The Perfect Puddle Fail.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with puddles lately. Which is convenient, since we just had a Tropical Storm come all the way up the middle of our state.

(Granted it wasn’t a Tropical Storm when it reached me, but it was still pretty dang wet.)

I don’t usually get hung up on getting a specific shot, but in my head I’ve had this “perfect” puddle jump for months that I just needed to capture.

The original idea was to be directly above a child who was jumping down into a puddle while looking at the puddle, and get the top of their head and body going down, but their happy face in the reflection of the water.

(I don’t know if that makes any sense but it’s BEAUTIFUL in my head.)

However, this particular shot, I have discovered through scientific analysis, is impossible in a Physics sort of way.

It turns out that puddle reflections are super tricky – sometimes they’re in color, sometimes they’re in black and white, and if you’re directly over the puddle shooting down, they’re not there at all.

I spent parts of three days trying to get this specific shot, with much help from my kids (especially Ali, as Noah prefers contrariness.) But I haven’t been happy with the results.

I even named this entire night of photos “Failed Puddle Jump.”

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I mean they were cool, but they weren’t what I wanted.

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I was puzzled by myself, because I’m really not usually this particular and specific with my photography. But there was just SOMETHING missing. Something I had to capture. And these weren’t it.

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So I tried again Tuesday at The Botanical Gardens. Ali was all in, so we shot several rounds of jumps while Noah whined and loitered in the background.

I was fairly happy with the results – Ali looked completely dreamy in a few – but they still weren’t *quite* there.

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Tuesday night, Chris took us all on a surprise End Of School Year Celebration Night. We ate dinner at a new restaurant, then he took us to Target and gave us each gift certificates to blow on whatever we wanted, then we went up to a downtown parking deck for me to get to shoot the sunset. I was informed that this was the third of four stops, the fourth one being another mystery stop.

While we waited on sunset, I noticed that there was a perfect puddle. And Noah was in an especially amenable mood. So we worked on getting my unattainable shot.

We tried it from one angle.

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Oh yes. The reflections were in color (aided perhaps by the fact that he was wearing the outfit in which I’ve nicknamed him “Dayglow.”)

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Then another angle, and it was even better.

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We were SO CLOSE.

After circling the puddle and studying it with all of my analytical geometry skills intensely tuned in, I finally decided on the perfect angle/lens combination to shoot with the fullest city backdrop.

I realigned Noah and humbly requested his ongoing participation…

“Just one more time! And by one more time I mean as many times as it takes to get it right.”

Shockingly, he was all in. “Okay, but let me take off my shoes real quick. They’re getting super wet.”

No problem.

So he backed up.

We rechecked the angles.

I gave him leap coaching (“one leg out – not a hop – a leap”), and we lined up the shot.

He took off.

I snapped.

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Yes! Yes! It’s going to be PERFECT!!

…But then his lack of shoes suddenly and quite violently caught up with him.

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He slid straight through that Public Parking Lot Puddle, coating his butt with the layers of slime from decades of tires and shoes and bubble gum and spit and who knows what other unspeakable bodily and non-bodily fluids.

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He came out the other side looking like a bog had attacked his backside, and also crying and holding his shoulder.

I feverishly rooted around in the back of the car to find a towel, but only found a blanket – good enough. I wrapped him up and checked on the rotationary abilities of his arm – it still functioned, and he had calmed down.

Then I checked my camera.

And WE GOT THE DANG SHOT.

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And we all lived happily ever after.

(Except his shorts.)

(And possibly his puddle jumping career.)

(And also there is the issue of my Mommy Guilt.)

(But Mommy Guilt never goes away so you might as well get the shot if you’re going to suffer from it anyway.)

The End.

p.s. – My apologies to the Ice Cream Shop that was our fourth stop. I do hope we didn’t leave any Parking Lot Bog behind in your cozy booth.

The Long Haul. With Kids.

This past weekend, while on a hike, Ali and I were talking about our Hiking Club Summer Bucket List. I told her I’d asked the other moms what they’d wanted to do this summer, and asked her what she wanted to do.

She lit up.

