Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Sister

I hope my next birthday is as great as Little Sister's was today:

- out to breakfast for bagels with Dad
- cookie baking with Mom
- playtime with friends
- presents morning, noon and night (it is best to pace yourself)
- cookies morning, noon and night (again, it is best to pace yourself)
- two helpings of Mom's homemade lasagna for dinner
- photo viewing time with Mom (after bedtime when Mr. Music was asleep!) to relive the highlights from the last two years

The requested birthday oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (one of about 6 dozen . . . some are tucked safely out of reach in the freezer for Sunday's game - Go Steelers!)
The birthday girl successfully extinguishes the flames from her toothpick birthday candles - a proud moment.

The birthday girl "reads" the card from her grandma "Yia Yia".

At the very end of a long, but lovely day. Bedtime, anyone?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Starting with a Thankful Heart and Nearly-Healthy Body

The whole family has been sick for the past 4 days. No running for this mama or her husband. But, just as the fog finally lifted to confirm that the sun does still exist, the end of the sickness is in sight . . . and my running shoes are calling to me once more.

This week is a promising one for a number of wonderful reasons:

1. I can breathe through both nostrils at the same time.

2. Wednesday is Little Sister's 2nd Birthday. I can't even believe it.

3. The kids went to bed EARLY. Don't you dare read those words aloud, or they'll wake up. Please read silently and let us bask in this rare evening!

4. I added 3 new titles to my reading list and I just love the excitement of new books. (which I promise to share with you soon - I owe you at least 2 reviews and you SHALL have them ASAP!)

5. Thanks to reason #1, Tomorrow I shall run! (no rhyming intended, it just happened)

Have a wonderful, HEALTHY week! Oh, and if you haven't done so already, take a peek at the new site: Their tag line is a great one: Strong Body, Strong Mind, Strong Mom.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Women Who Inspire Me

I just got the hint of some really good news to come for We Are Girls Who Love to Run that has me jittery - I promise to keep you posted when I hear the final word. The combo of that and a truly amazing dinner with friends last night got me thinking about the book publishing journey over the last 2 years and the people in my life who inspire me and help me stay on this path. While a few men do stand out as cheerleaders and champions (my dad, my husband & my son are the big 3!), I'd like to give some love to the women in my life that ground me and keep me going:

1. Connie - the founder of Random Acts of Kindness Week in Duvall (and she expanded it to our neighboring communities of Carnation, Woodinville and Monroe this year). This woman is filled with PASSION for making the world a better place, one person and one act at a time. She even gave up a consulting job to devote her non-parenting energy to volunteering (though you will find her WEEKLY in her daughter's classroom working with students, in addition to her community efforts). Her kindness and generosity brought together 20 women for a Ladies Night Out dinner last night - truly a night to remember filled with lots of laughter, encouragement, celebration and good memories.

2. Carol Goodrow - fellow children's running author. This woman teaches full-time and maintains the website with rich articles and inspiring stories for kids/teachers/parents/runners. When she can, she promotes her books (fabulous, all THREE!) and always, always, always puts in a good word for MY book. She doesn't get any kickbacks for my book sales and I don't pay her to advertise the book. She just does it because she believes in the power of running, the promise of healthy youth, and that authors should work TOGETHER to get quality books and uplifting messages into the hands of young readers and their families.

4. Paige - local runner/volunteer/race director extraordinaire. Whether it is her status updates on Facebook, emails or quickie hellos as we pass at the grocery store, this woman is filled with positive and encouraging words - ALWAYS. I'm not sure if she sleeps, but if she does, I'm sure it isn't for long. Our community shines thanks to her dedication to getting 5Ks & 10Ks going in our Valley, she's on our Library Board (that's a TOUGH job - we're trying to get a library built), and she and her husband are raising two incredible, community-minded and down-to-earth boys (I wish they were a bit younger so my daughter could date one of them, but alas, they'll be scooped up by two other lucky ladies someday!). It is Paige's encouraging nature that just may have me running a hilly 10K this Spring . . . if the weather ever improves, I can get in some hill training and I'll do it!

