A Moment of Quiet

Last weekend, M cut his ankle badly enough to need stitches, so he has been stuck at home. And by stuck, I mean wandering around Frick Park with Laurel and Marko trying to catch Pokemon instead of out doing his big training runs on the trails. He's antsy, but I think the forced rest is probably a good for him. I think he will get back out this week sometime.

Right now, he's gone with the kids and I'm trying to move as little as possible while I watch Max carefully eat little bits of sweet potato. It's very hot. Sticky midsummer Pittsburgh hot. I've had to really slow down our activities this past week and concentrate on keeping the kids hydrated and cool, especially Max. When we go out on a walk we tuck little ice packs under his stroller pad. I finally ventured out again to the pool with three kids and it was a success, ie no drownings or near drownings, but I will definitely be avoiding crowds for now.

Running Club has been going on for a good few weeks now and we've hit a place where families are stepping up to volunteer to lay the course and others bring ideas for tag games. We get a rotating crowd of regulars and between 15 and 20 people show up every week. I try to keep it to an hour so anyone with early bedtimes can jet out at 7, but a few families always stay a little later. If anyone wants to start a Kids Running Club, it's pretty easy. It's basically a hash, but shorter and without the beer. And plus a game of tag! We picked a day and a time to meet regularly and started posting it on Facebook as an event so people could share the link with their friends. On the event page, I wrote an FAQ to address common questions. We decided that we would run for about an hour and do four parts. First a warm up game that could be started as people arrived. Then stretching and review of the rules and introductions since new people show up all the time. We have three regular rules and one silly rule. 1) Be kind and have fun. 2) Take good care of your body. 3) Leave the park better than you found it. The silly rule is Go before you come (no bathrooms here!). Then we run the course which we've kept to about a 1/4 mile- 1/3 mile loop. Some kids do 2-3 laps, others just go once. In the future, I think I'd like to have a bunch of cheap stopwatches so they could each time themselves (instead of racing for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place). The best part is the cheer we do at the end. "2-4-6-8 Running Club is really great!" - I am actually surprised that the kids like it as much as they do but Marko chants it all week long.

Sometimes I feel like I'm doing nothing but just barely getting through the day, but the fact that I was able to make something like Running Club happen means there's more here than just surviving. And that feels pretty good.


Summer Update

Sometimes I think 3 kids is not that many, and other times, well, let's just say it's a miracle that anything at all happens beyond breakfast.

Summer is passing quickly. Today we made our first attempt at going to the pool and it was a pretty successful trip, mostly because my friend Anne was there with her daughter and she entertained Marko and Laurel. I put them both in life jackets when we got there until I had Max situated and I could figure out the dynamics of this pool, since I hadn't been there in a while. But the massive thunderstorms of the morning seemed to have scared away any regulars and maybe canceled all the camp kids swimming so it was pretty empty the whole afternoon. Eventually I let Laurel take her life jacket off and test out her swimming skills from last summer and I am happy to report that she did pretty well. She just needs to work on her strokes and become a more efficient swimmer. Marko doesn't know how to swim at all, but now that I finally bought our pool tags, I think I'll try to teach him. With Laurel I watched this video, which is a bit old and has a pretty freaky intro, but has some very sound principles. She's good at holding her breath, diving, treading water and staying afloat, but definitely needs to learn some strokes so she can get across the pool more quickly.

I wish our city pools opened to the public in the morning. They open at 1, which is peak sunburn hour and also post-lunch nap time, but I think if I wait until 3 to go, we'll just not end up going. Luckily Max will sleep in his stroller pretty happily wherever we go.


Pool Memories

I can remember what the bottom of that pool felt like on my toes when I was big enough to walk across it. It wasn't very deep so I think I could probably do it when I was about 10. By then, my grandfather had put these solar heaters on the roof to heat the water, so if it was a sunny day the water would be almost too warm. But on an overcast day, it could be very cold. The thermometer hung from a metal wire into the water. It was easy to stub your toe on the bricks surrounding the pool. Then and now my favorite part of swimming was getting out of the cold water and laying in the sun on a towel until I was completely dry and then jumping back in. By the way, doesn't my mother's hair look beautiful in that picture? 


