Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Weekend and my first 5k

Memorial Day weekend has always included a local town's yearly celebration. I grew up attending elementary school and middle school in Lytton, so Gala Days was something we always did. The town has grown smaller, the school was shut down as schools consolidated, but there is always Gala Days every May.

Back when I was younger, the carnival with its various rides and games was a huge highlight. It kicked off summer. We participated in all the kiddie games, competing in categories like the three-legged race and the egg toss, to win tickets.

Thinking back on all that triggered an impromptu trip down memory lane. So bear with me as I review old photos from the mid-80's. If nothing else I know my grandma Connie is gonna get a kick out of them - she's a very loyal reader and all. :)

The carousel, a summer fair staple
There hasn't been one at Gala Days in many, many years simply because it is too expensive. In fact, our kids have never ridden on one. We might have to change that. Summer Bucket List perhaps?

Awww... it's toddler Vanessa.

And then another sister gets added and suddenly you have a constant car companion.
This scene was repeated frequently throughout high school as I drug Fe along everywhere with me.

Apparently the cars are a hit no matter what the decade because our kids were pretty pumped about them too. Of course they had to make sure their friends could ride along too. And in case you are having a case of deja vu, you'd be correct since this is almost the exact scene from last year's Gala DaysGraham tried to climb in with the girls but was promptly booted from the car. He recovered quickly and found his own ride.

We enjoyed the yearly parade too. Bailey and Graham rode on a horse-drawn trolley and threw candy with friends while Avery stayed back to collect all the candy. Later we got some homemade pie and watched Graham dominate the bike race. Watch out - he has officially mastered the strider!

Saturday morning was a big deal for me. 
I've been training for a 5k for the past 8 weeks or so. It was kind of a random thing. I started running after I broke my hand and couldn't lift weight anymore. I used the Couch-to-5k app on my phone and it was really helpful. Before Saturday I had only run a complete 3.1 miles one other time. 

My sister Justy has been occasionally running for the past few years and ran long distance in high school, so I recruited her to come along with me. 

There were about 80 or so runners in this particular race. I felt ridiculously nervous, especially considering how extremely casual this race really was. I knew I wouldn't have a problem finishing, but the nerves were there regardless. The weather was perfect for a race; we couldn't have asked for a nicer running day.

Our pace was a bit ridiculous at first. We simply joined the pack and started churning away. The clear leader of the race was a high school classmate of mine who ran in the Boston Marathon this year. Simply put he was quite a bit more advanced than everyone else there... At 3/4 of a mile my running app announced that we were running at a 8:45 mile pace - waaay faster than I ever run. (I usually maintain a 10-11 minute mile for the entire run.) We dropped down the speed a bit for the rest of it. On the last mile I told Justy to go on ahead because I could tell she was picking up speed as I was losing it, so she embraced her kick and finished ahead of me.

My running app messed up and kept the clock running after I crossed the finish line, and the race coordinators didn't write down exact times for every person (I told you it was casual) so I am figuring my time was 32 minutes based on the splits from my RunKeeper app. I was really surprised with that time. My goal was to finish, but I also was hoping to run it in under 35 minutes. I achieved both of those and felt a nice sense of accomplishment once I was done.


I will probably run another 5k again. Next time I will be more cognizant of establishing my own pace. But I also know that is easier said than done. It feels like human nature to try to keep up with the person ahead of you. The other runners obviously push you to up the pace which in turn can make your time faster and make you a better runner. So it's both good and bad.

As far as my next goal(s), I think I will work on increasing speed, sticking to 1 mile or 2 mile distances. I much prefer to run 2 miles over a longer distance. Hopefully as I work on that, 3 miles will become easier. I'm also trying to get back into doing some short HIIT videos at home again. Taking two months off from that has me feeling back at zero when it comes to weights. Hopefully it comes back quickly.

