Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there!

My family sitting on the curb at a parade.

Gosh, you guys, it’s been a while. I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now and I keep getting hung up on trying to recap stuff I haven’t told you. So how about I don’t do that and just plow on ahead?

Now that my kids are back in school and I don’t have to deal with (as much) working mom guilt and marathon-training mom guilt, I’m hoping to have time to write a little more. (Ha! You’ve heard that before, haven’t you?)

Anywho, things are going well. Alex and the munchkins are good, we went to see the total eclipse, we destroyed the lives of another group of ants in an ant farm, and I’ve been enjoying the golden age of television. Maybe I’ll write about some of that soon. Hopefully not the television part.

Mostly it feels like I’ve been running all the time. I only have about a month until my marathon and then I might take up another sport. Like competitive potato chip eating. If I suggest that I run another marathon in the near future, you have my full permission to hold some type of intervention. This intervention would probably have to include Alex, who is tired of coming to pick me up after I run 15 miles in one direction and then call him for help because I’m too sweaty to get into an Uber.

That said, Alex has been kind of killing it in terms of his own running goals. I had a 20-mile race that I wanted to run last weekend and they have a 10-mile one at the same time, so I talked him into doing the ten-miler. He did a great job training for it, although when I reminded him the night before the race that in 12 hours we’d be setting off from the start line, he gave me the angriest look I’d ever seen him give me. It looked like he wanted to punch me. You know how Past Jean always screws Present Jean? Well this time she also screwed Present Alex.

Although she was also the impetus for Alex’s triumphant finish of a ten-mile race as well. So, kudos, Past Jean. Also, kudos to Rock Star Alex. He really did an amazing job. I’m super proud of him.

Alex and I pre-race. We're both wearing black.

This was pre-race. It amused us that we both looked as if we’d dressed for a running funeral. We considered going up to the other runners dressed in all black and asking them if they were there for the funeral too, but we didn’t want people to think we were weird or something.

I also triumphantly finished my 20-miler by running my last mile faster than any of the prior six or so because I so desperately wanted to get to the finish line and sit down. I accomplished my goal though, which was to run the whole thing (except for water stops, which I always walk through), so I feel good about that. This course gave me a good idea of what to expect out of myself under race conditions. For example, I learned that for my marathon, I am not setting any time goals other than to go faster than the race cutoff. My sole goal is to grind through 26.2 miles without walk breaks. (I’m not against walk breaks, but I want to prove to myself that I can run the whole thing.)

I did take one, brief unscheduled break during my run to witness the brutality of nature. I almost never stop to take photos during races, but this one demanded it. Squeamish people who love deer, look away.

Photo of a dead, partially flayed deer by the side of a canal. There are two vultures sitting on him.

These vultures were, like, lifting flaps of hide offa this guy. It was a trip.

I also ran a half marathon the week prior to the 20-miler. I signed my entire family up to volunteer at the 9-mile water stop, so they were forced to be there to encourage me. I liked that. I should sign them up to volunteer at all my races. Perhaps their radiant love gave me a speed boost because I beat my best half marathon time by 21 seconds. That’s right—twenty. one. (<— I’m mocking myself here, but I’m still putting a little star by my results in my races list.)

Photo of me nearing the finish line of my half marathon.

Of course, my PR is many runners’ worst case scenario, but I race against me, not them, so it’s okay.

Alrighty, then. Here’s hoping I’ll be back before too much time elapses. I hope you all are doing well.

Welcome to My New Effort to Write More Often

First I’ll tell you a story.

Monday I was wearing socks in my house, which I guess I shouldn’t do, because I have wood stairs and I slipped and fell down.

It was a catastrophic fall.

I just slipped down two stairs, but somehow at the end of it, I’d snapped a railing spindle, hit my back and arm hard, and clonked my head on two different stairs as I went down. I do feel a little bit like I’ve been beaten on with a baseball bat, but don’t worry too much about my back and arm because my skull took the brunt of it.

Also, I was holding a glass bowl of water when I fell because of course I was.

I pretty much still have a headache, but I seem to be mostly okay. In fact, I don’t even have a single visible bruise, which is a bit of a bummer because I can’t get adequate sympathy.

But enough about me being clumsy. Let’s talk about me being lazy.

Lately, instead of being a fully functioning member of Writersville, I sit on my couch and watch TV every night like the loafer I am. I would really like to write more often. I contemplated forcing myself to write every day for a month to get me back in the habit, but that seemed like setting myself up for failure and setting you up for any number of hideously boring posts about what I am watching on TV right now.

