Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bicycle Weather

These folks look frighteningly fit, don't they?
What with pretending to be an exercise fiend in an attempt to avoid dying this Saturday during the Tour de Cure, I've neglected my cozy little blog.  Let's see...20 miles on Saturday, 7 on Monday (I took Susie along, couldn't go far), 10 miles this morning - I hardly recognize myself.  It helps, of course, that this is one of those rare times of the year here that we have PERFECT bicycling conditions - low humidity, warm but not hot temps, spring breezes - I swear, if heaven does indeed exist, this is its daily weather.

In among all that, we had Susie's birthday.  She has now reached the august age of 9, which fact - as she is the baby of the family - makes me weep uncontrollably at times.  My one consolation for her growing irrevocably bigger is that she seems to be the only one of my kids who truly enjoys bicycling.  And, last week, having watched her attempt to pedal the thrift store Huffy she had just inherited from Rachel, I realized something was amiss.

You see, on her previous bike, an old hand-me-down from a neighbor, Susie rode like a pro - or, at least, how a pro would ride if he were limited to 6 gears and a torn saddle covered with plastic grocery bags.  This athletic behavior was quite unlike that of her older sister, say, who had always poked along on her refurbished thrift store Huffy as if she had a ball and chain attached to her ankle...

Hmm, I would say to myself, Rachel just doesn't like biking.  But now? I was seeing Susie act the same way, on that same darn bike, and a light bulb went on over my head, thanks to my recent epiphany concerning how much better one can ride on a suitable bicycle.  

Maybe it's not the GIRL, I thought, it's the BIKE.

Now, in our entire family history, we have never spent any real money on bikes for a mere 9-year-old.  They just rode whatever bikes in the backyard happened to fit them at the time, bikes that I either got from a friend or bought at a garage sale or whatever.  But here I had just spent good money last year fixing up one of those thrift store bikes for Rachel, and it still turned out to be a piece of crap.  AND it was Susie's birthday in just 2 days.  Be aware that, at that point, the only presents I had bought her were some candy and a pack of colored pens from Office Depot.

So, yeah, I went back to the bike store, where I plunked down Larry's hard-earned money for a brand-new 24" bike for a 9-year-old.  To this dyed-in-the-wool pennypincher, it felt almost sinful, even though the bike was on sale.  Let's face it, anything over $50 would have gone against the grain of my well-honed instinct for thrift.  But, oh, that bicycle rides well.

Well enough for me to go against 24 years of frugality just to see my daughter fly.  Like the wind.

THAT, my friends, is what bicycle weather can do to you.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Black Bobby

We do a lot of hand-me-down/thrift store bicycles around here for the little ones; but, as the kids get bigger, it gets harder to find something that is good enough. At that point, we tend to pony up some money to buy each kid a decent new bicycle, one that will hopefully see him/her through the teen years. We've just reached that point with Rachel, who is growing like crazy and no longer fits the used bike we found for her at the thrift store last year.  We handed it down to Susie (who was happy to have an intact bicycle seat that does not require her to tie 2 plastic bags over it after a rain) and set out for the bike store to see what we could find.

You see, I had spotted a woman's bike on sale for only $250 there, when I went in to buy Brian a headlight for his Boy Scout bicycle trip.  I figured that was a good deal for a brand-new bicycle - heck, it had cost me almost that much to repair and fix up Larry's 24-year-old bike for David last month (the derailleur had snapped in two while he was riding it).

Turned out, the bicycle I had seen was too big for Rachel; but the salesman was only too happy to show us some others.  And when he started pulling out some cute little Fujis, I knew I was in trouble.

You see, my first grown-up bike (you know, one with more than 3 gears) was a black touring Fuji.  State of the art in 1983, it was about twice as heavy as a cheap bicycle now, had only 10 gears, and sported gear shifters that none of my 21st-century kids would recognize as such.  I loved it with all my heart.  A friend of mine insisted that I should name it, personalize it, as it were.  "Black Ninja!" he proclaimed. "That's a good name."

"I don't know," I said.  "I want something more friendly-sounding.  Something like...Bobby. Yes, Bobby."

"Black Bobby?" he asked. "What sort of name is that?"

