Monday Runday: On Being a Family of Runners

James is doing a running challenge with me, in which we're running 26.2 miles over the next 8 weeks. It's been astounding how dedicated he's been to this task. 13092151_10154101255193164_439828891086948370_n

Thanks to Facebook memories, I'm recalling that three years ago, I took the girls through Couch to 5K, two years after going through it myself. Since then, each girl has participated in Girls on the Run and assorted races here and there.











Robert also runs, although he's currently sidelined with a cranky Achilles.

Somehow, over time, we became a family of runners. 

I'm tempted sometimes to enroll my kids in club running activities--recreational track or cross country or somesuch. It's startling how easily that thought jumps into my head. My kids enjoy this, therefore they should do it in an organized way. It's what we do as parents. A kid's interested in the guitar? We get them private lessons. They like to do art? Sign them up for pottery camp. They want to learn tennis? We find a league to join. At least where I live, that's an implicit or explicit responsibility of a parent. We nurture through providing opportunities. And as the mother of a kid on the swim team told me a few years ago, it's never too early to think about a child's college application. (Her kids were in elementary school.)

Certainly there are benefits to team sports--a good coach can be one of those inspiring childhood influences that impacts a person's whole life. And while running is an activity that we most of us learn to do naturally as children, there's always stuff to learn. Still, I'm trying to resist the impulse to formalize this interest of theirs. Kids today are continually evaluated, graded, scantronned, judged and compared. Not with this. This is our limit.

Part of that comes down to money and time--there's only so many enrollment fees we can handle, and only so much carting around we're willing to do. (I have a friend who calls this phase of parenting "Carpool.") But on a broader level, I want my kids to have something they can do purely for the joy of it. They can set goals, or not. They can strive to improve, or not. It's entirely up to them.

And they're teaching me a lot. I realize, as I continue to claw my way back from last fall's injury, how easily I'd fallen into a mode of improvement and incessant goal-setting. This is painful to admit about myself, though will surprise nobody who knows me. (My friend J took a personality inventory that suggested she stop thinking about life as one big self-improvement project, and she was incredulous: "What else would it be???" Oh, my sister.)

And so, this is a new touchstone for me:





My hopes and dreams are to be able to run for my entire life, to stay healthy and injury-free, to get an occasional PR through smart training, and to have a spirit of adventure in what I do.

When James runs, he says, "Look how fast I am!!!" I suspect if he joined a kids' running team he would discover that, comparatively speaking, he isn't fast. That's the McKibben/Dana genetic lottery at work, and there's only so much you can do to overcome that.

But at the end of our runs together, when the house is in sight, he turns to me, waiting for the signal. I say, "Now, James, turn on the gas!" and he does, leaving his mother in the dust... busting through whatever 8-year-old hopes and dreams he has, scattering them like leaves in the wind.

Post-Vacation Miscellany

We're back from a very satisfying vacation in Springpatch, Midwestern State. The trip was not without its snafus---Robert and Caroline caught colds, and I hurt my back for a couple of days after doing this weird surfing thing in the pool with James. But the kids were 97% delightful in the car (and without DVDs to boot!) and we got lots of rest at the grandparents'. Having kids who are old enough not to need constant vigilance/suggestions of things to do = priceless.

Caroline enjoyed playing on a real piano. Our digital piano is wonderful but there's no beating an actual grand. She is teaching herself this piece. I'm boggling at the motivation in this kid, but it sure made for a nice soundtrack for our trip.

James had a breakthrough in the swimming pool and is now going under water after many months/years of unhappiness at getting his face wet. Tonight he went from bobbing up and down in place to actual locomotion. He was SO proud.

Meanwhile, Margaret can turn a mean cartwheel.

As for me, I have two more days to finish proofing the PDF of my book. It's very exciting to see it at this stage. July is going to be a tremendous month, with a number of conferences and articles and things on tap.

And school's out, which means I will be doing the summer shuffle: camps, babysitters, swim team, child care, etc.

Coming tomorrow: a contest/giveaway with a VERY quick turnaround. I need a new epigraph for one of my chapters, something about Sabbath and/or living lightly in time. Put your thinking caps on....more details in the morning.

And now, a few photos. The headwear came from New Salem. That's Caroline hanging on the monkey bars, and I included the one of me because I think I look relaxed... a rare posture for me :-)

Friday Link Love

Some stuff I've been captivated by this week: Mars Hill -- Broken Bottles

As I indicated a post or two ago, I adore Rob Bell. He's one of my pastors, truly. And I listen to him and feel very sad that my little old Tiny Church is stuck with yours truly ever week... OK, not really. But really. This recent teaching of his on Ecclesiastes was one of the best I've heard by him. Recent teachings are only available for free for a limited time, so check it out soon.

