Wednesday, July 29, 2015

For Four Months

I have another Lessons Learned post a-brewing, but before that, a quick break to celebrate the latest milestone (Wife's post here, with stats and great photos).

Little Miss is four months old a few weeks ago, and she's starting to get to that really especially super cute and funny and adorable and I-can't-stand-it-I-have-to-give-her-kisses-by-the-20s stage.  She is easily rolling over (both ways) and often rotating, and has recently starting gabbing.  Sometimes she just sits and makes strange little dinosaur squeals and grumbles but she's just talking to herself.  She laughs readily at her parents and especially at her brother's silly faces and noises ("Not TOO loud, son..."), and it's easy to see that she's always more and more interested in her surroundings.  This also means that she's starting to get into the stranger danger phase, but she's getting more comfortable with grandparents and aunts and uncles (cousins don't seem to be a problem?).  She sleeps pretty well a lot of the time, though she's entered a sort of phase when it comes to actually going down...  For the life of me I will never ever understand why in the world the natural reaction to exhaustion for babies is to NOT SLEEP.  Just give in!  You will be happier!  We all will!  It's an important life lesson.

Anyway, she eats great, she has slept once or twice through the night (usually with just one or two feedings and/or binky reinsertions... another thing I will never understand, why they spit it out and then fuss because they spit it out), everything else is going as well as hoped and expected.  She has yet to plump up, like both of her chubby same-age cousins, but her weight is average and counteracted by her 100% height.  She has time to add a bit to those rolls.  In the meantime her cheeks are plenty round enough to lay all those kisses on.

She already likes leafing through the pages.
Photo shoot Father's Day present with BB.
Zebra print Kewpie doll
Finally meeting cousintwin Hazel!  Born just a few hours apart, significant difference in size so far.
Hanging out with Mommy and Super Cool Auntie at the Moab pool
Happy little patriot
Words can't say how much we love our little smoochface!  Sometimes Big Brother loves Little Sister a bit more than he realizes ("Not SO close to her face, buddy..."), but they are already great friends and often sit and just stare or laugh at each other.  We're so grateful our little girl is doing so well, and we look forward to the months to come.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lessons Learned From Our First Vacation As a Family of Four*

*or, Four For the Fourth.

We've been thinking that we ought to do more fun things out and about now that Baby is a little older and more on a schedule and such, and we thought a visit to Grandma's condo in Moab and a jaunt to nearby Blanding to see some of The Wife's extended family was just the right distance to try.  We've traveled with our kid/s before, but flying and road trips have their differences and we sometimes are just reluctant.  But we haven't been to the condo in about five years, and the kids have never been, so it was high time.  Here are some of the things we learned as we went along our way.

• It's a good idea to drive not during naptime.  As long as you can keep the kids entertained, it might be better if they're not overtired and unable to get comfortable and cool and horizontal.  The drive down on Friday morning was pretty great, because the kids were happy, but mostly because The Wife had made preparations to keep them that way (thanks, Dollar Store!).

• It also helps if you manage the hyping of the trip.  We didn't tell him until the morning we were leaving, but then The Boy was very excited once he learned we were going to a "Fun Place", even through the long drive there.

• Bring a few more books and/or toys than you thought you might need (which we didn't do), hide them, and then reveal them gradually to maximize excitement and longevity of play.

• It's really nice to go on vacation with just your little family, but it's also really nice to meet up with other family!  We were so glad we could spend another weekend with The Wife's sister and her kids.

• When you're on vacation, you just have to be flexible with your schedule.  Sometimes kids just don't nap or go to sleep as consistently as they will at home, and I guess that's part of the point -- they wear themselves out with all the fun and unusual activity, crash hard at night, and then get up to do it all again (and that's why people have to recover from vacation).

• The pool is always a big hit, but ever since they put an awning over half of it it's even better.
• It's always a fun idea to try the local eateries.  Our first night we went to a homey little grill downtown, where the steak and eggs were the best deal on the menu.