I don't know, myself, but the moniker stuck - Black Bobby.

So here I was at our bike store, watching Rachel try very small adult-sized frames (a Fuji specialty) and thinking, no, I am NOT going to spend $100 more than I had planned, when I realized - I could STEAL her bike.  Remember? I've got a 68-mile bike-a-thon coming up, and my clunky yet safe Electra Townie - my non-scary old-lady bike - is just not going to cut it.  But this bike Rachel was trying?  That would be just the right size for me.  And it was a Fuji.

"We'll take it," I said, surprising Rachel and the salesman AND myself with my impulsiveness.  "We need it."

I didn't look like this, but I FELT like this.
It took me a few days to get up my courage, but today was my moment of truth.  I convinced myself to get on that thing and ride, even though I was scared of falling, scared of breaking bones, scared of looking like an idiot.  Terrified, actually.  I was terrified.  But desperate.

People, I FLEW.  I was one with the wind, I tell you.  Pedaling that heavy Electra Townie of mine got me into fairly good shape, apparently.  And it sure helped me to appreciate all over again the wonder that is a Fuji.

[NOT a sponsored post - I just love Fuji, is all]

[Bicycle image: Clip Art Best]
[Riding bicycle image: All Free Download]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Well, after much debate and lots of peering at TripAdvisor reviews of campsites, we have committed to spending a week this August in Maine, at Acadia National Park.  We were there once before, 5 years ago (and here let me pause and weep over the pictures of my children, all 5 years younger, in that beautiful place - oh, the chubby cheeks and happy smiles of the then-non-teens!); but that, my friends, was before our questionable decision to buy a popup camper.  You see, back in 2009, we indulged in the luxury of a rental cottage near Acadia; but this year?  We are opting to save 800 bucks on lodgings and spend it instead on eating out.

Definitely worth a second look

In other words, I'll sleep in a trailer and share a spider-filled bathroom with strangers if that means I DON'T have to cook on vacation.  Wise decision?  Discuss.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fit Friends Are Dangerous

Over 3 inches of rain in less than 12 hours here.  At one point, it sounded as though someone was simply dumping buckets of water outside our windows. As there were no tornado warnings, we were able to sleep (or at least doze) through most of it; and now? Bright, bright sun, a washed-clean blue sky - I feel like one of those creatures stepping off the ark into a new world.

Well, except for the mud - I hate mud.

An overachieving rhododendron
Otherwise, things are springtime gorgeous here (see picture to left for proof - that is one of the few plants in our yard that I have not managed to murder).  Brian is packing up for a Boy Scout bike trip (and, yes, he did wait until yesterday to inform me he needed both a headlight and a tail light for his bicycle, and oh yeah, he's the grubmaster for his Scout Patrol, so we had to go food shopping, etc., etc.); I'm getting ready for a trip home this weekend to see my brother's remodel of my parents' 1960s-era kitchen and to visit some old friends; Susie is moping because I took her brother out to lunch without her (sometimes that poor boy just needs a break from sisters, you know?); and David is - at least in theory - studying for his SATs.  Really, he could be hacking into NORAD and I wouldn't know it.  Ah, ignorance is bliss!

I biked 12 miles yesterday and thought I would die.  So, really, the 58 miles I signed up for via Tour de Cure should be NO PROBLEM, right?  Only, my sadistic physical trainer of a friend has just informed me that it is really 68 miles - we must have read it wrong the first time.

68 miles - that's just stupid already.  I mean, isn't that what cars were invented for?

If anyone wants to sponsor me in this madness (and help fund diabetes research, which happens to be the real point of all this, not just helping me kill myself), email me (my email address is on my Blogger profile page - link over there in the right sidebar somewhere).  Or, just pray that I make it through this alive - that would be helpful, too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Put A Little Love In Your Heart

Do a lot of good for only $25 - join Glennon's Love Flash Mob over at Momastery today! You can help send a mom with cancer to the beach with her family for a week, which - as I've stated before - is an awesome idea I wouldn't have thought of myself. I'm all "Oh, help with the laundry, help with the meals," while Glennon goes directly for "Help her have some FUN!"

