Friday, April 23, 2010

When I was a baby, I was walking on a volcano...

So began a story that Katie was telling me in the car on the way home from school today.

When I was a baby, I was walking on a volcano and I saw a bunch of BAD guys on a TRAIN...

The story continued for several minutes and involved a baby bad guy (that she kind of knew) eating people (I don't remember if he was eating the bad people or the good people) who then ate her but spit her out just in time before she was "crunched".

I love that my child can talk.  I even love that she can talk a lot, and fairly well.  There are, however, some times when I wish, just a little bit, that she wouldn't talk quite so much.  From the moment I pick her up at daycare until the moment the door closes to her bedroom at night (and sometimes not even then), her mouth is running a mile a minute.  It wouldn't be quite so bad if she were talking and I could just listen. No, normally she requires full participation and will repeat herself endlessly (and increasingly loudly) if you don't respond in the appropriate places.  This, again, wouldn't be so bad.  It would be kind of nice to have a conversation.  But, usually she is telling me stories or talking about things that "happened" that don't, quite, make sense.  How, exactly, do I respond, interestedly, to the story above?  "Oh, that's really interesting Katie!" gets really old after a few thousand repetitions. Usually when I ask her to tell me about her day, she cheerfully responds, "I don't know!" and proceeds with the latest edition of sagas with Katie. 

After a long day at school when I talk to many people and listen to many people talk, a few minutes quiet, on occasion, on the drive home would be nice.

Audio books are my friend.  We'll talk about her day in another year or so.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

500 in 2010 Update

Well, we are more than 14 of the way through the year and I am definitely not 25% done with my miles!  My first goal was to make 220 miles by June 6th, the last Sunday of the school year.  I am currently at 111.02 miles with 7 weeks to go.  According to my calculations, I will need to walk just under 14 miles per week to make it.  YIKES!  I thought I was doing great to get 10!  I generally have 30 minutes to walk in the morning on my treadmill in the attic (it is too dark to walk outside alone so I use the time to get through my TV shows).  At the pace I've been going, I can do about 1.75 miles in 30 minutes.  That does usually involve some hills, but it takes me a lot of days to get 10 miles that way.  And I still have to put in a long walk on Saturday to make it!  So, now I've decided to step it up. 

After a year and a half of really struggling with my back problem relapse, I started walking again last November.  I had to start out really slow but I've recently been able to step it up some.  I started doing light hills around February and just in the last two weeks did I chance some (gasp!) jogging.  Amazingly, I jogged 1.5 miles today and I feel okay.

Even with my speed helping me cover more ground, I still only have 30 min every day to walk.  Before, I wasn't doing it everyday, either.  We decided we needed to change things up at home.  We have a new schedule now (kind of Nazi-ish if you ask me) to try to organize our morning scramble.  It's helping me get out the door to work on time, helping Jim get Katie to school in time to get enough hours at work so he can come home for a family dinner, and giving me 30-45 minutes everyday to exercise.  I get up at an insane hour but it's working.  More on the schedule soon.

I am committed.  Unless I get derailed by sickness or some unusual circumstance, I am going to put my all into getting 220 miles before the end of the year.  I've actually been putting in 2 miles plus in my allotted 30 minutes each day.  Here's to 6 more weeks of crazy before summertime!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spontaneous Florida Trip - Part 3: Musings and antics

Jeff and I both had pretty good cameras, and we occasionally pointed them at each other. This post is all Jeff's photography (except the pic I took of him above, behind the tree in the black shirt, snapping a picture of me in the blue sweatshirt).

Katie is growing up. She is taking an active interest in her surroundings. She was fascinated by the puppy this fisherman brought to his pier. She wanted to pet the dog, and the dog was super excited to see... um.. well... anything. Since the dog was teething, it was in a semi-biting mode. Since it was so frisky, it was also a little bit of a scratcher, and it drew a little blood from Katie's arm, but she didn't seem to mind. It hurt, but she moved on, still interested in the puppy and the rest of the world. In fact, we hardly mentioned the scratch after the trip except to put a small adhesive bandage on it when we got home.

