Goodbye Desk

A couple of months ago we bought a new, larger desk at IKEA to use in the home office since the desk I had been using for work was kind of small for my needs. And since we had to move the office to the basement to keep Max away from the computer, it was a good time to do it. Since then, the plan has been to change the upstairs office into a toy room for the kids. Today that happened because I finally got around to getting rid of the desk. We did not need the desk anymore, but I kind of hated to see it go. That desk came from the music store my parents ran when I was a kid, and was in our house after the music store closed. It is nice having the desk gone though. It frees up some space, and I wouldn't want to have to move it again.

To get rid of the desk I resorted to listing it on Craigslist. Deciding it would be easier to unload on someone if it were free, I decided not to ask any money for it. Within an hour of listing the desk, I had already received four emails from people inquiring about the desk.

Now I am not completely clear about the proper etiquette regarding Craigslist, but I was taken aback by some of the emails I received. The very first one simply contained the text "address and zip i will map." Excuse me? Is that really a proper way to respond to an advertisement? Yes, it is short and to the point, but my time isn't too valuable that I can't take the time to read a complete sentence or two. The next email asked for my address and said he could pick it up today. Another email was fairly similar in its content.

As I really wanted to take care of this today, I responded to the second email I received letting him know the desk was still available and I gave information needed for him to get the desk. The fourth email came after I sent my reply. This one was someone who took the time to actually write a response to my ad in complete sentences, asking if the desk was still available and asking for other details about the desk. If I hadn't already replied to the email I replied to, I would have offered it to the final emailer.

Things worked out, and the person to whom I replied picked up the desk this afternoon. I will be using Craigslist to get rid of a couple more things we don't need as this seems to be an efficient way to use. Perhaps if I am not giving things away for free, but instead charging for them, the replies will be a little less curt, and more polite. On the other hand, maybe I just expect too much civility from people on the Internet.


I Love a Parade, and So Does Emma!

[caption id="attachment_231" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma and the Vulcan Krewe"][/caption]

Emma, Max, and I went to the Woodbury Days parade today. When I mentioned yesterday to Emma that we would be going to the parade today, she insisted that I check the weather first. The last time we went to a parade, the Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest parade earlier this summer, we got caught in a downpour. We left that parade early and all the way home Emma cried that she never wanted to go to a parade again. Checking the weather, I told Emma that there was a very small chance it would rain, but she was fine with that, so we went.

[caption id="attachment_232" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Max enjoyed the parade."][/caption]

I was very impressed with Emma at this parade. With every other parade we have taken her to, she had been terrified by the sirens from the police cars and firetrucks that invariably begin the parade. So when I heard the sirens off in the distance this afternoon, I braced myself to deal with her asking to go home. I was pleasantly surprised though when Emma didn't react to the sound at all. She watched the emergency vehicles drive by with their lights on and sirens blaring. I am so happy that she seems to be done with that phase. Max has never had problems with the noise, and today was no different.

[caption id="attachment_233" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma and Petey P. Cup"][/caption]

Emma also seems to have gotten over her fear of dogs as several dogs went by within inches of us in the padare. Emma liked the dogs this time. Both kids had a good time. I let Max have a few pieces of candy, mainly a package of Smarties and a Tootsie Roll or two. And he didn't get at all cranky sitting in his stroller for the parade which lasted at least two hours.

Of course the highlight of the parade for Emma was when she saw her favorite mascot, Petey P. Cup. She was super excited when she saw him coming in the distance. She gave him a nice big hug. I do not think it will be difficult getting her to go to any parades in the future.

[caption id="attachment_234" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Emma ended up collecting a little candy at the parade."][/caption]



Mel and I tackled a couple landscaping tasks today. The first one we worked on was the small garden in the corner of our front yard. Since we moved into this house over three years ago, we have never bothered to plant anything there. There were some flowers there, but we let my mom take them a summer or two ago, because they were a type of flower to which Mel is allergic. In the meantime, the fence that surrounded the two straight edges of the garden had fallen into disarray, and the area had become overrun with weeds. I am certain that the neighbors hated that eyesore. For this area, Mel ripped out all the weeds, the two of us tore down the fence, and then Mel put down some mulch. We will probably end up planting some bulbs this fall, but we haven't yet figured that out.

