Running Strong

Now that things have settled down a little bit for me, I have been doing a lot of running. My team relay race is coming up in mid-October and I was also dumb enough to sign up for my first half marathon in mid-September, so there is definitely a reason why all the running is necessary—I mean, beyond the obvious mental and physical health reasons.

I’m happy to report that even though I did very little running in May and June, things are going really well for me and my feet. I mean, I do have semi-debilitating pain in a hip, a knee, and a peroneal tendon of the ankle. However, I’m kind of choosing to ignore much of that in a partly educated guess that it’ll all work out fine.

Because that’s what happens, right? Things work out fine.

Some running news from my life:

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I ordered a running visor online a few weeks ago, because I was way too lazy to track one down at a store. This probably bodes poorly for my ability to actually, you know, run, but let’s not look at that too closely.

Anywho, I got the shipping confirmation and it was all, “Please be aware that if it rains, your shipment may be delayed,” which made me wonder, how is this visor being shipped—by Pony Express?

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My new house resides at the veeeeery top of a hill. Like in all directions. It is literally at the highest point in all directions. I’m pretty excited about this in terms of floods, but less excited in terms of running. I mean, it’s great when I’m leaving the house, but every single run ends with a half- to one-mile run up a fairly steep hill.

Sure, it’s probably good for me in terms of hill training and all, but it is terribly irksome when I am tired.

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As I mentioned up there at the top of this post, I signed up for my first half marathon.

I am scared to fucking death.

I visited the registration page probably 8 or 9 times before I actually registered. Thirteen miles seems like a lot of miles. Plus, there is a time limit on this half marathon, which is extremely close to my running pace. They asked for my expected finish time down to the second, so I put 2 hours, 40 minutes, and 32 seconds, just to be a jerk.

Of course, that estimate is absurd. I plan to finish in 2 hours, 40 minutes, and 18 seconds.

Yes, I am aware that this time estimate is FOREVER in terms of a half marathon. I don’t care. I plan to be very proud of me when I finish.

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I have been aware for a while now that if you want to run longer distances, mid-run fueling is important. I have also been aware that I could never consume anything that has a name pronounced “goo.”

I have a friend who suggested sport jelly beans. Nope, I couldn’t handle their taste and texture. I came up with the idea that I could eat Snickers bites on the run. Nope, I ate them all before I went running. For my ten-miler, I took Jolly Ranchers with me for at least a sugar boost. I’m not sure they helped, plus I think they were probably a choking hazard.

Happily, I have discovered Clif Shot Bloks, which are not terrible. Plus, you can get a flavor that comes with caffeine! I couldn’t be happier.

*******

I did a ten and a half mile run today, which was awesome. My feet and legs hurt at the end, but I could have kept running, so I feel good about that. I could not, however, have kept running up the hill leading to my house. I walked that motherfucker with a stop midway to stretch.

I tell you about this run not only to be all, “I did a ten and half mile run today,” but also because it started out really hard. I was scheduled for said ten-miler today, but was only three and a half in when my ankle started to hurt and I was tired and I almost stopped and turned around.

In fact, I did stop. Twice. I thought, “Today might not be the day.” But I’m reading a book by an ultramarathoner and I was all, I bet he never stops a run at mile 3.5. So I kept moving. I stopped my Garmin and I walked for about a quarter of a mile and then I started to run again.

So I restarted my Garmin and ran seven more miles. I didn’t even walk the uphills. (Until the end, naturally.) In fact, my originally planned route turned out to be not quite long enough for my planned ten, so I added a whole long section to extend the run.

Yay, me. I rock. I spent a couple of hours in pretty extreme pain after I returned home, but eventually much of the soreness dissipated and now I can totally stand up without crying.

******

I ran my last longer-than-10k race (a 10-miler) in March. I have been worried that because I didn’t run for a couple of months that I have lost too much fitness and that a half marathon would be too much for me. But based on my recent runs, I can tell how much stronger I am now than I was then.

That feels great. Like really, really great.

I have a healthy layer of chub on my body, but you know what is under that soft, bouncy surface? Rockin’ muscles.

Sure, I’d rather those muscles were on the outside. I’m still not happy with my body shape. That said, I am very happy with my body. It is pretty awesome and can do a lot.

Hells yeah. Bring on 13 miles.

The Ugly Emotional Arc of New Car Buying

Prelude:

First, you take your old car to the mechanic.

Cartoon drawing of me standing in a mechanic shop. The mechanic says, "I will fix your car for you so you don't die in a fiery crash." I am saying, "Yay!"

