Monday, September 29, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Heart (and tired body!)

I'm not sure how I made it from last Wednesday to today without posting. I guess I was eyeball deep in taking care of the kids, my parents' two dogs, picking up their mail, comforting a non-sleeping Little Sister, etc., etc. Oh, and we've had a marvelous bout of weather, so we've been busy in the yard, going to the park, and I've been painting Little Sister's bedroom (the yellow I mentioned a few weeks ago has finally made it out of the can and onto the walls!). Hmmmm . . . I guess I HAVE been busy!
Today I am thankful for:

1. the return of my parents from their 2 week road trip to help family in South Dakota

2. the much-needed hike this afternoon with a few other moms and their kids from Mr. Music's school (great for the kids AND moms)

3. that both kids fell asleep before we could even get their jammies on . . . they were OUT totally unprompted by 7:30, folks. UNHEARD of at our house!!!

4. the pan of lasagna from The Grit Restaurant cookbook I made today that not only fed 6 people for dinner, but will also take care of four lunches - yum, yum!

5. the anticipation for the Robert Plant & Alison Kraus concert we'll be attending on Wednesday night - I can't wait!!! Mr. Music's love of music came honestly.

If I can swing it (the house does need a bit of cleaning before we host a playgroup tomorrow afternoon) I'll be sneaking in a run with Little Sister in the jogger tomorrow morning. The hike was great today, but my body and mind are CRAVING a morning run. And tomorrow still promises to be a pretty day . . . though I can't say the same for the days that will follow. We need to take full advantage of the beauty of the sun while we can!

Happy running, happy reading, happy week!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lost in the Pages: Review of Hope for the Flowers

Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus (copyright 1972, in case you're wondering), is one of those books that you read once and it sticks with you and is always great for a reread. I was first introduced to it when I was in high school (back in the early 1990s, folks) on a church retreat. One of the leaders read part of it to us before giving a moving talk about "letting go" to enable change in our lives. A number of years later (post-college and after I was married) I was browsing a local bookstore searching for another title from those retreat years (The Way of the Wolf by Martin Bell) when I stumbled upon Hope for the Flowers. I confess that I sat down right in the middle of the book aisle and read it from cover to cover (thanfully it is a quick read, as the floor isn't always the best place to enjoy a book). I did purchase it (I'm not one of THOSE people who reads a book at the store and walks away - that's what libraries are for!) and have even purchased a few additional copies to share with friends since then.

The cover note summarizes the book fairly well: "a tale - partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read)"

The book chronicles the lives of two caterpillars who are seeking their place in the world and trying to find their life's purpose. They find comfort in one another's companionship, yet struggle to understand if they are missing out on something important by not joining their fellow caterpillars in climbing a caterpillar pillar up to the sky (thinking perhaps the meaning to life is revealed at the top of the heap). Yellow, the girl caterpillar, decides climbing the pillar is not the path she wants to take, but Stripe, the boy caterpillar, can't resist the urge to reach the top and so leaves his friend to test his fortitude.

Stripe quickly learns that his choice was not an easy one. He must face numerous challenges (read it to see what they are!), finds himself wallowing in dispair, and realizes that he misses his dear friend Yellow. At his lowest point, a beautiful yellow butterfly visits him and silently guides him down the pillar to safety. With his newfound knowledge (again, I don't want to spoil things, so I won't tell you what they are!) and help from the kind butterfly, Stripe lets go of his fears and his urges to follow the pack of caterpillars. He finds that following the masses took him away from his life's purpose and that refocusing and looking at his life from another perspective brought him to a place where he could start life anew. This new life is filled with hope and friendship. If you know anything at all about caterpillars, you can probably guess what happens to Stripe at the end . . . but you'll have to read the book to really get a feel for how great his change truly is.

The book is a treasured favorite of mine for these fabulous reasons:

1. It is an illustrated tale that is great for adults and for adults to share with children

2. The illustrations are simple, but lovely - black/white/yellow (and if you know me, I love yellow)

3. It is a story of friendship, forgiveness, and self-discovery

4. It is a story of hope, understanding, and kindness

5. It illustrates how marvelous it is that you can change your path midstream

6. Though the characters are caterpillars, I find that I "get them" and they totally "get me"

This is a great one to get for yourself, for a friend who is facing a challenge, for high school students heading off to college, for college kids getting ready to face the "real world". It is a good one, I promise.

