Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Holy moly! Super long weekend recap coming at you, Friends! I won't waste any time...

[Although I want to add a caveat to every weekend recap post that these are just the highlights! I don't want to be someone who presents a perfectly curated version of life that isn't at all real, so believe me when I say there are always plenty of toddler tantrums and fussy babies and tired parents and various frustrating moments. But the good far outweighs the bad, and that's what I'm focused on here!]

On Friday I ran 4 miles at the gym then went with my mom & the kids to explore an open space park along the Florida River. 

On Saturday we had a slow start to the morning but eventually headed out to the library and to pick up my race packet at the Durango Running Company. 

On Sunday morning I ran the Narrow Gauge 10-Mile in 1:41:04. More details later but it was a pretty good race!

Also on Sunday, we finally (FINALLY!) reorganized the house to give Abel his own bedroom. (The TV and Jonathan's music were in our 3rd bedroom). We meant to do this before Abel was born but he surprised us three weeks early and we haven't gotten around to it since. He's actually been sleeping in a Pack 'n' Play in the downstairs powder bathroom all this time! 

While the wall of records isn't my favorite look aesthetically, it is nice to be able to listen to music while we're playing with the kids, cooking, etc. 

On Monday we went to the park in the morning then had a super delicious cheese & salami & olive & fruit plate for lunch. 

After nap time, we headed over to my parents' house for a BBQ picnic. We had steak, potato salad, corn on the cob, and brownies for dessert! Unfortunately the kids were both super grumpy the whole time we were there. I think they are both coming down with a cold... Hopefully of short duration.

In other news, Abel started sitting up on his own this weekend! 

I can't decide which of these photos I like best!

I think the summer is off to a great start! I hope you had a lovely weekend too.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

This week in FOOD

Happy Friday! What was your favorite meal (or snack, or dessert) this week?

Here's what we had:

Sunday: Salsa Verde Chicken Casserole from Cookies & Cups

Photo credit: Shelly Jaronsky

Monday: Fish sticks and Pimiento Cheese Hush Puppies from Rachael Ray. Have I told you about my obsession with pimiento cheese? It started when I was in New Orleans for my friend Gabbie's wedding in 2012 and I've never looked back.

Tuesday: Jonathan and I went out to lunch at one of my favorite local restaurants, Ken & Sue's, to celebrate our anniversary.

For dinner we had Cesar salad. Homemade croutons are essential!

Wednesday: Philly Cheesesteak Mac & Cheese from Cookies & Cups. Have I told you about my obsession with Philly Cheesesteaks? I developed a craving for them when I was pregnant with Abel that hasn't gone away. This did not disappoint! Delicious. I did do a classic butter/flour/milk base for the cheese sauce instead of the eggs and evaporated milk per the recipe.

Photo credit: Shelly Jaronsky

Thursday: We were planning to have Ravioli with Kale and Mushrooms but ended up getting Chinese take-out after a never-ending pediatrician appointment. I don't care that the kids' birthdays are 6 days apart; I will NOT be scheduling their 1- and 3-year checkups at the same time!

I also made a batch of my favorite No-Bake Energy Bites from Gimme Some Oven. These are perfect to have around for a little something sweet after dinner without going overboard.

Abel has been gobbling up the all the Level 2 combos from Beech-Nut.

Are you doing anything fun this weekend? My plans are: 1) Running the Narrow Gauge 10-Mile on Sunday, 2) Doing a Memorial Day BBQ with my parents on Monday, and 3) Putting every single book from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide on hold from the library.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On Running [post-Baby #2]

As I'm getting ready for my first race since Abel was born, the Narrow Gauge 10-Mile on May 29th, I've been thinking about how different it is getting back in shape these past six months versus after Swede was born two years ago. The bottom line is: It's been a harder and slower process. There are many reasons why this is the case. I am (obviously) two years older - I do think that makes a difference in how quickly we bounce back. And I was less active during my pregnancy with Abel.

Taken during the Trans-Rockies Run in 2011
Back when running was the ONLY thing!

More importantly, I'm just less focused - mentally, physically, emotionally - on running these days. Don't get me wrong, I still love running, and it's very high on the priority list, but... I'm tired! I don't get nearly enough sleep. And mentally, I don't have it in me right now to push myself through the discomfort when I'm having a tough day. If the pace feels too hard, I slow down. Maybe that doesn't sound revolutionary, but I used to have more mental stamina, and it's made me aware how much it is mental.

With Jenny at the Thirsty 13 in 2014

Another difference is that it doesn't really bother me to feel this way. While I was pregnant with Swede, I was really worried that I wouldn't ever get back in shape, that I wouldn't ever feel like myself again. But now... I know that's not true. I know I'm still me. I know the drive to train hard will come back. So I feel OK that I'm taking it easy right now.

