Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 4 of 100 - Drive-by posting

Like yesterday, today was very, very productive. My house is clean, the laundry is done, the shopping is done, our cat-sitter knows what to do, I found a crochet project, a couple of extra errands were taken care of, and I am desperately working to finish the one last project that I want to finish before we go.

Remember that sewing thing I was complaining about? Yep, my crazy took over and I'm making another outfit with the same pattern. But it will be so very worth it. You'll just have to trust me on it.

Besides, I have all morning tomorrow to, you know, pack.

So I'm going back to my sewing machine to pin bias tape exactly 1 centimeter from the raw edge of the sleeve opening. If you understood what I just typed, would you mind coming to my house to help? I could use it!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 3 of 100 - I need a vacation

I love vacations.

I love the excitement of planning and the way the kids look forward to them with ever-increasing excitement. I love how I couldn't sleep the night before we left because I was just so anxious to go already!

(In fact, one year Mr. at Home and I went on vacation with my parents and little brother. We had gathered at my parents' house and had gotten everything packed and ready, then we all sat around in the living room staring at each other. Finally someone suggested that instead of going to bed where no one would sleep before getting up at 3am, we should just leave right then and drive a few hours before finding a place to park the RV for the rest of the night. So we did.)

I love vacations. I love the camping and getting up to the crisp mountain early mornings and the smell of campfires. I love sitting quietly under the trees with a good book in the afternoon and chatting around the fire at night. I love playing cards and the friendly smack talk over dominoes and I love going into town during rainstorms.

Many of the family stories we tell over and over happened during those vacations we took, driving from one end of the country to the other.

The night the cooler blew away in Glacier

Locking the keys in the van in Yosemite

Tubing the freezing cold waters in the Smokies

My dad and my uncle winning a horseshoe tournament on Mt. Nebo

The mountain catching fire in Ouray

Mom threatening the yappy dog next to us in the Hill Country

Thursday, we leave for this year's family vacation. There's a ton to do to get ready to go. Just like my mom taught me, the house has to be clean before we leave, so I've spent all day working hard on this house. Even L got into the spirit and kept asking what she could do to help. It was one of those times when it's just easier to do things myself than explain and supervise the children as they do it, so I kept giving her short easy things until I finally lost my patience and told her to look around and if she saw something that needed to be done, to just do it!

So L disappeared and cleaned the kitchen counters, unloaded the dishwasher, folded clothes, swept, took care of the cat, and moved clothes between washer and dryer. I totally love that child.

There's still a little more cleaning and laundry to finish up, I've got one more project to do, the girl is coming over who will be caring for the cat, there's a few things I need to pick up from the store, I want to find a crochet project to take with me, and I've got to pack! We won't leave until the middle of the day Thursday so I have a day and a half to get everything finished. By the time we're ready to go, I will be in sore need of a vacation!

First, we're off to Eureka Springs, AR, where we visited often when I was younger. We're meeting my parents (who got there today, lucky people!) and camping together. We'll get to see the Passion Play, wander around town, and find a 4th of July celebration. From there, we'll be traveling to Tulsa, OK, for China Heritage Camp with our adoption agency. We get to stay with the family that adopted L's best friend from the orphanage and we love those people. After camp is over, we'll come wandering back through the wilds of Kentucky.

Yep, I think it's going to be another family vacation full of memories.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 2 of 100 - Camp DOGwood and other truth in advertising

Today Cindy Jae had an outing with a few other puppies and their families. The Lions Club has a camp on a nearby lake where they host people (mostly adults) who are visually impaired for a week of fun in the sun. It's mostly adults who come to swim, fish, and even waterski using special skis. They go horseback riding and bowling, they have ice cream socials and watermelon parties, or they can spend all day rocking on the screened in porch enjoying the cool quiet. It is an awesome place.

We spent time talking to one of the campers, a man named Lonnie who proudly showed me pictures of his two small children. He had just gotten tossed off the tube as it was pulled behind the speedboat because he was "talkin smack" to the driver :-)

Cindy Jae was fairly well behaved for the outing, especially since I had planned according to the fact that she always works better when she's tired. We had taken her out to a park early in the morning where the girls ran off some of her energy.

