Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Aiming for Balance in 2009

Here's a quick line of silliness I couldn't resist before sharing my goals for next year.

"I'm going to build a magic tree house and go back in time! I'll go back FIFTEEN years to the time of the dinosaurs!!" Mr. Music exclaimed while planning an adventure.

I have to admit that my high school years fifteen years ago did have their scary points, but I don't recall seeing any T-Rexes roaming the halls. I think we need to sit down and take a look at a timeline!

As you know, my focus in life is on finding (and trying to keep!) a sense of proverbial balance. I've never really been one for making a New Year's resolution, but this year I feel compelled to focus my energy in new ways by setting some important goals (not really resolutions, per se):

1. Before starting any new sewing projects, I'm going to finish the ones that I've started. This includes the quilt I started months ago for my daughter. Her birthday is at the end of January, so the clock is ticking on this one! I'm also going to finish up the curtains I'm 70% done with for our sliding door in the basement and a Christmas table runner I started for my mother-in-law a number of years ago (so long ago, I've lost count of the years, actually). It will feel refreshing to have those projects done and a clear sewing table! (The photo is of a finished quilt, but it is one I forgot I made!)

2. I'm going to limit my blogging to three posts/week. This will keep my posts more focused and uplifting. My prime goals will be posts about thankfulness, finding the silver lining in difficult/unbalanced life experiences, and fitness/youth-oriented book reviews. Other things are bound to creep up, of course, but it is nice to get my brain hooked on the very important idea of quality, not necessarily quantity. This will also free up time for me to READ and maybe even spend some extra time with my handsome husband.

3. I've already told my husband that as a family I'd like us to have more fun this year. 2009 shall be our Year o' Fun! Our camper will get more use, we'll crank up the tunes and dance around the house, and just generally enjoy one another more and the silliness that comes with having 2 small kiddos. That's my plan. Life is too short to be as serious as I feel I've become. Lately I've been feeling like I'm 100 instead of a new 30. It is time to change that! (This is a photo of where our camper has been parked for a year now - it is longing for an adventure!)

4. I'm picking out at least 4 races to run this year. Two are easy because they're right here in the Snoqualmie Valley where I live and I'm dedicated to supporting our little running community, but the other two can be someplace new and exciting. I'd like to do the 10K option for both races (one in June, the other in November). My running has been stronger as of late, so I may even get a wild hair and plan for a Half Marathon. Since I did a Full Marathon for my 25th birthday, I think it would be nice to do some sort of distance for this age milestone, too, even if it is well after my actual birthday. (In this photo my husband and I - and some other random runners - are about to reach the top of an amazingly steep hill for the Duvall Days 10K in June 2008).

5. I'm dedicated to getting my book out in the world more. 1,000 copies are out there in homes, schools, public libraries and the like, but this year I'll work to forge some new business relationships to get We Are Girls Who Love to Run into even more hands! My mom and I also set a goal for 2 big author visits this calendar year. As a former teacher, my passion is definitely in talking and working with children, so I'm looking forward to getting more visits lined-up. These visits always leave the kids smiling and feeling confident and ME feeling more energized and passionate about running and setting goals - so they're good for EVERYONE involved.

From the looks of my goals, 2009 will be a busy one (but FUN!). I wish you and your family love, good health and positive energy as you get a fresh start in the New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cabin Fever Busters

HOORAY!!! Today marked the first day in over two weeks that we left the house using something other than just feet. The snow/ice finally melted enough that we could take our four wheel drive vehicle out of the neighborhood and even venture as far as the next town. Though it was a bit like taking two monkeys out of a zoo into the wild of the human world for the first time, it was still nice to get out of the house!

So, what have we been doing for all of these days? Here's a little list of cabin fever busters we attempted over the last few weeks . . .

1. Run on the treadmill. Even Mr. Music took a bit of a walk on it (assisted, with a MAX of Speed 2)
2. Holiday movies (Rudolph, Grinch, Mickey, Garfield, Frosty . . . shall I go on? I think Mr. Music saw each one at least twice - and this is a boy who watches 1-2 half-hour shows MAX a day, if ANY!)
3. Christmas cookie baking (just once - with just enough to share with neighbors and Santa)
4. Trips to the Vet (2 trips made by my husband, father and dog - once by foot because the roads weren't safe, another by car in the miracle window of good weather and "safe" streets before the third wave of snow hit). I'm thankful his bite is healing nicely now.
5. Christmas Card writing (see letter below) - complete with Mr. Music signing his name on each card himself!
6. Pre-Christmas toy sorting to make some space for a few new things from Santa and family
7. Facebook updates
8. New quilt project
9. Driveway shoveling
10. Igloo construction with snow from said driveway
11. Treadmill running
12. Balance ball workout
13. Dinner prep game - What can we make with what is in our fridge and pantry???
14. Treadmill running
15. Closet sorting
16. Driveway shoveling
17. Visits from parents who snow-shoed a mile to get here
18. Sledding with neighbors
19. Present wrapping
20. Piano playing and Christmas caroling
21. No church due to road conditions - lessons and carols at home!
22. Shoveling out neighbors' stuck cars
23. Christmas!!!!!
24. Using degrees in English, Art History, Forestry & Education to put together children's toys
25. Catching up with all of the laundry TWICE
26. Treadmill running
27. Digging trenches to allow the snowmelt to reach the drains and prevent our garage from flooding (that's where all the books are!!!)
28. Oragami with Netflix mailing envelopes - they have patterns on their website!
29. Phone calls to distant family to pass along words of cheer for Christmas
30. Writing "Mad Lib" style thank you notes for the gifts we received (see below)

I'm sure there was more excitement these few weeks, but I've blocked them out . . . I'm putting the "adventure" behind me now and am looking forward to the promise of a new year!

Here are the letters we put together for our friends and family this year:

When you leave the Christmas card responsibility in the hands of a little redheaded girl who is not quite two years old, you get something musical, short and snappy - much like her!

(sung to the tune of “Baa Baa Black Sheep”)

Hel-lo, everyone!
For Merry Christmas time,
(Sister’s) here to sing you
A little family rhyme.

(Mr. Music) is reading,
And learning how to write.
Daddy is dreaming
Of me sleeping through the night.

Mommy is eye-ball deep
In blogs and press releases.
I’m learning to put together
Puzzles with (a handful of) pieces.

Swimming lessons, music
And (Mr. Music)’s pre-school, too.
As much as we enjoy them,
None are as special to us as you!

Merry Christmas, Family.
Happy New Year, Friends.
Wishing you love and joy
As this full year ends!


Little Sister

And our thank you notes go something like this:

We’ve been a little stir crazy this December (i.e., the snow has kept us homebound for over 2 weeks!). To entertain ourselves (and you), we created this “Mad Lib-style” note to express our gratitude for your kindness this Christmas. We did part of it for you, but you’ll need to pick the nearest friend or relative to help you fill in rest of the blanks before you read the note. Be creative and enjoy the results!

Adjective: ________________________
Person’s Name: ___________________
Person’s Name: ___________________
Verb: ___________________________
Verb: ___________________________
Plural Noun: ______________________
Verb: ___________________________
Noun: ___________________________
Verb: ___________________________
Noun: ___________________________
Verb ending in –ing: _______________
Number: _________
Number: _________
Noun: ___________________________
Group of people: __________________
Noun: ___________________________
Person: __________________________
Person: __________________________
Verb ending in –ing: _______________
Exclamation: _____________________
Adjective: ________________________

Sorry I can't format the letter to look right here on Blogger. I think you get the idea, though!