With Laura at the Kiss Me Dirty 5K in 2012
PS: I might cut my hair this short again... Thoughts?

I'd better amend that last sentence. Most of the time, I feel OK that I'm taking it easy right now. The first two races I have planned this summer, the Narrow Gauge 10-Mile this weekend, and the Steamworks Half Marathon on June 11th, are both races that I've done several times before. So it can be hard to know that I'll be setting "PWs" this year. It's difficult to not compare myself... to myself! Let alone to other moms who are crushing it six months post-partum. (I'm looking at you Kristen!)

With my mom after Steamworks in 2012

I really do love running still, and I'm super excited to start doing races again, despite the PW component. I like the camaraderie of race day, and it really helps me stay dedicated and motivated to training when I have a specific goal in mind. I've been thinking lately that I'd like to get one more set of PRs in the next five years or so. Especially in the half marathon (1:49:57) and the marathon (4:01:12). But that is a plan, and a conversation, for another day!

To my fellow runners... Have you had stages in life where running was more or less important to you? Is anyone else racing this weekend?

(I'm linking up with Marcia, Patti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run!)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Five Favorites - May 2016

Not only did I skip the "Currently" post in April, but I realize now I didn't do a "Favorites" post either. I guess I was too busy dealing with and then recovering from my busy season at work. At one point I remember thinking, "Ugh, I don't like anything right now! No way can I talk about my favorite things." I'm feeling a little more in control of life these days, thankfully, so I do have some new favorites to share!

(Although let me just say that my decision to sleep and potty train both kids simultaneously was not the best idea I've ever had, and I'm not even going to get started on the Saga of the Root Canal).

1) My new food blog obsession: Cookies & Cups. For a long time my favorite food blog was How Sweet Eats, but the recipes, while delicious, are often too complicated for me these days. Cookies & Cups is mostly a dessert blog, but I really love the dinner recipes too. I've tried Easy Skillet Tamale Pie and Garlic Bread Pasta (from The Cookies & Cups Cookbook via The Hungry Housewife) and next I'm planning to try Philly Cheesesteak Mac & Cheese. The Chocolate Stuffed Oatmeal Bars I made last weekend are from the cookbook too.

2) My friend Tyffani recently became a consultant for Beautycounter which sells make-up and skincare products that are super safe. (It seems crazy that I'm very aware of trying to avoid toxic chemicals in shampoo, body wash, cleaning products, and food, but I'd never considered make-up!) Tyffani recommended the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer to me and I really like it. I don't wear much make-up at all so I like that this works as an moisturizer (with SPF20) but also has a little tint to help even out my skin. My goal is always "to look like myself but better"!

3) We bought a Strider Balance Bike for Swede a couple weeks ago and I've been so impressed how quickly she's learned how to ride it. We haven't had the greatest weather lately so she's only used it a half-dozen times or so but she really seems to enjoy it, and I think she feels like a grown-up kid with her own bike!

4) I just bought a pair of Madewell High-Rise Skinny Crop Jeans (based on Landen's recommendation - Please see her blog for photos of a normal person wearing these jeans, because I am not very good at "fashion" photos) and I loooooove them. They are really comfortable and cute.

5) A couple weeks ago I picked up Shauna Niequest's daily devotional Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are, and I've been really enjoying it. I read it while I'm pumping in the morning, which is not quite the peaceful early-morning-cup-of-tea-and-devotion I wish it was, but that's the stage of life I'm in right now!

That's all! What are you loving lately?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Weekend [May 13-15, 2016]

Hello Friends! Here are some highlights from the weekend.

On Friday morning my mom and I took the kids to the river. Swede had a really fun time throwing mud and sticks into the water, but the big event was seeing some rafters go by - She's been talking about it ever since!

Mister Abel had some big milestones this weekend. First - He learned how to roll over from his back to his stomach (and therefore graduated from the Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit).

Second - He tried solid food for the first time! We started with applesauce, and it was pretty successful.

We are also working, less successfully, at sleeping through the night. I'll be happy when he figures it out, but I will miss it when he falls asleep in my arms. Knowing he's my last baby makes all the milestones more bittersweet!

On Saturday morning I ran eight miles, including two major hills, which were good practice for the major hills in the 10-mile race I'm doing Memorial Weekend.

In the afternoon I took Swede on a "hike" (approximately a half mile round trip and she asked to be carried most of the way, but it was right after nap and you've got to start somewhere!) and a picnic.

On Sunday morning, we went to church, and then baked Chocolate Stuffed Oatmeal Bars which are super delicious! Swede agrees, despite her solemn expression, although this isn't the best recipe to make with toddlers since it involves melting butter and sugar together on the stovetop.

