2019 Summer Week 2

Day 8 Soggy Starbucks Run

This morning Jay was photographing a race, so I had a short window of time to get my not-very-long long run in before I needed to be home with the kids.  It was slow, soggy, and almost cold, but I never regret a run once I’m out there.  The best part was running into Jay with about one mile to go.  My new watch has a tracking feature that allows certain people to access where I am along my route.  (No, this does not feel creepy stalker-ish when my husband’s the one doing the tracking.)  He surprised me along my course, and we chatted for a few minutes before I had to keep moving to get warm.  I like that guy.

Day 9 Put a Bucket on Your Head

At some point this weekend Bubba turned an old popcorn bucket into a helmet.  I guess if you have to unload the dishwasher, doing it with a bucket on your head is the way to go.  I just tried not to think about what nastiness was getting in his hair.

Also today, there are no pics to prove it, but I met Emily and Alissa for Starbucks and race stories.  My friend is strong, brave, and able to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours, and now she has the belt buckle to prove it.

 

Day 10 Camping Prep

This coming Friday we leave for our annual family camping trip.  The kids have been busy prepping by spending many hours in their hammocks.  Jay has installed hooks both outside and inside, and they’ve alternated back and forth with the rain.  Here’s a picture he sent me of Chica asleep for the night right beside his desk in the basement.

 

Day 11 Professional Development

Today I led two different math PD sessions for LCS teachers.  The first was a repeat of a training that I led in the spring.  I tweaked a few things and planned for it to be twice as long, and I think this one went beautifully.  I led a second one in the afternoon that was longer and had many more teachers in attendance.  This was a training that I planned during one of my Master’s classes, so I was excited to have a chance to try it out.  Facilitating something like this with people that don’t know each other is always tricky, especially if participants are a bit hesitant to share.  I was pleased with how things went overall, but I definitely know elements I will change if I get a chance to lead it again.

Day 12 Picnic

Today we enjoyed the annual University of Lynchburg faculty and staff picnic.  I think this was at least our third year attending as a family.  Chica spent the whole time cuddling kittens that one of the librarians is fostering, Bubba got me soaked in the water balloon toss, and Jay stalled in the shade as long as he possibly could before returning to his office for a meeting.  I’m so thankful that U of L has been such a great fit for him and our family.

Day 13 More Camping Prep

To me the worst part of camping is not the bugs, lack of air conditioning, or sleeping on the group.  It’s the packing.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get my butt in gear and get ready until the last minute this time.  We altered our usual final night dinner from hot dogs to hamburgers, so this is the picture I sent Jay from Walmart to make sure I was getting something he’d approve of.  In case you’re wondering, these were great.

 

 

Day 14 Finally On Our Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the picture I sent Jay around 11am, just one hour after I was originally hoping to leave for Twin Lakes State Park.  I was so proud of myself for getting everything in the van and all of the bikes on the rack without a great struggle, so I sent a text to brag.  He was appropriately impressed.

The past few years we’ve gone to James River State Park, but we decided to try a new spot this year.  We were so excited to find that friends of ours are the camp hosts at Twin Lakes this summer.  They have kids almost the exact same ages as Chica and Bubba, so the four of them spent countless hours together riding bikes, exploring, going to the ranger programs, and swimming.  I don’t have a ton of pics, though, because I purposely let my phone die and put it away for most of the weekend.

Day 15 Kayaking

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the morning lounging, reading, and watching the kids ride bikes.  In the afternoon I took them to the lake to try kayaking.  Much like last year’s tubing debacle, Bubba hated it.  That child literally pouted and scowled for 35 minutes straight.  Turns out he was scared of jellyfish, but his fear gets translated straight into anger for whatever reason.  I tried all the mom tricks I knew and finally declared, “I am NOT going to let you ruin my hour of kayaking too.  I am choosing joy!”  (Fake it til ya make it, anyone?)  Well, some switch happened, he suddenly decided he was fine, and he paddled out to the center of the lake to meet up with Chica.  With our 20ish minutes left, we explored the entire left side of the lake, and that stone-cold kid even cracked a smile or two.

As I was finishing up washing dishes after dinner, the kids told me they were going to go on a bike ride with their friends.  I said okay, then asked if they would mind waiting for me to join them.  Well, IT happened.  I got a heavy sigh, bit of an eye roll, and a totally unconvincing “okay” from Chica.  My brain jumped from hurt to understanding to back to hurt, I told them to go on without me, and I trudged back to the campsite to pout to Jay.  That wise guy encouraged me to suck it up and go on my own bike ride…a perfect solution to get my mind off the idea that my kids are entering a new stage of independence that I’m not sure I like.  I rode three hard miles on the Beaver Trail and forgot all about her heavy sigh.  I was mostly just thinking about how I should have brought water, and hoping I’d make it back before dark.

