Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Our Family Zoo (Trip)

   Yesterday we took a trip to the magical Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  It's the only zoo I know of that is carved out of a mountain side.  We were contemplating a fun family activity, and since the kids have never been to a zoo, I insisted on the Colorado Springs one.
    I think I was more excited than the kids were!  I couldn't wait to see their reaction as they got to see the animals up close! As we drove up the mountain, past the fancy houses, hubby admitted that he can't remember ever going to a zoo!  (the Philadelphia zoo was only an hour or so from where we lived, and the Brandywine Zoo (really small and kinda ghetto) was probably 20 minutes from his house) After this revelation, I was even more excited, because now I was bringing four kids to the zoo for their first time!
   The first animals we encountered were the giraffes.  I'm didn't count how many there were, but it was the most I've ever seen in a zoo (or on the Madagascar movies)! You were even able to feed them!  We got a good workout in pushing the stroller up and down the paths.  Even though the animal selection was limited, the ambiance made up for it.  I've never been to a zoo with as much shade as this one offered.
   The kids were able to interact with chickens and birds (I experienced bird spatter on the path, JR got beaned in the bird house) and there was a really noisy peacock that seemed to be stalking us (the kids loved him and tried to imitate his annoying call).  You know they've seen too much Dora/Diego when they start verbally interacting with the animals ("Oh, no! You're lost! We'll help you!", "Follow me! It's this way!", "Oh, no! You're stuck! Help him!").
    These kinds of trips tend to bring out the best and worst in people, and in our case, lead to discovering new information....like the fact that my husband is irrationally terrified of mountain lions....even when they're behind protective glass.  (he acted as though the sleeping beasts were going to suddenly break through the thick safety glass and attack us)  JR also discovered what I call "the zoo smell"- mainly the scent of fecal matter, especially in enclosed animal "houses".  I found out that my son can silently count things- he exclaimed "Three elephants!" when we came to the elephant exhibit. I counted and yes, there were three.
    The monkey house was a bit different than I had anticipated.  It was carpeted and all of the monkeys were behind glass.  The interior housed benches and informational posters.  They even advertised "Orangutan Art" for sale, which was basically finger paintings supposedly done by these creatures.  What captivated me most in this exhibit was the toddler apes.  They were swinging from constructed vines.  One took a break on a tree branch and started to relieve himself...and he couldn't stop.... Eventually the urine stopped flowing, but this little guy must have been having intestinal problems.  He couldn't stop pooping! It just kept coming...and coming...and coming...even when we thought he was finished, he wasn't!  For some reason, this was more mesmerizing to me than it should have been.  I couldn't tear myself away from the sight!  JR came to his senses long before I did and somehow managed to drag me away.
It was the best zoo experience I can remember having and it seems like everyone else had a good time too.  Here's a photo of JR in front of the mountain lion exhibit and one of Josiah & a giraffe.

I Win!

  When you're headed downstairs to the exercise room, shouldn't you take the stairs? We spent the night in a hotel in Colorado Springs so we can go to the zoo later today.  I made sure the place had an exercise room so I could get my cardio in (35lbs doesn't just fall off by itself).
   Usually I exercise within the confines of my own home and neighborhood.  The closest I've come to owning a gym membership was a free month trial at Curves.  I didn't feel intimidated surrounded by the mostly older women.  However, I had a comrade this morning.  When I walked in the small exercise room, he was pumping iron on the weight bench with the volume on his mp3 player turned up to "blast-everyone-else's-eardrums-too".
    He offered to take his gear off the treadmill (my usual regimen), but I declined, deciding to try my luck on the other two machines available- afterall, I have a treadmill at home.  I only lasted 3 minutes on the elliptical before moving on to the stationary bike.  Sitting down was alot easier.  A few minutes after I started my trip to nowhere, my kinda buff neighbor hopped on the treadmill.  I'm not sure what the starting running speed on it was, but I heard him increasing the speed to about 8mph.  (Right now I can do 6mph for about 2 minutes before my asthma kicks in.  Pre-pregnancy I had worked up to 6mph for almost 30 minutes).  I'm not sure if this guy was related to a gazelle, but sitting next to him was pretty intimidating.
   Then, I realized something-I'm winning. Ok, so really, we were tied (stationary machines right next to each other). Even though his speed was super-fast, he wasn't passing me! I was going as fast as him! (not according to the distance trackers on the machines, though) After this realization hit, I felt alot better about my time-crunched cardio & more confidence as I finished pedaling my 2.5 miles.  In my mind, I was winning.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The End Of An Era...

