Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You're damn right I ordered that Code Red!

Day 145

Day 235

Today was a "code red" air quality day, so our outdoor playgroup event was canceled. So we bummed around in the morning, ran out at more or less the worst possible time of day to run an errand, and then returned home for more bumming around. Many books were read (repeatedly, in some cases), songs sung, diapers changed, and games played. A few battles of will were waged (and time outs issued), and even a small bit of napping was done (about 20 minutes for me, an hour and change for Eleri, while Soren quietly entertained himself). In the evening, pizzas were made. Soren "helpfully" fed Eleri a piece of mushroom; Eleri got very mad when I fished it out of her mouth and threw it away.

She's not especially proficient with the cruising yet, but the girlo has become a champion puller-up-on-stuff. (By which I mean she can easily get up to a standing position, but moving more than a step or two is still a bit of a challenge.) She did walk, slowly, and holding my hands, almost all the way across the living room today, which is pretty far for someone with such short legs.

Soren's bottom molars are through the gums now as well, so that means he's almost officially done with teething until he starts losing them in a few years. Yay!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The little train has a smoke stack, and a sand dome, and a bell, and...

Day 144

Day 234

I'm not sure if Soren's current obsession with trains predates my bringing home The Little Train from the library, but if it does, it's not by much. He would probably be happy to read this book 400 times a day. In any event, the boy loves trains now. Specifically, he loves identifying the various parts of the steam engine that are illustrated in the book. Needless to say, the little train ride at Burke Lake Park was right up his alley.

The last time we went to this park, the train was down for repairs or maintenance or something, so we weren't able to ride it. Today, however, we were in luck. We snagged tickets for the first ride of the day and climbed aboard. It's actually a really good ride for the ticket price ($2.25). There are several loops and switches, so you go around the track a few different ways. You start out in the woods, go through a tunnel, past the lake a couple of times, out across a field and back, and around through the woods again before returning to the station. Soren was thrilled. Eleri seemed to enjoy the ride as well.

Next up was the carousel. Soren wasn't perhaps quite as filled with wonder as he was the first time he rode it, but he still seemed to love it. He and A got to sit right next to each other this time, and Soren proclaimed, "A's riding a mule!" Hehe.

Things kind of deteriorated after that. It was hot and muggy, and both Soren and A were tired, so they were grumpy, whiny, willful little dudes. Sigh. Once we finally gave up and headed home, though, Soren's mood improved quite a bit. The rest of the afternoon was, dare I say it, actually rather pleasant. We read books, and Soren made a "train" out of a couple of his little trucks, which he drove around the coffee table - for a looooong time - making a constant "nang-nang-nang-nang-nang" bell noise. It was a little grating, but it meant that he was occupying himself while I got through editing the day's photos, so I didn't make an issue of it. ;) Eleri just watched and watched, fascinated.

In the evening, I hauled myself down to the gym for more running. It's been a week and a half now since I've done more than a mile at a stretch, so while I wasn't quite up to running 5k (too hungry, and Tom had made dinner while I was getting ready to go, and it smelled waaay too good), but I set the timer for 20 minutes and basically did my circuit routine without stopping to do situps and pushups.

First half-mile in five minutes, then a mile in 9:11 (new personal best for a non-standalone mile!), then the next half in 4:33 (18:44 total for 2 miles, which is another personal best), slowing back down to round out the 20 minutes with a final distance of 2.13 miles. Go me!

Eleri's next 2 teeth, both of the lateral incisors on top, are indeed getting ready to come in now. Yippee. Teething is such a joy.

That's all for tonight!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And then there were four


Day 142

Day 232

At 5:20 Saturday evening, a whiny, whiny Soren hit the end of his rope and started powering down. By 5:30, he was asleep on Tom's shoulder, so Tom settled him in his bed, and we let him catch a half hour nap before dinner.

And why was the lad so sleepy? Well, after going to bed late Friday night, he was up bright and early Saturday morning for one last round of Grandma games before my mom left for the airport.

Having read about the glorious fun-fest planned for Saturday on the National Mall, there was no way I was letting Mom take the metro to the airport. Hordes of crazies headed into the city, packing train cars and clogging every walkway and escalator in the metro stations? No thank you! So I drove her on in.

It was a really fantastic visit. Every time Mom's been here, she's invented more silly and creative little games for Soren to play. (Same goes for when Dad's been here.) It's pretty awesome to kick back on the couch with a book and listen to the peals of laughter coming from the boy's room, where Soren and Eleri are both completely entranced and having the greatest time. (Not to mention the late mornings and kid-free dinners out with Tom.) It'd sure be nice to live nearer to grandparents.

