Saturday, August 30, 2008

Baxter...

After canceling our plans to go to Kansas City for the long holiday weekend, I found our new plans included a chance for me to have a few hours to myself today to do whatever I pleased. So...Daisy and I loaded up and headed to Baxter (sun roof open and radio playing loud enough I could FEEL the bass) to hit the trail. I had my heart set on a nice long ride, but around here that involves more hills than I felt like tackling. The Baxter trail (I don't officially know if that's it name, it's just how we refer to it since that's the location of the closest trail head...about a 25 mile drive from home.) is a Rails To Trails path. The changes in grade are gradual and so visually unnoticeable the decision to shift gears is based more on the feel of your legs, cadence, and breath, than what you SEE about the road ahead. It's 20 miles end to end. There's sections open to the sunny skies above, but also areas where the trail winds through established vegetation which provide much appreciated pockets of shade and protection from the wind. Corn fields, small towns, small creeks, it's a beautiful ride and usually quite busy on the weekends.

Today's riders were as varied as ever. A couple larger groups, one with several generations of riders from a toddler in a trailer to a grandpa aged gentleman probably in his 70. There were you're typical pairs; younger couples, older couples, two older guys, two older ladies. And then us few solo riders. Sixteen miles in I passed a young family: Mom on roller blades, leash in hand leading to a beautiful dark chocolate brown Great Dane. Dad pushing kiddo in the stroller, leash in hand leading to a huge tan older looking Mastiff. Just enjoying the day out, though the dogs looked a bit tired and hot.

In addition to the people, and maybe surprisingly in spite of the people, there's always plenty of wildlife along the way too. Today's abundant critter: grasshoppers. HUGE, crunchy, fly up and smack you in the neck, grasshoppers. But there were also plenty of beautiful birds, a snake, a toad, two dead moles, the occasional squirrel, and what I'm pretty sure was a beaver who scurried across the trail about 30 yards in front of me just before I reached the bridge crossing a creek.

Lately when I've been riding, I've been doing so sans cycloputer. An effort to just enjoy the ride and let go of: "How fast am I going?" "What's my average speed?" "How long have I been pedaling since my last stop?". Today I wanted to keep track of ride time so I hesitantly clicked it onto it's bracket. While I did find myself occassionally checking my speed as I rolled along, I didn't feel controlled by what it said. My goals for the day (because when I ride alone it's hard not to set goals beyong just to ride...I'm working on it): For the first 20 miles ride a fast cadence with an easy push. Jason's always telling me that I cadence too slow and push too much gear. So, I consciously worked on that for the first 1/2 of the ride, reminding myself to drop my heels when I started pushing into my toes, and open up my shoulders and lengthen through my neck when I started to slump. As unnatural as it felt, the ride out went well, and I do think that with a little more training, I could bring up my cadence a bit.

As I reached my 1/2 way snack stop, I realized that today's ride would the longest I've ever taken solo. I think back to those first rides last year as I started training for my first RAGBRAI. The 15 miles out and back on the our local trail seemed like such a LONG way to go that I couldn't imagine how I was ever going to get through repeated 70+ mile days. Oh how one's perspective can change!

As a "reward" for my hard push out, I decided that on the ride back I'd just ride whatever cadence and push felt good/natural. I was somewhat surprised to find myself falling into a rythm somewhere between my "normal" cadence and that which I had pushed to maintain during my first 20 miles. I felt awesome, strong, and found myself on several occassions lost in the presence of the moment. Aware of nothing beyond the chorus of nature around me, the rythm of my legs as I stoked the pedals, the deep, smooth consistency of my breath, the low hum of my skinny rubber tires on the road. And then I'd reach a bridge, or a road crossing, or pass another group of rides and I'd wonder how long I had riden in such peace...thankful for those few fleeting moments of bliss. (I wonder if that feeling is what the Buddist tradition is refering to when talking about Enlightenment?)

My ride ended, I racked Daisy up and grabbed a few minute of post ride yoga on the grass beside Velma (our car). And yes, I checked the cycloputer when it was all said and done. Interesting fact of the day: It too 1 hr, 10 mins to ride the first 20 miles at a "push". It took me 1 hr, 11 mins to ride the second 20 miles at "my pace". Either my "push" wasn't much, or "my pace" isn't as slow as some think. Either way, I had a great ride...and in my book, that's all that matters!


peace

Friday, August 29, 2008

Greta...

A snippet of Brea and I's conversation tonight as we were driving out to visit the crew at Tiny Circus.

Brea: "We going to the Circus?"

Me: "Yes."

Brea: "We see Geta there?"