   This is the final installment of what has come to be known as "The Jeep Saga".  Last night was my fourth and final lesson in it.  Our short but adventurous relationship is over, and I know I can hear the Jeep sighing with relief.
    So I have no idea where hubby acquired his teaching methods, but he threw me for a loop last night.  After reaching our practice destination, he & I climbed out of the vehicle to switch seats.  I got behind the wheel and he shut the door...and stood there with my coffee in his hands...and stared at me with a smile...My worst nightmare had come true- I had to navigate the Jeep without help.  Hahahaha.  Yeah, right.  I looked back at him and told him that we (kids were in the back) were just going to sit there, then.
    After JR gave me some verbal instructions, he walked down the road and expected me to drive... I did...and, I must admit, I didn't scream ;)  However, I was pretty scared and when he yelled for me to shift, I didn't push the stick all the way down so the engine made a funny noise.  I drove for a few hundred yards and back to where I left him.  I did feel more confident after this lesson-I even reversed all by myself! 
   So, even though the Jeep will no longer be in our possession, I do plan on requesting more lessons if hubby gets another vehicle with a manual transmission (altho after these "adventures", I don't think that will be high on his priority list)....but we shall see....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Am Her, She Is Me

   I've admitted that my blonde-haired, blue-green eyed 2-year-old princess looks like me.  In fact, she looks nearly identical to photos of me from my childhood. My 4-year-old also has my blonde hair and blue eyes...but yesterday I saw myself in Amber.  I'm talking about her physical appearance.  It's more than that...
    It's the way she won't do something just because you tell her to, or you tell her not to and she'll do it anyway. I see it in they way she's a klutz...not just the fact that she is, but the way she is.She has this very unsafe habit of not watching where she is going, and often times she ends up walking into a wall.  Monday she didn't get her shoes in time for me to put them on her, so she was riding in the car shoeless. By the time we had reached our destination, she had taken off her socks, so she ended up walking across the parking lot and into Walmart barefoot, but it didn't seem to bother her. 
    As I was watched her walk around the store, it hit me-that little blonde-haired, barefoot girl is me.  Her impulsive, rebellious, free spirit is mine.  She seems strong, but knows her limits.  She seems independent, but only when she knows she is being watched.  She wakes up most mornings as happy as can be.  Deep down, she is shy and afraid of being alone.  She does not realize how strong she really is and that she needs reassurance from no one.  She is me. 

Continuations of the Jeep Saga

   For those of you following my Jeep saga, we had lesson #3 last night.  I'm not sure if it was bravery, insanity, or hopelessness that drove him to this, but hubby decided my lesson would be on the highway. To Walmart.  I did not think we were going to survive. 
   Thankfully we live in a small town with little traffic, so there were hardly any cars around us as I practiced my "clutch-shift-gas-scream-clutch" technique.  Last week I was releasing the clutch too fast...this week I was too slow....when the Jeep bucked, the found it funny, I was scared, and hubby was silent.  At least the shocks are still good.
   Somehow, I made it the 3 miles to Walmart without managing to stall the poor Jeep.  I even made it past the stoplight & into the parking lot where I managed to park it!  However, I was too shook up to drive back, so JR took the reins. 
    During the five minute trek, I learned how to shift gears quickly while accelerating.  This lesson endured its fair share of screams ("JR! What do I push??", "Clutch first, or brake?? Clutch first or brake??", "I gotta slow down!!!", "We're not gonna make it!!!"...) but I totally forgot to pass out earplugs beforehand.  Even though the passenger seat remained quiet during most of the trip, my wonderful backseat driver kept yelling at me to "push da clutch down". 
   I think this whole experience has made my husband glad that he never aspired to be a driver's ed teacher.  On the other hand, I have been surprised at how much patience and restraint he has shown. His poor Jeep will probably never forget this experience, and I know I won't, either. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Weekly Exercise Routine