On the way home from the airport, I caved to impulse and stopped off for doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. Plus the standard Saturday lunch from Chipotle. Ah, so decadent. I don't know why, but I had an outrageous sweet tooth on Saturday (hence the Krispy Kreme run) that would not be satisfied! After eating two doughnuts - not immediately after, but some time later - I made myself a root beer float. All that sugar led, of course, to the inevitable sugar crash, and I spent most of the afternoon struggling to stay awake. A third doughnut, intended to bolster my flagging energy resources, was not sufficient to stave off the sloth. (Sloths don't like doughnuts, as it turns out. They'll just keep coming at you, slowly, with those freaky long claws. Persistent little bastards. Giant bastards. Whatever.)

Neither of us was in the mood to cook that evening, so we picked up some moderately-decent Indian food from the little on-site market/cafe. The chicken was a bit dry, and the naan was not spectacular, but everything else was pretty good. And, you know, we didn't have to cook any of it. So there's that.

After dinner, Soren was snacking on an apple, and I realized that he was carrying on a little conversation with it. Once I started paying attention, I heard him say, "I'm sorry apple. I'll give you a kiss. That wasn't nice. I....bite you!" Gawdang, that is one funny kid.


Day 143

Day 233

Sunday was a CLEAN ALL THE THINGS sort of day. (When you're done here, go click that link. You won't be sorry.) Tom & Soren went out to get provisions for the upcoming week, and Eleri went down for a nap, so I got all gung-ho, cleaning and organizing the heck out of Soren's room and closet. As in, I moved all of the furniture except the bookcase so I could vacuum the whole carpet (yes Mom, even the edges), and then I went through all the baby clothes and everything currently in Soren's hanging clothes sorter, separating out stuff to donate, stuff to keep, stuff to set aside for Eleri. I'm kind of a sap, so there are lots of little outfits I won't be able to part with (even if they just sit in a bin in my closet forever), but there's also a fair bit of stuff that someone else could get plenty of use out of. Plus I did like 4 loads of laundry. And then after the boys returned, I did a thorough vacuuming of the living room. Soren followed me around with his little wooden "vacuum," even imitating when I stopped to run the hose along the baseboards. So cute.

I had grand plans for a similar cleaning attack on our bedroom, but I ran out of steam. Surprise, surprise. I did, however, get some photo prints ordered to hang in Soren's room. I picked out some animal pictures I'd taken at the Reston Zoo, which I'm going to have blown up to 12" x 12" and mounted on foam core (like the pictures in the living room). I think they're going to look awesome in there.

Late afternoon and evening, we read some books and generally took it easy. Eleri's been making a funny snuffle-noise for the past couple of days. She scrunches up her whole face and breathes in and out through her nose like some kind of disgruntled animal. It's pretty clear she's just playing around with making new noises, but it's hilarious. She's also started pulling herself up to standing and then letting go for a second or two, wavering on her feet before either grabbing ahold of her support again or plopping down. She is a very determined little lass. She's also stepped up the drool production and hasn't been sleeping as soundly the last few nights, so perhaps some more teeth are on the way already. Guess we'll see soon enough.

All right, that is all for now. I know I keep saying it, but I promise I will get more videos posted soon. I have several at this point. Soon, I say!

Oh yeah, and remember that link I told you to click? You can go ahead and do that now. ;)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rounding out the visit

Day 141

Day 231

Friday was Mom's last full day here. I took advantage of a sleepy Eleri and a patient Soren-distractor to sleep until 9:30 in the morning. Awesome. We lazed around for a little while, and then I got my butt in gear and went down to the gym to run before lunch. I did approximately the same routine as Wednesday, only I did a mile of intervals in the place of a mile at incline (7.0, 6.4, 6.8, 6.3, 6.7, 6.2, 6.6, 6.1, 6.5, 6.0 mph, for 0.1 miles each, total time 9:15). It worked out pretty well.

We had plans to head back to the pool in the afternoon, but we needed to pick up more sunscreen first. So we headed out to get some, along with a bite to eat for lunch. On our way, since Eleri fell asleep in the car and Soren was just chilling in his seat, I decided on a whim to take Mom on a quick(ish) driving tour of the District. Just a little loop by the Lincoln Memorial, down Constitution, up around Dupont and out through Georgetown. I hoped, since it was only 1:00, that traffic wouldn't be too horrendous, and for the most part we lucked out. It just got snarled going down M Street toward the Key Bridge, but other than that it was great. Mom was thrilled that we (accidentally) ended up driving past the Hilton that housed the kitchen for this latest season of Top Chef. We saw some of the embassies and lots (and lots) of tourists, and eventually Soren dozed off as well. There's something wonderful about the quiet of two kids passed out in the car. ;)

Because of the traffic down M (and some slight confusion on my part about which road we needed to take heading back southwest), our little detour took about an hour all told. Lunch was next, and then a quick stop at the store for some sunblock. Home again, then out to the pool.

Soren had another awesome experience, splashing and paddling around. Eleri chilled with Grandma while Soren and I played. It was great.