Emotion: Happy and looking forward to a nicely running car.

Four days later, you go pick your car up from the mechanic.

Same cartoon. Mechanic says, "I fixed your transmission then found and unfixable engine problem. Here is your broken car back." Me: "Yay?"

Emotion: Confused and bummed.

Me: "Will this engine problem kill me in the next week?" Mechanic: "Maybe."

Emotion: Concerned. Extremely concerned.
This drawing is an exact representation of our conversation, by the way.

In the cartoon, I am holding a wad of cash and have a sad look on my face. The mechanic says, "That will be $700, please."

Emotion: Sad. Also poor.

Chapter One:

Because your car is not just a death trap, but also ten years old, you decide to buy a new car. Daredevils both, you and your husband jump in your rattlemobile and drive to the dealership that is the farthest away from you in the world because they have the car you want in the color you want.

Cartoon of me and Alex in a gold car.

Emotion: Imminently even poorer, but excited.

Chapter Two:

You sit for your first extended wait of the afternoon as someone brings your new car from The Other Lot.

Cartoon drawing of Alex and I sitting behind a table at a car dealership.

Emotion: Patient.

Chapter Three:

You will test drive a new car, which will be better than your ten-year old car in every single way it is possible to be a better car and even a couple where it is not.

Cartoon of me and Alex in a red car with huge grins on our faces.

Emotion: Pure joy. The last joy you will feel for THE NEXT FOUR HOURS.

Chapter Four:

Now is the time in the car buying process when the dealership will take your death trap trade-in to see how much it is worth. I suggest that you take this time to place bets on what offer they will come back with.

We're sitting at the table in the dealership again. Alex says, "I think they will offer us twelve dollars." I say, "I think they're going to make US pay THEM."

Emotion: Unease.

Chapter Five:

Now they will tell you how much they have decided to pay you to take your car off of your hands. You will be momentarily excited that you won your bet, but then the reality of how little money they are paying you for the second most valuable thing you own after your house will hit you and your emotions will change.

A man has joined us at the table. He says, "We will pay you a pittance." Alex says, "How about a pittance plus $500?" I say "Please?" The man says, "No."

Emotion: Resentment.

Chapter Six:

Now you haggle. You can avoid this most terrible of steps by paying full price (not recommended), using a pre-negotiated car-buying service (highly recommended), or faking your own death so your significant other can get a sympathy discount.

Drawing of black squiggles with stars, exclamation points, and various limbs sticking out, indicating a massive struggle.

Emotions: Hunger Games-esque

Chapter Seven:

Your car salesman will bring you a paper with all your charges and discounts listed on it. He will have intentionally left out at least two of your discounts in hopes that you won’t catch them.

Same cartoon of us at the desk. There is a paper with a dollar sign on the desk. Alex is saying, "It seems that you've, ahem, accidentally overcharged us by more than $1500." The salesman says, "Oopsie."

Emotion: Deep-seeded anger thinly veiled by fake conviviality.

Chapter Eight:

You will now be left alone again for a long period of time. Why is unclear. A price has been agreed upon. The car is there; you know because you were just in it. It can’t possibly take more than three or four seconds to print out a sales contract. Nonetheless, you will sit there unattended for what feels like hours.

We are sitting at the empty table. Alex has circles under his eyes. My head is down flat on the table.

Emotion: Boredom, the kind that comes after mind-numbing.

Chapter Nine:

You will turn down a service contract sixteen times in five minutes.

A salesman says, "This service contract is great because..." Me: "No." Salesman: "But this one will work because..." Alex and I: "NO!"

Emotion: Annoyance.

Chapter Ten:

They will send in a third person to try to sell you a service contract. And undercoating.

There is a woman saleslady at the table now. She says, "If there is *one* thing you need, it's..." Alex says, "I said no." I say, "God, please. Make it stop."

Emotion: Hopelessness. Utter and complete. They’re never going to let us leave, are they?

Chapter Eleven:

This same saleslady will then put sticky notes as bookmarks in your owner’s manual so you will be able to find such important information as how to set the clock. She does this by looking in the index. Because, you know, not many people know about the index.

The clock-setting lecture takes place three and a half hours into the process. It is ironic, what with the fact that TIME HAS LOST ALL MEANING.

We still sit at the table, looking even more downtrodden than before. The saleslady continues, "And if you look here on page 86 of the owner's manual, you will see how to preset a radio station. Of course, page 87 tells you about the clock. And I see in the index that..."

