Saturday, April 28, 2012

When Estate Sales Turn Awesome

This is meant as an equally pointless companion piece to my post from last summer, "When Estate Sales Turn Ugly."

As I've mentioned multiple times in the past, I have a sort of occasional hobby of shopping at estate sales.  I get email updates from about sales within a five-mile radius of my home, and I go to maybe 10% of them. 

I also set my account to send me email updates whenever there is a sale within a 100-mile radius that features Fiesta dinnerware.  Again, about nine times out of ten I don't go to the Fiesta sales, because they're too far away to drive for a sale that has, like, one or two pieces of Fiestaware. 

But then last week I received an email about a sale, and the sale's website featured this picture:

O ... M ... G.

Now, I have been after the lilac color for awhile now.  And I've been jonesing for the pink ever since, in an event that will live in infamy, I broke my only pink plate last summer and a piece of it got lodged in Bill's foot and he had to have it removed at urgent care.  I know!  Can you believe it?  I broke my only pink plate!  And that color, officially known as rose, is discontinued.  

I've made some very casual bids for both lilac and rose plates on ebay, casual meaning that I wasn't fully committed to the purchase and therefore didn't try all that hard to win the auction.  Why?  Because shipping for those plates on ebay is usually like $20 per plate, and that adds a lot to the cost. 

So when I had the opportunity to go to go and buy discontinued Fiestaware from an actual sale, I had to go.  Yes, I understand that driving a total of 2.5 hours (round trip) is its own form of a shipping and handling cost, because I used a quarter-tank of gas (approx. $11) and a full four hours of my time, when I should have technically been working.  

But ... I really just felt like I needed to go and do something just for myself.  Life has been so crazy lately with the triathlon training, the freelance work, the t-ball, and the community theater.  And I understand that those are all things I do for myself technically.  But they're all what my friend Dana referred to recently as self-actualizing, which I think is an excellent term to distinguish these endeavors from activities that you do purely for fun.  I needed something to do purely for fun.  (Do I sound spoiled?  I feel like I sound spoiled.)  

So I rearranged the rest of my obligations so I'd be free to go to the sale Friday.  And now I'm going to write a blog post about it.  

Now, I had intended to write a blog post about this experience from the get-go.  And then I had a brief thought that Nobody cares about your damn estate sale experience.  But then I thought about the recent popularity of TV shows about people who go and find secondhand gems at auctions or pawn shops.  Just off the top of my head and a brief Google search, I found American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Sold! Cajun Pawn Stars (umm, yeah), Storage Wars, Hardcore Pawn, Pawn Queens, and Oddities.  

Apparently people like shows about secondhand purchase and resale.  

Not that my efforts to purchase discontinued colors of mid-priced pottery really equal the excitement of finding the gun that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln with, or whatever exciting things they find on those shows.  


I set out for the sale at 8:00 in the morning, figuring that was ample time to get there for the 9:30 number distribution.  True rugged adventurer that I am, I began by setting my GPS:

 I guess I technically left at 8:08.

The sale was cash-only, so I had to make a stop at the ATM.  Which, I apparently had to photograph so you could get the whole story here.  There was a security officer stationed outside the ATM, and I wondered if photographing an ATM sets off any sort of mental alarm bells for a security officer.  I planned to tell him I have a blog as my explanation if questioned.  But really, at this point in the world, people take all kinds of pointless pictures to share with their friends, so photographing an ATM probably isn't all that out-of-the-ordinary.  

Then, there was traffic.  I was so bored that I apparently had to take this photograph (while driving, though technically while stopped) of the world's most pointless waste of fuel: 

Finally I arrived at the sale around 9:20.  But here's what I didn't realize about estate sales, or at least about the really popular ones: Yes, they give out numbers at 9:30, but before that you can write your name on a list to determine your number.  The guy who was #1 on the list got there at 6:00 a.m., and then just went home and came back at 9:30 for the number distribution. 

I live too far away to be getting there at 6:00 a.m., so I ended up being #24:

I considered it lucky because it was written on the back of a playing card, the 8 of hearts.  Hearts are my favorite suit, and 8 is my favorite number.  Though really, I probably could have found a way to justify a number of playing cards as lucky.  The ace of spades, for example.  

Now, the number distribution is serious business.  If you put your name on the paper but you aren't physically present for the number distribution, you lose your spot.  If you plead that you were sitting in your car the whole time, the woman distributing the numbers says, That's not my problem.  If you then ask to take another no-show's spot, you can go in, but your husband can't, and the number distributor will physically block him.  I heard from another estate sale regular that the number distributor's day job is as a Chicago police officer. 

