Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Praise the Lord!"

Tucker came home from Bible study on Thursday yelling "Praise the Lord!" He really likes his new phrase, and repeats it over and over at top volume whenever he gets excited. The other night I was flipping him over, and he liked it so much that he clasped his hands as if praying and launched into "Praise the Lord!" We did flips again this morning, with the same result. I'm pretty sure they did NOT do flips at Bible study while praising the Lord, but you never know....

My first race in ages

It was only a 5k, but if felt a lot longer than a 5k. Really. There is nothing like running a race outside after having "trained" on a treadmill to convince a person how much better shape they could be in. You see, there's a little thing called topography outside that treadmills (fortunately) lack.

The last race I did was before I moved to Virginia, a 15k. I remember it being surprisingly a lot easier than I thought it would be (and I went at a faster pace than I did this time, too!). This was exactly the opposite. But, kudos to my friend Lena for getting me off the couch so early on a Saturday morning and at least contemplating getting into that kind of shape again... maybe... eventually.... :)

Addendum: It turns out we got 4th place in the female-female team category, out of 12. Surprisingly good, but out of medal contention. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Soap and a "boo boo"

I caught Tucker unpacking the new bars of soap we bought today. They come three to a package, and he had managed to get them out (but they still had the individual wrappers on them). He was methodically lifting up his shirt and rubbing each bar of soap on his belly. I asked him if he was clean yet after the first four or five bars and he said "No, Tucker still not clean" (he wanted to use ALL the bars).

His other new trick lately is removing his diaper and pajama pants at night. He doesn't like wearing diapers anymore, and so he just takes them off. Two nights ago when we were still up after he had gone to bed we heard him over the monitor saying "boo boo, boo boo." Anyway, apparently a "boo boo" can also apply to being uncomfortable because he is cold, having removed the bottom half of his clothes. Last night when I went to check on him before we went to bed, he was lying on his tummy, bum up, completely naked from the waist down. It was pretty funny.

Today the library was closed, the playground was still snowy, so I decided to take a trip to a local antique store that has a train table for its youngest patrons... but it ended up being closed. Tucker was so disappointed, adament that we couldn't just go home, so I took him to the thrift store to play. He ended up finding a plastic dollhouse, stuffing it full of trucks and cars, and then having to be dragged out of the place crying because he wanted to bring the dollhouse with trucks home so badly.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"I always liked ski jumping"

-Austin, making excuses for why he's intently watching the Olympics again tonight, despite insisting he doesn't like the Olympics because they are a bunch of sports nobody cares about

So far the list of events he's watched include:
-downhill skiing
-ski jumping

Which, of course, is just about every event that's been televised so far apart from figure skating. I love to see Austin's nationalistic fervor emerging--I guess I am a good influence on him after all. :)

Tigger, I mean Tucker

Tigger has made a big impression on my son. If you don't remember Tigger, he's the Winnie the Pooh character with the bountiful energy who bounces everywhere he goes and bowls over his friends by bouncing on them.

This morning Tucker woke up and decided he needed to go into our room to bounce Austin who was still peacefully lying in bed.

This afternoon Tucker spent his "nap" kneeling on his bed bouncing up and down and laughing hysterically. (Surprisingly, this did not lead to ANY sleeping and led to an incoherently tired and cranky boy by 5 pm.)

Currently, he's sleeping with a Tigger beanie baby. I hope it doesn't give him any ideas in the middle of the night....

Collecting sap for our own maple syrup

We are making our own maple syrup this year. Really. I gave Austin 8 taps for Christmas, and he put them out today, attached to gallon jugs to start collecting the sap. By the end of the day we already had 4 gallons of sap.

Sugar maples don't grow well in our part of Virginia but apparently you can tap any variety of maple, and a couple other types of trees as well. What our property is lacking in sugar maple, it makes up with gigantic old silver maples, and so our maple syrup experiment is in business.

Apparently it takes about 10 gallons of sap to make a quart of syrup, which means we have to figure out how to store all these gallons of sap in a cold place before undertaking the monumental task of boiling it all down to make syrup. Austin bought a food grade 5 gallon bucket for the storage task, but we filled just about the whole thing up in one day. Hmmmm.