Oh…and one more story I don’t want to forget.  Jay decided to sleep in the hammock tonight.  The kids were already in the tent, I was trying to finish up the last few pages of a book, and he was turning in early.  All of a sudden I hear the distinct sound of a tree falling from his direction.  Then silence.  Nothing.  I instantly knew what had happened, and the moments of complete stillness were so frightening.  Yep, you guessed it…the part of the tree where he had attached the strap of his hammock completely snapped off.  He came down with it, and he was laying flat on his back tangled in the hammock when I finally got over to him.  He had managed to roll out of the way while the huge branch was coming down, and he was laughing by the time I got to him.  Someone from a nearby site called out to see if we were okay, but by that point all we could do was laugh…and laugh, and laugh.  I finally helped him up, he tied the straps around a thicker part of the same tree, and got back in the hammock.  He made it through the whole night without breaking anymore trees. 🙂

Day 16 High Bridge & Legos

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our camp host friend, Becky, is training for an upcoming half marathon, so she needed to run 10 miles today.  I was so excited to join her on the High Bridge Trail, another nearby state park.  We hit the bridge at the most beautiful moment of the sunrise.

 

 

 

 

 

For Father’s Day we gave Jay a 3 in 1 Lego set, and he had completed all three by the end of the day like I knew he would.  The kids and I decided on another spin out on the lake, and this time Chica and I tried their stand-up paddle boards.

Day 17 Home and Back and Home Again

 

 

 

 

 

I had an interview back home this morning, so we got up early to have breakfast and start packing up our campsite.  Our breakfast choices were limited because SQUIRRELS!  Saturday one of the kids left the food tote open, and while we left the site for a few minutes, a squirrel got in a helped himself to some of our bagels.  Well get this…on Sunday the plastic tote was completely shut, but they still found a way in while we were out.  Those suckers chewed through the tough plastic top and got to the rest of our sliced bread and more bagels.  Lesson learned:  Food. Stays. In. Van.

Anyways, I traveled back home in the morning, showered so I wouldn’t reek of campfire and sunscreen, completed the interview, then headed back to the campground for a few more hours on the beach with my kids.  And guess what crazy thing happened while I was at the bathhouse trying to help everybody cleaned up before heading home again?!? I received the call that I GOT THE JOB!  I’m so excited to share that I’m staying at my same school, but I’ll be moving into the role of Instructional Coach.  Basically that means that I will do whatever I can to help teachers teach better.  What a great end to a great vacation…probably the best our family of four has ever had.  We celebrated the new job with dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and many excited texts with friends and family.  Woohoo!

 

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2019 Summer Week 1

I wrote a whopping two blog posts this past school year.  One was a social story about dropping cinnamon buns on the porch, and the other was a list of all the things I want to do after finishing my grad courses.  Good news….I’ve already accomplished seven of the 23 things on The List, and I’ve started working on four more.  And since one of the 23 things is “blog regularly again”, here I am with a return of the photo-a-day summer posts.

Day 1 Smoothie

I chose this picture because it represents victory.  We have finally found something that Bubba will willingly eat every day for breakfast: a berry & banana smoothie.  For so long there was great gnashing of teeth whenever he was asked to find something to eat in the morning.  Cereal? No. Toast? No. Eggs? No.  PBJ? No. Anything?  Noooonoonooonononono.

Because I grew up an Earley, I don’t believe in skipping breakfast for any reason other than a blood test.  So Bubba’s breakfast refusal has always been particularly bothersome for me.  Enter the smoothie and some cool new flexible, reusable straws that Jay bought, and we can now usually avoid any fighting until at least 8:00 a.m.  Here’s the recipe in case you want to try it.  It makes one great-big-ol’ smoothie for me and a reasonable one for the Bub.

1/2 a frozen banana
2 cups of frozen berries (right now we’re using this mix from Kroger)
3/4ish cup frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup fat free vanilla yogurt
1 cup plus another splash of skim milk

Day 2 Conquer the Cove

The third thing on The List was “run faster.”  Already done!  What what?!?!

This was my second year completing the Conquer the Cove 25k, the final race of the RNUTS series.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for my pace because I hadn’t done a ton of long runs before the race, but I was pleasantly surprised with dropping 20 minutes off of last year’s time!  I don’t think my training has been much different this spring, so I have to attribute the difference to the weight I’ve lost lately.

Second best part of this day?  The nap I took in the shade while Jay finished up taking pictures of the marathoners.

Day 3 Classroom

Like just about every other year of my teaching career, I wasn’t done-done by the last day of work.  I had to go back and pack up my classroom, and thankfully Grandma was willing to stick around to help.  I’m pretty sure if she wasn’t there, I would have just stood in the center of the room, spun in circles, and repeatedly said, “I don’t know where to begin. I can’t do this.”  There was still plenty of that, but then Grandma was there to point to a pile and tell me to get started.  I didn’t end up finishing Monday, so I had to go back a second day.  She rearranged things at work and stayed an extra-extra day.  The first picture is one she took when the Hoffmans stopped by to grab some things from his classroom, and the last two are the finished product.

 


Day 4 Barnes & Noble

At some point while she was here, Grandma took the kids to B&N, I’m pretty sure with the intention of getting them an end-of-the-school-year reward.  Bubba ended up with Pokemon cards, and Chica got a new journal, but this kid couldn’t take his mind off of the Pokemon card holder he also saw while they were there.  Somehow he talked me into writing him a chore list so that he could earn a few bucks to go buy it.  And then miracle of all miracles, he completed the list in an hour or two, without any whining.  So after dinner we went and bought the thing, and he’s been carrying it around, rearranging and talking about his cards non-stop ever since.

