Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thank Goodness for Family!

Last weekend my sister Sandy, brother-in-law Will, and nephew Anders came down for a visit. On their way down from the Twin Cities, they stopped to pick up Mike's sister Katherine and her fiancee Sam, who happened to be on fall break and needed a ride home. It worked out quite well for them to all ride together, and it sounds like Anders enjoyed having some new friends to talk to in the backseat of the car. It was also nice for Mike's parents and Sam's parents to not have to drive up to St. Olaf to pick up Katherine and Sam this one time.

We attempted a 3 boy sleepover in Drew's room after everybody got here on Friday night. Zach and Drew were already in bed, and Zach was asleep, but Drew was still awake. We could hear Anders and Drew talk a little, and then they quieted down. It wasn't a terrible night, but we decided not to do a sleepover again on Saturday. We decided everybody needed a little bit better night's sleep than they had Friday.

Will and Mike headed out early Saturday morning, Will to the Hawkeye game and Mike to Wartburg for a weekend with his college buddies, so Sandy and I were on our own with the 4 boys. While I took Zach to his soccer game, Sandy stayed home so Jake could nap and Anders and Drew could play. Once Zach and I got home, we dropped Jake off at Grandma Linda and Grandpa Curt's house, and the 3 bigger boys, Sandy, and I headed out to a pumpkin patch. In the past few years we've gone to this really big, really popular pumpkin patch south of town, but we didn't feel like making that long of a trek or dealing with massive crowds, so we decided to try out a different place nearby. It was another beautiful October day, and we weren't disappointed.

Right after we got there, we decided to head out into the pumpkin patch to pick our pumpkins. Drew found a nice pumpkin pretty quickly and his mind was made up (guess he takes after Mike), whereas Zach, a little more like me, found one, but wasn't sure it was the one, and had to search around a while longer before finally being convinced (with a lot of help from me) that it was the one.

I think Anders picked his pretty quickly, too. The boys also helped me pick a little pumpkin for Jake. Trying to get a good picture of all 3 boys and the pumpkins, gourds, and squash we picked provided these funny (mostly thanks to Anders and Drew) photos.

After picking pumpkins, we decided to let the boys ride horses. There were a variety of sizes, and Zach, being the first one, felt a little unsure, so he picked a small horse. Technically, this is probably a pony, but I don't really know.

Drew was up next, and although he first said he wanted a big horse, then he decided he wanted a small horse like Zach, but then changed his mind to a medium horse.

Anders, ever fearless, knew he wanted a big horse!

Sandy and I chuckled at the fact that the older the child, the smaller the horse. The minute Zach got off his little horse/pony, he asked if he could ride again, but on a big horse this time. We were only willing to let each kid go once, though, so he'll have to ride a big horse next time.

The boys and Sandy went on the wagon ride while I took the pumpkins to the car. I had a little mishap in doing so. The car was parked on a downhill, the wagon got to rolling too fast, I tried to turn it as I got to the car, it tipped, and pumpkins, squash, and gourds started rolling everywhere. Thankfully a nice family helped me gather up my harvest so that I didn't lose anything under the others cars. It was a little embarrassing.

The boys also rode the barrel train, played in the bouncy houses, crawled through the hay (or maybe straw) maze, and played in the corn bin. While the boys were playing in the corn bin, I heard Anders, channeling Johnny Cash, shout, "MY NAME IS SUE! HOW DO YOU DO??"

We got done in time to eat a late lunch at home, and get all the boys (including Jake) down for naps. Sandy and I were happy to have a little bit of time with no little boys or their little boy energy buzzing around.

After naps, Anders showed Drew his guitar skills

and gave him some love.

Once everybody was up (I think we had to wake Drew up), we got the boys going on frosting the sugar cookies I had made the day before. I wasn't sure how it would go, but we kept it simple and it actually worked quite well. I asked the boys what color frosting they wanted, and they each got their own bowl. Well, Zach actually got two, because he wanted orange and black frosting. We also pulled out some Halloween sprinkles, and they boys were all set.

