Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No longer a preschooler

Eloise had her very last day of preschool last week. It is so bittersweet. I would have written "totally horrible and impossible to comprehend" instead of bittersweet, but, though Eloise LOVED preschool, she is super ready to be a kindergartner. Much more ready than I am for her to be a kindergartner.

The one thing that made it slightly easier was that Iris already had her last day in May, so we got to focus more on Eloise this past week.

Eloise and her teacher.

Her teacher was such an amazing presence in Eloise's life. She guided her from a brand-new three year old with basically zero self-control in to being a confident five year old. Eloise developed such a special bond with her teacher. She was the kind of teacher who just adored the kids and was super communicative with the parents-- which I really appreciated. I am a "more info the better" kinda mom and I loved getting feedback on how Eloise's days went. Every day before we left, Eloise would take off running and leap in to her teacher's arms to get her last hug of the day.

It's kind of funny, because I always thought that Iris's preschool teacher was the very best preschool teacher in the whole wide world. You know what I figured out, though? That Iris's was the very best for HER, but Eloise's was the very best for Eloise. The teachers had pretty different personalities, much like my daughters do, but they were perfectly matched to my children.

I love when that happens.

We are embarking on a school year that is also tailored to two completely different types of children. I am so completely grateful, and will continue to be so, that we have the options that we have in schooling our daughters.

So you know what else my no-longer-a-preschooler has done since her last day?

Well, she went indoor rock climbing with her aunt and uncle (on a side note, Iris and I got to watch their four month old while they were gone!):

Giving it a try.

Learning how to come back down with her uncle.

Eloise's Auntie belaying. See Eloise way up there at the top?

And then tonight she had very first soccer practice. She had NO idea how to play soccer. At first she thought she had to kick the ball through a basketball hoop (I understood her nervousness a bit more after hearing her thoughts on the game). Then she thought they had to kick the ball over a goal post. Thankfully she has a fantastic coach, who is also a friend of ours, and has already learned a bunch about soccer! Including, but not limited to, soccer goals are on the ground.

I am so proud of Eloise. This child absolutely grabs life by the horns.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cancer will rue the day . . .

I hate when I wait too long to update here. Then a million things happen and sometimes every single one of them feels to me like it deserves its own blog post.

I want to touch on all of the wonderful events of our past week or so, but tonight my heart is too heavy. Yesterday Matt told me that a friend of ours passed away. Sara had colon cancer and was so young, WAY too young. I didn't know her very well at all, we were "Facebook friends"-- I remember her comments on some of the things I have posted about Eloise and how much she loved her.

So, I have spent these past few hours just thinking "what the hell?!?!". When I found out about her cancer, from my husband, it was one of those things that just seemed a little abstract. She started a blog (you can check it out here) and it was hilarious in the way that if you weren't laughing, you'd be bawling as you read it. Her most recent post, just one month ago exactly from today, talked about the fact that her doctor did not think she would go in to remission. Even reading it, it sort of sounded like she may still have years left to live. Not weeks, days, or hours.

Admittedly, Sara was not my close friend. My heart isn't breaking in the same awful way that her friends and family's hearts are. Instead, my thoughts return again and again to why this happens. Why someone with so much heart gets dealt such a shitty deal. And how can a person, any person, come to terms with the end of their life when they have lived no where near enough of it. She had her original diagnosis about a year ago. And now, now . . . after everything she has endured to help fight the cancer, after hearing her time would definitely be up, one month later and it was.

I struggle to wrap my brain around it. My true desire, for Sara, is that somewhere inside, at the end of her life, she was okay. That she was able to move on without fear.

Honestly, I can't even let myself think she could have felt any other way. I can't even go there.

Last night I went to the movies with a friend, we had planned to see The Help. It was an amazing movie. I laughed and cried, multiple times, throughout the film. It was incredibly therapeutic. On the way home from the movies there was a strong police presence on the main bridge that connects our part of the city to the rest of Seattle. Apparently someone had been on the bridge threatening to jump for hours . . . and then they did some time in the early morning.

As you can tell, dying has been on the forefront of my mind and heart most of the weekend. I have no idea what to make of all of it, but maybe something will come to me.

Or maybe not. I guess that's how it goes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Family fitness

Growing up, I pretty much played no sports. Yes, there was the incredibly embarrassing and horrific season I tried to play JV basketball in the seventh grade (true story: at the only game my parents came to watch, the coach didn't even play me). But I have worked hard to erase those memories. When I was younger I was active, though not athletic. Once high school rolled around I was only active in gym class (another true story: I took bowling at least twice for my high school gym class and didn't pass the athletic test so I was in the gym classes with the weaklings). After high school, when I was no longer forced to exercise, I never did. I never even thought at about.

