February 29, 2020

Boom! Hit by a Truck.


That's how I feel right now. Like I was hit by a truck.

My brother, Nathan, is in Chicago with his girlfriend Alex; my sister, Jeanie; and Jeanie's husband, Shawn, at a "roaring 20's" themed murder mystery dinner. I'm so jealous! I have wanted to attend a murder mystery dinner ever since I first heard of them. And a "roaring 20's" theme is so cool.

Anyway, while Nathan is gone, I decided to go to his house and work on his popcorn ceilings some more. I'd started on them a couple of weeks ago--spraying water on them and scraping off the popcorn texture--and today I finished the living room.

I started with the hallway (twice as long as mine). Once I got the hallway done, I did half of the living room. I didn't want to leave it halfway done, so I went there again today to get it finished before he comes home tomorrow.

Nathan has a black lab, Bailey, so I like to take Joey with me to play with Bailey while I work. Unfortunately for Joey, Bailey is too old and stubborn to want to play with him. She just barks at him when he takes her bone.

Anyway, today I went to Nathan's to finish scraping the texture off the ceiling. I brought Joey with me and he was thrilled. The poor dog gets crazy excited when I even mention the name "Bailey".

I went to Nathan's, changed into my "painting" clothes (clothes that I can get super messy) and started working on the living room. I taped plastic sheets to the floor (Nathan just got new carpet, so I have to be meticulous when removing this texture).

And then it happened. It was awful.

I was taping plastic around the fireplace, because trying to clean drywall compound from bricks and mortar would take forever. So, I moved my ladder as close as I could to the fireplace, and then I hung a sheet of plastic from the ceiling. As I was taping it, I braced myself against the mantle. (In the photo below, the mantle is sitting on the bottom of the fireplace. You'll understand why when you keep reading.)

When I got to the far right of the mantle, I was reaching ahead (to the right) to press the tape to the wall. In slow motion... the mantle fell out from under me, flipping up into the air, catching me by surprise. In the craziness of that, I must have shifted my weight on the ladder, because the ladder (that I was standing on!) tipped out from under me. (Apparently, the mantle wasn't screwed in very well to the bricks.)

In less than the blink of an eye, I was falling to the ground. I hit the bricks on the fireplace without really realizing it, and I remember vividly landing on my ankle, which rolled underneath me. After falling on my ass and thanking God I was still alive (I was so sure I was going to die), I started assessing my injuries.

My ankle? I was pretty sure it wasn't broken, even though that felt like the worst injury. My elbow was killing me (both the joint and the skin, because somehow, I had broken a brick from the fireplace with my elbow!) and my butt hurt from hitting the bricks as well. I even had a hole in my pants on my right butt cheek where I'd hit the bricks!). Overall, my neck, left shoulder, left elbow, and left ankle were really bothering me after the fall.

My elbow is going to have a big old bruise tomorrow.

I was really shaken up after the fall--when it was happening, I was so sure that I was going to die--I'm too old to fall that hard!--and I sat down for a few minutes to just breathe.

Once I realized that I didn't need to go to the hospital for any reason, I got back to work. I hung the plastic and started scraping off the popcorn ceiling.

I worked on it from 10:30-4:30 today, and finally finished scraping off all the texture. Next up is sanding it all smooth and then painting.  I think it's looking better already!

I'm super bummed about my fall today, though. My ankle is in pretty bad shape. I can't walk without a limp; and any movement I make, I feel pain somewhere. I'm super grateful that I haven't started my actual half-marathon training yet--right now it's just walking--but I'm sure I'm going to have to take time off from it until my ankle heals. From what I've read, it'll take 3-6 weeks!

Every single time I work on a house project, I wind up injured in some way. This time was definitely the scariest. It happened so fast, but it felt like slow motion.

For an ankle sprain, it's suggested to focus on R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). I don't know how well I'll be able to follow that, but I'm going to try! I want to feel completely healed so that I can start training for the Detroit Half.

I feel awful today, so I can't even imagine how I'll feel tomorrow! Hopefully it heals fast...

February 28, 2020

What's the story behind your pets? (A writing prompt)

I'm so glad it's Friday! Even though the kids had two days off for snow days (Wednesday and Thursday) I am totally ready for the weekend.