Day 5 Library

I count today as the first real day of summer because I didn’t have to go to school.  I took a barre fusion class at the Y for the first time, and I didn’t die or embarrass myself too terribly much.  We went from there to the library to read to the Therapy Dog.  We wanted to stick around for the free lunch, so we also painted with watercolor pencils in the adult section, checked out books, and worked on a math puzzle together.  I’ve tweeted it and told my librarian friend directly, but I just need everyone to know that the Lynchburg Public Library is doing a bang-up job.  We have nothing but great experiences every time we go there, and they are doing so much this summer to engage kids and families.  Give them a visit!

 

Day 6 Podcast & Girls’ Night

Though I regularly blow up Twitter with news about it, I haven’t written about our podcast here.  Ruth, Jay, and I started a math education podcast this fall, and today we recorded episode 30!?!  It still catches me off guard to realize that there are people, other than my next door neighbor friend and mom, who actually listen to us regularly.  If I had to guess, I think we’re safely at at least 20 faithful listeners around the country & Canada.  This project has been one of the biggest joys of my year because of how it’s stretched us as teachers and communicators.  Today’s recording was especially fun because we took things on the road to Ruth’s school to talk about Math Fact Fluency with several of her teachers & administrators.  We were both super encouraged by the conversation.

I spent the afternoon at a technology training, followed by reading in the Student Center at Randolph College.  Then I met my work friends for drinks, dinner, and dessert downtown.  The second picture here are all the pictures that Hannah texted Jay while we were out, because….well….why not?!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7 Walking, Fight, Nature Zone, & Reading

There were too many good things to write about today to pick just one.  So you’re getting four.

Big news:  Jay and I walked together FIVE mornings in a row this week.  Yep, I couldn’t believe it either, but it happened.  Today it was rainy, and he agreed….actually suggested….that we go to the Y Express to walk on the treadmills and talk.  This picture was on the way out.  (Pics or it didn’t happen??)  He was trying to emulate Rachel with the shoulder drop.  I think it’s working.

 

I swam laps at the Y today too.  Check that off “The List.”  Meanwhile the kids were in the Kidz Gym, apparently being absolutely horrid to each other.  From what I can gather, Bubba monopolized the karaoke machine, and Chica laid the hateful comments on thick.  But I went all PBIS on them, and decided that my best bet was to just do some reteaching about how to treat each other with kindness right there in the Y lobby.  It worked.

Here they are 30 minutes later thoroughly enjoying playing together while I bought myself more time to read.  I’m proud of Chica for admitting she was ugly and working to make it up to him.  I’m proud of Bubba for not dragging his #mood out all afternoon.  I’m proud of Jay for suggesting via text that I give them a chance to work it out.  I didn’t storm home and separate them all afternoon…my initial plan.  I didn’t just ignore it.  We talked about it, worked it out, and moved on.  These are the important moments.

In my beginning of the summer enthusiasm, I used the Macaroni Kid website to look for more fun ideas of things to do these weeks when I don’t have class.  In case you haven’t been lately, the Nature Zone is in a new location at Miller Park.  It’s free and open Fridays and Saturdays.  We visited, and I think our favorite parts were the turtles, snakes, and drawers of treasures to explore.

 

Finally, I had great aspirations of cleaning up our house this week.  I wanted to put away all the laundry, unpack many, many bags of junk from school, start to organize the basement, etc.  But it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m okay with that.  Instead, we had many more important moments like this one, reading on the couch together.  The mess will wait.

Summer Week 9

Day 59 New/Old Job

This picture is not from today.  It’s from the first week of school six years ago.  I’m excited to share that I’ll be returning to this classroom next week after two years as our school’s STREAM Lab teacher.  My year of math specialist courses has left me wishing in a big way that I was teaching math again.  So when this position unexpectedly came open the week before, I asked if I could make the move.  I have learned so many new things in my VCU classes that I need to try out before I try to coach someone else to do them.  I’m going to miss working with students and teachers all over the building, but I’m looking forward to building deep relationships with the 50ish kids that I will teach.

Day 60 Melt Down

I finished my morning run today by reflecting to Ruth about my kids’ recent growth.  I told her about them playing outside the day before.  Twice Bubba came in upset.  He flopped down on the sofa and announced some injustice inflicted on him by his sister or neighbor friend.  But this day was slightly different than the days and weeks before.  First, he hadn’t said the words I have been trying to erase from his vocabulary:  I’m going to tell.  Jay and I have been preaching to him that those words never result in anything good.  Finally it appeared that this message go through to him, and he just came inside when he needed help instead of extending the problem with those four fighting words.  This day was also different because he accepted help.  He calmed down quickly, and we rehearsed how he would communicate what he needed to Chica and his friend.  He went back outside quickly, said his piece, and kept on playing.  This is progress, people.

