What a Week!

Read whatever intonation you want into that title, I’d say it’s accurate.

Sunday

Benji listless and droopy. Took his temp: 102F. Administered Tylenol and videos. Ian left to drive to totality zone. Benji slept and drooped and I gave him more Tylenol. Had 100% exposure to his virus in the first 15 seconds of his feeling really bad.

Monday

Had the day off, which was good, because it was busy and Ian wasn’t around! Benji was feeling better, but his throat was really sore.

But Uncle Gerard was here for a visit, so Benji glommed onto him and I didn’t have to do much.

Hopelink donation and food bank tour. Benji still a little sick after 102-degree fever on Sunday (and maybe Saturday.)
Hopelink Food Bank Tour

Eclipse.
Eclipse 1

Eclipse 2

Eclipse 3

Eclipse Tree Pinholes

Play with Gruncle Gerard.
Benji and Gruncle Gerard

Tuesday

Ian test-drove a Bolt and loved it. We decided to buy one. Started the process of buying one and getting all the details sorted for that. With a regular car you don’t have to worry about installing a fueling station at your house, but with an electric car, you do! Sadly, PSE ended their charging station rebate program last year, so no free charging station for us.

We plan to go on Friday after work to do all the car-buying paperwork.

Wednesday

I start feeling under the weather. Take a bus home and by 9:00 pm have 102-degree fever and vomited once (dehydration and hunger, I suspect; careful consumption of liquids and calories resulted in no further such episodes. Still… ugh). Clearly not going to work Thursday.

Thursday

Sick all day in bed. Fever remains through afternoon, though feeling a little better by evening. Fever goes away by evening and doesn’t come back, but tonsil area of throat getting extremely sore. Can’t swallow much. Benji complained on Monday of it hurting to eat, and he was RIGHT! Oww! Blaze through our strategic apple sauce supplies in no time flat.

Still not going to work, but a very kind coworker dropped off my laptop so I could do work on Friday.

Friday

Home Sick
Feeling much better although still can’t swallow at all. Subsisting on sherbet, smoothies, and apple sauce.

New Bolt!
Good thing about being home was I could meet at 1:00 pm to do car paperwork! This was extra-good because it took like two hours with everything, so I was glad we didn’t start at 4:00 pm. Pretty darn excited.

Struggled to swallow enough pasta to prepare for a bike ride of some sort the following day. Only a few weeks out from P2P, this was to be a major peak week of riding. Determined not to let stupid sickness stop me.

Saturday

Decided to join Dad for his super-hilly ride and just see how long I can hang on. What I didn’t realize until 45 minutes before the ride started was that the ride began not in Woodinville (a 5-minute ride away) but in South Kirkland (a 25- to 30-minute ride away). Needless to say I rushed off in quite a panic and fortunately remembered everything, but arrived at the start a little less fresh than I might’ve hoped.

I liberally dosed myself with Advil during the day and that helped keep the sore throat tolerable. Swallowing Clif bars was not exactly a joy, but I didn’t cry in pain, either. I saved that for the hills, which started and pretty much never stopped.

It was as good an approximation of P2P as I’ve done this season, although previous years we did more. It’s not been my best year, and I expect to be even slower on P2P than previous years… but with all the illnesses, especially the summer ones, and my job and our family dynamic evolving, I’ll just consider finishing a success this year.

In any case, on Saturday I just felt grateful to have enough energy to keep riding and not get dropped, and finish the ride (as much as anyone finished). In fact, overall, I felt decent — not super fast or strong, but certainly able to keep going. Now I just have to manage not to get sick between today and September 9…

Also, Benji and I got CSA veggies and found rainbow glass chips in the parking lot.
CSA Rainbow

Then, after I put Benji down for bed, Dad and I took the Bolt out for a spin. The dashboard lights up at night.
Bolt Night Lighting

Sunday

Church at Newport High School with a zillion other people. Hot. Benji ran around while we quasi-listened/quasi-made sure he didn’t vanish. Astroturf bits got all over our shoes, pants, and blankets. Tried really hard not to get them all over the inside of our car.
Church in the "Park"

Got home and collapsed for a while.