Here's a little of Katie's version of hide-and-seek:

On this trip, Katie's communication bumped up a notch. My expectation and her ability have finally aligned neatly. She played quietly in the back of the car and asked politely when it was time to press play on the DVD player, have a snack, or a potty break. When she was overcome with emotion, I took a moment to ask her what was bothering her and how I could help. She usually stopped crying within just a few seconds, explained the issue politely, and we moved on.

No doubt, as we neared the end of the trip, we were both tired. I took the opportunity to explain, "Katie, we're both tired, so we both have to work extra-hard to be polite." She understood and worked extra-hard. It was great!

Another sign that Katie is growing up came at the Post Office after our return. We were mailing some heavy envelopes. She helped affix the return address labels at home, and once we got to the post office, she helped put them in the box. She asked what happened to the letters after they went in the drop box.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spontaneous Florida trip - Part 2: Beach & Fort

Post-launch breakfast was at a Chick-Fil-A in Daytona Beach. Katie got almost her usual breakfast, but then she ate half of my bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, so I found myself eating half of her breakfast, too. It worked out pretty well. She played on the playground, and we had an all-around good time for breakfast.
Though it can be said that the Atlantic laps at I-95, it was 11 miles to the water from the highway at Daytona Beach, so we went for something a bit closer.
The road to Flagler Beach (from I-95) is beautiful with oak canopies and Spanish moss hanging from nearly every tree. I would have taken a picture from outside the window, but a truck came by and I didn't want to lose my arm!

Katie took some time to warm to the idea of getting her feet wet, but when she did she had a blast.  When a wave came along and lapped at her calves, she darted to shore. She loved it.

For reasons only a young child can understand, Katie thought it would be fun to throw sand into the ocean. She got a shovel full of sand from the dry area, ran to the wet part and waited for a wave to approach. When it did, she cast the sand to sea. It was a rather small shovel, so I was not especially concerned about beach erosion.

We could not go so near Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, Florida, without stopping since there are some stories of me when I was Katie's age from there. (Click for a bigger picture.)

It was at this site where the tour guide asked, "Does anyone know why this place was made of rocks?" I said, "I do!" They put me up on a table (being 4 I wasn't tall enough to see folks), and I proclaimed, "Because rocks don't burn."

On the way out, there was a little girl about my age crying. I walked up to her and explained, "I'm the boy with the magic kisses." I gave her a kiss, and she stopped crying.  (I wish it worked so well on Katie!)
Katie did not have the opportunity to go in to el castillo because it was nap time, so we hurried back to the car and got underway.

Admission has gone up since 1977. The above picture shows 50¢ for adults. Now it's $6.

I did not recall the architecture and other aspects of the city. It is a lovely old city and reminded me of Charleston, SC but with a distinctly Floridian (and Spanish) flare.

We had lunch at the White Lion Restaurant and Pub across the street. It took about three times longer than I'd hoped, but it was delicious. We then ventured over to the historic landmark and got a few pictures but did not linger because it was nap time.

We continued our drive up the coast; Katie napped through Jacksonville while I wished I could take a nap. We had dinner in Hardeeville, South Carolina at a McDonald's. I prefer Chick-Fil-A, but at least we got some fun toys out of the deal. Katie did have a good time on their playground. I think they ought to set up treadmills at such places for the adults to get some energy out, that or make hybrid cars that collect energy and get their "go" command by pedaling like a bicycle.

We stopped at a rest stop in South Carolina where Katie and I ran to the last trash can on the walkway alongside the (then empty) parking spaces. She didn't want to go back to the car. I told her we needed to go back to the car so we could get home. She wanted to go somewhere else besides home. I explained that I was very glad she'd had a good time on the trip, but that we needed to go home and get some real sleep. We did head home, but it took us two more stops. On one, we bought gas and stopped at Wal-Mart to get a cable I hoped would let me play sound from my phone on the car stereo (no such luck), and one more stop on a ramp so I could catch a 20 minute nap and refresh my attention. After all, we got home at 2:30. It took a bit longer for the return trip because we were tired.