   Before I became pregnant this last time, I was running about 4 or 5 times a week, and had almost worked up to 3 miles (without stopping).  Granted my speed was slow, I but I was proud of my progress.  I have sports-induced asthma. which basically means that I can't breathe after a few seconds of any activity that requires more usage of my lungs than normal (walking long distances, running, stairs).  Inhalers never worked for me-the only thing I have found that helps is continued exercise to push my lungs to breathe better.
   My exercise plan for now (to burn fat & build back muscles) consists of 3 days cardio & 3 days Pilates.  Mondays, Thursdays & Saturdays I run/walk on my treadmill & Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays I do Pilates.  These last two Saturdays, though, I've rollerbladed-its cardio & muscle working in one exercise.
  I love rollerblading for two reasons- 1. it provides intense cardio while doing something fun, 2. it works the lower ab muscles to give you a flat belly.  I also love running, but I need to slowly work up my speed and endurance.  Right now my goal is to lose 35lbs to reach my pre-pregnancy weight.  I made it there before this last pregnancy, so I know I can do it again ;)

My New 'Blades!!!

   Morning Reflections:  I love rollerblading.  I snagged  a "new" pair at a yard sale last week, but the weather hasn't been nice enough (in the early a.m. anyways) for me to try them out.  The sky is formidable this morning, and it's windy, but I don't think I can wait any longer. 
   My old pair I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago, but I didn't realize until after I had cleaned them (they were covered in a huge layer of dirt-most likely due to the windy conditions that day) that they weren't a matching pair. They were a pair, but one was a ladies size 9, and the other a men's 7.  The 'blades look similar, but they are two completely different brands & designs.  For only costing me $1, they were a good bargain & have served me well over the past couple of years.
   However, it is time to move forward, and give this new pair a chance.  These ones actually match ;)  They're a name-brand and seem to be in excellent condition.  These too cost me $1!  The heel stopper looks pretty new, so I'm excited to see how they'll perform!
   Post-Morning Reflection: Note to self- do not attempt rollerblading in windy conditions!  The downhill struggle should have been my forewarning on how near-impossible my return uphill would be....Not long after I had turned back to head home, I realized someone would need to come pull me with a tow-rope.  The winds were so strong, I did not see how I was going to make it back home, let alone making it in time for JR to leave for work....What I ended up doing was taking off my skates & socks and running home. Needless to say, I got some extra cardio in this morning...hopefully enough to burn the unnecessary calories in the half of cinnamon roll I consumed for breakfast ;)
    Well, the new rollerblades get an "A+"! They were super comfy & I enjoyed a pretty smooth ride, even over randomly strewn gravel.  Later today hubby will be giving my old set a proper burial....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jeep Session #2...

    My poor, dear, wonderful husband...I'm pretty sure I almost made him cry today...I know I did (when my brain translated the sternness in his voice into "yelling" at me). Today was Jeep Session #2: My-4-year-old-knows-how-to-drive-stick-better-than-I-do.     I was so excited for my chance this week to prove to myself (and hubby) that I am capable of driving a manual transmission. All I needed was a few reminders of when to push what & I was ready....Until I realized I still don't know what I was doing...
    Hubby decided that I was clearly not capable of pulling out of our apartment complex without stalling, so he drove us to a partially secluded location he deemed appropriate for this week's sanity check. He feels that dirt is a more forgiving surface (when I stall out) for me to practice on, so we ended up on a really hilly (is that a word?? a road with really big hills) street back behind our complex.
    This lesson entailed learning how to shift gears and the difference between the usage of the brake and clutch (we left things a little sketchy last week). Needless to say, my grade was in the D-F range. Last week I was instructed to let the clutch go quickly. This week I found out there was a such thing as "too quickly"...All of this information seems like a lot to grasp, remember and execute correctly.
    As I was navigating the poor, defenseless jeep up and down the terrain, my four-year-old kept shouting instructions from the back seat, "Don't die, Mommy!" (I guess I've been too verbal about accidentally killing everyone while learning this feat), "Push down on the clutch!", "Give it gas!". I actually started to listen to his voice until I realized he had no idea what he was talking about. It gave me a sense of direction since my instructor in the passenger seat had grown quiet (probably conjuring up false reasons for me to not drive the jeep again). Once I realized what I was doing, I asked JR if Josiah's instructions were correct. To my dismay, they weren't. Oh, well. He's only four....
    Learning to drive stick has definitely given me a deeper appreciation for the wonderful person who invented the automatic transmission. It has also made me more aware of how I handle driving my (wonderfully automatic) vehicle. Someday (hopefully soon) I aim to master the feat of driving a manual transmission. Until then, my poor husband will probably lose his mind as he tries to patiently teach his silly blond wife the foundations of driving stick.