During the half-hour wait between the number distribution and the doors opening, I chatted with the other people.  What do you collect? I would ask them, partially in the name of being friendly, but mostly to size up the competition.  Oddly, many people said they didn't specifically collect anything, they just liked to go to estate sales, which seemed like an odd reason to get up at 5:00 a.m., and also well on the path to Hoarders.  A number of people were there for the large collection of designer purses, and #1 on the list was after a bicycle.  Good, no Fiesta enthusiasts. 

Finally the doors opened, and numbers 1 through 20 were let in.  After #20 I guess the house was filled to capacity, so each subsequent number was only let in when somebody left.  That was tense. 

After not too long, though, my number was called, and I made a beeline for the kitchen.  Pretty much the entire Fiesta collection was still there, with the exception of two large serving bowls and the one Fiesta plate imprinted with Daffy Duck (which I did not want, and kind of makes me sad for humanity).

It really didn't matter, though, because there was enough Fiestaware to share, assuming you weren't a total douchebag who took the entire gigantic lot.  I even offered a woman passing by a crack at whatever she wanted, but she said she wasn't after Fiesta.

And OMG, you guys, the prices on these things.  It was $3 for a dinner plate, $2 for a salad plate, and $2.50 for a bowl.  Not even close to the astounding prices some of these discontinued pieces go for on ebay.

Behold, my haul:

 22 plates, 8 bowls, $86 total

I liked how they looked in my dishwasher, too: 

The rose family reunion:

 On the left is the one little rose salad plate I already had.  We never told Little Salad about the fate that befell Big Dinner.  We just told him Big Dinner went to live in the kitchen of a nice farm.  But now Little Salad is joined by 8 new dinner plates!

I have so many plates now that I have to rotate different color palates seasonally, while the out-of-season palates sit in the basement.  Really, isn't a variety of seasonally-appropriate plates all anybody wants in this world?  

For those who (gasp!) care about other things besides ceramic pottery, I will share with you my three other finds at the sale:

A random lavender purse, an $8 pink Coach wallet, and a KitchenAid skillet

It turned out that this sale featured a lot of unused designer purses, wallets, jewelry, and keychains.  And I should point out that this was actually a moving sale, not an estate sale, which means that the owners of all these items are still living and would technically have use for brand-new designer accessories.  These expensive items were just the woman's castoffs.  I mean, I have always considered myself incredibly fortunate, but I still can't even fathom being in a financial situation where you can afford several designer handbags that you never even use.  And if you are in such a financial situation, is the affordably-priced Fiesta dinnerware just like paper plates to you?  

Sorry we're using absolutely gauche disposable dinnerware, Muffy, but the maid insists upon taking one night off a month.

Do you like I how automatically peg these people as obnoxious snobs?  But I mean really, that's the only explanation I can think of for the wastefulness of having that many unused designer goods.  Either that or they're kleptomaniacs who stole all this stuff.  

No really, I'm sure the owners of this home are incredibly nice, generous people who share their ample wealth equally with charities and the handbag department at Nordstrom.  And I do appreciate these strangers, for without their excessive overspending, I would not have scored such awesome deals yesterday.  

And so, in conclusion, it seems that in the completely inconsequential, non-life-and-death world of estate sales, you win some and you lose some.  And when you win some, it's kind of awesome.  

Winner! Toydozer!

The winner of the Toydozer is ...

Maria the Mum!

I have already gotten Maria's address, and her Toydozer is on the way.  Thanks to all who entered! 

And tune in next week for my next giveaway, which will be a super awesome household gadget!  (Here's a hint: It's electric and you can brush your teeth with it!) 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Survived the Past Week, and Here's Why That Amazes Me

I begin with a classic Morton Salt ad because last week was definitely a When it rains, it pours kind of week.  Also because I love driving by the old Morton Salt factory in Chicago, which has this little girl and her umbrella painted on the roof.  Reminds me of a time when Chicago was actually a major hub of food production.

But mostly I include this picture for the slogan: When it rains, it pours.

We've all had weeks like this, where it just feels like everything is scheduled at once.  Where you just wonder how it is that everyone in the world forgot that any other day existed besides that one day they decided to schedule their events.

