Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Game of Cat and Mouse

A few days ago, I sat in the dining room and noticed a rodent skitter across the floor and disappear under the oven. I alerted Ed in a not very calm manner, and he carefully peered beneath the oven. The rodent did not fear Ed, and charged out of the oven, across the floor, and into one of the many children's play spaces in our home.

I was horrified.

Ed put up a small barrier to the room and suggested we had it cornered. He was willing to go for the kill. But I didn't really want blood on the carpet, and I was so freaked out by the whole thing at this point that I just could not provide any assistance to what Ed was describing as a two-person job.

So we decided to set out traps instead. Every other time we have seen a mouse in our home, the damn thing finds its way into a trap that night.

Not so with this creature. So I called in reinforcements.

A friend of mine offered to bring her cat over. Here, it is important to mention, that I am also terrified of cats, and I was very much fearing an "I don't know why she swallowed the fly" sort of situation with mice, cats, dogs, and who knows what!

In the, I gratefully accepted the cat, and except for one moment during a conference call when she launched herself into my lap, all was well.

The cat sniffed all around, which gave me great hope.

At one point, she paused dramatically, training her sights on...


In the end, no mice were caught, but when Connor and his friend came home, they just about flipped at seeing the cat (since the cat belonged to the friend)! Helen was also thrilled to see the cat.

This mouse is the closest I have ever come to being willing to get a cat - even though I am terrified of them and Helen, Connor, and I are all allergic.

The very worst part about knowing this mouse is in the house is that when I get up to go running at 5:30, I feel there is a very real chance we will come face to face again, and I really do not want that to happen.


The mouse is very clever. Night one, it did not go into the trap. Night two, we set out a peanut butter snap trap, and the mouse ignored it. Night three, the mouse ate the peanut butter so tonight, we will actually set the trap. Please, let it get caught and NOT be making a ruckus when I get up to go running. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tahoe Wrap-Up

We took our annual ski break to Tahoe this year. One of Ed's brothers joined with his family, which meant there were COUSINS to ski with. That was fantastic. Amazingly, Helen kept up with the big kids which at first was causing me great stress as I saw her cruise down hills that I would've thought much too difficult for her, but after I got used to the sight it was pretty fun to watch! At one point, Helen followed others onto a black diamond trail through the trees, and thank goodness she realized she was in over her head and had the good sense to pop her skis off and slide about 10 feet on her bottom. She quickly turned almost-tears into laughter. When we got to a point we could exit the trees, I told Helen I'd ski with her on the main path and she was happy to follow. She told me she had always been curious about what a black diamond was and she was hoping she would get to try one. I'm not sure when she'll try another, but if she decides to, she could make it safely down just about any black diamond out our way. The mountains are just much smaller out here.

It has not been a good snow year at Tahoe, which meant that the mountains we visited were not fully open. It wasn't a big issue since they're so big, and plenty of trails were available. But we still hope we get luckier with fresh snow in the future! We seem to often miss the big snows when we head west. At one point, it was so warm Helen was skiing in a t-shirt!

We were also joined for the first half of our trip by a former au pair which was a huge highlight. She has skied with us twice before, gone skiing one day with friends, and she can totally keep up on the trails. It's pretty impressive, and made the day a lot of fun since everyone could ski together.

We spent a day in Reno, sorting a rental car debacle out and winning stuffed animals at Circus Circus casino. Before the kids had spent they're allotted spending money at the casino, I had to call a stop to it - we wouldn't have had room to take everything home. Plus, I have to deal when the stuffed animals at home, and we just got rid of about 100 of the things last year!!

Travel home at the end of vacation was not pretty due to a storm on the east coast. I am so grateful that Connor and Helen are very good at keeping their sh*t together when we travel. It made a difficult situation bearable, and we ultimately made it back to DC about 12 hours later than expected. It was some very tough travel, lots of negotiating, and the shortest hotel stay of their lives (in lieu of sleeping on a cot in the airport, which I just could not stomach).

Great to see Grandpa Dick on the slopes for another year!


Monday, March 2, 2015

Two Weeks Out

Marathon day is two weeks away. On March 14, I will lace on my lightest pair of shoes, don a tank top, running skirt, and my plushest socks - and I will run. If all goes well, Ed will run me in from mile 20. In all likelihood, I will not meet my goal of qualifying for Boston. But I still believe a sub-4 hour marathon is possible, and I am gunning for it. A lot of things have to go right for that to happen.

My marathon training cycle started 14 weeks ago. In those weeks, I have logged 356 miles. That includes two weeks of almost no running - the week I had the flu and last week when I was in Tahoe. I did sneak in two fantastic, hilly runs in Tahoe - including a 4.5 mile run up an 1100 foot stretch of mountain roadway. I will think about that run when I hit the two substantial hills on course. They are nothing compared to the hills in Tahoe.

