Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm Getting Too Old for This

So our big night out is only a few hours away. My mother-in-law has arrived and is already having quality time with Eleanor. Keith and I are going to a Vietnamese Restaurant downtown that we've never been to before. And then it's off to the House of Blues!

At this moment, I think I am equal parts excited and nervous. I'm just getting too old for this! In 2006, I complained about being too old for 2 concerts in 2 days in 2 cities ... but that was a few years and one child ago! Now I think I will be just as worn out by dinner and one concert, local.

But anyway, enough complaining about having a social life. I will stop by the drugstore and buy my earplugs before the concert, as I have been doing for a few years now. But, on the other hand, I will also be out at a concert in the middle of the week and loving every minute of it once I'm there, I'm sure. Last time we saw them at the HOB, we were front and center. Since it's a random weeknight concert, and I've never heard of the opening band (Steel train?), maybe we will get lucky again.

So I am getting more excited than nervous about the concert. But even so, don't expect a blog post first thing tomorrow morning! Because I can guarantee that won't be happening. Unless I stayed up the whole night because I'm just that young and exciting?!?

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Sad End to a 3-Day Weekend

I hate Sunday evenings, when a long week of work and tasks stretches before me. You would think that it would be better after a long weekend, when we've had all of Monday to play and procrastinate. But why does it seem worse?

We had a great weekend. It was a good mix of work and play. We got some work done in the garden, I finally cleaned out the study and filed our 4-month backlog of bills etc., and I even have 5 draft pages of a new short story that I'm working on. On the fun side, we also went to the Farmer's Market at Shaker Square with Stephen and Emily on Saturday, hiking on Sunday, and had Stacey and Kevin and their dog Guiness over for a cook-out this afternoon.

It was a fabulous three-day weekend. Eleanor had such a good time, she finished her final bottle tonight in short order and passed out immediately after—no reading or singing or rocking required. But will it be enough to get me through the next few days of drudgery at the office and slaving away over the stove and washer at home?

Except ... I just remembered ... the Gomez concert is tomorrow night! My mother-in-law is coming up tomorrow afternoon to watch Eleanor so we can go out to dinner and party late, pretending like we won't still have to get up at 6 o'clock on Wednesday morning like responsible parents and adults. And then Karen, Eleanor, and I will hopefully go to the zoo on Wednesday, possibly meeting up with my sister Erin and son Gavin there .... the fun continues!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Sleep

Last night, for the first time since last Fall, we slept with our windows open in the bedroom. And it was heaven.

Even though it has been more than warm enough to warrant open windows before, it was an impossibility because our window contractor had not yet put in the screens.

A week or so ago, I had written a very long-winded and accusatory blog rant about how the contractor was completely out-of-line and unresponsive, that we'd hired him in July 2008 and the job still wasn't finished .... I named names and got into many of the sordid details of our dealings with the company.

But that was then, and this is now, and we have our screens. It's true, it did get to the point where we actually filed in Small Claims Court to get from him the money we would need to hire someone else to do the job, because we didn't ever think it was going to get done.

But it is done. And strangely enough, he acted just as friendly today as he did at the beginning. At least, that's what my husband told me; when everything went sour and I left him 50 voicemails in February that he never answered or acknowledged in any way, Keith agreed that, IF the contractor ever came back out to the house again, I wouldn't have to see him.

So this morning, I packed up myself and Eleanor and we vacated the premises for the day while Keith worked from home and awaited the contractor's arrival.

Overall, I felt like the whole experience with this contractor was a terrible one. We could never get a hold of him, when they did deign to show up, the skeleton crew came late and left early. Nothing got done anywhere close to on-time.

And yet ... the windows are great quality. We've had many, many compliments (from friends AND from other contractors) on how well they're made. The price was very fair, and he stuck to it even when installation proved more difficult than expected. And the company owner was always very friendly; holding the baby, patiently letting Beckett in and out 50 times a day while they were here, even chasing down Gomez when she escaped ..... he always joked about stealing Beckett away with him. And today, when they were finally FINALLY done with everything, one more time he asked Beckett if he wanted to go for a ride with him and go live in the country.

