Monday, June 29, 2009

She's a Neat Freak

Apparently, Eleanor has decided that my housekeeping isn't quite up-to-snuff. It's bad enough that Gomez usually appears from nowhere when I'm cleaning to watch. I feel as if she's been treated like royalty in all of her cat lives, perhaps starting as an Egyptian priestess's beloved companion. She doesn't understand what I'm doing when I get out a mop and a broom. She's never actually seen such a thing before‐these types of activities were always done quietly by domestics, when Her Highness was cat napping in the sunshine in another wing of the manor. So she watches me, fascinated, when I get down on my hands and knees to sweep up furry tumbleweeds or scrub spilled baby food off the floor.

Like I said, it's enough to have Gomez for an audience. But NOW I have Eleanor showing me how things are done! I got out the Swiffer the other day, and she decided to take matters into her own chubby little baby hands, and show me how to really get to the stuff in the corners. Obviously, she only worked for as long as it took me to get the hang of things, and then she was off to try and eat Beckett's dog food before Keith or I noticed. She has more important things to do than clean.

If Beckett starts giving me cleaning tips, I'll really have to worry!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not Secret Shopper

I haven't done a very good job of buying presents for Keith's birthday this year. As usual, I found and purchased 90% of his gifts online. I did actually buy one at a store, when I was out and about a few weeks ago, and I was very proud of myself.

I was at Costco and saw the new David Sedaris book out in paperback, and grabbed it for Keith. I was proud of myself for getting something he'd like, but wouldn't be expecting. When I got home, I set about unpacking the groceries. I put the book on the stairs to take up and hide away the next time I ran up. Fast forward a few hours, to when Keith gets home from work and heads upstairs to get changed. I'm in the kitchen (again? still?) and he calls out, "Where'd you get the new David Sedaris book?" I swear under my breath.

I didn't really buy any more presents until the end of last week. When I suddenly realized that I didn't have a whole lot of time left. One of the items I was most excited about was a Cafe Press custom t-shirt with a phrase on it that wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to anyone other than me and Keith, but it's not worth going into here. So ANYWAY, I was happy I'd thought about it, and even more excited when it arrived on Monday. Plus, I also got a package from my friend Jen, who lives in Michigan, and just happened to come across a brand new toddler's Cincinnati Bengals snowsuit at a garage sale, and sent it to us for Keith's enjoyment.

By this point, I was getting the sense that many of my online purchases wouldn't be arriving in time for his actual birthday. So I thought Jen's gift was serendipitous; I could wrap it up and put it with Keith's other presents but write "To Eleanor, on Keith's birthday" on the outside. After he opened it, I was obviously going to admit it didn't really come from me, and show him Jen's note. BUT it would be another package on the table. And it would be a package that he didn't know about, as opposed to the book.

But then, Eleanor refused to take her afternoon nap, and I decided we'd go for a run. We were supposed to be back before Keith got home from work, so I wasn't even thinking about the open packages on the living room coffee table. But by the time I got Eleanor changed and fed and ready to go .... you see what's coming. We returned home to Keith's car in the garage and the presents viewed.

So yesterday was his birthday. His iPod headphones with microphone had arrived AND I had actually managed to remember to hide them before he got home. A miracle! So he had three presents to open: the book he already knew about, the t-shirt he'd already seen, and the headphones. (Since he'd already seen the snowsuit for Eleanor, I didn't think there was much point in making him unwrap it.) None of the rest of his presents have arrived yet.

Of course, my theory about this is always that it makes your birthday/Christmas last longer, as long as you keep getting presents! So I'm really doing him a favor. Except, if his birthday lasts for a week, does that mean he's finally older than me? Or does it just mean that I'm old enough to be forgetful.

I would rather blame it on the baby, and never getting more than halfway through a thought before I have to run off and stop Eleanor from pulling the cat's tail, knocking over a glass of water, etc. But surely it will be easier when she's almost 2, right? We'll pretend they're the Terrific Twos!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Keith!

