Going the Distance

As you know, M really loves to run, and he loves to run far. We opted not to go to with him to the Baker Trail UltraChallenge this weekend for logistical reasons, but he did really well even with the heat... Second place, with a time of 8 hours and 42 minutes for 50 miles! He said the race director did a great job with this one, and there was camping on a little farm where the race finished. Hopefully we can all go to the next one. This is his third really strong finish this summer. He has one more marathon and another ultra before winter sets in. Despite breaking his elbow in May, it's been a good summer for him.

Once upon a time, even 2 miles seemed a distance too far to walk. The only time we walked anywhere when we were in college was if we left the bar after the buses had stopped running. Hiking the AT really changed that for both of us. At this stage of my life, I'm not exactly up to 50 miles, or really running at all. But yesterday I got a chance to take a long walk in the park. (We are super lucky to have a 500 acre mostly wooded park near our house.) After I hit about 5 miles, I started feeling my gait relax. I prefer barefoot style shoes and feeling my feet sort of melt into the dirt single track was amazing. I could have walked all day. I rarely get a chance to walk at my own natural pace anymore. Laurel is pretty fast now, but Marko has to stop and look at everything, especially ants, rocks, sticks, dirt, etc. You know, all the stuff that you see pretty much every 3 feet or so when you are out walking around the park. This stage is temporary, though, and I get a little thrill every time I think of our kids as teenagers and maybe doing a thru-hike somewhere with them.


Miscellaneous Thoughts on Sleep, Jackhammers & Kindergarten

Penndot placed a sign in our front yard a while back that said "Road Work Ahead." But no construction crews appeared. We wondered about the upcoming project. Weeks went by.

Until one night, around 10 pm. And they brought jackhammers with them. It was very loud that first night. Worse than the jackhammers were the honking cars out front. Switching the traffic light to the blinking red setting makes everyone lose their minds. And to be fair, it's really hard to figure out who is supposed to go next at a four way stop when two four lane roads intersect. Then weeks went by and we heard nothing else. Last night they were back. With the jackhammers.

Luckily kindergarten is taxing enough to Laurel that she was not bothered by the noise and fell promptly to sleep.

As for Marko, well, remember when he slept for like 20 hours a day during the first 3 months of his life? And how awesome it was when I got to "sleep train" him to stay in his crib after that? (It's really fun to sleep train a baby when you lay them in bed and say "fall asleep"...and they fall asleep.)

Well, he's not like that anymore. His antics in the hours between 7 and 10pm are hilarious. His demands are unique and constantly changing. He goes on at great lengths about the various beasts that are going to eat him in the dark if we leave him alone. He needs to go to the bathroom. He drinks a ton of water, and then needs to go to the bathroom more. He demands to sleep outside, to build a campfire, to sleep at a Hampton Inn, or to play the piano. Once, he asked me for a beer. If one of us is tired enough to actually go to bed, he just snuggles up against us and goes to sleep. However, he is strongly opposed to the idea of sleeping in his own bedroom.

I suppose we could just weather this phase by simply going to sleep with him. That's what we did with Laurel and she turned out ok.


And that was that....

It's still only August, but Laurel started kindergarten today. No more long lazy days and ignoring bedtimes.

Laurel was surprised at how much they had to sit in their seats. (Quite a bit different from Montessori.) She stripped off her school uniform jumper at some point in the day so arrived to the pick up line with just her shirt and a pair of bicycle shorts on. "It's very hot in there," she told me. It did not seem to be a big deal to anyone. She went to something called "Thinking Class" and drew a picture of a tree.

And that was that; the first day of kindergarten come and gone. There seemed to be a wide range of kids in her class....some who were clearly having their first experiences with school, and others, like Laurel, who are very comfortable in institutional settings. Laurel prefers being around lots of people. One of the things that was sort of exhausting about this summer for me was providing that for her. Seeking out the playgrounds with the regular crowds of big and little kids and going to the pool was a daily requirement for her. Marko and I definitely prefer smaller groups or hanging out by ourselves. I think this is a personality thing and not a developmental thing because Laurel has always thrived in her daycare or preschool settings and craves the stimulation of a crowd.

Marko missed her today, but we went to his playgroup and did some grocery shopping. I found it vastly easier to get chores done with him just tagging along and not having to moderate any play/fights. He was even more helpful than he has been for most of the summer when it came time to clean up. For his "early childhood enrichment" we counted the peanuts I was shelling for dinner. I believe he can recognize amounts up to 3 without counting, but is sort of spotty with any one-to-one correspondence. He wanted to play Set, but that was way beyond him. We also read Fire Fuego, Brave Bomberos, which switches between English and Spanish. I noticed the other day that Laurel was teaching Marko to recite numbers to 10 in Spanish and he seems really interested by hearing words in other languages. The French baby books that my aunt has supplied us with are almost always one of his picks for bedtime reading.

So, summer is a wrap and I am trying to shift into a schedule for the school year. I'm coming up on a one year anniversary of becoming a stay at home mom, and while it doesn't really make sense for me to start a new job right now, recent events have reminded me that one always has to freshen one's resume and be on the lookout for opportunities. On the other hand, it's actually pretty challenging and fulfilling work to manage a home and be directly responsible for the early childhood education of our kids.


