November 2014
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Happy Halloween!

Apparently I made a passing reference to buying a new sewing machine, promised a story, and then never wrote about it again. Whoops.

So, yeah, I bought a sewing machine. A really nice one. It was used! And fifty percent off! But, ya know, fifty percent off of expensive is still freaking expensive. Note to self: You know how they say not to make big decisions and/or purchases when you’re going through stressful situations? There is totally a reason for that.

Basically, what happened is this: I’ve had a Janome Travel Mate since I was in college. It wasn’t the world’s fanciest sewing machine, but it got the job done. Mostly . I had it serviced periodically and all that jazz, but one day it just plain stopped working. It wasn’t worth getting fixed, so I was trying to figure out what I should do. My MIL offered me hers, but it turns out that sitting in a closet for 15 years was not exactly the best thing for it. It was completely seized up, the needle wouldn’t budge a millimeter. I brought it to a local sewing store to see if they could fix it. It turns out they couldn’t…

And then my sister went and broke herself in a bicycle accident .

I didn’t know how to process the news about my sister, so I decided that it would be a great idea to get in my car, drive to the aforementioned sewing store, and pick up my MIL’s busted sewing machine. Just keep moving, right? I got to the store, told the owner that I was probably going to buy a new machine at some point, and she mentioned that she had a used machine for sale at a very nice price. Long story short, I let my emotions get the best of me, handed over my credit card, and then had to explain to Kristian that I had just spent about two week’s salary on a sewing machine.

Seriously, whoops .

What does this all have to do with Halloween?

Well, now I just had to sew Lilian’s costume.

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(That’s Sulley from Monster’s Inc, btw, if you’re not a Pixar fan.)

Lilian tried it on once when I had it partially sewed, declared it to be “too hot,” and now she doesn’t seem to want to put it on. I figured we’d be able to bribe her with the promise of candy, but now I’m not so sure. I suspect she might end up trick or treating with just the hood on. I am trying to make myself ok with this.

Honestly, it was a lot of fun to sew it. Plus, it’s a little on the big side, she’s a little on the small side, and there is a good chance that she could wear it again next year. I was happy to have an occasion and a deadline with which to motivate myself to start and finish a craft project. It’s been a stressful couple of weeks around here, so it was nice to retreat to my craft room and immerse myself in blue fuzz.

In case any sewing nerds are curious, the pattern is McCall’s M6628 Furry Monster. It’s discontinued, but I bought it off of eBay for like seven bucks. The faux fur is called luxury shag in turquoise, and the purple bits are all just your basic felt. I didn’t have to make any real adjustments to the pattern. I left a few things off (like rick-rack around the horns), and I didn’t make the hands or feet. But mostly I just kept it simple. The purple dots are a spray-on fabric paint.

(I almost forgot to spray them, but Kristian reminded me at the last minute.)

(Thanks, buddy!)

It’s so much fun to have a kid who’s getting old enough to participate in holidays and get all excited about them! Kristian had a work thing last night, so Lilian and I had some time to hang out, just the two of us. When I picked her up at daycare, I asked her if she wanted to help me make cookies, and she said “yesssss!” And then turned and sprinted for the door! She powered through dinner, got down out of her seat, walked over to the oven and said “make cookies? make cookies?”

(I guess you could say she was pretty eager.)

(She didn’t even ask to eat a cookie, and I didn’t offer. I think she just really likes helping us cook.)

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If you let her, I think she’d attempt to make the entire recipe herself. As it is, it takes a lot of redirecting to have her feel like she was an integral part of the baking process, and still end up with something edible. She’s pretty good at letting me hold her hand while we measure stuff out, and then she can dump a quarter cup or a teaspoon into the bowl and have most of it actually end up where it’s supposed to. She also unwrapped the butter sticks. And she’s a total champ with a mixing spoon.

But her favorite part? Putting M&Ms on top of each cookie.

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I did a little bit of rearranging. Because I am slightly OCD and it’s just plain wrong to have unequal amounts of each color on a cookie. Wrong, I tell you, wrong . Luckily, she’s a good sport about it. She’s also either a sugar ninja, or she didn’t actually try to eat the M&Ms.

