Lacing Up

I was really tired when 6 p.m. rolled around today. I’d gone to work, I’d gone to a Geek Squad appointment, I’d been late to pick up Jack from his after-school activity, and after all of that, Alex dragged me out to pick out a new refrigerator. I was beat.

I mention this because I’d planned to go running today. But by the time I actually had a chance to do so, running was the last thing I wanted. However, I’ve been trying to get back on a regular running schedule and I know that it is so easy to talk myself out of one run and then do it again the next day and before I know it, it’s been a week and all I’ve done is sit on my couch.

I had good reasons to take the day off, but my fitness level doesn’t really care if I have a good excuse.

With sadness, I laced up my shoes and headed out for a two and a half mile loop.

Selfie taken in dusky evening light of me after a run.

After. I was cutting it close with the oncoming darkness, but it was worth it.

I am writing about this because I am struggling. I am struggling with getting out there several days a week. I’ve signed up for a spring half marathon, so I have some motivation, but over the next couple of months, I’m trying to build a solid base and bring my speed back up to where it was when I was putting in decent weekly mileage.

It’s going to be some work.

In an effort to make myself accountable, you might be seeing more Stimeyland Facebook posts that look like this:

Selfie of me after a run.

“Proud of myself for getting outside for a run this afternoon! #runner #sweaty #obnoxious”

Feel free to unsubscribe now.

Or! Feel free to join me there and comment about your exercise victories and struggles. We can motivate each other!

Because I had a great run this evening. I was hungry and tired and annoyed and didn’t want to go, but once I was out there, I was so glad I went. I came home feeling one million percent* better than when I left.

That is a feeling worth chasing—even if I think I don’t want to.

 

* approximately

Happy Birthday, Sam! Thanks for the Excuse to Glamorize the Cat!

I have been 100% remiss in wishing my very favorite teenager a happy 14th birthday on this here blog.

So, happy birthday, Sam!

Photo of Sam blowing out the candles on a Hello Kitty-themed cake. Jack and Quinn are in the background.

It’s like he’s middle aged; look at the fire from all those candles!

For the first time in his young life, we had to celebrate on not-his-birthday because he had a two-hour concert band rehearsal on the actual day and it seemed like a bummer to try to cram his whole birthday celebration into the hour and a half between when he got home from school and the time he went to practice so instead we feted him two days early on a Sunday when there was time for gifts and video games and watching the newest Avengers movie on DVD and going to dinner and still fitting in non birthday-related chores.

Per usual, Sam got some very lovely and thoughtful gifts from his family, but I am here to tell you about my favorite gift that he got, incidentally, from me.

It relates to this animal right here:

Photo of a black cat sitting on the edge of a wooden table.

This is Ruby. She belongs to Sam. She is a total goofball.

Remember when I commissioned a painting of Quinn’s cat and the rest of the family erupted in jealousy? Well, now it was Sam’s turn to live on happy street.

Photo of Sam looking at something in a frame. He is grinning. You only see the back of the frame.

This is him holding his portrait of Ruby that he has just unwrapped.

You want to see the portrait, don’t you? I know you do. Well, that is perfect, because I really want to show you.

Photo of a painting of the cat from the first picture in the post.

OH MY GOD I LOVE IT SO MUCH I ALMOST CAN’T BREATHE WHEN I LOOK AT IT.

The artist totally captured the goofballiness, didn’t she? Also, I should mention that you can find said artist on Etsy and I highly recommend that you do, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t make her so very busy that she can’t paint a picture of Starfire for Jack for Christmas.

Photo of hands trying to force a the cat from the painting to look at the painting. She will not.

There was only one harsh critic of the paining and that was Ruby. She did NOT want to be photographed next to it. (Did I mention that in addition to being a goofball, she is also a grumpball?)

Happy birthday, Sam! Happy portrait day, Ruby!

Treehouse Master

I don’t know if it was four years ago or five that Jack first started asking for a treehouse in the backyard. To my surprise, Alex was all, “Sure, Jack! I can build one for you!” He also said a lot of things about getting it done in a weekend, but the fact that he agreed to make one at all was the truly astonishing thing.

Then we waited and waited and waited and Jack kept asking and Alex kept insisting that he was going to build one and then we moved and we were glad that we didn’t build one at the old house and then every time we drove past a treehouse, Jack would say, “Why do they get a treehouse and we don’t?” and then we waited a little more.

Finally, late this past summer, Alex announced that it was finally time. He made a shopping list, stuffed us all into our van, and dragged us out to the first of many trips to Home Depot to buy lumber.

Photo of Alex and Sam putting a long 4x4 piece of wood on a cart.

We had a very strict Home Depot separation of labor: Alex and Sam did most of the heavy lifting, Jack sat on the cart, Quinn laid on the floor, and I took photos. That’s me, always sacrificing for the greater good.

It was fun to get started buying our supplies as a family. There was a wrinkle though.

Guess how many people can fit in a Chrysler Town & Country filled with a bunch of six- to 12-foot pieces of lumber?