Also yet to be determined is exactly how to boil the sap down as there is a burn ban in effect in Virginia, and you really need to boil the sap outdoors so that all the moisture boiled off isn't released into the house. One solution would to build a cinder-block enclosure so that the fire can be technically argued to be enclosed, but that stills begs the question of what type of container to use. Anything from inside the kitchen would get fouled up with the creosote of the fire, and you also need something with a lot of surface area.

I'll let you know how all of this goes!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Alarm clocks are complex pieces of machinery

The question of the day is: how did I ever function as a single person? More specifically, how did I ever get up in the morning? I have a confession: I am incapable of setting my alarm.

I am not a fan of everyday alarm use. I go to bed early enough that I generally wake up early enough to get where I need to go no problem. I figure if I sleep in a bit too much and rush, that's okay, because I needed the sleep. Oh, and of course, Tucker has been my alarm clock for the past two years anyway. And those rare days when we do need an alarm for a special purpose, well, usually Austin is getting up for the same reason that I am and just sets his.

But still, every now and then I have a need to set my alarm clock. And I fail. Every time. It's ridiculous.

The first time, I had the alarm set 12 hours later than it should've been (AM not PM).
The second time, I had the clock on PM when it should've been AM, so the alarm didn't go off.
The third time, I had the volume too low to hear it.
The fourth time, I thought I had switched the alarm clock on, but really had turned it off.
The fifth time, I had the alarm set to radio, but didn't have it tuned to a station.
Today, I managed to set the clock back an hour accidentally so even though my alarm was set for 6:30 am, it wouldn't ring until 7:30 because my clock was wrong.

And there probably have been other permutations and duplications of the above errors that I'm forgetting. This issue has passed the ridiculous mark and is now somewhere between bizarre and absurd. After all, how hard is it to work an alarm clock?

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Pictures

A few more pictures...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cold weather in the South

It is cold in the Orlando area this week. I was prepared for this to a degree, but not to THIS degree. When we tried to walk on the beach in the late morning it was still in the low 40's and really, really windy. A blustery day, as Pooh would say.

Still, I am celebrating that there is no snow on the ground. This would seem to be only a minor point of celebration for someone from Virginia if not for the fact that we've had a terrible winter: the public schools in my county have had about two days of school in the past three weeks, and no place seems safe from the crazy weather--even Dallas, Texas has a foot of snow right now. So I'm thankful for no snow.

We even have had some beach time, although that beach time has included all of our warmest clothes and not even going near the water. This is fine with Tucker, though. The first day we arrived, Tucker went about knee high in the ocean, but his eczema was bad that day and the salt water got into it and he ended up just screaming in pain from the sting. Since then he is very clear that the ocean water is bad and only the sand is good.

My first Rocket Launch

On Wednesday morning, we got to see a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. It was pretty neat, and totally by happenstance that we got to see it. We actually were looking for the pier to show Tucker the big cruise ships docked there, as well as a lock that goes between the river and the ocean and is a great place to watch wildlife. We ended up slightly lost in the pier area and came upon a park that we decided to explore. The whole park was brimming with people. The entire parking lot was full. It was only then we realized that since it was on the water it had a great view of the Kennedy Space Center complex across the water... and of the rocket launch that had been scrubbed the day before because of bad weather.

Withing about five minutes of arriving we saw the rocket get launched. It went up with no ceremony--we didn't know it was happening until we saw it up there. At first it didn't make any noise until the boosters kicked in about halfway through our field of vision. Then it made a gentle booming noise. It took less than five minutes for it to ascend out of slight, probably less.

FYI, the first picture should be rotated 90 degrees counter clockwise... the rocket was launching up not over, but for reasons mysterious to me Blogger seems to be artificially rotating the picture when I upload it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Disney World

Yesterday my mom took Tucker and I to Disney World. Tucker doesn't have any Disney movies (the only thing he knows about is the movie Cars), so he was a bit clueless at first as to what was all going on. But we had a really fun (and tiring!) day, and he is definitely going to remember Mickey and Minnie and Goofy and Donald for next year. My mom got Tucker a Mickey Mouse shirt, so it will be a memory prompt which will mean we will forever after be unable to visit GoGo in her pink house without a child begging for Disney World.