Isn’t that just the cutest little outfit, BTW? My mom bought it for her.

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We’re taking her trick or treating tonight. I’ve been psyching her up for it, with reminders that she needs to say “trick or treat!” and promises of candy. It will be her first time trick or treating, so I’m pretty excited myself!

(Fingers crossed that she actually wears her costume).

CHaD Hero Half Marathon

On Sunday, I ran the CHaD Hero Half Marathon . I trained for it most of the summer and all of the fall. I was hoping for a better time, but you know what? I raised over a thousand dollars to help out a great hospital that serves a lot of kids and their families. I think I’d rather be better at fundraising than at running.

(Although I wouldn’t mind being better at running too.)

(Next year? I am doing a lot more hill repeats. That course is seriously steep .)

Kristian, Lilian, and I drove up to New Hampshire a day early, so we wouldn’t have to rush up for the race. That also gave us a chance to spend some time with my sister Christina and her husband Luke.

(And to stay in a hotel and swim in a pool.)

(And to go out to dinner and eat french fries.)

(Best weekend ever.)

It rained all last week, and Lilian liked my pink rain boots so much she asked to kiss them (I may or may not have imparted a little too much of my love of shoes to my child). So, we figured she might need a pair of her own. We didn’t find any boots in her size at the local mall, but we did find a kinda creepy bench.

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You know why I love my husband? He saw me trying to get Lilian to pose as one of the monkeys and he coached her into being the “See No Evil” one. That’s my guy!

We kept up our pre-half marathon tradition (we’ve done it twice, so now it’s a tradition, dammit) of taking Lilian to a local park and then going out to dinner. Vermont and New Hampshire have some kickass parks. Or maybe our local parks are just kinda lame.

You know what’s not lame? The delicious dinner that we ate. And my brother-in-law letting Lilian make herself comfortable on him, while she ate half of his dessert.

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(Not pictured: Lilian announcing to an entire table full of strangers, “I went pee-pee on the potty!”)

(They all clapped for her.)

(Which was very sweet but also kind of extra embarrassing.)

(Oh to be two years old and have people applaud you for such mundane tasks as passing urine.)

I would say that we had to be up bright and early on Sunday for the race, but that would be a terrible, terrible lie. This bad boy didn’t start until noon . Decadent! We didn’t even set an alarm. And Lilian let us sleep until 7am. We got breakfast with Christina and everything. And still had time to take some goofy photos on our hotel room of me dressed up like a super hero.

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This would probably be a good time to mention that the race is super hero themed, and that I didn’t just randomly decide to dress up like Wonder Woman. But you know what? Dressing up like Wonder Woman is kinda all kinds of awesome. I may run all future races dressed up like Wonder Woman. Especially if it means that people give you extra thumbs up, high fives, and yell “way to go, Wonder Woman!”

Photos taken by the very awesome, Pepper, aka the nicest friend ever, aka I can’t believe how far she drove to stand in the rain and cheer for me.

I have no photos of the race itself, but picture rain, and a lot of hills. I rain the first five miles or so with one of Kristian’s coworkers. Then, there was finally a porto-potty for me to use, so he took off while I waited in line. I don’t know that I would have been able to keep up with him the rest of the way, but I do kind of wish I’d tried. He definitely had us going at a good pace (tough, but not impossible). I ended up falling way off the mark once I was on my own and I didn’t even come close to the time I was hoping for.

I was still four minutes faster than my last race, on a course that was a lot more challenging. So, no complaints here. Also, I saw a little baby near the starting line that had an oxygen cannula in its nose. Which kinda gives on a heaping dose of perspective. Like: your kid is happy and healthy and you are strong enough that you can run a half marathon without stopping too much. Get over yourself about wanting to finish faster.

I will say that the part of the race where you pass right next to the finish line, but then have to run four more miles, and the volunteers keep telling you “you’re almost there!” but then you turn a corner and there’s another fucking hill to climb? Yeah, that part kinda sucks.

