Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Feature: Religious Ed

Caroline has such a wonderful heart, and she is growing to be a Godly and faithful young lady. She truly has the faith of a child, and it is a blessing as a parent to see that every day. She looks forward to religious education every Sunday morning, and now that she's in 3rd grade, there aren't many crafts that come home from class. This past week, though, she proudly showed us what she made in class:
I think along with Bible verses, we'll incorporate memorizing the books of the Bible into our Coussoule curriculum this summer. I always loved Bible verse drills in Vacation Bible School, and given John's competitive nature, maybe that will get him as excited about the Word as Caroline already is.

Ready, set, Joshua 1:9!
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

If you're going to be in, be all in

Since my return to running, I've enjoyed the fact that I'm running. No pressure, no specific time goals, just wanted to get back and run another marathon. My welcome back race done, I've been looking forward to a reunion race with fellow female West Point classmates in April, but without a time goal in mind.

Until this morning.

This week's mileage was one of the easy weeks; only 14 miles for my Saturday run, with 18 last week and my first of two 20 milers in front of me next week. It's been a pretty good week for my training - I've been on a reasonably steady plan of 1-2 days of speed work, 2-3 days of mid-mileage during the week, and focusing on learning to negative split my long runs on the weekends.

With a company holiday last Monday, I skipped the interval work and ran a couple of miles with Justin for the first time in... well, for the first time in forever. I can't even remember the last time he and I laced up together. It was short, but it was sunny, and we kept a nice pace for the run:
Tuesday I got on the trainer - I'm very much looking forward to warmer weather so that I can get back on my bike and back in the pool. For now, though, I set my bike up inside, had the added bonus this week of being able to watch some Olympic Nordic Combined during my ride, and gave my sore hamstring a break.

Wednesday was the best run I've had in a while - all four of us, my stalwart friends who've trained with me every step of the way since I returned to running - had an excellent run. My plan for the day was to run for time, not for distance. Those are sometimes my favorite runs because I feel less pressure for pace, and am able to just get into the flow of however I feel that day. Turns out, we all felt great on Wednesday:
Ten miles, steady pace, felt like I could run another 10 at the end.

Thursday was my weekly tempo run with my friend Andy. He's a crazy good runner - he was instrumental in my PR / BQ run at Houston last year, doing regular interval and speed work with me. My tempo runs tend to be his recovery pace, which works great for me - I huff and puff, he carries the conversation by himself. It was a pretty windy morning; we started out downhill with the wind at our backs. I'm officially declaring myself an expert at running downhill with a tail wind. Even when we turned around, though, I kept the tempo pace. First time I've done that this year - another great run this week, and a solid morale boost, too.
A rest day on Friday, then this morning's 14 miler. Another beautiful morning - tights and two shirts, no jacket, no mittens. I could breathe without my tongue freezing (yep, that's happened a few times this winter) and I didn't have to cover my cheeks in Aquaphor. My friends by my side, my new kicks on my feet, and I felt... great. Free. Strong.
Sometimes the best part of a run is the feeling when it's over, but this morning, I felt great the whole time. There were a couple of rest stops, but I don't think I would've needed them if it was race day. We talked here and there along the way, especially about the upcoming Garmin Marathon we've been kicking around as a race to run together. Andy is going to pace his wife, Shauna, my running twin and perfect running partner - her BQ time is 3:55, and I know she can do it.

We talked about the plan; I felt great; the sun shone down on us; I thought about my own BQ effort that fell just a little bit short. I thought about the injury I'd sustained and my lack of focus on anything other than getting back into the game. And I thought about just how hard it is to train to run a race that fast. A year older, my BQ time is now 3:45, and I've dismissed it as too difficult to achieve with the shape I'm in at the moment.

And then it hit me - that's an excuse. I'm afraid of trying and failing. The first time I set a BQ in my sights, I knew that it might not happen the first time. The second time. The third, fourth, fifth, or fiftieth time. I thought it might be a decades-long odyssey, a shiny object always out of my reach. When I achieved it on my first effort, it changed everything. It then became an expectation of myself, and running became more about the pace and the time instead of the joy of putting one foot in front of the other.

