Tag Archives: kids

Parenting Success

Parenting Success

The other day I was talking with Morgan about his life goals, and half jokingly I said he should move to Germany to live with his boyfriend.  He looked very serious as he said, “I want to live on my own for a year first, just to know I can do it.  That’s what you always said.”

He repeated it to our family counselor tonight.

I just about burst.  This was something my mother always told us (well, at least me.  I can’t attest for my siblings.), that you needed to know how to take care of yourself so you never felt trapped.  My ex moved right from his dad’s home into mine, and it wasn’t until after we separated that he ever lived on his own.  He said to me a couple months after he moved out, “I wish I’d lived on my own sooner.  There’s so much I don’t know.”

So yeah.  At least one piece of advice will be carried on by the next generation.

I’m pretty chuffed.

Boot-y Call

Boot-y Call

Had Hero’s follow-up appointment today with the orthopedist.  It was actually pretty anti-climactic.  It still hurts a bit, but it’s better, so she can start easing out of the boot.  She’ll only wear it at school for the rest of the week, and she can start swimming now and easing back into cycling.  She needs to hold off on running until it stops hurting, so we figured we’ll give it until November and then she’ll do the C25K program again.  That goes slowly enough that it won’t re-injure her.  She doesn’t need to go back to the doctor unless things get worse or it doesn’t stop hurting.  But he seemed confident she would be fine.

I just know she can’t wait to get back on her bike!

Karma

Karma

As of 9:30 tonight, I have another kid.  A teenager, even.  Lord help me.

They are a friend of Hero’s who is fostering with another friend’s family.  But due to the vagaries of the foster care system, they aren’t allowed to go with the foster family on their vacation to Canada.  Rather than stick them with strangers for only a week, we agreed to take them in.  It will be like one long sleepover.  I hope.  Except now I have another teenager to roust from bed in the morning, and this one goes to a different school, so I have to take mine and trust that this one gets themselves to the bus on time.  Worked this morning, at least.

And no, neither I nor they are gender confused.  They prefer they/them pronouns, so I do my best to honor that.  Doesn’t mean I don’t get ticked off when they chirp me for getting it wrong, though.  And what’s the singular construction of “themselves”?  Themself?  The autocorrect keeps changing it for me.

I sense another blog post.

Thrilling Hero-ics

Thrilling Hero-ics

I should probably follow up yesterday’s post with a What I Did On My Summer Vacation flashback.

In July, Hero got hit by a car.

CnXZUsBWAAAsgrD

As anyone who knows her can tell you, that child is an incredibly independent soul.  Where most of her friends sit around waiting for their parents to drive them hither or yon, if she wants to see someone, she gets on her bike and goes.  Fortunately most of her friends live within two miles of the house, and she rides mostly on the sidewalks (because heaven forfend that bicycles get any respect as a mode of transport.  But that’s a rant for another day.) So on this particularly lovely Thursday in July, she was out visiting, and I was waiting for her to get home, as it was her night to make dinner.  She had wanted to try deep frying, and we had found a deep fryer at the thrift store that we were looking forward to testing out.  But it was getting late, and she wasn’t home, so I was getting cranky.  She has a bad habit of being late getting home, despite my reminders of both the carrot and stick variety.  So when her name came up on my phone, I was ready to lay into her.  What she said stopped me cold.  “Mom, I’m really sorry to bother you and I know I’m late, but I just got hit by a car.  Could you come?”

I scared the boys, who were both in the living room at the time, as I raced out the door.  I remembered my keys, wallet and phone, thankfully, as I’d be needing them all over the next couple of hours.  She wasn’t far, just at the train station a few blocks from the house, but I took the car anyway just in case.  They were right at the entrance to the station, and as I whipped into the nearest spot, I could see she was sitting up on the curb and that there didn’t seem to be any blood.  She was shaken, though.  A couple of young men helped bring her bike over as an older woman came to talk to me.  I don’t even remember what she said, other than that she’d been so scared she wet her pants.  Which I could see the truth of.  One of the young men offered her a pair of sweat pants.

Tangentially, I love these guys.  I don’t know who they are, but if I ever find them again, I’m making them cookies.  You see, there are two Pokestops for Pokemon Go right near the station, and one of them is kind of a hangout for the local players.  People put lures on both of them and can sit around in the park talking to each other and catching Pokemon.  Hero and I had both done it ourselves the week before.  These guys, though, had been out playing, saw what happened, and immediately came over to help.  Don’t ever bitch to me about Pokemon Go being a distraction and a waste of time.  It gets people out into the world, and more people in the world is a good thing.