“I want to hike farther than I’ve ever hiked. I want to hike ten miles.”

“Okay! We can do that sometime this summer.”

“Actually I want to do it as soon as possible.”

It was supposed to be a pretty week and I’m a total enabler when it comes to a gorgeous hike, so I checked with our hiking club, warned that this was going to be the most we’d ever done and please only consider your oldest children for the hike, and began gathering supplies.

(A ten mile hike is no joke – especially when you’re going somewhat slow. You’re talking hours on the trail, and it requires water and snacks and provisions and probably a few band-aids.)

But somehow we got it all together AND convinced a few friends that this was a good idea in less than 48 hours, and on Monday morning, we met at Oak Mountain ready for the hike.

Five Moms. Four walking kids. Two riding babies.

We can do this.

I mean, maybe. Who knows.

No, we can do this.

We started out from the top of the ridge so that we didn’t have to climb any serious mountains, and gazed down from the cliffs at Peavine Falls, the bottom of which would be our glorious ending point.

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The first few miles were lovely and uneventful – the white trail at Oak Mountain is one of my favorites, as it is full of wildflowers and also runs by a stream. The peacefulness is on point.

When we got to our first trail crossing at 3ish miles, we decided it was time for snack. And also there was a good rock and fence post for a group photo – I could put my camera on the post, control it with my phone, and actually be in a photo. I didn’t know Noah dabbed right out the top of the photo, and I also wasn’t doing a good job hiding my phone. But it’s as good as a trail group photo gets.

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We took five photos.

This is the last photo.

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Notice Noah’s dab has morphed into a point-and-scream. But the rest of us haven’t changed a bit. Because his screams of “SNAKE!!!!” and pointing at our feet hasn’t made it to any of our brains yet.

(I don’t know how dabbing helped Noah see this unbelievably camouflage snake, but I will never complain about dabbing my pictures up ever again.)

A baby timber rattlesnake was somewhat perturbed at our rowdying up its rock, and had crawled out in a huff, then a minute later curled up in a ball and had his head up showing his decisively bad mood.

(I took pictures, of course, but as many people do not appreciate my snake photography, if you specifically want to see our one-rattle baby friend, you can click here.)

(You’re welcome, rest of y’all.)

We moved on quickly. We weren’t sure where his family lived, and since he was already so extremely irritable at such a young age, we could only imagine how special his mother’s moods must be.

Our next finds were much more amenable to our attention and presence. Or at least they didn’t have man-killing venom waiting to share, so we enjoyed their company a little bit more.

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In total, we found six toads (and only two peed on us), and this lovely dragon-esque Fence Lizard – note how his belly glows blue.

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He definitely had some leftover prehistoric fire and scales.

We kept moving, through the reeds, enjoying all of the vastly differing views of Oak Mountain. We took a couple wrong turns – one that was clearly the map’s fault, and the rest were most likely my fault.

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…And I did a hiking club first and fed a baby a bottle while walking through the woods.

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(For the record I was never a chill enough baby mama to hike with a baby. I am constantly amazed that Sarah is totally that person.)

We finally got back around to the Peavine Falls area. The original plan was to hike an extra half mile to come into the gorge from the side we were familiar with, and that was slightly less steep. But everyone was tired, we were already at 10 miles, and a shortcut is a shortcut is a shortcut even if it leads out with a sign like this.

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We followed the path down, but it looked just a bit off from what I thought should be there. We reached what should have been Peavine Falls, but instead it was a chute – a gorgeous, flowery, chute of water that was dying to be intertubed down, if we were slightly more daring than we actually are, and also had an intertube.

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I made the executive decision that the kids should play in the water while I tried to figure out where the crap we were. I didn’t know if we were upstream, downstream, around a bend, or exactly what from Peavine Falls, and I needed a minute.

The kids were happy to oblige.

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With some frantic texts to Chris and the studying of my exercise map on MapMyRun, I finally reached the conclusion that we were just *barely* downstream of Peavine Falls, and clearly I’d singlehandedly discovered Peavine Chute, which wasn’t so bad.