I just don't get it. Does he think that this is a normal way to operate? Is this standard procedure for him, to just forget about clients for months and then get around to finishing up the final details? And then he expects them to not be frustrated or angry that they've been anxiously awaiting this completion of work on their HOME for ages? Does he think it should all just be water under the bridge, and we are going to call him again the next time we need new windows? (And we will, because we could only afford to do half the house at one time. I shudder at the thought!)

For so long, I have been feeling so angry and abused. But now I'm just so very glad it's all over. I don't want to ever hire anyone else to do ANYTHING at our house. And I want to enjoy sleeping with the windows open all summer long.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If Working Outdoors

.... I must make a mental note to remember that I'm rather fair-skinned. After a mere half-hour in the sun at lunch during our department retreat yesterday, my arms and chest were red as a lobster. You'd think I would know better by now ....

I should never set foot outside without being slathered in sunblock!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Change of Scenery

I want to work outside. For work today, our whole department went for an all-day retreat/planning session at the university-owned farm, less than a 20-minute drive from my house.

Even driving out to the farm, I felt myself decompressing as the landscape became more green and pastoral. Instead of tensing up, heading into a stressful day of work, I felt my shoulders relaxing as I enjoyed the view and lack of traffic.

Parking at the farm and walking to the building, I listened to birds singing and wind blowing in the trees.I squinted against bright sunshine to watch squirrels and chipmunks running through the gardens. I smelled clean, fresh air. I felt the wind in my hair and grass and gravel under my feet. It was amazing.

All day long, I kept thinking: What would it be like to work out here all the time? Or at least, all of the part-time that I'm currently working. There's a cross-country path through the fields and the woods, and a shower in the bathroom. I could go for a run at lunch. While working, I could take my computer or notepad out and sit in the grass for a change of pace. When I needed a break, I could take a brisk walk and try to identify a few different birds by sight or sound.

I need to think about this some more. I'm tired of being stressed out at work all the time. I barely leave my desk and the tiny office lit by soul-sucking fluorescent lights. I have a tiny window that is more like one of those arrow slits in castles, just wide enough to stick out a bow and shoot. If I want to get outside right now, there's a picnic table on the concrete by the loading dock. It overlooks a busy street that is full of noise and traffic.

Work is such a tricky thing. The work itself is only one small part of it. The people you work with and the atmosphere is so important, too. I like my job, and I like the people, but ... wow. I would really like to see a bit more nature throughout the day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Best Little Camper

It rained. And it was ridiculously cold. But other than the weather, camping was great!

Eleanor was a fabulous little camper. When we first arrived at the site and got out of the car, I don't think she stopped "talking" to herself for the first 10 minutes, at least. She kept squawking and squeaking as she held onto my fingers and toddled up and down the driveway. By the end of the weekend, I think she'd gone up and down the drive at least 50 times. Sometimes with me or Keith, or often with my parents. It's a good thing she had various escorts, because one person would not have been up to that much toddling over the same 20 feet over and over again.

My Mom helpfully told me to forget any idea of a schedule, so we didn't even try to put Eleanor down for her normal bedtime, 8 o'clock, when it was still fully light outside. We just took turns holding her and eating our hot dogs and brats as we sat around the campfire. Finally, she fell asleep in my arms and I laid her down on the sleeping bags in the tent.

Going to bed late, however, did not necessarily translate into sleeping late. The next morning, she still woke up early (maybe about 6ish? I'm not good at telling time from the angle of the sun's rays). Her eyes flew open and she sat up, taking in her surroundings. You could just see her thinking, "Where am I and what is going on?!?" But she soon saw that her father and I, plus the dog, were all there with her, so she decided to go with the flow and started exploring the tent.

Saturday, she wore the camping outfit from Grandma and Grandpa Lubbers. It's an adorable little pink cargo pants and a cream-colored onesie that has a raccoon on the front and says "Little Explorer." It was very appropriate for Eleanor! She was into everything, and loving every minute of it.