My next Lost in the Pages installation will be a special treat. I had the honor of receiving a preview copy of The Emerald Tablet: The Forgotten Worlds Book 1 by P.J. Hoover, which won't be in book stores until October! I'm just about finished reading this science fiction novel for middle school and young adult readers and can't wait to tell you about it.

What are YOU reading? What are your KIDS reading? Be sure to leave a note and let me know!

Who knows, I might invite you to share a review . . . or your suggestion might end up on my night stand and I'll review it myself! Remember - I'm always looking for great books to review.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Heart: Monday is Looking Sunny

I find myself looking forward to Mondays so I can do my thankful post. My plan worked - Mondays now have a bit of sparkle to them, so they don't seem so bad! I think I'm actually posting more on Mondays now than any other day . . . though I should be working harder to get some Wednesday Lost in the Pages posts going (and there are a few good ones coming your way - including some review previews of BRAND NEW books that are being released this fall!!!).

So . . . after a dreadfully long week last week, I'm happy to kick off this work/school week with some sunshine (which is remarkably how our weather is today, too - sunny after a week of rain). Today I'm thankful for:

1. The combined powers of kind doctors/x-ray machines/mineral oil/Miralax/prune juice and one fabulous little pediatric suppository that got Little Sister back to her little self again (I told you it was a long week!!!!)
2. The restorative powers of Sunday football for a husband's psyche and spirit (even with the Steelers' loss, the time was well spent)
3. Neighbors that look out for one another
4. The rope swing that entertains our son for HOURS at a time on our Cedar in the back yard
5. The carpet cleaner that takes care of plenty of "oops" scenarios - ranging from dogs who eat what they shouldn't to little girls who rip off their diapers and then yell "Pee!" while showing you the dry diaper and the wet spot on the carpet.

Yes, we're still in the early stages of potty training, but I think the pace is picking up quickly - we've just put 2 and 2 together to create an amazingly bright lightbulb idea for why our daughter has been waking up multiple times every night for the past week or so: We THINK (and will check tonight) that she's feeling herself wet her diaper at night. In my mommy fog at 2AM and 4AM, I don't think to check, I just redirect her to her bed, cover her up and smile when she falls immediately back to sleep (hoping I can do the same for myself!). I'm hanging onto my yellow hat as best I can - potty training is an adventure that I'm looking forward to completing.

Have a wonderful week, everyone.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Anything Goes: My Son's First Rock Poster

We just hung up Mr. Music's first "rock" poster yesterday. It's a Justin Roberts poster from his album Meltdown - with a personal note, drawing of a yellow bus, and his signature. This is a PRIZED posession at our place!! After we saw Justin Roberts in concert last fall (which had the parents up and dancing, too - WAY fun!), Mr. Music sat down and dictated (hey, he was just 3 afterall) a note to Mr. Roberts about how in a few years when he's older he'd like to join the tour as the drummer. Mr. Music also colored in the cover of the downloadable music book for the album Yellow Bus, and had us include that with his letter.

Imagine our surprise when the signed poster arrived! It was an exciting day at the Grant house. Unfortunately, it was also a busy day, so the poster was carefully placed in the piano bench so it wouldn't get lost before we could properly frame it.

Fast forward 10 months . . . (yes, I said 10, not 1 . . . sometimes things get lost by the wayside)

I discovered it in the piano bench yesterday, so when we went on our adventure to check out the YMCA in the next town over, we stopped by the Ben Franklin on our way home to pick up a frame. I don't think my husband was in the door longer than 2 seconds before Mr. Music pounced and asked if they could hang it up. The anticipation was apparently quite heavy in the air, so while he might ordinarily have put off the task for at least 10 minutes so he could say hello to everyone and check the mail, my husband got right to it and put Justin Roberts in the designated place of honor right as you walk in the room and by Mr. Music's bed.

Sort of reminds me of my giant Tori Amos poster hanging over my bed in college . . . *sigh* That was a good bit ago . . .

It also leaves me wondering (after watching our old favorite That 70's Show nearly nightly as we wait for our favorite season premiers and seeing all of the posters in the background of Eric's basement and Donna's bedroom) what posters may replace Justin Roberts in the future. Only time will tell what musical adventures await us, but really, there's no rush to find out. I'm going to enjoy this little guy one day at a time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thoughts While Running . . .