[caption id="attachment_217" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="This is the front yard  "garden" before we began work.And here is the after picture.And here is the after picture.And here is the after picture.And here is the after picture."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_218" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="And here is the after picture."][/caption]

The second task was taking care of a nice-sized area of the backyard set apart from the rest of the backyard by some small, wooden beams. This area had grass in it when we moved in, but because of the wooden beams, mowing it was difficult. As a result, this area had also become overridden with very tall grass and weeds. A few weeks ago I sprayed the entire area with a heavy-duty weed killer, so today Mel removed the dead grass. Afterwards, I put covered the area with a weed barrier. Finally, Mel and I covered the area with 30 cubic feet of river rock, weighing a total of 1.5 tons. We finished off the area with some garden gnomes and other decor. We will add some more to this area in the future. But for now it is a vast improvement over how this corner of the yard previously looked.

[caption id="attachment_221" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Before we began, the back corner of the yard was an out-of-control mess of weeds and grass.The area is now much improved.The area is now much improved.The area is now much improved."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_222" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="The area is now much improved."][/caption]

My Day With Maximus

[caption id="attachment_214" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Maximus got a little yogurt on his face when he fed himself breakfast."][/caption]

Max's daycare provider took the day off yesterday so she and her husband could go to the state fair. Because of this, I used a day of my vacation time to watch him. Lately Max has had the tendency to get cranky and throw little temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way. Fortunately there was little of this Friday.

Usually Max eats a small breakfast at home before going to daycare, and then eats again when he gets there. However, Max didn't show any interest in eating before we took Emma to daycare, so I waited to give him food until we got home from dropping her off. When we got home I let Max feed himself some yogurt so I could empty the dishwasher and put clothes in the dryer and start another load of laundry. He didn't do too bad of a job feeding himself, although he did get a bit of yogurt on his face and in his hair.

After breakfast we played for a little while before leaving the house again to run some errands. On our way back home from dropping a package off at The UPS Store in Woodbury, Max fell asleep. He stayed pretty much asleep as I transferred him from his car seat to his crib. He ended up sleeping until around noon. We then shared a can of Chef Boyardee Mini Pasta Shells and Meatballs. I was impressed by how little of the sauce ended up on his face.

After lunch I took Max for a haircut. I received a compliment from another customer about how patient Max was being as we waited for his haircut. Max squirmed a bit for his haircut, but it was still much easier than when I used to cut his hair. After the haircut, Max and I went to Target to pick up a fer things and returned home to play a bit more before Mommy got home from work. Of all the days I have watched Max because his daycare provider was taking the day off, this was the smoothest.



For the past several days I have been experiencing severe tooth pain. Before I continue though, I must point out that I realize there are some people who live with almost constant pain daily. I do not mean to diminish their experiences, but this pain is something I am just not used to.

It began last Friday night when I was getting ready to go to bed in my hotel room while on my business trip to San Antonio, Texas. Fortunately the hotel was next to a 24-hour grocery store, so I went there and bought some Advil. That did the trick, and my pain went away allowing me to sleep. On Saturday I again experienced some discomfort while on my flight home, so I took some more ibuprofen. At this point the pain was not intolerable.

Things changed on Sunday. The pain in my mouth was getting progressively worse to the point where the Advil was having very little effect. I began alternating the Advil with Motrin, which did not seem to help much either. The pain was so bad that I only slept about three hours Sunday night.

Monday I went to the dentist and discovered that I had an abscess and was told that the root canal that I had done in October 2008 was failing and would need to be redone. Because it would have to be done through an existing crown, I was referred to an endodontist to have the procedure done.

