On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


My (running) year in review

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions; I think there are fewer chances for disappointment this way. This year I decided to make a resolution anyway. I wanted to run–and log–1000 miles. Here’s how I kept my resolution:

January: What better way to kick off my resolution than to come down with the flu! Of course, I didn’t admit it at the time. It was just a fever, complete exhaustion, and some body aches. Plus I’d had a flu shot. After a day of rest, I thought I was over a 24-hour bug. Nope, the fever came back, and I went back to bed for two more days. I only managed to run 55 miles in January. That left me 25 miles in the hole for the month.

I hit my target mileage in February and March–despite the 3 consecutive weekends that a stomach virus visited our household. I even managed a decent time in the Charlottesville 10 Miler on St. Patrick’s Day. 1:25:00 is decent for someone who slept 4 hours in 20-minute increments the night before (stomach virus #3 visited S). Did I mention that there are just a handful of stretches that do not ascend or descend any hills or that it rained for the first 4 miles?

2013 Charlottesville 10 Miler. This is probably around Mile 8.

2013 Charlottesville 10 Miler. This is probably around Mile 8.

April: I logged more than 100 miles this month as I trained for the Marine Corps Historic Half. In May I ran a respectable sub-2:00 half through my college town of Fredericksburg, but I definitely need to learn to navigate crowds and course turns. My GPS showed that I ran an additional 0.25 miles, and you aren’t allowed to deduct overage from your official time.

June: I won the running lottery from Another Mother Runner! I earned a spot alongside 11 other mother runners for Ragnar DC.

Team Dimity in our tutus at the start of our 200-mile adventure.

Team Dimity in our tutus at the start of our 200-mile adventure.

July, August, and September: While training for Ragnar DC, I averaged 115 miles each month. What is truly significant is that I kept running through the heat and humidity of the summer.

Ugly race face as I near the finish line to a 10k PR!

Ugly race face as I near the finish line to a 10k PR!

August: Pr’ed in the Chaptico Classic 10k. My dad and I ran together, and he helped me finish in 49:22.

Finished with my first Ragnar run, which included 2 miles straight up a mountain!

Finished with my first Ragnar run, which included 2 miles straight up a mountain!

October: Ran 15.1 miles out of approximately 200 miles from Cumberland to DC with 11 teammates for Ragnar DC. Least sleep I’ve gotten since the girls were born, but way more fun!

Even Smartwool socks can't wick away this much water!

Even Smartwool socks can’t wick away this much water!

The next weekend I ran the Lower Potomac River 10 Miler (with my dad, again). Rain, wind, and flooded roads helped me PR in 1:21:51. I also learned firsthand why one should obey the rule about resting the same number of days as the number of miles raced. Had I skipped the LPR 10, I wouldn’t have had to visit the orthopedist, take 10 days off, and baby my right knee for the next 8 weeks.

This is me sucking wind at a 7:43 pace.

This is me sucking wind at a 7:43 pace.

November: Finally broke 24 minutes in a 5k. I haven’t run this fast since high school cross country, and I squeaked out a 23:58 in a local Thanksgiving prediction run. (That means I ran naked, or without a watch.) Yes, I had the approval of my ortho to run, and I trained without doing any speedwork. See? I’m learning how to follow the rules…. I also crossed the 1000-mile threshold about 5 weeks ahead of schedule. H, my frequent companion, rode along with me and was quite disappointed to learn that she had not pedaled 1000 miles, too.

1000 miles done!

1000 miles done!

December: Logged my coldest run ever at 8° F. We were visiting Spokane for the week and apparently I didn’t read the thermometer correctly before I left on my run. My father-in-law explained the dangers of frostbite before I left, and I ducked inside a gas station at 1.5 miles to thaw my face. You know it’s cold outside when your teeth hurt.

As of today, my total mileage stands at 1,119. With just four more days left in 2013, I should finish somewhere between 1,130-1,140 miles. I haven’t made any resolutions for 2014 yet, and I probably won’t. Next year is a big birthday year for me though. I’m planning to celebrate my new age group with a new race. And I have exactly 4 months to find that race.


