Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stay tuned...

Dear Readers,
Bloggy things: they are a-changin'! After I posted here about my idea to start a new blog, it took me about 24 hours to come to my senses. So I'm not going to start a new blog at all! Even better: I'm just going to change the face and the name of this one, and adjust the content just slightly. This blog is truly a warm and happy place to me; writing here is one of my favorite things to do, and I didn't want to turn away from it and start from scratch. Staying right here and writing more seemed like the way to go. The post in which I asked for your feedback began a flurry of emails and phone calls from my friends and advisers. I found out that lots of you have very strong opinions about this blogging world, and I took everything into account, and made the decisions that felt right for me.

I want to continue to write about my kids, our adventures, their hilarity, our family, my running progress and race reports. I also want to continue to document our quest to eat real, healthy food. So, I'm framing this new-ish blog as an overall healthy family blog. Which means that not much will change except I won't feel ashamed to photograph and post about what we are eating for dinner. Many nights, I look at my dinner and want to post about it. I take photos of my food all the time and have only posted a small fraction of those photos. No more! I might even start a feature called: What's for dinner? Because maybe you do care!

I have no idea if anything will change in terms of readership or advertising, and I'm not at all concerned about it. I am just excited to be making these small changes and we'll just see what happens.

Gigantic thanks to everyone who helped me fine-tune my ideas. You encouraged me and asked me questions and gave me great advice. {Joanne, Michael, Kirsten, Sylvia, Nancy, Emily, Michelle, Maria, Steph, Christie, Amy, Jen, Christine, Suzanne, Liesel, Mom, and Ann.}

Thanks to my chief consultant (my brother Chris), my agent (my brother Chris), the art department (again, Chris) and my designer (hi, Chris!)

Thanks to Kelly who not only phoned and emailed me about blog ideas, but is also trying to teach me/convince me how to tweet on Twitter (God help me.)

And thanks to my clever friend Laura who came up with the new blog name! (I'll tell you soon!)

I've already changed some things around, so take a look. There are now tabs up there that will help you find your way around. I also tagged almost all of the posts by topic, so if you look over there (to the right) you can search through old posts by category. (For instance, there are 43 posts about crazy kids, and 33 posts about running; the crazier the kids get, the more I go running.)

Give me about a week to get everything sorted out and switched over. Check back very soon for the big move!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Water Boy

If Reed isn't in the pool or the bath or the shower, he is standing at the sink washing dishes. Or rather, pouring water from one bowl to another, whisking it, mixing in bubbles, making "soup" and keeping himself entertained (and out of my hair) for an hour or more at a time, while I cook happily beside him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

week 9: check

We are officially half way through our training. The Vermont Marathon is 9 weeks away.

Today was a 10-miler (a step-back week after 12 and 13 miles the previous weekends), and I woke up with a sore throat and a bad attitude. I mean, it was 18 degrees out.

Good thing my friends showed up. Many feet make light work.

Also, I had some new Asics to stretch out. My old pair was dead after 483.8 miles in 7 months. FYI: Logyourun.com keeps track of all of this for me. You see one week at a time over there ---> but I have all sorts of data (how much mileage on each pair of shoes, how many calories burned per run, monthly totals, and my weight). I love data. And I love my new Kayanos.

Go running mamas. We have 13 kids between us.

The sun was shining brightly, so we did fine after all, except for one painful 2-mile stretch that had us running right into an icy wind. We all also experienced a new pitfall of cold-weather running: the liquid in our camelbak hoses froze during mile 1, so we all carried like a half gallon of gatorade on our run without being able to drink any of it. Didn't know that could happen! Good to know. I made up for it with lots of hot coffee and pancakes when we got back.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

discussing what to bring to my friend Stephani's birthday potluck:

Skyler: "We should definitely bring hot dogs."
Me: "Well, we can't bring hot dogs because Stephani doesn't eat meat. She's a vegetarian."
Skyler: "What's a vegetarian?"
Me: "She doesn't eat meat because meat comes from animals, and Stephani doesn't believe in eating animals."
Skyler: (thinks about that for a bit). How can she not believe in eating meat when there definitely is meat?"
Me: "Well, it's not that she doesn't believe that there is meat, she just doesn't think you should eat animals."
Reed: "I love meat!"
Skyler: "Are grapes meat?
Me: "No. Grapes are a fruit, so they are a plant. Stephani only eats plants."
Reed: (worried) "You never, ever eat plants!"
Me: "Right. We don't eat plants when we are playing outside, but we do eat fruits and vegetables, and those are plants."
Skyler: "So, we should bring grapes. Do you think Stephani likes grapes?"


