Monday, March 30, 2009

Daffodil Festival

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
We enjoyed a picnic with the daffodils last weekend at Wye Mountain

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of the bay:Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee -
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company.
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.Jenny Jr. (left), posing

For oft when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye,
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
- one of my favorite poems by William Wordsworth

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Break Road Trip

Update: If you are coming over from Field Trip Friday, I decided, for my first link-up, to share one of our trips from last year since we haven't been on a trip yet this summer.

When I realized the kids were on spring break this week, it seemed to be the perfect time to take the little trip I'd been thinking about. We left first thing Monday morning (well, about 10:00, only an hour after I'd hoped), with the DVD player set up and new stickers books, Magna Doodles, and snacks to go around.
We made it to the Children's Museum in Memphis just in time to participate in the Move and Groove, which was perfect to help them get out their "sitting in the car too long" energy. As soon as we had loaded out of the car and paid our admission, my camera problems began (out of film, digital camera out of batteries, and then it stopped working altogether). I had to buy a disposable camera for $10 in the gift shop. I never even thought to turn on the flash, either, so we don't have many spectacular pictures from inside the museum. It was similar to any of the other children's museums we go to - The Discovery Museum, etc. but the kids enjoyed it a lot.

After we played for a couple of hours, we went to Whole Foods in Memphis. It's usually a good place for us to find something to eat, and I always enjoy seeing what the different Whole Foods carry. However, this time it wasn't as pleasurable of an was crowded, and it felt kind of dirty...usually, I feel like Whole Foods is much cleaner and brighter than most grocery stores, but I was a little disappointed here. I think the kids' overly excited/talking nonstop/ running around behavior was just making it worse. And there was mostly just meat and dairy on the hot bar/salad bar. I will say, though, I discovered my new favorite chocolate covered cocoa nibs. Chocolate covered chocolate - what is better than that?
The kids love staying at hotels, and they were bouncing up and down when we got into our room at The ColdWater Inn in Tuscumbia, Alabama. It was about two hours away from Memphis. It went by fast, though, because the little ones slept a lot, and Tornado is just fabulous entertaining himself in the car. I find little ways to entertain myself such as practicing staying in the right lane. For some reason, I tend to drive in the left lane on the interstate; it just feels more comfortable there. When the kids were sleeping or watching movies, I was also able to bust out some old cds (Matchbox Twenty, Jewel, etc.) that were fun to reminisce upon.

The biggest problem of traveling alone with the kids is the number of stops we have to make. Usually, if Ryan is driving, and there is a problem with the DVD player, I just turn around and fix it. Or if someone has to pee, I take a bottle back there and take care of it. We still used the bottles, but I had to pull over because they are not to be trusted yet with the bottle alone. Once we had a spray all over the car (all over my face) episode that I do not want to revisit. Anyway, the hotel was new and nice, and we would definitely recommend it.

The next morning, we ate breakfast downstairs, then took off for The U.S. Space & Rocket Center/Davidson Center for Space Exploration. When I stopped to get gas, Dash spilled his entire sippy cup of milk all over himself. He had to lose his long sleeved shirt (which was okay since it was a beautiful day), and I had to hang his shorts out the window the hour drive to Huntsville. I still did not have film for my camera (and digital camera still broken). I tried a few different gas stations and dollar general type stores, but no one sold film. (I finally found some later that afternoon; it's pretty rural down in those parts.) I thought SURELY the space gift shop would sell film. Once again, they only sold disposable cameras, and the space center was so large, it seemed entirely too daunting to go back to the car and drive to get film. I remembered the flash this time, but it didn't seem to be working. The pictures we took inside were too dark, of sad.

the kids having a snack - french fries and chips (not a lot for us at the food court) mixed with the carrots and almonds we had brought along