(I realize that Eleri's Friday photo is nearly identical to her Thursday one. Oh well. They're both adorable.) :)

In the evening, Mom gave Tom & me the excellent gift of another little date night. This one lasted longer and ran later than the previous two, as we treated ourselves to dinner and a movie. A remarkably affordable dinner at Hops Brewery ($2.30 beers? Sweet!), we trotted over to the theater to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which was the first movie we'd actually seen in the theater together since before Soren was born. It was incredibly entertaining. Lots of little nods to video game nerdery - even down to the Universal Studios opening logo - decent music, and many laughs. Tons of fun.

All the Wright stuff

Day 140

Day 230

Thursday we took a tour of the nearby Pope-Leighey House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A's mom had told me about it, so she and A joined us on our excursion. The boys were perhaps a bit young (and, at the same time, too old) for the whole thing, but the tour guide was very patient and nice, bringing out a bag of wooden blocks at one point for them to play with on the floor. Though A probably would have been content to sit there and build with blocks for a good long while, Soren doesn't quite have the attention span for it. So he'd play for a minute or two, then be off trying to grab things off tables and desks, then back to the blocks, then off again. At one point, when we were touring the children's room, he was standing so quietly that I was lulled into a false sense of security and let go of his arm. At which point he dashed forward and leapt on to the (original, Wright-designed) bed! With its white bedspread! That the tour guide mostly just chuckled is a true testament to her character and patience.

The house was pretty neat. I got, I think, some fairly cool photos. You can check out the Flickr set here.

Back home, we lunched and then made our way down to the pool. I'd borrowed A's little combination water wings-floaty vest thingy for Soren to try, and wow. He was a tiny bit nervous at first, but once he got the idea that the thing would keep him afloat, he was like a completely different kid as far as his confidence level was concerned. I even had him blowing bubbles and putting his face in the water. It was great! I'm really excited for him to start his swimming class with Tom in a couple of weeks. I think he's going to love it now.

We went to the farm, last morning.

Day 139

Day 229

Wednesday we went to Old Mine Ranch. Poor Soren wanted nothing more than to sit on the various tractors, but they were all either off limits or behind fences. (He snuck up on a "forbidden" tractor a few times - it had a bunch of loose cables and stuff - and scrambled up on the tractor that pulls the wagon for the hay ride once.) It wasn't until he was let into the pen for the pony ride, where the other old tractor is apparently now housed, that he was able to get a full-on tractor fix. He couldn't even care less about the pony ride at first; only had eyes for that tractor. Hehe. Eventually he deigned to ride the pony and seemed to enjoy himself plenty.

Mom was perhaps more excited about all the animals than either of the kids were, though Eleri did pet a couple of the goats. It was really a fine morning all around.

In the afternoon, I finally got back to the gym, after a week off. As it turned out, my knee didn't bother me much at all while I was running, until I started running on an incline. So that's pretty good. I can easily avoid doing that! Did 5 minutes of a slow warm-up (6 mph), then a set of 5 pushups-20 situps-5 pushups, then 10 minutes at varying speeds and incline (a bit over a mile), 20 hanging knee raises, and another 5 minutes (just over half a mile). Felt pretty good.

Soren's been saying a very funny thing lately. He's been using the phrase "last morning" fairly indiscriminately to mean "yesterday morning" or "this morning" or "some time today" or "the other day." Examples include: "Grandma, you rode a plane last morning?" (which he's asked nearly every day she's been here), "We went to the farm last morning" and "I can ride the train last morning." Wednesday evening, as he was getting ready for bed, he and Tom were talking about Leo and Leo's tail. Soren asked, "Where's my tail?" to which Tom replied, "You don't have a tail. It disappeared, when you were an embryo." Without missing a beat, Soren parroted, "My tail disappeared when I was an emvryo, last morning." Such a funny boy.

At dinner, I made tortellini, salad & biscuits, which wouldn't generally be noteworthy, except that Soren ate SO much food. He had a fairly big helping of tortellini, a whole biscuit, and a whole (small) bowl of salad fixings, minus the lettuce (cucumber, tomato, onion, bell pepper, beets, croutons). It was fairly impressive, for him! In the morning, I'd tried to feed Eleri some mashed banana, but she did not seem to like it at all. In the afternoon she had a tiny bit of applesauce, but she wasn't a huge fan of that, either. We'll go back to sweet potatoes in a couple of days.

Tuesday at the Park

Day 138

Day 228

Tuesday was supposed to rain, all day, so we didn't make any outdoor plans. Of course, though we waited and waited and waited, the promised rain never arrived. So by mid-afternoon, Soren was going a little stir crazy, and we decided to go over to the park.

It was a rare cool day, really quite perfect for being outside. I wish I'd thought to check earlier in the day (I just assumed it would be the usual, muggy and 85 degrees even though it was cloudy). But it was excellent playground weather.

Immediately upon arriving, Soren ran up to the first little boy he saw and exclaimed, "Good morning!" Then he scamped around, climbing and sliding and socializing. I brought my camera (of course), and upon processing the pictures and looking through my Flickr archives, I noticed something interesting.

