Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pontoon Fun

Last year I really enjoyed the pontoon my parents purchased.  My kids could take it or leave it though (mostly leave it) and since my kids and I are a package deal most hours of the day we didn't utilize the pontoon quite as much as I had hoped.

All that changed on Austin's birthday this year.  My parents bought a pull-behind thingy (that's the technical term) to use and we had our inaugural trip on Austin's birthday.  It's what he wanted to do (right after breakfast in bed, presents, etc).  I realize Austin's birthday was about 3 weeks ago, but summer and blogging just don't mix around here.

Austin and I got to take the first spin.  First, I had him jump in the lake with his life jacket.  He's never had a life jacket on in the water and I wanted him to know what to expect if he fell off the pull-behind.  It took me a bit of time to coax him (and, in turn, the girls) into the water, but eventually he jumped in.  And, fast forward, I'm pretty sure swimming in the lake was their favorite part of our 3 hours out there!

I can't explain this next picture.

I don't know why I'm making that face.  Pretending I was a monkey?  Also, my elbow look seriously out of place.  Almost broken.

Whatever the case, after that picture I stuck my feet in the water to liven up the ride a bit.  It worked.  I succeeded in thoroughly drenching both of us.  Next, any inhibitions  Austin had about falling into the lake were gone and I had to hold onto him while he tried to splash me.

I also got to ride with Ellie.

She looks like she maybe had one too many shots before we got in the tube.

And finally, Riley.  Anytime I asked Riley if she was having fun she would throw her hands into the air like she was riding a roller coaster and say "weeeeee!"

Since then my kids ask on a weekly basis if we can take the pontoon out for more rides.  For the last week or more, the pontoon has been inaccessible because of high water, and now a dead battery.

But, at least the kids have changed to more "take it" than leave it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011

First of all, Rob and I think "Dash" is not a very representative term for this race.  This race was 3 miles, not 50 yards, and if possible, felt all uphill.

I'll back up.  Back in January I signed Rob and I up for the Warrior Dash taking place in July at Afton Alps.  It is a 5k run through mud and obstacles.  All I knew of it was what I saw on their website.  It sounded fun and out of the ordinary.  Three miles didn't seem too bad and I've always like obstacle courses so I was looking forward to it.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I haven't run 3+ miles since April because I've been getting terrible shin splints everytime I try.  But I figure it won't be a big deal because every 1/3 of a mile or so I will have a "break" to do an obstacle course.  So, at 9:30am we arrive at Afton Alps and get ready for our wave of the race to start.

So naive.

At 10:30 our race starts and we've run no further than 200 yards when we turn a corner and are faced with a giant hill.  We are at Afton Alps after all.  We probably ran halfway up the hill before we figured out that we could probably hike up the hill faster than we could run up the hill.  By the time we got to the top (or what I thought was the top) I was seriously questioning the "fun" in this.  Turns out it wasn't the top and being that the race took place on a ski hill, it felt like 1/4 of a mile took place on flat ground, the rest of the time we were either running uphill or downhill...equally challenging for me in their own ways.

Anyway, so we ran through a "typhoon" which was snow making machines blasting water at us, then a junkyard of cars and tires.  I don't remember the exact order of the obstacles, but there was also 5 ft walls, followed by low barbed over/under type of obstacle.  I was happy for long legs on this one.  There was a long black tent no taller than 2 ft.  It was incredibly steamy crawling through that...and at one point the guy next to me spit and it landed on me.  Gross.  Except, it was Rob so I guess it could have been worse.

We climbed across a horizontal cargo net, a vertical cargo net, and a tall wooden wall with a rope.  We ran through mud that threatened to suck off my shoe with every step, and then across some plank boards (that were super slippery since our shoes were caked in mud), and the best obstacle was going down a big water slide of sorts.  After that, it was jumping over two firepits and finally jumping into a giant mud puddle and crawling under barbed wire. 

Here's some random people going over the fire and into the mud pit:

Perhaps this thought makes me less of a "Warrior", but I could have done without the mud puddle.  It kind of seemed like an unneccesary obstacle at the end.  I was feeling plenty dirty and gross prior to swimming through the mud pit.  The microbiologist in me just kept thinking "keep your mouth closed!"

Luckily they had a way for the racers to clean off:

Okay, so "lucky" probably isn't the right word.  When you're standing in front of a snow making machine it sort of feels like you're being pelted with little ice chunks.  And it was quite cold.  And pretty unsuccessful from a cleaning standpoint.

As Rob was cleaning off I looked down at my shoes and decided I'd throw them in the pile with everyone elses.  I guess the race cleans them up and donates them someplace.