…Need I say explicitly that our family of routine-lovers is looking forward to a nice, normal week this week?

Solar Eclipse!

Today has been a heck of a day.

First thing in the morning, we donated Benji’s entire giving jar, saved up over the course of a year, to Hopelink. It amounted to $55.50. We also got a tour of their food bank and the warehouse, and Benji got a good idea of what his $55.50 will do.

Then we watched to eclipse, which was the coolest thing I’ve seen, bar none. I carefully traced the pinhole image of the sun at consistent time intervals to capture the change over time. Benji, my uncle Gerard (who flew up from San Francisco to see Benji), my parents, and I all shared a couple pairs of viewing glasses as well as using the pinhole camera.

Between watching the eclipse, Benji colored a rainbow with chalk. When he finished, he had adults tell him what color we thought each was. Because Uncle Gerard was here, we skipped over obvious color names like light blue and went instead to nomenclature as sea foam.

There was great discussion over a color I would have just called pale pink, but which Benji wanted to call skin. We pointed out that skin came in lots more colors than just pale pink. Ultimately Uncle Gerard’s submission, peony, prevailed.

But after the fact, we were discussing Benji’s inclination to call that color skin. We joked that, really, we should have called the color alt-white, given how the current political climate is going.

After that, Benji built a Lego set and then napped. While he did that, Uncle Gerard and I went for a nice little walk.

Overall, a very successful day off work.

Benji Turns 5: Part 1

OK, Benji actually only turns 5 once. But this weekend he gets to turn 5 twice, once on Saturday with our family and once on Sunday with his friends. Today we:

Went to the KidsQuest Museum in Bellevue in the morning. I skipped my big ride and spent the morning with Ian and Benji having a truly astonishing amount of fun at the KidsQuest “museum” (in the loosest possible sense; to be fair, it did have the occasional random fact on the wall, but really it was a fabulously designed play zone for kids).

Benji gravitated to the trains first, and it was very difficult to pry him away. Which, frankly, is reasonable — it’s not only the biggest train table I’ve ever seen, with several different areas where the kids could pop through and stand in the middle, but it was representative of Seattle, the Eastside, and the rural area to the east of the Eastside.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 0

We ultimately insisted that we explore the entire museum before spending the entire time at the train table. I’m sure glad we did, because we also found…
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 1
This really doesn’t do justice to the super cool conveyor belt system they had that allowed you to convey boxes all over the room. Plus, kids could go in the truck cab and do a ton of different stuff.

Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 2
Oh my gosh the water room was amazing. A-MAZING. It literally had a magnetic maze you could run water through; these drums that water shot up and drummed; vortexes you could put balls into and play with; and so much other super cool stuff.

When it was time to dry out Benji and I went and built a castle out of giant foam blocks.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 3
We are seriously considering getting a year membership. It’s way handier than going to Seattle; although it’s not nearly as great as something like the Science Center, we also didn’t have to commit the entire day to the activity. And it had such a wide variety of areas, I could see going there through the winter for sure.

While Benji had “quiet time” I sneaked out for a short ride. I tried to get in as much climbing as I could in 3.5 hours. This equaled not many miles, but 6,100 vertical feet. It was such a treat to breathe fresh, clean air and see blue sky! The temperature was perfect and overall it was the most perfect biking weather imaginable.

Not long after I got home and showered, our family arrived to celebrate Benji’s birthday! Jane and Auntie Cait are in town from Pennsylvania, which was a big highlight.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Family Party
…well, OK, a big highlight after the set of 5 fire truck Matchbox cars Janie and Auntie Cait gave Benji, of course… Other presents were cool, too.

Benji’s going to be pretty surprised when he has to write thank-you notes for all of them…

Poopier Things

About a month ago, Benji find he’d saved about $30 in his allowance. That kind of cash doesn’t sit around for long; we promptly went to the toy store to blow that wad on Legos and Douglas stuffed animals.