Then we got to the camp very early and she spent more time walking around in the heat and getting to lay of the land alone. Having the other dogs around is a big distraction for her. At the end we took pictures by the entrance to the camp, then took our 5 guide dog puppies to Burger King for lunch (for the people, not the puppies). We were the talk of the lunch crowd ;-) But afterward, the sad moment came when we put Cindy Jae and all her stuff in a different car and they all drove away, taking our puppy away to their house for a few weeks. One of the other raisers is taking care of her while we're on vacation. Cindy Jae has stayed with them a couple of times already and she loves their family almost as much as us.

We had taken a group picture in front of the Camp Dogwood sign, but Kate couldn't get my camera to work. We figured with the name of the camp and how many guide dogs they have on campus at any given time, it was a fitting place for a group photo.

It was truth in advertising.

Speaking of which, I have a complaint about the liberties companies take when trying to sell their product.

A few weeks ago, I found an awesome fabric and knew just the type of pattern it needed. So I sat myself down and located the perfect pattern in the book. Then I checked a different book and found a similar pattern marked "It's So Easy!"

Guess which one I chose.

I see that it calls for bias tape and a zipper, but the pattern is just so perfect for this fabric that I push ahead. After all, it says it's "easy". I get home, roll out the fabric, check the cutting layout and realize that "It's So Easy!" means that one little shirt and shorts requires *9* different pattern pieces, many of which you had to cut out *2*. Hello! That many pattern pieces should automatically disqualify it from the "easy" category.

But I persevere. I cut out all the pieces, and because I've got my own kind of crazy going on, I decided to make a few changes to the outfit - lengthen the shirt, make capris instead of shorts, add a contrasting band...

Because it just wasn't going to be complicated enough.

Life came rushing in then and the pattern pieces were shelved until I decided to get started...last night at 10pm. I have to say the pattern is well written with mostly clear directions and good illustrations. But that doesn't change that there are approximately 23 steps to assemble just the shirt! And I had to baste! And measure seams to the eighth of an inch! I worked a little last night and finished the whole thing this evening.

It really wasn't complicated, just complex. It was NOT a pattern that should have been titled "It's So Easy!" But I have to admit that it was worth it. It's cute. Awesomely amazingly cute. I love when a fabric, pattern, and the style of the wearer comes together so well.

And no, I will not show you a picture of it. Not yet. It's being held for a special occasion. Just keep an eye out here over the next couple of weeks and it'll show up.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

100 Posts, 100 Days...and an MVP!!

The ever-wonderful, ever-supportive, ever-encouraging Mr. at Home has challenged me to write 100 blog posts in 100 days. And to show that my challenge-loving daughter learned her ways at her mama's knee, I have to prove I could do it.

Since our conversation outside turned into a technical discussion between Mr. at Home and the cable guy who lives next door (they were oh so excited about something 3.0 and beta testing and downloads as fast as 66 and it all went over my head), I decided to come in and begin by writing my first post. And I have just the information to pass on to do it.

Last summer, K the Athlete discovered the existence of something called the All Stars where the best players from all the softball teams in our age division and our association were asked to play on a special All Stars team. She was ex.cit.ed. and it immediately became her goal to be asked to be on this legendary team. Not to actually play on this team as they played during the nasty hot summer months and that did not excite her, but just to be asked. K even gave up winter basketball to play the fall season of softball so she could improve enough to be chosen for the All Stars.

I wish you could hear the trumpet fanfare that should play every time I type the words All Stars. Did you hear it?

All Stars

That was her dream. So when the spring season drew to a close and an email showed up asking K to play on the All Stars, her little life was complete. In the intervening year, K had matured enough that she now felt equal to the sacrifice of playing the the nasty hot summer months for the honor of being on the All Stars team.

This weekend was our second All Stars tournament. The first was noteworthy only in our...ahem!...lackluster performance. That first day was rather demoralizing, but we had improved by the second day. This weekend, we played so. much. better. We ended up losing both games again on Saturday, but we came much closer in score than last time. Today it went to single-elimination and the girls played their hearts out in spite of the heat and we won the first game. The second was against the most difficult team in the group and we went down hard, but the girls still played well.

One thing different between the All Stars games and regular games is that for these each coach chooses an MVP from the other team for each game. Generally it's a pitcher who has a dominating inning or a batter with a powerful hit. Since K doesn't pitch and is usually walked or manages only a single (she's still working on these faster pitchers), she's not really in the spotlight.