Instead I’ve decided to try to write at least a couple of times a week, focusing even on things that happened a while ago as long as I want to remember them in this digital scrapbook of mine. Either that or I will entirely give up on writing altogether. It’s really like a 50-50 shot.

I have a whole list of topics that I plan to work my way down. Here’s hoping I’m back soon. If not, it’s been lovely knowing you all.

Stimey, Tech Genius, at Your Service

A couple of years ago, my mom and stepdad gave us a Samsung Chromebook because they had one and didn’t use it and because we will never turn down a free computer.

If you’re not familiar with the Chromebook, it is basically an all-online computer so it is handy for email and Google docs and stuff. It is also the type of computer that my school district uses for everything in school. Because of this, I plugged in the charger next to the table where we do homework and fire it up to check assignments, work on projects, and check school email. It is super handy.

Or it was super handy until I opened it up one day to find this:

Photo of a broken computer screen.

That’s not…right.

I immediately closed it and put it back where I’d found it because if I know anything about fixing electronics, it’s that turning them off and ignoring them for a few days will almost always solve the problem.

Frankly, if you avoid pretty much any problem for long enough, eventually it will go away.

It turns out that Chromebooks aren’t one of those problems.

When I opened it back up a week or so later, the screen was still broken. Curses. How could that be? I let it sit for multiple days. Multiple.

Step two of the Stimey plan for fixing electronics is to burst into tears and hurl said electronic into the trash. I made a quick decision this time to take positive action instead.

It was a pretty radical approach.

It turns out that if you invest, say, four or five seconds Googling a problem, you just might find the answer. I found a link to a video of a guy replacing a Chromebook screen and then discovered that you can buy a replacement screen for, like, 30 bucks on Amazon.

Soon the screen showed up in the mail and I let it sit for several days because, well, it is an electronic item and I thought it would be a good idea to let it stagnate for a while—like a fine wine or a Chromebook screen you want to magically start working again.

When I finally got my nerve up to sit down and start ripping the Chromebook apart (seriously—ripping; there aren’t even any screws holding the screen casing together), I took a lot of photos because I thought it would turn into a funny post about how I destroyed a computer and electrocuted myself at the same time, but it turns out that replacing a Chromebook screen is really easy.

I pried the casing off, unscrewed the six screws holding the screen into the Chromebook, screwed back in the two screws that were actually holding something else into the Chromebook and were unrelated to the screen, and set about to unhook the cable that attaches the Chromebook to the screen.

This is where I ran into my only trouble. There is a tiny little handle that you’re supposed to yank on to separate the cable from the screen, but that handle is practically invisible so I yanked on the wrong thing and exposed some wires that were heretofore covered before I found the tiny handle, but it didn’t seem to damage anything and I found the handle prior to actually yanking the wires out of the connector, so it’s all good.

Photo of the connector cable. There is a little wire handle about an inch long with a yellow flag on top that I'm holding.

So, yeah, it doesn’t look so tiny here, but that little yellow flap was, like, tucked under something else. Also, is anyone else super distracted by the fact that there are crumbs on the keyboard? Why must everything always be dirty?

I attached the new screen, screwed it into the computer, and spent about 30 seconds re-shoving the casing over the screen where it clicked happily into place. I held my breath and pushed the power button.

Photo of my fixed screen.

Hold on a second while I finishing filling out my job application for the Geek Squad.

Dude, you guys, I FIXED A COMPUTER.

Naturally, then I had to pry apart the old screen to find out what exactly a computer screen is made of. It turns out it consists of four different kinds of stiff plasticky film and a screen of indeterminate material. There is also a little circuit board that you can pry off and give to your kid.

Quinn holding a green strip of circuit board.

This now lives in his room.

Quinn wanted to keep all of the pieces of the broken screen, but that seemed like starting down a slippery slope that would end with boxes of broken parts strewn about our house.

Frankly, we don’t have any boxes to spare for that because all our boxes have been confiscated by our cats.

Starfire the cat sitting in the shallow box the screen came in on top of some bubble wrap.

Ooooh! Bubble Wrap! Extra cushy.

Jack took the bubble wrap from the box the screen came in, which also seems like starting down a slippery slope, this one ending with trash littered around our house, but it seems hard to fight that result.

I still haven’t figured out who broke the Chromebook in the first place, which really seems like a waste of my yelling abilities, but I guess the satisfaction of having done something new will have to be my only reward.

