Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy's Winds

The storms have been pretty OK here in Lynchburg--not that I expected the ocean to come pouring over the mountains or anything....  We live in the historic side of town, so sometimes we lose power when it is sunny and no sign of anything that would warrant flickering lights.  When a storm comes around (especially after last summer), I start to worry some.  However, we've stayed electric thus far!

We woke up to rain.  And then it became a drizzle.  It was colder and a little windy, but nothing too terrible.  We took Eliot outside to play some and enjoy running around since we knew it would grow worse.

Eliot took a good afternoon nap.  It was so good, in fact, that we had to wake him up in order to take him to see Brave at the dollar theater.  We took Chris's sister (Elizabeth) with us too.  This was Eliot's third movie.  He did such a great job--his best yet!  He was so excited to see the horse and kept yelling different animal names when they'd come up.  And he laughed so hard at the dogs at the appropriate times.  What can I say.  Eliot likes animals.  We did sit by ourselves in a corner, so I don't think we bothered anyone.  Plus, there was a little girl walking up and down the aisle with a big bag of popcorn throughout the movie.  I love it when other people's kids do non-conventional things; it makes me feel better about my son.  It's like a social contract:  your kid is doing something out of the social norm, so you're not bothered by my kid shouting occasionally, right?  It's a win-win.

The wind is really picking up tonight.  The other day, we did manage to get some nice fall photos before the storm rolled in to take all of the leaves away.  This one below is my favorite.  I love my son's ecstatic face, windy hair, and the autumn colors.  I gotta admit that I have been staring at this photo a lot lately.  Definitely one to be framed.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Finding Fall Before the Storm

I wrote this last night... 
With the storm coming in and promising for a cold collision (possibly without power), we have been trying to soak up the fall warmth.

Chris, Eliot, and I took a ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway this week.  Eliot fell asleep in the car, so he was screaming when we came upon the right overlook.

This is what they saw:

We also had fun running around Riverside Park.  I didn't realize how amazing the trees were going to be.  Otherwise, I would have put a not-pj shirt on Eliot to take some real photos!  Maybe we can tomorrow before the winds blow all the leaves off.

Last night, Eliot and I carved his first pumpkin.  At first, he was a little worried and confused, but he got comfortable and tried to help.

Eliot has been a little bit of a terror lately.  He has been constantly energetic and restless despite taking few naps and going on adventures to the park and playing out back.  He has been trying to go through everything I don't want him to (the closet, the media cabinet, the dining room buffet....) and ripping it all to shreds.  He dumps his buckets of cars, dinosaurs, and farm animals all at once, but doesn't play with them.  I had been putting on too much tv just to try to get him to calm down a little (and build up more energy, I'm sure).  I told Chris that I thought he was bored.  Most of his toys are from his first birthday and last Christmas.  While I tried to buy "older toys" too last year since his birthday and Christmas are within a few weeks, he needed more challenging toys.  We bought him a dinosaur puzzle and a wooden truck with tools and pieces that go in holes.  He loved them!  He spent hours putting the puzzle together, taking it apart, and putting it back together again.  His little brain keeps on growing.

I'm honestly kind of worried about the storm coming....  A tropical storm is sweeping in from the coast and a winter storm is coming in from the west.  Normally, I shrug off storms.  I'm a snow-doubter and I grew up fascinated by (not afraid of) hurricanes.  Heck, we got married in Tropical Storm Barry!  Ever since the darn summer storm (the derecho) that caused us to lose power for over a week, I am afraid of losing power for a long period of time for Eliot's sake.  It was 100 degrees out, Eliot was screaming, and we didn't know what to do.  So we left.  Now I worry about losing power for a long period of time in the cold.  However, we've prepared the best we can with our winter sleeping bags, water, milk in mini boxes (that doesn't need to be refrigerated until opened), snacks, camping lanterns, and our gas stove just needs matches.  After our grocery store trip along with everyone else in Lynchburg, we walked next door for Chris to get a cup of coffee.  While we waited, Eliot told us all kinds of interesting stories while looking so charming.

But, you know, the storms probably won't even come close to being as bad as I am worrying.  I hear the tropical storm is a category one and we're far from the coast.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Year of Quasi-Vegetarianism and Working Out

It has been a year since we began a new, real effort to eat better, eat less meat (only on special occasions), become more fit, and model a healthy lifestyle for our son.  I have mentioned throughout that I haven't really been trying to lose weight, but Chris has.  And he has done an amazing job!

