Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Olivia!

Today is my older sister's birthday. She has lately written two very nice tributes to my mom and I on her blog which have inspired me to do the same for her. Unfortunately, I am not nearly as eloquent as she is when it comes to writing. If I could, I would hire her to write this for me, or at least to proof read it like she does everything else, from emails to research proposals, but somehow I think it would defeat the purpose. The good news is that I think you all know her, or at least know of her, so if this turns out terribly, it won't reflect badly on her.

To avoid the death of many needed brain cells, which would certainly follow if I try to be eloquent, I'm going to resort to the old-fashoined kindergarten trick.

O is for Organized. I don't think I need to say much about this one. I mean, I'm kind of anal myself, but I'm nowhere near as organized as Olivia. She's always coming up with ways to be more organized. I think her biggest accomplishment was organizing the bee lab. You may not realize what a feat this was, but let's just say it's like climbing Mount Everest in nothing but socks and a bathing suit.

L is for Loving. I think loving encompasses what I want to say here. It sounds kind of trite, and certainly if I were Olivia I could come up with a better word, but it works. She is loving in the general sense of the word, but specifically, she is the most forgiving person in the world. If you ever want to do wrong to somebody with no consequences...wait, I don't want anyone to get any ideas here. I have given up on people in my life. Olivia has never given up on anyone in her life. Not anyone. I use her as my inspiration when dealing with people that I would like to punch in the face--I just ask myself "What would Olivia do"? The answer is nearly always smile and be patient. It works most of the time, but I still have limits that apparently don't exist in Olivia's world. Flashback to China when we were being bamboozled by a bamboo rafting cartel. Sus nearly punched someone. If Olivia hadn't been there she certainly would have.

I is for Intelligent. Olivia has an insatiable curiosity about everything. It started when she was very small. I remember laying on the top bunk bed at night, drifting off to sleep only to be interrupted by Olivia (who apparently had no need of sleep, even then) saying "What should I think about next"? I would always irritatedly reply "I don't know" and then follow up with a randomly chosen object like "magnets". I never asked her what in god's name she was thinking about magnets, for fear I would never get to sleep, but apparently there was a lot of stuff to think about. Some things were more thought worthy than others and every now and then I would hit on something that would occupy her mind for a whole 5 minutes (something like the Theory of Relativity), plenty of time for me to drift to sleep so that I could safely ignore her next inquiry. Even now, when we chat on the phone, she is inevitably asking questions, trying to explain some phenomenon she recently witnessed or read about in an article. I have to embarrassedly admit that if it weren't for Olivia, I would probably never even consider half the things I have.

V is for Valiant. Courageous and determined. Definitely Olivia. Determined in everything she does whether it be hiking or finishing her Master's degree. I recall some people questioned whether she would finish the latter, but I knew. I knew that there was no way in hell Olivia would let a silly piece of paper defeat her. Although there was that one time that she threw out her back while reaching for a piece of paper... Anyway, and courageous too. My mom and dad bought her a key chain that said "Steal my keys and I'll kick you in the balls" because when she was in grade school some older boys on the bus were harassing her. I don't actually recall if she had to kick them in the balls or not because I don't have the memory of an elephant like Olivia does, but I'm pretty sure she did. She's a tough cookie when it comes to fighting--I have the scars to prove it. Olivia is most courageous when it comes to defending people she loves. I remember one time walking home from elementary school with her and stopping to do a cherry drop on the playground. Some kids were making fun of me for some reason or other. Boy were they sorry they did that!

I is for Irresistible. Olivia is the one with the irresistible smile and laugh that are always a mere nano-second from rising to the surface and occasion. I say irresistible, for those of you unlucky enough not to have experienced them in person, because they are contagious. More contagious than any disease I've ever heard of. But maybe that's not a great comparison because smiles and laughs don't kill people. Anyway, the point is, that whenever Olivia smiles and laughs, other smiles and laughs are soon to follow. Even the grumpiest grump wouldn't be able to resist smiling when Olivia is happy. That's why she always has about 10 men fawning over her at any given time. Granted, some of them have been more annoying than others (I won't name names), but that's what happens when you're irresistible.

A is for Athletic. I know she may disagree with me, because she's always certain she can do better, but honest to god, Olivia has the most endurance of anybody I have ever met. Have you ever gone for a hike with Olivia? When Olivia hikes, she's not farting around (to use a phrase I inherited from my dad). She'll hike at a running pace (seriously, I know people that can't run as fast as she hikes) without breaking a sweat, often carrying a 150 lb pack. And she can go for miles and miles and miles. I never admit it to her, but when I hike with Olivia I'm often right at my limit.

So, Happy Birthday to the best older sister in the world.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Detroit Zoo

This Saturday I went with some friends to the Detroit Zoo. It was pretty nice--kind of small, but it had all the essentials. We were primarily attending the pet adoption event right outside the gates (no, I didn't adopt anything although I was sorely tempted), but managed to spend a good hour and a half or so wandering the zoo. I think we timed it perfectly. By the time the zoo closed at 5, we were clear on the other side of the entrance. We moseyed back as slowly as possible. There were very few people and the animals were all just waking up. My favorites were the Wart Hogs. Boy did they have bees in their bonnets.

Even the Rhinos were running around.

There was a cool butterfly garden,



and bears.

There were three bears in the enclosure. The one in the picture must have been centuries old. He had no teeth and could barely walk. Each step was a tender one. He'd put his paw out test his weight on it a bit, think hard about whether he REALLY wanted to take it, and then gingerly take the leap. Poor guy.