I just got back from a 20 minute run with Albus. I had planned on a longer run, as the kids are off for a playdate, but it is HOT out there - nearly 80 and humid. This gal isn't used to such conditions! So, I kept it light and fun and healthy for us both (important to remember that Albus is a black lab mix - if I'm hot, he's even hotter!).

A few things that crossed my mind:

- Woah! Why am I running up hill at a 7:15 pace? Have I ever run at a 7:15 pace? Go me!
- Wait a minute, is Garmin working right?! Maybe I miss read the digits . . . nope, I didn't!
- Why are the high school cross country runners running with traffic instead of against traffic?
- High schoolers are looking younger and younger every day!
- The blackberry bushes are looking pretty picked-over - good thing the kids aren't along, they'd be sad.
- Is the Garmin battery going to last the whole run? (I forgot to recharge it after my last run)
- Will the laundry be ready to change around when I get home so I can get another load done before picking up the kids?
- When is the last time we ate spaghetti? Is it too soon to eat it tonight?
- The senior I mentored today (she's writing a children's book for her senior project) is the same age as the first group of students I taught when they were in 4th grade - all my "kids" will be graduating. To quote the loveable Scooby Doo, "Zoinks!"
- What a great day this has been.

And, so, fellow runners, readers and life participants . . . I shall now take leave of you to get a shower and get some more chores done before retrieving my children - have a wonderful remainder of your week!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Heart Again!

With our latest bout of sunshine, I've spent a good deal of time away from the computer (that's as it should be, right?). While I had some interesting thoughts and reflections to share, alas, they shall forever remain trapped in my brain - at least until they're prompted out sometime in the future when I'm near the keyboard and I don't have children climbing on me!

So here we are back to Monday already. Whew!

Here's what I'm thankful for today:

1. Hours and hours and hours and hours of backyard and park play while the sun graces us with its energy and light (we're soaking it all in before the sun starts setting at 5PM!)

2. The return to our "normal" schedule with pre-school in full swing for Mr. Music and music class for Little Sister

3. A regular flow of orders for We Are Girls Who Love to Run with relatively little advertising (see this post to see how you can get YOUR own copy & have US send a copy to the school of your choice!)

4. The flexibility of my parents' schedules to help out seriously ill family members - and our close proximity that enables us to help out by watching their dogs/house/mail, etc. while they travel to be with family.

5. The magic of chapter books for young readers that have my son clamering for more and practicing his own phonics books so he can read them on his own one day in the not-so-distant future!

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Photo Fun

I mentioned a post or so ago that we had some photos taken for Balanced Steps. While we had a photographer around we also had some pictures taken of the kids, too. Here are some of my favs, and you can visit the photographer's Flickr site (Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry is the official site, but the photos aren't there yet) for some more of the cream of the crop.

Here's a great shot of my mom and me - that's my happy new hat (not yellow, but come on, you have to admit it is kickin'!)

I've working on updating our website with some of the head shots, so be sure to check there in the next day or so to see what you think of the site with the added punch of photos! I'm also reworking some of the pages, so over the next month or so it will seem like a whole new site - that's the hope anyhow!

I love the look captured here as I caught Mr. Music in a "I love you and as your mother I'm asking you to please STOP running around the house so we can get just TWO more photos before Ms. Jennifer leaves!" kiss.

I think this one will be my new official author photo. Look for it places (like The Runner's Lounge, but you won't find it there yet, I'll update it tomorrow) - I'll be testing it out.

Mr. Music - doing what else, but playing his guitar!

Sweet Little Sister actually kept her hair up for the entire photo shoot - AMAZING!

Here's Little Sister reading her favorite book - We Are Girls Who Love to Run, of course!
What'd you expect?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Starting with a Thankful Heart

I'm keeping it simple today, folks. I'm thankful for:
5. The smiles induced by a furry dog who decides to take a nap on a freshly-mopped floor (ie, still wet - the floor, not the dog)

4. Breathtaking pink and purple hued sunsets 5 nights in a row that make you forget the fog-filled mornings

3. Two kids to bed on time without complaints because they played hard all day (and didn't really nap).

2. The baby jogger/hill combo that provides a much needed mental and physical challenge and reminds me why I love running so

1. The calming of my mind when I came to the realization that I don't HAVE to run the Seattle Half Marathon this year - letting go of that goal for now will bring a balance back to my life that my family needs AND puts the fun back into running. I won't shelve it forever, just put it on hold until it can be a healthy part of my life balance instead of a stressful one. I bet my running frequency will even improve now. Funny how that works!