Emotion: Incredulity. Are most of the people who buy cars here illiterate, or do the salespeople just assume they are?

Chapter Twelve Through Eleventy Billion:

At this point you are so worn down that you would consider paying for the optional paint protection if it means they will just let you go home. You will eventually be moved to another room where you will sign anything they put in front of you just so you can leave. The business manager who is handing you these papers will uncover a $345 in-your-favor mistake the salesman made. When the salesman tells her to just waive the $345, you are so grateful, not because of the money you are saving but because you would not have been physically able to stand the extra four hours it would have taken to fix the mistake.

Image of the word "DESPAIR" in different fonts and at different angles.

No explanation necessary.

Yes, DESPAIR. In all caps. BECAUSE ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!

Chapter Eleventy Billion and One:

You are done. You have your owner’s manual. You have your keys. You are sitting in your new car. Your salesperson will still not let you go. Evidently, you have to connect the bluetooth so you can talk on the phone in the car.

Presumably to the salespeople who want nothing more in life than to chat with you.

Cartoon image of Alex and I in the car with a salesperson in the seat behind us. He is saying, "Now I'll call you so you can hear the car ring!"

Emotion: Murderous exasperation. It is so an emotion.

Chapter Eleventy Billion and Two:

You will drive home, all the excitement of buying a new car stripped out of you.

Drawing of me and Alex driving home in the car. My eyes are closed. He has circles under his.

Emotion: Tired. So very tired. Also, poor again.

But don’t worry. Tomorrow you will love your new car. And just like with a new baby, you will forget how painful the act of acquiring it was.

Photo of Alex and me in the new car. We are smiling.

Emotion: Happy. Bonus: No crumbs under the seats.

You may even remember how to smile again.

My New House, a.k.a. the Anti-Blogging Kingdom

It turns out that my new house doesn’t want me to blog.

Honestly, that’s the only reason I can come up with for why I’ve barely written a word this summer.

It turns out that having a separate office where my computer lives means that when I collapse in the family room in the evening, my laptop is in a whole other room aaaaaalllll the way across a hallway.

I’m really supposed to traverse that far? Come on, people.

I’m going to put some of the blame on the new sectional couch we got to put in our family room as well. After some back and forth and bargaining (and pleading and one or two threats) with Alex, I selected my spot in the middle of the “L.” Once I’m in it, it’s tough to climb out unless I’m really motivated. It’s a really deep couch.

I’m a hell of a lot more relaxed, but not very creative anymore.

I’m not ready to give up this creative outlet yet though, so I’m working on an elaborate pulley and conveyor belt system to serve as a laptop-to-couch delivery route. It’s still in the planning stages, but I imagine it will be ready for me to start writing again by next spring, 2016 at the very latest.

Mile Zero, Smile Eight Million

I’m determined to write a post about Alex and my trip to Key West (Mile 0 of US Highway 1, as every trinket for sale in the area points out), even as day after day passes and our vacation gets further away. We went there to celebrate our 15th anniversary, even though said anniversary was at the end of May, otherwise known as the Moving Freakout Era.

My mom came into town to watch our kids for us. I suggested that she take notes on how her week with the munchkins went so I could make it a post, but she didn’t do that so instead of a hilarious post about what it’s like to take care of Team Stimey Junior, this post about enjoying five days away from Team Stimey Junior will have to do.

If you are on Facebook and you are so inclined, you can see my annotated photo album of pictures from our trip on my Stimeyland page. Please don’t judge me if you see repeats of jokes from this post over there. I only have so much humor in me.

Alex and I flew into Ft. Lauderdale on a Monday morning. We had a long day driving south from there and all the way out to the keys, a drive made longer by a traffic jam caused by a car accident on literally the only road in or out of the area. We didn’t get to our hotel and settled in until nearly dinnertime, so we eagerly jumped in a hotel shuttle to the downtown area to find a restaurant.

Before dinner, however, there was something I had to do. I needed to try to fit in with all the other tourist ladies by immediately purchasing a large sun hat.

Photo of me wearing large sunglasses and a big green sunhat.

It seemed the thing to do.

I was pretty sure I was supposed to buy a hat, but I was worried that I would buy the wrong hat. I told Alex that I shouldn’t just buy the first hat I saw. But then I saw this hat and I like that color green and it cost a mere twelve dollars and I was all, “How can you go wrong with a twelve-dollar hat?”