The earliest I could get in to be seen by the endodontist was Wednesday at noon, so I had to deal with the pain until then. The dentist I saw Monday did prescribe me an antibiotic as well as Vicodin. On Tuesday when the Vicodin did not control the pain for more than an hour at a time, she prescribed me Percocet. I ended up alternating between them as neither seemed to do the trick. I did sleep better Tuesday than I did on either Sunday or Monday nights, but still did not get a good, restful sleep.

Yesterday I made it into the endodontist. After viewing the X-ray of my tooth, I was told that a root canal would be difficult to do, although he was confident he could do it. My other option was to just have the tooth extracted. While the endodontist would have preferred for me to keep the tooth, he said that given the difficulty in fixing it, he would not blame me if I wanted to just have it removed. After giving me an injection of Novocaine, so I could make my decision without being influenced by immediate pain, I ended up deciding to just have the tooth extracted. I really wanted to get it done that day, it was significantly less costly to have it extracted than to have a root canal, and I did not want to have to worry about future issues with the tooth.

I ended up in the dental surgeon's office at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, and by 4:00 I was walking out without any pain. I am very happy this is done. I think this was the worst pain I had ever experienced. The pain from when I had my gallbladder attacks last year may have been worse, but that pain did not persist like this pain did.


Trip to San Antonio


[caption id="attachment_207" align="alignright" width="225" caption="This painting of Bill Clinton wearing a La Tierra T-shirt was on a wall in the restaurant."][/caption]

Since Saturday evening I have been in San Antonio for work, and I will be here until late Saturday morning. On this trip, I finally met my functional manager in person for the first time, and I visited my company's San Antonio office. We have had a productive week of work, meeting with a client. Tonight though, a coworker from Iowa City and I got to see some of the sights of San Antonio. A colleague of ours who lives here drove us downtown where we went to Market Square, where I got gifts for Mel and Emma. We went through Mi Tierra Restaurant and Bakery, although we did not stop there to eat. We also checked out the exterior of the Alamo since it was closed for the day. After visiting these sights, we had dinner at La Tuna Grill. There was a lot to see on our shopping trip, and the food was good where we ate. It was nice to try something for dinner besides eatting at a chain restaurant another night, although I do like chain restaurants as well.

And before I complete this blog posting, no visit to the Alamo would be complete without mentioning the basement as in the video below.


The Irish Fair

[caption id="attachment_204" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma watches the Minnesota Police Pipe Band perform at the Irish Fair of Minnesota."][/caption]

The Irish Fair of Minnesota was held this past Friday through today at Harriet Island in Saint Paul. We had a good time last year, this past March when I saw a Groupon offer to get $20 in food tickets for just $10, I jumped at the chance. So yesterday, we all went to the Irish Fair. We listened to a few different groups of performers, and watched a few groups dancing. I did find it interesting to see the dance groups dancing to C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."  We did some shopping at the merchandise tents, buying the kids some Irish soccer outfits, and had some food to eat. I had a corned beef and swiss sandwich. We left the Irish Fair when it was clear that Max was tired and needed to go home to nap.


Another GCC Milestone

This morning I received another email from the Global Corporate Challenge. I have reached a total of 1,000,000 steps so far while participating in this year's challenge.  My team has only made it 52% around the world on our virtual tour. With just three weeks to go before we finish, I am fairly certain we will not be making it all the way around the world. That is okay though. I have found that the Global Corporate Challenge has gotten me to walk more than I would have previously. When I go shopping now, I am much more likely to park far away from the door than I was before. And if walking somewhere is a viable alternative to driving, I will walk. I hope I have the opportunity to participate in the Global Corporate Challenge again next year.


My Big Boy

[caption id="attachment_198" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Maximus waits for the nurse to return to give him a shot."][/caption]

Maximus is one big kid. At just eighteen months of age he is already wearing size 3T shirts and 2T pants. And in just this past week, I have received multiple comments from strangers about how big a kid he is. Max, Emma, and I were shopping at Super Target on Saturday morning. While we were looking at the Jell-O, a boy who appeared to me to be between two and three years of age drew his mother's attention to the "baby" in the shopping cart. His mom responded to him that he was closer to being a baby than Max was. I then mentioned to her that Max was only eighteen months old. She then had to retract her statement to her son.