So, once again, I am playing plain, sensible Velma to Glennon's fun Daphne and urging you to join lots of other people in making some lives a little brighter.  Go ahead - it feels good.  And it's a lot more rewarding than getting the laundry done (again).

[Update:  We made our goal of helping five different families with the challenges they are facing. Thanks to all who participated!]

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

No Longer Mother's Day

Mother's Day? Oh, an 8-mile bicycle ride, 4 hours clothes shopping by myself, a nice late-afternoon nap, and presents from a husband who has finally figured out the convenience of an Amazon wish list aptly titled "Gift Ideas."  Oh, and a dozen roses. Not bad, not bad at all...

Today, however, I returned to reality: assigning schoolwork, signing the girls up for CCD next year, signing them up for band camp this summer, scrubbing the grout in the shower - all the glamorous tasks that no one can really get paid enough to do. By dinner time, I had had enough of reality and ordered pizza for Larry and the kids. Myself, I headed out to Bunko, where we had a Cinqo de Mayo theme, complete with margueritas and Costco Mexican food.

What can I say? My neighborhood knows how to party.

So now I am sitting here trying to convince myself that I will indeed get up at 6:30 AM and head out for a bike ride before it gets too hot. Because apparently I allow myself to indulge in the fantasy that I am still a morning person. You know, the sort of person who rises happily before 7 and gets most of her work polished off by lunchtime? Sadly, this is no longer true. Even more sadly, I remain incapable of getting much done past, say, 1 PM.

Realistically? I am more of a 10AM - noon person now. Which condition really limits how much I can accomplish in any given day. Anyone else have this problem?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Sound Of Silence

NO BATS. Ah, blessed quiet! I swear, by Wednesday night, it sounded as though the bats were absolutely partying up there in the attic above the girls' room.  I won't say there weren't a couple of frantic calls to my bug boyfriend the next day, seeking reassurance that the bat guys were indeed coming to put an end to my flying rodent problems.

I hope I'm not scaring him off with my neediness.

I'm spending this afternoon hanging out with AFOL's (that's Adult Fans of Legos, to you muggles).  Turns out there is a local LUG (Lego Users' Group - do I have to explain everything?) that meets once a month at a library near us; naturally, Brian was eager to check it out, which we did for the first time last month.

"Grown men playing Legos?" asked Larry.  I could see the paranoia gears starting to whir in his brain.

"I'm going with him," I said. "I'll check it out."

Turns out, we found ourselves in a room full of engineers and physicists, all of whom are OBSESSED with Lego. They surrounded the amusement park ride Brian brought along, examining the specs and making suggestions for improvement. One of them, it turns out, is the person in charge of the GBC (Great Ball Contraption - do try and keep up) at our local BrickFair, held every August. He even insisted Brian contribute a section to the GBC this year.

Check out the video - it really is awesome.

Another mom decided to take me under her wing and give me the inside scoop on everyone there. "We're called NBB's," she explained. "Non-Building Breeders," she elaborated, seeing the blank look on my face. "The only reason we're here is that we've raised Lego builders. Now, see that guy over there? He works with NASA. So does that one. And that guy?" Here she leaned closer and lowered her voice for emphasis. "He's the Mars Rover guy."

Another blank look on my part.

"He's the guy whose Mars Rover design Lego decided to make into a set," she explained. "You know, on Cuusoo?"

Here a light went on in my brain. Brian loves Cuusoo - you can post a MOC (My Own Creation - look, there's going to be a quiz later, you know) on Cuusoo and - if it garners 10,000 supporters - Lego will consider manufacturing it and giving you a percentage of the sales. And here was one of these mythical beings, sitting not 10 feet from us! I walked over to Brian.

"Brian," I whispered, reveling in the satisfaction of knowing something Lego-related before he did, "that guy over there? The one you were just talking to? He's the Mars Rover guy from Cuusoo."

This is what a Lego celebrity looks like.

And, yes, Brian was impressed to learn this.  Wouldn't you be, too?

So we're back here this month, rubbing elbows with Lego celebrities and discussing plans for BrickFair, where Brian will indeed get to be an exhibitor this year. Me? I'm getting a lot of knitting done, interspersed with playing Words With Friends, while Larry is stuck taking the girls to their art show and helping their art teacher load everything back into her car at the end.