Of course, once the weather turned cold on Saturday evening, she stayed bundled up, but the rest of us were freezing. Instead of hanging out around the fire for long, we called it an early night because our toes may have been toasty warm, but anything not directly experiencing the heat of the flames was frostbitten.

There was actually a frost warning out for Sunday morning, and it was really, really cold. We were fine during the night with the family bundled up in the sleeping bags, but it was really hard to get out of bed in the morning and put on cold clothes. We hurriedly ate, threw everything into the cars, and said our good-byes. I couldn't wait to get home and warm up. Also, I had been missing all the usual comforts. A bathroom that wasn't a short walk away .... a faucet with hot water for washing baby bottles, and with cold water to easily refill Beckett's water dish. And, of course, our bed.

I breathed a sigh of relief once we were in the car, warmed by the morning sunshine, and on our way. We weren't even out of the park, however, when the feelings of relief were tinged with sadness. Eleanor's first camping trip was over! I felt a little guilty for wishing the end of it away .... but did I mention the cold? And the rain?

So I was sad that the experience was over, but at least it was a good one and we are all looking forward to our next camping trip with her. I just hope the weather cooperates next time! And that she might consider napping once or twice throughout the weekend. I must admit, though, that the 3-hour nap she took on Sunday, back in her crib, was a great way to end the trip!

Monday, May 18, 2009

She Vants to Suck Your Blood ... from a bottle

Our little vampire! She started drooling when she was 4 months old. We thought she was going to get teeth really early, but instead it was 2 whole months of copious drool until she got her first bottom tooth at the end of February.

It took another month before the second tooth arrived at the end of March. Then I assumed the third tooth would arrive at the end of April. But no .... finally, about a week into May, we saw two teeth appear on the top, at the same time!

Funnily enough, it wasn't the two middle teeth, as you'd expect. But the next two teeth out. That, as they have grown, they have started to look more and more like fangs. She looks cute and innocent ... until the fangs appear!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Not Very Fortunate

I got lunch from Tea House Noodles the other day (be forewarned that their graphics have sound effects, so you might not want to click the link at work if others sit close by). I really wanted the pad thai noodles with peanut sauce, but decided to try something healthier and get the noodles with miso broth and tofu. Big disappointment; it just wasn't very flavorful at all. So I know this means I'll order out from them again, sooner than I normally would, so I can satisfy my pad thai cravings.

But anyway, a fortune cookie comes with the meal. After setting aside the remainder of my bland noodles, I was looking forward to the tasty cookie, as well as the fortune. The crunch and sweetness didn't disappoint, but the fortune was ... not a fortune. At all. It said:
"A movie would be a great way to relax this weekend."
What?!? How is that a fortune? Plus, we're already going camping this weekend. You know nothing of my weekend plans, Fortune Cookie! Much less what I find relaxing. Maybe I would rather relax with a good book, or by cooking, or by running a marathon. (ha!) Or maybe I'm blind.

Maybe you should stop making assumptions about my lifestyle, and just tell me what is going to happen in the future! I don't care if it comes true or not; if it were very specific and it did come true, I would actually find that quite creepy. But no more of this banal advice. Give me a real fortune next time! And by next time, I mean Monday afternoon when I pick up some peanut pad thai for lunch .....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Technical Term is "Hardscape"

As I mentioned recently, Beckett has been in charge of the landscaping in the backyard, which has resulted in a lot of mud and poop. Not so much with the grass and flowers. So I have been trying recently to rectify it.

The good thing, and the bad thing, is that it's very slow work. Our yard is such a disaster. We made some progress the first two summers we were here. We tore out overgrown bushes, planted some flowers ... Keith and my dad even built a deck! But last summer was the time of contractors, and Eleanor's arrival. And between the two, our yard has been covered in trash and weeds ever since.

A few weeks ago, I FINALLY got around to picking up most of the trash that the contractors left behind. Now I'm onto picking up refuse that we ourselves have left behind. What I mean by that is, when we put in the deck, city code required us to put a layer of gravel underneath, to keep down weeds. Which is all fine and good .... but we neglected to use anything to keep the gravel actually under the deck. Fast forward nearly 2 years later, and there is a slowly expanding ring of gravel being ground into the area around the deck.