Well, nothing like an hour-long meltdown the following day to keep you humble in your parenting skills.  We got through it, but it wasn’t pretty.  Here’s a screenshot of a text conversation I had with Ruth in the middle of that mess.  Every mom needs a friend who is a few years ahead on the journey to remind her that she will one day see the other side of the hard parts.

 

 

 

Day 61 Sewing Class

 

 

 

 

Rachel invited Chica to join her daughter for a sewing class at Sew Simple.  They had a fabulous time and each sewed a tiny cover for a pouch of tissues.  She came home anxious to try something else, so I talked her into working on a stuffed animal pattern I gave her probably two years ago.  She didn’t at all follow the directions, but her finished product is super cute nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

Day 62 Birthday

 

 

 

My birthday started off great with math nerd gifts from my family.  There was no avoiding homework on my birthday, but friends and a cake pop at the Y made it better.

I spent my birthday evening here with 25 of my closest online grad school friends.  At one point I messaged them something like, “Yikes.  Bad storm here.  My ceiling is leaking.  BRB.”  I rounded up a bunch of trashcans (after calling our custodian in a slight panic….I overreacted) and carried on with class.  Little did I know at that point, however, that there was major flooding happening all over our city.  I had to go the long, long way home because of blocked roads, but I realize that inconvenience is nothing compared to what many people faced.

Day 63 Game Night

It took me over two years to follow my friend’s advice, but I finally made an appointment for a real haircut at a real salon.  I took this super awkward picture on my way home.  Isn’t that what you do when you get a good haircut!?!

What I really wish I had a picture of was game night with our sweet friends from church.  We parent leveled up that night.  Chica entertained their youngest, pretending that she was the babysitter.  The four boys got along beautifully in the basement doing who knows what, and we enjoyed playing games with almost no kid refereeing.  It was glorious.

Day 64 Fun Day

I started the day with 11 soggy, sweaty miles with Ruth.  I promise we weren’t twinning on purpose.  This just seems to be everyone’s favorite tank these days.

 

 

Earlier in the week I made a deal with my kids that I was sure they weren’t going to keep.  Except they did, so I had to follow through and take them to FunQuest.  Misery loves company, so I was thankful that Alicia was willing to bring her kids to tag along.  Guess what….it wasn’t all that bad.  Chica actually thanked me without prompting on the way out the door.  Bubba often gets angry when we have to leave something fun and complains with his “worst-day-ever-I-didn’t-have-any-fun” refrain.  This time, instead, he walked out holding my hand, telling me how much fun he had.  My mom heart was happy.

Summer Week 7

Day 45 Happy Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

The great thing about Jay having a summer birthday is that we often get to visit him at work on his special day.  After I picked up Bubba from Bible School, we headed to the Dollar Store for balloons.  Bubba was also sure that his daddy needed Gatorade, Juicy Fruit gum, and some water guns.  Then we went across town to get an OMG from the Muse, and back to U of L (can’t get used to that!) to deliver everything.

Inside I kinda laughed at the choice of water guns, but it turns out they came in handy.  That afternoon it unexpectedly poured, and the top was down on the Jeep.  Womp womp.  Jay and Bubba ended up using the water guns to suck a bunch of the water out of the floorboards.  Win.

Day 46 Summer Pizza

Bubba has strong feelings about pizza these days.  His pizza of choice has sauce, pepperonis, and bacon….no cheese.  This is what he ordered Monday night at Rivermont Pizza, and like always, he didn’t eat it all.  So check out what I did with his leftovers the next day at lunch!  I added cheese, tomatoes from Nana’s garden, and basil from ours.  This was a welcomed, yummy break from my geometry test.

Day 47 Math & Treats

 

 

 

 

 

A college friend brought two of her three girls to town for a visit.  After a while of talking math and building together, we went to Mrs. Joy’s for some treats.  This time Bubba and I got a powdered doughnut and a slice of Nutella cheesecake.  I noticed that his little personality was a little different without the shadow of big sister…maybe a bit more joyful and brave.  He was especially fun this day.

Day 48 Camp Pickup

 

 

 

 

It was so good to see Chica after a week at camp.  She spotted us coming down the hill and waved and smiled like she was so excited to see us.  It was fun watching her interact with her new camp friends.  Each camper was given an award by her counselors, and they chose the wisdom award for her.  Her cabin also won the spirit award, and she got an extra snack and drink from the snack bar.  Do you know what that girl did?  She gave the candy she got to Bubba and the drink to Jay.  I think their camp theme of “God, Others, Me” sunk in!

Day 49 VBS

Bubba enjoyed his few hours at VBS each day this week.  One of the teachers for his class was his papa’s college roommate.  So Bubba decided to call up Papa and invite him to the end of the week VBS celebration so they could see each other.  Once we knew Papa was coming, I reminded Bubba that this now meant he would have to sing and do the motions when he was on stage….you can’t invite people to watch and then just stand there.

So he did it!  This most terrible, far away picture will be enough to remind me of his goofiness.  Every time there was a little bit of an instrumental break in the song, he broke out in the Floss, much to the amusement of those around him.

I forgot to take pictures, but we also got invited to a friend’s house to swim in her pool that afternoon.  Moms of littles: the pool situation gets so much better as your kids get older.  Promise.

