Friday, December 31, 2010

82/365: The New Year's Eve Tornado

I count us very luck today.  You are looking at the worst of the effects of the storm at our house, the normally tiny creek is out of its banks.  The forecast had been calling for unseasonably warm weather today (high of 70) and rain.  What no one was prepared for was the severity of the weather. 
Around 11:30 the kids and I were leaving the grocery store.  You could tell it was going to rain and I really wanted to get home before it did.  As we walked out of the store, the tornado sirens were sounding in Oakville.  Bella was terrified.  I calmed her by telling her we'd watch News Channel 5 to make sure we were safe, knowing that some munis in St. Louis County sounded the sirens if a tornado was sighted in an adjacent county.  We got home and had no sirens.  I got lunch ready and groceries stored and Bella reminded me to turn on the news.  Of course there was live storm coverage.  About that time, I heard a siren.  Now our town still sounds a siren at noon and six daily so I looked at the clock.  It read 12:02.  Hhhhmmm.  Cindy had told us the storm was headed our direction.  The siren didn't stop and the weather seemed to change instantly.  The wind picked up and hail was pelting the house.
"Why don't you guys play Wii in the basement before nap?"
That didn't fool them.  Mommy doesn't give treats like that, but they also didn't argue.  After working as a school administrator for 11 years and evacuating kids for severe weather mulitple times, I'm not one to panic.  This didn't look good though.  The satellite went out and I had to fumble with our other TV to get an antenna signal.  A funnel cloud was reported four miles NW of Waterloo; that's about 4 miles towards our house.  Boo came running up to tell me Bella was scared.  He went upstairs to get her "Snuggle" blanket.  I shushed him back down.
And just as quickly as it began, it ended.  The skies cleared.  The wind died down.  The rain trickled to a light drizzle.  I brought the kids upstairs and sent them to take a nap.  I went outside to see if there was any damage.  I don't think we lost even a tree limb.  I went back in and watch as the stories unfolded about the damage in the area.  A mere 15 miles away, a strong tornado touched down in Sunset Hills and wreaked hellish damage on homes, businesses and cars.  Luckily no one was injured.  Other parts of the state were not so lucky.  All told there were five tornados in Illinois and Missouri today, an odd occurance for the last day of December when we were blanketed in snow just seven days ago.  I have to say, with as odd as this year has been, it's a fitting end.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

81/365: An Observant Eye

Can you tell I'm off work, spending lots of time with my kids?  And that I have too much time to think about food?
On Monday the kids and I went out and about.  Like usual, I set the stage for what we would be doing:  going to Target (no you cannot get a toy), Costco is next, and then McDonald's drive thru for Mom to get a diet coke (you will not get a happy meal, don't ask).  Typically when I pre-correct, our trips are with incident.  And this one was pretty good.  But when we went to McDonald's as I was pulling to the window, the Bakugan symbol caught the boy's eye and he knew what it meant.  Bakugan toys in happy meals. 
"Mommy, can we have happy meals this week?  Not today because you already said not today, but sometime this week?"
Now I try not to eat McDonalds.  I actually did have it last week . . . I gave in to the allure of the McRib.  That was my quota for the year.  No way my body could handle another McDonald's meal.  But how can you say no to a question posed so well?  So today the kids had McDonald's.  Poor sissy ended up with a Bakugan toy too because they messed up the order.  As for me, carry out Chinese--I'm trying to satisfy all my cravings at once so it's done and over.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

80/365: Isn't He Pitiful

One of the hardest things about being a mom is not being able to fix everything.  I came home tonight to a tail of my little man being sick.  He wouldn't eat dinner for his dad and chose to go to bed instead.  Within minutes, Klucker heard him in the bathroom, gagging and then vomiting.  Chocolate ice cream.  I have to say, at least this time he made it to the bathroom.  Last time I was changing sheets and doing laundry at midnight. 
Boo spent the day with Grandma.  My mom does not do a good job of saying no or being firm with her grandkids.  She gives them whatever they want.  I think, in her mind, she's afraid if she says no, they won't want to see her.  Instead what happens is I get the kids home and it's a miserable evening.  If they haven't napped because she lets them get up the first time they ask, they are cranky and snotty with me.  And I don't deal lightly with cranky or snotty.  Or, she gives them food their little tummies won't handle, like large amounts of chocolate ice cream to a kid who prefers strawberries or cookies.  And up it comes. 
When I got home, Boo was asleep.  I put his covers over him and closed the door.  Less then 10 minutes later he was back in the bathroom.  We cleaned him up and gave him a little water and a Tums and put him back to bed.  In less than an hour we had another repeat.  This time I let him bring blankie and Woobie and cuddle with me on the couch.  Sometimes a mommy cuddle makes everything all better. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

79/365: It's Not Shy, It's Coy

Today was a special occasion.  My kids only have one true aunt, but there are several women in their lives who have earned that title.  Unfortunately, most of them the kids don't see that often.  They know of them from stories and such, but truly some of their aunts are more legend than anything.  Meet Aunt Steph.  She is my kids' godmother.  For a good stretch of time, Steph was a frequent visitor at our house, and our Soulard house, and are apartment, etc, etc.  However do to changes in life, her visits have dimished.  However, my kids still call our basement bedroom Aunt's Steph's room.  The bathroom down there is also Aunt Steph's.  Now I can say pretty confidently that Boo remembers Steph visiting.  Bella, however is a different story.  I would venture a guess that Steph has only been up two or three times since she was born, and one of those was her christening at five weeks old.  Bella knows how to work it though.  She began by playing shy.  She hid and smiled.  She ran and giggled.  She played hard to get.  Then, when she had Steph right where she wanted her, she crawled up in her lap and began sucking attention.  The girl knows how it works.  I think Bella senses, at some point, Aunt Steph will be her hook up for good shopping. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

78/365: Nutrition At Its Finest

In some ways I am a bit of a food Nazi.  I watch what I eat and think about food as fuel because I am constantly fighting Former Fat Girl Syndrome.  I limit the amount of sugar that the kids and I eat as well.  (Klucker does what he wants and we let him.)  And while I try to push fresh food, especially fruits and veggies, I have not wholeheartedly jumped on the organic or non-processed bandwagon.  Today I let my kids have Lunchables.  Now, I know processed deli meat is full of sodium and nitrates.  I know I should be baking and slicing a ham or turkey breast for them.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  But for kids, there is something about it coming in those little plastic containers that make it cool. 