When I first met Chris eight years ago, he was super skinny.  Like 120 pounds and 5'11" skinny.  He had always been a runner and then had mono, so he was quite light.  Then he wasn't running as much (you know, mono and all) and finally got his appetite back.  It was no longer painful to eat!  So he ate like he did in high school.  And started putting on some weight.  It was a good thing for a while, but then he gained more than he wanted to.

Ever since, we'd try to exercise together and diet, but he just didn't see the results he wanted.  He would lose weight, but then it would come back.  He developed problems with his shins, making it incredibly difficult to get his mileage up--he used to run cross country with almost a full-ride to a private college before he got mono.  For a while, we would run together, go to the gym, and try to eat well, but we just weren't getting anywhere.  And then we'd quit.

We started trying to eat better a year ago.  Then in December 2011, Chris decided to really give it his all as far as exercising goes.  His highest weight was 209.  Now his weight sits at 175.  That is more than a 30-pound loss.  His goal was 25 pounds, and I think the only reason that the number isn't lower is because he has gained a lot of muscle.

In addition to weight loss and eating well, Christopher hit another goal:  running a half marathon.  Not just any half marathon--the Rock'n'Roll Half at Virginia Beach when it is hot and horrible.  He ran 13.1 miles in two hours and nine minutes.  He placed 2,444 out of over 10,000 people.  For someone who struggled to maintain a running routine due to shin problems for years, that is great!  I was so proud of him.

Here is Chris in October 2011.

And before his race this September

I have always thought Chris was quite handsome, but he really is looking great!  Plus, little nagging health issues have been slowly alleviated.  For example, Chris used to get heartburn frequently; now he never does unless he has pepperonis. 

I'm no nutritionist, so this might not work for you, but here's how we did it.  When it comes to weight loss and getting in shape, it has to be a lifestyle change.  Chris runs every other day and goes to the gym on the days he doesn't run.  He lifts weights and does P90X.  He has a protein drink or green smoothie for breakfast.  For lunch, he was mostly eating Greek yogurt for a while.  For snacks, eat nuts and fruits or maybe pita chips and humus.  Cut out your calories in your drinks (for us, this meant no sodas).  Instead, Chris drinks water or unsweetened iced tea.  I don't drink anyway, but cut back on alcohol.  We don't eat a lot of meat, but focus on getting protein through beans--this isn't necessarily a weight-loss approach but instead for overall health.  For dinner, lower your carb in-take and focus more on vegetables and lean proteins.  If you must have dessert, maybe make a smoothie, have chocolate milk, or keep something small around but limit yourself, like one chocolate or one cookie.  There are all kinds of interesting substitutions you can make for "bad" foods, like Greek yogurt in place of sour cream (it tastes so close!).  More than anything, develop a plan, take one day at a time, and stick with it.  For us, we wanted to be more healthy for our son and that is what finally made the difference for us.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Weekend!

This week.  Man, just this week.  It's all I can say.  We've tried so hard to have fun amidst the end of Fall B (meaning that we had to grade a lot and submit final grades).  I think we succeeded and I also got a tonnnn of work done.  It can be exhausting, but so worth it.

Also in there, we have had showings for our house every other day (or even more frequently) since we dropped the price again about a week and a half ago.  In fact, we had one Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and one tomorrow.  That is a lot of traffic, I think, and a lot of clean up times.  The house is usually in good shape, but it is hard keeping all the toys picked up with a toddler.

But!  Chris's mom rode the train in on Friday night to spend some time with Elizabeth (I think she is at mid-term).  We picked her up late at night.  Eliot did not like the noise, but his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he saw his Mawmaw!

In between our house showings and grading, we had lunch with Chris's mom and sister.  Then they hung out at our house for a while.

Today, Mawmaw and Elizabeth took Eliot off for a long date.  They visited Chris's grandmother, had lunch at Panera (Eliot's favorite!), and played at the park.  Chris and I had about twooo hours to ourselves to grade and get ready for the house showing.

Eliot goes off with family members so happily.  I always worried about separation anxiety, especially since we both work from home, but he just says, "Bye-bye."  And that is it.  Either it is just his personality or maybe he feels so secure that he is fine being away from us.

Everything is quicker without a toddler pulling you away.  I missed him badly, even though we were working and it was a short period of time, but I think  maybe for our sanity, we should try to get some time alone more often.  Sometimes we need a chance to decompress and not hide our food (greedy baby).

After a few showings, we decided to try taking the baby gates down.  The house feels so much better without interrupted flow.  This worked OK for a while--until Eliot dumped a whole box of couscous on the ground.