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Just what do you do with your day?

I get this question a lot. It’s sometimes phrased differently, and it often leads to additional questions: How long does your school day last? Do you give homework? Where do you do your work? Do you pick your own curriculum? How long are you going to home school? What about middle school? What about high school?!

I thought I’d share some pictures, minus the students themselves. Here is where we spend a good chunk of our day. This is supposed to be a formal living room,but we’ve re-purposed it to suit our needs.

A very clean--and rarely seen--table top and freshly vacuumed floor.

A very clean–and rarely seen–table top and freshly vacuumed floor.

It took us exactly one week to realize that we were not going to accomplish great things sitting at the kitchen counter. We bought this table from an unfinished furniture store when we were living in Corpus Christi. The benches are a recent addition, and their color still irks me. They are supposed to be a brick red, not a reddish brown.

If you’re wondering, it takes less than an hour to finish kindergarten each day. With each grade, the time increases. G, our 6th grader, usually spends 3-4 hours completing her daily work. H is halfway through 1st grade and finishes the core of her work in about an hour; however, she joins G and S for science and history in the afternoons.

I choose all of our curriculum instead of following a boxed program. (See this post on what we’re doing this year.) When we decided to teach G at home for kindergarten, I found Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum and studied it religiously. She has an updated version (101 Top Picks) and a fantastic web site, too. We store our workbooks and teacher guides in this little bookcase:

DSCN0295Our reading library, a selection of artwork and interesting finds, math supplies, and more are in this bookcase.

DSCN0285I’m not going to show you the section of my pantry where I keep the books and curricula that we are not currently using. If your children have ever been to our house, they know that this is also the place where I keep drawing paper and paints!

As for homework, the answer is nope. We do all of our school at home, so homework is what happens only if somebody refuses to complete an assignment.


H colored these flags to represent the countries we’ve studied so far this year. The skeleton puzzle was a gift from the grandparents and fits in with our study of anatomy; and that’s Pepper, hiding in the far right corner of her cage.

I’ve made a conscious effort not to put too many things on the walls. After painting the common areas of our house this summer, I took down quite a bit from the schoolroom. (It’s distracting for G to have so many things on the wall, and there are already 2 windows to capture her attention.)

Our laminated wall map of the world. We learn geography with story disks and dry-erase markers!

Our laminated wall map of the world. We learn geography with story disks and dry-erase markers!

The girls are all artists with their own unique talents. G and S take weekly art lessons and are learning techniques that I cannot teach. H loves to color and draw and has not yet surpassed my ability. I recently changed out the wall display area.



Last month G finished an oil pastel of Paris and did a brilliant job of using color. If I remember correctly, this is a view of the Eiffel Tower from the Tuileries.

DSCN0275S completed her first oil pastel on Friday. It’s a scene that she copied from an ad for British Columbia, I think.

DSCN0277H drew this scene of an Italian countryside when we were reading The Clown of God. Her assignment was to draw in the style of children’s illustrator Tomie dePaola.

DSCN0269Just how long will we continue to home school our girls? The answer is, “I don’t know.” Our original plan was just for two years. Then we added a second student…and a third. Now we’ve had a middle schooler. At this point, high school no longer seems daunting, especially since I used to teach high school English. (Now ask me how much I remember from calculus….)

Christmas Is Coming!

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The sound of crickets has filled my blog lately, so it’s time for an update. I’m sprinkling pictures throughout this post, too, so that there’s proof that I’ve decorated for Christmas.

No room for your Nativity set? Hang it above your garage door! (Snapped this photo of my in-laws' neighbors.)

No room for your Nativity set? Hang it above your garage door! (Snapped this photo of my in-laws’ neighbors.)

