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!