On Sunday we spent the day at my parents'. My dad was bursting with excitement to show the kids the surprise he had in store for them. I wish I had taken video of the "big reveal" because they were so pumped. 
Now they have their very own Ranger just like Papa Jeff. Watching both girls learn how to operate it (and almost run down Graham many, many times) led to an afternoon of laughing until we cried. I'm positive this is going to be a favorite for a long time to come.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Red Nosed cuties

In honor of Red Nose Day today, 
I present to you my three little clowns:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


And by "camping" I mean a weekend spent in the camping grey area: somewhere between a plain ol' tent and a tricked-out camper with a big screen TV and fully-stocked wine fridge.

We spent two days at Pine Lake State Park, an area with a lake next to the Iowa River about 90 miles from home. We rented a cabin for two nights and brought the tent along too. The cabins were originally built in the 1930s and renovated in the 1990s to include a small bedroom and updated conveniences - ya know, like a microwave and shower. 
So we were able to cook meals and shower three very dirty children at the end of each day. 
The large living room had a table where we played games and two futons that folded down for the kids (and Tucker) to sleep on. 

It was secluded. You couldn't drive any vehicle up to the cabins as they were tucked in a hillside near the river. There were paved and unpaved trails around the area, some leading up into the hills, which our kids particularly loved.
"Daddy, I love going on adventures."

Tent sleeping was also popular.
Psssst! for all you blog readers who've never met my children, please feel free to guess which one is the sassy one. You won't be wrong.

$1.25 giant bottle of bubbles for the win!

No camping adventure is complete without s'mores.

Their first introduction to the low-budget game that is Pooh-sticks.
Do other people call it Pooh sticks or did we watch too many episodes about that stuffed bear as kids?


Tucker loved sleeping with the kids, something we haven't let him do at home. But it was so sweet watching him curl up beside them, I might have to start giving him free-range of the house at night.

We were packing up and getting ready to leave Sunday morning when Jared voiced a surreal thought: he figures we have maybe 8 more years of this kind of stuff before Bailey starts to think it's boring. Hanging out with her parents will be something to endure instead of something to enjoy.

I pointed out to him that he loved camping as a kid and still loved camping with his family even when we were dating. And that even as a senior in high school, I would stay in some weekends just to hang out with my family. 
As long as your family is fun - or at least funny - you're still going to want to hang out with them, right?
At least occasionally?
There's no guarantee I guess. 
In the meantime we'll have to keep working at establishing traditions and making memories. 

My hope is that someday our kids look back, tell stories, and share laughs about our adventures. And misadventures. Some of my fondest and funniest childhood summertime memories involve hilariously horrible hotels, broken down station wagons, and ridiculously low-budget family "vacations" to Minnesota. 
God love him, but my dad was bordering on Clark Griswold on a few occasions. 

I refuse to worry about how lame my kids are going to find me once they reach teen-land. (Or before.)
And all that matters right now is that they love their daddy and his love of an "adventure."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Things I've learned in the last month

We must be doing something right.
In the past month or so, we've had a family pet die (RIP Baxter bunny), a close family friend die, and one of my best friend's mom die. And while we have talked with our kids about death and Heaven and that it's okay to feel sad, we haven't really talked much about what you do when someone passes away. But clearly amid all the cooking and baking and cards and phone calls and prayers and hugs and tears, Bailey has been soaking it up.
Someone dies and people are sad. 
Our job as their friend is to be their friend.

So for every death recently, Bailey has set to work - without any prompting or encouragement - coloring pictures for our grieving friends. 

For our lifelong family friend Linda, who lost her husband a month ago, Bailey drew a picture of Eddie with as many hearts as she had time to draw before the visitation started. 

For my friend Holly, whose mom's funeral was a few weeks ago, she drew a rainbow house in the sky with Holly's mom inside. Because that is what Heaven looks like to a 5 year-old. That little girl's kind heart and sweet spirit can only make the world a better place.

Too tired to wipe off the table? Do it anyway.
It's always worth it to take the time to do a quick house pick-up every night.
You never know who is gonna show up early the next morning and make you really regret your late night laziness.

