Sunday, September 23, 2012

Will's Knit Birthday Present! Mama Duck and Ducklings

Will turns two next week!  I've been getting my ducks in a row ;)

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a prolific knitter for a mother.  Every year, we were showered with hand knits in our favorite colors, and if there wasn't a pattern for our request, she'd pull out graph paper and start charting sesame street characters to knit onto the front of our next pullover.  

I'm not that good, but I would like each of my boys to receive a hand knit gift from mom for their birthdays and Christmas every year!

This year for Will's birthday, I decided to make him the adorable duck pull toy from Susan B. Anderson's "Itty Bitty Toys".  (The pattern is called "Mama Duck and Ducklings").  I've paired it with two board books about ducks, Gossie and Gossie and Gertie by Olivier Dunrea.  I've also been bringing him to the duck pond near our town hall more frequently to get him excited about ducks ;)

I am super excited about this knit, because toddlers LOVE pull toys, and I think Will is going to get a lot of use out of this toy!  Plus, it's breathtakingly cute.  

Can't wait for Will's birthday!

Notes for other knitters:

Woodwork: The woodworking requires you to be able to saw a dowel, and use a drill to drill holes in the dowels for the axils to go in.  

It's not too difficult, but it required some fidget work because the only wooden wheels we could find at the craft store (we looked multiple places and finally ended up with a set from A.C. Moore) did not have uniformly sized holes, so Greg had to drill some of the wheels in order for the axils to fit in and for the wheels to turn.  Make sure you check this BEFORE you start applying glue.  (Yeah, that was me.)

Attaching the wheels to the ducks: The orange i-cords you knit for the duck "feet" are not actually how you attach the ducks to the wheels.  You fasten those in place with extra strands of orange yarn, and then put the i-cords in place over them so that it looks pretty.  This is the only way to get them firmly attached, and the i-cords really do make it look much nicer.  After getting annoyed with the number of ends I was sewing in, I smartened up and passed the orange through the duck body to the next point where I'd be sewing the dowel to the duck, and used just one long string of orange yarn for each of the duckling bases.  If you're not careful to attach the dowels with just a few strands coming through the same points in your knitting, you may see orange strands sticking out from under your i-cords, and have to decide whether it's worth redoing.  (For me, the answer was no!  Will is going to love it as is.)

My less than ideal finish-work.

The pattern in general: Susan B. Anderson is yet again logical in her pattern writing - it's easy to follow, the shaping yields adorable results, and it was fun to knit.  There's a lot of repetition when you're doing that much icord, three beaks, six wing pieces, etc., and a lot of starting and stopping different sections, so it's not a mindless knit for a movie or car ride per-say, but the end result is adorable and worth every second.  Great for knitters who like to feel progress, since there are many steps to complete!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Great Birthday :)

Had a great birthday today, thanks to everyone who sent me birthday cards and messages!  Here's to one last year of my youthful, crazy twenties before the responsible thirties kick in :)

I started my day off right - sleep, and coffee.  Both courtesy of Greg, who was amazing to me all day :)  He picked out great birthday gifts for me, including awesome new running gear, and handled both boys at my second 5k this morning, where he somehow managed to keep both of them happy even though it interrupted Andrew's nap, and took awesome photos.  We finished off the day with a fun afternoon playdate with Will's Wednesday playgroup friends, just hanging out in the backyard.  It was a wonderful day.

Two fun events, and some time to just hang out as a family

The 5k was a fun local race that I signed up for because I was encouraged by my friend Abby who is an amazing craft goddess, mother of three, and also a Couch to 5k alum.

Here we are right before the race!  Do I look nervous?  I was really nervous. 
Hey! The race has started, now I'm happy!
You know how I look really nervous in that first picture?  It's because I was afraid THIS would happen. Here's me getting passed by a thirteen and fourteen year old girl, seconds from the finish line.  You go girls!  