What I thought was a Sunday afternoon project, which quickly turned into this week's project, and is well on it's way to becoming the summer-long project, is getting all of that gravel up and out of the way, and the gravel that is still under the deck contained. This feels like a case of one step forward, two steps back. The deck is wonderful ... but why didn't we just take care of the gravel the first time around?!?

I'd like to think that this is a learning experience, but I doubt it will be. Two years from now, I'll be bemoaning something else that I did this summer and never really got around to tidying up. At least one nice thing about yard work is that you never really expect it to end, anyway. So the fact that there's always something else isn't really that perturbing. At least, that's what I'm going with for now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gearing Up for Camping

This coming weekend, we will be taking Eleanor on her first camping trip.

I think that she'll love it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her reaction to the whole experience. I am a bit nervous about bedtime, though. I guess she'll just sleep between Keith and I, in our sleeping bags in the tent? But does that mean we go to bed with her, at 8 o'clock in the evening? Or do we leave her in there by herself? What are the chances that I can slowly back out through the tent flap, and not wake her up with the loud sound of the zipper closing?

Plus, there's all the other sounds of a busy campground at night. Cars coming around the road, with headlights shining into the tent .... I guess we will just have to try our hardest to wear her out during the day, so she zonks at night?

It's going to be interesting!

Monday, May 11, 2009

5k Fiasco

I feel the need to clarify from the beginning: For once, I am not the fiasco to which the title refers. Rather, the organization of the 5k Run Wild for a Cure event this past weekend was a mess.

Based on my 10k, I decided that a finish time between 32 and 34 minutes would be okay, and a time under 32 minutes would be fantastic. On the way to the race in the morning, I visualized myself at the start: nervous but excited. Getting off to a decent pace, a bit faster than on my usual runs, but easily maintainable. I would stay strong and keep everything in check for the first mile, leading up to the huge hill that starts Mile 2. I would power up the hill, and at the top, I'd feel a sense of accomplishment because the race was half over, the hill was behind me, and I knew I would be able to finish strong. At that point, I would pick up the pace and make the most of going back down the hill to relax my muscles but still use the momentum to pick up speed. I would tough it out through the last mile, and fly across the finish line. I pictured myself with a finish time of 31:45—just enough below my expected finish range to be exciting but possible.

I was excited and nervous at the start, so it was all going according to plan. People flew by me left and right, which I'm getting used to. I held my pace, and started passing people about 1/2 mile in. I was feeling pretty good, closing in on the one-mile mark and the uphill. I reached a fork in the road, and veered right to head towards the hill. Not everyone was going the same way, however.

It was a mess. There was a huge surge of runners, I wasn't sure if they had started the 1 mile race? Wasn't that just a walk, though? Either way, a lot of runners were charging up the initial incline and heading left and right, willy nilly. No one seemed to know where they were going, and there was a lot of shouting going on. I just held to my course, because I had run this race before and knew exactly where I was going. But I felt bad for the other runners, who had obviously been misdirected.

Then I reached the bottom of the hill. A person stood next to the one-mile marker, yelling out splits. From a few feet away, I heard her .... but I must have misunderstood. She was yelling out times that were past the 13-minute mark. That was impossible!

From my perceived rate of exertion, and my breathing, and how my legs felt ... I was expecting a time anywhere between 10 and 11 minutes. 13 was wayyy past the acceptable range. And I hadn't even gotten to the hill yet!

I was so depressed. I completely lost my motivation. I struggled up the hill, walking part of it, and then walking through the water station afterwards. A walker charged past me. A cheetah paced in her cage, seeing all us back-of-the-packer's as easy food.

I just couldn't believe I was so off in judging my pace, based on how I felt. Maybe my legs were still tired from the 10k? Maybe I didn't drink enough water that morning?