Here's what we had going on last week:
  • Tech Week for my community theater show, Jack and the Beanstalk.  Tech Week refers to the last week before the show, when you have rehearsals every night, and everything is being figured out in terms of the sets, costumes, sound, lighting, and so on.  We had rehearsals Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights of last week, which just conveniently happened to be nights when Bill had to work late.  So I had to bring Nathan with me to all those rehearsals.  Additionally, I had to make my own costume.
  • Baseball Opening Weekend.  Now, I know to some of you this doesn't sound like a big deal, but if you live in the same town as I do, you know little league is huge here.  Also I'm the team mom, so I had a lot to do in terms of making packets, collecting money, picking up treat tickets, and reminding everybody to be at pictures and the opening day parade on time with all the right stuff.  
  • Some serious triathlon training workouts.  Like, workouts that were an hour and 15 minutes long and had to happen before Nathan woke up.  (To be fair, he does sleep until like 9:00 most days.)  
  • Two paying work projects for my freelance work.  
Meanwhile, there was of course the usual with laundry, groceries, preschool, housework, and caring for my kid.  And caring for my kid, with all that other stuff to do, felt like ... well, I wouldn't say the last straw, because the last straw implies something minor and light that just happens to knock you over ... more like the last brick.  It was like, Seriously, I have to find a way to entertain you?  I have to come up with some way to wear you out, when I'm already so worn out myself? Honestly, if it were at all justifiable (monetarily or otherwise) to hire a full-time, live-in nanny just for a week when I'm frazzled with what essentially amounts to a bunch of hobbies (some of which are actually done for the benefit of the child I'd be pawning off on somebody else), I would have done it. 

It all came to a head Friday and Saturday. 

Friday I had to get up early for an hour and 15 minute bike ride, get Nathan to school, lift weights with Trainer Jill for half an hour, write a paid blog post that was due that day, work on my freelance stuff, pick up Nathan, get the house ready/groceries purchased for a babysitter to come, and then perform in the opening night show.  

Saturday we had t-ball pictures bright and early, followed by the opening day parade and ceremonies.  Then I had one play at 2:00 and another play at 7:00. 

I suddenly felt like I was in high school again, rushing from one extracurricular activity to another.  So on Friday morning I posted this Facebook status update:

It got 14 likes, which is a personal record. 

Anyway, we survived those two days, and here are the pictures to prove it. 

Here's a self-portrait cell phone photo of me on opening night of the show.  Everybody had really wacky hair, makeup, and costumes:

Here's Nathan at t-ball pictures:

Here are a few shots of the opening day parade, where the kids march down the street and throw candy:

And this is the opening ceremony, where they get everybody pumped for the season and talk about how wonderful baseball and America are:

Here are some shots from my Saturday show, taken by Bill:

 "If those three kids are too stupid to figure out that the way to get back home from climbing up is to climb back down, then they don't deserve accurate directions."

The play went ... okay.  As you can see from a couple of the pictures, I had to sing in this show.  I sang a version of "I Dreamed a Dream," but with new lyrics specific to the show, which I had written myself.  Now, singing isn't my strongest suit.  And while it was okay if my character was kind of a bad singer, I didn't want to embarrass myself.  At Show #1 I screwed up because I had practiced with a different version of the music than the one they played at the show.  I was so embarrassed and sad, even though it's only community theater and nobody cared besides me, that I just wanted to duck out and hide after the show.  I did better on the song at Show #2, and so-so at Show #3, although by #3 I was so exhausted I didn't care.  Which was fine because there were only like 20 people in the audience anyway.  Also by that point at least 4 kids were either sick and/or crying, so Show #3 was kind of ... whatever.  

So, all the excitement was over by Sunday.  All I had to do Sunday was go to the gym and swim for half an hour, because triathlon training waits for no one.  While it was refreshing to have so little to do for a change, and while I could never keep up last week's frenetic schedule on a long-term basis, I admit to feeling a bit of a letdown Sunday.  Because you know what you have to do on your first free day after a crazy week?  You have to catch up on all the chores you ignored during that crazy week.  Suddenly I had no excuse not to clean my kitchen and do a bunch of laundry.  Bah. 

Fortunately, this week is sort of medium-grade busy.  We had t-ball practice Monday night, and we have our first game tonight.  The triathlon training schedule has some hard workouts on it this week, and I'm meeting Trainer Jill for two sessions.  I have freelance work.  Nathan's school has a field trip Thursday.  I have some blogging gig irons in the fire. 

Which is good.  Now I have some excuses to get out of vacuuming. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review and GIVEAWAY: The Toydozer

If you're like me, and I hope that you are, you live with one or more children who just love to dump out a bunch of small toys, but are decidedly less enthusiastic about picking up those small toys.  I wish Nathan was one of those kids who just naturally enjoyed things clean, but, alas, he is not. 

So, more often than not, I just end up cleaning up the toys myself.  Recently during my toy clean-ups, I have found myself feeling nostalgic for Nathan's baby days, when he owned a few large toys that were too big too choke on, rather than the piles of tiny toy rubble we have now. 

So I was pretty excited when I was offered a free Toydozer to review on my blog.  The Toydozer is a new cleaning device invented by Amy Bradley, a mom who was tired of cleaning up her son's toys every single day. 

The Toydozer comes with two parts: the scoop, which is kind of like a large dustpan, and the gatherer, which is a plastic piece you can use to shovel toys into the scoop.  The two pieces connect with Velcro for when you aren't using the Toydozer.  Observe the Toydozer in action:

This is a photo from the Toydozer site.  That is not my own kid.  