• Vacation isn't the worst time to try to train your toddler to sleep in a big bed (though it's probably not the best time either).

• I'm really glad we don't generally bed-share with our kids.

• If you're going somewhere like southern Utah in the dead of July, dress appropriately and find ways to spend time indoors.
Fun tie-dyed fireworks getups!
• If there's a smalltown parade, your toddler will be thrilled.

• If there's a dinosaur museum, your toddler will be thrilled.

• If there's a free pool day, your toddler will be thrilled (unless he has trouble with the too-big slides).

• If there's a cardboard-and-confetti airplane at the local bazaar, your toddler will be thrilled.

• Really, it doesn't take a lot to thrill your toddler.  You don't have to spend a fortune on fancy vacations every time.  (Not that we're not planning a trip in the near future to Disneyland for said toddler.)

Red, white and Blanding.

This was going to go in the grid, but I could hardly stand its cuteness so it had to be seen all on its own.
• Bring a car charger for your phone, especially if you're going to small towns where roaming/searching for 3G signal will drain its battery in record time.

• Pizza is great anytime, but it's especially good after a long day of sun and fun in obscure southern Utah towns.

• Nutella brownies are a thing that are not at all not worth trying...

• Moab lightning storms are epic already, but adding half a dozen fireworks shows to the mix ups the epicness significantly.

• Board games and card games are always great on vacation, but try an occasional group-crossword puzzle.

• If you are responsible for cleaning up your own lodgings, you can save a lot of time if you bring some of your own linens and wash them when you get home.

• It's a fun idea to do major parts of your itinerary on the way home, but plan accordingly and keep to your schedule so you don't end up feeling like you're dragging on when you ought to be on the road.

• Southern Utah in July is hot.  No surprise there.
That grimace is actually "cheese!"  He found a golf ball on our walk around the course.
• It's also a good idea to plan a drive during naptime.  We planned our homeward travel during nap, and they both slept the entire way home.  We were afraid The Boy wouldn't get comfortable and fall asleep (like on the way home from previous trips...), but he was tired enough after a few days that he would probably sleep through anything.

• If both kids are sleeping soundly, don't stop.  We thought about stopping a few times, including halfway to feed Poopsie, but they were both so calm and peaceful that we didn't think we should break up the tranquility unless absolutely necessary.

• Vacation is fun, but there's no place like home!

And finally:

• Remember what I said about recovering from vacation?  If you can afford to, it's great to take another day off work the day after you get home just to get back into the groove.

So in the end, we overcame our hesitations and just went for it, and it turned out great!  We learned a lot and we all had a great time, so I think we feel like we can do it again someday (like soon) (to Anaheim).

And now, I leave you with this parting image.  I've always wondered at this sign, and now I have the forum to share my puzzlement with the world.  What are you doing in there, you poor displaced end quote?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Lessons Learned From My First Half

Last Saturday, after about ten weeks of training (other than my usual routine of The Morning Run) I did my first ever half marathon.  It was overall a really exhilarating experience, and I did a bit better than I was shooting for (1:38:02 -- almost ten minutes faster than my goal, 07:29/mile -- a minute per mile faster than my training for several months, 29/121 in my division, 119/727 men, 171/2264 overall), but here are some of the takeaways:

• It is possible to get up earlier than is entirely decent (I'm pretty sure I didn't even know 3:00 came twice a day) just to pay to go running.
Hello, nighttime.
The girls who took this were struggling so much with my phone.
• It's also possible to run on your own without paying anybody, but there's something about being in a big group, not to mention running for a cause, that makes it more exciting, especially if it's something you need to prepare and train for.
Oh, there's the sun.
It was a lot more people than I expected (2500 total, including 5K runners).
 • It's important to eat something before running, especially before a long run, especially if you get up two-plus hours before your run actually starts.  Those gel packs are kind of gummy but they do seem to help.  Also WATER.
Still happy to be here!