While we were there perusing the stuffed animal selection, what should we see but a large-ish plush poop emoji with a happy smile and hearts for eyes. Benji immediately latched onto it, not for himself, but because he felt that Daddy needed this stuffed poop. Could we please buy it as a present for Daddy?

I said we had to have some holiday or some reason to give it to him. Not surprisingly, I thought idea of giving the poop emoji a permanent home was pretty crappy. I wanted to find a way to squeeze out of it… But I also kind of wanted to see what Ian would do if presented with such an excretory gift.

He wanted to know when Daddy’s birthday was — January. Oh. That’s a long time.

What about Christmas? Oh, December is still a long time.

Finally I took pity on him and admitted that our wedding anniversary was on August 9, not that far off. I said that we could buy it for Daddy as an anniversary gift representative of our marriage. (Don’t worry, that’s not actually the case.)

We agreed to not tell Ian about this plan, and amazingly, Benji only ever mentioned it when we were alone.

Last Wednesday after I got my tattoo, I was home earlier that usual. It was the perfect opportunity! I whisked Benji off to the toy store. The entire way there he fretted that someone might have already coughed up the dough for the poop. I couldn’t decide if that would be good or bad, in the long run.

Fears aside, the heart eyes poop remained available. Sales of plush poop emojis must have been a little constipated since we last were there, but we got things moving again with our purchase.

I had them gift-wrap it, which was amusing–the teenage boy doing the wrapping had no idea how to wrap a plush triangle–and off we went home to deliver our load.

To his credit, Benji managed to not say what it was, and he let Ian open it. When Ian got the wrapping paper off, all my doubts were blown out the window. Ian literally was speechless for minutes, and then he started laughing hysterically for longer. I have never seen him so surprised, astonished, or delighted at a joke. It was well worth the cost of the poop just for the first five minutes after it came out.

And that is how we now have a plush poop emoji, which Ian generally shares with Benji.

What My Tattoo Means

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a tattoo this week. This is something that’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been thinking about how to share about what brought me to doing it.

For several years, I’ve kept having the idea of idols in my life popping up. There’s this concept of idols as put forth by Timothy Keller in Counterfeit Gods that says an idol is basically anything that becomes the top priority in my life, supplanting God. Idols are usually good things–family, work, exercise–that soon become all-consuming things, things that define who we are. When that happens, their goodness becomes twisted and ruined.

When God is in His proper place, first in my life, the fundamental foundation of who I am–a beloved child of God, always imperfect but always covered by grace–remains true no matter what happens in my day-to-day experience. When an idol starts to supplant that definition of myself, I start to waver. That’s when start I having to earn or prove my worth, when I start to feel like I need to do more, work harder at whatever my idol is, prove I’m worthy of love.

For a long time, then, I’ve been feeling God nudging me and telling me that my Saturday bike rides are too important in my life. I’ve long reserved Saturday morning to midafternoon for a big ride, and I’ve been feeling like God is telling me that I’m willing to put them above the well-being of my family, above my own well-being, above other important relationships. That that aspect of biking, the riding hard and fast and long with a bunch of guys I know, has become too big and important in my life.

As with any idol, biking is a good thing. It’s healthy, and for me it facilitates mental health, too. Even going for big Saturday rides is a fine thing; it’s great to get out and push myself, and many of the guys I ride with are my friends who I only see on Saturdays. Before I got my job at Tamarac, it was also one of the few times I got to be away from home and Benji for an extended time, and simultaneously have adult conversation. Saturday rides have played an important role in helping me stay healthy and sane the last five years.

But every single Saturday, all year long, regardless of how the week went or the emotional status or anything else, really? Especially since I started working at Tamarac, I have much less time with my family than previously. I don’t need the escape from home or social outlet (although these guys are still my friends!) nearly as much as I did before. Now what I need is relationship time with my family and our friends.