We decided I had to get a picture of Drew's cookies, which had a little dab of frosting and ton of sprinkles. I guess it's hard to tell in this picture, though.

Sunday morning was the morning of my half-marathon. It was a little stressful having Mike gone and knowing I was leaving Sandy with her own 3 year-old and all 3 of my kids. I knew Sandy could handle it, but I also know how crazy mornings can be. I was being picked up by friends for a ride to the race right around 7:00, so the plan was for Sandy and the bigger boys to come down to the race, and I knew that that would mean getting the boys ready quickly. Drew and quick in the morning don't exactly go hand-in-hand, on most days, anyway. I'd had a big talk with Drew the night before about getting dressed right away when he got up. I was able to nurse Jake just before I left, but Zach and Drew weren't out of bed yet. Thankfully, I knew that Cynthia and Katherine were coming over to help Sandy out with the boys; one of them would stay home with Jake so he could nap, and the other would head downtown with Sandy to figure out where along the race course to try to watch for me.

The race went well. Two years ago, when Sandy and I last ran this half-marathon and had a little problem finding each other (read about it here, if you forgot), I finished in about 1:46, so I kind of wanted to meet or beat that, but I also thought that was unlikely, given the fact that I've had less time to train now that there are 3 kids and time to myself is kind of a hot commodity. I felt good going into the race, and I enjoyed the run, for the most part. I ended up finishing in 1:48:38, which put me 37th out of the 465 women in my age group, and 607th out of 3,992 runners total. Unfortunately, Sandy, Katherine, and the boys just missed me at the 10 mile mark, and again at the finish line. I did see some other friends who were there cheering along the course, and it was really nice to have a little support out there from people I know. It was a bummer to not see Sandy, Katherine, and the boys, but I really appreciated their efforts. I know it couldn't have been easy getting around with all the road closures, finding parking, and getting all 3 kids walking fast enough to get to where they needed to go. Amazingly, it didn't take that long to find them after the race was over.

The rest of the day was a pretty lazy day, as I was a bit tired. One of my favorite moments was Drew and Anders laying on the couch, looking at the imaginary fireworks Drew was describing on the ceiling. I think Anders maybe started describing them, too, and it was just so cute to hear them pretending like they were, with such animation in their voices.

I'm not sure where I was when this took place, but apparently Mike gave all the boys (except Jake) a horsey ride at some point.

As I sit here and think about last weekend, I realize how lucky I am to have such supportive family members. When I mentioned to Sandy a month or so ago that Mike was considering getting together with college friends the weekend of the half-marathon, she immediately offered to come help out. And when I asked if she and Will could pick up Katherine and Sam on their way down, she didn't hesitate. Further, I think I've said it before, and if I haven't, I've certainly thought it before, I am very lucky to have 2 great sets of in-laws who help me out tons. Honestly, I don't know what I'd do without their help. Between Curt & Linda watching Jake on Saturday so I didn't have to cart him around the pumpkin patch and Cynthia and Katherine helping out on Sunday with all the race stuff, I feel like the old saying about it taking a village to raise a child really holds a lot of truth. So to all of you who helped out last weekend, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate it!

To close, I have to leave you with possibly my favorite moment from the weekend- Anders singing a little Johnny Cash for us. Anders loves Johnny Cash and plans to be him for Halloween, and I think he's got his act down pretty darn good. Enjoy!

Friday, October 14, 2011


A couple of conversations that I've had with the boys or overheard in the last week or so that made me smile:

First, Zach was telling Drew about a rock I painted to look like a turtle that is in Zach's room.
Me: Actually, Zach, I painted that rock long before you were even born.
Drew: Was I born, Mom, or was I underground?
Zach: No, Drew, before we were born we weren't underground; we were up in the sky! That's where heaven is.
Drew: Oh! Did we play together up there?
Zach: No, we didn't.

I love how they both had such defined ideas of life before they were born.