The police showed up shortly thereafter, got our information and called an ambulance for us.  She hadn’t hit her head, but she insists that the car rolled over her leg.  She certainly had the scrapes to indicate it, although I’m not sure how her leg wasn’t broken if it had.  What we were able to figure out from the conversation is the driver didn’t see Hero riding on the sidewalk and went to turn right into traffic.  By the time Hero realized the car wasn’t stopping, it was too late for her to stop.  Fortunately they were both going slowly, or this story could have been a lot worse.

We left the officer to deal with the driver and got in the ambulance for Hero’s first ambulance ride and X-ray.  She did a great job holding it together until we were waiting in the hall for the x-ray tech.  She felt so bad to be crying, but I talked to her about shock and that she was going to be fine.  And she was.  I hated not being able to hold her hand while she was getting the x-ray, but it didn’t take very long, and she was good.

In the end, it looked like just a sprain on the top of her foot (not her ankle), so they gave her a wrap and an ice pack and sent us home with instructions to see the family doctor in a few days.  She was not happy to be sidelined in the middle of the summer, but she did like having permission to basically live on the couch.  She even slept there every night!  The PA at the doctor’s office confirmed the sprain and just told her to keep off it until it didn’t hurt.

Except it didn’t stop hurting.

She was getting around okay, so when we went camping, she just did her thing.  We aren’t hugely active when we camp, but we did do a couple of light hikes and a lot of swimming and bike riding.  And then school started and it was still hurting, so we went back to the doctor.  This time we got to see our GP, who ordered an MRI.  Joy.  Memories of my claustrophobic MRIs danced in my head, so I warned Hero as much as I could.  Except she didn’t have her head in the thing, and she got good music, so basically I came off as a big whiner.  I’m okay with that.  Once the doctor looked at the results, she recommended we go to an orthopedist, so I got an appointment at CHOP.  He looked at the results as well, and saw definite swelling along the bones of her second toe still.  He said it could just be healing slowly, but the swelling could be hiding a break, so he put her in a boot.  Now she was not a happy camper.  No biking, no swimming, and she had to stay in it unless she was sleeping or bathing.  This was the day before their placement tests in swimming class at school.  But on the plus side, now she has extra time to get to her classes, and she gets a set of elevator keys for the duration.

She has another week of the boot.  We go back to CHOP on Monday, when they’ll either release her or do another set of x-rays to get a better sense of what’s going on.  She has everything crossed for the first, but she says it still hurts, so I’m betting she’ll have some more time in the boot.  Not what an active teenager wants to hear.  After my experience last summer, I can totally sympathize.

The driver’s insurance company has been very good so far.  They gave us replacement money for her bike right away, and then gave a generous “pain and suffering” settlement.  I’ve stuck that in her savings, and with the exception of her new computer, she’s not touching it until college.  And they keep paying her medical bills without complaint, a pleasant surprise considering the unexpected MRI.  Which is all I can ask.

If it had to happen, this was probably the best way it could.  We both feel really lucky, and while she’s not scared to bike, it has made her a bit more cautious.  But I would always choose for it to not have happened.  That is the kind of phone call no parent ever wants to get.

Let Me Knit You The Stars

Let Me Knit You The Stars

Hero’s going to Disney World.

We hope.

She’s been having a great time at tech school.  I love hearing her stories, especially when she complains about the other kids not being serious enough about it.  That tells me she IS taking it seriously.  So far she’s done the industrial cooking section (cafeterias), commercial cooking (restaurant kitchen), and is now doing the front of house component.  She won’t do the baking component until her last marking period, but as of right now, she’s most interested in the commercial area.  Which, yay!  I think she’ll have more opportunities as a chef than a baker.  And maybe I can get out of having to cook dinner all the time!

The school is offering a special opportunity for their culinary and hospitality students this year.  They are sponsoring a themed trip to Disney World in Florida to get some direct learning experience in a major hospitality venue.  It sounds like a really amazing program.  I’m kind of jealous, because I’d love to do it myself!

During this trip, the students will:

  • Visit the Epcot Land pavilion to meet with the master gardeners there to discuss food production and resources, and will get to cook with some of the ingredients grown there.
  • Spend a morning at Le Cordon Bleu Academy, an internationally recognized culinary school with a campus at Disney, for four hours of intense culinary education, culminating in a feast of their own creation!
  • Go behind the scenes at The Grand Floridian, one of Disney’s premiere hotels.  Here they will get to learn what goes into running a first class hospitality enterprise, from the front desk to the back of house and into the kitchens.
  • Tour the World Showcase restaurants and talk to the staff about their experiences with food from their native regions.
  • Talk with executives from all over the property, from the head chefs to hotel managers and more, with the chance to ask them questions about working in the industry.
  • Meet other students and chefs from all over the country, with powerful networking opportunities.
  • And of course have opportunities to explore the park and have fun!

