Saturday, March 29, 2014

Going for Gold

I'm at it again. And by it, I mean two things: 1) running and 2) working on my New Year's resolutions. Technically, I'm also working on my life list, but that's a tertiary consideration.

Tomorrow begins my quest for gold: Maniac Gold, that is. Between tomorrow and May 4th, I will run four marathons in 35 days.
  1. March 30th: Hogeye Marathon, Fayetteville, Arkansas
  2. April 13th: Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, Raleigh, North Carolina
  3. April 26th: The Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz, Olathe, Kansas
  4. May 4th: Square to Square Marathon, Bentonville, Arkansas to Fayetteville, Arkansas
I've been an official Marathon Maniac for almost two years, but when I qualified, I slid in at the lowest qualification level with what, if you ask me, would be considered the easiest way to qualify: two marathons in 16 days. Back in 2012, I did the Hogeye Marathon on April 15th and then the Nashville Marathon on April 28th. I celebrated my Maniacness at the finish line with my bestie Jill and her husband Michael, who had my reward in hand courtesy of a local running friend who'd figured out how to get it to her: my Marathon Maniac Sweaty Band!!
Since then, there have been super highs and one big super low in my running pursuit, but I'm back on track and running as much as ever. This year, I set a goal to up my Maniac level. I set the goal without a specific plan as of January 1st, and considering what it takes to qualify for some of the Maniac levels, I figured it might take more than a year to figure it out.

Check out what it takes to be some of the highest levels - you think I'm a crazy runner, there are people out there who are Palladium! Platinum!! Titanium!!!
With 2014, I also decided to recommit myself to speed work to try and requalify for Boston after the disappointment of missing the cutoff for this year's race. This winter, the weather has been totally uncooperative, and my head has been back and forth on my commitment to speed work. About a month ago, as my friend Shauna and I did the math on what it would take pace-wise to run a 3:45 or faster, the wind went out of my sails. I just don't have the mental strength this year to train for that kind of sustained speed.

I've thought a lot about whether fast matters. I've considered the many, many reasons I run. Ultimately, fast does matter. But it's far behind so many of the other reasons - time with friends, my mental and physical health, the sheer joy of knowing my body is strong enough to persist mile after mile after mile. My most enjoyable run to date this year was a Saturday run where I slowed down and spent time talking to friends I haven't run with in a good long while. That was what finally convinced me that for me, the joy is in the race, not the finish line.

Which brings me back to my Gold pursuit: these four races aren't going to be about time. The Hogeye isn't a Boston certified course, so my time wouldn't matter for qualification purposes, anyway. Raleigh is going to have over ten thousand runners, and a packed course is not an ideal time to go for speed. Oz is a repeat race for me, and while I may have a shot at some speed, it's a little bit hilly and challenging for a BQ attempt. And Square to Square is a free, unofficial marathon put on by a local running store, so certainly not Boston certified.

These races are about the joy of running, and all of the reasons to run other than fast. Race reports to come, but I can tell you up front, they will all be fun.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Feature: Neptune and its Moons

Caroline recently brought home an assignment to create a model of one of the planets, due the Monday after Spring Break. She got to choose her own planet, and she picked Neptune. It wasn't an uneducated decision; our kids are pretty into space, and we've read several books and watched a lot of Science Channel shows about the universe.

I was just glad we weren't going to have to paint the Great Red Spot or figure out how to do Saturn's rings.

When I read the assignment, for whatever reason, I inferred that each child in the class would create a model that would then be incorporated into a larger class project. Translation: paint a styrofoam ball blue, and you're good.

And you now have an idea of why I never won any awards for science fair.

Thankfully, Daddy had a better idea of what was required, so last Saturday we trooped off to Hobby Lobby to get supplies for the model. We returned home with styrofoam balls; three colors of acrylic paint; a wire wreath frame for rings (did you know Neptune has rings??); dowel rods; a wooden base for the stand; a mini-tripanel for the background; star stickers; planet cut outs; and a tiny model of Voyager 2, all in the name of accuracy.
The thing is, I'm a firm believer that kids need to do their own projects. This one was going to be a little bit beyond Caroline in some ways (i.e., I don't think having her drill a hole in the wooden base was a good idea), but in everything possible, the work was on her.