This space museum is where kids go to Space Camp. We saw the campers all day, and it looked like fun! The place is really geared toward that, so there was a lot we didn't get to see. I'd love for the kids to go one day. There are even 3 day parent/child programs. We watched the Imax 3-D showing of Fly Me To the Moon, which was really cute. Plus, you get to wear 3D glasses, and that's always fun. It followed the story of three little flies who were (fictionally, of course) on the first flight to the moon. While we were waiting on the movie to start, we were listening to one of the counselors quizzing her kids on different space facts, and I was thinking how much I would have loved that when I was young. I would have been the perfect little Space Camper. I even learned something new, listening to them. The answer to "Who was the first woman in space?" is Valentina Tereshkova...I'll never forget this because she said it so many times in a way they would remember "ValentiNA!....TereshKOVA!.... ValentiNA!....TereshKOVA!" (If you were thinking Sally Ride, she was the first American woman in space.)

Click on this picture of Dash to get a better idea of just how scared he was going up and down on this little kiddie ride. It was a small version of the huge one they have for big people to experience. (There were a lot of rides/attractions/accelerators that we weren't able to do.) Dash was SCREAMING to get off, and I had to apologize to the happy mom who was taking pictures of her happy child riding. This was toward the end of the day, though, and his fear was being amplified by the fact he was so tired. I don't know why my boys picked the two seats right next to the stranger. So funny.

Sissy kept going up the steps, down the slide, back up and down, again and again. She'd say "I wanna do!" every time.

We loaded up with snacks and frozen dinners at a little health food store in Huntsville, and the two little ones were asleep before we were out of the parking lot. When we were driving back into Tuscumbia, Sissy and Dash were still asleep, and I didn't want to wake them. I followed the signs to "Downtown Historic Tuscumbia" to look around. I discovered beautiful Spring Park. After going back to the hotel for a few minutes (potty, snacks, warmer clothes, etc.), we drove back to Spring Park to play.

Cold Water Falls, inside Spring Park...the world's largest man-made natural stone waterfall to be known in existence. It was really pretty, and the kids also enjoyed feeding the birds that were swimming in the water.

my dino lover

After we played for awhile, we went back to the hotel, heated up and consumed our frozen meals, then went to sleep. Oh, yeah, what you can't see in this picture is the milk spilt down Dash's shirt. He spilled his milk THREE times during the trip. The final time was right before we got home. It was all pooled in his car seat. There was something about the disposable sippy cups we were using. He'd pull at the lid with his teeth. Neither of the other kids had this problem.

We were sad to wake up the next morning to cold, rainy weather. I didn't want it to ruin our trip to Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller, because it was the original purpose of our vacation. Tornado and I have been learning about the 50 States, and Helen Keller came up during our Alabama studies. I realized, looking on the map, how close Tuscumbia was to Arkansas. I had "Tuscumbia" and "Tuskogee" in my head from when I was little and loved reading my Helen Keller book. We bought the Inspiring Animated Heroes: Helen Keller DVD, and we checked out different Helen Keller books from the library. Note: Tornado did not enjoy the DVD as much as Dash did. It really upset him the way she threw fits when she was little because she did not understand the world around her. He's very sensitive about these kinds of things.

The dining room...for those of you familiar with the story, this is where Anne Sullivan, her teacher, wrestled and stood strong with stubborn Helen until she learned to sit and eat properly. (She had been spoiled by her parents up to this point and would walk around, eating off everyone's plates.) Only a few feet away from the main house was the cottage that Anne and Helen stayed in for awhile. This is where the teacher was able to gain her student's trust and get her to learn to control her tantrums, away from her parents. Helen was actually born in the little guest cottage, which is where she and her family lived for a few years. The main house originally belonged to her grandparents.

And this, of course, is the original fountain where Helen, at age 7, finally understood that everything has a name. Miss Sullivan spelled W-A-T-E-R into her hand as the water poured from the fountain, and that was the moment that changed Helen's life.

the view from behind the house, in front of the carriage house

It started raining while we were walking around the grounds, and a nice man who was working outside came out with a big umbrella for nice. Ivy Green was my favorite part of the trip for sure. I learned more about Helen Keller, and I just found myself being amazed about her life all over again. In the room of the house that is set up as the "museum," full of photographs and mementos, I just couldn't believe all that she accomplished in her life. There was a letter on display that she had written at the age of 8, only a year after she began to understand words at all. She had written beautifully with beautiful handwriting; it was unbelievable that it was written by an 8 year old, let alone a blind and deaf 8 year old.