I've changed my parenting ideal.
I've always said that a goal of mine in raising children is to raise kids that are tolerant and accepting of other people's differences. Racism and homophobia are character flaws that I can't condone. We haven't had specific talks about race or sexual orientation with our kids yet because of the simple fact that it hasn't come up. Our kids have friends of other races at school, and I have a close friend that is gay, but our kids don't see these differences yet - and that is one true beauty of childhood. 

But for the past two months I've been part of a Bible study at a friend's house. I'd never been to one before so I didn't know what to expect. But honestly - I love it. And here's the thing - it's about the Bible (obviously) but it's not just about the Bible in the way you might think. The particular study we are doing applies to everything in life - just like the Bible does as I am coming to realize. But it's in a way I never saw before. It's basically great - and many times specific - life advice, and quite often it has come exactly when I have needed it. 

And as I was doing the "homework" one day, I realized something was pretty flawed in my parenting philosophy. 
I don't want to raise children who tolerate; I want to raise children who love.
Jesus doesn't just tolerate us, He loves us no matter what.
In fact it's the Bible's biggest message.
It's that simple. 
Tolerance and acceptance is great.
But love's so much better.

I've got no shame.
Come the month of May you can basically find me trespassing in the yard of anyone who owns a lilac bush. 
My life needs a little lilac-y scent to perk it up a little.
My house needs them.
I don't have a lilac bush of my very own!
People, the struggle is real.

This year I found a very nice yard at a house that is for sale and the owners moved out months ago. Come on, no one is going to miss those 19 vases worth of lilacs, are they???
Yep, I don't feel sorry about it.

Taking the high road didn't kill me
Maybe it is completely contrary to the above "don't tolerate, love!" segment of this post, but some people are much, much harder to love than others. And there's one specific person in my life that I just don't like. In the past I used the term hate, but mehhh, I don't care that much anymore. 
There's that phrase "You can't fix stupid" - well there's also lots of other things you can't fix. And I'm finding that included on that list are egotistic, selfish, negative, and arrogant. 

"Old Vanessa" - the one who punched a bully in the face in 5th grade and received her first detention - she felt vindicated in standing up for what she believed in no matter whether it would make a difference or not.
"New and Improved Vanessa" (ie: just older and less hot-headed) has started to realize that some people just simply aren't worth it. 

It's not that I'm not standing up for myself or others, but I'm just not gonna argue with stupid/egotistical/crazy. I stated what needed to be said and left it there. Not allowing myself to be drawn into a fight goes against my nature, but the high road actually felt pretty good. So while I'm a long, lonnnnng way from loving this person, the fact that I didn't say out loud all the harsh things in my brain was a good start for me.

Parents want to recreate the good stuff from their childhoods.
I've written before about family traditions Jared and I are creating with our kids, but I've come to realize how much we really want to hold on to the old stuff too.
Jared has already booked a cabin at a state park this year - in fact we're doing it this upcoming weekend before the summer rush (and higher prices). He grew up taking yearly camping trips in Colorado with his mom and close family friends. And while this is Iowa and summers here are vastly different than those in the Rockies, we are embracing what Jared loved about his childhood. There will be no tent-sleeping or roughing-it of any kind this time around, but in future years I know Jared will be working hard to convince our kids that fishing is cool and sleeping on the ground is fun. 

Growing up, my favorite part of summer was my family's trips to Okoboji to stay in my grandparents' cabin. We took our kids there for the first time last summer and it brought back memories of how much I loved those days spent away from home. Just this past week my parents bought a house in Okoboji. Maybe accompanying us on our trip last summer reminded them too of how much fun it was all those years ago. 

It goes without saying how excited I am to now have a place to go with our kids during the summers. I'm excited to explore different beaches and parks, eat at new places, watch our kids light sparklers in the yard, and spend a few days here and there away from the routine of our everyday lives. It's something special we can all do together that won't break the bank. (Well, at least not my bank... Love you Mom and Dad!)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Garth, the second time around

Many of you probably already know, but I'm a pretty big Garth Brooks fan. Like I owned his first album (and every one after that) on cassette big. 

