Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Heart My DVR

Last winter, we got a DVR. I thought I blogged about it, but I can't find the post. Maybe I only Facebooked about it. Maybe I just imagined that I did anything about it.

That wouldn't be uncommon.

It was a Revolutionary Event in our house when we got the DVR because Eamonn said we were never going to hav one. Never. And truth be told, the fact that we got one at all was an accident.

There's a very long and comical (in retrospect) story about how the DVR came to be in our house. It started with the "need" to switch from DirecTV to Dish Network because DirecTV had dropped the Versus Channel and YOU CANNOT GO THROUGH LIFE WITHOUT THE VERSUS CHANNEL BECAUSE WE WON'T BE ABLE TO GET THE TOUR DE FRANCE ON TV, DON'T YOU KNOW???

Clearly, something had to be done.

So we switched. I handled the switch. It involved much research into the pricing and plans and options and all of that rigamarole because I am nothing if not thorough after being married to Eamonn for...let me count on my fingers...16...wait, let me double check that...sorry, I'm off...nearly 15 years. Is that right? We got married in Dec. '96. You do the math and let me know. I'll need to know by Dec. 21 by the way so I can get up and say, "Happy XXth anniversary, honey!" Don't leave me hangin'.

Where was I.

Right, DirecTV. Who could have cared less when I called to say I was going to leave if they didn't get Versus back. But then when I called to actually switch, they freaked out. They said we were among their oldest and most valuable customers. Twelve years! Twelve years we'd invested with DirecTV! And I admit, it was hard to go. I knew all of the channels, they never had outages. It was a known entity.

But, no Versus, no DirecTV. Despite their continually upping the ante and getting to six months of free service, we still walked.

I laugh when I think back to the questions I asked the customer service people at Dish.

Me: "So you're saying I can watch something on one TV and the other TV can record something else, all from the same receiver?"

CSR: "Yes, m'am."

Me: "I don't need a second receiver."

CSR: "No, m'am."

Me: "So one receiver can let two different TVs watch two different shows. And if I change the channel downstairs, it won't change the channel upstairs?" I could not wrap my head around this miracle of science.

CSR: Sighing heavily and I'm sure rolling her eyes. "Yes, m'am, that's what I'm saying."

I won't go into how I found out you could PAUSE LIVE TV. Or rewind it. Or how I didn't even discover that at my own house, that I was at a friend's house and saw them do it and stared at them with big saucer-like eyes and said, "How did you do that?" And they pointed out they had the same TV system we did and how could I not know this??!

But back to how the DVR came to be: A Dish guy with a heavy Russian accent came to install the new stuff.

Totally screwed it up.

And despite his assurances that our VCRs would work, they wouldn't.

Calls customer service got us comments like, "We don't work with outmoded technology." I spent several mornings crying in my granola over the loss of my friends at DirecTV. They never talked to me that way.

Another day. Another Dish tech. No dice on the VCR. Eamonn did manage to rig up some sort of crazy system to get one of the VCRs working, but it was frying my brain to try and use it.

In exasperation, I told Eamonn we were getting the freaking DVR. I couldn't take the pressure any longer.

So we got it. And it was like a movie where the sun bursts through the clouds, angels and harps sing.

It was beautiful, man.

And when we got the DVR, I giggled about the fact that the DVR could hold 150 hours of recordings on it.

Who in the world would load their DVR up with 150 hours of crap?

That would be us.

Eamonn and I each have it set up to record certain shows we like. His are mostly sports (soccer, cycling and Formula One racing).

I, on the other hand, have a bunch of old Disney movies that the Hallmark Channel ran last spring (all of those Kurt Russell ones--the Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, etc.; Summer Magic with Hayley Mills; That Darn Cat with Hayley Mills; Pollyanna with Hayley Mills. I love Hayley Mills. In fact, ever since I first saw the Parent Trap, I wanted to be Hayley Mills so I could have a twin sister. I was pretty devastated to find out she didn't have a twin--that it was her playing opposite HER.). I have random episodes of Magnum P.I. on there; America: The Story of Us; the entire series of The Pacific; an odd episode of Biography and Oprah here and there. The entire season of Masterpiece. And I confess there are a few reality shows I love: Amazing Race, Top Chef, Biggest Loser. And I love Life Unexpected. And Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters now that I think about it. I forgot about the Good Wife, too.