A couple of days after I indicated my interest in the Toydozer, I found myself in a situation where I really wished I already had it.  We had guests coming over in about 15 minutes, and my living room floor was strewn with the contents of different storage baskets: trains, tracks, cars, action figures, and various unidentifiable accessories.  How I wished I had my Toydozer to just scoop all that stuff up and dump it back in the baskets. 

The next week, my Toydozer arrived, relieving me of this burden of picking up small items by hand.  The Toydozer package included a hand-written note from inventor Amy Bradley, which I thought was a special touch. 

But, as eager as I was to try it, I admit to being a little bit skeptical about the thing.  Would a fancy dustpan really make my kid interested in cleaning up his own toys? 

I tried out the Toydozer myself before having Nathan try it.  I used it to pick up some Legos.  Sort of like this lady here, except she is thinner and prettier than I am:

Now came the true test: Would Nathan enjoy using it?  

He actually did!  I forgot about the power of fun gadgets to motivate children (slash husbands) to complete chores!  Nathan enjoyed using the Toydozer to clean up his own Legos.  An invention that eliminates battles over cleaning?  I'll take it. 

It's like the Toydozer's slogan says: Less Cleaning.  More Playing! (TM)

We also used the Toydozer to clean up the multiple sets of live-action Angry Birds that Bill bought for himself Nathan. And then we used it to doze a big pile of action figures. 

You can also use the Toydozer for blocks:

Puzzle pieces:

Or any other small toy!  I'm told it's good for Polly Pocket and her accessories, though of course we don't have any of those lying around. 

The Toydozer retails for $18.99 at the Toydozer site, and it comes in blue, yellow, or purple.  And right now, you can save 20% off your Toydozer using code BLOGGER20

Or, do you want to enter to win a free Toydozer?  The Toydozer people have given me one free Toydozer to give away.

Here's how you enter:

Leave a comment that includes your name somewhere, and that answers the question:

What was your favorite toy to play with as a kid?

(Mine was Cabbage Patch Kids, and dolls in general, really.)

Contest is open to all residents of the U.S. and Canada, and ends Wednesday, April 25 at 12:00 a.m. CST.  At that time a winner will be chosen at random, and I will notify everyone of the winner on my blog. 

Good luck, and happy playing!    

This post is part of a Toydozer blogger outreach campaign. Participating bloggers have been provided with a complimentaryToydozer to review and have been compensated for their time. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Year of Less Consumption: Report #3

Outside the Box
(Or, Yep, I'm Still Doing This ... Sort Of)

In case you don't remember, or you never read it in the first place, back in January I declared 2012 The Year of Less Consumption. 

As is the case with most New Year's Resolutions, the ideals of the Year of Less Consumption have been slightly worn down by the details of reality.  But I like to think that it's the details of reality that help shape a goal into something that you can live with long-term.

Let me give an example.

Back in February, Nathan went to a joint birthday party for two different birthday kids.   As per one of the Year of Less Consumption tenets, "Emphasize experiences over material goods," I bought each kid an experience-based birthday gift.  Let me show you what the gifts looked like, and then explain the contents and wrapping:

I got both kids gift cards.  The top gift was a McDonald's gift card.  (I know some may question the environmental-friendliness of McDonald's itself, but, dude, I'm trying here.)  The bottom one was a movie gift card, hence the clever tag, which I actually cut out of an invitation to another kid's birthday party.  That was one of my finer Year of Less Consumption acts. 

I attached each kid's gift card to a box of candy to add extra weight and hopefully prevent the gift from getting lost.  For the wrapping paper, I used packing paper that had been used as stuffing in a package Bill received earlier that week.  There were yards and yards of the paper, but they were wrinkled, so I actually busted out my iron and smoothed them out.  Nathan had all kinds of follow-up questions about ironing, suggesting that maybe I don't iron at all enough.  Then I tied each package with Martha Stewart baker's twine I got at JoAnn.  I thought the packages had a sweet, understated simplicity that Martha herself might approve of. 

Then we got to the birthday party, and I realized that understated simplicity is not the aesthetic most people go for when it comes to the wrapping of children's birthday gifts.  I deposited my sad brown packages among the sea of brightly-colored balloon- and animal-printed gifts. 

It didn't help that the next day one of the birthday kid's moms called to inquire about my gift, which had accidentally been taken home by the other birthday kid.  "Did you give us a package wrapped in brown paper?" she asked, an innocent question that nonetheless made me feel like some kind of a dumbass redneck who doesn't own proper wrapping paper. 