Stimey’s 2017 Race Calendar

Photo of me running next to words that say, "Stimey's 2017 Race Calendar"

January 15: Houston Marathon
Houston, TX
26.2 miles
Official time: 5:56:08 (PR)

February 19: Sykesville Shiver Shuffle
Sykesville, MD
5K
Official time: 34:24

March 25: MCM 17.75K
Sykesville, MD
17.75K (11.03 miles)
Official time: 2:20:32 (PR)

April 1: Run to Remember
Columbia, MD
7K
Official time: 48:14 (PR)

April 23: George Washington Parkway Classic
Alexandria, VA
5K
Official time: 34:00

May 6: Nanty Narking Nearly 9K
Sandy Spring, MD
Unclear
Official time: 1:09:55 (trail PR)

May 20: Germantown 5 Miler
Germantown, MD
5 miles
Official time: 56:08

July 30: Riley’s Rumble Half Marathon
Boyds, MD
13.1 miles
Official time: 2:39:01

September 10: Parks Half Marathon
Rockville, MD
13.1 miles
Official time: 2:34:50 (PR)

September 17: Revenge of the Penguins
Carderock, MD
20 miles
Official time: 4:29:32 (PR)

September 24: Bachman Valley Half Marathon
Westminster, MD
13.1 miles
Official time: 2:43:32

October 22: Marine Corps Marathon
Washington, DC
26.2 miles
Official time: 6:14:53

November 5: Across the Bay 10K
Annapolis, MD
10K
Official time: 1:11:00

November 23: Turkey Chase
Bethesda, MD
10K
Official time:

November 25: Tom’s Reindeer Run
Laurel, MD
5K
Official time:

December 10: Jingle All The Way
Washington, DC
15K
Official time:

 

Beginning-o-Year Postaramalamadingdong

Alex says the fact that my last post here was on December 2 should, “weigh on you very fucking heavily.” And then he gave me a disapproving look.

Well, Mr. I Can’t Even Be Bothered to Put Emoticons, Signatures, and Explanatory Paragraphs in Emails, Much Less Write a Blog, we can’t have that, now can we?

First things first: Happy New Year. Let’s get this shitstorm known as 2017 started, shall we? Ugh.

Alex was in New York for concerts (obviously), so my kids and I celebrated New Year’s by watching TV, playing a vigorous game of indoor catch with foam dice, eating delicious snack foods, and doing things like putting scarfs on cats.

Photo of a cat wearing a scarf. Her ears are back and she looks vaguely horrified.

Starfire sez, “Halp.”

It was a good time. We were all in bed by 12:07.

Today is the day for resolutions. To that I say, “Let’s check out how last year’s resolutions went.”

Resolution #1 was to write more. Oy. NOT accomplished. (See above note about December 2.) I only wrote 46 posts in 2016, down from 51 in 2015. Let’s carry this one over to 2017. I resolve to write more in 2017. I got a new computer for Christmas and I’ve already put charging cords all over the house, so I can’t be all, “Well my computer is going to run out of power so I should probably just crush this candy instead.” Also, I’ve already transferred my book writing software (purchased in 2013 and clearly highly utilized <—sarcasm) to my new computer as well. Could this be the year for a book? Is it merely the year for the transfer of book writing software to a new computer? Only time will tell.

Resolution #2 was to turn my digital photos in photo books. I’m going to call this partly successful. I have up to 2010 done and hope to do 2016 this week. That just leaves me with five years of backlog and some of those years I don’t even know where the photos are so that should make them super easy. o_O

Resolution #3 was to significantly change my body shape and lose a noticeable amount of weight. I lost just over 28 pounds this year (45 total!), so I’ll call this a win. I’ve also changed sizes. My new jeans and work pants fit for about a month and now they’re baggy too, so yay, me, I guess. Although I don’t really like pants shopping, so now I’ll be baggy for the next year until I’m ready to go shopping again. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m getting there slow and steady, which is the way I want to do it. Therefore, I resolve to continue my weight loss and body change in 2017.

I have two more resolutions that are new this year. I am tempted to make the next one a resolution to run a marathon, but that seems like cheating because I am running a marathon on January 15 and if I don’t check this one off, I’ll be heartbroken and unmotivated to do anything else for the rest of the year, so let’s call that not a resolution but a foregone conclusion and make my running goal this: I resolve to work on running faster in 2017. (Faster for me is still pretty slow for the rest of you.) I plan on continuing to run long, but after January, my long run goal might be a 20-miler in September. Marathon training is hard, y’all. That said, I ran 1,044.4 miles in 2016. I’m not sure I can beat that in 2017.