Katie was an excellent sport for the trip. When we were tired, I explained to her that we would both have to work extra hard to be nice to each other. She certainly kept up her side of the bargain. She went to the potty without complaining time and again as we pulled off the road for a break. She watched her DVDs in the car and was polite when she asked me to put on another one. She sang songs and told stories when she wasn't watching a show. It was a magnificent trip.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spontaneous Florida trip - Part 1: Liftoff!

It came to pass that the weather was beautiful for a Shuttle launch and the mission had not been beset by problems. At ten P.M. Saturday night, I decided to take Katie to see the Monday morning Shuttle launch. ROAD TRIP!

We found a quaint little place to watch, contacted the owners, and made arrangements to visit. They were great: in exchange for a donation to the American Cancer Society, they invited people to park in their yard, watch from their yard, AND provided coffee, donuts, and bathroom! What more could a space nut want? They were well prepared for the crowds and the kindest folks I've met. A real pleasure.

Katie made for a great traveler, too. We took a few rest stops but stopped only for one meal on the way down, and we arrived at 12:30 A.M. Monday in preparation for the 6:20 A.M. launch. We parked beside a camper and behind a van. We slept in the Honda CRV SUV. Katie loved that she got to sleep in the "trunk," all wrapped up in her sleeping bag. I just reclined the driver's seat and did the best I could. It took about half an hour to get Katie settled to where she could stop talking, but once asleep, she slept very soundly.

By morning, many more cars had arrived. Occasionally they were so close together we couldn't fit between them - there were many tightly-packed cars in this yard. Despite the number of people, the yard was perfectly arranged so everyone had a great view. People sat in lawn chairs and the topography was just like a theater, so it worked out perfectly.

College buddies Jeff Jackowski and Mike Lewis came up from Jupiter and Melbourne, respectively, to see the launch from the same place. Steve Mustaikis flew in to another launch viewing place, but we didn't get to meet up with him or his son Rigel who is about Katie's age because of logistics woes.

We all got together about 5:00 A.M. and started catching up as friends do when they haven't seen each other for years. Jeff took the above picture a few seconds before launch. It's a long exposure, so things didn't look that bright.

I got Katie up at 5:30 and she got to meet Mike and Jeff. Katie needed to go out with her sandals before she decided it was truly cold enough for her socks and shoes. We also put on her sweater, and she already had her pajama pants on from the night's sleep.

NASA had a camera in the right spot for the photo above, which came next in the story-telling sequence. At 6:20am the Shuttle lit up the night sky.

I took this picture of Katie entirely by Shuttle light. It was plenty bright where we were, 12.3 miles from the pad. This picture was before the sound got to us about 58 seconds after ignition. The sound was fantastic as usual, pretty much just like in IMAX movies, with rumbling and crackling and all. Katie was amazed by the sound, saying, "Daddy, it makes my heart beat." The rumble in her chest was a fantastic experience for her.

The Shuttle appeared to carry the light of the sun with it as it rose into the sky because twilight turned to dawn fairly quickly at the same time as launch. This NASA picture gives a sense of that. Launch was 6:20 and sunrise was 7:30. I was amazed by twilight when I could actually see the horizon instead of having trees or something else obstructing the view. My first assessment of this launch time and daylight was that is was pre-dawn, so it would, in my mind, be a "night launch," though technically it wasn't. In fact, those different sorts of twilight, astronomical and civil, are observable when you can see the horizon! Just before launch time, the sky was mostly black, with a thin strip of purple and blue on the horizon.

I have never seen such colorful smoke formations as from this launch. Jeff captured this picture of a fire-breathing dragon.

