Sunday, June 29, 2008

Running commentary (pun intended)

The long-awaited 5K was today! Yes, I finished, I had a pretty decent time for a first-time runner, and I met my goal of not walking a single step of the race. So, how did it go? There are three ways this could have played out:

1) (Upon crossing the finish line:) "Oh, I am SO excited about this race! I can't WAIT to run to my blog to post about how exhilarating this was, how I got bit by the "racing bug" the minute I crossed the finish line, how a whole new sense of purpose immediately fell over me as I realized I had met my goal. The sun is shining, the birdies are chirping, and life as we know it is a beautiful thing. Oh, glory be, what a wonderful day!"

2) (Upon crossing the finish line:) "Eh, ok. That's great. Tom's waving a camera. Yup, here I am, I finished the race. Oh, thanks for that water bottle. Where the heck do we eat? Do we go into THAT building to eat? Where is the pancake breakfast? Excuse me...Miss? Do we go into this door or that one? Where do we go for pancakes? Ok, Tom, Christine, assorted offspring and family...let's move, Becky wants pancakes. NOW. Are we going this way? Can I push a stroller? Carry a couple of kids? Where exactly do we get in line for the pancakes....?"

3) (Somewhere between mile 1 and mile 2:) "This is NUTS. What the #$*%&@ do I think I'm doing, waking up at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday to do THIS??? Who ARE these people? Are they complete IDIOTS?!?!? Aren't we done yet? Why do they call this a SPORT?!?! This is TORTURE! Aren't we done yet? Am I doing this right?? Where the hell are the mile markers?!??!? Aren't we done yet? PLEASE?!??!"

So which was the real outcome? All three of them. At some point or other, I was thinking one of those 3 scenarios--sometimes simultaneously. My biggest observation? Running this race--and it's only a 5K, mind you--is a lot like natural childbirth. The thoughts going through my head prior, during, and after the race were darn near identical to my thoughts prior, during, and after natural childbirth. Would I do it again? You betcha. I already have plans for another (a race, not a natural childbirth, that's not in the cards in the near future). I plan to enter another 5K in mid-August, for no reason other than to motivate myself to keep exercising. I'd like to have a better time in the next race, and I plan to pay more attention to pacing and all the mental stuff that goes with preparing for a race. But the main goal is to keep me running in the weeks between races.

My racing buddy, Christine...she is just too cute. Christine and I would make a tremendous "before" and "after" photo of what long-term running and good nutrition can do for your body. (And, um, I'd qualify as the "before" model, thankyouverymuch. Though I am working to change that.) In fact, I showed these photos to my mother, and her reply was, "Who's the girl with all the muscles?" Christine has run many races in her life, but she has never run a 5K before, and she did it with me. She says it's because she wanted to keep herself motivated to keep running too. And while I know that is partially true, she held herself back during the entire race so that we could cross the finish line together. (Truthfully, she pretty much dragged me across.) For that, I am very grateful. She also reminded me that it's a good for my children to see me running in and finishing this gives them positive exposure to the benefits of health and exercise. You're a wonderful mother and a good friend, Christine, and I am very blessed to have found you.

The whole family at the pancake breakfast after the race

Amalie and Ava
"Dude, cover your eyes. Your mom looks HIDEOUS."

Jakob, 5, enjoying his pancake breakfast

Julia, 3, also enjoying breakfast

What I love about Christine and her family is, besides the fact that they are all tremendously kind and wonderful people, they also know how to enjoy their food. :-) Tom and I love foodies!

Liesl and Mommy enjoying our breakfasts...and Ava is enjoying hers, too. :-)

Liesl and her new buddy, "Mr. Bear." The State Farm Insurance
mascot handed them out to the children of all the race participants.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thank you, Dixie Chicks

My latest download on iTunes is Ready to Run. :-)

Tomorrow is my 1st race. Christine is coming to pick me up at 6:30 a.m. (on a weekend...gasp, choke!!!) Tom will arrive with the girls a little before 8:00, and be at the finish line when I get there. I have everything packed for him, the girls, and myself. (He has the camera!)