So for the next birthday party, I abandoned all my environmental ideals and bought a gift bag with matching tissue paper and tag from Target.  Actually, the main reason I went that wrapping route was that by that point I was busy and frazzled from my work and other endeavors.  I didn't feel like I had the time--or, more accurately, the desire--to spend half an hour ironing paper and making homemade gift tags.  Which led to some guilt because, Am I too busy to care about the environment?  

But this is where the details of reality come in to shape ideals into something livable.  Maybe I can't always be ironing out packaging paper and making tags out of old invitations.  But I did still get the kid an experience-based gift, and I like to think that a gift bag is at least a form of gift wrap that can be reused. 

Bottom line, I had arrived at a level of environmental-friendliness that I could actually live with.  And I think that pretty much sums up where I am with the Year of Less Consumption.  I have established practices that I can live with. 

For example, I always bring my reusable bags to the grocery store or Target.  I have become comfortable toting my change of clothes to the gym in a cloth bag--even though I have to then put my sweaty clothes in the bag after the gym, because it turns out the bag is washable.  I'm totally cool with cloth napkins now, even for wrapping my breakfast sandwich to eat in the car.  (I like to think my sandwich feels all cool and artisan wrapped in cloth, even though it's just two misshapen fried eggs on a piece of toast.) 

And I'm pretty good about washing out empty food containers (sour cream and the like) for food storage.  I'm like your grandmother over here. 

So, in conclusion, I think that the Year of Less Consumption is still alive and well, albeit in a slightly different incarnation.  I think my Year of Less Consumption practices have instilled an awareness in me about what we buy and what we throw out, and this awareness has shaped my everyday practices. 

I also like to think I've made a tiny impact on others.  For example, recently Nathan was invited to a birthday party for my friend's twins.  I emailed my friend and explained my whole Year of Less Consumption thing, and I asked her what kind of experience-based gift the twins might like.  She replied with an I love this idea and suggested bowling gift cards.  And maybe now she will go on to give experience-based gifts, just as I have seen other parents do after I gave these types of gifts to their children.  And so, in that way, maybe I can start a tiny movement here. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Get So Emotional, Baby

This post is about my triathlon training.

While in some ways I've been training unofficially for quite some time, this week it got real.  That's because I made a training schedule spreadsheet:

Spreadsheet = Official

I based the spreadsheet around a training schedule from one of my triathlon library books entitled The Woman Triathlete.  As I said in the past, I checked out several triathlon books, and I picked this one because it had a training schedule that covered the exact amount of weeks (nine) until my triathlon.  Plus I love the "girls only" vibe of a woman-centered triathlon book.  That and a book for women doesn't involve a lot of complicated math when it comes to measuring time and/or distance.  It just says stuff like, Run really fast to the bench on the corner, and then run back.  

I kid, I kid.  I edit math textbooks, remember?  And some of my best friends are female mathematician-types.  Plus we all know it's science where women really suck.  Science can just be so icky sometimes!

Anyway, the triathlon. 

Now, as much as the mere enrollment in the triathlon bumped up the stress factor of my routine exercise, the presence of the spreadsheet multiplied this phenomenon by, like, a million.  Suddenly training for this dumb triathlon feels like a part-time job.  

(My mom is so happy right now, you guys.)  

I mean, I wasn't altogether terrible about dragging myself to the gym in the past, but I always kept the option of flaking in the back of my mind on a day-to-day basis.  Now, though?  Flaking is NOT AN OPTION.  I MUST GO.  IT SAYS SO ON THE SPREADSHEET. 

(Again, Mom, you're welcome.) 

The mere act of making the spreadsheet kind of exhausted me, because I knew that the exercise requirement contained in each individual cell would be a challenge.  Trainer Jill tried to remind me that I would work up to the challenges of some of the later weeks, so that I would actually be in better shape to tackle those workouts when the time came.  

But Week One has already been kind of a major challenge.  

The triathlon training week starts on Monday, which kind of bugs me because Sunday is the first day of the week.  But that's how the schedule in the book was set up, and I figured it would be less confusing to keep it that way when making my schedule. 

So, this past Monday was Day 1.  I put the shortest workout, time-wise, on Mondays, so I could also meet with Trainer Jill for weightlifting.  So, the day's workout was "Run 20 minutes."  Now, the thing is, I can only actually run for ten minutes straight.  But I'm figuring it still counts if I run 20 total minutes with added time for walking breaks in between, because I still go the same distance, right?  So I did 10 minutes of running, took a walking break, and did 5 more minutes of running, at which point it was time for my appointment with Jill, and I kind of wanted to barf.  So, I kind of felt like I shortchanged myself there a little by only doing 15 minutes of running, but after another 30 minutes of weightlifting (okay, 25) I was DONE.  

