Monday, April 28, 2008

It's not Darth Tater, but ...

Omaha has these consignment sales filled to the brim with kids stuff. Only kids stuff.

If you are a parent, especially one with young children, these are great.

There are many, but in the nearly three years we've been here, I've learned to like only two.

The one we went to last week had so much stuff it was difficult to even look at all. One of my friends went back three times.

Rye and I only went once, but we were successful.

He got some "new" Children's Place shorts, a Fisher Price flashlight that lets you shift the light from clear to green to red.

And I got a toy bin/shelf for less than half of what they sell for new. Great deal.

The absolute by-far best buy, though, cost me $2. Rye spotted it himself.

On the surface, it was a huge piece of plastic we did not need in our house. But Rye insisted. And so I looked closer.

Attached to the tall plastic tower was a giant Ziploc bag of "guys," tiny, sturdy action figures.

I noticed one was R2D2.


I lugged the plastic toy around for another 15 minutes or so, while we searched through boxes and shelves of books, toys, VHS tapes and other stuff we probably didn't really need.

When we got home, Rye showed Daddy the new toy. And they opened the bag.

And they found the Motherload of 2-year-old bliss. Not only did the Ziploc bag have R2D2, it also had Luke Skywalker circa 1980. He looks more like a Ken doll than a galactic warrior, but he is cool. He came with a space ship that fits strangely just over his head AND a lightsaber. It lights up.

Even I think it's cool.

So hooray for one of those great garage sale/consignment sale finds that turns out to be even better than you originally thought.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tag, I'm it (I guess)

So I might just make it in blog-world after all.

I learned last week that I've been accepted to the BlogHer ads network. This, to me, is a big deal. Not only might I make a small (very small probably) amount of money when people click on the tasteful ads soon to appear on my site, but I'll be part of a network, which means more people will hopefully find my blog. I'm just waiting now for BlogHer ads to send me the code I need.

And today I was tagged by the author of a blog I like called The Mama Chronicles to "play" in what bloggers call a "meme." Basically, I'm supposed to list seven things about myself. I will do my best to not duplicate my first Thursday Thirteen post a month or so ago. Then I "tag" seven others. I'm not sure I can even come up with seven people I know who have a blog!

So. Seven things:

1. In my lifetime, I've moved 15 times. And my dad was not in the military. Rather, academia.
2. In my lifetime, I have had 10 pets, not counting birds or fish. Nine of them were felines.
3. I am almost exactly 20 years older than my brother. I am almost exactly 20 years younger than our mom.
4. In the last two years, I've been to many concerts including The Wiggles (twice), Bon Jovi (yes, twice, as well), Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, The Killers (twice), U2, Matchbox 20, Clay Aiken (TWICE), Disney Playhouse Live, Sesame Street Live, Dave Matthews Band and James Taylor. All except Disney Live and DMB were good, but tops were Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Clay and (yes) The Wiggles.
5. My dream job would be to write for Running Times, which is perfectly located in Boulder. I would also do PR for USA Track and Field in about a heartbeat. USA teams headquarter just south of Boulder in Colorado Springs.
6. My favorite movie of all-time is "Back to the Future."
7. At my high school graduation, I was named "Best All Around Girl." This was an honor I really, really wanted. I remember a friend telling me after the ceremony that the popular girl sitting next to him let her dissatisfaction with my selection be known when my name was called. I always thought she was one of the nicer popular girls, too.

Anyway, there you go! Interesting or not, I've participated in my first meme (For the record, Jenny did invite me to do one a few weeks ago, and I just never did it. Sorry - and thanks -- Jenny).

I'm supposed to list the rules. So here:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. 2. Share seven facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. 3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. 4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

And these bloggers are now "it."

1. Jenny at Bits and Pieces
2. Bryan
3. Wendy
4. Morgetron at Tres Bizarre

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sippy cup saga

To celebrate my last day as a pretend stay-at-home mom yesterday, we went to the zoo.

It was beautiful and sunny and a great day to be at the zoo (aside from the hundreds of children there on field trips, who seemed to be everywhere).

We saw the monkeys, gorillas, tigers, lions, polar bears, sharks and other fish. We rode the carousel -- three times. And we ate peanut butter and jelly outside before petting goats and eyeing bunnies in the barn area.