3. My mom - my business partner. This hasn't been an easy road to travel. Two years of work without pay for countless hours of toil doesn't always make for fun times. But she has stuck by my side and we continue to be hopeful and optimistic that publishing this book was the right thing to do and that the message it shares is one the world can use for good. We don't always see eye-to-eye, we could use some help with organization, and we've had to take a few breaks to care for family members, but overall it has been a positive experience and I'm honored that she would join me on this crazy venture. This book is her baby, too.

When I grow up, I hope to be as fabulous as any of these four women. I hope you have the opportunity to meet one (or all!) of them someday.

What woman(en) inspires you? Come on, there as to be at least ONE you have in mind - leave a comment about her!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Beating the Fog with Random Acts of Kindness

The fog has returned, but even though I can't see the house 2 doors down from me and we can't see the horses in the field to wave at them on our way to school, things aren't so bad. This week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, so we're getting through the heavy weight of the fog by doing extra special things for the people around us:

1. We brought yummy pasteries from our local bakery to Mr. Music's teachers on Tuesday . . . and one for my husband as a decadent after-dinner snack. A rare treat!

2. I wrote a note for my yoga instructor to let her know what an inspiration she is and how much we enjoy her classes.

3. We finally mailed the last batch of Christmas thank you cards!

4. Mr. Music has been holding doors open for others everywhere we go.

5. I offered to let a gentleman buying a single banana ahead of us in the grocery line yesterday. He politely declined, saying that getting my two kids through the line was much more important than his little purchase. I sincerely hope he didn't have to wait too much longer - that place was a madhouse.

6. Little Sister has started saying "I wuv you" which isn't random, but it certainly is something that makes my heart a bit fuller.

Tonight I'm off to a Ladies Night Out dinner with about 20 other moms from our little town. We'll be supporting one of our local restaurants (this is a HARD market, for sure) and enjoying some good ol' girl time.

My goal is to squeeze in a run while the kids have a picnic lunch down by the treadmill before we have a play date at our house and I make dinner for my husband and the kiddos. Whew! I'll REALLY need that dinner out when that time comes!

What Random Acts of Kindness can you generate this week??? Leave a little note about it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Starting with a Thankful Heart in the sunshine

The sun is shining here for the second day in a row. I can't believe how incredibly energizing it really is. You just sort of get accustomed to mucking along in the fog, not realizing that you're just going through the motions, but then the sun comes along and *BAM!* suddenly you remember that you are ALIVE!

Other than the wonderful, warming and uplifting sun's rays . . . I'm thankful for:

1. The surprise email I got from my uncle who is doing work in Kabul.

2. My son is feeling much better after a turn with a 24-hour bug of sorts. He refused to eat and slept all day yesterday and has been eating, drinking and talking non-stop all day today. I'd say he's better!

3. I started the day with a 32 minute run on the treadmill in my new shoes. The kids cooperated the entire time while that wonderful sun came through the windows.

4. My son's progress with reading - he's discovering all kinds of books that he can sit down and really read on his own. . . and even to Little Sister. That's powerful stuff right there.

5. The Steelers are heading to the Super Bowl. My husband is a Pittsburgh native, so that is HUGE around this house. Really, really huge. I am worried about my favorite player, Heinz Ward, though. (He's a former UGA player and we're both UGA grads, not to mention he has an amazingly positive attitude and infectious smile.) I'll have to do some reading to see how his injury is and if he'll be well enough to play.