Day 50 Angie Thomas

Last week’s Saturday morning run was awful, but this week totally made up for it.  I finished almost 9 miles, didn’t get stung by anything, and didn’t see any skunks…only got a whiff of one!  My route took me to the top of the monogram…a view that just never gets old for me.

 

Photo Credit: Jess Hensley Harshbarger

After a trip to Riverside Runners and an afternoon nap, I headed to Richmond for a Chesterfield County Library event to hear Angie Thomas talk about her book and the influence of hip hop music.  She was real, funny, inspiring, and challenging.  Now I’m really looking forward to The Hate U Give movie coming out soon, and also her second novel.  I think my biggest takeaway from her talk was to focus on the what, not the how.  She talked about how people get so caught up in the way in which rappers deliver their message, not stopping to hear the actual message they are trying to communicate.  It’s the same with students.  I want to learn to focus on their what and not so much on the how.  

Oh…and I got to enjoy ice cream with Mom before heading home.  Yay!

Day 51 Fishtail & Reset

I learned a new thing!  NO part of me wants long hair.  Most parts of me don’t even want Chica to have long hair because she doesn’t want to take care of it.  But she’s determined to keep letting it grow, and I must admit I’m enjoying trying new things these days.

I was excited to go to church this morning.  Most Sundays this summer I’ve either been teaching in the two year old class or out of town, so it has been a while since I’ve sat with my kids in the service.  Well, they were a hot mess today, arguing with each other and me from the moment we sat down.  I pulled a teacher move on them: hard reset.  As the music was starting, we left our stuff on our seats, and I marched their grumpy butts all the way out the door and into the parking lot.  I reminded them that we’re not actually here for them to practice your bulletin origami or airplanes, we’re here to worship.  In retrospect I probably wasn’t as calm and loving as I could have been, but it mostly worked I guess.  Take-two in the sanctuary at least didn’t involve any fighting.

Since this morning I’ve been reflecting on how I need a reset too.  I’ve decided to take some time off from serving in the twos class to help get us all back into the habit of worshiping together joyfully.  I’ll miss seeing my little people regularly, but I’m feeling peace about taking a break for my family.

Camping at James River State Park

When Jay and I were dating, we went camping in Florida over winter break.  Most of the details of that trip are gone from my memory, but I do remember one pretty clearly.  We had just finished a really yummy dinner and he asked me, “If we get married, can we keep going camping like this?”  Um….YES!  Six weeks later, he put a ring on it.  Fourteen years and two kids later, we still love camping together.

Friday

Friday we left for our trip to James River State Park.  For dinner that night we had chicken & veggies cooked in foil packs, the same meal that I’m pretty sure convinced Jay he was ready to start talking about marriage 14 years ago.

Saturday

I’ve been counting down the years until Bubba would turn 6, the minimum age for tubing, canoeing, or kayaking at the park.  I ended up deciding to take the kids tubing Saturday morning because I remember enjoying that as a kid.  I just had a whole paragraph typed out about Bubba’s bad attitude during this trip, but I’ve decided I’m not going to let that define my memory.  Instead I’ll choose to remember the rapids that felt big from the water but look tiny from the bank, the magic of watching the bottom of the river zip by you in the shallow parts, and our stop on a sandy island to poke around.  Tubing was just as fun as I had remembered it.

I know Gerry Brooks would not approve of this photo, but I couldn’t help myself.   In the afternoon I took the kids to the Discover Area, a natural playground of sorts.  They played, and I prepared for my upcoming book club in the shade.  I love these slow moments.

 

Saturday night we took a wagon trip to the Tye River Overlook with a park ranger.  (Jay took this shot of us on the ride, and I happen to love it!)  The ranger had an electronic owl call to attract screech owls.  On our third or fourth stop, right about the point that Bubba fell asleep in my lap, we finally got one to respond!  It talked to us from a nearby tree for several minutes, but we never spotted it.  On our last stop we heard both the whinny and bounce calls, and two owls called back and forth to each other.  We joked that we had just helped to make an owl love connection.

Sunday

This day started out the best way…with a run.  I took the Cabell trail, and in keeping with tradition, got slightly lost.  The trail map and markings are great at the park….about 95% of the time.  But when there’s an arrow pointing left and no real trail going left, you just have to make your best guess.

 

The night before, Bubba asked to join me on the morning run, but we all knew that would be fun for like the first 5 minutes.  So I promised him a short run together when I got back.  He turned out to be a much better running partner than expected.  We took the Cabell trail in the opposite direction from what I had just run and figured out where I went off course.  I’m still sticking with the fact that it was a signage error….not mine. 🙂

Later that morning we went to two programs led by the rangers.  We watched Cobb, the corn snake, eat his weekly meal of a tiny thawed out mouse, then both kids held him.  We also learned lots of interesting ways to start a fire, and Chica got to try it out with a magnifying glass.  When I asked the kids at lunch today what their three favorite parts of the weekend were, both of these were mentioned.  I was slightly underwhelmed, but they were enthralled.  Doesn’t it often work that way??