Don't get me wrong. K is an awesome softball player. She's just more of a utility player. She plays several positions well. She is always attentive, always active, always getting where she needs to be to help a play. She's a consistently good and incredibly useful player, just not one you notice for one special something spectacular.

Today, however, she had a lucky break that put her in the spotlight. She was playing 2nd base and ran to cover the bag as a runner was approaching. With one foot on the bag, she reached out to catch a wild throw just as the runner came crashing through her and into the bag. Kate was knocked sideways, landing heavily on her elbow and knee, but she still stopped the ball, jumped up, and got it back to the pitcher to stop the play. It was awesome to watch.

Well, at the end of the game, the other team was asking our coach which player she felt should get the award. They mentioned a couple of the high profile players - pitchers, catchers - but our coach suggested K and they agreed. So K has a gold pin now on her visor that she is so incredibly proud of. She even asked to wear her visor into the restaurant at dinner. Not only is she now an All Star, she's an MVP.

We have one more All Stars tournament in a few weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing if a couple more of the utility players can get recognized for their quiet support. A few spectacular plays are exciting to watch, but it's the consistently good play after play performances that win games.

Hummm, just like blog posts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An uber-productive day

This morning I woke up at 7am. And laid in bed thinking about how I could sleep for another 45 minutes and still get my morning plans done. So I snuggled back down...closed my eyes...and...couldn't turn off my to do list. Decided that I may as well get started and got up.

The girls were already up (naturally), watching Shrek 2 (naturally, for the bajillionth time this week), and I made them get started cleaning the garage. After all, it was going to be 98 bajillion degrees today and I wanted to get it done before we reached the boiling point. Most of the stuff laying around the garage was theirs anyway and I didn't feel the need to clean up their lazy mess.

I had my own lazy mess to clean up.

By 9am (that's early in the morning), the garage was clean and swept, the dog and cat were taken care of, L was dressed for dance class with a swimsuit and clothes in her dance bag, K and I were dressed with our swimsuits on, K's softball gear and the pool bag and a huge amount of stuff for Goodwill was packed in the car, and we were on our way to dance.

It was a miracle straight from God.

L spent her morning practicing pirouettes and "peek throughs" (that's a particularly disturbing move where you lay with your chest on the floor and your back curved so that your caboose is hovering over your head and your feet are flat on the floor so you can "peek through" them. It would put most people in traction. Someday I'll take a picture of my little Chinese acrobat doing it). K and I delivered our goods to Goodwill and hit up Target for lunch supplies. Curiously, most of the shelves were empty due to a power outage yesterday and they lost the vast majority of their refrigerated foods. It was sad. Especially since we all ended up with salads from the deli, one of which came topped with goat cheese.

Goat cheese.

We picked up L and went to a consignment store in search of cheap dance shoes. There was nothing in her size, so I sucked it up and went across the shopping center where I bought some new ballet slippers. She can use those for all her technique classes this summer and I'll just have to keep checking the consignment stores for the right sizes in tap and jazz shoes.

An afternoon picnicking and swimming with friends ended with us meeting Mr. at Home at softball practice in his kicky new car, then L and I made the drive back to the dealership to pick up the garage door opener we left before stopping at the grocery store for emergency supplies (eggs, bread, Diet Dr. Pepper).

Did I mention Mr. at Home got a new car yesterday? He was driving a 16-year-old Camry and it was in need of new shocks and struts and I forget what all, but it was going to cost way more than the car was worth to fix it. So when it began to feel like the wheels were really about to come off, we wobbled it over to our favorite dealership and took advantage of a fabulous deal on a little car that will be perfect for what he needs - a red Kia Rio. Thankfully, K really likes it and Daddy has already said that in about 6 years, it can be her "new" car. Daddy will just have to teach her to drive a stick shift 'cause Mama cain't.

That's the news from the "at Home" household. Tune in next time for another exciting episode of what the average suburban stay-at-home-mom does on these long hot summer days.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cindy Jae at Carowinds

We're always on the lookout for new and exciting exposures for our guide dog puppy. This morning after L had a Turns and Leaps "intensive" class at her ballet studio, we whipped out our season passes for a short trip to Carowinds with Cindy Jae.

