Sep 142013
 

So, this happened.

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Let’s back up a month. Actually, let’s back up ten months. The loss of Bentley was (and still is) a tough one for our family. Despite our sadness, Henry and Eleanor started talking not long after about “when we get another dog…”. Andy and I assured them that we’d consider that at some point, but for now we needed a break. I mean, we still cry about Bentley on a regular basis. And with all the travel we had lined up for summer, the fewer responsibilities we had, the better.

On our last summer trip, we spent the weekend with Andy’s siblings and their pets, including four dogs. The kids, especially Eleanor, were in heaven all weekend, usually with a pet or two by their side. Hmmm…, Andy and I started thinking. I like seeing how happy Henry and Eleanor are with a dog, but I’m not sure I’m ready for one yet, I said. I’m not sure either, but I don’t want the kids to associate having a dog only with loss, Andy said. Yeah, we agree that we want our kids to grow up with a dog, we both said. But then we came home and had to immediately throw ourselves into the first week of school, so the discussion seemed over.

Until the end of that week, when Andy came home from work on Friday. “So it was crazy at work until around 3:00…and then I got on Petfinder,” Andy admitted. “Um, so I might have been thinking about dogs today, too,” I concurred.

The rest of the evening was filled with what-ifs and are-we-sure-we’re-readys and staying up past midnight combing Petfinder for possibilities. Saturday morning, we called around on some available dogs that spurred our interest, and narrowed down some shelters we wanted to visit. Andy and I decided there’d be no harm in just checking things out, to test our readiness for a new family member.

We’d told Henry and Eleanor all along that they’d be involved in any pet decisions when the time came; pet ownership was a commitment of many years and therefore would be a decision we’d all need to make together. Andy and I gave Henry and Eleanor another lecture of “we’re just looking today, we probably will come home with no dog, JUST LOOKING I REPEAT JUST LOOKING” to try to temper the DOG!DOG!DOG!!1! mode they immediately went into.

And so we spent six or seven hours that Saturday, in every corner of the city, checking out possible pooches. We met a few great ones, but none that seemed like The One. Late afternoon, we found ourselves on the same side of town as the Humane Society, and on a whim decided to end our day there.

A medium-sized, friendly-looking, 1-year-old lab/retriever mix named Reggie was the last dog that caught our eye. We took him outside to a kennel to run around and get acquainted. He was friendly to the kids and didn’t seem too bark-y. Andy seemed to have That Look on his face. “Is he giving you Dog Feelings?” I asked. “Yeah, he kinda is.” “Me, too, darnit.”

At this point it was only twenty minutes until the daily deadline to turn in adoption paperwork. Worried we’d miss out on a great dog, we took Reggie back inside and filled out our forms. Luckily when we met with the adoption counselor, she explained we could place a 24-hour hold on Reggie. Which we needed—we hadn’t expected to get a dog that day, and needed a night to prepare our house for a new arrival.

Within a minute of waking up Sunday morning, we heard Eleanor tell Henry, “let’s clean our room so Reggie doesn’t get our toys!” The kids were beyond excited, so we arrived at the Humane Society right as they opened. A few more consultations later, we walked out with our new family member. “Dogs are just terrific,” Henry remarked as we pulled out of the parking lot.

Despite Andy’s and my explanations of how you don’t have to keep the name pets come home with—like, Simon was Horace, we were not going to spend 15 years calling a cat Horace—the kids shot down all of our alternate suggestions, insisting we stick with Reggie. So officially, and somewhat reluctantly, he’s Reginald Barksdale. (And if you catch that Wire reference, well, that’s why we’re friends.)

With the exception of Millie, who just showed up and claimed us, all of our pets have come from the Humane Society. Reggie seems to continue our winning streak of adopting great shelter pets. We got him home and immediately he acted like he’d always been ours.

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He’s still more of a puppy than I thought he’d be, but that means we have a dog that loves fetch and running in the yard and playing with the kids. Although the Humane Society vetted him for good behavior around cats, we were a little nervous about how well he’d do with Simon and Millie. Turns out, he looooooooves them. The cats aren’t too enamored of Reggie’s occasional attempts to play, but they’re adjusting.

And while I admit I might have not been 100% ready for a new dog, the love Henry and Eleanor show for Reggie erase any doubts. I mean, this is worth having to get back into the routine of caring for another creature:

Eleanor Reggie

So while Bentley is still very much loved and missed, our new guy is on his way to making a special place in our hearts and becoming a great companion to Henry and Eleanor’s childhood.

