Friday, July 24, 2015

I'm Back! (Part 1)

When I last posted, I did not intend to take a two month break from blogging.  Pregnancy had other plans.  If you follow my blog on Facebook, you read when I announced my sixth pregnancy at the beginning of July.  By then, I was starting to move out of my early pregnancy least a little.

We found out about this pregnancy at the end of May and less than two weeks later, the morning sickness moved in.  I've suffered from pretty nasty morning sickness with each of pregnancies.  When I was pregnant with Gavin almost 13 years ago, I was still throwing up about three weeks before he was born!  This time was milder and only lasted at its worst for a month.  Without delving too far into TMI territory, I dealt with nausea more than vomiting. It was still miserable. I watched far too much TV. I didn't clean nearly as often as I should and each week felt as though it  lasted for at least 2.

June was a rough month.  I tried to keep up with summer activities for the kids' benefit, but it was a struggle.  Mornings were my best time so I did as much as could and went as many places as possible before lunch. By afternoon, I was nauseous and by evening, I sat on the couch, not moving or talking.  I took only a handful of pictures the whole month and most of those were on Father's Day.  No one complained, though, and the kids made the best of it, pitching in daily to wash dishes, do the laundry, and put the youngest kids to bed.  

I saw my midwife for the first time in July. The baby was measuring a little larger than expected so I either have a big baby or my due date is a few days earlier than I calculated.  Either way, I'm due the third or fourth week of January.

I've been asked if this pregnancy has felt different, being older.  When Alaine was born, I was 2 weeks past turning 30.  I'll be 35 when this baby is born.  Overall, I feel healthier.  I have a regular exercise routine and I eat better.  (Not appetite is crazy...but my choices are better.)  I am experiencing more fatigue.  It's possible that it's a result of my age, but I think it's simply the way my first trimester is choosing to present itself.  I am barely into the second trimester, but I typically don't reap the benefits of the "easier" trimester until closer to 15-16 weeks.

I'll try not to stay away so long this time.  I plan to write soon about my experience with running while pregnant, what we did in the month of July after I started feeling better, and our plans for starting school in August.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Club

{Like most of my posts that discuss books, this one contains affiliate links.}

One of the highlights of Maddie's school year was the book club she joined mid-year.  Not only did it help satisfy her strong need to be with people but was it good practice for her to read on a deadline and be prepared to discuss it and answer questions.

The theme of this year was decades.  Every month, the girls were free to choose their own books as long as they fit in with the month's assigned decade. 

Maddie is a devoted animal loved and so she gravitated toward animal books, almost by accident: 

1910s The Night Flyersby Elizabeth McDavid Jones
1920s The Boxcar Childrenby Gertrude Chandler Warner
1930s Danger at the Zoo: A Kit Mysteryby Kathleen Ernst
1940s Cat Storiesby James Herriot

The final meeting was last week and the girls (and moms) had a big 1950s diner-themed end-of-year celebration. We ate burgers and fries, fresh fruit, and salad with all-American ranch dressing.  The girls had a bubble gum blowing contest and a hula hoop contest, and then we had make-your-own ice cream sundaes as we transitioned into the book discussion. 

Maddie's choice for this month was Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, the original book which inspired the Disney movie.

Have you ever been part of a book club?
I've always thought I might like to join a book club myself, but I'm much more introverted than Maddie!  For now, I'm content with the Sisters Book Challenge.

Do your kids participate in any fun school-related activities?

Do your kids like animal books?Here is a list of chapter books about animals we've loved through the years.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How We Fill Our Summer Days

We officially wrapped up our school year in mid-May.  May 15 marked the end of detailed record keeping, math lessons, and a schedule to consult and check off each day.  We crave the summer break.  I know people who love their year-round school schedule, but I use the time off to regroup, evaluate what went right and wrong in the previous year, and  order curriculum for the next year. 

And, truthfully, we would miss the daily hours that are free for spontaneous outings, extra sleep, all-day Lego building, and binge-reading. Sure, there are off-days when someone complains of being bored, but it's not a problem on the whole. Last June I wrote about how we manage all the many hours of "free time" in the summer.   Aside from a few tweaks, it's similar this year.

Summer is never a time to stop learning.  It's simply a new pace and style of learning. 

Two summers ago, we focused on life and home skills.  It's been life-changing (yes, literally) to have a house full of people that know how to do laundry, use the vacuum, and clean the bathroom.

After Owen began blossoming in the kitchen, we focused last summer on  menu planning and a wide range of other kitchen skills.  The added bonus is that feeling his way around the kitchen has helped him widen his culinary tastes. He went from a very cautious sensory eater to a slightly more adventurous sampler.

Several years ago, we started completing our health credit in the summer. I got tired of getting to the end of the year and scrambling to find something that counted for health.  Much of what is considered health is normal life learning.  It helped to be intentional about it and, more specifically, documenting it.