Me: "No. Greta's not there."

Brea: "Where is she?"

Me: "Greta's in Florida."

Brea: "We go see Geta in Florida."

I wish the world were as simple as it is seems from a 2-year-old's perspective. We miss you "Geta"!


peace

Breakfast...

I pour myself a bowl of cereal....

Brea: "Can I have a little bite?"

Me: "If you're lucky."

Brea: "I'm lucky mama."


peace

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fall...

The college students are back in town. Classes started today. I love the energy changes our little town experiences in conjunction with the arrival and departure of the students. Following graduation in May, summers are slow and lazy. Town is quiet.

But with the arrival of August comes the return of around 1400 college students from all over the world, adding to the eclectic mix of people you find in our little town. It's not your typical small mid-western town...and that's part of why we love it here so much. A little cross section of the world, right here in the heart of Iowa.

The enthusiasm and energy the students bring to town is contagious. The coffee shop is a buzz. There's a constant steam of students walking between campus and McNally's/Dairy Barn. Today Brea and I walked through campus on our way downtown. You could feel the excitement of the first day of classes. It brought back so many happy and fun memories from my own college days. I wonder what it will be like in 12 years when Lexi becomes a college first year.

Tomorrow I'm joining some students from last year's yoga club to brainstorm ideas for yoga offering on campus in the coming year. Next week classes get underway. I'm giddy with anticipation...I guess some people never get too old/too far removed to get excited about the start of a new school year.


peace

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lunch...


Tomatoes from our neighbor Fred.

Cucumbers from Randy, the guy around the corner who also rides a Harley.

Green peppers from Jeff and Pat at Saints Rest.

Basil from the pot on my front porch.

And for desert...freshly picked pears from my friend Monica's pear tree at her new house.


I'm savoring the flavors....


peace

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Confession...

See that little banner at the bottom of the right hand column? The white and green one that says sitemeter? I am addicted to the information which that little banner provides about the visits to my little spot here.

For example:
  • At last check this spot has been visited 11, 270 times. (Probably a few more since it was several months after it's creation before I added the site meter to my blog.)
  • Most of my readers are friends and family here in the US, mainly in the mid-west region, BUT I've had people read my little musings just this past month in places as far away as Brazil and France. (It always gives me a little thrill to see a visitor has stopped by from some foreign land. What can I say, I'm a small town girl, I still get excited by silly things like that.)
  • The average length of visit: 1 min 37 seconds.
  • Over the past year my blog visits have steadily increased, as you can see by the handy little graph below. I'm pretty sure my activity on Facebook is directly responsible. (And possibly the effort I've made to more regularly post!)

  • Two people visited in the amount of time it took me to write this post.
Who knew you were all being watched so closely...


peace

Monday, August 25, 2008

Metamorphosis...

It's starting to feel a little fallish here in Iowa. The nights have been cooler. The mornings crisp. My jeans have already made their way out of the closet on several occasions. I'm starting to think about planning an apple orchard visit for some fresh, crisp apples, dreaming of the warm apple crisp and cinnamony apple sauce that will soon follow! With fall comes change: the return to school for Lexi, the return of the college students to town, the return to a fuller class schedule for me, and of course...bug metamorphosis.

Cicada shells are a common sighting these days. Yesterday the girls and I discovered one of the trees in our back yard is apparently a favorite spot for shedding your skin.

Large groups of empty shells are scattered throughout the tree...up the trunk, along limbs, on the underside of leaves. I don't think it would take us very long to count to 100 sitting under that tree!

As I was scanning the trunk, imagine my surprise when I realized not ALL the shells had been abandoned. One was just starting to form a crack, giving way to a light green being inside.

Though familiar with empty shells, we've never seen one still occupied. We checked back on our little friend several times throughout the afternoon, watching him make his way out of his shell to spread his new wings.

I was amazed at how quickly his little wings went from small shriveled lumps to papery thin beauties once he freed himself from his old skin. At our last sighting, our little friend had left his shell and had begun a slow climb up the trunk of the tree while his body continued to dry. We lost track of him before he had darkened like one we had found the day before on the trim of the garage, obviously further along in the process when he was discovered.

In addition to the cicadas, our butterfly bush in the front yard has been a hot bed of activity for Monarch caterpillars. Saturday we found this big fat buddy chowing down on a leaf right outside the front door. It was fun to watch him eat his way back and forth across the leaf, so focused on the task at hand he wasn't even phased by my holding of the stem to steady it in the wind while trying to grab this (and about 35 others...most blurry) picture. We now also know that those little black dots on our front porch are caterpillar poop. Fiber in...fiber out.