...So I Scream When I Drive...

   Before I outline the details of today's Jeep lesson, I would like you to understand a few things.  I used to be a good driver.  I am still a safe driver, but somewhere in the last few years, I lost all the aggressiveness and courage that it takes to be a good driver.
   I don't know if it was a pregnancy that changed the way I drive, being in a small town with little traffic, or not driving much.  It could be a combination of all three factors...who knows?  All I know is that I used to drive I95 at a rate slightly above the speed limit (ok, ok, I did hit 90mph once) and now I freak out when a another car comes within 20 feet of the vehicle I'm in.  I've asked my husband & bff to verbally correct me now when I drive since some of the things I've learned seem to have gone out the window.
   My depth perception is a bit off too, so I need help recalibrating it.  The first time I screamed while driving (that I can remember anyways) happened on a trip to Denver (3 hours away).  You try driving through mountain passes with no guard rail and a 100 ft drop for the first time without screaming.  I dare you.  My most recent screaming-while-driving incident happened today as I came across a dead deer.  I am no stranger to dead deer on the highway.  We see them a lot out here in Colorado (live ones too).  However, this dead deer as lying mangled on one side of the road, with his entrails lying on the other, and connecting them was a really wide blood smear.  Ewwwww...
   I am not exactly sure why I scream (its more of a "aaaah! aaaah!" yell than a scream) when I drive.  I just do.  I guess my mind panics so much that the only release is through my vocal cords.  Oh, well....I'll just start keeping a stash of earplugs under the passenger seat.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Invisible? Or Just Forgotten?

   So I've been attending this ladies' Bible Study on Wednesday nights... We're going through a great book by Angela Hunt.  One of the weekly topics she focuses on is invisibility (the feeling of, not the super hero kind).  She asks the reader if they have ever felt invisible, like no one acknowledges her accomplishments or existence.
   Even though I have identified with the subject, I think that I feel more forgotten than invisible.  You know how you see someone in Walmart and they don't recognize you; or you were the only one in the office who didn't get an invite to your boss' surprise party; or the phone tree skipped your house...
   The first incident that I remember started in Pre-K...The class was going on a field trip to the zoo and my mommy signed up to be a chaperon (she was wearing a white and black striped dress and held a white wallet/clutch thingie)!  The teacher organized the kids by first calling up the individual children whose parents were chaperoning.  Then she continued grouping kids with adults.
   What I remember doing was sitting at the long table, on the verge of tears with my head in my hands....then, the infamous words were uttered by the teacher: "I'm sorry, Michelle, I forgot you"...
   A prior incident had occurred in my family, but the details are sketchy and supposedly "missing" from the memories of the perpetrators involved.  It took place not far from where we lived at the time...My dad had taken us kids to the McDonald's down the road, and when it was time to walk home, he left one of us there.  He claims he can't remember which child he "accidentally" abandoned, but I'm pretty sure it was me.
   Now even though I have made peace with my "forgotten" status, it still stings a little when I am not remembered.  The study from Angela's book helped me to realize that God sees me though, so the next time I run into someone in Walmart who doesn't seem to recognize me, I can smile, because God remembers me ;)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

...Today, I Almost Died...