I could never add up the hours of my life that have been given to this goal. I try and run very early in the morning to limit the impact my running has on the rest of the household, but some runs just cannot be squeezed in, particularly those that have lasted 3 or more hours!

I have learned so much about myself and about running during this training cycle. I may not be able to meet my original goal, but it is not because I didn't train hard.

Keep it together for two more weeks, legs. We can do this!


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pinewood Derby

Tonight was the Boy Scout's annual Pinewood Derby. Now that Connor is one of the older troop members, he's part of the crew that run the cars from the finish back to the start and also helps set up the cars for each round. He seemed to be having fun with his job.

It's amazing how much all of the boys (and siblings and parents that are present) get into the race. Each race takes about 4 seconds - and every time the boys would count down to the start, there was an air of excitement in the room. (I became a bit bored at some point and decided to put my knitting needles to work on a dress I hope to finish for Helen by Easter - but any time Connor's car was racing, he would come by and make sure I knew.)

Each year brings with it great hopefulness. This year, Ed and Connor studied a video made by a NASA scientist about the optimal Pinewood Derby car. It was pretty interesting, and guided their strategy on the shape of the car. Each year, Connor goes into the competition feeling a win coming on. But except for the first year, when his car won but we were absent so he didn't get to witness it), speed hasn't been his thing.

So he's worked on the design aspect of the card, which comes with an award. Last year, he won for a Lego / Star Wars car. This year, he opted for The Shark.

Each time it raced down the track, kids would cheer for the shark. Except for one run, he was bested by others. But at the end of the night, when cheers would decide the winner, The Shark came out on top.

Congrats, Connor. I know you and your dad spent a lot of time on the car. I'm glad to have contributed the dremel I used to use to grind rough spots from the bottoms of pots I had made. You seemed to enjoy using that tool quite a lot, and your work with it seemed to have paid off.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Still a Lunchbox Staple - YoBaby for My Elementary School Children

I despise packing school lunches, but Connor and Helen won't regularly eat the school lunch (and to be fair, I wouldn't eat very many of them as a child, and the vegetarian selections are quite limited). It's probably in their blood not to like them. Lucky for me, Ed has scored morning duties most days, so he packs most of the lunches. Helen has been amenable to bringing hot lunches from home (which is awesome, because she'll have leftovers from the night before), but Connor is a little less interested in this route (though getting better)!

Ed and I prefer to vary our diet, so it's hard for us to imagine eating the same thing for lunch all of the time, but I guess Connor doesn't mind it. We still switch him up a bit, but have basically settled on:

  • Jelly sandwiches, frozen shrimp (which thaw by lunchtime), and smoked salmon for mains.

We top the box off with yogurt (either YoKids Squeezers or YoBaby), cucumbers, and fruit. Helen has upped her game by adding granola to her YoBaby, which she has decided is a very decadent treat.

I cannot believe I still get away with sending YoBaby, but Connor and Helen both love the smooth texture of the yogurt and it's just the right amount to help them get filled up at lunch, can be eaten in its entirety, and isn't that messy!

Sadly, the very cold weather we're having has kept me from gifting this super cute hat and bib Stonyfield gifted to me to a friend of mine who just had a child. Photo forthcoming when we finally meet up!


Disclosure: Thank you for the baby items, Stonyfield! Can't wait to post a photo of my friend's baby sporting the hat and bib. Thanks also for the coupons! I was not required to write about Stonyfield; my children love your yogurt and eat it almost daily!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Science Fair

Last night, the elementary school hosted their second annual Science Fair. Students could participate alone or in groups - or not at all. Helen and Connor both decided to participate. Helen chose an individual project and Connor opted to work with a friend of his.

When Helen and I started preparing for the science fair several weeks ago, I asked her what she'd like to do. She said she would like to see what kind of tree grows the fastest. I told her maybe if she started now, she'd have quite a project by the time fifth grade rolled around. So she kept thinking. She likes nature, so wanted something to do with that. At some point, she remembered when we tried to make rock candy and totally failed - so she decided we should do that.

Her question - do different kinds of sugar form crystals, or just white sugar? I helped her test brown sugar, white sugar, powdered sugar, and maple syrup. For each, we added about 3 parts sugar to 1 part water. Helen recorded her observations daily, and was very excited when she started seeing crystals.

She was incredibly excited to share her display, and kept telling me how many comments she had received. She returned the comment love by writing "awesome" or "cool" on pretty much every science project she stopped to check out.

Connor and a friend folded paper airplanes to see which one flew the furthest. He was a little more low-key about the whole affair, probably because he'd spent his early release day bouncing from one set of friends to the next, and was tired by the time evening came around.

His project did present a nice opportunity to discuss measurement error and Ed was very close to discussing standard errors, but opted to hold that lesson for another day.

This whole thing was basically started by one motivated mom at Connor and Helen's school. She rocks! (And no, it is not me!!)