Then yesterday when I was picking Max up from daycare, I reminded his daycare provider that he would be leaving early Wednesday for his eighteen-month doctor visit. Another parent was surprised that he was only eighteen months old as he is larger than her older child. I got a similar comment form a customer behind me in line at SuperAmerica this morning when I was talking to the employee about Max.

So as I just mentioned, Maximus had his eighteen-month doctor visit this afternoon. This was probably the best Max has done for any doctor appointment. He did struggle a bit when the doctor tried to look in his ears, but there was no screaming this time. And he barely cried when he got his vaccination today. Max is doing just fine. His vocabulary and behavior are typical of a toddler of his age. The only aspects that were atypical were his height and weight. Max weighed in at 29 pounds 12 ounces, putting him at the 92nd percentile for weight. This seems like it could be a problem until you know that Max is 36.75 inches tall, which is over the 97th percentile for height. As his percentile rank for weight is lower than that for his height, it is just fine. I really wish I had a picture of his growth chart that I could share here. His height has always been above the top curve on the chart, but until today's measurement his growth has followed a nice curve. His height today was 2.75 inches greater than it was at his fifteen-month visit. So he grew almost three inches in three months! On the other hand, his weight did not increase very much over that time period. I guess we will see how his growth progresses when we go back to the doctor in January for his two-year visit.


Emma's Blankie

[caption id="attachment_193" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Emma holds her blankie in this photo from June 2008."][/caption]

Emma has been taking her blankie with her to daycare ever since she started going to daycare three months after she was born. She is now in pre-kindergarten and I have occasionally suggested that she leave her blankie at home, but she has largely dismissed that idea. I have told her than when she starts kindergarten next year, she will not be able to take her blankie with her. She has seemed confused by that, asking me if they take naps in kindergarten.

Anyway, Monday morning she said to me that she might leave her blankie at home. They have not been taking naps recently in her class as many of her classmates will be starting kindergarten next month and, from what I was told, they do not take naps in the half-day kindergarten classes, although the kindergarteners who go all day do have rest time. She ended up taking her blankie. I mentioned to Mel that Emma had thought about leaving it at home Monday, even though she ended up taking it. The two of them had a chat about Emma's blankie, because this morning Emma left it at home so I could wash it. Things seemed to go fine without it today.

At dinner tonight I asked her if she was going to leave her blankie at home again tomorrow. She did not seem certain that she would. After all, I washed it today, so why would she need to leave it at home? We will see in the morning. It would be nice if she decides to leave it at home, but it will be fine if she ultimately decides to take it with her.

Weight Watchers Week 2

As I begin my second week on Weight Watchers, my weight is down 4.6 pounds from my weigh-in last Tuesday. This brings my weight down to 225.4 pounds. While I am happy to have lost this much weight in the past week, I know that this is not a healthy rate at which to continue to lose. In the past however, I have found that the first week of counting points using Weight Watchers often results in a significant amount of weight loss. It is also possible that some of the weight I lost this past week was due to losing water that I had retained from RAGBRAI the week before. Regardless of the reason, this rate should slow down over the next couple of weeks.


Five Million Steps

[caption id="attachment_188" align="alignright" width="221" caption="My GCC team has recorded 5,000,000 steps!"][/caption]

Yesterday morning I discovered an email from the Global Corporate Challenge in my work inbox. It was an email informing me that my seven-person GCC team has reached a milestone of 5,000,000 steps since the challenge began on May 19. Looking at my data, I have recorded a total of 965,120 steps myself. Of these steps, 234,448 were from the week before last week, the week I was on RAGBRAI. That means that I recorded nearly one-fourth of my total step count in one week out of the eleven and a half weeks we have completed so far. That is amazing.