We haven't been as lucky as some to find a chrysalis yet. We'll keep searching. Surely with as many caterpillars as have fattened themselves up on our bush, at least one with have the courtesy to stick around and give us a little show.


peace

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nuggle...

Brea: "Can you take a picture of my nuggle blankie?"



peace

Thursday, August 21, 2008

All Summer Long...



If I were to pick a personal theme song, at the moment it would be this song by Kid Rock that plays tribute to a little old school Skynyrd . I've listened to it a hundred times in the past few weeks. Partially because it was a frequently played song along the route and at the end of the day on RAGBRAI (and we all know how I hang on to all things RAGBRAI for dear life), partially because I've been in love with it since I first heard it early this summer. I haven't yet decided if I'm proud or mortified that my 6-year-old can sing along and that both girls know that it's song #3 on the CD which currently lives in the car.

I'll be honest, there's a little part of me that get nostalgic when I hear this song play. For those unfamiliar, it's about this guy thinking back to the summer when he was 17 and all the carefree fun that goes with those days. It takes me back to the ease of life before much responsibility beyond self, a summer job, and friends.

The summer I was 17, Scott and I had been dating a little over 5 months. He was getting ready to head off to college in the fall, I was looking forward to the start of my senior year of high school. Nothing in particular sticks out in my mind, but I do remember the feel of a young, carefree love.

People are often amazed and shocked when I tell them I married my one and only high school boyfriend at the age of 20. Sometimes I too am shocked and amazed at how our relationship has played out over the past 16 years. It's been comforting and fun, but not always a walk in the park. I think pretty much everyone would agree with me that NO relationship ever exists without its ups and downs. When you've been with someone since your teenage years though, I think you get to deal with some interesting issues as you "grow up" together that not every relationship faces. At times those growing up moments have made things more challenging, but I also think weathering that time together has helped prepare us to handle all of life's ups and downs...together.

At our core, I think we're still basically the same individuals were were that summer when I was 17...but we've both definitely changed in our outwardly expression of who we are. That period of self discovery is tough enough on your own, it's complicated when you're trying to do it along side someone else who's going through the same metamorphosis. At times it has scared me to death that we're heading in two different directions. That as we continue to figure out who each of us is individually that the one won't very much like or understand the other any more. That our paths will become so separate, so individualized that we'll never join back up in a commonly traveled road.

And then some how, just as my head and my heart are a whirl with worry, when the foundation of my world start to break up (because what's I've realized is stress doesn't get to me too bad UNLESS I'm unsure about the state of my relationship with Scott), I see the re-converging of paths. Our commonalities start to shine through. The puzzle of how two different people come together to form one relationship starts to make a little more sense. My heart is filled with warmth and comfort and ease of the love I found at 17.

I know we will never find common ground on every little thing. Scott may never fully understand my yoga practice, I will probably never understand his infatuation with Fantasy football. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna stick to avoiding meat beyond fish, he will always be a carnivore. We will probably never agree on what is an acceptable amount of time one should spend watching TV. He will have his friends, I'll have my friends, and we'll have our friends. And I have remember that these small differences don't necessarily take away from who we are as a couple, they simply help define who we are as individuals in addition to our relationship. And that's OK.

But there are also areas which seem different on the surface which really, with further inspection, I realize are not. We joke about the fact that we're a two bike family. Mine runs on pedal power. His on horsepower. But given the chance, I know Scott would love to spend time out on the road with me pedaling, and I'm looking forward to when we can take our first little weekend trip on the Harley. We'll always both enjoy going to sporting events, even if he's actually watching the game and I'm more into socializing or watching other people in the stands.

When it comes down to it, we came together because despite our differences, we're similar in nature. We both value family and simplicity and love the community in which we live. We believe in living a good life and taking care of the people, places, and things which we are blessed to have as part of that life. And after 16 years, thinking of my husband still brings a smile to my face more days than not, his touch still warms my heart, and his arms are still the safest place I know when I need comfort.

All this, sparked by a simple song. Right now, listening to it never gets old. I listen and think about how we can bring a little bit of that carefree, young love back into our more complicated grown-up lives. I find peace, rather than worry, in the complexities of our relationship. I accept that life will continue to have it's ups and downs, that at times we'll be in sync, at times moving in different directions. I appreciate that through it all we can continue to be strong, independent individuals, while maintaining a strong, respectful, and fulfilling relationship. And if that means sometimes we just need to grab a bottle of whiskey and head out to the lake...I'm up for that too!


peace

1st Grade, Day 1...