When it became about the pace and the time, I realized this morning, that's when I began making excuses for myself for not trying to BQ again. I know exactly how hard it is to train for that kind of race, and I knew I hadn't trained that hard. So I said things like "I'm just happy to be running" and "my goal is to just finish the race." Excuses; half truths.

When I'm in, I'm all in.

This is my official declaration - I'm going to try for another BQ time in my races this spring. I have Raleigh on April 13th, and most likely, Garmin on April 26th. I'm going to buckle down, do my speedwork, watch what I eat, lose a few pounds, drink more water, and get more sleep. I'm going to do the hard things that have to be done to put myself in a position to train for a 3:45. I may not achieve it in April, but that's okay. Because if I don't try, I've already missed out.

Life is too short for excuses, and it's too short to try next time. This is my time, and I'm all in to go all out.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Feature: Caroline's GT Showcase

I'm behind on some of the family adventures - Caroline had a big week a couple of weeks ago, with a school choir program and then a district-wide showcase of the work by the Gifted and Talented (GT) classes.

Caroline is an excellent student, but hands down, GT is her favorite part of school. She looks forward to Wednesdays and Thursdays with enthusiasm unmatched by any other subject, and sings Ms. Murphy's praises on a regular basis. I share her excitement for the program; it challenges her, the curriculum includes subjects that would never be part of the common core, and she clearly feels more comfortable in that environment than in her regular classroom. If it weren't for GT, my 8 year old would not yet know her professional path in life; instead, thanks to a unit last year, she has already firmly established that she wants to be an ornithologist when she grows up. I'll contact Cornell in a couple of years about financial aid.

As for the here and now, this year has included an interesting unit on ancient civilizations. We headed over to the newest elementary school in town for the showcase, guided by the highly knowledgeable midgeroo:
Caroline learned to write her name in cuneiform; learned about the ancient Mesopotamians; and helped assemble a time capsule for future civilizations to know what life in NW Arkansas in 2014 was like.
Mesopotamian cylinder seal with Caroline's initials and a Greek pot with Greek letters
Drawing of an Egyptian with heiroglyphics
The Time Capsule for 2014 Arkansas
We've been happy with our local school district, and our kids have been fortunate to have good teachers. Ms. Murphy, though, really has made a difference for Caroline in school. I'm so grateful that she's helped her bloom and grow.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Feature: my Valentines

Ah, love! It makes the world go 'round; it's all you need. I have three true loves: my husband Justin, my daughter Caroline, and my son John.

A very happy Valentine's Day to you and those you love!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love is a many splendored thing

Tomorrow is the big day where we all declare our love for the ones who most make our hearts go pitter patter. I will join the ranks of millions of Americans who will give cards, hugs, and kisses to the wonderful man I married and to the two little people who fill my heart.

What struck me today as I thought about Valentine's Day, though, is that I am the recipient of more love than I could possibly return in a lifetime. Love truly is a many splendored thing - Christians know that in the Bible, the English word "love" appears consistently throughout the text, but is translated from more than one Greek word for the sentiment. The love in my life is like that, too. One word could never capture all of the ways I am loved.

I have known my entire life that I am fully, wholly, and unconditionally loved by my two amazing parents. With the lens of now being a parent myself, I look back at my adolescence and wonder at the fact that not only do my parents love me, I think they like me, too. My mom and dad taught me everything I know about loving families, and I love them both more than words can say.

My parents also gave me two of the greatest gifts in my life - my sister and brother. Not everyone is so lucky as me, having siblings who you yearn to spend time with, and if life allowed, you'd move next door to. We certainly had our fair share of sibling fights; we were the world's most normal kids, on each other's last nerves on a regular basis. As adults, though, I've grown to realize that there truly is no love like that of a sister or a brother. It isn't just a greeting on a Hallmark card; they truly know me and my heart better than any friend ever could. They love me in spite of my failings; they love me because of my failings.

Philos - the love from friends. How could I possibly recount all of the ways my friends have picked me up, carried me along, and let me lean on them over the years? The filial love of friends changes over time - in part because some friends come and some friends go. I'm learning, though, that the friends that stick - especially my West Point classmates - that love changes, too. We grow; we mature; we understand that life is not an eternal competition between us. Sadly, for the women of my class, loss has drawn us closer together in the last year. More than ever, this year when I think of the love of friends, I realize there is a deep and abiding love that we are only now beginning to recognize for the source of strength it is.