Day 2 was a swim day.  Yay!  Now, I spent the previous paragraph (slash previous posts, slash previous years) kind of dumping on myself, so I will say something to toot my own horn.  The swim workouts in the triathlon training book were actually a little too easy for me.  So, when making my own schedule, I actually doubled the swim workouts.  (This also helped me account for the fact that the book's workouts were listed in meters, whereas this is America and my pool is measured in yards.  And yes, I understand that a meter is not twice as long as a yard.  But I figured doubling the yardage helped me more than cover my bases regarding the meter-to-yard conversion, and gave me a little extra challenge.)  

Day 3 was where it got ugly.  Since I do try my darndest to go to spin at the gym every Wednesday, I set up Wednesdays to be a bike day.  However, the only weekly bike workout in the book that could be appropriately tailored to spin also included a 15-minute run afterward.  This is what is known as a "brick workout" in the triathlon world, because the particular muscular transition required to go from biking to running kind of makes your legs feel like bricks.  So, I ducked out of spin before the warmup and stretching, so my muscles would still be in full brick mode.  I hopped on a treadmill for my 15-minute run ... and proceeded to run for 90 seconds.  I decided I was doing enough by running off and on (but mostly off) for 15 minutes.  I walked most of it, but seriously, who does an extra workout after spin?  I consider it a small victory that I actually periodically felt like I wanted (almost needed) to run.  

Now, it was during this post-spin treadmill workout that I started to get a little emotional.  I was close to tears, and probably would have cried actual tears if I had any bodily fluid left after all that sweating.  Because, toughing it out on the treadmill, thinking about all the workouts left to go, It just gets so hard, people. 

A voice said, You can do it.  

If it were easy, everyone would do it, said another.

Pain is temporary, but pride is forever, said a third, echoing something I read on a t-shirt. 

But an even louder voice said, You're fat and you can't do this.

(In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have hired that entourage to talk to me while I work out.  That last candidate was a particularly poor hiring decision.)

Meanwhile, during that workout, an actual real person at the gym had apparently warned the gym employee to look out for me while I was doing this difficult workout, as though I'm that out of shape and/or incapable of recognizing when to quit before passing out.  So that was a real vote of confidence.  

Anyway, I'm just taking it one day at a time.  Especially today, which is a scheduled day off!  The book emphasized the importance of full recovery days, and who am I to argue? 

And perhaps my biggest motivator comes from something that I read in one of the other triathlon books.  Did you know that in triathlon-speak, the "larger" participants are known as Clydesdales?  I mean, I get it, a clydesdale is a creature that is powerful and graceful despite its large size, and it brings us delicious Budweiser beer, so it's not an altogether bad label.  But still, do they have to compare you to a goddamn horse?  Why not just call you an Elephant?  I mean, elephants are excellent swimmers, and they can run pretty well.  (There's no evidence of an elephant's biking skills, but then there's no evidence of a clydesdale's biking skills either.)  

So, since my weight is dangerously close to Clydesdale range, I am desperately trying to keep up with my workouts and diet.  No need to carry around a bunch of extra weight in that triathlon, right?  So now, when I go to open the refrigerator, I just think, Clydesdale.  

So far it's really just made me drink more beer. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Primal Scream

I know in my last post I talked about how I thrive on being pulled in a million different directions, juggling it all, what have you.  And, I mean, it's true.  I would always choose to feel busy over feeling bored, because being busy gives me the false perception that I'm important.  I kind of secretly love when I'm out at Target and my phone is pinging with Important Work Emails! and Texts Requesting Playdates! and Calls From My Husband Asking Me to Do Stuff!  I love saying, I have to skip Spin today because I have a conference call, and not just because I'm always looking for a way to weasel out of exercise. 

Like most women, I thrive on the notion that I can do it all. When I think about it all--the kid, the house, the husband, the part-time freelance gig, the community theater, the blog, the triathlon, the diet, the t-ball team mom--I can't help but feel a bit jazzed.  When my little calendar reminder thing on my phone's home screen tells me that I have five different obligations in one day--well, I feel important and dynamic.  (Also I like how my recent life endeavors help me justify the importance of paying all that money each month to have a smartphone, something I think my husband questions.) 

It's all good, really.  And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

BUT ... you knew there was a BUT coming, right?  ... BUT, lately I have felt a constant case of low-grade stress tears looming just below the surface. 

So, figuring this blog was a better outlet for my feelings than, say, eating (though I did blow my diet hitting the Culver's drive-thru last night), here comes the rant: 

I think the main problem is that I probably need more childcare.  It's too hard to care for Nathan while I'm trying to meet some work deadline.  He does an okay job of playing by himself, but I can never count on him being able to do that, because he really just wants attention a lot of the time.  So I park him in front of the TV way too much. 