Dear _______________,
(person’s name)

Christmas at our house was _______________. We spent the day with

_______ and ___________ doing _____________. We ______________ with
(person’s name) (person’s name) (verb) (verb)

our new _____________________.
(plural noun)

My favorite part of the day was _____________ ______________. Next
(verb) (noun)

year I hope we can do it again, and maybe __________________ with ____________, too.
(verb) (noun)

Snow has been _______________ here for _______ days. We took advantage of
(verb ending in –ing) (number)

the _______ inches of snow by building a ______________, sledding with our
(number) (noun)
_____________, and having ______________ fights. My _________ and _________
(group of people) (noun) (person) (person)

even snow-shoed to our house everyday to visit with us! It is all melting now and we’re

____________ for floods. _____________!
(verb ending with –ing) (exclamation)

Thank you again for your thoughtfulness this Christmas. I really like the

__________ and ___________ and ________________
(noun) (noun) (noun)

you sent me. I’m looking forward to ______________________ with it.
(verb ending in –ing)

Have a _____________________ New Year!


(person’s name)

Enjoy the end of 2008, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ball, Mama! (with photos!)

I like to take my time waking up. When I was teaching (before we had kids) I'd get up at 4:45, shower in the dark, throw on a robe to have breakfast in the dark, and THEN brave the light to get ready for the day. My mornings as a mother aren't quite as leisurely (at ALL!), but I still take a bit to soak everything in before I can get rolling. Today was no different.

After breakfast the kids were engaged in some sort of fort-building, baby-doll playing, book-reading adventure (yes, all three at once - my kids are multi-taskers like their mama). Since they clearly had a plan that didn't involve me (this time!) I had a chance to check my email and read a few blogs. My husband needs coffee to jump start his mornings, I need my computer screen.

About five minutes later my daughter wandered over into my work space (a stone's throw from where they were playing) and spotted my hand weights and Bounce Your Body Beautiful Book.

"Mama! This Mama's!" she excitedly announced, holding up the weights.

"Yes those weights are Mama's. Put those down so you don't drop them on your toes. I'll use them later." I said as I finished reading a post.

"Now, Mama! Ball, Mama!"

"Go play with your brother for a few minutes and then I'll get to it." I tried to stall her.

"Ball! This book, Mama! Now! Yeah! Yeah!" she shouted as she ran full speed down the hall to my bedroom to retrieve my balance ball. Clearly she wasn't interested in MY timeline. This girl wanted me to work out - NOW. And, as it turns out . . . so did Mr. Music.

"Come on, let's put on our workout clothes, too. We can ALL work out!" he chimed in. There was no turning this thing back - a workout clearly was my destiny. Blogs could be read later.

So, I threw on something more appropriate than flannel pants and an old 5K race shirt while the kids disappeared into Mr. Music's room to conjure up their own brand of gear. Knowing that it wouldn't go well with a 4 year-old or a nearly-2 year-old on a grown-up's balance ball, I figured I better make an alternate plan for their modified exercises.

Each would do their exercises on a yoga mat. Instead of hand weights, one would use rhythm sticks, the other drum sticks. This is how we roll. We're a musical bunch. You knew that, though, right?

No sooner did I have my plan figured and in place then the kids came barrelling out to join me - decked out in Mr. Music's superhero Underoos. Yup - Mr. Music in the Superman garb, Little Sister sporting a mix of his Diego and Spiderman sets.

"Oh, I see I have some superheros joining me!" If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?

"We're not super HEROES, Mom. We're super WORKOUT heroes!" Mr. Music corrected.

"Yeah. Super. Work. Mama." Little Sister grunted, raising her arms up to show me her muscles.

Really, how could I have been so naive as to not notice that these were no run-of-the-mill superheroes?

And so, with my super WORKOUT heroes beside me, I got started. They stuck with me for about 3 exercises before they felt strong enough to rescue some poor stuffed hippo from a burning building (closet) somewhere. I knew this because my son announced, "Woah. I'm feeling stronger now. I'm sure glad we decided to work out with you today, Mom. My muscles are definitely bigger! Come on, (Little Sister), someone needs our help!"

"Yeah! Strong!" she agreed.

And off they pitter-pattered, leaving me to finish my circuit with a smile. Sure, I had a bit less screen time before facing the day, but this time it was worth it.
*Sorry it took me two days to get the photos posted, I had trouble with Blogger, but finally got it to cooperate tonight! Thanks for coming back to see the super WORKOUT heroes a view.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Unexpected Workouts

The snow out here in our little area of Western Washington has been nearly non-stop for the past 4 days. I haven't left the house in a vehicle since last Wednesday. Our neighboring towns haven't gotten nearly as much as we have - we're up to over 20 inches so far, and the snow continues to pour down - so even folks just 8-10 miles from us have only seen 4-10 inches. Ours is truly a winter wonderland.

On Monday morning my son exclaimed, "This is the coldest day EVER!" Turns out he was right. At 17 degrees Fahrenheit, it WAS the coldest day ever in his 4.5 years . . . until Saturday when the temperature dropped to 3 degrees. Not dropped 3 degrees, dropped TO 3 degrees. Brrrrrr!

With all of this snow, what better to do than get out and play in it! Little sister wasn't too thrilled with the whole idea, but she is pretty keen on the snow pants and boots. And since the rest of us were interested, she decided to join in a bit for the sledding. That's my girl - up for the best part of the adventure!

(Hard to see the smile under her coat, but it was BIG!)

Even Albus played for over an hour in the snow on Thursday, running up and down our hilly street, playing with other dogs and the kids. As a lab mix he just ADORES the snow! Sadly his fun came to an end when he me up with a dog who wasn't so interested in romping. They got into a fight and Albus came out of it with a nasty gash (that we didn't discover until bedtime). My husband and my dad walked him down to the local vet's office (about a mile) the next morning for some staples and antibiotics. Thankfully he was able to make the walk there and back without much trouble. Whew!

So, with all of this time on our hands, both my husband and I have gotten in some extra runs on the treadmill. The sledding and hill climbing in the snow are great for cardio workouts, too! He took our son for a mile-long snowshoe trek up the hill to my parents' house on Friday (and back!), so Mr. Music is getting good physical release in all of this, too. This morning I took him out to crunch around on the icy snow for a bit and we collected big chunks of ice along the way. I can honestly say I've never had an ice collection until today!

My parents are the ones getting the best workouts in all of this. They've snowshoed down to our place 3 times in the last 3 days. My dad also made the extra trek to the vet's, so as he puts it, "I've worked out more in the last 3 days than I have in 3 months!" I think this is just the experience to get them both back on their fitness paths. Sort of a jump start for the New Year!

That being said, I should probably see about getting my balance ball workout in for the day. I finished the 6 week Bounce Your Body Beautiful plan by Liz Applegate and am 2 weeks into doing the workouts for a second time. I'm really into this strength training stuff and am kicking myself for not giving it a shot sooner!

Have a wonderful Christmas week, everyone!

Oh, and I'll see if I can add a picture tonight to show you the full 20 inches of snow. All of the photos above are from early in the storm experience.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finding the Silver Lining

Yup, it happened again. I lost my yellow hat. While life has been rolling along fairly smoothly as of late, but I've been finding myself getting bogged down with bouts of pessimism. Ugh!

I find that it is much too easy to latch onto negative thoughts and let them fester, all the while knowing in the back of my mind that the pessimism is unhealthy for me and my family. When I started growling at the kids for no good reason it made me stop to re-frame things and get me back on track to finding that beloved yellow hat!

This week I started playing a little mind game with myself:

When I'm ankle, knee, shoulder . . . or even eyeball deep in frustration, I take a breath and find the silver lining in the situation.

Allow me illustrate:

Frustration: I just walked my daughter back to her bed for literally the 20th time tonight. This is probably the 20th night of this ritual in the past month or so.

Silver Lining: I'm using the experience as a practice in self-discipline and as time to "just breathe". It also worked out timing-wise for writing a guest post at the Positivity Blog. If you haven't yet checked out that blog, you should.

Now. Just go. I'll still be here when you get back.

See? It's great, isn't it? Well worth the trip, right?

Now . . . back to what I was saying.

Frustration: School was cancelled today in anticipation of big, snowy storms. Funny thing, though - not a single snowflake fell until 5PM. Since Mr. Music was home most of last week, I was really looking forward to having him at school!!

