Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday - Lost in the Pages (Review: Girls on Track)

It was spring of 2004 when I first encountered Molly Barker's book Girls on Track, right after its release. I was finishing my Master's Degree in Teaching, rounding out the end of a school year teaching 3rd grade, and pregnant with my first child. I wasn't running anymore (I was walk/waddling), but I was looking forward to my return to running.

I clearly remember the girls in the program Girls on the Run being excited to see Molly after school on day, waving copies of the book in the air to have her sign. "Molly, Molly! We have your book," they cheered. Molly is the founder of the international program Girls on the Run and is the mother of two great kiddos, one of whom I had the pleasure to have in my science class. With her two kids at my school, our GOTR girls got to visit with her from time to time.

I didn't realize at the time, mostly because my brain was near capacity with everything requiring MY attention and my body was busy growing a baby and dealing with the hormones that help, but Molly's book captivated those girls because they knew who she was (and LOVED her positive energy and encouragement!) and it was about girls. But it wasn't really written FOR the girls, it was written as a guide for parents to help their girls "achieve a lifetime of self-esteem and respect." So, as excited as those little runners were, I'm hoping that their parents were even more excited to have the book in THEIR hands, as I'm pleased to have it at my disposal now that I'M a parent of a little girl (my second child).

Written in a remarkably open and honest fashion, Girls on Track is filled with insight and personal stories that bring the book's lessons to life. Barker's witty and down-to-earth language makes the book a hard one to put down. Reading it is very much like having her in the room with you, chatting over a cup of of decaf latte (or whatever your drink of choice is . . . ) or out for a conversational run. It is especially fun to read when you know what her beautiful Southern voice sounds like so you can imagine her reading it . . .

Molly talks of her own childhood, its ups and downs and the low, low downs of her adolescence - ALL of which led to getting her stuck (and later unstuck!) in "the girl box" (a term Molly coined and describes in great detail throughout the book) and in a cycle of self-destructive behaviors. One day, on a run (no coincidence here, folks!), Molly had a breakthrough and found the power to leave The Girl Box. The book talks about how she literally turned her life around and then created Girls on the Run to help young girls discover their inner strengths and build healthy self-esteem, hoping to save them from the pain and trials she underwent - or to help them create the tools to shatter their own boxes.

Filled with anecdotal stories from her childhood, about her experiences as a mom, and of girls from the program and the lessons they learned (and that Molly learned FROM them!), Molly examines the workings of weak and strong interpersonal relationships. She asks us to examine them from all angles and think about what we can do to strengthen and value communication between adults and kids so kids can strengthen their own skills with adults and their peers. These stories are the meat of the book and really bring the theory she presents to life.

This is really two books in one, as Molly embeds a How-to Book in the fifth chapter by providing curriculum for mothers and daughters to experience together. It is essentially the backbone of the Girls on the Run program adapted for mothers and daughters. The 10 week plan walks moms through growing and learning experiences, discussing emotions, health, beauty, beliefs, letting go, making amends, love and . . . you guessed it, physical fitness through running (and games!!). Each lesson includes:

- an introduction experience
- questions/guidance for processing the lesson's topic
- warm-up activity
- stretch
- workout
- final processing/debriefing

I've talked with moms who have followed this journey with their daughters and they've been pleased with the experience. Even the moms who are non-runners looked forward to the time they spent with their girls on the lessons and surprised themselves with how much they enjoyed the running element, too.

My daughter is only 18 months old, so I haven't had the opportunity to use the curriculum myself yet, but you can bet I will in about 7 or 8 years. In the meantime, I'm passing along the book to a neighbor who is looking for a way to connect with her 11 year old. I couldn't think of a better way to do it.

Girls on Track is available through Amazon (very few things are not these days!), but if you are looking to make DOUBLE the impact with a copy of the book, please order it directly through Girls on the Run. For those of you who may not know, most authors are not rolling in money. True! Many publishing companies aren't even breaking even to bring you the books you love (the little companies with BIG heart!). When you order books directly through publishers and authors the money stays with those folks so they can bring you more of what you love. And, in this case, profits from the book will also help spread the Girls on the Run program. Looking for an added perk? Many authors will sign the books when you order through them!