• Use the toilet first.  (I did, so it wasn't an issue, but just do.)  They had some 80 Honey Buckets (grossest name for a porta-potty ever) at the starting line area and the lines were forever long.

• If you do tunes, the right music makes a big difference, before, during and after a run.  After asking on Facebook for some suggestions to add to my rotation, I ended up with a great mix of soundtracks, pop, rock, musicals, and some of them weren't as good as I expected, but some were just perfect (this was completely magical at about the halfway point, I felt like I was going to fly down the canyon).

• The right clothes and shoes also make all the difference.  I splurged on a few new things a few weeks before (including new insoles) so I would be comfortable and cool but also excited to break them in.  I also have discovered of late the benefits of wearing a headband.

• It's okay to walk or run at a slightly slower pace to catch your breath now and then.  This is hard for me during official runs.

• Don't underestimate the distance of a run (any run, really).  A 5K, a 10K, a half marathon or a marathon or whatever, they can seem like the longest and most difficult things ever.  I've run 10Ks that I thought would kill me, and this time the first ten miles were fantastic, and then, when the first little hills started to show themselves after coming out of the canyon, that last 3-4 miles were pretty rough.  But I endured and I was glad I did.

• Running downhill really is a great way to do a half marathon.  It helps to live in the foothills where my daily runs feature a fair amount of uphill/downhill, but even so it did a number on muscles that don't usually get much work.  It might have helped to do a little more downhill training.

• You might think your foot's bleeding, but there's a good chance that your toes are just falling asleep or developing blisters.  (And then those blisters might bleed later on subsequent runs, but not necessarily on the long run... though that can happen too.)

• Running this far and this long you really take a beating.  You will get sore in places you didn't even know you had.  But it's a good sore.

• Towels soaked in ice water are THE BEST THING EVER after a long run.  I wanted to have it with me always as my new and beloved pet.  Or at least after every run I ever do for the rest of my life.

• Crossing that finish line is a wonderful feeling, but collapsing in the shade with a bottle of cold water while you regain feeling in your toes and your legs stop wobbling and your head stops feeling fuzzy is even better.
(Thanks to the race for offering all these pictures for free download, by the way.)
So done.

• It's nice to have Kneaders French toast after a long run, but it also helps to have a great team of supporters to help you finish it, because if you feel like you're going to keel over and die if you don't lie down immediately, you don't exactly want to guzzle maple syrup.
Om nom nom.

Sleepyhead still waking up.

• Speaking of supporters, it's wonderful to see people you love after a grueling experience of any kind, but especially one that ends with the rush that comes with crossing a finish line.  The pom-poms and tambourines were a nice touch.
This may or may not have been staged for photographing purposes.

This one too.  *ding*
I did iiiiit!

Mom and Dad did the 5K.  They gave medals to ALL the runners this year!

• It feels great to have a nice long training schedule, work on it for months, check off every week as you go, and then follow through with your goal (and it helps if you do even better than you were aiming for).
 Later that morning we stopped at Target and picked up a copy of The Little Engine That Could for The Boy.  I found I could quite relate with that whole I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can thing.

And, finally:

• It might take a few days to recover, that is, to be able to walk up and down the stairs like a normal human being, but that's just fine.  It reminds you that you're alive and of the amazing things your body can do (read: that you can put your body through).  But I was also glad to get back to a regular, short morning run.

People asked me after if I would do another one, and my answer was... not today!  I may do another one in a few years, and this really was a good one to do, but I'm in no hurry.  I think a 10K is a great longish-distance run.  If you're thinking of doing a half marathon, don't be afraid!  People do them and survive, and it's a great accomplishment.

There's a metaphor or allegory in here somewhere.

(Now, if you're thinking of doing a full marathon... that's just crazy.  No one needs to run for that long.  Just the thought of running twice as far as I did last Saturday makes me feel kind of insane.  But we'll see... if anyone can get me to put myself through that, it's Disney.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blogkeeping -- Fall 2014

Blogkeeping time!  These 100 were watched from August (bottom) to December 2014 (top).  Coming to a close on the Disney movie-thon, and so much Amazing Race!

