Life is Good – October 31, 2008

Another week has flown past us and we’ve made it through to Friday once again. Time to count the blessings!

The prizes from my first ever blog contest have all made it to their destinations and appear to have arrived in one piece. (The prizes are pictured above.) Several very sweet posts were written about them and Rock Chef even vlogged about his, including a reference to a movie for which we share a mutual love! I get such a kick out of Rock Chef’s vlogs! Contests with prizes are such fun and so rewarding. I may have to hold them more often!

My Jake has started giving serious consideration to going to college. This is the kid who will likely graduate high school next spring by the skin of his teeth. My first reaction when he expressed interest in a four-year college (and hopefully it wasn’t outwardly visible) was skepticism. But deep down inside, I’m thrilled that he’s found such confidence in himself. I want to encourage him to spread his wings and fly. I hope this is the beginning of his long awaited path to self discovery!

It’s Halloween and that means a fun day and night. At work there will be a potluck lunch which will provide a fun break in an otherwise routine day. Since Thursday was my day off, I took advantage of having time to put some effort into my contribution and I made a big HUGE pot of cheesy ham and wildrice soup. We’re also enjoying a stretch of nicer weather, so this evening I’m hoping to bring the portable fire pit out to the front yard and enjoy a nice bonfire while passing out candy to the kiddies.

One of the biggest blessings I’ve realized this week is my circle of blog friends. It really does feel like I have a little online family. Yesterday I revealed a long hidden dream of mine and you guys left me the most amazing, most wonderful, most supportive and encouraging words I could imagine. I love you guys! Have a GREAT weekend!

The Show's Over

For someone who has lived their entire life in the fine state of Minnesota, you would think I would be a little more enthusiastic about the weather here. But the older I get, the harder I find it to be enthusiastic about the fact that winter lasts about 360 days of the year here. (Fine… I might be exaggerating just a little bit, but whatever!)

I do get excited about fall, though, as you may have noticed from my recent postings. It’s hard not to be in awe of the stunning display that presents itself for a couple of weeks every October. I have been trying to capture this display with my camera recently, but with little success.

Yesterday I found my chance. I knew it might be my last chance, so Mark and I hopped in the car and began to drive. We found ourselves at Afton State Park which sits above the St. Croix River. We had to pay to get in, but it was worth it!

The park was full of visitors on Saturday. I’m sure they’d all heard the weather forecast for Sunday just as I had and wanted one last chance to enjoy a gorgeous day.

A sunny fall day is truly magnificent…

Breathtaking even…

Mark even had a little bit of fun!

When the wind whipping against my bedroom window woke me up this morning, I realized the weather man had been right on target. Winter seems to be trying to nudge its way back in already. Fall isn’t completely gone, but the most colorful days have passed us by.

There were things that had to be done in the yard, just in case the predicted snow decided to hang around. The kids were put to work putting away the deck furniture and cleaning up the flower pots.

Kacey was not happy to be photographed in her silly hat and Brad’s old winter jacket. (I made her wear it. She tried to go outside in a WHITE down jacket. I told her she would be working with dirt and there was no way she was wearing that white jacket!)

Do they look enthusiastic? The conversation went a little something like this: “Nitpick whine gripe complain whine whine whine gripe…”

They’re good sports though. Kacey was trying to shoot me the evil eye, but she couldn’t hide her grin.

It did end up being a gloomy, windy, cold day. It snowed for a while, but the ground was too warm for any accumulation. YAY! I’m going to try to have a better attitude about the winter this year and find ways to appreciate it. But for now, I’m happy it’s not yet here to stay.

HOO-YAH!

I’m starting to see what people see in this running thing. I’m beginning to get it. I used to watch people run and almost feel the ache in my own body, wondering WHY anyone would want to torture themselves. It looked like so much WORK!

And the SWEATING! I’ve never been much for getting sweaty and smelly. Never really had the desire to push myself to the point of trying to catch my breath. Especially in public. Where people might SEE me. God forbid people witness me gasping for breath. Also, my hair might get messy or something.