What are YOU thankful for today?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Anything Goes - A quickie

I was pleased to get in a 3 miler with Little Sister in the jogger on Thursday morning while Mr. Music was enjoying his time at pre-school. They start school off slowly with just 1.5 hours the first week, 2 hours the second week and then the full 3 hours the third week. While this leaves the "experienced" students a bit sad (they're ready to go!), it is a great way to ease in the newbies. After a few gloomy weeks the kids were treated to a sunny start and I was able to enjoy a well-lit and uplifting run - we even had to dodge a sprinkler, which totally had Little Sister captivated!

If we get back from pizza at my parents' house tonight in time (boy, the sun is setting earlier and earlier!) I'm going to see about squeezing in a run. We went for bagels this morning and then ran errands until about lunch time. I'm enjoying a low-key afternoon of some sewing (the quilt just doesn't want to finish itself!) while my husband works on getting the new bubbler bucket ready for hydroponic tomatoes and the kids nap. True, this would have been a great opportunity to run . . . but there's something to be said for working on OTHER goals, too. I just love the steady whirrrrrr of my sewing machine - and the immediate results of seeing the progress!

We had some photos taken yesterday - some new headshots for our Balanced Steps website and a great bunch of photos of the kids (and of the kids with me). When I get them back I'll be sure to post a few of my favorites. I'm getting antsy waiting to see how they look, even though it has only been a day and a half. I've seen the photos my friends had taken by the photographer and they are amazing, which is probably why I'm so impatient!

So, the quilt calls . . . I'm off to get another block quilted before the kids wake up and we're out chasing them in the yard.

Happy weekend, happy running and happy times!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lost in the Pages: Book Review: The Treasure of Health & Happiness

Carol Goodrow, the author of The Treasure of Health & Happiness, reports that of her three books this is her FAVORITE! Though it isn't her best selling (that honor is held for her 2004 title Happy Feet, Healthy Food: Your Child's First Journal of Exercise and Healthy Eating), is is also the favorite of children she shares it with.

Treasure follows the journey of a young, inactive girl, Hannah, as she struggles to discover her confidence and her "inner athlete" (my term, not hers). I immediately related to Hannah - she felt strongest and most loveable when she was around her best friend. When her best friend moved, Hannah's sense of security vanished and she had to work extra hard to re-establish her sense of self. As an Air Force brat I was often on the moving end of friendships, but could identify with Hannah's predicament. With today's mobile society, I'm sure many youngsters will find a kinship with this kind-hearted and timid girl.

Hannah also felt that her school's annual Chipmunk Chase fun run was out of her reach, something she surely couldn't even attempt, let alone complete. Running scared me throughout my youth, too. I'm sure I would have taken Hannah's initial position and avoided the event. I'm thrilled that she finds the strength and excitement to give it a shot (involving her parents in the training, no less!) - and secretly wish that I had been as strong and tenacious as young Hannah (it took me 23 years to build up the courage to run!)!

If readers can relate with her in the beginning, then I'm sure they'll cheer as I did as Hannah faces her fears and discovers the excitement in trying new things: she gets a dog and faces the trials and pleasures of training him, finds satisfaction in tending a garden and eating its fruits, puts aside her fears and rides a two-wheel bicycle, and (this is my favorite because it is SO like my own running story) ultimately unlocks discovers the joy of running!

As an educator, I found my brain making dozens of connections for how teachers can use Treasure in their classrooms. Not only is it a great motivational book to share some simple and fun lessons in making healthy food choices (without being preachy) and making exercise fun and approachable for people at all fitness levels, but it makes great cross-curricular connections, perfect for use in a health unit in the lower elementary years. As Hannah gleans a treasure of health and happiness in her dream world (a great read-aloud!), classes can track their own progress and interests in eating and fitness with tables/graphs/charts. Heck, they could use Happy Feet, Healthy Food as personal journals throughout the unit . . . and on into the school year and beyond - is Carol smart, or what?!!

Parents/Educators who are looking for uplifting and encouraging chapter book reading experiences for their kindergarten-third grade students will find The Treasure of Health & Happiness to be a great read for adults and kids share together. It not only serves as a positive example of making life-style choices and the importance of making choices as a family or classroom, but it is certain to fuel conversations about WHY and HOW to make healthier choices (without being obsessive!).

