Thursday, June 27, 2013

fun with removable chalkboards

I just discovered Wallies - they're like the post-it-note of chalkboards... they're thin, removable, chalkboard stickers essentially that come in various sizes.

I love them because I can use them wherever I need to keep track of things, and remove them whenever I'd like without worrying about holes or tape marks.

Chalk is great because if Will or Andrew gets hold of it and writes on the furniture or wall, it wipes off cleanly and easily, unlike dry erase markers.

I just used them to label Will's dresser to help him pick out his own clothes more easily in the morning!  I took the 8 by 11 sheets and cut them into quarters to be a good size for labeling each half of his dresser drawer.

He loves it, despite my mediocre illustrating capabilities :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Teaching your toddler not to be afraid of things

I am not a huge fan of spiders or bugs... especially in the house.  But when I see one while the kids are around, I try to remember how much they learn from my example.  I don't want them to be afraid of bugs because I screamed when one caught me by surprise, or take a cavalier attitude towards other living things because they saw me kill one.  So we talk about how bugs live outside, and how neat they are, and count the spider legs once I've caught them in a glass to take outside.  And if we see a bee outside, we talk about how they don't like to be touched so we need to stand back, but also that it's wonderful how they help our flowers grow.

Who ever would have thought I'd be pretending to like spiders.

The things we do for our kids, right?!

I love how this bee is helping our flowers grow.  (I actually really do love bumble bees.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Putting out new toys for the morning

Recently we've started to keep our toys more organized.  We have them sorted into labeled plastic containers and in cabinets in our kitchen that have child locks on them so that the kids can't get out every single toy they own simultaneously and create chaos.

Lest this sound cruel, they can have any toy any time, as long as they put away something they're not using, first.  We try to keep only a few bins out at a time.  Cars and blocks go great together, or musical instruments and stuffed animals, for example.

This has been great for two reasons:

1. The house doesn't get as messy and the toys stay together so you can actually build an entire shape sorter or put Mr. Potato head together - so many toys are only functional when you have most of their parts!

2. The boys actually engage in more focused and creative play because they're not faced with choosing from all of their toys all at once, all the time.  When they get bored, they find something new to do with the toy that's out, rather than just switching instantly to a new toy.  I've seen my son "cook", plate, and serve the parts to one of his stacking toys for over twenty minutes, which never happened when everything he owned was out all at once.

We took it further recently and started putting something fun out for them to come down to in the morning, maybe a toy they haven't played with in a while, or something set up differently and fun for them.  Greg is best at this, and I think it's fun for everyone :)

Sometimes Greg makes such cute setups for the boys that I wish they wouldn't play with them!

Focused play

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I Am Running This - My new running blog!

Great news for everyone!  I finally realized that the audience for my blog was split between parents who were excited to read about parenting, and runners who were excited to read about running.  

I started to post only half the running posts I really wanted to, because I was worried that my blog readers were getting tired of reading about running.  I thought the best solution would be a blog about running that I could post to as often as I wanted about running, and a re-focus of My New Normal to surviving (and maybe thriving?) as the mother of two young boys.  

So it's back to the craft projects, parenting lectures, meal planning, and household organization for My New Normal, and for any runners following me, I hope you'll join me on my new blog at!

Thanks :)


Friday, June 7, 2013

Ran My First 10k!

I ran my first 10K on June 2nd!

Hard to believe that only a year ago, I had never even run a mile.  I started the Couch to 5k program in July of 2012, completing it in early September of 2012.  Now I can run without stopping for twice as long!

I didn't run the 10k in the time I was hoping for or expecting (and I was being realistic based on my training pace!) but I felt really accomplished because it was 80 degrees out, sunny, and with over 90 percent humidity, something we're not used to this early in June!  My legs didn't hold me back, dizziness and managing my breathing in the heat did.  It was also a challenging course, we gained 196 feet in altitude because of all the hills.

I wanted to stop BASICALLY the entire time, but I never did, except to pause a few times at water stations.  Other than that, I kept on running.  Did I run fast?  No.  Did I even run my normal slow pace?  No.  But I kept going, even when my ipod ran out of music on my playlist because I was four minutes behind schedule.

That entire last mile took everything I could to just keep on running... especially since there were two women near me who kept walking, then sprinting, then walking.  They must have passed me fifteen times only for me to jog on by them when they started walking.  Every time they slowed down, I wanted to start walking, too.  Only my determination to run this 10k, the whole thing, without stopping, kept me going.  I was going for completion, not a time, and I did it.

There's a picture of me throwing up my hands in victory and shouting "FIRST 10K!!!" (making spectators laugh) as I ran across the finish.  I have never felt such a runner's high as I did coming across that finish line right then.  The heat, the hills, the intense, nagging urge to just give up and walk was so fresh in my memory that I knew for certain that I had just accomplished something great.  I was in a great mood the entire rest of the day.  Not a good mood, a GREAT mood.

Now, as I look at my pace (10:55 minute miles) I feel a little ashamed.  "That's barely running!" My brain shouts.  "You've run a 5k in 9:50's!  You've run 5 miles of hills in 10:04s!  You've run a 5k PUSHING BOTH KIDS in 10:15s!!!!  WHAT IS THIS?!!"