Apparently the Detroit zoo is best known for it's arctic exhibit. But when we were there it wasn't that exciting. The polar bears were asleep in the distance and the seals were asleep floating in the water.

I'd go back again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Camping in Michigan

I haven't posted anything substantial in a while, mostly because we haven't done many exciting things lately. Alex has night classes Monday through Thursday, so we definitely don't get to do anything exciting during the week. Last weekend was miserable weather, with 5 plus inches of rain dumping down over the course of Saturday and Sunday so we didn't do much then either. Finally this weekend we managed to get out and have fun. We went camping at the nearby Waterloo State Recreation Area with our friends Rachel and Dave and their cute dog Enzo.

This was our first camping trip in Michigan since we moved here. Crazy to think that it's taken us this long, but the fact of the matter is I've been spoiled rotten living out west. It's so easy to get out and get away from the general public in the west--it takes significantly more effort here. The northern quarter of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are the best places to go camping or backpacking, but it takes anywhere from 4-8 hours to get there. For a weekend trip, or just a one-nighter, that's a bit too far. In the lower half of the state, camping isn't about getting away from the general public but more about surrounding yourself with a different general public than the one you face every day. From what I can tell, campgrounds down here are typically huge (the one we went to had 136 sites), well developed (complete with playgrounds), and offer little in the way of buffers between you and your neighbors. And, there are relatively few of them. But you know, different as it is from what I'm used to, I found out it's still fun. All you need is good company and a nearby trail (Rachel and I hiked for nearly two hours on a trail--the only trail--that left from the campground without seeing another soul).

We left home around 3:30 and got to the campground around 5:00. It's only 30 miles away, but Rachel and I got a little lost and Alex and Dave biked out. We found the perfect site--only one neighbor and at least twice the room as any other site, including two picnic tables. Alex and I broke out our monster car-camping tent from Kirkhams--you know, the canvas variety that could comfortably house a whole army, or at a minimum, two adults and two big dogs. We used all our car camping gear that hasn't seen the light of day for over two years now. The lantern, the coleman stove, the plastic eating ware, the mismatched pots, etc. Saturday dinner was tinfoil stew, cooked over our carefully cultivated slow burning coals, with biscuits on a stick. Dessert was, of course, S'mores. Rachel came up with a new variety of S'more--a marshmallow and chocolate wrapped in Pilsbury homestyle biscuit dough, cooked in tinfoil. Mmmmm. So good. Breakfast was pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs. I mean, we don't eat that well at home. All in all, I would definitely do that again. Why did it take us so long to do this?

P.S. Sorry there are no pictures. I forgot to bring my camera.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I made a baby blanket!

Good news/Bad news

The good news: I can wear Alex's pants!

The bad news: I can wear Alex's pants!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Baby Pics!!

Last Monday Alex and I went in for our second ultrasound--this time at the appropriate stage of development (19 weeks). It was just as fun as the first one. And this time we found out the sex--it's a girl! And she's cute too. Just see for yourself.

She was very active and stubborn. It took the technician 20 minutes to get the right view of her heart because she likes to keep her hands up by her face and her arm was casting a shadow right over her heart. The technician kept pounding on my belly with the ultrasound wand to try to get her to move and she would squirm around and then immediately put her arms back up. At the end, she started opening and closing her mouth! It was so cute! I'm pretty sure she was complaining loudly about being jiggled around so rudely.

She's about 9 ounces which I think is crazy. In 5 days I'll be halfway through my pregnancy but she's not even close to half her birth weight. And I finally look almost pregnant on a regular basis.

It's actually kind of uncomfortable--all my other organs feel mooshed. I have the perfect analogy but Olivia told me not everyone would find it appropriate. Let's just say it involves roadkill. Anyway, the other drawback is that when I run my bladder gets beat up by my uterus and I feel like I constantly have to pee even though I really don't.

Alex's First Triathlon

Alex officially competed, and kicked butt, in his first triathlon. On September 6th he ran the Rhoades McKee Reeds Lake Triathlon in Grand Rapids Michigan. This triathlon is a sprint distance--a half mile swim, a 17.2 mile bike ride, and a 4.9 mile run. His finishing time was 1 hour, 46 minutes, and 53 seconds!! He placed 152 out of 989 finishers, 133 out of 666 men, and 16 out of 82 25 to 29 year olds. Pretty darn good if you ask me. Especially considering he didn't start swimming until about a month before the race and only swam once a week or so. Just to give you an idea how fast he was going, he was running about 6 and a half minute miles after the swim and bike portion. I think this picture shows just how fast he was going:

And yes, he passed that slow dude just in front of him.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Three Years and Counting

Alex and I recently celebrated our third wedding anniversary. When I told Olivia we had been married for three years, she said "Really? Only three? It seems more like 5 to me." I think her perception reflects the fact that we've managed to cram 5 years of fun into only three. We've even managed to have fun here in Michigan where we can't climb, hike, go white-water rafting or canyoneering. I'd say we're doing pretty well. Just think, by the time we've been married for 15 years we'll have 25 years of fun under our belts. Here's a photo recap of the fun we've had up to now:

And here are just ten of the millions of reasons I consider myself a lucky woman to have snagged a man like Alex:

1. He loves a good adventure.

2. He's not afraid of hard work.

3. When he gets into something, he really gets into it. There's no dabbling for Alex--either you know nothing about a subject, or you know everything.

4. He has a great sense of humor.

5. He's one of the most loving people I've ever met.

6. He's athletic.

7. He gets along with everyone, no matter how annoying they are.

8. He comes with an amazing family.

9. He's got an opinion about everything.

10. He's incredibly inteligent.