I attended one of his concerts way back in 1996. And it was glorious. I'm pretty sure I used an entire Kodak single use camera to produce the world's crappiest concert photos. Right now it irks me something fierce that I can't find the photo of my friend Sarah and me in our matching concert t-shirts to prove how awkward awesome our 12 year-old selves looked. 

So sometime last year when Garth announced he was going back on tour again, I informed Jared and anyone who would listen that I would be seeing him again in concert. No matter what. And this past Thursday night we made that a reality.

It took 3 different shifts of babysitters and a cleaning of one closet filled with old high school junk, but we were on our way to Omaha's opening night of Garth Brooks' 2015 World Tour. 

Of course, no concert road trip is complete without the Econoline van. 
Honestly, I should give it its own tag on this blog. 
She's seen better days, but after a quick battery charge and a thorough clean-out since being placed in storage back in December, we were ready to go.

And remember that closet that needing cleaning out? 
It was an absolute necessity that I wear my original Garth tee.
A necessity I tell you!
Thank God my mom is organized and loves me so.
Check out that vintage loveliness.
Pretty hot, right? 
And I got more than one compliment on this beaut, I will have you know!

We consumed some delicious burgers, onion rings, and beer and then headed to the concert.

We were waaaay up in the stands, maybe 15 rows from the top. But it absolutely did not matter. The roar of the entire crowd was something I've never heard before. When the countdown to Garth began, it was electric in there. 

We stood up for basically every single song (yes, even way up high everybody was standing) and the entire crowd sang along to every word.
And it was L-O-U-D.
Halfway through I looked at Felicia and shouted, "I'm going hoarse!"
It was by far the best concert I have ever attended. 
He sang my favorite song ("Shameless" just FYI) so life was good. But really, it was such a great concert, every song felt like your favorite song. 
Garth's still got it.

I would go again in a heartbeat.
Keep it up, Garth. Maybe in another 19 years I'll come again and bring my kids along too. ;)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Happy 4th Avery Jo!

Today marks four years since a mischievous, sweet yet uber-dramatic girl entered our lives. Since we've been up to our ears (pun intended) in pink for years, a pink and black Minnie Mouse party seemed appropriate.

We went cheap this year. 
I bought mostly plain black and pink items for the party - tablecloth, plates, napkins, utensils, crepe paper, balloons, etc - and supplemented with a few Minnie Mouse themed items. There was a Happy Birthday banner with Minnie on it, and I purchased some balloons from Amazon along with mouse-eared cupcake picks. 
Jared helped out greatly by using his Silhouette tool (which he uses for words/graphics for Etsy projects) to cut out Minnie Mouse shapes on different colored papers. We used string to make our own birthday garland and decorations for the table. 

{I was skeptical of how much he would use the Silhouette when he first bought it, but it has proved its worth in tons of ways - many of which aren't even for Etsy projects. We will definitely use it in the future to decorate for more kids' parties.}

Anyway, the party didn't break the bank and Avery still loved it. 
In fact she later called it "the best day ever." 
Well worth it.

Can't waste a drop of that frosting!

Then the next item of business was the long-awaited and begged for bike. 
We led her around the house looking for the present we "misplaced." When she finally opened the front door to look outside, she saw her bike sitting there, brand-new and ready to go. Instead of jumping with excitement, she yelled, "Hey, who parked their bike here?!" and slammed the door shut to continue looking for her gift. It took a few seconds for it to register that it was her bike, but within seconds she was on it and took off.

And she's been in constant hey-let's-go-biking! mode ever since.

Today we've invited a few friends over for a play date (hey, Mom wins too!) to make it feel more special. We're going to have a few more cupcakes and continue to celebrate Miss Avery Josephine.