 hours after completing jury service (a tale in itself), I actually had a “short” day. And I spent the afternoon napping.

You’d think a busy woman like me would have too much on her plate to “afford” a nap, but you’re wrong. There’s just nothing like dozing off on a quiet afternoon (due to one sick child, who was asleep himself, and another napping beside me).

I think I hit my “wall” this morning. I’ve been functioning on six hours sleep, max, each night and getting, at best, 30 minutes “rest” during the day for nearly three weeks. I know, I know…LOTS of people function this way for years! I don’t know how. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have tried a cartwheel when Quentin told me he didn’t feel “well enough” to stay on campus for the day. “Yeah! an excuse to go home…and maybe go to sleep.” I just wanted to lie down.

It was just after noon when we picked Olivia up from school, so SHE hadn’t napped yet. “Yes!” I practically screamed. By 1:10 PM, we’d all had a snack; Quentin was medicated and napping on the couch downstairs; Reiley was practicing her Spanish; Parker was playing a racing game on the computer; and Olivia and I were snuggling and “kissing good night.”

I honestly thought I’d sleep an hour. And I swear I asked Reiley to wake us up. But it was nearly 4:30 PM when I woke up! On the upside, I knew it was still “today.” Olivia was convinced it was “tomorrow”; she wanted to know why I let her go to bed in her clothes, where her “daddy” was, and whether or not she had “summer program” at her school.

Is it Cross Training or Cross Dressing??

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

I have been meaning to start cross training as opposed to just running. I have been envious of Juliann for quite some time as she now commutes to campus via two wheels and three tag along kids. Wow, just amazing…bike and watch kids at the same time.

Anyway, I have already convinced myself that I need a new hybrid bicycle for all the commuting that will take place in the coming months. It just makes sense; by getting a new bike, I can save on gas, improve air quality, and do some cross training! I have been pondering this perfect idea for at least six weeks and I have taken my bike for a ride twice, including yesterday since this brilliant idea.  Yesterday was the day for my cross training to begin…or should I say cross dressing.

Since my brain functions best when thinking about clothes and figuring out what is the best outfit to wear in every activity, my mind started wondering… I was a stop light (a very long one) and I started to dissect my choice of outerwear. First of all, I was wearing a running skort with no padded butt, so not good for biking; I was wearing a champion tank that is great for any sport, a light blue snowboarding helmet, running shoes, and a camelbak designed for hiking (you know for the essentials)! And I was riding a mountain bike for my commute through urban Colorado Springs. I couldn’t help wondering if any of the people in the cars were thinking, What is she doing in such a hodgepodge outfit?  Just pick a sport and stick with it!”

I think I just proved to myself that I do need the hybrid bicycle with the matching helmet and a padded skort…we can’t have me biking around looking like I don’t know what I am doing, can we?

I’m off for my second day of commuting; we will see how the outfit fares today.

The Great American Holiday

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

On Friday, Maz and I both had the day off (doesn’t happen very often) so we decided to do all the running around that neither of us has had time to do.  We hit the bank, Costco, Target, Ranch Foods Direct, and Sunflower Market. We stocked up on all the toiletries, meat, fruits, and vegetables and now we are good for at least a week.

While shopping, Maz’s mind was completely fixated on “the American Holiday” that is, to most of us, the 4th of July.  He threw out my idea of Mexican food really quick! Nothing was to go into the cart at any of these stores unless it symbolized America. So in went the beef ribs, potato (for potato salad), the baked beans, apples for the homemade apple pie, and of course, how could we forget the alcohol beverage of HIS choice-  good ole American Budweiser?  (Even though Budweiser is now owned by the Belgians).

As we planned the menu for “the American Holiday” it occurred to me that l would be spending a good amount of time in the kitchen…Ugh!

Okay, the cooking went surprisingly well.  Went off with no real problems and I didn’t get too sick of the kitchen walls.  The beans were, like always, fantastic- my favorite; the potato salad was, you know, potato salad- it’s hard for me to get excited over  a side dish that always seems to be a bit bland; and the beef ribs were good- next time,  go with boneless- I never think ribs on the bone are worth the effort. Oh, I can’t forget the Apple Pie- fantastic as well, especially when accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream and doused with caramel sauce…what a way to end the da!.

Earlier in the day, We – Maz, Brian and myself- took all six doggies on a two and a half hour hike.  We hiked the hills of Palmer Park. It was great because we got an early enough start so that the weather wasn’t too hot and we didn’t start late enough for the rain to hit us. It was quite amusing seeing three adults with six dogs! It was seriously like a zoo but went as well as can be expected…we started with six and ended with six.

Next time ,we definitely need to bring a camera, there were some amazingly clear views of the whole city.  The dogs got a good workout and were down for the count when we returned home…

Okay, I was going to go into detail about the crappy weather that visited Colorado Springs on the 4th of July but I would like to remember everything WE had control over- the food and the great hike we all took!

Adventures in Bicycle Commuting

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I used to just get on my bike and ride – to school, to work, to the movies (bike dates in college were the best!). Not anymore. Bicycle commuting today is an adventure.

Three weeks into it, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Bike shorts save your ass! Completlely worth the hassle of changing once I get to campus. I’m the only one of us willing to wear technical clothing, and the only one who doesn’t routinely complain about a sore backside.
  • “Ponytail holder” is a must. The ONE day I forgot mine, I was miserable – hair in my face, hot neck, and the feeling of sweat trickling down my back the whole way home in 90+ degrees. Yuck!
  • Cleats do make riding more efficient, but you HAVE TO release your foot from the pedal BEFORE trying to put it on the ground. Failure to do so got me a skinned right knee.
  • It’s the followers, not the leaders, you have to worry about. I bring up the rear in our bike “train” and count on my younger children to follow their big brother. Unfortunately, they haven’t mastered “follow the leader” yet. They STOPPED right in front of me at a GREEN light. No, I couldn’t release my foot in time and…just fell over. (That’s where I got my “matching” skinned left knee.)
  • “Slower commute” buys time. Although it actually takes longer to get to campus by bike than by car, I have become PUNCTUAL. I never allowed enough time for traffic, but beating the 7:15 AM train has provided sufficient motivation to get us out the door by 6:30 AM.
  • It can be really difficult to out pace an angry “guard” dog. Poor Parker. I thought he was going to wet himself when a shepherd mix practically jumped onto his back when he rode up into HIS (the dog’s) driveway to avoid falling. He (again, that dog) ran beside us nearly a full city block!
  • A single water cage is not enough. I’ve learned why you might want cages on handle bars AND cup holders on trunk bags.
  • Don’t skimp on the sunscreen. If I miss a spot, it’s bright red in under half and hour. But you know it’s bad when an eight-year-old BOY voluntarily douses himself in Bullfrog Marathon before going out.
  • (Heat) exhaustion is an antidote for insomnia…er, late night television. 12+ miles biking in the heat here in Riverside, CA, and even I am out by 11 PM. The kids are asleep by 9 PM and I don’t know when I’m going to watch everything I’ve tivo’d.

Maybe it’s the heat, the hills (one BIG one each way!), the distance, or just adding kids to the mix…but commuting NOW seems so much more complicated than I remember. I can’t help agreeing with Parker when he tells – as we pass “our” $1.13 million home about a mile or so from campus – “If we lived here, we’d be home already” :) .