I don't have much to say, so I'll do a writing prompt today. I know I've written about my pets a trillion times, but I love to write about them, so I'll do an in-depth post of my pets :)

We have three pets right now: Phoebe, Estelle, and Joey. Phoebe and Estelle are cats, and Joey is a dog. Jerry and I have always named our pets after "Friends" characters--we loved the tv series!

I'll write a little about Chandler, too, because he was our first pet (cat) that we got together. He passed away a few years ago.


We adopted Chandler from the animal shelter when he was just a kitten. He had a sister, Monica, who adopted as well. I hate talking about Monica, because it makes me really sad--but she died just a year or so after we got them.

At the time Chandler died, he was the fattest cat you've ever seen. He weighed 26 pounds at one point! Chandler was the most loyal and chill pet we've ever had. When Noah and Eli were born, he loved them and stayed right by their sides. Most cats avoid little kids, but Chandler let the boys play with him and he was just very chill.

Chandler was the BEST at killing catching birds! For being a fat cat, I have no idea how he was able to grab a full-size robin out of the air and leave it on the porch for us. I eventually decided he needed to be a house cat, because I felt bad for the birds.

I wrote a post when Chandler crossed the rainbow bridge, which you can read here. 

I miss Chandler so much sometimes! Telling the kids (especially Eli) was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Now, for our current pets...


Phoebe is a female orange tabby, which is actually very rare. Most orange tabbies are male. I didn't know this until several years after we adopted her. When we got Phoebe, she was a stray that a friend-of-a-friend had taken in. Someone in a Mom's Club that I belonged to asked if anyone was interested in taking in a stray cat that her sister had, and Jerry convinced me that we should. I always want to take in animals! But I'm the practical one when it comes to that.

When we picked her up, I remember thinking how soft she was. Her fur feels like rabbit fur. And she's very petite--she only weights about 7-8 pounds. She was missing half of her tail and we could feel a lump under her skin that I was SURE was a bb (from a bb gun). Eventually, we learned that it actually was a bb, meaning someone had shot her!

Phoebe is special. There is something about her that is very human-like. She's extremely sympathetic--whenever someone in our family is upset, crying, she comes and loves on us. When I broke my jaw, she was all over me all the time. When I go through depressive episodes, it's the same. I'm convinced that she has some sort of sixth sense for sadness/depression and she tries to help.

Phoebe didn't always love on us like she does now. She was very skittish and generally avoided people. One day, we noticed that she was hiding in a closet a lot. It was odd. When I took her out, I noticed a wound on her back near her tail that looked very infected. I don't know how it happened, but I'm assuming she got in a fight with another animal (at the time, we let her go outdoors).

(I love this picture! It's funny because now it's the squirrels that are looking in our windows, hahaha)

I took her to the vet, and he said she would need surgery. The wound was very infected and he'd have to cut away the dead skin and sew it up; but he said that he wasn't sure she'd have enough skin left to sew up. I said I wanted him to try doing the surgery anyway.

After surgery (it went well!) she had to wear a cone on her neck for two weeks. We had to keep her away from the other pets to make sure that she didn't somehow get the cone off or something like that. So, Jerry and I kept her in our bedroom and bathroom. We put a litter box in the bathroom and we didn't let her leave the bedroom/bathroom for two weeks.

At that time, I think she learned that we were kind, and we were doing what was best for her. She became more and more friendly toward us. By the end of the two weeks, it was like we had a different cat! She was so cuddly and loving. And she's been like that ever since. She is still wary of strangers, especially young kids. When Luke and Riley come over, she hides out in my bedroom, but she adores Jerry, me, and the kids.

Phoebe LOVES peppermint. Whenever I even put on Burt's Bees lip balm, she comes running in to try to lick my lips (yes, I let her, haha). She even climbs the Christmas tree to get candy canes!

We had a very interesting scare with Phoebe, in which I was SURE she was dead and never coming back. Ever since then, we've done our best to keep her inside. She is super sneaky and tries to get out whenever she can, but we try not to let her out. It was so scary when she was gone! Cats like her are the reason behind "Cats have 9 lives". She's used up 8 of hers, I'm sure.

I adore Phoebe. She's now about 13 years old (we don't know for sure, because she was a stray--but the vet estimated about two years old when we got her in 2009). I hope she's one of those cats that will live until she's 25!


Most people don't know exactly who Estelle was on the show Friends. She was Joey's agent--she was rarely on the show, but when she was, she certainly had a smoker's voice and her personality was... large.