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

on logistics and annoyingness

Logistics:A few people asked about how our busy schedule actually works, so I decided to demystify that for ya'll. If you wonder how I can train for a marathon while working full time and raising 2 kids, you have to remember that a) I'm a teacher, and b) Sam is a teacher. We have the same schedules, and that is rare and makes the 2nd half of each day pretty flexible. Teaching also means we have the summers to rest and recharge.

I feel very weird writing out our schedule for you to read as if it is so interesting, but the fact is, I'm curious about how other families do the day-to-day thing too, so I'm going to carry on as requested:

On a typical school day...
I wake up at 4:45, and before you freak out about that, I do that only so that I have a little time to myself in the morning that is totally quiet, not because I have to.

I take a shower, go downstairs, make coffee and breakfast, and sit down with my laptop to read blogs, email, facebook etc. I go upstairs at 6:00 to dry hair, finish getting ready, wake up Sam and the kids. Skyler gets herself dressed with the clothes I laid out the night before, and Reed runs around naked and shrieks until we wrangle him into pants and a shirt. Next is my least favorite part of the day when I have to find matching socks in the laundry basket for each kid. We all go downstairs, Sam gets breakfast ready for the kids (to take in the car, usually a bagel) and we find matching shoes and coats and leave at 6:45. I take Reed to daycare, Skyler to school, and I get to work by 7:30. These times are the exact same, within 2 minutes, every morning. I'm kind of a robot when it comes to the morning schedule.

Before Sam leaves for work, he cleans the whole house. Kitchen, dishes, makes beds, generally tidies everything.

Next, I go to work and Sam goes to work. At school, we teach English all day, and during any downtime we have, we plan and grade papers. I've been teaching for 10 years now, so I have gotten very efficient at planning and grading. I am faster, more streamlined and less anal than I used to be, so I get a ton done during lunch and study halls. You should also remember that I adore being in my classroom with my students, and my whole day is filled with laughter and creativity and books and banter. If I don't have a meeting, I leave work at 2:30 and go pick up the kids.

We all meet up at home around 3:30. That's when things get a little trickier. Mondays and Wednesdays, I go for my run around 4 and get back in time for Sam to go to swimming at 6. Tuesdays we have Skyler's swim lessons and then we all go to Family Swim. Thursdays, Sam picks up the kids after school and I do my run around 3 and then go home in time for Sam to go to swimming at 4:30. Friday is a rest day for both of us when we usually have an early dinner together and then veg out/ crash.

In the late afternoon/evening, one of us cooks for the kids, and then while Sam is at swimming, I cook our dinner while I pack lunches and set up the coffee for the next morning. Upstairs, I give the kids a bath while I set out clothes for the next morning. Then we play and/or watch a video. I get the kids ready for bed, read to them, and then Sam gets home and reads them each a story. We tuck and cuddle and kiss kids goodnight. And then we sit down for dinner. Or sometimes I eat without him if I'm too hungry and Sam eats when he gets home. And then we hang out until I go up to bed to read and then fall asleep.

Saturdays, I do a long run in the morning and he does something with the kids and always cleans the house. He swims from 11-1. Afternoons we spend together as a family or whatever. Sundays, I take the kids in the morning, either to church or out and about, and then in the afternoon, he takes the kids to family swim while I grocery shop, get other stuff done, grade papers, etc. Sundays we have a big family dinner, and then we start over again. And that's the routine!

How I find time to run? That's easy: I need to. And also, Sam is waaaaay more obsessed with and talented at swimming than I am with running, so he gets it. I don't get grief from him for needing time to run. Before I was a runner, I was a chubbier, more anxious, and more tired. Now, I'm happier and my quads looks good. It's a no brainer.

How I find time to blog? That's easy too: I sneak it in. I have been writing this blog long enough now that I am crafting blog posts in my head almost constantly. It takes me a few minutes to actually write them after they've been swimming around in my head all day.

I don't really watch TV anymore (with one exception... read on), and I read less than I used to during the school year, and Sam and I have to plan dates to really get some time alone, so those are the things that are sacrificed.