Congrats! Now you're old, and you can stop teasing me about being so old. Like you've been doing since I turned 31 at the beginning of April. Now you're right there with me!

Last night, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Keith was trying to figure out what we did on his birthday 2 years ago. He checked our Google Calendar, which had on it that the Black Keys had been playing at the Agora. Now, we did go to a Black Keys concert at the Agora once, with my sister Amy. (Remember those people who were making out next to you? Good times!) But we also have a bad habit of intending to go to concerts, putting them on the calendar, and not quite making it. Especially if the concert is on a weeknight. So did we actually go to this concert or not?

Then Keith came and checked the blog, but I hadn't written about his birthday celebrations. I think I wrote about going out to dinner and the driving range over the weekend, but not what we did on his actual birthdate.

Next I suggested he try looking at our budgeting spreadsheet. If we actually had a charge for tickets in June 2007, then we must have gone to the concert. But he looked at the old spreadsheet ... and it starts from July 2007. So we're still not exactly sure what we did on June 25, 2007. Is it really that important? No. But it is interesting to think of all the different ways we store information about our personal lives. Creepy and interesting.

So Keith, on your exact birthdate today ... we're not doing a whole lot. You're at work and I'm trying to get some cleaning and grocery shopping done. Tonight we're going to watch the Reds game and eat three-ways. But tomorrow you took off work, so we are going to the zoo with Eleanor. And, if it's as hot as it is today, immediately hopping into the baby pool when we get back.

Happy birthday, old man!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Conflicting Emotions

Here I sit at 7 o'clock am. The house is quiet; Keith just left for work, and Beckett is sleeping on the couch next to me. (He has such a tough, exhausting life, he needs to sleep until noon on some days.)

It feels like the calm before the storm. Every morning, I am so conflicted. Every morning, that is, when I manage to get out of bed and sneak down the hall to the bathroom and then into the kitchen without waking up Eleanor. So about 30% of the time.

I can't wait to see her. Every night, after she's been in bed for an hour or so, I look at Keith and sigh and say, "I miss that girl." So in the morning, I can't wait to see her smiling face as she eagerly raises her arms to be lifted out of the crib and start another exciting day. We go to the window in her room and look outside to see what kind of day it is so far, and she waves to the tree and the house across the street and any passing cars, and announces her presence to the world.

Just thinking about it now makes me smile. BUT, I also have been sitting here, quietly working on my to-do list for today. And it's long. So if she just keeps sleeping for a bit longer, maybe I could knock one or two of the small items off the list before 8 am. And wouldn't that feel great?

So I sit. Both anticipating and dreading that first squawk that lets me know quiet time is over. No more planning, or doing. Eleanor's day has started! And mine is on hold until naptime.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Like Crack for Babies

At 11 months, Eleanor is still not a great eater of solid foods. She has expanded her repetoire a bit, though. From nothing .... to crackers. One morning she still wouldn't eat any solid foods, and that afternoon she was chowing away on Graduates puffs like a champ. I thought it was a good sign ... we'd be onto "real food" in no time!

But apparently there's a texture issue. Some things are okay. She enjoys bananas in a jar AND as finger food. But real peas? sweet potatoes? chicken? They do NOT make the cut.

She does like crackers, though. And bread. Our little carb addict! I gave her goldfish crackers once, to see if she would like them. And now she wants them all the time. If I bring out the box, she starts bouncing up and down in her high chair.

With all of the foods that she's rejected, I am shocked at how eagerly she accepted the goldfish. It was an instantaneous love. When a small tupperware of goldfish crackers are proffered to her while at the store or in a restaurant, she shoves her hand in and leaves it there ... I think she's trying to get as many fish to adhere to her sticky baby fingers as possible. Last night she ate goldfish with her left hand, while still tightly clasping a dozen or so mangled fish in her right fist. Presumably to eat later.

