Man, it has been so long since I last posted on this blog that I almost don’t even remember how to do it. I’ve been itching to blog regularly again, but have been so busy living this amazing life that it hasn’t happened till now. I think I’ll have a bit more free time this fall so hopefully (and I know, I’ve said that before) I’ll be able to not only blog more often but also put out some new patterns that have been rattling around in the works for some time.
For now, I’m going to do what I do best, which is a massive photo dump with some of the highlights in our family since last I shared. Ready? Go!
Sophie and I said a tearful goodbye to preschool. We’d spent three wonderful years with this team of teachers, and mostly the same kids and moms too. Teacher Margene is better than you can imagine, and Peggy has the best hugs – she’s gotten more knitted things from me than any other person outside my family and it’s because she appreciates them so much and because she’s so full of love. Stacey was the parenting teacher – the moms and/or dads met once a week for support and advice, and I learned so much about being a good parent from them! Srsly. I cried.
Julie landed the lead role in her first grade musical. She played Tiger Shark in Go Fish! – She was the shark that wanted to be friends with everyone. That kid – I am so proud of her. She knew all her lines, all the songs, spoke clearly, hit her marks, and enjoyed herself pretty much the whole time. Being involved in this little production really turned a light on inside her.
Of course the whole family came out to see her. Because the play included all of the first graders and the kindergartners too, there were two dress rehearsals and two showings because you can only fit so many chorus kids on a set of risers at one time, and there are AM and PM kindergartens. I was there for the whole thing, video camera and tripod and all. Again with the tears. So proud. And now all the other parents know Julie as “Tiger Shark” – which is not a bad thing to be known for when you are a first grader.
The end of Julie’s school year arrived, and with all the volunteering and hanging out during the play production, Sophie and I were almost honorary members of her class. We volunteered at the funfair on the last day, which basically meant we hung around and participated, although I did paste a couple of bandaids on, wipe away a few tears and squash a few antisocial behaviors – none of these on my own children mind you. I love this picture because it shows the best of my girls’ relationship. They really do love each other, are very close and play well most of the time. They also love to yell at each other and bicker over the tiniest of things.
We signed the girls up for soccer this summer because I never had a chance to play team sports and regret it deeply, and because hello staying active, making friends, coming home so tired that they actually fall asleep at bedtime. Sophie was very excited to participate, although when five-year-olds play soccer, it mostly involves standing around the ball and shoving each other until the one kid who has older siblings comes along and kicks it into the goal. It was so cute I almost died watching.
Julie – ahh, my darling Julie. She had to be persuaded to give soccer a try, and never did admit to actually enjoying it. We got her to buy in with a bribe. Yes, I’m admitting it here. We went to the store, bought one of every flavor of Gatorade, and told the girls that they could each have half of a new flavor every time they played a game. Worked a charm. And for the record, Julie did enjoy playing goalie, especially when she managed to stop a ball, and she even managed to kick the ball once or twice while out on the field. I’m calling it a win.
Also, we lucked out with two awesome volunteer coaches. Julie’s coach taught them this fancy little bow to perform at the end of each game. Both of their coaches were firm but supportive unlike a few we saw just screaming at their kids the entire game. Not cool for an in-house, non-competitive local soccer league.
Fred. Fred the chocolate lab is now quite big. He’s still very much a puppy, but fully potty trained and pretty obedient. He will chew up anything he can get in his mouth. The dog has destroyed at least ten pairs of flip-flop sandals. I kept saying “This is the last pair I’m going to buy this summer!” And then he’d get ahold of another one and c’mon we live in flip-flops during the summer, so off to Target we’d go for another pair. Every morning I wake up to him by the side of my bed, front paws up only because he is not allowed on the furniture. He is like a snooze alarm – one that wants you to play fetch with his duckie toy from which he has removed all the stuffing or his monkey which no longer has arms. I love the little shit.
This was the perfect Summer of the Pool for us. We had plenty of weather hot enough to actually enjoy being at the pool – which is not always guaranteed in Minnesota. The girls finally both swim well enough that I don’t have to worry about them drowning themselves. Best of all, they both discovered a love for water slides and diving boards, which gave me a chance to sit my hiney on a lounge and admire them from the side of the pool for half-hour stretches. The following pictures were taken on my cell phone, so you’re going to have to squint and use a little imagination bear with me.
Here, if you look past the creepy man walking to get back in line for the diving board with all the children, you can see Julie in free-fall from the drop slide.