PS - a few students decided to do experiments involving mentos and soda, which of course reminded me of this day, and made me laugh again about the whole thing.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Club: The Matheny Manifesto: Spring Sports

The backpacks are once again filling up with information about spring sports. Helen plans to play softball for another season and Connor will go back to baseball, after taking last fall off to play soccer. I'll take my usual place among the other parents on the bench, and I'll probably hit about 2/3 of each child's games. If I'm lucky, I'll get to mess around with my camera at their games, which has become a little hobby of mine.

And that hobby is a good thing, because it keeps me quieter than I would otherwise be. I love sitting at a Big League game cheering on a team, and it seems only natural to do the same when my children are playing. But I'm becoming convinced it's not a good idea. What feel like supportive words of encouragement may be being received as pressure, which isn't what I want my children to remember. After all, my fondest memory of my softball career is the Country Time lemonade that my mom would bring, because I didn't drink soda and she wanted me to be able to have a drink when all the other kids were popping their Shastas open. That was good living, I assure you!

Mike Matheny, former Cardinals manager, spells out his theories on kids and baseball in his book "The Matheny Manifesto". He details his time coaching his sons in Little League, and insisting that all the parents butt out. There were some other messages in the book, too, which reminded me of how lucky my children have had it with sports. Both of their coaches encourage the kids to try new things, teach them to treat the other teams with dignity, and in Connor's case - let all the boys who want to try pitching give it a go - rather than just letting the few really hot pitchers have the ball. Connor hasn't wanted to pitch, but I think it's nice to be on a team where he could pitch, if he wanted. The coach sets the tone, and on our teams, it would just be unacceptable for a parent to yell at an ump or get too upset, but it is still absolutely allowed to cheer wildly for all of the boys. I'm going to do my best to keep it down, even when I'm not behind my lens.

I'll never be a Cardinals fan - my Royal Blue Blood just can't do it, but I agree with Matheny that sports ought to be fun for kids, and whatever can be done to reduce the pressure kids feel seems like a good thing to me.

Now - let's play ball!


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book "The Matheny Manifesto" as a member of the online book club From Left To Write.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Valentine's Cookie Warm-Up with Walkers Shortbread

Helen opted to take cake decorating as an after-school activity this semester. I'm very eager to see the results of this effort. I'm hoping I can hand over all household cake decorating duties to her at some point. She certainly seems eager for the task!

On Wednesday, after one of her sessions, she came home with a partial bag of icing. Not one to let something go to waste, I hooked her and Connor up with a bag of Walkers Shortbread, which are delicious butter cookies.

Connor and Helen worked their magic, and turned the little round cookies into these babies, many of which I quickly gobbled down!

This was just a test batch. We're planning on decorating more for the neighbors this weekend. We haven't brought cookies around lately, and Valentine's Day marks the perfect excuse for an impromptu visit. And since time is tight, using cookies that have been baked for me seems like a good strategy.

Happy Valentine's Day, All! And thank you, Walkers, for the yummy cookies. They were delicious even before Helen and Connor got to them with the extra icing.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thank you, other mom

There is a mom in Helen's class that volunteers to help children with their handwriting and reading once a week. She's a consistent presence in the class, and I know Helen loves her. Helen is one of those children who - at least at the start of the year - needed a fair amount of extra attention.

When the mom works with Helen, she never tells me about how Helen's letters are getting more legible or any other academic comment. What she says to me is this - and she's said it on a number of occasions - "I just love Helen. She is always so nice to every other child in the class. She is just a joy."

And every time she says it, I almost cry, because I am so stinkin' proud of that kid.

Thank you, other mom, you have brought me more joy this year than you will ever know.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Daddy - Daughter Dance

The Girls Scouts host an annual Daddy-Daughter dance. There is an afternoon dance, attended by mostly younger scouts and an early evening dance attended by the older girls. Helen was thrilled to get tickets to a ball - and as expected, Ed was a fantastic sport.

First, of course, Helen needed to select just the right dress. At first she was planning on wearing her Elsa Halloween costume, but at the last minute, she decided to go with my pink dress, that my mother made me when I was a little older than Helen. That pink dress has seen a lot of twirling, and I'm sure it got at least a little bit of a workout at the dance.She did add a silver crown for good measure. Anything less would've been a little mundane for Helen.

Ed was willing to wear the tuxedo he got married in, but after selecting a pink dress, Helen thought his blue suit looked better. She selected a colorful tie to go with the suit - and they were off!

The dance was held a few blocks from our home, the parking can be difficult, and the weather was not great - so I volunteered to be the lovely couple's driver. It was an absolute hoot, with Ed opting to sit in the back seat while I pretended to have never met either of them before.

Ed reported that Helen was a bit shy when she got there, but she had a great time. Afterwards, Ed took Helen across the street to the mall to purchase her two Taylor Swift CDs, which Helen is quickly falling love with.

Most dapper couple at the ball, I assure you!