The Amazing Race (Season 13) **** / Creature Comforts: Merry Christmas Everybody [r] ***** / Mickey's Christmas Carol [r] **** 1/2 / Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas **** / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) * 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 12) *** 1/2 / The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies ** 1/2 / Wreck-It Ralph [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 25) *** / The Amazing Race (Season 11) *** / Survivor: Blood vs. Water 2 - San Juan del Sur (Season 29) *** 1/2 / Winnie the Pooh [r] *** 1/2 / Belle *** 1/2 / The Hundred-Foot Journey **** / How To Train Your Dragon 2 ** 1/2 / Tangled [r] **** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 10) **** / Peter Pan Live ** / The Princess and the Frog [r] ***** / Maleficent [r] *** / Toy Story That Time Forgot *** 1/2 / The Spoils of Babylon [r] **** / The Giver **** / Kristin Chenoweth: Coming Home *** 1/2 / The Pirate Fairy *** / Interstellar ** 1/2 / Hercules (2014) * 1/2 / Heart & Souls [r] ***** / Big Hero 6 *** 1/2 / The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 *** 1/2 / The Hunger Games: Catching Fire [r] ***** / The Hunger Games [r] **** 1/2 / Yellow Submarine [r] ** 1/2 / Bolt [r] *** 1/2 / David Copperfield (1999) **** / Meet the Robinsons [r] *** 1/2 / Help! *** / Chicken Little [r] ** / Bleak House [r] ***** / A Hard Day's Night *** 1/2 / Transcendence ** 1/2 / Home On the Range *** 1/2 / Edge of Tomorrow *** 1/2 / Inglorious Basterds *** / Brother Bear 2 [r] *** / Brother Bear [r] *** 1/2 / Death Comes To Pemberley *** 1/2 / Treasure Planet [r] **** / Run Fatboy Run [r] **** / Hotel Transylvania ** 1/2 / Project Runway (Season 13) *** 1/2 / Leroy & Stitch ** 1/2 / Stitch! The Movie ** 1/2 / Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch *** / Lilo & Stitch [r] *** 1/2 / Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter * 1/2 / Atlantis: Milo's Return [r] ** 1/2 / Atlantis: The Lost Empire [r] **** / Kronk's New Groove *** / The Fault In Our Stars **** / The Emperor's New Groove [r] ***** / The Spoils of Babylon (Season 1) **** / Dinosaur [r] *** 1/2 / Fantasia/2000 [r] **** 1/2 / Tarzan II *** 1/2 / Tarzan & Jane [r] ** / Tarzan [r] ***** / The Monuments Men *** 1/2 / Coraline [r] **** / Mulan II [r] *** 1/2 / Mulan [r] ***** / Alice In Wonderland (1999) *** / Alice in Wonderland (1985) ** 1/2 / 47 Ronin ** 1/2 / I, Frankenstein * 1/2 / Hercules [r] **** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 9) *** / The Hunchback of Notre Dame II [r] ** 1/2 / The Hunchback of Notre Dame [r] **** 1/2 / The Amazing Race: Family Edition (Season 8) ** 1/2 / Divergent ** 1/2 / Pocahontas II: Journey To a New World [r] *** 1/2 / Pocahontas [r] ***** / The Amazing Race (Season 7) **** 1/2 / The Lion King 1 1/2 [r] **** / The Lion King [r] ***** / The Amazing Race (Season 6) *** 1/2 / Aladdin and the King of Thieves [r] **** / The Return of Jafar [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 5) **** / Aladdin [r] ***** / Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World ** / Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas [r] **** / Beauty and the Beast [r] ***** / The Amazing Race (Season 4) ** 1/2 / The Rescuers Down Under [r] **** / The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning [r] *** 1/2 / The Little Mermaid II: Return To the Sea [r] *** / Guardians of the Galaxy *** / The Little Mermaid [r] *****