Here’s Sophie getting ready to jump off the diving board. Every single time, she’d look over to me for confirmation that it was really okay for her to go now. The first day she decided to jump off the diving board, I wasn’t entirely sure it was legal for a five-year-old to pull this crazy stunt, but the lifeguard said if she could swim in 12 feet of water no problem. Off she went, and I stood by the side of the pool ready to jump in and yank her out but the worst that happened was me yelling at her for dawdling on the way out. It was pretty crazy watching her stand in line with 6-foot-tall teenagers.
And here it’s Julie’s turn on the diving board. I know, I’m beating a dead horse, but you can’t imagine my satisfaction at seeing them have so much fun doing what I enjoyed doing all summer at that age.
Finally with the pool pics, there’s Sophie coming off the drop slide. Eventually, the novelty wore off and they wanted to spend most of their time in the shallow side of the pool pretending to be mermaids or dolphins, spelled with jaunts over to the giant sand play area, which I only agreed to when the temperature dropped below 90. Because I’m mean that way. There were many afternoons spent at the pool till right before dinner time, when we’d rush home, eat something and head right back out for soccer. Did I mention that each girl had at least one practice and one game every week for ten weeks? Julie had two practices a week. That’s a lot of soccer!
Moving on…twice, Joe and I rode our bikes to the new stadium to watch the Twins play. The first time I learned my lesson about not stuffing myself on junk food so much that it hurt to peddle my bike on the way home. Damn nachos and their evil neon orange tasty-licious cheese substitute. That may have been the most fun Joe and I had together all summer long. I want to publicly thank my brother and sister in-law for taking the girls camping in the grandparents’ back yard, giving us the first night alone together since – you’re not going to believe this – Julie was *born*. That’s right. Seven and a half years.
This picture is really bad – totally out of focus and all, but it completely captures the girls’ reaction to our local fourth-of-July fireworks display.
I love this next picture. Julie participated in her first kids’ triathlon in July, and the look of satisfaction and pride on her face as she came down the finish line shoot is priceless to me. I wasn’t sure she would actually do it – the day before we spent several hours preparing equipment and convincing her that she would really survive the trauma of having to wear a swim cap for the ten minutes before and during her swim. The day of the race, she was cool as a cucumber and sailed through it. And she wants to do it again. Coming from the kid who complained non-stop about soccer all summer, this is pretty great news.
We signed the girls up for a week-long theater camp since Julie had enjoyed her experience at school so much, and Sophie is always eager for anything you suggest. They ended up in the chorus of a very cute production of Frog and Toad All Year. We now have the Broadway version soundtrack on constant loop in the van’s CD player, and it’s a good thing the songs are funny because I pretty much always have one of them playing in my brain.
Every child should run around in the pouring rain at least once per summer (especially if you get the chance to do it on a warm day without lightning.) Fred seemed to enjoy it too.
The next section of the post is all about me and my athletic pursuits. Two years ago, I finally started working out again, and was lucky enough to find a group of gym-rat friends that have not only kept me coming back for more, but motivated me to do things I never would have thought possible. I can run 12 or 13 miles on a long, slow distance Friday. I can run up and down hills on trails through the woods. I can swim two miles in open water no problem. I can actually enjoy pushing my body to new limits. Just don’t listen to my inner fat girl complain, because that’s what she likes to do when she’s not sitting on the couch eating Ben and Jerry’s.
In July, a bunch of us – nearly 50 – headed to Chisago Lakes and participated in a triathlon there. Many of them did the half Ironman. I “just” did the sprint – my second. It was a great day, and the best part was finishing in plenty of time to cheer in my friends as they finished their races. I’m near the center of the back row of this picture, just under the sign.
In August, I did another triathlon – again with a few people from our group, but this race for me was mostly about comparing my times with the same race (YWCA Minneapolis) as last year. I managed to shave 10 minutes off my overall time, and I am proud of that. I worked for it. Which is why I think it’s okay to show you way too many pictures of the day. First, Julie and Sophie crossing the finish line with me. Sophie is pouting because they were waiting for me at the finish line, and I was so focused on finishing that I forgot to stop for them. We circled back around and crossed the finish line second time, but she hadn’t quite gotten over my mistake at that point.
Here we are a few minutes later – everyone’s happy. A big part of why I work out and stay in shape is to be a good example to them, and it’s working.
Here I am during the run. I really need to work on my speed for the run. I know I can do better. My coach is pushing me to do speed work at the track, and I was motivated to work harder on it after this race – it’s just hard when my heart rate hits that upper threshold and the panic attack starts to set in. I need to work on the mind/body part of the game.