For a long time I haven’t been interested in listening to God’s nudges about this. But on July 5 I got sick with this fever virus, and it didn’t go away for a full 11 days — including two Saturdays completely off the bike. Despite my best efforts at eating to maintain muscle mass, I did lose fitness. I’m substantially slower than I was before, and I can’t just hop on my bike Saturday morning to crank out a quick 100 miles.

I pondered this reality last Saturday while I was not riding, but was keenly aware that Dad and several of my buddies were doing a one-day STP. They were all off doing a hard ride and getting stronger and faster, and I was at home pulling weeds and shooting squirt guns. I realized then that, while this sickness doesn’t end my season, it probably ends my season with those guys.

Through the day, I went through so many emotions: Frustration and disappointment and discouragement as I compared myself to them; slowly moving to acceptance and the reminder that comparing myself has never made me happy and anyway, I had a really great time with Benji and Mom and squirt guns. Finally I reached the point when I accepted that God was right: I needed to reprioritize my Saturday riding. It could no longer be paramount in my life, not now and not ever.

It took literally taking away my fitness for me to accept that my Saturday efforts–riding 20 mph for 100 miles, or climbing 10,000 feet in 100 miles, or doing something equally challenging each week–while fine goals, they can never be the most important thing in my life.

I shared this with Ian, and we had a talk about it. I felt so unburdened and freed! In that moment, I let go of comparing my riding mileage or speed or climbing to others. I let go of having to be my strongest, fastest self every day and every season. I put God back in His place and reordered everything else right:

Jesus
Others
Yourself

(Trust me, this is coming to the tattoo.)

This is only one example of where I’ve had to make a significant course correction in my life. Anorexia and vulnerability are two other areas that jump to mind, plus lots of marriage-related moments.

Every time, I’ve had to come back to this truth, which I first really started to absorb in Henri Nouwen’s wonderful Life of the Beloved, as I mention in this (surprisingly insightful) post:

I have value because I am God’s beloved. He loves me not because of what I’ve done but, by grace, in spite of what I’ve done. I am beloved. Nothing I do, no amount of brokenness, will stop the grace-filled love God has for me.

The tattoo is my reminder to make that truth my North. I want to remember every time I look at it that I am beloved and that God freely loves me over all the ugliness in my heart and all the nasty failures of my actions. It’s a powerful truth that changes how I live at the deepest level. I don’t want to forget it, and now every time I look at my arm, I will remember.

And about biking? This week, my first week healthy, Ian and I decided together what kind of bike ride would work for us as a family. It looked like this.

I rode alone. I left at 9:00, an hour later than usual, and I played more with Benji than previous Saturday mornings. My ride was short, by summer standards, but I did get out. And when I got home, I took Benji for a walk in the woods and some playtime at Blyth Park while Ian got a nap. We are all happy.

Except for my hands, which got sun burned because I didn’t put sunscreen on them and I took my gloves off because I was too hot. But I kept my arm covers on and my arms–and, more importantly, my tattoo–remained un-burned.

I Got a Tattoo

Compass Rose Tattoo

I am pretty stoked.

How I’m going to keep it out of the sun for the next 30 days while also doing my usual bike training, however, remains a mystery yet to be solved.

I originally set up my tattoo appointment in April, and the earliest date that worked was June 29. But the artist had to have foot surgery, so they rescheduled a week or so before the day. The rescheduled date was for September, but they added me to the list of people to call if sooner spots opened up. One did open up, last Thursday, and I quickly took it — and then had to cancel when my fever returned with a vengeance on Wednesday. Fortunately, the artist had another cancellation for today, and I’m so pleased to report that, despite my extreme apprehension, my fever did not return today.

I rode my bike there, and I worked hard to get there early but arrived just a minute or so late (no big deal). On the bright side I got a good workout at the same time.

Then it was tattoo time and yes, it HURT. A lot. It didn’t get easier and it didn’t hurt less, but it was bearable and I bore it. Without crying, throwing up, or passing out, all of which the artist said she’d seen.

So now it’s done! There’s some aftercare that seemed mostly focused on keeping it clean and well moisturized, and not getting sunburned.

Like I said: Pretty stoked.