Archive | November, 2010

Holiday Cheer

30 Nov

We did it.  Ryan, Abigail, Hank, and I survived our first Thanksgiving alone.  Both being from families with strong traditions and homes filled with people I knew it would seem a little empty.  I tried to keep things familiar.  I cooked stuffing for 12, stirred my pumpkin chiffon pie filling for eternity, and signed up for the Turkey Trot.  And when Thanksgiving arrived, I was glad that I had taken the time to do every single one of those things.  It was different but Thanksgiving all the same.  We ate leftovers for days, played some cards with new friends, and had plenty of pie to ourselves.  It was officially time to get ready for Christmas, but there was a problem. Our garage was stuffed with moving boxes and the decorations were at the back of that mess.  We had purposefully put them back there knowing they weren’t essential.  It was going to be impossible to dig them out without some serious shuffling, and you don’t shuffle your garage in Newport in November.  The ground is permanently soggy.  So I had made up my mind that we weren’t going to worry about it.  It would still be Christmas without a tree.

Abigail went down for her nap and I quickly logged on Facebook.  I read post after post about Christmas trees and holiday shopping and I couldn’t remove the bittersweet feeling in my heart.  Having more decorations than I needed I didn’t really want to buy new ones and with the shopping in town kind of limited I had done most of mine online.  I was beginning to second guess my resolve for a low key Christmas and I wondered if I could find our little artificial tree.  We usually bought a real christmas tree, but a Douglas Fir wouldn’t fit in our living room this year.  However, this little artificial tree would be perfect.  It was tall and skinny.  Just right for the space we did have.  I pulled open the garage door and climbed my way over 3 rows of boxes onto the antique sewing table (sorry Mom).  There it was.  The long  box I had been looking for.  I just needed to get onto the side of that mattress and I would be there.  With one foot on the sewing table and a knee on the mattress I could reach it.  I inched the box closer and pulled it down onto the table.  I climbed back over the piles, dragging the tree box behind me.  I didn’t remember it being so sturdy and I heaved it above my head to carry it inside.  I did a quick jig with Hank to celebrate my success.  The scissors cut easily into the packing tape.  I could scarcely believe my luck at finding this box.  I opened it and found everything I needed to spruce up a spruce, but no actual spruce.  Hedge clippers, metal pruning shears, and an orange extension cord.  Disappointed I ran the box of lawn items back to the garage and gave up.

Besides, there were other things that could make it feel like Christmas.  I put on some Christmas music and gathered the gifts I needed to mail.  If I didn’t have to decorate I was going to make it my personal mission to have my gifts sent obnoxiously early.  We headed to Walmart for shipping supplies.

As I pushed Abigail  towards the office supplies there it was — the smallest display containing some of the crummiest Christmas trees I’d ever seen.  Maybe it was that display or perhaps it was the boom box belching out a Christmas rap on crackly speakers that got me, but all of a sudden I felt every single mile that separated me from my family.  This was Abigail’s first Christmas and here we were clear across the United States.  It was all the motivation I needed to load my cart up with a $20 tree, $7 worth of lights, and $10 worth of ornaments.  Abigail reached for a package of lights, and I happily handed them to her.  I knew she was going to love Christmas as much as I did.  She quickly flung the lights out of the cart and arched her back.  Her face scrunched up and I started racing to the checkout.  She was gonna blow.  After a momentary set back by a lady pushing a poodle in her cart spewing a tirade about how scary dolls were these days, I rushed to the van and loaded up the loot.

Back home I set about putting the tree together.  The branches snapped in place easy enough and I tried my best to cover the gaping holes that are inevitable when you bargain shop for a tree.  I had strung the 300 lights and was ready to decorate when I realized that in my haste to leave Walmart (and the lady with the poodle) I had forgotten the ornament hooks.  Oh well.  I would run out for those when Ryan got home.  I plugged the tree in and was surprised that it didn’t look half bad.  The bottom branches were a bit dark, but that little tree had succeeded in brightening my spirits.  I was happy that Abigail would have her first Christmas tree afterall.  Ryan got home and he, too, was impressed with how festive our little tree was.  I grabbed my keys and raincoat and ran out to the van.  In no time I’d be back with the ornament hooks and the tree would be finished.  That’s when I backed into the Jeep.   Happy Holidays!

Running Against the Wind

17 Nov

When my mom asked if I thought I’d use a jogging stroller I said without hesitation that I would. I was excited when my parents offered to get us one. Last winter, my dad assembled it and upon returning home for a visit I saw it in the living room. The formal living room that is where it stood like a proud showpiece. It was very cool. Immediately, I had to try it out, but being pregnant and inside a house one could say I didn’t get the full experience. I couldn’t wait until Abigail reached the six month mark where I could load her in and set out on a brisk jog around the neighborhood. Abigail was sure to like the ride and as an added bonus I’d be getting back in shape. I had seen tons of moms out with their joggers running around so effortlessly. It seemed so simple. Lace up sneakers, secure baby in stroller, run. This was going to be great!

Except that it isn’t simple. Take today’s run for example. I’d been waiting since last Wednesday for this day. There among the typical rain, rain, rain, rain/wind forcast was a peek of sun and only a 20% chance of rain. Each day for almost a week I got on the website hoping that the little sun graphic would still be there. We woke up early and went about our morning routine at top speed. Abigail was content and Hank was snoring, opportunity was knocking. I found my clean running clothes waiting oh so patiently for me on the drying rack. I got dressed and scrambled to find my shoes. Hank’s sixth sense prompted an abrupt wake up from dreamland. He took one look at my shoes and started getting all wiggly. My sneakers which mean R-U-N to me mean W-A-L-K to him. Darn it, I thought. I guess I should walk him around the block first. I got the jogger out of the garage and went back inside to put Abigail in her coat and mittens. Hank was on his leash pressing his nose against the door, tail thrashing about. I took Abigail out first to load her in and felt the big, splashing drops. Within a minute it was raining. “UGH! Stupid Oregon. Stupid rain. REALLY!?” I yelled as I stomped back inside, but not before my neighbor, Ed, said. “Morning!” I always have really awesome timing like that.

