Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Final Frontier

Our backyard... the final frontier. A land of infinite possibility. Limited only by... our meager budget!

One of the things we loved about our house when we looked at it last spring was how big the backyard is. A big, flat rectangle with almost no landscaping to personalize it, unless you count weeds!

We've spent our first 9 months here talking about all the possibilities for our backyard. We have a fairly large playstructure in boxes in the garage, waiting to be built.  Otherwise, we have done very little with the yard to this point.

All that changes in the next few days! Plans are being made. We are going to be expanding the landscaped edges of the yard, putting down mulch, maybe adding a few plants and trees.  Eric's mom, landscape designer extraordinaire has drawn us a few plans to look at as an end goal. It will take time for us to get there. But I am really excited that we are at least starting!!

Today the kids and I hit Walmart, Home Depot and a local nursery to price out some of the items we are going to need for our big backyard project.  By the end of the week, we should have an estimate for concrete edging for the borders. (Who knows if we can afford it? We like what it looks like and more than half of the homes in our neighborhood have it, so it would put us "on level" with the rest of the yards around us.)

Here is a sneak peak of our two plans/options. 

So excited, and ready to do some hard work!

Monday, March 22, 2010

5 Secrets of Mom-hood

1. Guilt is as accurate as a thermometer for diagnosing illness.
I'm actually talking about myself here, not my kids. They aren't old enough for that yet. Someday...

I don't get sick very often, and when I do it is usually just run of the mill bugs - cold, sinus infection, allergies. As a stay at home mom, there is no "time out" button, or "day off" option. This has allowed me to develop a very discriminating system for determing whether I consider myself "sick" or not. Guilt. If I am sick, but have the energy to feel guilty about all of the everyday things I am not doing (playing with the kids, housework, cooking), I am not officially sick. When I stop caring about that stuff, then I get to wear pajamas all day and make Eric cook!

2. Birthdays for small children are about parents more than kids.
I will never forget my daughter's first birthday. What a momentous occasion! Her first bite of cake. Her first "party".  She had no idea what was going on, of course. Frankly , I think the idea of a party for a 1 year old seems silly. But we had the party and I learned secret number 2. It was all for me! All of those cheering people and friends gathering around thought they were applauding my daughter on her big day. Nope! I was off in the kitchen getting more paper plates and soaking in the positive vibes. I survived my first year as a mom! (And, at that point I was close to 5 months pregnant with my son, so that was with extra emphasis on survived)  Every birthday party I have attended since my daughter's has brought this memory to mind and I always take time to say a little prayer for Little One's mom. Thank you that she survived the year too! If I've attended a birthday party for your child, know that I was there thinking of you!  Do other moms feel this way? Not sure. No one else has ever really talked to me about this. But I definitely feel like that first birthday welcomes moms into a new club... we are surviviors of our children!

3. Moms are always fabulous!
My daughter taught me this one.  Whenever I ask her how I look, no matter if I'm wearing pajamas, workout clothes or a party dress, she always describes me in glowing terms.  Her mommy is always "beautiful", "a princess", "fabulous", "fancy" and/or "very gorgeous".  She must only see the best parts of what is inside me!

4. Moms don't have secrets.
Bought a latte at the grocery store this morning? My coffee-disapproving husband is sure to hear about it when he gets home from work.  Not that I ask the kids to keep secrets from anyone. We don't even discuss such things and I would never ask them to do something like that. But one would think that they might forget some insignificant details of our day, like that I got a caramel latte at the store. But, no. Hours later, something conspires against me and suddenly my kids are ordering "caramel lattes" from each other in the play kitchen. Or telling Daddy about how they got to have ice cream on the way to softball practice. They can't remember what they did today, but they can remember that my coffee was "iced" or that I accidentally said "dang it" when I stubbed my toe.

5. What a limited understanding of "love" we have!
My mind cannot comprehend all of the different kinds of love I have experienced in my life. Loving your parents, loving your sibling, loving a pet, loving friends, being "in love" as a teenager, romantic love, the love you share with your husband or wife... (my husband might add "loving your car", but I don't really get that one!)  None of it prepares us for the love we feel for our kids. No books or advice from other moms can describe it either.  How fully I love my daughter! And when I was pregnant with our son, I worried about how my heart would have room for him. And then, he was here and there was a full heart of love for him too! That love gave me a much greater appreciation for my own parents, as I can only now hope to understand how they love me. And thinking about that makes me think about God. How great is His love for us beyond even this? Uncomprehensibly great! Fullness beyond fullness.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day 5K