Behold, Virginia!

We went down to Charlottesville to visit my great aunt last week and then spent the last couple of days exploring the Grayson Highlands area in southwest Virginia. It was refreshing to get out of town, although M did have to work for half the week. Working from the road poses its own set of challenges, but at least we get to be all together and we are the kind of people who need a change of scenery (especially if that scenery can include some mountains).

My aunt planned all kinds of great kid-friendly activities, the best of which was probably visiting her friend's farm where they got to feed some chickens and collect eggs, and look at horses and cows. We also visited her local toy store, found a nearby playground and walked her dog. Laurel surprised me by even picking up the dog poop in her efforts to prove to me that she is mature enough to get her own dog. (I must admit, I'm wavering on that one now....)

M did a couple of long runs on the AT. We all drove up to Shenandoah together and my aunt, the kids and I explored the big meadow while M ran. The next day we headed out to southwestern Virginia in search of a remote campground and the Grayson Highlands. I really recommend the Hurricane Campground if you use tents or small trailers. It's about 20 miles from the interstate and some of that is on forest roads, but they were well maintained. Some sites are reservable and some are first-come-first-serve. It was really clean, with big gravel tent pads at each site and a nice picnic table and fire ring. We camped along a creek and the noise from it was very soothing.

The Grayson Highlands is a busy state park, with lots of well marked trails and a visitor center and developed campground. Not really our scene, at least to camp in. But it does offer access to the Appalachian Trail and has amazing views of the surrounding mountains via some easy trail.

When we were waiting for M to show up at our rendez-vous spot on Saturday, Laurel - in her typically friendly fashion - introduced herself to lots of people. "Have you seen my dad? He is a runner. He has a big beard." She squinted her eyes at some distant rocky peaks and spotted a person climbing on them. "I don't think that is my dad, because he is a professional runner but not a professional rock climber." She met some horse back riders and they got off to let her pet their horses. She looked everywhere for the wild ponies, but they had moved to another part of the park just ahead of us. Marko kept calling the mountains "beautiful" and when we were driving on those windy, steep country roads he put his hands up in the air and shouted "wheeeee!"

Whenever anyone asked me what my favorite part of the AT was, I always thought of southern Virginia, but hadn't really been back there since we volunteered for Hard Core in 2008. It was great to see it again, even if just for a couple of days.


August Updates

All I wanted for this summer was to spend a lot of time with my kids and pack in as many quintessential summertime activities as we cared for, while keeping it simple and close to home. We wander through the park quite a bit, and carry a picnic blanket to spread beneath shady trees. Laurel's improved her bike riding and swimming skills quite a bit and Marko has uncanny upper body strength on the playground equipment. We eat Italian Ice at the farmer's market on Mondays and go to the science center or museum whenever we need some air conditioning. We got in a little hiking and camping and swimming in the river. M ran so much the kids started playing "running" as a game. We floated - and sunk - a lot of little boats. The list that Laurel and I made at the beginning of the summer is pretty much checked off. So, it has been a really wonderful summer as evidenced by their suntans and bleached hair and the amount of dirt we scrub off our toes at the end of each day. My phone memory is maxed out right now because I took so many pictures of us doing awesome things. However, the days are long. The Perfect Childhood Summer should always wind down in August with a few too-long days and a little bit of boredom.

Today was such a long and tearful day that it seemed appropriate when Laurel's classroom assignment arrived in the mail, along with a thick packet of forms to return. She will start kindergarten in two weeks.

I was standing in my yard yesterday when I met one of our neighbors, coming down the street from the grocery store with her two little boys. She had that look about her, the look I've come to recognize that hits stay-at-home-moms around 4 o'clock. Moms that go to a job during the day look slightly mentally refreshed at 4 or 5 o'clock. I think it must be the transition and those 15 minutes of quiet in the car before you pick your kids up from daycare. Moms who have been with their kids nonstop all day seem much more acutely aware that there are a solid 4 hours until bedtime is remotely possible. (And I say moms, but my next door neighbor is with his kids all day and I know we are in solidarity on this one.) We exchanged phone numbers and immediately started texting and arranging play dates.

I wonder what I look like at that time of day. I don't even want to explain the situation I got into with Marko today when I needed to stop him from wrapping tape around a chair outside and get him into the bathtub. The time period between 4 and 8 is filled with me uttering the most ridiculous directions because my kids are doing weird, annoying or destructive things and misusing all sorts of household objects.

And then finally, everyone is scrubbed clean and inspected for ticks and we sink into bed with a pile of books and all is right with the world again. We talk about our day and recently, Laurel has been begging me to tell stories of my childhood. And from this, Marko has started telling stories about when he was "a kid". (Generally, he's telling us about something that happened last week, or this morning.)

I love the sounds of August...conversations drifting out of cars passing by and the crickets and cicadas in the trees all around us. It's pleasant company for me after everyone else is sleeping and I'm still working on the perpetual pile of dishes. Summer has been different for me this year. I'm really grateful I've been in a position to enjoy it for what it is.