So we're walking a fine line. Do we try to force her to try new things? Or do I just let her eat goldfish at every opportunity? Is this something she grows out of? Advice from experienced parents would be much appreciated!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Running Vs. Other Cardio?

A friend from high school recently asked me via email why I run vs. other types of cardio workouts. Neither Ellen nor I were "runners" in high school, we were active but didn't run for the sake of running. But in our adult lives, we've both taken up the sport; she's a more recent convert than me, and is still wondering whether it's all worth it.

I think she was asking from the perspective of actual physiological benefits. Unfortunately, I don't have much information on that front. But it did get me started thinking about why I, personally, choose to run.

One big factor is the ease. You lace up a pair of shoes, walk out the door, and go. And actually, being able to walk out the door and have nice running routes right there was a factor when we were looking at houses and neighborhoods.

Another factor is the versatility. Running is as hard or as easy as you make it .... okay, it's never really easier. But you can choose to walk if you're having a rough day, or you can pick up the pace and add in some hills if you have energy to burn.

I also appreciate that it gives me time away from everything else. If I were to do a workout video in the basement, I would still hear the phone ring or the baby crying. I just want to go.

And finally, I like that it is a sport that lends itself to goals. Big ones (like a half-marathon) and small ones (make it to the next light post without walking). I am constantly setting running goals. Sometimes I make them, sometimes not. But either way I know that running will always be challenging for me. I will always feel better after having gone for a run, whether it was a good run or not. And, after many years of not accepting it, I'm proud to call myself a "runner."

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's So CSI

Keith and I watched CSI pretty regularly for quite a few years. We haven't been watching much since Grissom left; I don't know if that's why we stopped watching, or if it just coincided with the fact that we have a lot less free time these days.

Either way, I enjoyed the show as a work of fiction. I never really thought any of their science wizardry could be applied in real life, though. The way they manipulated photographs or pulled specific sounds from a recording and identified the year, make, and model of a car from that sound ... I figured the idea of CSI was valid, but a lot of the "investigative techniques" they used on the show were just hocus pocus.

But then. Last weekend, we went camping with Eleanor for the second time. The first time was okay, but the weather was rather uncooperative and put a damper on activities, figuratively and literally. But this past time, it was gorgeous! Eleanor did wonderful—even better than the first time. She loved exploring, slept great at night .... just did fantastic. On Saturday, Keith and I walked her over to the small playground near the campsite, with just a few slides and swings. Eleanor LOVED the slide. She also loved seeing the other children and picking up pine cones.

Keith took many pictures of her, including the close-up of her face that is above. When we were looking at the pictures on the computer, however, we realized that you could see something reflected in her eyes. Keith zoomed in ... and wow! It's freaky, totally CSI. You can see Keith, wearing a red shirt, crouching down with the camera. There's grass and blue sky and clouds, all reflected in her eye.

Maybe there's more to this CSI hocus pocus than I ever believed!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Little Irish Dancer

We like to refer to Eleanor's Johnny Jump Up as her "Johnny Dance Up."
1) We don't really care that it's gender-specific, and don't think it will warp Eleanor's mind to have a Johnny instead of a Jenny.
2) She doesn't really jump. She doesn't use both her legs together, but rather flails them both about separately, and spins herself in circles.

After much observation, I think she actually does this on purpose, because she enjoys it more than simply bouncing up and down. Pair it with her favorite Cake song, and she's a dancing machine!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Shout Out to Keith "Speed Demon" Lubbers

I just wanted to give Keith a quick shout-out for his fantastic 5k finish last weekend. After finishing his second marathon in the beginning of May (that's a post-marathon picture, not from the 5k, lest anyone give me a hard time for the Flying Pig medal on display), his goal for the summer was to focus on speedwork and achieve a sub-20 minute 5k for the first time since high school.

He entered last Sunday's race just to get an idea of where he was at in his training, and how far he had to go to achieve his goal .... and he attained it! He finished in 19:57 and placed 3rd. Not 3rd in his age group, but 3rd OVERALL.