The highlights of the day were the carousel which Tucker loved and had no line, the parade we saw with all the characters, and a show with the characters staged beneath the castle. The teacups were also fun and the line was short, which made it great too. Tucker liked the Winnie the Pooh ride but the 20+ minute line made it feel like the ride was not really worth it (it was a bit of a weird ride, in my opinion, in terms of what was hung on the walls which you passed in your little honey pot/car). Mickey's Philharmagic is a 3D show that was recommended as a must-see for all ages. It was fine, but not great, and it terrified Tucker. It was the first time he had been in a theater and the music was too loud... he spent the whole show on my lap with his eyes buried in his arm and me trying to cover his ears. It's a Small World was not as good as I remembered--the imagery on the walls of all the different cultures was hokey (almost a bit insulting at points), they changed the music so the theme song is more muted and not as memorable, and the line was long.

Another highlight for Tucker was lunchtime where he demolished two huge hot dogs (equivalent at least to three normal ones), half a nectarine, and lots of fries. It is amazing to me what can fit in that little boy. The lowlight of the day was waiting in a 30 minute line to ride Dumbo, and have Tucker freak out right as we're the next group to board because he has to go potty. We have to ditch the ride when we were supposed to board but we still couldn't quite get to the potty in time. It was sad.

Next time, I would make reservations for a sit-down lunch to have a break. I'd also not do as many of the rides with the lines. The lines were what made the day hard. I'd use the FastPass system to schedule one or two rides, do Dumbo first thing (doesn't use FastPass) and otherwise do the things that don't have lines, or much for lines--the Carousel, the tea cups, the train around the park, the playground, looking at Mickey's house, the shows, the Swiss Family Robinson, the Steamboat, etc.

But it was a good day, and Tucker was a champ without a nap. Today Tucker is proudly wearing the Mickey Mouse shirt he picked out, and we've already looked at pictures of goofy on my computer. I think we'll remember Disney World for a long time... until we come back to GoGo's house and he begs to go again. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Trading snow for ocean

Yesterday Tucker and I escaped from the snow to visit my mom near Orlando. I love Virginia. I love our home. But this time I was very ready to leave.

When we left Virginia we were still out of power and had been for more than 36 hours, and the whole town was still entirely shut down. (Incidentally, it's a bit funny to fly after several days without being able to shower... at least I didn't know anyone around me.)

We didn't get the epic storm predicted because the temperature was a couple degrees too warm and we got freezing ran for half of the storm rather than straight snow. Still, 15-20 inches of snow plus 12 or more hours of freezing rain. That's A LOT of precipitation. It's also a lot of trees falling down on powerlines. Thankfully, when we checked in with Austin last night he finally got power back in the middle of our conversation. Phew.

We do really well without power, between our wood stoves and some foresight to fill up the bathtub with water and fill up lots of jugs of water (our well doesn't work when the power's out). When it's cold out, we just put our perishables on the porch. (When we were emptying our fridge this time, Tucker found a bottle of lemon juice and drank the whole entire thing... he loves lemons and all things sour.)

Still, the temperature was between 5 and 10 degrees two nights in a row and we woke up to our kitchen being a frigid 52 degrees. The biggest problem was no nightlight for Tucker. He has this light-up turtle that makes colored stars on the ceiling of a dark room. Unfortunately, it goes out after 20 minutes so when he would wake up, it would be dark and he'd start to cry. It gets old turning on Turtle every couple hours all night long. The second night we kept a head lamp on for him all night, and our nights' sleep were much improved.

As I sit here and type I'm watching three gigantic turtles sun themselves on the bank of a little lake/pond in back of my mom's house. We've been treated to up-close views of pelicans and great blue herons and have gotten to play in the sand. Tucker has much more interest in the ocean than he had last summer, and is very much a fan of GoGo's pink house.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Another storm

Yesterday afternoon, the whole family was outside preparing for yet another snowstorm. I was breaking up ice on the driveway so at least we were starting with a decent base for this new 22-28" accumulation (estimates of which are now increasing!).

Tucker was helping Austin bring kindling and firewood onto the porch to keep our stove going and our kitchen toasty. As he was going up the stairs, carrying a stick we heard him narrating his actions, saying "Here comes a logging truck!" or something to that effect.

Pretty cute.

