Saturday, June 30, 2012

Garden, Part One

Ever since we moved into this house I've been wanting a vegetable garden.  But we were too busy tending to babies and kids to tend a garden as well - until this year.  Last summer we dug up a small patch of grass and planted a few tomatoes and some basil.  This year I asked for a few raised beds in the corner of the yard....and in our typical style, the project quickly grew into something beyond our original, modest plan. 

We have one spot in the back yard that gets full sun, the corner next to the shed.  So we dug up all the grass (NOT a small job), put low-profile edging along the fence line and shed, and turned the whole thing into a potager. 
 Alex helps Rob with sod removal. 

 Alex entertains himself in the back of the truck, alongside the rolls of sod.

We spent hours and hours drawing out the plan, changing the size of the raised beds and paths and edging beds...we finally found a compromise, matching the angle of the beds to the fence line.  We will put trellises along the fence and shed for the climbing crops.

I am still surprised and thrilled by my husband's talents - simple & sturdy is what we were going for, and he whipped all three out in one afternoon.  We filled the beds with garden soil, compost, and peat moss, and tilled in all together.  We also tilled compost into the border beds. 

The arbor we found on the side of the road on our town's "Spring Clean-up Day" - score!  Rob fixed a few broken pieces and it became the entrance to the garden.  Eventually the fence and beds will grey to match it.  I imagined it covered in sweet pea or black-eyed-Susan vines.

 Some recent rain watered in our new plants.  This year we planted slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green bell peppers, cilantro, beans, grapes, yellow squash, mini pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, a variety of lettuces, radishes, carrots, strawberries, broccoli, and cauliflower, as well as sweet basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, spearmint, chocolate mint, and blueberries in the beds bordering the garden.  I also planted nasturtiums and black-eyed Susan vines in the arbor planters.  That is a LOT for one little corner of our yard!

The first harvest!  It made a great salad for my lunch, including the nasturtium blossom.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"You're Perfect"

At almost 3-years-old, Alex is funny, demanding, playful, energetic, and always trying to keep up with his older brother and sister.  He loves to tease and rarely takes anything seriously - including scoldings or time-outs.  It seems like the only time he holds still is to drink his juice (which he dearly loves) or to watch a Thomas the Train video (which he also dearly loves).  He is exhausting and fun and crazy.

So the other night when we were putting him to sleep I took advantage of the quiet moment to snuggle him.  He curled into me on the bed, put his forehead to mine, and said, "Mama, you're perfect." Moments like that sure make up for all the rest!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bismark Olympic-Distance Triathlon

I'm not sure where to begin with my thoughts about this race.  The main one is "I'M SO GLAD IT'S OVER!"  I've been training for months, spending hours each week swimming and cycling and running.  It's been a sacrifice for both me and my family to spend so much time and effort preparing for this race, and I'm looking forward to regaining a bit of balance in my life (ie: folding clothes instead of saying "look on the couch," sleeping in every once in a while, and reading a good book or two).

Way back in early winter when we decided to go for an Olympic-distance Triathlon, it seemed like a fun challenge. Looking at the distances for a sprint tri, they just didn't seem quite long enough.  As the race got nearer I started to question that decision, and if I hadn't had two friends training with me I'm pretty sure I would have scaled back to the sprint distance or dropped out completely.  Instead, I prepared for the 1000-meter swim, 40K (25 mile) bike ride, and 10K (6 mile) run.  I felt confident that I could do each leg individually, and had done many swim-bike or bike-run "brick" workouts, and even a sprint-distance practice one Saturday.  I did evening swim workouts when it was still freezing and dark out, as well as 6 a.m. swim workouts; sometimes biked to spin class, taught, and then biked another hour or so; and went for longer runs whenever I could.  I felt pretty ready for the race and was sure I could at least complete it in around 3 hours.  However, I completely ignored the advice of veteran triathletes and did not practice swimming in open water or practice swimming in my wetsuit before the race.  And that turned out to be a *really* bad idea.

Race day was beautiful and sunny, but very windy.  I was super nervous as I set up my transition area and studied the swim course.  I am very much a beginner swimmer and took adult swim lessons last Autumn to improve my breathing and strokes.  I could only swim one length of the pool without stopping when I started training this year, and am proud to now be able to swim a whole mile in the pool without stopping.  I had heard about the "open water panic" but figured I might struggle for a few minutes before finding my rhythm.  In all honesty, I completely underestimated how the conditions would affect me.  The starting buzzer sounded and I held back a few seconds before going in so that I would be near the back of the pack.  I took a few strokes, swallowed water, choked, sputtered, kept going, swallowed more water....and on and on and on.  I can't remember the last time I felt so helpless and frankly, terrified.  "Open water panic" is exactly what it was.  The water was dark and murky, fairly cold, and very choppy due to sustained 20-mph winds.  It was all I could do to not flag down a jet-ski to pull me in, and only the thought of my family watching from the shore kept me going (apparently a dozen or so swimmers pulled out due to the conditions, so thankfully I wasn't the only one struggling.)  I had to constantly remind myself to calm down, breathe, and keep moving.  It was incredibly humbling and disheartening to watch the majority of the pack get further and further away, but somehow I made it around all the buoys and back to the shore.   One event down, and I was so relieved!