Now that I'm off my soapbox . . . you are wondering . . . what book is next, Brianna?

Carol Goodrow's newest title: Kids Running: Have Fun, Get Faster & Go Farther

Until then . . . happy running & happy reading!

And, yes, we went for a family run yesterday - 30 minutes, 2.8 miles. Slow and steady with two kids in a jogger with a bit of rain drizzle, but it was good!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Free Stuff Week

Not blogging today, just letting you know about a cool opportunity out there:

The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival, a quarterly giveaway experience

One of the giveaways is at where you can enter to win a copy of my book, We Are Girls Who Love to Run. You can also read my guest post there.

Good luck and have fun!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday: Gearing-up for the Week (Kid Stuff!)

So, before I dive head-first (almost literally) into potty training and loft beds, I have to take a second to cheer about this morning because my kids enjoyed time with my parents until right before lunch time:

- I slept until 8:15!
- I went for a run with my husband and the Garmin (complete with heart rate monitor for the first time - as soon as I make it to the downloading step, I'll be sure to add more details!)
- we read the paper together in a happy silence over bagels and fresh espressos from our happy little espresso machine at 10:30 (that's right, breakfast wasn't at 7 AM, it was at 10:30!)

Thanks Mom & Dad!

Last night my husband and I took our kid-free time to go shopping. Not really for anything in particular. We wandered REI and didn't get the shoes he had been looking at on-line, looked for a funky skirt at the 70% off sale at a store that is probably too young for me (but is fun, anyhow, even though I can't think of what it's called), and then spent nearly an hour at Target. Funny thing is, we didn't get anything there until the last 15 minutes when we suddenly recalled all sorts of things we needed, including the purpose of the post: Size 2T/3T girls panties.

That's right, my daughter (18 months old tomorrow, "today" if you are reading this on Monday) regularly rips off her diaper and runs around the house with giddy laughter . . . oh, and is starting to exhibit some of these other "text book" signs.

So, this week we're diving into the potty training experience. Unlike the first time, we think we're prepared this time (I say this with a grain of salt, folks!). We have at hand:

- 1 package of Curious George panties (hooray for Clearance sales, we would have gotten a second package if there was one)
- 1 package of generic pink/flowery panties (it is important to note that the 2T sizes are located in the baby area of Target near the bibs and small shoes, NOT over by the little girl section where one would think they'd be, nor anyplace near diapers . . . that's just my little FYI rant)
- 1 free standing potty
- the offer from a neighbor to use their kid seat that goes ON the real toilet
- one backyard with lovely weather for daiper-free adventures
- one portable carpet cleaner for those times when we don't QUITE make it to the bathroom . . . oops!
- the satisfaction of knowing we've successfully trained one child

Already one dolly has been on the receiving end of the oops!, which happened to save us from needing the carpet cleaner (but an exciting trip through the wash for dolly). And, Little Sister SO enjoys the undies that after we put one pair on her she pulled on a second pair for good measure. That's a good sign, right?

And, somehow aligned nicely so he doesn't think we've forgotten him, the big brother of the house was the recipient of a brand new (to him) used loft bed! Hooray for Craig's List and Pottery Barn for the great bed we bought him today! Granted he's sleeping on the floor tonight because "I'm feeling a bit scared, but not REALLY scared, so I'm just going to camp on the floor tonight. But if I wake up and get excited, I'll just climb the ladder and sleep on my loft. I won't be scared then." I predict we'll do lots of ladder climbing practice this week and by next week he'll be good to go - because he really IS excited and does like being up there during the day, just a bit intimdated for night time.

Funny how these "little things" can add up to make for a BIG week of parent energy! Have a good one, everyone. And . . . happy running!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday - Lost in the Pages Introduction

I've been waiting for some blog time to land on a Wednesday! Books, books, books. I LOVE 'em! Makes sense, since I'm an author and all, right? Imagine an author who didn't like to read. Couldn't happen!

Today will be an introduction to the Wednesday theme so that I can finish gathering my stash for the first batch reviews. I'm planning to focus my reviews on these 3 topics:

1. fitness/health - mainly running/youth/women focused (what, you weren't expecting me to say scuba diving, were you?)