As we're sitting at the table, Boo pulls out his entire stack of little cheese slices.  He examines it like only a kid will do, and says "Look Mommy, it has a design."  Sure enough, there imprinted in the bottom of the cheese is the recycling symbol from the plastic tray.  I guess I should be glad that Oscar Mayer believes in using recyclable trays.  However this did cause me a bit of alarm.  How long has this product been sitting around?  I looked at the sell by date and we were safe, but it makes me uneasy that the food has set there long enough to be branded.  It also caused me to look into the nutritional information associated with Lunchables.  While they boast 100% roast white meat turkey, what they don't say is the cheese is pasteurized prepared cheddar cheese product.  That can't be good for you.  So now I'm faced with a dilemma: now that I've really read what's in a Lunchable and what's not, how do I phase them out of our house?  Can I save the trays we have and cut real cheese and turkey with cookie cutters and put it in there?  Hhhmmmm.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

77/365: Things Are Back to Normal

Yesterday's photo was of my children sitting together, arms around each other, looking so loving.  Today shows what like is typically like in my house.  We had our Christmas with my family this morning.  We had a nice breakfast, followed by the kids opening presents.  Now you have to know, we are strong believers that Christmas presents should be toys.  (That's because Christmas and birthdays are the only time my kids get toys.)  So Grandma Jean got Boo a new DS game and Bella got a pack of Barbie clothes.  Uncle Mike got Bella the Easy Bake and Boo a Nerf machine gun.  Well what fun is Nerf machine gun if you can't shoot your sister?  I have to hand it to the princess though, she's a strategic thinker.  She quickly surveyed her surroundings and took cover using the packing from her Barbie clothes. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

76/365: Merry Christmas

A rare moment of peace and love captured digitally this morning, my children sitting quietly, not bugging each other, and actually looking like the good friends they are.  This moment didn't last long!  They quickly began digging through their stockings and opening gifts.  This Christmas has been the best yet.  Boo and Bella are at teh perfect age where they are old enough to know what Christmas is about and young enough to still believe.  From decorating the tree, to baking cookies, to Christmas morning, it's been nothing but fun with them. 

The cute award of the day goes to Bella.  Earlier in the season, she told me she wasn't making a Christmas list because she "did it before and Santa didn't bring her what she wanted so she wasn't wasting her time."  So I went about shopping with just my hunches.  Then about a week ago she sat on Santa's lap.  She wanted an Easy Bake oven, a pink Big Foot Truck, and stuff for her dollhouse.  She also wants a table lamp for her room.  She's gone on to repeat this list to me everyday since then.  Well, pickles! Santa made her gifts already and none of those were included.  So it became Uncle Mike to the rescue.  He bought her the Easy Bake oven.  However, she won't get it until tomorrow.  So this morning she opens her gifts, getting excited about each one, until she sees it's not an Easy Bake oven.  Then at the end, she sat quietly picking through her things.  "*SIGH* I guess Santa forgot and the elves didn't know how to make an Easy Bake oven."  It would almost break my heart if it weren't so comical and I didn't know she's getting it tomorrow.

I felt compelled to include these photos so everyone can know who the cast of characters are in my family life.  Every year, as I said in a previous blog, we go to my Aunt's house for Christmas.  There is a requisite family photo in which everyone has a spot.  You can't be in the photo unless you have married into the family or produced a child of the family.  I've never missed a photo.  Even my cousin who is ill came tonight to be a part of the photo.  I think this says something about the power and influence of the Sisters. 

My calendar/cards/stamps gift was not a big hit tonight.  The third sister got it.  She's the one who got onto my cousin-in-law for his gift last year.  Oops!  Good thing it's my brother's daughters who go to that school--he'll be the suspect . . . and he's the golden boy so he won't get scolded.

Back row:  Jeffrey, Nell, Mike, Klucker.  Front row:  Bella, Ree, G-dog, Me & Boo

My little family!
The Entire Fauerbach Clan.  Too many to name.

Friday, December 24, 2010

75/365: White Christmas

For once, the weathermen were right.  We will have a white Christmas.  I took this photo in the early afternoon and we have a little over an inch on the ground.  We're predicted to get more tonight and tomorrow.  I can't remember the last time we had a truly white Christmas.  Every few years we get a dusting, and I can remember a couple of years where I didn't even need a coat.  This type of Christmas is rare though.  It makes me even more excited about tomorrow.  For the first time since I can remember, my Christmas day will be calm.  I don't have to hurry the kids to get anywhere.  We can stay in our jammies all day and they can play with whatever toys Santa may bring.  Sometimes the best presents aren't tangible.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

74/365: Self-Portrait

Today's outside ride wasn't nearly as pleasant as my other two this week.  The weather today was about 26, windy and cloudy at ride time.  It took a little more gear for me to stay warm.  This is me pre-ride, wool buff, Santa hat and all.  Post ride I don't think my fingers would work enough to even snap a photo.  The forecast is still calling for snow for tomorrow.  While that will mean a white Christmas, it will also mean no outdoor road bike.  I am thinking, instead of suffering the trainer, I'll spend the next few days running as long as we don't get ice.