Silver Lining: I invited my mom to come over and decorate our Christmas tree with us (as a surprise for my Grinchy husband who would rather not decorate - and he WAS thrilled to come home to a house all decorated and cleaned because that meant HE didn't have to do any of it). We also got in much needed trips to the Chiropractor, the post office and to our church to make a donation to the food pantry.

Frustration: My daughter's attention span while I'm on the treadmill is about 20 minutes. Not so good for much of a run.

Silver Lining: It is better than not running AND I'm setting a good example for her by taking care of myself. I'm more likely to get on the treadmill more frequently each week now that I know she CAN last 20 minutes. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to lengthen the time and that it will help with her adjustment to being in the Child Watch at the YMCA when I take classes. It is also motivating me to keep up with my strength training, since my stronger core is enabling me to run faster!

With our Christmas tree right next to my work space, I'll likely find the silver lining easy to discover for the remainder of the year. I hope that regular posts on this topic will help me continue on my path of optimism. I'm also finding that my patience extends longer when I can find the positive in a negative situation. Patience is a priceless (and essential for sanity) when your kids are 4 and nearly 2!

Like the Smurfs sang all those years ago, "Goodness makes the badness go away! When there's goodness in your heart, the badness just can't start. Goodness makes the badness go away!"

As for YOU, what silver lining you can find in your life this week? What words of wisdom have stuck with you from the cartoons of your youth?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Heart (and photos, as promised!)

Today was one of those days. You know the kind. The day when you throw your hands up in the air and wonder, "Really?" But, when all was said and done today, it turned out find. I'm tired, but still thankful for a good number of things:

1. The packages to the aunts and uncles are in the mail - complete with little kid-made dough ornaments with the tags for a splash of holiday cheer!

2. Little Sister did her shopping for Mr. Music before we picked him up from school. No lines at our favorite locally owned shop, though I was happy to see a number of shoppers!

3. After dinner we had an impromptu hacky sack circle which was just hilarious. Neither of us adults are any good at it (despite hours and hours of it in high school and college . . . very sad, really), but we sure looked like superstars compared to the 4 year old and almost 2 year old! Mr. Music is great at getting hit in the forehead and Little Sister kept us all on our toes by running around in circles and randomly crashing into one of us for her turn with the footbag (which she would then pretend to throw, but really just hand off to the next person). It really was a fun time and we all had sweaty faces afterwards to prove that "circle kicking" CAN be a workout if done with the right people (especially when those people are under the age of 5).
4. Despite icy roads and icy hills, we accomplished all of our errands safely. My favorite trip was to the post office (the first stop to the first post office of the day) when I picked up our package with the book's award stickers!!!

This is our award certificate for the Moonbeam Children's Book Award - isn't it fancy? You can see the stickers in the corners. I'll get a photo of a sticker on a book ASAP.

Even the envelope the certificate was sent in is sparkly!

Here's the actual Bronze Medal! The center moon part actually spins, so it is really quite cool. I'm still trying to figure out appropriate framing of it.
5. I finally have photos to share with you of our big Christmas sewing adventure (although if you are a relative of mine, I'm going to ask you to use your self-control and please go visit another site without viewing this next set of photos - they are Christmas gift related in nature!).

See how the bag folds flat so nicely? That's because we used a canvas bag as a template! This is one of 5 different fabric combos. It just so happens that I bought this fabric in Italy in 1999. I used some of the fabric for bedroom curtains when we lived in North Carolina - but now I've reused it all for reusable bags!

If the bag could stand alone, it would look like this (we filled it with reference books!). We have since added straps made of the same fabric, but I haven't gotten a photo of the bags with straps yet!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Making My List and Checking it Twice (for Double Points!)

Last year I coordinated a class gift for my son's pre-school teachers. The product was a book of wishes from the students - each kiddo wrote what they wished for each teacher on a page and included a photo of themselves. One of the other moms is a graphic designer so she created beautiful covers for the books and we "bound" them with silver ribbon. Families also pitched in to get the teachers gift certificates from Barnes & Noble and Fred Meyer (for those of you who are unfamiliar with Fred Meyer, it is a store in the Kroger family of grocery stores, but expands to be more like a Target). I was really pleased with how it all came together and the priceless quality of the books - when they were all done, I selfishly wished I could keep a copy for myself!

This year I brainstormed for about two weeks to come up with a class gift idea, but everything sounded ridiculously lame compared to last year's idea. Then my son got sick and my father-in-law visited for a day and before I knew it, this week was over and I hadn't come up with anything. But . . . nobody seemed to even notice! So, I decided that there was no real reason for me to stress over a class gift, especially since it was just a nice gesture and not a true responsibility. Talk about a stress-relieving decision - whew!

Now I'm free to consider what to get the teachers from our family without worrying about everyone else. The decision is really a no-brainer, too: BOOKS!

The lead teacher is an avid knitter and quilter and all-around amazing craftswoman. I don't know how she finds the time to do it all and take care of a barn full of horses and a classroom full of kids, but she does. She truly has the patience of a saint to manage so many tedious things! Yet somehow this remarkable woman hasn't read The Quiltmaker's Gift by the talented combo of author Jeff Brumbeau and illustrator Gail de Marcken. The assistant teacher is a delightfully cheery woman. I don't know her as well since this is her first year with the class, but I know that there is a wonderful book that will call out to me for her as I wander the aisles.

So, here's my plan:

I'm going to get some Barnes & Noble gift cards from Safeway to use for my book purchases for the teachers (and a few other folks on my list that I haven't already found the perfect goodies for). I'll use the cards like cash for my shopping AND I'll get a few more cents discount at the Safeway gas station - not a bad deal! We have three Safeway gas stations near us, so we're sure to put the discounts to use before the Rewards expire at the end of the year.

Not sure what I'm talking about? Well . . .

Safeway has a special promotion going right now - PowerPump Rewards. According to the Safeway site: Now thru 12/25/08 you can earn Double PowerPump Rewards (through regular grocery purchases). Earn an additional Reward for every $100 you spend on Gift Cards. Safeway offers over 300 different Gift Cards from which to choose. The list is BROAD. It includes restaurants like Panera (my son's favorite); electronic/toy stores like Best Buy and Toys R Us; clothing stores like LL Bean and Belk; airlines like Southwest and Jet Blue; entertainment companies like AMC Theaters and Barnes & Noble. . . and MANY MORE! Check out the PowerPump Locator to find a Safeway near you and to see the selection of Gift Cards for yourself.*

I'm not much of a Gift Card giver, since I like to make gifts or pick something meaningful (like SPECIFIC books) for people (hence our mad scramble to finish our Christmas projects mentioned here - photos to be posted next week!). BUT, I think that purchasing Gift Cards to use for our own shopping is an easy way to make the "not-so-mighty" dollar stretch a bit further as we do our best to contribute to our local economy. I also appreciate that you can get Gift Cards for experiences (movie theatres, air travel, hotels, etc.), since I think those are the next best things to books and a good run.

And now that I've refreshed my own memory on the Gift Card selection, we might just have to get a few Southwest cards now to use when we fly down to CA to meet our new nephew!

How about YOU? What Gift Card could you purchase to use for your holiday shopping? Any Gift Cards you would use as gifts?
*Please don't hold me to any details, just check the site for yourself!
Oh, and please know that I checked two local bookstores for The Quiltmaker's Gift first - independent bookstores are gems and I do my best to support them first . . . sort of like ordering books direct from authors/independent publishers when possible!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lost in the Pages: Book Review of The Busy Body Book by Lizzy Rockwell

As we are now full immersed in the joy of the holiday season, I think it is important to remember all of the things that keep our bodies happy - and make it fun for our children to understand why we can't have cookies all day long!

You may recall from an earlier pre-holiday post, Books for the Holidays, I'm focused on making books an integral part of our Christmas gift-giving. I was going to save this book for a stocking stuffer for my son, but couldn't hold off that long. Maybe you have stronger will-power than I had! This is a fun book that you'll want to share with your children (or grandchildren) as you pass along your passion for health and wellness.