After that, the cup situation began.

Because Rye refuses to ride in a stroller for very long, I long ago stopped bringing one to the zoo. Worse than having to carry your child everywhere is having to do that while also pushing an empty stroller.


I was carrying Rye, up and down hills, and just as we were about to go into the rainforest building, I put him down and somehow he sort of fell out of my arms.

He was not hurt.

But he dropped his yellow Nuby cup.

And it rolled over the edge of the bridge we were on.

It landed at least 10 feet down, in a fenced-off area for birds.

Here it is:

Rye did not like this. Not at all.

He cried and cried for his long-lost, $2 plastic cup.

I found a zoo worker, who had to consult with another worker, who finally found a zookeeper, who told me she could retrieve it for us but that it would take 10 minutes.

So we simply sat down. And looked at the cup.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Story time

Even before I was pregnant, I would imagine the places my child and I would go.

As the education reporter at a small daily newspaper in western Colorado, I attended a lot of events with kids.

I recall the teddy bear picnic where children brought their favorite bears to be "inspected" by a doctor, given tea on a picnic blanket, get their faces painted and more.

I remember water day at the local college, free swim day at the pool, trips to the humane society, class projects, little-kid ballet ...
Of course, my child would do all of that, at least once.

My favorite, though, was story time.

Simple. Free. Awesome.

So when I got pregnant, I checked the library's schedule for evening or weekend story times. I desperately wanted to be able to do things like that with my child. Things that I remembered doing with my own mom.

I can't remember now if Grand Junction had a weekend or evening story time, but we moved when Rye was only 2 1/2 months old anyway.

And I went back to work.

Though I know he's gaining valuable social skills in daycare and is learning about the many roles women can have by watching me go to work each morning, I still am sad about the loss of story time.

So today we went. (I am on vacation through tomorrow, playing stay-at-home mom and LOVING it).

We heard three stories read by a wonderful librarian named Mary. Each book was about chickens, and each story was followed by a song and a dance.

Rye looked between me and the books, a smile on his face, just about the entire time. He laughed at the funny parts, gasped at the surprising parts and clapped his hands and spun around when he was encouraged to.

He clutched Star Wars action figures his friend had brought to share (in Rye's mind at the moment, there is nothing better), putting them down when he had to, so he could properly clap.

Even at the end, when we went out to look for books and Rye said to his friend, "Let's fight!" (with the action figures) and later, "Did you bring R2D2?" I couldn't have been happier.

Story time doesn't get much better.

Follow it up with a picnic lunch at a park on a sunny, 70-degree day and it's pretty near perfect.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Go, Deena

Deena Kastor won the U.S. Olympic Womens Marathon Trial in Boston today in 2 hours, 29 minutes.

She is my running hero.

At 35 years old, she clicked off 26.2 miles at an average pace of 5:33 per mile. At mile 15, she picked up the pace to 5:20-5:25 per mile, chasing the leader Magdalena Lewy Boulet. When she passed her at mile 23, she never looked back.

In preparation for the Lincoln half marathon on May 4, I ran 11 miles today. It was windy and cold and took me just under 2 hours to finish. Deena Kastor hit the 11-mile mark in 1:04. And she still had 15 miles to go.


Read about the race here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

For what it's worth

We had lunch today with a professor from college, who I really, really like.

He speaks with a New York accent, has a ponytail like my dad and stands up for what he believes in.

Plus, not only was he an engaging teacher, he cared about his students. A requirement of each course was a mid-semester meeting with him. At mine, I remember we talked about running and life more than we talked about English.

So today was the first time we'd seen him in about two years. He was in town for a conference and invited us to lunch.

It was like seeing an old friend again, someone you really care about but who you've sort of lost touch with.

At our wedding, the professor read a poem/essay Dane had written about circles and how they play out in life. I remember being so moved afterward. And I remember he was so nervous beforehand.

So today, as usual, he asked those questions he's so good at asking: How are you doing? But it's not the simple, casual question asked by so many. He really wants to know how you're doing, and he wants the below-the-surface answer.

He also listens with compassion, concern, care.