Taken Tuesday (8/24/10)

Taken nearly a year before (8/25/09)

Taken 4 months before that (4/25/09)

Pretty amusing.

It occurred to me to see if Eleri was interested in the swing at all. She certainly wasn't afraid of it, though she sat very seriously and held on tight with her tiny fingers. She did sort of kick and wiggle when I stopped the swing at one point, not quite ready to be done yet. After a while, a little girl (about 3 y.o.) came over and asked if she could push Eleri in the swing. I said that that would be fine, as long as she was gentle. She did a great job, and Eleri's face broke into the biggest grin at the sight of this little girl smiling at her. It was very sweet.

Soren climbed up the little rock climbing wall and 2 upright ladders, all by himself, for the first time. Funny how much of that playground equipment seemed so big and scary even just a year ago, and now it's no big deal.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Got it backwrads, kiddo

When Tom walked in the door after work today, Eleri reached out for him, saying "Mamamamama!"


(Hehe...the typo in the title is so appropriate that I'm going to leave it.)

And ye shall zoom no more

Day 137

Day 227

(For now, anyway.)

So, we finally had the last Zoom class of this session yesterday. A little girl had brought a doll and doll stroller with her, which were sitting off to the side by the door, and Soren was a little fixated on the stroller. He ran around the room a bit but kept coming back over to that stroller to push it around the carpet. Once music time came around, he not only grabbed his own shaker and bells for the Freeze Dance, but he picked out a maraca for Grandma and fetched a shaker for Eleri. Very thoughtful. He started doing the hand motions along to 3 Monkeys and sat transfixed for 3 Little Ducks. (He also asked me to sing 3 Little Ducks a few times at bedtime, that night.) Eleri did a lot more cruising around on the soft furniture. Hard to believe that in another year or so I'll be signing her up for a zoom class of her own.

Now we've got a few weeks before his swim class starts up, and then he'll start his music class a couple of weeks after that. Fun times!

After class we did the grocering. Then a late lunch and a quiet afternoon/evening at home. I haven't been running since last Wednesday; stupid knee is bothering me. I'll probably try a slow jog again today or tomorrow and see how it goes.

Monday, August 23, 2010



Day 134

Day 224

Friday morning we went to beat the heat at another of Arlington's spray parks. Soren wasn't too enthused about the water features, but we were able to convince him to run through a few times. Mostly he was interested in playing on the playground and trying to commandeer this other little boy's tricycle. (He kept following this kid around asking if he could have a turn. This was after he had just hopped on the trike twice when the other kid wasn't sitting on it, but it was still pretty cute.) The playground wasn't completely fenced in, but there was a fence and gate along the side of the park facing the road. Unfortunately, the gate was warped or something because it wouldn't close all the way. I worried for a little while that this might be a problem for my escape-prone little man, but he was actually kind of fixated instead on trying to close the gate every time he passed and saw it hanging open. I'll consider this a victory! Hehe.

As we were just getting ready to leave, Eleri had a rather dramatic diaper failure, such that we ended up having to borrow and put one of A's t-shirts on her. It was comical, in its own disgusting way. Between that and the spare blue pants I had in the diaper bag, she was looking decidedly less feminine than usual.

For lunch, I'd wanted to take my mom to Ray's Hell Burger, since we were reasonably close by. Unfortunately, when we got over there, the line was not only out the door, but wrapped around the front patio and starting to go into the parking lot. I was much too hungry to wait around, so we ended up across the street at the Rhodeside Grill. When we walked in, the hostess pointed at Eleri and asked if "he" would be needing a children's menu and crayons too. Ah well. The kids were both pretty good, if a bit noisy. Eleri sat in a high chair and was obviously thrilled to bits about it; she squealed and jabbered with delight all the while. Soren sat on the booth seat next to my mom, but he was wiggly. All this led me to conclude that our original Sunday plans (a trip up to Frederick and a stop in at Top Chef runner-up Brian Voltaggio's restaurant, Volt, for lunch) were probably not going to work out. Sigh. It was just as well, because our revised Sunday plans were awesome, but it'll be nice when they're just a liiiiiittle bit older and more well behaved.

Home afterward, we took it easy for the rest of the afternoon. I caught a little nap...again...and put together a pretty tasty sampler of leftovers for dinner.


Day 135

Day 225

Saturday morning, Mom got to come out to the barn with me to watch me ride. N was back, and I'd jokingly suggested that my mom might be thrilled to see her daughter gallop in the loop field, not expecting at all that we'd actually get to go do that. But she obliged me! We warmed up in the arena, then headed out for a quick loop and gallop, then returned to the arena for the rest of our lesson. And it was a really great lesson, probably the best ride I've had on Chaka yet. There's a new student instructor, T, who will be working with our class for the next few weeks, and she had some really helpful pointers for me. Then N showed us a very useful exercise for improving our position, and everything just kind of came together. I was stoked!

(Not the greatest photo, quality-wise, as it's pulled from video. But you get the idea.)