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Sep 122013
 

at the supper table tonight

JENNIFER: So, if somebody asked you what Daddy did for work, what would you tell them?
HENRY AND ELEANOR: He works at the paper, he helps make the newspaper.
ANDY: And if somebody asked you what Mom did, what you would say?
ELEANOR: She stays home…and does nothing.
HENRY: She drinks Diet Coke!

Sep 032013
 

There were lots of things I had on my to-do list this weekend. Rooms to paint. Mulch to spread. Stuff to organize.

I did none of it. And it was fantastic.

For the first time in recent memory, we had a weekend at home with nothing going on. We’ve been on the go all summer; for example, three separate trips to Michigan in July/early August had us home just one weekend out of five.

So when our Labor Day weekend morphed into one with naps and Sun King growlers, I decided to embrace it. One look at our September calendar, with its good times like meetings on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday nights this week and not a single weekend without something scheduled, and I happily ditched the responsibilities and grabbed the sunblock.

And what did we do with all of our free time?

Well, we spent part of Saturday and Sunday floating in the Y pool.

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I beat eight levels in Candy Crush.

Andy made an impromptu overnight trip to Chicago for a fantasy football draft with friends he hadn’t seen in forever.

Andy and I took turns dozing while the kids gorged on the Ninjago and Lego Friends they discovered on Netflix.

We broke in Andy’s new bicycle with a few family bike rides.

Andy and I watched six episodes of Breaking Bad.

I watched eight episodes of 30 Rock.

We went to the Star Wars exhibit at the Indiana State Museum, on its very last day because I am always so organized and on top of things. Henry loved the droideka, Eleanor loved the star destroyer, Andy loved the Millennium Falcon, I still loved it all the second time around. The kids were more into the hands-on science-y parts than I thought they’d be. We took very few normal photos.

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We grilled out and dined on the deck, toasting our beer and milk to the last weekend of a full and fun summer.

I made plans to try to have no plans more often.

Aug 212013
 

We live just down the road from our grade school, and pass it often. I’d look at it and try to imagine Henry and Eleanor being old enough to attend, and then tell myself, “well, at least we’ve got 6 years.” But then 6 years became 5 became 4 became 3 became 2 became 1 became Henry and Eleanor began their lives as big-kid grade-schoolers two weeks ago Monday.

This school year is one of many transitions for us. After lots of discussion, Andy and I made the decision to place the kids in separate classes, their first major separation since the petri dish. We were leaving our MUCH-beloved, tight-knit co-op for a school with 700+ students. Henry and Eleanor would be in school seven hours instead of kindergarten’s three or five. Things like free play would be replaced by new rules about voice levels and hallway behavior.

Henry and Eleanor expressed nervousness the weeks leading up to their first day. I assured them they’d be fine, but I was pretty nervous, too. We all had butterflies that first Monday morning, as we hurriedly took a few photos and went to drop off the kids at their new adventure.

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Andy and I walked the kids to their new classrooms, right next door to each other. I managed to make it back out to the parking lot before I started crying. (I wasn’t the only one crying *coughcoughANDYcough*.) Aaaaaand I pretty much cried the rest of the day, with a 2-hour break for breakfast with a co-op friend who had sent off her kids that morning, too.

It’s been a way harder transition than I thought it would be, this “I’m a housewife while my babies are away for seven hours” thing. We don’t have any daycare experience, and I was in class regularly at the co-op, so this is my first experience in handing my babies over to relative (albeit highly-trained) strangers and trusting them to take good care of my kids. Luckily our grade school is highly regarded and one of (if not THE) best in the school district, so I know they’re in good hands. But STILL. MY BABIES.

And it’s taking me a while to get in my groove of managing all things household-related during my newfound child-free time. It’s been nice to get errands and cleaning over with during the week, freeing up weekends for family time. But OMG I never thought I could spend SO MUCH FREAKING TIME thinking about and acquiring groceries. And scrubbing toilets and cleaning kitchens in a seemingly endless cycle sometimes has me questioning why I bothered to get those college degrees. But overall, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Sure, I occasionally wonder why I don’t have more career ambition. But I can’t imagine any office fulfilling me more than being the first face Henry and Eleanor see when they get off the school bus. I’ll get in my groove eventually, and still feel like I’m where I need to be.