My friend Andrea called me (in 2009) and said that there was a stray cat in her neighborhood who was getting food from all the neighbors, and she was a "beautiful!!!" cat. Andrea is allergic to cats, otherwise she certainly would have taken Estelle in. I really didn't want a third cat (at the time, we had Chandler and Phoebe); Jerry said we should at least go look at her.

Since I'm a total sucker, I agreed to go check her out. When I got to Andrea's, Estelle was in her garage eating food that Andrea had given her. She was the ugliest cat I'd ever seen! 😂

I don't know if I'd ever seen a tortoiseshell cat before, but I definitely didn't think she was "beautiful!!!" like Andrea claimed. She looked like a stereotypical "alley cat" and that if she were human, she'd be a chain-smoker with a chain-smoker's voice and have a big personality. We both knew immediately that we'd name her Estelle.

Since we got her, I've learned so much about tortoiseshell cats! Firstly, tortoiseshell cats are almost always female (unlike the orange tabbies).

From the day we brought her home, I was unsure about Estelle attitude--she was constantly flicking her tail when we would pet her, and having had cats my entire life, I was sure that meant she was mad. Cats (in my experience) would only move their tails like that when they were about to bite. To this day, 11 years later, she's still flicking her tail constantly!

I also learned that tortoiseshell ("torties") are very vocal. And Estelle will tell you just how vocal she is, haha. The second we walk in the door, she meows at us. And if you call her name or pet her or give her attention in any way, she "talks" to us. I've never had a cat like her before!

From going to Purina events, I learned about "tortitude"--which is "tortie attitude"--and Estelle definitely has attitude. She is very much "in charge" all the time and she lets us know by voicing her opinion (literally). She completely ignores us sometimes, and other times, she adores us.

I'm her favorite--probably because I'm around her the most--and she follows me around like a dog. When I sit down, she's on my lap in seconds. If I have my feet up and my computer on my lap (like right now), she curls up and sleeps on my shins.

Estelle is the most curious cat I've ever seen. Curiosity is also a typical trait of torties.

She certainly has tortitude, and she makes us laugh every day. Some days, she's totally interested in "the red dot"; others, she looks at us like we're complete idiots for thinking she'll fall for it. She knows how to play "fetch", too. She loves the wires that have the plastic covers over them (whenever I strip a wire for whatever reason, I cut the rest of it into pieces that are about 4-5 inches long just for spoiled Estelle). We can throw one, and then she'll go fetch it and bring it back to us to throw again.

When she wants to, of course! ;)


We adopted Joey in 2015, long after I had established my Runs for Cookies blog in 2011. Jerry and I had been talking for a long time about getting a dog for the boys--I feel like boys should grow up with a dog--and I read SO much about different breeds. Everything was so conflicting, and I hated the internet for giving me TOO MUCH information about everything.

I told Eli that morning that we were thinking about getting a dog. His request was that we get a "black dog". I kind of didn't want a black dog--I'm not sure why, but I just didn't think black dogs were as cute as other colors.

Jerry and I went to the animal shelter and check out some dogs. I wanted to be able to spend some time with the dogs to see their temperament, and the shelter allowed us to do that. We were even able to take dogs into the room where they had cats, so we could see their reactions.

We walked through the rows of kennels, letting the animal control officer know of any that we'd want to spend some time with. I walked right past Joey's kennel, but Jerry saw something in him and he told the officer we wanted to see him. Jerry is usually very "go with the flow" and I was surprised that he said that. Anyway, we continued through the rows until we'd chosen 3-4 different dogs to see.

The first dog that we had brought into the room with us was a mixed breed (I can't remember what breeds). I loved that dog! He was very sweet, and I loved that he didn't jump up on us or get too crazy when we petted him. I was sure that's the dog I wanted. But Jerry really wanted to see Joey (who the shelter had named "Louie").

When Louie came in, he went right to Jerry. He didn't jump--he just rolled right onto his back and let us rub his belly. Jerry immediately wanted him. He was SO sure that I didn't even argue.

And he couldn't have made a better decision.

Louie--who we renamed Joey--was the best dog we could have gotten! And it just so happened that he was black, which was what Eli requested. (I later learned that black dogs are much less likely to get adopted... so sad!)