I'd also like to direct your attention to Carol's site (a micro site of Runner's World). KidsRunning is hosting a fun contest for new running games. Be sure to check it out, test out some new twists on old running game favorites with your friends/kids/students, and then send in the game. If your game is chosen to highlight on KidsRunning, you'll get a Runner's World t-shirt!

Now get out there and get those creative juices flowing - there's nothing like a good read or a good run to kick-start that ol' imagination!

Next book on my list is an old favorite from my high school days (but a great inspirational read for any age): Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus. Never heard of it? Perfect! Stay tuned, and you'll be ready to get your hands on a copy.
*Yes, go to and you can "Look inside!"
Oh, and keep sending ME your ideas for book reviews. I have two brand spankin' new titles headed my way for review, but I'm still looking for more!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to School CELEBRATION - a book GIVEAWAY!

In honor of my son's first day back at pre-school, I'm inviting you to join me in celebrating the fresh start of the school year and the promise of a year filled with the wonder of learning!

My company, Balanced Steps, will donate a copy of We Are Girls Who Love to Run to the school of your choice (you must be one of the first 100 replies to this post!). *see details below!

Before embarking on this amazing trip called motherhood I was an elementary school teacher. I remember those first precious days of the school year as the students (3rd & 4th graders) and I got to know one another and we laid out our goals and expectations for the year. Those were days filled with excitement, a bit of nervousness (for both teacher and kids!), uncertainty and promise. This last one was the most important - promise that I would be there to help guide the kids and help them discover new ideas, develop new friendships, read new books, and pull them through their struggles. For them there was the promise of meeting the expectations of being a learner in my classroom, a good listener and classmate for their peers, and for letting me know HOW I could assist them in making the year a good one. BIG expectations - you bet! BIG results - absolutely!

It is those great promises that I celebrate in my bilingual book We Are Girls Who Love to Run (Somos Chicas y A Nosotras Nos Encanta Correr). The book is filled with hope and joy for girls who are discovering their inner strengths and passions and learing to share them with the world. True, the book's underlying theme is running, but the text reaches out to girls of all ages, interests and abilities. Seriously, I've signed some books for women to give to their best friends. The book reaches all.

So . . . how can you help me celebrate? I'm glad you asked! Here are those fun details:

* Buy a copy of We Are Girls Who Love to Run to keep or give as a gift and we'll ship a FREE copy to the school of your choice (and include a note letting the school know you chose them to receive the book)!

In your order please be sure to include:

1) your name & address
2) your chosen school's name & address
3) check or money order for $26.20 made out to Balanced Steps, LLC (this covers your book + shipping/handling for both books) *WA residents please add your local sales tax for the $17.99 value of your copy of the book.

Mail your order to:

Balanced Steps, LLC
PO Box 1179
Duvall, WA 98019

Please allow 4-6 weeks to receive your order (it will likely take less time, but we don't want you to worry if you don't get it immediately - we are a small company and will have 200 books going out to 200 destinations!). This offer is not available through the Balanced Steps website. It is a special through the Girl Who Loves to Run blog ONLY (orders placed through are not eligible for this offer)!

Feel free to spread the word about this Back to School CELEBRATION! Remember the first 100 folks that leave a comment here and place their order will get a FREE copy sent to the school of their choice!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Monday: Starting With a Thankful Heart (School, that is!)

Here we are in September. It hardly seems possible that we've made it so far into the year already. I feel like just yesterday we were celebrating holding the book in our hands for the first time - and that was WAY back in January, a full 8 months ago.

Last week was one of the most difficult ones I've had in quite a long while. I'm glad to put it behind me and move forward into many fresh starts:

- new week
- new month
- new school year

Bring it on! I couldn't be more ready.

Today ended up being a fairly nice weather day, though it started around 45 degrees when we woke up - brrrrrr! Once the sun decided to greet us, the temps warmed considerably and it seems everyone was out working in their yards. We completely filled our yard waste bin (and then some!). Starting September with a well-groomed lawn is a nice way to go, too.

So, here are my 5 things I'm thankful for today:

- fresh starts
- the talents and positive energy of educators (especially pre-school teachers!)
- the hope and optimism of small children
- the dishwasher is humming and the kitchen is clean
- neighbor friends for my children (even Mr. Music added this one into his prayers tonight - super sweet!)

Have a wonderful week, everyone. Best wishes if you start school this week like we do!