But enough about me and my “being a SAHM is SO HARD GUYS, I had to go to Costco like TWO TIMES last week” ways. How are the new first graders doing? Henry and Eleanor settled into their new school culture faster than I thought they would. They’ve complained that the days are too long, and while inwardly I’m all “NO SHIT SHERLOCK” I’ve reminded them that every experience they’ve had has been new, and that’s a lot to get used to. They both seem to love their teachers. They talk favorably about their Chinese and art classes. They think they’re big stuff getting to ride the school bus home. Homework quickly lost its new-experience sheen. They get to see each other at lunch and recess, and we’ve avoided any separation issues. We’ve forgotten lunchboxes at school twice, and almost didn’t get off the bus once, which I think is a pretty good record for such a steep learning curve.

So tl;dr: transition hard, first grade good, my babies still keep growing WHY WON’T THEY STOP.

Jun 062013
 

On Tuesday, I got ready to drag the kids along for a morning of errands. As I gave them outfits to change into, Henry asked me, “Mom, can I wear my Bumblebee costume?” Why not? I thought. “Sure, kid, that’d be great.”

So Eleanor, a Transformer, and I headed out. I wondered if he would get embarrassed from the attention and want to take off the costume. But nope, us girls enjoyed the protection of an autobot at the post office, Lowe’s, the library, Target, and the plant nursery. Autobots also enjoy surprise Happy Meal lunches, we learned. Everywhere we went we got lots of smiles and comments, and didn’t have to correct too many people that no, he wasn’t a Power Ranger.

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Bumblebee

There’s no real point to this post, I guess. It’s just that Henry and Eleanor seem so on the cusp of Big Kid-ness lately, as they act more independently and we look towards the start of grade school later this summer. Running errands with Bumblebee was a wonderful reminder that they’re still little, and I need to cherish it every chance I get. I won’t always have an autobot to pick out my petunias, so we’re going to make the most of it while we can.

 

Jun 062013
 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Or, you know, two weeks ago, at the Indiana State Museum downtown…I weaseled my way into the media preview of the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit.

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How’d YOU get on the list
? you’re thinking. Your readers are mostly people related to you. I know, right? You’re not the only one who was wondering what in the heck I was doing there.

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But if you know me, you know I have a Star Wars-lurving family. I grew up a huge fan, passed down my toys to Henry and Eleanor, and now have two kids well-versed in the Star Wars universe. Especially my son, who can usually be found humming the Imperial March while he imagines battles between clones and droids.

So what was the exhibit like, for someone who grew up on Star Wars? Well, as we waited at the entrance for our guided tour to begin, the sounds of Darth Vader breath over the sound system, just a glimpse of some of the goodies inside made me do a hands-to-mouth SQUEEEEEEE. Then I turned around and high-fived Tony from Geeking in Indiana.

I pretty much spent my time in the exhibit going OMG IT’S HAN AND CHEWIE OMG IT’S HENRY’S FAVORITE ROLL-Y DROID OMG IT’S LUKE’S ROBOT HAND OMG IT’S YODA OMG IT’S THE MILLENNIUM FALCON VADER’S STAR DESTROYER LANDSPEEDER LIGHTSABERS TUSKAN RAIDERS R2D2 OMG OMG OMG. For most of the items, I had that same “holy crap, I can’t believe I’m looking at the actual (insert name of object I’ve seen images of my whole life)” reaction as I’ve had seeing, say, the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel. Hi, I’m a nerd.

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And while, admittedly, some of the science stuff was an afterthought to my LOOK IT’S LEIA’S HELP ME OBI WAN DRESS overloaded brain, the exhibit has some nice educational components as well. If you’re five or older, you can drive a hover craft in 20-second bursts. There’s Maglev trains and robots to build, and simulated environments (like a Jawa camp) to set up and run via some cool computer effects.

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(hover craft modeled by the lovely Michelle from gotchababy)

Not gonna lie, it’s a little expensive to get in to the exhibit. Tickets are $10 on top of museum admission; it’s going to be around $70 to take my household. But it is worth it? To us, heck yeah. After the kids finished crying that I went without them, Henry looked at my photos and named every single item with no prompting, even informing me that his favorite roll-y droid is a droideka. I can’t wait to see his face when he gets to view the items that fuel so much of his play. So we’ll be there, for sure. Maybe we’ll see you? I’ll even give you a high five.