We slowly made our way up the trail to the falls, at which point all of us mothers were thrown back at once by a smell.

An overpowering, thick, we’re-about-to-step-in-something smell.

“Is that a skunk??”

“That sure smells like a skunk!!”

I looked around frantically. And then I saw it.

A group of hammocks, some wandering-slowly people…a zombie-ish look to the place.

“That’s not skunk. That’s weed.”

I scouted ahead to check it out.

It was, it seemed, a portable artist enclave. There were painters. There were aerial ropes with people hanging upside down. There were emotionless men with Hawaiian shirts hanging open. And there was a LOT of smoke.

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We wandered carefully into the falls area, completely killing their buzz, while they did likewise for us.

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That Peavine Chute had been a gift of quiet serenity just for us. But we managed to get in the falls and stake our claim, having a little fun before we hiked up and out.

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Our last find of the day happened nearly at the parking lot, and Noah was the spotter once more.

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A massively huge Luna Moth, who was more than happy to let us observe her from all of her magnificent angles.

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Our final mileage was 11.2 miles. It took 6 hours. And these four kids never once whined. They even THANKED me for the hike.

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It was all a true hiking miracle.

Ali logged our hike as she went along in her Trail Notes book, and this was her summary page of the day. IMG_1481

Yup, I think she covered everything.

The Prodigal Fitbit Daughter.

I had been a happy FitBit wearer for three years. It motivated me, gave me beautifully geeky tracking tools, created new friendships, and fed my obsession with statistics.

Yet, at the beginning of October, I replaced my FitBit with an Apple Watch.

And then, on December 22, I found myself 126% overjoyed because I convinced Apple to give me a full refund for my Piece-Of-Crapple Watch (even though it was way out of its return period), and I bought myself a new FitBit.

Here is the story of that massive life turning point, if you happen to care.

I am an Apple person. I have a MacBook Pro, Chris has bought me every new iPhone since the 4 (except this year because what was the stupid deal with the 8 and X? And what if I wanted a 9??), and we have a couple iPads in the house. I love Apple products. So this year, instead of getting a new iPhone (8 or X, 8 or X, how can I make that decision?), I decided to try the watch. It was the first year that the watch had cellular, and I dreamed of being able to run, and track my runs, and answer texts and calls, without my giant iPhone 7 Plus strapped to my arm.

And after all – it’s Apple, so it has to work even better than a FitBit, right?

I almost changed my mind due to the heart rate monitoring. Although Apple said they gave this watch the feature of being able to let you know if you had heart issues (sounds like it’d have to be pretty accurate to do that), it also said it only checked your heart rate every ten minutes (how is that helpful.) For someone who had become accustomed to her FitBit checking her heart rate continuously (and for someone who has an illness that can be partially managed by tracking the heart rate and adjusting life to “fix” it when needed), this every ten minutes bit seemed stingy.

But surely Apple was better than FitBit. How could it not be? IT’S APPLE.

I’m sure the Apple watch is just lovely for people who use it for other things. Or for people who are not used to the supremacy of FitBit. But if you’re a FitBit loyalist and think you can get the same brilliantly simplistic tools out of Apple, you will be disappointed.

The first weekend I had mine, I could not get anything I wanted.

…It was checking my heart rate even less than it advertised – sometimes going 45 minutes between checks.
…The cellular didn’t work most of the time.
…The app I used to track runs (MapMyRun) didn’t get along with the Apple Cellular, and the app Apple preferred you to use (Nike+) didn’t get along with my app, which had all my historical data in it.
…The heart rate monitor would be wildly inaccurate, giving a reading of 220, immediately followed by 53. How are they supposed to be able to let you know if you have unusual spikes in heart rate if a.) they hardly ever measure it, and b.) when they do, it’s insanely wrong? FitBit figured my calorie burn based on my heart rate, whether accurate or not, and I loved that. How possibly could Apple even think they were doing that?
…The information the watch offered was both way too detailed to be useful and not giving the easy details I was used to, and therefore was not in the least bit motivating.
…The apps I use while I run, such as Spotify and Audible, did not have watch apps. So no music or books on tape while running.
…I had to charge the watch every…dang…day.