After 9 weeks of training, I am ready. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mr. Worm and Ferdinand

While I was weeding the perennial bed yesterday, I found a nice little earthworm and called to Liesl, who was playing nearby. I picked him up to show to her, and she promptly responded with, "Liesl hold it." So I put the worm down in her cupped, waiting hands. I was concerned that she might be slightly freaked out about how slimy and wiggly he was. I needn't have been. Besides spiders, I never minded bugs or creepy-crawlies much (though I don't really like it when they surprise me), so perhaps that tomboyness has been passed down to my kids. I hope so. Anyway, we dubbed him "Mr. Worm." Liesl really, really liked Mr. Worm. She held him for a few minutes, and I had to really convince her that he had to be put down so he could help our garden. She said, "Kiss Mr. Worm good-bye." Um, no. Animal lovers we may be, but we are not quite unreserved enough to do that.

We also have a toad (or several) residing near our front entrance. Ever since we were married and started gardening together, Tom and I would exclaim when we found a toad on our property. We would often catch them and turn them back loose in our garden--hey, toads eat bugs, that's free labor. But this year, we've seen a large toad near the entrance of our house quite often. So I've named him "Ferdinand." Now, I don't consider myself an expert in toad forensicology, so of course I know that it probably isn't always the same toad...but I don't care. All toads in our front yard are greeted gently but enthusiastically by the name "Ferdinand."

Tom asked me, "But what if Ferdinand is a girl toad?" Well, then, meet Ferdinanda. Duh.

Well, that was dumb

Liesl, Ava, and I spent 30 minutes watering the flowers this morning. This is the view on the patio at 3:00 p.m.:

I really need to look into those rain barrels or other rainwater collection systems for gardening freaks like us. Our water bills in the summer are always horrendous.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Much ado about...everything

I started teaching Liesl "baby" American Sign Language (ASL) when she was 7 months old. At 9 months, she was signing back to me. By 13 months, she was learning 2 or 3 new signs every day. By 20 months, she was stringing four or more signs together to form sentences in sign language. She had very few spoken words, but I was not concerned, she was communicaticating very early. Her sign vocabulary was much larger than the spoken vocabulary of other non-signing kids of her age.

Several well-meaning friends, acquaintances, and family members--including both Tom's and my parents--were very concerned when, by her 2nd birthday, she wasn't speaking much--fewer than 10 words in English, really--but she was signing all the time. I kept telling everybody that she would talk when she was ready, but they should recognize that she was advancing very well--she was able to communicate very, very well.

Well, if all the non-believers would like to come to my house for a visit, I'll cook up a big 'ole heaping batch of crow while Liesl waxes on about life around us. In English. A constant, and I mean CONSTANT stream of dialog (uh, no, make that monologue) is happening during our days. All activities must be talked about. Endlessly.

I am working hard on teaching when we need "peace and quiet" during some times. Such as when I am trying to make a left turn on a busy street. Liesl knows I need peace and quiet. How do I know that she knows? Because she comments on it. Constantly. When the left turn blinker is on--just the left, mind you, not the right--she sits back there in her car seat and says, "Mommy need peace and quiet. Peace and quiet for Mommy. Mommy make left turn. Mommy need peace and quiet. Peace and quiet, peace and quiet, peace and quiet...left turn, Mommy need peace and quiet." Then, when I complete the left turn, she announces, triumphantly, "Peace and quiet all done!"

So, it's back to the drawing board. (I think I left some ear plugs there.) In the meantime, I'd like to send a shout out to anyone who is worried that signing with your baby will delay their speech: Um, no. It won't. Trust me. Has anyone seen my Excedrin?

Pictures above:
Liesl signing "please" in her high chair, March 2007, age 15 months
Liesl signing "teddy bear" (her version of the sign), March 2007, age 15 months

Liesl signing "duck" (her version of "duck," anyway) on Mother's Day, 2007, age 17 months

Liesl signing "all done" at 15 months

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The gardens are in

I said it couldn't be done. I should never have doubted. I wanted to not plant one of our gardens this year, thinking we would just be too busy with two tiny kids. I thought it would be very difficult to do so with two tiny kids to care for. I wanted to fill in the back garden with pumpkins or a cover crop, just for this year.

So far, I'm wrong...and I'm happy to admit it. Tom did the bulk of the planting work. I helped to prep and plant when I could, but my main goal was to take care of the kids while he was out there so he could pay full attention to the task at hand. When we were out there together, we had some, uh, "help" with planting, in the form of two little toddler hands, and that actually--to my surprise--worked out well. Liesl is a natural at gardening (she should be, given her genes!) I've found that Tom and I are even more productive with two kids than we were with one. Possibly because we now fully understand that the little time we have is precious...we make the most of it.