In for the finish, at a personal best! (I love being a new runner)
It was a good year.  Birthdays are always a time to reflect on your life, how you've changed in the past year, what the next year will bring.  It's fun to feel like my list of accomplishments is growing faster than my list of "wish I were better at"s.  I'm settling in a little bit, and while there's a long list of things I want to try and learn to do and get better at, there's starting to be a long list of things I've done, too.  And that makes me feel excited to improve, rather than disappointed with where I'm at.  

Happy Birthday to Me :)  Here's to next year!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Seven Months Old... YAY!!!

I recently posted a blog titled "YAY!!!!" with pictures of Andrew grinning from ear to ear.  People loved it, and it's become sort of an inside joke in the family because Andrew still grins at absolutely everything.  So much joy :)  

Even Will has noticed. Just this past week we had the following conversation:

"What noise does a cow make?"
"What noise does a chicken make?"
"Cheep, cheep cheep!"
"What noise does Andrew make?"
"Laugh.  Ha, ha."
"Aww.  Yes, Will, he does."

To celebrate his seven month mark, and because it's cute, and because it makes my day to see all these pictures together, here's some more YAY!!!!

I'm seven months old!  YAY!!!!

Apricots and puffs... YAY!!!

I'm naked and I need a bath.. YAY!!!!

Mimi is giving me a bath!  YAY!!!

Time to get dried off... YAY!!!!
Red Sox Teddy Bear?!  YAY!!!
In the water with Mimi... YAY!!!!
I get to go for a car ride?  YAY!!!!
Dad took me to the playground!  YAY!!!

Do these sunglasses make me look cool?  Really?  They Do? YAY!!!!

I have a 102 degree fever and a runny nose in this picture... YAY!!!
Will has food... but I have a TOY, YAY!!!
This is a REALLY BIG TOY!  YAY!!!

Carrots!  YAY!!!!
Aunt E!  My favorite person!  YAY!!!
Erin!  My favorite person!  YAY!!!!
Mimi! My favorite person!  YAY!!!!
Grampa! My favorite person!  YAY!!!!
FEET!  They taste GREAT!  YAY!!!!!!
Will smiles too... yay :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Litter Boxes Can't Be Late For School: Will's first day!

Ready for his first day of school!

Will has started playschool!  He'll be going two mornings a week for three hours.  It's a little playschool close to our house where he'll get a chance to interact with other two year olds in a structured environment that includes story time, music, arts and crafts, snack-time, and free play.  Two teachers, ten toddlers, and a chance for him to make some friends in the neighborhood while I get a little extra time with Andrew or maybe take a yoga class!  I couldn't be more excited for us both :)

I did a few things to help Will prepare for the transition into playschool.

We went for a walk the week before and looked at school from the outside and talked about it.  (My mom was visiting so I got to show her which was fun!)

I printed out pictures of the playschool and his teacher from the school's website, so we could look at them together and talk about going to school and meeting new friends.  At my mom's suggestion, I taped them up at toddler height in our kitchen where he could see them.  At least once a day the week before school started I would talk to him about how he was going to go to school, meet new friends, play with the train, and have fun with Miss Hillary until Mom came back to pick him up.  By the time school started, he could point to the picture of his teacher and say her name!  My hope was that then when he arrived at the school for orientation, it would all look familiar because he had seen the pictures and we had talked about the fun he would have there without Mommy.

Photos of school

We also picked out a book about school to incorporate into Will's bedtime routine.  (Greg read it to him three times the night before Will's orientation!)  After perusing the display of books about school at my local bookstore, I chose "Spot Goes to School" by Eric Hill.  A lot of the books I found seemed too long or geared towards kindergarten, and this one was a perfect picture and concept book geared more towards a younger child's school experience.

Will's new bedtime story

Will's first day of school was a 45 minute orientation with only a few of the students.  Just long enough for him to meet the teachers and learn that although Mom is going to leave, she will be back, and soon.  It went fabulously.  The second we got there, he asked about the train set that he'd seen in the pictures, and was too busy playing with it to say goodbye to me when I left!  He knew I was leaving, but it was of secondary importance.  (Ouch, and yet awesome.)  Forty five minutes later, I came back to find him happily engaged with the other kids.