I pulled up my data from so far this year versus 2009.  With eight days left in 2010, I've ridden upwards of 1,100 miles more than I did in 2009.  That's pretty amazing.  What makes it even more significant is that my running numbers aren't all that low.  I'll end the year about 10-15 miles short of my 2009 running totals when I was training for a half.  I didn't run any races this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

73/365: The Christmas Gift

My sense of humor is a little off at times.  I find some odd things, especially quirky practical jokes, amusing.  My extended family has gotten to be quite large.  My mom is one of four sisters.  Each sister has kids, and those kids have kids.  A few years back, it got impossible to buy for everyone.  So for the last few years, the Sisters have bought only for the great nieces and nephews and the adults can choose to participate in some form of dirty Santa/white elephant.  Now, I'm a little bit oppositionally defiant in some respects.  I have a small objection to purchasing a $15-$20 generic gift to give it away to get a $15-$20 gift that I may or may not like.  I've tried not participating, but that doesn't really go over with the Sisters.  They have ways of making you play.  So last year my ODD came out and I wrapped up a set of wiener dog salt and pepper shakers.  The package was beautiful and they ended up going to the perfect recipient who just look bamboozled when he opened them.  What made it even more beautiful is that no one knew from whom they came.  I do have to give a shout out to another "perfect" gift from last year.  My cousin-in-law went to the dollar store and did a gift bag with 15 dollar store items, each individually wrapped.  Genius!
So what to do this year . . . I started out behaving.  I picked up a nice set of flashlights at Target, and even included batteries.  But I still needed something else.  Then it hit me.  Each year my nieces have played the obligation card and made me buy this ridiculous fundraising calendar from their private Catholic High School.  The freakin' thing is $25!  You're supposed to be able to win money with it but I've always been a big loser.  What a perfect Christmas gift!  It's even over the limit we're supposed to spend.  To make it better, I've gone through and written every family member's birthday and anniversary in it--in a color-coded fashion.  My mom's branch is all in orange, another sister has green, and so on.  Now I will say I'm feeling a little uneasy about this simply because the cousin-in-law got chastised last year by his mother-in-law for his joke.  With that in mind, I hit Walgreens and bought a pack of birthday cards and stamps to add to this to make it semi-real.  Now, I 've just got to wrap it well to make it desirable and hope the right type of person gets it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

72/365: Weekday Ride Outside

I'm doing my best to take advantage of my time off work as it pertains to my workouts.  Today was not a beautiful day, at ride time it was around 40 degrees, overcast and windy, but it's still better than the trainer in the basement.  Coach Chuck gave me three weeks to work out as much or as little as I like, so while I have so structure in my head, I'm also making up my schedule as I go along.  If the weather permits at all, and my legs have anything in them, I plan on riding. 

I started with rolling hills today.  It felt good to have that burn as I climbed.  It's been a while since I've done hills, so I really had to remind myself of proper form.  I stopped on Hanover Road to take this shot.  It's right before the huge descent on to the bottoms.  I have ridden up the hill twice, but this way is much more fun.  Even with the barren trees, I think it's beautiful up here, the evergreen gives enough color to make the landscape interesting. 

The bottoms aren't as pretty this time of year.  With the crops cut and the cloudy sky, it almost feels desolate to me.  I don't like riding down there this time of year because of the view and the wind.  It eats at your soul and wears you down quickly, especially if you're alone.

Snow is due later this week, so my weekend riding will be probably be minimal.  I'm enjoying it while I can.

Monday, December 20, 2010

71/365: Let the Baking Begin

I love to bake.  It's one of the things I like to do best.  Typically my urge to bake starts in early October when the weather starts getting cooler and lasts until right after Valentine's Day.  I don't necessarily have a favorite thing to bake, but I do tend to have things I think I bake better than others.  Cookies are one of those things.  I have played with recipes for years, trying to design the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  I've modified the amount of brown sugar versus white sugar.  I've exchanged food processed oats for some of the flour in the recipe.  Each time I make a change, I make a mental note of what it does it to the flavor and texture of the cookie.
This year I don't have chocolate chip cookies on my Christmas baking menu.  Instead, everything I'm going to bake is something new to my repertoire.  I plan on making a batch of cookies per day until Christmas Eve.  (Although today I'll make two because I didn't bake yesterday).  These are Buckeye Delights.  The bottom is actually a sugar cookie base with cocoa powder.  The dollop of sweetened peanut butter is next.  They're finished off with chocolate chips mixed with heated whipping cream.  My final product didn't turn out as pretty as I would have liked for these.  I took a short cut and heated my cream in the microwave.  I assume I got it too hot because my melted chocolate wasn't creamy and had to have more chocolate added to actually set.  I'll have to work on the presentation skills . . . the flavor was good though.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

70/365: Winter is Almost Here

We still have two days until the winter soltice (and the days start getting longer again) but that doesn't mean it isn't cold.  It was in the mid-30s when we took off today, but WOW! does that feel cold on a bike.  Steph & I decided to spread Christmas cheer with our Santa hats as our group (Steph, Phil, Teresa, Jamie, & Chris S) tried to find a good riding route.  Our original route was to head south to Grant's Trail, but when we got there it was still pretty snow covered.  Instead, we made it up as we went along. 

It's amazing to me how slow our cold rides are.  It feels like I'm putting forth a lot more effort than my data shows. 

As much as I love riding, and as fun as they are, my favorite part is always our post ride coffee.  It's my escape from reality.  It's adult time that slips by so quickly.  I also like our off season coffee time better because I don't feel as guilty about the time I spent.  Since it's usually cold outside, the family isn't out and about so I can truly indulge.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

69/365: It's Hard Work Being a Diva

Every picture I took today was of Bella.  She was full of life and energy.  She was up in the middle of the night and was waiting for me, dressed, when I came home from my run.  She danced and twirled through the living room, watching her reflection in the television.  She and Boo went to a train show with Grandma and Papa.  She struggled keeping her head up through dinner. 

When we have movie night, I always make the kids get their jammies on and brush teeth so that when the movie is over, they go straight to bed.  Bella didn't make it that far.  She crashed 15 minutes into Up.  I decided to take her up to room and she got indignant. 