Closer to home, I rely on the steady, ever-present of the love of my new friends here in Arkansas. They've taught me that the length of time you've been acquainted has nothing to do with the depth or strength of the love they can give. I am so blessed that I have friends here and in the other places I've called home that fill my life with the love only a friend can give.

Then, there's home itself. My two little people, Caroline and John. The innocent love of children, the sheer joy of knowing that they love me not for what I do, whether I'm popular, or how much money I have. They love me because I am their mother. There are a million reasons people can name for why having children is a blessing, but for me, the unconditional love will always be the biggest wonder of motherhood.

My dad told me on my wedding day that no matter how much I thought I loved Justin, it paled in comparison to how much I would love him in the years to come. Almost 13 years later, I truly do understand and agree with him, but realize that surely, that will be more true 13 years from now, and again 13 years after that. My husband, in his quiet, steady way, shows me every day how much he loves me. Sometimes it's obvious in the words he says to me, the kindness he shows me, the things he does for me. Just as often, he loves me by loving our children. When you begin the journey of marriage, you can't possibly fathom the infinite love it will bring.

On the days where I feel buffeted and crushed by the weight of responsibility and expectations every adult feels, I need to reflect on the richness of the love in my life. Tomorrow I'll use words, cards, and small gifts to show my love. I hope every other day of the year, I'll be a reflection of the love others give to me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Feature: Recognition!

Only two school days this week, but in the pile of last week's work that came home yesterday was a certificate of recognition for John:
He loves playing on the computer - he would be glued to a screen nonstop if we let him, so I suppose it's fitting that he received recognition for work on the computer. At least the Odyssey program is educational - take it where you can get it!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Things they Say: Oh, Fudge

Another snow day, another opportunity to find ways to keep the kids minds stimulated and bodies at least minimally occupied so that they aren't bouncing off the walls by dinner time.

Mission sort of accomplished.

We did worksheets this morning, caved to boredom and let them watch TV and play on the iPad, then finally got them outside in the ice (it isn't even snow) for a short bit in the afternoon. I mentioned to Justin maybe they could make cookies, but by the time I brought it up, it was time to make dinner, so I had missed the window.

As we finished up dinner, Daddy said, let's make Chocolate-Chocolate Chip muffins for dessert tonight!

Much enthusiasm for this plan around the table - until you got to my seat. You see, I am not a big chocolate fan. In fact, quite the opposite. The kids know this, too, so debate on who likes chocolate and who doesn't immediately ensued.

John reminds everyone I don't like chocolate in the form of a question, one of our favorite modes of communication these days: "Who doesn't like chooooo-colaaaaaaate????" he sing-songed, pointing at me.

I responded with a very grown-up, "Who DOES like chooooo-colaaaaaaate????" looking around at the kiddos, expecting unreserved hand raising and head nodding. I was surprised by the hesitation on Caroline's face, but she followed it up with her well-thought-out response.

"I like chocolate, just not double or triple fudge chocolate."

To which John confidently added, "Or fourdipple fudge chocolate."


Caroline, very helpfully: "John, it's quadruple, not fourdipple." I swear, they have a special translator spot in their brains for each other.

Having clarified his meaning, however, I decided that fourdipple most certainly should have a place in the lexicon. So write it down - we're coining a word, starting a trend, redefining an exponential.

And when used in reference to fudge, all the better.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tuesday was Toothday

There have been a couple of wiggly teeth for several weeks now, but on Tuesday after school, one finally made its exit.

I was greeted by a whirling blur of little boy on Tuesday evening when I got home from work to show me the new hole in his mouth, and then Wednesday morning the same bundle of energy burst into my room to exclaim that the tooth fairy left $1.75!! Much discussion about whether some teeth are better than others and that's why you get more money followed, interspersed with Mommy's thought that maybe you just get whatever the tooth fairy can find in her pockets. Hey, it's possible she has pockets. I mean, where does she put all of those teeth she picks up?

John now proudly displays a new hole in his mouth, a thrill for any 1st grader that gives bragging rights at school for at least a day. Just one more sign that my little man keeps growing up, day by day, despite my occasional desire for him to just stay little.