The front garden is always the main event. We "scaled down" this year to only (yes, I said "only") 74 pepper plants, down from 98 last year. There are also 8 tomato plants...but our tomato plants are always huge, thanks to absolutely gorgeous black dirt and mounds of homemade compost. In the back garden, we planted five rows of corn, 3 zucchini mounds, cucumbers, herbs, and various cutting flowers. I have been working on the perennial garden around our back patio. The backyard has really shaped up in the 9 years we have lived here.

In addition to the two large 20x25' veggie gardens, we also have a raspberry patch, a large herb garden, and many annual and perennial flower beds.

Daddy's little helper

Tom took this video of Liesl "planting" rocks in the corn rows. The kid thinks you stick it in the dirt and water it, and it'll sprout. Hey, she's thinkin'! :-)

The prettiest posy in the patch :-)

This is our raspberry patch. The fence structure behind it holds our compost pile. About 95% of our yard waste and kitchen scraps go in our compost, which is then put back into our gardens.

Tomatoes, Week 1

Main Pepper and Tomato gardens, Week 1

Front of the house--wax begonias. I plant 3 flats of begonias in this section every year.

The perennial garden in the backyard, off the patio. I still have some work to do. Liesl also helps me weed this area...and she's actually quite good at it. She can tell an Edelweiss plant from a weed. "Edelweiss" is my father's nickname for Liesl.

I purchased some new perennials this year: cranesbill geraniums and obedient plant. I'm hoping, uh, that the later rubs off on Liesl...anyway, both perennials will be planted this weekend.

These are ornamental pepper plants in a planter. The three darker plants with purple-ish leaves are called Pretty in Purple. The lighter plants are called Prairie Fire. The fruits of both are edible, but we don't usually eat them, we try to save them for seed. They are always very pretty.

View of the back garden, which has been planted with corn, zucchini, cucumbers, and herbs.

Pepper garden with potted geraniums. The pots add a dash of color, but their primary purpose was to protect the garden plants when we drag the hose and sprinkler all over the yard.
Like Alton Brown, we love a multi-tasker. :-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Faces and Places

Last Friday was a busy day for us girls. In the morning, Liesl, Ava and I traveled to Flint to ride the Huckleberry Railroad at the Crossroads Village. We joined many of the members of the Farmington Area Mom's Club for a ride on the train, then a nice picnic on the grounds of the village before exploring a bit. I really enjoyed this trip, as did both of the girls (well, Ava enjoys just about everything, as long as there is a clean diaper and a little nursing in it for her. But Liesl did have fun too.) Crossroads Village is a bit smaller and less busy than Greenfield Village, which is a very popular attraction in the Detroit area, and closer to us. We haven't yet taken Liesl there, as we prefer to wait until she's older and can take in a little more. But the Crossroads Village was a nice compromise.

Us three girls on the train...Ava is nursing in this picture. Hey, when you gotta nurse, you just...nurse. Would you believe that I had to gather up my kids and gear and change cars right after Ava started nursing, so I did...with her latched on. She never knew the difference.
The conductor of the train was pretty horrified, though. Oh well. We're not in the 1940's anymore, buddy.

The three of us again...slightly sweaty, but enjoying the ride.

(Ava was awake and fully-fed at this point.)

The FAMC informal picnic gathering.
That's Ava on the bottom left corner, trying to eat grass and twigs, for all I know.
Liesl is the little blond kid with the dark blue shirt, closer to the upper right corner
of the photo. She's probably bumming food off of somebody.

My friend Christine's sweet little Amalie after our picnic lunch.
Robeez make great post-lunch chewies.
Christine and I wearing our babies in Baby Hawk carriers, and our backpack diaper bags.
We were longer than we were wide--or tall. I felt like a pack mule, but I was a happy pack mule.
(Try turning around in a crowded space in this getup. It's hilarious.)