Camping with Kids

Each time we go camping with kids, we discover another way to make it easier or more fun. Plus, as the kids get older, there are more activities that are appropriate for us. This weekend we went to our friend Jack's parents' place on the Juniata River. We've been going up there every summer for many years....since before M and I got engaged and that was in 2002! M asked me to marry him there, actually, while we were on a canoe. His parents used to have a house there, but they sold that and kept some of the land next to it. Now there is a pavilion with a fireplace and a bathroom with plumbing, but everyone sleeps in campers or tents. Jack's sisters were visiting with their families as well, so there were lots of kids to play with and it was a really fun weekend.

We still haven't purchased a big tent that we can all sleep in. We have two backpacking tents that are in good shape, and even though we're doing a lot of car camping right now, I think we will probably do more backpacking style camping once the kids are bigger. Right now, M usually sleeps with Marko and Laurel in the tent and I sleep with Max in the truck.

We bought a water proof bag to put on our roof rack and this has made it so much easier to pack. Now we don't have things jammed into every corner and falling on the kids. Plus there's more room to bring various baby containment devices for Max. He's too heavy to hold all the time, so I brought his pack n play. A standard sized crib sheet fits perfectly over the top of it to provide some shade and protection from bugs. Also, it recently occurred to me to pack an EMPTY duffel bag for our dirty laundry. This way it was easy to keep it separate and nobody accidentally put on dirty underwear. Ahem, Marko. I also borrowed my friend's pop up sun shelter and that was perfect for Max to crawl around in when we went to the lake.

Now that the kids are older, there are lots of water activities that we can do. The kids went paddling in kayaks and swimming in the river. Laurel is getting to be a decent swimmer, but I keep her in a life jacket anyway and probably will for a long time (it's the law anyway, if she's in a kayak).  (Also, for PA residents, you have to have a safety whistle in addition to a life jacket now or you will get a fine!) M bought some fishing poles. Laurel is pretty good at casting! Marko likes the idea of fishing more than the actual activity, but he does like hanging out at the river bank.  They only caught one fish, too small to keep, but I like the idea of acquiring a survival skill and maybe getting beyond just fishing in stocked lakes.

As per usual, the kids didn't sleep quite enough, but that was partially due to the fireworks that were going off everywhere. We also did a terrible job of packing food and spent way too much money at Sheetz. However, that's part of the River House fun for us, so I'm chalking it up to passing on traditions to the kids.

We are getting so much better at unpacking and putting stuff away, so most everything is clean and dry and hung up and we're ready for our next camping adventure!


Summer Break: Week 2

I had a better plan this week, which included making advanced preparation of dinners and packing lunches the night before. We also planned in advance for the kids to visit my mom and sleep over on Monday, so the week got off to a mellow start.

We spent a LOT of time in the park this week. Hours and hours at a time. On Wednesday we went out at 9:30 and came back at 3. I finally got up the nerve to let the kids take their bikes out and was really pleased with how well Laurel did. We got her a new bike for Christmas, but learning to use the hand brakes and gears proved to be a little too much for her at the time. After a few crashes, we stashed it in the garage and forgot about it for a while. The Bowling Green area of the park is perfect for practicing because it's fairly flat and there's a pretty big stretch where she can go back and forth without needing to turn around....and I could stay on the picnic blanket with Max and still see the kids. After 3 days of practice, she's so much better. Marko is a speed demon on the strider bike. Some neighborhood kids joined us some days, other days we just hung out on our own.

The other thing that went really well this week was Running Club. At least 20 kids showed up on Thursday and we did a short cross country loop in the woods. The kids liked it so much that some of them did it 3 or 4 times! I was really impressed with their stamina. We also ran sprints and played some tag. My expectations when starting this were pretty loose. I hoped kids would come and would enjoy running around. I want the kids to have a really positive association with outdoor exercise because I think running and walking in outdoor spaces are some of the most beneficial activities you can engage in throughout your whole life. I am also hoping to see the kids start to lead their own games, organize themselves, manage the conflict that arises during competition and make up new games. I could see this starting to take hold and I'm really excited to see where it goes.

This week, we did two food rescue missions. We also got a letter from our friend who went to New Mexico for the summer, so we can write a letter back now. I completely forgot to write down the books we read for the summer reading program, but we did go to the library and get new ones. The kids like getting prizes, but they read no matter what.

There was a little bit of "I'm bored" - but I read that was good for kids and sparks creativity. And sure enough I would soon find them at the Lego table, or getting out craft stuff or playing with the baby.

I did a terrible job of sleeping enough this week so I'm on the brink of exhaustion, but other than that things are pretty great.