Nancy asked: "Do you ever annoy each other? Does it ever feel like too much?" And I laughed for a half an hour. I mean, not only does my husband really annoy me sometimes (love you, babe), but I definitely annoy Sam. I'm wicked stubborn and can't ever admit that I'm wrong (I'm usually not), and I can be bossy and snippy. Should I list all of the ways that Sam is annoying? That may not be a good move.

But if you want an example, he just walked into the living room where I'm trying to watch American Idol, and he is like: "Oh my god, wow! Have they narrowed it down to the top 85 yet?" and then after someone sings, he'll say: "I don't know, dawg, that was pitchy for me." That is so annoying. He also drinks milk out of the jug, eats all the snacks I buy for the kids, and he is unnecessarily uptight about how clean the garage needs to be.

Yes, we are both annoying to each other, and yes, sometimes it does feel like too much and sometimes I go to bed at 7:30 because I've had it. But I will say that our schedule works well (after much fine-tuning) and we share all the important things: love of home and good food, the need for exercising, love of each other, the need to do our own thing, and love of our very hilarious kids who keep every minute interesting.

Did I tell you that Reed flushed a match-box car down the toilet last night?
So, we need to go figure out what to do about that.

Monday, March 22, 2010

the summer rain!

Last Sunday morning, I took the kids for a hike in the woods and I wanted to make it all meaningful and stuff, so on the way there, I told them to think of a few things they were thankful for, because we were going to talk about being thankful while we were hiking.

And so, in the car ride, it was like this: argue, argue, argue, complain, complain, complain, argue, argue, argue. And then when I released them from their car seats, and they were bounding into the woods, it was all sweetness and light and everyone was so happy. The woods: the antidote to all sibling rivalry and mommy stress.

After we hiked for a while, we sat on a bench and started being thankful. I said I was thankful for the beautiful woods in the springtime and for time with my sweet Skyler and my sweet Reedo.

Skyler said: "I'm thankful for chocolate and can we go and get some after this?"

Reed said: "I'm thankful for my summer rain."

Summer rain?

I thought "DID YOU HEAR THAT PEOPLE?? I have a young POET here in the woods!"

And I said: "You are thankful for summer rain? That is so wonderful, Reed. I also love a nice summer rain."
And Skyler said: "NO MOM. Submarine. He's thankful for his toy submarine."

So I stood corrected, and then we all hiked on.

Your feedback, please.

Dear readers,

I have an idea. You know how I get ideas? They usually start on a run and then they take off from there. This might be a good one, but I have some questions for YOU, please and thank you!

My brother Chris is one of my greatest encouragers, and he often suggests that I could maybe do something a bit bigger with this blogging thing. Today we bounced around the idea of me starting a separate blog and trying to get sponsorship for it. Here's my basic angle: raising healthy kids/ healthy kids' food/ instilling healthy habits in children/ involving kids in cooking and choosing healthy foods and exercising. That's pretty rough, huh? And unfortunately/fortunately there are already a bunch of blogs out there on this very topic. But if I could incorporate the Maine thing somehow, trips to pick up the farmshare, snacks for mountain hikes, picnics on the beach, I may be able to make it unique enough to gain an audience.

What do you think?

Do you think I can do such a thing without being a dietician or knowing any science behind nutrition?

Would you read a kids' food blog written by someone who is not an expert?

Is it okay to have an I'm-no-expert-but-here's-what-I-try-to-do kind of an angle?

Is it okay that my kids are picky eaters (getting better, but still picky)?

And if your answers to the above questions are YES, then, most importantly, what do I call the new blog?

And when can I quit my day job? (SO TOTALLY KIDDING!)

I will research a bit about how food blogs get started, and who knows what will come of this, but I thought I'd start with you. Can you help?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

mommy date

Skyler and I had a great evening together. We painted pottery at Paper n' Clay and then went out to dinner. Just us.

First she took forever to pick out what to paint, but we were in no hurry for once, so I let her take her sweet time.

She finally settled on a vase that she can use "for flower gathering in the summer."

I loved having her undivided attention. She talked to me non-stop for the 1 1/2 hours that we painted. She's so chatty!

I tried my best not to reach over and tighten up her lines a bit. Okay! I'll admit I did a little touch-up when she got up to go to the bathroom. I couldn't help it. We pick up our fired pieces in 1 week, so I'll show you how they turn out (I made a coffee mug). I had wanted to do this for such a long time, and I will definitely go back soon and often.