But, alas, it was fun and aside from the hills, I would do it again.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Rob and I have a standing joke that no matter where we go, he always knows someone there.  I think it started years ago when he came to MN to visit me when we were in college.  We went to the Mall of America, in the city I grew up in, and he ran into two different sets of people he knew from Iowa.  That was just the start and it happens everywhere.  Chicago, South Carolina....every time we are in a sea of people, Rob will run into someone he knows.  So, before our race I made a comment like "I'm surprised you  haven't found someone you know here" and we laughed it off.  Well, after the race, just as we were going to turn in our time chips I heard someone yell "Rob!" and I turned and sure enough someone was chasing Rob down to say hi.  Apparently this guy is a controller at some company Rob used to audit.  Furthermore, he lives in Shakopee very close to us, and he is from Emmetsburg, IA (about 20 minutes from Rob's home town).  To boot, that guy was here with a group of people from Emmetsburg.  One of which turned out to be a guy that graduated with Rob's older sister. 

I'm glad I wasn't let down.  Kind of made the Warrior Dash Run compete in my head.

If you want to watch a 5 minute video someone made from the MN race and see the obstacles, here you go:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heard Around the House

We're still having a fun, busy summer.  I'll give a more detailed update in a few days, but for  now, here's a couple funny things the kids have said:

1)  While getting the kids ready for bed, I dressed Riley in a hand me down pair of Ellie's PJs.  Ellie decided at that moment that those were her favorite pajamas and started crying because Riley was wearing them.  I told her she was only saying that because she didn't want Riley to have them and that she never before mentioned these particular pajamas were a favorite.  This made Ellie cry hysterically.  Austin, who witnessed the whole ordeal, turned to me and said "Huh Mom, you're a real charmer!"

2)  Just today while Riley and I were having our daily battle over her drinking the rest of her milk (sidenote:  Riley hardly drinks anything all day.  If it were up to her, probably about 4 ounces of juice in the morning, and 2 ounces of milk at lunch and 2 at dinner...that's it!) she was getting very frustrated with me.  Knowing it would take me 15 minutes, but that she would eventually drink it all, I held firm.  Today however she was feeling especially resilient.  I pleaded again for her to sit down and drink her milk, she picked it up, gave it a second thought, slammed it on the table and said "No Mommy!  I just can't handle this today!" and walked away.

After I stopped laughing I brought her back to the table where she finished it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lifetime Triathlon 2011

This past Saturday, Rob became an official triathlete!  I have been so amazed with his ability to juggle work, school, and training for a triathlon, while still maintaining his rockstar status of Dad and Husband too.  On July 9th, he made us even more proud by completing his first triathlon!

The day started early for Rob.  I think he was up and out of bed by 4:45am.  After a quick shower (yes, he showered before he went to go jump in a lake) he was on his way to Lake Nakomis to set up his bike and the rest of his gear and get everything ready for the race.  His wave (based on age) didn't start until 7:30am.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I dragged the kids out of bed (literally) at 7am.   They all moaned and grumbled that Dad's race started too early.  But, I had juice boxes and donuts in the car ready to go and had packed activities and snacks the night before.  After parking (parallel parking!!  My own personal victory), we made it to Lake Nakomis about 15 minutes after Rob entered the first part of his race, the swim. 

The Lifetime Triathlon is one of the largest in the country so it was a tiny bit crazy there.  I didn't see any great opportunities to find Rob once he was in the water so the kids and I made camp right after his first transition stop.  This ended up being a perfect spot because we were able to watch Rob go out on his bike, come in on his bike, and then with a 50 yard walk and we were able to see him go out on his run.

The kids and I made him a sign the night before.  Austin wanted the sign to read "My Dad is the Biggest and Best in Minnesota!"  We went with something more succinct:

We almost missed Rob going out on his bike because we had no idea when to expect him and pretty much all the athletes wore black tri-suits of some sort so he wasn't easy to spot.  I just happened to glance up while he was riding by and gave him a big cheer for the whole family! 

Once we saw him ride his bike back in, we scooted over to the run to watch him start his run.

I thought he was looking pretty good for the last leg of his race.

His run took him twice around Lake Nakomis so after he passed us, we had some time to relocate ourselves for the second pass of the run, and then the finish line.  There was plenty to entertain the cheering crowd, but I didn't feel like chasing after my 3 kids in a crowd so I kept them close.  We did stop for pictures.  Here's our future triathlete:

Waiting for Rob to come around the lake a second time got a little boring for the kids:

But, overall, they did great for having been dragged out of bed and forced to sit on a blanket for hours only to get a snippet of time to cheer for their dad as he ran past.