But then I sprinted out the end, and I could hear the announcer say my name, followed by “put away anything flammable, because she’s on fire.” And that was pretty awesome. So was the part where I firefighter wrapped me up in one of those space age blankets. I’ve never had one of those before! They really are super warm.

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Not pictured: Me stuffing my face with chocolate chip cookies.

Because I hit a thousand dollars in fundraising, I got a few extra perks. Apparently there is a display somewhere with my name on it (I didn’t see it, but we didn’t have a lot of time to wander around). I also get a free entry for next year’s race (smart move on their part, because I will most likely try to raise a bunch of money for them again). Best of all, I got a voucher to spend at the CHaD store after the race. The jacket I picked out was pretty sweet, but it was even sweeter to have the volunteer say “wow, that’s a big voucher!” and be able to reply, “I raised a thousand dollars.”

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It was a really great day, and I am so grateful to all of the friends and family who made it possible. I was honestly shocked by how much money I was able to raise. I have some seriously generous people in my life, I am just blown away by it. Kristian was a great sport, doing almost all of the driving and most of the toddler wrangling. My sister treated me like a princess (she made me a little gift bag, cheered like you would not believe, and then took such sweet care of me post-race when I was seriously hurting). And Pepper drove 2 hours up from Boston to cheer me on! I felt a lot of love from my friends and family this weekend, it was amazing.

Next half marathon I want to be faster, and next year I want to raise even more money.

And I kinda want to be Wonder Woman all the time now. :p

New York, New York

I spent most of this past week working in Midtown Manhattan. When they asked me if I’d be ok with working in New York for a week, I said yes… but only if they found me a hotel near the job site that wasn’t crawling with roaches. I guess they called my bluff, because I ended up staying just a couple of blocks from Times Square. And there was nary a roach to be found.

(This is both an awesome and an awful location. Awesome, because you can walk to pretty much everywhere you need to go. Awful, because you need to push your way through hordes of tourists to get there.)

I even got to take the train down! Business class. Faaaaaancy.

(The fact that I called it fancy, means that it wasn’t really fancy. But it sure is a sweet way to travel.)

Usually when they send me onsite, I spend all day working my brain off, and then I go back to the hotel and watch Law and Order until I pass out. But I was in New York, man! I couldn’t just sit around. I’m sure I should have figured out how to go to some museums or art galleries, but I did manage to eat just about every different kind of ethnic food I could think of.

Things I also managed to do:

  • Met up for dinner with a friend from high school who I haven’t seen in years. He has a Very Cool Job(tm) these days, and happened to be in the area. It was an unexpected treat to get a chance to catch up with him.
  • Ate a delicious steak at the restaurant  where John Gotti had a couple of mobsters gunned down. A real slice of New York history! When a sales guy is taking you out, you definitely need to order a steak.
  • Had a totally random celebrity sighting ( Michael Emerson pooper scooping after his dog). One of my friends says that only tourists in New York have celebrity sightings, because we’re the only people looking up. But I would like to state for the record that I only saw Mr. Emerson because the guy standing next to me said “hey, isn’t that guy famous?” (I was looking down at my phone.) I guess I have the kind of face that says “you should totally point out to me that celebrity holding a bag of dog poo.”
  • Spent an evening hanging out with my good friend Vicki . It’s been far too long since I got a chance to hang out with her. Also, there was delicious Mexican food involved. And she gave me a sip of her coconut margarita. Does it get any better than that? (No. No it does not.)
  • Walked to work. Every day. In fifteen minutes or less. This might not seem that big of a deal to you , but I usually spend 45+ minutes in the car to get to work.
  • Bought an Olaf doll for Lilian at the Times Square Disney Store, aka the Most Horrible Place on Earth. They have the Frozen soundtrack on repeat. I’m pretty sure that’s some sort of OSHA violation. I tried to make a joke about this to the cashier (she was singing along, I suspect Stockholm Syndrome). Then I realized she thought I was one of those crazy Disney people. Then I tried to backpedal. Then she was like “Uhhhh, I don’t care. Move along crazy lady.” True story, bro. Then I gave Lilian the Olaf doll when I got home and she told everyone “Papa bought it!” Sad face.
  • Face-timed with my kid from a bar in the East Village on Friday night. Because nothing makes a husband happier after a week of solo parenting than seeing you out and about with a whole bunch of your mutual friends. (He was cool with it.)
  • Went jogging in Central Park. Contrary to what all police procedurals would have you believe, not every jog through Central Park results in stumbling across a dead body. It does , however, involve being passed repeatedly by all of the Type-A personalities who are jogging in Central Park at 8am on a rainy Saturday morning. Dammit.