If I’m being honest, I feel like I have a hard time connecting with this one these days.  I’ve written about that a bit, but that feeling keeps nagging at me.  So when she expressed interest in kayaking, I jumped on the opportunity to spend some time just with her.  We rented two boats after lunch on Sunday, and it was everything I hoped it would be.  She was (is) brave and strong and chatty and positive and encouraging.  We docked our boats twice and explored.  At lunch today both of us voted kayaking as our favorite part of the trip.

As if we hadn’t already packed enough into this day, I ended up sending the kids on a scavenger hunt before dinner.  I hid some Dollar Tree toys around the campground with clues, and they rode their bikes to find them.  The hunt was followed by a few (mostly drama free) hours of playing together.

Monday

I was feeling brave this morning, so I decided on a morning bike ride instead of run.  I’m still so green at riding trails.  I picked the longest, easiest trail in the park, the River Trail.  Most of it was a really wide, grassy path, but the end had several super steep downhill sections.  I’ve been reading about taking risks in my math teacher book, and I know risks are how we learn.  So…..I leveled my pedals, stood up, stuck my elbows out and butt back, cried out “Jesus! Jesus!” a few times, and went for it.  I lived to tell about it, y’all.  It was kinda fun.

The rest of the day was just packing up and hot.  Real hot.  The most exciting thing that happened was that we found a black widow spider building an egg sac on the top of our tent, under the rain fly.  I snapped this picture and took a short video before Jay killed it.

 

And finally, a few more pictures just for fun!  I asked Jay to send me a few of his best photos from the weekend.  Apparently he either really likes funny face photos, or that’s all we ever do when he pulls out the camera.

   

 

 

 

My Ten New Things

Last week my friend Brittany wrote a post about the ten (terrifying!) NEW things she tried in 2016.  Her words got me wondering if I could think of my own ten new things from 2016.  Here goes!

1. Running Buddies:

What began as my most terrifying new thing turned out to be my absolute favorite part of 2016. I heard about the No-Pressure Running Group from a friend when training for the Richmond Marathon in 2015.  For whatever reason, I pictured a perfectly manicured group of Boonsboro mamas prancing up the Monument Terrace steps like it was no biggie.  I just knew they would be too fast and too cool for me.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016 when a sweet friend from church invited me to run with this same group.  At that point I wasn’t even sure if I could run the 5 miles they had planned, but I sucked up my fears and agreed to meet her anyway.  I quickly learned that this group was not at all what I had expected.  These women are real and flawed and smart and supportive and strong and amazing.  So for about six months now, the promise of good company has helped to drag my rear out of bed at 4:50 (or 5:00, or 5:13) a few mornings each week.  They’ve kept me running through the cold and pushed me to run faster and longer.  But more importantly, I now have a great new group of friends that have each been a tremendous blessing in my life.

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2. A New Job:

At the start of this school year I took a new position as the STREAM Coach & Math Remediation Specialist.  That’s a big-ol’ crazy mouthful that means I get to help kids build stuff and get better at math all day…what could be better than that?  The hard parts have been getting the room ready in time for school to start, missing working closely everyday with teammates, learning 500+ names, and figuring out how to respond to students with love and understanding when expectations aren’t met .  The best parts have been witnessing growth among both the students and teachers, the excitement I see as students get to collaborate and create, and nights (every once in a while) where I don’t come home to hours of prep or grading or emails.  Oh….and a schedule that makes those 5:30am runs possible!

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3. A New Degree

In April I finished my Master’s in Math Education K-6 from WGU.  At the end of this program, I was convinced that higher education is where I eventually wanted to land.  I knew that this degree was only going to get me so far, so I immediately started looking for the what-next.  For now the what-next is Integrative STEM Education classes online through Virginia Tech.  For me this has meant many late nights in the library at LC fueled by gummy worms.  For Jay this has meant countless nights of holding down the fort on his own.  I tell him and tell him, but I so hope he realizes how thankful I am for him.

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4. Blue Apron

A friend of my parents gifted us with a free trial of this meal service.  I had fully intended to get the free box and then cancel the subscription because it’s so expensive.  However, we really liked it!  The recipes were simple but interesting.  They forced us to slow down and eat at home.  We got some recipes that we liked so much we’ve repeated them several times with ingredients we’ve bought at the store.  Also, the portions are generally good sizes so neither of us overeats.  We were getting a box once a month, but now we’ve bumped back to every few months because we can reuse the recipes we already have.

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5. Mountain Biking

Whenever I run on the Peaks View Park trails, I get the mountain biking itch.  Before this year, I’ve never really tried it, but these trails (more than the ones at Candler’s) make it look like fun to me.  I remember thinking after a run this summer, “I wish there was a way I could learn to mountain bike….like a class or something.”  Well whadayaknow?!?  A few days later I ran across an ad for a beginner mountain biking class that would be offered through Parks and Rec.  It was super cheap and at a time when Jay could watch the kids, so I signed up!  I loved the class, but I left convinced that my bike from circa eighth grade just wasn’t going to cut it for many more rides.  I got a new bike for my birthday, followed promptly by a new school year that took up every free minute of time I might have had to ride.  I’m hoping that 2017 will bring more rides…and maybe a friend or two that will go with me!