Later, all five of us went to dinner at Harbor Inn.  I think we mostly go to see all the silly sharks and whales.  It had been a while since we took Eliot there; this time, he was much more aware and excited about the sharks.  However, the food is so fried that I think I can go a long time without eating there again.

So, that has been us the past few days.  Chris's mom has an early train back home tomorrow morning.  My grading is done.  My final grades are saved and I will submit them a little later when I have "fresh eyes" to go over all of the details.  It is always a relief to get that done.  And a new sub-term begins tomorrow.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Looking Back: Otter Creek in 2010 and 2012

Sometimes with photography, I feel like I have gotten a really good shot--I feel like I just nailed it.  Such was the case with this photograph from October 2010.  I was entering the third trimester with Eliot, so we figured a photo session would be a great way to celebrate.

Two years later, today, the fall foliage is around its peak.  We decided to take some pictures at the same spot.  However, the sun was setting, so shadows cast on our faces some.  And with the three of us, well, we just couldn't all fit on one stepping stone--we needed two!  It was hard to get a good shot of us sitting down.  The first photo is framed better--we fit and it makes sense.  In the second, there is too much space at the bottom and not enough at the top--and it'd be better if we weren't centered, but this was the only way to keep the tripod out of the water.  And we both need haircuts.

It is still a good shot of us, I think.  And I know I'll treasure it just as I love the one we took two years ago.  I just think the first one is a little better.  And of course I prefer Eliot on the outside world opposed to kicking my ribs constantly.  It is much more fun exploring with him and watching him admire his dada.

The leaves sure are beautiful this year.  I always forget how amazing they are.  They fall from the canopy of trees as we drive down the roads, which feels magical, but I know this time is short-lived.  Sigh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Re-visiting Longwood

Sometimes you just gotta get out of town.

Chris and I spent the summer on the road, so when fall rolled around, we were happy to just settle in some.  However, we still feel like we need to split town for even a day trip every couple of weeks or else we feel cooped up.  Maybe that is because Lynchburg is kind of small.

Not as small as Farmville, though!  That is where we went to college:  Longwood University.  It is just an hour away.  And we had really been looking forward to walking over the now-restored High Bridge, which dates back to the Civil War.

First, we had lunch at Macado's, a little sandwich place.  When we were in undergrad, we would go there and split a cup of soup--it felt so special to not be eating at the dining hall.  While we had lunch, we figured out that we could get Eliot to eat by giving him bite-sized pieces on toothpicks.  Ha.  Then we went to the bookstore to get a sweatshirt for Chris.  He never actually got one in undergrad because he wanted one with the Rotunda.

On to High Bridge!

Unfortunately, I was too short to see over the rails, but it was still really pretty.  On the walk, we talked about what we liked about college, what disappointed us, and what could have made our experience better.  There were more things I could have gotten involved in (like when I was invited to join Lamba Iota Tau--the literary honors society at the school), but I transferred in and finished up after two years, so I didn't learn about these things until it was too late.  Also, the school had so much more to offer shortly after we graduated, like a student center with a rock-climbing wall, a Barnes and Noble bookstore with a Starbucks (there was no Starbucks when we went there), and now they even have a Moe's.

However, we look back on our time in college fondly.  I loved Longwood.  It was kind of like one of the last small, public universities in Virginia with my graduating class being less than 1,000 people.  And it is super haunted (no joke), which, you know, adds character.  Chris and I enjoyed walking all around Farmville and exploring.  We got to attend poetry readings and plays.  The library was amazing--I would go and read for class while Chris worked at the circulation desk.  I learned a lot and it certainly impacted the person I grew into, even in just those two short years.  Our time at Longwood flew by.

I was sad that we didn't have enough time to walk around campus.  It is fun, though, visiting a place where you once lived--you can almost take part in those memories again, yet you know how the story ends, or at least the next few chapters.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dear Eliot: 21 Months

Dear Eliot,

I try to never take anything for granted.  I try to always be aware of my blessings and always be thankful.  Life is fleeting; if you don't make an effort to embrace the beauty around you, you'll miss it. I know I can't always be conscious of it all, but I try.  You make it easier with your bright, wide eyes always watching me.

We've been holding on to the last bits of summer.  Fall is settling in a little late, so we've had fun outside in the warm weather while the season tries to make up its mind.  On walks, you are excited to pave your own path.  You love climbing on rocks and running through tall grass--boy, you are begging for chiggers.

Here are the things you love (in this order): cats, cars, playing ball, dogs, racing, choo choos, bath time, berries, and chips.  Throw Momma and Dada in there somewhere.

Here are the things you hate:  chocolate, sticky hands, diaper rash, leaving a ball behind, and milk in a sippy cup.