Then, last night as I was putting Drew to bed, and we talked about the fact that Aunt Katherine and her fiance (I'm not sure I have mentioned the change in their status on the blog before; we're very excited) are coming home this weekend.
Drew: Mom, have I been married?
Me: No, you haven't. But maybe you'll get married when you're older.
Drew: No! Only girls get married!
Me: No, girls marry boys and boys marry girls. So when you're an adult you can get married.
Drew: I don't want to get married!
Me: Why?
Drew: I will miss you too much.
Me: You can still see me when you're married.
Drew: I can?
Me: Yep. Dad sees his mom, Grandma Linda, all the time.
Drew: Oh, okay.
Then he said something about one of his preschool teachers and marrying that didn't make any sense. Really I loved the beginning of the conversation most, when he asked if he'd been married.

Drew is very interested in death right now. He talks a lot about when Maggie (our oldest dog) dies, and he has big plans to get a pig when that happens. A recent conversation in the car as we arrived at home:
Drew: Mom, when you and Dad get dead, Zach and I will have to go to daycare. (No mention of Jake.)
Me: Well, Drew, probably when Dad and I die, you'll be all grown up and you won't need to go to daycare.
Drew: No, but who will take care of us??
Me: You'll be an adult, honey; you won't need anybody to take care of you.
Drew: Hmm... (Not real convinced.)

And then this morning, at the breakfast table:
Drew: Mom, I don't want you to get dead.
Me: Thanks, Drew.

While playing with a trash truck and marbles, pretending the marbles were the Toy Story 3 characters:
Drew: They didn't believe in their hearts it was a good idea to get into the trash truck.

And while praying tonight:
Drew: And thank you, God, for the pleasure, and for our mom and dad.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Brought to You By...

Today's mish-mash of a post is brought to you by the letter A and the number 10.

I decided to start doing sort of a letter of the week type thing with Drew. He knows all of his uppercase letters, but this way we can work on lowercase letters and on the sounds letters make, which he knows surprisingly well (I think), too. Though we are not going in alphabetical order, we did start with A, mostly because of it being that time of year when apples are so delicious. So we talked about the letter A and what sounds it makes and what words start with A, and then we did a little project. I wrote a large uppercase A on one piece of paper and a lowercase A on another piece. I carved an apple to make a couple of stamps (including a backward lowercase A, which I then had to fix), and Drew got to paint the A's.

Then Drew painted the apple seeds white,

and we used them as the teeth on this little alligator.

Here are the finished products. My idea is that maybe I will put all the letters into an alphabet book when we're done. We'll see, though.

Later that afternoon/evening, Drew and I made little apple desserts using canned biscuits, cinnamon and sugar, and chopped up apples. They were supposed to be like apple pies. Unfortunately, Drew didn't want to eat much of his dinner, so he didn't get to have any of the dessert he made! He really wasn't even more than mildly bummed about it; he must have known the desserts would only be mediocre. Probably won't use that recipe again!

While Drew has a lot of pre-reading skills mastered or nearly mastered, writing isn't as easy for him. When Zach started preschool at age 3 and 3 months, he could write his name, though it was of course a little rough looking. Drew, however, hasn't been too interested in trying to write his name, and has struggled with holding the pencil/crayon the correct way. However, being in preschool and working on the correct hold seems to be paying off. As Drew finished making Aunt Sandy's birthday card (he picked 40 stickers for her 40th birthday), I asked him to write his name on it. He held the marker almost perfectly, and wrote his name in the clearest manner I've ever seen! To my eye (but maybe nobody else's), it looks like he has actually written the correct letters, except maybe the W, which is pretty tough. And, to Drew's credit, I think the letters D-R-E-W are a little harder for 3 year-old hands to write than the easier lines of Z-A-C-H.

