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So yesterday my daughter sprang out of bed like a shot, ready to make breakfast. You see, she’d been planning this breakfast for WEEKS. My husband told me the night before that under no circumstances was I to get out of bed before the girl presented me with breakfast in bed – her treasured gift for my birthday. Who am I to argue with staying in bed on a weekend morning? And my four year-old was right. Breakfast in bed is an excellent way to start your birthday. I look forward to surprising her with the same treat in January. I can hear the giggles of delight now.

As I kick-off this new year of sorts, my heart is full.

1. We live close enough to my parents that we were treated to my birthday dinner at their house. I think celebrating a birthday with your parents is a pretty special event, especially once you have kids of your own.

2. One of my treasured birthday moments was having the kids play (quietly, in separate rooms even) while my husband and I read books on the couch next to one another. I don’t think we’ve shared this magical experience since before our son was born over seven years ago.

3. My son played “Happy Birthday” for me on the piano, a tune he taught himself by ear, while my mom presented me with my cake. His gift and passion for music can sometimes be a bit much, but there’s no substitution for the smile on his face when he pulls off a new song to entertain a crowd.

4. When I think of how my past year was spent and look ahead to this next year, I am happy with my choices. Like my husband said in an email to me today, “We are coming up on a GOOD year.” We’re ready for that.

5. Yesterday a childhood friend of mine had labor induced and she is SO CLOSE to welcoming her daughter into the world tonight. It was the same day that my roommate from my college studies abroad in Cortona, Italy married her soul mate. I’d call that a good day.

6. Next month I kick-off my Happiness Project Book Club at the YMCA where I teach. We’re using Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project book. I’m looking forward to truly examining the choices I make and the impact they have on my own happiness.

As for now, I’m going to soak-in the residual sunshine from yesterday’s festivities  . . . and have just one more bite of cake.

 

Tonight marked the end of the Fall Foot Patrol season. For six weeks, five coaches and I played running games, discussed hydration, the YMCA Core Values, the importance of stretching and good nutrition, and gradually increased our running distance with close to 30 elementary school students. Wow.

To celebrate how far they’ve come, today the runners completed their final 1.6 mile run around Lake Tye, a pretty man-made lake across the street from the YMCA. The far side of the lake backs up to a cattle farm, from which you can look across the lake and see the Cascade Mountains. Tonight, thanks to Daylight Savings, our 4:30 run was at sunset. We were treated to a beautiful pink sky and the near-full moon smiled at us from above while its reflection shimmered hello to us from the lake’s surface. While the majority of the runners ran 1.6 miles, eight amazing kids reached their goal of a full 5K (two laps around said lake). They ran it and they were STRONG.

I posted on Facebook: “I ran 5K this afternoon with some of my favorite people – eight 3rd – 5th graders. Along the way they made up cheers about Foot Patrol, high-fived and cheered on the younger kids who were running 1.6 miles, laughed and soaked-in the beauty of the moon’s reflection on the lake we ran around and the pink sky at sunset. It was perhaps my favorite 5K of all times.”

When I returned to the “party room” reserved for our post-run celebration with the 5K runners, we were greeted to cheers from parents and the younger runners. It was an incredible atmosphere of pride and confidence. The parents were beaming because running such a distance is something many of them have yet to accomplish, or something that they never imagined their child would do with such excitement and success. The kids were congratulating one another and chanting “Go, Foot Patrol!” between sips of cider and bites of cheese or apples.  After I passed out their certificates, for which each child got their own round of applause, one boy asked if he could share a prayer. It being the YMCA, how could I refuse?

“Dear God, Thank you for this running club and for making running the best sport ever. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.”

Before Foot Patrol, this exuberant young soul didn’t know he had a passion for running. But there is no doubt about that fact now. He tells everyone that he loves to run. And he made it no secret that he’s bummed Foot Patrol won’t be happening again until the spring. He’s not alone in his disappointment, as just about every kid asked on the way out when the next Foot Patrol session is. The group dynamics with this session’s runners was the best I’ve ever seen, truly a teacher’s dream, so part of me is sad, too, that I won’t be running with these kids again sooner than late April or early May.

I’ve been running for eight years now. I ran a marathon when I was 25, I did a 10K with a friend for her birthday last year, and I have no idea how many 5K’s I’ve run. But as I posted this evening, my run with these wide-eyed, happy kids was by far my best run.