You have always been a big fan of sports.  Lately, your dad has been trying to help you understand the differences between them.  You were calling most balls a foot ball, so your dad lined up your football, soccer ball, and basket ball.  He told you the different names of each ball twice.  Ever since, you have been able to bring us the correct ball when we ask for one.  You get it right every time!  I think that is pretty impressive.

It has been about three months since I tried to list all of your words.  Well, here is an attempt at listing all of the new words since the last list.  I did not include words that you mimic (you repeat almost everything back), only those words that you generally use the correct context for.

Animals:  hiss (horse), foo-foo (Mr. Rufus, our rabbit), bear, frof (frog), tootle (turtle), fish, owl, Boone (the pig next door, so all pigs are Boone to you). Objects:  boat, hat, food, fire, block, button, truck, shoes, cup, food, cheese (Cheerios), tea, juice, cracker, ode mill (oat meal), foot, feet, eye, nose, ear, teeth, butt ball or fffff-butt ball or footfall (foot ball), boon (moon), thane (plane), bubble. Directions:  out (usually outside), hello, hi, bye-bye, peese (please), go.  Sounds:  beep beep, tire screeching for car, boom boom boom (for dinosaurs walking), maaah for goat, moo for cow, baa for sheep, roar for dinosaurs, lions, tigers, and bears.  Other words:  cool, aight, hot, yum, ew, uh oh, ow, baby.

You are such a talkative little guy, especially in the car or when seeing a friend or family member that you haven't seen in a while.  You show people the things you love around the house, saying, "Choo choo.  Car.  Good dog.  Foo foo.  Car.  Ball.  Football."  You go on and on.  It's so sweet.

Everything out of place is "ew" to you.  Whether the dogs spill a little water from their bowl, a stick is found on the rug, or you get your hands slightly messy, you are ready to call out my house-keeping inadequacies by shouting, "Ewwwww!  Ew!  Ew!"  Hilarious.

We have had some fall weather around here, and we are getting excited for sweater weather.  Your dad has kept it interesting and has taken you to so many different sports games.  You seem to like them all, but get so excited when we drive on campus and you see the football stadium.  You yell, "Footfall!"

Food-wise, you're doing pretty OK.  I think your appetite is picking up since your canines broke through and are coming in.  You used to love rice, so I could work in a lot of veggies.  Now you are more of a pasta guy, so I mix in veggies that way.  Also, you love beans, which is another way to get nutrition in you.  Every morning, you still enjoy a smoothie of some kind with spinach (sometimes fruit, sometimes "green," sometimes protein).  You have grown to appreciate sweets, but absolutely no chocolate.  You think you like chocolate sometimes, but you ALWAYS spit it out.  Oreos?  Forget it.  Even a chocolate chip cookie?  Won't make it by you.  Boy, you and I are one and the same on this issue.  We have had a tough time this month with teething, though.  You have only had it this rough one time before when you were getting in your first set of molars.  Well, now here comes all four canines and some of your two-year molars at the same time.  You manage pretty good during the day, but they seem to bother you so much at night.
Sometimes you really surprise me how much you are paying attention.  There are times when I call your name over and over, but you don't always respond.  I start to worry, but then if I talk about something else (not even to you), you start repeating words I am saying.  So you are ignoring me.

You really seem to hone in on babies.  I'm not sure if you realize that you are one....  When you hear the baby crying next door, you ask, "Baby?"  On your box of wipes, there was a sticky label with a baby on it.  You tore it off and carried it around for a couple of days, saying, "Baby!"  At our weekly play group, you call all the little ones babies even though you aren't much older.  In fact, a few times you have pointed to my stomach and said, "baby," but this baby hotel is vacant as far as I know.  I really do wish you had a brother or sister to run around in the backyard with.  Maybe soon.

Eliot, you fill my heart up in everything you do.  I love how you get so excited to see the moon at night and call it a ball; then you correct yourself and say, "Booooon!"  I love how you stomp your feet and clap and laugh hysterically when you get a new car.  I love how I can get you to at least try to repeat everything I say, including telling your dad that his feet stink.  I love how you dance by throwing your fists into the air when a song comes on with a fast beat.  I love how after I change your diaper, you look at it and every time you say, "Ewwww!"  I love how you accept kisses from me, but push your dad away (it's probably the facial hair).  I constantly find little rocks in my diaper bag pockets--rocks that you put there.  I love those little reminders of you, even when I'm tripping over your toys in the dining room.  Those toys are there because my little boy left them there, and that is something to celebrate.  You are full of so much personality and keep my heart laughing and melting.  I'm so proud that you're my boy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pumpkin Patching

I'm thankful for pretty weather!  We didn't go to the pumpkin patch the day that I had planned to.  Or the day after.  Or the day after that.  Instead, we went today!  The weather was warm and happy.  I had hoped to get out there mid-morning so the sun wouldn't be too harsh for photos, but Eliot slept in until 9:30 am!  We took advantage of that instead and went to Morris Orchard right in that mid-day sun.  Can't win 'em all.

