Monday, August 25, 2014

School's In

It's quiet around here today. Yesterday if it had been this quiet I would've been worried. Today the quiet makes me just a little sad. You see, the reason it's so quiet is because three of our blessings started school today.

As I look back over these photos and think about how things have changed, I'm astonished that it only took two years. Yes, just twenty-four short months. When you're in "the thick of it," everyone tells you how fast the time goes. But, you know, you're in "the thick of it" so you just smile and nod. And then you see how you go from:

just one first grader...


to a second grader and a kindergartener...

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to a third grader, a first grader and a kindergartener...

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and then you become one of the everyones that gets the smile and nod from the parents "in the thick of it."

Happy new school year to our three "big kids."

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reading Queen

Nearly three hundred sixty five days ago Elise and I started on a journey of learning. She was learning to read and I was learning so much about our daughter's learning style, motivation, patience level and determination.

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Based on the recommendation of some homeschooling friends, we picked up Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and got started.

We actually got started nearly seven hundred and thirty days ago, but I quickly learned that trying to teach a three-year-old {Elise} and a four-year-old {Wes} to read at the same time was useless and tremendously frustrating for everyone involved so at that point the four-year-old and I stuck with it while the three-year-old spent time coloring.

Over the next several months we diligently went through one lesson at a time, beginning with stories as simple as "see me eat," progressing toward stories with four or five full sentences, real punctuation and even some sight words. Along the way there was definitely some frustration for both of us and even some weeks where we had to just put the book aside and reset our attitudes.

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But today, just four short days before she starts kindergarten {sob}, this girl finished her 100th lesson, is an accomplished reader and has earned the title "Reading Queen" around here.

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." - Victor Hugo

Monday, August 11, 2014

On Running

A long long long long time ago a friend convinced me to join a running club. A what? A running club? You must be crazy! I don't run! were my thoughts (and probably my actual words, come to think of it) when she initially asked me to do it. But I did it anyway and, to my surprise, I liked it. And I may have even considered myself an amateur runner.

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Then I had babies. Four beautiful, amazing, wonderful babies that wreaked havoc on my body and put any hope (and let's be honest, desire too) of running out of the picture for a long long long long time.

And then I got busy. Really busy. Remember the four babies? Now they're four children with many and varying demands and that leaves little time to take care of myself (not in a selfish "I need three hours for my daily shows and bon-bons" kind of way; more like an "I need to take care of my body so I have the energy to take care of my family" kind of way). But, like everything in life right now, taking care of myself needs to be efficient.

Oh how brilliant I thought I was when my thoughts returned to my running days (as numbered as they were) and I had the bright idea to sneak in a quick 20-minute run 3 or 4 times a week. The kids were going to love it! Happily riding along in the stroller or on their bikes as we covered miles of trails around our neighborhood. Well let me tell you, those thoughts were all happening in dreamland.

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In May when I began the second phase of my running career, the "quick" 20-minute run was actually a series of 60-second running intervals in which I huffed and puffed my way toward the rewarding 90-second walk that lead to the next grueling 60-second run. I was hardly the picture of grace I imagined either. I was thinking "gazelle" while my neighbors were seeing...well, let's just say "gazelle" wasn't what they saw. And the kids? They were nothing like the dreamland kids. The one in the stroller wasn't content to just sit while her siblings got to race ahead on their bikes. The bikers were none too happy about the giant hill they had to climb, the tantalizingly fun park they had to bypass or the mile of hot blacktop that made up the second half of our course.

But that was May and now we're in August. While I wouldn't say our running mornings are exactly like dreamland, I can tell you that we're getting closer. The grueling 60-second intervals have become a grueling 2 1/4 miles that I run in about 30 minutes. I'm sure the neighbors still don't see the gazelle from dreamland, but by now they're used to it! And the kids? Well, most days they go with me without complaint. I've learned how to keep the one in the stroller occupied until it's her turn to "run." The bigger ones have become great little bikers with strong legs and no problem getting up the giant hill. They don't even want to go to the park anymore and our cooler-than-normal summer has seemed to make even the hot blacktop path bearable. 

With goal #1 of a regular 20-minute run accomplished, it's time to tackle goal #2, which is to run a 5K. So in October I'll be running my first 5K {with a dear friend who has been an immense encouragement} through Fort Snelling State Park. My longest run to date was (miraculously) this 2 1/2 mile course:

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Maybe it was the flat terrain around our beautiful lake, or the clean "up north" air or the fact that I wasn't pushing a 30-pound toddler in a 20-pound stroller while trying to keep an eye on three little people on bikes blocks ahead of me. On a normal day, I'm still getting comfortable with 2 1/4 miles.

But that's 2 miles more than I could run at the beginning of the summer.

And 2 1/4 miles closer to accomplishing goal #2.

And now I have miles and miles and miles (well, maybe just miles) worth of lessons learned from training (I'm not sure anyone else would call it training, but it makes me feel like a real runner so I'll use the term loosely):

  1. It doesn't matter how fast you run. Whether it takes you 3 minutes (who can actually do that anyway?) or 13 minutes (so content with my 13-minute mile) a mile is a mile is a mile.
  2. Toddlers are happier with food, water, books, toys and blankies.
  3. Children learn to appreciate and even enjoy the discipline of regular exercise. On my "off" days I've started running with Jack. He can only run about 3 minutes at a time and we only run a total of 9 minutes, but he feels awesome about those 9 minutes (and I feel awesome that, at 35, I have better endurance than my 8-year-old).
  4. Running shoes can actually wear out before going out of style (not that that's ever happened to anyone I know...ahem).
  5. Technology has come a long way since I first started running. "App" wasn't even in my vocabulary when I took my first step and now there are at least two open every time I run.
  6. A solid running playlist is essential. And Survivor's Eye of the Tiger is magic for that last quarter mile.
  7. A race called a "fun run" is just that...right?
  8. Wind makes a difference. I never would've believed it until I had to run into the wind pushing a double stroller that seemed to turn the slightest breeze into a gale force wind that stopped me in my tracks.
  9. People should run on the right side of the path. You know, like how you drive on the right side of the road. Maybe I'm not familiar with running etiquette, but it would seem to me that if you're walking on the left side of a path and a woman pushing a stroller is barreling toward you, you should move to the other side. Or is it just me?
  10. With each new challenge, be it emotional, psychological, Spiritual, or, in this case, physical, I am learning the truth of Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through him who strengthens me.