Visiting the Zoo

[caption id="attachment_175" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma checks out the Penguins of the African Coast at the Minnesota Zoo."][/caption]

Today we all went to the Minnesota Zoo which, last month, opened a new exhibit of penguins of the African coast. Not only does the zoo have a new exhibit, but the main entrance to the zoo has been completely remodeled. Naturally, our first stop once we got inside was to look at the penguins. They were really cool, no pun intended. We saw some swimming and some on the rocks. At first Emma seemed reluctant to get up close to the glass to get a good view of the penguins. But with some reassurance from one of the people working at the zoo, she climbed up the rocks and looked right at the penguins. I think she enjoyed seeing them.

[caption id="attachment_176" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Emma "drives" one of the John Deere tractors at the zoo's farm."][/caption]

Next we had some lunch before continuing on to the rest of the zoo. After our lunch we went through the outdoor part of the zoo in the opposite direction of what we usually do. Instead of first going to the sea otters and bears, we went in the direction toward the moose and caribou. We ended up making our way to the Wells Fargo Family Farm at the zoo. They were having a festival up there today. In addition to the usual farm animals, there were numerous John Deere tractors to look at. Emma sat on several of them. I think she wanted to do that even more than she wanted to look at the animals. Maximus also got to sit on a couple of tractors. He really liked the lawn tractor that he got to sit on by himself. After we looked at the cows in the barn, he wanted to back to that tractor.

[caption id="attachment_178" align="aligncenter" width="383" caption="Maximus loved sitting on the lawn tractor."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Max enjoyed the slides at the playground."][/caption]

We also spent some time playing on the playground near the wolf gazebo. We even let Max out of his stroller so he could play. He went on the small slide a few times, but then he discovered the largest slide on the playground. He kept wanting to go down that. That kid shows no fear.

We eventually left the playground and finished up looking at the animals outside. Max, Emma, and I looked at the dolphins and sharks before meeting back up with Mel and leaving for the day. We did not go to the Tropics Trail or the Minnesota Trail on this visit. That is one benefit of being zoo members. We do not feel as compelled to see everything on each visit. We can always go back to see what we missed the next time we are at the zoo. And we will definitely be back.

[caption id="attachment_180" align="alignright" width="584" caption="The camels were keeping cool in their pond."][/caption]


Board Games in the Twenty-First Century

[caption id="attachment_171" align="alignright" width="240" caption="This is the final result of a recent Scrabble game between Mel and me."][/caption]

I have long been a fan of board games, including the game Scrabble. Ever since I met Mel, Scrabble has been a game we have liked to play together. With two young children, it can be difficult to find the time to play board games however. This is why being able to play Scrabble online through Facebook is great. Each of us can play our turn whenever we get a chance, and there is no risk that one of the kids will upset the game board, ruining a game. Also, with playing online, we are able to have multiple games going with each other, as well as other people, simultaneously. One problem we have had with this though is that, until recently, each of could only play our turns when we were at the computer.

We have recently solved this problem by each downloading the Scrabble Free app for our Android phones. We are now able to each play our turn without logging into the computer. Both last night and tonight we found ourselves playing our turns repeatedly one after another. It was funny that I would play my turn in one game and then hear the alert from Mel's phone that she had a game ready for her. Moments later my phone would give me the same alert. While we could get the Scrabble board out and play a game with physical pieces, playing using technology is just so much more convenient.


Final Thoughts About RABGRAI XXXIX

[caption id="attachment_164" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Not everyone on RAGBRAI rides a bike. I saw this skateboarder, a registered participant, multiple days along the route."][/caption]

About ten miles into riding on Sunday, I was wondering to myself why the hell I was riding my bike across Iowa. Don't get me wrong, as this was my eleventh RAGBRAI in twelve years, I knew what I was getting myself into, but it was already really hot and humid out, the day's route was fairly hilly, and to top it off, I was not feeling well. To answer my question, the reason I do RAGBRAI is because, in spite of some of its downsides, it is a lot of fun and I get a great sense of accomplishment out of it. Although that sense of accomplishment is admittedly lessened when deciding to sag in after the first eighteen miles of the first day of riding.

