Friday, October 30, 2009

Practice We Hope We Never Need

It sure is nice to have such good friends.

After hearing about Soren's most recent croup experience, my friend Courtney sent us her daughter's old asthma mask. Soren's ER trip had been made all the worse because he'd been so scared of the mask for the breating treatment. Courtney suggested that we practice with Lorelei's mask just in case we ever needed another breathing treatment.

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Great idea.

Of course we hoped we'd never need to use that practice.

Well, this week we were put to the test. Friday night Soren woke up barking, gasping and scared. Yuck. I jumped into our normal routine and bundled him up to go outside. We've done this every single time he's had croup and it has never ever kept us out of the ER. Normally we sit outside and see just how bad he is and then head right off the the ER.

This time though, he wasn't quite as bad. He was still panicked, but not quite as desperate for air. So I just talked him through the panic. Peter came out with supplies - blankets, chair, hats, medicine, slippers. And I just kept talking. I hate these moments watching your kid afraid of not breathing. But we talked about the sounds of the night, the stars...

But you know what? He improved. The night air was enough to settle him down until the medicine kicked in.

While we were sitting there all bundled up together in one big blanket we were looking up at the sky. And across the horizon blasts a shooting star! Soren has been talking about shooting stars forever and I wasn't sure if he saw it.

Me: Soren, did you see that?
Soren: Was that a shooting star?
Me: Yes!
Soren: I saw a shooting star! Can I make a wish?
Me: Yes, you can.
Soren: What should I wish for?
Me: You can wish for whatever you want, maybe you want to wish that you could breath better right now.

Soren paused for a minute, closed his eyes, bowed his head and whispered:

"I wish for a chinese dragon."

That was my first clue that we weren't heading to the ER that night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bauman Farms

Having a pumpkin patch right in our yard means that we don't often head out to buy pumpkins from other people. But I have to admit that seeing so many friends with their awesome pictures of pumpkin patch visits made me want to check one out. Peter was slightly less enthusiastic (probably like if he was a mechanic and I wanted us to go visit Firestone...) but when we had our friends in town I convinced them to tell him that they really wanted to go! (I'm clever and conniving like that.)

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Turns out that I was right, it was so much fun!

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I'd heard about one particular local pumpkin patch, Bauman Farms, that everyone said was really great. It is awesome. Lots of really old-school kind of things to play with: mazes, apple slingshots, hay wagons, a straw bale castle...and the list goes on...

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Peter and Soren had fun with the apple slingshot. Soren mostly just liked to do the countdown. Four...three...

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Two...one...

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And while it was indeed true that the boys asked their dads to go on the race carts...

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I'm slightly suspicious that the aggressive driving...

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...course barrier defying...

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...and otherwise gung-ho antics may have been slightly influenced by the "adults" here.

They even had an old-school version of a ball pit: complete with hazelnuts!

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It was a really terrific day.

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With really terrific friends.

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(I think Peter would even admit it!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

(Not) Getting the Shot

Ok, it is only fitting to follow up that last post with the counter-point. It makes me laugh anyway. This is the *very best* shot that I got of Soren with his alligator nuggets.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Getting the Shot

You may have noticed that I take a lot of pictures of one particular subject. A lot of pictures. I love this little guy so much that I want to capture and document each and every special moment that we have. I'm so grateful for the photography class that I took earlier this year, because it has helped me get a little bit closer to showing the little wonder that I see every time I look at my sweet boy.

Snapping photos isn't without its frustrations though. Did you notice that we have no photos to accompany the alligator nuggets post? Well, I do have pictures of that moment. Just not any that are clear or coherent in anyway. Sigh. But still I keep snapping in hopes that the next time we're in a situation like that (horrible lighting, awkward seating...) I'll be able to get the shot.

Sometimes though it does all come together. And the resulting images just make me smile from ear to ear. Somehow capturing a little snippet of Soren-ness makes all the previous fuzzy, badly composed, disastrous shots worth it.