By this point, I just wanted to get the stinkin' race over with. I trudged back down the hill, doing my best to make up a little time and maybe, just maybe, finish somewhere near my goal pace.

At the bottom of the hill, a different person was calling out times. When I passed, he said it was 21 minutes and some. I thought, "Well, that would be great if that was my 2-mile time! Too bad it's just the 1-mile time for the runners/walkers going up the hill."

And then I kept running, and kept thinking about it .... and there was no Mile 2 marker. But surely I had run further than that. So maybe Mile 1 and Mile 2 were at the same point, at the bottom of the hill? And maybe I really had passed Mile 2 in 21-some minutes?!?

By this point, I didn't know what to think anymore. I knew the race was a fiasco, because I had seen other runners being misdirected. So wasn't it also possible the time-keepers were also off? And I hadn't run the first mile in over 13 minutes? I gave up trying to figure it out, and just did my best to finish strong, as per the original plan.

I came around the final curve and saw the clock at the finish line: it was just past 32 minutes. I ended up crossing the finish line at about 32:30. So definitely within the acceptable range, and so close to the fantastic goal!

For the rest of the day, I wasn't sure how to feel about the race. I was happy with my time, but so frustrated because I felt like I could definitely have done better, if they hadn't messed with my mind at the 1-mile mark. In the end, I decided to be happy with it. It was a good time, and I was lucky to at least be one of the runners who ran the whole course and finished.

And now I have a good starting point for the rest of the summer. Our next planned race is a 5k at the end of June. I hope to be under the 30-minute mark for that one. And I hope the organizers do a better job of running the race!

Friday, May 08, 2009

A True Gapesnest

Earlier this week, I wanted to get a run in. But now I always feel guilty if I take Eleanor out in the jogging stroller. Beckett gets so excited when he sees me lace up my running shoes ... and then so crestfallen when Eleanor and I leave and lock him in the house behind us.

So I decided, what the heck? I might as well try taking both of them and see what happens. I don't need to get a run in today, so if it doesn't go well, I'll just turn around and head back home.

It was a multi-step process to get on the road. First, I let Beckett out into the backyard and tossed his leash and harness by the gate. Then I put Eleanor in the pack n' play while I steered the jogging stroller outside and down the steps. Next I locked the back door, strapped Eleanor into the jogging stroller, and wrangled the dog into his harness.

Then I had to decide what to do with the leash. I figured me carrying it was out, because there was a good chance of getting an arm ripped off because I'm holding onto the stroller with one hand, and Beckett takes off in the opposite direction after a squirrel, taking my leash arm with him. In the end, I looped it around the stroller frame, near the front wheel.

Overall, it went much better than I expected. There were times when Beckett got distracted, and tried to cross over in front of the stroller to the other side, which necessitated a lot of "Beckett! Get back here! .... No, over here!" and detangling of leash and wheel. But it didn't happen as often as I had thought it would.

There were also times when we were just jogging along, Beckett in front, the jogging stroller a foot or so behind, and me with one hand on the jogging stroller. It was a beautiful thing.

At least, that's what I thought. The looks I got from passersby and lunching construction workers or landscapers, though, were a bit more incredulous. So that's what it feels like to be a Gapesnest! And I loved every minute of it.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

10k Playlist

Here's the playlist that was on my iPod for the 10k run last weekend. I know a lot of people prefer to run races without the iPod (not to mention it's actually against the rules for many races). For the 5k this weekend, I'll probably forgo the headphones. But I usually run with music, and I was pretty intimidated before the 10k, so I felt like I needed all the extra motivation I could get to keep going. And these songs did it for me!

Short Skirt/Long Jacket by Cake
A Peak You Reach by Badly Drawn Boy
Sex On Fire by Kings of Leon
PJ & Rooster by OutKast
All These Things That I've Done by The Killers
Basement Bhangra Anthem by DJ Rekha
Sons & Daughters by The Decemberists
Elenore by The Turtles
Ping One Down by Gomez
Super Bon Bon by Soul Coughing
Ghetto Rock by Mos Def
The Underdog by Spoon
Viva La Vida by Coldplay
Idlewild Blue (Don'tchu Worry 'Bout Me) by OutKast
Airstream Driver by Gomez
Strange Times by The Black Keys
Could Be So Happy by Heartless Bastards
The Rockafeller Skank by Fatboy Slim
Baby's Got Sauce by G. Love and the Special Sauce

All links to purchase the songs at Lala. I think that you can listen to any song free, once, at Lala. So if you're interested, check them out!