What are YOU thankful for today? Come on, don't be shy! Let us know with a quickie note below!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reaching the finish line . . . of a different sort

It took six months, but I did it - this afternoon I finished the quilt for my daughter! Her second birthday is a little over a week from now, so I may even be able to call myself an overachiever. No, not really. The darn thing should have been finished months ago!
It is hard to tell in a photo, but there are about 80 different fabrics (I lost count) in this puppy. Some are scraps from quilts I made for other people, others I purchased just for this project. And still others are from my mom's unbelievable stash. The quilt pattern was inspired by a quilt I saw in the Sundance catalog (my FAVORITE catalog). The difference is that the Sundance quilt is more vintage Americana in nature and this one requires sunglasses for viewing, which I believe is more appropriate for a firecracker of a little girl.

It is too early to make the final call, but I may like the back even more than the front. All of these solid batiks are included in the front, but they really stand out nicely as 12 inch blocks. I'm pleased with how well the quilting stitches are highlighted on this side.

Yesterday I pinned on the binding and today I could just FEEL that it was the day for my big finish. While some runners I know were reaching their half-marathon goals in Arizona and the Cardinals and Eagles duked it out for the playoffs, I reached the finish line for the quilt. Maybe the motivation was the sun that finally showed its face after WEEKS of hiding behind clouds and several days of our valley being blanketed in fog from sun up to sun down.

To celebrate my quilting finish I put on my new shoes for a test walk on the treadmill (today's my off day, but a 20 minute walk did me good). My hubby warmed up the treadmill belt for me as he took his new shoes for a run. Even at my walking pace, I could tell that these new shoes were WAY overdue - why is it we runners wait so long before the great shoe swap? I look forward to running in them tomorrow!

This photo shows you the quilting I did - it is the same wandering pattern across the whole thing. It dawned on me that this stitch design likely comes naturally to me because I used to doodle it in the margins of my Geometry notes in high school. Quilts are geometry in a practical form, so the doodling wasn't really time wasted!
What a big week this is (MLK Day & The BIG Inauguration, for starters). Hold onto those hats, folks . . . and be sure to make time for a good run (and preferably more than one)!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Upbeat Week

Despite some frustrating events (like locking my keys in the car!), this has been a very good week on the homefront. So good, in fact, that I'm wound up and ready to go FINISH my daughter's birthday quilt - one more row to quilt and then the binding goes on. Since this project has been going for, oh, something like 6 months now, I'm getting really anxious to get it done.

Tomorrow we're off to the YMCA to give the childwatch another try while I do the treadmill thing. If it goes well, I'll feel secure in trying a class out next week! My goal is to attend at least one class/week to add some flavor to my usual running and balance ball workouts. I'm getting excited that next week might be the week I start. Keep your fingers and laces crossed that Little Sister continues to do well with childwatch . . . that's the key piece to making it all happen.

Happy running/balancing/reading, everyone! I'm off to sew . . . happily!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Starting With a Thankful Heart (and a numb arm)

I'm keeping it SHORT today since I'm typing with a "helper" in my lap who keeps touching the keys and playing with my fingers when she SHOULD be in bed SLEEPING!!! Even though I'm frustrated and my left arm has just about gone numb from her leaning on it . . . I DO have a thankful heart:

1. The children were well behaved on Saturday evening so we went out for dinner as a special family treat - the first such outing in . . . um . . . well, a LONG time, seeing as I can't remember the last time we went out.

2. All of the roads leading out of our little town are now open after being closed for several days last week because of SEVERE flooding. Snow melt and rain do not a good combination make. I can now get my son back to his pre-school routine, to the YMCA and wherever else we should want to go. Hooray! I also read a report that the livestock in the area all managed to be moved to dry ground and are safe.

3. By the end of the evening (assuming my dear daughter does finally give up and go to sleep) I will be one row away from completing her birthday quilt.

4. Last week Facebook helped reunite me with my best friend from elementary school. I feel like I found a bit of myself when I found her.

5. Little Sister is finally in bed. Keep your fingers crossed that she stays that way so I can make #3 come true!

Have a wonderful week, everyone. Happy running!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can you see me glowing?