It wasn't until the spring of 2001 that my sister mentioned to me that we should to the Danskin triathlon that summer that I decided to become active again. I did that triathlon, and promptly stopped exercising.

Now my husband, he grew up an athlete. He played baseball and basketball through his entire school career and in to college. After college he kept up with basketball as much as he could, but he was always more inclined towards being an athlete.

In the past few months I have decided to get more proactive about my health and started a regular exercise routine. My workouts don't always look the same and I take my exercise where I can get it (even if that means my strength training for the day is carrying my 50lb five year old a few blocks home).

Recently I started a weekly fitness class taught by a trainer and there are a handful of ladies in my class whom I adore and admire. The class pushes me to limits I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole if I were exercising on my own. Two women in my class are a mother and her 16 year old daughter. They have talked about the daughter's involvement in sports at school, like tennis and cross country running and I always find myself feeling a little jealous of this supportive family.

It occurred to me as I was chatting with the mother/daughter pair that raising children who grow to love being active usually requires parents who set the example, provide opportunities for their children and then support and encourage them through their endeavors. Now, my parents were happy for me when I tried to play sports, but in my recollection, I never really saw them being active nor do I remember them asking me, or even just pushing me, to participate in any activities.

I am fortunate that my husband knows how to "be an athlete" because I absolutely do not. I don't understand team sports, I don't know the rules to anything, I am totally oblivious. But what I DO know is that I want my girls to grow up in an atmosphere where fitness, and perhaps to that end, athletics, are important. Wading in to the waters of team sports is a little bit scary for me.

In Seattle we have an endless amount of opportunities to get the girls involved in classes and on teams. We have everything from circus school (yes, really) to gymnastics of every shape and form, to community centers that offer things like swimming lessons, dance classes (even break dancing!), basketball and tumbling, to martial arts, yoga, and soccer clubs. You name it, your kids can likely do it here.

I am excited to help the girls explore what they are interested in. This summer Iris went to a yoga camp each day for a week that she loved and she will continue to take classes this fall. We are signing Eloise up for a a fall soccer team (I will be a soccer mom!) and then both of them for swimming lessons. After those things are done we will see what else they want to do next and possibly move on to a different thing. I want to be careful not to over-schedule them, especially with Eloise being in school full time this year, but I think that will be a good amount. Almost all of it will be on the weekends during the fall.

Iris recently learned how to ride a bike (on her first try!) and so I am also looking forward to going with her on longer run/walks (for me) and bike rides (for her). The more the girls grow and the more athletic they become, the easier it gets to do things as a family, as well.

It's going to be a fun year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eloise turns five *sniff*

When my baby wakes up in the morning she will be five. Five. It doesn't hardly seem possible, but there you have it.

Eloise at a couple of weeks old.

Read my post for her fourth birthday here.

Read my post for her third birthday here.

Read my post for her second birthday here.

Read my post for her first birthday here.

Eloise on her first birthday.

Tonight as I walked with Eloise up to her Kindergarten play date I thought, for maybe the eight millionth time, that she is the coolest kid I know.

In less than a month she will be a Kindergartner. I keep thinking that if she had been born five days late instead of ten days early she wouldn't even get to go to Kindy this year. *sniff* But you know what? She is absolutely ready. *I* am not ready, but she is. I told her that I would send her just for half of the day, she was having no part of that plan. I told her I would home school her, and she was having no part of that plan, either.

Eloise at two.

Eloise is independent, joyful, determined, silly, and she really loves the people she loves. She will run full steam ahead right at you to give you a flying hug right in to your arms, whether you are ready for it or not. On the flip side, if she's angry with you, watch out, because she's going to let you have it. There's no beating around the bush with Eloise.

Eloise at three.

She still asks to be carried. And I still oblige her every chance I can. Pretty soon she will either no longer want to be carried or be way too heavy. It doesn't matter which happens first, I won't be ready. Eloise teeters precariously in that spot between wanting to be as independent as possible and wanting to be a baby. She would go off to high school tomorrow if she could, but she would want me to carry her through the front doors.

I have never met a more animated child in my life. She has impeccable comedic timing and a range of goofy expressions that would make most comedians jealous.

Eloise at four.

Eloise has the uncanny ability to not listen to anything we tell her and just ramble along on her own agenda. It's infuriating, to be sure, but you have to admire her ability to remain lost in her own world despite being hit with a barrage of orders, begs, pleads, threats and bribes.

Eloise just before she turned five.