After the launch, our car was hemmed in pretty well, and there were rumors of a bad traffic jam on the streets (what with the throngs leaving the coast and going back to wherever they would spend their day). We opted to hang out at the site a little longer.

No visit to Florida would be complete without the plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament experience. Katie took a fascination with this one which was stashed sans legs on the tall greenery at the base of the tree there.

Katie played around Jeff's tripod, and we played hide-and-seek, but by Katie's rules. Katie has some funny rules for that game. In particular, she will tell you to count (counting is very important) and hide, leaving large portions of her body visible to the seeker. Then you switch roles, and she will probably tell you where to hide, quite likely to be where she just hid.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Employment Update

Jim finished his contract on 3/31 and has miraculously received two job offers today.  He has not decided which opportunity he will take yet.  At the moment, it is enough to know that we are provided for.

God is good.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Being a Single Mom

(This post was written on 2/13 but could not be posted until his employment situation was settled. As of today, his contract has ended and he is still looking for work.)

Jim traveled overnight for the first time while I was working over the second half of this week. He has traveled before but he either took Katie with him (a pleasure trip) or it was summertime and I didn't have to get to school. I was very nervous about this. I have to be at school by 7:30am, I tend to be notoriously 5 minutes late every day, and I had to figure out a way to get Katie to daycare in time to get back to school on time. Katie is used to eating a full breakfast (it tends to be her biggest meal of the day). She eats fruit, instant oatmeal or cereal, and Jim even makes her an egg! 3-year-olds, of course, are also not well known for their ability to get ready quickly and efficiently. Added to that, our new house is much farther from school and from Katie's daycare so that the drive is at least 20 minutes to daycare. I thought there was no way we could possibly do this.

Taking some advice from friends, I prepped to the hilt. The night before I made my lunch and put together leftover tubs of fruit (grapes and blueberries). I thought that Katie could eat some or all of her breakfast in the car if we found we were running late. I put everything in the fridge in one place so it would be grab and go. I filled the coffee pot with water (I use the plain hot water run through the coffeepot to make hot chocolate, tea, and instant oatmeal in the morning) so it would be ready to just push the button instead of having to fill in the morning. I even prepped other things that tend to crop up in the morning. I emptied the dishwasher, filled the cat water bowl that I knew would be gurgling in the morning, put laundry away, and any number of other little things.

I was up ridiculously late both nights but it paid off. I was not only in good shape timewise, I got to school earlier than I usually get there, in fact, I was perfectly on time! Even a little early on Friday. On Friday, I tried to relax a little bit. On Thursday morning I spent a lot of time telling Katie, "Hurry up!" This is a stressful and non-productive phrase to use with young children, by the way.

Jim was traveling to California for an interview with Google. This was a huge opportunity for him and we don't know how it will come out but, if he gets the job, it would involve 25-50% travel. This trip was sort of a test for me to see if I could handle him traveling more extensively.

The result?
I think its possible. There are some definitely some bumps I would need to iron out if Jim takes a job with more travel. I need to get more sleep than I did the last two days. I also need to be able to find some time to exercise and take care of myself. I canceled my PT appointment to deal with stuff at school and Katie was at daycare for a record 10.5 hours on Thursday. But, I managed to take everything she needed for her school Valentine's party on Friday and I even managed to attend said party and bring her home early that day. I didn't walk in the morning as I have many days recently because I was already getting up at 5:20 without walking and I was too busy in the evenings and too beat to think of walking at the end of the day. Maybe, if he takes a job, any job, that requires travel, we would look at me staying home instead of working myself so that we could better balance the needs of the family and the house with work. If and when that problem presents itself, at least I have more information as to whether I, personally, could handle it.

Other things I learned?
If I can get Katie ready, me ready, my lunch packed and both of us to school on time, then surely I can get myself, including exercise, to school in better time each day. I will take many of the time saving strategies and apply them to my morning to see how I can make my mornings go more quickly.