Friday, January 31, 2014

The Gingerbread House

Connor got it in his head that we were going to make a gingerbread house at Christmas. If we were at my parents' home, I probably would've hopped right onto this. But we were at Ed's parents' home, and I just didn't think I could handle the mess of four children between the ages of 6 and 8 digging into all that frosting and candy. It would surely turn a small project into a giant mess.

Connor was extremely persistent in his desire to build a house, so finally I told him "We'll build a small village when we get home! If we build the house here, we won't be able to enjoy it at our house since we can't easily transport it!". This, of course, is the oldest and stupidest parenting trick in the book. Talk a kid out of doing something you don't want to do today - by promising something even better / worse in the future!

He fell for it. They always do. Parents always hold out that this will turn from an even bigger parenting loss to a parenting win, hoping the kid forgets what they were begging to do. For the record, I cannot recall a single time this has worked in my favor. But I still have hope.

Santa did her part to make the building of the house as painless as possible. She brought Connor a gingerbread house building kit.

And guess what? When I finally did bust it out a few weeks ago (after Christmas had passed, but before Epiphany), Connor and Helen hardly made a mess. And...they decided to wait until NEXT YEAR to build that village, because then we can start early and really, really make a lot of houses.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Ed and I went to a concert a couple of months ago. There were supposed to be two opening acts – a singer we were really interested in hearing, and a “spoken word artist”. Guess which one was sick and couldn’t perform, leaving the other one extra time? 

Which is how we found ourselves listening to a rather long performance by a “spoken word artist”. I thought Ed might fall over in agony as he tried to determine the appropriate number of beers to consume to douse the agony of being forced to listen to poetry. It might be the one moment in his life he was sad to not have a smartphone to use as an attention diverter.

But something really powerful happened during that performance and I cannot get this line out of my head - weeks later. I think it's the start of some real moving forward in my life.
Forgiveness is accepting that the past can never be better.

Since thinking about that - and running for a long time by one's self without headphones (which is how I nearly always run) gives a person a lot of opportunity to think about this - I've started to notice things that used to bother me have been erased from my head. Instead, I find myself wondering what I was annoyed about, and really understanding that some things just don't matter. And better, when I get annoyed with something that has happened, I'm able to move through it more quickly than ever.

I've been doing not only the proverbial work of getting rid of the past, but also have been moving mounds of stuff out of the house (with Ed playing a huge role in cleaning out the basement from boards and other junk left behind by the previous owners). I am lighter than ever.

I've found a new trough of positive energy to set out. But I'm cautiously guarding that energy, lest it be snapped up by people who have misused it in the past.

And wow, am I grateful for the new perspective. With every mile I pound the pavement, I'm letting go of it all this year.


Monday, January 27, 2014


Parenting is an exercise in balance. And, sadly, perhaps, my parenting modus operandi seems to be to pile on as many things as I can handle, add another thing, let something I care about fall apart, and then subtract something so the thing that most recently fell apart can percolate back to the top of the list of things that get done. Although I don't feel particularly rushed in my life, I do notice that if I add anything, then something starts to give.

Which is how this blog has come to be set aside again. Apparently, I cannot run over 25 miles a week and still squeeze storytelling about my kids in. Which is a shame, because I bet I'll miss the stories in the years to come more than I enjoy running the half marathon.

So...the quick update, until I figure out what I'm ditching.

Helen has joined Daisy Scouts. Her first meeting was a couple of weeks ago, and even though she didn't know anyone there, the troop leaders were super nice. I have high hopes for the experience being one that introduces her to other girls who she'll share a class with next year at Glebe. I'd prefer to not be a troop leader this year, but if Helen feels excluded, I'll start volunteering at the meetings to help out where I can.

After being exceedingly proud of myself for getting ALL the patches ironed on in time for the first meeting, I learned that I wasn't supposed to affix the petals and center of the daisy. DOH! I'm peeling them off before tonight's meeting, except for the center of the daisy. Helen has learned the pledge, so she gets to keep that one.