I absolutely adore my dear Eloise.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Update on my reading goal

Back in January I made it my goal to read 50 books this year. I am already at 39! I think I will probably surpass this goal, unless I hit some crazy reading lull.

That's all. A tiny little post just for an update!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A day at the zoo

On Wednesday the girls and I took a trip down to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. I really love this particular zoo. It is pretty small but it has all sorts of animals that our gigantic zoo in Seattle doesn't have. Plus the aquarium right inside the zoo is a nice bonus, as our aquarium in Seattle is seriously over-priced for what it is (in my humble opinion).

Watching the seals.

The walruses were probably my favorite. They kept swimming in a circle (much like other animals pace their enclosures, I presume) and would rub up against this glass every time they made a pass. The were ENORMOUS. It was amazing to see them up close!

The last time we were at this zoo was days before Iris turned three, so Eloise was almost ten months old. I carried her in the "Pootie Pack" (aka the Sherpani) the whole time. Here we are in the same area those walrus pictures were taken. The last time we were there the Beluga whale was in the spot where the seals are now. The zoo was totally dead (we must have been there before schools let out) and were the only ones watching the Beluga "show". The trainer kept having the whale get us wet as we watched, which we thought was great fun.

My goofy children and a musk ox. Musk oxes are much smaller than I thought they would be.

Eloise as a snail.

Playing on the splash pad.

This is Eloise at ten months sitting next to the splash pad. All together now: "awwwwww!"

Iris at two (days away from three) playing on the splash pad. On this visit she looked gigantic compared to the other kids. In my mind she is still the size she is in this picture.

Checking out the otters. They had just been fed and were being quite amusing right up by the glass until they realized we didn't have any more food to give them, then they ran away. The nerve!

Eloise and an elephant.

Iris standing at almost the same spot the last time we were there.

And the big bonus of the day, a ride on a camel! The camel took TWO passes around a small enclosure, all for the price of $5 per kid! At least this picture will be guaranteed to make it in to the end of the year photo book.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What's up in the garden

Tonight as I was watering the garden and checking on everything (my new nightly hobby) I realized it would be fun to post about how the plants are doing.

This year has been going much better than last year, already we've eaten a ton out of the garden. Snap peas, a bounty of salad greens, cucumbers, yellow squash, strawberries, basil . . . it is so fun to create meals out of the garden. I know lots of people do this every day, but the thrill never gets old for me!

The other thing I am working on is figuring out what will grow in the garden through the fall/winter. When my friends built the beds they put in some hoops for turning the beds in to mini green houses and last year we didn't take advantage of them. According to Sunset we can do a few different root crops and relatively hardy greens. So far I put in three broccoli plants and I need to get other starts/seeds soon.

These are my hydrangeas. Next to peonies, which have a very short life span, hydrangeas are my very favorite flower. I don't know if you can tell from this photo, but the bloomss near the top of the picture are more purple and the ones closer to the bottom are more blue. I wonder how one plant creates different shades of flowers? The other exciting thing is that the plant behind this one is blooming this year, which it hasn't ever done before.

This is "bed one". It is currently home to tomatoes, basil, dill, thyme and carrots and it used to hold the snap pea plants. The thing I am most excited about in this bed is we have one volunteer tomato plant that we left in the bed and it has fruit on it! Amazing how that works, huh? (yes, I am being a bit facetious)

This is bed two. We have strawberries, yellow squash, cucumbers, salad greens, sunflowers, blueberries and I think there are onions in the far back in a pot. The strawberries were an experiment, I got two different kinds, one that was supposed to produce fruit quite a bit earlier than the other. This is their first year in the bed and they produced fruit at the same time, so maybe next year it will be staggered? Also, there are still tons of berries ripening on it, but they don't taste that good anymore. Earlier in the summer they were amazing. I wonder why?

These are the sunflowers. It is probably hard to tell but the tallest one is maybe nine or 10 feet tall. The second tallest one is still over my head and I am six feet exactly. I love them, and the neighbors love them, too! I can see all of the beds from the kitchen window and it is quite lovely to stare at them while I do dishes.

These are the brussels sprouts in bed three, planted at the request of Iris. I am curious how these turn out!

This is bed three from a different view. Cut off on the right corner are the brussels sprouts. Here we have onions, broccoli starts, pumpkin and some flowers, but I don't know what kind.

We have quite a bit of empty space in the beds and I'm not sure how to be more efficient with the planting. I suppose that will get easier over time and trial and error though.