[PS: When is a toddler no longer a toddler? Somewhere between 3 and 4 years old? Then what do you call them? A preschooler? A little kid?]

In the afternoon, Jonathan took the kids to visit his parents and I took Gumball on a long walk on the neighborhood trails.

I've been reading For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, by Jen Hatmaker, and I love this quote about parenting:

Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That their childhood is mostly good. People, I declare "mostly good" a raging success. If I am mostly patient and they are mostly obedient, great. If we are mostly nurturing and they turn out mostly well-adjusted, super... "Mostly good" is later remembered as "loved and safe..." Mostly good is good enough. Mostly good produces healthy kids who know they are valued and either forget the other parts or turn them into funny stories.

This weekend was mostly good. There were, of course, the usual toddler meltdowns and sleep deprivation and various difficult moments, but there was definitely more good than bad. I'm calling that a win. I hope you had a mostly good weekend too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Currently - May 2016

I realized that I skipped doing this post in April which is too bad because I think they are really neat snapshots of everyday life. They are also one of my favorite posts to read on other blogs. I will try to keep up from now on!

Listening to: Cleopatra by The Lumineers. I love this album! Although my default when I find a new band and/or album that I love is to listen to it over and over and over until I'm sick to death of it. We might be approaching that stage after a month of nonstop play.

Watching: Not much. I finished up Grantchester and Brooklyn 99 and I'm almost done with New Girl (I know it ended this week but I'm a few episodes behind). Sometimes I'll watch a random movie on Amazon Prime (most recently, Benny & Joon). I'm hoping I might be able to actually go see some new movies in the theater this year! I'd like to see Me Before You and The Light Between Oceans. I know many people don't feel this way but I really like seeing movie adaptations of books.

Loving: My summer work schedule - I have Fridays off through July!

Not loving: That next Tuesday I have a dentist appointment for (most likely) a root canal. I can hardly find words to express how much I am dreading this.

Wearing: New running shoes! I haven't bought new running shoes in two years, which I know seems absurd but I didn't run at all last year while I was pregnant. I've been wearing various incarnations of the Nike Pegasus for over a decade, but the latest version was changed significantly and hasn't gotten very good reviews, so I decided to try the Brooks Glycerin. (PS: Have you heard of Global Running Day? I'm in!)

Thinking about: Potty training. Sleep training. Parenting is pretty glamorous! (Please please comment below with any suggestions and tips you might have!)

Praying for: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self Control. (Galatians 5:22) And also that my dentist appointment isn't too miserable.

Craving: Dinner out at a nice restaurant... Hoping Jonathan and I can go out for our anniversary coming up on May 25th!

Eating: All the sandwiches. We recently bought a Panini press and it's been a game-changer.

Looking forward to: Some nice weather! For a long time Colorado has bragged about "300 Days of Sunshine" every year, but I'm pretty sure this year is an exception. Although I'd take a rainy May if it means we can avoid wildfires again this year.

Random semi-related questions: How do you feel about movie adaptations of books? What is your favorite type of sandwich?

Have a nice day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reading Roundup - April 2016

I can't believe it's already been a month since the last Show Us Your Books link-up! I didn't read quite as much last month as usual. I didn't even technically finish Eligible until May but I'm really hoping someone wants to talk about it with me - I have so many thoughts! Here's what else I read in April:

1) The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. 3/5 stars. I really enjoyed Simonson's first book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but I didn't like this one nearly as much. One of the jacket quotes recommends the book to "fans of leisurely British fiction." And leisurely it certainly is! The plot, following Beatrice Nash, a female (gasp!) Latin teacher who moves to a small village in southern England at the start of WWI, meanders along at an impossibly slow pace. The characters weren't especially memorable and overall it lacked the charm and wit that drew me to Major Pettigrew.

2) The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. 2/5 stars. I did not like this book at all. It's set in New York in the 1950s, when Truman Capote became friends with the very highest society ladies on the heels of his Breakfast at Tiffany's success. The characters are all so unlikeable. I didn't connect to any of them. And I didn't like the whole style of the book... A very outsider viewpoint bouncing around from one character to the next, rather than actually getting to know any one person in depth.

3) Newport by Jill Morrow. 2/5 stars. This one was another disappointment. Set in the 1920s in Newport, Rhode Island, I was hoping for a Edith Wharton style novel with plenty of social intrigue and lavish detail of the glitz and glamour at the summer "cottages" of the Gilded Age elite. Not so. It could have been set in any random town in the modern day. In fact the characters, who are overall flat and unrealistic, seemed more like modern day characters in speech and sensibility. There is also a supernatural element that I wasn't into at all.

4) Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. 3/5 stars. This is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I was really looking forward to reading it, being a fan both of P&P and Sittenfeld's earlier books. Unfortunately... It didn't really work for me. While I appreciate the difficulty of the task, I don't think the modernizations stayed true to the original character of the P&P. I found the characters mostly annoying and unlikeable. And I didn't understand why she chose to stray from the P&P plot in some instances but not others. I would love to chat about this book in more detail with anyone who has read it - Please comment below!

As you can see, apart from Eligible which doesn't really count, I'm going through a historical fiction phase... Specifically early 20th century England, although two of these books are set in New York/New England, so I suppose that works too. Does anyone have any recommendations in that genre?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gratitude and Goals - May 2016

Greetings from Denver International Airport! I've been in Denver for the past two days for work. Various things I am grateful for related to this trip are...

   - That Abel survived my first night away!

   - That I was able to squeeze in a quick dinner at Hapa with Laura and Tyffani in between work events.

   - That I was able to sleep ALL NIGHT LONG for the first time since Abel was born... It was glorious.

   - That I'm heading back to my loved ones tonight. I miss them so!

This face!!!

I was moderately successful with my April goals. I took care of all the routine doctor/dentist appointments for myself, the kids, and the dog. I did one 10-mile training run (and ran 75 miles total)! I got a massage and a pedicure. However... I did not start tracking our budget or start going to yoga again.

For May my goals are:

   - Start going to yoga again! I feel so good after I go to a yoga class... I really MUST find time for this in my schedule - At least once a week.

   - Work on potty training with Swede... I have been dragging my feet on this, but I know she's ready. She's pretty much trained at preschool, so I need to make it a priority at home too.

   - I'm running my first race of the summer, the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile, on Memorial Weekend.

   - Slow down. Just... Slow down.

What are you grateful for this week???

Monday, May 2, 2016

On Parenting

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading this blog for more than five minutes that my transition to life with two kiddos has been... challenging. Especially since I went back to work in March. Things have gotten better since my busy season at work ended on April 15th, but I still feel like there are too many days when I feel hectic and frazzled from start to finish.

A couple weeks ago I read This Stage of Life? It's Hard by Hayley Hengst from the Austin Moms Blog, and since then I've read it at least a dozen more times. It is so EXACTLY how I feel. Both in ways that I was aware of (like feeling constantly overwhelmed) and in ways that I hadn't yet put into words (like the stress of having countless, endless decisions to make).

This is such a first world problem, but I do think it's stressful to be constantly presented with a dozen (or more) options for any given decision I have to make related to the kids, along with the pressure that I have to make the RIGHT choice. I'm embarrassed to admit how many hours I spend searching, comparing, and reading reviews on Amazon to pick, for example, the exact perfect rainbow stacker toy. Maybe the lesson here for me is to distinguish between choices that matter and choices that really don't have much impact in the grand scheme.

Sometimes I wonder about what life was like for my grandma, or great-grandma, when they had young children. Did they feel this way? I kinda think not. Maybe it's that 100 years ago, people didn't expect life to be easy. They had bigger problems than picking the exact perfect rainbow stacker toy. My grandma, for example, was one of twelve siblings who moved from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression. I imagine that she did her fair share of taking care of younger siblings, so that having three babies of her own (by age 25!) wasn't a major lifestyle change.

Whereas nowadays, children (including myself) grow up with more free time, less responsibility, more privilege, less consequences, than ever before in history. It feels like a big shock after 25-30 years of doing whatever we want most of the time to suddenly be 100% 24/7 responsible for these little humans, with all the attendant sacrifice and frustration.

This smile makes it all worth it!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'd like to go back to an earlier era. I'm certainly glad I didn't leave school at age 12 to go work in the coal mine. I love my Amazon Prime. I generally describe my childhood as "idyllic." But sometimes I wonder... Are we facing new challenges as 21st-century parents? Or has it always been this hard?

Maybe the difference is that in the past we didn't analyze (and in my case, complain) so much. Maybe I need to adopt a pioneer mentality and just do what need to be done. Grit through the tough moments (which for me often means, for example, Friday morning when ALL I wanted to do was blow-dry my hair but Abel wouldn't settle for his nap and Swede followed me around crying "I need to be the baby! I need to be the baby!" which is retrospect isn't that bad, and I can't believe now that I let it ruin my day to the extent it did) and cherish the good moments.

Because there are SO many little lovely moments scattered throughout each and every day. Because this is "the stage [of life] where your kids love you more than they are EVER going to love you again, for the whole rest of your life. It’s the stage where they can fit their entire selves into your lap to snuggle…and they want to." These words are so true, and bring a tear to my eye every time I read them!

I've been catching myself more often lately, in these moments, and realizing: "THIS. This is it. This is what you've been waiting for."