School has officially begun for the '08-'09 year, and look at us with a big 1st grader. Lexi's teacher this year is Mrs. Harms. Apparently 1st grade does seem like as big a deal as starting Kindergarten was last year for us. Yesterday was the open house which allows you to visit your new classroom, meet your teacher, and drop off all your supplies. Last year I took a ton of pictures during this visit...this year, I didn't even think to take out the camera. Oops!

(Side note...watching the new Kindergarteners walk into school yesterday, I was AMAZED at how little/young they looked. Did Lexi really change THAT much in just one year. Apparently, yes!)


And then this morning's photo session was less than smooth. It's gray and rainy (Can you imagine being a teacher today? 1st day of school and no outdoor recess because of rain. Teachers are saints!), I needed a little flash even outdoors, I forgot to switch the camera off aperture dependent metering for the first few shots so the light's all wrong...I think I should have had a little coffee BEFORE walking to school instead of waiting until after! Sheesh!

But photos snags aside, the morning went as smoothly as could be wished for. No fighting Lexi to get out of bed, only minimal reminders to finish eating breakfast in a reasonable time, I successfully made my 1st of 175 (give or take) PB&J sandwiches for the year, and the whole family was present to amble down the block to deliver Lexi to school. (Scott let work know he'd be in late today so he could be here with us. Thanks honey!) Success.

The house is quiet. Brea is playing away with the Potato Heads, patiently waiting for Mommy to finish typing so we can visit the coffee shop like I promised her we would this morning as a special treat. (OK, like we need an excuse to go to the coffee shop...I have been cutting back quite a bit lately so today actually will feel like a special treat!) I look forward to the end of the day pick up at 3 to hear all about the 1st day of 1st grade. I'm sure it will be great!


peace

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Light vs. Dark...

Sunshine vs. rain. Day vs. night. I've been thinking about this concept a lot lately in regards to people, personalities, and relationships. I think it all started when I began examining how the events of the past year have affected my work. As a wellness professional, especially one who's main focus at the moment is guiding people through exercise/yoga sessions, my job is to be encouraging, bright, joyful, fun...all the things that help counteract people's natural tendencies to throw in the towel and switch out their tennis shoes or yoga mat for the TV remote. Creating an environment where people feel welcome, energized, and cared for is part of what helps keep good classes well attended.

I once read an article that mentioned one of the worst things an instructor can do for the moral of his/her class is to come in with the weight of the world on his/her shoulders and making sure everyone knows. People have their own problems...they come to class to step away from those, not to hear about yours. I try to be aware of how my posture, energy level, choice of music, choice of routines or asanas affect those who come to class. Yoga classes can be especially affected by the instructor's (and surrounding participants) mood. One's willingness to let go, to open, can easily be stifled if the energy of the environment leans towards darkness rather than warmth, light, safety, and comfort. And so began my inner dialog about light and dark, day and night.

I can easily point out to you the people in my life who are sunshine. Those who when they walk into one's presence, brighten the atmosphere a notch or two. My friend Laura is one of those people to me. When she is around, the world is a happier, more peaceful, more hopeful place. Even just thinking about this trait in her makes me smile. Being with Laura gives me energy and brings comfort to any situation.

Of course, we all know people who, for one reason or another, have the opposite affect. Think about this type of comment for a moment:

"I can't believe so and so is going to be there. She always goes on and on about her problems likes she's the only one who has challenges in life. I get so tired of hearing about."

My guess is you've either heard it said OR have said it yourself!

I'm worried I'm becoming the later type of person. That I'm leaning towards "the dark side", and I don't like that feeling one little bit!

Now, I'm not saying that it's not OK to get down a bit when when life deals you a tough hand, but I feel a little more than just down right now. I'm having a hard time finding a "good" response when asked "How are you doing?" I learned early on during the past year that pretending like everything is A-OK when it's NOT does nothing more than make me feel like a fraud and exacerbates the negativity of our struggles when I do confront them. On the flip side, as stressful as things are, we are still SO blessed, still in a better place than so many citizens of this planet we call Earth. I don't want to loose perspective on that by constantly complaining and bringing people down with my "Poor me" story. So when asked that very loaded question, what does one say?

And that's where I am. Sitting here, writing this without an answer.

What I do know is this: I'm sorry for those in my life who have had to listen to me whine and cry and bitch and moan REPEATEDLY about certain fucked up aspects of my life over the past year. I'm sorry that I don't have better news to share with you about the immediate future. I'm sorry if I've not helped you celebrate your joys or haven't listened to your problems as you have so graciously done for me. To my girls, I'm sorry Mommy hasn't had the patience and the tolerance for silliness that she should, that you need. I'm sorry I haven't been able to bring more light into your days. I THANK you all for hanging in there and being by my side when I've needed to talk, to vent, to cry.