"Why does Boo get to watch TV and I have to go to bed?" 

I got her in bed, covered and the radio on.  We didn't hear a thing out of her after that . . . and that's unusual.

Friday, December 17, 2010

68/365: If You Fall We're Taking You to SLU

I came home just in time for dinner tonight.  First, Bella stole my Santa hat.  You would have thought I'd brought home a new pair of Jimmy Choo's the way she zeroed in on it.  Don't you think it goes well with the lovely pink and orange outfit she has on?  And no, thankfully she did not wear that to school.  Bella believes life is her own show, complete with several daily costume changes. 

She next decided she needed something out of the "kid cabinet."  Instead of using her words and telling me what she wanted she wanted to show me.  She dragged the stool over to cabinet and climbed on up.  She rooted through the cabinet until she found what she wanted.  Is it any wonder that things get misplaced around this house?

When the kids climb up on stuff or take crazy risks we always threatened, "If you get hurt, you're going to SLU."  They don't quite get what that means yet, but they realize the context and that they don't want to go there.  This catch phrase comes from the first year Klucker and I were married.  He wasn't feeling well and came running down the stairs proclaiming he needed to go to the hospital because he had vomited blood.  I replied by asking what he meant and saying let me get your insurance card.  That was met with "you don't love me.  You don't care that I could die."  And he stormed out of the house.  I went upstairs, found his insurance card, and met him at SLU.  An urban hospital is a strata of society which I hope never to have to encounter again.  My purse was searched as I went through the metal detector.  I found Klucker waiting, as well as multiple extended families.  Klucker went to triage and I was allowed to go with him there.  It was then I found out that his "vomiting blood" was actually a small tinge caused by vomiting and breaking a small blood vessel.  It's a good thing he wasn't dying but was in a hospital because I was ready to kill him at that point and it only got better. 

When he finally got to see a doctor, I wasn't allowed to go back because we didn't have the same last name so we couldn't be married!   Mind you the indigenous families with play cousins and the like went back en masse.  In the end, the ER doc took very good care of Klucker, giving him a very thorough exam, including checking his prostate.  Gotta love karma!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

67/365: The Red Battery of Death

I hate this symbol on my phone, the red battery of death.  It means that my phone is so dead, it won't turn on at all, even plugged into the charger.  What really frustrates me is how often I get this ugly sign.  I understand that phones are not just phones anymore, they are little mini computers.  But I find, with minimal phone usage, I have about four hours of time on a full charge.  That seems ridiculously low.  And today it bit me in the butt.  I left my phone charger in the car when I dropped it off for service.  I was at 66% battery life.  Within two hours, I was down to 14% and I hadn't used the phone.  I went to the Sprint kiosk and they tried to charge it for me, but the crazy thing would accept a charge because it thought it was still on my car charger.  And of course I didn't realize that until I walked away and was down to 6%. 

I'm in a quandary right now over my phone.  This whole battery thing is getting worse.  I'm eligible for a phone upgrade from Sprint, but I'm not crazy about the phones they have out right now.  And I don't want to blow my upgrade on something I don't really want.  I'm googling right now for a cheap battery to get me by because I actually like the phone itself, I just hate being tethered to a charger.  Hopefully, that will last me until either Sprint gets decent phones or my contract is up in July.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

66/365: Ice, Ice Baby

When I headed to the gym this afternoon, a fine mist was already coming down.  Two hours and a drive home later, this was what I found--tiny little ice chunks all over my car.  The drive home wasn't bad.  I didn't play Speed Racer on the highway and I was uber slow (15mph) coming down our street.  Still, as I applied the brakes and tried to turn in our driveway, my anti lock brakes engaged and I just slid on down the road. 

For right now, we still have school tomorrow both here at home and for me at work.  I'm guessing that will change.  I could use a snow (ice) day to get some chores done.  It would give me some relief from that over-committed thing I do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

65/365: Feet Are Ugly

Have you ever sat down and really looked at your feet? I think mine are some of the ugliest things I've ever seen. (I even chose the small photo setting for this upload so you wouldn't look at the blog and be grossed out!)

My feet have gotten worse over the years. When I was pregnant with Bella, I started wearing eff me heels and now do so daily. If the heel isn't 3" or more, I don't buy it. And then I started running. At least I don't have any black toe nails right now. I'm sure that will change since I'm hitting the dreadmill again tonight.

I look at my kids' feet, unmarred by blisters and calluses and they're so cute and lovable. No wonder babies love to suck their own toes. I try to keep mine at least presentable, but have failed at that task as of late. My last pedi was October 23...I know that date because it was a girls' day in honor of my birthday with Steph. I made the pedi last as long as I could, but eventually took the polish off because the chipping polish looked worse than none at all does. I just haven't found the time to indulge myself and my mistreated appendages to pampering. For now I will keep these beasts hidden. I will wear my two pairs of heeled Uggs as much as possible to at least give my overworked trotters some respite. I have three more days of work, maybe I will sneak an hour of foot lovin' in next week.

Monday, December 13, 2010

64/365: Gingerbread 101

I'll probably catch grief for telling this story, but here it goes.