   Ok, so the title for this posting is a bit dramatic, but in reality, that's how I feel.  Today I learned that it will take more than one session for me to learn how to drive a manual transmission.  So three weeks ago, my husband acquired a 1985 Jeep Cherokee...it's a pretty basic model with a manual tranny.
   When I took Driver's Ed, they taught us how to operate an automatic transmission and I never needed to learn how to drive stick.  Since we now own a vehicle that doesn't have an automatic tranny, I have insisted that I be taught how to drive it...and my husband has the wonderful privilege of teaching me.
   Today was "Session 1"...a.k.a. "learning not to scream while driving"...  Since I do not have the slightest clue about clutches and shifting gears, my instructions have to be pretty basic (put foot on clutch. ALL the way on the clutch. Give it gas. A little more gas. Release the clutch.  ::engine shudders::  Push down on clutch. Give it gas. Keep foot on the gas. Now release clutch. Release it all the way ::sigh::....).
   I made it out of our parking space after killing the engine (not sure of the correct term, but basically the jeep shuddered and everything stopped running) about 3 or 4 times.  I think the screaming started as we made our way out of the parking lot (my screaming, not hubby's).  It continued as we traveled farther away from our home, down a road to another development (what? you've never screamed while driving? maybe you should try it.  it's very liberating).
   Finally, we arrived at a stop sign.  On a hill.  Stopping at a stop sign on a hill was not the problem.  Going forward after stopping on the hill was.  I killed the engine a few more times and we drifted back into an invisible car that only my husband could see.  After spending about 20 minutes there, I was finally able to get the sequence right (brake off, give it gas, clutch off while foot is still on gas) and we rolled forward.  After this we went down a hill and stopped to switch seats because there was another stop sign on the top of a hill (this is probably when my screaming halted).
   After I stopped shaking and praising God that we were alive (it was seriously more nerve-wracking than I had anticipated), I studied JR's feet as he drove the half-mile back home and I think that I might actually start to get the hang of driving a manual transmission.  We shall see.  Hopefully there will be less screaming during "Session 2"....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Night-time Feedings

     As most of you are aware, newborn babies usually need to eat every 2-3 hours.  This includes the passage of time that adults dedicate to sleep.  Our 2-week old has been very generous at night, giving us four hour stretches in between feedings.
     Hubby doesn't know this yet, but I've not had to wake up in the middle of the night for the past few evenings because I have a system going.  See, our agreement is that since Daddy tends to stay up late at night, while he (Daddy) is still awake, it is his duty to care for baby.  Beyond that, I've asked him to handle just one night-time feeding, which he has been doing without complaint.
     Now, I wake up early in the morning so I can bond with my coffee, exercise, and accomplish things (like this post) before everyone else rises.  Since baby is sleeping longer stretches at night, I wake JR for the first feeding, and then the next one doesn't occur until I am already up (and hopefully partially caffeinated).
    So should I be sharing in this nightly task?  Should I feel guilty for not losing some sleep?  I view it as necessary bonding time for the two of them, especially since Daddy works about 10 hours a day and Malachi sleeps for a large percentage of his. 
    Our hope is that Malachi will continue to lengthen his sleeping periods during the night so the night-time feedings will eventually disappear.  But, we shall see what happens ;)

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Mom

    Mother's Day...A day we set aside to honor all the moms and grandmothers that have a special place in our lives.  My mom is one of those people. 
    She is the kind of mother that I model my own parenting skills after.  She taught us (my 2 siblings and I) to love, to comfort and to read.  She would record herself on cassette tape reading stories so she could "read" to us while she was working.
    She also taught us that hospitals were not scary places, as we repetitively visited the local children's hospital's Emergency Room for various injuries and illnesses.  Between us three kids, we must have seen that ER at least once every six to twelve months.  From broken limbs to unknown viruses to wounds needing sutures to foreign objects protruding from our bodies, we sure knew how to scare the whachamacalits out of my poor mother.  But, she was a trooper-  Mom always managed to remain calm enough to drive the 15 or so miles to the ER, admit the injured/ill child, and had retained enough sanity to not kill us in front of hospital personnel.
     I love my mom and am thankful that she is still a part of my life, and my children's lives.  Even though we are separated by 1800 miles of cities, farmland, forests and mountains, modern technology makes the distance seem shorter...So short, that she was the first person I contacted after giving birth to my third child.
     Mom, I love you and am so thankful that God allowed you to be my mother!