It turns out that twelve-dollar hats will rapidly start to disintegrate and shed parts and you really can go wrong with a twelve-dollar hat, but it served its purpose in that it kept the sun off of my face and I was able to talk to Alex ad nauseum about my hat, so I guess in the final tally, I didn’t really go wrong.

Our trip rapidly turned into punctuating our long, leisurely meals with sightseeing and wandering up and down Duval Street. We set the tone with our first night dinner at nine one 5, a very delicious and fun restaurant that we sort of randomly picked. Alex ordered some sort of snapper dish and the waiter told him that the snappers were small that day, so he’d get two instead of just one. We, naturally, imagined two small fish on a plate.

Oh. Not so.

Photo of two giant fish on a plate along with Chester, my stuffed mouse.

Chester is there for scale.

The best thing though is that not only did I laugh uproariously when Alex’s giant dinner arrived, but an adjacent table of four men also laughed hysterically at Alex, causing Alex to protest that, “No! I swear! I didn’t order two giant fish! The waiter brought them! It wasn’t me!”

Maybe you had to be there, but when strangers join you in mercilessly mocking your husband, it totally makes your night. At least it made mine. It was great.

It was even better when Chester got drunk and wore one of the fishes as a hat.

Chester with one of the fish heads resting on top of his head.

Chester is so embarrassing.

We then boarded the shuttle back to the hotel just as the young people were arriving in town to party for the night. Alex and I both slept eleven hours that night. I don’t think that has happened for…ever.

Tuesday was our heavy sightseeing day. We started by going to the Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway lived in the 1930s. Obviously we went because Hemingway was an amazing writer and it was very cool to visit his home, learn about him, and see where he wrote his most famous books.

Two photos: one is me standing in front of a small building surrounded by people; the second is the interior of the building. A room with a table, chairs, and typewriter at the center. There is a taxidermied gazelle head mounted on the wall and various other decorations.

Here is me standing in front of Hemingway’s writing studio, followed by a photo of the studio itself. That must be why I haven’t written the great American novel yet—not enough dead animals on my walls.

Let’s be honest here though. The real reason we went to the Hemingway House is because of the cats. Evidently Hemingway was big into cats, specifically polydactyl (more toes than normal) cats. He kept a bunch of them in the ’30s and they still have a whole lot of them (48!) there now.

There were cats everywhere. There was a cat on Hemingway’s bed. There was a cat in Hemingway’s studio. There was even a cat hanging out in the ladies bathroom, which I presume was never Hemingway’s.

A brown, orange, and white cat sitting on a brick pathway surrounded by greenery.

Cats like this one. Hello, cat.

Fortunately, I do have a lot of cats, so maybe that great book is in me somewhere. We made a point of telling our tour guide that we used to have a polydactyl cat, as did every other person on the property who had ever owned, petted, or heard of a many-toed feline.

The tour guide was unimpressed with our cat story.

We wandered around some more and did more touristy things. We saw a lighthouse, so naturally we paid $10 each to climb to the top. Because why wouldn’t we pay good American money to climb 88 tiny, metal, spiral steps in billion-degree heat and humidity? At least the view was pretty.

We rewarded ourselves with more food, drinks, and Chester shenanigans.

Four photos: Chester sitting on a drink served in a pineapple, with paper umbreallas and chunks of pineapples sticking out of it; Chester sitting with a shrimp tail on each hand; Chester drinking a margarita out of a straw, Chester on his back near a margarita.

There is nothing more absurd than Chester on a bender.

We had such a lovely day. Probably every half hour or so, Alex or I would say, “Wow! We could never do this if our kids were here!” We missed the hell out of our munchkins, but seriously, we would have walked five feet in the heat and Quinn would have fallen to the ground in agony, Jack would have taken off after one of the wild chickens, and Sam would have tried to micromanage his brothers until a fist fight broke out in the streets.

We could have had a great trip with our kids, but, damn, it would have been different. We never get to just walk around and wander in and out of shops and attractions. We left the hotel that morning with no set plan. I cannot remember the last time we did that. It was so fun.

We ended our evening at a restaurant called Better Than Sex that only featured dessert, each dish served with a double entendre. It was hilarious and fun for us, especially when a mom, dad, and their two kids came in and read the menu. “Look, white and sticky,” the mom read off the drinks menu as the dad shot her a look. Alex and I ate our Jungle Fever and Cookie Nookie and giggled.

Alex and I had spent a lot of time on Tuesday debating whether we should go on a snorkeling boat trip. Our pros list included items such as, I bet it would be fun! and Fish are cool! and We might feel like bad tourists if we don’t at least touch the water! Our cons list mostly included one item: Goddamn, going snorkeling sure does seem like a lot of work.