Again, this would be another reason why I wish he still took a nap. 

The trouble is, I can't always predict when I'll need childcare. Plus there's the monetary factor: If I can just work and watch him myself, my pay is pure profit. 

THEN there's the fact that my main existing source of childcare, preschool, seems to be closed all the time.  Last week was spring break, then they went back Monday and Wednesday, and now they have this Friday and next Monday off as some sort of Easter break.  Which means that they have another week off, since the next time they have school is next Wednesday. 

Now, truthfully, I have never been one to complain about preschool closure.  For one thing, it's preschool.  It's not a major, important academic endeavor.  But also, preschool is kind of a mixed bag for us.  I hate having to wake Nathan up to go to school (Lord help us the next 13 years of much-earlier-starting public school), and I hate the constant worry that he'll misbehave at school.  I hate how frustrating he is in the transition from school to home.  In the end, it's a lot of emotional stress to give in exchange for three hours of childcare. 

But this week?  This week I need him to go to school. 

You know what is supposed to relieve stress like this?  Exercise.  Except, now I'm stressed out about exercise.  Since signing up for this triathlon, exercise went from being something I kind of vaguely suffered through for the greater good of my physical and mental health, to like this dumb major stupid obligation.  I try to take the attitude that any exercise you do is better than no exercise at all, but now that I feel that I'm on this exercise deadline, I feel like nothing I can do is going to be good enough. 

Oh, and I'm on this !#@$% diet.  Actually, that isn't going that badly, minor Culver's-based transactions notwithstanding. 

I already feel like I'm going to fail at being the t-ball team parent. 

I haven't gotten the kindergarten paperwork ready. 

I'm tired of always thinking my kid is America's Worst-Behaved Child.  I feel bad for him that I always think that, but then I also feel bad when the bagger at the grocery store says something like, Wow, he's really rambunctious today, except somebody says that like half the time I take him to the store.  And I'm tired of reading people who write on Facebook and blogs about how awesomely-behaved their children are at restaurants and grocery stores and how My child would never do that. 

I'm tired of my kid's screen obsession.  Yes, I did say that I use the TV as a babysitter, so this is probably my fault, but, I mean, come on, throw me a bone here, kid.  I hate how he's always trying to bargain for some toy that he can earn with good behavior.  I hate how he doesn't ever want to eat, ever, unless it's a doughnut.  I hate when other parents talk about how much their kids would prefer fruit to doughnuts.  I hate that my kid talks about poop and farts and butts all the time. 

Can't he just try to make this easy on me once in awhile? 

Mostly I hate how I always focus on the negative when it comes to my parenting.  Last night, when Nathan brushed his teeth and sweetly snuggled in to read some bedtime stories, I finally thought, Do I ever focus on these moments?  No, I'm more focused on how just 20 minutes ago, he ran around like a loon so I couldn't get him undressed to take a bath.  I never think about the times he says, I love you, Mommy, I think about the times he says Poopy-butt, Poop, Fart-Butt. 

I spend my time in a constant state of thinking I'm a Bad Mother, even though it occurred to me the other day that I don't even know what I think a Good Mother is.  I just know it's not me.

So, that's my rant.  Thank you and I'm sorry.  I think I feel a little bit better.  I feel those low-grade stress tears starting to break through the surface.  Which means I've found an outlet, and a better one than Culver's.  Once again, blogging trumps french fries.  Dammit.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Am Boring

I was just reading some blogs, when I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to Post On My Own Blog! 

And then I was all, What am I going to write about?  

The only update I can think to give right now is that I feel pulled in a lot of different directions.  Which sounds like a complaint, but truthfully pulled in different directions is like crack to me.  It's addictive.  And also problematic.  And exhausting.  You know, like crack.  I imagine.  I haven't actually tried crack. 