This weekend we went to a pumpkin patch (more on that tomorrow) and I managed to get not one, but two, of the kinds of shots that I'm talking about. (Note though that I took about 230 shots to get these.)

My sweet, sweet beloved boy.


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Who Is This Posing Boy?

Someone clearly replaced my normal run-from-the-camera boy with a camera loving preschooler. Again and again on this trip Soren would shout "mom, take my picture!" and then strike a perfect pose, complete with cheesy grin and slight tilt of the head (made all the more perfect whenever he happened to be wearing his Dollar Store sunglasses.)

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

We Love SeaWorld

When we went to Florida last year we were only able to spend one day at SeaWorld. Didn't feel like quite enough time. So this year we returned, determined to not miss anything.

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Of course that means that we have to do lots of plotting and planning in order to get to everything.

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The stingray pool was one of the best spots. The rays would actually swim right up to the edge and let you pet them. After a few tentative moments, Soren (and Peter) couldn't get enough!

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It is always fun to go underground and see the animals from below.

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Even the boring ol' manatees caught his attention when he could see them a bit better.

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We went to SeaWorld one day as a family and then Soren and Peter went back every day while I worked. We're happy to report that we throughly saw everything that SeaWorld has to offer, again and again and again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Manatees

For me, one of the highlights of this trip has been the manatees. I think there is something so amazing about having huge animals still running wild near such urban environments. (As much hassle as the deer have been this summer, they fall into that category to me too.) Our lives are so orderly, and our environments controlled to such a large degree that I still get a thrill just seeing big wild creatures randomly wandering around.

And manatees are just plain funny. Kind of like a walrus, but not quite as svelte. Kind of like a cow, but not quite so energetic. Gigantic floating lumps of fat with a face.

What's not to love?

Soren, however, just doesn't seem to share my fascination with these creatures. And that kind of surprises me. In fact, it surprises me to such a degree that I didn't really notice it was happening for quite awhile.

Before we left home I told him about the manatees and he expressed a vague interest. I told him that we'd take a boat trip out to visit the manatees and the Peter and I would go out snorkeling with them. Again, only vague interest.

In the wildlife park we actually spotted our first mantees. Up close. Five feet away and looking directly at us! Soren only glanced at them and was immediately on to the next thing. Hm, ok, I guess looking for the hippo or the Florida panther would be slightly more exciting.

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We took a boat trip to search for the manatees.

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They were tricky to find since it wasn't prime season, and the the visibility in the water was horrendous. But we found them! And wow! How absolutely amazing to swim with these huge, gentle creatures.

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The visibility actually kind of added to the mystery. You couldn't see more than a foot in front of your face and then you'd see a huge manatee sticking his face in front of you to check you out! So amazing.

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The tour office specialized in manatee tours and so they had all sorts of manatee paraphenalia. T-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains... Soren would run up and say "Mom, can I buy this toy with the seal on it?" Seal? I'd gently explain that it was not a seal, it was a manatee. You know, the creature I'd been talking about for 3 days?

The man that ran the tour office was really kind and actually gave Soren a small stuffed manatee. In the car on the drive back to Orlando I'd hear Soren make his stuffed dog talk to his new friend, "Hello there little friend seal."

Ah, ok. So snorkeling with seals in Florida was really fun.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

We've actually been lucky enough to come to Florida quite a few times in Soren's short life. Normally we stick to the fairly standard tourist spots: Miami and the Keys, Orlando, Tampa and St. Pete. But this time we wanted to branch out to a new area of the state and so decided to head to Crystal River for a few days.

Crystal River and the surrounding area are considered to be Florida's "Nature Coast" so it isn't too hard to imagine what attracted us. There is interesting SCUBA diving and lots of interesting wildlife spots in the area. So we made plans one day for Peter to go diving while Soren and I went exploring above the water.

Soren and I headed to Homossasa Springs Wildlife Park.

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From the moment we entered the front gate, Soren found things to entertain himself.

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The park starts with a cool boat ride on down a thick jungly river.

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Would you believe we came to Florida and forgot to pack Soren's sunglasses? Oh well. Nothing that a quick to the Dollar Store wouldn't remedy. (I will admit that it took enormous self restraint not to burst out laughing every time he looked at me.)