Inside I sat there watching the steady rain. Was it too much to ask for this one thing to remain constant in my life? Running here had been harder to manage, but I had been faithful. I took the jogging stroller along even though instead of making me feel strong and amazing it made me feel awkward and out of shape. I ran seemingly in place as strong winds pushed us backwards. I found the routes that were more gradual inclines so that Abigail would not be sent flying down a canyon. I tried not to be frustrated at the start/stop nature my runs had to take as I worked through the grid of Newport.

I kept my running shoes on, but slowly came to the realization that I might have to start running at the Rec Center. On the treadmill.  Around 2:00 there was a break in the rain. I still had on my shoes. I grabbed Abigial, told Hank I was sorry about the W-A-L-K, and tossed him a milkbone. Three miles and 6 hours later we were finished. I got the mail out of the mailbox and there it was. My first issue of my brand new subscription to Runner’s World magazine. I had forgotten that I had ordered it from a fundraiser for my nephew’s school. Inside were some of the most inspiring profiles of some very extraordinary runners. And while I don’t feel in any way close to the caliber of those people, I, too, realize that each time I manage to fit in a run it is about more than clocking better times and more mileage. It’s about perserverance.

C is for Cookie

6 Nov

I was cursing myself, in my head of course — Hank is still at that impressionable age.  Why in the world did I sign up to make cookies for the church bazaar? Why did I sign up to make two kinds of cookies? The original plan was to make them on a weekend and then freeze them until the drop off day. But I didn’t make them on that first weekend or any weekend after that. The cookies needed to be dropped off between 9 and 3 on Friday. When I woke up on Friday I knew that I needed a miracle if I was going to pull this off.

Lately Abigail has been a real stinker. I love her, but things in our little world have become so much more difficult to manage. In one week, she went from crawling to pulling up in her crib. Now it seems she is only happy if she is pulling up and standing. Yay for milestones! Except she needs a full time spotter because at any given moment she just topples over. I’m thinking of getting her an infant harness and installing a rock climbing wall. She can just climb up and down all day long. Hank is old enough where he can be on belay down below. Kidding. Gone, too, are the days of those glorious long naps where I would just lay her down, give her a kiss, and walk away. Leaving me with lots of time to do things like oh, say, bake cookies. Now our naptime consists of laying her down and Abigail flipping over, crawling frantically to the side of the crib and pulling herself up. Repeat for 30 minutes. She is not tired. She is just rubbing her eyes and yawning to let me know how very awake she is. As you can see, time for making cookies is at a premium. Now, all of you people out there thinking: I just put my baby in his/her pack-n-play or high chair or some other contraption while I get things done. Good for you. Don’t judge us! Abigail is happy in those things for all of about two seconds and then she gets it. She is trapped. Cue the screaming.

So, you can imagine my delight at the thought of trying to bake all of these cookies. There is nothing like a deadline to get you moving. So at 8:30 I had Abigail dressed, fed, and sitting in her highchair. The first recipe was pulled up on my computer, and I was ready to bake some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. A quick scan of the recipe let me know that this batch would make about 60 cookies. Great! The more the merrier. I turned on a little Frank Sinatra to remind me of a magical time when women with children made cookies in frilly aprons, heels, and pearls and were roasting a turkey at the same time. I, of course, was in my pajamas with my hair in a ponytail, a baby flinging toys right and left, and a dog laying right in the middle of our little aisle kitchen. I flexed a muscle and barred my teeth and was ready to begin. And just like that I had whipped up the dough with Abigail mesmerized by my mixer or perhaps the running Food Network commentary I was giving her. I was slamming dough in heaping tablespoons down on the cookie sheet and popping them in the oven. Only 50 more to go! Abigail started doing the eye rubbing and yawning thing, but I knew better. She wasn’t tired. She just wanted to go climb around in her crib. So I kept going, more tablespoons and more cookies. When Abigail’s head started to get a little wobbly I thought I’d better just make sure she didn’t want to go take a little nap. I put her down, and after only 10 minutes of crawling around and pulling up in her crib she was asleep! Thank you, Jesus! I ran back to the kitchen, where I was able to bake a few more batches before she woke up. Abigail started screaming and I scooped her up, changed her diaper, washed my hands, and was back in the kitchen to grab the cookies out of the oven at the buzzer. SCORE! We took a break so Abigail could eat and were back in business. I couldn’t believe she was still content in her high chair. At 10:30 we finished the first recipe, and I bravely was on to the second. I don’t know how it ended up happening, it may have been divine intervention, because by 1:30 we were pulling into the church parking lot. We walked in and were instructed to “just put them under that table.” I don’t know what I was expecting. I don’t think a Hallelujah chorus would have been too much. Do you? I had just baked for 5 hours with a baby, and we survivied it! I was proud of myself. I put my cookies under the table amongst what seemed like hundreds of others. What had seemed so enormous to me was no big deal. Yeah! No big deal. I walked out feeling like Superwoman and Abigail started to scream. Things were back to normal, but somehow, the pile of dishes in the kitchen didn’t seem so impossible.