We picked up the requisite Chipotle lunch on the way home, which we all ate with gusto. Tom & I got to chill on the couch with some Tivo-ed shows while Mom played babysitter with the kids, and then in the evening, we got to go out to dinner again. Sushi this time, very tasty. There was a couple with a little girl at the table next to us; the girl couldn't have been more that 5 or 6 months older than Eleri, but she had such long hair. It's still hard to imagine El with pigtails.

Another easy bedtime. It's great to have Soren so thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day! Hehehe.


Day 136

Day 226

Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo...

A few months back, I read a blog post about the Reston Zoo. The Reston Zoo's existence had heretofore been unknown to me, but it's all of a 35 or 40 minute drive from us and pretty great. There's a petting barn and a wagon ride and pony rides, and you can buy grain and milk bottles to feed to the animals. It's kind of a combination petting zoo/mini-safari/traditional zoo. As soon as you pay your entry fee and go into the park, there's a little moat off to the left surrounding an island that houses 3 black spider monkeys. No fence, just a low wall and this moat. Then off to the right you make your way through the petting barn, where there are goats and sheep and pot bellied pigs and a llama and a swan, all eager and waiting to be fed (with the possible exception of the llama, who mostly just sniffed at the grain). There's a reptile barn and a tortoise enclosure and a chicken coop and pens with Patagonian cavys, a porcupine, and kangaroos. There are tiny soft foxes and parrots and ponies. There are cows and more llamas and an alligator. Then on the "zoofari" wagon ride you see ostriches and emus and rheas, Watusi cows and Highland cows and bison, several varieties of antelope and deer, a couple of zebra and camels, and some guanaco (another llama relative). We had a great time. Soren was a little timid at first about feeding the goats (they can be a bit aggressive), but he got into it pretty quickly. And boy oh boy was he excited about the wagon ride. The wagon was pulled by a big blue tractor, and he was just beside himself with anticipation over getting to "ride the tractor." (He's pretty into tractors and trucks and construction machinery, these days.) We were there for a few hours, and it was really just about the perfect amount of time.

(For a whole passel of zoo photos, go to my Flickr set here.)

Eleri napped for about a grand total of ten minutes in the pouch, so she had something of a screaming meltdown in the car on the way home. Poor thing. Soren, astoundingly, sat there for a long while just singing to himself as if his sister weren't serenading us with screams, and then nodded off. Hehe. She was better once we got home and finally took a nap, herself.

Tom made a big batch of guacamole and some tasty steak burritos for dinner. Soren is hilarious with the guacamole eating. I caught this photo, which cracks me up to no end.

Still got almost another week of Grandma time! Both Soren and Eleri are enjoying the heck out of having a dedicated playmate basically all day long. ;)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

First of the video backlog

Just Tom & Soren being silly.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm already getting spoiled

Day 134

Day 224

Thursday morning we went to preschool for a little while, then ducked out right before lunch to run some errands. We picked up all the fixings for Cornish hens, which I made for dinner while Mom entertained the young'uns and kept them from getting underfoot in the kitchen. I took a look back into the blog archives to when we made the Lilliputian Feast over at Max's (geez, was that really 4 1/2 years ago?), since I hadn't really made Cornish hens since then. How handy to have those records. I love when my rambling and sometimes overly detailed posts turn out to be useful. Anyway. My hens didn't come out quite as good as the hens back in '06. Possibly I didn't sear them enough, and perhaps uncovering them for the last 30 minutes without basting them was a mistake. They were a little dry. But flavorful! This time around I stuffed them with a mixture of apple, onion, red bell pepper & garlic, tossed with a touch of lemon juice. Into the pan I tossed some more onions, bell pepper, and Brussels sprouts. I couldn't fit all the sprouts we had into the pan, so the rest of them I sauteed right before dinner time, so we had a duo of sprouts, if you will. How very Top Chef of me. At any rate, it came out pretty well.

Eleri and I caught a little nap together in the afternoon, and Soren fell asleep mid-books again at bedtime. Win!

Rainy Wednesday

Day 133

Day 223

Wednesday it rained. All day. So we did something we haven't done in about a month.

We stayed home. All day. On a weekday. And it was fabulous.

My mom and the kids played and played and played. There were squeals of delight and giggles and silly guacamole songs. Late in the morning, I ducked out to the gym to get my running done before lunchtime. (A revolutionary concept!) I was all set to do my Wednesday 5k, but after about 3k my knee started bothering me. I pushed on to 3.5k (2.17 miles) and then called it quits. Stupid knee.