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly the most exciting week of all time. But considering the fact that I was mostly there to work, I think I did pretty well for myself. And I felt all relaxed and recharged when I got home! Fifteen minute commute + no small child to wake you up early = so much extra time for sleeping.

I felt pretty self conscious about taking photos while I was there (I’m sure everyone could tell I was a tourist, but I liked to pretend it wasn’t blatantly obvious), but I did take a couple.

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30 Rock

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It had to be taken!

I took the train back as far as Hartford and then met up with my family (more on that some other day). Lilian did that whole “I’m mad at you for leaving, but happy you’re home, so I don’t know what to do with my feels, so I’m going to act all crazy until I figure it out” thing for a bit, but she calmed down pretty quickly and was just happy to see me. I can’t say that I would recommend leaving on a week-long business trip to snap your toddler out of her “Daddy rules, Mommy drools” phase… but it was kind of effective.

Have you had a chance to go anywhere cool on business? And do you think you got a chance to take advantage of your trip?

Welch and Dickey

Our toddler hikes have been going so well, we decided to go on a big kid hike on Sunday. Kristian, LJ, and I drove up to New Hampshire with our friend Yogurt. We met up with my sister at Welch and Dickey for a 4.5 mile loop up and down a couple of little mountains.

(I was supposed to run 14 miles as part of my half-marathon training plan, but I’ve decided that I need to prioritize special time with my family over racking up the miles.)

It was a long ass drive, so we were very much ready to get out into the woods. Lilian was particularly excited.

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Kristian has about 20 more years of hiking experience than I do (he did a *lot* of hiking when he was younger, plus he’s ooooold ), so he was the lucky parent who got to carry 35+ pounds of toddler and gear. I should have strapped a tiny tot to him years ago! We’ve been together for nine years, and this is the first time I didn’t have to bust my ass to keep up with him.

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My sister drove an hour to meet up with us. It was so great that we were able to get together like that. I think she had a pretty good time, too.

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Lilian is starting to enjoy this whole outdoors business. Not only does she yell out “we hiking! we hiking!” she’s also starting to get into the gear. She was a big fan of our poles.

(Kristian would like you to know that the only time he needs poles is if there are 17 inches of snow on the ground, or if he wants to steady himself because his precious child is on his back.)

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There are almost no pictures of the two of us, so I asked my sister to take a few snaps of LJ and me.

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Then we did a family photo. Lilian would like you to know that she prefers peanut butter and jelly over cameras. Any day of the week.

 

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Welch and Dickey is a great hike. As Yogurt put it, the effort to reward ratio is quite favorable. It’s a little tricky at times (I can already feel how bad my hamstrings are going to hurt tomorrow), but it’s very do-able. And a good chunk of the loop goes along a ridge line, so the views are fantastic.

The only problem? It’s a 2+ hour drive away. And we wanted to hike in the daylight, so we couldn’t do our usual “head up while LJ naps” noontime drive. Which means that Lilian had to nap on the trail.

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She might have relaxed in the moment (I had no idea a human neck could swivel like that), but it was fairly short-lived. I think she only slept for a half-hour total (she usually goes down for a solid two hours). And there was no napping in the car. Which means that, by the time we stopped at the Common Man in Concord, NH for dinner, she was completely exhausted. I’m seriously impressed that she managed to hold it all together. There was definitely a lot more fussing than usual, but she made it through an entire dinner. This kid is resilient.

(She had a little meltdown when we got home, but I held her hand, sang her a few songs, and she was out like a light.)

I’m not sure if our schedule will allow another hike this month, but I hope we get at least one more in before this winter!