This year we are using a resource that a fellow homeschool mom shared with me: the Kids' Health in the Classroom website by The Nemours Foundation.  They offer many health-related units, based on approximate grade ranges.  We're going to try bike safety, fire safety, and an exercise on reading food labels.  I love that each unit offers a 1-page worksheet/quiz at the end.  While we rarely focus on test scores in our homeschool, the worksheet gives me a way to document a not-easily-documented school subject.

Last summer we also did a few mini-units on topics of the kids' choosing.  So far we have no plans to do this, but we've chosen a book series to read through instead.  We recently discovered the 26 Fairmount Avenue series {affiliate link), an autobiographical set written by children's author Tomie DePaola about his own childhood in the 1930s and '40s.  Each book is short and conversational.  We're already onto the second book! 

Do you have any summer learning plans?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Running a Half-Marathon: Goals, Burn-out, and the Food

It's been almost three weeks since I ran my second half marathon, but it seems much longer ago.  I got back from a 4-mile run earlier this week, with sweat literally dripping off of my elbows.  Yes, I'm feeling very distanced from that 39-degree breezy morning several weeks ago.

Honestly what I'm loving now is heading out for a morning run with no self-created pressure to run faster, harder, or longer.  That was my reality from January through April.  Based on my fall 5K and 10K finishing times, several online running calculators projected that I could  accomplish a sub-2:00 half marathon.

I worked hard toward that goal, but mid-way through the training, I realized I didn't have it in me.  Maybe I was capable, but I was feeling burned out.  I was pushing my body on every single run, and while I did get stronger and faster, I also got weary.  I started dreading most of my training runs, knowing how long each run would feel because of how hard I had to work.

When I finally faced the reality that I was not going to get anywhere near my goal of a sub-2:00 race, I started considering new goals. 
  • My primary goal was to finish, but after completing a half marathon last year, plus running 2 12-mile training runs and a 15-mile training run this year, I knew that was more than possible. 
  • I also wanted to beat last year's time, even if only by a little.
  • I wanted to keep a consistent pace, not starting out too quickly and not sputtering out at the end.
  • I wanted to fuel myself properly along the way so I didn't hit the wall at mile 11 (like last year). 
  • I wanted to finish the race feeling strong and not stumble over the finish line ( also like last year).

Still smiling...with a little over a mile to go!

Obviously, I did finish the race.  The course was slightly re-routed this year so I was able to pass Brian right before mile 12 and then again as I rounded the corner the finish. I can't describe how motivating it was to see a familiar face after running for 2 hours!  My official time was 2 hours, 9 minutes, 14 seconds. 

My official pace was 9:56/mile, BUT because my GPS watch recorded the race course as 13.25 miles (as opposed to a precise 13.1), my actual pace was 9:46/mile!  I was pleased to see that I finished in the top 50% overall, the top 35% of all females, and the top 30% for my age group.

I only beat last year's time by about 1 minute, but I felt infinitely better this year at the finish line.  I attribute that to the careful attention I paid to my other goals. It's so tempting to start out quickly, when the adrenaline is pumping and as other runners soar by.  I kept my pace under control, though.  My slowest mile of the entire race was the first mile, but it set the precedent for the rest of the day. 

Another reason I felt so crummy at the end of last year's race was that I ran out of fuel around mile 11.  I prefer to use whole foods instead of artificial sports gels so I practiced nutrition on the long runs leading up to race day.  I discovered what did not work (peanut butter!) and I found that the best formula for me is a dinner high in carbs and protein the night before and a breakfast also containing carbs and protein at least an hour pre-race.  Once the race has started, I eat a large date about every 3 miles and eat half a banana at the mid-way point.  Though I felt more-than-ready to be done as I neared the finish, I never reached a point when I was dragging or where I struggled to lift my feet.  I even had a smile as I crossed the finish!

turning the last corner to the finish line

One thing I miss about half-marathon training is the food.  I had to be careful to eat more than I thought necessary to maintain a proper weight.  (Don't hate me!)  I was burning so many calories during the week that every bite I put in my mouth tasted amazing.  Now that I've scaled back my running, food simply doesn't taste as good. 

At the race party, pizza was provided to all runners.  Brian snapped this photo of the stacks of pizza boxes, and as we were left the party, more were being trucked in. 

Something I learned from last year is proper post-race fueling.  I spent too long last year trying to get caught up on calories and feeling weak and out-of-sorts.  This year, I went with my cravings.  After long runs what I want most are milk products so I indulged in a peanut butter fudge milk shake.  Peanut butter equals carbs and milk equals protein so it's a win-win!

My muscles were sore for about 24 hours and Brian mentioned that I was probably going to be limping into church the next morning, but a good night's sleep cleaned the toxins out of my muscles and only a little discomfort lingered.