And he talks honestly about life, the world and its problems, his problems, those of others.

I felt sad when he told us about his partner's failing health and the burden of care that has placed on him. I had no idea his partner was even sick. At 55, though, some life changes and Type 1 diabetes have taken their toll.

Our professor has started driving again after years of not having to. He's reading books about caregiving (and cringing at most of them) and he's just dealing with things no one ever really wants to handle.

I always hate it when the good guys get hurt.

Still, I left the lunch feeling great that we'd seen him and just a little more vulnerable to what life will someday throw our way.

As usual, he gave me several points to ponder. And I think they're worth sharing.

He said:

--Take time to keep yourself healthy. Make exercise and eating well a priority. If for no other reason than to see your children do all the things you dream of them doing -- and more -- do this now.

-- Continue to try to make a difference in the world. It is hard, he acknowledged, and there are many things that often get in the way. But don't give up thinking about how to make a change, or working for it. Do little things. Do something. Realize who you're impacting and don't belittle that.

-- Live in the now. This one is a very important reminder for me. Too often, I'm thinking about what comes next. It's because life trains you to be this way. When you're growing up, the message is constantly about doing well in school, looking ahead to the next year and the next and writing paragraphs for your guidance counselor about where you see yourself in 10 years. It's all so goal-focused, and while I believe in goals, I do think we get swept up in the mindset of achieving and climbing ladders and looking ahead constantly. So much so that many of us are in danger of never actually just living. So be content, he reminded me today. You have good lives, and be OK with them for now. Take comfort, if you want, in knowing that you will not be in this place forever. But for this point in your lives, enjoy where you are. Take it all in.

And today, in the midst of a really busy work day, I felt -- genuinely -- that I enjoyed my job.

I still felt guilty when I was five minutes late picking up Rye. But I reminded myself he probably didn't know the difference. And he was still just as happy to see me when I got there.

Those hugs -- I'll keep those in the now for as long as I can.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No-no mommy

As Rye gets older, he gets naughtier.

The worst consequence of this: Mommy gets meaner.

Lately, it goes like this:

Me: "Rye, don't run with that long stick please."

Me: "Rye, please don't hit the brand-new walls in our basement with that stick."

Me: "Rye, please don't hit the kitty with the stick."

Rye, exasperated: "What CAN I do?"

And then I feel bad.

At Wal-Mart last weekend, I actually said, "Rye, please don't make me be this kind of Mommy."

This was after he had repeatedly run away from me to hide inside the clothes racks and dropped a ceramic dog-food bowl on the floor where it shattered into pieces.


But I love him anyway, of course, even when he's naughty.

Now, if Mommy can just try to temper the bad even more and be nice while doing it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Water baby

Two nights ago, we let Rye get in the sink to play in the dirty dish water.

We did this because he whined.

He has been whining about lots of things lately. And well, sometimes, the whining just gets to be too much and so you say, OK, fine.

Like yesterday when he insisted on wearing one red sock and one white sock to daycare.

Or like last night when he said "Noooooooooooooooo, I want another book!" in that high-pitched, get under your skin toddler way three times and so we ended up reading three books despite my promise of only reading one "because it was late."

The sink experience, though, if you put concerns about whatever was floating in the water after we washed our dishes and then let our child PLAY in it, ended up being really cute.


And then

And finally

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Play your guitar with Murray

Tonight, we got to meet The Wiggles.

It was sweet.

Yes, I am an adult.

But this was still exciting.

Was it on par with meeting New Kid Joey McIntyre in a back room at Lincoln's South Pointe Mall when I was in college?


But as far as the preschool, Disney entertainers go, The Wiggles, in my book, are far superior. They're fun, energetic, genuine -- and they sing good songs. I'm not going to lie: I often have a Wiggles tune in my head. You know: "Doro-thy, Doro-thy, would you like to dance with me?"

So the meet and greet was very structured, and we were actually first in line. We were told to sit in the folding chairs and wait. A Wiggly dancer came out to tell us they'd take our pictures for us so we could all be in it and that Captain Feathersword would be coming, too.

Very exciting!

Rye was very serious, as expected, throughout. But I know he was taking it all in.