My first 5K was last Saturday.  I had my IPod with my playlist all set up and talked with Eric and some friends before the race. That helped keep me calm.  I was really worried about going out too fast and I think my concern about it balanced the pull of the pack of runners and I ended up right around the speed I had been running while training.  The hardest part about this race for me: I do well running outside when I look ahead a block or more. But when you're running in the middle of a pack in a race, looking ahead that distance all you see is... more runners. So that was a difficulty. And then when I realized that was throwing me off a little, I admit it, I did start to panic.  The middle part of the course turns on to a paved trail that was pretty narrow (maybe 3 people could fit across it if they were careful) and that got a little chaotic as I reached that part still in a pack and not soon after started encountering the super fast sprinter runners returning from the out-and-back. Apparently, those speedy gentlemen have not all learned the rules about staying to the right, because there was a lot of zig zagging and avoiding going on.  But as we got about a mile in, the large group I was with started thinning out and then it wasn't as congested.

I ended up finishing in 32:56 -- about a 10:30/mile.  The funny (or embarassing, depending on how competitive I'm feeling at the time) thing about that pace is I ended up running with 2 distinct groups of people. About 1/2 were people like me: plugging along slow and steady, not in peak running condition but not huffing and puffing. The other 1/2 were men and women who were like I USED to be: I'd be going along and out of no where some random person would sprint past me from behind. Then about a minute later, I'd pass them as they are walking off to the side. A few minutes later... same person would sprint past again! A minute later, walking on the side. There were actually quite a few people working this "tactic". I tried to give the benefit of the doubt -- maybe these people are doing Couch to 5K and they are only on week 2 or something? Eric says, "No, those are people who don't know how to run." He finished 44th overall, so I believe him. (I finished 111th out of 285 women overall, 45th out of 102 in my age group -- not that bad for my first time! AND, I finished before the winner of the 10K, so that's a little encouraging, I think.)
So, I made it through the whole race without walking or throwing up. I was cold for the rest of the day. But, I woke up the next morning with only minimal soreness. Looking for a race in May or early June now. Thinking about trying to head down to Bend the first weekend in June for the Heaven Can Wait 5K that supports breast cancer research.  Get my run on in Drake Park!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mornings with my girl

I really enjoy mornings with my big girl, L.  She will be four years old in a few months. L is a strange combination of "morning person" and "slow to wake up".  She is regularly awake by 6:30am and would come bounding out of her room, if not for her "light up clock".  But then once she is up, she's usually very mellow and snuggly. She doesn't like to eat much in the morning, takes forever to get dressed, and lays around on the floor near her mommy or daddy.

Because Little Man sleeps in (at least compared to L), we have a little bit of time each morning where it is just Mommy and Big Girl.  We have a nice routine going. It is one of my favorite parts of the day - also, coincidentally one of the quieter and more calm parts of the day.

Usually by the time her light up clock releases her into the world at 7am, I am getting dressed in the bedroom.  L likes to climb into the big bed and get under the covers, or sometimes just follow me around the room.  Typically there is some kind of "embarassing if it were out in the real world" comment about the color of my underwear, whether my pants fit, etc.  Then once I am dressed, I say, "How do I look?"  Before she can answer, it is very important that I stand back across the room from her so she can look me up and down. 

This morning I dressed for our softball practice this afternoon. I said, "How do I look? Do I look like a coach?" Her answer: "You look like...a coach. And... very fancy. And... Beautiful."

Then it's her turn to get dressed.  It doesn't matter how tired she has been up to this point, she always gets very worked up when it comes to getting dressed, especially if it's a school day! I sit on the bed and watch her spin around the room like a whirling dervish as I repeat over and over again, "Take off your jammies, please. Take off your jammies, please. Take off your jammies, please." Most days she chooses her own clothes. Her fashion sense is uniquely toddler. She has very firm ideas about what matches and what clothes need to be paired together, and apparently I didn't get the memo about the guidelines in this area. Today I tried to pick her outfit and was scolded for "not matching", and then she proceeded to choose the socks that were least likely to fall into the matching category.

Perhaps she doesn't know what "matching" is? In any case, she likes it. Outfit is almost always completed with "lighting shoes".

As she gets dressed, L shares with me whatever thoughts run through her head.  It is during this time of the day that she seems like a little girl and I inevitably start thinking about the years to come and talks in the bedroom and the period of time where I won't even be allowed in to her bedroom, much less expect her to talk to me about her thoughts. Aaah... Today she told me about a dream she had - there was a kitty and I was there ("Were you really there?") and then she "thought about" her teacher.  We talked about her best friend and the book her YaYa got her at the school book sale.  We talked about the bruise on her face from where she fell off the bleachers at school last night.   We talked about going to Bible study this morning and playing with her friends there. 

Today when she stood back for her "how do I look" moment, she said, "Tell me the same thing I told you." So I told her she looked like a coach, and very fancy, and beautiful. She was happy to hear it.