I really feel like I slammed it on the bike during this race. I have a new bike this year – the one I rode on last year is a very heavy, big leisure bike. I rolled together Christmas, Birthday, Mother’s Day and Anniversary presents to get this one which is not all that fancy, but it does have the clip-in pedals and is much lighter. I also gave that portion of the race every ounce of oomph I had, because I knew I would hate myself if I finished the bike part slower this year after having spent all the money on the fancy new bike. That part of the race went really well, and I even caught up with one of my teammates who’d started several waves earlier by the end of the bike. Also? This year I can actually show you the picture without cringing because my gut is not hanging down to my knees like it was in the pictures last year. This time I saw the camera and sucked it in in time.
And the swim. Yes, I’m showing you these pictures in reverse. The swim was the first part, and my strongest of the three sports. I work out with this amazing group of athletes – most of them run marathons, several have completed full Iron Man triathlons. It is an honor to be allowed to tag along with them. I’m just going to go ahead and say it, though, in the pool, I’m one of the five or six fastest of our group and it feels good to be good at something.
Even if I look like a big dork coming out of the water with my thunder-thighs bulging out of my swimsuit. Also? I’m developing that swimmers’ neck and shoulder thing where my neck is kind of too big for my head because of the added muscle. It’s worth it.
The thing about getting into working out again – it takes a lot of time. I spend two hours at the gym most week days – usually two swims and three runs. This summer our group ran outside, but because of childcare issues, I’m back inside for the fall now. It takes a lot of energy too, and usually by the time the girls are in bed, I’m utterly exhausted and barely have energy to sit and knit, let alone write about it. I’ve made a life choice to give up some things in trade for another.
One of the benefits of all this time is making friends with really nice people in real life. Many of them are also moms of kids around the same ages as mine, and my girls have become friends with their kids too. It feels so good to be part of a wild pack of bikers or runners, seeing the people we pass by looking at us with – admiration? envy? awe? – that’s what I’m choosing to believe they’re feeling. I lost a bunch of weight last year, and having those women notice as I slimmed down and tell me how proud of me they are – well, that’s worth the time and the effort.
I’m front-right in this picture – midway through a trail run in the urban wilderness of Golden Valley. There’s some really good runners in that group, and darn if I don’t just about fit in with them.
Fred even got in on the running action a few times. On Mondays, we’d run from the club to a school track that’s actually near my house, so I’d drive him and the girls over to the club, drop them in childcare, run Fred the couple miles back to our house, join the group back at the track and run back to the club. He is one happy dog on those days, and tired too.
I feel like I could have lived this summer forever. I loved spending the time with my girls. They are at the perfect age -we can talk, laugh, tell jokes, help each other out, compromise. I feel like I fell in love with them both all over again this summer. These are the days I want to hold in my heart forever. (sniff sniff) Summer does eventually have to come to an end, though.
We celebrated Joe’s birthday with a raspberry-peach cobbler as he is not a big fan of cake. It’s funny – one of my Facebook friends commented that they would have made a crisp instead, so I responded “me too, but Joe asked for a cobbler and it’s his birthday” and then Joe piped in and said “I really wanted a crisp too, but I couldn’t remember the word for it.” Ha! He is one year away from a big birthday. Time passes so quickly…
Because Julie started second grade on Tuesday. There was much deliberation on the outfit – it was just cool enough for her to wear some of her new fall clothes, and she desperately wanted “snail piggy tails” like her friend Ana, who played the Snail with the Mail in Frog and Toad.
And then – THEN! Sophie started Kindergarten on Thursday. Sophie has always been my easy kid. I realized as she started school that I have taken that for granted too often. I want to grab back all the moments when I could have read her another book or sat and colored with her instead of folding laundry or whatever it was I was doing. She has grown up so quickly. She is beautiful and fun, and it will be strange having her gone all afternoon during the week.
She’s enjoying herself so far, though, and honestly so am I – I spent the last two afternoons running around cleaning the house, liberated to do so once there was nobody yelling at me to fetch or do or take them or feed them or clean up or stop the dog eating their toy. I have big plans to get lots done during those afternoons this school year.
For now, I am busy planning a fabulous birthday party for Julie – the first time I’m hosting one at our house. There is a fairy theme, and I would like to do a whole post on the details of that in a couple weeks. I’m also in the middle of writing up a new shawl pattern so that I can teach it in a class this fall. There are beads! I will get to the spinning and knitting next time. For now, I’m off to bed. If you’re still here, thanks for reading!