Dear God, Thank you for making running the best sport ever. And thanks for helping these kids discover it, too. Amen.

A friend of mine just started blogging about her parenting adventure at “Can we hug it out?” and asked me to take a look at it. I did (and it is GREAT!), but when I went to leave a comment and sign-in using my WordPress account I realized that I haven’t written since March. March. 7 months ago. Almost the amount of time it takes to grow a baby. Geez.

So here I am, starting this week with a thankful heart, something I kicked-off a few years ago when blogging was a regular part of my life. Now that both kids are in school full-time, I hope to blog more regularly. As yesterday was a holiday (and my mom’s Birthday!), today does start my week, even though it is a Tuesday.

Today I am thankful for:

– my mother-in-law’s visit from Pennsylvania this past weekend.

– the energy I put into mopping all of the floors in my house, even though I really just wanted to go back to bed after everyone left the house this morning.

– the power of friends and their positive influences on our lives (Yes, Casey, I mean you).

– the joy of Hoop Dance that I reconnected with this weekend as I became a Level 3 Instructor for BodyHoops. This means I will lead Teacher Training workshops for the Level 1 and FitKids curriculums starting in 2012!

Here I am with one of my first hoops (Oct 2009), totally unaware of my hooping future!

– the 28 children who are running in the program I started at our community YMCA – Foot Patrol. Every Tuesday and/or Thursday, these amazing kids show up for an hour of warm-ups/games/distance training/and healthy living discussions. They are tracking their physical activity on a running log and celebrating it as a group. This is the second season for Foot Patrol and I have to say that as great as the spring session was (I directed and coached that FOUR days/week – one strong possibility why I stepped away from the blog for so long), this session is going even better as I worked out some of the kinks. What an experience!

– the companionship of our pup, Porter, as he follows me around the house while the kids are at school and the husband is at work. This guy is definitely mine, though he is happy to have anyone else (and everyone else) pet him and give him loves. Come to think of it, this big lug is another big reason blogging went to the wayside. We said a tearful good-bye to our beloved Albus around that time and then welcomed Porter Puppy into the family a handful of weeks later. Things HAVE been busy. But good busy.

Porter Puppy (at 6 months)

Before I sat down to write today, the drizzly weather and post-weekend blues were hitting me hard. By taking a good look at the positive things happening in my life right now, I’m ready to stop watching the rain fall as if it is a bad thing.  True, we’ll be running indoors for Foot Patrol today, but the upside of that is the space is all reserved and ready for us!

How about YOU? What are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

After having my children at home for 11 (count them – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 – whew!) days in a row for their school’s Mid-Winter Break, today I got to deliver them to their classes and head off to the gym guilt & responsibility free. We really did have a fun stretch of days together and they played remarkably well for siblings together for so long, but better yet, I had planned ahead and put dinner in the crock pot. That’s right – I had a plan AND put it into action. On a Monday morning. Sweet!

But there’s a catch (isn’t there always?). Today I decided to stretch beyond the comfort of my usual 3 crock pot recipes (which are 3 of about 15 “regular” recipes I use) and try something new out of one of the cookbooks my grandma sent me. My grandmother is an amazing cook who is doing everything she can to help me become better, which is hard from over 1,000 miles away. As of late she’s been clearing out her cookbook stash and sending them my way to help me get ideas. She’s also been known to send cookware and vegetable gardening/canning books, so I really have NO excuse not to improve my skills. Anyhow . . . using a recipe from a “fool-proof” crock pot cookbook, I put together what should have been a delicious Mediterranean chicken dish before we headed out the door at 8AM.

Fast forward to 6PM when the kids and I returned home from my son’s piano lesson. The house smelled wonderful, we were all pleased that we could sit right down to dinner, and my son even set the table in record time. “That looks WONDERFUL!” was an actual exclamation uttered when the dishes were served. And then we sampled the food. My daughter’s first impression was, “I’m not hungry.” My son, always one for the dramatic, said, “I’d rather chew on a stick!” Thankfully he followed-up his rude comment with some constructive, kind criticism, so I didn’t make him actually chew on said stick. Still, I’m thinking this recipe is not a keeper.