I’m especially excited for her about the Le Cordon Bleu opportunity, since the school is closing their doors in the US and will only be available in Europe after next year.

The only problem is that it’s expensive.  $1,600ish.  I’ve already put down $500, and she’s been doing fundraising that the school is offering, but it’s still going to take a big chunk of change on our part.  I was getting a little desperate, so I started a fundraising campaign on one of those websites.  Not GoFundMe, because I heard some horror stories about them not releasing the money quickly.  We went with RallyUp, which has been working well.  But we aren’t even halfway to our goal.

I’m sure most of you reading this have already seen my pitches, but if you haven’t, we could really use your help.  We’re offering baked goods and knitting in exchange for donations.  Seriously, if you are looking for a gift, I am DYING to make someone a Celestarium shawl.

Celestarium

I made this one for my mother, and it’s just gorgeous.  Those holes?  Glass beads laid out in the patterns of the constellations. Total heirloom quality, which is why I don’t feel bad requiring such a large donation for it.  Or for a smaller donation, I can make a scarf.

scarf

Again, heirloom quality. Totally worth a donation!

The final payment is due next Friday.  So please, spread the word, share the love, and let me knit something for you!  (Hero’s red and white brownie/blondies are amazing, too.  I’m just saying!)

ETA:  Like a moron, I forgot to include the link to the RallyUp! campaign!  If you are interested in helping out (THANK YOU!), you can find all the deets here.

Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air
20160131_163412

Random cat picture. I don’t talk about him in the post, but isn’t he handsome?

Rising to the surface briefly to report that I am not dead.  Yay!  By way of summary:
  1. I started actually training on the new job last week.  Hurrah!  I think once I master it, it will be good, but right now it’s terribly frustrating.  I’m slow and stumbling and I hate not being good at things.  But everyone on the new team is really nice (and young!  ZOMG, so young…), and there’s lots of room for me to develop once I get the basics down, so I just have to be gentle with myself for the next few months.
  2. The washing machine is fixed.  To the tune of $210 dollars.  Ouch.  But worth it.  The technician was worried about my water supply (it leaks a few drops an hour) and my hoses.  I can replace the hoses myself easily enough.  The water supply…well, that will keep for now.  But I realized that this washing machine is the one we bought when we moved into the house 18 years ago.  It’s done very well by us!
  3. Speaking of fixing things, I finished my bike repair class last night.  What a great class!  I can now change tires, replace brake and derailleur cables, and even disassemble and rebuild wheel hubs!  If you have a bike in the Delaware Valley, I highly recommend taking this class and/or checking out Bike Church at the Neighborhood Bike Works.  What a great resource!
  4. I broke my toe.  Yes, on the same foot.  I think it’s cursed.  Not much to do about this one, though, except wait it out.  Which means no running.  Considering the state of the roads, that isn’t as much of a hardship as it was this summer.
  5. I’ve been watching way too much Great British Bake Off.  This is a bad thing.  I’ve put on an additional 3 pounds.  There may be eclairs in the near future.  There will definitely be a blog post.
  6. The payment deadline for Hero’s trip is getting closer.  GAH!!!  In a fit of panic, I started a fundraising campaign on RallyUp to help raise money for those last payments.  If you’re one of the few people who I haven’t force-fed this campaign, please go and check it out, and donate if you can or just share it on social media if you can’t.  We’re about a third of the way to our goal with 6 weeks until the final payments.  In the meantime, she’s selling frozen pizzas and will be working the next few months on making and selling hoagies at school.  She’s had to give up art club for the foreseeable future to do it, but I think/hope this drives home that you need to sacrifice sometimes to get the things you want.  Growing up is hard, yo.
  7. We’re getting ready for a houseguest from Germany next week.  Morgan’s boyfriend is coming over so the two of them can go to a convention in NYC next weekend.  Not only will it be the first time we’ve met him, it will be the first time he and Morgan will meet in person.  I’m both nervous and excited for Morgan, and want to do what I can to help make a good impression on his behalf.  So this week we are cleaning the house within an inch of its life.  And trying not to think about what young men in love are thinking about.  Having your kids grow up is hard, yo.
  8. I have the beginnings of a new book poking at me.  Shh, we don’t want to scare it.
I think that’s it for now.  Updates as they arise!

Ding Dong Merrily!

Ding Dong Merrily!

20151225_075617

Christmas is over.  But it was packed, and I deliberately stepped away from the keyboard for the week (although my mother might disagree with that!)  There are just times I want to be experiencing things and not documenting them.  That’s also why I’m terrible at taking pictures.  I don’t want to see the world through a tiny square of glass.  But now I’m home and back at a keyboard, so here’s the holiday rundown!