The two ladies that were giving the tours and speaking with us were so sweet and gracious. My children behaved marvelously, and I had been holding my breath before we entered the well-kept, antique-filled home. Tornado and Dash both told our tour guide little facts they knew about Helen, and I was so proud of them. Dash, for some reason, had expected to meet Helen Keller personally, even though I had told him she is in heaven. All in all, successful field trip...but it's always good to be home.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cary and Winnie Visit - or "What Can We Do For Winnie"

I'm behind on my posting, but I wanted to mention how much we enjoyed having my sister Cary and her daughter Winnie, plus Puddy, come to visit. Andy was renovating their loft, getting ready for baby #2, so we even got to keep them for longer than originally planned.
My three kids are all about touching, feeding, talking about, holding, carrying, hugging, and playing with Winnie, not to mention keeping us well informed of her constant actions or needs, every second they could. The first night of our visit at Googie and Papaw's was crazy; they could not get enough of her. These are just a few snapshots, capturing the attention they bestowed on their little cousin. Somehow I missed getting a picture of Tornado, but he was in on the action, as well.
They always wanted to give her bites of food or her bottle, even if she wasn't hungry. It was also hard to keep them from always trying to stick her pacifier in her mouth. They'd pile up so many toys in front of her, she wouldn't know what to do with them all. They just wanted to take care of her. Winnie was a good sport, though, and rewarded them with plenty of open mouth kisses.
wagon ride at Googie and Papaw's

Peabody Park

On Saturday of Cary's visit, we enjoyed a day in Little Rock, first at the River, followed up with a swing through Planet Smoothie on the way home.making wishes, behind the River Market
enjoying our lunch at The Boulevard Bread Company in the River Market
Tornado is good about making sure his little brother and sister are taken care of. He held her hand the entire walk down to the park.
Aunt Cary and Cousin Winnie, in front of the Arkansas River
We love Peabody Park. Taken from the rivermarket website, "Two years ago, Dr. Dean Kumpuris, Little Rock city director and gastroenterologist, had a vision for the children of Arkansas. He had just read two books, one about playgrounds and the other about how children today no longer have places to run free and use their imaginations to their full potential. The combination of both readings inspired Kumpuris' idea, one that is coming to life in Riverfront Park." The Peabody Park is the result of a collaboration among the city of Little Rock, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and The Peabody Hotel. It was named in honor of The Peabody's donation of $250,000. Funds had been appropriated for a playground to be built at Riverfront Park, and with the addition of the Peabody's donation, the new adventure park became possible. Kumpuris knew that in order to create a park for children, he needed their input. He put an ad in the paper, asking for children of all ages to tell him and the architects what they wanted in the park. "The children told us what they wanted," Kumpuris said. "They made drawings and told us flat out what they did and didn't want in their park."
They boys loved sliding down the steep hill on pieces of cardboard. It seemed to be a popular activity at the park. The inclines are so steep, I had a hard time walking up them without slipping. Cary and I were one step away from rolling down the hill, like we used to do at our Grandpa's house, growing up. That slide is SO fast, I almost landed on my tail, coming out of it.Mommy and Dash
"The Arkansas are reckoned to be the tallest and best shaped of all the savages on the continent, and they are called, by way of distinction, the fine men." - Father Charlevoix, 1721
The name Arkansas is taken from the Quapaw Indians who lived here. The term meant “south wind." There were many early pronunciations including Oo-ka-na-sa and Ar-kan-soa. In 1881 it was finally decided to spell it "Arkansas" but pronounce it "Arkansaw."
Mommy and Tornado