This is not meant to be a pity party. I'm simply stating the truth of my feelings in hopes that by addressing the fear, I can nurture some warm glowing embers until I'm ready to re-stoke the fire and get back to spreading light. That I can hang on to who I am and not let adversity change my beliefs in goodness. That I can consciously be aware of when I'm slipping into the darkness and pulling others down with me. That I can come through this a better person, a better mother, a better wife, and a better friend. That as long as I keep believing, this too shall pass.


peace

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Gender Lines...

Lexi is still at that age where a friend is a friend...gender makes no difference. In fact, she's got lots of friends who are boys. She's strong and athletic and enjoys getting dirty just as much as she loves wearing pink and spends countless hours playing with her baby dolls and drawing pictures full of hearts and flowers and love. I cherish these days knowing someday, those simple, pure relationships with her male playmates will probably change...with age, with hormones, with the realization of the sexual tension between genders that our society does such a wonderful job of throwing in our faces. I want to tell her to cherish these days too...but then I'd have to explain WHY relationships with boys change over the years, and I'm not ready for that conversation!

Sometimes in conversation with friends or family Lexi will reference one of her boy friends, and then the teasing starts. "Is he your BOYFRIEND?" "Oh, Lexi has a BOYFRIEND." That's about the time I take a deep breath and say "Yes, she has many friends who are boys." Why does it have to be anything more than that?

Growing up I too had lots of friends who were boys. We moved often the years I was in elementary school and girls were sometimes hard to be-friend...especially for a girl who was often the tallest in the class, who HATED wearing dresses, and who would have rather been out on the kickball or football field with the guys at recess than playing on the monkey bars with the girls. Even in high school I was fortunate in my circle of friends to have males present. Friendship that brought so much joy to those crazy, transitional years of life. Friends with whom over the years I've unfortunately lost touch for one reason or another, while for some reasons us girls have done a better job of at least knowing where in the world we live.

I have an amazing circle of girl-friends. Ladies who are as close as sisters to me. (I imagine this is what it's like to have a sister only having grown up with a little annoying brother in the house.) That being the case, I still find the need for those cross gender friends. They help to keep me grounded. Balances out the energies of life; the Yin and the Yang, the Feminine and the Masculine. I think it's unfortunate that having/creating those relationships has to be so complicated at times. I've been fortunate to have a few male friends through the years...Tom in KC, Nick and Carlos here in G-town, and of course my dear brother Jason...who I love dearly, with whom there will never thankfully be any sexual tension. They each bring into my world unique perspectives, interests, and talents that broaden my view. Not to mention, they are just good people...and when it comes down to it, isn't that what we want most? To surround ourselves with good people?

I'm convinced that if for just a little bit we could put aside gender differences, if we could all keep our hormones in check, if we could think beyond penis vs vagina (I mean we all have one or the other people, get over it), the world could be a kinder, more peaceful place. But then again I still think that someday lines will cease to be drawn because of the color of one's skin or one's religious beliefs. Maybe not in my lifetime...but I'm going to give up the hope.


peace

Monday, August 18, 2008

Photos by Lexi...

What's that old saying? Imitation is the best form of flattery...or something like that.

Being a parent of young kids often often provides a very honest reflection of the yourself. Both the beautiful and the ugly. On more than one occasion I've had to check my behaviors/language after having them displayed by my children. Those less than proud parenting moments that we all have that makes you wonder why the heck you thought you could responsibly raise a child.

On the flip side, I often find a smile growing from my very core as the girls lovingly imitate some of my more beautiful traits. Like when Brea gets out the yoga mat to teach "'oga"...standing still as night, hands folded in prayer. Looking as peaceful as an angle. Or when Lexi loving comforts and mothers her little sister after she's fallen or has been startled by a bug in the sandbox. She has a heart as big as the world.

Both of the girls have shown an interest in photography and love when I get the camera out to play. Lexi is always asking if she can take some pictures, so the other day I handed her the point & shoot digital and told her to go to town. The result; 40 or so photos, most featuring her sister, the dogs, or beloved toys.

Here's a small sampling for your viewing enjoyment:










What fun to get a little glimpse of how she sees the world at age six. So simple and pure.

She has a birthday coming up...I think it's time for her own digital camera. A shopping I will go...


peace

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sometimes I just need a little time to be alone...