I've already decided not to run a half marathon next year-- at least not in the spring.  It's tempting, especially considering how good I felt at the finish line, but training over the winter was hard and time-consuming.  Shorter distances seem so much more manageable for me.   I can forget the fatigue and get into a better groove when I run 5 or 10K than I ever get in a half marathon. 

Three of my kids have asked to run a 5K in the fall so that might be in our future...

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Coal Miner's Bride (and book-to-movie adaptations you might want to check out)

{Like most of my posts about books, this one contains Amazon affiliate links.}

I've mentioned that my to-read  list is out of control.  I'm making a conscious effort to only add must-reads, but my list still holds enough books to last me through early next year, without adding another one.  Despite this, Kati and I decided to tackle our Sisters Book Challenge for the third year.

I read my third selection from the list in April.  It was perfect timing.  I was in my last super-intense week of half-marathon training.  I ran more miles that week than I have ever run in a 7-day period.  My body was tired.  My mind was tired. 

But if you know me, you know I'm never without a book.  Even in my weary state, I needed something to read in my down time so I picked up A Coal Miner's Bride: the Diary of Anetka Kaminska.  Considered juvenile literature, it was just easy enough to not tax my tired brain but still well-written with a touch of suspense.   (Plus, a good book is not bound by age-restraints.)  I also liked that since it was written in diary form, I could read for as little or as long as I wanted...or until I needed a nap.

A Coal Miner's Bride: the Diary of Anetka Kaminska
follows the story of a young teen who immigrates to Pennsylvania to marry at man she has never met.  She needs passage to the United States and he needs someone to care for his house while he works. Due to some mild subject matter, I would not recommend the book to young elementary-age children, but older children should find this glimpse of American history fascinating.

the list Kati gave me this year


the list I gave Kati

It's worth noting that  Kati and I each recommended a book that is, or will be, adapted for the screen this year.

Kati recommended Unbroken which I read a few months ago. Brian and I plan to watch the DVD for "movie night/date night" tomorrow evening.

I recommended  The Light Between Oceans, a story set post-World War I in Australia.  The movie comes to theaters later this year.

For more book-to-movie discussion, check out my  Based on the Book blog series.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More on Celebrating

On Saturday I shared a few thoughts on celebration.  I said I had heard something on a podcast that resonated with me:

If something is worth our time, our effort, and even our stress, when that thing is over, we should honor it with a celebration. If a task or project is worth our devotion, it is important enough to celebrate when it's complete. 

I also talked about something we celebrated at our house last weekend. It was a big thing and needed to be acknowledged.  However, it's not only the big things that should earn our recognition.  Often it's the smaller milestones in life that need to be celebrated. 

  • Each of my kids ate a piece of chocolate when they hit the 100th lessons in their individual math books. 
  • Our family has movie night almost every Saturday night, signifying another week has passed.
  • We eat a special dinner on the first day of each school year. 
  • When Brian works long hours, the kids and I take out the trash before he gets home and pack his lunch for the next day so he can savor his hours at home. 
  • After preparing multiple food items for a party, we'll eat sandwiches for dinner (instead of more cooking). 
  • When Maddie and Owen learned to read, they were given small gifts.  We did something similar when each child was successfully potty trained.

Notice the celebrations are rarely elaborate.  They cost minimal money and come with little fuss, but they are meaningful and most of all, they mark the completion of something that was important enough for our devotion.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What is Worth Celebrating?

I heard something on a podcast a few weeks ago that resonated with me.  The speaker said that if something is worth our time, our effort, and even our stress, when that thing is over, we should honor it with a celebration. He said that if a task or project is worth our devotion, it is important enough to celebrate when it's complete.

Our winter and spring Saturday mornings have been devoted to running.  Brian trained for a 5K and I trained for a half-marathon. For me that meant getting up early and spending up to 2.5 hours running the roads near our house.  It meant on-the-go breakfasts for all of us and a weary mom on Saturday afternoon.  For Brian it meant working a hard physical job five days a week and then running hard on the weekend.

Two weeks ago, we all got up early and cheered Brian through his 5K.  He met his time goal by a few seconds and came away determined to do even better next time (though he says next time will be after the busy season at work!). 

That's Brian, running by in a blur

Last weekend, it was my turn.  We had a 4 am wake-up call to drive to the race so the kids sat this one out. I beat last year's time by 1 minute but I improved on so many more things.  (I plan to share a full race report soon.)

That's me, number 1879

Today marked our first Saturday since early January not centered around running.  No one had to get up early.  No one had to grab a banana on the way out the door.  And no one had a 12-mile training run looming.

We chose to celebrate by cooking a pancake breakfast and lingering long at our dining room table. 