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After the boat tour we walked around the grounds and saw all sorts of native Florida wildlife.

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Oh, and a giant hippo! It seems that before it became a state wildlife preserve it was originally a private park of exotic animals. When that park closed down, they got rid of all the animals except for the hippo. The hippo was so grumpy that no one wanted to take him. So he got to stay and live among all the other native species.

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We listened to a ranger talk about the hippo. She explained in never ending detail about how and why hippos are the most deadly creature in Africa. Soren listened intently and after the talk declared, "Mom, I do not want to go to Africa!" And while I tried to explain that it would be possible to go and avoid the hippos, he just wasn't having any of it.

After our grand wildlife tour we went to pick up Peter who had had a marvelous time diving in Rainbow River and Devil's Den.

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On the drive there, and on almost every drive we've taken in Florida, Soren fell fast asleep. I guess that means we're fitting in enough excitement when we aren't in the car!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Amy's Money Saving Vacation Tip #354

The wise mother convinces her offspring that the large brochure racks in every hotel lobby actually contain very valuable souvenirs. She allows said offspring to choose one, and if he's being particularly well behaved, two of whatever souvenirs he chooses!

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This is especially effective in the Orlando or Anaheim areas when the souvenir racks are filled with maps and images of fabulous famous characters.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Vegetarian Ponderings

In our first dinner in Florida, I spotted something on the menu that was too good to resist: alligator nuggets. What better way to get to know a place that by consuming its wild animals, right? Soren was totally excited, so we ordered them. As we waited for our food to come we had the following conversation:

Soren: Are alligators dead?
Me: You mean like extinct? No, they aren't extinct.
Soren: No. I know they aren't extinct. Where are the alligators we are going to eat? Are they dead?
Me: Yes, they are dead.
Soren: When did they die?
Me: I don't know, maybe a few days ago.
Soren: How did they die?
Me: I don't know. The men killed them so people could eat them.
Soren: That isn't very nice.
Me: Yes, you're right.

You may recall that this isn't the first time we've had a conversation like this. So when he brought it up again a few minutes later I pushed it a little further.

Soren: Do alligators like being dead?
Me: Do you think they like being dead?
Soren: I don't know. I wouldn't like being dead. I'd miss you.
Me: I'd miss you too. Alligators probably don't like being dead either. You know, some people don't like it that animals die to make meat. So those people don't eat meat.
Peter: They're vegetarians. They don't eat any meat.
Soren: Oh.

{long pause as I waited for his vegetarian declaration}

Soren: I have something to say about that... I LOVE MEAT!

Looks like we are off the hook just a little longer. Oh, and the alligator nuggets. Very tasty. Kind of tasted like chicken.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

First Day of our Florida Trip, in Chicago

I think we are getting kind of presumptuous about this whole bumping thing. I mean, we left for Florida on Wednesday and didn't even bother booking a hotel for our first night there. I'd like to say that we were just reverting back to our ol' stop-when-we-get-tired travel planning. But I knew the truth: we were flying through O'Hare, we were looking to get bumped.

And of course, we did. Twice. It is getting kind of obscene though, don't you think?

I have stopped knocking people over as I sprint for the counter when they ask for volunteers to give up their seats. Really, I promise. We do try to give other people a chance to partake in the bounty. But everyone else seems to actually want to get to their destination. How strange. They ask, we offer. And the gate attendants thank us profusely and shower us with gifts.

I told Peter that I've developed a bit of a superstition about these free-flight vouchers. Not sure where these perceived rules came from, but here's the offer I believe that the universe has presented. If we violate either of these rules, the free flights will come to a screeching halt.

Rule 1: If they ask for volunteers, we have to do it. They are asking for help and they've done us so much good that we have to say yes. There have been a time or two where we didn't do it but that was only because there was some immovable plan that depended on us making a certain flight.