I think that's pretty freakin' impressive! Congratulations, Keith!

*I'm sure he'll insist that I mention the fact that the race was mostly downhill, but I think
that's a minor footnote. A slightly downhill course is not going to take that much time off. I have no doubt his excellent time was due 99.9% to his hard work and speedy legs.

A Wrench in the Plans

I sprained my ankle last Friday. So easy to do, kind of like breaking my finger. I've never been a very graceful person, and not being able to pay attention to where I'm walking only exacerbates this tendency to fall over.

This time, I took Beckett and Eleanor for a walk around the block during the afternoon. I had Eleanor strapped in the Baby Bjorn on my chest, limiting my visibility. The leash was in my left hand, and I was looking at Beckett on my left. My right foot stepped into a depression, and down I went.

Since I've been wearing an aircast all week, I've heard lots of others' stories about sprained ankles. Walking down a step, stepping out of a shoe .... it's a miracle it doesn't happen more often. Our ankles are very vulnerable, it seems!

As I twisted my ankle, I feel forward onto my left knee and hands. Eleanor fell forward in the Bjorn and started screaming; I had a heart-stopping moment of panic that her head actually smacked the sidewalk. Fortunately, she was just scared by the feeling of falling, and was unhurt.

I picked myself up and hobbled over to a few steps near the sidewalk to assess the damage. Beckett may drive me crazy in a LOT of ways, but sometimes he reminds me how he's a good dog at heart. This time, he wandered around after I dropped the leash, but stuck close by and came when I called him back over.

What was the luckiest break for all of us is that an amazingly good Samaritan saw me fall and came over from the other side of the street to make sure I was okay. She was a junior in high school and I couldn't believe how kind and helpful and compassionate she was. I was certainly not that mature in high school, I'm sure. She took Beckett and waited while I checked myself out for the extent of the damage. When I decided the ankle wasn't going to fall off if I walked the quarter-mile back home, she kept Beckett and walked him home for me, so I could concentrate just on staying upright. If it wasn't for her, I don't know how I would have made it home. You never want to be in the position where you need to lean on a stranger, but it was a wonderful feeling to know that people like her are still around .... and living close by!

I waited until Saturday morning to go to the Urgentcare, vainly hoping that it would feel all better in the morning. Of course it didn't, so Keith and Eleanor took me to the hospital because I wasn't sure if I could drive myself.

This was just another reminder that everything is different once you're a parent. On the way to the appointment, my biggest concern was that I hoped I didn't need crutches. How in the world would I manage that AND carry around Eleanor? Or get there just in the nick of time when she was about to fall/eat the dog's bone/etc.?

I laughed to myself when the doctor told me it was just a mild sprain, and I should rest and elevate the ankle for a few days and stay off it as much as I could. In my world, that means laying on the couch and icing it at 9 o'clock at night, after Eleanor is in bed. Or maybe one other time during the day, if I'm lucky.

Even with my lack of care, the ankle seems to be healing nicely. The swelling has gone down significantly and I have a lot more movement and very little pain. I'm supposed to wear the aircast continuously until tomorrow, and then I can start taking it off for short amounts of time and see how it feels.

My biggest concern going forward is that, although ankles heal, being a klutz is a permanent condition. Does this mean that I should never walk with the dog and Eleanor together again? Can I not be trusted to stay on my feet, despite distractions? If I can't do 3 things at once, then I'll never get anything done. I was so looking forward to getting out and walking more once the weather turned nice. It would be a shame if Beckett and Eleanor have to take their walks without me.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Family That (Watches Other People) Plays Together

My cousins from Poughkeepsie NY were in town most of last week for the Indians/Yankees series.
Thursday night we had over my cousins, parents, sisters/brother-in-law, aunt, and uncle for dinner and to watch the Cavs game.