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6. LuLaRoe

legginsSoooo….yeah.  I seriously debated whether or not to include this in my ten new things list, but I finally decided that ten years from now rereading this would probably give me a good chuckle.  At some point this year the Facebooks blew up with the LuLaRoe.  It somehow went from one college friend selling it to a gazillion sales every week.  I’ve never been a fan of buying something I haven’t tried on, so I waited until I got invited to a real-live party to buy any.  Somehow I got out of there with a bright orange pair of tights with blue paper airplanes.  What in the world?  And while they do actually feel as good on as everyone says they do, I can’t help but wonder what we’ll say about ourselves in 2026.  “Ahh….remember those leggings we all used to wear!?!  With unicorns and spaceships and flamingos and pineapples….what were we thinking?!”

7. Pokemon Goimg_2187

As usual, I’m a little late to this trend.  We just downloaded it over Christmas break, and I finally see what all the fuss is about.  It’s fun!  Grandma and I have been texting each other back and forth about our current level and how many we’ve caught.  She’s currently skunking me on level 14.  As soon as this post is up, I think we’re headed out to LC to try to catch up to her.  🙂

8. Twitter

twitterYep…also late on this one.  I started tweeting in March after hearing George Couros at LC.  While I was certainly hesitant to get started, so many good things came from tweeting the second half of our school year.  I think it’s fun to look back and have a record of what we did, but the best part was collaborating with a class in Canada through Twitter.  This school year I haven’t used it nearly as much because I’ve been sharing what we’re doing at school through Facebook instead.

9. Tutoring

A friend at school asked me to help tutor her in math for a few weeks over the summer.  She wanted help getting ready for a math placement test she had to take at CVCC.  Until this year I have never tutored adults, or hardly anyone for that matter, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help her.  It was such a rewarding experience to watch her grasp concepts and gain confidence.  I hope to do more of this in the future!

10. Aid Station-ing

There are people who run 60+ miles in below-freezing temperatures, in the mountains, just for fun.  There are also people who stand outside in those below-freezing temperatures to feed hungry runners, thaw out their bottles, and cheer them on….just for fun.  So while I was not crazy enough (yet) to run the Hellgate race, I did help with three aid stations for this ridiculous event.  It was so inspiring.  And cold.

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How about you….what did you do new in 2016?   

Thanks, Brittany, for the inspiration!  Follow her at TheBamBlog.com.

 

XTERRA Richmond 21K Trail Run 2015

About three months ago, on the eve of the Shamrock Half Marathon, I sat at the table of our rented beach house recording future training run distances on a calendar.  I should have been sleeping, but I instead needed to know what was going to come next.  I’ve set the far-off goal of completing the Richmond Marathon in November, but I needed a few shorter races in the meantime to keep me focused and motivated.  First up….XTERRA Richmond 21K Trail Run.  Today was the day!

My training leading up to the race went well.  I ran Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday most weeks, alternating between a hilly three mile loop in our neighborhood before school and the treadmill at the Y in the afternoons.  The highlight of each week was my long run on Saturday mornings.  As the weather warmed up and dried out, I tried to do as many of these runs on the trail as possible.  I twice logged miles on the Buttermilk Trail in Richmond.  My last two long runs were on Liberty Mountain (11 miles) and on the trails parallel to the Blackwater Creek Trail (12 miles)…two of my favorite spots in Lynchburg.  With school getting out this past week, I was also able to catch up on lost hours of sleep.  I was feeling ready!

Our family headed to Richmond Friday after lunch, and we stopped at REI before making our way to Grandma’s house.  We downed a great pre-race meal from Joe’s Inn and then took the kids for a quick swim before bedtime.  Grandma and the little people decided to sleep in the tent in the backyard, so I got to sleep fairly quickly.  I slept completely unencumbered by any pesky snugglers.  It was beautiful.

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We had decided that Jay would take me to the start, and the rest of the family would wait at the Reedy Creek Tunnel aid station.  From there they would be able to see me three times during the race.   Jay was kind enough to drop me off near the start so that I could pick up my packet while he went to park the car.

Bag checked.  Porta-Potty visited.  Bib pinned.  Husband hugged.  Before picture taken.  Let’s do this!

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The first mile and a half were ridiculously hot.  We started in the Brown’s Island/Tredegar area and ran past this cool spot, over a bridge, and across the Flood Wall.  I blew through the first aid station way too fast.  I grabbed only one cup of water and ended up pouring most of it on me.  I promised myself that at all other aid stations I was going to slow down and actually drink something.  I know that I should have expected the heat when signing up for a race in Richmond in June, but I’m not going to lie…it caught me off guard.  Even at 8am, the sun felt pretty brutal, but I kept trucking knowing that we would get to the trail soon.  I was so relieved when we finally dipped down into the shade.

I don’t remember much of the next section except for the steps that RVA-ers call the “Mayan Ruins.”   The runners in front of me had come to a slow crawl up these steep steps.  For half a second I was a bit annoyed.  Then I realized that I couldn’t have moved any faster than we were already going, and I quickly got over myself.  Two girls behind me decided they were taking the road less traveled and went up the steps that were around to the right.  I think they realized it wasn’t any faster, however, when they ended up right back behind me at the top.