I caught a little nap on the couch after lunch while Eleri snoozed and Soren (you guessed it) played with Grandma. Later in the afternoon we made a pizza, which Soren and my mom had for dinner. When Tom got home from work, he and I got to go out to dinner by ourselves! It was nice to get away for a little while. And we made it almost an hour without talking about the kids. ;)

At bedtime, Soren was so exhausted that he fell asleep in the middle of story time, which has pretty much never happened. Certainly it's never happened on a day when we didn't even leave the apartment. I swear, I could really get used to this live-in babysitter thing. ;)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Soren goes to the air-depoor

Day 132

Day 222

Yesterday morning was hot and steamy, but we ventured out anyway for playgroup at River Farm. Soren ran and ran with his buddies, got nice and filthy, and then we followed A's mom back to their house. I had mentioned, off-hand at some playdate or other, that Eleri has thus far not been a fan of the jumpy swing that Soren had (and adored) when he was a babe. A's mom said that she had A's old jumperoo just sitting in the basement and that we could borrow it if we wanted to. So over we went to give it a test drive, and Eleri was thrilled. The boys played some more, and Eleri jumped and squealed. The jumperoo came home with us. ;)

Back at home, we finished getting ready for my mom to arrive. We drove over to the airport to fetch her. (Soren calls it the "air-depoor.") No great surprise, after all the running and jumping earlier in the day, both kids passed out in the car on the way and were a little groggy and quiet when we met Grandma at the arrivals area. Soren perked up before too long, though, and he had a fine time watching the planes while we waited for my mom's suitcase to come through to baggage claim.

On the way home we picked up fabulous BGR burgers for dinner. YUM. (We also got the onion rings from there for the first time. They're extremely wide, like bracelets, and - no great surprise - delish.) Some Grandma games, the first of many to come in the next week and a half, were played before bedtime.

Monday, August 16, 2010

No, these are the penultimate zooms

Day 131

Day 221

I was wrong last week when I said this would be our last Zoom class. We do in fact have one more next Monday. So that's cool! There weren't as many kids there today, so I let Eleri crawl around a little bit more than usual. She pulled herself up to cruise along the side of the big foam doughnut and had fun shaking her own egg rattle during the Freeze Dance. It won't be too long before I'll be signing her up for a Zoom class of her own!

Soren and I read on the couch while Eleri took her afternoon nap. Then Soren played with my iPod for a while and let me doze a bit. Not bad. Any day that includes even a partial nap for me is a good day, I say.

I set out to take it easy on my run this evening, but of course I ended up pushing myself. I did 2.06 miles in 20 minutes (2 miles in 19:27), but I broke it up into quarter mile segments, increasing my speed over the first half, then slowing down for the next mile but ramping up the incline, and then back to faster and flat for the last half. It was tiring. For a while this woman (I think she is a personal trainer) was standing right next to my treadmill, talking to another woman who is, I believe, her client, and who was running on the treadmill next to mine. Personal trainer lady took it upon herself to lean back against my treadmill, which shouldn't have been a big deal (she wasn't impeding my movement or invading my space really), but I found it quite annoying. I thought maybe she'd startle and move away when I raised the incline, but nope! I didn't say anything of course, because I'm me, and I eventually stopped noticing that she was there.

I'm thinking about putting potty training on hiatus until mid-October, when we return from our trip out West. It has occurred to me that unless he makes huge amounts of progress in the next month, we're either going to have a potentially traumatic cross-country trip ("Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the 'Fasten Seatbelts' sign. Please remain in your seats." "But Mommy, I have to go potty NOW.") or we're going to have to screw up his routine and negate any progress by putting him back in a diaper for the plane and long car trips. So maybe by the time we get back we'll be ready to start for real.

That's all I've got. Videos are still on the way.

Mixed bag weekend


Day 129

Day 219

The weekend was a mix of progress and not, productivity and not. The weather Saturday morning was perfect for riding, but N had to go work her office job, so our lesson got combined with another one that goes at the same time. It was a little crowded, but we did all right. I'm a giant snob, and the other instructor kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but it's hard to complain too mightily when you get to ride a fun pony on a beautiful morning.

Tom's morning was rather less enjoyable. Soren has taken a huge step backward with the potty training in the last couple of weeks. He doesn't want to wear underpants, and even if we can cajole him into wearing them, he just treats them like a diaper. So that's fun. Probably will do us all some good to just take a break from the whole endeavor, until he decides he'd like to make an effort again.

There was much lazing about in the afternoon, as Tom and I were both pretty beat. Late in the afternoon, though, Tom packed Soren off to the park, and I got some stuff done around the house. Finished my book (see the post below), tended to some mail I'd been neglecting, and finally got my photo prints hung up. It's been, geez, a couple of months now since I ordered four nice 12" x 18" prints to hang on the wall. Nation's Photo Lab is a printing company based in Baltimore, and they have really reasonable prices for high quality mounted photo prints. (They very frequently seem to run half price sales, which is great.) I chose 4 seasonal photos, and now they're hanging on the wall above the couch.

Pretty cool! By the time all that was done, and I got Eleri down for her afternoon/evening nap, the boys still hadn't returned from the park. It was getting on toward dinner time, but I really didn't feel like cooking, so I ordered a couple of pizzas. Not three minutes after the pizzas' arrival, Tom and Soren walked through the front door...with carry-out for dinner. Hehe. We had a good laugh over that one.