The Indian Head, in the History Pavillion

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Don't Pinch Us

We especially like to celebrate St. Patrick's Day because both of the boys have Irish names. We didn't do that on purpose. Apparently, that is just what we are attracted to. I actually thought Sissy's real name was Irish, too, but I guess it is English. I think it sounds Irish, though, which is close enough. Speaking of names, yes, it is getting old using their pseudo names, and I'm sure I'll crack one of these days and start using their real names.
Green food for our night meal...steamed broccoli, pickles, celery with peanut butter, navy beans with parsley, spinach/lettuce salad, zucchini strips, grapes, roasted edamame, avocado, green beans, pistachios, apple slices, and bell pepper...oh, poo, I just realized I forgot to set out the kiwi last night. We even had green juice - Boathouse Farms Green Goodness fruit smoothie drink, which includes things like spirulina, spinach, and blue green algae. I had green apple juice boxes on hand in case the green drink didn't go over well (as I suspected it would not), but they all loved it and enjoyed several refills.

We decorated shamrock cookies after supper...Papaw and Googie came over last night, and we gave him a plate of cookies we had decorated. He ate all three of them. That's one of the great things about Papaw...he'll try and appreciate whatever we make for him. Googie, on the other hand...well, she's always mysteriously "full" when vegan food appears. ;)

We used India Tree Nature's Colors Decorating Sugar in green. India Tree also has all-natural food coloring. (In case you were wondering, Nature's Flavors and Seelect also have natural food coloring and many other fun, organic products.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Diary of a First Time Marathoner

Yesterday, my friend Angie and I took part in the Little Rock Marathon. It was my first endeavor into such an event, and even though I have been steadily working out the past year and really stepping it up the past five months or so, I did not know what to expect. I relied on Angie's expertise on the subject to get me through. It was nice to have Angie and her husband drive down from Missouri for the night. I was not feeling very celebratory when the alarm clock hit 6:00, and I knew I had to get up. Why are so many events in life planned this early? Who decides these things?! 8:00 a.m.?! I'm ideally not even awake at that time. I made it in time, though, to meet Ang near the starting line at 7:45. However, in the flurry to get there, I had forgotten my Clif Blocks, my plan for sustenance during the race, in the car. What a bummer. 3/4 of my cheering section

It was kind of nice to run along some streets in Little Rock I wasn't familiar with. That was one little way to pass the time. The two Jolly Ranchers I ate were also effective in passing a good 15 minutes. It has been a really long time since I've eaten a Jolly Rancher (we're talking over a decade), and, boy, were they good! I only ate them because candies were the only things, other than drinks, that were available during the race. I was so excited when I saw the upcoming Orange Slices sign, then dismayed when I realized they were all gone. I sucked it up and consumed the sugar, corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors. :) I didn't want to have one of my weird low blood sugar?/hyperthyroid?/dehydration? mystery spells during the run. I'm quite certain those two Jolly Ranchers saved me, ha.

I know it sounds trite and cliche, but when you are running like this - or doing anything physical, you really do feel powerful and inspired. It cleared my head, and it made me feel hopeful for things to come in my life. In addition, the feeling of community and the human spirit was crazy, as in "cool" crazy. When I first heard someone yelling, "Go Jenny!" I turned around, wondering who it was. I had forgotten my name was on my race bib. Throughout the race you have complete strangers clapping, pumping their arms in the air, and yelling, "Come on, Jenny! You can do it!" It makes me have tears in my eyes just thinking about it. At the finish line where there are SO many people crowded to cheer in the arrivals, there is such applause and uproar -even for little old me, coming in toward the back of the pack. It really does put a smile on your face and make you want to keep running. It made me want to do better in every area of my life...weird how it does that. I am just very much in favor of doing anything that stretches you or makes you walk out of your comfort zone a little bit. Again, I'm getting a little cheesy here, but those are the things that make you really feel alive.