This was our year to go down to Virginia for the holiday.  We’ve started alternating between going there and going up to the cabin.  It’s getting harder for Mom to make the trip, but we don’t want to miss out on seeing her, so this seemed to be a good compromise.  Plus then we can alternate which of my siblings we spend it with as well!  And I was very happy that I was able to talk Nikki into coming down with us this year.  She doesn’t always like being pried out of her cozy nest, but we all love her company and in the end she usually has a good time, so I was really glad when she agreed to come.  She’s also more likely to stay awake while riding shotgun, unlike my kids! (Or me…)

Launch time was 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.  I didn’t want to waste a whole day on travelling and being tired from travelling, so I left work a little early and by the time Hero got home from school, we had the car all loaded and were ready to go.  The timing worked well, as we were out of the range of any major city centers by the time rush hour hit.  It’s about a 7 hour drive from my house to Blacksburg, but it’s all highway driving, so in general it’s easy.  This trip a little less so, as it was foggy from Harrisburg all the way down, truly biblically at some points.  But our halfway point provided us not only with gas but also with Five Guys for dinner, so it was all good.  We pulled in at Mom’s just before 11, unloaded and crashed.

Wednesday was grocery shopping and some errands.  First, though, Hero and I went out together for a training run.  We were running a 5k on Thursday and wanted to get a feel for the terrain.  Well, the terrain was BRUTAL.  I thought we were hilly around here, but that was nothing compared to the trail near Mom’s place.  Hero and I almost came to blows at one point.  It didn’t help that she’d left her good running shoes at home, and the sneakers she had were terrible for running.  Finally, both of us frustrated, I told her to start walking back but I was going to go out for another fifteen minutes.  Which wasn’t easy.  I walked a lot more of it than I like to admit, and it didn’t give me confidence as to how I’d do the next day.  By the time I caught up with Hero, we’d both had a chance to calm down and were able to talk things through.  We came to the understanding that what I think of as coaching comes off to her as nagging, and that for both our sakes, we’d be better off running the race at our own pace the next day and there was no lack of love in not running together together.  We got back and showered (did I mention the humidity?  Because OMG the humidity!) and then went erranding.  First stop ended up being Goodwill to try and find her a better pair of shoes.  We did score a decent pair of Skechers for $3, and I found a fabulous bundt pan for $2!  What do you need a bundt pan for, you might ask!  Well, I’d just found this recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes using my favorite of their doughs.  Finding that pan just seemed to be demanding that I make this, so we added the ingredients to the shopping list.  Then we went looking for the yarn and fabric store I’d found out about through the Ravellenic Games, only to find they’d closed their Blacksburg store and were reopening in the new year down the road in Christiansburg.  So no yarn for me.  Phooey.

Grocery shopping was a hoot.  It was me, Mom, Nikki and Hero and OMG, we talked ourselves into so much stuff!  Good wine and cheese, egg nog and heavy cream and an ENORMOUS beef roast that is our holiday tradition.  We filled three grocery totes and a couple of bags.  But we would be eating well!  Once we got home, we unloaded everything and I started on the cake/bread/thing.  The dough had to sit for several hours and the cranberries for at least 8.  By then it was naps and dinner and watching way too many episode of Alaskan homesteader shows, my mom’s current go-to TV viewing.  But we were all in bed pretty early (a pattern for the week.  I think Mom started getting offended by how early we all go to bed.  We can’t all stay up until midnight every night like she does!)

Christmas eve was a whirlwind!  We had to be up early for brunch at my sister’s.  She and her husband have a great apartment on the campus at Tech where they’re faculty advisors, so they invited all their friends and us for brunch.  There was a bit of excitement with the catering, but it worked out in the end, and their friends were all really nice, and thankfully for this introvert they were all extroverts, so I could stand in a corner talking to Nikki and someone would come over and join us instead of me having to awkwardly work my way into a conversation.  We hung out there until about 11:30 and helped clean up before getting changed and heading over for the race.

So this race.  I’d found out about it online.  It’s the Frosty 5k that the local running store sponsors every year.  Rachel is a triathlete, but she’d never run this, so I thought it might be fun to run together, even though I knew she would smoke me.  Hero wanted to run, too, since she’s been doing the 5k training almost as long as I have.  She’s had respiratory problems, though, that have kept her from finishing.  We finally got her diagnosed two weeks ago with exercise induced asthma and got her an inhaler, although she hasn’t really had a chance to train with the improved breathing.  No matter.  This was just for fun, right?  Yeah, I’m not competitive at all.