After our whirlwind Thanksgiving celebration/Great Wolf Lodge visit, we spent the week visiting the Emergency Room, checking blood glucose (BG), cramming in some schoolwork, doing laundry, and packing for our annual trip to Washington state. I’m exhausted just by typing. Next was a full day of traveling–first to Reagan National, then an extended layover in Denver due to some nasty weather (-3º when we landed), and finally into Spokane at 12 AM (or 3 AM if you’re on EST)–so that we could spend 8 wonderful days with Ryan’s family.

How do you amuse yourself in an airport? Create a book all about trolls, of course.

How do you amuse yourself in an airport? Create a book or 2 all about trolls, of course.

The girls would like me to note that it did NOT snow while we were visiting Spokane. That’s actually a first. Not only was it insanely cold–less than 10° most mornings–but no snow during a full week in December is just unfair, un-American, and unusual, according to the girls. (Not to mention the extra suitcase we took that was full of snow pants, snow boots, hats, and gloves.)

Proof that yetis do exist! Here are the girls with Sasquatch outside Boo Radley's in Spokane.

Proof that yetis do exist! Here are the girls with Sasquatch outside Boo Radley’s in Spokane.

G with me at Spokane Falls. We were cold!

G with me at Spokane Falls. We were cold!

It’s always a good week when you spend it with people who “love you madly,” including a father-in-law who enjoys making me lattes that are on par with anything Starbucks brews.

The girls and their beloved Grandma.

The girls and their beloved Grandma.

The trip home went faster and easier. I addressed our Christmas cards, so that felt like a major accomplishment. Also, there were no storms to battle, but we have been battling the transition back to EST since Saturday. Poor G has been trying desperately to fall asleep before 10 PM each night, but it’s just not easy for an 11 year old! I’ve been letting her sleep until she wakes up, so most mornings school is starting at 10 AM or later.

I love a good skinny tree! You can see all of the ornaments on the front and the back!

I love a good skinny tree! You can see all of the ornaments on the front and the back!

That brings me to the next point: We completed our final day of school for 2013 today! For S, this means that she is now a 4th grader! For G and H, it means they are halfway through 6th and 1st grades, respectively. For me, it means I can breathe a little easier.

What's wrong with this picture? Can you find Rosie, my in-law's cat?

What’s wrong with this picture? Can you find Rosie, my in-law’s cat?

Now I can start baking the neighbors’ Christmas treats. This year I’m avoiding anything with the word “fruitcake” in the recipe. Last year’s attempt at fruitcake biscotti was disastrous. Baking scones is tomorrow’s project. I’ll post the recipe later.

How to hang stockings when you don't have a fireplace: on the railing! Nana crocheted my stocking many years ago.

How to hang stockings when you don’t have a fireplace: on the railing! Nana crocheted my stocking many years ago.

Since I need to put some dinner in the oven–and eventually on the table–I’ll leave you with some pictures. Here’s how we’ve decorated this year. Merry Christmas, everyone!

The girls' tree, aka a Norfolk pine, holds the ornaments they've made and received from ornament exchanges.

The girls’ tree, aka a Norfolk pine, holds the ornaments they’ve made and received from ornament exchanges.

This gallery contains 9 photos


A Quick Visit to the E.R.

Today has not gone as planned.

Neither did yesterday. Yesterday started out with the usual morning drama in our household: G taped S’s toothbrush to the bathroom ceiling, and the girls decided that fighting would be a better use of their time than getting ready for school or their dental appointments. Yes, I wrote that she taped a toothbrush to the ceiling. Apparently that’s how 11-year-old sisters show that they love their younger sisters.

After a visit to our beloved dentist, S sort of melted down on the car ride home. She and I both agreed that she needed to go to bed. Then she decided that she needed to vomit. Twice. I left G and H with a checklist of assignments to finish downstairs, and I camped out in the bathroom with S until Ryan relieved me about 4 hours later. I then made two trips to Target: Ketostix and then the children’s ibuprofen that I had forgotten on the first trip.

S opted to sleep on the bathroom floor last night. She hates getting sick in her bed, so I made her a towel pillow on top of the bath mat and covered her with two towel blankets. She slept peacefully there most of the night; however, she was sick again twice during the early morning.