Want to sneak a peek at more exhibit goodness? Click here for the rest of my photos from the preview. Want to get your tickets ordered (it’s timed admission, 66 visitors admitted every 15 minutes)? Click here for Indiana State Museum exhibit info.

May 262013
 

Back in January, it seemed like every mommy blogger chose a “word of the year” in lieu of any resolutions. Posts were full of words like “bloom” or “savor” or “inspire,” usually typeset against a calming nature photo or Pinterest-worthy artwork, with platitudes about living your best life or whatever.

Well, it took me halfway through the year, but I chose my word.

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Don’t you feel so uplifted and inspired now?

But here’s the thing. We’ve had a tough past twelve months with multiple losses. A few things I’ve already blogged about. A few others aren’t my stories to tell, so let’s just say I’ve spent a good chunk of my time worrying about a lot of people I love. And I get that life is cyclical, you need the bad to appreciate the good, etc., etc. But I do have some regret that five was such a wonderful age for Henry and Eleanor, and we didn’t always get to appreciate it fully.

When you’re a stay-at-home parent, it’s too easy to tell yourself, well, I don’t work, so I should take that volunteer position/attend that event/agree to do whatever thing I’ve just been asked to commit to. But this year I’m changing my way of thinking. This year, I’m going to say “no” more than I say “yes.” In all areas of my life I’m asking, “Is this benefitting any of the four people that live in my house?” If I can’t answer in the affirmative then I’m saying no.

Saying no will help me focus on my true priorities. Enjoying the heck out of my six-year-olds and creating some good memories for them. Recording those memories through my photography and this blog. Continuing on my path to getting healthier. Ensuring that I spend more time hanging out with Andy.

So if you’re not Henry, Eleanor, Andy, or me,  you’ll probably hear “no” from me at some point this year. And I hope by staying negative, this year will turn out to be positive.

May 182013
 

After a few months of training and lots (and lots) (and LOTS) of “wait, why are we doing this again?” I did my first half marathon two weeks ago.

Andy, my cousin Dustin, and I were up at the asscrack of dawn that morning to head downtown for the Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. Can I sidetrack and brag for a moment? Andy was terrific and beat last year’s time by 13 minutes (despite a repeat of his Achilles issues), and Dustin completed the race after having major back surgery last year and being cleared for exercise just this winter. My family’s pretty awesome.

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The two boys left me at the back of the pack and went to find their own corrals. Then I waited and waited some more. I was literally THE back of the pack, in corral Z with the rest of the walkers and slowpokes. Want to know how long it takes to get 30,000 people across a start line? About 32 minutes, which is how long the race had been underway before I officially began it.

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And then I walked. And walked. And ran for a bit when I felt like it. And walked some more. And wasted a good twelve minutes or so making a potty stop in a line that I thought would move faster. And enjoyed all the bands and various entertainment along the route. And felt thankful for the water stop volunteer who ran with me for a bit. And did a lap around the racetrack and kissed the famous bricks.

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And kept up or improved my pace the whole time. And checked off the miles as they racked up.

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I ran most of the last mile knowing I was almost! done! It was such a great “I did it! Go me! I’m so awesome!” feeling to cross the finish line. Of course, you collect your medal, head over to the park, see the other 29,999 people who just did the same thing, and realize you aren’t that special. But you know what? Who cares. That was the furthest I had ever gone. I still was (and am) pretty damn proud of myself.

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The whole experience made me go from “this is such a stupid idea why do people do this willingly” to “sure, I’ll sign up again next year.” I can’t rave enough about all the volunteers and the energetic and supportive crowd of racers and spectators. I also love feeling decently in shape again. Doing 13.1 miles felt like no more effort than the 4.6 I did at Thanksgiving, which gives me motivation to keep going.

So to keep going, I’ve done something I thought I’d never do: sign up to run a 5K. Going from 13 miles to 3 might not seem like a challenge, but I’ve never been a runner. And I’m not completely sure my knees will allow it to happen, but I’m going to try. I’m easing into running with a couch-to-5K training program, to be as kind to my knees as possible and give me the best chance to run the race in July.

Last night, before I went out for my training run/walk, I glanced down at my iPhone armband, my moisture-wicking shirt, my running shoes. “Who AM I?” I jokingly asked Andy. I’m not sure who this girl is, but I hope she sticks around for while.