Connor and Ed have been building his derby car. We have high hopes. The race is next week.

Ed also got stuck helping Helen with valentines. She loved the ones he made last year so much, that she insisted on copying them for her class this year. Overheard yesterday "Helen, if you're getting bored with this, we can work on it later". "Nope! I'm fine!". Ed has no idea how much stamina Helen has when it comes to crafting.

We've also taken advantage of the snow that has fallen here, and gone sledding probably a half dozen times. If I figure out how to move photos from the iPhone a friend gave me to this blog, I'll update the post. Otherwise, just imagine Connor flying down the hill, attempting to hit a jump that has been created by some snow. Hitting it, and flying. Good times...good times...

I'm still training for my half marathon, but also trying to convince my cousin to run a marathon with me next year. He's a runner, so even though he says he needs to get in shape, I'm guessing he could finish the marathon without much training if he set his mind to it. Me? I'm up to 8 miles at a good pace, followed by 1.5 miles cooling down with the kids. I've switched over to minimalist shoes and LOVE them. But...lots of training left to complete.

And, given how squeezed I feel for time right now, I am REALLY hoping I hit my revised time goal when I run in March, because I don't think I can keep this schedule up for many more months!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Semi-Indoor and Fully Unplanned Home Waterpark

It's cold in Arlington. Really cold. And while yesterday I was busy complaining that Connor's school had indoor recess (it was around 40 at recess time) today, I understood that same choice.

One of the joys of an older home is its natural "charm". And in my case, by "charm" I mean - my house is awesome for hide-and-go-seek because it has many nooks and crannies. There are also a few strange hide out spaces that I'm sure will eventually bring great joy to Connor and Helen.

One of the more unpleasant things about an older home is that stuff constantly breaks. We've pretty much replaced every part of our home in the past 5 years, and remain optimistic that we've finished with the big ticket items.

Today, Ed received a call from the babysitter (thank goodness she noticed and called) letting him know there was a water leak in the greenhouse. The greenhouse that, for all intents and purposes, has been decommissioned. We've tossed out most of the stuff that was once stored in it. We've watched as different panes of glass fall from various places in it. And we even had the foresight to have the heating system shut off and capped so we would stop wasting energy heating the thing and didn't have to worry about a pipe bursting out there in the boiler powered pipes. A pipe burst a few years ago, prompting this genius move on our part.

The only thing we forgot? We never turned off the water leading to the sink in the greenhouse. And while it is in the warmest corner of the greenhouse, with full panes of glass missing, it's really cold out there. And today we learned it was cold enough for a pipe to burst. I came home to water shooting out from beneath the sink - which would surely be awesome if it didn't mean thousands of gallons of water were spraying right next to my home and it was winter, so there was no possibility of running around in swimsuits and having fun with the burst pipe.

I eventually got the water to our home shut off so that Ed could solve this problem when he arrived home. And the one bright side I have discovered?

Connor actually washes his hands after he uses the restroom. I know, because right after he got home from school, he came running into my home office shouting about there not being any water, and noting that he NEEDED water to wash his hands. I gave him a bottle of sanitizer and told him it would have to do for now.

Any bets on whether this will be our only surprise this winter?


Sunday, January 5, 2014


It seems some people are just wired to be happy. On the other hand, some people seem wired to see the negative in every situation.

On New Year's morning, Connor was playing with a lego creation and it broke. Then something else that seemed somewhat trivial happened, and he was a mess. He sobbed that it was the worst day ever! And I really felt like he meant it. I pointed out many things that had already gone "right" for him that morning, but he was somewhat unconvinced. On more than one occasion, I have heard Connor exclaim "ugh, I wish I'd never been born" to express a simple thing like "I don't like dinner".  I thought it was funny at first, but now it just breaks my heart, so I asked him to please not tell me that.