The Busy Body Book: A Kid's Guide to Fitness by Lizzy Rockwell caught my eye at our local Jamba Juice smoothie store. While we weren't able to purchase anything there that day (turns out the store didn't have allergy-free blenders like Emerald City Smoothies does), the book's cover stuck in my mind and I ordered the paperback version from Scholastic Books through my son's preschool just a few weeks later. I was not disappointed!

Filled with lively illustrations of kids of all ethnicities, sizes and abilities happily engaged in physical activity, this book is a geared for the pre-school/kindergarten crowd. Rockwell brings the workings of the human body down to a youngster's comprehension and vocabulary level without dumbing down the concepts. For example, when describing how the brain and nervous system work, she writes, "Messages travel back and forth, at lightning speed, along wire-thin fibers called nerves." That truly is it in a nutshell, right?!

As a former teacher I also appreciate the inclusion of diagrams throughout the book. Well labeled diagrams of the systems of the body (skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, circulatory and digestive) enhance the main content of the book. The earlier kids get accustomed to reading diagrams, the easier school will be for them!

My daughter's favorite page (and keep in mind that she's not quite 2, but very interested in books) is one toward the end that is a grid of children involved in 40 different physical activities ranging from leaf raking to kayaking. These simple, but colorful illustrations show children that "There are lots of ways to be a busy body!" My daughter is captivated by the illustrations of a young girl horseback riding and a redhead swinging (we're all redheads). My son likes pointing out all of the activities we've done together and pointing out the ones he'd like to try (namely skateboarding and tree climbing!). The musician in him loves that a marching trumpet player is included in the mix while the mom in me enjoys the depiction of a little boy scrubbing a floor!

The Busy Body Book is a fun resource for teachers to use in their classrooms for units about the body and for lessons about how to read diagrams. Families will enjoy sharing the book before heading outdoors for a physical adventure (or maybe even before chore time!). The bright colors and positive message leave the reader smiling and energized. This book would be fun to pair with mine, We Are Girls Who Love to Run/Somos Chicas y A Nosotras Nos Encanta Correr and if you have two kids for whom you are purchasing books (The Busy Body Book for a younger child (boy or girl) and my book for an older sister, friend or cousin)!

Next on my list of books to review is Rockwell's other title: Good Enough to Eat: A Kid's Guide to Food and Nutrition. It will be post-Christmas, though, as that book IS going in my son's Christmas stocking!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Mommy Heart

I didn't realize until just now that I haven't posted in a full week. What happened to that week?!

Ummmmm, I'm not really sure. But I DO know that I am thankful as the week starts because:

1. I'm a stay-at-home mom who can take care of my son as he battles a wicked cough (really, it is a killer one). I'm not sure how working moms do it. My heart goes out to them!

2. My husband made chicken soup for dinner last night and the leftovers were perfect for my son's lunch today. I don't know if he was more excited that it was soup or more excited that his dad made it just for him.

3. In my hours of market research I've run across some really cool websites. Today I discovered Girlfriendology. Fun site to check out! And maybe you'd be interested in Skipping Stones (an international multicultural magazine). Discovering new things is what keeps me from remembering to put on socks . . . seriously, I get caught up in reading and forget that I was "just going to read some email while I put on my socks" and then an hour has passed and they still sit rolled up next to my keyboard while my feet turn icy!

4. My husband and I got to have 2 nights and a Saturday to ourselves while the kids played at my parents' house. Friday night was fabulous with dinner at Spazzo's, an Italian restaurant in Redmond. Just thinking about it makes me smile. Saturday we enjoyed our regular bagel run to Blazin' Bagels and then knocked out a bulk of our Christmas shopping. Saturday was a sewing marathon to work on our Christmas project as we watched Get Smart (NOT a worthwhile movie, BTW). We were able to finish off the weekend with quick runs on the treadmill (too foggy to venture far outside by foot) before we had to fetch the small ones (one of whom is SICK) Sunday morning.

5. Today my daughter brought me a hair band and a comb so I could put her hair in a pony tail. Never in all of her nearly twenty-three months has she ASKED to have her hair pulled back, despite the fact that it is usually in her eyes or stuck to her nose! I'm wondering if she asked because I have my hair pulled back today (unusual unless I'm going for a run).

What about YOU? What are you thankful for today - something little or something big?

Have a wonderful week, everyone! Wishing you HEALTH and happiness as you prepare for the holidays.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Starting With a Thankful Heart as Things Fall into Place

Today I am thankful for things coming to fruition after much planning and leg work:

1. My guest blog post is up at the Positivity Blog - this is a blog worth following, it is filled with fantastic daily reminders of how to live a life of gratitude and positive thinking. Check it out (and not just MY post, take a minute or two to read some of the regular posts - I promise it is worth your while. Subscribe to it, even!).

2. I was a guest on the Seattle-area radio show Chat With Women this morning. I was thankful that traffic was light and I made it to the station with time to spare (and time to go to the bathroom, even though I had to hunt down a code to get into the locked restroom!!). I'll have the 20 minute audio up on the Balanced Steps website by the end of the day.

3. I'm getting orders for my book from people who met me at the REF Turkey Trot Fun Runs in November.

4. Our Christmas gift making plan is working well - my husband and I figured out some good techniques and steps for the process last night.

5. My mother-in-law gets to meet her newest grandson this week - happy travels!

How about YOU? What are you thankful for today? Be sure to leave a comment!

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Making Our List and Keepin' it Green(ish)

My husband and I finally sat down to figure out our Christmas shopping list yesterday. We took a look at our selections from last year and considered our family members' reactions. Of all our gifting last year, hands DOWN, the favorite items were the pillowcases I made (I think the final number was 32 handmade pillowcases, but I'm a bit fuzzy after all of that needle humming).

While I'm not going to make that many pillowcases again this year (fabric was specially chosen for EACH one . . . I think I was truly out of my mind!), we did decide that the bulk of the gifts will be homemade. The others will be as locally-purchased or experience-based as possible. If you are a family member reading this, please STOP reading NOW and move on to your regularly scheduled life - email reading, dusting, vacuuming, playing with the dog, walking on the beach - WHATEVER . . . just GO!!!

What are you still doing here, Mom? Pat? Get out of here! I love you, but NO PEEKING!

OK, I think they're gone. *whew!*

I mentioned a week or so ago that I'd really like our gifts to be environmentally and budget friendly. I think we've go it: Homemade reusable bags (similar to these)! My husband and I cranked out the prototypes last night while the kids were at my parents' house for a sleepover. Here's the rundown:

- We're using fabric from the stash I've been building for the last 10 years (some fabric I bought in Italy before we were married!). I'm also reusing some old curtains that I made years ago that are still in good shape but don't fit our windows in this house. I'll be using thread from my stash, too. Random colors of thread will add to the eclectic feel of the bags!
- For the more "masculine" bags (no fru-fru stuff for the manly men in our families!) we DID get some navy striped sheets on sale to cut up and use (budget friendly, not AS environmentally friendly). That was the ONLY shopping we had to do.
- We figured out how to make the bags like the reusable canvas bags from the PCC Natural Markets out here, so they are quick and easy! All it will take is sewing 2 rectangles of fabric together (the bags are lined to make them more durable since we're NOT using canvas), making the tuck to give the bags a bottom, and then attaching straps.
- We'll use the bags as wrapping paper for a few little goodies to send. That's right - no wrapping paper needed! I can feel some trees smiling about that one.
- Even with the little goodies, everything should fit in a flat envelope for cheap mailing and limited "Post Office package juggling dances" while managing 2 small children in line.
- If we make 2 bags/night, I can have 20 made in 10 nights, which means that all the packages can be mailed well in advance of the Christmas rush!
- Since the idea was truly my husband's, he has agreed to man the iron. This really will be a fast project with two of us on deck!