See you, Mom!  Sorry, I can't look up for a photo, I've got trains!

Whew.  Will did great.  Mr. Monkey didn't even need to come out of his school bag!  Now you might ask... first born son, first day of school, how did I do?

My morning was insanely, absurdly perfect.  Let me explain.

Nothing this morning went smoothly.  My phone rang at 6:30 a.m., waking me up with the news that my regular sitter had a stomach bug and couldn't watch Andrew this morning.  So either Andrew had to skip his regular morning nap to drop and pick up Will from orientation, or I had to find another sitter.  Normally, that might not be such a big deal, but we have a company picnic tonight and I want the kids rested so they have fun!  Frantic phone calls - lined up another sitter last minute, YES!  Realized our cleaning person comes today and the house is a wreck, and the last minute sitter can't come early enough to watch the kids so I can pick up, have to do it while keeping them entertained.  Getting Will's first day of school outfit picked out - oh no, he needs to wear disposable diapers for playschool and that means the only shorts that are clean won't stay up because they don't have a drawstring and there's no bulky cloth diaper underneath.  Find spare shorts in car.  Change first day outfit t-shirt because it clashes.  Ack, I can HEAR Andrew pooping from across the kitchen while I'm trying to find Mr. Monkey for Will's schoolbag.  Have I made coffee yet?  No.  Breakfast?  Will and Andrew, yes.  Me, no.  The litter box needs to be scooped.  No, Kelly, not now.  Litter boxes can't be late to school.

Focus.  Andrew needs to go down for his nap and I have to find myself a new shirt because he wiped snot all over my shoulder and you know it'll dry shiny and I'll look disgusting when I meet the other Moms.  Oh and I wanted to wear makeup.  I need to leave in twenty minutes.  Ok just concealer.  Maybe I could wear sunglasses instead.  No, I have to go inside.  Concealer.  And a clean t-shirt.  Ok, Andrew, naptime.  New diaper.  Wait, did you just pee?  Everywhere?  Yes, you're adorable.  That's really funny.  Wish I had time to take a picture.

My phone's vibrating in the other room.  Oh, the last minute sitter hit traffic.  She's going to be late.  I need to leave in ten minutes.  Ok, Andrew, you're dressed, let's do this, naptime!  SPLAT.  What's that noise?  Was that vomit hitting the floor?  Did you just spit up all over me and the stairs?  Yes, yes you did.  Ok, great.  New shirt.  Clean up stairs.  Playschool starts in twenty minutes.  The sitter still isn't here.  Will still isn't dressed.  I want to take a picture of him on the steps before we go.  I can do this.  Have I had coffee?  Some, finally.  Breakfast? No.  But Will's dressed!

I managed to get Andrew asleep and Will ready before the sitter showed up, snapped a frantic few photos on the porch, and was at playschool with literally two minutes to spare.

I decided not to linger!

By the time I was dropping him off, I was so hungry that I had ZERO problem giving him a quick kiss and a wave, and leaving him engrossed in the train table so I could run and grab a breakfast sandwich before I needed to pick him up forty five minutes later.

And that's when I realized what a gift it was to have an insane morning, because when your house is on fire, you're not worried about emptying the dishwasher.  It was all I could do to get it together enough to get Will to school on time, and so while I was stressed out, the stress wasn't about leaving him.  I knew I had prepared him the best I could, he wasn't at all upset that I was leaving, and that breakfast sandwich sounded pretty darn good.  By the time I was done with the sandwich and had a moment to spare for maternal anxiety, I was halfway up the steps to retrieve Will from school.

Thank you, chaos.  That was insanely, absurdly perfect.

Will has time to stop for a quick photo and to smell the flowers before we head in to playschool to meet his teacher and new friends!  Whew. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Couch to 5K Experience

After two months of training, I just ran my first 5k!  Here's how it happened.

I have never been a jogger.  I have flirted with it, briefly, but we've never gone steady.  As soon as I lost my breath, I'd start walking, and that was that.  This summer, frustrated with how I looked and felt after having two kids in under two years, I decided to give running a more intelligent try.