Christmas eve… was not frosty. It was in the 60s, and it had been raining the whole afternoon and night before, so the sign in area/finish line was a muddy swamp. But the sky had cleared by the time we got there and got checked in, and there were pugs in elf costumes, so all was well, right?

We all started out together, but I didn’t see my sister once during the race. Hero and I hung together about a quarter mile (and up one brutal hill) before I headed out at my own pace. It wasn’t too bad. A couple of steep spots, but it seemed to be mostly downhill. I kept a good pace, and really only walked in spots where everyone else was walking, too, so I didn’t feel like so much of a slacker. Hit the water stop at the mile 2 marker and felt pretty good.

That’s when I ran into THE HILL.

Rachel had warned us about the hills, of course.  But I was thinking in Pennsylvania terms.  This… Yeah, calling it a hill was a vast understatement. It was easily a 45 degree vertical climb and it went on for three quarters of a mile! But of course starting into it, you can’t see that. I figured I’d run halfway up and then walk. Got to what I thought was halfway and realized that I wasn’t even close to the top. Which was probably why everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was walking. No one was even trying to run that beast! Bummed about my time, I hiked up to the top along with everyone else. Thankfully once we got up there, we could just make out the hi-vis jackets of the staff at the finish line through the trees, so I started running again.

Morgan was waiting as the path came out of the trees, and the high five he gave me was just the adrenaline boost I needed to get me through to the end. That last bit splashing through the mud wasn’t fun, but I was able to pour it on in time to see the clock as I crossed the line read 33:20. !!!! That was two and a half MINUTES faster than my first 5k back in June! Despite the hills! But no time for that! I raced back to the point where Morgan had met me to wait for Hero and just made it! She was struggling about as much as I had been, but using my new-found knowledge of the high five, I gave her a power boost, and Xander had another one for her closer to the finish line. She finished in 36:40, just under two minutes slower than my first race. Considering she hasn’t finished her 5k training, and did all that training with a respiratory deficit, she did amazingly!

IMG_6514

As we were walking back to the car, she made a comment about “next time”. I think I’ve got her!

We went home and washed the mud off and just kind of putzed around for the afternoon.  I made dinner, finished the cake, screwed up some knitting and by 9:30 was ready for bed.  But we weren’t done.  Everyone filled their assigned stockings with much sneaking and angst about there not being enough room in the sock.  Mom needed whipped cream but was too tired to use the hand mixer and didn’t want to be bothered getting out her Kitchenaid.  Well, what’s the point of having a Kitchenaid if not for making whipped cream?  So I got it out and 5 minutes later we had whipped cream you could walk on.  Yum!  I was halfway into bed when I realized we hadn’t put the presents under the tree.  Back out I went with the bags of goodies.  Finally, FINALLY at about a quarter past 11 I was able to crawl into bed and pass out.

I was one of the first ones awake Christmas morning.

The problem with teenagers is they stop being excited to wake up early on Christmas.  It was almost 9:30 before we roused everyone and started on stockings.  Between stockings and tree presents, everyone had a good haul, just the right balance of clothes and stuff.  I got a couple of homesteading/DIY books, a Fitbit (ooooh, stats!), some running gear, a GC to Knitpicks and a couple more for clothes.  Yay!  Matt, Rachel and Uly joined us for dinner.

20151225_163439

They brought fake snowballs, which were awesome but led to a couple of falls and arguments.  Of course it was raining again, so we couldn’t kick the kids outside to burn it off.  One more reason snow is better than rain!  And the bread/cake/thing came out good!  Drier than I would have liked, so next time I might not bake it quite as long, but the flavor was very nice.

20151225_135652

Saturday was recovery day.  We got all the clean-up we could done (crowding 6 people into a two bedroom apartment leads to some inescapable disorder), and then Mom sent me and Nikki off to cash in my gift cards.  I got two pairs of slacks (size 8!), and silky blouse and this blazer that I swear is made out of sweatshirt material and flannel and may be my most favorite piece of clothing ever!  And everything was 50% off, so when I went over my GC amount, I didn’t feel bad about paying the extra.  The running shop was just across the parking lot, so we stopped in to get our final results from the race as well.  Then home for lunch and we went back out to Old Navy to return one of Hero’s gifts (white top, too small and too transparent) and spend some of our gift cards.  It was pretty zooish, with all the returns and the huge after-Christmas sale, but we all scored some goodies.  Hero came out best, as she found the last of these sleeveless running hoodies that they only had the display version of.  But it was in her size and looks phenomenal on her!  Plus she’s all about the hoods and can wear this over just about anything, so it’s the perfect article of clothing for her.  Once we got home, we had naps and dinner and started packing up for the trip home.