Now for the number 10. A couple of weeks ago I did a 10 mile race called Capital Pursuit. I did this race for the first time a couple of years ago, and I really enjoyed it. I have been training for the Des Moines half-marathon, though I only just signed up for it 2 days ago. Participating in the 10 mile race is a nice way to get a long run in in a much more interesting manner than just going out and running on the trail on my own. Although I have loved my long runs this year- the weather has been perfect and the leaves lately are so pretty- it's nice to change it up sometimes.

My sister Sandy and I have a knack for arriving at races a minute or two before they start (something I recently learned my sister Becky also has a knack for- guess it runs in the family- ha ha- get it? I'm hilarious, I know). We had been out with friends the night before the Capital Pursuit and I don't know what my deal was, but I guess I got a late start that morning. It was the classic case of trying to do too much ("Oh, I can get Jake dressed so Mike doesn't have to," sort of thing) and not realizing how those minutes added up. Then add to that the fact that speed cameras have recently been installed on the interstate here, and I didn't know where they were but was paranoid about getting a ticket. Had I known we were still just in the warning phase for the cameras, I probably would have driven a bit faster. However, I didn't know that, and so I drove accordingly, and then couldn't seem to figure out where I needed to go once I got downtown. (I don't know the streets very well there- I know the landmarks.) I ended up just parking somewhere and running (nearly sprinting) in the general direction of where I thought the starting line was. As I turned the corner and saw the starting line about a block and a half in front of me, the gun went off and the racers started coming my way. I thought, "Hmm, this is new- arriving as the race starts. I'll have to tell Sandy about this!" and I jumped in with the runners and was off, mittens, watch, and car key in hand, and shoes not tied anywhere close to right. I'm a little OCD about how my shoes are tied when I'm running- they can't be too tight or too loose, and at this point I had one of each. I dealt with it for about 3 miles and then had to go to the side to fix them, only to do it wrong and have to fix them again about 5 minutes later, as crowds of runners jogged past me. The second time they still didn't feel quite right, but I couldn't stand the thought of stopping again and being passed by so many people, so I decided to just deal with it. It was fine.

I was able to find a friend from my kickboxing class around mile 5. She was slightly ahead of me, and it took me about a mile to catch up to her. We then stayed pretty close by each other the rest of the race, talking some, but not tons. She would go ahead of me a little and then I'd catch her, and then the last mile I went ahead of her and she wasn't able to keep up. Here's the kicker- she is 53! Yep, 20 years older than me and we basically run about the same pace. She's one fit 53 year-old, let me tell ya.

Mike always makes fun of me by saying that in races I have competitions with people who don't know I'm competing with them. He says it like it's a bad thing, but really, it's more of a mental game I play with myself to push myself. People pass me early on, and I think, "Ok, I'm going to pass you later and finish before you." This girl in the green shirt and hat in the picture below was one of those people. I passed her right at the 9 mile mark, and then she caught back up to me very briefly, but then couldn't keep up. I was booking it hard the last mile- it was my fastest of all 10 miles at 7 minutes and 20 seconds, I think. Oh, I'm in the all black with sunglasses in the picture.

This is a small race, so they don't do chip timing. I suppose that worked in my favor this time, because I never technically crossed the starting line. I was happy with my time. I finished in one hour, 21 minutes, and 38 seconds, which was about 2 minutes faster than the last time I ran it. That really surprised me, because I feel like I was in better shape 2 years ago than I am now. With 3 kids now and one of them being a baby, I just don't have as much time to devote to running. I ended up finishing 8th out of 57 women in the 30-34 year-old age group and 46th out of 255 female runners, with an average pace of 8:10 minutes per mile.

It was great to see Mike, Zach, and Drew at the finish line (Jake stayed home with Grandma Linda to nap), and thankfully it was easy to find them right afterwards. This series of pictures kind of cracks me up, purely because of Drew's face in each one.

The boys were excited to run the kids race, but we had some time to kill, so we messed around in Nollen Plaza while we waited.