From the very start, we knew that Joey was perfect for our family. He's a black lab/chow chow mix (also called a "chabrador" or a "chowbrador"). He loves humans, and thinks he is one. We don't have a fenced in yard, but we don't need one--he sticks right by us, and has never wandered off.

This is a before and after photo--before and after we adopted him:

The cats completely own him--he knows that Estelle is the boss of everybody, and he listens to her. However, we call him "The Sheriff" sometimes, because when we say, "ES-TELLE!" (when she's mean to Phoebe or she looks like she's about to claw the furniture or something like that), Joey rushes over to put his face right in her face and stop her from doing whatever it is she's going to do. It's hilarious!

Phoebe and Joey are buddies, in a way. Since Estelle is the boss, Phoebe and Joey are on their own. And they are each jealous of each other. If I call Joey, then Phoebe comes, too. If I call Phoebe, then Joey is there instantly. The two of them sleep with Eli every night (Estelle sleeps with me).

Joey would be "the perfect dog" if he could just learn to walk with a leash. Whenever I put a leash on him, he pulls on it. I wish he would learn that he could walk the same speed if he would just step a couple of inches backward to stop choking himself! We've had him for five years now (I can't believe it's been that long!) and he still hasn't gotten used to the leash.

But he's such a great dog in every other way that the leash thing is no big deal. And I love that the boys have a great dog to grow up with.

I really can't stress this enough...

PLEASE, if you are thinking of getting a pet, go to a shelter! There are so many fantastic cats and dogs at shelters and it breaks my heart to think that they may spend the rest of their lives there. My kids know that we'll never get a kitten or a puppy--and it's because I have told them that the kittens and puppies are the first to get adopted. There are adult cats and dogs at the shelter that are SO great--like Joey!--and they just need a little love. They will be your best friend for choosing them.

You can find just about any breed at a shelter. And my favorite breed is "mutt" ;)  So it doesn't hurt to check them out at least.

Phoebe, Estelle, and Joey are the best pets ever--I love their different personalities! From Phoebe's sixth sense of sympathy to Estelle's tortitude to Joey's "big dumb puppy love", we have the most amazing and entertaining pets.

February 27, 2020

Blessing in Disguise? (Jerry's ridiculous haircut story)

Just a forewarning: there are gross photos in this post, so don't look at if you're eating.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know the short story about Jerry's haircut. But more came of it after that, and it turned out to be kind of a big deal.

A little over a week ago, Jerry decided to cut his own hair (with clippers). Usually, I'll cut it for him--I've been cutting Noah's, Eli's, and Jerry's hair forever. I don't know why he wanted to do it himself, but he came out of the bathroom and he'd clearly cut his hair.

It didn't look too bad, actually, but I noticed that he missed a spot behind his right ear. I told him I'd fix it for him, but he said he could do it. So, he went in the bathroom, and we were talking while he started up the clippers. I wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing (and neither was he, obviously).

He said, "OH NO!" and I immediately felt panicked. Then a million thoughts went through my mind in a fraction of a second and I burst out laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. I knew what the "OH NO!" was... because it was a huge fear of mine every time I cut the boys' hair.

He forgot to put the blade guard on, so he shaved the spot completely bald.

Yes, seriously. I was DYING. We both laughed so hard that we were crying. We were wheezing.

I asked what he was going to do, and (I don't even know if he was joking) he said he that was going to shave the other side off, just like the first, so it would look deliberate. When he said that, we both started laughing all over again.

And then he did it!

I have not laughed so hard in the longest time. I immediately posted pictures, because it was a funny story.

He wore a hat, but the next day, he decided he was going to just shave his whole head. Everything. And this is when things got strange.

When he shaved his head, there was a "weird" spot on his scalp that we'd not noticed before. We started Googling every phrase we could think of: "weird spot on scalp", "bumpy patch of skin on scalp", "bumps on scalp", etc. The only thing that came remotely close in resemblance (ugh, the Google images of everything we looked at will never leave my mind!) was a birthmark--and he was sure he hadn't been born with it.

I told him he really should make an appointment with the dermatologist. So, he was able to see our dermatologist rather quickly, and she did a biopsy. Yesterday, the results came back and the office called him. They told him that it was a "nevus sebaceous"--which actually IS the birthmark thing we'd saw online!

It's basically a hair follicle tumor--almost always benign--but it's a congenital malformation, so it happens before birth. If it's not removed early, then as an adult, and changes appearance to look like what Jerry's looked like.