A couple of weeks ago, Boo brought home a sheet requesting parent volunteers to help build gingerbread houses. (Again, Christmas and public schools, but I'm not going there this year.) I would normally be all over this, but the two days they needed help I was booked at work so I mentioned it to Klucker. He checked his schedule and emailed Mrs. S via the school website to volunteer to help. He got no response and several days later sent an email directly from his email account. After receiving no response, he wrote a note and put it in Boo's folder. He finally got an email response, but alas, Mrs. S had all her volunteer spots filled. Klucker called me at work to tell me he didn't get to help. I was shocked at the disappointment in his voice. It was very sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Klucker being Klucker did not let that stop though. Since I was going to be out of town, he decided he and the wee ones would build their own gingerbread house, to heck with the school one. And buying a gingerbread house kit from Target or Costco just wouldn't do for Klucker. No, they were baking their own house from scratch. So throughout the day on Saturday, I was able to keep up with the progress through his Facebook posts and pictures. Here they are if you missed him or aren't friends:
  • In an attempt to keep the kids happy while mom is in Dallas this weekend we will begin construction of a gingerbread house today, dough mixing has begun!
  • Phase 1 complete ginger slabs in the oven with no loss time accidents!
  • Architectural approval has just come back, first issue is a revise and resubmit with use of candy canes! Due to high demand in China no candy canes were figured into the original design due to supply issues!! Am checking the local past Christmas supply scrap yards for an left overs . . . .
  • Just finished the first jobsite precon meeting. Had to bribe the architects with apple juice to go along with the idea of making ginger canes, since all the local supply of candy canes are out.
  • All the panels in the lay down area prior to assembly.
  • First set of panels has just arrived from the precast yard . . . and the leftovers are yummy!
  • Ginger canes just arrived from precast.
  • Waiting for the roof.
  • Roofers just finished.
  • Who would have thought, icing porn . . . the harder and faster you beat it the stiffer it gets.
  • Build complete
  • Does candy that fell on the the floor prior to install count as pre consumer recycled content for my LEED application?
I'm secretly glad I wasn't home to witness the chaos and ensuing mess. Clean up was complete by the time I saw the finished project above. I also think it's probably a good thing the volunteer spots were full. With status updates like that, I can only imagine what phrases Boo's classmates would have carried home.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

63/265: The Great Purge

Part of the reason for my quick weekend trip is to be a critical eye and voice in the great purge of 2010. One of my closest friends has decided she needs to minimize her life, and part of that is to reduce her belongings. We spent a few hours yesterday and today opening boxes and making decisions about what should stay and what could go. While in theory this sounds easy, it's not.

Have you ever picked something else and wondered why the heck you bought it? Or why have you held onto it for so long? It's hard to criticize your own decisions, even with years of perspective to use. And then there are those items that our parents have saved for us because they think we'll want them . . . baby blankets, christening dresses and the like. As we looked through boxes and bags we asked the question of what purpose was this now serving. Is it going to be used in the next month? six months? year? If not, why keep it? But then we came to items that are not so cut and dry . . . high school year books for example. I have all four of mine on a shelf in the basement. I can tell you I last looked at them to gather the guest list for my class reunion, but otherwise they just take up space, on a shelf, next to my dad's yearbooks. What am I ever going to do with his? Yet I can't bring myself to part with them either. Working through this process with her caused me to wonder what I needed to purge and what the results would be.

In the end we developed a system for our work. We used these categories: trash/recycle, donate (to a school or shelter), give away to friends, or put away where it actually belongs so that it will be used. Those will be my categories as I continue the purge and tackle two rooms in my basement next week

Saturday, December 11, 2010

62/365: "Cause I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

The view from my window at X thousand feet. I like to travel and I like to fly. I can say that probably because I don't do it frequently. My frequent flier miles expire before I can ever cash in a reward.

There is something so amazing to me about the moment of lift off. That instant when you feel weightless. It takes my breath away. And today was even more remarkable to me.

The weather in the 'Lou was rainy and overcast, no sun whatsoever. We ascended into a bank of clouds where no light was visible yet it was incredibly bright. As we continued southwest and hit clear skies and were able to see the ground below. It awed me to see the weather changed as we progressed.

I think flying is like anything in life, you do enough and you take it for granted. Something amazing and breathtaking can become mundane and even bothersome or hated. The trick is to find a way to avoid becoming jaded or cynical, to find a way to keep the fresh wide-eyed perspective. Those "take your breath away moments" become less and less frequent the older we get. Or do we get older because we have less of those moments?

Friday, December 10, 2010

61/365: Just Don't Get Me Involved

I have a lot of grandiose ideas, hair-brained schemes and the like--at least that's what they are according to Klucker. And my 365 Project falls is an example of one of those to him, although I will say he's usually quite supportive of them. (Probably because his are even more outlandish than mine. Ask me about our no cost to our budget Soulard Pond sometime!) Most of the time, he just gives me an "oh, Johnson," shakes his head, and rolls his eyes and walks away. So as I've spent the last 60 days snapping photos, I've tried to capture one of him. This is a typical look I get as the flash lights up the room. I call it his "I'm not going to interfere with your plans, just don't include me look."

I will give him great credit though. As I've begun snapping more pictures, he's been giving me feedback and tips on my shots. He's been patient in explaining different camera settings and actually went shopping to find a book on digital photography for me. He may not want to be a photo subject, but he's being really supportive of my work.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

60/365: Doggie Bunkbed

I was fixing supper last night when Klucker called me into the living room for this sight. There they are, my ever vigilant watch dogs, manning their post. I really wonder how exhausting it is to be a dog. Diesel is in his kennel all day, so I know he's not getting any exercise. Daisy lays on her pillow by the back door; I can feel the warm spot if I check it when I get home in the evening. And for the most part, they both sleep through the night. Yet, at 6:00PM, here they are on the chair. They do have moments of fiestiness and barking, and Diesel does do squirrel patrol when he goes outside, but the laziness far outweighs those.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

59/365: Still Sitting

I know I live a long way from where I work. I typically don't complain about my commute because it was my choice to move to the right side of the river and it was my choice to take a job nearly across a second river. Today, however, was ridiculous. I'm typically prepared for a 60 to 75 minute commute on days with rain or snow. It's St. Louis, people don't drive well in adverse conditions and get their panties in a bunch trying to get to the store to get bread and milk before the impending doom strikes. But today, as you can see, was clear--albeit very cold. There was a mega nasty wreck, on another highway that may have had some effect on my drive. And then add in two wrecks directly on the highway which I had chosen to travel and we're talking 90 minutes in the car. I listen to the traffic report when I drive. I hadn't heard anything before I had committed myself to taking this route. And then I made a fatal mistake of getting in the left lane. So when traffic absolutely stopped dead a half mile past this shot, I was stuck. I tried to spend the time productively. I put the car in park, checked Facebook and Twitter, emailed people and still sat and sat and sat. After 30 minutes of sitting still, I finally called work and got a suggestion to "just work from home today." Really? I'm sitting, stuck. If I could actually move, I would be at work. Finally it was like the dam broke and traffic flowed. Note to self: do not finish large coffee and large diet coke in a traffic jam. It could have been really, really ugly.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

58/365: Does Membership Really Have Its Privileges?