I have to squelch that voice and remember that feeling of ecstasy I had when I crossed that finish line, when I remembered exactly how hard it was going up those hills and running in that heat.  Running that slow meant I was out in the heat and the sun exerting myself for over an hour.  That is an accomplishment.

The fact that my legs didn't feel like post-race legs the next day isn't surprising - I can run a better pace than that.  But I finished, I didn't get heat stroke, and I can harness that nagging "WHAT IS THIS?!" voice on my next training run to start picking the pace up and getting faster this summer.

Was it hard?  Yes.  Did I do it?  Yes.  Am I awesome?  Yes.

There will always be people who are faster than you, and there will always be people that are slower than you.  The trick is knowing what you can do and pushing hard enough so you feel that runner's high as you cross the finish, rather than disappointment.

For your first race of any distance, you're battling that mental "can I do this whole thing?" worry that keeps you running a little slower than you might otherwise, because you're afraid of walking that last mile.  And that's ok, or at least it is with me.  Now that I know I can do it, next time I can focus on doing it faster.

Run fun :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Will's Last Day of Playschool! (& A Thank You Note Idea For Teachers)

It's Will's last day of playschool!

As a fun idea for teacher appreciation thank you notes, I took all the craft projects Will did this year at school and laid them out on the floor and snapped a photo.  I printed the photo and put it on card stock to make a custom thank-you-note for his teachers that is a tribute to all the hard work they did this year helping him create so many fun projects that he is so proud of.  Will wrote on half the inside of the card, and I wrote on the other, and we slipped in a gift card and decorated the outside of the envelope with stickers.

You could even lay the projects out a little more neatly and take a photograph to save if you're planning to keep just a few projects from each school year so you have less clutter in your home.  I figure I'll probably ask Will to pick some favorites to keep.

I can hardly believe his first school year is over.  I feel as though I had just settled into the routine of drop offs and pick-ups, of warm cups of coffee in a quiet house while Andrew napped, of the joy I felt each time Will ran towards me, all grins, excited to show me the day's art project.

When I first looked for a toddler playschool for Will, it was because I needed the break for me.  After seeing him come home singing new songs, super excited about his school projects, and asking every morning if it was a school day, I realized that this was something for HIM.  It meant he had a scheduled time each week where he was guaranteed a chance to play with friends, do a craft project, sing songs, and be active.  I try to do all those things regularly at home, but it's hard sometimes when you've got grocery shopping, meal planning, diaper changing and laundry folding all getting in the way!

Will had a wonderful year at school, with two amazing teachers who were excellent at making him feel safe, comfortable, and happy all while managing to teach him new skills like getting dressed to go outside and doing more and more of each craft project himself.

I'm so grateful, and I look forward to sending Andrew to Miss Hillary when he is two!

Happy end of school year, and welcome, summer!

Will on his first day of school!

Will today.  What a difference a school year makes!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mum's Birthday Afghan!

photo by Alan

My brother had the wonderful idea of making Mum a birthday afghan where each of her children (including our spouses) knit a panel. The amazing part? My brother learned to knit in order to do this!
My sister in law, sister and I each knit one of the main panels, and my husband and brother knit edge panels for this beautiful five piece afghan.
My sister-in-law found the pattern, chose the yarn, and ordered everything and got us organized! She also taught Alan to knit and helped him and my sister with any mistakes since they live close to each other.
Some things I learned knitting this afghan, that are probably obvious to more advanced knitters:
When cabling, the pearl stitches are ALWAYS going to be held to the back.
If you pay attention, you really can learn what each cable instruction/pattern is doing, and then you can pay slightly less attention to the pattern.
Reading on your kindle isn’t the best idea while you’re trying to establish a cable pattern.
PIN the panels together before you seam the two smaller edge panels on, because even though you can add length if it’s still on the needles, if you seam it without the appropriate tension, it’ll look all wavy and weird and you’ll have to rip the seams back and pin it. (See photo.)

I would err on the side of having the edge panels taper IN rather than OUT as you’re trying to seam them on so that it’s a straight line, because it looks really funny if they flare out and it’s kind of hard to get them exactly straight (see photo, I ripped it back twice)

I used mattress stitch to seam them together, which was a little strange because it was hard at first to figure out where to go in and out since you’re not connecting two like pieces together. But this is clearly the way to seam them together.
If you’re knitting this with other knitters, YES do a gauge swatch, but unless it’s crazy off, I would recommend using the same size needles. My husband and I knit a little tighter than my siblings, so we went up a needle size, and I think it made the drape of my center panel look sloppy in comparison despite the fact that the width and lengths were to measurement. I think I could have compensated for any slight discrepancies by seaming, and then the drape for the whole afghan would have been the same.
Overall, we’re really thrilled that we did this all together and gave it to Mom for her birthday! She’s the most prolific, inspirational, talented and giving knitter I know and it was such a joy for us to pull together and make something for her.

Only 15.5 pattern repeats of 24 rows left to go!
Please don't let your children play with scissors and pins, it's not safe.  Don't try this at home.

She did not do a pattern repeat while she was in there.  Darn cat.

I'm not sure what I would have done without all of Nemo's help.

5:00 p.m., on Mom's birthday, the day before her birthday lunch!  WE DID IT!!! 
photo by Alan