It turns out that going snorkeling mostly involved putting on a swimsuit and paying $39 each to get a boat ticket, so that is what we did on Wednesday.

First though, we had to eat a lot of food, wander through a bunch of shops, and visit the Key West aquarium where I took this awesome photo.

Photo of Alex looking into an iguana enclosure with his hands hooked into the wires. There is an iguana to his left looking out of the enclosure with his feet hooked into the wire. Their poses mirror each other.

The greatest thing is that even though Alex is totally mirroring the iguana to his left, he didn’t even see that guy until I pointed him out.

We were going on an afternoon snorkel trip, so we headed out at about 3:30 on a boat headed to a reef.

Selfie of Alex and me. I'm wearing my hat.

Who is that rocking the awesome sun hat?

In case you haven’t figured this out about me yet, I like to take photos. So, after we had checked in for our boat ride, I took a special interest in the disposable waterproof cameras at the shop next door. The only problem was that they used, ugh, you know, actual film, which involves something like thirty steps to actually develop, look at, and share, leading me to believe that I would never actually successfully utilize those photos. Thinking this way led me to shift my gaze six inches to the left where the shop was selling $20 waterproof cases for iPhones.

What could be the harm in putting an extremely expensive piece of electronic equipment in an untested plastic bag and tossing it into the ocean?

No harm! I decided.

Happily, not only did the case work perfectly, but it helped me capture such important and flattering memories such as this one:

Selfie of Alex and I wearing our snorkel masks and breathing thingies. Alex's eyes are closed and my forehead is wrinkled and I look extremely concerned.

YOU try to take a selfie while floating in the ocean with a tube in your mouth and a sheet of plastic over your face, why don’t you?

Happily, my very first test shot captured something better. I don’t even think I was aiming the camera when I took this one.

Photo of the boat silhouetted against the sky. The sun is centered exactly behind the mast of the boat.

It almost looks intentionally framed.

We spent about 45 minutes in the water looking at fish and swimming around the reef. I saw some sort of ray (stingray? manta ray? bat ray? who knows?), which was very cool. Alex swallowed some seawater, making him barf a little, and then he got to watch all the little yellow fish who came swarming up to eat it.

What? We are Team Stimey. Do you think no one threw up on this trip?

Our boat ride back coincided with both the sunset and a storm rolling in. Even the boat crew was impressed by the sky.

Photo of the sunset behind boats floating on the water. The setting sun is at the left of the photo with a big cloud bank piling up on the right.

If I actually knew how to take sunset photos, this one would have been amazing.

On Thursday, we were driving north out of the keys so we could visit the Everglades on Friday before we got on our plane home, but before we drove off-island, we tooled around a part of Key West we hadn’t explored before, including the southernmost point on the continental United States.

Alex and I standing on opposite sides of a large marker declaring us at the southernmost point in the continental United States. The ocean is behind us. Cuba is 90 miles away.

We also went to the southernmost gift shop. Where I bought a toothpick holder.

We visited a wildlife refuge, waded in the water a little bit, walked through the Key West AIDS Memorial, and checked out a botanical garden housed in an old Civil War fort.

We found the wildlife refuge because I was attracted by a cluster of wild chickens in a parking lot. Did I mention the wild chickens? There are wild chickens walking all over Key West. It is charming as hell. I kind of wish there were chickens everywhere. Although the cluster of chickens in the wildlife refuge parking lot were actually gathered around the corpse of one of their own. That is, I suppose, the downside of wild chicken herds.

Also seen at the wildlife refuge:

A bird stands outside an open door. There is a chalkboard on the door  that says, "Please knock. If you need help call xxx-xxx-xxxx."

Seems like kind of a dick move to ask the bird to call for help when he doesn’t even have a dialing finger.

It rained on and off Thursday morning, which was good timing for us. Not only were we not doing anything that required clear skies, but the rain turned the ocean all kinds of amazing colors.

Photo of a palm tree in front of the ocean, striped with different colors of blues, browns, and greens.

We won’t discuss the smell of the ocean and sea grass and what not.

On our way out of the keys, we stopped at a state park to eat the Cuban sandwiches we’d bought for lunch. Because we were there, we decided to take a swim in water that turned out to be SO nice and SO warm that we never wanted to leave.

Another selfie of Alex and Jean, this time in the ocean.

This is a photo of happy.