The kiddos really did give eating dinner their best shots. They picked out the chicken, which hadn’t absorbed so much of the lemon juice (the recipe called for one-half cup – which we promptly declared to be WAY too much) as the rice had, and followed my daughter’s suggestion to “Just take teeny bites, because then you can’t really taste it as much.” I ate mine to be a good sport with myself. But in the end, it was decided that the steamed broccoli was SO much better than the chicken/rice dish that we’d all just like more veggies. While this isn’t a bad thing, we did need a better solution, though it was getting late.

Enter husband (via phone, leaving from work). “Haha! Sounds like we need to order pizza.”

The man had a plan.  I tried to execute said plan, but the local pizza join was closed. That’s right, at 7PM on a Monday night, they were no longer serving pizza (for delivery OR take out). I honestly thought the guy was joking and called his bluff. He assured me they were closed because their delivery truck never showed today and they were actually out of pizza.

Have no fear, I’ve planned ahead on more than this one crock pot dinner-cooking occasion. I had two frozen pizzas in our deep freezer. The night was saved. And we all got a terrific laugh out of the disaster of a dinner that was Round One. Better yet, my children recognized that I really DID try to make a tasty new dinner. Their post-dinner comments were “Next time you could just leave out the lemon, then we can taste all of the other delicious flavors. I bet then it would be good!” (that’s the smooth-talking boy) and “That’s okay, Mom. You don’t have to make it again.” (out of the mouth of my sweet girl)

So despite the lump of lemony chicken and rice goo left at the bottom of my crock pot, I AM left with a thankful heart at the start of this week (and end of this month). I am pleased that my children were as excited as I was for them to return to school, satisfied that I got in a good workout at the Y, and most thankful for the grocery store trip a few weeks ago when I grabbed those frozen pizzas that were on sale – “just in case” we had a situation arise when they might come in handy.

Right now the only sounds I hear are the gentle whir of the humidifier in my daughter’s room and the click clack of my keyboard. Usually at this time (7:30PM) our house is filled with the sounds of snack munching, giggles and/or book reading.

Tonight marks the 4th anniversary of my daughter’s entry into the world (literally right about now, actually) and she’s too tired for us to sing “Happy Birthday” again. So tired, in fact, she is sound asleep in her new princess jammies, snuggled up with her new pillow pet, after a full day in her new fancy dresses surrounded by people who love her. A day at school and the evening birthday festivities even zapped our six year-old of his energy and he’s already out like a light, too.

Though she’s only graced our lives for four years, I find it hard to remember a time when she wasn’t part of the family. I posted on Facebook that “‎4 years ago today we welcomed our Megs into the world (all 9 lbs. 9 oz. of her). Her spunk, interpretation of the world, and boundless love make each day with her unpredictable, colorful and full. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” That really sums it up. She’s a firecracker.

Happy Birthday to my sweet, spunky girl. I will do my best not to rush you to grow-up, but I am SO looking forward to seeing what a strong, remarkable woman you will be. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to enjoy the journey of watching you discover what an amazing person you already are.

Juggling?

No, not literally, though I think that would be fun; however, metaphorically I am juggling up a storm.

This year we’ve been trying to add some fun into our family life mix. My husband and I have enjoyed a few date nights at the Everett Silvertips hockey games, we took both kids to the Washington Stealth lacrosse game (totally amazing), we’ve gone ice skating as a family a handful of times, and I even snuck in a girls’ night when my mom and I went to see Anne of Green Gables the Musical. I think we had more outings in January than we did in the last three months combined. While we certainly won’t keep up this pace, we are realizing how much we can do as a family now that the children are getting older (the boy is 6.5 and the girl turns 4 next week). It really is fun!

Seeing how WE enjoy watching sports together and participating in physical activities, I’m really working to expand the availability of youth activities at the YMCA where I first started teaching hooping classes. This is where the juggling comes in. Funny thing is, I’m so excited about it all, I’m not feeling overwhelmed by it – just busy!

In December I approached my supervisor about offering a children’s running program to help get youth prepared to participate in our branch’s annual 1.6miler/5K race in the fall. The idea was so well received, I’m kicking-off the program in April. We’ll do a second session in the fall (maybe even having satellite sites at some of the elementary schools to reach a greater population). So my work is cut out for me to get the program up and running with a name, volunteer coaches, integrating the Women’s Sports Foundation’s GoGirlGo! program into the girls’ groups, and advertising all of this goodness. As a former teacher, the author of a running book for girls, and the parent of a boy who wants to run (and a girl who just can’t wait to be old enough so she can join in the fun, too), this truly unites all of my passions! Can you sense that I’d be jumping up and down if I could do that and type at the same time??!