2. education (brain-based research, classroom resources, parent resources)

3. children's literature (favorites from my children's bookshelves and my teacher stash)

Since there are numerous reviews out there for best-sellers and well-known authors, I'm going to do my best to highlight some lesser known titles or those published by small presses. This won't ALWAYS be the case. In fact, to start, you may recognize a few of the books I review, but as I get rolling I hope to introduce you to some great new must-haves for your shelves that you've NOT heard of. That's my goal really.

In the process of doing this Lost in the Pages portion of my blog, I may reach out to YOU, my friendly reader, for suggestions - or even guest posts. Keep in mind that the books I review (or have a guest review) should fit into one of the three categories mentioned earlier in this little ditty.

Know an author who is looking for a review for their new title (it may even be YOU!)? Let me know!
Know of a book that is deserving of a bit of blog review love? Let me know!

Want to share a review as a guest post? You guessed it . . . let me know!

If I review a title you suggest to me or if I choose your guest post, I'll enter you in a drawing for a signed copy of MY book (if you are new on the scene, my book is We Are Girls Who Love to Run). I'll take suggestions for this first round from now until August 31st. Reader recommended titles will be reviewed in September & October. Guest posts will be shared in November.

What will my first review be, you ask? It is the book that inspired me to take that first leap toward writing my own book: Girls on Track by Molly Barker. Stay tuned!

And, by all means - send me your suggestions - you have nothing to lose, and an author-signed book to gain! Don't worry, I'll remind you again later if you forget.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday - Here We Go (it started with silliness)

Somehow there WAS balance to the day, though if you had asked me how the juggling was going at 1PM I might have thrown a few balls at you (but don't worry, my aim is terrible, hence my gravitation toward running and not something like softball or ultimate frisbee)!

The day started out with a big laugh and confirmation that I HAVE been working hard at this book publishing thing and that it IS getting some notice around the house. A bit of background knowledge for you non-publishing world readers: Baker & Taylor is one of the largest (if not THE largest) book wholesalers in the world - that is, publishing companies sell their books to them and they in-turn sell them to bookstores, libraries, etc. We discovered that if you are to sell a book successfully you need Baker & Taylor on your side (though I'm sure it IS possible to do without them, but I wouldn't!), as well as the all powerful Amazon.

Anyway . . . yesterday was the education day, so I'll fast forward here for you to the nearly verbatim conversation at 7:15AM after both children pitter-pattered their little selves into my cozy, cave-like room:

Mr. Music: Good morning, Mama! What a sunny day. It's after 7, let's get up!
Said Mama: Good morning, Sweet Boy. You're looking happy this morning.
Little Sister: Me. Me. Me. (nods)
Said Mama: Oh, yes, you, too, Little Girl. Good morning.
Mr. Music: Can we turn on Baker & Taylor and dance around the playroom before breakfast?
Said Mama: (surpressing full blown laughter) I think you mean JAMES Taylor.
Mr. Music: Yeah, that's what I said! Baker & James Taylor!
Little Sister: Me. Me. Me. (nods)
Said Mama: Sure, Baker & James Taylor it is.

And in our pajamas we proceeded to dance ourselves silly for a good half hour before breakfast to the fabulous tunes of music great James Taylor, who shall forever more be known in my house by the longer, book related name.

The morning really did progress nicely and we got my mom to the dentist for the first part of her root canal (which went well). The afternoon was more stressful with the full-blown "I don't want to take a nap now, even though my behavior CLEARLY indicates that I need a nap and if I were to give in and put my head on the pillow I'd be instantly asleep" tantrum from Little Sister. But, she did finally give in after 40 minutes of back-and-forth (mostly me just ignoring her - the best I could). Have you had these at your house? I'll be glad when we finally get this new single long nap at 1PM set in the routine.

We had a similar, but much more mellow, experience at bedtime with Mr. Music who just lurks about trying to be noticed after we've said our good-nights. I managed to dodge that one for a bit tonight because I headed out for a 20 minute run with Albus (dog runner) and my new Garmin. I was blown away that once I get in my groove I really AM cranking out close to a steady 8:30 mile. Because it was a short run (after an hour long bike ride yesterday that I can still feel in my glutes), everything averaged out to 10 minute miles, but now I know what I can do . . . there's power in that!

