Monday, June 25, 2012

Outdoor Living with a New Patio

With the help of church (they own our home) and very talented and generous friends who did the work at cost, we embarked on a patio project! We are blessed with an amazing view and yard, but our patio just was not cutting it as an outdoor living space. It was pavers laid with tiny rocks in between that hurt our barefoot family’s feet whenever we walked outside. And, the weeds were out of control!

Here are a couple angles of the before. Excuse the stuff piled up on the existing patio. The grass had just been mowed and we were marking out the size of the new patio.

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Here is the after!  Wow, what a difference. There’s an awesome firepit and plenty of space for outdoor dining and entertaining.

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But as you can tell that was quite a hodge podge. We had acquired some picnic tables and other outdoor furniture, but we hadn’t done anything to make the space welcoming and warm. This spring, we finally did that. It was a family effort. There was painting, planting, furniture moving and even a little shopping.

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We let the kids pick the plan for their picnic table. They wanted a light blue table with grass, clouds, and a sun so that’s what they got. This sure stretched my artistic abilities!

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We painted the big picnic table, and a kind woman from church sewed cushions for it with the fabric we picked. We also painted the smaller glass table and got some new chairs and umbrella. Hubby made a stand for some of the plants out of leftover pallets from the patio pavers.

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(Excuse the remains of our erosion project in front there. I didn’t realize it was still there when I took pictures – oops).

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The fence is new and hasn’t been put in all the way. We also have mammoth sunflowers that are coming up in that bed to break up that big piece of house on that side. The rest of that bed is filled with fennel that has taken over. The kids just eat it as snack when they are playing outside – ha!

Overall, I love, love, love it! It’s by no means 100% finished. We’ll be working on pieces here and there always it seems, but it is now a warm, welcoming place to entertain!

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And entertain we did. We had a few families over to celebrate my 30th birthday, and everyone had a blast!  I look forward to getting a lot of use out of this space all summer long. As it is, we already eat dinner out there more nights than not!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Learning About Erosion

As we’ve been spending a decent amount of time on the trails working towards our 100 mile goal (which I owe an update on… it’s coming!), we’ve been talking about taking care of the trails. Like most kids, my boys love to pick up rocks, throw rocks, and do just about anything with rocks. They especially love throwing rocks (or just about anything) into bodies of water – puddles, streams, lakes, you name it! I don’t blame them; it does produce a satisfying splash and enticing ripples.

At the same time, we are working to teach the boys that we need to protect and care for the trails we use. Taking rocks and things off of the trail can contribute to erosion. Of course, the boys wanted to know what exactly erosion was, because they weren’t about to give up one of their favorite past-times for something they didn’t understand. We checked out a few books from the library to begin learning, and then we did an experiment. A quick search for erosion on pinterest led me to an image of a project that we figured we could create. I never found an original source, just an image, so if anyone knows the source for this, let me know. I’d love to give them credit for the idea.

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I explained the idea to my husband who got to work actually making it. He got three aluminum pans from the dollar store. One he filled with just dirt (far right). One he filled with dirt, rocks, and sticks (middle). The last one he filled with a large chunk of grass he cut out of ground behind a shed (far left). We considered growing the grass as an additional step the project, but B was very ready to see the results so we took a shortcut. We cut holes in the pain and stuck in pieces of plastic bottles or toilet paper tubes. Then stacked the pains on some scrap wood to put it on a slant.

Now, to see how the pans held up to the rain (aka the hose).

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B took a turn with the hose, but quickly decided he wanted to be on the side to see what would come out of the tubes.

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We watched as dirt and water flowed out of (and over the top of, oops, a little overzealous with the hose) the first pan that held dirt only.

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Then we saw as some murky water flowed out of the pan filled with rocks, dirt, and sticks. Clearly, those rocks and sticks were helping hold the dirt in.

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Finally, we watched as crystal clear water (and a lot less of it!) flowed out of dirt with grass planted in it.

We learned that grass, rocks, and sticks help keep the soil from washing away when it rains, and now we really understand why we shouldn’t pick all those rocks off the trails!

B loved this, and I had so much fun watching him. When his Mema came home, he immediately wanted to teach her about erosion. He started, “Mema, have you heard of something called erosion?” He continued to very accurately and thoroughly perform the experiment explaining along the way! I love experiential learning!

Next up, I’ll be looking for good kid-friendly resources on Leave No Trace to continue teaching about trail etiquette and ways to enjoy the outdoors that are safe for our natural spaces as well as ourselves.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Welcome to 30!