The doctor said it was benign, but that our insurance would cover its removal because there is the potential for it to turn cancerous. He asked how soon he could get in (he hated how it looked--after shaving his head, it stood out). Yesterday was a snow day for the kids (today was, too!) and a lot of people had canceled appointments at the dermatologist's office. So, he was able to get in just an hour after the phone call.

He went in and the doctor numbed his scalp, and then cut out an eye-shaped piece out around the nevus sebaceous. This is the piece that she removed:

She gave him eight stitches to close it up. Now, he'll have a minor scar, but he's glad that the thing was removed. His head his killing him, though.

So, it's interesting that what was a hilarious story about his haircut turned into finding this tumor on his scalp and then having it removed. I don't know if he ever would have noticed it otherwise!

I'm glad that it was benign and that everything turned out well. We will always laugh hysterically about his accidental haircut, though ;)

February 26, 2020

First Week Back on Weight Watchers

Last week, I wrote about starting Weight Watchers again (not going to meetings or doing it online or anything--just following the PointsPlus Points plan that I did several years ago). I was ready to change something up because I just wasn't sticking with calorie counting, and I really want to drop these extra pounds I've picked up.

I also wrote out a 33-week training plan to get ready for the Detroit Half Marathon in October. My friend Adam and I are going to run it together, and rather than jump right into a running plan, I'm starting from the very bottom as far as training goes. I decided to drag it out because it's 33 weeks away, and I feel like I will enjoy it more this way.

I decided to do my Six-Month Half Marathon Plan for Beginners (which will be seven weeks from now). That plan starts out super easy--it's for people who haven't yet started running. So, my plan is to start now by just walking three times a week for the first seven weeks, and then start the training plan... as if I was a true beginner.

Anyway, I'm going to call this past week "Week 0" as far as Weight Watchers. It was hard to get back into the routine of counting points! I did manage to count PointsPlus for four days out of seven. The weekend was super busy and I didn't plan ahead, so I didn't do great.

However, I got my Weight Watchers materials in the mail a couple of days ago (I ordered them on eBay) and I started a 12-week tracking book today. The materials I got are great! Not only the tracker, but look at all this stuff:

Not pictured is the WW PointsPlus calculator that came with it, too. (I know I can use an app, but I really want to go old school with a paper journal and calculator.)

I really like the "Success Handbook" and "Find Your Fingerprint" books--I'd never seen those before. They're actually workbooks about the mental side of losing weight. It'll take me forever to actually read through them, but I had no idea that they existed when I was doing the plan before.

Anyway, it was fun to get the materials (I had all of this stuff before--except for those books--and it was kind of nostalgic looking through it).

Today, I spent some time calculating PointsPlus for the dinners I plan to make this week. Planning it out ahead of time was crucial when I was doing WW before. When days are busy and hectic, knowing what I'm going to cook and how many PP it's going to be makes the plan much less stressful.

SO, I'll consider last week a warm-up for this week ;)  I counted four days, which is four more than I counted in who knows how long. So it was semi-successful.

Also, I actually did start my walking plan this week. I LOVE that there is no pressure as far as pace or heart rate or anything like that. Just simply walking 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I even printed out my plan on orange paper and stuck it on the fridge so that it glares at me.

The weather has been really mild this winter, and lately, it's been getting into the 40's and even 50's. On Monday, I took Eli to get new shoes and a haircut, and then we went to pick up Noah from school. We got there way too early, and had 35 minutes to kill.

Eli stayed in the car to play a game on his phone, but I took the opportunity to walk around the college campus for 30 minutes. I wasn't prepared--I was wearing jeans and boots (soft boots), but it didn't matter because I didn't need a Garmin or heart rate monitor or anything to just walk for 30 minutes.

So, I set the timer on my phone and I started walking. I walked a fairly brisk pace, but again--that wasn't my focus. I felt so... free? I'm not sure what the word is for how it felt. It was just really nice to go for an impromptu walk without an agenda.

Late last night, it started snowing. And it hasn't stopped since! The kids' schools were canceled today, but I have no idea why because the roads were totally fine. It was warm outside, and the snow was melting as soon as it hit the pavement (but it was sticking to the grass and trees).

It's the only kind of snow that I really like--when it's warm enough outside to not have to bundle up, and the snow is super light and feathery. It sticks to the trees and looks beautiful, but it doesn't cause the roads to be slippery.