This morning S looked terrible. She hadn’t eaten anything since Monday’s breakfast, and she wasn’t keeping liquids down. I convinced her to check for ketones, and the stick turned dark purple immediately. That’s a bad thing for someone with Type 1 diabetes. S has been diabetic since she was 3 years old, and any illness she gets usually exacerbates her blood sugar control. A phone call to the endocrinologist confirmed my fears: We needed to head to the closest emergency room for fluids and bloodwork. We needed to make sure that she wasn’t heading towards diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

There are times that I find it inconvenient to live in a semi-rural county, but this wasn’t one of them. The ER admitted S right away and started her on a saline solution. S handled her first IV bravely and was relieved to see that one stick was all it took to draw blood and administer fluids. After her first half-bag of saline, she took Zofran. 15 minutes later she took Tylenol. Can I tell you how amazing it was to watch my little girl rehydrate and return to her usual self? Her ketones decreased from large to small, her 24-hour headache disappeared, and tests showed that she did not have DKA! Because she’s been running a low-grade fever, she also got a chest x-ray. That’s where we met our friend Melissa, a friend from church who is studying radiology. She wanted to print out a copy of Sarah’s lungs–how cool would that look in our homeschooling portfolio?!–but her supervisor nixed her idea.

Unknown to me at the time, our pastor had prayed for S’s healing with a few other area pastors. Our substitute grandmother–the famous Mrs. Debby–had called him with our news, and Pastor Rob followed up by heading to the hospital. Except that we left the hospital before he arrived. Oops. Sorry, Pastor Rob.

I decided that today would be a day off from schoolwork for everyone. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. We’ll make up the lost day another time. S is resting, H is asking me how to spell words like mustache, and G decided to try out the chalk pastels. Later, I think we’ll decorate the girls’ Christmas tree.

G's latest creation: Advent wreath and manger scene in chalk pastel.

G’s latest creation: Advent wreath and manger scene in chalk pastel.

Today hasn’t gone the way I had planned, but that’s okay. All is well with our girls, our community reached out in love, and I’m learning to be flexible.

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Cyber Monday Ideas

Today is an important day for online retailers. It’s Cyber Monday. (Doesn’t that sound better than Black Friday?) Maybe you’re finishing your shopping before the kids arrive home from school, or perhaps you have plans to curl up with your laptop after dinner tonight. Or maybe, like me, you’re finishing your Christmas shopping from the comfort of your bathroom floor while your pathetic 9-year old hugs the porcelain.

So what do you give to someone who has everything he needs? For someone who doesn’t want anything but appreciates that you’re thinking of her? Or how about a gift that blesses the recipient and empowers the worker who created it? Here are 3 suggestions for today:

1. Shop with Samaritan’s Purse. This is the organization that flies Christmas shoe boxes around the world to underprivileged children. They also do a pretty amazing job of helping out in times of disaster. Did you know they have a Christmas catalog, too? You can give the gift of domestic animals, emergency relief supplies, clean water, and much more. We ordered chicks one year for each of our nieces. I think their mothers were pleased that we did not actually give the chicks to our nieces.

2. Drink coffee. Do good. If you–or someone you love is a coffee junkie–you know that Rwandan coffee is exceptional. Instead of purchasing beans from your not-so-friendly warehouse store, consider purchasing Land of a Thousand Hills coffee. Shipping is free today! I promise you that this is delicious coffee. There are plenty of bean options available, including Haitian varieties, as well as gift merchandise.

Christmas in a Cup Flavored Coffee Gift Set

3. Don’t forget the Philippines. Donations to disaster relief typically ebb when the disaster is no longer front-page news. Damage from Typhoon Haiyan is going to take many years to repair. Click on the button on the right side of my blog to donate through Compassion International. Compassion International has been working through churches in the Philippines since 1977 and has a vested interest in restoring island communities.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget that the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not about the gifts we give each other. It’s about the greatest gift we’ve be given: a helpless baby who came to earth to be our Savior.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m still in the bathroom. Round 2 seems to be over, and my relief should be home in the next few hours.