But after all these years, that little nagging voice in my head kept prodding me to give it a try. I didn’t even realize that voice was tricking me when it told me to put the idea out on my blog for all to see. That might be the one thing that’s really kept me from giving up. I don’t want to have to admit defeat in writing. I don’t want you guys thinking I failed. Sneaky, little nagging voice is smart. It’s keeping me from quitting.

I woke up early this morning. Five-ish, I’d say. We just added the extra blanket since the weather’s getting cooler. And I was really cozy. I really liked that feeling of having a mound of blankets and down comforter on top of me and hearing the hubby snoozing behind me. I tried to fall back asleep, but sleep rarely returns once my eyes are open and I gain consciousness. I waited it out until almost six and gave in to the urge to try running AGAIN.

I’m feeling better than I did the last two days. My eyes have stopped trying to push themselves out of their sockets and the sneezing has subsided. I stuffed a few Kleenex in the pocket of my wind shirt just in case.

I’ve decided I really like running in the dark. It feels less distracting and satisfies my need to not be looked at while I’m learning to run. I know people don’t give it a second thought when they see people in various stages of exercise but for some reason I get really self conscious about anyone possibly watching me still in the walk/run stages and so far from competence and confidence. Maybe I’ll get over that one day.

The weather was perfect this morning. A little bit cool but not outright cold. The streets still held evidence of an overnight rain. I realized I was all in black. Black pants, black wind shirt, black stretchy gloves, black headband. My shoes are white (and silver and pink) but I don’t even think they’re reflective. It might be a good idea to think about some safety measures if I’m going to keep this up. Something bright and reflective is probably a good idea. And then there’s the personal safety concerns, which I don’t think I can do anything about unless I find a running partner (which doesn’t seem likely since no one is banging at my door wanting to join me in this pursuit.) It’s really easy to freak yourself out on a dark, October morning as you’re making your way toward the railroad crossing and start to imagine that there might be homeless men living in the woods by the tracks. It’s easy to imagine you can see one standing just by the crossing arms in the dark when there really isn’t anyone there. It’s easy to feel a serious sense of panic when you momentarily let the eeriness of the season come over you. I don’t think that pink cell phone zipped up in my pocket is going to be of any real value if something were to happen.

BUT I made it past the train tracks realizing there was no scary, creepy man hiding on the other side of the crossing arm and soon I was on a section of well lit path that goes all around the Target store and parking lot. This Couch to 5K plan that I’m following has a pattern to it. Go out three times a week and follow the plan for the week. So far that has involved doing the same routine each day. This was my third and final repetition for this week and for the first time it felt really GOOD! I didn’t have a hard time meeting my goals. My lungs and muscles feel stronger and I’m beginning to see where true runners feel that push to keep it up when they think they’re losing steam.

I think I can do this. I’m a little uncertain as to HOW I’ll keep doing this if we get any amount of snow that accumulates and stays around but I do see people running even in the winter months around here. Hopefully this will be one of those years where any real snowfall holds off for a couple months or at least long enough for me to feel really solid about running. But I think I can do this. I get it now…

Life is Good – October 24, 2008

This week’s blessings and simple pleasures…

One of my photos was published in the newly released, fifth edition of the Schmap Minneapolis Guide! Ok, so it’s not like it’s a big, famous publication. Then again, maybe it is. Regardless, I’d never heard of it before I was asked permission to use my photo, but STILL! It was a thrill to be asked and even more thrilling to see that it truly was published. I took this photo of the Landmark Center last year about this time, while wandering around downtown St. Paul. Last week I received an email in my flickr account asking permission to use it and I happily agreed. Pretty cool, huh?

Landmark Center 1 by you.

I spent Thursday, my day off, being sick. My head was threatening to explode out my eyeballs. Why do I consider it a blessing to be sick on my day off? Because I didn’t have to waste a PTO day calling in sick to work. I had nothing pressing going on. I ran a few errands and realized I was too drained to carry on as usual, so I came home and sacked out for the afternoon, guilt free, with a purring cat along side me keeping me warm.