Somehow Angie and I got separated during the race, and we were never able to find each other again. She had to make a quick stop, and I assumed when I had to make a quick stop, we'd meet back up. Unfortunately, she finished only a couple of minutes behind me. I say "unfortunately" because if I had only waited another minute, I might have spied the pink shirt I kept looking for. We were keeping the same pace; it wasn't that I was going any faster - it was just that initial stop. I had many more elopement/Lafe questions for her, too. :) At one point, I just stopped on the curb and waited a second, thinking I would just wait for her because it wasn't as fun without her. However, my leg muscles immediately started locking up, and I realized if I stopped, I was in trouble. Another thing about my leg muscles is I realized how SLOWLY I walk. I felt pretty good as long as I kept jogging, but they hurt a lot worse when I walked. I had to walk up parts of the inclines, though. (Capital, yikes) There would be all these tall, long-legged people (even older people) passing me when I was walking, though. And I would truly be walking as fast as my legs would go. I guess it's because my legs are so short? I always felt like I have enough fortitude inside me to make me do whatever it is I need to do. That's true for the most part...I just was not counting on that amount of leg pain. I felt like my breathing/endurance wasn't the fact, by about mile 6 or 7, I was thinking, "I am in such great shape! I can do these all the time!" ha, ha. Mile marker 11 to 12 was almost a complete hobble. However, I did take a deep breath and force myself to run the last half mile. My final time was 3:13:29. Not very impressive but not the worst either. my family
As soon as I saw my family, I think the first words out of my mouth were, "Where are her pants?!" I am publicly apologizing to you, Ryan, if it seemed like I was criticizing you. Kate Gosselin I am not. The truth is, I just thought it was really funny - an innocent Dad mistake. Notice in the picture above I am covering her legs with my bag. To make it easier for him to get them ready on his own, I had left their clothes out the night before. I had told him, however, "Sissy's jeans are in the car." He doesn't remember me saying this, and he went by the instructions to dress them in the clothes that were set out. For her, that included a gray onesie with a white peasant shirt on top, white socks and shoes. He innocently said he didn't know there was something missing; he thought she looked cute in her "dress." Bless his heart. The only reason I would dare mention this story is because my rockin' husband not only encouraged me to participate in this marathon and gave me any time I needed to train (and even ran with me), he got the kids up, bathed and dressed them, then parked the car and located not just one but three different spots they could be standing on the road to cheer for me (all by 10:00, which is a feat I would not necessarily be able to accomplish). And not only that, he took them to the park later in the day so I could rest. Thank you, Ryan. I seriously don't deserve you.
Angie and her newlywed husband, Lafe

By the time I got home, I was feeling very wobbly and starving. (I did have a post race banana and two little orange juice boxes that were waiting after the finish line.) I think I consumed 1,000 calories right off the bat by heating up an Amy's Enchilada Meal with tomatoes and avocado on top plus chips and a Sunshine Veggie Burger with two pieces of bread and lettuce plus chips. I felt sick but managed to eat almond butter/fruit spread on toast, a couple glasses of orange juice, and a soy milkshake for supper. Topped off by the small, leftover bowl of spaghetti with sauce in the fridge. That might not seem like that much food for the average person, but it's a whole lot of food for me. I sort of feel sick thinking about it.
I had to crawl up the stairs on my hands and knees because my legs were killing me. I hobbled around the rest of the night. I was convinced I was going to have to have knee surgery. They feel much better this morning, but when I started going down the stairs, sharp pains were shooting through one of my ankles. I'm still walking a little funny, but I think we'll be able to hold off on hip replacement for a bit longer. Last night my mom commented that she couldn't believe I had ran 26 miles. I had to tell her I only did the Half, which is 13.1 miles. Suddenly, my accomplishment seemed to pale. At least she had spent the whole weekend thinking I was incredible, though. Would I do it again? Yeah, I think so. I'm probably having marathon amnesia, though - the same way you feel after delivering a baby, and during it, you think, "That's it. This is the last time. I can't go through this again," then you've barely left the hospital before you know you'd be able to do it again. :)