Eliot was much more into the idea of a pumpkin patch this year.  He ran around, tried to kick all of the pumpkins, and wanted to pick them (and rocks) up.  It was fun!

When we made it to the hay, he was excited, then nervous, then scared.  However, he and Chris had some fun on the one that looked like a bug.

Eliot's favorite part by far was meeting a beagle.  My parents adopted my grandma's beagle (even though my dad insists that it is temporary).  This beagle looks just like that dog, so maybe Eliot thought they were the same.

Here is Eliot last year.  Growing boy!

While we were out in the pumpkin patch, I received a text from our realtor that we had a showing--in two and a half hours.  Yikes!  We took our time, though, and headed home to clean.  Eliot needed a nap, but I wasn't sure we had time.  Elizabeth kindly watched Eliot while I tidied up.  I think it took about 45 minutes to get the whole house spotless?  I've gotten pretty good at these cleaning sprees.  In fact, we even left the house twenty minutes early.  Poor Eliot-babe fell asleep in the car long enough to make him refuse a "real" nap at home, yet it was too short of a nap to make him less crazy.  After an hour and a half of arguing, Eliot is now running around the backyard with Chris.  Phew.  It is hard arguing with a toddler like that; I needed a break.

I can't wait to carve our pumpkins in a week or so.  Eliot is sure to shout, "EW!" a lot.

Fall Recipes

Earlier in the week, the weather was beyond gloomy.  And cold.  We had to turn our heat on since it was 60 degrees downstairs.  I gave a little huff and dreaded the coming winter months.

When it is too cold and wet and nasty to entertain myself outside, I try to keep busy cooking.  I love finding new recipes or enjoying old ones.  So, here is our menu for this week (even though we're half-way through...).  Since we only eat meat at home on special occasions, it's all vegetarian (some vegan) and toddler-friendly.

Monday:  vegetarian chili
Tuesday:  red curry coconut lentil soup (vegan!)
Wednesday:  lentil and blackbean sloppy Joes (vegan!)
Thursday:  quorn "chicken" gureye with perogies and broccoli
Friday:  eggplant mini pizzas and spinach salad (could easily be vegan)
Saturday:  lentil tacos or maybe blackbean quesadillas
Sunday:  pumpkin curry soup (vegan!)

Recipes all come from my food blog.

I'm sure glad the sun came back.  I was about to lose it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend Visits

It has been a fun weekend with my parents in town!  They had not been to Lynchburg for a visit since February because something always came up to interrupt their plans since we all had a very rough summer.  To make up for it, we went to Chesapeake a lot to visit this summer; however, it is nice to get to host them some instead.

They came in late Friday night and we sat around talking until 11:00 pm.  Eliot had delayed his usual afternoon nap until 6:00 pm (?!), so he made it late into the night.  The next day, we had pizza for lunch and went for a walk at Blackwater Creek.  I always wanted to show them the train tunnel there.

If (or when) we move from Lynchburg, I'll definitely miss Blackwater Creek.  We love going for bike rides there.  There is so much to explore.

After our walk, Eliot zonked out for a two-hour nap.  He slept so long that I had to wake him up!  We sat around and relaxed some until it was time to get dinner together.  Chris picked up some ribs from the fancy local butcher shop (like from his birthday) since it was such a special occasion. 

They left this morning, which felt short, but that is the weekend, I suppose.  We'll be down in Chesapeake for Chris and Eliot to do a race at the beginning of November, so that will be a good visit.  Lynchburg is pretty and inexpensive.  It is a good place to live, but sometimes it is just really hard being away from everyone.  I hate only seeing family members every month and half or two.  We've made a big effort to drive to Chesapeake to visit a lot over the summer, and Chris's parents come in town to visit frequently since his sister and grandmother are also here, so we see them for short visits more often.

It has been a gloomy (and freezing) day, so we had fun dressing Eliot up for fall with a sweater and boots.  I need to dig up his hats too....  We might get to see Chris's parents tomorrow as they drop his sister off (they took her home to Woodbridge for her fall break).  Then I'm looking forward to some sunny yet chilly weather on Tuesday when we plan to pick out our pumpkins.