I know I said this last week, but I just can’t get over how much I love the fall. I complain incessantly about the winters in Minnesota. Winter absolutely drains on me and contributes to a general feeling of depression. But fall? Oh my gosh, the fall is GORGEOUS here. I wish it could stay like this all winter long. I wanted to take some pictures that would show what an amazing display of color we have here, but then there was that whole exploding eyeballs feeling and I had the chills, so being outside simply wasn’t appealing. I only managed to snap a few pictures from the front yard and these really don’t do justice to the abundance of colors.

IMG_8634_1 by you.

Fall sky by you.

I had a great time last Saturday on a girls’ night out with my best friend, Gina. Our friend, Dan is a karaoke D.J. and we went to watch him host the evening and help celebrate his 40th birthday. Dan is a great D.J. and an awesome singer too. We had so much fun listening to people sing (some good, some not so good and some amazingly entertaining) and just hanging out laughing and talking. Gina and I shared our table with Tony, an amazing, energetic 90 year old man who really knows what life is all about. He spent a good part of the evening smiling and talking with us and sang a few songs too before he made his departure before midnight. (He told us he didn’t dare stay out any later for fear of being late for church in the morning.) It was just a really relaxing and fun evening.

And as always, I’m happy that the weekend is upon us once again!

Shoulda just shut my mouth

Remember the beautiful cell model Kacey made for her Biology class?

Remember how proud I was of her? Remember how sure we all were that she would get an A on this project?

Well…..

The day the project was turned in, Kacey came home mildly upset. It seems that when she arrived at class that day, one of her classmates was already there, having been frantically putting the finishing touches on her model. Apparently the teacher had given this classmate a heads-up that she should have a written page listing all the cell components as well as their functions and the girl managed to get it written out before class began. This girl told all the other kids that they were supposed to have this written piece, but no one else had been aware of that requirement. Kacey thought this was extremely unfair. She didn’t think it was clear that the written page was part of the assignment.

I asked to see the instructions she was provided and she gave me this:

I read through the first part. “Use unlikely stuff to depict the structure and function of the cell, with emphasis on interrelationships among parts.”

I was a little confused. The teacher uses a word like “stuff” then goes on to talk about “interrelationships among parts.” I had to wonder if your typical 15 year old grasped what was meant by this phrase.

I suspected this is where the problem was. I asked Kacey what she thought “interrelationships among parts” meant. She said she didn’t know and I told her it was her responsibility to ask about those things she didn’t understand instead of assuming she had covered all her bases.

But she was still very worried about her grade. She had put hours of hard work into this project and was afraid she was going to lose points over a technicality. So we promised her we would talk about it with her teacher at parent/teacher conferences later that week.

So when conference day rolled around, I made sure to bring the instructions with and when it was time to visit the teacher, we listened as she gave us a breakdown of Kacey’s performance in class. Overall, it seems she is doing very well.

Once the teacher was done telling us what she wanted to tell us, I brought out the instruction sheet and asked if we could talk about it. I very nicely explained that Kacey was worried that she was going to lose points on her project because she didn’t understand there was supposed to be a written piece. I explained the conversation I had had with Kacey and asked the teacher if she could clarify what her expectations were on the project.

I could see the teacher’s face sort of freeze up. For some reason, she was upset that I was asking her about this. She wanted to know what the problem was. I told her that Kacey didn’t understand where in the instructions it said there should be a written piece to accompany the model.

The teacher reached over and underlined the words “interrelationships among parts” while shooting me a challenging glare. (See where she underlined it clearly for simple, little ol’ me?)

“Right here,” she said.

I replied that I didn’t think those words specifically implied that the students were to describe the cell components and functions in written form. I was irritated at this point and trying not to show it. I calmly suggested that if I didn’t quite get what that meant, it might be possible that a bunch of 15 year olds wouldn’t get it either.

Her reply was, “If Kacey didn’t understand, she should have asked me.”