I love a lot of stuff. Egad. I need to get a life.

The boys quickly learned how to record stuff, too. So look closely and you'll see the Pokemon Movie 3, odds and ends of shows they were watching and I made them go to bed in the middle of. iCarly. I admit I love iCarly.

It was all adding up.

And then last weekend, Eamonn went out of town and was unaware that one of his favorite shows, Top Gear, had a four day marathon, or something mad like that, scheduled. And it was set to tape "All" instead of just "New" episodes.

On Friday, I noticed the DVR was recording. A lot. Like constantly. Saturday came. Still recording. What the heck? I went into the menu and we had eight, EIGHT!, hours of free space left and we were only two days into the Top Gear marathon.

I freaked out. What would happen? Would all of our recordings just vanish? The thought of no Amazing Race of Biggest Loser nearly sent me over the edge and so I spent a few frantic minutes figuring out how to avert disaster.

Now we have 29 out of 150 hours free on the DVR. Now there's something to be proud of.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dude, Where's My Car?

We live about 100 yards from the boys' school. I love it that we never have to drive to school in the Morning Drop Off Melee. Instead, we walk over about 5 minutes before school starts. However, Finn, in particular, always asks to drive.

Yes, once again my hardy mountain children show their true colors.

Anyway, yesterday I did actually drive over to the school in the late morning. On Sunday, we had the biggest fundraiser of the year, Wild West Day, out at a local ranch. I had to return a tent and some other stuff to the office. The tent was a little too heavy to lug even 100 yards. Or maybe I'm just wimpy.

So I drove over, parked, dragged the tent and other stuff inside, and went to the lunchroom where I was having lunch with Finn (have I raved about how this year our school has 100% scratch-cooked lunches?) and then helping supervise kids composting their trash. And, as always happens, a teacher grabbed me and asked me to do something else and yadda yadda yadda, two hours later I was finally heading home.

I did some work, some laundry--the usual.

When it was time for school to be out, I walked to meet the boys. Homework was completed, snacks were eaten, and then it was time to go to Finn's gymnastics in the next town.

The boys went out to the garage ahead of me.

Boys: The car isn't in the garage.

Me: Oh hahaha, you guys, come on, get in, we don't want to be late.

Boys: Seriously, the car isn't in the garage.

Me: Look again. Maybe you just can't see it if the light didn't come on. It is black, afterall. (Yes, I really said that)

And then I paused. Did I park out front? No.


And then I paused again. Why would someone steal a 1999 VW Passat Wagon with nearly 190,000 miles on it, rear speakers that don't work, electric locks that don't work, a paint job that has now suffered through four mountain winters and is covered with at least an inch of dust from being at a dude ranch the day before...and leave approximately $10,000 worth of bikes? (Yes, the bikes in our garage are collectively worth more than both of our vehicles combined)

It made no sense.

I was puzzled. What a stupid car thief.

And then I came to my senses and walked over to school for the third time that day.

PS: The saddest part about this story is that when I left school after lunch, I walked RIGHT PAST my dear, dusty car. Right past it. No clue. No clue at all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Dusting of Snow

Hey, how about me and all of my Colorado scenery pictures lately? Sick of it yet?

Anyway, I wait for this day anxiously every fall--the day that snow is back on New York Mountain which I can see from the street that runs right through the middle of our neighborhood.

Last night, it got pretty cold at our elevation--6,600 feet. And it was raining (have I ever mentioned how much I miss a good, solid rain here in the high desert?). I suspected, and I was right, that the nearby peaks might be getting their first dusting of snow. It's always right around this week every year so far.

The clouds were still heavy when we woke up this morning, so I couldn't tell until they lifted early this afternoon, but then I could definitely see: SNOW!