For as long as I can remember, I've always had the need to have some alone time in my life. To have a space specifically for me. Whether it was my bedroom as a kid or a small space I could claim as my own after leaving home, it seems I've always had a place where I could just go and be by myself when needed. In our current house it's our office, the Raisin room, "Mommy's office" as the girls call it. The room from which I blog, email, pay bills, pile my current craft projects, and shelve my most recently read/referenced books. It's generally a huge mess...but the space, even if not originally intended to be when we moved to this house, is mine.

For some people being alone is scary and exhausting. For me it's welcome and refreshing. It's an interesting need to have when you're part of a family, especially one with small kids who could care less what you're doing, they want to be part of it. My alone time allows me to think through things, to process. Many, many a conversation has been played and replayed in my mind before it's actually had. When I'm facing stressful situations, the need for alone time is even greater. My brain has to roll the situation around, play through the different scenarios. Sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy with all the quiet, internal thought going on. But once some time has passed, I always feel better having thought it all through.

I think my need for some "me" time is one of the reasons I'm so drawn to biking and yoga. Both allow me the time and the space to be with myself and my thoughts. They get me breathing and sweating and help clear away the irrational thoughts and fears that sometimes cloud the bigger picture to my current pondering.

This specific need, a reflection of my introverted personality I'm sure, doesn't exist without sticking points. I think the time I take to be with myself is often seen as cold and withdrawn from those around me. As selfish and self serving. As anti wife, mommy, friend. As anti-social. As uncaring.

I assure those around me though, this is not the case or the intention when I take time for myself. It's what keeps me together and gives me the strength to give to those around me. It recharges my battery and keep the world in perspective. It's just a part of who I am.

Sometimes I just need a little time to be alone.


peace

Friday, August 15, 2008

Buddha's Door...

I have several posts written in my head but have had little time to sit down and spill them out here on the blog. So since I've grabbed a little time tonight (pulling myself away from the Olympics), I'm going to make use of my time wisely and double post in an effort to free up some memory space!

Two weeks ago on a steamy Sunday night I headed out for an evening bike ride with Laura. When I returned home I found that new sidewalk chalk art had been created in my absence. Scott had helped Brea make this little rainbow and for some reason they placed a door under neath. Brea informed Scott it was a little door for Mommy's tiny Buddha. I had picked up a little red Love Buddha (who now lives at the side of my bed) at the yoga conference I attended in Chicago in May, and Brea is infatuated with him! She talks to him, holds him gently...it's very sweet to watch.

After hearing the story of the rainbow door, I had to take Buddha out, show him his door, and grab a pic for the blog. I didn't think about the fact the camera was cold from being in the comfort of our air conditioned house, while outside it was as warm and steamy as mid-day in the rain forest! I had to quick wipe the lens and snap the shot before it steamed over again. The result, a really bad photo...but with a bit of a dreamy feel.



It doesn't much matter to me the quality of the photo...the story it documents is too sweet to forget!


peace

School Supplies...

With the first day of school less than a week away, I figured it was time to think about school supplies shopping. I got a sub for my noon class today so the girls and I could take off after our morning's commitments for the big city...Des Moines. Once school starts the chances to enjoy a casual girls day out are few, so this was kinda our last summer adventure for the year.

First stop, Gateway Market for some sushi for mommy and organic strawberry fruit leather for the girls. It was a beautiful day so we decided to find a table on the patio. The only one available at the time was a 2 seater. The girls did awesome sharing a seat. I had to grab the camera...of which of course caused Brea to ham it up!


Next on our adventure was a stop at daddy's office. A quick hello, some art work done on sticky notes, and we were off to our final destination...Target!

I can loose myself in Target. I don't know what it is, but I LOVE that store. We successfully located all the items on Lexi's supply list from the school, grabbed some yummies that we normally can't get in Grinnell for supper, a treat from Starbucks on our way out the door, and our girls day out was over. We didn't even make it out of the metro area before we lost Brea to exhaustion! The hour drive home was awfully quiet.


Yes, I took that picture while driving. You can stop shaking your head now...

Shopping for school supplies is always a good lesson for me in letting go and not forcing my opinion on Lexi's choices. I have to remember that I need to let Lexi be Lexi and choose items according to her taste. Choosing a new backpack is the toughest time for me to step back. I think we've found a good compromise when going into the process though. She has some things to keep in mind: it has to be fabric, not plastic; it can't have wheels; it has to be a design she'll like for however many years until it wears out and she needs to get a new one. (The last backpack lasted 3 years...2 years of preschool and kindergarden and then at the end of last year it started to get a hole in one corner.) Once we agreed on those guidelines, the process went pretty smooth. So here's what we came home with:


Why do they insist on making those 2 pocket folders with baby animal photos on them? I know, I'm letting it go...they're for Lexi, not me.