After a while, Mike said, "Oh, they just said the kids race will be starting soon," so we walked up to the finish line area. Just in time to see the kids (not our kids, though) run their race. I could not believe we missed it. I felt just terrible. Unlike my race, in which I could easily jump in and not miss a thing, the kids race lasted about 20 seconds, so missing the start really equaled missing the whole thing. But, trying to stay positive and head off any sadness from the boys, I quickly said, "Well, here, you can have your own race!" in my cheeriest voice possible. I set Drew up in one place and Zach a bit behind him and shouted, "GO!" while Mike aimed the camera. These pictures also make me laugh, because it looks like Zach is talking trash to Drew, or at least totally enjoying passing him. At least they both look like they had fun.

And they got medals at the end, which I think was the main motivation for one or maybe even both of them. So, all was not lost. However, Zach did tell Grandma later that it would have been more fun running with the other kids. I still feel bad about it.

In other 10 news, Jake turned 10 months old. Here he is in his cute Wartburg onesie from Troy & Jen. What you can't see is his cute butt, which says "Knights" on it.

Jake has discovered he LOVES the basement, just like his big brothers. However, unlike his big brothers, Jake can't play downstairs without a parent, so when Zach and Drew go down there without him, this is what he does.

Now that Jake is 10 months old, we decided it's time he starts earning his keep around here. His main chore is to help empty the dishwasher... and the cabinets... and the games under the coffee table... and the toys from the toy trunk... and anything he can get his hands on.

I have about 3 Halloween decorations (I know- I really go all-out), and one of them is a little wooden wreath of jack-o-lanterns on the wall right at the base of the stairs. Jake loves it, so every time we come down the stairs, he grins, makes a funny noise, and "points" at it. This is how he points now.

This picture totally resembles Drew's "silly face" that he used to make when he was about Jake's age.

Only 2 months until Jake's first birthday- yikes!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

We Love the Hawkeyes

Fall is here, and that means it's time for Hawkeye football! Once nice thing about this time of year is that I don't have to think twice about anybody's outfit for Saturdays, at least not beyond what Hawkeye gear will be worn that day. And it's always pretty obvious that my family isn't the only one like that; anywhere I go on Saturdays in the fall I see people in their Hawkeye shirts, unless they're wearing their Cylone stuff, but I just ignore those people. :-) It's something I think is kind of neat- it's like a common bond among many strangers, and there's just something comforting about it for me.

The boys have some pretty cute Hawkeye stuff this fall, as you will see in these pictures taken over a couple of different weekends a few weeks ago.

Actually, first here's a picture Zach took of Drew pretending to take a picture.

And here's one Zach took of Jake.

This is probably my most favorite picture in a very long time. It seems Apple changed things and now I can't order pictures from iPhoto unless I update something, and that is a bummer because I really want to print a copy of this picture to frame! I know, I could print it some other way, but iPhoto is (or used to be) so easy and convenient! Hopefully I get it figured out, because I do love this picture.

I also clipped some other pictures (of course there were lots of group shots that aren't really worth keeping) to get these great individuals I also plan to print (sometime, somehow) to put up in the house.

A couple of weeks ago I was going through the bins of baby clothes to get out some new stuff for Jake, and I though most of the clothes were hand-me-downs from Zach and Drew, there were a few new things in there were gifts. One such item was this cute vintage Herky onesie I got Jake on sale for his stocking when he was just 2 weeks old. I'm so excited that it fits him finally (or already- sometimes it seems like it's been a long time, and at other times it seems like I just bought it). Jake wore this onesie when the Hawkeyes played Pitt, which was quite the game. If you missed it, let me give a very brief recap- the Hawkeyes were down 24-3 at the end of the 3rd quarter, but came back to win 31-27. It was a very exciting 4th quarter. You can see from these pictures of Jake that at the tender age of 9 months, he is already an involved and animated Hawkeye football watcher, just like his dad.

Jake and I were both very happy that the Hawkeyes pulled off that win, as it meant Mike was in a good mood the rest of the night. Coach Ferentz, we'll take some more wins like that, please.