After about 10 minutes, The Wiggles came out, all smiles and fun. Captain Feathersword immediately saw the Captain Feathersword doll stuck in my purse.

"Hey, there I am," he said.

Then, he asked what Rye's name was. I told him, and he told the other guys, "Hey, this is Rye, everyone!"

A chorus of, "Hi, Rye"s rang out.

Then -- this was the best part -- Murray (my favorite Wiggle) came around to look at the Wiggles guitar Rye brought with us. Every Wiggle has a thing, and Murray's is playing the guitar.

So Murray bent down in front of Rye and asked Rye about the guitar. And then Rye turned it on and pressed the button that plays "Play Your Guitar with Murray!"


That was great.

Then the Wiggly dancer took our picture, and our turn was over.

I felt the tiniest bit sad as we left the small backstage room. But I was more happy that Rye had that experience, whether he'll remember it or not.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jackie Paper's bedtime story

Little boys often are older than we think.

Tonight, before bed, Rye wanted to read Puff the Magic Dragon. It is only the second or third time we've gotten it out since my dad gave it to him for Christmas.

The book is beautifully illustrated, and Rye loves the page where the kings and princes bow in front of Puff and Jackie Paper and then the next page where the pirates lower their sails.

He giggled as Jackie swung from Puff's gigantic tail. And he nodded in understanding as I told him about the "toys" Jackie brought for Puff.

But then we all know what happens. The perfectly happy tale of boy and dragon turns tragic.

As the song goes: "But then one day it happened. Jackie Paper came no more..."

That's as far as we got. Rye said, "Why did he come no more?" And I saw tears fill his toddler eyes, his lip tremble and I thought, "Oh, no, why did we read this book?" and out it came. Sobs as hard as they've been in a while. Genuine sadness, heartfelt empathy from a boy still on the eve of his third birthday.

I couldn't keep it together at my dad's at Christmas when we read the book either. Why does Jackie Paper have to leave?

This book's illustrator was nice. The last two pages show a little girl coming to find Puff, play with him.

Still, Rye cried. I know, I told him. This is a sad book. It's OK. It's OK.

Even after we'd read Barney -- the happiest book I could think of -- Rye lay in bed, sniffling, his breath catching as it does after a hard cry. "I'm still sad," he said.

I told him it would be OK, that Puff is just pretend, just a story, that neither I nor Dane would ever leave him like that.

And when he went to bed, he seemed content. We'd changed subjects to Great Wolf Lodge, The Wiggles and a story he made up -- "It's a long story, Mom. I need to tell you it all right now."

Still, I can't help feeling I should have known better, that maybe I could have better protected him.

But little boys do grow up. They do move on. What happens to Puff just happens to all of us.

I wish it didn't have to.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Are we there yet?

Today, I almost broke up with running.

I totally stole that line from a shoe ad in Runner's World.

But it's appropriate.

I ran a 12K (about 7.4 miles, I think) trail run up and down and up and up and up and finally another down through Platte River State Park.

The course was beautiful, but it's just too bad my legs were on fire and my ankles gave up on me at about mile four.

I am not a quitter. I hate giving up on anything. But when we came out of the woods and found a water station waiting for us and the sign said "Mile 2" I began to doubt that I could finish.

What I said was, "We're only at mile 2! Are you kidding me?"

Fortunately, I was running with two others, and one of them had a great attitude. At one point, as we walked up yet another hill, he said, "Hey, look at it this way - At least we'll all PR today!"

A personal record for all of us, he reasoned, because we had never run the race before.

He was also running in the equivalent of rubbery socks. He prefers to run barefoot, and after completing five marathons with shoes, he ran the Siouxland Marathon last September without any. No socks or anything - the entire way. Pretty cool.

I did finish the race. 7.4 miles or so (we took a wrong turn once, and the photographer had to lead us back to the right trail) in -- are you ready for this blazing time? -- 1 hour and 41 minutes.

Still, crossing that finish line felt great. And I somehow placed third in my age group.