All in all, a successful day out. Fun was had by all.


peace

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Natural First-born...

I constantly have to remind myself that Lexi is only 6! She's a natural first-born. Mature well beyond her years.

I totally get the birth order thing. I myself am a first-born and see so much of myself in the reflection of my daughter. She's a nurturer, is responsible beyond her age, and combined with the fact that she's several inches taller than many of her peers, it's hard at times to remember that she's still just a very young kid!

Lexi has grown up so fast. We didn't have many friends with small children when she was small and so she spent a good portion of her baby/toddler years around adults. When she was 2 she went from being the youngest at daycare to the oldest, with older kids departing for school and new babies taking their place. We've always talked to her like you would an adult and have expected so much from her. Some times I wonder if we've made her grow up too fast.

As I type this the girls are out back playing in the sandbox. Lexi playing the role of "mother", Brea the silly little sister. This summer they have become so close, playing for HOURS at a time with little more from me than an occasional check-in. They laugh, the pretend, they fight, they make up and move on to the next adventure. Lexi is a huge help throughout the day helping Brea to wash her hands, reaching toys, even refilling the milk in Brea's sippy cup. Her presence and help will be missed throughout the day when she heads off to school next week.

I'm trying to cherish the moments when Lexi gets to be just a kid. Reminding myself that crazy, loud play is sometimes exactly what's appropriate. Admittedly I'm not the most patient and tolerant of adults when it comes to the craziness of kids. As a result, I often put the kibosh on fun when I know I should just let it go. Before I know it Lexi will be entering her adolescent years, so often awkward and directed by self consciousness, and the days of free, crazy, childish play will forever be gone. Just typing that sentence brings a lump to my throat and wetness to my eyes.

I know Lexi will be successful in whatever adventures she chooses to tackle in the years to come. Her self confidence and sense of responsibility will take her far. I sometimes worry about the pressure she puts on herself to perform perfectly...a trait that I'm positive comes from the high expectations we, her parents, have put on her (not always consciously) through the years. I hope that while she's striving to achieve, she stays connected to WHO she is...an amazingly creative, caring, and gentle soul. And, I hope we ALL remember to enjoy the little childish, playful moments along the way! After all...she's only 6!


peace

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sneak Peek...

I'm busy working on a new crew of sock monkeys. Here's a little sneak peek of my progress thus far this week. Our first lady monkey is a promised 40th birthday gift for Laura. I fell in love with these lavender socks, partially for their color, mostly for their texture.


I wonder if my mom recognizes the green fabric? I do believe it was a donation from her stash to mine.

This weekend we ran to the outlet mall to take advantage of the Iowa's tax free holiday as Scott needed some new work clothes ( his new job requires wearing a shirt and tie everyday and rotating the same 5 shirts was getting a little old), and I scored these great wool/angora blend socks for only $1.50 a pair!

I have hopes of making some of these adorable puppies created by this very talented lady in the UK. I believe they are her original design so it will be a bit of a trial and error type of process...but I can't resist the challenge because I fell in love the minute I laid eyes on them.

peace

Monday, August 4, 2008

Reflections...

Things I am not good at that need some work:
  • Mornings.
  • Finishing things that I start.
  • Not worrying about what people think.
  • Letting go.
  • Patience.
  • Staying committed.
  • Turning big talk into big action.
  • Accepting and forgiving.
  • Believing in myself.
I've got a few things to work on.


peace

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I joined the circus...



Yesterday afternoon I took some sugary treats out to my friends at the Tiny Circus work camp. About a dozen people are currently there working on various aspects of the project. Imagine my excitement when I walked into the studio to find creation central in full work mode. Glue guns, card stock, yarn, paint, tin foil...the supplies were endless and the creative uses of them in full force. After a short break for brownie sundaes, everyone returned to work and Greta invited me to come back after dark for the animation session of the night. Shooting is done after dark so that the crew can have full control of the lighting being as "the studio" is in an out building at the Ferguson's farm. I returned home to feed and bathe my girlies and tuck them snug into their beds before heading back out for "the shoot."

When I arrived the story board had been created, all the props had been made, the studio cleaned up, and the crew was in the process of getting the shot and lighting set to begin the animation. Basically the process entails taking some little props and paper cut outs, putting them on a back drop, shooting hundreds of still photos as people gently move everything an 1/8 of an inch at a time, and then through the magic of technology it all gets strung together to make a little short film like the one above. It's a slow process, but it's really fun to see it all coming together. Last night's story...The History of Popcorn.