Toddler Hikes

Kristian has had some Saturday work to do lately, so LJ and I have started going on some little hikes together. I guess I should say “hikes,” or maybe just “walks in the woods.” I strap her to my back in a frame backpack and we go somewhere with plenty of rocks, and trees, and dirt. Not a lot of climbing up mountains, though. I’m not sure what you’d call it.

I think LJ would call it, “fun.”

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The first time we went together, I couldn’t find anyone to go with us. I was a little nervous about taking her out in the woods all by myself, but then I decided that I needed to get over it. So, off we went, just the two of us.

We’d gone about a mile and a half when she decided that she no longer wanted to be in the backpack. I can only surmise that she was getting a little heated up in there, because I can’t see any other reason to want out. That thing is sweet . I wish they made a grownup version. I would hire a strongman to carry me around in it.

I let her down to stretch out her legs, which she thought was pretty awesome (so much dirt! so many rocks!). But then we got to a slight incline, and she decided it wasn’t so awesome anymore.

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She didn’t want to go back into the backpack. She didn’t want to walk. It was a classic toddler dilemma, really. One that can only be resolved with screaming. Lots and lots of screaming.

(Most toddler dilemas involve fundamental incompatibilities and copious amounts of screaming.)

We finally reached a compromise, of sorts. I carried her in my arms instead of the backpack. And she didn’t yell like she was being taken out into the woods by a serial killer. But you know what sucks? Carrying 25 pounds of toddler up and down hills. Especially when you have a perfectly lovely backpack that could take all of that toddler and make it easier to carry, but is just more dead weight.

We did a bit of a dance, with me picking her up, putting her down, putting her in the backpack, putting her down, etc.

I attempted to bribe her with munchkins (“do you want a munchkin? I need you to stay up there and stop screaming and kicking me in the kidneys.”) Because when the going gets tough, I am allowed to wuss out and promise my kid a mini-donut if she’ll let me carry her out of the woods in a manner that doesn’t leave me arms feeling like jello. That mostly worked (if you’re going to bribe your kid, make it a good one, I say.) Even when she started fussing again, I would just point out bird noises, or the wind blowing through the trees, or get her to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for me.

Lessons learned: start the hike off with your tiny tyrant walking. Wait for her to ask to get up into the backpack. Don’t let her down, if you can help it. If she starts squawking, try to distract her instead. It’s a lot easier to calm her down while maintaining the status quo than it is to get her back into the backpack after you’ve given her a taste for freedom.

Also, sometimes bribes are just an excuse to extend the outing. Because who doesn’t love a munchkin after a 2-3 hour hike? I may or may not have bought a munchkin or two for my own consumption.

(Lilian requested a “yellow” one.)

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This past Saturday, Kristian had to work (again). I was thinking about taking LJ for another hike, which is why it was so completely perfect that Yogurt texted us asking if we wanted to go hiking. Because Mommy/Daughter hikes are pretty awesome, but so is being able to say “hey, can you reach into that back pocket and hand me my water bottle?”

I occasionally do learn my lessons: this time we took a few minutes when we first arrived to let LJ stretch out her legs.

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We wandered around in circles for a bit, but we finally figured out a good route. And then we settled into a nice rhythm of grownup talk (nothing too grownup for little ears, though) and “look! birdies!” followed by more grownup talk, followed by “like a diamond in the sky!”

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At about the three-quarter mark, LJ got really quiet. Another advantage of going hiking with a good friend? He can confirm for you that your kid is completely sacked out. And then take a picture of it for posterity.

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I can’t remember the last time LJ fell asleep on me. It was probably a year ago. I had almost forgotten how nice it is to feel that comforting little weight. The total relaxation. The trust that you will keep her safe. It’s such a privilege to watch over her.

I guess she was pretty tired, because she didn’t even wake up when we got back to our car.

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(She did wake up when I attempted to transfer her to her carseat, but you can’t win them all.)

I am so grateful to my step-brother and his wife for giving us this awesome backpack (they put quite a few miles on it, but their kids are too big for it now). I’m extra grateful that my child who doesn’t like to sit still seems to enjoy riding around in said backpack. I hope that there are many more adventures in our future!