Mr. Music was still peeking around corners when I got home, so I gave him an ultimatum: Go to bed or I'll get in it and wipe all my sweat on the sheets first to make the bed stinky.

I believe his last words of the evening were, "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww, Mom - NO!" And I'm happy to report that we haven't seen his cute self since.

No, I wouldn't have REALLY done it, I just wanted to see if the idea of it would catch his attention. And it did. Better than I could have imagined. And tomorrow we'll debrief and laugh about it so he doesn't have nightmares about his sweaty runner mom who tortures young children with her stinky post-run sweat!

Ah, life balance!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday - Gearing up for the week (and a brief bit about Reggae music)

I'll start with the highlight of my day today: an 8 mile family bike ride on the trail that connects the communities in our Valley. It was a wonderful morning for a ride. We saw cows pretty close up (sharing the shade from the same cluster of trees that provided our shade - really, we could see their eyes!), including a handful of young calves. We passed a number of folks walking their happy dogs, and we saw . . . 2 deer. Had my husband not convinced my son to tough out one more half mile before our turn around, we would have missed them. The 6 point buck stared at us for a good 3 minutes before deciding we were harmless and to join his young friend (perhaps a 2 year old male?) and head across the parallel road. It was amazing to catch glimpse of such a large deer - and great that our son could witness it (I believe little sister had dozed off by that time, or was darn close to it). (photo credit: Neahkahnie Net)

This week has a few exciting things coming up:

- concert on Tuesday night with my husband
- dinner with a long lost friend from high school (who has acutally been living in our area for the entire time we've lived here - thank you, Facebook, for the amazing connection)
- concert for the entire family and high school friend after dinner
- hopefully a few runs sprinkled into the week, some yoga and balance ball work
- finish my daughter's new "big girl bed" quilt (I might be dreaming with this one, but I'll work on it a little each day)

The week will also have a less fun aspect:

- my poor mom has to have a root canal

The upside of the root canal is that it should alleviate the immense pain she's been enduring all weekend (though the meds she was able to get on Saturday help, she'd much rather be out enjoying life than sleeping all day). We're hoping that she can get an appointment tomorrow morning. Having dental trouble on weekends is for the birds!!

Anyway . . . I promised that there would be an educational bit to my Sunday postings. So, here are a few fun facts about Reggae, in celebration of the concert on Wednesday (facts summarized for you from here):

- Ska and rocksteady music in Jamaica (we're talking 1960's here, folks, not the 3rd Wave Ska movement of the 1980's with greats such as The Toasters - that's an entire post of its own) led to the development of Reggae

- Reggae is all played in 4/4 time (think back to music class . . . this is generally the first rhythm pattern taught, which may be why you can't help but get your body moving to Reggae!)

- The Grammy awards introduced the Best Reggae Album category in 1985

Bet you didn't expect to get a mini music lesson here! I like to keep you guessing . . .

Have a great week, and as always - happy running!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday - Trials & Achievements

I am a self-proclaimed "Girl Who Loves to Run" yet . . . I confess that at the question of how my running is going I have to respond:

"Running? What running? I think I ran last Thursday . . . or was it Wednesday? Hmmmm . . . What day is today?"

With the excitement of my mother-in-law visiting the week leading up to July 4th (we had a great visit), the birthday excitement and general summer laziness, I need to get my act back on track with fitness. While I haven't totally ditched my running/yoga routine, it has become lax. So, just as I've revamped the blog, I'm ready to dive head first into a revamp of my workouts. My plans include:

- incorporating some balance ball work into my routine using Liz Applegate's Bounce Your Body Beautiful. When I first got the ball and book I used it regularly for several months. Now, *ahem* YEARS later *ugh!* I need to get back to it. It helped my running then, it should help my running now.

- dedication to at least 1 Vinyasa yoga class/week. Even though the kids have been "off" on their sleeping (ie - waking before 6, napping at different times, needing extra prodding to go to bed) and I'd rather spend the evening vegging on the couch, I'm starting this one tonight. Class is at 6:30, giving my husband time to get home from work so I'm free and clear.