I decided to take Joey for a walk at around 10:00 this morning. We walked to my parents' house and back (which is two miles round trip when I take a certain route) so even though I wasn't keeping track of the time, I am sure it was at least 30 minutes. I wasn't cruising, so I know I didn't do 15-minute miles; probably more like 17 or 18. Again, it's nice not to know!

Joey was thrilled to run around in the snow (we stopped at my parents' house, so I let him off leash for a few minutes).

I've been in a lot of pain today--all of my joints are aching. This happens to me once in a while, and I hate it. I told my doctor about it, and he said it could be from the change in weather--the barometric pressure or something. I started paying attention to when it happens, and I think he might be right! (As crazy as it sounds.)

I've noticed that whenever we have a relatively dramatic shift in temperatures (like the 50 degree temps to all the snow today), my whole body hurts. Today was really bad. Other than my walk, I had a pretty lazy day, watching a couple of documentaries. I'm hoping I can get some sleep tonight. I just can't get comfortable!

February 25, 2020

RECIPE: Vegetable Fried Rice

Noah is obsessed with everything that has soy sauce, and he especially adores fried rice. I usually make a double batch of this on Sunday evening so that he can take leftovers for lunch at school all week. Cold, leftover rice works best for fried rice, but since I'm terrible at planning ahead, I make this with fresh, hot rice as well.

For the fried rice seasoning, I make a big batch of it and store it in a mason jar. (You use 1 tsp. per cup of cooked rice when making fried rice)

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe!

Vegetable Fried Rice


2 Tbsp. light tasting olive oil (or canola or vegetable oil), divided
4 eggs (you can skip the eggs to make it vegan)
6 cups cooked white rice (I love Jasmine rice for this!)
1-2 bags of frozen peas and carrots (I use two)
2 Tbsp. fried rice seasoning (see recipe below)
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil

Fried Rice Seasoning (this makes a large batch to keep on hand; I store it in a mason jar):
4 Tbsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. ground ginger (powder)
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper


In a large skillet, heat 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Beat the eggs in a bowl, and then add to the skillet. Cook through, until scrambled, and then set the eggs aside in a bowl.

Add the other 1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil to the skillet, and turn the heat on high. Add the rice and stir to coat it evenly in oil. Add the frozen peas and carrots and stir as it continues to cook.

Meanwhile, combine the fried rice seasoning (2 Tbsp), soy sauce, and sesame oil together in a small bowl. When the rice is starting to brown and the vegetables are heated through, add the seasoning mixture to the skillet and stir well to coat all the rice.

Finally, add the scrambled eggs back into the skillet. Mix it all together and serve. Makes 6 servings.

February 24, 2020

Eli's First Rubik's Cube Tournament

(I love that Eli chose to wear the squirrel shirt he got for Christmas!)

Eli has something very much in common with me--we both tend to get interested in something and then basically make it our life's calling, and then we lose interest and move on to something else.

I thought that the Rubik's Cube was going to be another of those things with Eli--he'd get super into it, spend all of his money on new cubes, and then quit doing it after a couple of months. However, he's held the interest for a while now, and other than baseball, it's his very favorite activity.

A few months ago, he asked me if he could sign up for a tournament at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I knew absolutely nothing about these tournaments. I said sure, but I really didn't think he'd still be interested by the time it came around. It was only $10 to sign up, though, and they capped it at 150 people; so, I signed him up.

He was looking forward to it for weeks--and yesterday was the big day. The competition actually started Saturday, but he wasn't signed up for any of those events (there are events for all sorts of different cube varieties as well as things like solving it blindfolded or one-handed). Eli signed up for four of Sunday's events: the 3x3x3, 2x2x2, Pyraminx, and Skewb. Jerry and I went with him.

His best times are with the 2x2x2 cube (which is much harder than you would think it is!). He averages about 4 seconds at home, with a personal best of 1.8 seconds.

The first event was for the 3x3x3 cube, which he's good at. Well, *I* consider it good, but "good" is all relative when it comes to cubing. (It's like running; a 10-minute mile might be a personal best for one runner, but another runner might be super disappointed with that if they are used to getting 7-minute miles.)

Eli solves the 3x3x3 (that's the original cube that became uber popular in the 80's) in about 25 seconds. In my eyes, that's "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!"-amazing, but in a competition, it's on the slower side.