I googled the famous "Couch to 5K" program, sent it to Greg for approval, and went for my first run that afternoon.  Greg endorsed my plan with great enthusiasm, and found me a 5k to sign up for before I even finished the first workout.  By day three, I'd registered.'s Couch to 5K program was great.  It's an interval workout schedule designed to get non-runners running by easing them into it gradually enough to keep you from losing motivation or getting injured.  It even has an i-phone app for $1.99 that will help you keep track.  I followed the program to the letter for the first five weeks, and every single workout felt challenging but doable, and that was just enough to keep me going.  Starting with the last workout of week six, which called for 22 minutes of straight running, I ended up losing faith in myself ten minutes into the running and taking a break to walk.  From there, it was tougher and tougher to actually run the amount of time suggested without stopping to walk for a minute or two in between.  The walking made me feel so guilty that I actually ended up running for a greater total time than called for, because I wanted to compensate for the walking intervals in between.  

Greg actually pushed the double stroller when we went for our family run!
Thanks to my Uncle J for the hand-me-down!
I finally got over that mental hurdle when a week before the race, Greg and I had a chance to run together.  We put Will and Andrew in the double jogging stroller, which Greg pushed while I ran beside him and he gave me encouragement and helped me keep my pace steady.  Knowing he was watching (and running slower than he's run in three years while also pushing both of our children) helped me power through and run for 29 minutes without stopping.  My longest run without a walking break before that was 17 minutes, followed by three minutes of walking before I ran another 15, walked, then ran 5 more minutes.

Andrew after our family run :)
I ran my last training run, a thirty minute jog, on Friday, August 31st in preparation for my race on Labor Day.  My goal: Completion.  When I first started running, it was all I could do to run for sixty seconds at a time.  I remember the day the training program switched to running for 90 second intervals with two minute walking breaks in between - I was so nervous, and I came home after my run beaming with pride to tell Greg I had done it - and he responded WITH A STRAIGHT FACE that that was great :)  This is a man who runs marathons.  He has run for four straight hours before and somehow found it in his heart to be genuinely pleased for me the first time I ran for ninety seconds without stopping.  Words cannot describe how much I love him.

Towards the end of my Couch to 5k training, I started to fixate on how fast I was going, not how long and how far I was running.  It was suddenly hard to accept that despite all the work I was putting in, I was only running 10 minute and 45 second miles.  Greg ran 7:10s for his last half marathon.  I get that he's an amazing runner who has been running for years.... but it's still tough to work so hard and be so slow.

But what I needed to remember was that when I started, I couldn't jog for sixty seconds without losing my breath.  And now I can jog for over thirty minutes.  I look better.  I feel better.  I have more energy.  I love spending time running outside along the brook path surrounded by beautiful scenery, listening to my feet pound against the dirt path, and thinking about how awesome I am.  Because I am awesome.  I am getting out there and working hard.

Recently I reviewed a parenting lecture given by Alan Kazdin.  One thing he said that struck me was that parents of schoolchildren need to reward and encourage studying behaviors, rather than test results.  Positively reinforcing the behaviors of sitting and completing homework and studying for exams is much better than praising the exam score.  Applying this idea to my workouts, I realized that race day was only important as a means of demonstrating the progress I had made over those eight weeks of running.  Standing at the start line, I had already accomplished something great.  I had taken the time to get out there and do my best, 27 times throughout July and August.  (I kept track on a cool calendar of my brother's photos that I keep on my bureau).  Sometimes the runs went great, sometimes they were awful, always I went for the next one.  

So I ran my first 5k.  Personal best.  Now maybe I can focus on bringing that time down for my next race ;)

*UPDATE, MAY 2013* Still running!  Here are a couple links to some of my other posts about running:

Running With a Double Jogging Stroller:

Tips for Beginning Runners from a Beginner:

Andrew gives me a pep talk before the race
Heading towards the finish with my father-in-law cheering me on in the background!
"Look how young you guys were when Mommy ran her first 5k!"