I have always loved fall: leaves, visiting the pumpkin farm, I even liked Ohio's damp, cold fall weather. It's a little different out here--fall comes fast. The past two summers when we've returned home from Ohio, it's still summer here, but the heat is gone from the air. It's still warm, but not hot, if that makes sense. Nights cool down, leaves are starting to turn by the last week of August. The Aspens are lovely and yellow, but I still miss the reds and oranges of Ohio. We have one street in our neighborhood with maples that are turning red. I'm watching carefully so that when they get a little further along, I'll walk up and down that street all day and take a few pictures.

If you click to enlarge the picture above, you can see patches of yellow on the elevations below the snow capped peaks. Very pretty. I would have been even prettier with the sun out, but we had an unusual lack of sunshine today--very rare out here, trust me (a Midwestern girl at heart, I pine for some really cloudy days. Even Declan comments, "I wish it would rain.").

Here's a picture of the first snow dusting last year, which happened on the night of September 19, 2009 (versus the night of September 22, 2010, this year). Aren't I such a riveting scientist with all of this analysis.

I had thought it was a much sunnier day after that first snow last year, but clearly, it really wasn't. Thank goodness for photographic evidence.

I know some people lament the end of summer and coming of fall, but I look forward to each season here. Each one brings something new and very different so I'm ready for each one when it comes.

However, this little sprinkling of snow makes me want to dash right past fall and and run without passing go to have my skis tuned. But wait, that would mean I'd miss the Halloween candy. I'll dash right after Halloween.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Afternoon in the Aspens

The leaves are nearly at their peak on Vail Mountain. On Sunday, we went on a hike with friends. This is what it looked like...

I miss Ohio's red leaves, but it's very beautiful here in the fall...warm sunny days, cold nights. I've grown used to this.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Camping Yakkity Yak

I love saying yakkity yak.

So I did a jokey post about our camping trip and you can see all of the pictures linked from Tuesday's post, but I wanted to come back and tell give you a few more details, lest you think I don't actually like tent camping. All of that stuff in the first post was definitely true. Of course! We're the Rooneys, people! Whacky stuff just happens to us.

But the camping trip was truly a lot of fun. OK, maybe not the asthma attack, but even the cold temperatures didn't ruin it. I did worry that we'd freeze to death.

That didn't happen though.

And as Ma would say, "All's well that ends well."

Rocky Mountain National Park is a place I'd recommend to anyone who's considering a trip west. You don't have to camp. Does that make it more appealing? As you can see by the pictures, it's incredibly beautiful.

RMNP is about two hours from home. We headed out last Friday right after school. The car was completely stuffed. I was afraid a door was going to burst open and various and sundry things--that might or might not include my underwear--would go flying down the road.

That didn't happen though.

As we were driving, Finn started the "I'm about to get sick" cough. Awesome. The asthma attack he had in the night was minor, but it did scare me, being out there in the middle of nowhere and all. In fact, I was all for hanging out the next day and then driving home to sleep, but I was overruled by everyone and we stayed. I'm glad we did.

As you could see, we had a campstove, but we also wanted to light a fire (to ward off frostbite and scary forest beasts). The park ranger I had talked to a few days prior (come to think of it, I feel he was negligent in not telling me to ignore the Weather.com forecast--I might have to sue) said to bring firewood in case there wasn't any on site. So we had a stove, tons of firewods, waterproof matches, firestarters, AND those butane lighter-y things. I felt surely we would have no problem lighting a fire.

But we did. It was one of those embarassing situations where your campsite is engulfed in smoke demonstrating that you are not having campfire success.

And then the stove malfunctioned. It gave us fits all weekend.

I was getting concerned we'd have to eat one of the kids, but Eamonn proved himself to be master of the fire and got it going. In fact, we cooked over the fire that night because the stove never did get its act together. Eamonn had to completely dismantle it and re-McGyver it back together to get it working.