It was nice to spend time with my cousins, since we don't get to see them very often. I have plenty of memories of vacations and trips to visit them when we were younger, but I can probably count on 3 fingers the number of times I've seen them as adults. As I said to Keith, it was kind of a relief to realize that I actually like them and think that they are great guys! I didn't really know what to expect, since the last time we spent any extended amount of time together, Madonna was on her Blonde Ambition tour.

Family, especially extended family, is such a funny thing. How you can know so much about each other, but so little. Even after seeing my cousins several days in a row, I can't tell you what hobbies they have or books they are reading, or what their plans are for the next 5 years. But I can say that they are kind, thoughtful people with an outstanding sense of humor (I did uses that singularly, because the two of them share the exact same type of humor). Good family to have around.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Day at the Zoo

Last Wednesday, Eleanor and I had a lovely day at the zoo with Grandma Karen.

This is the third time Eleanor has been to the zoo, and she still doesn't have much interest in the animals yet. This time, I spent much of our excursion pointing out all the milestones for the 5k fiasco, which I'm sure was terribly fascinating for Karen. She did nod politely and "ooh" and "aah" appropriately, which I thought was nice of her.

We also went in the primate house for the first time. Eleanor enjoyed it thoroughly for a couple reasons:
  1. She could walk anywhere and everywhere,
  2. So many other children around!
Eleanor lurked in wait near entertaining monkeys or giant apes, until other toddlers innocently came up to the glass to watch them. She then pounced, grasping my finger and lurching her way, excited, panting, over to the other child. She grinned and screeched and wanted to hold hands and interact with them. At one point, I even thought she was going to go home with a little girl's mother—she walked up to the girl and then grabbed the mother's shirt and started cooing at her. I felt like I had been replaced! But of course, she's not fully mobile yet, so I just snatched her back and distracted her by pointing out a baby across the room.

I'm so glad that we have the zoo passes and can go back all throughout the year. The first few times, she was enthralled with the shrubbery immediately in view from the stroller. This time, she branched out to walking around the inside exhibits and making friends with other children. Maybe by December, she'll start to notice the animals!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Gomez in Concert

I was so wrong. Last Tuesday, I was incredibly nervous about being up all night, going out to dinner and the concert and living it up. In our new lives as parents, getting to watch a movie together and going to bed by 11 o'clock is pretty exciting. Could I possibly be up to hanging out with the younger, hipper fans at the concert?

First, we weren't out all night. We were still in bed by midnight. I don't know why I was imagining rolling into bed around 2am. Maybe from too many concerts out of town? Anyway, I was totally wrong about that.

Secondly, of COURSE I can handle staying up a little late. I'm a new parent!!! Sleep deprivation is my middle name! Maybe in my previous, well-rested life, a mid-week concert would have thrown me for a loop. But now? It's just another night! And it was a fun night of dining out and enjoying a concert. As opposed to being woken up from a sound sleep by an unhappy baby in the wee hours of the morning. New parents are the perfect concert-goers .... as long as we can find a babysitter, that is.

Finally, I was also wrong about the crowd. For awhile there, I felt like we were the youngest people in the audience, instead of the oldest. I asked myself if none of the "kids" were allowed out on a weeknight .... and then I remembered that people 10 years younger than me are of legal drinking age and perfectly capable of making their own decisions about when and where to go. Ouch. It ended up being quite a mix of ages, and we were pretty much in the middle.

So in general, I highly recommend getting a night out on the town every once in a while for new parents. You don't miss out on any more sleep than you would otherwise .... and it's nice to remind yourself that you do have interests other than the tiny tyrant!

In particular, this time we had a nice evening. We really liked the atmosphere of Saigon restaurant, but I wasn't that enthralled with my entree. I had ordered the Saigon Vermicelli, with shrimp and pork and loads of other vegetables. There were only 2 pieces of shrimp, and the pork was really fatty; more like bacon than the pork loin that I was expecting. It was filling, though. I ate until I was stuffed, and it still looked like I barely made a dent.