I just looked, and I also posted my playlist from when I ran the Flying Pig 10k in 2007. Many of the songs are repeats. I guess if they work, they work!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

10k Success!

Sorry it took me awhile to post this; I'm not lying by the side of the race course, I swear! It's just been busy, as always.

The 10k on Saturday went really well. I felt great throughout the race. At the beginning, I felt like people were flying by me, left and right, but I also knew that if I tried to pick up my pace, I would fade out really early. So I held on, and by about mile 2.5, I started slowly passing many of the people that had flown by earlier.

My plan all along was to plod along at an easy pace until mile 4. At that point, most of the race—including the bridges—would be behind me. Plus a lot of the last mile would be downhill. So if I still had a lot of energy after mile 4, I felt pretty secure in kicking it up a notch for the final stretch.

It went pretty much according to plan, except there wasn't a whole lot of gas left in the tank after mile 4. I tried to increase my pace a bit, but my legs were pretty tired. The final bridge (of 3) really did me in. I figured I would finish in about 72-74 minutes. Anything under that range was good, and anything in the 60s, I would be ecstatic.

In the end, I finished at 70 minutes, 22 seconds, with an average pace of 11:21 min/mile. I was right in the middle of the pack, being 96 of 187 in my division (females aged 30-34). It was kinda difficult to acknowledge how much my pace has slowed, since my last race pace was 9:17/mile for a 5-miler. But then again, since that race, it's been a year and a half of little running, plus gaining weight ... oh! and having a baby.

So overall, I'm pleased with the race. I did it, I finished it, and now I know where I'm at. For the rest of the summer races, I have a starting point and can keep improving from here.

Starting with the 5k Run Wild for a Cure that is only a few days away! According to a Race Time Predictor, I should be able to run a 5k in 34:07, which is a pace of 10:59 min/mile. I think I should be able to beat that, though, knowing the Flying Pig 10k course versus the Run Wild for a Cure course. I guess I'll find out soon enough!

Either way, I'm just very excited to be running again. Setting running goals, training (if somewhat sporadically), and feeling like an active person. Thanks for all the good wishes in my race this past weekend— they will also be welcome for my race at 8:30am Eastern time, this coming Saturday! :)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Wish Me Luck!

By the time you read this, hopefully my race will be all over and I will be enjoying the rest of the weekend.

But if you're reading this between 8:00am and 9:00ish, Eastern Time ... send good thoughts my way!

Friday, May 01, 2009

An April Retrospective

Keeping a blog is so useful/narcissistic because I can always just look back through old entries to see what I was doing at this point in years past. I guess you could do that with hard copy journals, too. But first you would have to find your journals. And then you'd have to find the right one. But I'd probably get sidetracked, reading about my 8th grade crush or the soccer game my junior year of high school, and never get around to what I was originally looking for.

At the end of April 2oo6, we had just moved from Cincinnati up to Cleveland. We were living with my parents for a few months, until we could move into our house at the end of June. This was a good time for me, blog-wise, because I was unemployed. I was reading lots of books and doing crossword puzzles. Those were the days!

April 2007, apparently, I had much less time on my hands. I gave a shout-out to Shakespeare on his birthday, briefly philosophized about getting stopped at red lights, and dedicated a lengthy entry to i can has cheezburger.

Predictably, the end of April 2008 was all about the baby. There were some belly pics, and yet another reason to expect that Little L would turn out to be a boy. (Ha!) I was also complaining about the fact that maternity pants don't have pockets.

This year, I think the end of April shows that I'm obsessed with running and getting back in shape. And Eleanor. From this point forward, always Eleanor!