- running a minimum of 3 times/week. At this point I'm not saying how far or how fast. I just need to go. Run. That's all there is to it! The distance and speed shall return once I've got my groove back (and considering I've only been out of my running element for about 2 weeks, that shouldn't be long).

- drinking more water. I think my negligence with hydration has been part of my issue with not wanting to get out to run. *typing pause* There, I just took a second and finished my water. Now off to refill the cup . . . *another pause*

*Edit* - Here's a Trial on a NATIONAL level: Sluggish Teens (really, go read it!)

I just read the article about the drop in exercise time from the elementary years to the middle school and high school years and will be sure to write more on it this week - including some ideas for how we can all work to turn those numbers on their heads!

Maybe next Tuesday I'll be able to write about my achievements in tackling these little fitness trials - be sure to check back.

What is the current trial that you are tackling? Care to share any achievements?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday - Here We Go!

Yesterday my son (Mr. Music, for those of you who "know" him) turned 4. I'm in disbelief that we've been parenting for 4 years! He danced around the house all day singing, "Today's my birthday! Today's my birthday! I'm 4 years old. It's my birthday!" to no tune in particular, dancing all the while. It was very cute. There's a definite difference in awareness from last year's birthday and this year's.

Today my husband took the day off work and we had a birthday party for him at the local watershed preserve to go on a hike. What a site seeing 25 people walking in line down the trail, looking at the plants, picking huckleberries and watching for birds with the 3 pairs of kiddie binoculars our son shared! We hiked a 0.6 mile path to get started, took a break with snacks and water and then they hit a second loop for a 0.3 mile trek while my mom, aunt and I got the food out and ready. It was the perfect arrangement for 13 kids (ages 18 months - 6), their parents, and one happy dog. I was also happy to see that the crew was armed with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen so we didn't have to worry about any sunburns - do you remember the days when sunscreen use was NOT the norm?

A hiking birthday party turned out to be a great idea - several families were even thinking of returning to the park for some family exploration another time soon since the trails are so young family friendly. Picnic blankets were the perfect landing places for lunch and relaxation after the hike and the dirt cupcakes topped with crushed oreo cookies and gummy worms were the proverbial "icing on the cake" for the event. As a surprise ending for the party, a gentleman walked over 2 HUGE horses for the kids to see (there are horse trails that start at the park, too). I couldn't have PLANNED for that excitement!

We did our best to inject some "green" practices for this birthday.

- I included a carpooling suggestion on the invitations and was happy that 2 families made the drive together!

- Instead of plates for snacks, we used cupcake liners (much less paper waste!). I usually use the reusable plastic ones for snack at home because they really are the perfect size for snacks, but didn't have enough of those to go around.

- My mom made cloth napkins for everyone out of a pinecone print fabric that became party favors (a few families even ended up with a family set!).

- I resisted the urge to get cute junky stuff from Oriental Trading Company and instead made bean bags for the guests out of tree and footprint fabrics that went with the theme of a hike

- his birthday presents from us yesterday were "wrapped" in pillowcases (bright kid-happy ones, no plain ol' white ones - we're not THAT boring!) and my parents liked the idea so his gifts from them were wrapped in fabric from my mom's sewing stash.

With the party under our belts now, I'm looking forward to having some more laid back days this week. Tomorrow I'll return to the grindstone of publicity and squeak out my first run in a week (*gasp* how did I go a week without running???!), unless I get in a run this evening and then tomorrow's run will be my second, which sounds like an even better plan.

Do you have any big plans for the week? Have you included any environmentally friendly practices into your celebrations?

Have a great week - and happy running!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Time to Get Organized!

In my return post yesterday I mentioned that there will be some changes to my blog. That's right, I'm getting organized!

Now, please note that this is NO small thing for me. I'm organizationally challenged. Big time. I won't take and post any pictures of my work space, the kitchen, or the laundry room, ALL of which would prove my point. BUT, the thing is, I'm trying to overcome this personal struggle and I thought that one of my first steps could be with my thoughts here on the blog.

If I can mentally de-clutter and organize, then the physical stuff will follow, just like running, right?! Right?