How many of your remember that tag line for AMEX from years gone by? I'm afraid I might be dating myself with that one. It came to mind today as I "registered" two more customer loyalty cards. As I added the key tags to my others, I wondered how many loyalty programs did I belong to. While I'm not going to take the time to count, I wondered how many others have this mess. And I wondered how much value I really gain from these. I know I use some frequently, like my Qdoba and Panera, but I honestly can't tell you the last time I ate at Friday's or bought something at Best Buy. And yet I hold onto these. And will probably end up with more. Hmmm. I also wonder how much the companies benefit from these. Do consumers chose one location over another based on loyalty programs? Or do they find that "rewarding" customers creates a warm fuzzy feeling with their customer base and causes customers to feel more valued, thus frequenting their business more often? I'm sure there's research out there regarding this, maybe a Google adventure in the making.

Stop Pulling on My Effing Cape! You're Creating Drag.

Hello, my name is Suzanne and I suffer from the Superwoman syndrome. It's been 15 minutes since I last tried to multi-task and be everything to everyone.

I don't know how I got to this point. I mean, I can trace things backwards to some degree, but I can't specify the origin of my problem. Why I feel like if I can't do everything, and do it well, I am a failure. I don't hold others up to the standard I set for myself; it's my own personal cross to bear. In my mind, it was never an option to me to be anything else than what I am now, in a philosophical sense. I had knew in fourth grade I was going to graduate school, although then it was for a JD instead of the PhD. Here was the plan I had in mind when I got out of college: married by 25, principal and PhD by 28, married with a house and two kids by 30. Sounds nice, neat, and simple, huh? Simple!?! Who the hell was I kidding? And on top of that, I believe a wife/mom should cook meals at home, attend kids' events, decorate and entertain. Oh yeah, and I believe she should work hard to stay fit and attractive for her husband. I'd like to b!tch-slap the fool who filled me up with these notions.

How'd I do on that plan you might ask? I got married at 26, and divorced at 28. I finished my master's at 25, PhD at 30. Building principal at 27. Bought my first house 28, two kids by 33. Oh yeah . . . and I did remarry because being a single mom was never part of my plan. When some of those arbitrary numbers hit, I freaked out because I hadn't met my goal. I know I let myself believe I should get married the first time because I believed I needed to if I was going to be a "successful" woman. And for quite a few years, I didn't have a lot of fun because it wasn't in my plan. It's funny to me now, I look at clothes as I put them in the Goodwill bag, at 28 I was dressing like I was 45 because I wanted to be taken seriously as a professional. I wore sensible shoes with low heels for Pete's sake! WTF?

So, what's my shtick and why am I blogging about this now? I will tell you. Although I can reflect on my plan and poke fun at it, I am still in recovery and I have FREQUENT relapses. These past few weeks I've fallen into a bad pattern. I'm stuck in a "yes" mode. Mommy, will you make me a pick up kid this week? Sure. Can you organize this event? OK. Do you want to do this race with me? Yeah. Will you handle this problem with a former employee? You got it! Can you come visit? Sure. Can I come visit? I would love it. Wanna add an extra workout to your schedule? Absolutely. You get the idea. I don't say no well and once I commit, I believe in follow through. I truly believe "A (wo)man's worth is her word." So if I yes, I mean yes and I hold to it, no matter how inconvenient, costly, or possibly painful it is for me. This belief caused me a small panic attack yesterday. I've way overcommitted myself right now. And somehow, someway, I need to find a way to get it all done without letting other things fall to the wayside. And, I don't know if it's possible. At least possible in the reality in which it is set right now. But I'm working on it.

First, I made a list. Then I prioritized what I must do and what the deadlines were. I delegated some pieces to the more-wonderful-than-not Klucker. I then asked myself questions about why I was doing what I was doing and what the most important part of those things were. E.G. why did I feel the overwhelming need to run Godzilla Saturday morning? To see my friends . . . who I wouldn't get to spend time with because I'd have to jet out as soon as I was done and to get a workout in that I could pretty well do from my front door, earlier, not causing me to miss my flight. So my heart rate has lessened and I can breathe easier and I will see my kids this week and not get report to DFS as a neglectful mom. But I still have a twinge of guilt for not completing things I planned to complete. Plus, I'm not confident I've learned my lesson. And it worries me that my daughter that I'm setting my daughter up to believe in the same mythic Superwoman creature which I worship.

Monday, December 6, 2010

57/365: Not Again

I am not a "car person." I typically view an automobile as a functional piece of equipment to get me from point A to points B, C, D, and so on. I'm not big on style or horsepower. I care about comfort, reliability and safety. So when I make this next statement, it's a big deal. I love my car. I researched long and hard before buying it. I walked out of a salesman's office after had I found the exact car I wanted. I went elsewhere and negotiated a deal with which I could live. I gave the purchase a lot of time and energy. And it has been worth it. I have had this car for about 17 months and plan to have it for another five or six years. I say all this so you understand my next statement. The tires on this car are jinxed and I think the finance man did it.

When I bought the car, the finance man recommended getting the tire warranty package. Somewhere in the shuffle of paperwork that didn't happen. So in June, about 14 months into having it, my low tire pressure warning light came on. (I'm still amazed this freaking option exists!) So I took the car to the gas station and put air in the tires. That was good for less than 24 hours. That evening, as we waited for a table for dinner, Phil told Steph I had a flat tire. Klucker took care of it, putting a plug in the rear passenger tire, and I was good to go . . . for about 6 weeks. Then I had the tires rotated. Once it became a steering tire, the plug didn't hold. Two new tires, and a whole lot of race entry fees later, I was once again good to go . . . for about 6 weeks.