Helen, on the other hand, just seems to float through life. Just a few days ago, it was extremely cold outside. She went out to play with a friend and came back in exclaiming "thank goodness I was so toasty warm out there". Part of that is her tendency to be a contrarian, but most of it is that she just can't be brought down most days. She dances, she sings, she wears a lot of pink! She looks for the beauty in the world and is fairly intentional about how her room should look, in order to be the prettiest possible.

Connor clearly takes after Ed and Helen favors me - although seeing Connor has made Ed comment "Am I really that negative?" so I'm guessing Ed doesn't FEEL as negative as Connor can sound. And really, he isn't. But the tendency is there.

All this leads me to be intrigued by the question of whether the tendency to be happy is innate, or if we have some control over it. I'm drawn to books like Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project", which I read a couple of years ago, and was excited when my online book club chose to read Rubin's follow-up "Happier at Home". In both books, Rubin poses simple experiments to try and make herself happier - even though she fully admits to being a happy person.

As is naturally the case with things like this - some suggestions ring true, and some ring hollow. But the book at least gave me room to pause, and think about my two children with very different dispositions and try and think about whether I could help Connor be happier. (Although in fairness, he is happier this year than I have ever seen him, so even his drub way sometimes is offset by a lot of smiles these days.)

The absolute best tip Rubin gives in Happier at Home is to sing in the morning, noting that it's very difficult to be unhappy when you are singing. It took me right back to my childhood, when my mom used to croon "Good morning, good morning! It's time to start the day. Good morning, good morning - to you!"

I sing to my kids all the time. And now, I tell them to sing back if they're feeling grumpy!


As part of the online book club "From Left to Write", I was given a copy of "Happier at Home". This post was inspired by that book.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Screwdriver Meets My Old Espresso Maker

For Christmas, Ed gifted me with a combo coffee and espresso maker. In response, I gifted the trashcan with my no longer working espresso maker, but not before giving it to Connor along with a screwdriver. He had quite a go of taking screws out and getting pieces apart. At one point, he got a little frustrated and suggested using a hammer, but sated his desire to destroy something by breaking the metal wand for steaming milk off instead. If you didn't know, it's very cool to break metal.

Helen looked on at the project for a while, and then announced firmly "you know, Connor, girls like mechanical things, too".

And then she got out her own screwdriver and helped in the destructive process while still dressed in her princess gear.

Tonight, I gave her the old coffeemaker to do with as she pleases - with the one condition being that it must end up in the trashcan. Unfortunately, the screwdriver she started with didn't work so we need Ed to show us where the skinnier screwdrivers are in order to really get the destruction going.

I figured it'll be good for another day of entertainment.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Resolutions: 2014 - The Rock and Roll Half Marathon

I don't like to tell people I'm going to do something and then not follow through and do it. So when I set a goal that seems just on the edge of reachable, I tend to talk about it. A lot. Anyone who has been around me recently knows that I am planning on running the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in the spring. I am planning on running it in 9:30 minute miles. I had originally set a goal of 8:00 - 8:30 minute miles, but the reality of knowing that my current 1 mile pace is 8:03 and my 5K pace is 8:36 means that I'm well advised to scale back the goal now. Otherwise, my training will be a big mess of disappointments, and that's not how I want to start my year.

If I don't hit 9:30 minute miles at the R&R half, I'll either find another half to run in a few weeks if I'm close, or I'll retrain for the goal in the Fall. See what I'm doing there? I'm both hedging my bet that I'll hit my goal in March AND setting myself up to have to keep training until I do hit it. I'm also going to put 750 miles on my kicks this year. In terms of quantity, it's not nearly as impressive as the 3000+ miles my sister will put on her bike, but what can I say? Her kids are older than mine.

I still haven't settled on a fun challenge of the year. I might go back to one of my favorites - which was to "drink more champagne". Hmm...must think on that one.

But no matter what else happens - I hope to continue to be able to start each morning being grateful for my two healthy children and for the pleasure of staying in this dimension.

Much love to all,

Remember Connor's awesome first 5K? Turns out I was second in my age group. It is not lost on me that the race was sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation. This medal has brought a lot of laughter to my home.