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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...