Another low pressure warning morning for me. I played the fill it every two or three days game for about three weeks until I cried, "uncle." This time it was a screw I picked up the Friday night of Gateway Cup. Klucker plugged this one and I've been fine . . . until this morning. It's 20 degrees, wind chill of 14, and I'm checking and airing my tires. I'm praying the cold effected the pressure and this is not a repeat performance. All four tires were near each other in pressure, so I added air to them all. We'll see what happens when I head home this evening. Keep your fingers crossed. I'm really not in the mood to buy two more tires, or buy a voodoo doll of that finance guy.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

56/365: Baby, It's Cold Outside

Kate gearing up for the ride. I missed getting a photo of the duct tape on the holes in her shoe covers. She said it was quite wind resistant.

Today's high temperature was forecast to be 32 degrees. At some point, the sun was supposed to shine and it was going to be windy. I think the weather folks missed the high by a couple of degrees, but were spot on with the rest. So what would a group of bike racers do but plan an outdoor ride. In all fairness, this is not the coldest weather in which we've ridden. Last January or February, our start of ride temp was 11 one afternoon, reaching a balmy 14 by the time we were through. But, considering that was a few months ago, it's hard to re acclimate to the cold.

I don't mind riding in the cold. I've learned how to layer and I have the right equipment. It just takes so long to gear up. Let me run through what I wore yesterday, and I'll say I was a bit overdressed on top. I started with embrocation. Next was wool sock liners, topped with wool ski socks. The top half was a wool sports' bra and a long sleeved wool shirt. Next I pulled on my winter bib tights and Big Shark thermal jacket. On my hands I did PI's shine glove and AMFIB gloves. My cleats were covered by neoprene shoe covers. I pulled the hood up on my Icebreaker to protect my ears before topping with my helmet. The embrocation was probably a little over the top because I did sweat on some of our hills. But my fingers got a bit chilly at times--I want to try someone's lobsters versus my regular gloves. They're rated the same for warmth, but the girls give the lobsters higher reviews than I would give the AMFIB gloves.
Here's our group that braved the cold a few brief moments of snow flurries. We celebrated our finish with coffee and pumpkin pie! A great way to spend Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

55/365: Pumpkin Pie

I know, Thanksgiving was two weeks ago and it's still three weeks till Christmas, but tonight I made a pumpkin pie--from a pumpkin. Novel concept, eh? Two weeks ago at the cx race, I was talking with Lo about cooking and she said she had grown pumpkins this year. I told her I would love to have one and she brought it to me last Sunday. Now, I can only remember having pumpkin pie made with fresh pumpkin once. I remember my mom peeling and cooking the pumpkin and saying she couldn't taste the difference and it wasn't worth the work. It's cold though, and whenever it's cold I move into a cooking and baking mode. Besides, how else would one spend a Saturday night. (yes, I know I'm lame.)

So the process began with cutting the pumpkin in half and cleaning the seeds. As you can see, I got my jack-o-latern scraper out for the event. Then you peel and and cut it into small pieces. Now, you can roast it in the oven whole and scoop it out of the peel, but I've burned myself more than once doing that with butternut squash. I then steamed the pieces. I had to break it into five batches because the pumpkin was that large. After it came out of the steamer it was into the food processor. I ended up with 14 cups of pumpkin puree. I froze all but three cups because I really don't need that many pies around my house at the same time.

The hardest part of this whole process was finding a recipe that called for fresh pumpkin. Anymore the recipes just call for a 16 ounce can. I know that stuff is uber pressurized, so I wanted to find a true measure. I found a great website that gave a great recipe, with modifications if you wanted. I ended up having enough filling for a pie, plus two small dishes without a crust. The flavor was slightly different than pies I've made from canned pumpkin. It wasn't as sweet and seemed more mild. The filling itself seemed lighter to me as well.

The whole process wasn't as much work as I expected. It was messier than using canned pumpkin, and dirtied many more dishes. But it's something I'll do again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

54/365: Surprise T!

Tonight I went to a surprise birthday party of a different sort. Instead of luring T to a location, we took the party to her. Of course, this was all Kate's plan. I say that because no one but Kate could ever come up with such an idea and pull it off without a hitch. (Kate is the surprise party master . . . this is the third one this year that I know about!) Originally, Anne was going to get T to Atomic Cowboy and we would all be there waiting. Then the thought was that it may be easier to kidnap T for her party. We were all meeting outside her place and storming the fort. Then T got the bright idea she wanted to have dinner with her mom--how dare she! So the final plan was meeting outside O'Connell's at 8. Nine of the girls, plus two boys, gathered. We not-so-unobtrusively snuck inside and found the table. Thankfully T's back was to the door. Amy led our singing as we rounded the corner, wishing T happy birthday, somewhat off key. Her look was priceless. I think she threw the B word a few times as well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

53/365: I've Become "That Mom"

I had a feeling it would happen sooner or later. I would become "that mom." You know the one I mean. Her kids have a project for school and she opens up the craft closet and the supplies billow out. Paint pens, glitter glue, ribbon, stickers, stamps, you name it, she's got it so that her kid's project is top of the line. I realized I may fit that term on Wednesday. Boo got his weekly homework assignment and he immediately asked if he could look in my supply box in the craft room. What craft room? When did we get a craft room? Then I realized what he meant. The room in the basement where I keep photos, mementos and all that stuff with which I'm going to eventually create something cool and memorable. He found my box of old sorority girl supplies and that it would be just what we needed. We looked through it and it wasn't quite what he'd expected, although he thought gluing the sparkly confetti to his tree would be the perfect solution...we still need to work on his understanding of kitschy. So what's a mom to do?