Books!  50 of them from mid-October 2014 to mid-February 2015, finishing up my Disney Source Material Read-Through (see accompanying arts here) and plenty of board books:

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats? (Jane Yolen and Mark Teague) *** / Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand) **** / Boy and Going Solo (Roald Dahl) **** / Sidekicked (John David Anderson) **** / Wonder (R.J. Palacio) **** / Little Lord Fauntleroy (Frances Hodgson Burnett) **** / Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Jeff Kinney) ** / Birthday Monsters! (Sandra Boynton) **** / Let's Dance, Little Pookie (Sandra Boynton) **** / Tickle Time! (Sandra Boynton) ***** / Are You A Cow? (Sandra Boynton) **** / A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel (Sean Michael Wilson) *** / Santa Claus, the World's Number One Toy Expert (Marla Frazee) **** / Through the Animals' Eyes: A Story of the First Christmas (Christopher Wormell) ***** / Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method For Solving Complex Problems With Simple Pictures (Dan Roam) ***** / The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas With Pictures (Dan Roam) **** / Kate Greenaway's Original Drawings For the Snow Queen (Hans Christian Andersen) *** / The Snow Queen (transl. by Naomi Lewis, ill. by Angela Barrett) *** 1/2 / Rapunzel Untangled (Cindy C Bennett) *** / Calamity Jack (Shannon Hale) *** 1/2 / Rapunzel's Revenge (Shannon Hale) *** 1/2 / Rapunzel (Paul O. Zelinsky) ***** / The Frog Princess (E.D. Baker) **** / The Frog Prince, Continued (Jon Scieszka) ***** / The Frog Prince Or Iron Henry (transl. by Naomi Lewis, ill. by Binette Schroeder) **** / All the Wrong Questions: Shouldn't You Be In School? (Lemony Snicket) ***** / File Under 13: Suspicious Incidents (Lemony Snicket) *** / Kingdom Keepers: The Insider (Ridley Pearson) * / Kingdom Keepers: Unforeseen (Ridley Pearson) ** / Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (Jeff Kinney) *** / A Day With Wilbur Robinson (William Joyce) **** / What's Wrong, Little Pookie? (Sandra Boynton) ***** / Hey! Wake Up! (Sandra Boynton) ***** / Happy Hippo, Angry Duck (Sandra Boynton) ***** / One, Two, Three! (Sandra Boynton) ***** / The Vanishing Act (Mette Jakobsen) ** / We Have Always Lived In the Castle (Shirley Jackson) ***** / Chicken Little (Rebecca Emberley, ill. by Ed Emberley) *** / The Remarkable Story of Chicken Little (Anonymous) **** / BabyLit: Dracula (Jennifer Adams, ill. by Allison Oliver) **** / Opposites (Sandra Boynton) **** / The Going-To-Bed Book (Sandra Boynton) ***** / Moo, Baa, La La La! (Sandra Boynton) ***** / Blue Hat, Green Hat (Sandra Boynton) ***** / Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson) **** 1/2 / Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire Essential Guide (David John) *** / The Day the Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt) **** / Atlantis: Unsolved Mysteries (Ann Margaret Lewis) *** / The Emperor's New Clothes (Hans Christian Andersen, ill. by Dorothée Duntze) **** / The Steadfast Tin Soldier (Hans Christian Andersen, ill. by Fred Marcellino) ****

(1 June 2015)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Three Months and a Happy Face