We stayed on the west side of the park--there are two entrances. There was a big festival in Estes Park, on the east side, and we wanted to steer clear of that. As someone pointed out, there are a lot of dead trees in my pictures. The pine bark beetle has literally decimated the lodgepole pine population in Grand County, where the park is located. It's very sad.

We stayed at the Timber Creek campground and were pleased to find the water was still on there (toilets and a camp sink--no showers). People visiting as of yesterday had to starting using the vault toilets. Not a fan of those.

On Saturday, we drove along the main drag--Fall River Road, I think--took some scenic detours and did some small hikes. Finn was struggling on one of the hikes up to about 12,000 feet, so he and I went back to the car and took a couple of hits of albuterol.

Our second night felt warmer. I had driven into Granby, about 30 miles away, to get some medicine to see if we could unstuff Finn's nose. He definitely had a better night so it was worth it, but as I was heading to Granby, I got a text from Eamonn saying, "You don't have the National Parks Pass!" Declan was actually the one who commented after I left, "How will Mommy get back in without the pass?" Frankly, I probably would have breezed right out of the park and never thought of it until they made me stop upon my return. The ranger at our campground called ahead and cleared the way for me, so it was all good. When I came back through the entrance gate, "I called out, 'I'm the crazy mom who went to buy medicine and forgot the pass!' 'Yeah, yeah, we've heard of you, you're fine!'" they called. It's nice to be noticed.

I saw a moose on the way back to the campsite. I picked up Eamonn and the boys and we went back and stalked it. And watched some woman walk out into the clearing to get a better view. Very dangerous. Moose can be very aggressive, both the males and females. We stayed in the trees.

We got back to our campsite and roasted weenies. And marshmallows of course. And saw the moose that lives right at our campsite. We went to a ranger talk about moose, which was very cool. It did make me more paranoid though when the ranger said she had been charged by a moose during her moose research. So that night,when I had to get up in the middle of the night to take a trip to the bathroom, I kept shining my headlamp (if that's not super nerdy, I don't know what is) around in terror, waiting for a moose to mow me down without ever asking for a muffin (get it?).

Our second night felt warmer to us (again, perhaps it was zipping ourselves into a smaller part of the tent...and then the aftershocks of eating baked beans...and we also drank hot chocolate right before bed.). When I spoke to the ranger the next day and commented that it was much warmer, she gave me a weird look and said, "It was 20 degrees in Grand Lake at 2:30am, so I'm not sure why you think it was warmer." Thank goodness for beans, I guess. I'll never leave home without them again.

Or handwarmers. I slept with handwarmers, toe warmers, and a body warmer. So did the boys. Eamonn tried toe warmers and they apparently malfunctioned. Mine were still hot at noon the next day, which is a crazy long time.

As an interesting aside, it's amazing how many calories your body burns trying to keep itself warm. Shivering is a very good workout.

We slept fully clothed. I wore pajama pants, yoga pants, a short sleeved t-shirt, a fleece hoodie, a fleece jacket and two pairs of wool socks. The boys were similarly dressed. We all slept in hats. I never even took my bra off all weekend--I didn't want to strip down too far. I did change my underwear, just in case you wondered. Because that would be gross. As far as I'm concerned. The boys saw nothing wrong in attempting to wear the same clothes all weekend.

I love how relaxed camping is. Yes, we did a fair amount of siteseeing around the park, but a lot of our time was spent puttering around the camp, and I like that. On Saturday morning, the sun was finally peeking over the top of the mountain, Eamonn and the boys went off to wash dishes, and I sat by the campfire and dozed with my face turned up to the warm sun. It was an extremely pleasant way to spend a morning. No rushing to get to a museum by a certain time, to see something, be somewhere. We were just being and I liked it.

In fact, I spent a lot of time just being grateful for those 0 degree sleeping bags.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Let's Gather 'Round the Campfire and Sing a Campfire Songgggggg!

I can't believe I just used that as a title. Anyone whose kids watch Sponge Bob will recognize it. Good grief.