There's definitely something to be said for perseverance, for battling through, for not giving up. The race today, for me, was just another reminder that sometimes we're stronger than we think.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thursday 13 #2

Thirteen places that matter

1. Stevens Point, Wisc. My birthplace. Though I only lived there until I was 4, I have happy memories there. Walking to the library with my mom. Drinking apple juice from one of those tin cans with the little sticker seal on top while my mom practiced being a ballerina. Feeding a squirrel peanuts from my hand. Building snow forts with my dad in the snow. On special occasions, eating at Ponderosa. Leaving my very special Annie doll there once ... feeling relieved when we went back and it was still there.

2. Norman, Okla. Where we went next. My sister and I had a swingset in the backyard of the rental house. Though it was rusty and far from new, I loved it. The backyard flooded there when it rained -- the red clay dirt just couldn't handle the water. So we paraded around in the dirty water up to our knees, loving every minute. I had my first real friends there -- Paula Bean, Yvonne next door and Tonia Somes on the next block. I learned to ride a bike without training wheels there. I rode the bus home from school and sat next to a girl who ate paper. I had a going-away party at a park when we left.

3. Fremont, Neb. This is not where we went next, but I skipped over Jacksonville, Texas. We were only there a year -- while I was in first grade -- and other than getting a dog and a kitten, I don't have any good memories there. I started second grade in Fremont, made friends, fit in, belonged. When we moved away three years later, I remember sitting in the frame of my empty waterbed, crying to stay. A friend and I had it all planned out -- I'd just move in with her family. Simple. I'd visit my parents in South Dakota on the weekends. The adults, for some reason, didn't go for that. But I moved back to Fremont halfway through my sixth grade year. It's where I grew up, learned to drive, first fell in love, made my forever best friend, played sports, held my first jobs and learned a whole lot about myself and others.

4. Lincoln, Neb. Where I went to college, met my husband, learned a lot about my current career. Where I coached my first cross country and track teams.

5. London, England. Absolutely one of the coolest cities in the world. The history, the architecture, the West End theater, the Tube, the art museums, the people. We spent many weekends there while studying abroad in 2001.

5. Swansea, Wales. Where we lived while studying abroad. The poet Dillon Thomas calls it "ugly, lovely." He's right. A lot of Swansea is nothing to write home about, but it has an authenticity and naturalness to it that you have to appreciate.

6. Florence, Italy. Have you been there? If so, you know what I'm talking about. If not, go someday. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. And Chianti is only $3 a bottle. We drank it straight from the bottle.

7. Rome, Italy. For the Coliseum alone, Rome makes the list. The city is also filled with cats.

8. Paris, France. The Eiffel Tower at night is amazing. There's this blinking light show that I wanted to see over and over again. We went at least two nights. And from the top of the tower, you look out across much of Paris. I remember specifically seeing Euro Disney in the distance. The art here, too, is incredible. Besides the Louvre, we went to a museum filled with Monets, just Monets on every wall.

9. Munich, Germany. The Chinesiche Turm park where beers are gigantic and cheap and where German people are happy and loud and kind. I'll also never forget staying in the home of a German friend, specifically asking his mom for a glass of water auf Deutsch.

10. Ireland. I can't pinpoint it to just one city or town in this country. Touring the countryside with relatives on my dad's side was something I'll never forget. Seeing the house where my Grandma Veronica was born was so neat and strange at the same time. I wished I could somehow mentally transfer the images to my dad.

11. Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Where we went on our honeymoon and one of my favorite places to go. The realness of it pulls me in. The beaches, the dunes, the lighthouses, the water, the tiny cabins, the genuineness of it all. I could spend days, weeks even, just hanging out in one of the Cape's little seaside towns.

12. Omaha, Neb. Where we've had the smartest jobs of our professional careers so far. Where we've done lots of home renovations. Where we've made a few close friends. Where I've run more road races than ever before. Where we've raised our child. For that alone, this place matters.

13. Grand Junction, Colo. No surprise, I know. It's just where we feel truly "home." The red rocks of the Colorado National Monument and elsewhere. Pablo's pizza downtown. The thrift store in Fruita. The Grand Junction Free Press. The track at Stocker Stadium. The chrome buffalo outside Wells Fargo. Skiing at Powderhorn. And far more than anything else-- the people. If it weren't for them, I'm not sure I'd miss it so much.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

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