Rule 2: We can't profit from these vouchers. We use these vouchers to visit family in Michigan far more frequently than we'd do if we were buying tickets, and when not traveling to Michigan we travel to do some fun thing as a family. We can't sell these vouchers or use them for drunken, gambling fests in Las Vegas (unless that is somehow a fun family outing.)

Peter smiled at me in that "sure, dear" smile when I told him about the rules. But he follows them too, I know it.

So last night we stayed overnight in a nice hotel and had a lovely dinner...all compliments of United. They even booked us in First Class for the next flight out. We weren't quite up for a full day on the town in Chicago, so we played in the hotel and had a great evening.

We don't let a little thing like not having our swimsuits in our carryon bags stop us...

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(Well, to be honest, I do let that stop me. But Peter and Soren had a ball using alternative swim attire. And, no, Peter wasn't quite as bold as Soren.)

And Soren and Peter spent some relaxing time tending to their fish in the FishWorld Facebook application.

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(If you have a FishWorld tank, be sure to friend Peter so you can clean each other tanks, send each other fish, or whatever else it is that you are supposed to do in that game.)

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I Am a Marathoner

Really. Me. I did it.

{stop. gasp. smile to myself.}

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I ran the Portland Marathon on Sunday. The whole Portland Marathon. My feet (and legs, and butt, and knees...) covered 26.2 miles. Without any carnivors chasing me. I seriously couldn't be prouder.

See, I'm not a marathoner. I mean, well I am in that I did actually just run one. But I don't run, I'm not an overachiever, this hasn't been an aching desire for me, I consider myself a reasonable person. And marathons just aren't reasonable. And yet here I am, a marathoner.

Life is so amazing, isn't it?

First, the background. I exercise regularly. Aerobics and lifting weights mostly, but I do mix it up and try other things occasionally. But I never run. Peter ran the Portland marathon a few years ago and the whole process totally proved to me that marathons were crazy. He suffered through the training. He suffered through the whole marathon. He did it, but I don't think he's gone running since he did it. That experience sort of proved my point: marathons were for crazy people.

It seems that I know a lot of crazy people. My friends Amy Jo and Natalie ran the Newport marathon in May. It sounded excrutiating. Not even remotely tempting. And then the very next week my friend Heidi asked me if I wanted to run Portland. My answer wasn't ambiguous: "NO WAY!!" And then she said the four words that changed my life: "You could walk it."

Those little words were just enough to put a small crack in my reasonable thinking. I have done 20 mile day hikes (um, hard.) And maybe if I trained... I did a bit of research and was seriously considering it. Then I told Peter. My dear, sweet, supportive, beloved husband.

Me: "I am seriously considering walking the Portland marathon."
Peter: "Your friends all run them. Why can't you?"

Gulp. Um, because I'm sane? But he was right of course, if I was going to consider this I may as well really consider this. So, I strapped on my gym shoes and ran around the neighborhood to see if I could run. Two-and-a-half miles. No problem. Hm, interesting. I went out the next night to try 4 and ended up feeling so good that I went 6. Hm, ok, I guess I can run.

It is kind of amazing how it all fell into place after that. That weekend we visited my sister-in-law, Phaedra, who mentioned that she'd try the Jeff Galloway method in training for a 5K. His method is all about alternating running and walking in measured doses. She recommended his marathon book, I bought it, and it all made sense. I committed to training for the month of June as if I was going to do the marathon. At the end of the month I'd commit either way.

Obviously, you know what I decided at the end of June.

One of the amazing things about this whole marathon thing is that I actually enjoyed the training. Really enjoyed it. I will admit that after 18 miles, the enjoyment does go down a wee bit (read: a lot!) but for the most part, the training was awesome. And it was so great to break through these barriers of how I perceived myself. I still couldn't fit "runner" into my perceived self definition, but still I just ran.

The marathon itself was likely one of the best days of my life. The morning high was overwhelming. The 9700 runners all gathered in the streets of Portland. The cheering crowds. The marching bands! And cheerleaders! All coming out to cheer us on.