And, the final step of the morning, going downstairs to get her "blend" out of the refrigerator. Her daddy leaves her a small cup with his leftover smoothie each morning, and it is a highlight of her day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

5K Playlist

If my husband can run in an Elvis costume, I can run with my IPod!

I've been running to a Couch to 5K podcast and the music seems to help me a lot. So last night I endeavored to create a playlist for my first 5K, which is on Saturday. I probably made it more complicated than I needed to. I tried to keep the beat of the songs relatively similar, which led to the dismissal of some songs that I really like. But I have found the songs that meet my criteria: songs I enjoy, appropriate beat, and songs that I think will distract me, if necessary. I'm sure that more than one person will hear me singing outloud while I'm racing Saturday. Hopefully I won't bother anyone!

I aimed for about 35 minutes of running songs, since my goal is to finish in 35 or less. Then the last song is my cool down song.  It always reminds me to breathe, think about my accomplishments and thank God for what He's provided for me.

Without further ado, my 5K playlist...

"Shut Up & Let Me Go" - The Ting Tings

"Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson

"Ready to Go" - Republica

"Tambourine" - Eve (I could only find a sample of the explicit version, but I have the clean version on my playlist)

"Local God" - Everclear

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - Beyonce

"Grace Kelly" - Mika

"Dead Man (Carry Me)" - Jars of Clay

"Hit Me With Your Best Shot" - Pat Benetar

"Live Like We're Dying" - Kris Allen

Cool Down (hopefully!): "Born Again" - Third Day

What do you think?

Monday, March 8, 2010


Running, running and running...

This week is my official first week of spring. Newness abounds!

We've been blessed with about a week and a half of beautiful spring weather - high 50's, low 60's and SUNNY! Aaahh... I've been working in our backyard, prepping the ground for the building of the new, gigantic play structure. Planning out some landscaping changes (waiting on Eric's mom for help!).  Last week I was thinking, "I really need to start thinking about how to make a raised bed vegetable planter" and what do you know? The next day in the paper there was an article about how to make a raised bed vegetable planter! One of the many things on my plate.

Saturday is my first real 5K.  "Real" meaning my first 5K that I actually plan to run in it's entirity. I have to admit that 8 weeks ago or so when I started training to do this, I didn't really think I could. And now I am 5 days away from greatness! In 2 weeks I've gone from running 1.7 miles outside with a pretty strong side cramp at the end to running just short of 3 miles with no side cramp at all! I have confidence. And I love the sense of disbelief that I have had every single time when I have checked my mileage (either with my car or on this site my friend Hailey told me about: Map My Run). I check mileage AFTER I have run and every time I make myself double check for accuracy because it doesn't seem possible that I actually ran that far! And, more importantly, I ran that far without passing out, puking, major side or knee pain. I am actually enjoying this! Hooray! I've been keeping track of my runs at Log Your Run because I'm a "keeping track" kind of person.

Also today... first day of softball practice! Yep, I've committed myself to 8 weeks of after school practices and games.  Thankfully a school mom is going to help me with the kids so that is a big stress taken care of (thank you, Pam!) - not having to worry about teaching middle school girls to pitch AND make sure my kids aren't running around in the street or throwing themselves off the school playground.

Getting ready for these first practices, looking through equipment, etc. has remined me of "the good old days" of playing softball, of pretty much living softball.  The song above was one of the songs I used to listen to pre-game in college before pitching warmups.  It still keys me up to this day. Sad. I guess I've become "mom who relives the glory days by coaching". The strangest thing about reminiscing about old softball stories, victories and defeats, friendships and all the rest is that I didn't meet my husband until after I graduated from college and finished playing softball.  He has never seen "Softball Amanda", though I'm sure at this point the hardcore, competitive softball fiend version of myself wouldn't surprise him.  I am hoping that this will be the first step in developing some competitive, softball loving, hardcore middle school girls! (Maybe not quite as competitive or hardcore as I was at this age. I might get fired if they do some of the things I did!)

This will be an interesting experience for me, to be sure.  The girls are in middle school, but many have never played organized softball before. Lots of chances to teach fundamentals.  Lots of chances to use the word "hustle". I was thinking it might be fun to pick a practice at random and say "hustle" as many times as I can and see if anyone says anything. You know, keep things exciting for myself!

I went past the field around lunchtime and found that it has been torn apart by the grounds crew. Practice plan, scrapped. I won't know until I get there in an hour or so what, if any, of the field will be in usable condition. Welcome to the first practice, ladies! Here's a big mound of dirt!

A couple of pictures from my college softball days.  I have tons more, but don't know how to work our scanner!

That's me, batting!