The bike course was an out-and-back along a highway and I wasn't too worried about it as cycling is my strongest of the three events.  The wind was at our backs the whole way out and I made good time, going almost 30 mph at times.  But then of course we turned around and headed into the wind for 20K the other direction.  I managed to pass a few people but knew that the run would be hard after using so much effort on the bike.  As I pulled into transition for the second time I could hear my cheering section - "GO Mama, GO!" So I slipped on my running shoes and headed out.  I'm not a fast runner, and I walked the water stops and hills, but felt OK until the last mile.  By then all the sprint-distance athletes were leaving and it felt a little anti-climactic to keep going, not to mention my right knee was killing me by that point.  But since the run was a 2-loop course I passed Rob and the kids several times - Haley and Jake even ran with me for part of it.  I kicked it in for the final distance and was finally, finally done.   I cried a few tears when I crossed the finish line - in relief, in exhaustion, in gratitude for my extremely supportive husband and children.

I have to say this is the hardest race I've done yet, both mentally and physically.  I recovered pretty quickly and feel great one day later, but it might be a while before I'm brave enough to face swimming again - at least in a lake.  Although I don't like feeling defeated by anything - especially my fears - which can only lead to one thing...I might have to "Tri" again....

 All marked up for the race.

Alex and his Thomas the Train buddy.

 My transition area, all ready to go.

The amazing women I trained with - Alicia is a super swimmer, and Auralee is an incredible runner.  You know, we could probably rock as a relay team....  :)

  Starting the swim.  My head's in the water, so I must not have panicked quite yet.  :)

Kids watching from the shore.

Alex and Rob thought this Jeep was the coolest thing ever.  Glad they had something fun to look at while waiting for me all those hours!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lego Robotics Camp

This past week Haley attended a Lego Robotics Camp at UND.  Each camper got to design and build their own robot out of Lego MindStorm components, and then program them to do certain tasks.  We got to go on Friday and watch her robot - it was so impressive to see her adjusting components and programming. She loved going every day, and will be much better able to participate in Lego League this coming year.

 "Walking" the robot with Alex.  She had programmed hers to go all the way down the hall, turn, enter the bathroom, make several turns and end up in front of a toilet.  HILARIOUS stuff for 3/4/5th graders.  She wanted to figure out how to get it to push the elevator button but didn't have the pieces to make an arm that could press a button.  Maybe next year...

 They programmed them to go through different mazes.  They have to calculate when to have it make each turn, based on the number of wheel revolutions needed to cover each distance.

 They also attached both light and sound sensors to their bots - when the sensor found the dark line, it would follow it around the circle.

Jake and Alex were enthralled - only a few more years and they can go too!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer Misc. & Art Festival

June is a busy, busy month for us.  Haley is taking an art class, attending a Lego Robotics camp, and taking several dance classes.  Jake is taking an "Awesome Authors" class and Tae Kwon Do.  Add to that swimming lessons, play dates, picnics, parks and other outings and it feels like we are always running from one thing to the next.  It sure is fun, but time is a-flyin'.  A few snapshots of our past week:
 Playing at one of our favorite parks.  It has lots of monkey bars so Haley and Jake stay busy.

 Ready to go swim at Hyslop pool at the University.  They swam and splashed with Dad while I did laps - not fair!

 A rainy Sunday afternoon tempted both kids to run around the cul-de-sac.  

 A glimpse at the new veggie garden from over the fence.

 Trying out the fire hoses at the Art Festival.

 Haley tests out a fun sprinkler at the Art Festival.

The kids and I heard the train horn from the Town Square.  We sprinted down the street to watch and wave to it. 

 Alex has recently graduated from his trike to Jake's old blue bike.  He loves it and is so proud of himself for riding a Big Kid Bike.  All he wants to do all day long is ride around the cul-de-sac. 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Summer Craft - Rainbows

 This week's craft day theme was rainbows.  I had the kids research and type up facts about rainbows - they did a great job!  Alex helped out by taking a long nap so we could do our science & art projects.  I love spending afternoons like this with these kids!

 By placing a mirror in water in a shallow pan, and then setting that in the sun, rainbows will be reflected.  This would work better inside near a window, but it worked to reflect the rainbows onto the paper.  

 Showing off their "report."

 For this one we were seeing how mixing Primary colors makes all the colors in the rainbow.  Pour 1 cup milk into a shallow pan. Place a few drops each of red, yellow, and blue in separate corners of the pan.  Then drop a few drops of liquid dish washing soap into the middle of the pan.  The soap will pull the colors toward each other and they will mix.  

 Making thumbprint watercolor rainbows.

Our fancy-schmancy snack to go with our theme. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Alex & the Trains

Like many almost-3-year-olds, Alex loves trains.  He watches movies about them, sets up tracks all around the house for them, and carries trains in his pockets when we run errands.  His recently-acquired Thomas the Train shirt is now one of those items that must be coaxed off of him to be washed because he wants to wear it all day and night.  So with Alex's birthday coming up, I asked my cycling buddy Mike, who works for the railroad, if he knew of any places to use for a birthday party.  Lucky for us, we wound up with a private tour of the rail yard and train cars.  Choo-choo!

 Looking into the "pit" in the roundhouse.

 SO MANY BUTTONS!!!  They all got to push the one that honks the (very loud) horn. 

 "Mama!  We're on a REAL DIESEL!  But it's a nice one that doesn't talk."

 He was uncharacteristically quiet and observant - enthralled.
 "Yep, I could just about take charge here."

Mike presents Alex with an "Honorary Engineer" certificate.  THANKS, MIKE!