Finally, the home stretch!  I was holding Austin up for another high five as Rob ran past so the best I have of him finishing is this picture below.  He's the guy in black with a bunch of white writing on the back.  He was sponsored by his company, Mosaic.

Rob's official time was 3 hours 22 minutes and 26 seconds.  In that amount of time he managed to swim 1.5k (0.93 mile), bike 40k (24.9 miles), and run 10k (6.2 miles).

Not a bad picture for having just accomplished all that!  He was most worried about the swim, which ended up being his best stretch of the race.  The run, he said, was his worst.  He didn't train enough for the run, and the only 6 mile run he did in training was over a month before the race.  Plus, he had already done so much he was just burned out.

No matter how he finished, we are so proud of him.  What a great thing for the kids to see!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

From Riley to Ellie:

Ellie, I couldn't pick a better sister, even if I tried.

All joking aside...they are pretty cute and are really enjoying each other's company this summer!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Six at Last!

Austin is one of the youngest in his class so he has spent a whole, agonizing school year watching each of his classmates turn 6 years old.  Today, it is his turn!

He takes after his mom a bit when it comes to birthdays.  We've been hammering out the details of the day for a week or two now.  His requested agenda is as follows:

  • Breakfast in bed (our bed, so he can watch TV)
    • Honey Nut Cheerios
    • Chocolate covered granola bar
    • Juice
(He also will be waking early so he can open his presents before Dad leaves for work.)
  • Bike ride to the Sun Path park; play at park
  • Lunch at a McDonald's with a playland (He suggested Jordan...I suggest a much closer Savage location)
  • A Pontoon ride that includes trying out Grandpa's new pull-behind tube
  • Dinner will be Dominos deep dish pepperoni pizza (Rob really detests that Austin prefers Dominos to Rob's favorite - Pizza and Pasta)

So far, we're right on schedule.  Actually, since he wanted to go to bed at about 6:30 last night (in anticipation of waking up and it being his birthday), we are a bit ahead of schedule.  He woke up over an hour earlier than usual (6:15am) and immediately requested his breakfast.

While dining he watched a National Geographic documentary about Sea Monsters.

Once the girls and Rob were awake it was straight to presents.

From presents, it was straight to playing.

It should be a fairly packed day, but I tell ya what....he's worth every minute!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This ol' thing?

Rob's company had an event at Canterbury Downs last Thursday, June 30th.  Rob was part of the planning committee for the event and mentioned, to me, no less than 4 times that they were having a hat contest.  One prize for the biggest, one prize for the best.  All four times I declined participation because that's not really my thing.  I'm a lot more comfortable blending into a crowd than standing out in one.

Having said that, I'm not sure what got into me on Wednesday, the 29th, but I decided I would make a hat.  Not just "a hat" though.  I would make "THE hat"....the hat that was recently making headlines.

Yes, that hat.

I immediately enlisted the help of my mom and sister.  I ran my original ideas for construction past them and together we tweaked the design a bit.  Then at 10am on the day of the event my mom and I (and my kids) headed out to Michaels to purchase the necessary items.  $7 later and we were on our way back to my parents house to begin construction.

As it turns out, my original ideas for construction weren't too bad.  But, I purchased wired ribbon in hopes of that being enough to hold the bow shape.  In fact, my mom sewed two pieces of ribbon together because I thought that'd be double the wire and double the sturdiness.  That wasn't the case and my dad walked by with some electrical wire.  You know that flat white covered wire that runs through walls (perhaps walls of unfinished basements that Dads are working on finishing...)  That was just what the hat needed.  Within an hour the basics were done.  Up next was fastening everything together and making it still wearable. 

At this point I was "done".  My craftiness lasts about an hour and then my enthusiasm for the project usually wanes.  My dad and sister discussed most of the fastner options.  In the end, my dad constructed some copper staples to tack things in place, and then the giant (and slightly heavy as far as hats go) bow was fastened to the front by a custom sized bolt and washers.  Meanwhile, Maddie utilized the googly eyes from what used to be a pig hat (ripped apart to be used in my new hat) to entertain me.

And the end result......

Well, the end result was that I won both categories ($100 total) at the Canterbury event.  I didn't want to be greedy though and gave one of the $50 gift cards back for some other contestant to win.

I think I owe my family a Caribou coffee treat.  My sister said it best when I told her the rumor was I had some tough competition...she said "Please!  Nobody does costume contests like the Smiths, they're just talkin' trash."  And although she said it in a joking tone, there is a hint of truth to it.  When it comes to costume contests my parents have trained us well!