So . . . fellow bloggers, happy readers, and family members who are laughing out loud (I can hear you, you know!) . . . here's the plan:

1. I'm not going to blog daily - as I learned before, it is a bit much with everything else on my plate.

2. I'm not going to blog on a set day of the week - as I mentioned above, I'm too scattered for that much planning

3. I'm going to be FLEXIBLE with the plan (as POM is with her marathon training plan!)

I am looking for a bit of structure, so I'm picking and choosing some great ideas from my favorite blogs out there, going with a weekday theme, taking this little blog from an anything goes family/running/chaos sharing format to something with a bit more meat. Brace yourselves:

Sunday: Gearing-Up for the Week - Educational connections to running/fitness/experiences my own kids may be having on that day as we get ready to face the school/work week

Monday: Here We Go! - Insight into finding family/work/fitness balance

Tuesday: Trials & Achievements - Challenges, goals and the steps to reach them (and celebrations!)

Wednesday: Lost in the Pages - Book reviews of running/self-esteem/life-balance/children's books

Thursday: Hanging in There! - Update on anything from earlier in the week as we near the weekend

Friday: Flashbacks - Thoughts on days/years/decades past and how our past experiences form who we are and where we're headed (I've become a bit sentimental with making connections on Facebook)

Saturday: Anything Goes - Reserved for my former blogging days of whatever is on my mind or happening with my book/kids/running/etc.

And in response to Running Knitter, I DO indeed have a few photos of the quilt I finished during my vacation. The back of the quilt is cute jungle print fabric. Hopefully you can see some of the stitching in the close-up photo that shows how I quilted the entire thing (a baby quilt, so it was quick and easy!).
I also managed to remember to get a race photo from my PR on the 4th - that's me on the right, eyeing the finish line and kicking it into full gear. The second photo is of my kiddos cheering on the runners.

I'm a bit behind with the photo stuff because I couldn't find my photo card reader and my husband is the one who generally downloads the photos onto HIS computer. Thanks for your patience! And . . . I shall soon have a photo of the near-fire from June. Hang in there folks, I'm getting my act together!

Stay tuned . . . there's no telling which day I'll get started . . . but it will be soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No, I Didn't Get Lost and Yes, I'm Still Alive

Funny, I didn't leave the house for longer than a few hours at a time, yet I feel like I've had a long vacation.

Yes, I popped over to read a few of your blogs, mostly just lurking but occasionally posting a hello.

Yes, I answered a handful of emails, but the numbers weren't even in the dozens.

Yes, I thought about my book/publicity/etc., but I'm still working off my To Do list from 3 weeks ago, so really, I didn't do much when you consider I usually knock out a week's list in 3-4 days.

So, now I'm back. I'm feeling refreshed and ready to dive back into blogging and to play around with some exciting new ideas for my book and business. But, before I bog you down with the fun new details of the changes I'm making (that'll come tomorrow), you may be wondering just what the heck I've been doing for so many weeks (can you believe I stayed away LONGER than I planned - and didn't cave in and return SOONER like I thought I would?!).

To keep it simple (my new mantra), here's my Top 10 list of my last few weeks:

10. Backyard play time with the kids (multiple times/day!!)
9. Created and quilted a baby quilt (my first sewing project since the 30+ pillow cases I made for Christmas presents - I was happy my machine knew how to work after all that down time!)
8. 3 yoga sessions
7. The day we visited 3 parks and had 2 picnicks before 1PM with 3 grandparents
6. Strawberry picking
5. 2 massages
4. Sleeping for more than 4 hours/night (still working to improve that, but it is getting better)
3. Running with my cousin (about 9 years my junior) who was a top runner for his VA high school track and cross country teams
2. Sewing a quilt for my daughter's new "big girl" bed (half-finished)
1. Running a PR on July 4th - 26:00.7

Happy Wednesday! And a happy Engagement Anniversary to my husband - 9 years ago today he got down on one knee on the cobblestone street under the crystal clear stars in Cortona, Italy after one giant fiasco of a day (the trains were on strike) travelling from the States to Rome to Cortona see me while I was studying abroad. It was a magical start to our life together and I'd say "Yes!" all over again.