And I still managed to have a lot of fun this particular year on RAGBRAI despite not feeling well for the majority of the week. I am really looking forward to riding RAGBRAI again. I do not know if I will be back for next year's ride, RAGBRAI XL, but I think I will ride again if possible. I may start using each year's route to help me decide if I will ride. Of the eleven RAGBRAIs I have been on, I much prefer the ones across northern part of the state. I do not know if I would choose to ride if the route was a southern one. I think I have had enough of the hills of southern Iowa to last a while. Time will tell as to whether I ride again. Perhaps in ten years or so Emma or Maximus will want to come along for the ride as well. That would be a lot of fun.

Weight Watchers Week 1

Today is actually two weeks since I last posted about restarting Weight Watchers, but since my weight is exactly the same as it was two weeks ago, and I did not count any points at all while I was on RAGBRAI last week, I am going to call today the beginning of my weight loss journey.

My weight this morning was 230.0 pounds. I like that my starting weight was a nice, round number. My goal weight is 199.0 pounds, which will bring my body mass index into the normal range. Since a safe rate at which to lose weight is one to two pounds per week, I should be able to reach my goal weight in 16 to 31 weeks. I am going to set a date of March 5, 2012, 31 weeks from now, as the date by which I should reach my goal.


RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 7 -- Coralville to Davenport

[caption id="attachment_155" align="alignright" width="225" caption="The frozen wine margaritas at the Brick Arch Winery in West Branch were very good."]Brick Arch Winery[/caption]

After a week of not feeling well, Saturday was the first day of this RAGBRAI that I actually felt like eating. And eat I did. Before leaving from my coworker's house in Coralville though, I was joined by one of Mel's uncles, Ted. Saturday was his first ever day of RAGBRAI. Mel had worn herself out on Friday, so she opted to ride the Superior Hawgs bus to Davenport instead. Ted and I set out around 6:30 and after finding the route in Coralville, we would through the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. Before we even got out of Iowa City, we were passed by two ambulances with their sirens on. We encountered them where the route crossed Interstate 80 for the first time of the day. I am not sure what had happened, but there were two bike turned up for the sag wagon to pick up since their riders were being transported away by ambulance.

We made out first stop in West Branch where we had some breakfast at the Brick Arch Winery. I had a free sample of their frozen wine margarita. It was very yummy! If I hadn't had fifty-two miles yet to ride, I likely would have ordered a full drink. Next we passed through Springdale without stopping. It was less than five miles from our previous stop afterall.

[caption id="attachment_156" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="On Saturday I finally had a chance to stop for a sandwich from the PB Jam."][/caption]

We made another food stop at the Peanut Butter Jam truck on the outskirts of Moscow. This was the first time I had ever stopped for one of their sandwiches. I had a peanut butter sandwich with strawberry jelly, coconut, and chocolate chips. I washed the whole thing down with a chocolate milk. Since we had just stopped, we did not stop in Moscow itself, but instead continued on to Wilton.

In Wilton we stopped at the bar where I had a Made-Rite sandwich. We stayed there for a little bit before getting back on our bikes for the remaining twenty-eight miles of RAGBRAI XXXIX. We took a brief break in Durant where I got a Powerade from the Casey's General Store. We eventually made it to Walcott, although much of this distance to the east was into a fairly good headwind.

We took another break in Walcott where Ted had a smoothie. We were glad to be heading south out of Walcott so that we would be out of the headwind. At least that is what we thought before getting out of town. By the time we left, the wind had shifted to be coming out of the south. Fortunately when we turned east again we were finally rid of the headwinds.

Entering Davenport there were a few big hills that we had to go up. We also got to go down them. That would have been more fun if the road had been a bit smoother and if there weren't ninety-degree turns at the bottom of two of them. Also, the road surface as we entered the city limits of Davenport was a bit sticky. It was almost as if they had just laid down some fresh tar for us. It could have been a result of the heat though.

We ended up riding at least five miles once we got into Davenport. I eventually found the Superior Hawgs bus around 3:30. I was the last one of us to arrive, so we were soon on our way back to Evansdale.