Love my silly girl.

weekend excursions

I have an extremely heavy heart this weekend after saying goodbye to my friend Erin.
I might write about some of my thoughts soon, but it's pretty raw right now.

Instead, here are some photos from some recent day trips, one today and one 2 weeks ago:

Bar Harbor for the beach and some scenery,

and then to Ellsworth for lunch:

And a hike in city forest:

one of about 20 dog petting stops:

and time out for carrots!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A few remarkable things:

The weather in Maine has been unbelievable for March. March is usually so blah, so muddy and slushy. Instead, we have had a great, long stretch of record-breaking 60 degree weather and sunshine. I ran yesterday in a sleeveless shirt for the first time all season, and I was hot. It was beautiful. And even on a hilly, windy run, I made 6 miles in less than an hour, which pleased me, yes it did.

A health/food blogger (whom I don't know) gave my blog a "SUNSHINE Award" and wrote a blurb about the blog in her list of 12 award winners. Pretty cute. I love being described as "quirky" and "fit." And her name is Erin. Check out The Healthy Apron for great, healthy recipes. Thanks, Erin!

And speaking of sunshine and Erin, Erin Woolley's memorial service is on Saturday, a day appropriately forecasted to be 70 degrees and sunny. Her obituary is a beautiful tribute to how much she accomplished and inspired in her 26 years. Friends and family are asked to wear bright colored party dresses to the service in Erin's honor. The sunshine, I think, will help everyone remember that we are to celebrate Erin's life, and honestly, everyone will need the help to make sense of this tremendous loss.

I feel inspired to do something, and may be getting involved in a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training event again. I don't know. I just get so worked up when I think about this disease. I feel like screaming and shaking my fists, but maybe I could do something more productive? It just feels like the treatments were so promising for both my dad and for Erin, and each of them made great progress in beating it, but just not enough progress before they ran out of time. I'm thinking about it, anyway. I wonder if any of you readers would join me in a Team in Training event?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I hate lymphoma.

I really do. I better keep running.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 12, 1984 - March 16, 2010

It is with total shock and deep sadness that I tell you that Erin passed away today.

I know that it may seem weird that I'm in shock, considering she had lymphoma, but she was winning the fight and showing great signs of making progress when she was hospitalized with an infection last week. I saw this as a glitch, and haven't even been nervous about her hospital stay... I've been getting regular updates on her facebook page.

The last email exchange we had, a few weeks ago, ended with Erin saying: "can't wait to see you in a few months when I come home." I hadn't seen her in two years I think, and we were excited to reconnect. Erin was just so totally sure that she was beating cancer, that everyone around her was sure too.

Erin was a student of mine who taught me way more than I taught her.
Rest in peace, my friend.

you probably saw this coming

Sunday, March 14, 2010

week 7: check

after our windy Sunday morning 12 miler (which was actually a 12.9 miler, and we're going to go ahead and call that a half marathon).

Where would I be without these girls?
I'd be on my couch in my pajamas with a 2nd cup of coffee, that's where.
(what a minute...)

Would you like to join our debate about whether the training hats that Vermont City Marathon sent us are cute or head-smooshing?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

for the love of skyler

Friday, March 12, 2010

it was red and shiny and within his reach

Yesterday, Reed went with Sam to pick up Skyler at Kindergarten, and while they were there, Reed pulled the fire alarm.

And all the kids on the playground had to line up against the fence to wait for the firetruck to come give the all-clear.

And Reed, together with his stellar reputation, is starting at this same school this summer.

Skyler was very calm about this. She said: "Well, it isn't a big deal to line up against the fence because that is what we always do for fire drills."
"Mom, he didn't know it was a fire alarm."

This morning on the way to school, Reed said: "I do NOT want to go back to that classroom where the fire drill is so loud."

Skyler explained that the alarm wasn't sounding anymore, that they turned it off.

Reed said: "Oh, thanks. Now I do want to go back to that classroom!

Guess there are no long-lasting scars here. But, I bet the teachers are all clamoring to get Reed in their class next year!

p.s. Huge thanks to my friend Amy for designing the cool new header on the blog!

Monday, March 8, 2010

More before and after

We still have a long way to go, but we have another room finished. This is our family room when we first moved in: white, white, white. (hi, little skyler!)