My last resolution has to do with my kids. Parenting is easier now that they are older and do things on their own. That said, I’m starting to miss them. I feel like I can go whole weekends without spending quality time with them because they’re off doing their own things and I’m off doing errands (or running for hours; see “marathon training is hard”). So, I resolve to spend more time with my family doing things together in 2017. I realized that Sam is likely to leave home in just over three years and his brothers aren’t far behind him. I’m lucky that they still like to do things with Alex and I, so I’m going to take advantage of that and force them to do even more things with Alex and I until we are all so sick of each other that we’ll be happy to part ways when college time arrives.

I hope that if you are a resolution person that you have the best of luck with yours as well. From Team Stimey to Team You, Happy New Year!

Four photos, each one taken in front of a Christmas tree: 1. Quinn 2. Jack and his cat Starfire gazing at each other 3. Sam 4. Selfie of me and Alex

Team Stimey says happy 2017 and we hope it’s not as bad as we fear it could be.

Now We Are Gerbil Lovers in Name Only

In other news about how 2016 can #suckit, Stimeyland is now gerbilless.

I discovered my last gerbil—the very elderly statesman King—dead in his tank on Wednesday. He was one of the babies born more than three and a half years ago.

Honestly, the last year has been like a grim game of Gerbil Survivor where, instead of being voted off the island, you end up in a trash bag with assorted paper shavings. There has been a lot of gerbil death here in the recent past.

I’m not getting any new rodents for a while. But I will miss them. They’re fun to have around.

Photo of King the gerbil in life.

King, you will be missed.

Open House and My Love/Hate Relationship

My kids are funny at school. I know this because once a year our school district has an open house day where you can go sit in on your kids’ classes without looking helicopter-y and like THAT mom. Being THAT mom, I totally go to all my kids’ schools.

Monday of this week was this year’s open house. I learned a lot of things that day. Without further ado:

20 Things I Learned at This Year’s Open House:

1. It is extremely exhausting to visit all three of my special sugar-encrusted snowflakes in their natural habitats. I was at school as long as my kids were. Plus, I didn’t get to pee or eat during that time. Note: I like to both pee and eat more often than every six hours.

2. Before deciding on the order of attendance at each of my kids’ schools, I should have probably checked the hours of the open house. I lucked into choosing the right order, but it turns out that open house for one ended at noon and for another ended at 12:40. Thank goodness I had coincidentally made those stops one and two.

3. Jack is a participator. He raised his hand in both classes that I observed him in. Including math. Math! And he did it with no noticeable angst or blushing. I always thought that if my maternity were ever questioned it would be because of Quinn and his blond hair. Turns out it’s going to be because of Jack and his friendliness and class participation and deep thoughts about math.

4. It is entirely possible that Jack has been lying about not having English homework every night, because I heard in class about the English homework he had and he sure didn’t volunteer that information when he got home.

5. Quinn puts an overly dramatic, “BRO!” at the end of responses he gives to his (female) teacher after he gives an answer.

6. Quinn is extremely lucky that his teacher is cool.

7. Quinn is going to make a ceramic candle holder in art class.

8. Quinn plans to get rich by mass producing ceramic candle holders like the one he’s designing for art class. He also plans to force his friends to be his workforce.

9. It is extremely difficult to find a parking spot at Sam’s high school.

10. Few parents go to open house at Sam’s high school.

11. Even *I* was a little embarrassed to be going to open house at Sam’s high school.

12. It was totally worth it to go to open house at Sam’s high school, because Sam is cool and I really like the relationship that I am developing with teenager Sam.

13. Going to a high school during the school day was vaguely uncomfortable and made me feel bad for all the kids who have to deal with four years of high school. It gets better, kids!

14. Sam learned in biology that the stomach can comfortably hold 33 ounces. This made both of us wonder how he ate that 50-ounce steak when we were on vacation in Wisconsin. (Yes, he really did. You’ll hear about it if/when I am finally able to finish writing about summer vacation.)

Photo from behind of Sam sitting at a desk in biology class.

15. I will follow the rule of “no cell phones or photography during open house” until the end of the day when I’m tired and hungry and I think the teacher won’t catch me.

16. Stopping on the way home to buy food for you and your eating machine teenager will make you feel ever so much better.

17. I have three very amazing children who are so fantastically different and wonderful.

18. Even though part of me kinda hates open house day, part of me is so grateful for it.

19. Sorry, kiddos. I’m coming to open house day until the bitter end of Quinn’s senior year of high school.

20. I continue to be THAT mom.