The run itself was fascinating. From that tremendous high to a few miles in remembering "oh, yeah, there is that whole 26.2 mile distance that I need to cover." Twenty six miles is a very, very long way. My friend Natalie summarized her marathon run mile by mile and I think it was pretty interesting. Here is my experience.

Pre-race: This is incredible! Without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life. It was so great to be at the starting line with Heidi (she left me in the dust seconds later...she's a real runner.)

Mile 1: Wow, there sure are a lot of runners here. Awesome! We're all doing this together. I love marching bands! And then my timer went off. The timer that regulated the run/walk breakdown that I'd trained for. Let me tell you I felt like a complete and total dork to start walking three minutes into a marathon. But I sucked up my pride and stuck with my training routine. And I walked for my scheduled minute. Then off again.

Mile 2-5: It was fun to watch people settle in to their pace. At about mile 2 the course met up with the elite runners - the people that were winning the marathon - and watched them fly past at what looked to me like a full sprint. Wow. At mile 5 I realized that I was exactly on the pace that I trained for and was pleased about that since I worried that I'd run too fast at the beginning.

Mile 5-10: Kind of boring. You just need to keep going. It didn't help that this strech was down a fairly industrial road. The one plus was that it was a down and back section and so we could see the people ahead of us as they came down the road, and then the people who were behind us as we turned back down that route.

Mile 11: My sister was there snapping pictures of me and she even ran a bit with me - while carrying her tiny little dog!

Mile 12-16: Again, kind of boring. Fewer bands and musicians. There was a jaunt through a residential neighborhood that was nice. Lots of people cheering. My bib had my name on it and it made me smile to hear strangers yell "Go, Amy!" Also, I passed a business that had pulled huge speakers out onto the sidewalk and was cranking techno music into the street. Techno is the best running music ever.

Mile 16-17: The enormous hill onto the St. John's bridge. Actually, this wasn't as hard for me as it was for many people. All my training runs ended back at our house, on top of our huge hill. I walked much of it (as I did on my training runs too.) But at the top I didn't feel like it had done me in. The view from the St. John's bridge was incredible! I talked to Peter on my cell phone about where they were standing. After I hung up I couldn't really remember what he'd said. My mental processes clearly weren't working right.

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Mile 18-20: Residential neighborhood with lots of cheering crowds, music and even belly dancers! My sister was there again too! Peter, Soren and Phaedra were there too. Soren even ran with me for a short distance. Makes me smile to even think about it.

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Miles 20-23: These were hard. Really hard. I didn't want to run any more. It was also obvious that many people around me were really struggling too. I had watched some videos of marathoners collapsing late in the marathon and I wondered how they were feeling just before they collapsed. I felt fine (well, certainly not fine, but I didn't think I was going to fall over), but would I know it if I were about to collapse? People hold marathons in high esteem, after mile 20 that is where that esteem is earned.

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Miles 23-26.2: There was a bit of a conflict here. On one hand, I only had three miles to go - that is a short, do-able distance. On the other had, I was BEAT, dog tired, sick of running, slightly delirious, and just ready to be done immediately. Three miles seemed so short, and oh, so very long.

Crossing the finish line was great. But mostly just because it meant that I could stop running. They had people to wrap the runners in space blankets. Very helpful. And then there was just all sorts of stuff - fresh fruit, OJ, water, Nesquick, cookies, pretzels, licorice. All sorts of stuff to get you something to start replenishing. Only runners were allowed in this area and I sort of walked around in a daze. A very kind volunteer came up and offered to tie my space blanket so that I didn't have to hold it. Much appreciated as I just didn't have any real ability to take care of myself at that point.

I really just wasn't normal for a long time, I felt like I was just walking around in a stupor. My sister met me and took me to Peter waiting for me in the car (with Soren fast asleep.) I was so grateful to just sit down!

So, I did it. And, yes, would you believe that I'd love to do another.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Why Michigan is Really Cool, Reason #7: Being on a Farm is a Good Excuse to Wear a Really Cute Hat

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(This is the last Michigan post for awhile. Believe it or not, we finally exhausted the photos of all the wonderful things Soren did while he was there!)