Sunday was back to reality.  Mom took us out for breakfast to her local place that serves beignets, which I had never had.  They were delicious!  Once we got home, it was a race to load the car and make sure we didn’t forget anything (we almost forgot our Christmas angel!)  But we did pretty well and were on the road by 10.  Slightly longer trip this time, as we had to take Nikki home on the way.  Of course it was beautiful and warm all the way up through VA and to the PA line, but almost as soon as we crossed into PA, the fog hit, and then the rain.  *sigh*  We dropped her off in Philly around 4 and were home by 5:30.  The worst traffic we saw the whole way home was around Philly, especially passing King of Prussia (everyone leaving the mall) and coming out of Philly to head north.  Once we got home, we actually did get the car all unloaded in record time, and then I ordered Chinese food, because there was no way I was cooking after all that.

And I was in bed by 7.  Bliss!

Two Wheelin’

Two Wheelin’

I’m easing into bike culture, especially with my pretty new bike.  Xander’s a little deeper, as our only bike commuter.  He’s determined to ride even when there’s snow on the ground.  We’ll see how long that lasts, but in the meantime I’m doing everything I can to keep him encouraged.  That mostly means buying him stuff.  Rain gear, reflective bands, lights, gloves… Yeah, I can buy a lot of stuff.

So when the Philly Bike Expo came on my radar, I knew we had to go.

I was doubly looking forward to this because I don’t often get to do things with just Xander.  We’re still teasing out his interests, so more often than not anything I’m doing with him also involves at least one of his siblings.  But he’s a different kid on his own, and I don’t get to see that very often.

Like bad cyclists, we drove into the city.  We could have taken our bikes on the train, and the expo had valet bike parking, but I wasn’t brave enough.  I paid for my cowardice by getting soaked for parking.  I’m just not as familiar with the parking opporunities around the convention center.  Next time, I’llpark in the garage affiliated with Reading terminal and get validated parking for $4 with my mandatory apple cinnamon bread.  Gee darn.

I’d never been in the convention center.  That is a seriously impressive space.  The expo only took one of the halls, and even though there were a lot of vendors, it didn’t come close to filling the hall.  I was okay with that, because I thought it would be less overwhelming for Xander.  As we started going through the stalls, though, he seemed more the opposite.  He wasn’t interested in anything.  Granted the vendors were made up of a LOT of builders and not as many accessory merchants as I would have liked.  There were also 4 food trucks IN the hall.  That didn’t impress him, either.)  Manwhile I’m getting on every mailing list I come across in hopes of winning something (I didn’t) and otherwise just scoping out what’s there.  Got to check out a couple of helmet and some rearview mirrors, but there wasn’t as much safety gear as I’d hoped and no one had the handlebars I’d wanted to try.  But nothing was catching Xander’s interest.

Then we found the test area.

Remember how I said the hall was half full?  Well, that wasn’t entirely accidental.  One end of the hall was roped off and there were 2 dozen different types of bikes to try out.  We got yelled at initially for not having helmets, but the expo was smart and had a borrowing table available.  I left my ID in exchange for two helmets.

I was willing to try everything, but Xander was really focused on one thing: the recumbent trikes.  There were three of them, but they were really popular, so I made him try the others while we waited our turn.  I think he liked the fat bike, but he was too focused to be able to expand his view.  Finally we talked one of the kids out of the one he’d been hogging and Xander got his chance.

Photo

It was love at first ride.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get him out of it.  I managed to score one of the other ones.  It didn’t fit me well (damn my stubby legs), but man, that sucker was FAST.  And stable.  I almost skidded out a few times, but never came close to tipping over.  After a couple of laps, I passed it on to Xander when he gave his up while I went to try some of the others.  I liked the rear load cargo bikes but had a really hard time steering the front loaded ones.  I didn’t get a chance to try the folding bike (which is a truly amazing piece of engineering!), and they didn’t have any tandems out to try, which was a disappointment.  Granted all these bikes were way out of our price range, but just getting to try them was hugely informative.  The testing also sold me on a new (to me) brand of helmet, the Berns they were giving out for testing.  They’re a great combination of the racing helmets and round helmets.  I liked the style a lot, and they were very comfortable, to the point where I forgot I was wearing it.  They’re a bit expensive, but I think they’ll be worth it.

I left Xander in the test area to go do a second loop of the vendors, and then we went for lunch.  Xander decided on Reading Terminal because he really wanted a burger.  For him, this wasn’t a great choice.  Reading Terminal on a Saturday at lunchtime is MOBBED.  Thankfully we were focused, so we tunneled in in search of a burger and found Hunger Burger.  We got our burgers (him a double cheese, me a bacon cheese) and some fries, then got the heck outta Dodge, stopping only at the Amish bakery for the aforementioned apple cinnamon bread and a piece of red velvet cake to split.  The convention center had a patio with tables, so we camped out to eat and people watch.