So finally, this past weekend, everyone was healthy (at the start of the trip) and we got to take our tent on its maiden voyage. Our destination: Rocky Mountain National Park about 2 hours from home.

Here's what I learned on my first tent camping outing since 1990.
-Even if everyone appears healthy when you leave the house, someone will be sick by the time you get to the campground. In this instance--Finn. We were on a dirt road and I heard the telltale pre-virus, pre-asthma cough. Sure enough, he had an asthma attack in the middle of the night. Fortunately, we had his puffer.

-Even if you bring two firelighters, your wood will not light and your stove will malfunction while you watch the temperature plummet past freezing.

-Speaking of watching the temperature plummet past freezing, do not rely on Weather.com when they say temperatures will be in the mid-30s. Call ahead to the campground so the park ranger can tell you the actual overnight temperature will be about 18 degrees. Fahrenheit. That's brisk, people.

-Don't worry about the bears. In this neck of the woods, your worst enemy is a moose. And that moose roaming freely through the campground? Stear clear.

-Driving 30 miles one way to get decongestant so your child can breathe in the night and everyone can sleep isn't really such a big deal. Except when you forget to take the National Parks Pass when you leave the park.

-It's OK to eat three hot dogs while camping. Baked beans on the other hand--not so smart, especially when you zip four people into the smallest part of the tent to try and preserve some small amount of heat.

-Get the zero degree sleeping bags even if you don't think you'll need them. Don't say things to your husband like, "It's not like we'll ever camp when it's colder than 30 degrees!" Clearly, mistakes happen.

-Campfire smoke will always blow in the direction you're sitting.

-There are always spiders in the bathrooms.

-It's OK to stand in front of the hand dryers and warm yourself. Even if people are waiting to dry their hands.

I'm ready to go again. But in a westerly direction this time, where it might be a tad warmer.

Here's a pictorial view of our tent adventure.

A word about the pictures. I am most annoyed with Kodak Gallery. Their new format meant it took me TWO HOURS to add photo captions. And their slideshow is cutting off our heads in some pictures. Nice. Rest assured when I took the pictures originally, I did not decapitate anyone.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Haven't Been Eaten by Bears. Yet.

Right after I wrote that post about how no one got sick at school the first two days, Declan got sick. So he was home on Friday and thus, we did not go camping. And thus, I did not have any bear encounters.

We did have a wildlife encouter though:

Even though we couldn't go camping, we did take a day trip up Mt. Evans, which boasts the highest paved road in North America. Mt. Evans is one of Colorado's 14ers.

You can see a bunch of pictures here.

Tomorrow we're trying the camping thing again. I was concerned that we didn't have bear bells. Tara said, "You don't need bear bells if you're hiking with Finn."

Too true. Too true.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Wonder What Else I Don't Know?

All in all the first day of school seemed to go well yesterday. I didn't get a call from the school nurse telling me someone was sick or injured, so we're off to a rip-roaring start in my book.

I was packing Finn's lunch yesterday morning (Declan chose to buy the new scratch-cooked lunch on the first day--spaghetti with meat sauce. Finn hates "sauce" so he was packing. He bought chicken and cheese quesadillas today so I'm anxious to hear his "review"). Anyway, as I was packing Finn's lunch, I wrote a little note that said I hoped he was enjoying his first day of second grade. As I wrote yesterday, there was a little bit of first day anxiety for Finn, and I wanted to let him know I was thinking of him.

But here's the thing. I never would have thought to write notes to my kids in their lunchboxes. I know. What kind of mother am I? Is this a newfangled thing though? My Mom never wrote us notes in our lunches. Of course, we typically bought our lunch or packed our own, so there weren't really any note writing opportunities.

I heard about the "note" thing from Eamonn's cousin, Theresa, who said to me when Declan was starting kindergarten, "...and of course you write them little notes and smiley faces on their napkins..." I do? I should? Of course I should! And I do. Now that I know about it.