After a confused security person tried to wave us off to the kennel, he was quickly corrected by a supervisor that we obviously had a service dog and they allowed us right in with smiles and questions about the program. A quick stop at the guest relations window confirmed that Cindy Jae could go on two rides - the Sky Tower and the Carousel. And we were off!

The employees were awesome and we didn't have any problems with anyone. Cindy Jae was on her best behavior, probably because it was hot as blazes out there and it would have taken too much energy to misbehave :-)

We rode the Sky Tower first and she did beautifully, walking all the way around the benches and sitting quietly watching us rotate through the air.

Cindy Jae was not a fan of the hot pavement, but thankfully Carowinds is very well-shaded with huge trees everywhere. We spent our time walking quickly from shady spot to shady spot with frequent water breaks. She met Charlie Brown and Lucy in their massive costumes without the slightest fear or hesitancy.

We got on the carousel and settled down on one of the sleighs where Cindy Jae could see the horses. She did awesome there, too, in a sit-stay while watching the girls bob up and down on their horses.

She got to experience getting splashed a little by the big wave off Whitewater Falls and was so incredibly thankful when we settled down in the air-conditioned theater to watch an ice skating show. It was so neat to see a stage covered in ice and the skaters were very, very good. By the very last number, Cindy Jae had finally cooled down enough to get interested in the show and watched the big characters and the tiny dancers in their big finale.

By that time, we figured she'd had enough of the heat, humidity, and hot pavement and we made the long trek back to the car by walking through the grassy median. That puppy came home and collapsed and I don't think she's moved since.

Neither have any of the rest of us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Drive-by blog posting

After Carowinds and softball practice in the 900 degree heat, we crashed into bed last night. It was the most exhausted I have felt in ages.

Then we got up obscenely early for a summer Saturday and we headed back to the ball fields armed with sunsceen and a cooler full of drinks for the first 2 games of this weekend's all star tournament. Mr. at Home's brother even made the 3 hour drive up from Georgia to watch the games (thanks, Uncle Howard!!!).

The girls got off to a sluggish start. It was early, 1260 degrees outside with high humidity, and we played the most formidable team in the league. Their coach was a total jerk to everyone, but his players were very involved in the game. Ours looked like we were forcing them to endure some strange form of torture. As a result, our team was squashed and we moved onto game 2.

The popsicles the girls had between games seemed to contain some magic potion for relieving the doldrums and the girls were far more ready for the second game. We played well, one of our pitchers finally settled into a groove, and we even got a grand slam. Unfortunately, our pitching overall today left something to be desired and we lost the game by two runs.

Ah well, tomorrow's another day and *3* more chances to beat the 1450 degree afternoon heat and pull out a win.

On a good note, Cindy Jae is out of confinement - finally!! We celebrated with an outing to PetSmart for a new bone to help her remember to chew on her own toys and not the Wii remote. Then to Target for more bottled water and sunscreen. She behaved exceptionally well for someone who hasn't seen much except the inside of our house for several weeks.

It's my turn to take a shower and get uniforms and t-shirts washed for another round tomorrow. It's a good thing I love softball!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer busyness

One would think that summer would be a slow time. A time for relaxation. For sleeping late and lounging during the sweltering afternoon hours.


These last few weeks have been nutso. There's always somewhere else to be and something else to be done. Afternoons at the neighborhood pool or the pools at Carowinds. Evenings are full of church and softball. That leaves mornings to cram in whatever else needs to be done. Lest you think we're always playing in the water, I have managed to get a couple of projects accomplished around the house, I finally started a Wednesday night kids program at church, and we're going full tilt to get ready for VBS next week.

Are you tired yet?

Today the girls and I spent K's first official day of summer at Carowinds. Carowinds is a combination amusement park and water park located about 5 miles from our house. The girls love it, but it can be a huge source of contention between them. K loves big rollercoasters and L is too short to ride them. L grew over 3 inches this last year and can ride some new stuff, but she still hates it when K runs off for a big ride and we're stuck waiting. As a way to meet her needs, I took the girls to a pool hidden in the back that only gets to 3' and L can walk across the whole thing. There today L finally learned she could hold her breath AND dive down to touch the bottom of the pool AND swim underwater! It's the first time she hasn't reacted with abject fear at the thought of swimming. She was so excited at the discovery of this new skill.

I would continue with this post, but it's time to leave for K's softball practice. So long!