I am glad to announce that our plum trees have very, very few plums on it. Yes, I love plums as much as the next person, and even let people pick gobs and gobs off the trees last year, but they are a giant pain in the butt and are very messy. Both trees are right against our deck, as well. Don't tell anyone, but I desperately want them cut down. Our apple tree also has very few apples on it. I could take or leave the apples. They are nowhere near as messy as the plums, but I don't do much with them. I am not in to canning or anything.

The one thing that IS going strong in the yard are the grape vines! See that cluster above? There are dozens more just like it. YUM. Those grapes are tiny and sweet when they ripen and I could stand there all day gorging myself.

Recently I went on a rampage over how much work our house and yard were and how much I wanted a house with basically no yard. However, the more quiet time I spend in the garden, the more I realize that sometimes, the work is worth it. This time of year at least, the work is worth it.

The yard has a looooong ways to go before it's really awesome and comfortable, but considering we have lived here a bit over two years, I think we've come so far. Now we just need to replace the shed, take down one or both plum trees, trim the apple tree, plant more stuff around the edges, do something with the narrow strip on the south side of our house, get the front yard in order . . . I tend to look at the negative, but really there is a mountain of positive things about the yard, if I would just let myself notice them.

Monday, August 08, 2011

More vacation fun

Aaaaaaand . . . . back to vacation pictures!

We flew in to Michigan on July 3rd, just in time to celebrate the 4th with my parents and my sister's family. My mom had a fun idea to make some special cookies that she read about in Martha Stewart. We all got right to work!

My mom and my sister and my girls.

Iris and her cousin.

Here is what our finished trays looked like!

While we waited for fireworks the girls set to work drawing with chalk in my parent's driveway.

Then we were off to see the fireworks, which I don't have pictures of. I love the fireworks in the town where my mom lives, it's a small tourist town so they do BIG fireworks!

My mom and dad built a koi pond in their back yard and the kids (and I!) loved feeding the fish. The koi would eat the little food pieces right out of your fingers, it was so much fun.

The orange and black one in this picture was the biggest fish in the pond and he would come and suck on your finger if you stuck it in the water. There was also a resident frog who hung out on the lily pads.

Iris and Eloise with their cousin and one of my mom's dogs.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Update on my weight loss journey

I have something exciting to share: this morning when I stepped on the scale (which I do about every other week or so, nothing terribly obsessive or scheduled) it read 160.2. Waaaaay back in January/February-ish I started a weight loss plan because I wanted to be "bikini ready" for our trip to Maui, which we went on at the end of May. I had written a bit on my blog about how deeply frustrated I was that I had been working out five days a week and obsessively counting calories on My Fitness Pal but my weight, nor my body size, was budging.

In April I met with a naturopath and started some of my own research, which I wrote about a bit in these posts HERE and HERE. My ND did some tests and discovered that I did have wacky adrenal gland function and since May I have been on a supplement regimen (no medications, however) and have been taking everything diligently. The goal was basically to gently encourage my body back towards an equilibrium. We had hoped that it would address all sorts of issues for me, but for the sake of this post, I will focus on the weight loss. A very basic explanation is that adrenal imbalance can lead to weight gain and difficulty losing weight (among many other things).

I started taking Vitamin D, Iron, a B-complex, fish oils, acidophillus and a product called Seriphos every day (that link is just the first one I came across, I don't use that site). The Seriphos is specifically for adrenal support and everything else is for that and a few other things I was having issues with.

So fast forward to the end of my Maui vacation. I started my weight loss journey at 176, when weighed at the doctor's office. Like I said, between late January and May I was vigorous in trying to lose weight. By the time Maui came around I was about 172. Within the next five weeks I was down to about 163. Then I was in WI/MI for three weeks and have been home for almost two weeks. In MI I did a bit of working out, no where near what I try to do at home, and mostly ate like a starving person (even when I was already full). Literally there were days I ate about a dozen of my aunt's cookies. When I got home I was still 163. Folks, I couldn't believe it. I told myself I hoped I had only gained five pounds on the trip.

I have weighed myself once since I got back and then again today. And today I am at 160 (.2). In the past two weeks I have done my serious, ass-kicking fitness class one night and then a few walks and I "ran" the four blocks of stairs near my house once, doing the whole set five times. So, about three days a week of workouts, but relatively decent workouts each time. I have sort of watched what I have eaten, but I haven't counted calories and every single day have had some sort of treat pretty much devoid of nutrition.

This week I put on my "skinny shorts" which were the smallest pair of shorts I have ever owned as an adult. I feel like I'm about 15 years too old to wear them, but gosh darn it, they fit! And my legs are tanned! So I'm wearing them!

