Monday, September 28, 2015

Six Years/Six Months

Wow, I just realized that I didn't even blog about our anniversary...  Maybe that's because we took it easy this year, just spending time with some little one who weren't feeling their best, making and breaking and postponing special plans, and generally being together and hoping for good things for the future.  As I said on Facebook, six years and many highs and occasional lows later, we spent our special day doing chores and switching laundry and sorting through boxes of old stuff, and as we returned home from running errands with two tired and whining kids in the back seat and looked at each other... I realized I wouldn't want it any other way.

Still so in love with this pretty girl.

Next!  A couple weeks ago our little girl hit the big half-year mark (and we finally had our checkup -- thanks, switching of insurance), and she's doing just great.  The Wife's post can be seen here, but in continuing my own series of posts, here are a bunch of pictures:
My girls at the park.
So mobile these days!  She was most determined to reach that book.  And then probably eat it.
Visiting the goats.
Visiting the penguins.
Do you see what I see??  There are definitely two down there now.
I think we (finally) managed to make the baby gate work just in time.  It's been a process.
Aloha wear buddies on Labor Day.  I love that swath of still-dark hair.
There's that swath again!  Mommy kind of has one too.
Checking out Mommy's new look.
Such a scrumptious little duck!
This is the one that was actually Instaposted, because WUT.
I realized that I haven't done drawings of her in months, which was inexcusable.
Oh that little one!  It's getting more and more to the point that I just can't even stand her cuteness for five seconds without smothering her with kisses (did I mention I like to give them by the 20s?  I feel like it's good to overdo it to build up some credit in case I forget sometime).  After being weighed and measured today she's not exactly the tallest six-month-old on the block anymore, but she's still just right at just over 16 pounds.  She wasn't a fan of the doc today, and of course she was none too pleased to get her shots, but she rallied in short order.  I miss seeing her in the mornings and occasionally throughout the day now that I'm working in an actual office (more on that later), but she's always glad to see me when I come home at the end of the workday.

We love our sweet little smooch!  Happy Half, Baby Girl.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Month the Fifth for Little Miss

Little Missis getting bigger and cuter (if possible!) every day.  She reached five months this week (Wife's update here) and she's doing fine.  She still resists sleep now and then, but her long stretches are getting more common.  She's rolling all over the place (watch out when she's on the couch or the bed) and she's practically up on her hands and knees at times.  She and her brother love to make each other laugh, and we just sit back and watch in amusement the whole time.  Her lovely dark hair is starting to lighten, which is a bit sad, but she'll wear golden locks just as well as her brother did when his started to change.  She is getting very vocal and loves to make funny dinosaur noises and squeal and laugh (and sometimes whine and cry) (but not that often).
Happy little non-sleeper.

"Here, Baby, have a car.  Have ALL the cars."

Running buddies!

Sunday AM

Tummy flying.

Mommy and her little helper at a local event for Harry's birthday

About to head into the platform.
The sleepiest house-elf (and the littlest Seeker).
Picking blackberries

<3 br="">
We do so love our little one!  I love all the steps along the way, but this is where they really start to get to my favorite stage, I must say.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Alpine Days 2015

Last Saturday was the Alpine Days 5K.  I haven't done this one in a couple of years, but it's a favorite because it's nice and inexpensive, and it's close (now closer than ever) and it's a fun course.  Well, apparently starting last year they changed the course, but I actually think I liked it even better than the one before.  I don't know if it's because the last organized run I did was much longer, but these three miles just seemed to fly by, even with the gradual but steady uphill for the first half.

Anyway, they upped their game this year in other ways too, like offering shirts for the first time (and nice ones too!) for a few dollars more.  They still don't have the best post-race treats ever, and the awards take WAY too long to hand out (you don't have to wait in between every single person and shake their hand and get their life story before going on with the other placements in the same division), and I still think they'll be just fine if they start at 7:30 or even 8 -- it was a nice morning but the sun didn't even come up until we were all well and finished, and I could even see my breath! -- but all in all I like it just fine.

We had a good family turnout this year, just a bunch of guys and Mom this time.  I did all right -- 23:00, about 7:23/mile, placed 5th in my division.  I don't know what it is about running, sometimes it's amazing and I feel like I'm flying and sometimes I feel like I'm dragging my buck-seventy-eight through mud.  I don't know how else to explain that my pace seemed (and was) so much better when I ran 13 miles a month ago than it was when I ran 3 miles a few days ago.

Anyway, enough of that, it was fun and here's the group!  Yay for inexpensive, fun races.

The kids did the Toddler Trot after, which was fun and resulted in ribbons and lollipops all around.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lessons Learned From a Shattered Phone

(Happy 5 months to Baby!  But first, from last Friday...)

I will tell you, I fought the smartphone revolution heartily and well.  My old flip phone (which I had to eventually relent to get even that) was working just fine, and I liked my service (i.e. family plan...), and as a phone it was all I really needed.  All the texts I wrote to and received from The Wife while we were dating long-distance were on there, and it meant a little something to me, scratches and all.  But then, plans were changing, its camera, such as it was, was lacking, the idea of being able to look things up on the go started to sound really appealing, and in general I figured it was time to grow up and get off my dad's cell phone plan.  I really didn't want to become one of Those People who are always staring at their phones, especially when we had a little one on the way, but I was sure we would be able to use them judiciously.  We switched to some starter phones, which were amazing to us, but which after a couple years started to show signs of aging.  But the real jump to a more legit smartphone was switching to a completely new service.  I could go on and on about the things I like about RepublicWireless (and just one on about the things I don't quite love), but for the price it can't be beat.  The only catch was that you have to buy their phones.  Fine, no problem, we were probably due for an upgrade anyway.  Flash forward about half a year after that magical Christmas morning, full of shiny new phones in stylish protective cases that take much better pictures and have much more reliable internet features and much bigger hard drive space...