Since I was able to run at the YMCA after my son's swimming lesson yesterday and I started my morning with the first workout of Week 5 in the 6 week Bounce Your Body Beautiful plan, I'm feeling quite energetic. I'll put that energy to good use for tonight's sewing session! I'll be sure to get some photos of the process to post while we're at it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

All about Balance

Here we go - a new look! What do you think?!

Since I've been doing this blogging thing for just over a year now, I figured it was time to find myself a new template. Sort of like a haircut, if I have the same style for too long, I start to feel stale. I AM still sticking with one of the free one-size-fits-all template that comes with Blogger, but that is because I'm trying to keep things simple and balanced for this little life of mine. Someday I may dive into a unique look, but for now this works for me.

I commented over on Mizfit's Thanksgiving gratitude post that if I had a custom made bracelet like the one she has as a giveaway I'd have it say BALANCE (yes, that picture is of me on a balance board - one of my author photos that I use to tell people about the programs I offer!). For me, balance happens when:

1. I take care of my body with at least 2 runs/week (and now that I'm totally into this Balance Ball thing, 3 times of that, too - and these are easier to fit in, too). I'm happier with more, but for now life is about balance, not about performance.

2. I read. Walking away from all things with plugs (except the lamp by my bed or chair!) and sitting down with a book calms me and centers me. Fiction helps me escape and non-fiction empowers me with knowledge to improve myself. Children's books reunite me with my youth while grown-up novels and books show me what the world has to offer that I haven't yet explored.

3. I incorporate music. When I feel overwhelmed (or even worse, when my son points out, "Mom, I think you could use some time to yourself."), I find that everything goes better with the right background music. I use it as motivation when we have to clean, uplifting when we get home from errands and school and transition to lunch/dinner, and a great change of subject when the kids are arguing in the back seat of the car. Music changes everything - and almost always for the better.

4. I feel successful with my writing. Whether it be dashing out a blog post, forming a new business connection through email, getting an important press release put together, or selling a single copy of a book to a young reader, the quality of words I string together has a direct affect on my mood. When I take time and put together something strong, my confidence is higher and it spills into the other areas of my life. My sloppy writing is a reflection that somehow the other areas of my life are disorganized, too, and I need to figure out how to get back in balance.

5. I show gratitude. Whether through verbal or written reminders to my family or friends that I appreciate who they are and how they play a part in my life, or through prayer, this is an essential piece of who I am. I know that I can't go it alone in life and that it is because of the people around me that I have a rich and full life. I have been blessed in numerous ways and it is important that I take time to be thankful and to show others gratitude. Easy to think about post-Thanksgiving, but important to incorporate into life year-round.

6. My kids are happy. This comes with getting down on the floor for tickles, puzzle doing, play doh squishing (well, at the table for that one), book reading, and lots and lots of body movement. When they get cranky and pick on one another, that's a sure sign that I'VE dropped the ball and need to get them involved in something fun.

7. My husband is happy. This is a delicate balance of leaving him alone for awhile (he's an introvert, I'm an extrovert) to let him do his own thing on the computer or in the garage/garden/guitar/whatever and doing things with him like watching a movie/working in the yard/etc. Sometimes this just involves me taking the kids for a walk so they stop climbing Daddy Mountain. Other times it involves getting the kids into the kitchen to work with us to make a big breakfast as a family.

When I first put together this list, I thought that #6 and #7 were totally dependent on the first five items. Yet, the more I think about it, each piece holds significance and #5 and #6 have strong pulls on the other areas of my life. They are all quite interlocked. I guess they have to be connected in order for me to feel balance - if they weren't, life would be even more crazy - like swimming through a pit of balls - than the current balance board exercise I feel my life to be.

Whew! Did you make it through all of that? Good!

Now . . . please let me know by leaving a comment - what makes YOU feel balanced?

I'm off to spend some time with my husband now that we've both had our half hour or so on our computers and then I get to dive into a new book. *Happy Sigh* Hooray for balance!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lost in the Pages: Book Review of Dragon Wishes by Stacy Nyikos

As I finished the final few chapters of Dragon Wishes by Stacy A. Nyikos last night, tears snuck out of the corners of my eyes. I just couldn't help it. Though the novel was written for middle grade readers, it is a book that captures the hearts of more seasoned readers, too. Dragon Wishes just released this month, November 2008.

Nyikos has a powerful gift for storytelling that comes to life in Dragon Wishes. She magically weaves together two stories to create one unified reading experience: the present-time story of a girl and her little sister coming to terms with their parents' tragic death, and an ancient story handed down through the generations about a girl who calls on the power of dragons to save her village. The transition between the two stories is seamless.

I had such a hard time putting the book down that I read it in just four sittings - which when you factor in all the other things I'm doing (writing, parenting, running, not sleeping thanks to sick kiddos, etc.) speaks volumes about this book. I cut back on my blog reading and skipped out on some television time so I could climb into bed and see how the story unfolds.
This is, by far, one of the most moving and well-written children's novels I have read since my youth. It is one that I would read aloud to a class of students and use as the backbone for a thematic unit on Chinese art and culture (3rd - 5th grade, as a read aloud, 4th - 8th graders would enjoy it independently). It is one I will read with my daughter when she's older (she's not even two yet, but it will keep!). I will also recommend it to the school counselors I know for them to suggest to their students who have been relocated or have lost close relatives.

The dialogue is natural and relaxed, which is hard to write, but Nyikos does skillfully. The characters are believable and likable, developed over time as you experience them through their actions. Overall the tone is serious, but healthy doses of humor keep the story moving.

Congratulations on this amazing first novel, Stacy! I wish you great success and look forward to reading your future books and celebrating them with you.

As you search for the perfect books for the people on your holiday gift list, take a minute or two to look beyond the best sellers lists! There are treasures awaiting you between the covers of independently published books, too.

Next on my to-review list: A pair of books by Lizzy Rockwell, The Busy Body Book and Good Enough to Eat: A Kid's Guide to Food and Nutrition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trials & Achievements - sorting through it all

My kids are off playing with friends so that I can:

1) Find the kitchen sink
2) Catch up on my emails
3) Send out more press releases
4) Start getting the house ready for Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends
5) Get laundry done

Hmmm . . . I don't think my friend is prepared to take on two kids for as long as it will take me to accomplish all of those tasks (days, perhaps). I guess I'll just have to make do with the 2.5 remaining hours until their return.

I'm happy to report:

1) I'll have not one, but two, guest blog posts out in the world in the next few weeks. Yes, folks, these are definitely more formal than what you'll find here. They are starting to inspire me to tighten up my posts here, but I'm not ready for that adjustment until the new year. Hang with me until then, though, won't you?!
2) I've officially been named as a Contributor on Bookieboo, a "Fitness Hangout for Moms"! You can find my women's and children's fitness/health book reviews there. Strange name, but the social site is truly filled with great bits of wisdom and insight about pregnancy, childbirth, parenting . . . and FITNESS. My fellow contributors are experts in fitness, nutrition, childbirth, etc. Stop by - it is definitely worth checking out!
3) As of next Monday I should be one degree closer to Kevin Bacon. I'll be on Chat with Women, a radio show that also hosted Whoopi Goldberg as part of the book launch tour for the book series Sugar Plum Ballerinas. You can listen to the show live Monday, December 1st at 8AM PST (I believe), and it will be available on the website for you to listen at your leisure!

Darn, I'm down to 2.25 hours before the kids return. I'll just leave THAT as my big Trial for the day - and head off to see how many of those items from the first list I can accomplish!

Wishing you the best as you tackle your trials and celebrate your achievements this week - and be sure to leave a comment so I can pass along some extra words of encouragement for those bumps in the road or celebrate something wonderful with you!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Getting a Head Start

It has been ages since I've visited anyone else's blog. While I've been away, I have been making some real progress in my other life areas:

1. I sent out over a dozen press releases announcing the award for We Are Girls Who Love to Run. Which leads me to an important question for YOU, dear reader: Did you know that Her Sports + Fitness is now Women's Running Magazine? Be sure to check it out!