Mark joined the conversation and said that it sounded as if the entire class misunderstood. I told the teacher that we had no intention of undermining her, we simply wanted to understand ourselves what her expectations were. She was clearly miffed at the fact that we had questioned her at all.

Mark made things worse by asking if Kacey completed the written portion over the weekend, could she possibly get partial credit for the missing piece? There was a LONG pause before the teacher finally agreed, emphasizing, “She can’t have full credit, but I might give her a few extra points.”

We agreed that was fair, but I left the conference worried that we had done nothing but irritate this teacher, even though all we wanted was to understand ourselves so that we could pass the information on to our daughter.

I was right to be concerned. This is the grade slip Kacey brought home:

Does anyone else notice a sense of vindictiveness in this grade slip? The teacher initially gave Kacey full credit for neatness and effort, then knocked that score in half when adding a mere 2 extra points for the partial credit Mark had asked if she could have.

I. was. LIVID!

We apologized to Kacey for making the situation worse. She’d have been better off had we never said a word. But she just laughed it off. She said she was glad that we had called the teacher out on her “questionable” instructions and had learned her lesson about asking questions when she wasn’t sure of the requirements.

I was really irritated by that grade slip for several days. The teacher had sent a very clear, very unfair message that she is not to be questioned. But I have since adopted my daughter’s attitude. If Kacey can let it go, I guess I can too. Lesson learned. But trust me, my daughter will never have that teacher again. I’ll make sure of that.

Get blogged by Terri #7- Where One Day Runs Into Another

Most of us, at one time or another have known how it feels to have so much going on that it literally feels like one day runs into the next. This is the premise of Judy’s blog, which is appropriately named, Where One Day Runs Into Another.

Judy is an amazing wife and mom of two boys, Travis, age nine and Tyler, age four. Being the mom of two boys is in and of itself, plenty to keep a mom on her toes and Judy does a fantastic job of juggling everything going on in their lives. Travis is an athlete, a scout, and an all around active kid. Tyler is a busy preschooler. There are swimming lessons, piano lessons, ball games, volunteer activities and sleepovers. Both boys have busy social lives already, so there are always friends to visit or play dates to host at home.

Aren’t these boys just the cutest things you’ve ever seen? Look! It even appears that they actually like each other too! 

Among the many hobbies Judy keeps up with, there is gardening and she kept us posted this summer as to the progress. Her pumpkins grew, but looked to be in danger of starting to rot. So, not wanting to waste some perfectly good pumpkins, she did what any creative-minded mom would do. She gathered up the boys and together they carved up a jack-o-lantern. It may have been a little early for Halloween, but it looks like everyone had fun anyway!

Judy teaches Pre-K classes three times a week (Judy, just in case you weren’t aware, this fact alone secures you a spot in heaven!) as well as doing some freelance writing. She sews, reads and scrapbooks. She is active at church, singing in the choir. In her *cough*hack*ahem* spare time, she’s been known to create some pretty amazing crafts, like this beautiful cross-stitch project.

Does it sound like Judy’s schedule is jam-packed? I don’t know where this woman finds the time and energy to accomplish all that she does in a day. With all these things going on she manages to cook meals, bake goodies, take her boys to the local waterpark all summer long, plan birthday parties, stay active in the local athletic association and squeeze in visits to her parents’ lake cottage (which just so happens to be situated across the lake from THE PATRICK DEMPSEY’S lake home. Girls, I say we talk Judy into a blog-meet to be held at the lake home. All in favor?) Oh… and did I mention blogging?

Judy’s blog is always full of humor (such as the tale of the cake-eating dogs) and helpful advice. Every Wednesday, you can find the Works For Me Wednesday post which offers household tips and other advice for making life easier.   Her Flashback Friday  posts bring back fun and funny pop-culture memories for those of us whose teen years were spent in the 80’s.

What I love about Judy is that she is living proof that the parenting years can be survived with humor and grace. Even when things seem to be getting the best of her (which is rare) Judy’s words have an underlying tone of calm and faith. She’s one of my favorite daily reads. Go check her out!