We chose to spend many hours running throughout the spring.  We chose to make these races our goals and give up extra rest and comfort on Saturday mornings. We do not regret the effort. 
But...the ending was momentous, too. 

After devoting these many hours into our endeavors, it was important to us to mark their completion with a celebration.

What have you finished lately (big or small) that is worth celebrating?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Parenting the Older Child

{I want to preface this post by answering the question everyone is asking.  Or maybe you're not. Though  our youngest child is creeping up on 5-years-old, Brian and I do not claim that our family is "done" or "complete." We are living in a season of contentment and trust, with the assurance that God has full control of the future of our family.  While it doesn't seem that it is His plan to bring us more children right now, we don't know our tomorrow.  This post is written from the path I am living now-- a house devoid of babies and toddlers.}

I was talking with a friend a few months ago and she asked me I find that mothering gets harder as my kids get older.  She was wondering if the trials of toddler-hood seem inconsequential when the elementary and early teen years hit. I can say with confidence that watching my children grow into the people God wants them to be is an immense pleasure, worth every minute of  uncertainty or worry on my part. I'm sure every mother has a varying idea of what makes mothering difficult, but for me, being the mom of older children is not harder.  It is simply (or not-so-simply) different. 

I no longer have a nursing baby that travels everywhere I go and no one clings to my leg as I walk out the door.  I don't cook dinner with a baby on my hip or with someone whining in a high chair.  I don't keep a stroller in the back of my van, buy diapers at the grocery store, or carry extra clothes in my purse.  I don't sleep with one ear open to a little one's stirrings and I get seven hours of sleep almost every night. It's been years since a child has colored with crayon on the walls. Major spills don't happen daily and if someone does spill a whole cup of milk, they usually clean it up themselves.  I know longer have to buckle any seat-belts besides my own.

I'm learning, though, that the mom of older children needs to employ an entirely new set of skills.

I'm learning to keep my mouth shut when my kids pick out their clothing in the morning. I'm teaching hygiene and reminding them (over and over and over) why it is important to take a shower and brush their teeth. I'm having to speak on the touchy subject of deodorant. I'm talking about why we eat healthy foods even if we don't like them.  

Mothering older children takes me beyond meeting physical needs, too. I am creating a place of safety-- not just physical safety, but a place to voice concerns and feel secure.  I listen without interrupting. I show interest in endless Lego talk, try not zone out when she's telling a story about what she saw when she took the dog for a walk, and  laugh at corny jokes. 

I guide them in how to work out disagreements, remind them not to tattle, and demonstrate kind speech.  This is an area wit which we struggle daily.  Some days the arguing escalates until I want to pull my hair out!

I model hospitality, inviting people into our home and letting the kids clean, cook, and prepare alongside me. When taking meals to those in need, I loosen the grip on my controlling tendencies and let them help decide what to bring.  We shop, cook, and deliver as a team.

I'm teaching stewardship-- with their money and the things that we own.  I have to guide them in money management while letting them be free to make their own decisions.

I spend more time in the van, driving them to various activities.  Our grocery bill is higher because bigger people equals bigger appetites. The laundry is out of control. The bathroom rarely stays clean for more than a day.

I'm a firm believer that all the effort of the baby and toddler years will pay dividends-- that speaking soothing words to a cranky baby, loosing sleep with a child who wakes multiple times at night, handling tantrums, feeding picky eaters, and all the many, many frustrating tasks we perform as moms, will lay a firm foundation for the elementary and teen years.

So, yes, mothering older children is different, more complicated perhaps, but one of the most joyful undertakings we can imagine.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.   James 1:12

Monday, April 27, 2015

Like Mother, Like Son

Growing up, I remember going on family vacations and always, always bringing along a book.  It wasn't just that I brought it with me in the car (and in the hotel room and to various sites...), but I almost always had my book open.  It was a small source of frustration for my dad who would say something along the lines of, "We're at James Buchanan's birthplace..." or "We're on Skyline Drive...and all Kristin is doing is reading her book!"

This weekend, the kids and I were spectators while Brian ran a 5K race.  (More on that in another post.)

While some of us watched, cheered, enjoyed the race atmosphere, and tried to stay warm in the early-morning chill...Gavin read a book.
Waiting at the 2-mile mark to catch a glimpse of Brian...

...and later at the finish line.

Like mother, like son.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekend Links...and What I'm Reading

Yes, to this:
"I could have chosen to be less tired. I could. I could have chosen to have more free time or a firmer tummy. I could be living a whole different life right now... But it would have been what I chose.  I can make really bad choices. Instead, I have what God chose for me."

And this, too:
"We long to do greater things than making another dinner. But out of obedience, we serve. We are here. We are present."

On a wholly unrelated note, this is a great source of children's literature from each decade of the 20th century.

And here's a peek at what I'm reading this weekend, by myself and with the kids:

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