As a side note,  what does one do with a Princess Beatrice hat knock-off....she fetched $130,000 for hers on eBay.  Any takers?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Our beach compromise

We have a winner.  The kids LOVE going to the beach.  I much prefer a pool.  Our compromise has been found. 

As it turns out, Shakopee has a place called Sandventure which is a sand bottom lake-type pool.  We checked it out on Tuesday.  I'm not sure if it was because it was the 5th and most people were still on vacation, or if it was because it was a cloudy day at first, but whatever the case, the place was dead!  Fifteen people had to be there by 1pm or they would close down and I think at 1pm there was 16 people total.  Phew, just made it.

The kids had a blast playing in the sand and then running into the water.

I packed a lunch which they gobbled down in record time so they could get back in the water (too bad they had to wait for their slow poke mom to finish eating).

Austin spent a lot of time rolling around in the sand.  Literally.  The picture below is a fairly clean version of what he looked like.  When we got home I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was trying to be a stonefish.  I should have known it was creature related.

Anyway, it turned into a beautiful day.  I managed to get sunscreen on all the kids, my legs, arms, and stomach, but apparently I was side tracked before I got my back.  Ouch.

We bought a punch pass so we'll get to go at least one more time this summer!

4th of July - 2011

This year the 4th of July was very similar to last years 4th of July, and I'm guessing similar to next years 4th of July.....but one significant piece was missing this year.  Rob.  Rob was out running over his lunch hour with a coworker and pulled a muscle in his back (or something to that affect) that left him in a heap of pain.  When he got home on Friday afternoon for our departure to Iowa he could barely walk.  It's, by far, the grumpiest I've ever seen him so I know he was in some real pain.  He ended up staying behind while the rest of us headed to West Bend.  It was a hard decision for him to make because his 15 year high school reunion was Friday night.  But, his triathlon is less than a week away and a three hour drive (each way), and a foreign bed wouldn't be doing his back any favors, so while we headed to Iowa, he headed to the chiropractor and masseuse.

I hate to rub it in, but he missed a good time.  I actually ended up going to his class reunion without him.  Maybe that is a little odd, but he graduated with only 30 some other people, so I knew most of them, plus one of my good college friends would be there and I wanted to catch up with her.

Saturday is when the real fun begins in West Bend.  We started off with the parade at 11am.  One of Ellie favorite things to do lately at Grandma and Grandpa Runchey's is to try on all Grandma's necklaces.  I'm sure (I hope!) Grandma is selective as to which ones she lets Ellie run around with, but she was very excited about her selections and wore them most of the day.

We picked a spot at the end of the parade route which is either great because all the floats throw out their remaining candy, or awful because all the floats have just thrown out all their remaining candy.  This year it was the former and after some coaching from Uncle Kerry, the kids walked away with quite a loot!

After the parade we headed back for lunch, and followed that up with a trip to the carnival games.  Each kid walked away with a handful of trinkets from their efforts.

After the carnival it was off to free swimming.  Ellie stayed back at Grandma and Grandpa's, but Riley, Austin, and I hit up the pool where Riley showed off her new confidence in the pool.  I didn't sign her up for lessons this year because she has been so timid in the pool, but now I'm second guessing that decision.

After the pool we went home to rest for a bit.  That lasted all of an hour and then we went back to the carnival to try out the inflatable things.

Bounce castle (right before Ellie hurt her back...sympathy pains for her dad):

Slide (where Austin did cannon balls and little flips on the way down):

Obstacle course (where Riley impressed me by beating a kid almost 3 times her age):

We finished off the carnival with snow cones.  Approximately 10 minutes before dinner.  Oops.

The only thing left on the agenda, besides playing with their cousins!!!, was fireworks.  Having been "go go go" all day, with no naps, I wasn't sure the kids were going to make it through the fireworks. 

And they didn't.  At least not Riley.  She was captivated by them at first.  Then she watched a few from a reclining position.  Then about 10 minutes in, she conked out.

We got back to Shakopee on Sunday to find Rob slightly better, but still ailing.  For the actual 4th, we went to the YMCA to do some more swimming and to visit the splash pad.  Then it was off to my parents for a BBQ and croquet.  We followed that up with a trip on the pontoon and lots of snacks.  And finally, more fireworks.  All the kids made it through them this time, but they collapsed when we got home.  Five fun-filled days (the kids and I were at the pool yesterday from 11-4) was too much for them.  Ellie is run down and sick, and neither of the girls protested naps today!  I never thought I'd say it, but we could almost use a rainy day just to force us to stay inside to rest!