Friday morning we were scheduled for a trip to the Everglades before heading back to Ft. Lauderdale to catch our flight home. I had been to the Everglades briefly in 1998 and had always wanted to go back. We took a fan boat tour, learned a little bit about alligators, and saw some local wildlife (turtles! fish! alligators! dragonflies!). I still want to go back and see some more.

Photo of the Everglades. There is water with the sky mirrored in it separated by grass and a hummock with trees on it.

If you wonder why I still want to go back, just look at this photo.

There is something about the Everglades that I just really think is super appealing. Also, I got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy, and that was pretty cool.

Me holding a small alligator in my hands.

I was expressly instructed not to kiss the alligator, which was fortunate, as once he was in my hands, all I wanted to do was kiss him and snuggle him.

In the van on the way to our tour, we saw an alligator in a canal by the side of the road. It was upside down and kind of puffy looking. “It’s sunning itself!” said our tour guide.

I don’t think it was sunning itself.

We had woken up at the ungodly hour of seven-something (Can you imagine? Before 8? Waking up with an alarm clock?) to go on our Everglades tour, so naturally we requested a late checkout and took a nap before we checked out of our hotel and went the airport.

We had such a wonderful time. I think my mom is lucky we came home at all. Although, frankly, we did miss our kids. Our trip was the perfect amount and type of time away.

When Alex had originally suggested this trip, I did what I always do when someone suggests I leave my house, be it for an evening out or an extended trip away from home and responsibility: I internally panicked and then started listing reasons why it would be impossible to make it happen.

I’m so glad that this time I listened to Alex and to other people who were encouraging about my going. When we originally made the plans, we weren’t planning on buying a house. When we got on the plane, we had moved and were mere days away from putting our old house on the market. If ever there were a vacation where my lists of reasons I couldn’t leave home were valid, it was this one.

But we went. And it was so necessary. Having five days with no responsibilities was exactly what both Alex and I needed after all the stress we’d endured for the prior two months. Thanks to my mom for watching my kids in such a spectacular fashion and thanks to Alex for forcing me out of my comfort zone into a wonderful week that was sorely needed.

I’m a lucky girl.

Photo of Alex and Jean on their snorkel boat in front of the sunset.

Happy 15th anniversary, Alex! I love you!

Coming Home and the Presentation of Souvenirs

It’s funny, because usually when I’m on vacation, I find time to post here. I think that’s because I am always back in a hotel room by 8:30 to put my kiddos to bed and then I have to sit in the dark with nothing but my computer to entertain me as they go to sleep. It turns out that if you go on vacation without your kids, you can do things like stay out until midnight and then go to bed as soon as you get back to the hotel.

In related news, did you know that there is still a midnight?

In more related news, yes, I am aware of how lame I am for being impressed that I was out and about with the living people after eleven in the pm.

Also related, Jesus Christ, I am so glad I don’t go to bars late at night. Just walking past them was enough for me.

Anywho, Alex and I have returned from our five-day trip to Key West. In case you want a reminder of exactly how pathetic we are, that was our first trip without our kids since before Sam was born. In other words, about 13 years.

Don’t worry though. Much as we may have considered it, we didn’t just abandon Team Stimey Junior to Minecraft and their own devices. My mother came into town to take care of them. She didn’t let on, but she was suitably apprehensive. After all, as an old friend of hers said, “DON’T YOU READ HER BLOG?!”

She shouldn’t have worried. They got along swimmingly.

Photo of my three kids sitting on the couch with my mom. Jack is slightly blurry. All are smiling and look very happy.

I’m not sure that Jack ever stops moving long enough to be completely not blurry.

Although let’s be honest. I think we all know that my kids didn’t sit around compliantly all week. My mom definitely worked hard.

A photo of my kids and mom in the same spot as before, but this time their limbs are thrown about and they are laughing and wild.

Yes. That looks right.

I can’t wait to tell you guys about our trip because it was awesome. We had so much fun. I took seven million great photos. We laughed and snorkeled and drank out of pineapples.

But tonight I am preparing to go back to work tomorrow and it is also Jack’s first day of camp and my mom left this afternoon, so I am going to hold off on telling you about all of that and instead, I will sit here by my cat and regale you with stories about our alcohol-fueled metal sculpture souvenir-buying extravaganza.

I think my mom was nervous when I called her to get her mailing address because it wasn’t in my phone and then texted her a photo of the souvenir I’d purchased for myself.

Photo of a metal, multi-colored rat. He is about a foot tall and oh so very garish.