Day 130

Day 220

Sunday morning I got back to the gym. It wasn't a very long run (3 x 1/2 mile, with exercises in between), but I ran at a higher speed - 4:28 for the first and third half-miles, 4:46 for the second. In between runs I did a set each of 5 pushups-20 situps-5 more pushups. I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of my last run. Not sure how I'm going to manage my workout again tonight (I'm also really sore through the ribs this morning, from the pushups), but I will find a way! Getting stronger won't happen without work.

While the boys went out to do the week's grocering, I made some progress on the week's laundry and did a little photo shoot with Eleri. I finally managed to get a decent shot showing all of her little teeth! (Trust me, it hasn't been for lack of trying, before.)

I've been derelict in my video-posting duties, but I will try to remedy that this afternoon. I've got a couple of good (albeit short) ones I can put up, once I get them pulled off the camera. Also need to get this place picked up in advance of...Mom's arrival tomorrow evening! I'm looking forward to having her here for a week & change. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review: The People of Paper, by Salvador Plascencia

The People of Paper is one of those books that seems to make "literary types" want to fall all over themselves gasping at its brilliance, declaring that if you don't like it, then you probably "just don't get it." It's a weird mix of the surreal and the prosaic - origami surgeons and giant mechanical tortoises exist in Plascencia's world, though the overarching themes of the book are the very human experiences of heartbreak and loss. The book's fans hail it as part fantasy, part autobiography, which is kind of interesting, I suppose. (I suspect most autobiography is not without some element of fantasy or alterations in memory, whether intentional or unintentional; this book just takes that to the extreme.)

The plot is difficult to summarize. I don't think it's giving away too much to say that the overall premise of the book is about an author at war with his characters. He's trying to watch their lives and write their stories, but they grow tired of his voyeurism and find ways to shut him out. The author then gets wrapped up in battle with his characters, effectively shutting out and driving away the women who try to love him. Naturally, both the frame story and the...framed?...narrative deal extensively with sadness and the different ways people have of coping with it. These comping mechanisms are, with I believe only one exception, always destructive addictions, as the characters cause themselves physical harm trying to keep psychic angst at bay.

The physical layout of the text is also worth mentioning. Some chapters are set up in columns, three abreast, advancing the story from different points of view. Other chapters are formatted more traditionally, with the paragraphs taking up the whole width of the page, though the perspective continues to switch from one character to another. I thought it was going to be really distracting and confusing, but I actually didn't mind so much. It just seemed a teeny bit...gimicky, I guess.

I think it's difficult for me to fall in with the crowd of admirers because it feels like Plascencia is trying too hard. That's not to say there weren't some bits of his prose I found kind of beautiful. Here are a few snippets:

It was the first street gang born of carnations. But for them there was no softness in the petals and no aroma in the flowers. They felt only the splinters and calluses from tilling the land and smelled only the stench of fertilizer and horse shit. Their shoes were wet and the cuffs of their work pants crusted with mud. At midday they took off their shirts, wringing the sweat and then tossing them over their shoulders. And always a cutting knife was in hand. It was from these blades and hands that bouquets and potpourri came.
* * *
Curanderos could restore the levels of the drying oceans, they could repair broken teeth and collapsed retinas, and if God was distracted and not looking they could even pull people from the grip of Purgatory--provided the appropriate fee was paid.
* * *
[He] was of the belief, grounded in ancient philosophy, that after a certain amount of accumulated mass, sadness ends. And so he cited:

Saint Nicholas
Don Ho
Winston Churchill
Sir John Falstaff

All fat and jolly people. Though jolliness was the saddest form of happiness, it was a happiness nonetheless.
* * *
[He] did not know her zip code or apartment number or the city where she had gone. He put her name on the envelope. Below her name he described the types of places where she might be: cities with rivers, streets with breezes, apartments with steps, rooms with canopies.

Still, three weeks later, there was no reply--just an itemized bill from the Postmaster General requesting reimbursements for maps of cities and waterways, for wind-velocity meters, and for all the man-hours spent climbing steps and peering into strangers' bedrooms.
There is also, of course, the bizarre.
She offered to tell my fortune with the help of her baby. She grabbed my hands, squeezing my fingers while I stared into the eyes of the Baby Nostradamus.

As she traced my lifeline, the blister on the tip of her index finger ruptured, and the fluid channeled into the ruts of my hand. The outer lines of my palm became tributaries feeding into the main river. I lifted my hand toward my face and saw that I was holding the river of Las Tortugas. As I looked closer I saw our old adobe house and the orchard that lined the river, the trees heavy with limes. A family with goats and dinner doves had moved in and planted maize on the dirt roof.

Downstream, at the cliff of my hand, there was a couple taking a bath. I could not recognize the man, but he was pale, his beard trimmed, his hair unkempt and curly. At first I could see only the woman's back. She stood in the water, her hair still dry, but as she turned and grabbed the pumice and soap lard from the rocks, I saw that it was my mother.