Let me just bullet point some of the stuff that I've been up to lately: 
  • I signed up for an outdoor triathlon!  I KNOW, RIGHT?!  It's a half-mile swim, a 14.2-mile bike ride, and then a 5K run.  Not only am I a bit (okay, a lot) daunted by the actual athletic challenges involved in this endeavor, I also have all kinds of side worries, such as What if I get knocked off my bike? and What if I get kicked in the head during the swim?  Plus I'm worried about a bunch of other stupid stuff like buying the right gear, how I'm going to get my bike to Naperville, and having to wake up at 4:00 in the morning.  But I needed something to motivate me to exercise, so after much waffling I finally pulled the trigger and signed up.  Then I did what all modern "athletes" do: I Googled triathlon training workouts.  And you know what I found?  They are very confusing, and most of them are not free.  So I went to where the information is free (well, not so much free as covered in the $8,000 a year I pay in property taxes), the library.  And now I have 5 library books about triathlon training, and choosing which one to use is daunting in and of itself.  And I haven't even really had time to look at the books because ...
  • I have had WORK.  So that's good.  Not much interesting to say about that, but I'm enjoying it.  
  • The community theater play of Jack and the Beanstalk is April 20 and 21.  I'm proud to be playing the only character who isn't revealed to have any redeeming qualities at the end.  It's so much more fun playing the villain.  Helps you channel your anger, you know?  And the rehearsals are getting more fun now that I've memorized my lines.  But, the kids in this show are LOUD.  And they are taxing at the end of a long day.  They remind me of those commercials for the Bing search engine, where one person says something, and then another person has to say something that is vaguely tangential, and then another person, and another person, and so on.  They're not bad, they're just ... children.  But on a slightly more positive note, I'm looking forward to seeing what my costume looks like, because I've decided to color a streak of my hair and paint my nails to match.  I also kind of want to have some kind of wacky eye makeup, along the lines of The Hunger Games, but I don't know how to do that.  So I'm looking for volunteers. 
  • Also, last week I ended a 12-year relationship ... with Weight Watchers.  I think WW is a great diet, but after all this time I'm burned out on it.  Burned out = cheating, so I wasn't losing any weight.  Trainer Jill recommended the Lose It! site/app, which is essentially exactly like the Weight Watchers eTools, in that it's a place to record your daily exercise/food intake.  The only difference is that Lose It! counts calories, whereas WW counts points.  (The other major difference is that Lose It! is free, whereas WW costs like $45/month.)  So far I really like rekindling the relationship with some of my old friends in the "simple carbs" family, such as Cheez-It Reduced Fat crackers, and mini Oreos, which weren't really all that easy to work into the new WW Points Plus system.  I mean, I am eating these things within reason, of course, and keeping with my daily calorie limits.  Anyway, in the first week I lost 2.4 pounds, which was ... okay.  I set it to help me lose 2 pounds/week, so I guess that worked out as planned, but I was kind of hoping for a big loss that first week, as is usually the case.  I'm wondering if maybe this week I should focus more on fiber.  Dammit.
  • Nathan started t-ball.  Our first t-ball responsibility was the family clean-up day at the ballpark.  It's supposed to fill the kids with the spirit of community and responsibility and working together, so naturally my kid just sat there and whined that it was all too haaaaaaaaaaarddd and he couldn't do it.  I was seriously horrified.  I wanted to yank him out of t-ball right then and there, except I think the enrollment fee is non-refundable.  So instead I put him in the car and gave him a stern lecture, a time-out, and a "screen time" ban for the rest of the day.  I think he got the message.  And our attitude toward t-ball improved the next day when we went to Target to buy the necessary t-ball gear, and then he went out in the yard with Bill to practice (aww, touching father-son moment).  Then on Monday he had his first team practice, and he described it as "not long enough," which I think is a good thing.  So I guess he's happy in any organized activity, so long as it doesn't involve cleaning.  Aaand ... I come away feeling like I can log another parenting FAIL.  
  • Just so the entire portion of Nathan-related content in this post isn't negative, which is somehow something all mom bloggers are uncomfortable with, I will say that preschool is going so much better.  He gets good reports almost every day, which I think makes the rest of the day more positive, because somehow the post-preschool mood carries over into the rest of the day.  
  • And, kindergarten registration is next week.  OMG OMG OMG.  Paperwork.  And medical, dental, and eye exams!  Plus this year the school district has decided to bring back the kindergarten screening, which is like some kind of testing Nathan has to go to in August.  So there's something else to worry about.  
  • I also have a few blog-related irons in the fire, nothing earth-shattering, but I've decided that any attempt at "professional" blogging leads to a whole separate set of mini-directions in which one feels pulled.  
  • Somewhat related to my professional endeavors, I have decided to think of all earnings in units of gas tanks.  It costs about $50 to fill up my dinky little Toyota Corolla.  (Which, as a side note, means I have seen gas prices triple in the time since I personally started purchasing gas.)  So, anyway, if I get a gig that pays $50, that means it pays one gas tank.  It's actually kind of a rewarding way to look at your smaller-paying projects, because although it should not cost $50/week to buy gas, at least you can think of your efforts as paying off in some tangible way.  I mean, gasoline is very useful because it gets you to all your other important endeavors, so you feel like you've contributed something important when you earn enough money to buy a tank of gas.  Also I think it helps me feel less worked up about high gas prices when I can put random side earnings toward gas.  Not getting worked up about gas prices is a good thing, because, really, there's nothing I can do about it.  We still have to go places.  Though I have declared that we aren't going anywhere outside a ten-mile radius unless absolutely necessary.  
Well, that's all I got for now.  Hey, remember Stretch Armstrong?  He could be pulled in a lot of different directions, too!