Hey, it's Mother's Day weekend, people - I earned this.

[Mars Rover guy image: AstroCupola]

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Let No Man Put Asunder

Remember the bats?  Well, the guys came back, and then they came back again; and finally they declared us bat-free.  Only, for the past couple of weeks, I've been hearing noises in the girls' bedroom wall again.  The front wall this time, near the corner, so I figured it was a mouse.

By the way, you know things have gotten bad when I'm all "Oh, it's just a mouse in the wall.  That's okay."

I did mention it a couple of times to Larry, but Larry has this weird thing where he acts as if I didn't say anything when I talk about rodents or bugs.  Really.  No "Oh, so you think we have mice again?" or "Are you sure it isn't bats?" or even "Maybe you should call the pest guy."  Sometimes I call him on his lack of response and he says, "What's there to say? You're already saying all of it."

No wonder I need my bug boyfriend, right?

So, anyway, Susie was sick for a few nights and slept in our room with me, while Larry stayed healthy by sleeping in her ostensibly germ-free chamber.  It only took 2 nights of this arrangement for him to say to me, for the first time ever, "You need to call that pest guy."

I swear, it felt almost romantic to hear him say it.  Such affirmation! Such unity of purpose!  THIS is what marriage is all about, people.  And just think - it took us only 23 years to get here.

Monday, May 05, 2014

May? Seriously?

It's raining again.  People here are starting to get a little twitchy when it rains and might even be spotted jabbing at other people with their umbrellas.  It's MAY, for heaven's sake - enough with the March blizzards and April showers.  As it is, the azaleas are blooming 3 weeks late, and if it doesn't start warming up around here, we might as well kiss tomato and basil season good-bye.

On the bright side, though, if it stays cold, I won't have to suffer the humiliation of wearing my swimsuit in public. That would be nice.

Larry and I can't decide on where to go camping this summer.  He's thinking somewhere mountainous and woodsy, with plenty of hikes to torture the children with.  The girls are begging for a beach location.  Brian wants to stay home and play with his Legos.  And I'm thinking that only a 5-star hotel will really do the trick.  One that allows campfires, of course....

Seriously?  I can't even imagine being able to get us all packed and out of here.  I had originally planned for us to head down to Pensacola to visit friends in March.  That didn't happen, so I aimed for May, but - last I checked - we're still here and not there.  And Larry says he doesn't want to head south in the summer.  So now the suggested location rotates from Upstate NY to Acadia National Park to Cape Cod to Hawaii (well, that last one is my idea, actually - no way that Larry could drag the camper there, right?).

Any other northern locales we're missing?  Feel free to suggest one, especially if it has no camping sites available whatsoever.  Thanks.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Telling Our Stories

Wow, time flies when you can't decide what to do about a broken oven!  Currently, I've decided that all electric stoves turn out to be pieces of crap, so I'm going to go for it and put in a gas stove.  Unfortunately, this decision changes every 5 minutes or so.  That is, every time I remember that extending the gas line to the kitchen will double the cost of the appliance...

I hate this.

Anywhoo, in between changing my mind about stove purchases, I went to see/hear Listen To Your Mother today.  I couldn't get anyone to go with me, as my blogging friends live far away and my non-blogging friends are all "Huh?" when I mention it.  So I had to sit by myself and make it look as though I really enjoyed going alone, while all around me pairs and groups of people chattered excitedly.  I'm not sure whether or not I really pulled that one off.

The show was wonderful as usual, BUT I did mind the fact that not one of the speakers had a child older than 11.  That may be due to the make-up of the audition pool and of the general mommy-blogging population in general, I'm aware of that.  Still, it bothered me.  And not just because I auditioned for this particular show and didn't make it.  An introvert like myself shouldn't really be standing on stage in front of a couple of hundred people, anyway.  I know that. Which of course didn't stop me from writing next year's audition piece in my head as I drove home from the show.

Being on stage would feel like this, only scarier

Just channeling my inner Walter Mitty, I guess...

[Walter Mitty image: GoldDerby]