Something that I've come to appreciate is a true skill, and one not yet developed in 3rd graders, is the ability to backwards plan. Caroline knew the model was due Monday, but being able to consider all of the steps required to complete it; assess how much time each step would take; and then create the timeline for completion probably would've taken as much time as the project itself. Easy answer: get started on Sunday.

Lots of painting... and using the iPad to figure out what the 14 moons look like
First, painting the planet - Neptune is basically just blue. An Ice Giant, Caroline told me, way out there in the outer part of the solar system where everything is frozen. Turns out Neptune has clouds and its own spot, too, but not as colorfully dramatic as Jupiter's. It took a few coats of blue before Caroline could get to the clouds and the spot, but she did all of it herself.

Then there were the moons - fourteen of them. Who knew? And this is where I was blown away - she did every single one of them herself, using the iPad to find images on NASA's website, mixing colors and using the scissors to make craters. She worked so hard to get them as true to life as possible, without any help at all from me or Justin. So proud of that kid!
After a few days of painting, waiting for moons to dry, putting another coat of blue on Neptune, then finally getting the clouds and the spot on there, the model was ready for assembly. Daddy did help with this part, but my big kid did almost everything herself.

I am so impressed with how it came out - considering my expectation was a styrofoam ball painted blue, this project  is definitely an A+ in my book!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Spring Break, and I'm on vacation!!

I am so looking forward to a week of vacation. The kids are on Spring Break, and I took the week off from work. We aren't going anywhere and have no specific plans to do anything, just a list of things to catch up on; an opportunity to spend time doing hobbies that get the short shrift; a couple of projects with the kids; and maybe some outdoor activities if the weather cooperates.

Always a big if around here.

While the kids have declared that Spring Break doesn't officially start until tomorrow, I say it started as soon as I shut down my computer at work on Friday afternoon, and we began trying to make the most of it first thing Saturday. I got my weekend run in with friends, picked donuts up for breakfast on the way home, and then we all headed out for errands. Summer bathing suit and Easter outfits for the kids: check.

Next stop, Hobby Lobby - Caroline has to make a model of Neptune as homework this week, due the Monday they go back to school. I had "paint a styrofoam ball blue" in my head. Bravo to Caroline for choosing Neptune and not Jupiter or Saturn! Daddy had other ideas, though - and my "paint a styrofoam ball blue" idea quickly morphed into a full blown diorama behind the planet that will now include its rings and 13 moons.
Note the model airplane kit.
Daddy couldn't let John feel left out.
Yeah. Because that's for John, not Daddy. Ha!
This project will take a little longer than I anticipated, but it should be fun. Next stop, the library!

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Our plans went sideways when we came out to the parking lot and the car wouldn't start:
Is anybody else thinking what I was thinking?
 It's a Honda!! It's not supposed to break!!
After a couple of hours of waiting, towing, talking to the Honda Service Center, and then finally getting home, we got back on track, but that left a couple of errands undone. We did make it to Saturday Mass, though, which meant we could sleep in on Sunday morning.

Everyone except Mommy - I got up this morning to do what runners do - join my running twin for part of her 20 miler this morning. A couple of mid-mileage runs this weekend, and my taper is in front of me for the Hogeye Marathon next Sunday.
Standard for the bathroom hooks during the winter:
Layers of stinky running gear
I think I'll get up early and run at least a couple of other days this week - you see, when I get up early, my days are longer, and I can cram more into my days off. There is a method to my madness...

So this is what Spring Break looks like so far at our house. More to come on a week of unscheduled fun.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Feature: Ahoy, matey!!

John told me that on Thursday, they had a substitute teacher for library. Apparently, even librarians get sick once in a while. He was pretty down the mouth about it, because the substitute teacher was one with the reputation of being strict. I didn't get much out of him as far as what book he chose or what they did that day other then it was no fun because of the substitute.

When I saw this, though, it seems like there was more to the story:
 Arrrr, you landlubber!!!

The "mean" teacher apparently read them a story but didn't show them the pictures, so they got to illustrate it themselves. No question it was a pirate story.

Sounds like fun to me!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Feature: Caroline's birthday card for Daddy

Justin had a birthday this week, and of all the nice cards he got, I'm going to guess that this one was his favorite:
On the inside:
It's hard to think of a better message in a card than an unqualified declaration of love to follow the front cover stating Daddy's galactic awesomeness. 

Added bonus: Cra-Z-Loom key chains to go with each reason he's the BEST!! The ladder keychain; the glow in the dark keychain; and the keychain with extra clips. 