20151107_142036

Xander really liked his burger.  I told him he looked stoned.  He didn’t care.

We went back for one last loop and to actually buy a couple of things.  I got him a pair of winter riding gloves and a face mask, and he talked me into getting both of us cycling caps.

20151107_150000  20151107_150137

Now we fit in with our new tribe.  Although I’ve been wearing mine while running.

So it was a good trip.  Now that it’s over, I’m thinking about my riding more.  I’m keeping an eye on Craigslist for recumbent trikes, although we’ll have to get creative with hauling it around if we get it.  I do want to get a rack on my old bike to be a grocery hauler with the Wald baskets I’d gotten to check out at the show.  And I want to get us both signed up for repair classes.  I still want to get a repair center set up in our shed.

And we’re already looking forward to next year’s expo.

All’s Fair

All’s Fair

1438964352732.temp1

This week is 4H Fair season for our county.  Always a challenge.  The fair takes a lot of time the week of, but it also has demands through the year.  The fair is the culmination of each member’s project for the year.  This isn’t a project like we think of.  Although there is a certain amount of goal setting regarding your animals (whether that’s breeding, showing, selling, whatever), that is just a small part of the year’s project.  At the beginning of the year in September, each member receives a packet specific to their year in the program.  The packet has a bunch of essay questions to be answered, a fair presentation assignment which might be creating a poster or making a piece of equipment, and an exploration piece.  In addition, they all need to do a presentation to the whole club on a given topic, they have to take a test on their knowledge, and they get tested on their showmanship skills.  So there’s a lot involved.

Hero…is not always good at this.

Last year she missed the fair because we couldn’t get her to finish her packet.  To be honest, we couldn’t get her to start her packet.  It was just too overwhelming for her.  Add to that the fact that the exploration piece required a visit to a rabbitry when we didn’t know anyone who had one, and she just got overwhelmed.  I figured that was the end of her time in 4H, but in the fall she decided to keep going.  Which, props to her, although it sucked for me as it meant another year of club meetings and nagging her.  And sure enough, by the end of the school year, she had done nothing on her packet.  However, I had made a contact with an alpaca farmer at the local farmers’ market who I’d met at a previous 4H fair (he runs the alpaca club), and HE knew an alpaca and angora farmer out near Reading we could visit.  I got in touch with her, and it took a while because she was in the process of having back surgery.  But finally week before last, we made it out there.

I think it was kind of revelatory for both of us.

This farm was AWESOME.  It was everything I hoped to have one day, only with more alpaca and fewer sheep than I want.  Considering it was a melting hot day, even at 7:00 p.m., we had a great time meeting Kathy and seeing her set-up.  She has 25 French and Satin angoras, 25 alpacas, 4 llamas and 3 sheep, plus her husband had at least 30 mini-Rex rabbits as well and they had half a dozen chickens.  It was awesome, if a little overwhelming.  We got to see her layout, and Hero had created a list of interview questions about how she cares for her rabbits, what she uses them for, et al.  Since Kathy was still hobbled from her surgery, we helped out with chores.  And we got to help water the alpacas, which was a hoot!

20150728_194521

Pro tip: Alpacas lose heat through their bellies, so if you’re trying to cool them off, spray below but not on top.  Do it on top and they’ll just mold.

On the way home, we started breaking her work down into more manageable pieces for her.  Essays freak her out, as she hasn’t learned how to manage her ADD yet.  So we talked through bullet points, turning bullet points into sentences, and then making the sentences into paragraphs.  And we broke the packet down into daily work amounts to help her get it done.  She came in to work with me one day so she could work on it undistracted, spent a couple more days (with some prodding) getting the questions done, and I scribed her two big essay questions for her.  We came close to blows on her demo project, a poster demonstrating the answer to any one of the questions from the packet, so I just backed off and let her get it done.  And she did.  The whole thing was done this past Sunday.  Hurrah!

Tuesday night was set up.  I drove her out to the fairgrounds, which is about half an hour a way, thinking I’d get some knitting time.  But noooooo.  As she’s getting out of the car, she whips around to me in horror.  “Where’s my packet?”  *sigh*  Back home I went to get the packet and poster, which had to be turned in that day.  By the time I got back, they were pretty much done.

Thursday was the first day of the fair, when all the animals for show or sale had to be checked in.  As I was getting ready to go to work, it suddenly hit me:  This might be the last time I see Peggy or Sam.  The plan had always been to put them up for sale at the fair, but here was the reality and…. It was really hard.