Anyway, Eli wasn't expecting to win--he was just going for the experience of it.

I don't know what I expected of the competition, but it was much more relaxed than I imagined. I thought it would be dead silent and all eyes on a group of competitors. It was nothing like that, however!

Jerry went up on the balcony to take a panoramic picture from above:

Here's how the competition works:

There are three groups of tables set up, and each participant has an assigned number to represent the group of tables they'll need to go to for each event (the order is completely random--they just do it to keep everything organized into waves).

When their wave is called, the competitor brings their cube to a table and sets it on a card with their name on it. Then they sit in a little waiting area and wait to be called to a table.

At the table, there are four chairs--two for judges and two for the competitors (so there is one judge for each competitor). There is a timing mat and timer display for each competitor. The competitor sits down at the table next to their judge, and in front of them is their cube, which has been scrambled by a "scrambler" (a person who uses randomized algorithms on a computer in order to scramble the cubes fairly). The cube is covered with a box so that the competitor can't see it yet.

When they are ready, the judge removes the box and the competitor has 15 seconds to inspect the cube and then start solving. (The timing mats have little sensor buttons for your hands--you set the cube on the mat, then place your hands on the buttons. When you're ready to start, you remove your hands, which starts the timer. When you're finished, you set the cube on the mat and then touch the buttons again to stop the timer.) Eli got a mat for Christmas, so he's been using it to practice.

After the solve, the competitor has to sign their slip of paper after the judge writes their time on it. Then their cube is taken away in the little box to have it scrambled again. The competitor is called back to a table, maybe with the same judge or maybe with another) and they repeat the whole thing. They get five attempts for each event.

Out of the five attempts, the best time and the worst time are thrown out. Then, the middle three are averaged together, and that is the number that is used for competition.

Don't worry, I won't recap all 20 of Eli's solves ;)  We got there about 45 minutes before his first event, so he spent the whole time practicing (as were all of the other competitors).

His first event was the 3x3x3. I was super excited and nervous for him. I could see he was nervous, but I don't think he wanted to show it. Everything happened so fast once his name was called. I took a video of each of his solves, so every time I heard his name, I had to rush over to his table before he started.

Here is a video of his first ever solve for competition:

His finish time was good! (Relatively, of course)

It wasn't good enough to make the second round, though. The top 64 competitors move to Round 2; the person in 64th place had an average solve time of 18.62 seconds--so the competition was tough! Eli's average ended up being 25.62, with a best time of 21.62.

The day moved so quickly! After the 3x3x3 was the Pyraminx (shaped like a pyramid). And then we headed outside for lunch. We walked a few blocks to Chipotle (Eli's favorite) for lunch and then went back to the competition.

The Skewb was next, and finally, the 2x2x2 (which Eli was most looking forward to, because his 4-second average at home would certainly get him to the next round in competition). Unfortunately, it didn't go so well. He was most nervous for that event, probably because he was expecting it to be his best. His times were slower than he was used to, and then on his fourth attempt, he got a two-second penalty.

He had the cube solved, but when he dropped it to the mat to finish, the layer turned enough to cause a penalty. I had no idea that the two seconds would end up being such a big deal, but if he hadn't gotten that penalty, he likely would have made it to the second round. He finished in 61st place out of 119, so basically right in the middle.

I was disappointed about the 2x2x2 because I knew he was hoping to do really well and he said he was disappointed. However, he said the day was one of the "funnest days of his life", so he obviously enjoyed the whole experience!

He started looking up other upcoming competitions so he can do another. (Again, it's like running... once you do your first race, you start signing up for all sorts of them.) I told him that, like running, he can just focus on competing with himself and bettering his own times.

I loved getting to spend the day with him, watching him do something he loves to do. And honestly, the competition itself was really interesting! Watching people solve the cubes super fast or one-handed was fun.

February 23, 2020

A Day With Eli

I am too exhausted to write a whole post for today, so I'll save it for tomorrow. But today was really nice to spend time with Eli at his Rubik's Cube tournament--I was so proud of him! I will write about it tomorrow. I'm pretty spent today. It was a LONG day...

...I'm just so happy to be his mom! What a special kid.