The only benefit I’d seen from the watch was the ability to text from the watch. And that was not worth what I’d paid for it and what I’d given up for it.

But I had made this decision, and I wanted it to work. I spent at least eight hours on the phone and on chat with Apple support that first weekend, methodically walking them through all of the problems with the watch interface. I had thrilling conversations such as when they told me to change a privacy setting so they could do a test…

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And…

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For some reason I believed them when they told me that it would get better, and that the heart rate data was accurate, and that the data was saving even if it didn’t show on my watch that it was.

I spent money on at least eight apps just trying to get the simple interface that FitBit had always given me so effortlessly.

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Most of the apps were wildly information-overload with little actually useful information. I’m not a car. I don’t need five odometers. I want graphs.

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One App even had a man who got fatter and skinnier throughout the day based on your activity – not the feeling I was going for.

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The app called Healthview nearly gave me what I wanted,

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But not a single app in the world could take the ugly Apple Watch heart rate data and give me the nice, simple, daily graphs that FitBit gave me.

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I adored those graphs. I loved seeing those periods of red and knowing that I had run, and run well. I loved seeing every day stacked on top of the ones before it.

This was Apple’s idea of a weekly heart rate graph:

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HOW is that helpful??

And the weird daily bar graph just wasn’t the same.

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It did nothing to satisfy the desires of my over-analytical needs. And it just made my heart cry out for its old companion.

But I had paid a lot of money for that watch and I had missed the return window trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, so I tried my best to have a good attitude about it, and to convince myself that I liked it, that it was useful, and that I did not miss FitBit as if it were my soldier husband who was gone on a twenty-year deployment.

It was grocery shopping for Christmas that finally did me in. Noah and I had a lot to buy, and we were in the grocery store for a record long (for me) 45 minutes. As we walked up to the checkout line, I glanced at my watch. It hadn’t taken my heart rate the entire time.

Which meant I got no calorie burning credit for ALL THAT SHOPPING.

And if you can’t have an app tell you that you burned calories, did you even burn calories at all?

I quickly went into the raw data in the health kit of the phone (as the techs had taught me to do, when they were proving my data was there all along), and “AHA”’ed with malice.

 

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My data was not there. The watch was useless.

I threw the groceries in the car in angry passion and immediately called Apple support. I told them their watch didn’t do what it was advertised to do and I just wanted to go back to FitBit SOOOOOO bad and please please please give me my money back.

The very kind and understanding Apple Senior Support Specialist put me on hold to confirm what the advertising said. She came back and said “Well they’ve changed the advertising to no longer say that it checks your heart rate every ten minutes. Now it says that it checks it regularly while you’re sitting, and occasionally while you’re active.”

(What even is the use of that?!)

She put me on hold again.

By the time that I had driven home, unloaded the groceries, cleaned out the Thanksgiving leftovers from the fridge to make room for the Christmas groceries, she returned with The Best News.

“The sales department has agreed to let you return the watch as a one-time courtesy since it doesn’t do as it was advertised at this time. You will get a full refund.”

I had tried not to allow myself to dream of this moment. But I had, and in my dream, I imagined that I would feel some sadness toward losing the Apple Watch.

But that imagining was wrong.

I whooped with joy and immediately got online, ordered myself the top of the line FitBit Ionic watch (I had given my former Altra HR Chris), set it to be picked up at the local Target, went to Target on the Friday before Christmas, and had my new FitBit Watch on as I drove to FedEx to ship my worthless Apple Watch back to whence it had come.

And I had $130 left over.

I am overjoyed to be reunited with my pleasing graphs and charts and my FitBit friends and challenges. The Ionic can do nearly everything I used my Apple Watch for, except better. AND now my FitBit system is significantly upgraded to be able to GPS track my exercise. The only two things I lost were the ability to talk to Siri (I can do that on my phone) and my ability to text from the watch (which I rarely used.)

And I am SO happy.

So, FitBit, I am sorry for ever leaving you, and for ever doubting that Apple could do it better. It was wrong. You are my Fitness Father. It won’t happen again.