I closed my fingers, collapsing the trees into twigs and the river and banks into a clump of mud, and threw it into the street.
It's the sort of book that maybe, for me, would be good to read in the context of a class or book club or something. Maybe it's true that I "just don't get it," and there's a deeper brilliance that I'm just missing. The author portrays himself, in the "autobiographical" frame story, as deeply flawed and fairly unsympathetic. Maybe it is a mark of courage to write so honestly about the ways heartbreak can make us a little crazy and vindictive. Or maybe it's just a lot of narcissistic blather. ("You don't know my plight!") I won't say it was a waste of time to read The People of Paper (thanks AM for loaning it to me), but I also won't say it's a book I'm interested in revisiting or holding in especially high regard. However, I know at least a couple of people who have read it, so if either of you (or anyone else who has read it) happen to be lurking here and feel up to commenting, please do! I'm interested to read what you think, even if you think I'm an unsophisticated clod for not loving the book. ;)

Edited to add: We're going no-holds-barred in the comments, so consider this your warning if you've any interest in not reading about specific plot details.

You can't catch me. Just try it. I dare you. I da- *chomp, crunch-crunch-crunch*

Day 128

Day 218

We did the Gingerbread Man story again at preschool on Friday. (Here is the link to the preschool co-op blog, by the way. I've been meaning to link to it so you can check it out, if you like.) Soren gleefully shouted "Gingerbread Man!" when prompted ("You can't catch me, I'm the...?"), even after class was over and we were walking around Target. It's cute to watch him get excited about a new story. Even if it is a twisted story of pastricide...

Eleri was chilling out with one of the other moms for a bit. This other mom is quite pregnant, and while she had Eleri on her lap, the baby started rolling around and kicking. Eleri was perplexed, but very intrigued. She also waited, gazing with longing, while the big kids jumped on the trampoline. When they'd all cleared out and headed off to have lunch, I set her down on it and bounced her a little. She was thrilled.

At Target, I picked up a nice magnetic whiteboard to hang in Soren's room. I found a pack of number magnets in the $1 bin (was looking for ABCs, but they didn't seem to have any), and once we got home I managed to install the board on the wall all by my little ol' self. Soren seemed to have a good time playing with the magnets for a while, though eventually he found it more fun to slap them all off the board onto the ground. Dork. ;)

Tom got stuck at work a little late, and by the time he got home I was too tired to go running, so I took the evening off.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Run, run, run, as fast as you can

Day 127

Day 217

The theme for today at preschool was "The Gingerbread Man." The kids got to make (and eat) gingerbread cookies - though Soren went to town on his portion of dough before he even got any cookies cut - and they were told the Gingerbread Man story during circle time. Sadistic little toddlers; when the story was over, ending with the untimely demise of the gingerbread man, courtesy of the gaping maw of a hungry fox, one of the kids squealed, "Again! Again!" I had forgotten how dark that story is (though I shouldn't be surprised). Anyway. Most of them then sat through a second telling of the story, again delighted by the travails of the little anthropomorphized cookie whom everyone keeps trying to eat. Eesh.

Eleri was in fine spirits, right up until just before we left. She chilled on my back (in the pouch) while I took pictures, she sat on my lap and grinned and babbled, she crawled around on the floor and found things to stick in her mouth. It's fortunate that she's so good natured most of the time. Makes it easy to get out of the house and do things. (Soren was a really good baby, too. Truly, we lucked out.)

We had a couple of decent thunderstorms, one in the morning and another in the late afternoon. There were even tornado warnings to both the northeast and southwest of us. Close enough to be exciting, far enough away to not be all that scary. ;)

And tomorrow's Friday yet again! I can't believe how insanely fast the last few weeks have been going. I guess that's what happens when you've got something going on every single day.

Wednesday 5k

Day 126

Day 216

Mall walk in the morning. It was another hot & muggy day, so I was a little bummed when Soren seemed to lose interest in the play area kind of early, and we had to head home. We probably could have stayed longer, except that I'd "laid down the law" and told him that if he left the carpeted area one more time, we were leaving. Of course, he left it again, and when I gathered him up and packed him into the stroller to go home, he was saying he'd behave, that he'd stay on the carpet and play-play-play, but I had to do the whole enforcer of the rules thing. To the boy's credit, he didn't pitch a screaming fuss or anything, just kept insisting all the way to the car, "I gotta go play, Mommy."

I kind of dragged around in the afternoon, even though the unpleasant heat wasn't really a factor inside our air conditioned apartment. Soren made an atrocious mess of the living room, scattering toys and books and pillows from his room hither and yon. I'm always a little amazed by how little time it actually takes to clean up a mess that seems so very daunting.

In the evening, another 5k, while watching another X-File ("Jose Chung's From Outer Space" this time). I improved my time ever so slightly - 29:47, though I was ready to quit about halfway through. Running is tiring! (And I'd already walked a couple of miles at the mall that morning.) Just gotta keep at it, though.