I call him Hemingway. He is so fucking awesome. And, yes, I was also baffled that no one else had already bought him. Weirdly, the shopkeeper seemed thrilled to sell him, offering us a deep discount.

“Yours is more dignified,” I told my mom via text.

Also, it was a pelican.

Photo of a metal pelican standing on a metal post. He's probably three feet tall and a rusty bronze color.

I would name him Rusty, but who knows what my mom will call him.

I’m pretty sure she’s going to place him right inside her front door so it’s the first thing visitors to her home see. She used an appropriate amount of enthusiasm when I eventually showed her a photo, so I think she likes it.

In other news, I have a metal sculpture-buying tip for you: As you put more and more giant metal statuary on the shop counter, discounts will get increasingly larger and the salesperson’s face will get increasingly happier. You might then choose to buy one sculpture for each of your children instead of one for the three of them to share.

Whereas for my mom, we were looking for something a reasonable adult would put in a home, we had no such criterion for our children.

Photo of a round-bodied monster on tall, thin legs. Its predominant features are it's buggy eyes and giant teeth. He's also carrying a hockey stick.

That’s why we got this hockey-playing monster who tried to eat Chester for Jack.

Jack’s most excellent response upon seeing this guy was, “LOL. He’s like me.”

He then took him to his room to find a spot for him. Jack reported back that “he’s trying to eat my bedroom.”

Photo of the monster with several of Jack's toys in its mouth.

Jack. That kid totally gets Alex and me.

Sam got the cat version of my rat. Said cat is pretty hilarious.

Photo of a multi-colored metal cat.

Honestly, his was probably the most dignified non-pelican that we purchased.

You’ve probably already guessed that we got Quinn a cat as well, but you may not have guessed that we got him a Slinky Cat. He’s hilarious.

Photo of a metal cat. His body is a long metal spring.

Slinky Cat has the benefit of being poseable. He can sit or stand. (He chooses to stand.)

Clearly, Alex and I are pretty delighted with our souvenir purchases. Fortunately, our recipients seem to be equally enamored.

I hope you all enjoy them as well. Thank you for indulging me. You may now carry on with the non-metal sculpture related parts of your life.

This Is Likely to End With the Adoption of 800 New Stimey Cats

In the county in which my kids go to school, each child must perform 75 SSL (student service learning) hours before they graduate from high school. Students start earning their hours once they enter middle school, so Sam started this past year and Jack will begin this coming year.

Because of this, I am always looking for fun and approved volunteer jobs for my kiddos. Up until now, these jobs have been mostly one-shot events that I’ve run across. For example, Sam has helped with a school event or we picked up trash for a local organization. However, I’ve been looking for recurring jobs because that just seems easier than always keeping my eyes open for something my kiddos can help with.

Recently, we found a Saturday chess camp at which Sam can volunteer, which is great, but the real coup, the be-all-end-all of SSL volunteer opportunities came when a friend of ours recommended my family for a weekly job, starting this month.

The timing was terrible. We trained right during our move and our first week was this week, when my mom was in town and we had 7000 other things to do. It was one more thing that my family could barely handle, but we did it.

Do you wanna know why?

Do you wanna know what our four-hours-a-week-Wednesday-afternoon volunteer job is?

Here’s a hint:

Close up photo of a young black cat behind the bars of a cage.

It’s blurry because it was one of seven million photos that my kids took in rapid succession.

Yes. It is cat related.

Yes. It is a job that was practically tailor made for Team Stimey.

We are working for a local cat rescue organization that put cats up for adoption at a pet store. My kids are in heaven.

We clean the cages and keep everything in our little room all ship shape and…wait for it…we play with the cats. Sam and Jack get to earn their SSL hours by playing with cats. It’s the greatest gig ever. Especially considering that I help them clean the cages.

Photo of Sam snuggling with a very small, 9-week-old black and white kitten.

Can you tell how hard he’s working?

I actually think I got the rawest end of the deal. I’m hoping to take only two of my kids at a time, so as not to overwhelm the cats, so this week I just took Sam and Jack. One of them would help me clean a cage and the other would play with the cat who occupied that cage. Then they would trade for the next cage.

Sadly, I never got to rotate out to the cat-playing position to watch them clean a cage together.

Fortunately, after we cleaned the cages, I got to snuggle some cats too. But still. Kinda unfair, right? I’m hoping to train them well enough so that eventually I’ll just sit and pet cats as I watch my kids scrub litter boxes.

I figure we’ll get to that point in five, maybe six…years.