Keith timed it perfectly; we finished our meals maybe 15 minutes or so after the opening act started. So we paid and walked 2 minutes down the road to the House of Blues. I wasn't that impressed with the opening act, Steel Train (and their website navigation is stupid, too). The music was fine, but the lead singer was a complete spaz. I thought the audience was listening pretty politely, for a band that most people probably hadn't heard of. But he kept trying wayyy too hard to get everyone "involved" in the music with clapping, cheering, etc. And then he complained when we didn't scream our way through all of their songs. Annoying. Maybe buy the CD, but don't make a special trip to see them in concert.

With a baby, I found that I also appreciate the time between acts more. Usually, I'm terribly impatient for the headliner to come out. It always seems to take an inordinately long amount of time to change over the stage to the other bands' equipment, etc. This time, however, I just thought about how, if I were at home, I would be getting Eleanor to sleep, doing laundry, picking up around the house ..... so I enjoyed the freedom of having nothing to do but wait. I people-watched and relaxed.

Until about 9 o'clock, and then I was ready for Gomez. Too bad they didn't start their set until closer to 9:30. But we were still walking out the doors by 11, so it was pretty short. Overall, my impression was that it was a Tuesday night concert. I enjoyed the music, but there wasn't a lot of energy.

It wasn't very crowded, so we were in the second row on Ian's side of the stage (rhythm guitarist and one of the 3 lead vocalists) and I could move around without a problem. That part was nice. But when I looked around at the crowd, it seemed like not a lot of people knew the words to the songs. People were enjoying the music, Gomez was enjoying playing .... but it was all very laid back.

Maybe it also has something to do with the fact that this is the 4th or 5th time we've seen them in concert, so it wasn't quite as much of an event for us, but I remember their first concert being so high-energy and intense with lots of jam sessions in the middle of songs. It had felt so much more like the band was feeding on a connection with the audience. This time, it was like we (audience and band) were friends meeting for lunch and getting caught up on the latest gossip, instead of being involved in a torrid affair, trying to suck the marrow out of every moment together.

It was a solid performance, and I enjoyed it, as always. I wish it had been longer, and they had played more of their older songs. But now that they have so many CDs out, I'm not sure I'll ever be satisfied with the setlist at a live performance—I'm sure there will always be another song or two that I really wanted to hear.

I am already looking forward to their next concert, whenever that may be. At least I know not to be so hung-up on it being a wild and crazy late night out, and just anticipate the freedom to relax and enjoy the music.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Last week, about this time, I was very happy with my blogging of late. After a dismal January-March, when many may have wondered if my keyboard had imploded, I gave up trying to compose, revise, polish the Best Blog Entries Ever and went back to just blogging, dammit. Lo and behold, my post count went back up! At that point, I decided that my goal for 2009 was to average 10 posts/month, or 120 in total.

And this time last week, I was almost caught up! All I needed to do was post an entry every weekday last week, and I would be right on track .... ah well. Maybe by the end of June, then.

Last week was manic. I don't really know how it happened. First, the Gomez concert Tuesday night. Wednesday, Eleanor and I had a lovely day at the zoo with Grandma Karen, and then Eleanor went to bed late that night and Keith, Karen and I hung out for a bit. My cousins from Poughkeepsie NY were in town most of last week for the Indians/Yankees series, and Thursday night we had over my cousins, parents, sisters/brother-in-law, aunt and uncle for dinner and to watch the Cavs game. At least they won that one!

Friday afternoon I twisted my ankle. Saturday morning was spent at Urgentcare, where they said it was a sprain and sent me on my way with an aircast. Saturday afternoon was at my parents' cook-out, and Saturday evening Keith and I went with my cousins to the baseball game. Sunday morning Keith ran a fantastic 5k race, and we spent the rest of the afternoon recuperating from our crazy week. So, more on most of these events later (the interesting ones, anyway.) Fingers crossed this week is a bit more manageable!