Go to Michael's of course! I spent my lunch hour on Wednesday roaming the aisles of Michael's, looking for just what we needed to decorate his tree. (I won't even go into the discussion here of how troubled I am by his public school assigning the decoration of a Christmas tree as homework. I'm not quite ready to be THAT mom yet.) I got pom poms, stickers, craft glue, and even a project for Bella to do while Boo finished the tree. Behold the finished project:

What really troubles me about this whole scene is that when I said we'd put the leftover supplies in a box for him to use later, he got really excited about having his own craft box. And I won't tell you what his sissy calls the craft room.

2010 Season in Review

And just like that, with the click of a mouse, my 2010 racing season ended yesterday. It was actually very anticlimactic. I made the decision to go out of town next weekend instead of racing Washington CX. A few things weighted my wavering decision regarding the MO state cx race this weekend, so unless an early January race pops up, I'm done. Considering my season started about 275 days ago, I think I'm ready for a little break.

If I had to sum up the entire gamut of racing I did in 2010 in a phrase, it would be it was a season of learning. Last year I was too much of a neophyte to really do more than experience the pain and suffering that goes with bike racing.

My first ah-ha started February 28 with Froze Toes. Last year, it was all I could do to hang on through the surges in the corners, and that didn't last long. This year, I knew I wanted to stay up in front. I looked up, and I was getting dropped off the break, to realize that I had made the break. I then learned how to work through a paceline to make the rest of the race tolerable.

The next learning was my next race at Forest Park. Last year Cory and Steph attacked early for the sprint and I was left wondering what happened. This year, Kate and I controlled the pack and patiently rode a wheel before doing pulling that same move. For me it was the beginnings of understanding tactic versus raw athleticism.

Hillsboro was a hard race for me mentally. I learned I do not like road races. My attention span is that of a crit racer and I get easily distracted by the BS that goes on when you put 50 women in a confined area. I was ready to take my bike and go home.

Hermann taught me that I could persevere. Three races in two days is hard, given the hills of Hermann, it's miserable. Fighting back during the crit to take second was a huge gain for me as was finishing with the pack for the road race after getting dropped on the last climb. The road race was good for me mentally after the misery of Hillsboro. It also gave me my first "win" as I was able to hold onto the omnium lead.

Belleville gave me some inclination as to how fit I've become over the last several years. I was able to chase down a break, doing most of the work by myself in the 4 race. I still didn't win, but I carefully did a risk analysis and decided it was the best move. Moreover, I jumped in the Open race afterwards, bridged up to a break and finished 5th.

Tulsa gave me comfort in racing in large fields. It was also the first time I had to go around a major crash. I was able to set myself up for a field prime as well. It reinforced pack positioning and tactics. That seemed to be a theme over and over and over again for my races.

The Grove let me know I could race with the "big girls". It was a 3/4 race and I was able to have a top 5 finish. Again, placement and tactics were key. That weekend also showed me how to come back from bad racing. I didn't race as well at the Midtown Alley and Street Sprints on Saturday. However I was able to refocus for the Sunday and play.

My first individual race win came at the O'Fallon Gold Cup. I truly felt like I controlled what went on in the race. I decided if and win I would take a prime and when I would go for the W. It was a strong, strong race for me.

Springfield allowed me to see what I would do if I crashed. I had always wondered how I would handle it. I now know it will take more than road rash to get me to quit. I went down in my second race of the day, got up and back on with help from teammates and finished fifth.

The state crit taught me how to handle disappointment and how no matter how well planned and executed my race plan is, one small error can make a huge difference. I also learned how much better my bike handling skills have become. I didn't give up on my machine when it skidded, I rode it out. I still have a long way to go with handling, but I'm getting there.

Gateway Cup was about strong fields and sprinting whenever I hear a bell, no matter what the lap card says. It was also about never giving up on a race. Benton Park I was dropped early, as were many. It was hot and my fourth straight day of racing. I pushed myself to the edge physically to make the bridge back to the group. I may not have finished high, but I finished strong.

Cyclocross I will sum up with one word, humility. An amazing friend of mine said to me earlier in the season that you have to learn to win with grace and you have to learn to lose with grace. I didn't realize how unbelievably hard the latter is. I had high expectations for the season. I came off an extremely successful road season and my fitness was never better. And although my bike handling has improved, it is not as good as it needs to be. That was so evident. I was timid and skittish in many conditions. I fell, a lot. I pouted. I wanted to quit. I yelled at Klucker and I whined. And then I remembered that I am visible and "out there" in our cycling community and what was I showing women new to the sport. And I remembered my dear friend's sage advice and finished my last three races by losing with grace and having fun.

For now, racing in 2011 will start in 87 days. My season's schedule will look much different in that I'll be choosier in what I race. I'll probably hit every MO crit, but only do Hermann and Froze Toes road races. I'll look for more TTs again, which is how I started this crazy sport. And I may struggle since I'll be racing the "big girls" all the time now. Whatever I do, I hope to do it with perserverance and grace and to continue to have fun while I suffer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

52/365: Peanut Butter Jelly and a Baseball Bat

Ok, it's really just peanut butter, but the song jumps in my head when I think about peanut butter. This is our family's jar. Now remember, there are only four of us, and two are half pints. But we go through a six pound can in about four weeks. I think we need to seek treatment for our addiction. Notice the spoon in the photo. That's how it usually gets consumed. Klucker will go in before bed, grab a slice of cheese and slop a spoonful of peanut butter on it and fold it in half. I say to heck with the cheese and just eat a spoonful. The kids are just as bad. Ask Bella what she wants to eat and 70% of the time it's peanut butter jelly. (The other 30% is cheese quesadilla with guacamole.)

One of my favorite Klucker stories comes from when we were first dating. I had gone to his apartment, knocked on the door and proceeded to walk in without waiting for him to answer. I caught him red-handed, or should I say spooned, with the open jar. I knew it was destiny then!