Answer: two.

Guess how many people are in my family?

Answer: three more than two.

Guess which of us had to sit in the nearby Five Guys and grumble at each other while the other two took the lumber home?

Answer: Those of us not involved in most of the heavy lifting.

Alex had a plan to build the treehouse and fasten it to the tree. He started by attaching a brace to the tree and constructing a base. I helped nail the base together. Then Alex took out my crooked nails and re-hammered them in correctly.

Photo of Alex standing next to a tree. There is a triangle of wood attached to the tree and the frame of a base on the ground next to him. He looks vaguely annoyed.

See that vaguely annoyed look on his face? He wore that for the next week, especially when I said things like, “Are you sure this is how we’re supposed to do it?” and “Maybe we should have used a different screw,” and “Are treehouses supposed to be that wobbly?”

Even though Alex had the worst, fair-weather assistants in me and the munchkins, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.

Alex standing at the tree, using a measuring tape to measure from the ground to the top of the brace on the tree.

Alex, measuring what needs to be a pretty precise measurement: “This is a cubit.” Not everyone can build a treehouse using cubits and smidgens.

Building the base was all well and good, except you have to build it on the ground, then position it in its spot in the tree to figure out where to dig your post holes. That means you have to figure out a way to hold the base in the tree without posts while you’re figuring out where those posts go. And that base is heeeeaaaavy.

Our treehouse plans suggested you have three people hold up the base while another person figures out where the posts go. Looking at our little family, we just couldn’t make that math work. So Alex and I recruited a slightly too short ladder to act as one of our people, forced Sam to help, and tried to move as fast as possible.

Once we figured out where we wanted the post holes, we rested the base on the ladder as we used every tool we could find to dig in the hard, hard ground.

Photo of treehouse base propped in a tree by resting on a ladder. Alex is digging a post hole. Sam is walking underneath in a cringing fashion.

There was a lot of screeching of “DO NOT WALK UNDER THE TREEHOUSE!!!!!!!”

Once the base was attached to the posts, things got easier. I mean, not in terms of our marriage suffering from me insisting that the structure was too wobbly and him insisting that I just shut the fuck up already. (He turned out to be right. Go figure.)

The whole family helped build the treehouse. Some helped more than others.

Photo of Jack digging with a shovel and Quinn chipping at a rock with a pickaxe.

Good job digging random holes in the yard, Jack and Quinn.

Actually, Jack was really into the whole thing and helped quite a bit. Quinn, less so. He really enjoyed that pickax though.

I won’t bore you with all the details of our exact process and our million trips to Home Depot and all of the curse words we used, but suffice it to say, we eventually ended up with a house-shaped structure attached to a tree.

Alex standing in front of the frame of a treehouse in the tree.

It is just a skeleton, but it is a treehouse skeleton.

Not everyone in the house understood why we were doing what we were doing.

Photo from outside the house of two kittens inside a sliding glass door looking outside at the saws and wood on the back porch.

Kittens: “We have a perfectly cromulent house already standing. Why are you doing all this work to build that tiny house in a tree?”

It got a little sketchy when Alex had to climb to the very top of a tall ladder to hammer in some of the siding and to put the shingles on the roof.

Photo of Alex on a ladder using a hammer. He looks worried.

I took this photo from my safe vantage point in the treehouse. He was in a much sketchier position on a ladder fifteen feet in the air. That’s his “I don’t want to die” face.

Photo of Alex at the bottom of a tall ladder. He is making a grouchy face at me.

This is Alex’s “stop making jokes about my imminent death” face.

I gotta tell you, building a treehouse is a tremendous amount of work. And it turns out that all the lumber is super pricey. AND you might end up near divorce if you try to build one. But you just might make your inspiration for building the damn thing super happy.

Photo of Jack giving a thumbs up while standing inside the treehouse.

That thumbs up was five years in the making.

It turns out that even though I took seventeen million photos of the building of the treehouse, I neglected to take one from the outside once it was done and it’s dark right now and I don’t want to go outside to take one, so I have to use this one that my mom took as we were finishing up the roof.

Photo of the treehouse with railings and stairs. Alex is on the balcony on a ladder nailing shingles to the roof. I am sitting on the stairs looking at my phone.

And, yes, I do mean WE. Sure, Alex is doing the heavy lifting here, but I was making sure everyone on Facebook knew of our progress, which was almost as important.

We’re Team Stimey, so we had to christen the thing with doughnut breakfast.

Three photos of us in the treehouse eating doughnuts. One is of Sam in the doorway, one is a selfie of me and Jack, and one is a photo of Quinn.

Not only is the treehouse stable, but it can fit a surprising number of people.

Sadly, we had said christening while Alex was at work. Being the dad can be a thankless job. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank him.

Photo taken from the treehouse platform of Alex on the ground. He is waving. He looks adorable.

Thank you, Alex. You did SO much work. The treehouse is amazing. Our kids are so lucky. I hope they truly understand that. Excellent job, sir. Thank you.