One busy morning, my phone disappeared.  We looked everywhere, I tried every possible method of locating your phone (you would think in emergencies this would be easier these days), I seemed to remember putting it on the roof of the car and thought maybe it had fallen off when The Wife went to the store later that afternoon but had no luck driving up and down the road searching, I worried it was going to die and then it wouldn't even be heard ringing (if I hadn't left it on silent...)... And then when The Wife went on her run the next morning, she found this:

Major street cred at least?

Here are some lessons learned from a shattered phone.


• Second things second, if you DO put your phone on the roof of your car, don't forget about it and leave it there all day.

• Third things third, wear shorts with pockets, especially if you're going out and about.  Seriously, this whole thing would have been avoided if I had had pockets and somewhere to put my phone when I came home and immediately started to doing yard work.

• If you find a shattered phone, plug it in and see if it still works.  If it does (like mine did), hurray, you will probably be able to get all your pictures and such off of it!  Especially if (like mine did) it has a removable SD card.

• That screen really does have sharp little pieces and cracks.  It might not have been able to cut me, but it sure felt like it would.  Street cred, pffft.  I'd take a nice shiny screen any day.

• Try not to let that blinking notification light and occasional ding from a phone with an obviously working phone but obviously not working screen get to you.

• If you have a protective cover, it will only go so far.  (Then again, apparently not all covers are created equal?)  This thing didn't have a chance, considering the entire back popped off along with the cover when it was, I can only presume, run over several times before finally making its way safely to the gravelly side of the road.

• When you get your replacement phone, turn off USB debugging and install lost phone recovery apps right away.  This will save you such grief, believe you me.

• Speaking of grief, if you haven't turned off USB debugging or installed lost phone recovery apps, you will still be able to get a lot of your contacts and such from some of your online accounts, but I'm sorry to tell you that, at least for the time being, your texts will be long gone (this does matter to me since I communicate with my family and The Wife so much this way, and now at least seven months' worth of that communication is lost... ah well, fresh start?).

It should be noted that if you figure out after hours of searching that such a thing cannot be done, it's probably best to give up the search, or at least moderate the time you spend on it.  All it will do is make you more frustrated and have the same result, and who needs that?

Incidentally, if anyone ever figured out how to transfer texts without having turned off USB debugging or installed lost phone recovery apps, do let me know?

• It's not a terrible idea to look on eBay for used/refurbished phones, but buy with care and don't be too hasty (luckily mine allowed me to cancel my order the next day when I found a more reputable option), and you can always check with your retailer for specials or deals:

• If you are a RW customer, you may have the option of buying a lower-priced replacement phone from their B-Stock supply, which are phones that are possibly refurbished or new returned for whatever reason but unable to be sold as "New", but are still in working order.

• Sometimes if you get a replacement phone, it will also not work...

• If your replacement phone doesn't work, try not to spend hours trying to figure it out.  In my case I guess it must have been the proximity sensor or something, because every time I tried to make or answer a call the screen instantly went black.  The call was still in operation, but you were unable to use the keypad or even hang up, and the only way to get the screen back would be if the person on the other end hung up (which made for some awkward scrambling after leaving a message).  I found that if I plugged headphones in the screen would come back on, since the proximity sensor is no longer in use, but then would go black again when I took the headphones out, and then if I turned on the speaker and took out the headphones it was fine, but if I turned the speaker off it was black again... It was most vexing.

• If your replacement phone doesn't work, you can try to take it apart and make it somehow magically work, but don't get too frustrated if it doesn't work.  Most of them time you need very specific and very unique tools for such an operation, surely by design.  I had dreams that this would work out, but no.

• If your phone doesn't work AS A PHONE, you need to get a new phone.
Third time's the charm??
• It's a bummer to lose info and pictures (I luckily didn't lose any of those at least), but there are worse things.  And most of that stuff actually does transfer pretty quickly and easily, especially if both phones are at least functional.

• In the end, it's just a thing.  We use and even need things these days, especially if it's our line of communication to friends and family and work, but there are ways to get your things working again, even if it takes (heaven forbid) a week or two.  Try not to let it occupy your thoughts too much.

And, most importantly:

• If you start to even joke that you're trying not to feel like an amputee now that your phone is not constantly on your person for a few days... it's time to detach.  I mean, I'd been meaning to disconnect a little more lately, I'd just have preferred it had been on my terms, all things considered.  Still, the fact that I was so cranky about a phone was a good reminder.  I've been happy to leave it in another room for long stretches at a time so I can concentrate on other things (until I need to grab it and take that picture while the toddler and the infant are being so cute together!).

So I learned a lot from this experience.  At the moment my third RW phone seems to be working just fine, though there is the slightest speck of broken pixel/ding in the screen at some level which lets out just the tiniest little sparkle when the screen is lit up.  I thought about trying to fix it or get the thing replaced again, but:

• If you're on your third phone in half a year and discover the tiniest blemish, embrace it.  I like to think of it as a remnant of some kind, just a hint of its dearly departed father's and grandfather's respective and varied fates.  Like a reminder to its owner of what happened, and really, if this extremely minor version of a shattered, unusable screen is what I'm left with, I'll take it.

It's almost like it has a little scar from its very infancy.

I call it Harry.

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.)