This weekend I celebrated entering a new decade in my life with my 30th birthday on Friday. It was a fun weekend filled with strawberry picking with the family, a 5K, and fun with friends around the fire pit.
First off, I’d like to update you on the the weight loss goal I committed to 6 weeks ago. I intended to lose 11lbs by my birthday. The short of it is that it didn’t happen. But a lot did happen. My final weight loss tally was:
-6.3lbs
I also took measurements at the start, and even more exciting than those 6+ lbs is the inches I lost. I lost 1 inch from my bust, 1 inch from my waist, .5 inch from each upper arm, .5 inch from each thigh, and .5 inch from each calf. That’s a total of 5 inches gone from my body!
I worked my butt off at physical therapy 3 times/week for the past 6 weeks. I began to run again logging a total of 13 miles (which is a very small number for me, but a wonderful increase from zero!). And, I cleaned up my eating both in content and portion sizes.
And I got to test out my fitness my first 5K since injury Saturday morning! I went into without really articulating hopes or goals. It was my first 5K back from injury. I’d only run 13 miles in literally months. I wasn’t set up to run my best race by any means. But, at the same time, my current 5K PR (personal record) of 30:46 was from September 2011. It was somewhat outdated, as I ran the first 5K of my November 10K at a faster pace (29:35). Prior to injury, I knew a had a 5K PR in the bag the next time I ran one, and likely a big one. But things were not so simple. I planned on going out fast and seeing what happened.
To add to the fun, I strained an abdominal muscle at physical therapy on Wednesday which led to a very painful track workout on Wednesday evening. I took good care of it Thursday and Friday. On race morning, I taped it and popped a couple ibuprofen (which I never do) and hoped for the best.
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Of course, I dressed for the occasion. I love my Team Sparkle skirt!
I went out fast. The course was crazy hilly, even for what I’m used to. Even the flat spots were slight uphills and the downhills were few and far between. My husband overheard a number of the first finishers remarking that it was the hardest 5K they’ve run in a looooong time. I hung on tight and was hurting early on – but that’s how 5Ks are supposed to be. I avoided checking my watch knowing that if I looked at the wrong time I’d be discouraged with my pace on the hills. At the first mile marker, a volunteer said it was 9:20, so I knew I just had to hold on and I could break 30 minutes. It got harder from there but I just kept at it. I grabbed water at 2 water stops because my throat was really dry.
I knew I was cutting it close as we re-entered the cemetery where the finish was, and then I saw the last hill. An ugly uphill finish nearly broke me. In fact, I stopped to walk with the 3 mile marker in sight. Who does that?!? Looking at my heart rate stats now, I see it was up at 204 so that 10 second walk break probably wasn’t a bad idea. I poured whatever I could into the last tenth and crossed the finish with my watch reading 29:33 (official time 29:40 – not chip timed).
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In the finish line chute, a volunteer went to grab the tag off my number and quickly asked if I was okay or needed a medic, and I just nodded at her while she looked scared I might puke on her (valid concern). After a number of cups of water, I recovered pretty quickly, and I am thrilled with my achievement. My splits were 9:09, 9:19, 9:33, with the last .1 at a 9:56 pace. No where near a negative split but I left it all out on the course,
 
A new 5K PR! 29:40 (official)
That’s a 1 minute 6 second PR. On a hilly course. Minimally trained. Coming back from injury, and with a pulled abdominal muscle.
 
I cannot WAIT to see what I can do as I add some more mileage into my training, and someday… I’ll find a flat, fast 5k course and see what happens!
What a great start to my thirties!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I chose to run.

This morning I had a choice. I could choose to eat donuts and junk indulging the crappy mood I was in. Or I could choose to get off my butt, go for a run, and fight back.

I chose to run.

Well, I’ll be honest. I ate two donuts and then pancakes with my kids, but then I ran (and tried not to vomit).

I ran because what I was doing wasn’t working.

I ran because depression is hard and sucks the life out of you. Running is hard but it breathes life in!

I ran because close friends of ours lost a dear, dear friend to breast cancer yesterday after a four year fight. I ran because my heart breaks for them and their loss along with everyone grieving alongside of them.

I ran because another friend is anxiously awaiting her mother’s breast cancer surgery on Tuesday. I ran because my body is healthy enough to run. I ran because it is a gift, and logging the miles is the way I express gratitude for that gift.

I ran because I’ve earned it. I’ve worked hard for seven weeks in physical therapy. Every mile I ran today made that work worth it.

I ran because there will be no such thing as 3 or 5 easy miles again, unless I work for it.

I ran because I needed to dig deep and find the girl inside me who knows she can do hard things.

I ran because my family needs me to do what I need to do to feel better, to clear my head, and to be happier. I ran because my family needs me to stand up and fight.

I ran 5 glorious miles. Okay, the fifth mile was far from glorious, but I ran 5 miles at a moderate pace. It certainly wasn’t fast, but it was an okay long-run pace for me.

not today

So today, I ran.