This little girl celebrated three months yesterday, and she's doing great.  (When The Wife writes her blogpost, I'll post it here.)  She seems to have discovered her lungs, and she knows how to use them, but she's also discovered how to smile and coo and giggle and squeak, and generally just be alert and responsive and delightful.  She's sleeping pretty well, and eating just fine.  She's about average in weight, but well above in height, so she's a tall and lean girl, but she's fattening up nicely, especially in her round and chubby cheeks.  She likes to be held (and sometimes decidedly does NOT like NOT being held), and she's starting to be quite amused by big brother.  She's good in the car and she likes to be passed around to aunties and uncles and cousins and grandparents, so she's generally beloved by all.
She's becoming so expressive.
Runners-up for the blessing outfit.  Thanks for nothing, Target slow shipping/USPS.
Always so daintily clasping her hands.
So, not to change the subject or anything, but lately I've been feeling bombarded by the world.  It seems like every time I go online or scroll through my News Feed that there are a million rotten things happening, often even to my family and friends personally, and it can start to weight pretty heavily on your mind and heart.  People are crazy, ideas are crazier, wrong is right and right is wrong, and it's just getting harder and harder to say and do what you believe in (unless of course you believe in exactly what certain people allow you to).  Anyway, just when I think the world is beyond hope or redemption, I see this and it reminds me that there's great and good and wonderful going on in the world too:
We love you, Little Miss!

Monday, June 1, 2015

2 Birthdays, 2 Years

These posts do seem to get combined more and more regularly these days.

Anyway, we had two big birthdays a couple of weeks ago!  We're starting to get the hang of this juggling of two special days one right after the other.  The Wife posted a fun update here, but by way of update here, I'll say that we had a lot of cake and lots of fun times.  For The Wife's birthday we had fun times at home with some fun surprises and cupcakes and ice cream (on separate outings), and then over the weekend she made one of her epic cakes (it's been a while!) and we had a fun turnout of friends and family.
Beautiful birthday girl.
Happy 1st, Wife!  Observe The Boy's leftovers on the right.
One of her favorite presents from The Husband (and The Kids)
Then on The Boy's birthday we had breakfast at Kneaders and then met up with my parents for a fun morning at the dinosaur museum (which he liked even more than he did last time), after which there were new trains and super hero getups, and then later in the week we had a fun playdate with some little friends, where bubbles and sidewalk chalk and a little chocolate cake abounded.
Fun and delicious times!
Presents and a little browniecake!
And now we have a two-year-old in the house.  This boy is clever and sweet and funny and lively, he says almost everything like a very enthusiastic question, he still loves tractors and trucks and cars and airplanes and helicopters and riding or pushing anything with wheels (especially his little lawnmower from his birthday, which he doesn't even know blows bubbles!), and he loves his baby sister.  He loves visiting cousins or Nana and Papa, he loves Nursery, and he always loved a ride in the running stroller or the car.  He will occasionally stop everything he's doing and collapse in hysterics, stretching out on the floor in his most recent version of a tantrum, but it doesn't take long for him to find something to distract him or to make his needs known.  He's putting together sentences and figuring out electronics (yikes, more reason than ever to have the phone out at an absolute minimum), and is getting pretty familiar with his alphabet and his 1-10 numbers.  He loves books, and he loves to look at pictures and videos of people he knows, especially himself.  He's done such a good job adjusting to having a little one in the house who demands so much of his parents' attention, though he's certainly not afraid of letting himself be heard!  He's just a good little kid.
Trying out baby's new bedding
Finishing up our Disney movie indoctrination education
Getting over a sad little sickness just before baby's arrival
So happy when they bounce back!
Hairy little mancub.
He's starting to do his part a little more.
Testing out his old things for Baby's future use.
A P.S. to the series.  The circle of life continues.
Just a dude hangin' out at the auto parts store.
He loves Papa's "tractor" SO much.
No way this boy's going to grow up without an appreciation of art.
This was a not uncommon morning occurrence for a while.
This kids loves having neighbors across the street with lots of fun toys.  He can't quite reach the pedals, but it won't be long now.

All by himself!  Well, he's getting the hang of it.
Starting early on our new and exciting new addition.  He loves the Tangled book for the plentiful horses.
Such a big boy with his new haircut!
Helping himself to Mommy's Mother's Day breakfast in bed.
Happy birthday, boy!  You are a sunbeam.