I don’t want to rush January at all, especially with a VIP birthday celebration next weekend (more ice skating!), but in February I get to teach hooping classes again. I’ll be doing a thirty minute class as a warm-up class for our Y members who take a spin or cardio class right afterward. I think it will be a nice addition to what the schedule already offers – and I can’t think of a more fun way to kick-off a morning than with a hula hoop. On Saturdays I get to teach a family oriented hooping class that will integrate games for parents and their children to play together. I hope that it inspires many hours of campsite, beach and backyard play as the weather improves and families head outside for adventures.

I’m thankful for these great opportunities to share my passions with others. It all looks good on paper so far – let’s see how it goes when I actually toss the running program & hooping classes balls up into the air with the mom, wife, school volunteer, dog caregiver, writer, and mom-taxi driver balls that area already up there. If nothing else, it’ll be colorful! If it all fails, I can always go with my husband’s suggestion to try Roller Derby. No, really. He’s serious. But that’s for another post.

Here’s to happy running, reading, hooping or whatever adventures your life holds!

Our family Christmas card for this year included a mini cross-word puzzle that highlighted the best parts of our year. I’ll come back and link to some letters from previous years after I volunteer in the kids’ classrooms today (it is Polar Express/Pajama Day in my daughter’s classroom).

For those of you who received the letter, welcome to my blog! Feel free to take a few minutes to browse and see what it is I do here (less regularly as of late, but I’m getting back to it). 

Here are the answers:

ACROSS: 1. ballet, 5. YMCA, 8. Albus, 9. String

DOWN: 2. Long, 3. Emily, 4. Hawaii, 6. four, 7. kitchen

Thanks for visiting! I wish you happy running, reading and family time as 2010 comes to a close.

Brianna

“. . . and I made THIS necklace just for you, Mom. To make you FANCY!” my three year-old daughter explained as she showed me her day’s collection of art from school.

I should explain. I am NOT a fancy person. In fact, my daughter is very much like her favorite book character, Fancy Nancy, right down to the red hair, while I’m much like her plain jeans and t-shirt mom (although I, too, have red hair). The kids ask where I’m going if I’m wearing mascara. Even the dog takes notice when I put on heels.

So Little Sister has taken it upon herself to make me her beauty project (Fancy Nancy fans will recongnize the parallel with Ooh La La! It’s Beauty Day). For my birthday last week she picked out colorful dangling earrings, a sparkly necklace and a bracelet for me. My husband managed to talk her out of buying the entire jewelry department at Target, which is what her first plan was. She immediately gravitated toward the ultra-glitzy costume jewelry, but again Daddy came to the rescue and convinced her that she needed to think about what *Mommy* would like instead of what she would pick for herself. The results were perfect and she was proud of herself when I wore all three pieces for my birthday dinner. The problem is, she wants me to wear it all every. single. day.

Then yesterday she brought home the necklace she made at school out of yarn, noodles, straw pieces, and a tag that reads “Mom” in her very best three year-old writing. Without her having to ask, I immediately put it on, inducing the biggest hug a mom could ever hope to get from her child. I wore it to the post office, the grocery store, and the chiropractor. Everywhere we went people commented on (or just smiled at) my special necklace, which in turn made me smile and made my daughter glow even more. Funny thing is, I feel more fancy in the noodle necklace than I do in “real” jewelry. Maybe it is the love factor that makes the difference.

So now that I’m preparing for my husband’s work holiday party (the first we’ve attended in nearly 10 years), I’m starting to worry about what to wear and what jewelry I have that would be appropriate for an evening affair. Seriously, I get dressed-up for weddings (no more often than once every two years), but that’s about it.  I could wear the pearl necklace my husband got me as a wedding gift, I could splurge on a new necklace to wear with a new dress, or just maybe I should wear my new noodle necklace. Noodles are like pearls, right?

I was extremely touched to get a handwritten note in the mail (anything that isn’t a bill is great, but a personal note is the BEST kind of mail to get) from a fan of We Are Girls Who Love to Run last week. She was concerned because I haven’t been blogging (or visiting others’ blogs) much lately and guessed hopefully that it was because I was spending more time with my family. Well, guess what? She was dead on!