This morning at 8:30 my husband bet that I couldn't last all day without leaving the house. At 9:45AM he won. I couldn't help myself.

I bundled up Little Sister, leashed up Albus Dumblepup and the three of us headed out for quite possibly one of the best runs I've had in several months. It is definitely the best run of the year.

I'm not sure when I last ran outside, but after a month of snow, snow, snow and rain, flooding, and more yuck, this morning was the perfect break to get reacquainted with the outdoors. It was about 40 degrees (Fahrenheit, for those who appreciate labeled units), so I didn't have to bundle up and the headband I wore has a great windbreaker built in, so I was set.

I have no idea how far I went or how long we were running - I opted to leave the Garmin at home and just GO. It was a run to boost my spirits and clear the muck from my brain. The path we followed was apparently just right for Albus, too, as his tail was perky the whole way and he's spent the remainder of the day giving me happy looks. We were in the groove - the right rhythm, the right breathing, the right foot strikes, the right everything.

Little Sister did remarkably well, too, since we did add a little loop to our regular mid-length loop (and really, if it was just the dog and me, we likely would have gone farther, but I didn't want to ruin a good thing!). I let her get out of the jogger to walk Albus up our street on our way home - at that point he wasn't going to go fast, there aren't any cars around, and she felt like she got in a run, too. In fact, she got in the door and said, "These pants dirty. Running made dirty," and stripped them off. Not sure that the 30 yards she did really caused her to break a sweat, but I think it was cute anyhow!

The run reaffirmed that I really am a girl who loves to run. And that I should write a book (or at least a little essay!) for my pup - We Are Dogs Who Love to Run. What do you think? Stay tuned, I may just share a bit with you in the upcoming weeks . . .

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Time to Get Organized!

Ask anyone who knows me well and they'll tell you the same thing: I'm organizationally challenged.

I WANT to be more organized and I know that it will help me achieve my goals without as much chaos and drama as is generally involved (case in point: my almost-daily key hunt). Now that I've admitted that I have a problem, I'm ready to face it and tackle it! (I'll try to ignore the fact that my husband is currently reading over my shoulder, mocking my idea that I even THINK I can get organized.)

Now, I'm not quite as disorganized as my mom (I love you, Mom, but you KNOW you have a problem!), but that doesn't excuse me from facing my own flaws and doing something to build some skills. So, what can I do to improve my organizational skills?

I was recently encouraged by the insightful folks at MomCentral to see if the organizational tool Cozi could help me become less scattered (HELP being the operative word here. I do not think any one thing can SOLVE my problem completely - that would take a MIRACLE . . . and some reverse genetic engineering, I fear.). I've spent my usual blogging time this week getting to know the tool and what it has to offer and here are some of the problems/solutions that Cozi addresses:

PROBLEM: I have 4 calendars going at any given time - but none of them match each other. They get lost, chewed on (thank you, Little Sister), used for art or slide under the fridge. The planner I got last Christmas was helpful for a short time . . . but . . . hey, has anyone seen that thing, by the way? Hmmmm . . . me neither . . .

COZI SOLUTION: One electronic calendar in an easy-to-read and easy-to-update format. Each appointment that I list can be color-coded to identify which family members are involved in the entry. There is even a handy-dandy drop down to mark an appointment's regular frequency (weekly, monthly, annually, etc. - great for marking workouts at the gym, volunteer days at school, birthdays and other important occasions!). I'm not likely to misplace my computer, so this is perfect.

PROBLEM: I forget to tell my husband about things that we're doing. Even if they DO make the calendar, he doesn't know about them because he doesn't know WHICH calendar to trust, if he can even find it!
COZI SOLUTION: We can share the Cozi account and both have the ability to add/change things on the calendar. Our family calendar can also sync with Outlook and we can even send our calendar and shopping lists to our mobile phones with text messages. For those who have iPhones and Windows Mobile phones, Cozi now has a mobile version that enables you to sign-in and access your Cozi account using their mobile web browsers.