Friday evening was...interesting. Although I am not working much as an interpreter, I still need to log 24 contact hours per year to keep my Michigan QA. So I went to the monthly Interpreter Improvement Guild meeting to socialize and log a few more hours. Since last month's meeting had many kids in it, I thought it would be fun to bring Liesl--more kids for her to play with, and since the meetings are held entirely in American Sign Language, it would expose her to more ASL. Ha. Only one kid showed up with a mom this time, and the discussion was very technical, I had a bit of a hard time following along while keeping an eye on Liesl. Fortunately, everyone who attends the IIG meetings (the majority of them are Deaf) are very understanding. Liesl found some friends to talk--er, sign--to. (Plus, the ASL Resource Center has fish. Heck, forget about all the Deaf people that she could talk to with her hands. She wanted to see the FISH!)

Liesl chatting in ASL with Annette, who is Deaf.

What a treat this was...this is Aimee, an old college classmate. We both graduated from the Sign Language Studies program at Madonna University. I haven't seen her in years, she was up visiting from Florida. She said she is in the process of trying to move back to the Detroit area. I hope so...she has such a crazy sense of humor and she is a gifted interpreter.

On Monday, one of my friends from church came to lunch and brought her three children, ages 6, 8 and 10. (Carrie homeschools her children too, so as you can imagine, she has her hands full.) Oh, it is such fun for Liesl to have friends over! To celebrate the occasion, we made homemade pudding pops (a very simple and easy recipe, and guaranteed to please a crowd.) Liesl "helped" me with the assembling of the pops. I am so glad that Tom's and my passion for cooking (and eating) is catching on with Liesl--but I must remember that the next time I get "help" from her in the kitchen, that the project will generally take 5 times as long--and require 5 times the clean-up. Imagine: Liesl's light pink jammies while she's helping me stir dark chocolate pudding. Oh well, this is why we wanted me to be a full-time mom.

Sara and Ava...Sara is 10 years old and is so mature, sweet, and absolutely loves children.
I have my eye on her for a mother's helper and a baby sitter in a few years.

The gang eating their pudding pops...

...except Liesl's wasn't quite frozen yet. Oh well!

I told Carrie that Tom and I had assumed, before we became parents, that my being a full-time, stay-home mom would mean we would all have more time to relax. Now I laugh every time I think of our naivete. Still, our lives are full of fun activities and interesting people. We wouldn't change it! (Well, we might ask for a little more sleep....)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tears of laughter and joy

I just can't get enough of these kids. They drive nuts a few (thousand) times a day,
but they just make me want to cry with how sweet, silly, and funny they are.
Couldn't you just eat them up with a spoon???

Ava's style of "applause." Oh, I just want to hug her to pieces every time she does this.

I just can't resist her when she's this cute.
(And she KNOWS it.)


Yep, Ava's shorter than me.

"OOOOOOoooo, a KITTY!"
(Whinnie is not the sharpest crayon in the box, but she still
knows enough to beat a hasty retreat.)

Sticking out her tongue is a favorite pastime

We've been imbibing in the catnip a bit much. (The catnip plant is, um, UNDER the cat.)

Enjoying their Father's Day feast--Tom smoked ribs in the smoker. They were outstanding.
That man of mine knows his way around outdoor cooking.

Enjoying a homemade pudding pop. We are reasonably sure
that at least 10% of the pudding made it into her mouth.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The wheels on the bus go "giggle, giggle, giggle"

Ava dearly loves the song "The Wheels on the Bus," and her favorite verse is "the horn on the bus goes 'beep beep beep'." See this video for an explanation of why:

We have been crazy busy here these last few weeks. Summer activities, trying to get the garden in, doctor's appointments, family coming to visit. I will post more fun stories later. In the meantime, here are some recent pictures.

Sock it to me, baby. (This is how we "help" Mommy with the laundry.)

Wearing Mommy's shirt. Why? Because she wanted to.

Wearing one of Liesl's old outfits. Oh, how I love to dress this baby in pink.

Mommy FINALLY got the kiddie pool out.
Finally, an excuse to wear those adorable matching swimsuits!

Splish splash

Ava loves the water and the fresh air.

Liesl helping carry new plants out of the van, to the gardens

Babies in rings are standard gardening equipment! :-)

Ava loves to be outside with us while we work in the yard

Liesl learning that her skirt (sorry, Uncle Robert, in her SKORT) is not the easiest sandbox apparel. Still, when you gotta dig, you gotta dig.

Toddlers love to a) strip down and b) run away from you. When the two are combined, it's lethal for Mommy's nerves. When the two are combined OUTDOORS, your neighbors are probably putting CPS on speed dial.