Can a Fake Smile Be Bad for Your Health?

The scientists examined what happened when the drivers engaged in fake smiling, known as “surface acting,” and its opposite, “deep acting,” where they generated authentic smiles through positive thoughts, said an author of the study, Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University.

After following the drivers closely, the researchers found that on days when the smiles were forced, the subjects’ moods deteriorated and they tended to withdraw from work. Trying to suppress negative thoughts, it turns out, may have made those thoughts even more persistent.

But on days when the subjects tried to display smiles through deeper efforts — by actually cultivating pleasant thoughts and memories — their overall moods improved and their productivity increased.

See, I had always heard that behavior can modify emotions, that acting a certain way in practice can help bring about that mood internally. So if you want to be happy, act happy. This seems to add a little nuance to that. There's something in here that relates to authenticity too, I think.

Organizing Secrets from a Manhattan Design Guru

This is a decent enough article about being organized, but what I really loved was this line:

Staying organized is like gardening. You're constantly weeding; it's part of your routine.

I genuinely enjoy being organized and having a sense of order in my home, which is admittedly not fancy (and not perfect), but there is a place for everything and I try not to let it go too long before returning things to their proper spots. I've often felt bad about this though, like the truly creative people thrive on chaos, and neat freaks are just people who don't have enough to occupy their time. (Where do I get such bizarre notions?!??) Hearing organizational efforts compared to gardening, which is a discipline that brings beauty to the world, was very freeing for me.

Parents Magazine: Twenty-five Manners Every Kid Should Know

I caught this in the print edition at the hairdresser's and thought it was a pretty good list of etiquette for kids... warning, link is in slide-show format which I find annoying. Still, good stuff and we have some things to work on.

Come Along for a Ride into Space

A lovely six-minute video:

Cinematographer Luke Geissbühler and his 5-year-old son Max made a homemade spacecraft out of a Thai food takeout container and a weather balloon, and outfitted it with an HD video camera and an iPhone. Last August, they sent it into space.

“The mission was…was send it up into the upper stratosphere to film the blackness beyond the earth…Eventually, the balloon will grow from lack of atmospheric pressure, burst, and begin to fall…It would have to survive 100 MPH winds, temperature of 60 degrees below zero, speeds of over a 150 mph, and the high risk of a water landing….To retrieve the craft, it would need to deploy a parachute, descend through the clouds and transmit a GPS coordinate to a cell phone tower….Then we have to find it.”

And finally, tonight is the National Day of Unplugging. We are So There. Hope you'll participate too.

Letting Go [cont.]

This one's in honor of the kids getting ready to start school in these parts, and the people who love them: I wrote the other day that I'm ready for Caroline to walk home from the bus stop this year. And more to the point, she is ready. It will be good for her to have this freedom. We shelter our kids more than we need to in many situations. She can do this.

Well, last week we found out that the district has eliminated the stop at the end of our street, so she will be walking on a busier street in our subdivision for the first part of the walk.

It's just an additional four houses (ten houses total), but still. I either have to decide that it's too far---that it's too much responsibility or "risk"---or I have to expand my vision a little and live in trust and not fear. I think it will be the latter.

Sounds like that "letting something go" thing has greater implications than I'd thought. I hate when the universe does that...

Ghosts in the House, Performed by the Dana Children

A few weeks ago, Margaret "read" the book Ghosts in the House to me. You can see it below. Sorry the sound is so quiet---you can turn up the volume after 20 seconds in, which is when I shut up. Transcript appears below the video. [youtube=]

There was a girl who lived at the edge of the town. In a cozy cottage. But there was one problem. The house was HAUNTED! But the girl wasn't just a girl. She was a witch! She knew how to catch ghosts. She continued to catch the ghosts in the house. ~~dramatic pause from technical difficulties~~ How lovely, she said. I hope there are some more! And there were. She continued to catch all the ghosts in the house. She brung them to the kitchen and put them all in the washing machine. Then she hung them out to dry. It was a fine day for drying. Some became nice curtains. Another became a nice tablecloth. The girl was tired after her hard work. She knew what to do with the last two ghosts. And they all lived happily (non-ghostly*!) ever after.

*original midrash by Meg

Fast forward a few weeks: James decided to read me the book today. I think you should be able to figure out what he's saying without subtitles.