PROBLEM: I'm not a scrapbooker. Tried it a few times, but it never took. I enjoy looking at our old photos (as do my kids!), but I just am not a scrapbookin' gal. Thus, the photos stay safely tucked in the "fancy" folders on my computer (darn things don't even have names!), rarely to be shared or even viewed by me.

COZI SOLUTION: The Cozi Collage Screen Saver! Cozi can automatically create small groups of your photos and display them like a slide show in place of your screen saver. You can even send your favorite collages to others. Sounds like something my mom and mother-in-law would enjoy to get from us from time to time - and without any effort on my part!

PROBLEM: My grocery list from week to week looks the same, even when there are OTHER items we likely need or for new recipes I've been meaning to try. I'm trying to limit my grocery shopping to a weekly adventure, but more often than not I find myself making "little stops" at the store to pick up forgotten items . . . or even calling my husband to grab those missing ingredients on his way home from work (NOT his favorite thing to do - I think he'd rather loose a toe than stand in line with all of the other husbands).

COZI SOLUTION: The Cozi Shopping List. Quickly enter/delete the items as you need/buy them. There are 3 handy lists - grocery, wholesale, and other. I already have running lists on each of those. The process of creating the list in advance helped me remember what items to get when I went to the store WITHOUT the list last night. See? I'm still learning. The lists are also displayed on my Cozi Home page, so every time I log on, I can see the list as a reminder. Handy.

PROBLEM: I like to have my questions/problems solved quickly. Hey, who doesn't?

COZI SOLUTION: A well-designed, easy-to-navigate, thorough Help page. I wish every site was so easy to use.

My overall impression of Cozi? I like it. I like that it is f*ree to use (really!). I'm going to use it (stop laughing, Honey, I really am!). I think it will be even more helpful as my kids get older and our schedules swell with more adventures. I do wish they had a version that would link directly to my brain to sort out my thinking as well as the site sorts out my calendar and shopping troubles.

And maybe, just maybe, in a month's time maybe my husband won't laugh quite so loudly if I dare utter the words "I'm" and "organized" in the same sentence. Hey, I can try! And it is nice to have some help along the way.

And YOU? What things do YOU do to get/stay/strive to be organized?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Starting with a Thankful Heart in this New Year

Today marks the LAST day of my son's break from school - now THAT is cause for celebration! While we've had some good times during our 3 weeks together, everyone is ready for him to go back. He even did a "I get to go to school tomorrow!" dance this morning and I joined in (maybe even a bit more enthusiastically than necessary!).

There are other aspects of our lives that get back to normal this week, making this mama's heart quite thankful:

1. Little Sister's music class gets going again on Wednesday.
2. A new session of swimming lessons will be underway on Saturday morning. This time I have them signed up for the same day and time. We'll see if that combo is a good one or if it is too much to juggle since I'll be in the water with Little Sister and have to get all three of us cleaned up afterward. Hey, you never know until you try!
3. The kids are encouraging me to run in the mornings. Of course they're great about leaving me alone for only 10 minutes, but that's a great start. I enjoy those 10 minutes of peace and then grit my teeth to knock out a minimum of 10 more minutes, squeaking in any extra time if they haven't torn apart the basement or started taking one another apart. It used to be that Mr. Music would groan and pitch such a fit that I'd give up and not get on the treadmill at all. Seriously, folks, this is progress. Even a single step gets you closer to your goals!

On my sewing front, I'm working like a maniac in the evenings and making AWESOME progress on a handful of unfinished projects. The end is in sight for my daughter's birthday quilt. I just hooked on the last big row to quilt and will then just have one small row to go! Last night I made her a cow-themed pillow case out of the fabric she picked out LAST YEAR. It is so refreshing and energizing to make forward progress!!

Wishing you a wonderful week as you get back into the post-holiday groove. Happy running, happy reading and happy goal-reaching!