Things that I own that are a size 10 are getting too loose. I don't know if/when I have ever worn an eight. I am looking forward to seeing how that feels!

Lately I have started to think about where I want to stop, when I will feel as if I reached my goal. My goal is not a size two, in fact, a size eight or 10 is just fine with me. What I really want, honestly, is to have a flatter stomach. Okay, smaller boobs would be great, but exercise and weight loss only goes so far in that department. So whenever my stomach is not so lumpy bumpy, then I'll switch over to maintenance mode.

I should probably add I don't really know what maintenance mode will look like, yet. I feel like I'm at a really solid place of eating well, but not depriving myself of treats, and am exercising at an amount that feels good and not excessive. So I'll figure that out when the time comes.

For now I just enjoy that my body is responding to my efforts and I'm at my smallest size in well over eight years!

****For anyone who is wondering about the test I did for my adrenal glands, I did this test through Diagnos-Techs (the first link is a little simpler and more clear, the second link has more info). I was tested for cortisol rhythm, progesterone levels, DHEA and insulin. The test also included one for gluten sensitivity, which came back negative for me. I had to pay for the test myself, which was $120. WELL worth the money, because it gave me the answers I needed. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions about that test, I will see if I can answer them!

Friday, August 05, 2011

We (heart) Madison

Okay, taking a detour back in to a vacation post. Sorry, I'm a little ADD around these parts lately!

One of the really fun parts of our trip was a visit to see friends in Madison, WI. The girls and I woke up on a Wednesday morning and after nine total hours of travel from my parents' house in Michigan (about six hours driving and three hours stopped for food and a visit with a friend in Evanston, IL) we landed in Madison. It was a really, really hot day. At one point the temperature gauge in the car said it was 100 degrees outside. Never been so glad for the A/C! I already wrote a bit about what I did Wednesday night over here but that was only the tip of the ice berg.

My wonderful friend Stephanie, who writes about her life over here joined me for Maggie's book signing at Barnes and Noble. Since Maggie's talk was relatively short, Stephanie got lots of time to chat and catch up before I had to head back to the hotel. Stephanie gave me the number of a babysitter she uses and I was *so* thrilled that the sitter was able to come hang with the girls while I got a bit of a break.

The next day the girls and I met Stephanie and her three kids and my friend Beth, whom I have known since my junoir year of high school, and her two kids at the Madison Children's Museum. The museum has now become my absolute favorite that we have ever visited and it puts Seattle's crappy children's museum to shame. My favorite thing about it was how organic much of it was. Lots of reused parts turned in to new and fun things for the kids to explore and everything was pretty much in big open rooms. The rooftop, as you will see in my pictures, was completely amazing.

Without further ado, possibly the post picture-heavy post I have written in years!

All of the kids together, in one spot! L-R are Stephanie's kids James, Nicholas and Ruby. Then Beth's girls Nora and June and then Iris and Elois.

What's gonna work? Team work!

Eloise and Ruby gettin' their hairs did.

What the girls will look like in 80 years.

The amazing indoor climbing structure. There was so many different parts to this, and not one of them was sterile and boring and predictable.

Eloise riding the end of the tube slide.

I like this photo because it shows a really interesting part of the museum. Old electronc stuff, and old pinball machine, a barber's chair, some weird computer that recognized faces and made animal noises when your face moved. It was bizarre and very cool.

On the rooftop was a garden, a sandbox, some buildings with lots of science/animal related activities, a waterfall and a chicken coop!

The outer edge of the rooftop was surrounded in this glass so the kids could look right out over the city. Here are Nora and Eloise checking out the capitol building.

The other end from the capitol building was a part of the glass that the kids could write on with special markers. We were told this was overlooking Lake Mendota (the other lake in Madison is Lake Menona and I have never known which is which!)

On the bottom level of the museum was the "five and under" section. Since we had little ones with us, the two big kids got to come in, too. Here is Iris crossing a skeleton-like bridge suspended across the ceiling.

The girls sitting in some sort of pod.

My favorite room in the museum. This was a water room in the little kids section, but it had steam and these beautiful glass sculptures lining the wall. The walls were wondows, it sort of felt like a beautiful old room in a hidden garden.

Iris, Eloise and Nicholas playing together.

After the Children's Museum I took the girls to Ella's Deli, which I hadn't been to since I was about 16. It is such a cool place, little toys and trinkets decorating the ceilings, the walls, and the tables. There is a cool old carousel outside to ride, as well.

After we left Ella's Deli we stopped for a few minutes (literally) to visit another friend and see his new house and meet his wife before continuing on to Milwaukee for the rest of the weekend. It was a whirlwind trip!