Ben and Tucker continue to act like siblings. At mealtimes Ben tries to get Tucker's dropped food and will push Tucker's chair around, and Tucker gets really mad and yells for me to make Ben stop. Ben tries to steal toys, mittens, ANYTHING out of Tucker's hand, and Tucker pulls right back. When Ben does have a non-dog item in his mouth, Tucker gets very indignant and insists I right the wrongs of the world.

Today, Ben was having a ball outside (I think he truly loves the snow--he goes out in it every other minute during storms) and turned into a snow wolf, meaning he got really excited and started running around like a crazy dog. He picked up some big sticks and ran around with them, then lay down to eat them more thoroughly. When he was done, Tucker went over to one of the sticks and bent over and tried to eat it too. I wish I could've gotten that on video

Citrus mouthwash

When I bought us some new mouthwash the other day, I knew Austin would raise a stink about my new choice in flavors - citrus. It was the only flavor available in the generic brand, and I thought, what the heck?

I don't think it's too bad. It's a bit like orange soda meets mouthwash, which is to say, bizarre. But not necessarily bizarre in a bad way. According to Austin it's like brushing your teeth and drinking orange juice at the same time, which is to say, awful.

It took us at least 3 months to go through our last bottle, probably more. That's a lot of time for Austin to learn to like it. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I just want to say that it's fun to hit things. I discovered this recently during a boxing class. The class is actually half cycling and half boxing, and I had been only doing the first part of the class, and then doing my own thing because I just couldn't see myself boxing.

It turns out that boxing is really fun. It's really fun to hit things, once I get over the fact that I'm terrible at it and look pretty ridiculous. But those things are surprisingly easy to get over, given an opportunity to hit things.

As a parent, I get to practice patience and restraint all day. There is something very satisfying about dropping Tucker off at the gym nursery and getting to go practice upper cuts and hooks and crosses and jobs. I do think I scare Austin with my new boxing lingo sometimes, but I'm sure he'll get over it. :)

Why not to buy a Dell laptop

In case anyone is in the market for a new laptop, I strongly suggest not buying a Dell. I have an almost-two year old Dell laptop, with what seems to be a very common Dell defect that they are not admitting is a systematic defect. This defect also can't be fixed with anything short of a new motherboard.

Fortunately, the defect is relatively minor: the computer tells me it doesn't recognize my AC adaptor and so although it will power the computer, it won't charge my battery.

If you google Dell AC adaptors not being recognized, you realize quickly that you are in VERY good company. Apparently this is a really common problem with Dells, partly because they put special chips in their AC adaptors so that laptops can't use third party replacement adaptors. It seems like this special chip has the propensity to mess up the process of the computer recognizing even a Dell adaptor.

It's one thing to make a faulty product. It's another thing to ignore the issue, even after it's been demonstrated to be a basic hardware problem. I also take issue with Dell's customer service. Although they construct their computers to only be able to use Dell replacement parts, ordering from Dell is a nightmare. Both times I've ordered from Dell they have repeatedly (like 3-4 times each order) pushed back the ship date. I've never had another company do this.

Of course, I did buy my computer for less than half of what it costs to buy a Mac, so I still think I am coming out ahead in the Mac vs PC battle. Just, next time, it'll be Acer or Toshiba or Compaq or Gateway or HP... anything but Dell.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter in Vermont... I mean, Virginia

We woke up yesterday morning and it was 0 degrees out, and had 10 inches of new snowy powder on the ground. Just so you know, we live in Virginia, not Vermont!!!! ZERO??? Why do you think I moved to Virginia in the first place? Today it was a balmy five degrees when we woke up.

Tucker did pretty well in the snow yesterday, once we figured out how to keep the snow from going in his boots. When Ben goes off romping through the snow, Tucker thinks it looks like so much fun that he tries, too. Unfortunately, deep snow LOOKS like more fun to Tucker than it actually is, and he usually trips and falls into it and then gets upset.

Ben, on the other hand, turned into a snow wolf several times yesterday. If you scroll down you can see him staring at us from inside the garden. Apparently one area of the garden fence has come down, and Ben figured it out and got inside the garden--and then couldn't get out. He waited there for at least 15 minutes until one of us came outside to let him out the garden gate.