2. I've been working on some meaty guest blog posts for some BIG blogs out there. I'll let you know where to go when they're posted!

3. I just put the final touches on our Christmas letter - and it isn't even Thanksgiving. While I really enjoy Christmas cards, I usually get stressed about this aspect of the holidays. I write the letters from the kids' points of view, so they're not a typical blah-blah-blah letter - and they're also SHORT! Well, tonight the inspiration hit and it is DONE (in the voice of Little Miss Fireball). I even got the wallet-sized photos ordered to include with the letter. BTW: this is MUCH more budget-friendly than photo cards and the leftovers can go in my wallet so that I actually have photos of my kids with me.

4. My husband and I have been spending our spare moments cleaning out junk. You know the stuff - the pile of old Runner's World magazines, the rubber bands from the heads of lettuce we bought at the farmer's market in June, the thousands upon thousands of kid art projects, scraps of fabric from quilts I made two years ago . . . I feel so liberated with all of it sorted into the appropriate bins: garbage, recycle, mail.

5. The Fireball's horrid cold is nearly gone now, so we squeezed in a trip to the park while the sun was out for a bit this afternoon. We almost didn't get it in, though, as Mr. Music is going through one hum-dinger of a growth spurt and is back on track with nearly daily naps. It's no wonder I can't get myself on a schedule!!!

Now that the Christmas cards are under control, I'm off to have that yearly sit-down with the husband (who after a year of blogging, should have a nick-name - I'll work on that) to figure out a healthy balance for Christmas gifts. Things to consider for balance:

- price
- environmental impact
- time involvement (last year I made about 30 personalized pillow cases for family members - BIG hit all around, but BIG time sucker on my end . . . and I have some quilts to finish!)
- personal significance of gift (I like gifts to have some sort of important connection and meaning)
- do we consider donations in our family members' names through a reputable charity?

Does anyone have experiences with the charitable donation approach to gifts? Did you receive one? Have you given one? I'd love to get your insight!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Books for the Holidays!

've been eyeball deep in tissues and snotty noses this week (Little Sister, who shall forever more be called "Fireball" - for that is what her daddy has appropriately started calling her - she'll be a girl who loves to run in no time, too) . . . so much for compiling a Year in Review for my blog's 1 Year Anniversary. Don't worry about me, I'm not all that broken up about it . . . it is more of a detail-oriented thing than I realized it would be. I'm more into moving forward and taking steps to reach FUTURE events and goals. Perhaps that's why I never got into my idea of Friday Flashbacks as a topic for my Friday blog posts . . .

I did want to bring your attention to a fabulous challenge posted over at My Friend Amy. You can read all about the campaign on her original post for why folks should Buy Books for the Holidays!
I discovered it by way of Scrub-a-Dub-Tub which is the blog for the nonprofit reading group, The Reading Tub. That's a great place for you to learn about some great new books (not just the top sellers, though many of those are reviewed, too!) for families to share together. The Reading Tub reviews children's books and sponsors community programs that encourage kids to read. You should definitely give them a look - maybe YOUR family could become a book reviewing family!
So, how about it? Will YOU be buying books for the holidays? Where do you like to buy books?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Starting With a Thankful Heart (and a new nephew!)

I was going to write some Blog Anniversary stuff for you today, but then we got the call that there's a new member in our extended family, which makes me an aunt (and my husband an uncle and the kids cousins!) for the first time! I'm an only child, so growing up I never knew if I'd have a chance to be an aunt. I'm thrilled that life's adventures led me to marry into a bigger family and that the family grew today to make me an aunt.

So, I'll stick with my usual Monday post because I can't think of a better way to celebrate the start of a new life.

Today I am thankful for:

1. The safe arrival of dear, little Nate. Well, okay, he's not SO little, weighing in at 9lbs. 6 oz., but he's just a few hours old, so that makes him little!

2. The closeness of my husband's family to one another. The phone was going for at least an hour as we all called one another and celebrated Nate (and his lovely mother who is likely feeling relieved to not be pregnant anymore and tired after a full day of bringing him into the world, and his lovely father who is likely just exhausted from the sheer intensity of it all and cheering on his wife).

3. Little Sister's snuggles this afternoon. She's fighting some sort of bug, so she's been quite snuggly - usually she's wiggly and will only let you get a quick hug and kiss. Today she fell asleep in my lap. There is something powerful about having parents close to help you feel better. I remember that from when I was still small enough to climb into my parents' laps/bed when I was sick.

4. The fact that my parents are squeezing in a bit of a date night for us even though their week is remarkably full.

5. The safe arrival of dear, little Nate. I think that news deserves mentioning at least twice, don't you? Happy Birthday, Nephew!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One Year Blog Anniversary (Roughly!)

It dawned on me as I was running the Riverview Educational Foundation Turkey Trot 5K on Saturday morning that my very FIRST BLOG entry was a review of that race last year. I'm amazed at how much has happened over the course of the year. At some point this week I'll do a quickie recap for you, just in case you're a new reader (or even if you're an old follower and would like to reminisc with me!). I'll be picking out some of my favorites tonight to highlight later this week, which is why this is short and sweet.

Before I sign off for the night, I will thank you all for your kind birthday wishes on Thursday. I was nervous about this 30 thing, but am feeling more confident and excited now to start a new decade. Thanks for reminding me to put my yellow hat back on (which I did wear for both my birthday morning run and the race on Saturday - I even took a picture of me in it before my big birthday run - see below!).
The photo on the left is of me modeling my fabulous new mittens. Notice the smile - my family took great care of me that day (as did the lemon raspberry cheesecake for dessert after my husband cooked dinner)!

Have a wonderful week, everyone! Happy running!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Birthday Brightness

Ask anyone who knows me well, and they'll tell you that I've been sensitive about this birthday. I'm not sure why, but the idea of turning 30 was something that made me feel uncertain and even a bit sad. But then the day hit (today!) and I'm enjoy the brightness of the day:

1. After DAYS of rain and gloom, the sky cleared and the day is AMAZINGLY bright and wonderful.
2. My husband is home from work today to help me celebrate the day - he took the kids away from the house for the morning so I could enjoy some peace and quiet.
3. Our daughter greeted me with "Happy Mama!" as she climbed on top of me in bed this morning . . . and then scrambled off the bed and pitter pattered away to do whatever it is she had in mind to do (under her dad's supervision, I got to go back to sleep!).
4. The first words out of Mr. Music's mouth this morning when I saw him were "Happy Birthday, Mom!" and then I got one of his amazing bear hugs.
5. Before they headed out, the family gave me one of my birthday presents - a fabulous pair of gloves/mittens - you know the kind - they have glove fingers (cut off at the top), but also have mitten parts that can cover the gloves if needed. I love them!
6. When Albus, our wonder dog, saw that I was in my yellow hat, running skirt and running shoes, he did a happy dog dance and went to sit by the door to wait for us to go for a run (I'm choosing to assume that his dance also meant "Happy Birthday!").
7. Except for a few slippery leafy patches, it was a glorious morning for a run. The blue sky, fresh air, and warm sun all seem to be indicators that it is okay to be 30, that the world has much more in store for me.
8. Since the kids are off with their dad for the morning, I was able to follow-up my run with some strength training. My mom borrowed my balance ball book, so I tried out "The Smart Workout" from November 2008's Redbook Magazine. It is 6 moves that REALLY challenge your body.
9. I even get to enjoy a shower without interruption this morning.

All that, and it isn't even 11AM yet!