IMG_20150613_191322

Sam especially has become my favorite.  She’s just a little more affectionate than the others.  But we just don’t have the room for them, and they’ll make someone a great pet.  But still. *sniff*

1438963902034.temp1

Today is the judging.  I feel bad showing Taffy, as she’s still a bit mangy looking from pulling out all her fur for her nest box.  But we did learn how to groom her from Kathy, so we got her all fluffy, and she does have a bit of an advantage: She’s the only Angora in the show.  So yeah, she’ll get a ribbon.  Tux should, too, as he’s the only Satin.  And Hero’s happy with that.  Hero has her showmanship test tomorrow, so I have to make sure to iron her show coat tonight after we get home with the new freezer (which will be a story for another post).

1438964015212.temp11438963986495.temp11438963955929.temp1

And this won’t be the last year for 4H, either.  Until June it was.  Hero was done, it was too much of a time commitment when she was struggling with school, blah blah blah.  But then some of her friends from 4H who also go to her school talked her into doing it another year, as next year she’ll be able to sleep over at the fair without her parents.  Joy.  But hopefully she internalized some of the strategies we came up with for doing her packet, and next year she won’t wait until the last minute again.  Plus I suspect one of her school friends who adopted one of our babies already may end up joining as well.  Their family has really gotten the bunny bug.  So Hero will have more people tying her to the club.  But hopefully we’ll have someone to carpool with for meetings, too!

Washington (in brief and pictures)

Washington (in brief and pictures)

20150712_135620

The D.C. trip was excellent!  Hard to believe it was almost two weeks ago.  Re-entry was a little rocky, but I blame the weather for that.  It can be fall any day now!

We didn’t leave here until almost 11, but made good time and got down there by 2:30.  I was most amused and a little startled to find that the hotel was the same one I stayed in when I came to D.C. for the first time my senior year in high school!  We were there early enough that once we settled in, we went out to explore the neighborhood, which was basically the Pentagon.

20150710_153420

Dinner was our only awkward food day.  We didn’t get a microwave in the room, but they had one in the lobby, so we went down and nuked them in public.  A little embarrassing, but it worked and was yummy!  The kids went swimming, I did some spinning, and by 10:30 we were all asleep.

Saturday was day 1 of sightseeing.  We caught the shuttle and the train and were downtown by 9:45 (the museums open at 10), which gave us time to explore.

20150711_09422320150711_09425120150711_095051

We started at Air and Space, where I got a picture of my Captain America Exhibit t-shirt in its home environment (that movie was a bit of a running theme for the weekend).

20150711_114145

Then we had lunch on the Mall before walking out towards the Lincoln Memorial and everything in between.  Only one person the whole day notice it, the cashier in the gift shop at Natural History.  He was pretty gleeful.

20150711_135826 20150711_14111820150711_143909 20150711_144019 20150711_143456

(Yes, I do seem to be travelling with a posse)

20150711_144639

One of my favorite surprise photo ops of the trip.

By the time we walked back it was getting on to 5.  We went into Natural History for an hour and a half (thanks to Steven Universe, Hero really wanted to see the gems), and then it was dinner time.  That night was dinner out, so we found a relatively inexpensive fusion place that made huge naan burgers.

20150711_182127 20150711_182134

Xander was the only one to eat all of his.

Photo

Then home, a swim and OMG crash!

Sunday was much the same, only we did the other end of the mall.  Started at American History, where we all acknowledged after an hour that we had rather stopped learning and were just looking at things at that point.  Input saturation!  After lunch, we walked up to the Capitol, which was undergoing some pretty substantial reno.

20150712_135418

Pretty ironwork, though.

20150712_134308 20150712_135151

On the way back, we wandered through the Botanical Gardens, which the kids surprised me by really enjoying

20150712_142550

and the Museum of the American Indian.

20150712_154254

Dinner that night was at Chez Hotel Room, and went well.  We sat up watching the first half of the special on the 2000’s, which the kids were really interested since that is all literally the length of their existence.  They got confused when I kept yelling at the tv, and quiet when I got teary.

We talked about doing something on Monday morning, but by then we were all brain fried and decided to sleep late and then get on the road.  Took the back ways to avoid traffic and tunnels in Baltimore, which was serendipitously beautiful, and made it home by 3.  Everyone had a good time but we were glad to be home!

We don’t have any more trips planned for the summer, which I’m just as happy about.  It looks like I’m going to have to get the brakes on the car done, so that takes any money I would have had for another trip anyway, and it’s probably not safe to take a long trip until I get them done.  *sigh*  Next paycheck.

So thanks for the memories, Washington, and we’ll see you again!