I felt like a bit of a party crasher, benefiting from all the hard work that had been put in earlier in the day. On the flip side, not having been in the process all day I was fresh and easily made it through the 3 hour photo shoot session while others were starting to wilt. (It probably helps that I'm a bit of a night owl.) I got to puppet popping popcorn, be a giant hand, spin the windmill, and set (which was actually raising since the order of the photos will be reversed) the sun. 3 hours flew by and when the last photo was taken I was amazed to find that the clock said 12:32 am! After sitting around for a bit of a chat, I headed home shortly after 1 with my brain buzzing from the evening's creative adventure. It reminded me of the so many nights I've spent up until the wee hours of the night finishing homemade Christmas gifts, making Halloween costumes, or quilting/crafting and chatting with my good friend Jen. For some reason I'm drawn to late night creation time. I think it's because the rest of the world is quiet, removing any distractions and allowing the creative juices to flow freely.

One of the things I'm most impressed with this morning as I think about the night, was how smoothly every thing went. This group of people from all over the country came together and in one day seamlessly worked together to make this little story come to life. I realize I was only present for a short time, but there was no conflict in the air, everyone's ideas were heard and included when possible. It really was an example of collaboration at it's best.

Thanks Tiny Circus for a great night. I look forward to a visit again soon!


peace

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blessings...

One week post RAGBRAI and I'm starting to feel like a normal, fully functional humanoid again. Through all the transition and whining, I haven't forgotten to appreciate my many, many blessings in life:
  • 2+ wonderful weeks with my brother. Time very much needed after this past spring's events.
  • Adorable, adoring girlies who have the ability to make the whole world smile.
  • A loving and adoring husband whose warm embrace and passionate kisses melt my heart.
  • Puppy snuggles. I love those mutts!
  • Friends (who are really more like family) who love and appreciate me for who I am and with whom I will always share the special memories of RAGBRAI.
  • Loving family who are willing to spoil my family rotten while I'm away and who are there to chat when I'm trying to make sense of the world. (Thanks Mom!)
  • A career that I adore, with people who appreciate what I have to offer.
  • Very, very, special, beautiful, strong ladies who have shown me the true value of sisterhood.
  • The ability to do a little dance each and every day...even if it's in the changing room of a store while trying on clothes as it was last night!
The list could go on and on. I am sooooo blessed!

Today I'm headed out with treats in tow to visit my friends at the Tiny Circus work camp. If you haven't checked out their project yet, please do so. It's an amazing adventure, creative and fun, and one which I'm proud to help support...even if right now all I can offer are a few brownies and a little ice cream on a hot summer day!


peace

Friday, August 1, 2008

Just 5 more weeks...

I lost weight again this year on RAGBRAI. Now before those unfamiliar with the event go, "Well, duh...you just pedaled your bike 450+ miles in a week, of course you lost weight," let me explain something. RAGBRAI could easily be renamed the Great Annual Ride for Pie. (Or pork chops, spaghetti, beer, ice cream, waffles, pancakes....I could keep going but I think you get the idea.) Yes, it is true that some people actually GAIN weight on RAGBRAI. Even with all of that riding, it's awfully easy to put more calories in that what comes out!

The funny thing is (beer consumption aside) I probably eat healthier and more consciously on RAGBRAI than I do the other 51 weeks of the year. I eat to fuel. Jason and I figure we probably need 1200-1500 calories a day for riding purposes. (That's on top of what your body needs for normal functioning.) That's pretty easy to get when you're stopping every 1.5-2 hours along the way. Funds are tight, food is expensive, so I try to choose the best nutrients for my dollar. And while I was nervous about eating vegetarian this year, it was actually pretty easy. Luckily after last year we knew to watch for certain stands along the way (Garden of Eden and their smoothies and black bean burritos; the Pizza place with their whole wheat crust veggie pizza with broccoli...YUM). We eat early and often, moderate amounts at a time. It seems to work great.

This year it was also nice to have our own rig and people along who took it upon themselves to make us a couple of amazing, fresh evening meals thanks to Carlos's garden and Greta's skills with a knife. It's gonna take A LOT to surpass the night of the tofu, garden veggie pasta salad! Crusty bread, cheese and wine...I mean come on, life doesn't get much better than that, on RAGBRAI or other wise!!!

So once again I return home a few pounds lighter, overall feeling slimmer, and hoping that I can carry on the weight loss for a few more weeks. If only I could RAGBRAI for about 5 more weeks...I think that would just about do it...


peace