The main thing that kept me going was knowing that my family was waiting for me at the Forest Hills Park aid station.  I could hear them cheering before I could see them.  Both kids wanted to give me a hug, and I gladly obliged.  I dumped a couple more cups of water on myself, downed a few, grabbed a gel, and kept going.  There were several switchbacks right above their watching spot, so I got to see (and hear) them a few more times.  By this first loop of the park, there were a handful of us that were all doing about the same pace together.  One guy behind me told me that it was his fourth time doing this race, and warned me to save my energy for the second loop.  Turns out I felt much better the second time around.  I think it had to do with the fact that I had at least a little bit of an idea how far I had left to go.  There were no mile markers, so the first time around I just kept wondering how close I was to seeing my family again.

I remember a few other things from the park loop.  At one point we crossed a creek.  Both times over it I dipped down and splashed water on myself to try to cool off.  It helped for about 30 seconds.  🙂  Right before the aid station there was a really skinny cement bridge to cross.  I remember being a tad bit nervous that I would run right off the thing, but I was too embarrassed to slow down and walk.  The second time around there was an old man standing at the end with a big bouquet of sunflowers.  Somebody behind me joked, “Oh, how nice! You brought me flowers!”  He didn’t seem to get it…just confused why several sweaty people were running straight at him.

During this section I also remember contemplating some of the differences between road races and trail races.  This is only my second trail race, and there’s this whole new added element of passing people that you don’t really have to worry about on a wide road.  Several times I heard people right behind me that I thought wanted to pass, but it turns out they seemed to be fine with following my slow, slogging pace.  Other times I got right up behind somebody else and then had to really convince myself that I had enough juice to pass them and then stay in front.  More than once those people passed me again at the aid stations while I was busy dumping cups of cold water on my head.  I also got lapped in the park loop by three or four of the guys who went on to win the race.  Impressive.

After I passed my family for the third time, I headed into the Reedy Creek Tunnel where the race volunteer promised me air conditioning.  I admit I was so out of it at that point that I believed her for a half a second.  Ha.  The water crossing that I had heard about turned out to just be maybe three inches of running water.  No biggie.  My favorite part of the whole race, however, was the bouldering we had to do to cross the river.  I’m sure my tired self bounding crawling over the huge rocks was quite a site, but the race volunteers were quite encouraging at this point.  One guy said something like, “Just power yourself over to that big rock, climb this ladder, and then you’re in the shade!”  I joked to him, “I don’t think I’ll be powering anywhere at this point,” as I basically slid down the rock on my butt and then leaned forward to catch the next one with my hands.  I’m certain he was lying, but he said, “Looked pretty powerful to me,” as I climbed the ladder.  I’ll take it.

By the time I was winding my way through Belle Isle, I was alone.  No more leap frogging with runners around me.  At this point I was really thankful for the hundreds of signs put up by the trail organizers because I never worried that I was going to get lost.  As I came out of the wooded trails, I was relieved to see the suspended bridge because I knew we were almost done, but the section right before it was especially hot.  It was at this point that I realized that my goal of 12 minute miles was out of the picture.  I just kept trying to remind myself to finish and finish well.

On the road between the suspended bridge and the finish, I started leap frogging again with another tired runner.  He would walk, and I would jog slowly past him.  Then he got up enough speed to pass me, and I didn’t have it in me to power past him.  As we approached the finish line, cheered on by three especially great volunteers, I had passed him.  But at the very last stretch, he tried to pass me one final time.  I sprinted with everything I had left (which wasn’t much), and it appeared we crossed at exactly the same moment.  Turns out the official race results say I beat him by exactly one second.  Woot!  It’s the little victories, huh?  My final time was 2:36:13 which was a pace of 12:29 per mile.

I found Jay, drank a few more cups of water, and we sat in the shade a while to cool down.  We then went for a kid-free post race meal at Millie’s, a restaurant I read about in another runner’s blog.   I got the Huevos Rancheros, and it was absolutely amazing.  Go there!

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Jay asked me when I was done if I’d run this race again.  Definitely, yes.  Here’s my quick list of grows and glows to sum it up:

Grows:
Mile markers.  Maybe this is taboo in a trail race, but I really like knowing how far I have left to go.
Finish line.   The race course took a sharp turn at the very end, which meant you couldn’t see the finish to gauge how far you had left to go.  I’m always leery of starting to sprint too soon, and this time I waited too long.
Heat.  Maybe the race organizers could work on that for next year?  JK.  More like, maybe I need to do a few mid-day training runs so I’m not such a wimp.

Glows:
Course.  The race is called an “urban adventure,” and they aren’t joking.  I liked how varied the trail was, and the runners really got a few beautiful views of the city.
People.  The volunteers were helpful, and so were the runners.
Signage.  I never really had to worry about getting lost.
Family.  It was SO good to have them waiting for me at Reedy Creek.  I’m not sure what else would have kept me going!
I finished!  Though I didn’t make my goal of 12 min pace, I am choosing to be excited that I completed this tough course, with a smile, injury free.

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Now on to training for the next race!  Up next:  Percival’s Island 5 Miler.