Still, even though I did a bunch of the work, both Sam and Jack did great. After about an hour, Jack asked for a break, so I let him play iPad for a while. He still earned his hours though because he was simultaneously working hard taking care of the cats.

Jack sitting in a folding chair, playing an iPad with one hand. The other hand is petting a cat who is sitting in the chair next to him.

Did I mention that this is the best gig ever?

The hazard to this job, however, is that my kids want to adopt every cat in the place. They filled up my phone with photos and videos of the cats that were there this week and I have already gotten my fair share of, “Please mom! I really want to adopt him!”

Team Stimey Junior doesn’t seem to understand, “But we have a really good cat ecosystem right now and we don’t want to upset the balance,” so I’ve had to resort to shouting, “No! NO! I said we’re not adopting any more cats! NOOOOOO!”

So far no one has cried. Not even me.

We all feel pretty happy about the whole deal. But, for the love of god, let’s stop throwing these perfect opportunities my way, okay? My calendar is filling up.

Let’s Talk About the Avalon Bay Portable Ice Maker (AB-ICE26)

Sharp left turn: Now it’s time for a product review! Fine print: I was given a free Avalon ice maker for review purposes. My thoughts here are my own.

The last time Alex and I lived without an ice maker built into our refrigerator, it almost ended in divorce, what with all the finger pointing and the blaming and the recriminations about who used all the ice and who left the ice cube tray empty and HOW DAMN HARD IS IT TO PUT WATER IN A SERIES OF LITTLE PLASTIC SQUARES ANYWAY?!

Because I’m still reliving the trauma of that situation, I was worried when I discovered that the house we were moving into had no ice maker in the fridge.

I know. The horror.

But then, out of nowhere, I got an email from the good people at Avalon Bay. They had a product called the Avalon Bay Portable Ice Maker (SKU=AB-ICE26) and they wanted to offer one to me for review. Weird, right? I mean, how did they know?

Photo of a red ice maker.

It comes in other colors, but I like the red.

Now, you don’t see me doing a lot of reviews around here because it’s not really my thing. But every once in a while, something comes along that I am really curious about and would like to try out. This was one of them. I signed right up and shortly thereafter, my brand new ice maker showed up at my door.

HOW IT WORKS:

You don’t need a water line connected to the ice maker. All you have to do is plug it in and fill it with a couple liters of clean water. The machine swings into action and produces ice cubes in less than 13 minutes. It continues to make and collect ice cubes in a little ice tray at the top of the machine until said ice tray is full. Because it isn’t refrigerated, the unused ice melts back into the water reservoir and is remade into new ice so there is always fresh ice in the ice tray.

THE GOOD:

It makes ice without my having to fill little plastic trays with water.

It’s fast. It really does make ice in just a matter of minutes. The ice cubes are hollow, which is how it gets made so fast. Also, I think there is some sort of magic going on down there in the machine. It doesn’t make a lot of ice, even when the ice tray is full, but it makes it fast enough that that doesn’t really matter. My family has been using it for three or more weeks now and we’ve never run out of ice.

You just saved so much space in your freezer! No more ice cube trays!

You can choose between two sizes of ice so if you want to fit the ice in a water bottle or something, it will fit.

Photo of two ice cubes in a hand. They are both hollow and sort of bullet shaped. One is larger than the other.

My family has mostly used the large cubes.

The ice is fun to eat because of its texture and hollowness. It’s good. And it crunches in a fun way.

THE BAD:

The ice maker is kinda pricey. It costs $149.95. If I’d had to pay for it, I would have had to think long and hard about it. That said, it’s cheaper than buying a fridge specifically because of its ice making abilities.

It’s also big. If your counter space is at a premium, it might be tough to find a place for the ice maker. I have it tucked into a corner in my kitchen and it doesn’t feel obtrusive, but it could be.

Photo of the ice maker next to a pineapple.

Pineapple for scale.

It is loud. I would say this is the ice maker’s biggest drawback. Because the ice melts and reforms, it runs almost all the time. It doesn’t run when the ice tray is full, but it runs a lot. I’m not sure what to compare it to, but I would say that maybe it sounds like a coffee maker that is running most of the time. It’s white noise, but if running appliances bother you, this one might.

FINAL OPINION:

We complain about how loud it is, but we use the thing all the time. I like not having to worry about refilling ice trays. I don’t even have to fill the water reservoir very often. It had never even occurred to me to get a portable ice maker, but I am very happy that I have one now.

Also, still no ice tray-related divorce.