February 22, 2020

Build-A-Bear With Luke for His Birthday

It's so hard to believe it's been almost three years since I became an aunt! I have loved every second of the moments I've spent with Luke and Riley (and now baby Shelby). Luke's third birthday is next month, and Becky requested that, instead of a gift, we could take him out somewhere or do something with him for memories instead. I loved that idea!

The kids have a trillion toys anyways, so the idea of doing something fun with him instead of buying something sounded much better. I wish I'd have thought of that when my kids were little!

Anyway, when Noah was two years old, my brother's first wife, Danielle, took Noah to Build-A-Bear. It was SO cute! I think Build-A-Bear was still pretty new then, but we were in Minnesota to visit Brian and Danielle, and we went to the Mall of America. We rode on some of the rides at the theme park inside (I actually have a memory of getting on a ride with Noah where I was too fat for the lap bar to lock!) and Danielle took Noah to Build-A-Bear.

I'd been thinking for a while that I'd like to take Luke and Riley there when they were a good age for it, so I thought this would be a good time to take Luke. Jerry was off work today, and obviously the kids didn't have school, so the four of us were able to go pick up Luke and take him to the mall in Toledo.

Luke is a total chatterbox, and I love it! His carseat was in the back of my (tiny) Jeep Renegade, and I was in the middle seat with Eli on my other side. We were squished! But Luke asked me more questions in that 45 minute ride than I've ever been asked in a lifetime, hahaha. He's at such a fun age!

At the mall, we went into the Build-A-Bear store and Luke was hoping that they had elephants (he has a stuffed elephant at home and said he wanted a friend for it). They had unicorns and warthogs, but no elephants!

At first, he was going to choose a bear that was covered completely in sequins--and I was totally fine letting him choose anything he wanted--but he ended up choosing a soft teddy bear instead. I have to admit I was kind of relieved. The sequins were a bit much!

We brought it over to the stuffing machine, where Luke had to step on a pedal to make the stuffing come out and into the bear.

Then, he had to do a little routine to add a heart inside the bear--which was super adorable.

Then we went looking for clothing/accessories. I didn't make any suggestions, because I wanted to see what his (almost) three-year old mind came up with. And it was hilarious! The first thing he chose was a pair of boxer briefs. I had a hard time getting him to look for a shirt and pants, because he wanted things like a skateboard, a bed, butterfly wings, etc.

Finally, he chose a shirt--it was a Tigers shirt, but not the Detroit Tigers. It was a random team I'd never heard of (I didn't even know what sport it was!) so I thought that was funny. And he chose a pair of jeans that had holes in the knees, just like the jeans he was wearing. (In the car, he told me that he didn't like the holes in his jeans and he was pulling the white threads off, hahaha.)

He found a rocket backpack from Paw Patrol that he wanted to get instead of the butterfly wings. And he wanted red boots and sunglasses. And a winter hat. It was SO cute to watch him pick everything out! And, being his aunt, of course I didn't give him a budget ;)

After we (I) got the bear dressed, he got to name him on a birth certificate (Luke's first choice was "Dad", but he settled on "Barry", hahaha). We took his picture with Barry:

After we paid a small fortune for his bear, he was able to take his bear out of the store inside of a little backpack. He was so cute I almost couldn't stand it. (People at the mall were literally pointing and saying how cute he was!)

We got Chick-fil-A for lunch. For some reason, Chick-fil-A is a huge deal around here--people love it--but we don't have one close by. Toledo is the closest, as far as I know, so when in Toledo, chicken it is!

After lunch, we squished back into the car and drove him home. Tomorrow, Brian, Becky, and the kids are going to Hilton Head to visit my parents, so Becky was packing for the trip. Luke gave Jerry the royal tour of the new house (Jerry hadn't seen it yet) and then we came home. I was SO EXHAUSTED for some reason (so was Jerry). I just watched a movie called "After" on Netflix, and loved it. It's a teen drama--if any of you were into Twilight, then definitely watch "After"!

Tomorrow, Eli is going to be in a Rubik's Cube competition in Ann Arbor at U of M. I'm so excited/nervous for him! He's super fast (he can solve the 3x3x3 in under 20 seconds now, although his average is about 25 seconds). He's going to be in four different competitions (different for each cube--the 2x2, 3x3, Pyraminx, and Skewb). It'll be a long day--about 8:00-5:30, if he makes it to the final round on the 2x2 and 3x3. He's just hoping to make it to the second round. Wish him luck, please!

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