AFTER: warmth! New couch, new rug, new storage baskets for the toys, and freshly painted walls. Our couch was ruined. It was a source of discontent for me for years (maybe it was all the snotty nose wipes on the pillows, the faded fabric from the sunshine or, actually, maybe it was the red sharpee design on the main cushion?) So, we finally bought a new one. And it's leather, which means a damp sponge is all I need to keep things spiffy.

Kudos to Sam for another meticulous painting job.

I think next is the dining room, then the garage doors, then the living room, then the kitchen, then Reed's room, then our bedroom... oh, and the bathrooms too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Week 6: check

What a difference a week makes! I'm still battling a chest cold/cough that has lasted 3 weeks (!), but... the weather this weekend was so gorgeous and springlike and hopeful.

Ran our 7 miler (it's a step-back week!) with quite a crew. And thanks to Susan, who set a great pace, the rest of us ran our fastest 7 miles: 1 hour 6 minutes, which beats 10 minute miles for my first time on a longer run. It felt really good. And I love running with my girl gang. (We missed you, Amy and Andrea!)

Christine's husband Keith joined us for a bit, but I think we scared him with some of the topics we covered. (Love the blunt honesty of running friends).

Here's hoping for more weather like this for our upcoming training...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"What happened at Poetry Out Loud State Finals," you ask?

Will at POL from Emilie Manhart on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Poetry. Out Loud.

Remember Poetry Out Loud last year? The national high school contest of reciting poetry? How my student Will won states and we went to Washington D.C together for Nationals in April?

Well. Our 2010 school-wide Poetry Out Loud contest was held in January, and 72 students recited poems during our all-day contest. It was wonderful. I could go on and on (and on) about this program, but I'll just tell you that our students end up spending a few weeks in class, and then one full day experiencing poetry in a way that totally surprises them. They think they hate poetry, that it is a means of torture, that all one does with poetry is try to analyze it.

And then they sit in the auditorium all day listening to their friends and peers, who are nervous, reciting a poem on stage. And they just get to listen, and appreciate, and cheer. And they notice that poems are interpreted differently by different people, and they are able to tell you whether or not the student delivered it with the right tone, gestures, and emphasis. They are able to articulate when they thought a poem should have been delivered with less drama, more humor, less angst, more humility. They say, "I would have done that last line differently." "I think that poem is really about love, and so it should have been softer." Or, "Hearing how she recited that poem made me understand it so much more clearly." They also say: "That was the best day I've ever had at school." In other words, they are analyzing poetry for 6 hours straight and having a hell of a time doing it.

This is my 3rd year running the contest, and we had the biggest group of participants yet. As a result, we asked for an outside panel of judges to choose the winner. Will, now a senior, participated again. I felt like, after spending so much time coaching Will and going to DC with him, that I didn't want to be responsible for deciding if he would represent our school again. So, we had 4 poets/ professors come in, and they unanimously chose Will as the winner, again.

Will then went on to the Northern Regionals in Ellsworth, and won a top 5 spot out of 14. This Friday, he goes to States in Waterville. And I'm really excited about it.

Last week, Will and I were contacted by a woman at the SALT Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland who wants to do a radio piece about Poetry Out Loud, and asked if she could follow me and Will around a bit. We will meet her at States on Friday. In the meantime, she asked Will to send her an email describing what poetry means to him. This is part of his response. Please continue to remind yourself, as you read this, that Will is 18 years old.

Poetry asks us to stop what we’re doing – refrain from work, studying, pleasure, whatever – and just listen to another person. It seems so simple, but it’s a revolutionary concept in a society where we are disconnected from our neighbors, the people we see everyday in the street or at school.

Whitman once wrote:
“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?”

Through poetry, we start listening, thinking, and demanding answers. Everything we enjoy today was born of this process, from this effort to love others, listen to their stories, and struggle together against injustice. Poems are tools – tools to motivate us, to hearten us, to make us decent. And every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

And finally, I have a little video here of Will performing at our school contest, if you'd like to see him in action. Here he is doing "Come up from the Fields, Father" by Walt Whitman.

"Come Up From the Fields, Father" from Emilie Manhart on Vimeo.

Whatever happens on Friday, the outcome won't lessen the depth of experience Will has had with Poetry Out Loud. It has been huge for him, and for our school, and for me.