Beat that, Hallmark!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two wheels of freedom!

It finally happened - John can ride his bike! They came off months ago, just in time for Mommy to break her ankle and John to lose his bike-balancer for a few months. Then the colder winter weather set in, and we had to wait for spring before we could try again.
It got a little bit tougher after several months without being on a bike, in large part because John seems to have grown another several inches. His bike doesn't really fit him any more, which if you've ever ridden a bike that's too small, you know makes it that much more challenging to get going and stay upright.
Big sister got in on the act; she rode alongside him, then helped him move the pedals a little bit until they were in just the right place to start by himself.

I'm thrilled that John is finally riding his bike; the feeling of freedom that comes with having transportation just a little bit faster than your own two feet is a childhood milestone. For Caroline, it also means Mommy and Daddy might let her go a little farther than just around the block if her little brother comes with her, because there's something less frightening about both of my children riding a couple of blocks down than just my baby girl by herself.
John rides his bike with the same intensity he does just about everything else, and celebrates with the same goofiness of just about everything else, too.
John has joined the big boy club now - I see many hours of summer fun ahead, tearing up the sidewalks in our neighborhood basking in the freedom that comes with riding a bike.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Feature: Read Across America

Today is Read Across America celebration day at Holcomb! A few days late, as the official celebration is on Dr. Seuss' March 2nd birthday, but a fun day nonetheless. The last couple of years, the theme has been focused on Dr. Seuss, but this year the kids were challenged to dress up as their favorite book character.

For Caroline, that was EASY - Harry Potter is hands down her favorite. And Mom and Dad have entered the bonus round, as the Halloween costume got used AGAIN!!

John was far less interested in participating; I asked him the other night if maybe he wanted to be Shaggy or Scooby, since he's read a lot of Scooby Doo mysteries lately, but he was emphatically against that idea. Good thing, too, since I have no idea where I would've gotten either of those costumes. I noodled on it a little bit longer and landed on Stink, Judy Moody's little brother.

John tore through the Stink books; I haven't read them myself, but my best guess is that Stink Is Judy's mischievous, smart-alecky little brother. If I'm right, then it's self-explanatory why John loves those books. Easiest costume ever, too - pants, red shirt. John did ask this morning if I could color his hair yellow... um, no. Spikes achieved through gel, yes. Reasonable compromise.

So here's to reading for learning, reading for pleasure, reading for whatever your heart's desire!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Even the Tooth Fairy got hit by the bad weather

Big news again - John lost a front tooth on Monday. I think of the front teeth as much bigger deals than the other teeth. Maybe because they're more obvious; maybe because there's a song about them; maybe because when the grown up teeth come in, they don't quite seem to fit the little person's face so I miss those tiny front teeth a little more than the others.

Regardless, lost teeth = payday for most kids, and John is no exception. Except for when the Tooth Fairy doesn't arrive the first night... and then again the second night. By Wednesday morning when the tooth pillow still held the tooth and was conspicuous in its lack of holding money, there was one very disappointed little boy that appeared downstairs ready for school.

And one set of parents who felt really, really badly about that Tooth Fairy not showing up. I asked John if maybe he thought she had to go to the bank because she ran out of money - it got a laugh, but that was short lived. Daddy tried to reason that maybe she had a hard time getting here because the weather has been so bad. I mean, if the airlines can't get in and out of Arkansas, maybe the Tooth Fairy couldn't, either.

Turns out Daddy was closer than Mommy, because when John came bouncing downstairs this morning, he held this in his hand:

Who knew that snowball season was also high season for lost teeth? But the note wasn't the best part of it for John. Maybe the Tooth Fairy felt guilty, but she came through in the end.
When you're 6 years old, $5 is big money. The bar has been raised, Tooth Fairy - unless you can explain that $5 in a note next time, too.

Monday, March 3, 2014

In like a lion

Here we go again...
This is snow day #12, and we are all sick of it. The makeup schedule is now into the second week of June, and I think both students and parents are ready to revolt. I don't doubt the wisdom of canceling school today; our neighborhood is blanketed in overnight snow that's hiding the inch or so of sleet underneath. 
Our front porch tells the tale of the sleet that came down for hours yesterday and poured off the roof like rain:
So far March has definitely come in like a lion, and this morning there is plenty of bite on the air:
Here's hoping this is the last of it and we see the meek side of the month soon.