I think that this is going to be a great birthday and that I'll find some new strength and adventure in this new decade. Thank you, kind readers, for coming along for the ride!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lost in the Pages: Book Review of Janey Junkfood's Fresh Adventure

If you are looking for a resource for kids that puts fun into developing healthy eating habits, look no further! The January 2008 release Janey Junkfood's Fresh Adventure! by Barbara Storper, MS, RD is a colorful and light-hearted book that shares the importance of eating well.
The book is written in a detective case file format from a kid's perspective. Fictional author, Tobe Fit, chronicles the eating habits of her best friend, Janey Junkfood (JJ for short, though her friend thinks JJ stands for "Janey the Juggler") and how all of the sugar she consumes is hurting her chances of making the Junior National Juggling Team. Tobe knows the importance of eating colorful, healthy foods - she just has to convince Janey that fruits and veggies are as fun and easy to enjoy as junk is, with better results!
The combination of hand-written notes, typed up reports and silly kid-style sketches and illustrated photos make the book fun for kids to pick up and flip through. The content is fact-filled and honest, but the fluffy, fun presentation makes it kid-friendly and puts the information in an easy-to-digest (pun intended) scenario. Kids are sure to enjoy it and ask to read it more than once.
As an added bonus, cut-out healthy recipe cards ("Tickets to FRESH Adventures!") enable readers to apply Tobe's fun snack lessons to their own lives. There's even a pocket in the back of the book to store the tickets once you've cut out the pages from the book.
I'd suggest this book for parent-child sharing when kids are between kindergarten - second grade (even younger if the format doesn't overwhelm the child). Book sharing between parents and children goes a LONG way . . . but that's a post for another day!

There are some fairly decent vocabulary words and concepts that could use some decoding ("investigate" and "situation" aren't typical words for the younger crowd to read!) discussing if kids aren't familiar with them ("nationals" and some of the mock newspaper articles and factual reports). Beyond that, kids can dive in and read it on their own or with friends.
Janey Junkfood's Fresh Adventure! would be a fun book to share with small groups in a classroom setting during a nutritional unit. I'm sure physical education teachers would get rave reviews from their students for integrating parts of it into their lessons (you don't need to read the entire book to get the message across)! It is great for kids to see how books and literacy really do fit into ALL areas of their lives. Books DO have a place in physical education!

What's next on my review shelf, you ask? I'm about to start the novel Dragon Wishes by Stacy Nyikos, which is a book that officially releases this month - congrats Stacy! I hope to have it read and reviewed for you soon. I'm also working up a review of the Olive the Little Woolly Bugger books I've mentioned before.

I'm still looking for more books to review for you, though! Send ideas my way - especially books from independent publishers for youth and books about fitness and wellness.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Heart (and a clean house!)

After spending 3 hours cleaning the house this morning, I'm more inclined to sit on our giant bean bag chair with a book than on my hard wooden chair in front of the computer. So, I'll just say that today I'm thankful for:

- hosting a lunch play date for Mr. Music's little friend and her mom on this beautiful, sunny November Monday (the motivation for all the cleaning this morning!)
- everyone's enjoyment of swimming lessons
- my husband taking off work on Thursday to celebrate my birthday (he knows I'm feeling sensitive about turning 30, so he's making it extra special and fun for me)
- a fun weekend with the family
- my mom's discovery of a local company that recycles "old" home knit sweaters and finds them new homes (Running Knitter, this made me think of YOU!). The kids have some beautiful "new" sweaters to enjoy this fall/winter.

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Readjusting for Balance

My morning run was a great one. I found the perfect pace - even Albus was pleased with our speed (usually he pulls to go faster!) - and could have run forever (our 30 minutes were good, though). I was so completely in the zone with my foot strikes, breathing and noticing the interesting smells around me (dryer sheets, worms, the perfume of the runner that crossed our path, etc.) that I didn't even realize we were running in the rain until my leg brushed against Albus' wet fur. Yes, it was that good of a run. I'm feeling more confident about next Saturday's Riverview Runs Turkey Trot 5K . . . my first race as a 30 year-old (just 2 days after my birthday) - yikes, that's a new age bracket, isn't it?

Today's run, along with some other things, has led me to the decision to make some changes with our family routine (which my husband and I discussed together. I'm no dictator!). Just a few minor tweaks are bound to pay off:

- Tuesday nights will be TV and computer-free. That's right - no blog reading, no CSI watching, no working from home, no Facebook status updates. Monitors will be off. Books will be open, or who knows, we might even pull out a game or *gasp* sit and talk. Time without the kids climbing on us is slim, we really need to do a better job of making those rare moments more about quality and less about technology (which I love, I just need to get other things into my life, too!).

- My husband is returning to yoga. He is slowly getting back into running after a few months off and realizes that he runs best when he has an active yoga practice. Sound familiar? I think he'll go one night and I may go another. We have yet to work out all of these details.

- I'm actively pursuing some bigger media attention for the book. Newspaper articles, radio shows, even TV perhaps! I'm gleaning some knowledge from other authors and working to put it to good use. I'm making Monday nights my Media Night.

- I'm continuing my Balance Ball routine. I know I've mentioned it over and over again, but REALLY the difference in my posture and my running is AMAZING. My body fat has also dropped 2% in the last two weeks and my pants are fitting the way they should. Talk about instant results. I'm passing along the book to my mom - she's excited to try it out, too!

How about YOU? Are you making any new healthy changes to your life routine? Have you found a simple change that has a significant impact on your family's health and life quality?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Life's Little Challenges

Today I decided to try something new. Actually, 2 new things . . . at the same time.

1. Drop the kids at the YMCA child care.
2. Try a Zumba class.

How'd it go?

1. My son loved it. Two of his closest friends from school were there, so he was set. Little Sister didn't share his feelings. At all.
2. I reserve my review of the Zumba class for a time when I can do more than 10 minutes of it. That's when the child care staff came looking for me. Nothing like having to walk all the way across the front of the class (twice even, as I had to retrieve my water and key) to go console a sad kid. *sigh* So far I'm still interested in going back, assuming we can get Little Sister to take to the child care.

I'm excited at the opportunities our new YMCA (or YNCJ, as Mr. Music called it earlier) membership gives us. Swimming class went VERY well on Tuesday for Little Sister (perhaps that's why she wasn't interested in playing - she wanted to be in the pool!) and Mr. Music is excited about his first class tomorrow. I'm also hoping that my dear husband will be able to take advantage of the open lanes for some swimming from time to time, too. As for me . . . we'll just keep trying the child care stuff so that I can enjoy what the Y has to offer. It shouldn't take TOO many more partial classes, right??? I have these grand visions of classes and time in the weight room . . . and how those will help me run faster!

Does anyone have advice for how I can help my 21 month-old take to the child care?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Heart (and a new swimsuit!)

After the great weekend we had, it was a bit more difficult to get in the swing of the day, but by around 10:00AM I finally had a handle on it (more or less, anyway). Now that the day is drawing to a close, I'm able to reflect on some things for which I am thankful:

1. The new potty seat for Little Sister that has her interested and ASKING to go potty. We've got 3 success stories since yesterday. I'll take 'em!

2. Hooray for Big 5 Sports. Not generally my favorite store, but they came through for me today when it mattered - I needed a swimsuit for ME for Little Sister's swim lessons (they start tomorrow morning and I haven't gotten a swim suit in YEARS) and they had one in my size - in November, no less!

3. Mr. Music's interest in writing. Between his new science observation notebook and card-making for family and friends, it consumes 1-2 hours of each day. Guess he's following in his mama's footsteps. :)

4. Two heart-warming reviews of We Are Girls Who Love to Run from readers from my high school hometown (remember, I was an Air Force Brat!). One from my best friend from those days, another from a teacher at my school (who bought 3 copies!). I'm truly honored that they took the time to let me know what they thought in the midst of motherhood/teaching/taking classes, etc.