Post game, me and my catcher, Lori. We're showing off matching knee bruises. Hard to see here, but I've actually got stitching marks from the ball on my right knee.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The First Date

8 years ago today, Eric and I went on our first date. The date is easy enough to remember - today is also Eric's sister's birthday. Happy birthday, Lindsey!

Eric and I were in a Master's cohort together and also teaching in neighboring classrooms at a tiny private elementary school on the south side of Chicago.  We were probably spending 95% of our awake time together (or at least in the same place in the case of teaching at school).  Though we had an instant "connection" and became close friends quickly, we did not go on our first date until about 10 months after we first met. 

There were a few akward hiccups on the road to that date but we were having a nice time as we headed up towards where I grew up to go ice skating and spend the day around my hometown.  As I recall, we had a pretty good time ice skating. Neither of us were very good, but there was plenty of skating going on. At least we weren't skating holding on to the half-wall or anything.

As the skating session was coming to an end, we were getting ready to finish up and I decided we should take one more trip around the ice. There it was - the crucial decision made.  About 3/4 of the way through that last loop, I hit a chunk in the ice and fell forward. My left skate caught on the right pant leg of my jeans. I fell with my legs in a "4" shape, straight on my left knee.

My immediate reaction was actually, "Could anyone be more embarassing than me?", as the skating rink guy came skating over to see if I was ok.  The next thought... pain.

Eric and Skating Rink Guy helped me skate over to the side on one foot.  My knee hurt, but weirder was that the skate on my left foot suddenly seemed to weigh about 500lbs. It was so heavy I couldn't lift it and it felt like it was weighing down my entire leg. 

I was given an ice pack and a brief evaluation by Skating Rink Guy, who announced that it was a bad bruise and went on his way.  I couldn't put on my shoe without crying out in pain. Attempting to walk was ridiculous. Eric went to get his car.

Then the party really got started --- while we were inside skating it had begun to snow... hard. A thick, blizzardy, "sane people aren't going out on the roads" snow.

When I could barely bend my knee to get into Eric's little Toyota, we decided that I needed to see a doctor. Off to the emergency room we went.  I wasn't in tears but was in the most pain I had ever felt at that point.  Initially, it seemed the doctors agreed with Skating Rink Guy's conclusion -- bad bruise. But they decided to send me to get x-rays just to confirm.  They asked me to rate my pain on a 1-10 scale. I think I said "6 or maybe 7", which apparently is the border between a high dose of Ibuprofen and "the good stuff". Insert suspicious glances from nurses looking for drug seekers here.

The hospital staff was very nice and let Eric come back with me to the exam room.  We both giggled a little that people seemed to think we were more "together" than we actually were. "Maybe they know something we don't... hee hee hee..."

I was unable to get my leg into all the positions for the x-rays they wanted. In particular, laying on my back with my knee bent so my foot was flat on the table was a problem. After an attempt at forcing it, the merciful technician said, "We'll let them take a look at what they have and if it isn't enough we will try again." Thank goodness. I waited the couple of minutes for someone to come get me with the wheelchair.

When I wheeled into the exam room, Eric was a little pale. "So, it's broken, huh?" he said. "WHAT?" Apparently the nurse got to the room before me and had already shared my diagnosis with him -- broken patella. So now we know, it is possible to break your kneecap from something other than a mafia hit (though I did tell a few people that is what happened).

My first broken bone other than a toe. My patella broke into a peace sign.  The doctor praised my overall conditioning/strength. Apparently falls like mine typically result in torn tendons and ligaments around the knee, but my ligaments and muscles were strong enough that they held and as a result the stress went straight to my kneecap. To this day I don't know if that was actually a good thing. Did I get the better end of the bargain?

With a prescription for Vicodin, Eric shuttled me and a giant leg brace around town trying to find a pharmacy that was open late on a Saturday in a blizzard. Eventually we found one.  We headed over to my mom's house and found that she was not home and wouldn't be until very late.

Eric made me a Digornio pizza and we watched "True Lies", classic Arnold - my first time seeing the movie.  I sat in a drugged up stupor while Eric rubbed my feet, held my hand and felt uncomfortable about being alone in a house with me while I was in a vulnerable state. 

He was an excellent nurse and very honorable, for the record.

Eight years later, we have plenty of stories of botched dates, botched anniversaries, overlooked special occasions. By far, this is our most extraordinary milestone story. How many people spend their first date in the emergency room in a blizzard?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sister shares the Good News

This morning the kids were playing "Happy Birthday", one of their favorite games.  They wrap random items in towels or napkins and give them to each other as birthday presents, sing the birthday song, open the present and cheer.

Today, my "almost 4" year old gave her little brother a present and this time she also gave him a card. What she said was so cute that I had to write it down:

"B, God wrote you this card.  It says, 'Do not worry. When you pray I am with you. I am with you all the time... even when you are outside.'"

Very wise!