So last night as I was doing dishes and found Finn's note still stuck to the bottom of his sandwich container where he had me put it because he didn't want his friends to see it because they might make fun of him--whatever--I pondered all of the other things about parenting and life in general that I don't know about, but am probably doing wrong or possibly not doing at all. I wonder which is worse?

Sometimes I wonder how I made it to the age of 42 without knowing some of these things. Whatever they are. Especially since some of these things involve safety. For example, in college, I went camping with friends. This was in Kentucky and it's not like it was bear country or anything, but I don't think we gave a thought to wildlife and safety. So when Eamonn's cousin, Eamon, and his wife, Nicole, were going camping one time and I expressed concern, I was mostly thinking about the weather because it was supposed to snow. I didn't want them to freeze to death or anything. So when Nicole tried to reassure me by saying things like, "We know to put all of our food, toothpaste, or anything a bear might think of as food in a bear safe container away from where we're sleeping. And we know not to sleep in the same clothes we wear while we're cooking," I was astonished. You have to think about these things? Bears would want to get in my tent?

Oh my word. I'd never thought of any of that.

Which isn't very reassuring because we're trying to go camping this weekend if schedules allow for it.

But it got me wondering: What else won't I know until after the fact? Because not knowing that you shouldn't sleep in the same clothes you cooked in sounds pretty important. I'd better Google "bears" and "camping safety" tonight.

If you haven't heard from me by Tuesday, it's possible I've been eaten by bears.

I'll miss you.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to School. Back to Blogging.

Every year it's the same.

Taking pictures on the first day of school, first thing in the AM when they have to look into the sun.

I need to change our traditional picture taking spot. This may be the only time you ever see these shirts, except for school pictures. We bought them when we were in Ohio and heading to Eamonn's cousin's wedding in Virginia (which you haven't heard about because clearly I STILL haven't uploaded the pictures). The boys liked the shirts and I said I'd buy them for the wedding if they wore them the first day of school. And so they did, but of course, in skater style, not wedding style (buttoned up, no t-shirt underneath). I'm OK with it even though there was grumbling at breakfast about having to "dress up" on their first day of school. I swear, next year I'm whipping out the clip on ties to freak them out.

Heading up the street.

With good friends and neighbors, Cameron and Hayley. Everyone is still blinded by the sun.

There were definitely mixed feelings in our house this morning about the first day of school. For the past two nights, Finn has cried and said he wasn't ready for school to start. When I asked why, he said he didn't want to go seven hours without seeing me and Eamonn. This is sweet and it tugs at my heartstrings just a tad, and I think it's partially true, but I also think he's a kid that likes to be at home...near the Wii. And of course, I also know that the "unknown" is very troubling to Finn. Is it his personality? Is it his SPD? Heck, I don't know, but I also know that after the first few days of school and becoming familiar with the routine, he will settle in. He was adverse to giving me a goodbye kiss in front of his friends, so obviously the peer pressure of PDA with your mom is more intense than the "I don't want to go seven hours without seeing you" pressure.

Declan seemed to go off without a worry. He's the BMOC this year--5th grade. He was a little bummed out that his closest friends aren't in his class this year (he's been with several of his Posse since second grade), but there are kids he knows in his class and he makes friends pretty easily. Of course, who wouldn't say that about their kid?!?!? His cousin, Garvin, started middle school this week and is raving about it, so my guess is that Declan's thoughts are already a year down the road when it's his turn to wander into that hideous phase of life (at least as far as I'm concerned) that is middle school. Ick. But if he's excited, I won't squash it by telling him it was the worst two years of my childhood life.

My mortgage-paying work is finished for the day. I will now run some errands and go back to the school to put up a bulletin board for a fundraiser for which I am our school's coordinator--along with two of my friends that I strong-armed.

Volunteering. If I got paid for every hour I did it, I'd be a millionaire! In fact, I've just been hit with inspiration. As parents continue to refuse to volunteer over the years and my kids grow up, I will become a Mercenary Volunteer. I'll prostitute myself out to anyone who needs bulletin boards made, committees chaired, book fairs set up, cookies baked for teacher birthdays. I'm telling you, this is it.