5. Pediatric Dentists. Who knew that my 4 year-old wouldn't need me for an entire appointment (x-rays and all!)?

I hope your week started out smoothly. Have a great one!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Feeling Good (and Balanced!) About November

After a fun finish to October, I'm looking forward to an exciting November. To keep it simple, here are two little lists of why I'm feeling great . . . and even, dare I say, balanced:

October's Nice End:
- Though we were feeling *blah* (for lack of a better word), my husband and I went out for a date night dinner last week. When we got home we VOTED! Absentee ballots are GREAT. We were able to sit down and take the time to discuss and read about the different candidates (our ballot was nearly 2 full sides) for the offices (not to mention the big issues up for vote, too) and cast our votes confidently. The ballots went in the mail the very next morning! I feel good about my choices and like that I had the time and comfort to get everything right at home instead of waiting in line at a polling station and then trying to remember who I wanted to choose (really, this was much more than just presidential stuff!).

- There's just something fun about the discovery of Halloween through a not-quite-two year-old's eyes . . . "NANDY!" Little Sister cried over and over again while clutching bags of Skittles and M&M's. I was thrilled that she remembered her manners when people tucked new goodies into the bag I made her as we went from shop to shop in our town's Downtown Trick or Treat experience.

Here's my husband with Little Sister dressed as a puppy and Mr. Music in all his pirate glory before we headed out to loot the town!

- We only got 8 trick or treater's (not a type-o, just 8 little souls), BUT, we were also pleased to have three middle schooler's stop by on a food bank collecting mission. We were happy to donate some canned goods to the local food bank . . . and they were happy to get a few containers of playdoh - "Sweet!" they chimed together when I offered them the goodies. It warmed my heart to see their excitement over playdoh!

- Though my husband was not excited about turning a year older on Halloween, he was happy to be greeted with "Happy, Dada!" from Little Sister all day and to card after card after card that Mr. Music made for him to celebrate the day. A large carrot cake from our local bakery sweetened the day, too, as did the roasted pork my mom made for him (I don't do pork) for dinner. Oh, and carving the pumpkin - can't forget that!
Here's Mr. Music checking to make sure we got ALL of the seeds!
November's Sweet Beginning:
- The boys braved the rain to hit the trail for a bike ride on Saturday. They came back grinning from ear to ear and literally COVERED with dirt - head to toe. Priceless.

Check out our little "Swamp Monster" and his muddy coat. I think his tag-a-long might need a rear fender. You think?
- My head cold is finally clearing, so I decided to brave the treadmill this morning. I started off with a walk to make sure that my lungs could handle things and ended up running for about 10 minutes of my 30 minute work out - a day earlier than my goal. Hooray!

- Swimming lessons start this week at the Y. I'm hoping to also work in a day or two of classes for myself, taking advantage of their great childcare program. I'm feeling stronger by the day with the balance ball work I've been doing, but look forward to mixing things up a bit with some cross training, too.

- I'll be turning the big 3-0 in a little over a week. That weekend I'll be signing books at a race. I think that's a fun way to kick off a new decade - full of positive energy and a good run.

I wish you all a great week - and a great month, too! And if you haven't already . . . go make your vote count!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hanging in There . . . Homemade Applesauce Helps

Still haven't shaken the head cold, so running continues to be on hold. I haven't let the sinuses keep me from my strength training, though! I'm three weeks into the Bounce Your Body Beautiful balance ball training program by Liz Applegate, Ph.D. and am thrilled with how it is going.

For example:
- I've had neck/shoulder/arm trouble since the week before my now 21-month old daughter was born. The troubles come and go, but since getting the strength training under way, this is the best my shoulder has felt in nearly 2 years. That's motivation for me to keep going with it!
- My sleeping has improved since my non-sleeping summer, but again, my sleep in the last 3 weeks (well, prior to the head cold) is the best it has been in a long time.
- I feel stronger.
- When I DID run last week, I was pleased with how easy it was to hold a good running posture. Good posture makes for a smooth run.

Mentally and emotionally I've been feeling a bit worn, but I think a good part of that is related to not feeling well and the building excitement for Halloween (which is also my husband's birthday). The book award is certainly adding to the stress, too, as my mom and I haven't had a chance to talk about/truly celebrate all that the award means for us and what our next steps need to be for the book and educational consulting branch of the business. She's been helping extended family for the past few months (for which I'm very proud of her, as it hasn't been easy), so I know she's looking forward to figuring out the next steps, too, now that she's home.

See? This girl needs a run to have thinking and de-stressing time!

I'm targeting Monday for a trial run. We just got a family membership to the YMCA, so even if it means I get on a treadmill at the Y, I'll take it!

In the meantime, I'm off to enjoy a bowl of the homemade applesauce that just cooled. It isn't a run, but it is bound to take off the edge before the excitement of the Birthday Halloween tomorrow.

Have a fun weekend!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Starting with a Tired Body, but a Thankful Heart

Just when I get back in the groove with my workouts, my body says "Hold it, Sister!" I'm the last person in the family to get the hacking cough, headache and all around foggy brain, so I suppose it is only fair. I'm sticking with my balance ball routine, though. I'm not good at running with a headache, so that will have to wait, even if it is perfect fall running weather. *sigh*

Even though I'm bummed and foggy-brained, I do have a number of things for which I am thankful today:

1. The cooperation of my children as I sifted through the ingredients lists on 300 packages of cold medicine at the grocery store to find the ONE that did I what I need it to do.
2. The kindness of my husband to call and check on me throughout the day to see if he needed to come home early and bail me out if I was too sick to chase our busy little goobers.
3. Mr. Music's exploding interest in writing and making cards for others (he doesn't quite have it figured out that the letters have to be in some sort of linear arrangement in order for others to read his thoughts, but BOY, can the kid compose a lovely card FILLED with "words" - about half of which you can decipher, which ain't bad for 4!).
4. My aunt's improving health after major surgery and an impromptu last-minute trip to see her surgeon post-surgery that paid off BIG TIME. We're praying for continued improvement for her.
5. The power of NyQuil that shall lull me (and keep me) asleep tonight, as it did last night after an hour-long coughing fit. I'm being proactive tonight and taking it BEFORE bed!
6. The kindness of my husband for being on kid alert tonight while I'm zonked out (usually this is my territory - I'm the light sleeper, anyhow).

Wishing you health and happiness this week! If you are a runner, see if you can run an extra mile for me this week. :) I'll be back in the game by Thursday I'm betting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gearing up for the Week

Today my son attended "Superhero Training School" at a friend's birthday party. What a time the kids had! The birthday boy's mom had 3 training exercises for the kids to complete:

- superhero listening/honesty building (Simon Says)
- superhero agility/rescue training (obstacle course with the final task of rescuing a citizen from the woods - ie., a baby doll!)
- superhero balance and speed drills (Red Light, Green Light on a slippery hill - that wet hill part was unintentional, but worked out just fine)
At the end of each training session the kids earned parts to their superhero costume - a mask, cape (personalized with each child's first initial - photo to be posted soon, as it is INCREDIBLE!), and superhero arm bands. The kids also went home with a fist-sized tropy that reads: Congratulations: You are an Official Superhero!
It was a great way to spend the afternoon and a fun way to kick-off an adventurous week. And I have a feeling I'll be seeing that special cape fly regularly at my house, which just makes me smile.
All that fun in the beautiful October air (and the runner's high from 2 back-to-back runs this weekend) has me feeling good about starting yet another week. Mr. Music has tomorrow off from school for a Teacher Work Day, so we'll busy ourselves with fall decorating and some baking after we take Little Sister to music class. If the weather holds we'll for sure head outside to enjoy it while it lasts.

Thursday is the preschool's Storybook Character Day. My mom put her Serger to good use this weekend to turn a towel into 4 puppy dog ears, 2 dog tails, and 2 sets of paw-like shoe covers. Mr. Music will be dressed as Mudge from Cynthia Rylant's Henry & Mudge series, as will Little Sister, as she just LOVES dogs. I thought we'd have a riot on our hands if she couldn't be a dog, too. She'll get to wear her costume to music class.
Again, I'm keeping my yellow hat firmly in place in the hopes that we continue to have the sunny, crisp weather we've been enjoying for the past week so I can get a few more good runs in outside. 2 this week would make me a happy camper!
Have a super week!