I AM still alive and my summer was FILLED with plenty of good outdoor summer fun (and producing two quilts). I think the real proof of that can be seen in my son’s stunning physical skill growth this year:

  • He now rides a bike without training wheels.
  • He can go ALL the way across a long set of monkey bars or rings without stopping.
  • He soccer ball handling is head and shoulders above what he could do even in the spring.
  • He’s a few inches taller than he was at the end of the school year – no kidding, the hem of his pants from spring hit him at his shins. And his sister grew 2 inches in July. Maybe I didn’t blog because I was so darn busy feeding them all day!

This is a boy who loves to ride!

We also fit in a trip to visit family for my husband’s sister’s wedding. We were all part of the wedding party and the flower girl (our daughter) turned out to be quite the little dancing party animal – she danced the whole night, right up through the last song. Her brother (one of the ring bearers) threw in the towel long about 8:30 and crashed out on some chairs we pushed together as a make-shift couch. We definitely have one early bird and one night owl.

The bride and flower girl take a spin on the dance floor

Other adventures included some camping with friends, a trip to Oregon for the String Summit (put on by Yonder Mountain String Band – a weekend of live bluegrass – pure heaven), and our new favorite beach on the coast of Washington. Life really was good this summer, even though running wasn’t much a part of it.

Hooping at Waikiki Beach in Cape Dissapointment State Park, WA

That’s right, this girl who loves to run only got out to run a handful of times. Between our family adventures, being home with both kids all day and getting my hooping classes up and running, running was pushed to the near-bottom of the list. I think only blogging was farther down.

The break was good, but I did miss running. School started this week and I’ve already returned, sneaking in a treadmill run at the YMCA during Tuesday’s non-stop rain and enjoying 5K around a lake before picking up my daughter from pre-school on Thursday. Other than tight hamstrings, my body has gotten right back into the groove and is happy to be back at it again. And if this post is any indication, it looks like blogging is back for me, too.

What about YOU? With the start of “fall” are you returning to something you missed over the summer?

My husband’s grandmother passed away on Saturday. It wasn’t really a surprise that we were going to lose her, but that didn’t make it any easier when she did leave us. She had family by her side when she went peacefully in her sleep.

This is a big loss for our family. “Grandma OH!” (that’s how she signed all of her cards) was the matriarch of the family, my mother-in-law’s mother. She lived with my husband’s family for well over ten years, a vibrant and positive addition to the household during his sister’s high school years. While my husband didn’t live at home during those years (he had already been out of the house for a number of years before she moved in), she was a part of every single visit home and provided much encouragement to us during our early years together and then as we expanded our family to include our two children. How blessed we are that our kids got to spend some real quality time with their great-grandmother.

I think I already knew it, but dealing with this loss confirms it – I’m a nervous cleaner. From the moment my husband’s mom called until just a few minutes ago, I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone cleaning. The washing machine and dryer haven’t had more than a few hours rest, the bathrooms are all dazzling, and my children had no choice yesterday about cleaning their rooms because I was there with them and we got the job done, no questions asked. The same is apparently true for my husband who whipped our backyard into the best shape it has been since we moved here over five years ago. No joke. He’s a nervous worker, too, and once the yard was done immediately connected with work and did some project stuff until he was too tired to read the words on the computer screen . . . a good four hours later.

When we moved from the East Coast to the West Coast we knew that the distance would make some elements of life more difficult. Sure, the day-to-day stuff is much the same (work, kids, etc.) but the BIG stuff – weddings and funerals – are certainly emotional struggles we’re now facing.  We are headed to my sister-in-law’s wedding in a little over a week, which makes a trip there for Grandma OH’s funeral this week something out of our reach. I hope that our trip gives my husband some closure, as we do plan to visit his grandmother’s grave to pay our respects, and there should be plenty of time for sharing stories about her life with the family at large who will also be in town for the wedding. I also hope that in the meantime we reach some sort of balance at home – though I AM enjoying the fruits of my labor and my husband’s work may help reduce the guilt he feels about time off for the wedding. Type A, we are.

When I feel myself getting caught-up in the grief of losing Grandma OH, I think of my daughter’s take on death (she’s three) and it does make me feel a bit better knowing that Grandma OH would get a total kick out of it. Upon hearing about her death, my daughter declared, “Well, I’ll just get on an airplane and fly there to see her.” When I explained that Grandma was in heaven, she replied, “So I’ll fly to heaven to visit her, but I won’t STAY, I’ll just say hi!”